Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Heaven Needed Another Angel

 In my last post I mentioned that my sister’s husband Sean was going through a serious illness and that my sister was being kept busy being at the hospital with him and also preparing for his care upon his return to their home.

It is with great sadness and shock that I tell you that Lisa’s husband Sean, the love of her life passed away quietly in the hospital with his wife and two of his sons by his side. Their other two sons were with him via Facetime. His passing was unexpected and his illness progressed much faster than the doctors had anticipated.

Needless to say, my sister Lisa is devastated, they had been married for 32 years and had four sons, their sons’ wives and eleven grandchildren. Sean was only 57 years of age upon his passing, too young, way too young to have been taken from his family.

Sean’s funeral services were extraordinary! I believe he would have been so proud to have known what a beautiful sendoff he was given. He had lived in our small city almost his whole life, he went to school here, his boys all went to school here, he was well known and well-loved in the community.

Sean had a beautiful visitation at the local funeral home, it was a packed house and there was a Catholic Rosary recited for him, then a Pastor that was also his cousin said some words and recalled the last few times he had seen Sean. His sons wanted people to have the opportunity to share their memories of their father. Several people spoke including his sons and their wives. The most poignant speech for me was his granddaughter, you all know her as Baby J and I have shared many posts about her on my blog. Baby J loved her Poppa as she called him, as she named him since she is the oldest grandchild. She was so brave and reminded us that he was the best cop then she turned to her own dad and said “you are a good cop too daddy, but Poppa was the best.”

I shared a few words because of all the things that everyone said about him, no one mentioned his Heart of Service. He was someone that was always willing to help, someone that would do things without being asked. There was never a time that he came to my house that he didn’t throw out the trash, he just did it. He was ready to run errands before anyone else, he always stood up and gave his seat to any one new coming in, whether it was in the living room or in the kitchen. I found out about so many other kindnesses he did that I didn't even know about. One being that he would make breakfast burritos for the gardeners that came to mow his lawn on Mondays. 

He was the main person I knew I could count on when it came to Christmas tamale making time. He was the main person I counted on when I needed to move and needed muscle and a truck. He was always generous with Lisa’s time when I need a girl’s night out or a weekend getaway.

Sean was also a great giver of his time and gifts. He would stop by our house often, randomly, with flowers for my mom and sometimes for me as well, or he would bring her donuts or Twinkies, never arriving empty handed. Many aunts recounted at this funeral that he often brought them flowers as well. He had a true heart of service to his family, far and wide.

The day of his funeral we showed up first at the funeral home, one last time for his family to be with him before he was taken to the church for the Mass of Christian Burial. His four sons and a grandson, plus his brother and his best friend were all casket bearers.

When we arrived at the church there was an Honor Guard of Correctional Officers, all volunteering their time to be there for their brother Sean. Sean had been a Correctional Office for almost 17 years. They lined the steps to the church and when we walked in behind the casket the church was packed! I have never seen the church this packed ever for a funeral. The Mass was beautiful and the Priest gave a lovely sermon. After the Mass we had a procession out of the parking lot and Lisa’s wish was that the hearse drive by their home of 32 years so that he could be at his house one more time, since he never made it out of the hospital. I cry as I write this because it was such a bittersweet moment. Rick, the funeral director and dear friend to Lisa and our family stopped the hearse in the street in front of their house, he got out of the hearse and just stood there accompanying Sean is taking one last look at his home. Lisa and I and Baby J and his son Edward were in the car behind them, overcome with emotion. Then Rick got back in and we drove in procession to the cemetery.

There is still so much I want to recount about his service because someday we will want to look back on this and remember every moment, so I'm going to post this for now and continue it in the next few days. 

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Saturday with My Sister Lisa and Korean Ground Beef and Rice Bowls Recipe

     Yesterday I went over to my sister Lisa's house to help her organize a room that she is going to be using for her husband while he recuperates from an illness he is going through. She's having a hospital bed delivered tomorrow and we cleared out an extra bedroom. We could not move the treadmill or the couch she had in that room, but we did move a dresser and today my son and hers are supposed to get together and move the big stuff.

    Once we finished cleaning that room, while Lisa kept organizing stuff, I cleaned the kitchen and vacuumed her floors and did basic tidying up, then she made us some delicious Chocolate Iced Coffee and we had some of the lemon cake I had taken over to her.

    She wanted to order a new robot vacuum cleaner as their old one had broken several months ago and while we were searching she found a recipe that she had posted that she wanted to try out. She had most of the ingredients and I had a bag of coleslaw mix at my house so I went to go get it and we started cooking.

    I am a recipe girl, I've said that several times on the blog. I can't just pull ingredients out of the fridge and pantry and come up with a meal, I have to have a plan. Lisa and my mom are magicians in the kitchen, give them 8 items and they will make a fabulous meal with it. Yesterday we used a bit of my system and a bit of Lisa's.

    The recipe was for a Korean Ground Beef and Rice Bowl, you can find the recipe and photos HERE. We had most of the ingredients except for the fresh ginger and eggplant, so we improvised by adding frozen cauliflower rice and coleslaw mix.  Coleslaw mix is a mix of shredded green cabbage and carrots. 

    Lisa browned the ground beef while I chopped the red bell pepper and onion. She doesn't cook with salt, so she added a spice blend of Roasted Garlic and Red Bell Pepper from Dangold, you can find the spice HERE. This has zero sodium and was so good.  She also added lots of coarse black pepper and the onions. Once that was browned she removed it from the pan and added a little olive oil and sautéed the bell peppers and zucchini, cooked that for a couple of minutes, we both like our veggies with a little bite to them.

    Then she added the whole bag of the coleslaw mix and some Asian Salad dressing which has a peanut flavor and a bit of the low sodium soy sauce and sautéed that just enough to wilt it a bit, added the frozen cauliflower rice which she had put in the microwave just long enough to have it break up and then put the ground beef back in.

    Then it was time for the taste test...

    Winner Winner! We both love it. We both added Sriracha Sauce to the top because we love spicy. You can see all the lovely veggies. This is low sodium and low carb. Because of her husbands illness she has been trying to find recipes that will she can make with the specifications given to them by the doctors and this is one that he can eat.

    As I write this, she is at the hospital, hoping to get some news on how he's doing and when he can come home. Because of new Covid restrictions, only one person can be with him, so we can't visit him. This is a serious illness and I am hoping for the sake of my sister, their sons and grandchildren that he is able to get through this and make a full recovery. 

    If you can say a prayer for him and Lisa and their family, please do so. If you can send them positive vibes and energy, please do that as well. I'm a strong believer that everything that comes from love and concern for others can help.

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The BIG 64!

     Yesterday was my 64th Birthday! It's hard to believe! 

Champagne Cupcake and Smith's Bakery Cookies from my daughter.

    Where has the time gone. One minute you're 18 and graduating from high school and in the blink of an eye you are 64.

    But I'm fortunate to have people who love me and took time out of their day to help me celebrate yesterday.

    The day started out with a special celebration with this little girl, my daughters dog Chorizo. 

    Since it was my birthday, Starbucks sends me a notification that there is a free treat waiting for me at their store. There is nothing Chorizo loves more that the free Puppuccino that Starbucks offers their little puppy customers.

    So we made the drive to Starbucks and I got a free Latte, purchased some Egg Bites and Chorizo got a Puppuccino!!!

Starbucks Latte, Bacon and Gruyere Egg Bites and a Puppuccino!

    She could barely wait for me to take the picture above she was so excited about her puppuccino! You can see all the whipped cream on her little beard in the photo above. 

    Later that evening my daughter told me she had a surprise planned for me and did she ever! She finally let me come into the kitchen and she had a whole table of delicious treats laid out. Just look at this spread!

Charcuterie by Charcuterie by M

Pepperoni and Salami Roses, Chocolate Nonpareils, Olives and Pickles, Baby Grapes, Cashews, Dried Apricots, Pistachios, Fresh Apricots and Strawberries, Various Cheeses including my favorite a Blueberry Boat cheese Log, you can't see it, but it's there and it was all so declious!

Garlic Crisps, these were so garlicky and crispy and delicious!

A bottle of Pinot Noir from my sister Lisa, this was such a good wine!

    My daughter and son were there, my mom and my sister Lisa, all my favorite people!

    We sat and just tasted all the different goodies on the tray and I opened my gifts, a ring and bracelet from my mom, a pair of sneakers from my sister, a Starbucks card from my son and all the deliciousness above from my daughter.

    And the birthday is not over yet, tonight I am having a celebration dinner with my coworkers and tomorrow night I'm have another dinner with my sister Lisa and our friend Lupe. 

    I guess it's not so bad turning 64 when you realize how many people love you and remember you and want to make you feel special. 

    Happy 64th Birthday to me! I'll finish with pictures of the beautiful Pop-Up Birthday bouquet of butterflies from my daughter.

Paper Pop-Up Birthday Card from my daughter.

Close up from the top!

Monday, July 18, 2022

Carrying the Weight of the World

    Recently (today) I've started listening to a Weekly Reflections guided meditation. They're not a long meditation, this one was five minutes, but it really made me think about the things that I carry around that weight me down.

    The meditation starts out with some deep breathing, then asked me to close my eyes and imagine that I am about to take a walk. I know that I'm going to see beautiful sites and have new experiences and I'm looking forward to going. First I make sure I'm prepared, I have on good walking shoes, some water in case I get thirsty, perhaps a sweater in case it gets cold.

    I notice that in each of my pockets, I'm carrying rocks each signifying a past experience. Each one holds meaning and was picked up for a specific purpose, but for now these rocks weight me down, they keep me from stepping lightly and I will get tired carrying them around.

    I start taking each rock out and setting it down and take a step, another step another rock, each time releasing the weight that I've been carrying until I feel lighter and I realize that what we carry with us can serve a purpose, but sometimes it can weigh us down and hold us back. I'm prompted to examine the weight I carry and set aside what isn't useful to me in my life right now. 

    Sometimes I carry these rocks around like a badge of honor. No one can carry these rocks the way I do. I can't allow anyone else to help me carry these rocks because they won't care for the rocks as I do, they'll allow them to fall out of their pockets and break on the ground, or they will lose them along the way. 

    But the longer I carry these rocks, the heavier they become until I can no longer stand from the weight and I can no longer walk or enjoy life. I'm so busy worrying about these rocks that I don't see the beauty around me and I start feeling anger towards the carefree people I see floating through life without the weight of any rocks.

    What I learned through this meditation is that I need to let go...

Let goooooooo.

    I need to remind myself this week to "let go". To take notice of the things that weigh me down and write them down and get rid of the things that aren't useful to me in my life, the things that make me angry and bitter and make life heavy.

    How heavy are the rocks that you are carrying and why do you carry them?

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Paint Night, Baby J and Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread

     During the Pandemic lockdown I really missed sharing a paint night with my sister Lisa and our friend Lupe. The three of us are like the Three Amigos and at times like the Three Stooges, depending on how much wine and how many shots of Agavero we've shared. But no matter what, we always have fun.

    Here's a photo of the three of us, it's pretty old, I believe from 2019, but I just love this one. 

    Because of the health of my mom she and I were very careful to stay in quarantine to prevent her getting sick, so paint night was put on hold until this past Saturday night, June 11th. 

    We had planned to get together at 5pm at my house, but Lisa and Lupe surprised me by showing up at around 4:30! They caught me still prepping and I didn't even have time to change the grungy t-shirt I was wearing, so needless to say there are no pictures that I allowed to be taken of me that night!

    However we did take pictures of almost everything else, but let's start with the food we shared. 

    Lupe brought our appetizer, a veggie tray with snap peas, carrots, broccoli, celery, baby tomatoes and ranch dressing. Wish we had a picture!!! Picture or not, it was so good!

   As for a beverage, we started the festivities with a shot of our favorite tequila, Agavero. It was delicious. I had bought two kinds of wine because I know some people don't really like wine and I didn't remember if Lupe did, so I bought a very mellow and sweet Stella Rosa, cause everyone loves Stella Rosa wines. I also bought a 2019 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon as I'm partial to Cabs. I don't remember who had what but after a shot of Agavero and half a glass of Cab I was not so worried anymore about people showing up early!

    By this time the Cheesy Zucchini and Red Onion Flatbread was done and we had that with a mixed spring salad on the side with Italian Dressing. Again no photo, but I have blogged the recipe, so here's a picture and a link to the recipe is HERE

    We then cleaned up and what I like best about these two ladies is that they jump in and help! Then it was time to get down to painting.

    But before I talk about the painting, we had a special guest. Someone that has made multiple appearances on my blog, someone near and dear to my heart, Baby J!!! She is Lisa's granddaughter. Here's one of the first pictures I posted about her on the blog back on Sept, 2014. 

    She and I have done numerous Art Projects every time she visits and it was so fun to have her join us for the first time ever for Paint Night. Here she is, all grown up and beautiful!

    I'll show her artwork first. She painted a bunny rabbit peeking out from the left side of the canvas. She's only halfway through in this photo, but you can tell she's pretty pleased with her work so far!

    Here is her final piece, she did an excellent job and she is the smartest, funniest, most insightful child ever. She astonished us with her knowledge and her vocabulary is over the moon. I know she's my niece but I'm not exaggerating, it's a flippin' genius!

    Here's the piece Lupe started, none of us really had time to completely finish our art piece, except for Baby J, but we got a good start. Lupe is wanting to try stenciling designs on some of her walls at home, so she took the opportunity to stencil on a canvas board and we all loved where this is going and hope she frames this once she is done. (You can see the intensity on Baby J's face in the background as she works on her painting.)

    Lisa decided to work on what was to me a very difficult piece, but I love what she's got so far and it's going to be beautiful once she is done. There's a waterfall in the middle part there that is not painted in yet.

    I had purchased a book for Lisa when we had our road trip to Ojai a couple of weeks ago and there was a photo in that book that I really wanted to try painting, here's the photo.

    And here's what I've done so far, I have quite a ways to go and in the photo it looks like the sun setting behind the tree, but in mine it looks more like dusk already, so I may add some stars and then paint the tree over it, not sure yet.

    We also had a surprise visit from Baby J's dad and Lisa's son Sean, who is a police officer with our local police department. Since he was there my mom took the opportunity to give him a handmade quilt she was making for his birthday but she couldn't wait until January of next year. She's so proud of him!

    He just stayed for a second as he was on a break and had to go back on duty, but it was wonderful to see him and I am so grateful to him for sharing Baby J with us all these year. Love you Sean!

    I will end this post with a photo of the joyful chaos that was on my kitchen table that night. I hope Baby J remembers this night, but if not this blog post will always be here for her, as well as all the other blog posts since 2014. 

    Thank you Lisa and Lupe and when can we do this again!

Sunday, June 12, 2022

My Art Featured on Art Group - Bloom Where You Are Planted

      I'm a member of a prompt related art group on Facebook called The Mixed Media Emporium with Nina Ribena & Kylie Coo. 

     The group has over 10,000 members and out of those 10,000 members my art was chosen for a special honor and picked to be the masthead of the group page for the 4th week of April, 2022. 

     Everyone in the group congratulates you and it really helps to inspire you to work hard to continue to create artwork that people love.


     I am so honored to have my art featured, here's the art page I did that was chosen. This is a page in my art journal. 

     This is a two page spread that I made for my homemade art journal. The art journal is made out of a recycled Fruit Roll-Ups Box, covered with fabric and the decorated, it's a whole process and I may do a blog post for it another time. 

     What we do in this group is called Mixed Media Art, anything and everything is fair game. In this piece I used leaves cut out from an box of tissue paper, here's a picture I found online of the top of a box. Once I cut out the leaves, I peeled off several layers so the leaves would not be so thick. 

     I took a page out of the art journal (the pages are removal of ease of use). The page I decided to use already had the background on it. It's what we call a "mop up" sheet. As I am doing other projects I have a sheet of paper either underneath to protect my desk or sometimes to the side and I clean off my paint brush, or try paint colors, so eventually it's got a beautiful blend of colors, in this case I felt it had a bit of a jungle look to it. So I started gluing the leaves around the top and bottom of the page to make a border. 

     I added a flower I had made following another YouTube channel and started gluing the sentiment "Bloom Where You Are Planted" and then added butterflies, because I love butterflies!

     And that was it. I was surprised that something so simple to create was worthy of the honor of being the masthead, but hey, I'll take it!

     Not to toot my own horn, but "toot-toot" this is actually the 4th time my artwork has been chosen. You can check out the first time HERE, second time HERE, third time HERE

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Ojai - Ventura Sister Trip and Dad's Memorial Trip - Part Two

     Welcome to part two of the Sister trip that Lisa and I took on May 20, 2022. First part of it is here.

    After leaving the beautiful, friendly City of Ojai, we headed into Ventura where we had plans to eat at a restaurant called Limon y Sal (translated it means Lemon & Salt ).

Outside of the building. It looks very different now because they built an outdoor patio during the Pandemic and it remains to this day.

    We were really lucky to find parking right around the corner and we had a nice little walk to get there. We also found out they had blocked off Main Street at the beginning of the pandemic to allow vendors to offer outdoor seating and shopping and it continues to this day.

    On the weekend we were there, they had "Vintage of Main Street" where local vintage vendors sell a curated selection of vintage items. We were excited to go check everything out, but first things first, we were in need of Chips, Salsa and Margaritas!

Guacamole with a big hunk of queso fresco. Lisa had a Cucumber Daiquiri, I had the Limon y Sal Margarita blended with salt on the rim, both were delicious. They had an incredible Salsa also, hopefully there is a picture later as I didn't get a picture this time. 

    We decided to share the Chicken Fajitas because the guacamole they served was such a big portion and we were sure we could fill up just on that, but we wanted something more substantial.

    Their presentation was just beautiful! Just look at this! Along with the Fajitas, beginning in the upper left is a small bowl of refried beans sprinkled with cotija cheese; upper right...some MORE guacamole, bottom left is a bowl of Mexican Rice and bottom right is a bowl of Nopales, I'll share more about that in another photo below.

Close up of the Nopales. 

    Above is the photo of the Nopales. Nopal is Spanish for Cactus. My dad loved Nopales, so much so that he planted several cactus plants in his backyard. These looked like they were cooked and then made into a type of salad as they were cold. My dad would boil the Nopal and then he would fry it in a pan with scrambled eggs, sometimes with Chile Colorado. His looked very similar to the ones in the photo below. 

Nopales con Huevo aka Cactus with Egg

    The way that Sal & Limon served them was as a salad or side dish. The Nopal/Cactus is diced into the small green cubes you see above, then boiled in a pot with salted water for about 20 minutes, then drained and rinsed really well. While they are cooling off you dice up tomato, onion, jalapeno and cilantro, you mix in the nopal and then make a dressing of olive oil, lime, oregano and salt. It's a super healthy dish and I wish I like them, but I just never developed a taste for them, which saddened my dad to no end. 

Final photo of our food, the Mexican aka Spanish Rice and here you can see the Salsa in the background, it was fabulous!

    After paying Lisa and I walked the little Vintage Fair. We didn't buy anything, mainly we just wanted to walk some of the food off.

    On the way home we stopped at a Ross Store, which is one of our favorite stores. I bought a journal and a blouse, I can't even remember what Lisa bought.

    Our last stop was at a little fruit stand on the way home where we bought a flat of beautiful, huge strawberries and some pistachios.

    One more thing I want to share so I will always remember is the memory gift that Lisa bought me. 

    I just love this, the stones are so pretty and look a lot brighter in sunlight. I also love the four leaf clover charms so I will always have good luck! Thank you Lisa, I love you. You are my favorite sister!

    I purchased for her a coffee table book of photos of the City of Ojai that has some beautiful pictures. There is one of a beautiful sunset with the most amazing photo of a tree in black silhouette which we have already decided we are going to paint, stay tuned for us sharing our paintings sometime in the near future!

    I believe I will do one more post about the items that I bought at the Benjamin Franklin Craft store, so stay tuned for that as well. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Ojai - Ventura Sister Trip and Dad's Memorial Trip


    Yesterday, May 21 2022, Lisa and I took a trip in memory of our dad who passed away on July 30, 2013.

    We took this same route in September of 2013 in order for the two of us to do something special to say goodbye to our daddy, that post is here.

    My mom and dad were really big on road trips, just taking off with all of us kids bundled up in the back seat and seeing where the road would take us. I don't believe there was ever a plan, but maybe mom and dad did plan things and just didn't tell us, we just went with the flow because we had utter and complete trust in them and their ability to always make sure we were safe. 

    I want to remember this trip and to post it to my blog in case (God forbid) that I end up with Alzheimer's which does run in our family. Having it here means my kids and my sister will have access to it and maybe they will read me these words and show me these pictures and for a brief moment I will be me again...Alicia, the documenter of her life!

    Unlike my mom and dad, Lisa and I had a plan. We took Highway CA-33 which is a winding road through the Los Padres National Forest that reaches an elevation of  7,510'. When we took the trip shortly after dad passed away, the whole trip was so beautiful because everything was lush and green and flowering. We went again a few years later and everything was dry and brown and it made us sad. I was hoping that this trip would be better and it was! Just take a look at these gorgeous photos.

Los Padres National Forest Highway CA-33

Clouds coming over the mountains

View of the cloud cover and the mountains

My beautiful sister, my partner in crime - Lisa

Obligatory Selfie! As you can tell, it was very windy!

Happy to see flowering plants!

Downtown Ojai - We just came up and over that mountain!

    Once over the mountain we had to make a pit stop as one normally does on a long road trip, we stopped in at a local Vons Grocery Store, did our business and then ogled the aisles of wine they had, quite an expensive selection. Needless to say we did not buy any there, but the day was young!

    There was a cute little liquor store in the same shopping center and Lisa snapped a picture of the name of the store, we thought it was pretty unique! Attitude Adjustment Shoppe. We didn't stop in but plan to do so next time. 

Attitude Adjustment Shoppe 

    Just by luck we happened to find a craft store in the same shopping center. It was just the cutest store and they had so many great things for crafting and art journaling plus they had ready made items you could give or purchase for yourself. I really wanted this beautiful hand  that was carved out of wood and painted red with several Zentangle patterns on it, but it was a bit above my price range for what I wanted to spend for the day. Now I regret not buying it.

    We met a very nice art journaling instructor by the name of Carolynne who was there that day for a 3-series Art Journaling Class held on Saturday. When we told her that unfortunately we were from out of town she offered to do a special class for my sister and I on another Saturday if we wanted to drive back to Ojai. While we were there it sounded doable, however on the drive back we realized that is was a long, long way away to make the trip just to take a 3-hour Art Journaling class, but we would try to find a place in Bakersfield that offers the same thing. Sorry Carolynne, I would have loved to take the class with you, you were so sweet and gracious.

     I did buy quite a few things at this shop, they were very reasonably priced and had some items that I've not been able to find at our craft stores in Bakersfield. I will do a separate post with those items.

    From there we headed to downtown Ojai to do some sightseeing and shopping. Here's some pictures from this location, it was beautiful, cool and overcast with a slight breeze and everyone was so happy and friendly, we had a great time!

Loved this hand-painted tile on the side of a building and had to take a picture with it.

There was just beauty everywhere, Lisa in front of a fountain.

Cute little shop. I want to make a string of beads list this one.

We had to do some Wine Tasting of course. Lisa had the 2021 Syrah Rose and I tried the 2020 Roussanne, both we good, but not good enough to buy a bottle.

It was a lovely place to just sit and unwind and catch up with each other.

My pretty sister and her wine. I know she will hate her hair in the picture, but it was windy!

After our little wine tasting while we were still relaxed we did some walking around and headed into the little shops on the street. 

    Lisa and I pitched in to buy our mom this beautiful hand-crafted necklace. We know she's going to love it just because it's red!

Detail on the hand crocheted flowers with seed beads in the center.

    I'm going to do a separate post also for our time that we spent in Ventura for lunch there, so stay tuned for part two.