Shaking things up, again.

Retiring early can be challenging, and we retired at 54, well before most of our friends. The way we did it was to buy rental properties and to become debt free. We picked Oroville, California after many visits, and thought this would be our forever home. But visiting a place and actually making it your home are two very different things. While we have enjoyed the natural beauty of our area, particularly the area around our home, that was not enough to keep us here long term.

We gave it a good try.  We joined local groups related to our interests in politics and the arts, we got to know new friends, and spent time exploring the area — all the things one does when moving to a new area. But one issue that we didn’t anticipate was air quality. We are on the northern end of California’s Central Valley, and smoke, dust and pollution gets trapped here — which becomes really intense when there are huge fires anywhere near. I have developed a summer cough, directly related to this.

Family and connection is another aspect of the decision to move. My husband is from a large family, with 7 other siblings and their families, most of them living in the Minnesota, South Dakota and Iowa areas. This became a huge pull, since my family is quite small and not near us.

Although I will miss the trails behind our home, and our incredible view, I hope this change will be a positive one. We took a big risk when we left Silicon Valley five years ago, to live on rental income and investments — now we face another huge shift. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” echoes through my mind. Sometimes you need to shake things up — and hopefully it will all be worth the ride.

2013-09-25 21.09.22

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More Cheagan than Vegan…

So… it’s been a while. And no, I didn’t make it to my two year anniversary as a whole food planted based vegan. Nope. I have a confession to make…I’m a Cheagan (a vegan who cheats). My excuse?  It’s hard, and well, I got bored and lazy. Also a certain amount of apathy came into play.

Traveling, visiting with family, social eating, living with a type II diabetic, being too tired or slightly bored with the whole foods menu — all of that. I still try, about 80% of the time. Most of the time when I cheat, I’m still technically a vegetarian, but occasionally not — yes, chicken and fish have crossed these lips. When you’ve spend most of your life as one who eats “just about everything”, it’s hard to be totally “good” all the time.

So… that’s the facts. If you’re looking for vegan inspiration, or new recipes — I’m sorry. I still cook that way MOST of the time, and do keep up with my favorite vegan YouTube-ers, but this isn’t the space for purists — I understand if you need to leave, turn away, delete. I still believe that a whole foods plant based diet is the best diet to have for optimal health, nothing will change my mind about that — even all the nay sayers who suddenly decide voice their opposition to the vegan diet/life style. Yes, them. If you’re vegan, and particularly if you came to it as an older adult, you know exactly what I mean.

On the other hand, while I’m still doing some art — I do admit I’ve been really down this past winter and spring. In addition to losing my sister to cancer back at the end of November 2017, we had to put our much loved cat “Bob” down in April 2018. That was a blow, he was just shy of 14, and because he’d been an indoor cat — much pampered and loved — we thought he’d be around much longer. But no, he didn’t make it — kidney disease.

We miss you Bob, you were one in a million.

2012-12-05 21.48.33

On Finding Your Tribe

Last week the portrait drawing group I attend had a slightly different spin. The guy who organizes it also works with the homeless in Chico, CA and he invited a man he’d met through that work to join us. Not sure if this man — an artist — would actually join us (to both model and draw), he’d also engaged another woman (a friend and artist) to model. They both showed up, so we had a great time with two poses from each, as well as two shorter poses. Our model Scott was able to draw half the time by trading off with Jennie, the other model/artist. He produced some good, solid, accomplished work. He is one of us, part of our tribe.

I didn’t get much of his story, but I know he’s in his early 60’s, has done art in the past and wonderfully “at home” in our group.  He was quiet and focused while drawing, and was also a good portrait model.  I wish him well and hope to see him again in our sessions. I also hope he is able to stay warm and safe during the current cold snap. There are fewer homeless shelters in our area than meet the need, and I fear for those who don’t have access to shelter.

Below: 10 min to 30 min sketches of mine from the session. I do enjoy drawing mature faces, particularly now that mine one too!

 

Moving quickly & standing still

arkansas river
Arkansas River

Note — This was written a few weeks ago and not published until now. Since this time I’ve plunged back into my twice weekly yoga classes, portrait drawing group, and am back to cooking some good fresh vegan fare. Things seem more manageable. One thing I’ve learned is to take time and be kind — to yourself and those around you.

At the beginning of October, I jumped on a plane and rushed to be with my sister in Maumelle, AR. She was experiencing severe health problems, and her daughter — who had been visiting and checking on her — had to leave. I remember I texted her, asking if she needed me to come out — and “Yes” was the answer. So I did.

Two months after that, the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend, she was gone.

I had been there for her diagnosis — multiple small cell cancer tumors throughout her body. It was devastating news, but she took it stoically, as though she already knew. And she decided right away, with very little hesitation, not to fight it. She didn’t want to go through the side effects of Chemo, the false hope (in her mind), so she refused treatment and signed up for hospice care. What followed was a swift decline, coupled with a very unfortunate fall and hip fracture. Her daughter came out to stay until the end, a loving heroic effort which left her raw and drained.

It all happened so fast. By December, my husband and I were flying out to Arkansas for the memorial service, which had been planned, for the most part, by my sister. It was beautiful, tasteful and so so sad. Many friends left behind, and all of us reeling by her sudden departure.

Just a week after returning from this, we were off again to Minnesota. We had planned over six months prior to attend my husband’s family Christmas gathering and to look at some houses back there. We are contemplating moving there within the next year or so. Difficult timing, and as a good friend told me “you’ve just had a huge loss, and the idea of losing your home and the community you’ve become accustom to is probably too much to take on right now” — she was right.

I needed to stand still, and catch up. My body has been moving back and forth through time, space, devastating emotion. I need to get grounded.

Fires, Smoke and Sadness

At fear of being horribly redundant in light of all the news coverage, living in California has been quite challenging this year. A seemingly endless string of huge destructive fires have ravaged our state. The latest, in the Santa Rosa/Napa/Sonoma area, is perhaps the worst and most heartbreaking I’ve heard of in a long time. In the Santa Cruz Mountains overlooking my old hometown of San Jose another fire burns on. Here in the Oroville area things are calm at present, but we wait with baited breath for the promised rain tonight. Just a few weeks ago we had two separate fires to the north and south of us.

The air quality in our new hometown has been one factor that we didn’t consider carefully enough when moving up here. This summer the lingering smoke has played havoc on my lungs, I’ve been coughing a lot, and recently a cold turned quickly to bronchitis, no doubt exacerbated by the persistent smoke. Which is one reason we are talking seriously of moving, sooner rather than later. My husband is from Minnesota, and has fond memories of clean air–and despite the cold, it’s all sounding pretty good to me now. We’ve been visiting his family for the last 30+ years on a regular basis, and this year when we go back for the family Christmas gathering, we will take a serious look at whether or not we can make that jump and deal with the cold. My beloved California, I hate to leave, but you are becoming a place that isn’t good for me anymore.

Another reason I haven’t blogged in a while is quite serious — a close family member has recently been diagnosed with lung cancer, which has spread to other organs. We are all in a state of shock, disbelief, grief and frustration over this sudden and overwhelming diagnosis. Home hospice care is already in place, and the blessing of a larger circle of friends and neighbors is reassuring — but living halfway across the country is so difficult, especially at times like these. I was able to fly back (Arkansas) to be with her for a while in early October.

Even with the heat and smoke (and before the sad news) I was able to get out and do a little plein air painting. The first is from a local olive oil producer, Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 in Butte County, and second from Riverbend Park over looking the Feather River in Oroville. It was recently reopened after extensive cleanup from erosion damage after the spillway failure in early 2017. If you click on the captions they link to my reproduction website.

Casita at Olive Grove 1913
Casita at Berkeley Olive Grove 1913
Summer, Riverbend Park
Summer, Riverbend Park.

Garden Fresh Pizza

We enjoy pizza, like just about everyone I know, but since going vegan I’ve made a few changes… First off, I make my own pizza dough. To some this would seem tiresome and time consuming, but for us it makes all the difference. It only takes one hour of “pre-planning”.  I use whole wheat flour, which digests more slowly than white flour — and it works better for my husband, a type II diabetic who is well controlled but watches his carbs & sugar intact closely. I also add very little oil, and can flavor the dough with herbs to give it a more interesting flair. In the past we tried various prepared dough shells, but they all packed more of a carb/sugar/sodium wallop than this, and were dryer and tougher too.

Pizza-Assembly

Here’s the dough recipe I use:

Pizza Dough
1 pk active dry yeast (instant)
1C warm water
Sprinkle of sugar (coconut sugar)
Mix these together and let sit a few minutes till it bubbles.
Stir in ½ t Salt
1 t  Olive oil
1 t  herb mix (Herbs D’Provence or your favorites)
Gradually add 2C (+/-) Whole Wheat flour until it forms a ball, not too sticky.
Cover & let rest/rise for one hour
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Roll out dough to fit cookie sheet, lightly oil sheet, sprinkle with course corn meal (optional),
Place dough round on sheet, add fresh veg toppings. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until crust is done through. Enjoy!

Last night my toppings included white & baby bella mushrooms, sauteed with a quarter yellow onion (from the garden), olive oil from Berkeley Olive Grove 1913 that I purchased during a plein air painting trip a few weeks ago. Also about a cup and a half of cherry tomatoes from our garden, sliced to drain a little of the juice.

First I covered the rolled out dough with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast (vegan cheese flavor and good source of B vitamins), next a drizzle of the olive oil, and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Then came a layer of fresh baby spinach, followed by the mushrooms & onions, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil (yes, the garden), vegan Parmesan (Recipe Link Here), a bit more salt, pepper and Olive Oil. Bake 15 to 20 min, let sit 5 min. It was enough for both of us with a quarter size piece leftover — I had it for lunch today! Yum!

Hot-from-Oven

Too Scared To Stay…

Tonight as I sit at our dining room table, looking out at our lovely view of Lake Oroville, all is well in my immediate corner of the world — yet just a few miles away fire fighting efforts continue, the final efforts to contain the “Wall Fire” here in Butte County.

I first noticed the smoke plume from this fire around 4pm on Friday, July 7th, and from our perch here on Kelly Ridge, we saw it explode within a few short hours into a monster that ultimately claimed some 5,600 acres and an estimated 41 homes, 97 structures (at this writing).

Kelly Ridge was under an evacuation “warning” on Saturday 7/8, as this massive fire grew and grew, and although many of our neighbors stayed, we decided to leave at 2am on Sunday 7/9, just a half hour before the Sheriff came knocking on doors, urging people to leave soon. We had spent the day watching, waiting, and thinking about what to bring if we had to leave. Finally, unable to sleep, we called to find a pet friendly hotel in Chico, grabbed our two cats, carriers, a few changes of clothing, some financial papers, tablets and phones, and took off. It was a relief to finally act after a tense day of waiting and wondering. And a relief to settle in for the night somewhere safe and out of the dense smoke.

We stayed one more night, and came back on Monday — our area still under an evacuation “warning” (not mandatory) but now the fire was more contained, and appeared to be moving away us. We were all exhausted (the cats too!), but feel so grateful to find our home still here, our immediate neighborhood untouched. Not so for many in the burn area, who are still staying away, some not even knowing if their homes are still there.

How to help:

From Chicoer.com:

Butte County is asking that donations be dropped off to the General Services north parking lot, 2081 Second St. in Oroville between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Items needed include adult and baby diapers, baby wipes, Gatorade, water, ice in ice chests that don’t have to be returned.

The American Red Cross opened the evacuation center at Church of the Nazarene, 2238 Monte Vista Avenue, Oroville. Red Cross volunteers will connect displaced residents with emergency resources, regardless of whether they stay overnight at the shelter, according to Red Cross spokesperson Robin Friedman. Cash contributions can be made at www.redcross.org

The Salvation Army has responded with meals for first responders and victims. The organization is only asking for financial donations at this time. To donate, call 1-800-725-2769 and designate “Wall Fire” or go online at www.salvationarmyusa.org

Cash is also being asked from the North Valley Animal Disaster Group, according to spokesperson Sandra Doolittle. Donations can be made at www.nvadg.org/ or by calling 895-0000.