Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Celebrating Our Lil' Fig

Figgy Brownies for dessert
We bloggers can find our inspiration for writing in some odd places. Today is one of those times.

Earlier this month we were very surprised to learn that Grandchild Number Ten is on the way, due to be born in February. We have 5 grandsons and 4 granddaughters, ranging in age from 15 months to 14 years.  One of the boys has been an only child for all of his life and is now thrilled to have a sibling on the way. The other children are equally happy to learn they will now have more than one cousin, so there is joy all around!

The parents of all of our grands live entirely too far away, which is a mixed blessing. When kids grow up, you pray and hope they will move out of the house and find a job.  So our kids did that and their jobs took them entirely too far away.

As a result of their blessed employment in faraway places, I have not able to spend much time with the expectant parents during the exciting months while the 9 grandchildren were in-utero. Such is the case with this pregnancy, too.

To feel more a part of things, I'm subscribed to a website that gives a weekly update on the progress of the baby's growth and development. Last week our baby was the size of a grape; this week it's the size of a fig.

With that revelation, I decided to share with you my recipe for Figgy Brownies, which is (of course) raw vegan and both gluten- and dairy-free. I realize this recipe will not appeal to everybody's taste buds, but if you want a dessert that is healthy enough to also serve as a meal, and can satisfy your sweet tooth without guilt, you might like to try this.

As is the case with many raw vegan recipes, soaking dried fruit, nuts and seeds for 30 minutes to a couple of hours softens the food and removes phytic acid, making them easier to digest. Rinse them well after soaking, and dispose of the soaking water (or water your plants with it).

close examination reveals the nutritious fiber of these moist brownies
Figgy Brownies

2 cups dried figs, soaked in water until soft, drained
2 cups Medjool dates, seeded, soaked, drained
2 cups raw almonds, soaked and drained
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 Tablespoons pure vanilla extract

In a food processor, place the figs, dates, and almonds. Add the cocoa powder and the vanilla and mix well. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8-inch by 8-inch pan. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight before serving. 

This is a rich recipe, so cut each piece into about 1-inch by 1-inch squares to serve. Keep the leftovers in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze for a couple of months.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Night on the Town

one of the many flower boxes throughout Historic Castle Rock

On my grocery shopping days, I usually stop at two stores, if not three or four (to satisfy our eclectic dietary requirements), which means I'm too tired to cook all that food after I get home and put it all away.

Beloved, being the kind-hearted guy that he is (and to assure he gets a decent meal in spite of my weariness), often will offer to take us out.  I always accept his offer, not wanting to discourage his generosity.

One of our favorite places, The Castle Cafe, is in Historic Castle Rock, maybe 3 miles from our house. The Castle Cafe has a colorful history, as well as good food. I'll share it's history from the website while we wait for our food:

The Castle Hotel and Bar was the gathering place for quarry workers, ranchers and travelers during the 1890's. In those days, the bar was one of the wildest in the area. Although reports of shootouts were not confirmed, brawls were so common that Douglas Country was forced to hire an extra deputy to patrol on paydays. The Deputy was also responsible for restraining inebriated cowboys from riding their horses through the bar.

Around 1910, the Castle Hotel and Cafe became the stopover for travelers between Denver and Colorado Springs.  A dance hall was built over the bar and served as a community center during the roaring 20's, depressing 30's and early 40's. Throughout the years, the Castle Cafe and Lounge has remained the geographical and social heart of the Castle Rock area.

Wooden Indian and juke box
While we waited for our food, I took some snapshots of the decor.

an impressive chicken display and a very rusty wall clock

one of the dining rooms

we enjoyed our quiet table in the corner
the decor is not for the faint of heart
the former saloon

The food is delicious at the Castle Cafe.  I had a hearty salad of mixed greens with grilled chicken, avocado, goat cheese, sun-dried cranberries, and sliced almonds topped with Lemongrass Vinaigrette.

Beloved enjoyed the BBQ Beef Brisket Sandwich with hickory-smoked beef and a tangy Memphis-style sauce served with French fries.

downtown Castle Rock
Our waitress tried to tempt us with a fruit cobbler for dessert, but we opted to take a stroll through town instead.

a coffee and pastry shop 
more local food
information boards outside the Courthouse explaining local history
the ice rink pavilion
Holly Hocks can be seen all over town
a dress-up tea party place for children
a frequent sight in Castle Rock
We have many trains traveling through our town going both north and south.  One notices the train whistles and rumbling at first but after a while we tend to block out the sounds.

the trains go under the shadow of the huge rock for which the town is named

Most of the trains are very, very long and if they are traveling south, they are usually moving slowly with cars full of black coal.

Beloved's favorite of the many flower boxes
We had a wonderful leisurely stroll through our hometown and then got back home just before the skies opened up and rain poured down for about twenty minutes.  

I love my grocery-shopping days because Beloved takes me to fun places for dinner!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

On A Clear Day

Pikes Peak in the distance, under the cluster of clouds

On a clear day
Rise and look around you
And you'll see who you are
On a clear day
How it will astound you
That the glow of your being 
Outshines every star
You'll feel part of every mountain
sea and shore
You can hear
From far and near
A word you've never heard before ...
On a clear day...
On a  clear day ...
You can see forever ...
And ever ...
And ever ..
And ever more...

I guess you could say I'm a Barbra Streisand fan, sort of.  Her movie, "On a Clear Day," which had a lot about re-incarnation is absolutely against what I believe; but like so many others, I was fascinated with her hairstyles, costumes, and the clear pronunciation of the lyrics with her perfectly lipsticked mouth.  

I didn't especially enjoy the story in "Funny Girl" but I loved "Hello Dolly" (and wish we girls could still dress like that, complete with the updo hair and beguiling hats). 

However, this post is not about the actress or a movie, but a hike Denise and I took earlier this week. Those who have read my blog for a long time know that I am passionately in love with the state of Colorado, my home on and off again (depending on job transfers) for the last 46 years.  This is the second summer that Denise and I have unabashedly left our husbands on weekdays to slave for a paycheck while the two of us go on long leisurely hikes with a lunch in our backpacks.

Denise at the trailhead
This week's hike took us to the most popular hiking adventure in Colorado, a 1.4 mile trek on a well-maintained  trail to the base of a fire ranger's station (and beyond).  

trail at Devil's Head

Denise and I have hiked Highlands Ranch, Castle Rock, Castlewood Canyon, Roxborough, and Spruce Mountain.  All of them led us to gorgeous views, but my favorites are the ones that take us up high so we can see far and wide On a Clear Day.

sights along the path; that's me waving from behind a rock
The "joy is in the journey" as well, with lots of flowers, trees and hugeomongous rocks along the trail. (there's a reason they call it the Rocky Mountains)

a peek through the trees toward the northwest
The higher we climbed, the more glimpses we got of the surrounding mountains and the wonderful view that was yet to come.

the fire ranger's cabin
When we reached this cabin nestled into the pines, we knew we were near the top of the mountain. A fire ranger lives there nine months of the year.  

the fire ranger's station on the very top of the mountain
His commute to work is nearly straight up and although he has no traffic to slow him down, he does have to be hearty of body and mind to defy gravity.

Denise measures the distance to the top
One is tempted to be disheartened when they realize 143 very steep steps need to be climbed to reach the pinnacle of the hike, but after coming this far, we proceeded upward. Some of the other hikers tried the steps and then backed back down (literally!) to sit on benches to await their friends. 

the steps
While I could hear Denise counting the steps as we climbed, I just focused on breathing and holding onto the hand rails!!

looking at where we've been
Sometimes people say to not look down.  I do, but only when I'm standing still and leaning against something I feel is secure!

Denise reaches the last step

We made it to the top, but the last 10 steps were more an act of will than of delight. In the far distance behind Denise, you can see the eastern plains of Colorado.

Devil's Head Fire Lookout
Ranger Bill, looking a lot like a happy Santa Claus, greeted us as we approached his work station.  He spends 9 months of the year working in this incredible location. 

the official information
The weather on this day was Barbra Streisand clear (I even sang a few lines of the song for Denise, who was very polite with my antics).  There was just a slight breeze and a surprising number of flies and gnats.  Ranger Bill said the bugs like the cooler temperature, explaining why we were batting away more of them way up high than while down on the ground.

inside the ranger station
The walls of the station are all glass so Ranger Bill can see everything all the time.  We signed the guest book and then glanced around to see snapshots posted of forest fires in the past.  His job is to walk along the outside deck on all four sides every 15 minutes, looking for smoke.  

Pikes Peak in the distance
The views from the ranger station are remarkable. If one is familiar with the geography of Colorado, this sight is especially thrilling.

looking northwest, toward Mount Evans

If you study this photo closely, you can barely see a band of whitish brown above the horizon that is smoke from the huge forest fires in Washington state, blowing down our way.

leaving the ranger station

We could not remain at the station for long. Ideally, the forestry department doesn't want more than about 5 people in the station at one time.  We needed to head back down so more visitors could have their turn to look around.

me, on descent
It's probably needless to say that the trip back down the steps was easier and faster than heading up. I was amazed at what I had just experienced. At the same time, I doubt I will climb this way again. 

snack time
At the base of the steps we stopped to snack on trail mix.  The agreement we have is that for our hikes, Denise does the driving and I provide the food.  She likes to drive and I like to cook.  It's a good match. 

our picnic after we got back to the car
But on the subject of the food, I'll let you in on a little secret.  I don't always do the cooking. For this trek I bought wonderful salads-to-go from Panera Bread and packed them in a cooler until lunchtime.

dress appropriately for hiking

As I close this post out, I need to at least mention some precautions that are wise when taking a hike in the Colorado mountains. Dress in layers, wear good shoes with socks, take water, healthy snacks, wear sunscreen, and a walking stick is really helpful. We brought a can of insect repellant (and used it!). We often have sudden hard rain storms with thunder and a lot of lightening, so it's best to start hikes early in the morning and try to be done by lunchtime or shortly thereafter. 

One of us (who will go unnamed but likes to break out into song) lost her footing on some loose gravel on the hike back to the car and took a tumble. Aside from a small skin abrasion on the heel of one hand and a little wounded pride, the victim survived.  The backpack probably spared more serious injury during the backward fall.  

Take the precautions you always hear about from the experienced hikers and you should do well.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Cooking for a Divided House

Last Friday's supper at home

Raw eating is not for everyone, but for me, it's become a satisfying adventure.  Armed with my Vitamix, a good set of knives, and a hobby of reading about raw food eating, I am losing weight at a healthy pace and feeling consistently so much better than I have in years.

A big challenge has been eating this way for myself while Beloved prefers to eat more conventionally. My personal opinion is that my way of eating is best. However, I also firmly believe that once a person reaches adulthood or complete independence from their mother's cooking, they should be allowed to eat the way they want. So with that in mind, I cook the way we each prefer. Sometimes that means I make two entirely different meals, but often I can give us each the same thing with variations on each plate for preferences.

Last Friday my basic idea was that I wanted to serve pasta with a sauce.  For me it was a raw zucchini pasta topped with a raw, dairy-free white sauce. For Beloved, it was a boxed and boiled pasta combined with a store-bought alfredo sauce warmed up with purchased frozen meatballs. 

We both had a hearty green salad filling up half the dinner plate. Beloved has a selection of bottled salad dressings in the refrigerator while I often use no dressing at all, or maybe Balsamic vinegar. In today's example, I had a dressing made of half an avocado processed in the blender with 1 fresh orange (peeled, of course).*

Here is what our plates looked like as we sat down to enjoy:

My plate                                                                                    Beloved's plate

It really wasn't hard to pull this off.  Some advance planning made a big difference. When using nuts and seeds, we often soak them for 30 minutes to several hours to soften them for easier processing.   After soaking, the nuts and seeds need to be rinsed thoroughly.

Raw Gluten-Free Dairy-Free White Sauce (makes about 3 cups)

1 cup raw cashews 
1/4 cup pine nuts
1 cup water (plus additional for thinning, if necessary)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 teaspoons nutritional yeast (this is not bread yeast)
half of a lemon, peeled, seeded

Place the cashews and pine nuts in a bowl, cover with water, and soak for 30 minutes (or up to 6 hours).  Drain and rinse well (don't keep this water).

Place the soaked and rinsed nuts, 1 cup of water, olive oil, liquid amines  nutritional yeast, and lemon into a high-powered blender (I use a Vitamix) and process until it reaches a smooth consistency, adding additional water, if necessary. Serve over pasta of choice.

*In the world of raw food cooking, many times a salad dressing can also be used as a cold soup! This is the case with leftovers from the avocado combined with a fresh orange.  Try it! This makes for a wonderful lunch soup on a busy day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Finding Hope

Last year should have been a very happy time for me but mysteriously, I spent several months with my long-time foe, depression.  I had been free of this enemy for some time but during a season of many blessings, it came back to harass me.

We had successfully sold our house in just one day at our asking price and the buyer even allowed us to continue living in that house, rent-free,  until we closed on the new one, which was under construction.  We disposed of a lot of old furniture and had the fun of  buying several pieces of new furniture, ordering new window coverings -- things like that.

But before the boxes were unpacked, I found myself waking up every morning with dark thoughts, and an odd gloominess lasting much of the day that led to anger about -- a lot of things.  

I knew this was irrational but I felt very defeated in trying to overcome this latest bout of depression.  I was ashamed of feeling this way when I knew people close to me would love to be the recipient of the blessings that had come my way. It was inexplicable to me.

As in the past, I sought medical help. This time I refused prescription anti-depressants, a solution that had worked for me in previous years but with side effects I was no longer willing to accept. To make a long story short, lifestyle changes were made that resulted in a significant difference for the better.

I reached the conclusion that just as some people are bothered with nearsightedness and need glasses to see clearly, some of us have a propensity for being melancholy and it's something we need to learn to accept about ourselves while seeking legitimate help for relief.  Reaching that understanding and accepting it was a big help.

Since I am a Christian I am interested in why God allows people to suffer, most especially those who are living for Him as best they know how.  A good friend suggested a book that has been very helpful.  I read it in just a few days and have turned a corner for the better.

God is Just Not Fair, Finding Hope When Life Doesn't Make Sense by Jennifer Rothschild is an excellent read for people who not only want but need to have a better understanding of what is going on when something like depression seems to overtake them.

If I were to sum up the message of this book it would be to say that Ms. Rothschild gives us a picture of how God works.  She doesn't (and can't) give an explanation for everything about God, but she goes a long way to enlighten the reader about His ways, based on Bible scripture,  and how that may apply to us. To quote her, "God doesn't always give answers to my questions. God gives me something better... an encounter with Him."

This author is no stranger to adversity. She became legally blind as a teenager but went on to get a college education, marry a successful man, have children, and become an author and conference speaker, among other accomplishments. After many years of successfully dealing with all that goes with blindness she experienced a full year of debilitating depression. She was baffled by that and struggled to cope.

Her story is an interesting narrative of what it's like to be blind and she includes many stories of her experiences, many of them humorous. Although she is specifically addressing the dark topic of depression, I found the book very intriguing and hard to put down. 

As I read the 237 pages, I underlined significant words, phrases, and concepts, often stopping to tearfully thank the LORD for such insightful revelations into His character and love.  The end result is that I don't have to understand everything but I do trust Him so much more. That brings an inexplicable peace I needed so much.

This book has an accompanying Bible study called Missing Pieces. I have not gone through it but I'm sure it would be a great resource for a small group. You can find these books online at as well as at your local Christian bookstores, or go to the author's website.

For more information about Jennifer Rothschild and other books she has written, go to her website at

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A Symbol of God's Presence

Pikes Peak as seen from Colorado Springs
God is our refuge and strength, 
a very present help in trouble.
Psalm 46:1

Whenever we drive through Colorado Springs, the awesome sight of Pikes Peak hovering over the city reminds me of God's sovereign presence over our lives. He sees everything, nothing escapes His notice.  

He watches over us, allowing nothing to come our way that is not in cooperation with His eternal purposes.  

When I took this snapshot from the parking lot of a shopping mall a few months ago, all the cars reminded me of how we all go about our lives, oftentimes oblivious to God, unaware of His omnipresence; but He is with us just the same.

What a comfort that is!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Late Afternoon Munchies

red grapes and Pistachio nuts

Late afternoon is when my yearning for munchies often hits. When I first began eating gluten-free, I was in a quandary about snacks. I wanted something that was quick, nutritious, and wouldn't spoil my appetite for dinner.  

What I learned is that not only do we need to wisely choose our snacks, but portion-control is equally important. Back in our days of following Weight Watchers, I think the biggest lesson we learned was to monitor the amount of food were eating.  We were already doing a pretty good job of food choices, but the amounts were too big.

After we eliminated the chips, candy, and soda pop (empty calories, meaning a lot of calories with extremely little nutrition) and cut back drastically on breads*, we focused more on fresh produce and not as many processed foods.  

For us, a piece of fruit combined with nuts has become almost a daily late-afternoon snack.  Limit the fruit to half a cup (or less) and the nuts to a strict 1/8 cup.  Put them into a bowl together,  leave the kitchen (the source of refills) and then slowly munch on the snack.  

This one tip alone can put a person on a positive track for weight loss and better nutrition.

*By way of explanation, Beloved and I did Weight Watchers 5 years ago via on-line membership.  I lost a little; Beloved lost 65 pounds and has kept it off.  

After a year of that and feeling we had learned the principles necessary for weight loss,  we terminated our membership and just tried to eat wisely with good portion-control.  Beloved walks an average of 2-5 miles five days a week on our treadmill and has maintained his weight loss.

When I learned last October that I am gluten-intolerant, I eliminated all breads (and most other grains most of the time) from my diet. I lost 15 pounds over the next 5 months and feel great.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

What's Happening at Meadow Cabin

Today I am featuring what is happening in my world, "through the lens of a camera," to use a  phrase from sister blogger, Brenda, at Coffee Tea Books and Me. (click on the link to see her blog)

You may wonder why I titled this post, "What's Happening in  Meadow Cabin." I live in a meadow that is quickly being transformed via tractors and fresh concrete into a sea of houses.  It's not very romantic to say "what's happening in the fast-growing mass of suburbia." So maybe my readers will indulge me in my fantasy about living in a meadow cabin ...

In the Garden

"Veronica Speedwell," the flowering plant we brought home from vacation, is finally showing signs that she is adapting to her new life in our semi-arid climate. My brother-in-law shared her with me from his yard.  When we first transplanted her, she pouted for about two weeks.  I amputated most of her long stems due to their deathly appearance and with the hopes that the plant's energy could be devoted to the newer growth closer to the soil.  But to my surprise, even the longer stems that remained began to sprout tiny flowers.  I am so relieved! After snapping this picture, I removed the tomato cage because she is clearly able to stand on her own now.

We are not food farmers here (I leave that talent to my family living in the Midwest). My efforts in past years have not been very exciting.  But Mint is very dependable. I harvested some of it to take into the kitchen ...

In the Kitchen

My daughter (who is my hero when it comes to eating raw vegan) posted recently that she is wild about fresh watermelon juice.  So I took up the challenge and enjoyed the outcome of the effort.  One fresh watermelon (the round kind, not the oblong) produced 3 quart-sized canning jars of the juice.

While one could use a juicer, we both used our Vitamix blenders.  Cut off the rind and most of the white part, which will still give you more than enough of the red flesh to process in the blender. Don't worry about the seeds, if your melon even has any. 

Don't add any water (or anything else) and blend.  You may have to use the pusher tool that came with the Vitamix to get things pushed down to the blades, but since watermelon is mostly water, the whole thing quickly becomes all liquid.

You could drink it that way, but it's pretty thick. The next thing you do is to pour the liquified watermelon through a sieve (a strainer is not good enough, use a sieve).  

While that is straining, put about a cup of fresh mint into each of the 3 quart-sized canning jars.  After the juice is strained through the sieve, pour it into the jars, add the lid, and refrigerate to make it icy cold. 

This is very sweet (naturally!) and refreshing.  Drink it within 24 hours. Watermelon is very healthy for the heart, blood flow, weight loss, as an anti-inflammatory, and for the kidneys.

Also in the kitchen, I continue to have a fresh green smoothie every morning for breakfast.  Experts in the field of raw foods nutrition tell us that drinking a quart of a fresh green smoothie daily can make a huge difference in health and vitality.  

If you haven't tried this, you will be amazed how the taste of fresh (or frozen) fruit completely camouflages the flavor of the greens (kale, chard, spinach, Romaine, Bok Choy, dandelion greens, etc) while nourishing your body with the vitamins that are so abundant in leafy greens.  

My basic smoothie recipe, which leaves a lot of room for variation, is the following:

2 cups liquid (water, a nut milk, or orange juice)
1 cup  fresh greens, roughly chopped
1 frozen banana (sliced before freezing)
1 cup fruit (strawberries, blueberries, mango, etc)
2 Tablespoons Flax seed meal
1 Tablespoon honey (optional)

Put all the ingredients into the Vitamix blender in the order listed and then process until it's smooth. Drink immediately. It will keep in the refrigerator for 24 hours, but be sure to drink it (or share it!) before then.

In the Sewing Room

I've been playing around with fabric swatches, all 2 1/2 inches, deciding the best pattern to sew for some quilts.  I would write more about this, but my current projects are for gifts, so I can't let you see what I've got in mind just yet.

In the Church

The girls gathered the other night to work on these beautiful fleece throws for a local children's hospital. In two hours we finished 19 (!!!) blankets.  One of the gals had bought the fabric (on sale), paired them with a front and a back, cut the pieces to size, and made the slashes on all four sides.  

Then the dozen gals who showed up sat around at large tables tying the small strips in knots, which essentially holds the blanket together with no sewing at all! I thoroughly enjoyed being a part of this project because it was simple enough that we could carry on lively conversations while keeping our hands busy.

In the Reading Room

This week I am busily reading two books.  One is fiction-based-on-history, and the other is Christian discipleship.  I highly recommend both.  The one by Jennifer Rothschild will be discussed among friends later this summer, book-club style.

In the Shopping Bag

Girlfriend and I had not seen each other in many weeks. The last time we were together, she had just survived a health scare and procedure, so we treated ourselves to shopping at The Barn in my town, followed by lunch.  She is standing outside a new addition to this retail venue -- a tiny camper that serves as yet another vendor's shop, located behind the actual Barn. Isn't it adorable, and doesn't Girlfriend's outfit for the day just fit in perfectly?!

This concludes the news as to what's happening in and around my Meadow Cabin.  Of course there has been more going on than what I've featured, but you didn't want to see the loads of laundry and stacks of dirty dishes, did you?