Vegan Above the Flood Plain

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It has been an eventful week living here just outside Oroville, CA near the Oroville dam and spillway. Our little part of the world made national and international headlines this weekend when our damaged spillway, and untested emergency spillway started to look compromised to the officials monitoring the situation…

Here’s a bit of video I took today (2/16/2017) of the Feather River running near downtown Oroville:

 

The weather on Sunday Feb 12th 2017 was clear and sunny, a welcome change from the unrelenting rain and over cast skies of the past week. I drove down to Davis, CA to meet up with a friend for lunch and to see the new Manetti Shrem Art Museum on the U.C. Davis campus. I highly recommend a visit if you’re ever in the area, the museum is free and parking free on weekends.

I arrived back home to the hills above Oroville at 3:30pm, chatted with my husband, walked outside on the back deck — and then both our cell phones chimed, with a “Severe Alert” text message “Flash Flood Warning this area til 4:15 PM PST. Avoid flood areas.”

Was this a mistake we wondered? We aren’t in a flood zone… but we checked the news and saw that the Butte County Sheriff had announced an immediate mandatory evacuation for all of downtown and south Oroville, as well as much of the area I had just driven through on my way back from Davis. People were to leave immediately and seek higher ground, those in Oroville were directed towards the city of Chico to the north. The area we live in is above and behind the dam, so it was safe for us to stay put. As we watched the news, seeing lines of people driving out of town, we felt very grateful for our location. But the situation had us on edge and slightly unnerved.  Helicopters buzzed over head, both news and those working on the problem. The spillway had been damaged some days before, a large gouge of damage was growing, and with the lake exceeding the top of the emergency spillway, officials feared that untested area might fail leading to a huge release of water, mud and debris.

On Monday, reality sank in, we wondered if we had enough food on hand to last for a while. There was uncertainty about the duration of this event — and worst case scenarios might have us trapped up here for a week or more. My husband decided to venture down to the small local market & gas station near us. The place was mobbed — long lines, no gas available. Tim looked around and was surprised to find that the kind of food we were looking for – vegetables and fruit WAS available. He picked up some fresh and frozen veggies, tomatoes, apples and a few other things to tide us over. (Luckily we do have a well stocked pantry — a necessity when living a distance from town)  He noticed that the food isles in the center of the store — chips, soda and packaged quick foods were almost completely bare! Maybe, in times of scarcity, it pays to be vegan? : )

Thankfully the mandatory evacuation was lifted the next day, changed to a “warning” — people came back, businesses opened again. But the threat is still there, and we have FEMA, DWR, National Guard, local law enforcement and Cal Fire all camping out in the marina downhill. Helicopters continue to fly overhead dropping one-ton bags of boulders to shore up the hill under the emergency spillway. Things will not return to “normal” anytime soon.

Here’s quick and comforting soup recipe I tried during this stressful time, courtesy of  the “Fresh Princess” on YouTube, “1 Pot, 5 Ingredient Pasta con Ceci (Pasta with Chickpeas). All these ingredients were in my pantry already!

Enjoy!

 

From Diaries to Journals to Blogs…

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I’m just going to ignore the dismal subject of politics for now and jump into a new subject, journal keeping! The topic of keeping diaries, journals or more modern blogs has been on my mind lately, and so I took the time to reflect on this a little. Realizing that journal keeping had been part of my ancestry, on both sides of the family gave me pause. Interesting! Both my material grandmother, her sister and their father kept journals quite regularly. And several years ago,  I was delighted and fascinated to learn my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side had kept journals as well!

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Elsie (on left), and Mae

 

My maternal grandmother Elsie Winter Sproul and her sister Mae Winter both kept journals, I’m not sure how consistent they were, but the journals I have in my possession date back to the 1950s. They both “repurposed” daily calendars, small leather bound promotional calendars given out by insurance firms, some had been made into five year journals. Mae lived with Elsie during these years, as her health was quite bad due to the after effects of a bad car accident which ended her career as a school Principal in the Midwest. Typical content from both women ranged  from noting visitors to the house, recently send correspondence,

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Elsie and Mae’s Yearbook Diaries

 

recent cultural activities they had attended, special meals and gatherings and always a note of the weather.

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My birth, briefly noted in my maternal Grandmother’s diary

My own birth is noted in my grandmother’s journal — briefly as was her custom, but it was fun to find it there. I was born two years after her beloved sister died, and hope my presence brought her new focus and comfort after such a loss.

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F.W. Winter’s “Memorandum” from 1877-78 and photo as a young man.

Mae and Elsie’s father, my Great Grandfather Frederick W. Winter was an avid journal or “Memorandum” keeper. He was also a homeopathic doctor in Nebraska and Wyoming.  I have one early diary/scrapbook he kept from around 1877, and several from the end of his life in the 1930’s. Frederick read and wrote English and German, and was very interested in literature and music, religion, modern culture and medical advancements. It’s hard to make out the writing, and I need to spend more time trying to decipher the content of both of these journals.

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F.W.Winter’s journal from 1935, written in a physician’s appointment book.

The notebook from 1935 does start with an entry about attending the Pasadena Rose Parade in Southern California with my Grandparents who he was living with at the time.

My own mother, on the other hand, was a spotty journal writer. She kept a diary in her junior high years, but it was very superficial, probably because she feared her mother would look at it!

She did keep a journal off and on when I was young, and more consistently after my Dad died in 1999, which I found and kept after she left us in 2010. It is hard to read, raw and wrenching, but it does show her path of accomplishment as she tackles the tasks my father used to handle, specifically financial management and car maintenance! It was good to see her growing pride at handling tasks that she hadn’t had to deal with before. She also mentions friends, politics, books, music and travel — but throughout, her loss looms large and never abates.

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My Great Great Grandfather William Gardner, taken when he was in his 60’s.

Another family journalist, and most recent “find” was my Great Great Grandfather on my father’s side, William Gardner. Through the magic of Ancestry.com, a small Gardner side family reunion was gathered several years ago, and I learned of his journals. My cousin let me borrow the two she had (we suspect many had been lost through the years), and I photographed the pages to keep before returning them to her. William was born and married in Hudson, New Hampshire, then began to move his family west, farming for a time in Utica, Indiana and Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, and eventually settling in San Jose California around 1872. In San Jose he owned a grocery store, owned land and help settle people into downtown San Jose, and was instrumental in starting a new school district for the children of people moving into the area — the Gardner District still bears his name. His son George W. Gardner was an fruit grower, his daughter, my grandmother Dorette grew up on a ranch to the west of Bird Avenue in Willow Glen.

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Advice to my children… W. Gardner

One of the last pages of the journal from his later years says “Advice to my children, never to leave Cal. on any condition or under any circumstances…” It was “the best place in the world to live or die” (not a dramatic bone in his body!). He did say this with some authority, for he had traveled extensively throughout the U.S., British Columbia, even visiting the “Sandwich Islands” and undergoing the onerous overland crossing through Panama before the canal was built. One interesting note for me, as I now live in Oroville, CA, in Butte County — he once camped at the foot of the Sutter Buttes which I can see from this area on a clear day!

My own journal habit was first inspired by reading the “Harriet the Spy” books, and I admit at first they were definitely “spy notebooks”. They evolved over the years to be more of a personal diary, and probably took the place of years of therapy! Much less expensive, but definitely a place to pore out thoughts and feeling, fears and hopes. I’ve always kept to the format of a notebook, preferring a large capacity spiral notebook like students use (or used to before tablets and laptops).

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My pile of journals, dating back to the early 1970’s! Not as elegant as my ancestors…

Looking forward, I’ve been interested in the new form of journaling called “bullet journals”, which are part journal, part “to do” list, and part long term goal setting. I love how the need to document our thoughts and reflect on our lives, grows and evolves with each new generation.

Do you journal? What is your format and how do you use it in your life?

Favorite Vegan Recipes of 2016

Happy New Year! It’s actually 2017! Can hardly believe it, and we’ve been “retired” for three and a half years now! (we “escaped Silicon Valley” in July of 2013). In June of 2016 I “went vegan” following the whole food plant based diet, and Tim followed soon after. With a few slip ups (yes, he had some ham at Xmas dinner with the neighbors) and a bit of mayo on my Portabello burger in a restaurant here and there — we’ve been pretty “good”. We’ve both lost weight and kept it off, and feel our digestion is much better overall.

Here are some of our favorite new recipes and go to food choices from the last six months, in no particular order:

  • Black Bean & Potato Seitan Roast with Vegan Mushroom gravy Seitan Roast Recipe
  • Creamy Vegan Mushroom Fettuccine Alfredo — I add fresh steamed broccoli.  Recipe here

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    Vegan Fettuccine Alfredo
  • Stuffed Acorn Squash with cranberry sauce — I served this at our Thanksgiving Recipe here
  • Vegan Parmesan — I used all cashews which worked fine, this stuff is MAGIC!! Recipe here
  • Cauliflower Tacos (from the Thug Kitchen cookbook)
  • Homemade Pinto “refried” beans / bean & rice burritos or enchiladas
  • Vegetable miso soup — start with onions, carrots, celery, mushrooms, cabbage. Veg stock and some Miso after veggies are tender to taste. You can add any veggies you have on hand that you enjoy.
  • Breakfast muffins, my recipe — 1 C whole wheat flour, 1 C rolled oats or muesli, 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 T flaxseed meal mixed with 6 T water (set this aside to thicken while you gather the other ingredients). 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 to 1 C apple sauce (or grated fresh peeled apple, or pumpkin puree), chopped walnuts (1/2 cup or a bit more), Plant milk to muffin consistency (start with a half cup, add enough to get a sticky but not sloppy batter).  Add several chopped (pitted) dates for sweetness as needed. Bake at 400 for 25 min (makes 12 muffins).
  • Morning Porridge — we have a mix of Muesli and rolled oats, berries, cacao nibs, shredded coconut and flax seed meal (sometimes Chia seeds). Cooked on the stove with water. Tim adds Hemp protein powder and I add a tablespoon of Almond Butter and Molasses. We really look forward to this and have it almost every morning now.
  • The “Big Ass Salad” — everything fresh, great for the summer when you have fresh garden tomatoes and other things — add what you like to fill a dinner plate or huge bowl.
  • Portabello Burgers with oven fries – –
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    Portabello Burger

    removed dark gills from underside and stem, clean and marinate in vinegrette, bake or saute. Serve on bun with fresh lettuce, tomato and avocado — make oven fries with fresh russet potatoes.

So, I’m still struggling with WordPress and pressed “publish” instead of “preview” — but wishing you and yours and very happy and peaceful 2017!

The Fine Art of Distraction

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Will 2016 be our new Annus Horribilis? I’ve had a hard time coming back to blogging after this U.S. Presidential election.  Not a fan of our new “President Elect”, I’ve been filled with disbelief that such a man could have gone as far as he did, and what that means in terms of reflection on the character of our country and commentary on our world today.

During the last month of the election, as a way of distracting myself from all the negativity, I decided to do a “30 paintings in 30 days” painting challenge. I started in October and finished just after the election. Every day I posted something to my personal Facebook page — plein air, still life, interior study or a portrait from the drawing group I attend twice a month (pastel). It was a great way to loosen up the brush, so to speak. To approach painting more like sketching, quickly and less over worked. I’ll post a few of them here…

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Acorn squash
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Kelly Ridge

Thanksgiving came and went as well, we had our first Vegan “ThanksLiving” and invited our neighbor friends to join us — they were open to the idea, and seemed to enjoy the faire. On the menu — Stuffed Acorn Squash (I followed the “Hot For Food” recipe with some modifications — http://www.hotforfoodblog.com/recipes/2013/12/15/stuffed-acorn-squash), maple glazed carrots, green beans with slivered almonds, smashed red potatoes with fresh parsley, apple and pumpkin pies, rolls and veggie/hummus appetizers that our guest brought. Yum!

As a new vegan, I’m also faced with challenges this holiday season — I’ve been invited to a luncheon where a main dish will be served that has meat in it. I offered to bring an entree to share, and was shut down with “the menu has already been decided on” — guess I’ll fill up on salad and bread? What do you do in these situations if you are Vegan or Vegetarian? Does it get easier? Somehow I feel that because I’ve only been at this for the last 6 months, I shouldn’t “make a big deal about it” and just eat meat if it’s there…. but that feels wrong now. Any feedback?

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Tea Cup

 

Delicate Creatures

Over the past few years, I have watched helplessly while several dear friends lost their husbands — entering a season of my life that is not easy to accept. We try to offer help, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, even a safe vessel for anger — yet nothing seems terribly helpful.  My husband Tim, a tall powerfully built man, does have some medical conditions — and I have laughingly called him a “delicate creature” over the years. He is more sensitive to heat and pain than I am — although he very strong, and most people assume he is quite healthy.  But last week my dear sweet husband of almost 30 years was, in the space of a few hours, thrust into a life threatening medical condition. And it is for the the grace of the universe, swift and sure medical attention, his will and the heartfelt prayers of those who love him – that he is alive today.

It is often said that life can change on a dime, we know this truth in our bones, yet it is still jarring to fully comprehend “this is happening to us now”. The day this happened (and I won’t go into medical details here for his privacy) we had been having a regular day, filled with errands like a trip to the home store to purchase bags of soil and the materials for a second raised bed in our backyard,  lunch out at our favorite local Mexican restaurant, carefully navigating the menu to be as vegan as possible (yes, still doing that!). The weather was warm, and our contractor was starting a new project in our entryway – removing old dated tile and fake rock and replacing it with more modern surfaces.

After dinner the symptoms began, and with some fumbling around and a 911 call later I was filling out paper work in the local hospital.

Déjà vu. I had found my mother after a fall in 2009 that broke her hip, I had also found her the morning she died. This time I was calm, but my mouth was dry.

The drive home after he was admitted to the hospital, in the darkness of early morning was tense – nighttime roadwork on the local highway complicated things. In the days to follow I would come to know the hospital – which we had never visited before in our three years here. My trips home in the evening were at dusk, and I was careful to avoid the deer families crossing the roads near our home. To cause injury to one more delicate creature might send me over the edge. Life held the heightened feeling of extreme preciousness — Tim’s life, my life, and all the living things around me.

Luckily, Tim was in the right place, surrounded by the right people to help him. It was scary, but I had no residual guilt about “not doing the right thing”. We can do all the right things, diet, exercise, rest – and still “shit happens”. What we learned was that type II diabetes, even when well managed, can mask symptoms. As we go forward we will be more proactive and suspicious about any and all things. More tests, more questions, more water, more rest, more exercise – and yet we need to calm down and live too. Life cannot be lived on full alert.

Just a few weeks before we had danced and laughed at a nephews’ wedding. More of that please…

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Abracadabra in only 6+ years…

So… this happened, right outside our window, as I was dusting the top of a bookcase a few days ago…

Which is one of the many things we just love about our new ‘hood in rural Northern California. And that brings me to the topic of this post, the very slow quick change of renovating a badly run down home. Yes, we did it. We purchased the worst home in the best neighborhood back at the end of 2010. We actually saw it once, rejected it, and then took another look as the price fell further. It was eventually bank owned. Several of our current neighbors had also looked at it and thought “too much work”. They were right… but the VIEW!!

Here’s a little montage of exterior “before” pictures… we used to call it the “blue boat”.

2010 OUTSIDE

It was a sad blue monstrosity with a whole lot of dry rot, deteriorated wood siding, leaking deck, leaking windows and extremely dated on the inside. There was no back yard marked out, no fencing, rickety wood staircases, rusty metal railing out front… you get the picture. A Money Pit.

But.. we saw potential — That VIEW!

Our first task, after the purchase in the fall of 2010, was to find a contractor — fast. However this proved difficult in our new locale. No one was interested, many showed up to see the mess and submitted bids scrawled on scrap paper, or were very vague and faded away. We finally located a contractor from a neighboring town, who could actually use the computer, smart phone, camera and gave us a real bid. We grabbed him. Unfortunately perhaps not the best choice… but at the time it seemed like our only choice.

There was a lot going on in our lives at that time. My mother was very ill, and passed away in November 2010. Tim and I were both working in the Bay Area, and relied on phone calls, emails and photos to tract the progress on this property. We knew the priority was to get going, redo and seal the deck, replace all the windows and sliding doors, replace the siding with stucco, and massive interior work. Priority: “Button it up for the winter”.

For the most part, it went well, and we were (mainly) pleased with the work. However… somethings were not done was we had hoped. Shortcuts taken, attitudes changed… Long story short, in 2013 we had to sue this contractor as the deck was still leaking, and other things had not been done correctly. He refused to work with us, so we took the legal route. That in itself was a long drawn out, expensive process. But… eventually…we won. The settlement was not as much as we really needed, but enough to get most of the major rework done.

So…in early 2016 our new contractor ripped up most of the deck, replaced joists and studs, another local metal worker fabricated all new metal railings and cement staircases. We had a major setback when the deck topping product failed after careful application (and we fought with this company, via our credit card, to get this cost refunded). Our new contractor stuck by us, and together we found a different solution … and Voila:

2016 OUTSIDE

We are quite pleased with the results, and lack of mold in the garages below the front deck! What a long, slow process this has been. But persistence definitely paid off, teamwork, patience and time… We really enjoy the peace and tranquility here!!

Below: State owned property right behind us with great walking trails — this was taken in the spring.

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Carrot Cake Cookies (low sugar, vegan & gluten free)

This is a recipe I created for my husband, who has Type 2 diabetes. It’s become a real favorite. He watches his sugar intake, even fructose, aiming for 5 gm or less per serving on most things.

As you can see, I get a lot of “help” in the kitchen from the furries…  Bella, our long haired Manx loves to lounge right where I need to step!

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Low sugar, gluten free “carrot-cake” cookies

Combine dry ingredients:
1-1/2 cup Almond meal “flour”
1 cup Oat flour (make: use food processor to pulverize rolled oats) OR Quinoa flour.
2 T Chia seed
2 packets organic stevia
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
2 T shredded coconut (unsweetened)

Mix well, set aside

Combine 2T ground flaxseed meal with 6T water in small bowl, set aside

Mix in separate bowl:
1 cup shredded raw carrot
15 pitted dates, pulsed in food processor to fine mince
1/4 coconut flour oil (melted)
1 cup chopped nuts (I’ve used pecans & walnuts)
1 cup almond milk (or soy or cashew, low fat version)

Add flaxseed mixture once it’s thickened (acts like eggs in recipes)
Combine dry with wet.
Let sit 10 min, mixture will thicken as chia seeds absorb moisture

Bake in heaping tablespoons size, 26 min at 350 degrees
Makes about 32

Enjoy!