It’s Been A While

I know it’s been quite a while since I last blogged. I am fine. I have just been super busy. Felt like I couldn’t slow down long enough to share my thoughts. As I am feeling better and stronger my passion for living and life has come back with a vengeance! The weather here has been amazing!  I had a super bad case of “Spring Fever” I have been gardening and landscaping like crazy. I have planted vegetable gardens, flower beds, and trees. I have trimmed and raked and watered until my hands feel like they are gonna fall off! We built a new deck on the house which we are enjoying immensely! I have put up some solar lighting and a few wind chimes. My place is becoming the little oasis I had imagined.

Everything is in bloom, even some things I thought I had lost in the freeze! The fruit trees are loaded. I have so many peaches on one tree I had to prop up the branches! The hummingbirds are back. The resident Sandhill Cranes have a baby. All the critters here at the farm are fat and sassy (including me)! I have been working out, trying to get back in shape. It is good to be alive! I am starting to hike again well…last week I went canoeing with a friend and kinda sprained my knee. So, I have to take a few days off, but thats alright. I have been religiously practicing my cello! I love playing so much! I hope I am good enough to just really let loose and play one day. My puppy (Tallulah Bleu) turned a year old last month. She is amazing. We have graduated obedience and rally class so far, looking forward to whats next.

Oh my goodness! One of the best things that has happened is that I am painting again! Finally! I have completed 6 paintings in the last 2 months. I just couldn’t do it when I was sick. I was worried that I would never get back to it but finally, the passion is back! I have found a new direction with my life and with my work. I guess nearly dying can give you that perspective!

So any way, I am back. I hope to hear from you all. Tell me what you have been up to. I have lots more to share. Love and light to you all!

Enough

Do we ever have enough? Enough information, enough money, enough stuff. It seems to me that we are ambushed with too much information, at least I know I am. Everybody has an opinion. On my journey towards healing I am overwhelmed with all the different and opposing information. I think I am ready to take on some challenges but its hard to know which way to go. So I guess I have to follow my intuition and do what feels right to me.

First of all I am a strong believer in good nutrition. It is the basis for all health. I am a cook. I eat whole, real, not processed food and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. I buy organic and local whenever I can.  I try to not eat too much sugar, that is my weakness, some say sugar feeds cancer, my oncologist says no. I almost never eat fast food. I don’t drink sodas. I try to drink plenty of filtered water. I have done lots of research on nutrition. I have been on every diet under the sun. I was even a vegetarian for awhile. And until I got my cancer diagnosis I was healthy and fit despite being overweight. I easily did 10,000 steps a day and was always active. Low blood pressure and no signs of diabetes or anything like that. I have some friends that are very strict with their diets and they seem to be sickly. Their skin doesn’t look good and they seem frail. They are always having stomach and digestive issues. They just don’t seem happy.

One of my friends told me the other day they are not going to eat out anymore because it causes them too much digestive trouble. What a shame, you can make good choices at restaurants and it is part of going out and socializing, part of the human experience. If your body is kicking back clear broth maybe you need to do something different. I have another friend who was a little crazy about what she ate, all organic, glass bottled water, no meat, etc.etc. until I found her wolfing down a hamburger one day. And another that did the whole gluten free thing for a year. She described it as the worst year of her life. Too much stress! I think we have put so much stress and emotional guilt around eating that it is almost impossible to relax, eat,  and enjoy a good meal. I don’t think it’s worth it. The information changes all the time. I think we all start out with good intentions but I think you can take anything too far. Too much of a good thing. An example is some people that do animal rescue, a wonderful thing, until they get too many and become animal hoarders that can’t possibly take care of all they have taken on.

I am a foodie and food and eating and entertaining is such a huge part of our life. I want to enjoy my life. I want to experience delicious food. I want to embrace health. I just can’t imagine restricting myself to the point of misery. So I am going to eat real food, in small amounts and move around more. For now, that’s all I can do. It will have to be enough.

Whatever I Want

I am pretty sure my doctor has no idea, but one of the best things she told me was to eat whatever I want. Of course I was happy with my latest test results, that the treatments were working, and that I wasn’t dying. But to someone that has struggled with their weight all their life, this was amazing! I have always been so strict, eat this, don’t eat that. Exercise, exercise exercise. Judging food all the time. I love food, I cook and bake and limit and control. A terrible life long battle where weight gain always seem to win! I was a vegetarian for five years, mostly because cows live on our road and they are beautiful, kind creatures and seeing them every day just made it hard for me to eat them. But also because it seemed healthy and I might, just might, lose some weight. Nope not me.

About six years ago I was told I had a thyroid issue. Yes, finally a reason why I don’t lose weight! I was prescribed some medication. I took it for a year. I didn’t lose a pound! I joke with my friends that if there was ever an apocalypse or food shortage my horse and I would be the last ones standing, she has a weight issue too, that poor girl lives on air!

When I got diagnosed with cancer, friends and family and books on cancer were telling me to eat this, don’t eat that. No sugar, lots of meat, no meat, limit the carbs, watch out for salt. Apricot kernels and alkaline water, thats what you need! Sounds wonderful! Not so much! I was still reeling from the whole diagnosis thing and what I faced. I was angry that I had tried to eat healthy, and take care of myself all my life and I still got cancer! The last thing I wanted to do was have an even stricter food regimen, I just didn’t have the energy! At the time I had no appetite. I was not very interested in food for the first time in my life. I had lost 12 pounds. And my doctor said, eat whatever you want, live a little.

What? You mean its ok to eat a cupcake? A hamburger? Some mac and cheese? It was so liberating! My body took a huge involuntary inhale/exhale and relaxed thankful for the permission, for the first time in my life, to not worry about food. Just eat what you want when you want it. Wow I have never done that, I don’t even know what I want! Cupcakes! I think I ate three cupcakes the first week and believe it or not I was still alive and I didn’t want anymore cupcakes!  I had some mac n cheese, it was all I had for dinner one night and low and behold, I didn’t want any more mac n cheese! I also had a few Mountain Dews, real sugar of course, but after just a few days of allowing myself this treat, I wanted no more!  These were things I would just not allow myself to eat before, I almost felt naughty! As time went on and I allowed myself to eat whatever I wanted, and listened to my body, I realized I wanted and craved healthy food, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy smoothies, nuts and small amounts of lean meat. You are what you eat, and thank goodness I don’t want processed, fake, junk food.  Maybe just a little, once in a while!

Spring Around Here!

Oh the weather around here has been wonderful! We had a very mild winter, and spring has lasted for what seems like a very long time. Which unfortunately for me, when all this pollen is in the air, I have vertigo. It is a very unsettling feeling. Want to be outside and just don’t want to breathe anymore pollen! But finally I think it has passed! Everything is blooming and looking amazing, just in time for the crazy caterpillars, chewing up everything in sight! Even though these things can be maddening, there is some comfort in it, the lengthening of the days, a familiar season coming around again.IMG_0113

It is always busy here on the farm, but springtime is the busiest! Watering, fertilizing, planting, and weeding. Getting all the mowers and tractors back up and running. Animals shedding, bugs coming! Just when you think you have it all under control and are enjoying the lovely evenings you find out the mosquitos are back! I have this little secret mosquito repellent, I stumbled onto a few years ago. Natures Gate has an organic body lotion that has lemongrass and clary sage in it, it works wonders! I just rub a little on whatever skin is exposed and they won’t bite! No chemicals and smells good too! We even tried it at the drive in last summer, the mosquitos were swarming but we didn’t get one bite!

Last weekend we, went to Crones Cradle Conserve, a wonderful place just north of where we live, it is an ecological preserve and organic farm. They were holding a natural foods and sustainability festival. This is something near and dear to my heart! I really try to incorporate as much local, organic, sustainable food that I can into my cooking. There were 5 guest chefs preparing all kinds of delicious natural and organic foods, most of which were harvested right there on the farm! Such a great idea, we got to sample grass fed beef and free range chicken, lots of beautiful organic produce, prepared in wonderful ways, goat milk cheeses and cheesecake, the blood orange pound cake was divine. The closest thing to Farm to Table we have here. Very inspiring for sure!IMG_0114

The citrus season is wrapping up here and as a final send off, I made a tangerine upside down cake, so moist and delicious. This is one I would definitely make again!

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Eat California!

Ok when you are out of town you want to experience the flavor of the area, right? One of the last things I want to do when I’m away is cook. And since my blog is kinda foodcentric I would like to share some of the interesting places we went to eat while we were in LA.

First, Jerry took us to Bru’s Wiffle a waffle joint right in the heart of downtown Santa Monica that serves all kinds of interesting waffles, burgers, salads and more. Everything is made from scratch and the portions are huge so bring your appetite! We had chicken and waffles, Bru’s favorite breakfast and a breakfast burrito all VERY good and an amazing drink called the Sunrise, which was a combination of fresh squeezed orange, grapefruit, and carrot juice with a hint of ginger. A wonderful way to start the day. We would definitely go back!

Sprinkles

Sprinkles

Next we took a little trip to CBS Studios and watched the taping of The Late Late Show with James Cordon, so much fun! Then we ended up at The Grove and went to The Cheesecake Factory for dinner, everything was great, absolutely  delicious!  Of course, I had to have some cheesecake, you can’t go to the Cheesecake Factory and not have cheesecake, right? I ordered the turtle cheesecake, it was worth all the extra calories! And while at The Grove we had to pick up a few cupcakes for later at the iconic Sprinkles. We ordered the green tea, the chocolate coconut, the s’more, and chia cupcakes.  I must admit, they were all wonderful but my favorite had to be the chia cupcake, of course you know I am addicted to chia!!!

Norms

Norms

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The next morning we were heading to Fox Studios for Jerry to give us a tour, so we stopped at Norms for breakfast, a down home diner kinda feel. Speaking of diners, we went to Mel’s Diner, one night, after strolling on the Hollywood walk of fame, it seemed fitting! It felt like we were transported back in time! I am not a huge burger fan but I ordered the sliders and the one made with the grass fed beef was amazing!

Pho So 1

Pho So 1

Ok I had heard of Pho, a Vietnamese comfort food, on TV and it was one of my goals to find some out here on the west coast. I have never had it, and all I knew was that it was some kind of noodle soup. Now Jerry and Scott are not quite as adventurous as I am when it comes to trying new foods, so I kinda had to put my foot down! They are pushovers when it comes to me, so I got my way and we went to Pho So 1. It was everything I had hoped for, fresh, delicious, and comforting.  The guys even had to admit they enjoyed it and would eat it again. Yummy, I wish I had some right now! Then off to the La Brea Tar Pits for the rest of the afternoon!

So the next day Scott and I were on our own, Jerry had to work. We went out to find some adventure. We spoke to Elizabeth at the Brentwood Inn, she was awesome! Hooked us up with Uber and suggested a few things we could do. She also told us about a wonderful little restaurant, her husband owned, called Cha Cha Chicken. So we took Uber to the Santa Monica Pier and walked to Venice Beach. Met some amazing artists, bought some cool art, and spent some time people watching. As we were heading back, we were not sure where we were and we were getting mighty hungry! On a whim, we decided to turn and head down this random street, and to our surprise there it was…Cha Cha Chicken! A colorful beach shack with an island flare and wonderful Caribbean food! They are famous for their coconut chicken, yum! They have sandwiches, wraps, salads, and more. I loved the plantains and the watermelon Aqua fresca was so refreshing!

The next day we started off at an elegant boulangerie cafe called La Pain Quotidien. I absolutely loved it! Fresh bakery smells and wonderful atmosphere. They create their menu around seasonal, organic ingredients, which is right up my ally! The food was delicious, felt like I was in Brussels! We ended the day at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA philharmonic orchestra playing the Bugs Bunny symphony! What an amazing evening!

The next day we spent boogie boarding at the Santa Monica beach and strolling down Rodeo Drive. By the evening we were ready for some stick to your ribs kinda food and Scott suggested  BBQ. What? Do they even do BBQ in California? Well despite much joking we found one named Holy Cow and holy cow it was good!

One last place I want to mention is Barneys Gourmet Hamburgers in Brentwood not your typical burger joint. If you are in the mood for a really good burger and truffle french fries, go! You won’t be disappointed!

Barneys

Barneys

Peeps!

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Chicks!

Chicks!

Wow these little egg shaped critters are so cute! I am learning all about raising them. Right now they are in my tub under a heat lamp. Not too hot not too cold! Messy messy messy! There is a lot to know, I am surprised. But I think they will make a wonderful addition to the garden.  They eat bugs, aireate the soil with their scratching, they will provide compost, and help clean up the kitchen scraps. Not to mention the eggs! Fresh eggs are the absolute best! Naturally raised, free range chickens produce eggs with dark yellow yolks the darker color means more vitamins, which come from the healthy variety of foods they eat.  Eggs are an excellent and inexpensive form of protein. They contain complete protien with all 9 essential amino acids that humans cannot produce themselves. They also contain vitamin D, which promotes strong bones and reduces inflammation.

The chickens I got are supposed to lay colored eggs, I can’t wait! There are so many ways to eat eggs. Hardboiled, scrambled, poached, in omelets, in almost everything you bake! But I really enjoy the classic dessert Creme Brûlée this is a recipe that I baked over the holidays and it was fabulous!

This is a wonderful recipe from Williams-Sonoma.com

A classic dessert, vanilla crème brûlée should be experienced in its purest form before embellishing it with additional ingredients. You might try steeping lemon or orange peel with the vanilla bean, or adding a pinch of cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom. Either way, this simple recipe will produce a smooth, velvety custard with a delicate caramel topping.
Ingredients:
1/2 vanilla bean
2 cups heavy cream
3 egg yolks
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup plus 4 Tbs. sugar
Directions:
Preheat an oven to 300°F. Have a pot of boiling water ready. Line a baking pan that is 2 to 3 inches deep with a small kitchen towel.

Using a paring knife, split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape the seeds into a 2-quart saucepan. Add the cream, stir to mix and set the pan over medium-low heat. Warm the cream until bubbles form around the edges of the pan and steam begins to rise from the surface. Remove from the heat and set aside to steep, about 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, salt and the 1/4 cup sugar until smooth and blended. Gradually add the cream to the egg mixture, whisking until blended. Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a bowl. Divide the custard among four 5- or 6-oz. ramekins and place the ramekins in the prepared baking pan. Add boiling water to fill the pan halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake until the custard is just set around the edges, 35 to 40 minutes.

Transfer the ramekins to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 3 days.

Just before serving, sprinkle 1 Tbs. of the sugar evenly over each custard. Using a kitchen torch, melt the sugar according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Serve immediately.
Serves 4.
Williams-Sonoma Kitchen.

Get Fresh!

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I am totally in love with the movement towards eating healthfully, locally, and sustainably. I enjoy using fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables. You can transform everyday meals into seasonal celebrations! Cooking, for me, is a creative adventure! I grow some of my own fruits and vegetables and I have quiet an extensive herb garden. But making great finds as you forage at farmers markets, supermarkets, and roadside stands is all part of the adventure. The amazing colors and textures, tastes, and smells engage all of your senses! It is like a scavenger hunt as you search for purple heirloom tomatoes or the perfectly ripe avocado. You can even receive weekly boxes of handpicked produce from your local Community Supported Agricultural Programs or Co-op which is so much fun because you never know what kind of wonderful new things you will find to expand your culinary sense of adventure!

My cooking is produce based, so I start my meal planning around what fabulous, flavorful foods I can find. I am very fortunate in that within a few miles of my kitchen I can pick my own strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. Right across the street is a wonderful little farm, Delightful Acres, that sells free roam chicken and duck eggs, raw jersey cow and goat milk, and they make amazing farmers cheese, delish!  About a mile down is an organic produce farm, Fernandos, where you can find all things produce, he even grows wheat grass. Fernando actually picks and washes the lettuce as you buy it. Can’t get any fresher than that! A little further up the road is Pasture Prime and they offer grass fed Wagyu beef and grass fed pork. These things may cost a little more, bu t if you have never tasted a grape picked right off the vine or a farm fresh egg where the yolks are huge and a beautiful bright orange, you are missing out! I am so grateful for these little treasures!

I am passionate about making a positive social and environmental impact while creating and eating deliciously healthy foods!