Ducks and Cranes and Goslings … Oh My – a Sunday Stills Adventure

For Terri’s Sunday Stills let’s have a little feathery fun. My Grandmother called me her Little Feather when I was small, because I danced like a feather in the wind, everywhere I went so I’ve always rather had a thing for feathered friends. My apologies for any repeats, I am sans computer currently, my laptop bit the dust and we’re have trouble with the new replacement. So I’m working off of my cellphone. Yikes 😳


A sord of mallards make themselves right at home. We have a pair that are too old to fly and stay year round. These are younger, seasonal residents. At last count they numbered 23 drake’s. Yep the young whippersnappers are all boys. Figures 😉

Great blue heron at my lake

It was cloudy for this shot, and I don’t seem to have much in the way of photo editing available at the moment, but this Great Blue Heron is a frequent visitor here and he was standing so majestically. Like he was saying “is this my best side”

Our new goslings

Spring is all about life and renewal. We have a single breeding pair of Canadian geese who summer here at our tiny lake. For the past couple of years they have nested here and this year was no exception. I watched intently as they built their floating nest, then about a week ago, both parents started flapping and fussing at the nest site and shortly 7 little puffballs emerged. We watched as they took their first swim and the next day they had found their way to our tree, out of the sun. Sigh … I love little baby things.

A young Robin hopped by to say hello. I referred to them as South Dakota Roadrunners because we so seldom saw them fly. Mostly they just zip along on the grass, pausing to search for a juicy worm.

A bird sculpture at the Rapid City airport. Fitting isn’t it?

Also linking up today to John bo’s cellpicsunday since all of these were taken with my cellphone as I don’t have access to my archives. And Marsha’s #PPAC for the lovely airport sculpture.

Til next time — be kind to each other — JP

Sunday Stills – As Spring Emerges

For Terri’s Sunday Stills where our prompt is “Emerging”

If we were having coffee at Natalie’s weekend coffee share, I’d tell you that we’re spending May emerging from our winter hibernation mode into a much more active Spring mode. Lots of yard work to be done as I recover from a rather nasty autoimmune flare. 😉 Then we’d spend some time reminiscing about Springs past and I’d share some photos and memories. Let’s take a walk around Custer State Park in the Black Hills of South Dakota and see what emerges.

Waiting for the Cliff Swallows to emerge from their nests. They build mud nests under eaves and cliff faces. Here a couple of nests under the eaves at the Wildlife Loop Visitor Center in Custer State Park, Custer South Dakota.

Two humans emerging from a wooded trail are treated to a new perspective of fire damage. In December 2017, 50 mph wind gusts knocked over a telephone pole which sparked and started the Legion Lake Fire. Before it could be contained the fire burned over 54,000 acres of our beloved Custer State Park and sparked several minor fires in the area. This overlook above the once lush valley brought tears to the eye. But the forest will recover, as forests always do bringing more life and restoring balance.

An outstanding reminder that life will always find a way, tiny wild violets emerge from a crack in a huge boulder on Sylvan Lake, Custer, South Dakota.

As we prepare to depart Custer, a wee bitty bunny emerges from the cover of the shrubbery near the parking lot, another reminder that Spring is the season of birth and renewal.

Returning home, I came across this Allium just emerging from it’s bud ready to burst forth in welcome with it’s spectacular purple bloom.

Of course, we couldn’t really emerge from winter into spring without one of these spectacular South Dakota sunrises, taken at Hart Ranch, Rapid City, SD.

That’s it from Castle Serenity this week, til next time

~May the wind be always at your back ~JP

Thoughtful Thursday – May Activities

from my polyvore collection

I am finally starting to feel a little more like myself an so there’s a flurry of activity here at Castle Serenity. I have finally admitted that after 2:30 pm I might just as well pack it in and do crafts or something else not strenuous as the afternoon fatigue bogey zaps me. I had this idea to get myself a surprise box subscription. One of my grandpuppies gets a bark box, the daughter gets a human bark box from FabFitFun and it seemed like a really cool idea. BUT, the thing is I’m not at all sure I’m willing to spend $20 – $75 per month on “stuff” no matter how cool the “stuff” is. I mean, really, I have enough “stuff” more than enough truth be told. So, I have began curating my own activities box where I pick a theme and toss stuff in from my craft stash, my “I’m gonna use this someday” stash and other various “stuff” that I want/need to use up. My challenge is to find something to do with all the items in the box by the end of the month. A peek at May’s activity box:

May color focus – Turquoise/Teal thanks to Terri’s Sunday Stills color challenge for this inspiration.

Floral rubber stamp
coloring pages, flowers and swirls
dream box from mint tin craft, lots of stickers and “Legend of the Dreambox” card
Self love card
“I am Beautiful” sigil card
Mountable photo print
misc. small scrapbook papers
lots of ephemera for journaling
culinary – dried thyme
breathwork exercise card
hair product samples
May treat – Candied Hibiscus Flowers
MP3 album Llewellyn – Moon Spells, several other MP3 songs courtesy of my local library via Freegal
E-books – The Vintage Housekeeper’s Circle by Alison May — from my Kindle Collection

So those are the goodies I’m working with this month. I’ll be working on my reading list, playlist, menu plans, outings and nature based activities soon. So what are your big plans for May? Do you post regular monthly activities? If so leave me a link in the comments and I’ll be sure to check them out.

Til next time ~May your spoons be plentiful ~JP

Sunday Stills and Monday Musings

For Terri’s Sunday Stills Challenge (a bit late)

It’s been a crazy weekend (hence my tardiness) of gardening. Almost have the backyard finished. Ah but JP you say, you live in a townhouse, don’t they take care of the landscape maintenance? Sort of, we have three feet in each direction of our townhomes that are ours to plant as we please (as long as it’s attractive). We moved in in November so I knew there would be work to be done this spring and I was NOT wrong. OK, enough about me, on to photos.

Most of these are from my archives that I thought “black and whited” up pretty well. To quote the song Black and White, “The ink is black, the page is white, together we learn, to read and write.” Black and White was originally written in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson, but topped the charts some 18 years later in 1972 with Three Dog Night’s pop version.

Sunrise on Kauai in black and white

Let’s start off in the land of vibrant color, Hawaii. Here a stunning sunrise on Kauai leached of color. The curls of waves and sea foam give the shot some depth.

Mokolii, Hawaii

Mokolii tiny island of Oahu also known as Chinaman’s Hat for it’s distinctive shape. I like the “old timey” quality the black and white here. Taken from Kualoa Ranch.

Plumeria in Kapaa

This is one shot I didn’t really like as well in black and white. The plumeria is such a beautiful, vibrant flower and although I do quite like the shading caused by the nearly translucent white of the flower, it leaves me kind of eh. Shot from our balcony in Kapaa. Linking this one up for Cee’s FOTD.

Traditional pavilion in Lulin Lake, Mt. Lushan, China

Now on over to Jiujiang, China. Thanks to the foggy day, the above photo didn’t have a great deal of color to begin with, but I think the starkness afforded by the black and white graphic enhances it a bit more. It was windy and I love the tiny ripple effect on the water.

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

Back in the US, here a set of ruins known as Spruce Tree House built by the Anasazi some 800 years ago. The settlement was abandoned about 1300, there is much speculation as to why. Nevertheless, the ancient ones left behind a marvelous legacy of wonder. The ruins were discovered in the 1880’s and plundered until Mesa Verde became a national park in 1906. Once again, I like the stark graphic black and white gives this shot.

Bad Water Basin, Death Valley National Park California

And last, but not least, a shot that’s not black and white but might as well be. I left this photo as is to show the sliver of blue sky that draws just that much more attention to the desolation of the place. Bad Water Basin Salt Flats lies 282 feet below sea level and encompasses 200 square miles.

Black is the absence of color,
combination of all makes white
life is lived somewhere in between
filled with color and light ~JP

My father was color-blind, I used to fetch resistors him which were color-coded, ahhhh but I digress once again, a tale for another time.

a hui hou kakou (until we meet again) ~JP

The Pre Years – a Fandango Flashback Friday Challenge

For Fandango’s Flashback Friday Challenge – a tidbit about life back in 2018, pre-brain surgery, pre-pandemic, pre-hailstorm.

3/18/18 It’s All About Balance

When you’re a spoonie with a family of 2 with chronic and autoimmune diseases, kitchen work can be a considerable challenge. We follow two similar yet different diets at our house. I follow WFPB (Whole Food Plant Based) diet, Superhubs is primarily pescetarian. He eats fish, generally once a day, egg whites as an ingredient and occasionally chicken if we eat out. He’s extremely particular about the type and preparation of fish, hence the occasional chicken and eschews all forms of dairy. We eat LOTS of beans, tofu a couple times per week. Since we are in “travel mode” right now, we eat simple and rather more “packaged” food than we normally would. Today we’re not moving but still follow the same principles. A quick look at our menu for today.

Breakfast: Museli for SH, quick oats for me.

AM snack: SH – 1/2 banana, 1/2 sheet graham cracker, 1/4 cup nuts

Me – 1/2 banana, 1 rice cake

Lunch: Soup with toasted cheese sandwiches, veggie sticks, chips

PM snack: Both – homemade oil-free hummus, crackers, cuties

Dinner: Saag Aloo with chickpea curry

Dessert: Fruit plate, 1/2 spelt muffin w/almond butter (homemade pumpkin butter for me)

As you can see, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. It equates in spoon usage to a part time job. I’ll also do some writing (fiction project) in addition to this and some housework. Trying to figure out how to fit in some exercise since it’s snowing and blowing and too cold outside for my lungs. If the roads clear enough, we may try some “walmart walking” after lunch.

It’s always a challenge, to balance everything, enough rest, enough exercise, nutrition and convenience. The scale moves both ways and every day is different. I tell my yoga learners that balance is not a static thing. Stand in any one leg pose and feel the tiny adjustments your muscles make, especially your feet. Life is like that, balance isn’t something you just find, it’s a thousand tiny adjustments every day that give us the feeling of solidity. Life is always in motion and you have to roll with it. Nowhere is this more true than in the life of a spoonie. A healthy recipe for Saag Aloo (spinach and potatoes) in the slow cooker and a pretty picture for you my friends. Namaste ~oep

Saag Aloo — Serves 2

2 medium to large potatoes, well scrubbed (or peeled if you prefer), any “eyes” or brown spots removed.
1 cup reconstituted broth (I used Better than Bouillon vegetable)
1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons dehydrated onion flakes (or 1/4 Cup chopped onion or 1/2 cup sliced onion if you have it).
1/2 teaspoon each of: cumin, ground corriander, hot chili powder (I use ancho), and graham masala
ground black pepper – a few good shakes

As much spinach slightly torn as you can fit into your slow cooker. Feel free to use a mix of greens, I threw in some collard greens that I needed to use up and a few handfuls of baby spinach. You can add more spinach as it cooks down.


Cut the potatoes into 1 inch or smaller pieces. I, personally do not peel my potatoes, I use organic and the peel is full of nutrients. The smaller the pieces, the quicker it will cook.
Add the broth
Add the spices and onion and stir in.
top with greens, firmer greens on the bottom, spinach on top
Cook on high for 3-5 hours depending on your slow cooker and the size of your potato dice
Add spinach as desired.

There you have it, quick, easy, yummy and slow cooker friendly, especially important on a low spoons day.

My view this morning

street lights cast a blue glow on the snowy branches in Richfield, UT

Til next time ~Duuuuude that’s COLD! ~JP

Mundane Magic Monday — Medicare and Mental Health

It’s been a wacky kind of week. As most of you know, I entered the US Medicare system late last year. I’m also a Spoonie with multi-system Sarcoidosis and a Mental Health Warrior with simple PTSD. It’s been equal parts frustrating and interesting learning the ins and outs of the Medicare Advantage program, but I’m slowly finding my way.

This week, I finally decided address my mental health issues through the allopathic medicine venue. I am just not recovering from the PTSD episode, I’m better, but I’m not back to myself. Could be my age limits my ability to “get over” scares. Could be the on-going barrage of pandemic related stress. Could be worrying about the brothers, the son, the grandaughter, the wild increases in the cost of everything while living on a fixed income … you get the idea. Take all that, throw in some significant pain and you’ve got one stressed out Spoonie. So, I pulled up my big-girl panties, called the behavioral health department at my PCP’s office (have I ever mentioned my serious distrust of psychiatrists? Yeah it’s weird having a phobia of seeing a doctor about your anxiety). First available appointment is in 7 weeks. Yeah, OK. So, off I go to my dear PCP who was only too happy to prescribe me a little SSRI drug. I’ve used this particular drug before and it worked well.

Just a little side bar/learning moment, SSRI is short for Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor. Basically, they allow serotonin (happy hormones) to remain in your brain longer. Although primarily used to treat depression, some are quite adept at reducing the symptoms of anxiety disorders.

The really good part about it is that since I’m seeing my PCP, no copay. The drug treatment we decided on is really inexpensive ($2 a month or free if I use my mail order pharmacy) and it’s not a controlled substance! Win/Win! Please don’t take any of this as medical advice and do go read my disclaimer page. That said …

The rest of the week has been a splendid mix of magic and mundane.

Walking around the lake, we spied the first dandelion of the season.

As we draw closer to spring equinox, the sunsets are shifting with the changing of the season. In the lower left you can just make out two of our “summer resident” Canadian Geese.

The weather turned a bit wonky on Friday with five inches of snow falling overnight. It was still in the fifties when I went to bed Thursday night, but I got up to snow and temperatures of 12°f, Brrrrr, good day to stay inside and curl up with a book.

Well, that’s it from Castle Serenity. Til next time, may your Mondays be filled with Magic. ~JP

Tasty Tuesday — Moon Milk Spoonie Version

Photo via Pexels

I love moon milk, you know those fancy-schmancy hot milk before bedtime drinks. Infused with floral essences and calming properties. Sigh …. yeah you know the ones that require three pans and thirty minutes of prep time. Gorgeous though they be, I’m a SPOONIE. By night time I’m lucky if I have enough energy left to watch a half hour of television much less do some picture perfect hoytietoytie drink. So, what’s a spoonie/foodie to do? Improvise! Here for your culinary enjoyment is my adaptation for Lazy Spoonie Moon Milk. As always, see the disclaimer page. I’m not a nutritionist, this is just what works for me.

8 oz. unsweetened almond milk
1 celestial seasonings sleepytime lavender tea bag (or other tea of your choice)
1/2 teaspoon ashwaghanda powder (totally optional)
1 five mg fast melt melatonin tablet
sweetener of choice (I use honey)
cinnamon or other spice of choice

Pour almond milk into a microwave safe cup, add tea bag. Microwave until hot but not boiling (mine is usually about 2 minutes). Let teabag steep about 5 minutes. Remove teabag, add melatonin tablet and ashwaghanda powder if using, stir, microwave to reheat. Remove from microwave, add sweetener and top with a pretty little sprinkle of spice.

Sip slowly, with perhaps a biscuit.

So what’s your bedtime beverage of choice? How do you convince your aching muscles to relax at the end of the day?

Til next time ~Keep Calm and sip slowly ~JP

Memorable Moments

Our Sunday Stills challenge for this week is Making Meaningful Memories. Now I’m not a particular talented or trained photographer, so to me the making of meaningful memories involves using photos to jog the old noggin. I love doing photo challenges for precisely that reason. I dig through old shots (or new ones), edit to improve them a bit and, particularly with Terri’s challenge, I always learn something. I’m also linking this up to John’s Cellpic Sunday. Seems most of my shots these days are taken with my cell phone because I just never seem to have the “good camera” with me when I just HAVE to take a snap of something. 🙂 So without further ado, here are a few samples and why they are so meaningful.

Me building sand castles on Waikiki beach

Superhubs and I have been to Hawaii many times and loved every trip. This particular shot typifies all that I love about the Hawaiian islands. I sit on the beach, I breathe, I relax, and I play. Whether or not the sandcastle is “good enough” never enters my mind. The fact that the waves will wash it away shortly reminds me of the Taoist saying “you have to see the glass as already broken.” Yeah, deep I know, ponder that one for a decade of two. Although the condition of my knees is certainly not the focus of the shot, it also reminds me why I was sitting on the beach. Those knees are swollen and painful and frankly couldn’t walk another step, so I sat on the beach and made sand castles, until I recovered enough to return to the hotel.

A rooftop garden at our hotel in Shenzhen China

This is one of many shots from our travels in China. Taken from my cell phone, I edited the photo in my standard Toshiba photo editor on my laptop. The main alteration was to increase the contrast to make the buildings below more visible. In the original shot, the buildings were very indistinct. The air pollution levels were horrid that day and any kind of photography was nigh impossible. I can manage about three days in any of the major cities before I have to start a round of steroids. On this day, as we were preparing to head into the city to the factory we were working with, I spent a little time in this lovely garden. The air was clearer, the ambience soothing and I am reminded of my own mantra. “There is beauty everywhere. To see it, you have but to open your eyes.”

Bryce Canyon Utah

What can I say, the playful hoodoos (limestone spires) of Bryce Canyon always lift my spirits and remind me just how stunning raw nature can be. Of the many trails descending into the canyon itself that I have hiked, I can only say that I totally agree Ebenezer Bryce (for whom the canyon is named) “it’s a hell of a place to lose a cow.”

Life changing moments

Not a particularly great shot (yes it’s from my cell phone but I didn’t shoot it) but it’s a memorable moment. After 15 years of RV living, international travel and oh so much more, a week after my 65th birthday, we became homeowners. Our precious little townhome is a constant source of solace in a world gone mad. We named her “Castle Serenity” – where there’s always a cup of tea and a friendly smile waiting, leave your troubles outside the door and come sit a spell.

Sending all y’all warm and happy vibes ~JP

Monday Mundanities – Navigating Medicare

with chronic disease, it’s all about the pills

I became enrolled in the US Medicare system late last year. It’s been an interesting journey, this transition to Senior Care. Lots and lots of research, soul searching, and just plain fussing. I read through the “Welcome to Medicare” booklet and all I can think of is “well that’s just maddeningly unhelpful, why are these things never clear?” Eventually I got it sorted out (I think). Of course it was complicated by a 1,500 mile move to a state with some seriously odd laws and requirements regarding everything from prescription drug transfers to property rights.

I have mostly blindly stumbled through the changes with some advice from Superhubs and my granddaughter (who works in the medical industry) and a whole lotta googling. Yeah, and when exactly did “google” become a verb? OK, back to the whole medicare thing. Anyway, I opted into what’s known as a “Medicare Advantage” plan. Basically, your medicare insurance is administrated by a private insurance company and it combines parts A, B and D. There were a LOT of provider choices to work through and ultimately I selected an HMO in my area. The decision was mostly based on copays. I just worked up a spread sheet and determined which plan offered the least copays for drugs, doctors, and my annual tests (CT scans, blood work, echos, etc.). I have to say, thus far, it’s going pretty well.

I’ve had my “annual wellness visit” where they make sure you’re up to date on all of your preventive tests and such. I said a whole lotta “Yep, did that”, “uh huh, thattun too.” I also had a “living will” thrust upon me along with a short speech on the necessity of laying my end of life wishes out in black and white. OK … thanks for that reminder of my imminent demise. Don’t misunderstand me, I have a medical POA on file like everywhere so I’m covered. I kick, it’s Superhubs problem, because honestly, at that point it’s not about me or what I want; it’s about the people I leave behind and what makes it easier for them. ;-p.

OK, moving on. I’ve seen my PCP (Primary Care Physician) gotten an actual honest to goodness diagnosis for my on-going foot problem. The “burning, freezing, painful but numb, blisters on my toes, holy mackerel it hurts to walk” disease that has been considered just another stage of neuropathy with dyshidrotic eczema thrown in for fun. Turns out it’s Secondary Raynaud’s Phenomenon. I take a tiny does of a calcium channel blocker to dialate the blood vessels and, pop WOW, it’s better! I’m now moving on to a number of specialist referrals (because I’m new to the area) to get the rest of my care established. So far I’ve checked the referred specialists out and they’re all on my insurance plan (yeah!) so just a minor co-pay.

Stay tuned, more on this grueling subject later.

Til next time ~Stay Happy Hippies ~JP

I Put on Pants – A Spoonie Award

I don’t mean to brag, but I am totally rockin this day. Not only did I get out of bed, but I put. on. pants! Yesterday was what could euphemistically be called a “low spoons” day. In all honesty, it was, in fact, a total, complete train wreck. Including meltdowns and tantrums. Now I’d like to tell you that it was a visiting grandchild that threw said tantrum, but, alas, it was none other than me. I wish I could tell you that this is an exceedingly rare event but no, it’s rather too common for comfort and I’m considering just penciling it into my planner for like “Monday Meltdown” or “Tuesday Tantrum”. All it takes is a trip to the hardware store where we did not find what we wanted, well OK we did but not at a price we were willing to pay, and it’s a new sump pump because we’re (read that Superhubs) not sure if the one we have works and we’re supposed to get five inches of rain over the next three days.

Then, just one innocuous comment, a casual dismissal of something I have taken it into my head matters more than a cure for cancer. Something that matters not one jot, something stupid like trying to follow Superhubs hand signals as he guides me through parking the car in the garage around the gargantuan garbage can and the stupid cardboard boxes that are STILL HERE from our move three months ago. I mean really? I have to negotiate my way around the ancient box springs that we had to move out of the house and the garage is as far as it got because we have no idea how to get rid of it. Because it’s not that I have depth perception issues or blurry vision from lack of anything remotely resembling a tear film in my eyes, and you know, I have to do EVERYTHING around here. And no don’t you dare offer to park it for me! Boom! BAM! SOCKeroooo! It’s like a bloody Batman Show (the real one with Adam West). Yes, a sixty-something great grandmother sat in the middle of the floor blubbering like an over stimulated two-year-old.

Fortunately, I am blessed with Superhubs who sits down beside me, holds me, makes little shushing sounds until the worst of the weeping subsides. And then asks “what hurts?” So I can sob out “EVERYTHING!” Yeah, that’s one of the worst parts of being a spoonie. Painger is a very real thing. It’s when you think you’re angry but, really, you’re just in pain.

So, in light of yesterday’s emotional train wreck, I decided to reward myself with a Spoonie Award. I’m wearing pants, and that’s a step in the right direction. Fellow Spoonies, always remember that you are amazing, strong, powerful health warriors. It’s OK to lose it once in awhile, grab your heating pad, tylenol and a cup of tea, go snuggle up. Do what you can to take care of you, this day will pass and tomorrow is another day.

Til later ~ Too low on spoons to give a fork ~JP