March Happenings, cooking, gardening, and dehydrating foods, and new things I am doing

My newest venture seemed to have just happened automatically and I guess it’s the new direction my life seems to be taking. In my previous story, January and February Happenings, I wrote about making food for my neighbors that don’t cook, and about all the new things I bought to make it more convenient for me to cook my own foods from scratch. Not only does everything I eat taste better, but it’s more natural and I know exactly what is in my food. There are no hidden chemicals or ingredients or ones not necessary, like preservatives so that the shelf life can be months or years.

I was at Aldi in February and they had food dehydrators on sale and I was wanting one for a while. When I am in Texas visiting my friends they have a garden and fruit trees and I prepare their fruit and vegetables and put them in their dehydrator. I decided to buy this small dehydrator, and as always when I do something, I get carried away. I usually don’t do moderation very well. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing!!! This is not always a good motto. It’s why I have way to many things… such as beads for my jewelry, paints and other craft items, cookware, food items, etc.

I bought lots of different fruits and also some Roma tomatoes and I dried them. It’s been a lot of work, but the rewards are great. I can now eat fruit. Because of my illeostomy I am limited to what I can eat. I can’t eat a lot of fiber. So, if I want to eat fruit I can only have a little, then if I put it in the fridge I sometimes forget about it, or don’t eat it fast enough and it goes bad and I have to throw it away. Now, by drying the fruit I can eat a piece or two or even more of dried fruit. I have to be careful to chew it well and drink lots of water, but it’s still a treat to eat a slice of mango, or a pear, etc.

At the craft show there was a lady across from my booth that was selling jams. She told me that I could sell my dried fruit legally under the Cottage Industry Law which is legal in Florida and other states. I have a lot of different types of fruit already dry that I have done in the past 3 weeks. After looking at the website for Florida Cottage Industry requirements, I asked my friend Deb to help me create labels for my fruit and we did it together yesterday. Deb is so creative and we had fun creating these lovely labels which fit perfectly on the snack size baggies I put my fruit in. It’s amazing how much liquid is in fruit and the amount of weight that is lost by evaporation. The reason I decided to dry my own fruit and some vegetables is when I went to buy some at the stores, the ingredients list the fruit, but also sugar, oil, preservatives, salt, and other things. I just want fruit. My dried fruit is only fruit, nothing else.

So, I decided since I have so much more fruit dried than I can eat, I will sell some if anyone wants to buy it. The flavor of the fruit is so intense because it’s concentrated. My next project will be to try drying vegetables other than tomatoes which I think are considered a fruit. I have dried mushrooms, sweet peppers, and some of my herbs, but I still want to dry other items. Also, as different fruits are in season I will add them to my list of fruits to dry. Right now, other than Roma tomatoes, I have bananas, red pears, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, blood oranges, Meyer’s lemons, pineapple, apples, lemons, and I am making some pasta to sell. Fresh pasta, or even my dried pasta tastes so much better than hard store bought pasta.

Sadly, most of the blueberries I dehydrated evidently were not dry enough when I packaged them and they started to smell fermented and got some white mold on them. I dried them for about 4 days and they felt dry to me. I guess there is something different about blueberries than the other fruit I dried. I was sad this happened to the blueberries because they are one of my favorite fruits and one that I use often to bake with. I still have some in the freezer. Also, I spent quite a bit of money on them. I will not throw them away, I will grind them with some water in my Vitamix and use them as compost in my garden like I do with all of the other peels and skins from the fruit.

I try to utilize everything and minimize waste. When I boil potatoes I use the potato water in bread, soups, or stews, etc.  The peels and skins that are flavorable such as pears, apples, mangoes, pineapples, etc. I boil with some sugar and add some fruit slices and cut up whatever fruit I can and boil it again with some lemon juice and more sugar and make a jam. The unusable parts like the skins and seeds I pulverize in my Vitamix and use as compost in the garden. The tops of the pineapples, the mango seeds, and citrus seeds get planted in the garden. So far we have 2 pineapple tops growing and several citrus seeds sprouting. I am working on getting some potatoes, ginger, and more tumeric to sprout so they can be planted. I saw several You Tube videos on growing potatoes and it seems easy enough to grow in small areas which is what I have for a garden. They can also be planted in containers. It will take quite a few months to grow once planted, but I think it will be well worth it. I will write about how it is working in a few months as this experiment progresses.

Since I am cooking more, and freezing portions of food for myself to eat later on, instead of putting the portions of food in freezer bags where it drys out if I don’t eat it quickly, I am using my Food Saver machine to freeze the portions of food. I just stocked up on more Food Saver bags so I don’t run out. It’s nice to take something out of the freezer at the last minute, put it in boiling water, since I don’t have a microwave, and in about 15 or 20 minutes I have hot food that tastes like I just made it. And now I am not throwing away food because it’s freezer burnt. My Food Saver machine is quite a few years old but it still works. I know there are some with newer features but since mine is still working fine I can’t justify purchasing a new one. I would like one that is more compact but for now I am fine with the one I have. For example, last night I didn’t want to cook because I had spent the past few hours baking chocolate chip cookies and chocolate chocolate chip cheesecake cupcakes. So, I went to the freezer and took out a portion of lasagna and put in a pot of boiling water, in about 15 minutes I had a hot dinner that tasted like it was just made and I toasted some of the rye bread I made the other day in my air fryer, and without having to cook, I had a great dinner!!!

Sometimes when I substitute items when baking it comes out okay, and other times… not so much. Yesterday I decided to make one of my favorite treats… chocolate, chocolate chip cheesecake cupcakes. I use the recipe on Handle the Heat website, they also have a recipe using peanut butter but I haven’t tried that one yet. I like to make them in mini muffin pans and freeze them in baggies so I can eat them when my sweet tooth wants chocolate treats. When I make these cupcakes, I fill the cupcake pan about 2/3 or 3/4 full and then spoon a little cheesecake filling in each cup. I don’t fill it half way and top the filling with more batter like the recipe says, and I don’t add more chocolate on top. I put mini chocolate chips in the cheesecake filling and between the chocolate cake and chocolate chips in the filling I don’t need more chocolate or sugar on top.

I have quite a bit of chocolate bark left from another project so I thought instead of using chocolate chips for the chocolate in the cupcake, I would use the chocolate bark. I didn’t give it much thought, I just did it at the spur of the moment. It wasn’t until I went to take the cupcakes out of the mini muffin pan that I realized that I should have either used more nonstick spray in the pans or added a bit of oil to the batter. Usually, my cupcakes come out of the muffin pan easily, this time they didn’t. I started thinking about why they were sticking and I realized that the chocolate chips probably have more oil or something similar than the chocolate bark does because even though the muffins still tasted really good, they were a little bit dryer and more difficult to get out of the pan. I used a plastic knife to go around the inside edge of the muffin cup so that I wouldn’t scratch my muffin pan. If I use chocolate bark again I know to adjust the recipe or grease the pan more.

I have written several times over the past few years about the medical alert bracelet that I wear from a company called ID ON ME. It’s the best medical alert, or ID bracelet or tag, that I have found. It’s not engraved, it has a compartment that holds a piece of strong, non-tear type paper that has room to write lots of information. I put my name, my doctors contact info, my medical condition, medicine, allergies, contact info in case of emergency, my funeral arrangements, etc. on the paper. This way if anything unexpected happens all the important info is handy.

Personal or Medical ID BraceletMedical ID Bracelets

I bought some to give as gifts to friends who have medical conditions and should wear one. In fact, even if I didn’t have a medical condition, I would wear the ID one. I have a habit of walking and not taking any ID with me. Or if I am at the gym or somewhere and something unexpected happened no one would know who I was maybe, or who to contact. This way I have important info on me whenever I am away from home. I am not getting any perks or paid for posting this information, I feel strongly that we need to be prepared for the unexpected. After spending many hours looking for a bracelet that would hold the information I wanted on me, I came upon this site.

For about 10 years I have been wearing these wonderful Kudu Klip hair accessories to keep my hair up and still look beautiful. I saw them at a craft show about 10 years ago and bought two of them. Over the years I have purchased many more and also gifted them to friends who have long hair. The past three years I have been helping Patti in her booth when she is at a nearby craft show. Patti’s husband designed and makes these hair accessories by hand. I absolutely love wearing them and they stay in my hair all day, including through an hour or two of cardio exercise. Another nice thing about Kudu Klips is that a portion of their sales goes to Build On Hope which supports charitable causes such as building and supporting schools and orphanages, anti-poaching, and similar causes in South Africa and other countries. Patti’s husband Tiny is from South Africa. You can read more about Build On here.

Patti was in a neighboring city a few weeks ago and once again I loved helping her in her booth and introducing people to this wonderful hair accessory. It was great to see the smile on a woman’s face when she realized how wonderful this is to wear and how easy it is to use, and it’s also comfortable. We can adjust how tight or loose we want the Kudu Klip to be in our hair. I make it a bit more snug when I am at the gym then when I am at home relaxing or cooking. There are always some new designs, and it seems every year I get a few new ones to add to my collection which is now up to 18 Kudu Klips. I change them to match my clothes, and by not wearing the same one every day they last longer. I also have a nice selection to sell because every now and then someone asks me what is in my hair and how to buy one. It’s nice to have them on hand so that I can help women look nice and keep their hair up in something attractive, rather than a pony tail scrunchie or one of those hard plastic claws.

The Kudu Klip is flush against the back of our head so it’s more comfortable to wear and sit in a chair to watch TV or a movie, or even sitting in the seat in the car. When I am inside my apartment, I don’t realize how many gray hairs I have. However, when I am outside like helping Patti and I look in the mirror to fix my hair, I see how gray my hair is. A few years ago, one of my friends who is a hairdresser told me I should dye my hair. I thanked her and told her that I want it to be natural, no dye, and that I have earned each one of these gray hairs. A week or so ago, I was outside of my apartment and I had just washed my hair and had it down to finish drying. A neighbor saw me and said this is the first time she has seen me with my hair down… and she has lived in the same building as me for a year. I am in four of the photos below, not the ones with red hair. The pictures of the 18 Kudu Klips are the ones I own.

2016-03-21 13.16.17 2016-03-22 09.51.13 kudu klip kudu

Also, any products I mention in this post that I am using, is only my opinion, I did not receive any products from any company, nor was I asked to review anything. I like to cook and those of you reading my posts are mostly my friends and you like to know what I am doing and what I’ve been up to. And you know I would never compromise my integrity and write something that I didn’t fully believe in.

This reminds me that in the past I have written several stories and posts that I have not repeated. One of the important ones is called… Seriously, Really, You would rather be an Ostrich. This is about the importance of having your legal and medical documents finalized so in the event that something unexpected happens your family and/or friends knows your wishes or plans you have made. We never know when something can happen, we hear about it almost daily. After I added the Ostrich post two of my friends told me that they discussed what they and their spouse wanted in the event of something happening. Unfortunately, a couple of years later, for one of them, her spouse died during the night from an asthma attack. Because they had discussed this a while ago she knew his wishes and was able to finalize arrangements like he wanted.

If you read the story you will read about how my mother didn’t want to talk about death or something happening, I guess she thought of it as a jinx. Like when I wrote my will she took it as I am dying, and I said that I want to have my wishes in writing for when the time comes. Anyway, one of her friends died unexpectedly without any plans or funeral arrangements and her family had to scramble in their grief to finalize arrangements and guess what she would have liked. My mother then decided to make arrangements. It came in handy when unexpectedly two years ago after a hospital stay, my mother died and it was easier on my brother, sister, and me that her funeral arrangements were done and we knew what she wanted done as far as other arrangements and a service.

I also posted several stories that you can search for using words like Lois, or Inspirational poems and stories, Dr. Seuss, Foodscapes, The Real Story of The Three Little Pigs. I retired in June 2011 and began my first annual long journey. I got from south Florida to North Washington State. I drove about 12,000 miles on this almost 6 month journey. I had so many amazing experiences and adventures, and I got to explore many National Parks. If you start in June 2011 and then continue to go to the Next Page you can read about this amazing experience. I also have a Travel Map tab for every year showing the primary route I took on the trip for that year. Before Google changed from Picasa to Google Photos I was able to have a link so you could see all of my photo albums which number over 150, however, when they changed to Google Photos, I am no longer able to provide a link to all of my albums, now a link is in each story that has an album. This is not my preference because it’s nice to just look at the albums. I can’t provide a secure link to the albums now due to Google’s change in their album and photo posting.

The Foodscapes website by artist Carl Warner is absolutely amazing!!! I came across it by accident several years ago. Carl Warner the Artist has other pictures on this page. There are several tabs with different uses of his talents. There were, hopefully still are, stories on his website about how they make the foodscapes. They have to be in a very cold room creating these amazing scenes due to the fact that they are working with real food and it needs to be at various temperatures to stay fresh and be usable. When you get a chance, check out this website, you might be amazed like I was. Look closely at the pictures and see which foods and/or body parts you can identify, or what you weren’t able to identify. I don’t know if it’s still on his website, but a few years ago there was a picture and what looked like the sea was really a lot of fish laid side by side and their skin looked like the dark sea, I think it’s the picture below. Some trees were broccoli, potatoes are rocks, and many other foods were used to create these amazing pictures.

For a few years I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles and I posted pictures of most of them. When I looked for the link for the Foodscape story I saw several of the puzzles in that story and until I saw the pictures of the puzzles I forgot how many puzzles I worked on, and some of my friends came over to work on them with me. Healthwise, it was not my best time. I was not doing very well physically and my pain was pretty intense during this time period. I even was in Hospice for a few months. The puzzles gave me something to focus on and to work on when I couldn’t sleep at night, or my pain was intense. Even though 2013 was one of my most challenging years healthwise, it was one that I got closer to God and did many things I would not have done if my health was good. I even had the opportunity to go up in the Goodyear Blimp twice. You can do a search on my website and see the pictures I took from the blimp.

I also met incredible firefighters and was able to donate money to many rural volunteer fire departments around the country, and I even had the wonderful experience to meet several fire chiefs and their firefighters in Georgia and South Carolina. You can search my website for Georgia Fire Fighters and South Carolina to read these stories. I also met so many wonderful people I would not have met otherwise.

In case you are new to my website, here is a brief summary. In 2010 I had four operations between January and August. I have had cancer four times, colon cancer, colon rectal cancer and also skin cancer. After having these what I hope are my last four operations, my body felt the complications of the surgeries and in June 2011 I decided to take early retirement, get in my camper van and travel around the country rather than working for another two years and then hoping I would be able to travel. I am so glad I didn’t wait two years. Physically, it was tough sitting at a desk all day so I decided to retire and enjoy my life and whatever I was physically able to do. A few days after my last day at work in June 2011 I got in my camper and headed north and then west.

I went to AAA and got a map and had a tentative route and places I wanted to go to. I was flexible and didn’t have reservations anywhere so I could let my gypsy spirit wander wherever it wanted to go. If you read my website beginning in June 2011 and advancing forward you can travel with me on this amazing journey. I also have a few stories and albums that were not on this journey since 2011, but previously like Bryce Canyon National Park, Zion National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Glacier National Park which I had the opportunity to visit in 2005, 2006, and 2009. I am so glad I went to those when I did because I was in good health then and could hike many of the trails, even the difficult ones. If I had waited until I retired in 2011 I couldn’t have done that. My activities were limited due to my physical condition and the intense pain I was in. Some days I was okay and could drive and do short hikes, other days I stayed where I was and sometimes cried because I hurt so bad.

Today, thanks to changes in my eating habits, exercising, and my attitude which I feel plays an important part, I feel better, my pain is lessened, and even though I am not making long trips like I did in previous years I feel better and can enjoy life. Every day I have so much to be grateful for, even the physically challenging days. I can always find things to be grateful for no matter what is happening or how I am feeling. If you search my website for the word Lois you will read about this remarkable woman who had a positive significant impact on my life in 1988 and 1989 until she died. She always asked me what I am grateful for. She had 1/3 of a lung and had oxygen and was confined to her bed for the last 6 years of her life. If she laid really still she could breathe most days fairly easily. She would tell me to stand up, take two steps, and say Thank You God, I can walk, talk, and breathe at the same time. It’s hard to not be grateful when a woman in bed on oxygen tells me that, when I can walk, talk, and breathe on my own without oxygen and confined to bed.

In some of my posts I wrote about my health issues. I didn’t want to make it the main focus of my website, I wanted the travels and what I did to be the main focus. However, after a couple of years of traveling after retirement, one of my close friends who also has cancer and several major health issues told me that I need to include my health issues and challenges in my posts to let other people know that even thought there are serious health issues, that many of us can still lead productive and active lives. Yes, we may have to modify or curtail our travels and activities sometimes, but we can still be active and accomplish things. So, I went back and added some wording at the beginning of my stories in 2011 about my health issues and I do write about it every now and then.

It looks like I won’t be going to Albuquerque this year, it’s the same situation as last year. The new volunteer coordinator told me the only way I could get RV hookups and electricity is if I spend 6 weeks working in the RV area. I don’t want to do that for several reasons. Besides some personality issues with the RV people, I wouldn’t have the flexibility or freedom to crew on a balloon, volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Tent, or other events or parties. I would mostly be stuck in a booth registering RVers. Or if I go to do the things I like such as crewing and volunteering, I would have to dry camp for about 2 weeks. I have done that my first 3 years volunteering at Balloon Fiesta and I don’t want to do that again. It’s too hard on me physically. I would have to run my generator to keep my batteries charged so I could have lights, or heat or air conditioning. There is much more to it, but it’s not something I want to drive almost 6,000 miles round trip to do. I guess I need to just be grateful that I was able to achieve completing many items on my bucket list in 2011, one of which was going to the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, and I volunteered there for 6 years. Maybe I will be able to volunteer there again, if not, it’s okay. I also volunteered at a few other balloon events and it was also great fun and wonderful experiences.

So, I am considering going to work at Hurricane Creek Farms in Havana, Florida, about 15 miles north of Tallahassee, like I did last year for two and a half months. Lorri and her parents told me I am always welcome to come back there, and I feel good being there and helping them. I have a few stories I wrote last July through September when I was there at the farm.

As usual, this story is longer than I started it out to be. It seems once I start writing my stories they seem to take on a life of their own, time seems to just happen and I have no concept of how long I am typing. I just looked at the clock and it’s about 4 hours after I started writing this story and adding pictures and finalizing the previous story. I had no idea this post would be this long or include what is written. As I type it seems that stories want to be told and they just get written and I am the instrument that the spirits use for their message to be written. I know that sounds strange. If I hadn’t had so many unexplained situations and God stories happen I would question what I wrote about stories wanting to be told. However, through my experiences I know that unexpectedly things happen, or something that I share is needed to be heard by someone, or something someone shares with me is just what I needed to hear. So, as I wrote this post when the story took a side trip and something wanted to be written about or shared I just went with it and let it have it’s say even though it was not anything I planned to write about.

Well, that being said, I need to go put something up to cook for dinner so I will end this post here. I hope you have a great day and enjoy every moment. I once read… Life each day as if it’s your last, one of these days you are going to be right.  Og Mandino wrote: Here is a test to find out if your mission on Earth is accomplished… If you are still alive it isnt.

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