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From the Heart...

Welcome to creative writing From the Heart. And while I must admit I am new to creative writing, I really do enjoy it, and hope to write more as the memories come my way, in moments of quiet! 

In life, there are so many happenings, people, and changes that affect us deeply. And as kind and loving people, it is only natural that it will spill over into all that we do, know, and love...and while writing down stories and ideas is not new, these stories are mine. 

I decided to dig them out of my memories, write them and others down, and post them here. To share yes, but more for my own self-encouragement to write even more...Because life continues to roll along on a wonderful route, and I no longer want to be comfortable as the big girl in the back. Where I felt safest for the vast majority of my life. And with that said, I thank you for indulging me with your visit today...please note: While this is a published page, I will from time to time need to return to stories and memories already shared to update, correct, or continue a dropped thought, thank you for your understanding. 

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Oh no, no internet? 

I have been keeping quite busy since St. Patrick's Day when we enjoyed Home Brined Corn Beef and the usual side dished for our shared dinner. Then after dinner we had a little rain storm that also brought about some thunder and lightening. Around here spring time is also storm time. And we often simply take a break from what ever we are working on, and enjoy the show. 

But this storm brought a big surprise. With that lightening came a loud clap that landed close to our home and took out some of our internet equipment. Now some could say that it was just a coincidence, but this is the second time we have experienced a lightening strike that damaged electrical equipment. Once in Montana and now here in East Texas. 

It took quite awhile for all the damaged components to arrive, and for me personally this has been very enlightening, with no pun intended! As a blogger I love the routine of the work to develop new recipes, then the discipline to get that creation on "paper" and most of all the interactions I have with the readers and friends that visit. And suddenly it was all gone...

From 03.17.2024 to 04.2.2024 it was quiet on the home front. 

So thank you one and all who continued visiting, and trust me, I appreciate you much more than you could ever know! We can now return to our regularly scheduled programing!

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Slow like honey, while living on sand and clay...

For the longest time not much seemed to be happening here, in East Texas since unpacking, then just like the rest of my life, all at once, so much changed and so quickly. Often I needed to stop and think for awhile, to remember it all. We have been in here for eight months now and in my "hurry to get it all done" mindset, it feels much longer. But then I remembered just a few days ago, that when I first started cooking and baking with honey, I was also impatient for immediate those same immediate results. Why? It turns out, honey is slow. Slow to come out of the jar and slow to stir into a recipe. No matter my need to get the baking and cooking done, honey did not respond to my need of measuring out just the right amount, and quickly at that!




And that is pretty much how it has been here at home, with my voice saying "when can we get this done?" while my brain is shouting "why, for Pete's sake isn't it done already?". But you see, my family is honey, (and I am not...) moving along with projects appropriately and I am trying with not much success, to hurry it all along. I am just a woman living on sand and clay that wants a fruitful garden. But we all know that sand and clay will not grow a garden, no matter how loudly my brain is trying to be heard. It takes more, more prep, more supplies, and more time. 




And just as I have built a family through the years, now I must build fertile garden beds. And just like with building a family, you take the time needed, using the materials and the skills you have, to produce the best garden possible. Why? Because that same family you took years to build will be dining on that food from those garden beds. And nothing but quality food is served around here, heavily seasoned with care and lots of love. But there is a caveat to my gardening needs. Skills. You see, basically I have none...


While I am my father's daughter and we share many traits and a sense of sameness. A green thumb is not one of them. I have his oval face, and large hands, the long arms and lots of hair. We also share something else and it struck me deeply as it came to me today. I took my first breath in the same hospital where he took his last. Our certificates of why we were there, are even signed by the same doctor. But here is my dilemma. Even without a green thumb, inherited or otherwise, I love making a garden. It is in me! And always has been. Some years it was a garden of serenity because nothing edible grew and some years I took the position of weed-er, cleaner, and helper. While letting someone else who actually has a green thumb take the lead, to be able to have a harvest, to enjoy! 




But this year and this garden are different. I knew I had lots of practical ideas I wanted to put into place, with lots of good information to fall back on for reference. And this is the year that I wanted to try my hand at creating a garden that will, not only nourish my family but be beautiful as well. It is still in the building stage, but so far I have had a grand time putting my ideas into practice. How? Simple, I did what I think my Dad did. He followed his heart. Even thought we moved almost every year, my Dad would grow a garden if there was any amount of back yard, at all. Often using just a shovel and maybe a rake he would scrape a line in the dirt, drop some seeds and give it a drink! And for him vegetables always grew!



But here with only sand and clay to work with, I knew I needed to use another method. Or invest hundreds of dollars in top soil, which right now with every other need, that is not the direction I plan on going. With the whole area surrounding us being sand and clay, there is pretty much only one way to get good topsoil, and that is to make it! So I am. Using downed trees, brush, and leaves that are found in abundance on our land, I am building Hugelkultur garden beds. 

The finished beds will receive a layer of top soil so we can plant a few things this first year. But each year as the composting continues, rich soil will be the result of all this work. It turns out, that making this garden, like my family, is slow like honey and just as sweet. 

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Raquel are you still out there?

During my working years I did a number of jobs, from working in food service as a server, and cook, to helping in a flooring store as a young wife, then office work leading to a position as a Licensing Clerk at the Auditor's Office in county government. And finally in health care starting in the Accounts Receivable department and working my way up to Assistant Administrator and finally Administrator. 

Staff turnover in healthcare is an epidemic in itself, and then of course based upon the laws in the state where you work, Healthcare is one of the most regulated industries in America. And while it is all for the protection of the client (and of course needs to be in place, no questions about that!) it can be difficult to navigate all the rules, regulations and requirements while also running the business side of what is, in fact a business. 

I had a staff of 35 for the following positions, of, Resident Aids, Medication Aids, Cleaning staff and Kitchen Staff. I hired 100 people a year to keep my staff at required state levels to maintain a safe environment for my residents, but also open for business! I must confess, I grew tired of staff recruitment. Coupled with the required training they would need, only to have them go down the road to the next Assisted Living building that offered .10 cents an hour more, as a starting wage...due to the pay rates established and enforced, by the Corporate office. 

Then one day I hired Raquel. She was a tall and big woman, with dark hair, and a raspy voice. Raquel was also very kind to the residents. She looked like she could slay a dragon. But of course that was a misperception based upon her physical size, only. It was not her personality in any way. She was easily intimidated by the other staff, who in all honesty had developed their own pecking order much like a hen coop. 

And since I have also raised chickens, this definitely takes place. With actual chickens and unfortunately, with people. Usually I would let my RN Supervisor handle all staff behavior issues, but if she was not available, I had no problem stepping in. Why? Because at the end of the day, the whole building, all of the residents and the staff, were my sole responsibility. Good, bad or otherwise. 

One particular day I had a State Investigator in the building, they were on a fact finding mission. Oh, I almost forgot this part, I was required to have a telephone in the hallway that was open for Resident use. This was so all my residents could call family or more importantly have the opportunity to register a complaint with the state. This phone could not be a pay phone. The complaint calls were documented and the Investigator would come to find the facts as reported in the call. When the investigator came into the building, Administration was at fault until proven otherwise. Not always an easy day at work, but part of the job, with absolutely no delegation of this particular duty!

On one particular day, Raquel and another staff were in the hall discussing the needs of the Residents and the building. In reality the long term staff member was instructing Raquel to do all of the tasks, herself. And Raquel was for the first time since being hired, standing her ground! 

I only wish I could have allowed the conversation to continue, but staff yelling in the hallway about what they are not going to do, for a resident while the Administrator is being questioned about staff care, by an Investigator is not the ideal work environment! I had to ask them to STOP in a very quiet voice! I then  explained we had a visitor in the building and that they were both to return to the task list that EACH of them had to work from, and do it NOW!

My long term staff member had no qualms about giving off her tasks, to anyone! Or even being called on her behavior. But Raquel was different and I knew that the incident had affected her deeply. Almost immediately she began keeping more to herself and as she did so, the other staff, simply let her. Eventually no one was bothering to involve Raquel in any conversations or decisions needing to be made while in any of the common areas or at break time. 

And then one day she gave notice and was gone. Sadly, no one ever spoke of her again. From time to time in a monthly meeting with Department Managers one of us would ask, "anyone ever hear from Raquel?" The answer was always the same, "no, how about you?"

Through the years there was not a single person I ever helped, hired or worked for and with, that I haven't thought about in one way or another, as the years have gone by. And Raquel is no different! So, Raquel I hope you are happy, and cared for, and now hold your own, in all the areas of your life that give you a sense of pride and satisfaction. Why? Because I started out just like Raquel and without the guidance and support from so many, through the years, I would never have been able to accomplish anything with the sense of pride and satisfaction, that I have so far or will continue to do. And I tend to think that we all have a bit of Raquel in us, that is, until we also, finally quit. 

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We are getting closer...at this little homestead



As I work here in the warmth of the Tiny House my husband is outside rebuilding the third wall of the soon to be, Utility Kitchen/Laundry Room! Outside is sunny but very cold, the kind of cold that goes right through your coat. And the cold and I do not agree to keep company. Once cold, warming up takes time, sometimes most of the day. I usually work in the house on cold days, and help as needed when called upon, which will happen again here in a moment or two. I will hear the door open and my husband will say "hey Hon...". Then when summer time rolls around, we trade places. You see my husband does not keep company with the heat of summer. 

I am very fortunate that Terry can do just about anything needing done on the property. But truth be told he, like all of us, myself included picks and chooses what is enjoyed being done over what needs to be done. And although we are coming up on twelve years together, eleven of them married, I am still vexed by that. I know, I know appreciation over attitude in all things. But in fairness to me, I do appreciate even when I carry attitude in the same load. 



I won't be passive/aggressive and try to persuade that the take be done, once we have discuss remodeling needs, stuff for the house or anything that is needed for the life that we have planned. After all if it is part of the plan, then let's get to it. Even if "let's get to it" doesn't directly include my being half of the outside doing it. Why? Because an agreement is also a contract, it is your word, it is how you maintain integrity. It is important for tomorrow and each tomorrow that comes after. 



Because you see, when the outside work is done, and a shower had been had, and he is sitting in the recliner with a cat in his lap and a cold lemonade or beer on the side table, usually the inside work is not done. Do I just sit down? No. Because what I do is also important to the life that we have planned. And rarely does the outside work and the inside work end at the same shift time. 

And around here the inside work must be completed in full. In our Tiny House there is no room to hold anything over until tomorrow. So while we both work the same shift, we don't necessarily get done working for the day at the same time. There is no 50/50 in this house. The truth is I am not as strong physically as my husband, and he does not see the little details that make for the comfortable life we both enjoy. I don't know how to wire an electric outlet, and I do a much better job with the laundry. There are other areas, of course as there are in any marriage or relationship. We each have areas that we are in charge of, and yet, we are equal. 


This was a big job, from a new roof support, a new sill plate, floor supports upgraded and wall frames. Then resided with the old and still usable siding. With both of us working side by side to get the siding back on before the next rainfall.  The siding pieces run the length of the wall and need two pairs of hands, his and mine. Next is water and electricity, but those are easy in comparison to what has already been finished! And now my husband is off to shower and I am off to do the dishes from lunch and make dinner...

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Some days are like that!


We had picked up applications for Passports the other day, there are hopes and plans for a trip to England. At this point in my life, my list of the times I have been off of the continental United States was to drive into Mexico when I took my daughter to Disneyland for her 16th birthday, plus a couple of times visiting Butchart Gardens in Canada, and a flight to Maui for 10 days. Not exactly a world traveler by any means. And of course Maui is still the US, simply an island away!

I do have an expired Passport, obtained in hopes of traveling to the Olympics in Australia way back in 2000, but alas that trip did not materialize. Needless to say that Passport is not renewal able and I must start over with a new application and a new set of photos. And wouldn't you know it, the photos are the cause of all the wait. My daughter reminded that I cannot apply just yet. Why you might be asking? Well currently, while I am find after my epic fall in the shop, my face looks like it took, an epic fall. 

While the healing takes place each day, and the pain of healing lessens, I still look like I took a nasty fall. And the Passport photos need to show the everyday "you". Fortunately these are not permanent marks, but until the black eye, the bruised cheekbone and scabby bridge of my nose heal, there will be no Passport photos for this would be traveler...no matter how long I have waited to once again, travel the world I still hold dear in my heart. 


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Life will keep you on your toes, if you don't fall on your nose...

Yesterday in our list of tasks to prepare for the cold front moving in, while out in the shop, I tripped on the cord of a power tool that happened to be laying on the floor. And that magical feeling of "going to fall", came over me.
Now of course I never fall with grace, and I mean never. I started lunging (is that really a word? If not, it is for today, OK?) forward and towards the floor at the same time. The only problem besides the falling down part that is, is what lays in front of my path of doom...

As I continued to fall forward onto the floor I was also headed into a stack of 5 gallon buckets filled with things like brown rice, pinto beans, and cornmeal. AND an open ice chest that had been used to hold cold items from the last grocery haul and was left open to dry, like we always do.

Yes as soon as my knees hit the floor, I began a forward and downward drop and yes, the bridge of my nose came down right on the edge of the open ice chest, then as I continued forward and downward I took the ice chest with me to knock over the stacked food storage buckets...

Once I stopped moving all I could see was a line of blood coming out from my nose, all over the floor. I had gone into that area to actually put a wet towel into a dirty clothes basket until laundry day. At that point the towel was used to put pressure on my nose (ouch, by the way!) to stop the bleeding as my husband came running in to see what mini earthquake had just happened...when I got the bleeding to stop and got up, I realized that my knees saved my nose from breaking. My knees hit the floor first, otherwise my nose would have broke the fall as it hit the ice chest.

So thankful nothing broke! It hurts to wear my reading glasses and nose breathing is a little impaired due to swelling, but all's well that ends well. And from my vantage point today, this ended well!

I will say it again, if you gotta fall, fall without breaking something!

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This is THAT week...

That week after Christmas and before the New Year becomes our new year. Growing up it was always a quiet time, even in our busy house! The main activities were sweeping up falling needles from the Christmas tree and seeing Mom getting ready to celebrate her birthday on New Years Eve. It was a ritual I observed year after year, and even after my Dad passed, Mom would get gussied up and go out with friends. But I truly believe her favorite celebrations were always with Dad. 

As kids we always got a special dinner of hamburgers and potato chips because the only thing that needed cooking was the hamburger patties. It was probably the one and only meal of the year that came mostly from the grocery store. Truth be told, I always ate so many chips my lips would chap from the salt! I ate the burger because I was told to, but the chips were my real choice and I couldn't get enough of them! Yes we had chips at other times of the year when we had hamburgers for dinner, but usually mom put a handful on our plates for these meals. On New Years Eve the open bag was laid on the table like an offering, sheesh, how could I not indulge?



I usually think more about my Mom this time of year, than the other days of the year. Not wanting to sound unkind, but we were not close. You see, she needed me to be a helper, and need was something that frightened her the most. I was called upon countless times each day to help with my younger brothers and sister, and while it was appreciated, the appreciation was of the silent kind. 

Being more a helper than a daughter, we had an early separation of our mother and daughter relationship. That set me up to be stronger than many. I was never afraid to head out on my own. When the going got tough, I had no choice, I got tougher. When the way to go was not clear, I had no choice, I had to figure it out, and keep going. 

Mothers and daughters in reality are intended to struggle, in order to grow. Same for fathers and sons. But during these times of growth, it can be lonely. It can seem like you are alone in the world. It can seem like absolutely no one cares about you. But they do, they are usually as unable to voice it as you are to ask for it...

I have spent the last few years, in my travels looking for ways to see my Mom in another light, so that I can see the similarities that bind us rather than our differences to keep a distance. I have largely accomplished this through cooking in my kitchen because, cooking in her kitchen was where she shined! I have taken all the food dishes that were all our favorites and created recipes for each one. So that I can share them as well as preserve them for my own children to enjoy. It has been a task she did not ask of me, but one I have enjoyed doing. 

And as I quietly tap this out, it is pretty much silent all around me. The loudest sound is the keyboard responding to my request of writing this down. Along with the occasional care traveling down the country road in front of our Tiny House. But I know that soon the noise will begin. The fireworks, the celebrating and the ringing in of the New Year, and I will wish my Mom a happy birthday in heaven, once again. 

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One Year...


Found today on my memories feed on Facebook: one year ago I had posted that back home in Worland WY it was a negative 35 degrees! I have to admit I was a bit in awe of that temperature and quite happy we were volunteering with the Park Service in Arizona, for the winter. Of course little did I know that three days later a Worland Police Officer would call, and inform us that water was pouring out of our duplex...you see it had begun to warm up for Christmas and the frozen pipe had thawed and flooded the place!

What a stark reality that social media memory made on me (and my husband!) today. I had not remembered the actual date, because so much has happened. Not for the damage or dirty work to repair and restore our home. But for the sheer amount of personal work and the discipline required to keep going when it seems the going just might be tougher than you are. 

When you set up your home to be a quiet spot from the hub-bub of the noise and hurry of the world, and then to loose that space, and the personal belongings placed there, it is not easy to bounce back. We cleaned what was still usable, threw out what was not, and mourned the irreplaceable. Photos of loved ones now gone. Personal items passed down from parents, also gone. And the personal items collected, cherished and no longer available to enjoy or even replace. 

When all of the stuff is gone, and you have no home, simply a house to sell, you must look deep inside to find the strength needed, and start over. So we did. I felt we were luckier than most who have gone through something similar or even worse. Because we had each other to fall back on, along the way. My husband and I helped the kids and grandson when they were too tired to think it through, and they time and time again helped us!



This Christmas will be different than last year, and I know looking forward, the new year it will be one I enjoy for many reasons. We are all together, and have the other to fall back on still, as we build this new life in Texas, making memories and continuing to make tomorrow better than the day before. And honestly, it doesn't get much better than that! With a new to us home, new employment opportunities for the kids, we are after this last year bouncing back! It will be a good future for us all, and I know it!

Thank you for your visits to this page and Scratch Made Food! While this is a creative writing/get it down and out personal thoughts page that I share, I would like to say I hope the holidays will offer beautiful memories to fall back on, and the New Year be one you are excited to be a part of! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for letting me share with all of you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from me and mine, to you and yours!

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The thing that happens when you share a property with your adult children and a grandchild is that you are always in everyone's business, and they, are always in yours! I say this lovingly with a big smile on my face, because always being in the business of the others is how folks share! But out of respect I also feel the need to clarify and set the record straight!

When we visit the home of the other, we don't just walk in, we knock and wait to be invited. Because family aside, we are simply neighbors. We don't assume what is theirs is also ours, we ask. We don't try to parent or in my case be parented, because we are all independent adults and wish to remain that way. We don't assume that our way is the only way, because more than half of us are old enough to know we really do not have all the answers...and probably never will! 

We support the ideas and ideals of the other, share in the work needed on the property, as well as the good times that we create and offer to one other. We celebrate family style and yet each household will go and do things important to them, on their own! Because five very different people are not always going to want to do the same things, at the same time. 

But I gave found the best part of this shared homestead. It is creating a whole new relationship with my daughter! We talk about all the real time events, customs, and realities that we shared in past years during her childhood, yet now, as told they offer a whole new opportunity in understanding the other. 

Such as why we as a family never put a tree up until about the 13th of December, while she can't wait to get started on her decorating the day after Thanksgiving. Answer, because I am older than artificial trees and real trees only lasted so long while still being safe enough to keep the electric lights on! Which were large, hot and dried out the tree...

Or when her son does something fun or even a bit naughty, and in her dismay, I have to tell her that she really needs to consult with the manufacturer for details! As I just smile, because, yes I have seen that before. And not just once!

There is more of course, so much more, but I think you get a general idea of life around our little homestead. And I can only hope every mother and daughter or father and son pairing can have an opportunity such as this, to get to know one another as completely as time and a shared life provides! Because it is not just my daughter learning about herself, it is I as well. 


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Happy Thanksgiving from our family to yours!



Thanksgiving came upon us fast, and is next week today! And we have so much to be thankful for! We are now with water, power and sewer systems. The rain cover for our Tiny Home is almost done now done, which is wonderful as the first rein storm of the season did show us where each seam and cranny of the trailer leaks and needs a bit of upkeep! But home is just like life, ongoing. 

Next we will begin work on the canning kitchen in the shop where I will also have a washer and dryer! We are all healthy, happy and still working hard, together. This last year has definitely been a great deal of hard work intermixed with long periods of time to think and plan and do. Life is good! 

But enough about us! 



Our wish for you and yours is to have the best Thanksgiving ever in your history of Thanksgivings! And to carry that feeling of connectedness and enjoyment with you for the next 364 days!  Because we all deserve happiness and a sense of belonging to fill our hearts. 

We will be filling our bellies with heritage recipes that we look forward to each, along with new favorites to shake things up! But as always, who is around the table makes the meal special, so much more so, than the food. 

And as always, Thank you one and all for stopping by, I appreciate it more than you know...and should you find yourself on the road this holiday season, safe travels to to all!

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Feeling faith, as life takes a turn...


I had been shoveling sand, dirt and clay into a wheelbarrow to fill in a rut left behind when we ran the new water line to our tiny house. Now I do know that normally when you dig a hole there is enough dirt that came out of said hole to fill it back in. But being new with a tractor and front loader bucket, some of the dirt was left lounging in the trees instead of being returned to the hole it came out of. And the easiest way to fix this was to wheelbarrow some dirt back to the rut and dump it in.

I still do a fair job shoveling dirt into a wheelbarrow. The problem is, a full wheelbarrow is too heavy for me to be in control of when I empty it...and I know you know what I am going to confess next. Yes, I did lose control of that load of dirt as I attempted to place it squarely in the rut. But not just the dirt, the wheelbarrow began turning side ways and downward, and it was taking me with it!

Now I had a choice, I could have yelled out for help, but what would that have done except alarm my husband? I did not yell out for one very important reason, it would not have worked. Because I have learned that the sensation that you are going to fall takes less than a half of a second before the fall begins. And if you are still of sound mind and thinking clearly, you only have one choice. Let the fall happen and hope for the best! 

As the weight of the dirt was forcing the wheelbarrow to turn sideways, I felt the handles of the wheelbarrow pressing against me, forcing me down, as well. And at that exact moment I knew what having faith actually felt like. That life is not going as planned, but more importantly you not only cannot stop it, you must let it happen and believe it will work out, feeling. I had felt it before, on a few occasions but simply had not recognized it. If you we are lucky, your own age and experiences clarify what is truly important. 

I have come to believe it is difficult to feel faith when we are troubled and tragedy has come to call. Because at that exact time our faith is something we are leaning on, not feeling. And it is that leaning that will see us through. And, yes, I have also been in that position. But from time to time something will happen that is not a test of faith as much as it is a reminder of what faith feels like

If you are wondering what I actually did, well honestly, I let the wheelbarrow take me down. I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it, and what ever the end result was, would be something I would deal with when it happened. After the fall I stood up, and called my husband over to help me upright the load and get it where it needed to be, because I was fine, just like I thought I would be. And for the rest of the day I loaded less in the wheelbarrow so I could manage it on my own...without being tested. 

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Am I the only Halloween Scrooge? 

I went searching through all my personal photos that I use for blogging and it turns out that I do not have a single photo of a pumpkin. None, not plain or carved. And I must confess right now, there is a reason for a complete lack of pumpkin photos. To be completely honest, Halloween is not my favorite holiday. Whew! Now that we got that out of the way, if you are still reading, more paragraphs do follow this confession.

To be honest, as a blogger it costs me dearly! My pageview stats drop like a fat stone in a shallow lake! And they stay there for the full month of October! While I do have a delicious recipe for Pumpkin Bread here in the archives, I have nothing on how to carve a pumpkin. Or how to keep them fresh for a longer period of time or even how to keep them mold free. But I can tell you this, if you wait until Halloween to carve your Jack-O-Lantern, you can give it to your chickens the next day. They will love it, and it is good for them.

This is where
a beautiful 
photo of a carved 
pumpkin could go,
but I don't 
have one.


When my kids were younger I enjoyed making homemade costumes, and walking around the neighborhood with them (especially to their grandparents house!) for trick or treating. Mostly because mom's love to help make memories with their little ones, and the Halloween haul is a favorite of children. Making Halloween good for memories, and we made quite a few fun memories! But honestly after a couple of days of arguing about NOT eating candy, I was definitely ready to throw it all out...

But tonight I was sitting here wondering (hoping maybe?) if, in fact, I might not be the only Halloween Scrooge in America. Could there possibly be others like me, who are not into Halloween? Folks that do not head out the first day in October to their local dollar store and get the supplies for another door wreath? Or people that do not stock up on the large bags of candy calling out so very loudly from the market shelves? 

If so, I applaud you, but then again, I like pineapple on my pizza!

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Only small jobs,  from the heart, on a Sunday...



It is 2:30 on this Sunday afternoon in this last week of September, and 95 degrees out. Hot enough that the sky is graying up and I hear thunder in the distance. Since I have a new blister on my left hand between the thumb and index finger, it is time to go into the house! We have made some progress with our tiny home this week, the refrigerator was "fixed" by my dear husband, a large propane tank filled with propane was delivered, and the stove was lit up to make sure all is well with the gas lines. And we had the supplies delivered for the decking. Along with 12 yards of gravel. 

The RV repair team will be back, just as soon as the parts are received from Elkhart Indiana. Apparently supply line issues are still present. Once the Montana is completely fixed, we can schedule the final job, trenching for water lines, and conduit for electricity leading to the shop. And finally the last task will be completed by us, (we have saved this one for last, LOL!) digging holes to find the inlet pipe to the repaired septic tank, so we can tie our tiny home into it! 

We have a new mattress ordered along with a couple of end tables that we will need, oh and a comfortable recliner for my husband. From there everything (and I mean everything will need a deep cleaning!). After that, I can fill the cupboards with dishes and food, make sure there are clean sheets on the bed and fresh towels in the bathroom and we will have a tiny home ready for the two of us. 

And from there we can have the grandson come and visit us at our house! 

While we see him everyday as we have been sharing a home together since his birth, it is so much fun for him to have his own visiting time, and we couldn't agree more. So today I worked on a whimsical garden right by our front door. No sense taking a chance he won't find his way for a visit! It is nothing more than odd bricks and such found here and there on the property, along with garden treasures that I have carried along from home to home. And now of course, they are here with us in Texas. Plus there is the issue of the Bocce Balls! 



When we arrived in Texas and began unpacking, the bag that held the Bocce Ball game, fell apart from age. And the red and blue balls scattered over the yard as they tumbled from the ripping bag. Needless to say the colorful balls caught the attention of our Grandson. He wanted to throw them around. But they really are too heavy to be played with like a baseball. They became perfect color spots in our garden of whimsy. Along with these three pieces that have a special meaning to me. 



This piece has been in my garden since I found it in a garden shop about 10 years ago. It caught my eye immediately when I spied it on a rack. I even put it in my cart without checking the price! Why? In 1969 after moving to Yakima WA after my Dad passed away, I begged a trip back to our old home town of Fairfax CA and got to spend a month with my friend Mary. During this month, I got to think about more than just how life had changed so much when Dad passed. And I was part of the church choir for a guitar mass wedding and we sang those very words in a song that the Bride and Groom had requested. That month in California meant the world to me! I could not be more thankful for the kindness offered to me, even to this very day.  

 

This silly looking cement squirrel left behind at a house I purchased about 20 years ago. To be honest I never gave him (or her!) a name, but I never left it behind either. I have always packing it up to take along move after move!



And this live simply slate, a piece, given to me by my sister, several years ago. It too has traveled far and wide, going with us on each NPS volunteer assignment. From Vancouver, WA, to Ajo, AZ and then on to Darby, MT. Finally coming to rest here at home in Texas. 

None of this garden of whimsy is permanent, much like life itself. And at some point it will be replaced by something newer or better. In this particular area, by a comfortable, covered deck leading to our front door. The blocks and bricks will be used where needed to shore up a wall or at the edge of the garden. And the garden ornaments placed in various berry beds or by Grandmother's Yellow Rose to be enjoyed another day. But for now, at this time with so much still left to do, it just feels a little bit more like home.  

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Our sense of right, wrong and comfort...



We are now Texas residents of three months, and counting. Our vehicles display Texas plates, and our wallets contain Texas driver's licenses. We regularly get our mail from the utility company and packages from Amazon at our Texas home. But something is missing. Though no fault of our own, the little house is still not complete (yep still no water, sewer or power) and living in shared housing with family members that we love and respect (while knowing that we all need more space and privacy) got me to thinking about all those moves when I was a kid...
 
This move to Texas is my 36th or 37th, I have lost track at this point. But I believe I am still shy of 40 moves on my resume of life! We moved a lot during my childhood, and while I definitely had my share of chores for each move, I never until this move to Texas realized just how much my Mom did without or had to make due, as we unpacked and got settled. As a kid I always saw the progression of how we packed up the house (and could do it myself by the age of 9) especially the kitchen. But I was not as involved for the unpacking.



Because once we were "moved in", it was Mom who put it all together. I was only called upon to help empty the boxes and put some towels on a shelf for baths later that night. I now realize my ability to organize just about anything and everything came from those moves. My ability to always remember where things are, yes from those moves. My gift for making due with what I had, yes those moves. Not having to have perfect, yes, again from those moves. I also learned that the boxes are not unpacked first. No you put the beds together first, and get them made up with clean sheets and blankets, second. Because later when you are exhausted, you just won't want too!

I didn't know it at the time, but I learned so many things during those childhood moves. And while I learned to have a comfortable sense of "let's just go", I also learned to how to stayIt turns out that the actions of the word "stay" can take many forms. 

Such as, plant a vegetable patch even if you don't get to harvest the crop. Patch that screen on the window so the bugs don't come in! Fold the towels differently, if need be, so they fit the shelf in this bathroom. Say hello to the neighbors even when you don't know them or their names. Walk out to the sidewalk on the street, turn around, look at the house and know you are home. 

Because this is where your family is, and this is where you live, and this IS home!

So we will keep working on our little house project to get it all done, and go forward with plans for chickens, and a vegetable patch, because this place is also a lesson in how to stay. And I want to stay in Texas. 

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Slow Progress...but it is still Home Sweet Home!

While we got our tiny home, home. Getting it set up to be livable has been slower than slow! We are fairly far out from major supplies and services, and over 20 miles to the grocery store, gasoline, and building supplies. Getting repair services runs about the same way, slow. Most likely due to the fact there are more customers than services can cover as quickly as folks would prefer. 

But from what I have learned most folks (like us) prefer to use local services, so the wait has been understandable if not a bit frustrating. But this week (finally!) things are beginning to break! We should have water and power by Friday and I am keeping my fingers crossed that the septic tank we found can be brought back around again!

And like much of the world around us, we are having forest fires! We are hoping the evacuation lines don't come closer, as we get ready to wind down the day into evening. We have downloaded the local Emergency Broadcast & Announcement app on our phones and believe we are ready to pack and go, should we get the alarm. Please keep your fingers crossed and a prayer close at hand, that we do not get the signal to evacuate. 

Through it all we are unloading the boxes brought from Wyoming, along with unpacking boxes packed up from our little 5thwheel we had used for travel. With the little trailer now gone, it is time to consolidate all the household goods and only keep what we need and what will fit in the Montana. I could act all surprised at how many dishes, pots and pans and baking pan I have, but the truth is, I love kitchenware and filling the cupboards in the Montana will be bittersweet, because there will be a lot to donate! 


One thing I did today was put out my 3 kittens! I have packed and moved these kittens each move since my seventh birthday! It is not home until the kittens are on a shelf. Today our tiny house (even with no water, power or sewer) became home. Fortunately we are bunking with the kids until we are all set up in the Montana. Not ones to sit around, here are the other chores that got done today:


We leveled the ground next to the Montana, we will need to put in a French drain right next to the concrete pad to keep rain from running under the trailer. Because when it rains here, you get little rivers everywhere. We also scraped away the mud that was left behind at the front door from the last rainfall. 


I put out some pillows that were in my Mom's things that my sister had brought to me along with a basket of keepsakes we have collected though the years including our NPS volunteer years. The basket fits on the table nicely, with just enough room for my morning cup of coffee at the corner! I tell ya, as soon as we have water and power we will have morning coffee in our tiny house!


Walking around the property we believe we have an Armadillo den! They love fire ants, so they are welcome here! A large Armadillo has been observed waling past our Montana, I am thinking babies might also show up some day. We have wild Passion Flowers everywhere along with Beauty Berries. We have also discovered a lone pecan tree, that most likely has been the local all you can eat buffet for the squirrels. And other than that it is a waiting game...

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Making a new home in Texas!

Tomorrow we have been here one month. And while it does not seem like we get much done from day to day, in reality much has been accomplished in the last 29 days!

We unpacked what seemed to be a million boxes and found room for them in the various outbuildings on the property. There simply is not enough room in the small house on the property for the belongings of both families. So each family brought in their most needed items, and the rest was tucked away. 

We were able to returned the rental trucks on time for no overage fees! This is actually a huge feat since it took us four days to pack and load while we waited for our house sale to close, in Wyoming, another four days of hard travel to get to Texas and a couple more days to unload! Rentals are usually for seven days, but we were given four extra days due to having to drive 100 miles to pick up the truck in Wyoming. 



It didn't take long to realize we needed a small tractor and some goats, the tractor sits on the property now. After having a family meeting about how much we could squeeze out of the budget to buy a used one. The goats are still on the list of what needs to be done...but I am beginning to wonder if the goats should have come first!

Our property was advertised as two homesites, the real estate ad, was a bit off generous with that statement. It turns out that the second homesite is so dilapidated it is unusable and we will need to build new infrastructure for power, sewer and water. We did however find the septic tank for the second homesite when it caved in...

Also we have been looking high and low for housing, settling on a very large 38 foot fifth wheel with four slide rooms as our tiny home. We decided on this direction after six or seven road trips to view used mobile homes that might work. But the reality of what was advertised compared to what we actually viewed was staggering! 

Since we had lived in much smaller 5thweels as park volunteers, this seemed like a familiar and comfortable way to go. And While the one we bought does need some work, I cannot wait to get it filled with our belongings and move in! But for now,  there is work to be done!



Even with the work needing to be done, this 38 foot home with a complete kitchen is exactly what we want and need! We have been asked for photos from many friends and family, so I will let you know right now, be prepared for more photos showing our plans as they take shape in the upcoming weeks and months, as we make a comfortable home to enjoy here in the Piney Woods of East Texas. 

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Remaking our home out of the rubble! 

Before we pulled up and parked along the side of the house on the street, we had traveled 1900 miles in four days! We had been gone for so long, it did not feel like home, and certainly not our home. Our back deck held a small hill of wet books, craft supplies, and canning equipment covered up with a tarp. Which made sense when it was winter and snow continued to fall, but now in spring time, it was just a soggy mess. And while the kid's apartment was filled with all the furniture it could hold from our place, our apartment was filled with construction dust and paint splatters. 

There was only one thing to do, get the trucks unloaded and start cleaning. It took four days of 14 hour shifts of cleaning, and unpacking to put it all away. Until we were finally comfortable and cooking in a real kitchen! The repairs to each  apartment are wonderful, but what I wouldn't give to have the old cabinets, and  flooring that came with the house so I would still have all of the unreplaceable photos, books and keepsakes that had made my soul smile with the memories they offered each and every time I walked by, while living this quiet life in Wyoming...

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North to Wyoming!

Next Wednesday we will pack up and head back to Wyoming. The repairs on our home will be completed and the real work (for us!) begins while we take what is left, what has changed and what is new, and make a home to be comfortable in, once again. We have been away from Wyoming for a long time, September 2022 to end of May 2023. So long, that Wyoming does not feel like home, Texas does...


There have been rainstorms like I have never seen before, and don't get me started on the hail and the wind! But the thing is, Texas is in fact, big in all things (like storms!) but also on kindness, and a welcoming nature. There has not been one establishment visited where we were not welcomed. And not just for our dollars that would be left behind! Talked to like old friends from the first moment. And invited back to simply visit, and this was in an antique store! Meet the Mayor of a small town as he left the local pharmacy and stopped to talk to a shopkeeper we just happened to be in a conversation with. There are no strangers in small town Texas. 


Were not able to tour Houston or Dallas, but I did gather some interesting observations to share. Texans love their donuts. It doesn't matter how small the town is, it has a donut shop! Food is a big deal here, which of course makes me feel right at home! Also it is NOT common to see a run down home, no matter the neighborhood, whether rich or not. And Church parking lots are full on Sunday, while car dealership lots are closed for the day. I think it shows, I fell hard for Texas!


Please keep us in your thoughts as we travel back to Wyoming, and for all the travelers on the road to their next journey be it large or small, safe travels for us all!

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To be honest, I am not sure where to begin...WARNING: this will be part rant but it's all true! 



Once settled in Wyoming we decided to spend our first winter away as camp volunteers in Arizona. Arizona is always a sure bet for warm weather in the winter. As a matter of fact, my husband Terry and I had volunteered in Arizona at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument right on the U.S.A. and Mexico border. It was my first time in the dessert and I fell in love with the little town of Ajo AZ. The weather was always wonderful even when it rained. 

Just like when we moved to Wyoming, both families caravanned to Arizona to begin our service work. Fortunately our duty was up in a month which turned out to be the best for us all, it is hard to volunteer with four adults each working five days a week plus a baby to care for, when you do not share the same days off. I was caring for our grandson when my daughter was on duty, for five days a week as well as working my own five days, and unfortunately I never got a day off...I could not love this child more, but a day off to relax became a real need. 

We would have been happy to stay longer but after asking three times to adjust the schedule so we could share at least one day off, we decided that most likely it was simply time to leave. We headed to Yuma to wait out winter, knowing full well that we could not go home to Wyoming until spring, but of course we had no idea that there was a terrible cold front coming and that temperatures were going to drop to -45 degrees in our little home town! 

My husband and I set about trying to stay busy and active by riding our new bikes, exploring Yuma and relaxing. Something we did not get to do much of, as volunteers. I had only been able to ride my new bike a couple of times before we packed it up onto the bike rack and headed to Arizona. But now in Yuma we had the time and the weather to ride, stay active and enjoy ourselves. But one never knows how the day will end...I took a bad fall on the bike, nothing broken, but I had to heal for a couple of weeks before riding again. 

And as luck would have it, my ulcers decided to get real busy, real fast. One Sunday I found myself at the Yuma Urgent Care for some relief from all the stomach pain. While I hate being on prescription medication, I knew that at this time, I would need the help that the medication could give. I was finally resting in bed for the first time in weeks, and about 2 a.m. I heard the noise of a chain falling to the ground. Some one had cut the lock and the chain on my new bike and rode away. To be honest, I was very angry. We had waited and saved for a long time to purchase new pedal assist e-bikes for ourselves. When we called our insurance agent, she was shocked, for as many years as she has been in business, we were her first theft claim...people don't have to lock their bikes up in our little hometown. As grateful as I am for insurance, the settlement did not provide an equal replacement, but I do love my second e-bike!

On Christmas Day a police officer called us to let us know that water was running out of our house and into the yard...in the -45 degree cold snap a pipe between the downstairs apartment and the upstairs apartment had frozen and now that it had warmed up a bit to 36 degrees we were flooded. My sweet little apartment was completely damaged by the water leak and most of my belongings have been destroyed. At this time there is no home to go back to. Again our insurance agent has been so kind, but we have a long road of repair and replacement ahead of us. The weather is still too cold to get much work done, and the passes have not cleared so there is no traveling home with 5thwheel trailers! We are exploring Texas at the moment, and it has been the saving grace. The people are warm and caring, just what this traveler needed!

But even with ALL of this, I know I am truly blessed. We are all healthy, and still together, so all in all, we are doing just fine! There is no other way to view the past, but from behind as you walk towards  tomorrow. Thank you for the chat, I already feel better!


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The Continental Divide, divided us!


Well, we made it to Wyoming, or I should say some of us and most of our belongings made it to Wyoming! While we had a bit of trouble along the way, we were also blessed every mile of the way in our journey to get to our new home. We piled out of our old driveway into two 26ft moving trucks each hauling a car transport. These were driven by our Son-in-Law and Daughter. My husband was pulling Big Blue and our little 5thwheel. I was driving the family SUV carrying our little grandson. 

The trip was going along smoothly until we were almost at the top of the Continental Divide, and Big Blue decided to blow a head gasket! We had no choice but to separate leaving my husband to wait for the tow truck. There simply wasn't room nor was it safe for all our vehicles, and the moving trucks to wait for the tow truck along that stretch of the highway. 

Because it was a Saturday when my husband and Big Blue along with the 5thwheel made it to Butte MT, it was a two-day wait for services. In the meanwhile, we continued driving to Wyoming and started unpacking the trucks trying to put a house together for some comfort for the young grandson. 

But come Sunday we had a problem! We were due to sign house documents on Monday morning, and one of us was in Butte! There was only one thing to do, my Son in Law made a mad dash trip to get my husband, and wouldn't you know it, on the way back, THEY BLEW THE REAR DRIVER'S TIRE! Now keep in mind, this was the same vehicle I drove the grandson to Wyoming in, and while I was SO VERY happy no one was hurt, I was just as happy that it did not blow when I was driving with the grandson!

But as things come in 3's, it was at that moment the discovery was made that there was NO JACK in that car! But just as problems can come in threes, so do blessings. Within three minutes our menfolk saw a car with blue lights pull up behind, and the kind Montana Game Warden assisted in getting the tire changed and everyone back on the road! The documents were signed on time, but about Big Blue...due to supply chain issues, we are hoping to get a call any moment to say we can come and pick up the truck and our little 5thwheel. 

Because wouldn't you know it, all the last-minute packing went into the 5hwheel and those are the very items we need to finish making a home!

UPDATE: we got to pick up Big Blue on August 21 having been towed to Butte MT for repairs on July 22!

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We are on the move! Our home is sold and we shall relocate! There is still much to do, packing, etc, but as soon as I can share I will fill in the blanks! 07.09.2022

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Miss Henrietta!

Ironically the entry right after this one is titled "follow-through". And it was written more than a month ago. And while my original plan was to have at least one entry each month, more if a lot was happening, a funny chain of events has taken place. 

I took a part-time job and convinced my family we should sell and relocate. Yes, we have only been here a little over three years. And yes, we do love it here. But we have decided we wish to be in a more rural location and we want to travel. We are not the let's go to Europe kind of travelers, but I do hope to see England before I see heaven, which is why I took the part-time job. Money for England! 

No, we are more the hitch the 5thwheel up to the truck and let's see America, kind of travelers. It's a lovely life, and while it is not task-free, it is a fun way to live quietly and see our great country. Meeting lots of interesting folks along the way is simply a bonus. 


One thing that had to be taken care of was to rehome this couple. Henry and Henrietta were two of the survivors of the "chicks by mail" disaster from a year ago. And along the way, I fell completely in love with Miss Henrietta. 

She is the cutest scamper-er in the history of backyard chickens. Because of her small size, she had been on the receiving end of the pecking order of life rules, from the bigger girls. But the biggest part of her and her greatest asset is her mothering instinct. She is what I have learned is a "sitter". A hen that will sit on and care for fertilized eggs and be their mother when they break from the shell. 


It is easy to tell which eggs are hers when I gather eggs in the evenings. But she is often in the nesting box sitting on all the eggs in the box! Often I have had to take her down and sit her in front of the food so she keeps up enough strength to scamper away when the bigger girls begin enforcing the rules. 

But now she is the top hen! She will be able to sit and care for the eggs beneath her, get down to eat, and go right back to her job of keeping the eggs safe, warm, and dry. A job she will do with all he heart! 

I know she is where she belongs, I said to myself as I wiped away some tears...

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Follow-through!


I set a goal for myself, to get back here and drop a few lines, at least once a month. And here it is 01.27.2022 and I am just now getting back here! Ironically my one word for 2022 is follow-through...

I have chosen a word year after year since the campaign began because I like learning new things, challenging myself and I am that old! But many times I did not even remember what my word was about four months into the year, I was that busy as a single mom. 

And then last year it finally clicked with my one word for 2021, contentment. Contentment is defined as, "the art of enjoying, learning and satisfaction, without regard to riches." I don't think I could have chosen a better word for so much success, and maybe that is the key to the success of the one word campaign.

Choose a word that is already a part of your life, but not completely in gear yet. A word that, as you continue to improve your life to be 100% successful in putting that word into fourth gear, you will achieve your full potential in life and the pursuit of happiness. 

With the big move to our new state, and all the new tasks and skills I have learned, taken on, and enjoyed, I have to be honest with you, I am not sure what else I can put a lot of follow-through into! 

Except for this one these area areas: 

When I say I do not want something, I will not keep quiet as someone insists I take it. I will follow-through with a quiet, no.

When I ask that you stop something, or improve something, I will not keep quiet as I am being ignored. I will follow-through and do what I need to do to keep my world in sync.

And when I have no one to travel alongside me in new adventures, I will follow-through and go anyway!

Let's see how this went in one year...

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Ending 2021.
My Life as a Christmas Tree. 

This morning I was sitting with my coffee mug, looking at the Christmas tree and I realized that the decorations really do represent my life. One tradition we have is to pick out an ornament each year. We especially enjoy the blown glass style. We tend to pick something that catches our fancy or keeps a memory close. And this morning looking back on my choices, these past few years, I don't find too many that don't keep a memory close... 


1. The red-themed pickup truck with the tree in the back. 

I know why I love these old trucks, they remind me of my Dad. He always drove an old truck that he would pick up cheap as his work truck. I remember helping him "rattle-can" the outside blue to cover up any rust. If he changed jobs and was assigned a service truck by his employer, he would sell his old truck. Ironically I drive an old blue truck...not as old as the ones my dad drove, but by today's standards, my 1996, is old.


2. A stack of books.

In this household, my husband and I love books, and own far too many!. At one time I had over 3,000 cookbooks alone! My husband has taken a count of his novels and if he reads 2 a week, he will need to live to be 105! Needless to say, moving all these boxes of books, keeps one in shape...

3. The clock and 9:00 pm bedtime.


Growing up, bedtime was 9:00 pm. And this was especially enforced on Christmas Eve! Now as an adult, I realize just how much had to be done before mom and dad could go to bed, but gosh at the time, it seemed awful!

4. A miniature copper tea kettle.


This ornament has a double meaning! Many, many years ago when times were tight, my in-laws gave me a copper tea kettle for Christmas. Even in my immaturity at the time (it seemed sparse by comparison to previous gifts, I'm embarrassed to say), I put it in my kitchen and used it with pride each and every day. And years later, when I began collecting copper pieces, I knew exactly where my love of copper came from. But it wasn't until I downloaded this photo that I realized you can see a reflection of my hands taking a photo with my phone. But, you see, that is my preference. I take the photo to NOT be in the photo! 


5. This wire and bead ornament.


This ornament was made for me years ago, a gift from my daughter. What would Christmas be, without the love of family?


6. This digital camera ornament.


I love digital cameras, and that was the reason for this ornament. I have no skill in picture taking and the old-fashioned film cameras were always an expensive disappointment for me. I would take a roll of film in for processing, only to wait a week and find that what I saw with my eyes, missed the lens by miles! When digital cameras came out, I bought one as soon as I could! But it wasn't until I got the ornament home did I realize that the "photo" was of the Golden Gate Bridge. The one place in the world I love. You see, I was born in Marin County, and driving across the bridge to go "into the city" was magical to me as a child!


7. A few vintage ornaments.


This is the style of ornament that will always remind me of my childhood home, and our Christmases shared, year after year. We are all much older now, scattered across the states, but I have no doubt we all hold cherished memories of glitter falling off the ornaments and tinsel hanging in clumps! 

How about your Christmas tree? Is it also filled with your life and the path you have traveled?

From our house to yours, may you always be surrounded by love and happiness, this holiday and each thereafter! Merry Christmas!


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AGATE.

This cat was a force to be enjoyed! He was so independent, and while not a lap cat for himself, if he thought you were just a bit under the weather, he was right up there to help you feel better! We were together in one way or another for over 19 years. He was born into a litter of kittens at my daughter's house and became mine, shortly thereafter. 

When he was 15 (84 in human equivalent) he hit the road with us as we traveled for a year to be National Park Volunteers. In the 19 years, I got to be his human, we must have moved 8 different times, and he always knew something was up!

And finally, our last move to Montana. After three years chasing quail that he could not ever catch, he came to the end and was ready to say goodbye. In all his time with us, he retained his sweet innocent outlook on the world, along with a bit of kitten that could come out to play from time to time. 

There is no goodbye, there can't be. Only that I will always remember you and miss you so. 


Agate. 08.25.2002 - 09.27.2021.

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The Welcoming Quilt.

This blanket is old, and stained, and falling apart! It is also 67 years old having been started in 1954 for my birth in March of 1955. A second blanket was in the works, but sadly I was the only baby to come home. So this is the only blanket.

I keep calling it a blanket, but in reality, it is a quilt, with many layers for warmth and held smooth with knotted yarn ties. My grandmother taught me how to quilt when I was quite young, and I have remembered it since that day.

From the Heart, stories about life.

This quilt has (miraculously!) moved with me the 30 odd times I have moved, in my lifetime. In addition to the qualities above, it is butter soft! It brought me home from the hospital, then my firstborn son came home in this blanket. Four years later, my daughter came home in this blanket.

From the Heart, stories about life.

Looks like, I got some mending to do...

Later when the grandchildren started coming, it brought home my first grandchild, and now soon, it will bring home my own baby's baby... There is something so profound about your youngest becoming a mother.

From the Heart, stories about life.

You see the firstborn is the first in line for all things, first step, first haircut, first lost tooth, starting school. But your youngest child's firsts are so memorable because you know as a mother there will be no more babies until the grandchildren come.

And grandchildren are wonderful, all of them. Different from one another as night is, to, day. They are proof of love without bounds. And that is why your baby's baby is the most wonderful extension of those baby years with the holding and the rocking, and a whole new world of firsts!

From the Heart, stories about life.

I can't wait to meet this little guy...

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From the Heart, stories about life.

My Dad's hammer.

I was about seven years old when I found this propped up against the tire of a car parked along the street, as I walked home. I picked it up from where it laid and took it home to my dad, never thinking that someone actually might have placed it there for just a moment or two...

I gave it to my Dad when he got home from work. I am fairly certain he ever used my gift, it is a carpenter's finishing hammer, and my dad was not a carpenter. He was a refrigeration repair mechanic. But he never threw it away or lost it either. It was pretty much always on top of the other tools in his toolbox. I wonder how many times he moved it out of his way to reach the tool needed, only to put it away again, when he packed up his toolbox...

When my Dad died suddenly, there was a whirlwind of things to do, and to think about. There were decisions to be made about some of Dad's personal belongings. His Boson's pipe and other items from his time in the Navy went to my brothers. His metronome and other personal items were offered to his mother and sisters.  

Then one day I saw Dad's toolbox open, and the hammer was right there on top. I could not wait any longer, I just took it. It was scraggly when I picked it up those many years before, and it had not improved with time in the toolbox! Which is probably why no one else wanted it. But I did. The handle was loose in the hammerhead, it was also full of gouges and had spots of oil or some other substance on it. But it was mine, from my Dad, so I could always remember him. 

Later when I married we used the hammer to hang up all the pictures and artwork in our little house. And each time we redecorated or moved, again the hammer was called into service. And here it is 53 years later and I still hang artwork with this hammer. Funny, I never changed a thing about this hammer, but the handle is now held tight by the hammerhead, and I personally think all that patina from years of use is quite beautiful. Life will leave its patina, but when you look closely it is your life's history in art form.

Thanks, Dad for keeping it for me. 

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Baby chicks and a forlorn snowfall. 

Our Son-in-law built the brooder box, and then we ordered baby chick. Wanting to be prepared, we knew we would need to let them mature, then harden them off to a coop with outdoor time as they grew and the weather grew warmer. In the meanwhile, we would have plenty of time to get the chicken house and attached chicken run completed. We already have the plans for the house, and the needed lumber stacked in the yard. 

We got the call this morning from the Postmaster, our package had arrived! When I got to the post office I was handed a small box. Surprised I said, "that's it, 15 baby chicks are in that box?" The Postmaster was kind when he replied, there are only about 3 or 4 still alive. My guess is, he knows the sound of a full box of young birds as well as the sound of a box where the little ones are not doing too good. The drive home from the post office was odd, tiny anxious-sounding cheeps coming from the box, and a snowflake dropping every now and again...

Chickens have been mailed out for years, my husband remembers them from the Sears catalog when he was just a kid, 60+ years ago. But this was my first time picking up chicks that did not come from a feed store...I put the small box on the seat beside me in the truck, hoping my husband would be back from men's breakfast at church. I am pretty tough, but 12 dead baby chicks if the postmaster was right were more than I wanted to deal with alone, this morning. 

He saw me drive up and came out to greet me, also surprised at the size of the box. I remarked, that I had figured out the box, their own body heat would collect and keep them warm during their journey to us. We began the process of holding each one and stroking their little beaks with a wet finger to get them to drink a little water until they recovered enough to be offered a saucer of water. We weren't sure any of it would work, but soon they began to drink on their own, then little legs began searching for solid ground, so we knew it was time to set them into the brooder box. 
 
From the Heart, stories about life.

And now it was time to think about the ones that did not make it. I knew my husband could bury them, but to be honest, I am capable, so I did. It would have been easy to simply dig a big hole and place the box down into the earth and cover it up. But there is something in me that feels I must do things differently. I did dig a hole, then I began placing the little guys gently into the hole, first one by one, until I had to tip the box to empty the last couple of out. But one would not fall from the box. I had to firmly tap the corner of the box to dislodge the last one. 

As I watched them laying there, one MOVED. I picked him (I keep referring to them as boys, but our goal has been for egg-laying hens) up and quickly took him back to the house and gave his care over to my husband. At that point walking back from the house I noticed that the ground was speckled with snowflakes. It had been snowing all this time, and I had not even noticed. Maybe because the job I was tending to was important/sad/and not one we will repeat. As my husband warmed and cared for the saved one, I went back to finish my own task, one that is solemn but necessary. 

Fortunately, as I write this, I hear their little cheeps growing stronger and stronger from our little survivors. They are pecking at food, walking around, napping, and drinking water on their own. And, it turns out, the prediction from the postmaster was off by a few, but sadly so was the information from the chicken shipper...

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Goodbye, big brother...

Now as a family, we are down one member. When I got the call, I had immediately remembered a conversation I had had with my younger sister. I had said that we had all reached that age, where we would start to die. And while I am not a morbid person in any way, I am a realist. 

Having spent nearly twenty years serving the needs of the aging population as an Administrator in Assisted Living. I even went on to say, that the first one could very well be me...

To which my younger sister replied, "why you, you have taken the best care of yourself." But I know in my heart there is no rhyme or reason to that time a person will leave us. I saw it year after year. It is quite simple really. We stay until we go. There is no karma to it (not really), the good often go early, but so do those you won't miss...

From the Heart, stories about life.


But with my brother's passing the thing that touched my heart, the most was learning more about my Mother than I ever knew before. We were a blended family coming together in 1968. 

In 1968 I lost a father but I gained a brother. It was only after his passing, that I learned about our Mother and her broken heart from not being allowed to raise her firstborn. Seventy years later there is nothing to be done with the information, nothing I could change in our family's history, not by action or by hope. 

But my newly found out information did allow for a better understanding of my Mother, and many of her decisions, comments, and actions over the years. And that is always a good lesson, for us all. 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Live Your Life.

Creative Writing From the Heart.


In less than six months I will have the honor of turning 65.  In reality, the honor of aging is denied to many, even my own father. Because when I turn 65, I will be 20 years older than he, at his passing. 

I think of my years surpassing his own and each time I try to reflect on the life goals I hope to master. And while I have not learned everything there is to know, I can tell you the following.

The greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to feel. Feel everything, the joy, the sorrow, even the anger because there are lessons in every feeling, just as there is life in everything we set our sights on.

This past year there have been many changes. The sale of our homes, a year of volunteering and full-time travel, and a permanent move several states away from where we started out. 

The move was planned, the location was not. But I can say that this is exactly where I need to be, for this last life I will be making for myself.

We make many lives throughout the years, our family life, a work-life, maybe if we have time enough a community life for volunteerism until we come to our last life.

And this is where we can and do wrap it all up! 

Where there is no dress code, no conversation requirements or business meetings, no boss over us!

We are our own boss, and scheduling coordinator, and the HR department, and even payroll department! Because make no mistake, you and you alone will be responsible for the business of living. 
And since it will be your last life, YOU NEED TO DO IT RIGHT!

So feel it all!

Surround yourself with joyful people, people that find you as wonderful as they are to you. Allow yourself to have an opinion, respectfully of course, and give yourself permission to indulge in the "don'ts".
  • Don't worry about what you look like, choose comfort.
  • Don't worry about what you think you are missing, because you choose what fills your day. 
  • Don't keep quiet, saying what you mean is healthy.
  • Don't regret what you should be doing, do what is important to you.
  • Don't let anyone tell you how to live, this is your life to make the most of!
And finally,
  • Don't regret it! Live your life, and love your life, and feel everything. 

Creative Writing, from the heart
Through the years 6.5 months to 65 years.

So that you may celebrate this last life with complete and utter enjoyment!

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The story of Appetite versus Hunger.

Food is an incredible substance. It will nourish, perfect creativity, interview your food desires, and fill your belly.

Hunger is also incredible, it will develop an appreciation, for the simple, for the nutritious, for the here and now.

But appetite is amazing but can be tricky. It is slick and glossy and choosy. It will blindside you into mindless eating when you should be satisfying your hunger.

Appetite asks, "what do I want?".

Hunger asks, "what do we have?"

Hunger is much easier on a cook, the food resources available, and the entire household.

For the most part, a response to hunger is practiced in our home.

We have a large stock of foods in the dry goods pantry, in the freezer, and in the refrigerator. From this, we cook, dine, and satisfy hunger. When we enter the kitchen to prepare a meal, the question asked is, "So what do we have?" and for this reason, we do not employ a weekly meal plan. Instead, we see what we have, and use what we have, and from there, we enjoy what we eat.

Creative Writing from the Heart.

We had made the above vegetable casserole for one of our dinners that week, it was enjoyed, and then after dinner prepared for storage in the refrigerator. We did not serve it as leftovers the next day, and there is a good reason. Each dinner should be different than the one before, this prevents boredom with eating at home, plus encourages creativity. 

I prefer to skip a day and have a little taste break. When you return to the food waiting in the refrigerator, it is appreciated more since you did not see it or taste it last night...plus you will find that as the week rolls on, and you have gotten most everything crossed off your to-do list, you grow a bit weary.

And so, by the time Friday rolls around, any easy yet delicious dinner is, in fact, the preferred choice for the evening's meal. This is where the concept of Add a fried egg and some toast comes into play. This arrangement has on more than one occasion been our Friday Night Special.

No matter what you have in the fridge, a fried egg and some toast will always round it out, into a meal. This gratin proved the point and made for a delicious and lovely dinner. And I know, we will do this again, because we have done this in the past......here is what takes place.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Friday Night Special, leftovers with an egg on top!

Friday Night Special
by the seat of my pants!

Leftovers like a Vegetable Gratin, a Vegetable Cobbler, or other casserole/vegetables on hand in the fridge or pantry
Eggs
Whole Grain Bread
Butter
Salt and Pepper
Jam and Mustard, if desired

Warm the Gratin setting it aside.

Slice whole grain bread, begin toasting.

While bread is toasting, fry an egg (or 2) for each person.

Butter the toast.

Top the Gratin with a fried egg, place buttered toast on each plate.

Serve this forth, offering jam for the toast and possibly a bit of mustard for the eggs. 

It really is delicious. Healthy, creative, frugal and it satisfies one's hunger.

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Women are superheroes too! I am Supper Mom!

Creative Writing from the Heart.

There she is now!
After a long day working hard,
She comes in the door ready to go, she is:
Supper Mom!

Faster than the blink of an eye,
Tastier than a take-out meal,
Healthier than Casserole in a box,

Yes, Supper Mom does it all,
with generous love for her family!

Supper Mom, cooking supper in kitchens,
all across America!

I have written about this wonderful gift from my son before, but only in passing, then I came across it while opening all the boxes when we moved to this house. She had always been in my kitchen, since her creation, and I was happy to find her again. 

My son did not know it at the time, but when he gave me that first Mother's Day card from grade school, he set the stage for Supper Mom. He intended to say, “To a super mom” but what his little fingers typed was “To a supper mom” and right there, Supper Mom was born. I have several hand-made cards from those early years and I think most of them say “to a supper mom”. What great memories they hold. And it is also possible that he was letting me know that he was just hungry!

Looking at my son and my daughter I can see many traits of my folks present within each of them. Separately they each carry traits that are clearly from their grandparents. It warms my heart the way generations before us, are still with us now, in the latest generation of the family. To me, this is amazing and comforting at the same time. But we have a fun story of how our family came about...

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Mom and Dad in 1951

Mom spotted Dad the very first time he stopped in for lunch at the little cafe where she worked. It was Friday the 13th, which apparently was a lucky day for her, as they married 10 days later on June 23, 1951. I have always enjoyed the story of how they met and a family was started. And I have enjoyed the look on some of the faces of the folks hearing the story!

I've told it often and it never ceases to inspire comments. Some folks say how impulsive they must have been. Others have remarked, how lucky they must have been. But I think it was about being brave. Brave enough to trust in each other, and in tomorrow. 

Today I made Mom's favorite apple cake, the one she loved, and served as often as she could. It is delicious and was always looked forward to by all. Plain or with ice cream, you will love it, I am pretty sure!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Raw Apple Cake

Mary's favorite, Raw Apple Cake
The recipe source unknown but thanked countless times
350-degree oven 

4 c peeled and diced apples - about 5 medium

2 eggs
1 c sugar
2 t vanilla
1/2 c oil 

2 c flour
2 t soda
1 t salt
2 t cinnamon

3 T sugar
1 t cinnamon 

Start with the apples, wash, rinse, peel, and dice. 

How to make the best apple cake anywhere, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.


This is 4 cups of apples, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

I never found it to be a problem using more than the listed 4 cups of diced apples. The truth is you see, I have never been able to pick out the perfect number of apples that yield exactly 4 cups of diced fruit! 
So in this kitchen, once an apple is cut, the whole apple is used. 

Women are superheroes too!, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

In a large bowl, beat eggs, beat in sugar, oil, and vanilla. Fold in diced apples. Let sit 5 - 10 minutes or until apples "juice" slightly.




In a medium-size bowl, combine flour, soda, salt, and the 2 t cinnamon, whisk to combine. 


Stir into the apple mixture, mixing until no dry pockets of flour remain. 





Turn batter into a 9X13 prepared baking pan. Spread batter evenly, working into corners of the pan. Stir together the remaining sugar and cinnamon, sprinkle evenly over the batter.

Done, Mary's favorite Raw Apple Cake, @ Creative Writing from the Heart.

Bake 50 - 60 minutes, or until the cake tests "done" in your oven. 

This cake is perfect warm out of the oven with a bit of vanilla ice cream. It keeps well, re-heats well, and is delicious through the very last piece! I would think that it would also freeze well, but there is never any left to put into the freezer!

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The story of Grandmother, Apple Pie, and Sunday Dinners!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
My Grandmother is on the right...

Sunday, September 12, 2010, was Grandparents Day. This is a relatively new holiday, not one I celebrated officially when I was a kid. However, I had a wonderful Grandmother, and time with her was always a celebration. In my opinion, our grandmother was one in a million. She was always happy, made the best of any situation, and could make you feel like a million bucks when you were in her company. I got to spend time with her only infrequently, as we moved or she was on the move!

She was a sharp dresser and a lover of hats. The picture I share is from my memories book, a sweet gift from my sister. It has copies of all the important pictures. You know the ones, where you are just a family, doing what families do. When our Mom wanted to "stage" a photograph, she would say, "OK you kids, stand close together" and if we had had a particularly hectic day, she would add "and act like you care about each other".

My Grandmother Carter was born in 1900. She came across the prairie in a covered wagon when she was a young girl to live in the state of California. She went to work in the lumber camps in Northern California at the age of 13. She was hired to be the camp cook. Yes, at 13! She cooked for a group of hungry loggers, their job was to log down the trees with hand-drawn saws. Needless to say, they would be ravenous at mealtime. One day she had a bit of extra time and a few apples, so she made an apple pie. Well, that did it.....

Her duties were expanded to include making one pie a day, for each logger. At that point, she needed some help. A cook's helper was brought in to be of help, so she could accomplish it all. Imagine, here was this 13-year-old young woman, with her own helper, working as the head cook, in the lumber camp. From there she never stopped cooking! Grandmother went on to marry and raise a family. Later she would work out of the home, then semi-retired and cook as a hobby and raise a little cash when she got bored. Then finally retire to travel a bit, but she never ever stopped cooking...

Creative Writing from the Heart.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

This is my grandmother's cookbook she used when she started cooking again after raising a family. Her cooking took her to many places. But she always came back home to see her family. The book was full, so Grandmother did the frugal and the sensible, she added some pages for the handwritten notes. This book is my treasure.

I have so many great memories of my grandmother. And of course, she was not only my grandmother. I got had to share her with a lot of other siblings and cousins. But the memories that I adore are mine, and firmly planted in my heart. I can only hope that my siblings and cousins feel the same way about my Grandmother.


My family.

But this story is bout pie. I should get back on track, and start talking pie, apple pie to be exact.

Creative Writing From the Heart.
Apple Pie, made with love!

Grandmother was the best pie baker! She always put a lot of love into her cooking, and by the sheer volume of food cooked through the years, a lot of skill as well. In my family, we all love pie. Because of that love, we also tend to be good pie bakers. In my opinion, there is nothing as delicious as homemade pie. I have stopped ordering pie in a cafe or restaurant because it is always just a bit disappointing. Probably because Grandmother's secret ingredient, is missing.


Creative Writing From the Heart.

Grandmother baked a pie by touch, and with a lot of love (yes, the secret ingredient). Honestly, I am not that good. I usually follow this recipe. Tailored from my memories of Grandmother, and our baking together through the years. As I remember those times, I can still hear her saying, " work the flour and fat together, with your hands", "don't add too much water, you only want it to cling together", and of course " treat it gentle, if you want a tender crust".

As a young girl, I would listen intently and in awe, right there by her elbow as she worked and I stood at the corner edge of the table. Then before I knew it, a beautiful pie would come out of her oven. This pie is from my Grandmother's oven 
via my memories, I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. And now in my whole wheat kitchen, we bake this same pie with a whole wheat crust. And it is delicious!


Grandmother's Handmade Apple Pie, seasoned with love 
Recreated from memory, by the seat of my pants!
Makes 1 large pie

Start with the apples:
7 large apples - peeled and sliced thin
1/2 c sugar
1/4 c brown sugar
2 T flour
1 T cornstarch
1/4 t salt
1 1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

Peel apples, quarter, and core, the apple pieces will measure approximately 8 cups.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Rinse, slice into a large bowl.

Creative Stories From the Heart.

Combine remaining ingredients and stir into apples to coat well.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
Season your apples and let them sit while you make the pie crust dough. That is the secret to a pie that is full of fruit after baking. 

Let apples sit and "juice" while you make the pastry. The "juicing" process will shrink the apples slightly. Ensuring that the shrinking of the fruit will happen before baking the pie, and not during baking. The pie will be full of fruit, with less of an air pocket right under the top crust.

Pastry:
400-degree oven to start, reduce to 350-degrees 

ice water - place 2 or 3 ice cubes into a measuring cup, add 1 c water, place in the fridge

2 1/2 c flour
1/2 t salt
1 T sugar
3/4 c chilled butter, lard, or coconut oil, cut into small dice

additional flour for rolling out the dough
minute tapioca, to sprinkle in the bottom crust

Prepare ice water.

Combine all remaining ingredients in a large bowl, cut the fat in with a pastry cutter (my preference) or work the fat into the flour with your hands.


Creative Writing from the Heart.

When fat is cut into flour and there is an overall even look to the mixture of flour and fat, begin working in the water. Only use a T measuring spoon to add water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Important:  Do Not Use More Than 8 T of Water - Total. 
The dough will come together with some assistance, gently use your hands to bring the dough together into a ball.

On a floured surface, roll dough in flour to coat. Cut into 2 pieces.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Using one-half of the dough, roll evenly into a 10inch circle. The easiest way to do this is to stand at the corner of your work area, roll the rolling pin North and South gently a couple of times, then East and West a couple of times. Continue rolling in this manner evenly until dough is the correct size for your pie pan.

Use the rolling pin to roll the dough onto, lift the dough onto the top of the pie pan, and unroll the pie crust dough over the pie pan. Use your hands to "fit" the dough down into the pan and shift it if necessary to fit the pan evenly, in order to seal the edge when the top crust goes on.



Creative Writing From the Heart.

Sprinkle the bottom of the crust with the minute tapioca.

Add the apples, using your hands to "fit" and arrange the apple slices in the crust.  Roll out the top crust, and again, use the rolling pin to support the dough and bring it over the apples, and unroll.

Creative Writing From the Heart.
Always treat the crust dough with careful handling to keep it tender.

Adjust the top crust, and seal the edges. Make one small hole in the top crust, and put in a vent so that you do not lose the good juices onto the bottom of the oven floor. I prefer a small stainless steel funnel. Having the vent allows the juices to boil in the crust, and cook the pie completely, without a lot of mess. There are also ceramic pie birds that work well, they are much cuter, but I am partial to my funnel, it comes out clean when the baking is over.

Creative Writing From the Heart.

Bake 15 minutes at 400 degrees, reduce heat to 350, and bake 45 - 55 minutes more or until fruit is cooked and pie is done, in your oven.
Remove and let cool before slicing and serving.

My grandmother was the driving force in our Sunday dinners we enjoyed as a family. When I married, I carried on this tradition. And it is just as strong in me today, as it was 60+ years ago as I sat around my own family table and we began passing bowls and platters of food. Today when I cook Sunday dinner, there are four generations in my kitchen. My Grandmother (always present in my heart), myself, my own children, and now, grandchildren.




Creative Writing from the Heart.

PS, the only change I have made to this pie, through the years is that I am now a whole grain baker! And this pie is just as delicious with my whole-wheat crust!

Let's eat!

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The story of the Red Apron.  

I have always been a "get in and get it done" sort of person. If my clothes get dirty along the way, and they usually do, so be it. When done with whatever job I might be doing, I will put on a clean pair of jeans and a fresh shirt. Run a comb through my hair,  and away we go.

Aprons always seemed like a good idea, but I never remembered to put one on. After a few years (like 30 or so) I no longer had aprons. I gave them all away. Then last Christmas, my daughter made me a beautiful red apron. It was a wonderful gift, red just like my kitchen, and from her.


It now had a permanent home, folded neatly next to the big standing mixer. A couple of weeks ago, my daughter asked me if I used the apron. I had to confess, no, I did not. She remarked that no one, she had made aprons for at Christmas, used their gift.

At the time, I did not feel bad about not using the apron, because I knew why. But I did feel sadden by her disappointment. I had not even used the apron, I had folded it neatly and placed it in the kitchen, just like a decoration. You see...

As a child, I had been taught that something "too pretty to use every day" was saved. The red apron, is certainly that, too pretty to use every day. And so I did what I had always done, I put it up and saved it!

But saved for what I still do not know, and "it" was never ever explained to me when I was growing up.

Certainly not saved for a rainy day, we have hundreds of them here in Vancouver. Certainly not for a dinner party, I really don't have dinner parties. I do have "company" and when my company comes, it is my pleasure to make them feel comfortable. I just never found an apron, was required for that.

This morning I threw a pan of rolls into the oven, and before I began the dough,  I reached for the apron. I slipped it over my head and began working. It felt comfortable, much like time with my daughter. I completed the pan of dough and placed it into the oven to bake, knowing what I would blog about this morning, wearing my red apron.

My daughter is a fighter. A quiet, but strong fighter. She is tall and beautiful and dedicated. She is fearless. She is accomplished because she is always willing to try. She makes me proud. I say all this, without taking credit, because many of the skills she has, were learned on her own.

She will be 30 on her next birthday. I had a long labor with her, 30 hours actually. Our running joke has been that she "owed" me a year for each hour of labor. She knows it is a joke, but still, I have gotten many a cup of coffee delivered to me, using that as a ploy! But you see, I owe her and my Son, for it is they who have taught me, how to grow love............
.


Today I still do not wear the apron when I cook, that is just me and how I roll! The apron, however, has a new residence, it is folded neatly over the handle of the stove. A very handy spot actually, and when the lovely Jess comes to help in the kitchen, it is right there, for me to enjoy, and for her to use. Because it is beautiful and I always offer the best I have to those I love...


Creative Writing from the Heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The Story About Taking a Risk...

Creative Writing from the Heart.

In my job, I work with life and I work with death. It is not always pretty, but it is always important. Some of my tenants had been homeless before coming to my building, some were quite prosperous before an economic fall. Some were disabled through no fault of their own and others have worked hard at low-paying jobs. But they all are treated fairly by myself and those that work in my building.

I am not a nurse, I am an administrator. Currently, I manage low-income senior housing. My building is independent housing, with no services provided. Previously I was the Administrator of an Assisted Living Facility. The difference? In independent housing, I have many more terminal tenants, than I had in the Assisted Living Facility. Yes, you read that right, I have more terminal disease in my current building.

I am not a saint, but I am a hard worker. I have no office staff, I am all I have. I do have excellent support for maintenance and janitorial (thank you, gentlemen!). I must follow and adhere to all federal housing mandates, conduct all business per federal standards, and do it all, in a timely fashion. And I have to care because I do not know any other way. And let it be known, I love my job.

I have a nine-hour day on most days, plus the hour and a half commute. I sometimes have to be reminded to leave, because I have an open-door policy, and some days that door simply stays open. I also help with some of the tenant activities and often donate funds to keep the program fresh and fun. I often serve as a Social Worker, Mental Health Counselor, or goofball for comic relief. But it is important to repeat this, I am no saint.

And now that I have yammered on for four (yep 4) paragraphs, what is the point? The point is about taking a risk. You see, from time to time this been very difficult for me. Maybe I was not interesting enough, or expressive enough, or too brash or even ________________ (you can fill in the blank with your personal favorite). Funny how we get these ideas, isn't it?
  • Do you need to tell someone something? Please go and tell them. Yes, there is a risk, do it anyway. 
  • Do you need to apologize or explain an action on your part that possibly was not understood? Go and start talking. Yes, there is a risk, do it anyway. 
  • Do you need to nudge yourself to do what is needed to be done? Start nudging. And yes there is a risk, but nudge yourself anyway. 
Today I learned that one of my favorite people in my building will be passing away. She is 95 and only stopped driving about 4 months ago. As she explained it, she kept driving because her license was still valid. In some ways, you cannot argue with that logic. She was never in a wreck, was never ticketed, and never put anyone in harm's way. For 95 years, She took the risk to be all she could be.

So if I stumble on my words, in person or in written form, it was still worth the risk. If my brain works faster than my mouth can keep up, yes it too was worth the risk. If I make a choice and quickly change my mind, yes, it was worth the risk And even if I choose not to trail behind, instead, going my own way, it is worth the risk.

You see, taking a risk did not come easily or early in my life, but I am learning how to be comfortable when taking one. Often I will blurt out my thoughts or concerns, rather than speak them. Often I said how much I cared, thinking later, that possibly I should have waited. In the past, I have wondered about how, what I had already said, was received. Even thinking later that I lacked polish in how I presented my thoughts and feelings.

But maybe, just maybe, I was already taking the risk and did not realize it in myself.

Creative Writing from the Heart.


How about you?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The story about Barbara! 

When I first went to work at my present job, one of the folks I was to meet was Barbara. She was everywhere and she helped with everything. Barbara helped anyone she noticed needing help or had asked for help. She was just one of those people, always did what she could for as many people as possible. 

I received a lidded food container for Christmas. It was filled with a buttery cheese spread, made by Barbara. The recipe for this delicious spread had been safely carried around by her, for years and years. She indicated to me when I made my own photocopy, that the copy she held, had even survived a fire.

Now let me tell you, Barbara is a wonderful woman. She has worked hard her whole life and still in retirement works hard. She does all that she can for her neighbors in our little community and enjoys keeping her granddaughter before and after school. Like I said, busy busy busy.

Years (and years!) ago Barbara worked as a waitress at a restaurant called,

THE PANTRY
Portland's favorite restaurant-lounge...across from the Lloyd Center. 

Barbara thought it was about 1958, and probably her first job out of High School. In those days the waitresses wore a uniform consisting of a short skirt with lots of petticoats, and a garter belt. That garter belt held a working cap gun.....All dinner entrees came with creamed spinach, and if you did not eat your spinach the waitress got to "shoot" you with her cap gun. 

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, those were the days! I hear tell that creamed spinach was on every plate (yes, every plate). Apparently, not every patron enjoyed creamed spinach. Either that or they loved all the fun that the waitresses had with those cap guns. Honestly, knowing the Barbara I know today, I'm pretty sure she had a fun time with that cap gun too.

The Pantry closed many years ago, but it must have been a popular restaurant. You can find a copycat recipe for their Chicken Bisque Soup,  here.

Creative Writing from the Heart
You are looking at a very poor scan of the copy I have.....

This gift from Barbara shows we keep our memories through the years and recall them to enjoy and share with others!

Creative Writing from the Heart.
This cheese spread was already a favorite of the patrons!

Cheese Spread
adapted from:
THE PANTRY Restaurant ~ Portland Oregon

1 pound butter
1/2 pound Sharp Cheddar Cheese - grated
1/4 pound Romano cheese - grated
1 t Worcestershire sauce
1/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t paprika

Have all ingredients at room temperature. Combine ingredients with a stand mixer, starting out slowly and increasing speed. Mix/whip until fluffy.

To use and enjoy: Spread on sourdough or French bread and toast under the broiler. Generously season a baked potato, or toss with some freshly cooked pasta. Use it to butter asparagus and then quickly run the spears under a broiler to finish the dish to perfection........but really the possibilities are endless!

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Stories About Work, tell of memorable folks from my years working with Seniors and others needing care. 

The Story Of Anna...

When I returned to work this November, I found myself in an old yet distinguished building, built-in 1863. It has been remodeled and updated per need and change of law, as years turned to decades and decades turned to centuries. This is home to many people. Each of them with a past, personal history, and stories to tell. These lives, also having been updated as life changed and personal decisions made, took effect. It is rare to find an unchanged person, for change is the only constant in this journey.

This building is owned and operated by the Oddfellows. Knowing the history of the International Order of the  Oddfellows mandates that you be a kind person, who has a silent yet strong desire to serve others. The service you provide may be hands-on, such as caregiving, cooking, or cleaning. Or you could be one of the necessary folks who process paper, enforce rules, or oversee the day-to-day operations that a Senior Housing complex might need. All positions, however, are service and caring-orientated. I am one of those who works on the day-to-day operations and lots of paperwork!

There is a woman who lives in this building; she is soft-spoken, traveled, and kind. Anna walks her dog Lady several times a day and cares for the dog deeply. Lady is also in the older category, prone to falls, and has at times has simply fallen over. Lady’s sight is also failing, yet she “knows” where the treats are kept in my office. Lady, like the rest of us, needs to be concerned about her weight, so her treats are broken in half, that way she gets “two” treats when she visits. I have yet to share this "tip" with those at home, I have concerns it might affect the cookie jar!

When I first began working, it was casually mentioned that Anna’s mother had written a book. I was at some point going to research that bit of information, to help me, get to know Anna better. I would then have a bit of knowledge, that I thought might act as a commonality for us to chat about when she and Lady dropped by. Shortly after that, I learned the title of the book. At that point, I had enough information to help me in my search, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Creative Writing from the Heart.
St Helena, CA
My personal philosophy is that you should always be kind because you never know to whom you are talking. Now we know that all folks deserve kindness, but some folks have very interesting histories that they bring along with them. I have learned, however, if you have not been kind from the beginning, it is very difficult to enjoy spur-of-the-moment casual conversations with him or her. And such is the case with Lady’s owner.

Remember all this started with a simple remark that a book had been written.

Oh, do you want to know the book that was written? I must tell you right now; in actuality, it is a book among many books written. The third book written more than 20, in a life lived with passion, hard work, and some sharp-witted humor. The book title was,

Creative Writing from the Heart
How to Cook a Wolf, by MFK Fisher

I must confess right here and now, I was not familiar with the title of this particular book. But I clearly knew of M. F. K. Fisher, the writer. When I brought up the title of the book on Google search that evening, I was flabbergasted. I even shouted out, not my usual method of communication, to describe my enthusiasm! I was stunned and thrilled at the same time. 

Fortunately, I already had had several enjoyable encounters with Anna and Lady to develop a very nice rapport. In a short time, we had learned of several commonalities shared. I knew instantly I would want to write about this, yet I also wanted permission from Anna, in order to do so. So I did what any bold person does, I asked for permission, and she said yes. Yes! When I got home I could not contain myself and told my husband all about it! 

Creative Writing from the Heart.

"First we eat, then we do everything else."

On Christmas Eve my granddaughter and I paid a visit to Anna and Lady. We took a small gift of rhubarb jam and a clove-studded orange pomander for Anna and a dog bone treat for Lady. We stayed only a brief time, as Anna had guests coming for dinner and there were tasks left to be done. During our stay, we also got to meet Mr. Elliott. A feisty apricot-colored cat, with his own multi-story cat tower. My granddaughter was very interested in playing with Lady and Mr. Elliott, but in a short time, we said our goodbyes and made our way home to wrap presents.  

Creative Writing from the Heart.

“People ask me: "Why do you write about food, and eating, and drinking? Why don't you write about the struggle for power and security, and about love, the way the others do?" . . . The easiest answer is to say that, like most other humans, I am hungry.”

Creative Writing From the Heart
Last House, Sonoma CA

I am excited about the opportunity to learn more about Anna and the life she lived. I already know from our Christmas Eve visit, that her daughter is a performer with an all-woman circus (Circus Artemis). She has three grown children, two that live close by and one in Virginia. She is a mother, a grandmother, a sister, and now a friend. There is more, as there always is when learning about someone and the life they have lived. Alas, this story today is simply an introduction, to my friend Anna. 

"When shall we live if not now?"

— M.F.K. Fisher

Creative Writing from the Heart.
MKF Fisher's War Cake
MFK Fisher's War Cake
adapted from:
How to Cook a Wolf
350-degree oven

1/2 cup shortening - (note: you may use part bacon fat**)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon of other spices (cloves, mace, ginger..)
1 cup chopped raisins or other dried fruit (prunes, figs, etc.)
1 cup sugar, white or brown
1 cup water (note: you can substitute coffee for part of the water)

How to Make MFK Fisher's War Cake.


Creative Writing from the Heart

Bring to a boil, cook for 5 minutes. Cool thoroughly. 

2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder

Sift dry ingredients together and set aside. 

When the raisin mixture has cooled, add sifted dry ingredients, mixing well. 

Creative Writing from the Heart
Creative Writing from the Heart

Turn into a loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes or until done in your oven.
Let cool 15 - 20 minutes then turn out from the pan, if desired.

** I adore bacon, yet I have found that personally, I do not care for the taste of the bacon fat in baked goods. But I know from my own beloved Grandmother, cooking during sparse times takes courage, patience, and a bit of creative luck. 

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Don't forget to enjoy the last week of the year...


Creative Writing from the Heart.

I love the hush that takes over the neighborhood and my small town the day after Christmas. All the frenzy is put to rest and the celebration we all enjoyed is now a warm memory to enjoy time and time again. But then we come to that last week in the year, you know the one, where it is difficult to know what to do with yourself. Because...

You're a bit tired from the wonderful Christmas you just enjoyed with family and friends and possibly a little too much of those holiday foods that you don't routinely eat, except for special occasions, like Christmas.

And.

You're pretty sure you really, really want to take a vacation in a warmer climate, but that old bank account is saying no, no, no...

And.

You're growing a bit tired of the decor that spilled out and all over the house in this wonderful celebration we just enjoy. But you're not ready to invest the energy to put it all away, as you clearly remember how much work it was to put it all up!


Creative Writing from the Heart

And.

You're missing the cookies that have already been eaten. And wishing the ones you don't enjoy quite as much, had been baked in a smaller batch or possibly not at all. Unfortunately, there is still too much food available to bake anything new to eat...

And.

It is the middle of the week, and there is no football to watch, or shopping to do, or chores that are calling your name (well not loudly enough, anyway!). So you are feeling a bit off-kilter.

But then...

All of a sudden someone gives you a big hug and a heartfelt Thank you, and you truly know that Christmas and all the work involved is so worth it and you really can't wait for next year!

But for now, you have decided that any New Year's resolutions, will just have to wait. Because right now is the perfect time to do nothing but enjoy all the memories of this year. Because this is the last week of the year, and this moment will never happen again, for you to enjoy!


Creative Writing from the Heart!

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Retirement is more than not having a job!


Creative Writing from the Heart...


I missed the Monday deadline to write and use some creativity that does not involve my kitchen. Granted it is just a goal that I had set for myself, but still, Monday is gone, much like the Super Moon. The next few months will be a transition, going from full-time work to retirement. And I can already see that I am having some challenges.

Being off the clock can lead to nothingness if one is not careful. Which means I must be careful. There is much to get done enjoy, in this life of mine. So many things I have not yet done because I had to go to work the next day. So many things I put off until I did not have to go to work the next day. This brings us to today...
Creative Writing from the Heart.

I will tell you right now, it can be a difficult task transitioning from job-ready to self-ready

Job-ready was easy, you were expected to arrive at a specific time, work hard to accomplish a specific standard or production quotient, then go home. The details of your fatigue and what might be possible for your own self later that day were not the concern of any supervisor or manager. They were not responsible for that part of the program...

Whereas, self-ready means you are not only the supervisor but also the employee. With that responsibility, you must organize what needs to be done, along with all the things that you want to get done. Plus you must manage your own self, you know that same self that might have already started down the path to nothingness. The truth is, to self-manage is to have a clear understanding of the important things in one's own life, and get them done.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

When you think about all of that, and understand the job description now before you, you begin to realize that essentially retirement is a full-time upper management job.....Wait, did I see a pay increase as part of the deal?

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In honor of my Mom.

I usually keep it pretty factual around here. I usually post a recipe with a photo and a commentary as to why you should make up the recipe just posted. But always it is all about the food, the cooking process to follow and the family we share it with.

From the very first post and each one since; it has always been about family, cooking healthy food, and sharing it with family. And since I really like that topic, it will always be about the food and the sharing and the family.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

When the family changes with the usual suspects like jobs, a new home, marriage, kids, etc, etc (and every family has their share of, etc's!) I try to be fast on the trail and get things back to a manageable level of enjoyable chaos. But sometimes at the next family gathering, not everyone can be present. But along with whoever is able to come, I try to remember that all family gatherings start with mom.....

She might be a great cook or not. She might work outside of the home or not. She might be the happiest woman on the face of the earth or not. She might be many things, but one thing is true and will never change, she is your mom. 


Creative Writing from the Heart...

She loved you first, 
loves you still,
always has, 
and always will. 

Today I would like to share a few things about my mom.

She was not the happiest person on the face of the earth, but she did love a good laugh.

She was a stay-at-home wife and mother, later she did work out of the home. Especially after we were all on our own and of course for her secret spending money...........

She was one of the greatest cooks on the face of the earth. But she did not like (or know how?) to share her kitchen.....I still learned a lot by watching and being allowed to grease a cake pan, shred some cheese, or thinly slice a head of cabbage.

She was the only girl in a family of 13 children, that's right 13! I guess being the only girl is why she had three first names, Mary Ann Louise. She did not like the Ann part, and only went by Mary with Louise as her middle name, and not as a real part of her first name.......she actually preferred to go by Mary L. and not use her full middle name at all.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She hated beans but would cook our dad's favorite white bean dish. Not very often mind you, but she did cook them.........

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She loved to make this fresh apple cake, so much so that it was a regular at any dessert offering......... sometimes serving it with ice cream.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

She canned, made jam, and yeast bread. And a wonderful Pineapple Raisin Sauce for ham.

She sewed, mended, and crocheted, but she did not iron unless there was absolutely no other option! The year I was 13, I earned a trip at the end of summer by ironing baskets of "ironing" that had piled up, and there was a lot! Hmmm, maybe that is why I only iron when there is no other option.......

She loved dachshunds, coffee with sugar, and the song Proud Mary.

She was born on January 1, and always started celebrating her birthday on New Year's Eve because as she told me one day "the world celebrates my birthday". As a young child, I was unaware that the world was not celebrating her birthday!

She could take not much at all and make do or make it better. She had big dreams, oftentimes bigger than her follow-through.

She drove a bright red Thunderbird. She listened to country music and could talk over, anyone she chose.

And, included in all of that, she was my mom.....


Creative Writing from the Heart

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Happy Birthday!

You better, 
Creative Writing from the Heart...
This was her favorite saying...

I am sitting here tapping out this memory because I just took laundry from the dryer. Laundry that was warm to the touch on this winter's day, which is very cold. As I unloaded the clothes from the dryer I spied my favorite long-sleeved sweatshirt and immediately put it on. Ahhh, just like I remembered from so many years ago, warm and comforting.

I was immediately taken back to the cold winter days of my childhood, where (I should say our Mom, she wasn't just mine) mom would be trying to herd us out of the bathtub and into bed. But of course given the choice of a warm bath or a cold room to dry off in, which would you choose? Yeah, I thought so... 
No one wanted to budge from the warm water, and yet time was tight and kids needed to be put to bed for the evening.

So my mother had a trick, she would put a towel for each child in the dryer and get them warm and inviting, and sure enough, before you knew it, we were out, dried, and into bed.....As the years go by, these memories are very important and become more so. I quietly treasure them, Mom would have been 86 today. Born during the great depression, into a large family of 13 children, she was the only girl.

She always began celebrating her birthday on New Year's Eve, because, January 1st was her birthday, and the world celebrated with her! Or that is what it seemed like. My folks would leave the house for an evening out, to ring in the new year. The next morning there would be party hats and whistles for us kids to make noise with, so we did. Later in the day, we would ask, why did you go out? "It was my Birthday" was the reply.

Creative Writing from the Heart...

The morning would ensue with my father reminding us to "keep it down, your mother is sleeping" and we would try, but 5 kids do make a lot of noise.....Dad would cook us his famous fried cornmeal mush, which was golden brown and crunchy and just a bit greasy in all the right ways. I loved the salty taste and crunch. Other brothers and sisters topped theirs with maple pancake syrup. Dad, however, ate his with fried eggs.

This is how we started out each new year, and to this day, I still think of New Year's Eve as the start of my Mom's birthday.


Creative Writing from the Heart...
3 generations, my mother, myself, and my daughter, 1995


Happy Birthday, Mom, I love you and miss you! 

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