Serenity at Bloedel Reserve

A few weeks ago, we made it out to Bloedel Reserve on Bainbridge Island. Bloedel is one of those in-your-backyard sort of places that we always seem to put off. It’s going to be too crowded, it’s too expensive, it’s just a garden, we’ll do it another time, it’s not adventurous enough, it will always be there. I have talked about going for years but always came up with an excuse. I am so glad we finally went.

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Bloedel is not just a garden. It’s 150 acres of spectacular scenery, both wild and groomed, and full of life, even in the middle of February. We saw ducks, geese, a Pileated Woodpecker, and a number of smaller birds. Heard a raven and frogs. Saw a deer and a coyote. Flowers were already blooming–hellebores, camellias, primroses, and others. As beautiful as it was on the overcast, chilly day that we went, I can only imagine what it will be like in April or May.

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We enjoyed it so much that we went back to the admissions desk and bought a year-long pass for the two of us, plus two guests. Well worth the $100 (plus you get a 10 percent discount at the gift shop, which has a lovely selection of local art and things–and where else can you find squirrel earrings!). I plan on going back once a month to chronicle the changes throughout the seasons.

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There is lots of information on their website and at the Reserve so I won’t tell you all about it here. Part of the fun is reading about the history in the lovely home on the grounds. There are a number of special events throughout the year, or you can just go for a walk on your own. It took the three of us almost three hours (although some of that was in the gift shop!). We were constantly stopping to marvel at some beautiful plant or scene, but there were also people who live a little closer who use the Reserve for a brisk walk for exercise. I think I would do that if I lived on Bainbridge as well!

PS: Do be aware that pets are not allowed, and they will not let you keep one in your car while you visit (good for them!).

http://bloedelreserve.org/

 

Sweet Orange Body Scrub

1 cup coconut oil (I use Costco’s cold pressed organic unrefined oil)

1-2 Tablespoons sweet almond oil

1/4 cup sugar (not too fine)

1/2 teaspoon dried Valencia orange peel

15-30 drops sweet orange pure essential oil

Finally, the long-awaited super simple body scrub recipe. This one is great because the above measurements and ingredients are just a starting point. You can alter this in so many ways. You can use salt instead of sugar (though I like sugar as it’s less likely to sting if you have nicks or cuts). You can leave out the orange peel, add more, or try something entirely different–just remember, whatever you add is going down your drain so nothing too big! And of course, you can use a different scent. It’s something that can be made very quickly, yet it looks nice and would be fun for gifts. And it’s much less expensive than store-bought scrubs!

Gather all your ingredients and a bowl for mixing. Start by whipping the coconut oil with a fork until light and smooth (you can also slowly melt over a double-boiler, but that’s more time and more dishes). Add the sweet almond oil and whip up again. Add the sugar and orange peel and stir well. Finally, add the essential oil. Start slowly and smell a few times before you add it all in.

Spoon the mixture into a nice unbreakable container. This is a slippery mix and you don’t want a glass jar falling on a tile shower floor! It will firm up a bit after standing and the scent will usually get just a bit stronger. Enjoy! But be careful not to slip–and warn anyone using the shower right after you (or be nice and clean the shower floor)!!!!

You can play around with all the measurements. This one is pretty oily, as I have dry skin. You could certainly cut back on the almond oil if you want it a little thicker. You can also add more or less sugar or salt. Have fun, experiment, and feel free to share your favorite recipe 🙂

 

Happy New Year

Today I just want to say thank you to my followers, those who have stuck with us through my erratic posting and those who have just recently joined us (welcome!). I have been working on a new post–actually a few of them–but I just can’t quite wrap them up in the way I envisioned them at the start. I will keep working and will hopefully post soon! I will be posting on thoughts on the luxury of time and some recipes for DIY body scrubs and butters (got the recipes, need some good images).

In the meantime, I have been enjoying our unexpectedly beautiful few days here in the Northwest. Short walks around the property, a bit of work in the garden. Sat on a sunny rock and listened to the birds and frogs for awhile. Played in our seasonal creek. Even saw a snake sunning itself. These two days have felt like spring, but I’ve had to rein myself in and remember that there are still two months of winter yet! Stay away from the garden center for now!! Maybe I’ll just sit down with the Territorial catalog and order my seeds.

This year I am trying to slow down and appreciate time (more on this in a later post). I am also trying to cut out the middle man,and the processing that goes with that, and make more things from scratch. Right now, I have turkey slow roasting for the cats, just finished a tropical body butter (plumeria and pikake–yum!), I’m experimenting with Slippery Elm for tummy disorders for both people and cats (so far so good), and I’m ready to try sourdough again. When you aren’t working and those checks aren’t coming in, making things from scratch generally saves money, but it also makes us slow down and appreciate things.

On a different note, I’ve always been quite a reader, but have slowed down the last few years with all the stress and problems we’ve faced. But I’m getting back into it again, this time with a series of non-fiction. Just thought I would share my list for the new year, as I’ve enjoyed them all! The first is Confessions of a Pagan Nun by Kate Horsley. A fascinating read and surprisingly timely for women, considering the original codex it’s based on was written about 500 AD. Next was Michael Pollan’s Cooked, which makes me want to spend the next few months in the kitchen. I’m now reading The Snow Leopard by Peter Matthiessen, which I’ve thought about reading for years but finally found myself in the perfect frame of mind.

For those of you who enjoy our outdoor adventures–don’t give up! We’ve had a series of setbacks in the form of injuries and illness (nothing serious) but we hope to be back on the trails soon.

Hope the new year is staring out well for all of you! I promise I will be better about engaging with other bloggers this year!!!!

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Garden Bounty

I know I’ve been quiet lately. It’s been a difficult summer. Not in a catastrophic way, like our last few years, but one of those where so many smaller things pile up that it suddenly becomes too much to take, especially for someone with chronic depression. I haven’t had my normal outlet of hiking for some time. Jim got a bad burn on his leg early in the summer (luckily it has completely healed–even the scar isn’t bad) and I hurt my foot last month. We have been paddling a few times–lots of fun, but not as often as I would like. Last month everything seemed to happen at once and I got to the point where I just had to hold on tight and ride out the storm. I’m finally reaching the end of this one and my saving grace has been my garden (and having the time to be out in it).

Gardening requires patience. You can’t rush it. Even when it’s exploding with produce that must be picked, you can only go so fast. This gives the mind a break from life’s chaos. The combination of being out in the elements, working in the soil, smelling the vegetation, and slowing down has a wonderful soothing effect on the soul. I have a chair near the vegetable garden and often just sit and listen to the bees. Even watering can be a relaxing routine–Jim fills the cans for me as I water (though next year we will probably look into a more efficient system!)

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I have always enjoyed gardening, but this year it’s taken on a new meaning, as we can really use the food–it helps with the grocery bill! We are making an extra effort to not be wasteful and it’s paying off with a freezer full of goodies, plus lots of fresh meals. I have only purchased lettuce once in the last several months and haven’t had to buy tomatoes since mid-July. Sunflower seeds are being roasted today, tomatillos have been roasted and frozen, zucchini grated, kale leaves packaged, salsa and sauces made and frozen. Peppers, tomatoes, and cucumbers are all going strong. Fall seeds will be going in soon.

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An abundance of fresh produce can encourage a search for new recipes. We’ve tried zucchini raviolis and lasagna, using strips of zucchini in place of pasta. Both are wonderful and the raviolis make a pretty spectacular presentation, especially when topped with a sauce of fresh picked tomatoes and herbs. Our simplest go-to recipe is to take whatever has just been picked and put it in a freshly made tortilla (super easy to make!).

Growing your own food is incredibly satisfying. I’m very lucky to have room for a big garden, but even a few potted plants on a windowsill, balcony, or counter will give you a connection to nature. Many vegetables grow well in containers on a patio or deck. Tomatoes and strawberries can grow in hanging pots. Herbs can be easy to grow and have so many uses in both cooking and beauty products (I use a rosemary rinse for my hair). You can start small and still enjoy the benefits!

Happy gardening to all of you!

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The Elwha Loop

First of all, a big thank you to those of you who have stayed with us! We did not, quite, drop off the face of the earth–just had to sit back and weather the storm for a bit. On the plus side, Jim has made an incredible recovery from his second-degree burn. I really thought he might be out for the whole summer, but he has almost completely healed. As long as he slathers 50+ sunscreen on his leg, he is good to go!

One of latest adventures was the Elwha Loop just past Port Angeles. Because of Jim’s injuries, we haven’t done as much this summer and we were looking for something not too strenuous. This was a great hike–quite easy and very beautiful. A bit of a drive for us but easily done in a day.

One of the things that struck me most about this hike was how quiet it was. This is an easy hike in the Olympics, and we went on a Friday in late July–prime tourist time. And yet we saw very few people on the hike–just the way I like it!! Contrast that with a recent hike to Lake Serene in the Cascades, also on a July Friday, which was like I-5 at rush hour through Seattle. More on that adventure later! This is described on some sites as a heavily trafficked trail, so we may have just been lucky, or maybe some people are still not sure what’s going on after the removal of the dams on the Elwha. Whatever the reason for the lack of people, it worked out for us!

The trail itself was well maintained and shady most of the way (we also lucked out with weather and had an overcast and cool-for-summer day). We took the lower part of the loop to start and made the very short and definitely worth it detour to Goblins Gate, which is stunning! The color of the water is spectacular. Could get really crowded very fast, but we saw only two others people there. Perfect!

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Another detour worth making is the Dodger Point Trail to the suspension bridge over the  Elwha. This is another beautiful spot–nice place for a bit of lunch if you didn’t already have it at Humes Ranch. You can check out Michael’s Cabin on the way back, though it appears that local rowdies party there. The sign out front said you might be able to find remnants of spearmint in the garden. I just found some skivies and nasty old socks. I think someone had too much fun there. Lots of rat poop on the porch too, so be careful where you sit. You are more daring than I am if you choose to climb the ladder and look in the loft!

All in all, it was a good hike. Worth the drive. No blisters either!!

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Lower Big Quilcene Trail

We hit the Lower Big Quilcene River Trail a little over a week ago, on one of our rare non-rainy days this year in the NW. We got lost on the way but saw a bear crossing the Penny Creek Road, which made the extra time worth it (I would rather see a bear from the car than on the trail right in front of us!). The directions we followed weren’t great–actually the signage in the area isn’t great. Stay left when Penny Creek Road splits. Follow the signs for the trails, even though Lower Big Quilcene isn’t on the sign. It is marked once you get on the right road, and it’s the first trail you come across.

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This is one of those trails we put off, as it wasn’t rated highly in our Day Hikes book, but it has the advantage of being open most of the year! We have found that these easier trails are quite lovely in the spring. Not crowded at all and lots of little waterfalls everywhere, which will probably dry up later in the year. They also have a bit of sun, as the deciduous trees haven’t fully leafed out yet. And quite honestly, sometimes you just need to get out and commune with Mother Nature. It’s amazing what it can do for high blood pressure and depression. Try it!! This trail was pretty easy, with no major elevation gains. It is long if you do the round trip (almost ten miles for us) to and from Camp Jolley. You don’t always get that close to the river but you can always hear it it–sometimes a distant melody, sometimes a raging torrent. Always beautiful!!

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We saw quite a few Trillium that have survived our recent downpours. Also lots of yellow violets and even a few bleeding hearts in the sunnier areas. Salmonberries are flowering as well. Rhodies should be blooming soon, but maybe a bit later than usual with our weather this year.

We usually try to be well prepared for our hikes, and generally they are not that difficult. So far, we are definitely day hikers. But sometimes we over look little things. I wore the same hiking boots I have had for the last several years, with no problems at all, but I recently purchased a new pair of fairly spendy lightweight hiking socks. They did not work!!! Try new things on short trails! I ended up with four blisters and a bloody toe, simply because of my socks, which didn’t breathe as advertised and moved around too much because they weren’t as thick as my normal socks. Won’t be wearing them hiking again!

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http://www.wta.org/go-hiking/hikes/lower-big-quilcene-river

The Dangers of Too Much Stuff

Here in the US, we live in a culture that promotes the acquisition of stuff–lots and lots of stuff. We have ridiculous sayings, like “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Really?? What the hell do you win? This need to keep up with the Joneses, the need to acquire more and more, has caused countless problems in our society, but I’m not going to discuss the political or cultural ramifications of stuff. What I want to talk about is how it affects you if you are suffering from depression or dealing with chaos in your life.

Like everything else, stuff in moderation is OK, but many of us spend our whole lives collecting more and more stuff that ends up in boxes, basements, attics, garages, storage units, closets, and extra rooms. We pay money to store boxes of stuff that is never opened. We save stuff that friends gave us years ago. Are you really going to forget that friend if you get rid of the trinket they gave you at 18? We save clothes that need mending, even if they are 15 years out of style or we weigh too much to ever fit in them again. We save paper from ages ago. If you are my age, you don’t need your college transcripts, your first resume, or the documents from the first house you owned (unless you still live in it!). If your child is 25 and has a college degree, you don’t need every piece of high school work. If you put all the good photos in albums, you probably don’t need the crappy ones left in the box (and I am very guilty of that one!). If you are not using that stuff, there is a mighty good chance you don’t need it. Certainly there may be family treasures that are worth saving. There are documents that you must save. Photographs bring back lovely memories and keep the good times alive. But be real folks!

Stuff can be stifling. It can halt creativity. Too much stuff can surround us with stress, and if you are already feeling like you are on the edge, that stuff can be downright debilitating. Depression often causes us to be unable to start a project that appears too daunting. People who don’t have it will never understand, but the idea that we might start something and not be able to finish easily is sometimes viewed as just another failure. Or it may be that going through all that stuff reminds you of all the good intentions you had that were never accomplished–more failure. The problem is that the more you accumulate, the more likely you feel that failure just by opening the wrong door. You walk in a room and have to walk right back out because you can’t deal with all that stuff. It has physical effects that are not pleasant.

There are books out there that deal with this subject. I think some of them go a little bit too far, or are daunting in themselves, but they have a point. If it doesn’t bring you happiness or have some value or function (my can opener doesn’t make me happy but I do need it), it might be time to toss it. That in itself can be an issue, as we are often overwhelmed with what to do with things. We paid a lot of money for this, or we know that is in fabulous condition, but where does it go? If you have to make too much effort to get rid of things, you won’t. Unless something is truly valuable (like heirloom jewelry, a fancy car, or vintage furniture), you may find greater value in getting it out of your house rather than worrying about getting something out of it. I’m not suggesting that you throw things away (unless they really are junk). You should always recycle or donate when you can, but don’t have 27 boxes all going to different places. They will just end up staying right where they are. Keep it simple.

Getting rid of stuff does require the right mindset. It can be depressing in and of itself. It is overwhelming. It can be especially awful if you have lost someone and are going through their things (you need to take your time with this–it’s a whole different issue). You need to take advantage of the feeling when it comes along. Sometimes it can actually feel good to get rid of things, and when it does–go for it, even if you have to put off something else. You will feel better in the long run. Getting rid of excess stuff can help us step away from the rat race and find some balance in our lives. For those of us dealing with cosmic crap, that can be huge. We are not defined by our stuff, and we need to be able to see that.

I would love to hear your point of view on the matter. Any tips or suggestions?IMG_9663blog

These Lemons are Downright Rotten

A friend of mine recently told me she was missing my blog posts and I realized it had been quite some time since I wrote anything. So here’s my reason why. I apologize in advance, as this is going to be a bit of a rant, and I had hoped to keep this blog upbeat for the most part. But it is a blog about coping with major life changes, and sometimes you just need to blow off steam.

A few weeks ago, my husband got a call out of the blue that we thought might be a big change for us, finally in a good way. He got his job back, after a year and a half of being in limbo. The HR department sent him forms to fill out and he was given a date and time to report back to work in two weeks. We were stunned, and then relieved. A huge weight was lifted off our shoulders. It took several days to sink in but it did. One of the reasons I haven’t posted is that I was trying to decide how to continue the blog, as we would no longer be semi-retired.

Luckily, we made no huge financial decisions, because we failed in an age-old lesson–don’t count your chickens before they are hatched. Poor Jim showed up to work at the crack of dawn on Tuesday and was told, “Oh sorry. You don’t have a job after all.” Wow. Stunned once again. If they had called us a day or two after the first news, we would have been OK. After all, nothing much has changed–we are right back where we were a month ago. We didn’t go out and buy a new car or book a month-long tropical vacation. Our big splurge on hearing the good news was buying six fruit trees. I think we can recover from that expense! But the emotional impact is huge. I feel like we have gone back to the beginning, and we are now going through all those awful feelings once again.

We will manage. We were managing. We will continue. We have good supportive friends and family. We have each other. We have a house that’s paid for. In the grand scheme of things, we are better off than a great many people. But it still sucks. It seems like a really nasty, extended April Fool’s joke. And no one likes to feel like a fool.

My next post will be more positive, I promise!

Jim Finds His Artistic Side

I’ve always been the artistic one in our relationship. But with all the extra time on our hands from our unplanned retirement, Jim is exploring his creative side as well. He’s always been good with woodworking and made quite a few shelving units for our last house. He recently made a spice rack for me, and that has launched what may become a new little business. At the very least, it keeps him busy in a productive way.

His latest projects are making use of what’s growing on our own property, mainly in the form of small Douglas Firs that were never thinned properly when the property was owned by one of the local timber companies. Thinning out the smaller trees helps our forest environment and provides lots of wood that is just right for wooden coasters, spice racks, a shot glass display, and shelves for the liquor bottles. His next project is a display railing for my decorative plates that have been in their boxes for years. We’ll also be using some of the timber for our garden planter boxes (and some more hugelkultur piles). The rustic look of the fir looks just right in our little country home.

In addition to being a practical and thrifty way to added needed things to the house, the focus that comes with creative projects can really help in dealing with stress and depression. Regardless of what you plan to do with the final project, there is a sense of accomplishment. Even if it doesn’t come out quite the way you planned, there is always something learned in the process. If others compliment you on the work, there is that little boost to your ego. That might sound conceited, but there is a feeling of loss and damage to self-esteem when you find yourself retired without planning to be, and when you are at an age when it can be difficult to find a decent job to replace the one you lost.     

We are looking into the possibility of attending some local craft fairs to sell my photos and Jim’s woodwork. We’ll let you know when our first fair comes along! In the meantime, drop us a line if you are interested in the coasters or racks.

Take Care of Your Body!

You know you’re getting older when your Christmas presents to each other are a pair of specialized compression ski socks and Chopats for the knees. The good news is that it also means you are attempting to stay active and in shape! There is a saying in the fitness world that we have all heard: no pain, no gain. There is some truth in that. If you are not feeling it at all the next day, your workout is probably not enough. However, as you get older, there are things you need to watch more carefully. Sometimes our bodies betray us. We don’t heal quite as quickly. If we have had multiple surgeries in the past, like my husband, the semi-bionic man, you may be noticing some arthritic pain. Pay attention to your body!! Some discomfort is normal when getting in shape; extreme and/or consistent pain is not.

There are things you can do. Get to know your body and what your weak spots are. I have a weak lower back, knees, and neck muscles. I also have some rotator cuff problems. Jim has had surgery on both shoulders, both knees, and both wrists. Exercise actually has helped my shoulders and back immensely (but again, watch your body. Exercise helps my shoulder but Jim definitely needed surgery). But my knees need some extra support. Hence, the Chopats. Jim has been using them for quite some time for hiking and skiing. I now use them for those activities as well as general workouts. It makes a big difference. (Another sign that you are getting old–going downhill on big hikes is often more difficult than going uphill!).

Warmups and cool-downs are more important than ever when you hit our age. Yoga and pilates are great additions to any workout program. If you are using a program and a move is too difficult, don’t give up. Modify or just march in place. Whatever you do, keep moving.

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