Wordless Wednesday – The Day The Music Died

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The Last First Anniversary

My first year without Mom and without any living parents

After losing three parents in previous years, I always came to dread the first anniversaries of their deaths each year.  Without fail, every first anniversary was a hard day emotionally for me, especially the first parent, Hubby’s father, who died on Christmas Eve just a few days before our son was born.  Each of our four parents endured a fairly long and hard illness prior to their death, and each illness was brutal on them in the process and excruciating for all of us to watch.

Each year when those first anniversaries of losing our first three parents came around, the day always seemed to bring back the emotional pain of those terrible illnesses, as well as a reminder of the gaping hole left in our lives.  We learned over subsequent years that this pain begins to subside as time goes on, but that first anniversary is always hard.

Mother ribbon sm

Following Mom’s death a year ago, the next four months were the hardest times for me as I tried to grieve while also having to deal with immediate estate matters amid sometimes tense family issues and moving her things out of two separate living facilities.  For these reasons, I don’t think that I truly grieved until the estate business was finally settled in May.  Tears flowed numerous times during those first months, but I’m not sure I grieved as I needed to do.

Finally, in early May, the last estate matters were settled.  Hubby and I took a postponed anniversary trip to Maui, and our first full day on the island was Mother’s Day.  We opted to take the trip over Mother’s Day so that we could change our routine for that day that would be hard no matter where we were, but would be especially hard if we stayed home.

I woke up a couple of hours before my husband and just sat on the lanai with a cup of coffee, overlooking the ocean and the sunrise, and that is when my grief really came to the surface rather unexpectedly.

It was my first Mother’s Day with no mother.

I’m glad that Hubby slept in upstairs in as I sobbed to the point that I got a terrible headache, but somehow felt joy and some relief at the same time, a truly remarkable feeling.  It felt like grief and closure all at once, and I even took a few photos and a video of the stunning beauty around me afterward with my phone to try to capture this memorable moment when God felt so close.  There is really no good way to describe that time, except that a tremendous burden felt like it had finally been lifted from my shoulders for the first time in many years.

Ever since that special sunrise experience on Mother’s Day morning, I’ve felt much better in how I’ve handled Mom’s death.  We still had two more deaths to go with other close family members last year, and while those were also very hard, I remained at peace with Mom’s passing for the most part.  Still, I dreaded the first anniversary of her death, based on past experiences.

This last first anniversary came and went on Wednesday, and just like all of those other first anniversaries, it was pretty hard, with some of those same old feelings I felt when she suffered so much for an entire month and passed away making an appearance once again.  I felt more prepared this time, though.  I deliberately kept that day free from appointments and times with friends, and I’m glad I did.

Sometimes we need to simply recognize that at times like this, we need to be gentle with ourselves as we can and give ourselves a pass on some things without feeling guilty. We can’t help our feelings, but we can have a say-so in how we deal with them.

Wednesday was an uneventful day of simple household chores, reading and jotting down a few thoughts privately and on Facebook to commemorate the day and honor her life, and a few tears once again found their way back to my eyes again while Hubby was at work.  My best friend sent a simple text to just say she loved me and was thinking about me, which meant so much, as she also lost her father early last year.  Hubby and I just opted for take-out from Chick-Fil-A, dining at home with the pups keeping us company as they always do in the evenings, and this was exactly how I needed to spend the day.

There is truly a beautiful blessing in the normal.

This last first anniversary also brought home once again the significant difference in our lives now that we have no living parents.  Even after a full year, we are both still learning to adjust to this reality.  Once again, we took some sage advice to change our routine during the holidays, which was interesting and actually helped us get through Thanksgiving and Christmas pretty well, even though Christmas morning still brought a few tears.

Lastly, I have found myself quite unprepared in some ways to now being one of the elders of the family, even though we are only in our 50’s, which is not the norm for most people our age.  All of our friends still have one or more living parents, and perhaps this would be a good topic for another post sometime.

If there is any consolation right now, it is this simple fact…

No more first anniversaries for us. Ever again. (At least for our parents.)  It should get a little easier from here.

Note:  In my previous Wordless Wednesday post, I shared a simple photo of a CD.  “Stained Glass” by Doug Smith has some of the most beautiful Christian piano music I’ve ever heard.  I took that photo just a few hours before Mom passed away as I sat with her, both of us listening to this beautiful music in her peaceful, private bedroom.  It was such a beautiful, yet emotionally hard, time.  I will never forget our priceless time together as she transitioned from one life to the next.  God’s presence was so real and strong in a truly remarkable way that day, and I continued to feel that strong presence throughout the coming days as we dealt with her arrangements.

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Wordless Wednesday – One Year Ago Today

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Site and Map Updates

A brand new look for a brand new year!

My Five Fs has a new look!  I’ve made a few updates to my site and to my RV trips map and want to share those here today.  Let’s start with the site updates, then continue to the RV trips map updates for 2015.  Just for today, I hope you will actually click-through to my site to read today’s post and let me know what you think of the updates.

Logo

For some time, I’ve considered updating the look and feel of my site, and late last week, I finally decided to make some big changes.  Even though it was a little hard to finally hit the magic button and save those changes for good, I’m quite happy with the new look.    I selected the Twenty Sixteen theme, and I like most everything about it, including my new logo, my standard little “peeping dove” that has graced my site for years now.

The Twenty Sixteen theme showcases photos in a higher quality manner as compared to my previous theme, which is one of the features I desired the most for this site.

This theme uses significantly more screen “real estate,” which makes it possible to showcase photos in a beautiful manner on all devices.  The featured image will now appear at the beginning of each post, along with a new option to share an “excerpt” at the beginning of a post with a summary thought or important point about that particular post.

In the process of updating the site, I also removed an add-on font from Type Kit that I utilized for titles over the past few years, opting now to just go with the fonts that WordPress has available with this theme.  In earlier days, there were very few, if any, choices of fonts available, but happily, this is no longer the case.  I tested several fonts for readability, while hoping to find a more decorative font for titles that also worked well with the new site banner.

In a way, I’ve returned to the original look when I started My Five Fs several years ago with a simple, clean feel and less clutter on the page, and the new header helps to more accurately brand the site, too.

Fivefs Header Color

I have always intended to write on these five themes and will continue to do so, rather than focusing my writings on a specific area, and any additional content found on my site will support one or more of these themes in some way.

People are increasingly reading web content on their phones and tablets, and having a site design that is user friendly and quick-loading for mobile readers is a necessary feature.

2016-01-18-15.22.22Most of the time, my handy Samsung tablet is my go-to device when I’m at home, and my Samsung phone is the device I use when away from home.  While I also use my laptop at home at times, I usually opt for the tablet for reading.  Site content on My Five Fs looks much better now, based on what I’ve seen on my own mobile devices, with the exception of the big crack I now have on my tablet screen.  That is obviously my problem to solve in a whole different, and more expensive, manner soon. :-(

Subscribed readers will continue to have full access to posts in their WordPress reader, rather than directing them to my site.  While some people desire to have their readers go directly to their sites for different reasons, this practice seems to be an increasingly time-consuming effort for me personally, even on our Wi-Fi connection, especially if the article contains numerous pictures or graphics.  For regular subscribers, the WordPress reader pops up quickly and is easy to read.  New visitors will still visit the actual site, along with a few subscribers that will occasionally visit there, which works just fine for me.  I’m just so pleased when anyone takes the time to read, like and/or comment on my posts, no matter how they read them.

Now, let’s look at the RV trips map updates!

Map pic
We visited four new campgrounds in 2015!

 

“Our RV Trips Map” has been updated with the new places we visited in 2015.  On the updated site home page, the permanent page with the map link can now found at the top right column, rather than at the top of the site.

Pages

If you would like to check out the updated map directly, just click the link below, which is the same link found on the permanent page.

Our RV Trips Map

RV camping additions from 2015 to the map, all new camping destinations last year for us:

Eisenhower State Park (North Texas) – October

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Lake Arrowhead State Park (Northwest Texas) – October

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KOA Durant Choctaw Casino (Southern Oklahoma) – October

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Lake Colorado City State Park (Southern Panhandle Texas) – March and May

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Other map updates, interesting sites to see:
Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site (North Texas) – October
Choctaw Casino Resort (Southern Oklahoma) – October
Albuquerque Old Town (North-Central New Mexico) – November

As I looked at this map once again, I realized how many places I’ve missed sharing here, except as a point on the map.  2015 was such a tumultuous year in so many ways, and I’m looking forward to a hopefully calmer year with less drama, which will permit me to finally find a new life routine going forward from all of the family deaths last year.  Hopefully, I will be able to backtrack a bit and share more about some of these lovely places, including our fabulous Hawaii trip.

If you are not following my special photography project site at Animal Wonder, I hope you will check it out today and subscribe to see future posts there, too.  That site is primarily focused on my animal/bird photography with fewer words, usually telling only a brief description or story about the photo.

Thank you to all my special friends here for continuing to make this writing and reading experience a true joy with your likes and comments over the past few years!  I look forward to continuing this journey with you all for a long time.

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The Best Low-carb Pizza Crust

After much searching, here is a great, low-carb pizza crust recipe!

In a previous post on Tuesday, I shared a photo of our very first “keeper” recipe for a low-carb pizza crust.  This crust is made from riced cauliflower and grated cheese with a variety of spices that makes the flavor of the crust complimentary to the other ingredients added on top.

Prior to trying this recipe, I made a couple of recipes that used almond flour as the primary ingredient in the crust.  Neither of us cared for these crusts, as the almond flavor didn’t seem to work with the savory pizza toppings that we like so much, and we also did not care for the consistency.  We actually just scraped off the toppings and left the crust on our plates.

Over the past few weeks, I have been searching for a low-carb crust recipe that might actually work for us.  I knew that a cauliflower crust would most likely work with our personal tastes, as long as the consistency and flavor worked with our pizza toppings, too.  On Monday, after narrowing down the search to two basic recipes that were almost identical, I decided to give it a try.

I bought a large head of cauliflower with the intention of making two pizza crusts, rather than just one.  While I was giving this a try, it made sense to make one crust, then make a second one with some adjustments if I felt that the first one wasn’t quite up to our expectations.  If both turned out well, we would have a spare crust to freeze and use for another meal later on.  This was a good strategy, and thankfully, the first one came out very well.  I simply repeated the process for the second crust, and it turned out nicely, too.

One of the most important things to do in this recipe is to drain as much liquid from the cooked cauliflower as possible before adding the other ingredients.  This takes a few minutes, but it is an essential step.

I followed the directions and used a kitchen tea towel.  I measured out the cooked, riced cauliflower and used three cups in each crust, and I highly recommend measuring it out, rather than eyeballing it.  I didn’t pack it down, just spooned it into the measuring cup.  I also did not add the optional tablespoon of almond flour, since my goal was to keep the almond flavor out of the crust completely.

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The first crust s ready to go in the oven. I pressed it out to about 10″ in diameter, and that is as thin as I would recommend for one recipe. I actually dried out the cauliflower a little more for the second crust. Practice makes perfect! ;-)

 

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The first crust s ready to go in the oven. I pressed it out to about 10″ in diameter, and that is as thin as I would recommend for one recipe. I actually dried out the cauliflower a little more for the second crust. Practice makes perfect! ;-)

The crust turned out pretty much perfect, and even though I didn’t give it a try, I think this recipe might even make a nice faux flatbread to cut and eat with another entrée, especially one with Italian flavors.

We topped our lovely pizza with a quick sauce that I made by mixing a regular can of tomato sauce and a tiny can of tomato paste, since I never buy pre-made pizza or spaghetti sauce anymore.  I did not have sugar-free tomato sauce, so I just used the sauce a little sparingly.  Also, not listed in the original recipe, I sprinkled some Italian seasoning over the sauce before adding the other pizza toppings, then added a layer of grated mozzarella cheese.  We then added sliced pepperoni, a little crumbled sausage, black olives and a sliced fresh jalapeno, seeded.  Finally, we topped off our pizza with some fresh grated parmesan.  I love to have both mozzarella and parmesan cheeses on a pizza.

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Our tasty pizza is ready to go back in the oven for about five minutes at 450 degrees.

Since the crust was already baked, the pizza with toppings only needed to bake about five more minutes in the 450 degree oven.  I added the fresh basil leaves to the top after removing it from the oven.

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Lastly, we topped our delicious and healthy pizza with some fresh chopped basil.

It was pretty funny as we sat at our dinner table and tasted our new pizza at the same time.  I wanted to wait to share my own reaction and thoughts until I saw what Hubby thought of it.  Bless his heart, sometimes he will compliment my cooking even when he probably shouldn’t, so I wanted to try to get an honest reaction from him.  It didn’t take long, maybe two bites, before he shared that he really liked it!  I agreed, and we proceeded to eat the whole thing, along with our side salads.  If I had made the second pizza, we might have eaten it, too!  It was that good, and we have definitely missed eating good pizza.  I honestly believe that we would not have known this was a low-carb option if we judged it only by the taste, especially since we like the thinner crust anyway.

Next time, I may try to put the baked crust under the broiler for a minute or so, just to crisp it up a bit more, since that is how we tend to like our crusts, thin and just slightly crisp but not overcooked.  I may also try adding a little more grated parmesan cheese to the crust batter.  The other recipe that I found was pretty much identical to this one but had 1.5 cups of this cheese, not just 1/4 cup.  I don’t think it needs that much cheese, but a little more might just make it even tastier!  (Grated parmesan cheese baked in the oven makes tasty snack crackers that are perfect on a low-carb diet.  I buy them at our local deli.)

One more nice thing about this crust is its low cost.  I calculated the cost of each crust right at $1.  I’m all about saving a little money where I can, for sure.

Here is the link to the original site where this recipe was posted on The Lucky Penny Blog.

The BEST Cauliflower Pizza Crust

This recipe has also turned up on Pioneer Woman’s “Tasty Kitchen” site, with a reference back to the original post. This crust, or a variation of it, honestly seems to be one of the more widely used low-carb pizza crusts now, for good reason.  While it took me a little more time to make it on this first attempt, it will definitely go faster next time.

Going forward, I will make several crusts at once and freeze the other baked crusts for future use.  If I had to make a crust from scratch like this every time we want a pizza, I probably wouldn’t go to the effort, but making several at once makes perfect sense.  I can’t wait to actually have pizza on one of our future RV trips, too!  What a treat that will be for us.  I also plan to experiment with this recipe as a standalone flatbread, too.

Where there is a will, there is usually a way, and I’m glad that I kept searching for such a great pizza crust option that works for us.

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Wordless Wednesday – You’re Too Slow, Buddy!

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“Healthy” is the Word

A few goals for healthy living in 2016

A few days ago, I had a brief discussion with another blogging friend about how some people select a word as inspiration for their lives in the new year.  I have never done this per se, but after giving some thought to what I would like to see for myself in the coming year, “Healthy” would actually be a good word for me personally right now.  Of course, “Healthy” doesn’t mean only physical health, as I want to apply it to just about every area of my life… spiritual health, emotional health, etc.  But for this post, I want to focus on physical health, since this is something on many of our minds in the month of January, especially concerning healthy eating and exercise.  For me, physical health also helps me to be healthy in all other aspects of my life, too.

I’ve had much success over the past two years in staying on a healthier, low-carb eating plan.  During the holidays this year, I did not gain as many pounds as I did last year as I endured a stressful few months while dealing with Mom’s illness and death and did not focus as much on my diet.  This year, I didn’t give myself a pass from the eating plan, with the exception of Thanksgiving week and the two weeks at Christmas and New Year’s.  While we haven’t resumed our low-carb diet 100% yet, I’m looking forward to resuming it consistently because I know how much better I will feel once I do that and how much better my clothes will fit long-term.  February 1 is our target date to be 100% back on our diet, and we are both good with that target date as we are already easing into it anyway once again and are largely there already.

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A good Chef’s Salad is a great, filling option for a low-carb lunch or dinner!

For more information on a low-carb lifestyle, see my page
My Low-carb Lifestyle

I also plan to explore more new low-carb recipes for us this year.  Sometimes keeping it simple with some tried and true meals is a good, safe option, but hopefully I will have more time this year to explore new recipes and expand our favorites list.  I hope to find more good, easy low(er) carb recipes that can be prepared in under an hour from start to table, and if we can eat two or three meals from one preparation, so much the better.  I hope to find one new, awesome low-carb recipe per week, and I plan to share some of the best ones here for others to enjoy, too.

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I finally made a low-carb pizza crust that we actually like. It is made with cauliflower and cheese and tastes quite good.  We no longer have to just eat the toppings off of a pizza!

Daily walking is thankfully one healthy practice that I have done consistently since June when I purchased my Fitbit Charge HR.  Honestly, this has been such a great thing for me, and it is a daily habit now.  I cannot recommend Fitbit tracking enough, as it has been a great accountability tool for me, not only in tracking steps, but tracking my heart rate and calories burned each day.  I believe that Fitbit walking and tracking is one reason that I did not gain as much weight during the holidays this year, too.  My exercise goal for the coming year is to just continue my daily walking, while getting back to the gym a little more regularly for additional workouts.

Fitbit stats
My weekly report from Fitbit during the blizzard. I walked over 29,000 steps on the day we shoveled all that snow, which definitely helped to achieve my step goal for the week while we were snowbound.

If you don’t own a Fitbit or desire to purchase one, let me just make a simple recommendation that works for me on days when I’m not very motivated to walk.  Let’s call it my “3/30 Rule.”  My “3/30 Rule” for daily walking is simply walking briskly for three minutes in every thirty-minute time period during the day from the time I get up to one hour after dinner.  I typically walk about 330 steps in a three-minute period when walking briskly, and it also allows me to elevate my heart rate throughout the day, not just once or twice a day.  I actually set a thirty-minute timer as a reminder at home to walk on the days that I’m mostly at home for the day.  Like I said, this is not how I typically walk on most days, as I prefer to have at least one longer walk outside, at the gym or other locations around town, but it is a simple way to add lots of steps in a single day.

Wonder how many steps this “3/30 Rule” will get you in a typical day?  Here is how it works for me.  In twelve hours, walking for three minutes every thirty minutes, I usually walk just under 8000 steps!  When trying to meet a goal of 10,000 steps each day, this gets me 80% of the way to my goal.  When I add in all of my other steps, I’m at or well past the 10,000 step goal.  In fact, I hope to even up my weekly step goal this year, too.  As a side note, as you can see in the photo above, I walked over 29,000 steps on the first day we shoveled snow here and burned over 3000 calories!  I knew this information, thanks to my handy Fitbit, and it was a little “reward” of sorts for all that hard work and all the aching muscles I had afterward.

One more way to add steps each day is simply parking far away from the front door of the store you are visiting.  We made this change last year, even before I purchased my Fitbit, and it is something we just do by habit now.  Not only is it easier to not “fight” for a closer parking space, we both get those extra steps in, and it’s also easier to leave the parking lot most of the time, too.  We both wonder why we always tried to park closer now, and perhaps this is just a little wisdom with age?

Finally, we hope to resume a more regular RV travel schedule this year, getting back to a monthly outing to help with our exercise goals.  We may even make more Saturday day trips by car with the dogs, just to do some hiking.  These trips may not happen until March 1 or later this year, but we will do our best to get back out in nature more and back to our hiking and bicycle riding which does us so much good from a health standpoint.  We are definitely missing our RV weekends and RV vacation weeks right now, especially after missing our traditional full week away after Christmas due to the blizzard.  Hubby’s nephew and his family also purchased a really nice, big pop-up camper late last year, and we are looking forward to camping with them on occasion going forward.  We love showing family and friends the beautiful state parks that we love to visit regularly.

I have other ideas and goals for this year, including ideas for working on the house, progressing in my photography and visiting some new destinations, but once again, taking care of my physical health is right up there toward the top of my list.

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