Sunday, July 20, 2014

Vacation part one

Over Fourth of July we headed up to San Fran to visit my sister.  We had six glorious days and 
it was a great trip.  

We did the overnight trip again and although I'm still not a fan, joe doesn't seem to mind and it is nice to be there in the morning when we wake up.  

Started our vacay out with a little mini golf

These goofballs

I lost. 

Lisa is fostering some kittens and boy were they cute.  I had no plans of coming home with one but kittens are pretty irresistible and somehow was talked into one of the orange ones.  Lisa will be bringing her to us at the end of the month.  We had to wait until she was spayed.  
Such cuteness!  I really loved the tabby one but it's a boy and joe really wanted a girl.  

Since we wouldn't be with the kids on the actual fourth, we promised them some fireworks. They are completely legal(ahem).  Well, they were, just not in the exact city we shot them off in.  
Fourth of July.  The only holiday where you give your ten year old something flaming and tell them to have at it.  

Some of them were larger than I expected them to be!

My attempt at a patriotic manicure.  

The next day we headed over the bridge and off to our next destination, the Russian River.  

Can you believe I took this from the car window?  I wanted to stop but it was WAY too crowded, it being Fourth of July weekend and all.  

First on the agenda was a canoe trip down the river.  It was advertised as a three hour trip.  We thought oh we can do that.  We'll stop occasionally to rest and to have lunch and it will be fun!

Mandatory life vests.  We ditched those pretty quickly.  Don't worry.  We kept them on the boats with us.  

I think there were 15 of us total.  We had six  canoes and Lisa had a kayak.  

At first it was peaceful, and serene and a really good workout.  Joe and I actually rock a canoe.  We make a great team.  Probably due to the dragon boating.  

BUT although they tell you it's a three hour trip, what they don't tell you is that it's ten miles to the end where you drop off your canoe.  And you have to be back by five.  (We started at 11:00). 

TEN.  FREAKING.  MILES.     For (some) people who have never been in a canoe before!

I did love canoeing but it was much harder on my back than kayaking.  Joe and I paddled for a couple of miles and then Lisa let me kayak for a bit and then it was back into the canoe with joe to try and finish it out.  

We stopped several times for lunch and some refreshments(wink wink).   Well by about 2:30 we weren't even halfway and realized we were going to have to step it up.  

I'll be honest with you, by mile five I wasn't having so much fun anymore.  We had been in the sun for three hours.  It was hot and I was sunburned and just plain exhausted.  That's where my hubby stepped up and told me to lie down in the canoe and relax and that "He's got this".  And he did.  He started paddling and didn't stop until we reached our destination.  Five hours after we started.  Everyone else took another hour to catch up and barely made it in time for the last bus to take us back to our cars.  

Overall it was a fun experience but I wouldn't take that particular tour again.  Next time we will rent the kayaks instead of canoes they have by the hour and paddle as far as we want to and then paddle back.  The big draw was supposed to be that you were  paddling downstream and therefore could float most of the way, and then they picked you up and drove you back.   What they don't tell you is that around three o' clock there is a pretty strong headwind that you are paddling against and there is no floating going on, only paddling.  

Thank goodness for joe.  I'm not sure they offer a pick up service half way for those that can't make it!

After that we were so tired we dropped my sister off at her hotel and headed home(to her house, as we were animal sitting).  Zoo sitting is a more appropriate term.  Two dogs, one cat, six kittens and two baby turtles. 

Lisa was staying at this totally quaint hotel right on the river.  These pictures weren't taken until the day she checked out, thus the vacancy sign.  There isn't an open hotel room to be found in Monte Rio over Fourth of July weekend that's for sure!

So pretty and cute. 

View from their lawn

We headed home to feed the animals and called it a night.  

Next up: one of my (new) favorite places in the whole wide world.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Caught this beautiful view on the way to my friend's house for an early morning ride.   It's Lake Elsinore.  

I'm  behind on a whole bunch of things, this blog being one of them. Since I'm home in my pajamas and have done nothing today due to feeling poorly, this is a good time to get caught up. 

This summer is flying by.  I am loving summer in my new home.  I had been warned about extreme heat but so far have not experienced it.  We have had maybe two days of temps above 90 and we didn't even have to turn on the air.  Being up in the mountains we tend to have a nice breeze, and our entire house is covered in oak tress which brings the temp down too.  I know we have some hot weather coming up in late August and September but for now I am enjoying the cool(ish) weather.  

My old, (previously) trusty Ford Escape finally bit the dust.  It died on me twice(once going up the mountain!) and I decided that since I have a potentially dangerous drive without cell phone service in some places, it was best to start looking for a more reliable car.  Joe has been able to get the Escape working again but it's kind of sketchy and we will only drive it in sporadically or in case of emergencies.  

After looking at my options and what I could afford(which wasn't much), we went on the recommendation of a friend to a used car dealer in L.A. who rebuilds cars. And he takes payments, which was a huge deciding factor given that I don't have a lot of spare cash lying around. Or any spare cash, to be exact.  

Sooooo......behold my "new" car!

It's a 2003 Honda Insight. It's in excellent condition and is like new inside. They didn't make very many of these cars and the guy we bought it from buys them and rebuilds them. It's his hobby but since he can't keep all of them he sells them for a very good price.  And like I said, he takes payments.  He has rebuilt hundreds of them! And if something goes wrong I know I can take it to him to fix it without getting ripped off and he knows what's he's doing. I feel very lucky to have found him. 

Not to mention the fact that I'm in love with this car!  It's so fun to drive. It's a two door with only two seats!  It's also a hybrid and it gets between 48-51 miles per gallon!  I honestly didn't believe it when he told us that.  

But I had a chance to test it out over Fourth of July when we went up north to visit my sister and we made it on one tank of gas.  One tank!  Forty bucks was all it cost to get to San Francisco. I see a lot more road trips in our future.   We'll just be traveling light since the cargo area isn't very big. It IS big enough to fit a small dog though.  I made sure to check that, since I hope to get one in the near future.  

Here it is packed for our trip up north.  

That's enough stuff for a whole week!  I was only able to take what was absolutely necessary.  I only took four pairs of shoes!  And you know what?  It was plenty.   I don't wear half the things I usually bring anyway.   

Now I have a tiny house AND a tiny car.  Simplify!

And the most important thing is that it has air conditioning. I haven't had air conditioning in years. It's awesome!  Oh, and the doors open from the OUTSIDE.  Lol.  Also a huge draw.  And it's super fun to drive.  Overall I'm thrilled with it.   

Let's see, what else.  Oh, I got some glasses.  I honestly didn't realize how little I could see until I got me some glasses.  It's amazing!!  I can see the tv!  And the signs at the store!  And the road!!  

That last one is probably the most important.   They are only to see far away.  I still need some progressive bi-focals to wear all the time but the distance was the most problematic for me.  

Here are the ones I chose: 

I love them.  And the best part?  They were free!  That's right, free.   If you go to you can choose your first pair of glasses for free.  And they have a huge selection of free ones to choose from.  Theses were $80 glasses for zero dollars.  


Dragon boat practices are plugging along.  We've only missed two practices.  I think that's a record for us!  Our last practice is tomorrow and the races are next week which is unbelievable to me. It always goes by way too fast.  In September it looks like we wil gear up for the Los Angeles races again this year so at least we have that to look forward to.  

We went to a Frida Khalo exhibit with some of our dragon boat members and had a good time.  Well, I was tired and sunburned from practice, but it was interesting and I'm glad we went.  She was an amazing woman!

A couple of months ago I posted this picture on Instagram:
Sorry so small and poor quality. I can't for the life of me find the original image.  

Anyway, a few weeks later I got a response on instagram from Uhaul asking if I would submit it to be a part of their face of uhaul campaign and be in a collage of phitos on the sides of their trucks!

So I went to their website and submitted it and a few weeks later got this e-mail:

That's hard to read, but it says "This photo is on 52 U-Haul trucks in 47 different cities". 
 6 of those are in CA.  So basically I'm famous.  I'd be happy to give you my autograph the next time you see me.  Lol.  

It's not just my picture on the trucks(thank god.  I don't want a billboard sized picture of me anywhere!).  It is in a collage of photos on each side.  One of the locations is in a city miles from my work. I thought about showing up there and trying to snap a picture of it but I thought that might be weird.  
Who am I kidding?   I'm totally sending Joe  over there to take a pic.  

We have gone on a few more hikes and I'm always surprised by how beautiful our surrounding area is. 

I have lived in the new place for four months and the only wildlife we have encountered so far is a skunk who comes out nightly and some raccoons in our trees.  So imagine my surprise when I saw this sign on the door to the laundry room:  

I'm not going to lie, I'm a little freaked out. We just have to be careful and smart and be aware that WE are encroaching on THEM and not vice versa.  

Whew, I think I'm caught up.   I'll be posting a couple of posts of our vacation soon. We had such a good time and I took around 100 photos and it was too much to include here.  

Sunday, June 22, 2014


Things a have been so great for me  lately.  

Really great. 

I guess that's why I feel so discouraged when I have a bad day(or week). 

I had one recently.  It sucked.  

I was blue  and feeling sad.  For more than a few days.  

And then I was disappointed in myself because I was sad and couldn't snap out of it. 

Which is dumb.  

Because it's not my fault that I feel sad every now and then. 

The truth of the matter is, I still have depression. It's a disease.  It never goes completely away.  It's always there, lurking beneath the surface and I never quite know when it will rear it's ugly head. 

And so when it does rear it's head I retreat.  Like a turtle, into my own head while at work or out in public, and into my house or bed when I'm at home.  Just getting through the day is difficult. 

Throw in a couple of nights where I don't sleep and it results in a few miserable days. 


I often underestimate how getting enough sleep affects my mental health. 

My body needs rest.  More rest than I give it most of the time, especially with the type of kidney disease I have.

 I'm supposed to get on average 9-10 hours of sleep per night.  Since I'm not six years old, that isn't going to happen. (Can you see me going to bed at 8:30 every week night?  Yeah, me neither).  

I do try to get at least 8, but realistically I'm logging between 6 1/2 and 7 1/2 hours per night. 

I know a lot of moms with small children who are like "seven and a half hours!  I'd kill for that much sleep!"

But it's not enough for me.  Sometimes I wish I could just be healthy and not swollen from retaining fluids and achy and so tired I can't keep my eyes open.  

But it is what it is and dwelling on it won't change it.  But having a physical ailment and/or disease is hard.  

Dragon boat practices are taking a lot out of me. Don't get me wrong, I still love it very much.  

But it consumes every Sunday of my week, with it's long drive and demanding physical activity(which I need), and hours in the hot sun. All of which are draining.  

I haven't been riding. At all.  And I miss it so much. There is never enough time in the week.  I have good intentions to ride after work. But then I get home and I'm so tired. 

 So tired.  

That leaves Saturday as my only riding day, and that is eaten up by resting  and spending time with joe and errands that didn't get done during the week.  

I feel like such a complainer and I've been really trying not to do that so much.  

I guess what I'm trying to say is that life is really great, but I still struggle sometimes.  Not nearly as often as I used to(NOT AT ALL), but still once in a while and I need to tell myself it's ok to have a bad day(or week). 

It doesn't mean things won't get better. I just have to wait it out.   

Thankfully, as of this writing it has passed.  I'm feeling 100% better.  

It's just a bad day. Not a bad life.  

Oh and on a side note, something that really irritated me last week:  I was at the grocery store picking up some things for dinner and I splurged and bought myself some sunflowers, because sunflowers are happy right?  I never buy myself flowers but I needed a pick me up.  I get up to the register and the checker(who was a woman) said "Sunflowers huh?  Somebody must have been a good girl this week"

What?! What does that even mean? 

No, actually someone works their butt off every week and can buy herself sunflowers any time she wants to thank you very much.  


A friend posted this article on FB and it's a great read.  There is some awesome advice on how to make it through a rough patch.   I will for sure be coming back to it the next time I'm feeling down.  

#1. Pain is part of growing.
Sometimes life closes doors because it’s time to move forward. And that’s a good thing because we often won’t move unless circumstances force us to. When times are tough, remind yourself that no pain comes without a purpose. Move on from what hurt you, but never forget what it taught you. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there. Good things take time. Stay patient and stay positive. Everything is going to come together; maybe not immediately, but eventually.

Remember that there are two kinds of pain: pain that hurts and pain that changes you. When you roll with life, instead of resisting it, both kinds help you grow.

#2. Everything in life is temporary.
Every time it rains, it stops raining. Every time you get hurt, you heal. After darkness there is always light – you are reminded of this every morning, but still you often forget, and instead choose to believe that the night will last forever. It won’t. Nothing lasts forever.

So if things are good right now, enjoy it. It won’t last forever. If things are bad, don’t worry because it won’t last forever either. Just because life isn’t easy at the moment, doesn’t mean you can’t laugh. Just because something is bothering you, doesn’t mean you can’t smile. Every moment gives you a new beginning and a new ending. You get a second chance, every second. You just have to take it and make the best of it. (Read The Last Lecture.)

#3. Worrying and complaining changes nothing.
Those who complain the most, accomplish the least. It’s always better to attempt to do something great and fail than to attempt to do nothing and succeed. It’s not over if you’ve lost; it’s over when you do nothing but complain about it. If you believe in something, keep trying. Don’t let the shadows of the past darken the doorstep of your future. Spending today complaining about yesterday won’t make tomorrow any brighter. Take action instead. Let what you’ve learned improve how you live. Make a change and never look back.

And regardless of what happens in the long run, remember that true happiness begins to arrive only when you stop complaining about your problems and you start being grateful for all the problems you don’t have.

#4. Your scars are symbols of your strength.
Don’t ever be ashamed of the scars life has left you with. A scar means the hurt is over and the wound is closed. It means you conquered the pain, learned a lesson, grew stronger, and moved forward. A scar is the tattoo of a triumph to be proud of. Don’t allow your scars to hold you hostage. Don’t allow them to make you live your life in fear. You can’t make the scars in your life disappear, but you can change the way you see them. You can start seeing your scars as a sign of strength and not pain.

Rumi once said, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.” Nothing could be closer to the truth. Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most powerful characters in this great world are seared with scars. See your scars as a sign of “YES! I MADE IT! I survived and I have my scars to prove it! And now I have a chance to grow even stronger.”

#5. Every little struggle is a step forward.

In life, patience is not about waiting; it’s the ability to keep a good attitude while working hard on your dreams, knowing that the work is worth it. So if you’re going to try, put in the time and go all the way. Otherwise, there’s no point in starting. This could mean losing stability and comfort for a while, and maybe even your mind on occasion. It could mean not eating what, or sleeping where, you’re used to, for weeks on end. It could mean stretching your comfort zone so thin it gives you a nonstop case of the chills. It could mean sacrificing relationships and all that’s familiar. It could mean accepting ridicule from your peers. It could mean lots of time alone in solitude. Solitude, though, is the gift that makes great things possible. It gives you the space you need. Everything else is a test of your determination, of how much you really want it.

And if you want it, you’ll do it, despite failure and rejection and the odds. And every step will feel better than anything else you can imagine. You will realize that the struggle is not found on the path, it is the path. And it’s worth it. So if you’re going to try, go all the way. There’s no better feeling in the world… there’s no better feeling than knowing what it means to be ALIVE. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)

#6. Other people’s negativity is not your problem.
Be positive when negativity surrounds you. Smile when others try to bring you down. It’s an easy way to maintain your enthusiasm and focus. When other people treat you poorly, keep being you. Don’t ever let someone else’s bitterness change the person you are. You can’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you. They do things because of them.

Above all, don’t ever change just to impress someone who says you’re not good enough. Change because it makes you a better person and leads you to a brighter future. People are going to talk regardless of what you do or how well you do it. So worry about yourself before you worry about what others think. If you believe strongly in something, don’t be afraid to fight for it. Great strength comes from overcoming what others think is impossible.
All jokes aside, your life only comes around once. This is IT. So do what makes you happy and be with whoever makes you smile, often.

#7. What’s meant to be will eventually, BE.
True strength comes when you have so much to cry and complain about, but you prefer to smile and appreciate your life instead. There are blessings hidden in every struggle you face, but you have to be willing to open your heart and mind to see them. You can’t force things to happen. You can only drive yourself crazy trying. At some point you have to let go and let what’s meant to be, BE.

In the end, loving your life is about trusting your intuition, taking chances, losing and finding happiness, cherishing the memories, and learning through experience. It’s a long-term journey. You have to stop worrying, wondering, and doubting every step of the way. Laugh at the confusion, live consciously in the moment, and enjoy your life as it unfolds. You might not end up exactly where you intended to go, but you will eventually arrive precisely where you need to be. (Read A New Earth.)

#8. The best thing you can do is to keep going.
Don’t be afraid to get back up – to try again, to love again, to live again, and to dream again. Don’t let a hard lesson harden your heart. Life’s best lessons are often learned at the worst times and from the worst mistakes. There will be times when it seems like everything that could possibly go wrong is going wrong. And you might feel like you will be stuck in this rut forever, but you won’t. When you feel like quitting, remember that sometimes things have to go very wrong before they can be right. Sometimes you have to go through the worst, to arrive at your best.

Yes, life is tough, but you are tougher. Find the strength to laugh every day. Find the courage to feel different, yet beautiful. Find it in your heart to make others smile too. Don’t stress over things you can’t change. Live simply. Love generously. Speak truthfully. Work diligently. And even if you fall short, keep going. Keep growing.

Awake every morning and do your best to follow this daily TO-DO list:

Think positively.
Eat healthy.
Exercise today.
Worry less.
Work hard.
Laugh often.
Sleep well.

Brenda McCarthy

Credit: Marc And Angel

Monday, May 26, 2014

Salad in a jar

I posted about these years ago(maybe four or five?) but if can't locate them on my blog.  

There has been some discussion about them on fb lately, so I thought I would try them again. I'm especially curious  to see how they come out, as I have always had good luck with them. 

I'm making one of my favorite chopped salads, which I kind of made up. It's a variation of a salad they serve at Woodranch BBQ(haven't been there in forever, yum), minus their yummy croutons.  

First I chopped all of my veggies.  I use red onions, cucumbers, tomatoes(I use Roma, as they seem "sturdier") and corn that I cut right off of the cob. It's so sweet and so good.  But you could use canned corn if you wanted.  Just make sure it's drained well. 

I also use chopped chicken to add some protein.  

I love ranch dressing on this salad but I wanted it to be healthy so I used a ranch dressing made with Greek yogurt.  It was very good and I didn't even miss the whole fat ranch.  I add a teeny bit of water to the dressing to thin it out some, otherwise it tends to glob into the jar and hit the sides of the jar.  Since you don't want the lettuce to touch the dressing you want to avoid that if possible.  If that does happen, you can reach in with a piece of damp paper towel and wipe off the side of the jar if needed. 

All of my veggies and chicken ready to go into the jar.  I grilled this chicken and chopped it myself, but I have used pre-cooked/chopped chicken from the deli section in a pinch.  

Then start layering the ingredients in the jar. 

First the dressing

Then I put the chicken and the mushrooms, as they don't get mushy when sitting in the dressing.  

The tomatoes go next.  I don't really have a reason for how I put the toppings in, except I put the least "wet" veggies right next to the lettuce.  This order seems to work for me.  

Cucumbers and the corn, which will be the last layer before the lettuce.  

Lastly the lettuce goes in.  I really shove it in there, so it's a tight fit.  It keeps the veggies in their layers. I've even been know to lay these on their sides in the fridge and all of the layers stay intact.  I would recommend keeping it upright If this is your first time though, just to be safe.  

And there you have it. I can make a couple of these and pinterest says they will stay fresh in the fridge for up to five days.  I usually eat mine within four days so I've never tested that.  

They turn out perfect every time!

I have also heard you can shake these up and eat them right from the jar but I pack mine too tightly for that.  I simply pour into a bowl to eat.  The layers come out of the jar perfectly, with the lettuce at the bottom and all of the toppings and dressing on top. Just toss and eat. 

Perfect healthy, portable lunch!

You can do any variations of these with whatever ingredients you like or have on hand.  Just google "salad in a jar", or go on pinterest and you will find dozens and dozens of ideas.  I think ill branch out next time and try something different.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Life is Good

My blog posts are becoming fewer and farther between.  I keep asking myself when I will be ready to give it up. 

The answer is always "not yet".  And so here I am. 

Life has been pretty great lately. 

The new place is amazing. I love it. Sometimes I pull up in front of my house and I can't believe how lucky I am to live here. Other times, on the weekends, when I'm sitting out on my deck looking up at the oak trees I feel like I'm on vacation and that in a few days I'll have to go back to reality. 

It's awesome.  I was able to decorate the deck very inexpensively and it came out great. I love sitting out there in the evenings. 

I picked up some cheap globe lights at Big Lots, and these paper lanterns are from Sophie's room. One of the only things we kept.  It's quite magical at night!

I bought myself a flower box for Mother's Day.  We paddled on that day and it wasn't so bad. Maybe I'm to the point where I am accepting of it. I did feel a little sad, but nothing compared to year's past. 

The humming birds LOVE the bleeding heart plant.  I should get a humming bird feeder. They aren't shy at all!  They'll come right up to you and buzz around your head.  So cool.  

Went to happy hour with my work family(they really are like family to me). We always have the best time. 

Almost every Tuesday the drug reps bring us free coffee and that doesn't suck.  :) We also get catered lunch 2-3 times a week which is pretty awesome too.  

Dragon boat practice is in full swing. 

It's lovely how quickly we get back into the routine of paddling.  It's weird to think it's been seven months since we last paddled. 

I love my dragonboat team. Such good people. This is my seventh year with this team, and Joe's fifth. 

We have a bunch of new team members. A bunch!  This is good for the longevity of the team, as the older girls start to go off to college(when did THAT happen?!).  

It's good, and I'm happy that so many people are interested in the sport, but selfishly I wish we could practice with just our main team. The ones who won a medal at last year's races, and placed first at the races in Los Angeles.  I love that close knit group we had at the races in L.A.  

It's hard when you have people in the boat who have never paddled before. 

But it isn't about the competiton, or winning.  It's about camaraderie, and team work and the culture of the sport. This year we are even going to have a kid's team which is beyond cool.  

I've been trying to be more active.  Sitting at a desk all day is so bad for you.  We have started doing laps every hour to get us up out of our chairs.  I've been walking before and after work too.  I use a pedometer and I average about four miles a day. Not bad!  My goal is five miles but it's really hard when I sit all day and I'm so tired when I get it's hard to find the motivation.  

I've been visiting the horses on Saturdays but not riding as much as I would like. It was way too not for a couple of weekends but it's cooled down a lot now.  I'm planning on riding on Saturday.  It's good for my soul.  

We have a trip planned for the Fourth of July and I'm so excited for it. We're going to vist my Sees-ter(of  She will be going to the Russian River with some friends and we are going to house/pet sit for her.  She's renting a car for us and because we're staying at her house it's going to cost us nothing but gas money to go(I'm renting an energy efficient car, so hopefully the gas costs won't be too much)

We will drive up to the river for the day to hang out  and watch fireworks.  I love the Russian River and surrounding areas. We may go wine tasting one day. Or, we may just hang around the house and relax. We'll see.  

I'm really looking forward to it.  

Anyone have any fun summer plans?