Sunday, December 29, 2013

AngelMay Makes Vegan Cornbread

Now cornbread might not be on everyone’s top ten items of must-have foods, but I’m a Southern gal and I have to have my cornbread.  The problem is, I’m used to making cornbread with eggs and milk and a ton of vegetable shortening.  And adopting a low-fat Vegan diet has put an end to that.

So, this might not matter much to you and you might say, “Just go to the internet and get a recipe for vegan cornbread.  There are tons of them out there.”  Ha!  Easy for you to say!  And, well, yes. I could do that.  But, for years I have made cornbread with this:

And when you have fifty-seven 2-lb bags of the stuff in your freezer, you want to use it.  At least I want to use it.  Thus, the great vegan cornbread adventure.   And, in case you are wondering, I was just kidding about having fifty-seven of them.  I actually have closer to a dozen.   Oh, all right!  I’ll go count them!  Nine!  I have Nine – plus the one that is already open.  Happy now?  But however many I have, you just can’t beat Martha White and I’m not even going to try.

Also, all the recipes on the internet have tons of sugar in the list of ingredients.  SUGAR!  No Southerner worth her salt is going to put sugar in cornbread.  Not even with a gun held to her head.  No way.  Not happening.  Not now.  Not ever.

No problem deciding which milk substitute to use.  I’ve tasted soy milk and ... Yuk Patooie!  That stuff does not taste good.  I’ve also tasted Blue Diamond Almond Breeze – and that one tastes pretty good.  However, no milk substitute I’ve ever tasted is as good as the favorite in this house:  Vance’s DariFree

This “potato based milk” tastes even better than the regular cow’s milk we’ve always been used to.  It tastes so good, in fact, that AngelSpouse switched to this product approximately thirty years ago!  He uses it in his cereal in the mornings.

Back to the experiments.  Knowing what milk substitute I would be using, what I needed next was a substitute for the egg.  I had a couple of choices in mind.

First, I baked up a skillet of cornbread using a medium-soft tofu in place of the egg.  I really should have used a very soft silken tofu but I didn’t have any.  However, the medium-soft worked pretty well after I smashed it really good and gooped it up with some of the milk before adding it to the cornmeal.

Here is the finished product using tofu in place of egg:

It didn’t rise like my usual non-vegan cornbread and it took a little longer to bake.  The length of the bake time, however, could be the fault of my oven, which is not altogether truthful with respect to temperature declarations.

This cornbread was also a bit “heavy”.  But I have to tell you – it didn’t taste bad at all.  In fact, we nearly finished it off about 30 minutes after it came out of the oven.  (Do keep in mind that my cornbread skillet is pretty small – about 6” diameter – just so you don’t think we are total gluttons here.)

That was yesterday.
Today, I made cornbread again.  This time using a commercial egg replacer in place of the egg:

And, of course, I used the DariFree milk substitute as before.

Here is the cornbread made with egg replacer:

This skillet of cornbread had a higher “rise” than the tofu cornbread.  It was fluffier but also a little more crumbly.  I think the tofu kept the first skillet of cornbread from being crumbly, but, as I said, it was a bit heavy.

Disclosure 1:  To the cornbread made with the egg replacer I also added 1 tablespoon of instant mashed potato flakes.  I figured the milk substitute is made from potatoes and I use instant mashed potato flakes in my home-baked bread so why not give it a try?  Anyway, I doubt it did much to the taste but it could have added just a smidge to the lightness of the cornbread (as opposed to the heaviness of the tofu cornbread).

Disclosure 2:   To the cast iron skillet, I have always added a BIG old glop of Crisco vegetable shortening, placed it over high heat until it melted and the pan was very hot, then poured the hot, liquid shortening into the cornmeal mix, stirred it all up, and finally returned everything to the skillet and popped it into a 450 degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes.  For these low-fat versions of cornbread I used maybe 1 teaspoon of the shortening – just enough to coat the skillet with a tiny bit left over to add to the mix.  Ergo, little bit crumbly because not so much fat to hold it all together anymore.

Moment of truth:  This cornbread made with the egg replacer tastes GREAT!  I can’t wait till lunch in a few minutes because I’m going to scarf that thing down.

Southern Gal gets her cornbread after all!  Low Fat!  Dairy Free!  And tastes great!
Happy dancing around the oven!  And it looks just like….wait for it….CORNBREAD!

~ AngelMay  ~

Saturday, December 28, 2013

My (Almost) Vegan Journey To Better Health

I guess some of you have noticed my last two posts entitled “New Shoes” and “Beautiful Soup.”  The shoes, while pretty good looking, are in the closet gathering dust.  The soup, was cooked and eaten.  It was really good.  And the soup brings me to the subject of this post:  My (Almost) Vegan Journey To Better Health.  I say “almost” because I’m not going to beat myself up over an obscure animal product in the production of the vitamin D in the milk substitute I use.  For just one example.

I first need to preface this and future posts by saying that this is going to be a sort of documentary journal for myself (as well as any interested others) to track my progress in losing weight and getting my blood glucose levels under control.  The cholesterol levels should take care of themselves if I am able to achieve the other two.  And if they don’t, well, I’m not worried about them in any event.

Secondly, I will not be preaching to anyone about what they eat.  Your food.  Your choice.  Your body.  Your health.  This is all about me.

And finally, I do not – repeat DO NOT – advocate that you follow my lead in stopping your medications (whatever those medications may be).  You should talk to your doctor about the things that concern you.  I’m a bit of a wild one and have always gone in my own direction.  My husband declares me the world’s worst patient.  And he’s probably right.

So here we are.   And here I stand.

A bit over a year ago – maybe two years now – I was told by my doctor that my cholesterol levels were too high and that I was pre-diabetic.  Well, great!  That’s just what I needed.  He sent me off to a class for pre-diabetic patients at the hospital.

Now, I am fairly well-read when it comes to nutrition (but do not claim to be an expert) and I took one look at the handouts they gave me in the “pre-diabetes class” at the hospital and wondered why they were trying to kill me instead of making me healthier.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure they had my best interests at heart.  But beside every beautifully-colored pretend-plate of food there was a glass of milk.  Milk.  The very thing that contributes to Type 1 diabetes in children.

Even I know that milk is for baby cows and not for humans.  Even I know that dairy is not good for you.  Yet there it was.  Both beside the plate and actually on the plate.  Also on the plate was chicken.  And beef.  And cheese.  I rolled my eyes.  Even though I was already eating all that stuff (nobody loves a juicy filet mignon better than I do), I knew it wasn’t good for you in any amount.  I was absolutely amazed to find it on the plates in the literature that was supposed to help me.  At least, I had thought they were going to help me – not kill me.  But what the heck.  I gave it a try.  Unbelievably, I lost 25 pounds over the next 3 months – mostly due to the small portions allowed.  But I couldn’t stick it out.  Counting carbs was a ridiculous way to live and I gave up.  And I went right back to eating my same old way and gained back the 25 pounds.

Then we moved from Washington State to California for more sunshine, more convenience, and to be closer to my best friend.  Then my best friend died.  It has taken me these past 6 months to pull myself up again after that blow.  I still think of him so fondly and very often.  But he’s gone now.  And I’m still here.  And I have to keep on keeping on.

And all that time I was taking my prescription medications (simvastatin and metformin) and feeling like absolute hell.  I decided I had had enough.  So I stopped taking the simvastatin in early October of this year.  I decided the body needs cholesterol and it’s smart enough to know what it’s doing when it makes it.  Ha!  I was taking control, by golly!  My life.  My body.  My health.  Me.  No more cholesterol meds.  Ever.  The decision has been made.

Then I decided the Metformin had to go.  If you want to know why it had to go, I will tell you.  Taking that stuff – even the 500mg per day baby dose I was on – rendered me unable to go anywhere.  Here’s a lady who sums up the problem beautifully:

I urge you to read it.  It’s not too long and it’s an absolute hoot.

So I stopped taking the Metformin in early November.  Hooray!  Now I can go places!  Now I can have a  life!  (My doctor will be told of these … er… adventurous decisions the next time I see her.  No point worrying her with it right now.  It’s not an emergency.)

I also dragged off the shelf my copies of several books on nutrition and controlling disease through diet.  The one most important to me (at this particular time) that fell under my hand was this one:


I re-read it.  Then made the decision to go for it.  If a Vegan diet can do the wonderful things he says it can do, it’s definitely worth a try.  So for the past two months I’ve been on a (mostly) Vegan diet.  And I’ve lost – drum roll please – just over twelve and a half pounds.

I also made the decision to begin checking my own blood glucose levels instead of waiting around for the doctor to send me to a clinic for an annoying blood test.  So I purchased a blood glucose meter at Amazon.  They are dirt cheap.  I purchased the Accu-Chek Nano.  But the test strips will break you if you are poor or have no insurance to cover the cost.  I also get those at Amazon for a little less than 50 cents per strip.

What do you know?  Not only is my weight coming down on this diet, but my blood glucose levels are coming down, too.

Finally, I want to say that counting carbs is hopeless.  And also ineffective for doing the job I want done.  But this way of eating that Dr. Neal Barnard recommends is beyond easy to follow.  You can eat as much as you want – just as long as you don’t eat any animal products and consume VERY, VERY little  fat.

This means no meat.  No butter.  No eggs.  No milk.  No cheese.
This means you eat tons of vegetables.  Tons of fruit.  Tons of beans.  And tons of grains.  You use only the tiniest amount of added unsaturated fat to your food.

And the weight will fall off.  And the gunk in your arteries will flush away.  And your body will once again be able to use the insulin it produces.  And you will feel better.  Heart disease will back off.  Diabetes will reverse.  Obesity will be a thing of the past.

I believe every word of this.  I’ve always believed it – even when I was stuffing my face with steak and macaroni and cheese.  It remains to be seen if I can continue to stay on this path.  I wonder if it’s too late at my age to even begin such a journey.  But it’s the only age I have and I can only go forward from here.

If you are interested, please watch this:

These videos (and the above mentioned book) could save your life.

More next time. 
Please, wish me luck on my late-in-life journey back to health.

~ AngelMay ~ 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Beautiful Soup

This is the photo of the "Hearty Quinoa and White Bean Soup" found on page 65 of Mary McCartney's cookbook "FOOD".

I was so taken by this and so wanted to try it that I returned to the bookstore when I discovered that the recipe was not among those in the cookbook that I purchased that day.  I searched and searched through all the Vegan cookbooks.  Then I began searching through the Vegetarian cookbooks.  Finally,  I laid my hand on Mary McCartney's beautiful book and pulled it from the shelf.  I began searching through the recipes and there it was!  Needless to say, the book came home with me and, after a trip to the grocery store in the very near future, a pot of this soup will be simmering in my kitchen.



Thursday, November 7, 2013

New Shoes

Sometimes you just need a new pair of shoes.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

In Memory of John-Paul Thomas 9/5/1946 - 6/10/2013

In Memory of John-Paul Thomas    9/5/1946 – 6/10/2013

JT in 2005, San Juan Islands, WA, on whale-watching trip

We met each other on the internet.  I was asking a question about stock wash sales on one of The Motley Fool’s message boards.  This was back in September of 1999.   JT (then, and for most people, he was called “JP” – later, I would call him JT) answered my question and I replied:

Gosh JP, thanks for the observation.
One programmer to another:
if (AngelMays_tax_situation < totally_clear && AngelMay == seeking_advice)
JPs_advice = not_much_help;

To that, HE replied:

hmmmm. i think it was more 'observation', than 'advice'....
either way, you're free to find it useless.

Who could have known then that we would become the best of friends? Not just on the Internet but also in person.   I’m sure we did not.  But we had so much in common.  We were like two peas in a pod.  It was inevitable.

Both of us were born in September in even-numbered years (though I was several years older).  We were both left-handed.  Both introverts.  Both of us political liberals.  Both drove BMWs.  We both had a special affinity for animals that not everyone seems to have.  We both made our living as computer programmers – though he had a law degree (among other degrees).  Both sets of our parents were married in Tampa, Florida – at different times and did not know each other.  Neither of us liked big cities.  We didn’t like scallops.  We both loved nature and adored animals.  What are the odds, right?

What a strange chance that we two, so much alike yet so far apart geographically, would come to know each other.  I lived in Alabama and he in California.  And what were the odds we would have become the very best of friends?

In Alabama September, 2000

He came to Alabama first.  He had just picked up his new BMW at the South Carolina BMW plant and was going to be driving it back across the country to California.

We met in person for the first time at the Jack Daniels distillery in Tennessee, toured the facility, and then drove back to our house – which he promptly named “Tara” – not far over the state line into Alabama.  After that, I flew to California three times from Alabama to visit him.  Then we moved from Alabama to Washington State and JT came up there for a visit.  It was on this visit that I took the wonderful photo of him that you see at the very top of this blog post.  I had arranged a whale-watching tour up to the San Juan Islands with lunch in Friday Harbor.  It was a wonderful day.
His mother, a lovely and wise woman, had warned him not to come to someone’s house that he met on the Internet before he came for that first meeting.  She was afraid we would knock him out (or worse) and take his new car. But rather than kill him, we fed him.  We took him out to Miss Mary Bobo’s boarding house restaurant in Lynchberg, Tennessee for lunch – where he proceeded to pilfer beef from my plate.  We took him to a Japanese restaurant .  Initially, he had said there was no way a Japanese restaurant in Alabama (of all places) could be any good.  After eating there, he declared it one of the best he’d ever experienced.

 Well-fed and safe at "Tara", Alabama, September 2000

I met his mother on my trips out to visit him.   I loved her instantly.  She was just a lovely woman – with an absolutely wonderful rose garden behind her immaculate home.  She died of cancer not long after one of my trips out here.  But I still remember her and think of her fondly.

JT's mom in 2002 -- JT in Alabama jacket I gave him

It was on my first trip to visit him that he gave me my second bear (the first was a BMW bear he gave me when he came to “Tara”).  He put me in the spare bedroom where he had provided a blow-up mattress which was, surprisingly, quite comfortable.  The only problem was that I was unused to the chilly California nights and I nearly froze to death that first night.  I told him about it the next morning and off we went to the mall to buy blankets for me.  While there I spied the cutest little stuffed bear and mentioned how adorable he was.  JT bought it for me.  Of course I still have it – along with the other small, stuffed animals he gave me over the years.

The “bears” came about because at the time we met he claimed to have an invisible friend named “Bear” whom he had met at the Four Corners a long time ago.  Bear was about 900 years old and was his constant companion for years when I first knew him.  He would often sign his name “bear” on cards and on his posts at The Motley Fool and for a long time the people there called him “Bear”.

On one trip out to see him, he was going to take me up a mountain to an observatory.  On the way up the mountain on a little two lane narrow road with absolutely no safety rails on the side (what was California thinking?) and hundreds of feet drop on the passenger side, I began to panic.  I drew in sharp breaths and kept leaning away from my side of the car nearly into the driver’s seat on top of him.  I involuntarily let out a scream or two and he informed me at one point that I had so frightened Bear that he leapt into the back seat and covered his eyes with his paws.  I suggested that we find a place to turn around, forget about the observatory, and get back down the mountain posthaste.  And that is what we did.

Somewhere along the line – years later – and after a lot of health issues, he announced that Bear was no longer around.  He had gone, he said.  I was a little sad about this because I knew his health was continuing to deteriorate and he just wasn’t his same old self.

On one trip out to visit JT – the second one, I think – he was building a squirrel house.  But he was not fond of heights and was loathe to climb up the ladder to place it onto the tree.  So I volunteered.  We attached a rope to the squirrel house and I climbed the ladder with the end of the rope.  I tossed it over a limb and let it fall back down to him and he hoisted the heavy house up to where I was so I could nail it in place.  Unfortunately, as I was maneuvering the house, I lost hold of it and it went crashing down.  I yelled and he just barely made it out of the way.   Lucky for me, I still had my friend and the house was eventually nailed safely in place.  Before I even arrived back home he sent email telling me that squirrels had already moved into it.   Here’s a photo that HE took that day and staged to make it appear I had dropped the house smack on him and his…er….ruby slippers:

The squirrel house was eventually nailed into place, however, and he took this photo to prove it:

On another trip I slept on the same blow-up mattress as before but this time it sprang a leak and I found myself sleeping on the hard floor.  The next day he blew the mattress back up and glued the air hole on it shut.  I have no idea what ever became of that mattress after that.  Fun memory.  Silly.  Wonderful.

Then there was the time we went out to eat at an Italian restaurant.   I ordered spaghetti and he ordered calamari.  His calamari turned out to be little baby squid with little legs still on them.  Ewww.  I later wrote a haiku about this:

My dear friend and I

Dine – he, on calamari.
I try not to look.

JT and I spoke to each other almost every single day of our lives on the phone.  He had a voice like velvet and velvety brown eyes to match.  He liked to pretend he was a curmudgeon, but he wasn’t.   Though if you rubbed him wrong he could hold a grudge forever.  Or maybe he was just consistent.

We talked about everything.  We talked about the TV shows we watched and who we liked and who we hoped would get knocked off the show.  We talked about politics and cabbages and kings.  Once I listened while he patiently proved to me step-by-step that there were just as many even numbers as there were numbers.  I can’t remember the proof now, but I “got it” at the time.

We understood each other’s jokes and aggravations.  If I was upset about something he knew just the thing to say to put me back on track.

He both recognized and respected my intelligence, and I, of course, thought he was one of the smartest people I had ever known.  He was also one of the gentlest and kindest people I’ve ever known.  The hardest thing for me now is suppressing that desire to reach for the phone to “talk to JT.”

When he was out and about (yet always close to home) he took the time to stop and actually converse with street beggars and he always gave them a five if he had it on him.  Before his favorite coffee stand closed due to the economy, he was such a well-known customer there that by the time his car pulled to the window the baristas already had his coffee ready and waiting for him.  He was sad when they closed and he had to find another source for his morning coffee.

He fed the birds and the squirrels – spent lots of money on huge bags of peanuts for them – and he more often than not named his furry and feathered friends.  One jay named “Larry” and his mate “Mo” recognized JT’s dark blue BMW before it could even get parked in the parking lot where he worked back before he was laid off.  The economy again.  They would fly down and take peanuts from his hands.

He always carried peanuts in his car and in his pockets in case he encountered a crow or a jay – two of the smartest birds on the planet – or a squirrel.

One day a cat came to live with him.  She just moved in.  And that was that.   At first he resisted.  He felt a cat didn’t need a “sick old guy” so he got a collar for her and put a note on it to whoever might be her owner telling them to please keep their cat at home and indoors.  

But she came back.  And came back.  And the note had never been unfurled and read.  She did need the sick old guy and, though he didn’t realize it yet, he needed her as much as she needed him.  So he bought a cat carrier and took her to the vet and had her spayed (after finally learning she was a she and not a he) and micro-chipped.  Many, many dollars later he declared, “She’s MY cat now.”


And that was her lucky day because she had been homeless and probably mistreated before she found him.  And she was good for him, too, because he was never in the best of health the entire time I knew him and she made his life better – much better – there was never any doubt about that.   She had the best food, the best toys, the best of everything.  She had her nails clipped at the vet because he couldn’t handle her well enough to do it himself.  If she accidentally got outside, he would worry himself sick until he got her back. I can still hear his voice on the phone saying, “There’s my girl!” when she had, presumably, just come into the room where he was. He absolutely adored and doted on her. 

Now she has lost him, too.  As I write this she is still in the house and is being cared for by a person who comes in to feed her and clean the litter pan and plays with her for a few minutes.  But he won’t be coming home to her now.  And she needs a new home.  I hope she will find one where she will be cared for as well as he cared for her.


A recent special memory was when he came up to visit us here in Santa Rosa after we had moved to California.  We were going to watch the College Football Championship game together.  He got the biggest kick out of me cheering for Alabama as they trounced Notre Dame to win the championship.  We took him out to Cattlemen’s restaurant for steak that day, too.  He thoroughly enjoyed that.  That’s the last time he felt well enough to come up.

He had had many spells of bad health.  Many trips to the hospital.  This last trip was due to a tiny spot of esophageal cancer – discovered extremely early so we all thought he was very lucky.  The surgery itself had gone well.  But his other problems – heart, kidney, diabetes – made the recovery very hard.  It was difficult for him to speak and his smart phone keyboard was too small for him to manage under his medicated condition so his messages to me were garbled – sometimes beyond recognition.  Other times I could make out what he was trying to say.

I had spent the morning of 10 June 2013 in the kitchen baking bread.  Once the bread was finished I was tired and told my husband that I didn’t want to mess with lunch and so we went down to the Chinese restaurant on the corner at the next main intersection from our house.  We had just been served cups of tea (the day was unusually chilly here) and our soup when the phone rang.  It was JT’s sister.  I thought she was just calling to say she had seen him and he looked good.  I had posted at the Motley Fool about baking bread being not cooking but an art.  I said “There’s just something magic about bread.”  And he had answered on his cell phone from his hospital bed:

 why it's called Breakfast of Champian!z

This would be his last post at The Motley Fool.  It would be the last communication I would ever have from him.  I answered the phone and his sister said she had some bad news.  I leaped from the booth where we were sitting and started for the door.  I heard the words “collapsed” – “could not revive” – “passed” – “autopsy” – and I lost it right there on the shopping center sidewalk.  My husband, bless him, was  quickly there beside me but I was like a wild woman so great was the pain.  So hard was the news.  I had answered his last post at the Motley Fool saying:

Sounds like you are feeling little bit better. :)

He had told me how scared he was before going in for the surgery and when we visited him for the first time after the surgery he confided to me how happy he was when he woke up to find he was still here. 

I really thought he was feeling better.  Then, while I was baking bread, he was in dialysis.  When they brought him back to his room….

His sister has since called and told me the autopsy revealed that he died of a massive heart attack.  There was blockage in the left anterior descending artery.  Completely blocked.

Introverts don’t have tons of friends.  They are hard to come by – especially for someone as old as I am now.   JT was the only friend I had who called me and to whom I spoke on the phone nearly every day of my life since we met each other. 

My phone now is silent.  My special email folder just for him no longer receives any email.  I cannot bring myself to remove his name from my phone or my email.  I will probably never remove them.

My heart is literally shattered into bits.  My feet are lead blocks – so heavy are they to lift and push forward for each step.  My thoughts won’t keep still.  I see him in my mind.   I hear his voice.  I feel his hand in mine.  I feel that arm-around snug hug he always gave me.  The last time I ever saw him was on Saturday, 8 June 2013.  We held hands and I sat on the side of his bed and stroked his forehead.  I was so hopeful that he would recover from the surgery and be home soon.

I think, in moments, that I may die, too.  But I have a wonderful husband who was willing – even suggested – that he would go down and stay with JT to help him when he got out of the hospital just to be sure he was ok for the first couple of weeks – because, he said, JT was family.  And I have a kitty of my own who was named, as it happens, by JT.  These people love me even when I’ve lost my dearest friend.   And they have watched me cry rivers of tears over the past days.  And they’ve been there for me:  my husband, Lawrence, ever patient – and Sylvie, concerned that “mommie” is acting unhappy, curling up beside me either in bed or on the sofa.  Comfort I badly needed.

This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  This is the hardest loss I’ve ever experienced.  Losing my daddy nearly killed me because he died relatively young.  But you expect to lose your parents at some point in your life.  You don’t expect to lose the best friend you’ve ever had. 

I’d give anything I have to have him back again – for him to have his life back again.  But I have to keep pushing those lead feet ahead of me.  I have to keep getting up and going through the motions.  I have to keep breathing.  

He used to tell me, “Take what you get and leave the rest.”  In this case, it’s very hard to do.  But if there is one thing to be even slightly cheerful about through all of this, it’s that he did not have to end his days in the chaos and torment of a nursing home.  I can’t think of many things worse for an introvert to have to endure.  I’m just so glad that he remained independent – the way he liked it – to the end.

He also used to tell me, “Everything dies.”  But that’s the one I never liked hearing.

I’m so very lucky that I knew JT and had him in my life for so many years.
I learned so much from this wonderful, funny, brilliantly intelligent, gentle, perfectly lovely man.  Now I hope I can put it all into practice.  One thing is certain:  He will always be a part of me no matter where I am or what I do.

You were the best, John-Paul Thomas.  You were the very best.  And I loved you dearly.

 JT in his own backyard in 2003

JT in Muir Woods

JT with the painting I gave him

  JT in his backyard

At Ano Nuevo Park

 With, as always, his coffee

With my beloved old cat, Cookie - at "Tara" in September, 2000

With my husband, Lawrence, in Port Townsend, WA, in 2005

In 2001.  I always loved this photo because it was taken when he was in better health.

I'm going to try to add here a couple of "movies" I took with my camera.  The best is sideways - my fault so please overlook.  But these are the only recordings I have of his voice and they are like gold to me.



Note:  The rose I use here at the top of my blog is from the bushes I gave him back in 2003.  They were the Habitat for Humanity rose of 2003.  But he always called them "Rita Rose" because Rita is my name.  Three of the bushes are still in his front yard.  One did not survive.

 They were, I thought, the most beautiful roses I had ever seen.

Posted here by AngelMay on 17 June 2013

In Memory of John-Paul Thomas, my best and dearest friend.


Update:  Riki has found a new home and she appears to be very happy there.  I am so glad of this and I know that JT would be as well.  I can finally put this worry to rest now.

Riki in her new home

Update:  On 30 June 2013 my friend was placed to rest in the waters of the San Francisco Bay beside the Golden Gate Bridge.  I think I shall never again view this bridge in the same light as before.

And the world will never be the same again for me.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

No Matter Where You Go... There You Are!

Well, as they say....
No matter where you go, there you are.
And, as it happens...  I'm here!


I've given up my Pacific Northwest views of snow-capped mountains and shipping lanes carrying ships through the strait to the Pacific Ocean for a humble little house in Sunny Sonoma County California with its vast blue skies dotted with puffy white clouds and rolling hills of orderly, luscious grape vines.

Almost before getting moved in we were treated to a sight that seems to be common here:  The beautiful and colorful balloons that float silently above the towns and fields.

Could there be a more lovely or peaceful sight?

Seems like a lovely way to see the area.
Perhaps I'll have to take a ride myself one of these days.

Maybe I would even be treated to the fabulous sight of the State Flower.
Have you ever seen anything so brilliantly happy in your life?  This little flower is almost overwhelming in its unabashed in-your-face here-I-am presentation of uninhibited beauty.

Yummy!  Gorgeous!  Wonderful!  Can't feel anything but happy looking at this flower.

How much happier looking at entire fields of them?

Here, we find ourselves not far from the gorgeous California coast where we can easily spend the day and be home before dark.

We are, also, only an hour and a half from "The Bridge" and "The City" as they are known here.
How gorgeous is that?

Far enough from "The City" to have rolling hills and rural beauty but close enough to go if the humor ever strikes.  Restaurants, shops, and glorious organic produce are found in abundance here.

I have discovered a place called Oliver's Market - filled with wonderful organically-grown produce.
I love being able to buy just a small amount of this or a tad of that instead of having to purchase pre-packaged bundles and bags of things that will go bad before we can use them all up.

And OMGosh!  I've even found guavas in this store!  Can you believe it?  I hadn't had a guava since I left Florida many years ago.  True, the guava that I found here was not the big yellow one with the pink center.  Instead, it was small and greenish-yellow with a white center.  But it smelled like a guava and it tasted nearly as good.  A nice memory - and longing fulfilled.

Speaking of Florida - and of the South - from whence I sprang forth into this world and where I grew up and, mostly, became who I am....

This move to California has fulfilled more longings for sunny skies, palm trees, oleander bushes, and other things Southern than I can tell you.   Take a look at this house (wonderful, but not my house, unfortunately):

If this doesn't look like it could be in any town in the South, I don't know what does.  Almost every Southern town has, a few streets over from the Courthouse - which always seems to be in the center - rows of old homes that look very much like this one.

How can I not love California?

31 March 2013
(All photos borrowed without the slightest remorse from the internet.)

PS - Where IS everyone?