Monthly Archives: September 2015

Old Houses

H-1-Schmidt-HouseI love old houses and having one was, and note the ‘was’, on my life to-do list. They call them bucket lists now. The first book I wrote, I titled “This Old House” and my publisher changed it to “This Old House Love Comes Home”. A reader commented that the house was like one of the characters. That house was as close as I’ll get to having one of my own.

I enjoy touring historic homes but have found that there is only a portion open to the public most of the times. Not so last week. I had the privilege of touring the Schmidt Mansion in Tumwater Washington. It was the home of the founder of the Olympia Brewery. Maybe you remember the slogan “It’s The Water.”

It was an experience of a lifetime as the caretaker that started work there at seventeen, led the tour. He had wonderful nostalgic stories, even a ghost one. And, we saw the whole house. Some of the rooms are used as archives, some have offices, but he told us what they had originally been with such vivid detail that we could step back in time.

I took the picture of the front porch and the caretaker who conducted our tour is on the left. The house and family was a career and from his stories, there was never a dull moment. image-29

There’s a virtual tour and history of the house and family on the website. image-30


Done, done, and DONE…Triathlon Re-Cap

This gallery contains 2 photos.

I did it! I ran and I biked. I would have swum (swam?) if not for circumstances beyond my control. More on that later. So, as most of you know, I started training a little over 3 months ago for … Continue reading

Warning: System Overload…

No, not a message from my computer…but from my bathroom scale. The poor thing has been teetering on the edge for several months now and has finally given up the ghost. I can’t help but feel guilty that I was largely responsible for its eventual demise, and it was hard to ignore the groan it emanated every time I stepped on each day.

Despite having battled forth since January this year, I can only lament my dismal efforts to relieve the poor scale of the humongous motherload it endured each morning. So, as I unpack my pristine new replacement, I give it my assurance that I will indeed attempt to do better in future.

I know the main things I need to avoid – chocolate, cake, biscuits, sweeties. But there are loads of hidden calories in seemingly innocent foods. From now on I’ll be reading labels and working out exactly what’s in the things I eat and drink. While waiting for coffee at a local cafe, I happened to look up and noticed that the calories in my morning soya mocha topped 310!  Added to which, the calories in my evening low-fat snack bar were actually 175! Almost 500 calories per day on what I’ve been considering incidentals. I read that it takes 3500 calories to lose a pound in weight, so just by cutting these two things out, I could lose four pounds a month, and a stone in four months, three stone in a year. Wow, and double wow!

Now to put it into practice. My waistline…and new bathroom scales…will thank me for it.

Las Alpujarras Part Two

In my last blog I promised to continue the tale of my life in Las Alpujarras. The second house we lived in was in a village, Mairena, 1 kilometre from Júbar but although some of my new neighbours were related to our old ones life was different. We rented the last house in the village so the view was amazing, worth the steep climb up through the village. One downside was we were near a large goat pen which whilst a picturesque scene, especially with the baby goats, was pungent at times! I mentioned the San Marco fiesta previously, an important date for all the village, where the procession was led by the women of the village carrying an effigy of Christ. A local band followed the ladies and we all congregated at a special stone for the local priest to bless all the animals – horses, mules, goats, some of the children brought their hamsters! Everyone then followed the procession back to the main square in the village for traditional tasty stew baked slowly by the local women with simple ingredients, bread and local wine. Marvellous atmosphere, dancing, whole families joining together with friends and a very late finish.

Mairena has a shop, two bars, an excellent restaurant, Las Chimeneas, serving good local food with a twist and an olive press where everyone took their olives to be processed. Nothing tastes quite like the olive oil I bought there knowing my neighbours had grown the olives – real virgin olive oil. Whilst we had a good year time came to move on so we moved to Válor our last home in Las Alpujarras.

The cortijo we rented was very different to our other places, isolated but 1 kilometre outside the village, again with wonderful views.
Before we moved in the land had been neglected so Peter, my husband, set to and created a garden outside plus worked the land. We grew oranges, figs, nectarines, pomegranates and vegetables. The final January we picked our own olives and I bottled them in the traditional way, a recipe from a neighbour. There are so many memories that it is difficult to give a snapshot. The land sloped down to a stream (barranco) with olive trees and alamo trees, these attracted many different types of birds but the highlight of the year was when the golden oriels nested. Bright yellow but difficult to spot as they darted from tree to tree. Swallows came each spring, bee eaters flew overhead making their distinctive sound and most impressive, eagles majestically swooping down the valley. Wild flowers, wild asparagus, fennel, wild garlic were among the variety of plants dotted around the hillside. We occasionally saw Ibex, lizards, shared the house with geckos but were very wary of the occasional snake. Summers were hot but winter could be cold, thanks to our wood burning stove we kept cosy and warm. We had a veranda which served as extra living space during spring, hot summers and autumn. Breakfast outside looking at the mountains, little or no traffic noise with the scent of jasmine is tough to equal. Our visitors all relaxed as soon as they arrived and we had many riotous meals on the veranda.

IMG_20140506_203212Family visits in our two bedroomed house would have been a tight squeeze without the veranda! Válor had several bars but our favourite, La Azahara, was a central meeting point. I helped organise a book swop morning monthly which quickly became a weekly event, Paco the owner baked cakes to go with our coffee. The food was delicious too, excellent tapas sitting outside with friends is a perfect way to spend an evening. I must end now but hope once again I’ve given a brief view of a special period in my life. Perhaps one day one of you will be able to visit Las Alpujarras and have your own adventure.

Wedding Report and Excitement!

The wedding was lovely and went off like clockwork. No boo-boos but some very sweet moments and a crying mamma, bridesmaids and maybe the officiant got a little teary as well. Of course, the groom said he always got these allergies that made his eyes leak. Funny, he had no other symptoms…

They are a super couple and not only are they in love, they are friends and companions. They are fun and always up and happy. The groom is so cute. He absolutely adores his bride and wanted to be married for so very long. He kept telling me that we needed to “get out there and knock this thing out so we can party.”  LOL

The bride is infectious, never met a stranger and so vivacious, she wears us out… but in a good way. 🙂  I love her dearly and have enjoyed watching her grow even more lovely as each year passes. I predict a very long and successful marriage for these two if they go on as they’ve started.

Many compliments were paid to me on the beauty of the ceremony and some even said it was the loveliest they’d ever heard. That meant a lot to me. I’m going to share some pictures of the couple as well as ones of me and the bride and her mom in the photo booth which was a lot of fun (That’s a picture of a picture so I hope it looks okay).

AND TOMORROW, EXCITEMENT!!!! I am going to be on a jet plane to go visit our pals, Lavada and Laurie. I need to put them on notice that I will be ready for lunch when I get there!!  It’s a long flight. LOL


I’m Late! I’m Late for a Very Important Date! by Valerie J. Patterson

Good Saturday morning to you!  As you can tell by the title, I’m late…with this blog article!  Thursday evening as I began to head here to type in my article, the Internet went out and stayed out until sometime Friday afternoon.  Friday evening–after a stressful week–I couldn’t muster the energy to type in my article.  Very sorry if you came and saw NOTHING from me!

The article I was going to post will wait for another day.  Instead, I’ve been inspired by my laziness to offer up something thought-provoking and perhaps memory-recalling!

Last month, Steve and I took our annual wedding anniversary trip, which was quite lovely, very relaxing, and extremely revitalizing!  As is our normal habit, we take one route to our destination and another route back home.  It was on the route back home that brought the only sad note to the entire trip.

While I was growing up, my family practically spent the entire summer camping/living in a very rustic, deep in the heart of nature resort in Deep Creek, Maryland.  Those summers were some of the best times of my youth.  Every trip, we stopped at a restaurant called the Lone Star.   We were such regulars, the waitresses would recite our beverages as we were seated at a table!  This place had the best fried chicken!

There was nothing special about the place.  It was a large diner along the highway, but the food was good, affordable, and the place was clean, the waitresses friendly, and it was a staple in our summer lives.

It’s been years since I last ate there.  In fact, I don’t think I could tell you when it was that I was last a patron there, but in my mind, it remained the same: same waitresses, same food, same decor.  That is until Steve and I happened to pass it on our way home from vacation.  We passed it and my eyes flew to the giant FOR SALE sign in the parking lot.

I made Steve turn around and go back.  I snapped a few pictures, sighed some heavy sighs, and shed a tear or two.  It sounds silly, I know, but my life has changed so much since the death of my dad that I simply wasn’t prepared to see one more casualty of my childhood.

Life is meant to be ever changing as opposed to stagnant.  It’s meant to be a journey of new places, people, and memories created.  You’re intended to go through it as an ever changing being as well.  However, as we age and lose people in our lives it sometimes becomes difficult to let go of “things” that remind us of simpler times or loved ones.

As I said, it’s not like I frequented the Lone Star, but the loss of it means I can never go back!  Perhaps this is also a good thing.  Everything changes with time.  Perhaps being able to go back…and actually going back…would have been harder.  New waitresses.  New menu items.  New cook.  New tastes.

There’s a saying that you can’t go back home again.  I think this is true.  I think it’s a bittersweet “good” thing that you can’t go back.  Not being able to go back keeps our memories pristine and unchanged by time.  While it is hard to let go of the past–be it people, places, or objects–let go we must.

Until next time, as the weather turns cooler, may you have many memories to wrap around you and leave you with a warmth that touches your heart!



Whoops I’m thinking I didn’t get my blog done last month. Honest I will try to do better. We have had a very busy summer, fairs, camping trips, softbll and a trip to Idaho to see one of our granddaughters … Continue reading

Tech Troubles…Grrrr

I’m a person who likes technology. Sure, it has it’s glitches, but I like computers, tablets, smart phones. They keep me in touch with, well, everyone. And yes, sometimes that constant contact seems overwhelming, but I still like it.

Until these past few months. I’m calling this my “year of repelling technology.” First, my cell service seemed to get worse at our house. So I got a cell booster, which ties into my router for tv, phone, and internet. Then, I started having problems with that router. Spent 3 or so months where I’d be in the middle of sending an email or researching something and bam! The internet would go down for 5 or 10 minutes. Not going to mention any names, but the HUGE company that made me switch routers tried very hard to get me to make that router work before finally admitting that the first iteration of that router (which I had) was very problematic. At that point, I’d suffered long enough, including a 20 hour outage that took out our tv, land line, internet AND cell service.

I decided it was time to unbundle. Thought I’d start with the cell phone, thinking it would be easiest to change carriers. It took me forever, with research and phone calls. And every time I called, I got a different answer to the same question!

Finally got the cell changed over, then it took me another couple of months to get a phone that worked with the new carrier. Anyone heard of unlocked phones? Bought one. Supposed to work. Didn’t.

Anyhow, then came the tv/landline/internet. Kept the BIG GUY company for tv as that’s hubby’s domain and he likes them. Switched over internet and landline from broadband to DSL and 2 months later, started having problems with both. Took another month and about 4 visits from the company, where each time they warned us it the problem was in the house, we’d have to pay for the visits.

So now to my biggest beef and then I’ll finish off with a compliment, both related to customer service. I’m not sure where the adage about the customer always being right went, but it seems to have all but disappeared. It felt like I fought each of these companies as I tried to resolve these issues. I spent hours on the phone and actually argued with the reps I was speaking to. Each one tried to take the easiest way out (for them). Or to make these issues our fault, not theirs. I’m not the most tech savvy person, but I have a lot of good tech instincts and NONE of these problems were ones with our house. It was all their equipment.

However, to finish on a positive note, one company stands out and I will name them. Our new cell phone company, Consumer Cellular, ROCKS. They spent a lot of time with me on the phone trying to get my unlocked phone working. They were the ones who finally figured out the phone wasn’t actually fully unlocked. Every time I’ve called them, they were professional and seemed sincere in their effort to resolve my problem. And we are spending about half of what we were with the old carrier.

Anyhow, to make a long story, well, less long, at this current moment, after months of struggling, I now have our services spread over multiple companies and don’t have a contract with any of them, so can change anytime I want. I have a working television, internet, landline, and cell phone. I’m afraid to cough…


Summer or Fall?

I don’t think the weather here in the Pacific Northwest can make up its mind. It seems like we went from 90 degree heat to 55 degrees with cloudy skies and now back to 80 degree heat. I really do … Continue reading


image-25You are all probably getting tired of my yard but I am so loving it. I still have a long way to go and drool over Kit’s each time she posts a picture.

I have always loved Begonia’s and this year for the first time — ever, I planted them.

I was surprised to find that there are over 550 varieties. In fact one article says over 1200. My favorite are the tuberous with the larger blooms. I love the vibrant colors.

Begonia’s have been around for awhile. The first documentation was by a Franciscan monk, who found fibrous begonias in Brazil in 1690.

Like so many of our modern day plants/flowers they have a medicinal history. In China they were used as a disinfectant for wounds, stop swelling, ease colds and upset stomachs. In other areas of the world the sap was used for toothaches or to cure kidney ailments. The flowers were used to ease burns.

Again, our modern day garden flowers and plants have a history as a food. Some species leaves were cooked or eaten raw with the flowers. Tuberous begonia stems have a similar texture and flavor as rhubarb. In some countries they are used to make sauce for fish dishes. The flowers are used in salads. I’m thinking that would be a colorful addition to the table. It’s said the Chinese make cheese with the milk curdling sap. They are a good souces of vitamin C and were used to prevent scurvy when citrus fruits weren’t available.

For me, I’m just going to enjoy them. Maybe try to save the tubers, but if not it will be an annual purchase for my garden.