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January 31, 2017

Where did January go?

We’ve (finally!) enjoyed sunshine the last few days –

It’s been WONDERFUL!!

I’m still under lots of activity restrictions, but I did manage to enjoy a long walk at the beach.

Newport Beach – Crystal Cove State Park

The ocean was very aqua-ish and super sparkley.

The sky was clear and it was a fantastic day.

I took my camera with the idea I might be able to operate it 100% with my left arm/hand.

(See the above photo.)

But, it didn’t work very well at all … I was only able to take a small number of photos.

I got very frustrated.

I’m impatient to get my life back,

But, I’m not going to risk undoing/damaging Surgery #12.

I’ll have to wait.

Paul Newman said it’s a good thing my arm is still painful because it forces me not to do what I’m not supposed to do.

(That makes sense – really, it does!)

In other news, Fred and Frank got baths over the weekend.

Wet Newfies are happy Newfies!

They both look very handsome now that they’ve been blown dry and brushed thoroughly.

Today, I’m finishing up a care package for a friend in Australia.

It started as one item to ship to her, and it’s become multiple things over the last week or so.

I also hope to get some outdoor time to enjoy the nice weather.

I can’t even express how happy sunshine makes me!

I don’t think I could ever live anywhere else ….

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Thursday, January 26, 2017

Sorry, this is going up so late.

I’ve had an unusual week.

I’ve been “home alone” … completely alone (without Fred and Frank!) all week.

You’d think I’d have MORE time for blogging, but instead I’ve used the time to focus almost entirely on some classes I’m taking.

I’ve found myself falling behind and I wanted to get caught up without distractions/interruptions.

My giant (!!) companions came home this morning and it’s been a flurry of fluff, cuddles, and kisses.

Frank greeted me with ecstatic puppy exuberance.

Fred …?

Well, Fred glued himself to me and proceeded to “talk” to me for ages.

(He does this … not barking, but verbally expressing himself – at length – in a manner I’ve never heard a dog do.)

It was very clear from his tone of voice, he was complaining about being separated from me.

Afterall, it’s his job to take care of me and he knows it!

I’d love to videotape Fred having a serious talk with me sometime,

But it’s hard to predict when he’ll start talking.

I never seem to be prepared to video it when he does.

You might be wondering why Frank and Fred were away.

My newly operated arm needed a few days of no activity at all so they went to “camp.”

I felt terrible about it, but I knew they were in good hands with people who love them.

I also knew my hope of healing as quickly as possible demanded a few days of total arm rest.

A few days of being away = a quicker return to Newfie adventures with me.

Now that they’re home, I still need to be exceedingly careful with dog activities and care …

But, hopefully my arm has had time to “calm down” and my body will be able to handle it.

My heart is happy to have them here with me where they belong.

After giving me a long, happy, greeting we played for awhile.

Now they’ve both fallen asleep.

They’re SO happy to be home … and exhausted from their adventures at camp.

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Let’s Talk About Kindness

I avoid politics on social media.

I do so for two reasons.

First, I don’t think there’s a person in the world who has ever changed their political opinion by reading someone’s update on Facebook and/or Twitter.

Second, I have friends and family members who I value greatly of all different backgrounds and political beliefs and I do my best not to offend/alienate any of them.

Let’s be honest – we have a problem in our country right now.

In my entire twenty four years (ahem!), I’ve never seen so much anger/hatred/divisiveness.

The U.S. has just experienced the most negative/hate-filled/disgusting political campaign in our history.

Yes, we did have a politician take campaign rhetoric to a new low …. but many, many, people responded positively to that hatred.

We need to look in the mirror and ask ourselves why?

I’ve spent a LOT of time thinking about why people now feel they’re RIGHT (and therefore a GOOD person) and anyone who thinks differently is WRONG (and therefore a BAD person.)

I believe there are several reasons why we’re seeing this in our society right now, but more importantly it’s up to EACH ONE OF US to make changes in ourselves so the hatred can stop.

There are now news channels/news outlets for every opinion.

People hear their own opinion echoed back to them repeatedly, and when they hear the echo they *know* they must be “right.”

If we weren’t listening to the media of our particular bias,

If we weren’t on social media having our friends echo back to us our own beliefs what would we be doing?

Probably, living our lives in more productive ways than being filled with extreme hate towards “the other side.”

We live in a republic where our constitution gives us many rights.

It’s NEVER okay to vilify someone for exercising those rights.

If you don’t like what someone says with their freedom of speech, don’t listen.

But, guess what?

You should also be respectful just like you would want someone to be towards you.

You don’t like it when you see people are protesting?

Too bad, they have a right to do so.

You should be respectful because someday it might be you.

Instead of blaming, condemning, making rude/ignorant comments ….

BE THE CHANGE OUR COUNTRY NEEDS.

Why don’t you really try listening instead?

And when you listen, open your heart and experience empathy for a life and situation that is not yours.

You might not agree with what you hear, but you might also grow as a human being in the process.

Understanding, and I mean *true understanding*, of another person is never a bad thing.

Why not give that person you don’t agree with the benefit of the doubt?

Maybe they misspoke and you’re taking their words out of context.

Maybe they had something happen to them in their life ….

Something you can’t even imagine that created a belief system very different than yours.

If you have strong political beliefs, that’s great – become politically active in your community, etc.

DO SOMETHING …. don’t just talk about it.

It really comes back to the most basic thing we all learned as children,

Treat others the way you wish to be treated.

And, if you don’t have anything nice to say about/to someone,

Don’t say anything at all.

Or, should I rephrase that to say,

“If you can’t post nice, positive, things on social media please don’t post anything at all.”

Look in the mirror – please.

Can you do better?

Can you BE better?

Let’s all give it a try ….

We can make the world a better place one person at a time.

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Becoming A Pot Head

This year, on Black Friday, approximately a quarter million Instant Pots were sold.

A quarter million!!

(If you don’t know what an Instant Pot is you can see my previous post by clicking here.)

Cookware companies are attempting to copy the Instant Pot as fast as they can, but Instant Pot continues to be the most popular brand.

My arm surgery was just three weeks ago so cooking is nearly impossible for me right now.

But, yesterday I cooked a few “staples” in my Instant Pot to help me get through the next week.

First, I cooked a batch of steel cut oats.  (1 cup steel cut oats, 3 cups water – 10 minutes high pressure, NR.)

I don’t *always* have steel cut oats in the fridge, but it’s nice to have a batch of them made fairly frequently.

It’s so easy to add some milk, warm them up in the microwave, and get out of the house quickly in the morning.

It doesn’t take any “arm power” and it’s a healthy meal.

Yesterday, I also made “perfect” hard boiled eggs to keep handy for snacks, salads, egg salad sandwiches, deviled eggs – whatever.

(Perfect hard boiled eggs: As many large eggs as you want in a steaming basket and/or on a trivet.  1 cup water, 2 minutes HP, 10 minutes NR, followed by ice bath.  Eggs will be “ringless” and peel easier than any hard boiled egg you’ve ever peeled.  Time may vary based on altitude.)

After the eggs, I cooked a whole chicken.  (Yesterday, I cooked mine in wine, but I’ve also used beer, chicken broth, water, etc.  (6 minutes per pound plus 2 additional minutes, HP, NR)

I like to cook whole chickens because I can shred the chicken for tacos, burritos, use it cubed in stir fries, salads, etc., etc.

I also have two Newfies who coming running when they see I’m cooking a whole chicken.

They get some of it mixed in with their food.  (Spoiled!)

I’ve been very limited lately because I can’t use my arm to chop, stir, etc.

But, here are ten other things I’ve made (so easily!) in my Instant Pot!

  1.  Macaroni and Cheese – This isn’t something I normally cook, but I made it when my family was here for the holidays.  It was so easy and fast. You can dress it up or down depending on the cheese/s you use and/or what you decide to add into it.  Once it was done, I topped it with some panko bread crumbs and put it under the broiler for 1-2 minutes …. delicious!
  2. Soup – I’m The Queen of Soup.  I love making soups in the fall and winter. I always, always, use homemade stock which is the key to excellent soup. Making stock/broth/bone broth is SO much easier and faster with an Instant Pot.  And, I can make a big pot of it, divide it into individual portions and freeze them for later use.  Long day?  Just reheat some homemade soup at the end of the day!  Honestly, I can throw stuff in my Instant Pot and come back later.  It’s ideal.
  3. Cheesecake – Yes, I really did make an Oreo cheesecake in my Instant Pot over the holidays.  My family is still raving about it.  It was so easy, came out perfectly, and you know what I really loved?  It was a small cheesecake.  I used a 7 inch pan so it would fit in the Instant Pot.  Once it was gone, it was gone … no tempting leftovers and I didn’t end up having to throw away half of a cheesecake because there was so much leftover.  The key to a successful cheesecake?  Letting the ingredients get to room temperature …. and that means leaving them out of the fridge for several hours before blending them.
  4. Yogurt – Okay, I thought this was a weird one until I made it myself.  Why were all the Pot Heads raving about making their own yogurt?  Yogurt is not very expensive to buy and there are several excellent brands on the market.  Making your own yogurt only saves you a few pennies per serving, so why all the fuss?  It’s because homemade yogurt is so much better than even the best store bought yogurt.  And, you can control the tanginess.  If you’re cutting calories and want to substitute yogurt for sour cream you can make yogurt that is creamy in texture but with almost no yogurt “tang.” Likewise, if you love tangy yogurt – you can make it to taste.  I’ve made greek yogurt without any toppings, but it would be super easy to make a fresh fruit compote if you desire it.
  5. Rice, Potatoes, Squash – all done perfectly in a fraction of the “normal” cooking time.  (It’s easy to mash the squash/potatoes after cooking, too!)
  6. Perfect Artichokes – in 14 minutes.  (And, I do mean perfect!)
  7. Lobster/Crab/Shellfish – I made a shellfish medley while my son was home. So easy, so fast – and perfectly cooked.
  8. “Baked” apples/pears – Sprinkled with cinnamon and perhaps a pinch of brown sugar, served as dessert. (8 min HP, NR)
  9. Teriyaki Salmon – This might be my family’s favorite dish so far.  The salmon came out so tender, so moist … and it only took 7 minutes to make.
  10. Beef Stew – My boys love beef stew but it has to cook for hours (so long!) for the meat to get the falling-apart-tenderness it needs.  In my Instant Pot, it only took 45 minutes and it was just as good … probably better, than if I’d made it in a traditional way.

Clearly, I’m very enthusiastic about my Instant Pot.

As my arm heals, and gets stronger, I’ll be able to become more adventurous with my Instant Pot cooking.

Do you have an Instant Pot yet?

And if so, what is your favorite dish to cook in it?

Or, if you have several favorites, what are they?

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January 19, 2017

As you’re reading this, I’m hunkered down in what is expected to be a gigantic storm.

I realize a “gigantic storm” in Southern California is probably not *that big* of a storm for most parts of the world.

But, we aren’t really set up for weather here.

When we do get storms they’re A BIG DEAL.

Storms with Fred and Frank are … interesting.

Newfs LOVE cold, wet, stormy weather.

It’s impossible to get them to stay inside because their hearts are filled with glee when we have rain.

They run around in the backyard, in the pouring rain, playing happily.

When they get tired, they want to just lay down with the rain pouring on them.

I put large beach towels down inside my backdoor to absorb some of the rain water they bring in with them.

I keep other beach towels handy for drying them.

(Newfies have water resistant coats so rain doesn’t soak through to their skin.  Once they’re toweled off they’re almost completely dry.)

The house does smell of wet dogs though, so I light candles in an effort to disguise The Wet Dog Smell.

I tried to get a lot of errands done prior to the storm’s arrival.

Today, I’ll be doing “house things” like organizing some of my new Penzeys spices, and “batch cooking” a few things in my Instant Pot.

(I love Penzeys, by the way!)

I’ll have candles burning, a cup of tea, a fire in the fireplace, soaking wet Newfies playing in the rain ….

A cozy day.

I hope to get a little time to paint, too.

I recently purchased the most ginormous watercolor palette I’ve ever seen.

It’s on a lazy susan type carousel.

Currently, I have my various watercolors in different tins and palettes which makes it very difficult to see exactly what I have.

It may take me forever to get my new palette set up, but I expect it to make painting much simpler once it’s done.

Guess what?

A woman saw me sketching in a journal/art book the other day and stopped to inquire what I was doing.

I was embarrassed, but she was very persistent and requested to see more of my drawings.

I was, quite honestly, fairly humiliated as I turned a few pages in my book.

I play with art because it’s fun – I’m NOT an artist.

BUT AFTER LOOKING AT MY BOOK, SHE ASKED IF SHE COULD COMMISSION ME TO DO A SET OF “GIRLS” FOR HER HOME.

Say WHAT??

Isn’t that the craziest thing ever?

(Yes, yes it is!!)

Oh, and by “girls” she meant my girl faces.

Lately, I’ve been making them with “Orange County lips” which the Inquiring Woman loved.

Here’s a Lip Girl I painted rather quickly one night … she has one collaged on eye.

A hastily drawn Lip Girl.

Inquiring Woman said she’d like a set of four girls for her home.

(Of course, I will paint them on much better quality paper than the above sketchbook.  Also, they will not be as haphazard as the above sketch.)

MY LIFE IS CRAZILY ABSURD SOMETIMES!!

P.S.  In anticipation of the storm, I bought Fred and Frank HUGE (buffalo) marrow bones. I’m going to let them have them later today – they’ll be so surprised and so happy!

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January 17, 2017

Sorry I’ve been MIA …

I’ve been having some technical problems with my blog, but I think/hope I finally figured out how to fix it.

I’m definitely not good with computer coding.

Today marks three weeks since Surgery #12 and I’m beginning to feel more human.

Last week was a little rough.

In typical Suzanne fashion, I tried to carry on like Super Woman and my newly sliced-open arm did not like it.

(I think I had a strong case of denial regarding this latest surgery.  I was determined to pretend it didn’t happen.)

But, enough pain will make anyone stop in their tracks, even me.

(Also, a scolding from Paul Newman!!)

Anyway, I think I learned my lesson.

I’ve backed off of doing everything and anything I can avoid doing.

And, I’ve committed to continue doing as little as possible –

At least until I hit the six week post-surgery point.

I got good news and bad news when I saw the surgeon last week.

Everything went well with the surgery and he expects it to be a successful final surgery for my arm.

The bad news is:

  • He did more “bone work” than anticipated and that causes more pain the first few weeks.
  • I’m not allowed to shoot until I hit the 5 month point.
  • If I should fall anytime in the next year, I’m at high risk of blowing out the entire surgery – and they would most likely not be able to repair the damage.

I’ll wait a few weeks and then check back with the doc and see if maybe I can use one of my smaller cameras sometime soon.

It never hurts to ask …!

(I think I can hear Paul Newman’s exasperation through the airwaves right now??)

My youngest son has returned to college so I’m now left with just my two, lovable, giant, Newfs.

Fred is (as always!) my constant, loyal, companion and caretaker.

Frank is getting much sweeter and slightly less mischievous as he matures.

(At nine months old, Frank learned to push the ice maker on my refrigerator door. He loves ice cubes, and now makes ice for himself whenever he wants it.)

Yesterday, prior to PT, I finally had time to make Christmas gift exchanges/returns.

(Don’t judge …. I’m using the surgery as my excuse!)

It was such a little thing, but it was so nice to step back into real life.

I have a million things I want to do right now, but I’m trying to focus on what I CAN do.

Each day, I’ll hopefully be able to take on just a little bit more.

Technology willing, I’ll get an updated Instant Pot post up this week.

I’ve had several people make inquiries about mine and/or about recipe ideas for Instant Pots they’ve purchased since reading my post.

Well, that’s all I’m going to write for now.

I’ll schedule this to publish, cross my fingers and hope my blog repairs worked, and hopefully have more posts for you very soon.

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January 9th 2017

I’m in L.A. today for my post-op visit.

I’m looking forward to getting my stitches out and finding out from my surgeon what I’m allowed to do (or not do?) in upcoming weeks.

My arm still hurts quite a bit.

Hopefully, that will begin lessening soon since tomorrow will mark two weeks since the surgery.

Weather reports were saying today will be the worst storm in a decade for California.

Southern California freeways don’t move even if there’s a SLIGHT rain shower.

I imagine it might be a 12 hour round trip to and from L.A. today if weather predictions are accurate?

Ugh!

My college-aged son will be home for one more week on break.

He’s been a great help post-surgery.

In case you missed it on social media, here’s a photo of 10 month old puppy Frank trying to be a lap dog.

Puppy Frank is looking towards me as I tell him he’s too big to sit on laps.

Frank is quite a bit smaller than Fred.

Neither of the Newfs have any idea of their own size.

Both Fred and Frank have been very sweet during my recovery.

They make me laugh several times a day, and laughter truly is the best medicine.

My life continues to be slow paced as I “recover” from surgery.

My son has been helping me do a lot of cooking.

(He pushes the grocery cart, helps chop, lift, stir, and other arm-intensive activities.)

Our weather has been much cooler than normal SoCal winters.

Cooler weather makes me feel like cooking.

It’s been a fun activity to do with my son, and it’s great because what 20 year old male doesn’t love to eat?

I’ve signed up for three online art classes.

I’m sure they’ll keep me entertained until I can be more active.

(I already take an ongoing course through Courtney Diaz’s patreon account – I just love her!)

I’ll probably begin the other classes this week, but I don’t think I’ll spend much time on them until after my son departs.

I’m expecting a return to physical therapy this week also.

I’m pretty sure I’ve spent more time at physical therapy than any other ONE place over the last ten years.

Oh well, everyone needs a second home …. right?

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Hello 2017!

Hello, hello!

I hope everyone had a nice holiday season.

Most of my family and guests departed yesterday.

I’m one week out from Surgery #12.

I’m so glad I got the surgery over with in 2016, because it just feels better going into a new year knowing it’s over and done with.

I think (?) I’m six days away from my post-op visit when I should be cleared to re-enter real life.

(That means I’m about eight days away from returning to PT.)

I have a three inch incision in my elbow and what looks to be a zillion stitches putting me back together.

My surgeon confirmed I had a really messed up elbow.

(It’s amazing how I knew that without ever seeing inside my arm???)

I’m not taking any pain pills but yes, it does hurt.

My life is fairly boring right now …

I drove my car yesterday for the first time since my surgery.

I only took pain meds for the first two days so I figured it was safe to drive.

But, the vibration/jostling of the car hurt quite a bit, so I’ll probably try to drive as little as possible for as long as possible.

The day prior to my surgery I went to see Cavalia.

I went in with an expectation of what I thought the show would be like, and it was very different from what I expected.

I enjoyed it, it was beautiful … but, I think making the show a bit shorter would enhance it.

(I felt like a few parts were redundant and/or a bit too slow paced.)

Overall, however, I was glad I had the opportunity to go.

I’ve been very busy with a house full of people.

I did SO MUCH cooking prior to my surgery.

(I can’t even express how much I love my Instant Pot.  It has made life so much easier!)

In fact, I’ve already returned to cooking in it post-surgery …. but, so far I’ve just made very easy not-arm-intensive stuff …. two minute hard boiled eggs, seven minute steel cut oats, a whole chicken in 24 minutes, etc., etc.

Like most people, I fell off the healthy-eating-bandwagon for a few days over the holidays.

But, I’m back to eating very healthy foods with the hope good nutrition will help me heal faster.

I’ve watched several movies at home in the evenings lately … if you have any movie suggestions I’d love to hear them.

(Most recently I’ve watched Boyhood, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (my son had never seen it), Sully, The Accountant, all episodes of West World.)

I also read A Dog’s Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron – a gift I received for Christmas.

(It made me cry … more than once.  My family laughed at me!)

One night, a friend brought over a board game called Secret Hitler.

I did my best to stay awake until Hitler had been assassinated.

(I’ve been sleeping a lot since Surgery #12 …!)

We’re having an unusually cold winter here.

It’s been in the 50-60’s F.   (12-20C)

I guess it was a good time to have surgery …. I can just hunker down until I get cleared for a little more activity.

I’ve signed up for a few online art classes so I don’t lose my mind from boredom.

I’m not sure how long it will be until I’m allowed to hold my camera again ….?

Thank goodness my twelfth surgery is my last.

(I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence?  My life is so not normal!!)

I can’t wait to get a semblance of a real life back again!!

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Surgery #12

Update:

I had Surgery #12 on Tuesday.

I opted NOT to spend the night in the hospital.

My arm is in a soft cast type thing and it’s very big.

I can’t use my right hand at all which sucks because I’m right handed.

My pain level is very high, but that should get better each day?

I’m sleeping a lot because DRUGS.

I’ll update again when I can.

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December 14, 2016

Hello, hello!

I’m completely failing at year-end blogging.

I apologize, but with family visiting, the holiday rush, etc., I keep finding myself a few hours short each day.

Beautiful Maui, Hawaii sunset.

I stopped in today primarily just to let everyone know I’m FINE.

I will try to pop in with a post or photo now and then before 2017 arrives,

But, at the same time, NO PROMISES.

Christmas is in 11 days and my surgery is in 13.

Family is visiting … and more and more guests will be arriving/visiting all the way through mid-January.

(!!!!)

When/if I get a break in the action I’ll try to find some alone time to write.

But, if I don’t show up here, I want to wish you all a great holiday season.

As you know, 2016 was The Worst Year Ever for me.

Seriously, 2016 kicked my ass.

I’m so glad it will soon be behind me.

I don’t know how soon I’ll be able to post after Surgery #12.

I’ll probably dictate a post to my laptop to let you know I’m back home and recovering.

(I don’t think I’ll be able to type/write/use my hand/arm for quite awhile.)

Paul Newman tells me it’s a “big surgery” and I know, like many tendon surgeries, it will be a long, slow, recovery.

BUT …

2017 will be a much better year – I just KNOW it.

Also, I’m working on some goals for 2017 and being a much better blogger is definitely one of them.

I appreciate every single reader who has stuck with me through the challenges I’ve had this last year.

I hope all of you have a beautiful, wonderful, special holiday season.

Much love always …. Suzanne  xo