Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Cottage Creek Iris Farm?

People are often surprised when they step into our house for the first time and see our yard. It's on a street with other modest houses built in the late 1950's. Hardwood floors, one small bathroom, no insulation in the walls. People were made of tougher stuff back then, didn't spend hours in the bathroom and wore more sweaters it seems. They wanted small houses and big yards, a bit opposite of the trend of late with McMansions on postage stamp-sized lots. I don't understand the big house trend, but on many a hot summer day when our yard needs attention, I long for a stamp-sized yard.

That's because right here in the suburbs of Sacramento we have 1/3 of an acre of property. That's a lot of maintenance, even when we've been trying for five years to make it maintenance free. I've come to appreciate that only giant slabs of concrete are maintenance free. So we keep chipping away at our yard, section by section, mostly with wood chips, sweat and blistered hands. We have made progress, but there are still areas to be tackled.

The Redwood Grove 

Yes, we have a grove of redwoods. Well, actually just three really tall ones that freak me out when they sway in a big winter storm. Under them is a super cute nursery of baby redwoods. The little guys don't scare me when they wave in the wind, they aren't tall enough to bring the house down yet. We want to plant some ferns in the redwood grove, but it's not high on the list right now. Only the swaying redwoods are high.

Dudley's Fence Area

We have a cool neighbor named Dudley, and I'm convinced that everyone should have such a neighbor. He keeps his yard nice, he has a garden, he gives us plants and I just love to see my husband way out in the back chatting with Dudley over the fence. The fence is very old, and Ernst and Dudley are determined to keep it going because they are those kinds of people. Good old fences that require cooperation to keep up make for good neighbors. On our side of the fence we have a nectarine and fig tree, a sycamore that looks like a dragon, a few iris bulbs I planted last fall and a weed farm I didn't plant. It needs some attention and lots of wood chips.

The Mound of Dirt

The big mound of dirt came from when we put in the Basketball Court/Dance Floor. The big mound of dirt used to make me upset because you can't just have a big mound of dirt in your yard and just leave it there. But now I know you can. It eventually starts shrinking and growing clover and probably would look like we planned it if we just covered it with chips.

The Garbage Area

Ugh, what can you say about a garbage area? This is the place that no matter what we do with the rest of the yard - the pool area, a covered patio, a grassy area, the little orchard, Dudley's fence, the fernless redwoods, the vegetable garden, the dance floor/basketball court, and other random places that we make pretty for a party - no, no, no, some people end up eating their food, while standing, in our garbage area. I have seen male guests standing up eating using our recycle bin as a table. I'll never get it. I just walk over to the redwood grove and scream to the ferns that aren't there yet.

The Old Dog Kennel

Way in the back corner of our yard is a sad little area that used to be a dog kennel. The first owner put it in. Dogs should not be put in kennels as far from their people as possible. Neither should vegetable gardens, so I have wisely decided to keep ours closer to the house. This has left the kennel area to be quite neglected. It still has the weed barrier down that the previous owners installed when they thought it would be a good garden spot. They too learned that gardens should be closer to the house. The weed barrier is coming up in giant hunks, the weeds ignored the barrier. We keep our compost bins there, our wood and random branches that fall from the redwood trees.

But I'm going to turn things around for the old dog kennel. I love irises. They love me. They love this soil. You can ignore them. They're drought tolerant. You can dig them up and sell the rhizomes. I love them, or did I mention that? Did I also mention they are the lazy gardener's dream plant? And that you can SELL them? So when I dig up some of our iris bulbs this Fall to sell them, I'm also going to plant a bunch back in this sad corner of the yard, hopefully making it a happy profitable spot. The redwoods are so jealous.



Yellow Submarines
Touch of Green

Purple Periscope

Ice Cream Sherbet

Prom Dress

Future home of Cottage Creek Iris Farm!



Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Jessica Bear in Yosemite!


Upper Falls
Lower Falls
Jessica Bear


It had been a very very long time since I'd been to Yosemite. We used to go all the time, when we camped with friends who were dedicated enough back in the day to get camping reservations there. It used to be really hard and involved waking up early exactly 3 months beforehand and calling the parks people and promising them a kidney or some other vital organ in exchange for a camping spot. To get a spot on the valley floor you practically had to come up with two kidneys. These friends were good at playing the Yosemite camping game, and we were happy beneficiaries of their diligence. Now you just go online and there are no kidney donations required. And yet we still don't go.

There have been occasions over the years that my husband has brought visiting guests down to see Yosemite, in one big long day trip. I've always had to work, or there wasn't room in the car for all of us, and hence a huge lapse in my visiting this most amazing place. I had tried to convince myself that maybe it wasn't that great, after all Lake Tahoe is pretty cool and who can look down their nose at the California coastline? Certainly not me. So Yosemite sat there, unvisited for years and years.

And then some friends visited, raved about seeing it all in winter and something clicked and I suddenly had to get back to Yosemite. My sister was coming for a visit, she loves Tahoe and the ocean, but I put a trip to see Half Dome on the Must See, Must See, I Really Must See List. The forecast changed about a dozen times, but I was still determined and we kept our options open for a day that had no clouds. Zero clouds, not a one, that's what I was looking for on my Weather Channel app and that came two Thursdays ago. Temperature was no factor for me, it was all about the clouds ma'am.

We hit a pleasantly brisk, absolutely cloudless day with very few people. In fact, there were so few people we nodded at those we had already seen and did the "We'll take your picture if you'll take ours" routine. With so many roads and trails still closed due to snow, it was amazing how uncrowded it was. Definitely a plus to not going in summer.

The park has been through it with all the storms this winter. My sister asked a ranger at Half Dome Village (formerly Curry Village) if there had been a microburst or something that had come through, we saw so many downed trees. No, he said, just so much snow and stormy conditions, many trees were down everywhere. The entrance from Merced looked like a beaver convention, trees felled in an unbelievable amount. They had crews working to get the park in shape for its spring opening season, which is April 1st.

What is it about Yosemite that makes it so awe inspiring? Half Dome is iconic of course, and El Capitan takes your breath away. But it occurred to me while there with so few people, and a chance to walk so much of the valley because other parts were closed, is that the valley itself is the most incredible part of Yosemite. Gigantic cliffs surrounding a huge flat expanse, the flatness in complete contrast to the soaring heights.

Yosemite Valley is like an EKG of a person's wildly beating heart. Then it flatlines, Then it starts up again at full speed. The valley is the flatline, and it makes the rock faces of El Capitan, Half Dome, Glacier Point and the other sheer granite mountains that much more impressive. I'm super glad we went and I certainly hope my Yosemite drought is over.




"And the skies were not cloudy all day."




Any road trip has to begin with a stop at Trader Joes!
Yippee, Half Dome didn't go anywhere!



All those cliffs make you dizzy.


Jessica Bear wants you to know she fell off this giant mound
of snow onto the dirty street and lived to 'tell the tail".
Hiking can be dangerous in winter.

No crowds, no clouds. 

Half Dome and El Capitan in one day.
What a bear!

Standing on flat ground.
Staring up at sheer granite.
It's what makes Yosemite such a special place.




Saturday, March 2, 2019

Grey Matters



A quick update on my decision to stop coloring my hair on November 9th, and the highlights I got in January to ease the process.

I regret it! It's horrible, I hate it and I wish I never did it.

The highlights that is, I wish I never did the highlights.

The decision to go grey? I'm so happy! Why didn't I do this years ago? I'm "only" grey around the front, mostly the sideburn area. And yet I've been dying my hair a very warm color for many years, only to discover that the hair coming out of my head isn't warm at all. I'm so excited for this new color that's coming in, it's like I'm going to the salon every week to get a new look, I don't know quite where it's all headed, and it's completely free. The highlights I got in January just delayed the whole process and I wish I could undo what I did. Getting my money back would be cool too, but oh well. Now I'm just out the money and the hair breakage that resulted. Sorry wallet, sorry hair.

My advice if you want to ditch the dye? Grow it out using all the tricks in the book for covering grey, for as long as you can stand it. Use hats, scarves, grey cover spray, strategic parting, berets, headbands and anything else that gets you thru the first two months. It's super amazing to find out what color your hair is. Are you silver? Grey? White? Salt and pepper? All of the above? 

Then make the decision if you want to try some highlights or lowlights or maybe some color fading if you've been using a very dark color. Find a colorist who supports you. As much as I would not want to be a blond, if I was going from super red or black hair to grey, I think going blond first would be way easier. This takes so long, I'm only four months in and I'm growing so impatient. 

A stylist at Ulta who was working the register said her clients who go grey say it's the worst year of their life. Really? I think the worst years of my life were the years my parents died and this past summer when I had my head surgery so I could wear my Baha hearing device. Going grey the worst year of my life? Bring it on, this is so fun!


After the highlights. 
Humor during this time is super important.

I've questioned my decision, for several seconds at a time.


I've played with filters to imagine the end results.
Can I color my eyes grey too?


Realized my 28th anniversary picture is going to be very different.

Made peace with my past.

I know I'll be the only grey haired one in many photos.
Yikes, look at that red hair!
If I can go thru getting a magnet put in my skull...


...and waiting for this to grow out,
I can do this!
A young friend of mine showed me an app on her phone called Show AI. It's designed for blind people to get a verbal readout of a photo or barcode. You can take a selfie and it tells you how old you look, what color your hair is and what mood you are displaying. It didn't see all my grey hairs under the brown, and it tagged me as more than a decade younger than I really am. I'm not using the app ever again, I'm going with this! 



45 (?) year old woman with brown hair (going grey) looking happy.
That about sums it up for this year.


Tuesday, January 22, 2019

While there's still pepper in my salt



Hair, it grows on you!
When it comes to my hair, I'm neither a trend setter nor a stick-in-the-mud. While there have been moments when I chopped it all off and went from long to super short, typically I'm not too daring or out there, and definitely not a person to plunk down wads of cash to get a certain look. I've always thought the same about hair as I do nails, it's this dead stuff that comes out of our bodies, do I really want it to be the center of my universe?

Well, I can now admit that my hair has become the center of my universe. It's practically all I think about, Google about, Pinterest and YouTube about. And not just hair, but grey hair. Yes, I have decided to jump off the diving board of vanity and dive head first into the latest craze, going grey.

When I was 15 years old, a friend saw and yanked a half grey, half brown hair off my head. That wasn't the beginning of my ascent into a head full of grey, it was just a weird anomaly. I can't really say when I started to really notice the silver hairs peeking through the browns, probably in my mid-to-late-thirties? I started covering the nasty intruders with Natural Instincts, because it's perfectly instinctive to color up grey hair, isn't it? While it may be instinctive, it's not natural, and I was never good at all with the coloring process. Hair color on the walls, hair color on the floor, hair color on the toilet seat, it seemed the color went everywhere it wasn't supposed to. I'd have the best intentions of just covering the roots like the instructions recommend, but once I got that pair of cheap plastic gloves on my hands and the chemicals filled the bathroom, I would just say forget this and I'd empty all the contents all over my head. And the floor, and the walls and the toilet.

This has gone on for years, except for the times my friend and sometimes stylist, who is really good with color, would convince me to get my color done by someone who knows better than to get it all over the walls. This involved lots of time sitting in the salon, piles and piles of foil pieces, time under the dryer, more sitting, and after feeling like a drowned rat, emerging from the salon with lovely color. And a depleted budget. But what cute color!

Until it grew back.

And hair never grows faster than when you love the cut or you love the color. If you love both, don't blink because hair then goes into speed growing mode, and before you can say "Oh this color? It's just kissed by the sun" those grey roots start rearing their ugliness and ruining whatever social event you've got planned that involves showing your head.

So then comes the decision, do I go back and get more professionally done color, or do I slink into the aisle of the store and try to pick out the color that comes within hopefully ten shades of what my hair color was when I was five. Buy the box, hope it looks halfway OK, undo all the work done with foils by the expert, more drips on the floor, and walls and toilet. I probably went with the at-home process 95% of the time.

I had no intension of changing the status quo. In fact, when I picked out the color of my Baha hearing device that I wear attached my head, my choices were grey, blond, black, brown and reddish brown. I went with reddish brown, because that's my hair color, right? When I exchanged one of them for a smaller model, the audiologist chose black without asking me, and commented that black goes with everything. Little did I know how much I would appreciate her choice.

A few months ago a friend we had known in Tahoe posted on Instagram that she was "ditching the dye, going grey." I was shocked! Just like I was shocked that another friend from Tahoe had done the same thing the year before. My thought was, "More power to you sisters, but no way, not for me!"
I sort of put off the decision by saying "Maybe I'll go grey when I'm sixty."

After getting my hair colored at the salon in summer, and seeing how fast the grey came back, especially at my temples, and following it up with a bad box color that seemed to just look flat and blah, I started seriously rethinking my no-way-on-the-grey. I did one more box color which according to the receipt was November 9, 2018. About a month later I decided for sure to let my roots come in and see what happens.

What is happening is not what I expected. I assumed I was completely grey all over. I'm not, and the color of my roots in back is cracking me up. Dark brown, a color of hair I associate with my Mom as a young woman. Brunette, without a hint of warmth. It's totally neutral, and if it comes in like this I may have to rethink half of my wardrobe.

I had some highlights put in to help with the dreaded "line of demarcation." I sort of wish I had bitten the bullet and just gone without this step, but the lighter color is helping me get used to the bigger changes ahead. A friend of ours who is very daring with her tresses, whose hair may or may not have been pink just a few weeks ago, saw my hair and said she loved the "Ombre Look." I'm going to close my eyes and accept that as a compliment.

As much as I didn't want my hair to grow fast after a coloring, either from a box or the salon, it's the opposite now. I want my roots to grow, I want more grey, more natural color to see what I've been covering up all these years. If I believed it would help, I'd take hair growth supplements. But this is a time for good old fashioned patience, something I am in short supply of. If only I had as much patience as I have grey hair.



Summer convention, grey is peeking out!

Plunked down some money to get it colored right.
But it grew. Stupid roots, stop growing!

So I box colored it again. Cheaper, but blah.

The day I decided to ditch the dye.
Faded and dark auburn/brown, blond highlights, grey roots, dark roots
I can't wait to find out who I am.
To Pixie or Not to Pixie, That is the Question.

Feeling pretty good about the future.


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

A bear hat for Ernst and a bear hat for Ernest 


Using patterns from Repeat Crafter Me, I've crocheted my fair share of animal hats over the past few years. Bears, pigs, foxes, puppy dogs and monkeys, in the end they are fun to make, even if the feature placement causes me to tear my hair out. Where to put that nose? Are the eyes crooked? Will the ears flop down or stand upright, or worse yet, will one ear be stubborn and make the whole thing look whacky? A lot of worries over a hat, I"ll admit, but they seem to stare at me wanting to be perfect.

When my husband requested a hat he could wear to Sacramento Republic FC soccer games, a bear hat to be exact, I figured I wouldn't stress too much. This hat would be all in the family, super easy! We went to the yarn aisle at our local Joann Fabrics together, and he decided on a brown multi-colored yarn I'd used before. It's always nice to use up yarn that's lying around. He chose the accent color (didn't have that color lying around) and we talked about the general look. Cute but not silly. Got it.

I used the basic pattern from the dog hat on Repeat Crafter Me, but decided to finally branch out and make my own design for the face of the bear hat. I wanted a big white area on the face so the black nose would stand out, plus it would give me a place to sew on a smile with the burgundy yarn And then I got the grand idea, because the ears always give me such stress, to make some pom pom ears. They would be so cute, and would tie in all the colors of the hat, the brown and white and burgundy, all in a happy little pair of puff balls right on the top. You know, just like real California Brown Bears have.

I made the hat while working my night shift job, taking care to do my work first and foremost of course. But since the goal of this job is first and foremost to not fall asleep, crocheting is allowed. The puff balls, or rather pom poms, turned out so cute fierce and menacing looking, ready to strike fear into the opposing team's fan base. I took a picture of what the finished hat was going to look like, for approval from the guy who is willing to wear a crocheted bear hat in public.

POM! POM!
The reaction? Tepid, most certainly tepid. "What's with the ears? Those don't look like real bear ears." Hate to tell you this, but that's not a real bear, Buster. I was crushed. My Pom Poms got a big No No from the Big Bear, and that's unbearable. But I pushed through the pain, and made him some boring old true-to-life bear ears fit for a Grizzly.

But I had those pom poms left. What's an animal hat maker to do?

Enter Ernest. Not Ernst, that's my husband's name. We now had an Ernest with two E's on his way, and I saw my perfect opportunity to palm my pom poms off on the new kid!

Ernest was the expected baby of a new couple in our congregation. Without giving any details, I'll just say they just moved here, were very brave in the country they just emigrated from and put themselves at risk under a regime that has made life miserable for many in the last few years. There, that's all I'm saying, besides that they are cute and she was so hardly showing when I first met her I kept accidentally touching her pregnant tummy as I tried to not botch her language too much. She didn't make me feel dumb about either the tummy bumping or the language botching. I loved her right away. When my husband heard of their bravery and then when he heard they were planning on naming their baby Ernest, he was positively smitten. It doesn't matter to him the baby's name was chosen before they arrived here, or that there is an extra E in the name, Ernst was very excited to meet baby Ernest.

He told the couple he would come to the hospital when the baby was coming if they wanted, and they said yes. Don't know if they were aware of this man's fear of birth, small detail. The plan was the baby's two aunts would be there for most of the interpreting, and Ernst for if anything major went wrong.

We got the text on New Year's Day that mom was in labor since 4:30 am and that they were now at the hospital. Wow, this was amazing, a baby coming on the first day of the year, a gorgeous blue sky day when we both had nothing going on whatsoever.

It was a pretty amazing experience! I kept wondering what my role there was, it turned out to be chief photographer of a lovely and beautiful birth. The peace and love and calmness and serenity between mommy and daddy was almost more of a miracle than the birth itself. Ernest was here, he was healthy, everything was beautiful. What a way to start 2019.


A hat for Ernest.

Welcome to California, little guy!

You are in good hands.

No worries.

Yep, smile away!

Your mommy was amazing before, during and after.
Daddy too.

Ernest :) Boy

Ernest and Ernst.
Ernst and Ernest.

Should I crochet some bear booties?

Friday, December 14, 2018

No-Waste November? Let’s talk trash!

We may need a smaller can.


We've been eating a whole-food, plant-based, low-sodium, minimally-processed and no-oils diet for so long now, it's become second nature. Chop an onion and saute it in a bit of low-sodium vegetable broth, add some garlic...ya da ya da...and pretty soon we have dinner and leftovers that last at least through lunch tomorrow and possible dinner tomorrow night. 

This way of cooking makes me feel good physically and deep down good inside too. In our quest to save money too, we buy lots of unprocessed fresh fruits and vegetables, along with a good amount of frozen foods, canned goods and depending on my schedule, pre-chopped vegetables from Trader Joe's. I limit myself on pre-processed fruit, because I'm just never that busy. But bags and bags of produce enter our house each week. And all those bags eventually make it into our trash.

Many times after a marathon cooking stint, I would be surprised how much trash I had just thrown into the kitchen trash. Of course the recyclables went where they belonged, the compostables went in the garden, and the better compostables like potato and carrot peels went into special batches of dog food for our Molly girl. But the one-time-use only bags and cartons were the ones that bothered me. The frozen corn bags, the clear plastic produce bags that I would never manage to save and either reuse or bring back to the bin at the store. Each week we filled up our trash can with lots of unrecyclable plastic that was going straight to the landfill. And I'm sure if you asked the land, if it could talk, it would ask that we stop trying to fill it. Ditto with the oceans.

So loving a good food challenge, we decided to use November 2018 as a test ground for a zero waste month. We dubbed the month No Waste November, knowing we were shooting for more of a Low Waste goal. If I have a catchy title, I can do just about anything in a month, so the end of October had me using up as much of the food we had in single-use containers. These items were mostly the frozen vegetables and fruits in the freezer, and bags of items such as nuts, flour and dried fruits. I invested in reusable mesh produce bags from the grocery store and started washing out and saving plastic produce bags from the store. I also got a few wax coated food covers from Trader Joe's. These would be in addition to the washable plastic covers I had from GladWare, the ones that look like something your grandmother wore at the beauty parlor. I've never been one to fight with plastic wrap, it always wins.

First shopping trip? Not Trader Joe's, where the one-use plastic bags are king. No, I headed straight to Sprouts Market with my reusable mesh bags. I marched into the produce department and started filling up mesh bags. And then quickly realized I was going to need more bags. I think I'm at nine now, we could probably use 12. I did start just throwing similar things in one bag, like herbs and smaller vegetable bunches such as radishes. I bet the cashiers mumble under their breath at shoppers who do this, but there is only so much mesh I want to mess with. 

We had a great month of dried bean soups, vegetable soup, more dried bean soups, followed up with some more soup. Because the month of No Waste was also the month of No Oven, the off button on our oven decided to quit, so roasting, baking and casseroles were out of the question. Soup for days and days and days. 

We are only two people, but we eat home-cooked meals probably 95% of the time. That makes one tall kitchen can of trash each week. With really watching the one-time use plastic, we reduced this to only one can for the whole month. It felt so odd to throw away that tall kitchen bag with so little trash in it, that I started to just up-end it into the outside bin and reuse the bag. There was no food trash in it to speak of, so it wasn't even smelly. Amazing results. This little experiment has made me think twice about the packaging of even the healthful foods we purchase, and whether there is an alternative means to buy that same product.

How were the cost-savings? Our shopping habits definitely changed, but we were not attempting to save money, just plastic. But nonetheless, money-wise we did pretty well. Minus the days we went to Southern California for a get-away, our average food costs were $9.88 per day. Not quite as good as the $6.66 all-time record from eating at the 99 Cent Store for one month, but not too shabby either. 





Wax lined food covers.

My only complaint is that they're opaque.
Opaque, yet so charming.
It made me feel like our food in the fridge had all turned Amish on us. 

The ultimate in packaged foods. 
Recyclable, but not really reusable.

Not recyclable, but reusable.

Only good for one use.
Unless we took it on the dog's walk. Hmm.

Such "apeeling" packaging!

Jar salads, they fit right in last month.

No plastic here, fruit filling in for fresh flowers.