Day Trip: Joshua Tree National Park

We live in a great place. In less than an hour we can be at the Pacific Ocean, the mountains, or the desert. All of these places have their unique qualities and we enjoy most of them. It’s really a toss-up for us- between the ocean and the desert- depending on the season. The disadvantages are, you can always expect a crowd.

Yesterday we decided to take advantage of the spring flowers in the desert. With Joshua Tree National Park a mere 80 miles away, we packed a lunch and headed out first thing. By 9:00 we were in the park with mild temperatures and a sunny day before us.

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Joshua Tree National Park is named for the Joshua Trees found there. You won’t find them in all areas of the park as they are specific to elevations/conditions, but you can also find them in many parts of the Mojave Desert. They’re such interesting looking trees with almost outstretched arms which may be attributed to how they got their name. The lifting branches were thought to be the arms of Joshua leading to the Promised Land according to an old Mormon legend. It’s really hard to determine how old a Joshua tree is as they have no growth rings. These are protected trees in many areas. You will often find desert homes built around the trees to accommodate them. They can live, it is thought, up to a hundred and fifty years! The spiky and succulent leaves are not cactus but part of the agave family (information obtained through the Joshua Tree National Park official newspaper).

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The park is partially located in the Mojave Desert and the Colorado Deserts.  Within the transitions of the two areas, there is great diversity of plants and species.

We entered the park through the Joshua Tree Visitor Center located outside the town of Joshua Tree.  The Joshua trees had already bloomed and were spent for the most part….

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… but not all of them thankfully.

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There were also many rock formations,  hikers, and rock climbers in this area of the park.

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( and me, just a visitor, not a hiker)

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As we begin the drive into the more Southern portion of the park, we came across a stop that seem to attract carloads of people.

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(Maybe it was the name?)

We also passed by such interesting places as Sheep Pass, Jumbo Rock, Split Rock,  Cap Rock, and Hall of Horrors. There were several campgrounds (all full) located throughout the park. Close to a military base in nearby 29 Palms, Palm Springs and other desert communities, including the many suburbs located near Los Angeles,  the park attracts many outdoor enthusiasts.

As we meandered our way from one end of the park to the other, we often stopped to take pictures of interesting rocks or plants that we came upon.

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At about halfway through the park we must have entered the Colorado Desert portion as the scenery changed considerably. There were fewer  rock formations with sprawling vistas and distant mountains instead.

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We then came across the Cholla Cactus Garden where miles and miles of these cactus grew.

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Next stop, the Ocotillo Patch.

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It was here we started to see a greater variety of plants…

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… and the desert blooms we had been searching for.

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We stopped for our picnic lunch near the Cottonwood Springs Visitor Center on our way out of the park. The majority of the flowers could be seen as you exit the park east of Indio. Along the highway there were Ocotillo and these gorgeous yellow flowers growing everywhere.

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It really was a great day trip. I love to be outdoors and see God’s handiwork up close and personal!

California Citrus State Historic Park

A few weeks ago on an unexpectedly sunny Sunday afternoon, (say that 3 times fast!) we decided to get outside and enjoy the day. We are not used to so many cloudy or rainy days around here.  We headed to Riverside to visit the Citrus  State Historic  Park. Having driven by this place a few times over the years, we really didn’t know much about it or what to expect.

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With only about a 30 minute drive we arrived in time for the (free) 12:00 tour. There were about 10 people in our group, consisting of all ages. Some were local and others were visiting from colder climates and enjoying the California sunshine. Bree was our volunteer docent / guide. She is a full time high school biology teacher by day. She was very knowledgeable and made the one hour walking tour very interesting.

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After giving us an empty  bag and a promise of free samples,  Bree gave us a brief history of the Citrus industry in Riverside, California. At one time this was the California Gold. Soon we headed off to the magnificent orange groves for a few citrus lessons up close and personal.

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Naturally there was one person there who just wanted to buck the system and seemed to perhaps think that because of her age the rules simply did not apply to her. Shockingly she was probably the oldest person in the group! Perhaps she felt her age entitled her to some special privileges such as picking up dropped fruit from the ground when we were specifically told not to. It is a state park after all, so we must know you are not allowed to take anything out of the park. I felt sympathy for our guide when she had to politely chastise this overzealous visitor.

Anyway, as we walked along a very smooth pathway we stopped at various trees for information about that specific type of tree. There were also many photo opportunities and since it was such a gorgeous day we took advantage of it.

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The palm trees were added to distinguish the dirt roads within the grove.

As we stopped at each tree she educated us on the type of fruit, its history, and other  citrus related information.  She  occasionally, but carefully (to not harm either the fruit or the tree), cut a piece of fruit for each of us to take home. We came home with lemons, grapefruit, navel oranges, tangelos, and blood oranges just to name a few. Who knew there was so many varieties? The grove works closely with the University of California at Riverside in the development and education  of new and existing varieties of citrus. This would include disease resistance as well as trees specifically for grafting to produce the new varieties. I did not know that a citrus tree does not generally grow from a seed but from a graft. Some trees are specifically grown just for this purpose.

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Not just dropped fruit-a tree specifically for grafting.

 We had a picturesque and easy walk  around the grove.

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Notice the smudge-pot in the lower left of the picture. These were heated with oil to keep fruit from freezing years ago. Now, water is used. Much more environmentally friendly.

All too soon we were taken back to the main building and gift shop. On the patio our education continued along with slices of the various fruits.

20170129_132221.jpgI grew up in Riverside and spent most of my life driving around orange groves. I really did not think beyond the beauty of the trees and the groves themselves. It was just the way it was. Sometimes we don’t miss something until it is gone.

There are almost 400 acres of citrus trees in the park.

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A small Museum, gift shop, and outbuildings which are available for rent to host events make up the remainder of the park. For a mere $5 entrance you are able to spend an enjoyable afternoon and actually have something to take home with you! Perfect for history buffs, the curious, or for a local outing.  With the Cara Cara oranges being our absolute favorite, we stopped at a roadside stand and purchased a bag.

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Sometimes when you take a moment to look around your own community it is  amazing what points of interest you might stumble across. I highly recommend this to Southern California locals or visitors. Although orange groves were very commonplace throughout the areas here, eventually it was decided that the real money was in the real estate and  many thousands of acres throughout Southern California were plowed over in the name of progress. Now, homes fill the landscape. I suppose this is something that happens all over as we get away from a more natural environment to a more commercial or industrial environment. I’m so grateful for state and national parks in that preserve uniqueness and beauty.

What are your favorite protected parks?

A Different Kind of Valentine’s Day

For Valentine’s Day this year we decided to bypass the traditional candy, flowers, or dinner at a crowded restaurant. With a desire to enjoy the sunshine, avoid crowds, and spend some together time away from life distractions, we packed the camping gear, loaded up the car, and headed to our favorite place…

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I know, doesn’t sound very romantic, does it?  For some crazy reason (to some anyway) we love this place! Over the past 30 years we have been here about 25 times and each visit is unique as well as beautiful.  Maybe it is the serenity, the diversity, or  the peacefulness that calls to us but we are drawn back here year after year. Last spring we came in early March to experience the Super Bloom.

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2016

Once every decade or so, the desert comes alive with a magnificent show of flowers. The almost magical conditions of dormant flowers seeds, rain, and weather have to be just right for this phenomenon to occur.  It really was a sight to behold.

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2017

 We left home at 4:00 am and arrived before 9:00 am. The campground much busier than expected but we found a couple leaving so we were able to get a great campsite. We had packed light for our brief visit and set up was completed in no time.

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We now had a full day to soak up some much needed sun and enjoy the day.

After settling in and taking some time to appreciate the day before us, we decided to head over to the pool at Furnace Creek Ranch. There is a marvelous spring-fed swimming pool that maintains about a 80 degree temperature year round. For a mere $5.00 each we could use the pool and showers for an entire day. We had a lovely swim with snow capped mountains in the background. I actually forgot to take a picture but more information and pictures are found in the provided link.

A few hours later we headed back to the campsite for lunch and a brief nap.

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 We wanted to make the most of our short visit so soon pulled out our beloved Scrabble game for a few ‘friendly’ (but competitive) games.

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It was Valentine’s Day after all so we continued the celebration with some bubbly.

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We completed a lovely day with barbecued steak and baked potatoes, a campfire, and star gazing. The nighttime sky is unbelievable!

Before we knew it we were enjoying the sunrise from our tent…

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…and it was already time to pack up and head back. We might have stayed another day but we have two new kittens at home and were not yet comfortable leaving them for any length of time. I know our cat-sitter had things under control but you know how new parents are!

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After breakfast in the cafe, we decided to take the scenic drive out of the park and headed towards Badwater, at about 279 degrees below sea level. Furnace Creek is almost at sea level. You can see the snow capped Panamint Mountains in the distance.

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While I was snapping pictures of the salt flats at Badwater, Thommmee was snapping pictures of me!

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We lingered along the way…in no hurry to leave.

Jubilee Pass

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It is not often you see such green in the desert. We have had a great deal of rain this season with more expected. This is seriously helping our drought situation!

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For us, this was a perfect way to spend Valentine’s Day.

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Life is a journey…

Like many people, I have the best of intentions of eating right and exercising more. Like many people, I often do not meet my goals-in fact too often throw the diet and bathroom scale out the window! I want to be healthier, I follow blogs and Instagram that offer marvelously healthy recipes, visit websites that attempt to encourage and motivate and like many people have a gym membership that is currently being ignored and a bike that is gathering dust at the side of the house.

WHY????

Oh, I have bad knees, a busy schedule, birthday parties to attend and…well…frankly I have many other excuses too!  I’ll do well for a few weeks at a time but before I know it I am pretty much back to where I started. Maybe not all the way back but far enough.

One day I was catching up on blog posts and came across a posting that caught my eye at Blue Jangmi. She was participating in a Whole Food Challenge. The idea of the challenge is to remove specific items from you diet for 30 days, restart your metabolism,  and change the way you think about food.  When you reintroduce items you can possibly determine if certain foods are causing you problems.  You can then eliminate these foods from your diet. Also, after 30 days, you will have (hopefully) broken your bad food habits and maybe then you can begin healthier eating habits-right? Sounded good. I chuckled and commented to her that although it sounded nice, I just didn’t have 30 days in my life where I could avoid eating certain things and so good luck to her.  She kindly replied letting me know that there was never a perfect time to do something that was important for yourself.

…And I couldn’t stop thinking about it!
…And I decided to do it!

I didn’t talk about my decision very much because, frankly, I didn’t know if I could really do it. What started out to just be a personal challenge with some hopes of success turned into a meaningful journey. I committed to the September 2016 Whole 30 Challenge.

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I relied on Instagram for most of my information, motivation, and encouragement. I began to follow other people who were participating in the challenge and before long not only was I using some of their recipes but I was posting some of my own. I began to experiment and try new foods. Instead of just zucchini and yellow squash I tried acorn, butternut, and spaghetti squash. I learned to drink my coffee black, to forgo artificial sweeteners, to create a pumpkin chill that  was husband approved,  and make scrambled eggs with grated sweet potatoes (who knew you could do so many things with sweet potatoes???)

I read product labels for hidden sugars and started using something called coconut aminos instead of soy sauce to enhance the taste of some foods. I stared making my own ghee (a clarified butter) instead of actual butter. Full fat coconut milk and avocados became a part of my diet. No more wine with dinner (for 30 days anyway) or bread…but somehow I didn’t really miss it all much. (well, maybe the creamer in my coffee)

In a short while I noticed changes in the way my clothes were fitting. Since you’re giving up your relationship with food and your scale, I was not supposed to weigh or measure myself the entire 30 days.

Did I actually feel better you might ask? Well, yes and no. I was sleeping better but my joints still hurt. I didn’t have any specific food issues previously so I couldn’t judge changes in that way. I seemed to have more energy and I was not hungry between meals. My favorite meal of the day was dessert and I didn’t ( and don’t) even miss that!! Apples seemed to satisfy my sweet tooth most of the time.

I did feel a sense of accomplishment when I completed the entire 30 days.

I lost 11 pounds and a week later I was down 15 pounds. By November down 20 pounds. Now don’t get me wrong, I have a ways to go. The funny thing is I rather like maintaining this paleo-ish eating style. As we entered into the holiday season I knew there were many eating opportunities/challenges before me  and I took advantage of some (and maybe many?)  But… I needed to remember one of my favorite quotes:

Failing to plan is planning to fail.

So I planned and tried to make choices that worked for me.

During this time, one of my daughters  was busy jumping out of airplanes and challenging herself. She bought a motorcycle. She was learning to make changes in different ways  Her thoughts were if she can do this she can do anything!!  She was an inspiration to me! Anything is possible….

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I am happy to announce she eloped this past weekend!

(talk about moving out of your comfort zone!)

While I had no plans of jumping out of an airplane, don’t like motorcycles,  and happily married to Thommee for almost 29 years, I was excited to see where this journey might take me.

A January Whole 30 Challenge began this month and I jumped back on board.

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I felt the tune-up would help keep me on track after the holidays. It is going great. I will complete this challenge on January 30. I plan to continue on a somewhat Paleo diet. I love zipping up my jeans and tying my shoelaces. While my path might be somewhat modified, I found many people and supporters making this a life mission. They inspire me too! I am in awe of their dedication to good health but I don’t think it will happen for me in quite the same way. We all need to find our own journey and what works for us, right?  It is amazing what a few changes and attitude can make…and we can always learn and grow.

If you would like to review my journey, check out my Instagram. If you are curious about this Whole 30 program, just click on the link.

Any obstacles you are facing these days?

Happy 2017

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Computers and Life

As you may recall, our computer has been acting up for some time. I have come to realize that a new computer will be moving up on the priority list fairly soon. It’s hard to make that decision when you’re faced with completing a new kitchen floor that is halfway finished, preparing for a Thanksgiving road trip for a 90th year birthday celebration for Thommmee’s mom, and then of course Christmas is right around the corner. We’ve been limping along between two ailing laptops for a while now. Both of them have their own quirks and problems. I have spent hours on the phone with our internet service provider trying to resolve some of the issues but….the bottom line is, we need a new computer.

I recently commented that the public library have computers available at no charge but somehow….. the inconvenience of trotting down there is, well frankly… inconvenient!  I do rely on my fancy little smartphone for most things but for blogging it just doesn’t cut it. It makes a person wonder how we got along without such necessities for so long, dosen’t it? Games,  email,  searching,  blogging….. If you are a blogger it’s rather important,  I think.

Life offers highs and lows and in actuality this is not the end of the world. I have certainly been blessed with more ups than downs so my complaint is really just a moment of voiced inconvenience. Sometimes it is the frustrations of ordinary life that get the best of us!

Silly,  huh?

Farewell to Summer

Our summer here is officially over.  Fall begins tomorrow. The high temperatures will linger into October but the nights will begin to cool. In November  we will experience our “fall” in Southern California.  From now until then we will have dry dusty days without rain, Santa Ana winds, and abundant sunshine. The palm trees will remain green, native plants will flourish, hillsides will continue to brown,  leaves will drop and blow in the wind, but a few splashes of fall colors maybe found.

Summer was wonderful.  Although we spent more time at home than usual, we enjoyed many opportunities to get outdoors and appreciate summer. Rather than bore you with details,  I decided to showcase a few highlights and allow the pictures to tell most of the story.

A visit to Berkeley and the University of California

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Exploring Berkeley and visiting with family.

Visiting a winery near Gilroy, California

Salinas, California-Home of John Steinbeck.

Beautiful Monterey Bay

Camping in Big Sur and exploring the California coastline.

Laughing in amazement at sun bathing sea lions.

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A Phoenix sunrise. One of two trips we made to Arizona.

Who knew Arizona could be so green?

We loved our visit to Oro Valley north of Tuscon, Arizona…

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…and even enjoyed the rain!

Our small garden yielded us tomatoes, onions, peppers, squash, and strawberries.

I worked on a few sewing and craft projects.

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We spent a great deal of time with family, friends, and just hanging out.

(and of course eating and shopping!)

So while we say farewell to the Summer of 2016…

I am looking forward to what comes next!

How was your summer?

(or winter-depending on where you live)

The Public Library

A much younger person once told me that the day of a public library had passed. He felt there was no need to check out books, sit in a stuffy place while people around him said shhhhh. Computers were a much better way to research any bits of information that a person might need.  Uh…hadn’t I ever heard of Amazon???  Sitting to read a magazine or explore a bookshelf seemed like a waste of time to him. The idea of handling a bunch of musty old books or any other such nonsense seemed incomprehensible. As much as I tried to plead my case for the need of libraries, he just didn’t get it.

Ahhh well…youth…????

With a broken computer at home I am at the library-using a public computer. Having a smartphone or tablet  I seldom need an actual computer these days-except to write a blog post, type or print a document maybe. It might be more fashionable to head on over to a Kinko’s or some other such place, spend a few dollars and act like I don’t really need to be there…but… why would I want to do that when I can do this for free with my

Library Card!!!

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Oh sure, if I want to print something here it will cost me 10 cents a page (although it was free for may years) and I can only use the computer for 2 hours per day…but

 Why not?

If you have read my blog previously you may  know that I have fond memories of libraries-about my father taking us to the library as children while my sister and I checked out stacks of books (for free-if you don’t count the overdue fines we inevitability incurred). Most recently I talked about how much I enjoy the online services offered. I am able to search for a book at online at home, place a request, and then wait until the book is located. A text message will alert me when I am able to pick it up and for how many days it will be held. I can then pop into the library to pick it up. I also receive a text message when the due date is approaching. I can log on to my library account and renew my book several times before I actually need to make another trip into the library. No more overdue fines and super convenient!

OK, you might say. That is all very nice. After all, you can just run to the local big name book or warehouse store to purchase a book. Of course there is Amazon. If you have Prime you can even receive it within hours or the next day. No worry about fines or library cards and all of that nonsense.

Good thought.

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Well….

Today I needed to use a computer. Since the computers at the library are in high demand, I am assuming many other people need computer access for some reason. As I nosily look around, I see people job searching. Some here are seniors, some people dressed nicely-others not so nice. Perhaps  owning a computer is not within their budget. A few students are here working on projects of some sort. For some families a computer might not be in the budget or if they have one the cost of internet is too high. In our area you can expect to pay $60 a month (at least) for home internet service. McDonalds  or Starbucks might not be convenient or available or whatever.

The library is getting busy as kids finish their school day. I see a few young people here-a couple of girls quietly giggling together while they have school work laid out on the tables before them There is a young couple studying. What a  nice way for teens to study together.

I picked up a flyer at the door.

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They are promoting upcoming library events like storytime for kids on Tuesdays  or a free craft corner in the evening. The library is celebrating Hispanic Heritage month and a date for a puppet show of Alice In Wonderland is approaching. There is a literacy program. There are opportunities for volunteers. The Friends of the Library have a small bookstore where donated books are sold for a fraction of the cost of a new book. Contact your local library to see if they are taking book donations. (Most of us have a few laying around gathering dust and taking up room) Movies and books on tape/CD are found here too!

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Who knows? The children’s reading area might stimulate a lifetime of learning!

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Maybe the library isn’t for you but this really is an opportunity for many…people of all ages!  It is diverse in its offerings and with a county or city library system if your location does not have what you are looking for they probably can get it! The reference librarian is available to direct and assist you in your search.

And its free!

I passed a young mother on my way in today. She had a young boy of about 6 years old in tow. Her arms were overloaded with a stack of children’s books.  They were laughing and talking as they walked away. I envisioned them laying all of those books on the living room floor to explore together. Or maybe she would read to him as he snuggled beside her in a cozy chair. They may have some set aside for bedtime stories. Bonding time. Books can take you places or stir the imagination!

We will go shopping for a new computer this week and I will probably not be back to use the computers anytime soon. Sure, I could pop over to the bookstore and buy a book but I feel my money is best spent elsewhere (we all have our priorities). Sure, I buy books on Amazon if I need to own an actual book. There is, however, something about the atmosphere of the library that makes me love being here. Few distractions, no cell phones, no dirty dishes calling to me!  Maybe it’s the memories it evokes. I don’t know for sure.

What I do know for sure, is that the library system we have here is a gift and I hope it is one we can embrace in a changing world. A library just might be one of the best kept secrets!