Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body,
but rather to skid in broadside, totally worn out & proclaiming “Wow, What a Ride!”

Monday, August 31, 2015

gardens in the moonlight

the moon photographed in CO- at Aspen Willow Ranch
The first of this year’s “super moons” was this past Saturday, it was beautiful. I really wanted to photograph it in its glory...but my camera and I guess fate decided it wasn’t to be. Several of us tried. I think the main problem was not our camera settings, but none of us had the correct telephoto lens to really get the moon properly. However...I did not come out of this experience empty handed, or in my case empty of enlightenment. I did have an inspirational thought~ seeing and creating gardens to be enjoyed in the moonlight. Moon gardens.

When the day begins to rest and the ever-lengthening shadows begin to create a natural symphony of overlapping sensations that invigorate the body and gladden the soul, the sun sets. The vivid colors of most flowers and leaves fade, becoming a dull grey, but moon gardens provide us with a space to appreciate Mother Nature's bounty long after the light of day has retreated. Designed to be enjoyed from dusk until the coming of the darkness, these gardens serve as a perfect complement to silvery moonlight, mild summer nights, and the spirit of rejuvenation.

moon, photographed by Steve in our CA, Hollow Oak, garden
Most plant life worships the sun, but a select few shrubs and flowers come into their own in luna's glow. The silvery leaves of lamb's ears and artemisia reflect the radiance of the moon, while the bright-white flowers adorning yucca and evening primrose seem to shimmer brilliantly in dusk's gloom. The new growth of our blue spruce glow in the evening hours if evening lights shine on them a certain way. Certain blossoms such as the moonflower and four o'clocks open only at night, releasing their sweet fragrances in spectacular displays of scent and beauty. While creating a moon garden, remember to take each human sense into account. We appreciate the ghostly beauty of nighttime nature best when we can sit comfortably until our eyes have adjusted to the surrounding darkness. Aspen trees, bamboo, and thick grasses make a comforting sound when bandied about by gentle nighttime breezes.
Transforming a portion of your existing yard or patio into a moon garden is simple, and the pleasure you will derive from your nighttime retreat will become worth it once you start to enjoy it. Green spaces come alive at night when nocturnal blossoms release their perfume into the air and ethereally lovely and luminous foliage dances in the breeze. In a moon garden, relaxation is a simple matter of attuning yourself to the stillness of evening and seeing, for the first time, the myriad shades of beauty that can be found in the darkness. 

here's a book I found that might be of interest if you are thinking about creating a Moon Garden or Twilight Garden.

The Twilight Garden: Creating a Garden That Entrances by Day and Comes Alive at Night ~ Lia Leendertz

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Aspen Willow get's a new internet home

just a quick note of a change .... I have made a new website exclusively for Aspen Willow Ranch where I will now post all our pictures. You can find the link up at the top bar on the right side, second from the end.  Let me know how you enjoy it. You can also follow the blog separately and directly from its site. It's easy to return here by clicking the link on the right side.  Just remember, all photographs are copyrighted, so please ask before using.

have a terrific and relaxing Sunday

Friday, August 28, 2015

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

meal ideas ~ don't blow your carb budget sweets

Look no farther than these two favorite dessert recipes when you want something rich and decadent without blowing your carb budget. These treats can be whipped up in no time with few ingredients to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Fudge-Berry Cupcakes
It’s tempting to take a supersize slice of cake, but with cupcakes the portions are already defined. Skip the frosting and garnish these cupcakes with whipped topping and a sprinkle of berries.

3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
5 egg whites
1/4 container of an 8-ounce container frozen light whipped dessert topping, thawed
1 cup fresh raspberries, blackberries, and/or blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line eighteen 2 1/2-inch muffin cups with paper bake cups; set aside.

In a medium saucepan, stir together sugar and water. Cook and stir over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves and mixture almost boils. Stir in the chocolate until melted. Remove from heat. Place egg yolks in a small bowl. Gradually stir the chocolate mixture into egg yolks; stir in vanilla (mixture may appear slightly grainy). Set aside.

In a medium bowl, stir together cocoa powder, the flour, and baking powder.

Stir in chocolate-egg yolk mixture until smooth. In a large bowl, beat egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until stiff peaks form (tips stand straight). Stir a small amount of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Fold chocolate mixture into remaining egg whites. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full with batter.**

Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until tops spring back when lightly touched. Cool in cups on a wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from cups; cool completely on a wire rack.

 To serve, top cupcakes with whipped topping and berries. Makes 18 cupcakes.
Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 92 cal., 3 g total fat (2 g sat. fat), 23 mg chol., 22 mg sodium, 16 g carb. (2 g fiber, 11 g sugars), 2 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges Fat (d.e): 0.5; Starch (d.e):1 Carb Grams per Serving = 16

Chocolate-Drizzled Peanut Butter Cheesecake Bars
Creamy peanut butter proves to be the perfect flavoring for these rich cheesecake bars. Topped with a chocolate drizzle and peanuts, this tasty dessert is a crowd favorite.

Nonstick cooking spray
1/2 cup regular rolled oats
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 8 - ounce packages fat-free cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup refrigerated or frozen egg product, thawed
1/4 cup fat-free milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 -3 tablespoons fat-free milk
3 tablespoons chopped peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly coat a 13x9x2-inch baking pan with cooking spray; set aside.
 For crust, place oats in a food processor or blender. Cover and process or blend until coarsely ground. In a small bowl combine ground oats, flour, brown sugar, and melted butter. Pat evenly into the bottom of the prepared pan. Set aside.

 Meanwhile, for cheesecake filling, in a large bowl combine cream cheese, peanut butter, and granulated sugar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until combined. Add egg substitute, the 1/4 cup milk, and the vanilla. Beat on low speed just until combined.

 Pour cheesecake filling onto the prepared crust. Bake in preheated oven for 25 minutes or until set in the center. Cool in pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes. Cover and chill for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.

 For chocolate drizzle, in a heavy small saucepan heat and stir chocolate over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat and beat in enough of the 2 to 3 tablespoons milk to make drizzling consistency. Spoon melted chocolate mixture into a small resealable plastic bag. Seal bag. Using scissors, snip off a very small corner from bag. Pipe melted chocolate over the cheesecake filling.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 145 cal., 8 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 8 mg chol., 203 mg sodium, 13 g carb. (1 g fiber, 8 g sugars), 7 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges Lean Meat (d.e): 1; Starch (d.e): 1; Fruit (d.e): 1; Mark as Free Exchange (d.e): 0; Fat (d.e): 1; Carb Grams per Serving = 13

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

healthy living ~mountian made hand cream

I have noticed that my hands are very dry in this high mountain environment. Could be all the cleaning I have been doing or the painting, but whatever the cause I needed to make up a batch of my Aspen Willow Hand cream recipe. This originally comes from one of my all-time favorite books, Organic Body Care Recipes. It is easy to make and leaves your skin soft without feeling greasy.  Since finding this recipe, I don’t buy commercial lotions. It's simply that wonderful. 

This hand cream recipe also makes an excellent gift. You can order containers that are perfect for these lotions and give them as gifts. They are luxurious gifts that are easy on the budget.

I apply this hand cream on my hands after doing chores, especially after dishes, and it keeps them from cracking and getting those awful peelies. The combination of cocoa butter and essential oils give it a slight spicy scent.

1 tablespoon cocoa butter
2 tablespoons beeswax
1/4 cup organic coconut oil
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon almond or apricot kernel oil

I also sometimes add: 20 drops (any combination of) peppermint, geranium, lemon, or grapefruit essential oil (if my hands are extremely cracked and dry I leave the recipe plain) 

Using a double boiler, warm the cocoa butter, beeswax, coconut oil and almond or apricot kernel oil until melted. The beeswax will be the last to melt.

Remove from heat and allow the mixture to cool for five minutes, and then add, if used, the essential oils. Continue stirring until the mixture becomes opaque but can still be poured. Pour it into a container and allow it to cool overnight, cocoa butter takes a while to set-up, at least 12 hours. This recipe makes about one cup of hand cream. No refrigeration required, for maximum freshness use within one year.

For those dry calloused hands, elbows and knees (even your feet)… try combining

½ c. olive oil
1 c. kosher salt or sugar

Stir well and rub into hands and cuticles for 30 seconds to 1 minute. Rinse with warm water. The granules gently yet effectively slough away dull, flaky skin to reveal a fresh, hydrated layer of skin.  Smooth on your favorite lotion… like the one above. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

connect with nature

Saturday I went into our forest and spent a good part of the day just roaming and getting to know the land, its flora, and fauna. As I sat in one particular spot I love, my lichen rock, I thought how important it is for everyone to spend time in nature

In this modern age, we spend so much time indoors, focused on the busyness of our lives and disconnected from the earth. But much of what we truly need can only be found under the naked sky, alongside tall trees, on open plains, or in the sound of running water. Spending time in nature allows us to commune with other living beings and to find comfort in the nurturing embrace of Mother Earth. You can't help but experience a different sense of self while walking in a wood or traversing a mountainside. Being in nature connects us to the earth, grounding us as we walk, unhindered by concrete, upon her. Surrounded by other living beings, both bigger and smaller than we are, we remember that human beings are simply one form of life in this vast universe.

Because we instinctively know that nature is good for us on many levels, it's not unusual to feel powerfully drawn to it. Even if you live in a city or find it difficult to travel to a forest or the countryside, there are a myriad ways to reconnect with nature. When you step out of your door each morning, pause for a minute and close your eyes long enough to let your senses absorb your surroundings. Listen and breathe deeply, until you hear the wind rustling through branches, smell rain on damp grass, and see the reflection of leaves brushing up against windowpanes. If you have time, crouch down and closely examine any nearby grass and soil. The sights, sounds, smells, and sensations we experience that are part of nature can remind us of all the gifts Mother Earth grants us each day.

Spending time connecting with nature nourishes the soul, reminds you that you are never truly alone, and renews you by attuning you to the earth's natural rhythms. Taking a walk under the stars or feeling the wind on your face may be all it takes for you to reconnect with nature. Remember, you are as much a part of nature as are the leaves on a tree or water bubbling in a brook.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Thursday, August 20, 2015

thursday's garden ~ aspen willow secrets~

Everywhere you look in beautiful Colorado is a garden, gardens of delight, wild gardens, gardens that are tended by the fairies and otherworldly folk. While out in my utopian world, Thursday’s Garden will be to share what secrets are revealed to me in Aspen Willow's garden.  shhhh, there are many tales to come...listen closely.

there are always rainbows

 a fairy house, can you see him peeking at you?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

meal ideas - colorado quick meals

I bet you thought I wasn’t going to have my “Meal Ideas” day while in Colorado. Well, I have to eat here to, and eat just a healthy if not more. Nevertheless, being here in the mountains with the closest store 20 miles away (that’s one way) I need to plan my meals carefully, and cooking in my small MC kitchen they need to be simple and easy. Someone suggested I just purchase frozen dinners, or heat and eat. YUCK! There’s no need to resort to calorie-loaded instant dinners when you don’t want to cook gourmet meals that need tons of ingredients. Here are two meals low in calories and carbs, that call for just five ingredients or fewer. Yes, you can make delicious “and diabetes-friendly meals” without much fuss.

Mediterranean Couscous and Beef
This authentic dish comes together with a simple ingredient list for an impressive meal without much fuss. Packed with protein, this low-carb dinner leaves room for dessert! Serving Size: 3 1/2ounces cooked beef and 1/2 cup couscous mixture each

 3/4 cup pearl couscous (or rice, quinoa, pasta)
 Nonstick cooking spray
 1 pound beef flank steak
 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
 1/4 teaspoon salt
 5 tablespoons salt-free lemon herb peppercorn flavor marinade, such as Mrs. Dash brand
 1 cup water
 2 medium red and/or yellow tomatoes, seeded and coarsely chopped
 1/4 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta cheese or feta cheese (1 ounce)

Heat a dry, medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add couscous to hot saucepan; toast couscous 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Remove couscous from saucepan.

Meanwhile, preheat broiler. Lightly coat the unheated rack of a broiler pan with cooking spray. Trim fat from beef. Season beef with 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt.

Pour 1 tablespoon of the marinade into a custard cup; set the remaining 4 tablespoons marinade aside. Brush the 1 tablespoon marinade onto beef. Place beef on the prepared rack. Broil 4 to 5 inches from the heat until desired doneness, turning once. Allow 12 to 14 minutes for medium.

In the same medium saucepan combine the water, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt; bring to boiling. Stir in couscous; return to boiling and reduce heat. Simmer, covered, 7 minutes. Stir in the reserved 4 tablespoons marinade, the tomatoes, and 2 tablespoons of the feta cheese. Cook 1 to 2 minutes more or until couscous and tomatoes are tender.

 To serve, thinly slice beef across the grain; serve over couscous mixture. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons feta cheese.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 317 cal., 10 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 73 mg chol., 330 mg sodium, 26 g carb. (2 g fiber, 3 g sugars), 30 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges Vegetables (d.e): 0.5; Starch (d.e): 1.5; Lean Meat (d.e): 3.5; Fat (d.e): 0.5;

Lamb Chops with Grape-Balsamic Sauce
Upgrade a simple lamb chop dinner with a creative homemade marinade. The sweet-and-tart dinner recipe requires only “five” ingredients to make. Serving Size: 2 lamb chops with 1/2 cup sauce
4 small lamb rib chops (10 to 12 ounces total) or 8 ounces boneless pork loin chop, cut 3/4 inch thick
 1 teaspoon snipped fresh rosemary
 1/8 teaspoon salt
 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
 2 teaspoons olive oil
 1 cup seedless red grapes, halved
 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
 1 tablespoon water
 1 tablespoon snipped fresh mint (optional)

 Trim fat from chops. In a small bowl, combine rosemary, salt, and pepper. Sprinkle evenly over chops; rub in with your fingers. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add lamb chops. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until lamb is desired doneness (145 degrees F for medium-rare or 160 degrees F for medium) or pork is slightly pink in the center (160 degrees F), turning once halfway through cooking. Remove chops from skillet. Keep warm.

  In the same skillet, combine grapes, vinegar, and the water. Cook and stir just until boiling; reduce heat. Cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes more or until grapes are softened but still hold their shape. Serve grape mixture over chops. If desired, sprinkle with mint.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving: 230 cal., 10 g total fat (3 g sat. fat), 75 mg chol., 205 mg sodium, 10 g carb. (9 g sugars), 24 g pro. Diabetic Exchanges: Lean Meat (d.e): 3.5; Fat (d.e): 1; Fruit (d.e): 0.5

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

healthy living ~ be the right size for health

Many times I have said that if we all ate as if we were diabetics this society would not have the health issues it has: even including the ones that our food additive chemicals cause. That in itself is a whole other matter and posting.

When I changed positions at Kaiser, I went from a very active job in the ER to an almost no activity in the hospital. Everyone, including me, thought I would gain weight, lots of it. But...we were wrong, I actually have lost weight. I did lessen my food intake by 200 calories a day, mostly from no more stress eating. Now, everyone is asking what diet I am on, what I am doing...etc. well, actually...I stopped dieting. Yep. A couple of years ago Steve and I decided the best way to lose weight and keep it off was this simple rule-

portion size + plus exercise = you the right size

Portion size--This concept is not new by any means; Steve and I eat using salad plates instead of a dinner plates. We put what we are going to eat on our plate (using the plate method for what goes on it) and DO NOT go back for seconds- period! Okay, we do have those special days when we indulge, however they are few and far between. 

So like you've heard before- "stop the madness," stop giving billions of dollars to the weight-loss industry, stop trying every "lose weight fast gimmick," - stop the pills and drinks, and the “toy diet” foods and follow the simple "portion size, exercise, right size" method. If it is high in calories, eat a smaller portion.  Look on packages and see what a portion size really is. I bet you eat three to four portions of an item. Most Americans do- they have got to have that 12oz steak over the healthy and normal 4oz portion.

At work everyone sees my containers for my dinners and says “oh my, look how cute.” And then, asks “how can you eat so little...". I say, "I am eating a proper portion. How can you eat so much?" They usually reply, "I could never survive with that little amount." and I just smile and think...."no, you are not going survive long or healthily eating the way you do." like you've heard before- "stop dieting," and follow the simple "portion size, exercise, right size" method. Yes, there are some great ...eating plans “diets” out there. One I highly recommend, especially if you have high blood pressure is the "DASH DIET." Bottom line, follow this and you will be healthy.

Exercise-- you don't have to go to gym, pay for expensive equipment, or even nearly kill yourself exercising. Simple walking, 3 mph, for 20 to 30 minutes (best part, it can be broken into three, 10 minute segments per day) has proven the absolute most effective way to prevent high blood pressure, control diabetes, and lose weight. I am serious!  Now add a 5-10 minute "free weight" session a couple of times a week for that extra toning- and whalla, you've got a healthy plan that is doable and will stick with you. Fear the boredom of walking...?  Get a dog, borrow a dog. Our bernese mountain dog, Jesse, is the personal trainer for our walks.

A favorite exercise DVD program for those times when I can't get outside or need a change is Leslie Sansone's  "walk away the pounds" programs. They are fun, you walk in front of your computer, TV, DVD player---- and you lose nothing but weight!!!!!.

I have also have a treadmill, what I like about this is... I can hook up my iPad, put on Netflix, (presently watching the series~ Robin Hood) 42 minutes of entertainment; and the treadmill has dual speakers that actually let me hear without having to wear headphones!

A couple of great books that I think everyone should read and have in their "health" arsenal. Even if you do not have any issues, you should read these and be aware of what options you have to some medicines or life styles.

DIABETES without drugs -- this is an outstanding book. Even a friend of mine who is a hardcore researcher when it comes to medical issues said that this was one of the best diabetes books she has read in ages. It is not your standard book about diabetes, but it covers the supplements, their reactions to your body, and how prescription drugs "muddle" the effects of nutrients in your system. It is a worthy book to read and study for all lifestyles and health issues, not just diabetes. It is written by a pharmacist.

LOWER YOUR CHOLESTEROL in 4weeks. Okay, now normally I would have passed this book up thinking -- oh no not another do this in so many days- but it was recommended to me by the Pharmacist at Kaiser when I told her that my ever taking a Statin Drug was not going to happen.  Along with other suggestions for lowering my cholesterol naturally, she said it was basic information- and as it turns out, this book is a good reference.

so, begin today and be the "Right Size!"

Monday, August 17, 2015

busy week in CO

good Monday morning from Colorado. It has been a very  busy week getting everything set up in the MC (the smaller house on the ranch) if you remember the main house is too large and takes too long to un-winterize for only a couple of months. Thus, I stay in the little one. Even there, however, we only have it stocked to use for a couple days to couple weeks at a time. So, I did a mass of shopping last Saturday, and was able to make it more livable.  

Samantha is adjusting to the new area. I take her out in the mornings to explore, and she loves to run and climb on the rocks and look for... yep, you guessed it- ground squirrels. The only animals so far that she is actually afraid of are the deer and wild turkeys, she is not sure what those are yet. ha! I bought her a new cat tree for here, her in CA was too large to bring out with her other things. 

otherwise, everything here is doing great. I am waiting for a new satellite phone before I get out into the woods. I promised Steve I wouldn't go without it. Cell connection just doesn't happen. So, not many wildlife photos yet. 

with that here are a couple of pics you might have fun with.

a beautiful view on the county road heading to our ranch
this is the time of year for thunderstorms, which I love.

 I've got mail....first delivery, I am official :)

 our 1100ft driveway was in need of some TLC
we had been driving over the ever growing ruts
and washed out areas. Steve decided it was time
to bring in a road guy. It will take him three days.

Steve working hard watching the road engineer
working hard. ha! 

our resident turkeys - yum, shame of me.

Samantha enjoying her new cat tree.

and last but not least, and since this is traditionally inspiration monday, here is a photo taken after yesterday's huge thunderstorm.

have a terrific day !

Saturday, August 8, 2015

from colorado

hello there everyone, this is really a test posting. We are in Colorado, about three-quarters of the way to the ranch. It is a seventeen hour drive, and as usual we stopped in a beautiful little town called Glenwood springs. All my computer equipment is packed, so I thought to see if I could post directly from my IPhone - thus the test :)

looks like photos will be difficult to show- it wants to upload from picassa, not directly from my  phone- so guess we will have to wait till the computers are unpacked and an internet is established.

talk to everone soon---