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.

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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!

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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Falling in love with my own life.

These last few months, perhaps coinciding with the finish of the seemingly endless building construction we’ve had going on here, I’ve noticed a new peace and contentment settling over me. A full three years after leaving “Silicon Valley”, I feel a sense of grace sparkling over daily tasks. The joy of watching the garden grow in a rather inhospitable environment, running errands and lunching out with my husband, the hours spent painting in my home studio or at the art center drawing from life with other artists in the portrait group I attend a few times a month, Vinyasa yoga classes a few mornings a week, morning walks with Tim before the heat of the day sets in, enjoying time with neighbor friends on their boat out on the lake, snuggling with a cat and taking a nap when the body feels tired. Nothing earth shattering, just pleasant perfect moments building one after another creating sweet days I could only dream of before.

There were many years of working in cubicles or even in my home office where I hardly had a chance to look up from my computer, where I was lucky to get outside for a few minutes during the day. And so many nights when I waited long into the darkness of the night for Tim to get home from work. Dinners eaten so late, on to bed with sour stomachs, waking too soon to repeat the process.

I feel truly blessed to live this new life, I am slowly unclenching the stress response that used to feel so normal. I lived in the center of the flight or fight response, primed to do both, easily. So much anger…

It all melts away as I realize that this is my real life now, I don’t have to go back, I won’t ever have to shoe horn myself back into that cramped, restrained cubicle.

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