Under Angel Wings


Wednesday, April 28, 2010

French Braid Fun

Yesterday when Elizabeth was over after school we decided to try out a new hairstyle. When my daughter, Olivia, was young she taught herself how to do a French Braid on her own, then she taught me how to do it on her hair. It has been years, tho, and I was a little unsure on how to do the first few "stitches." So we found a YouTube video to help us!

Elizabeth sat on my step stool so I could watch the laptop and braid along with the video. I sat in my desk chair behind her. Chloe, our little Papillon, had to get in on the fun as well, especially since she is a little French dog. :D

                                               Voila! Magnifique! Here is the finished French Braid.

                      With her beautiful chocolate brown hair and eyes, she could be a little French girl.

                                                              "Bonjour, mon nom est Elizabeth."

Here is the video we watched: 

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Chocolate Muffins

Healthy Chocolate Muffins?? Yes, I know, it sounds like an oxymoron, but it is possible to bake a healthy, ooey-gooey, moist and dense, melty chocolate muffin that is low in fat. My husband and I have been treating ourselves to a Deep Chocolate Vita Muffin every night, and even at just 100 calories each they are delicious!! But pricey, at $5.99 for a box of four, and my good sense won't allow me to go on paying that kind of money, so I was forced to find a home-baked alternative.

I Googled 'low fat chocolate muffin recipe' and came up with many choices. (What did we ever do before Google search??) The one I decided to try is from eHOW: How to make One Point Chocolate Muffins. The 'One Point' is Weight Watchers terminology for low in fat and calories. My version, because I add a few chocolate chips to each muffin, is probably 1-2 points each. They are ridiculously easy to make and low in cost as well!

Elizabeth, great-niece and budding chef, was on hand today to demonstrate the process. The Cast of Characters includes 1 box reduced fat or regular dark chocolate brownie mix, 3 cups All Bran Cereal, 2 1/2 cups water, 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and about 6 ounces (one half of a package) of semi-sweet chocolate chips. That is all!! The recipe makes 14 muffins.

Pour the dry cereal in the mixing bowl...

Add the water and stir to moisten. Let sit for 10 minutes or so until the cereal is completely wet and soft.
Start the mixer on low speed for a minute to mix the cereal with the water.

Add the pouch of brownie mix and continue to mix on low.

Add the baking powder and continue mixing...

Scrape the sides of the bowl to mix in all the dry brownie mix.

When the batter is well mixed, pour into a large measuring cup for ease of handling.

Spray the muffin cups with Pam, and pour the batter in. Each cup should be almost full. These are not high rising muffins, they are moist and dense with a really chocolate-y taste!!

Sneak a taste (chef's prerogative)...

Drop 6-8 chocolate chips into each muffin and place the pans in the oven pre-heated to 350 degrees.
Bake for approximately 30-35 minutes until tops of the muffins are dry and springy to the touch. 

Remove from the oven and run a knife around each muffin to loosen while they are warm. Let cool and place on a pretty plate to serve, or put in a large zip-lock bag to freeze. To warm a frozen muffin, microwave for approximately 30 seconds and enjoy!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day 1970-2010

                                                                      Earth / Moon Mural

Today is the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day that was celebrated on April 22, 1970. On that day I was a senior at the University of Oregon, about to graduate and return home to California. The  U of O April 22nd campus newspaper included an Earth Day poster (which I still have) to commemorate the occasion.

Today, let us set aside all strife, and celebrate all life on Planet Earth!

Psalm 148

1 Hallelujah! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his; praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon; praise him all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the Lord; for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever; he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

7 Praise the Lord from the earth, and you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog, tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle, creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young men and maidens, old and young together.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his Name only is exalted,
     his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people and praise for his loyal servants,
     the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

This image can be found at Google Images and Wallpaper Murals

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

April Showers, May Flowers

                                                                                                 My sunny backyard sunflower 2009

For the last couple of weeks, Elizabeth (my great-niece) and I have been trying to find a space of sunshine so we could go out on the patio and start planting flower seeds in our seed trays. Our spring weather in the valley this year, however, has been very unpredictable!! Yesterday Lizzie was over after school and it was pouring buckets of cold rain, again, so we decided to do our seed planting in the kitchen, or we would not have any flowers until late summer.

I had fun recently picking out some seed packets. Zinnias are always a favorite since childhood when our grandmother Pearl had lovely tall zinnias all around her home. Hollyhocks were a favorite of our mom, and they used to grow wild all around her house on our ranch. When the flowers died I picked off the seed pods and started some in my backyard where they look so pretty standing by the fences. It's always a surprise what colors you will get with hollyhocks, at least it is in my garden! Then sunflowers are important to provide those huge sunny faces that are so cheerful, and wonderful for the birds. I also picked up some delphinium seeds to try as an experiment.

We put a bag of potting soil in the sink and Lizzie started filling the little sections in the trays. There is room in the bottom of the trays for drainage, and each one comes with a clear plastic dome lid to protect the seedlings as they sprout and grow...

We made a matrix of all the sections so we could keep track of where we planted the different varieties of seeds. Then Lizzie will know what she is planting when she puts them in the ground! 

Now the seeds are planted and it's time to water. We're going to keep the trays indoors by the sliding glass door where they will get lots of light and not be too cold outside in the wind and rain. Last night right before sunset I saw one of the biggest, darkest clouds to the north of us that I have ever seen!

Last summer Uncle Jim helped Elizabeth plant some sunflowers and pumpkins in his garden. Uncle Jim's sunflowers were some of the biggest I have ever seen! He probably had to use a chain saw to cut them down. Our soil in Sutter County is some of the best in the world for growing things.

Last summer was the first time I have ever planted sunflowers in my yard, I don't know why. Every time I looked outside they gave me joy. They don't stay beautiful that long, tho, so it would be a good idea to stagger their planting times so that you always have some lovely fresh ones in the yard all summer long. I wonder if I can actually be that organized this year! The heads were so heavy I had to tie them to the fence to keep them standing tall.

Last year at Easter my two grown children, Olivia and Grady, were home for some family time and Dave and I twisted their arms to help us plant this bed of zinnias. It was amazing how fast this job was completed with four people helping!! We redid the bed, fixed the sprinkling system, leveled the dirt, spread on fresh bark and planted the little plants I had purchased in 6 packs. I enjoyed these flowers for about six months, so it was a great investment of time and money. 

The cut flowers were gorgeous as well.
There was only one problem...I forgot that zinnias get mildew if they get wet from overhead, and this bed is right next to the lawn. Every day they got sprayed and eventually some of them started turning ash gray which was disappointing. This year I am planting my zinnias all around the pool where they will just have drip irrigation at ground level, and hummingbird mint and shasta daisies will go in this bed.  We live and we learn!!

Last summer I had a volunteer plant come up right next to my fountain. It was a complete surprise!! In fact I didn't even know what it was for sure at first, because the leaves were so big. When I saw the stalk coming up I knew it was a hollyhock, perfectly placed for our enjoyment!! The color was the prettiest pink, and I just loved it.

I didn't have the heart to cut the plant off at ground level in the late fall the way I should have done. I cut off the flower stalk and left the plant all winter, because I was afraid it wouldn't grow back. The plant survived the winter and is twice as big this spring as it ever got last summer, with one problem. Hollyhocks are prone to rust which I did not know, so I have had to cut off a lot of leaves to try and save the plant. It seems to flourish no matter what I do to it! It has multiple stalks this year, so oh my goodness it should put on quite a show for us.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Tea Party Patriots Rally

                                                Garrett Tharp, Yuba-Sutter Tea Party Chairman

First off, let me just say that I don't care for politics. In fact I have always said that I "abhor"politics.  I just don't feel comfortable with activities that are divisive; I prefer to spend my time doing things that unite people. Only the gravest concern for the direction that our country is headed in could possibly drive me out of my warm and snuggy house on a cold and windy day!

After years of not being involved in politics, however, millions of us are coming out to voice our opinions on a wide range of issues. We are taking a stand for what this country used to stand for! What I like about the Tea Party Patriots is that by and large they are a respectful group of people who have worked hard all their lives and just want to be heard on what is important to them. They want government to listen to them!

Last year I attended the first Tax Day Rally on April 15th on the steps of the California State Capitol. There were 12,000 people there, and it was one of the nicest crowds I have ever seen. No one was disrespectful in any way that I saw, and I felt totally comfortable there. This Thursday a large group of us is headed down to Sacramento for Tax Day Rally II, barring any complications from the rainy spring weather we have been having lately.

The Tea Party Patriots don't endorse candidates, and the members come from all three political parties. The message is simple, and this is what we believe in, which is stated on the back of our t-shirts:
Free Markets
Fiscal Responsibility
Constitutionally Limited Government

FOX- 40 News showed up at the very end of the rally and caught some video of the event. I'm on there showing the simple message on the back of the t-shirt (we sold a ton of them yesterday), and my 1776 flag was flying in the prow of the "boat." I'm impressed that young people came out to support the cause as well...the chairman of our local group is Garrett Tharp, shown in a Patriot costume. For a 20 year old he has a really good grasp of the issues. We signed up pages of new members! I think the Tea Party Patriots of this country are going to be around for a long while!

Enjoy the video clip. Hopefully it will stay on my page at least for a short time. Please remember that there are no "sides" to the Tea Party movement!! Everyone of all parties, races, backgrounds, religions, ages and genders is welcome to join us.

Yuba-Sutter Tea Party Patriots

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Greetings

                     He Is Risen

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hiking Inside the Sutter Buttes

In the middle of the great Sacramento Valley in Northern California exists what is known as "the smallest mountain range in the world," the Sutter Buttes. Between 1.5 and 1 million years ago volcanic activity occurred there, leaving a ring (sometimes called a "rosette") of peaks and valleys that is 10 miles across and covers an area of about 75 square miles. (This view of the Buttes is from the north looking south). 

For millennia the valley was an inland sea, then in recent thousands of years the land was covered in trees, grasses and wildflowers, the rivers teeming with fish and the skies dark with wildfowl. Native peoples such as the Maidu and the Wintun lived along the banks of what became known as the Sacramento and Feather Rivers, but retreated to the ramparts of the Buttes when winter storms flooded the valley. 

The Maidus called the mountains Histum Yani, and the Wintuns knew them as Onolai-tol, both names roughly translating to "Middle Mountain." These buttes were very important spiritually to the two tribes in terms of their belief in creation, and at the end of life when they believed that their spirits would go to the Buttes on the way to the spirit world. 

In 1806 Gabriel Moraga, a Spaniard, was the first European to see the Buttes. Another Spaniard, Luis Arguello, led an expedition in 1817 to explore California by water. He named the Buttes "Los Pichachos," or "the peaks." He also named the Feather River "El Rio del Las Plumas" because he saw many feathers of wildfowl floating on the water. 

The renowned mountain man, Jedediah Smith, trapped in the vicinity of the Buttes in 1828. Then in 1833 a brigade of French fur trappers from the Hudson Bay Company passed through, possibly infecting the Maidus with small pox and contributing to the decimation of their numbers. In 1845-46 Captain John C. Fremont led an expedition through the Sutter Buttes and established a base camp there. 

John Augustus Sutter, after the 1841 settling of Sutter's Fort in Sacramento, established his Hock Farm south of what would become Yuba City. In 1848 gold was discovered at his sawmill in Coloma, and Sutter County was named for him and established in 1850.

The native peoples gathered acorns from the oaks and hunted wild game to sustain themselves during the times they lived in the Sutter Buttes. Many acorn grinding holes are still evident in the flat rocks. The land inside the Buttes was bought up in the 1800's and has been passed down through the families for generations. 

Even though this means that accessibility is limited for those of us living in the valley, the good news is that the land has remained relatively unchanged for over a century. Local valley residents may enter the Buttes each spring by signing up for annual day hikes with the Middle Mountain Foundation.

This gorgeous photo of the Buttes was taken last week by our cousin Joanne, while she was visiting Gray Lodge Wildlife Refuge, on the northwest side of the mountains. This is one of the prettiest shots (and there have been thousands taken from around the valley) that I have ever seen! Thank you, Joanne.

One of the most interesting aspects of these mountains is that since they are in a circle, all directions have a completely different look. Each one of us grows up with our own "view" of the Buttes, and it's always fun to drive completely around them to see what other peoples' views look like! This view is very different from mine, because North Butte is on the left, whereas in the view that my family has looked at for 100 years, North Butte is on the right.

As we drive into the Buttes on our day hike, we follow dirt roads through sheep pastures. There are low rock walls still standing which were made by Chinese immigrants during the gold rush era. The rocks were blown out of the volcano during the eruptions, and hundreds of thousands of them still lay where they dropped! Thank you, cousin Rich, for sharing your sheep and cattle photos...

Cattle are also raised here during the winter and spring, until the grasses turn dry and they are taken up into the higher Sierra Nevada range to feed. The elevation of this range is fairly low, more what we call "foothills," so the weather becomes quite hot and dry in the summer and fall.

Once we have slowly and carefully driven through the pastures, opening and closing the gates as we go so as not to let any of the animals escape, we arrive at the ranch of our hosts. This family has very graciously opened their property for the day, and we intend to have a wonderful time exploring it!

Here is Elizabeth on her very first hike in the Buttes! She even is carrying a walking stick, just like the adults. Rattlesnakes live at this elevation, so the hikes are scheduled in the early spring when the weather is still too cool for them to move around in. We always remain vigilant, tho, as we have seen a number of rattlesnakes and had some very close encounters over the years!! No bites, thankfully...:D They like to sun themselves on the rocks, so we are always careful where we put our hands and where we sit down.

If the rainfall has been average or better during the winter, we are treated to some beautiful wildflowers!

I borrowed this sun-streaked photo from the California State Parks web site. It shows an interesting rock alignment on a contour break overlooking Peace Valley on the other side of North Butte. One day we went on a beautiful hike through the valley which is now part of the state park system.

This tree has been converted into a granary by the woodpeckers. The birds actually drill the holes and insert acorns into them!! It is pretty amazing to see.

One of our little hikes takes us to what is called the "drum rock." It is a large rock that sounds semi- hollow when you knock on it. The rock is literally at the base of North Butte. Right behind it you can start a steep climb up to a larger outcropping of rock known as 'Little North Butte." This is my husband, David.

My sister Jan, center, (blue shirt) and her group of family and friends so happy to be in the Buttes on a gorgeous day. Jan is past president of the Middle Mountain Foundation, and the organizer of our hikes. Joe, to the right in sunglasses and hat, leads us up and over the hills and teaches us about the flora, fauna, and native peoples who lived in the area at different times of the year.

A beautiful "bouquet" of wildflowers!!

My sister, Jan, and I sitting at the base of North Butte. Mittens and scarves were required on this day due to a brisk spring breeze. 

I've always thought that the rocks at the top look like a craggy castle, even from many miles across the valley!

One of many lovely views taken by my husband, David. Notice the little-used cattle trail across the slope.

                            Elizabeth and I leaning on Drum Rock on her first visit into the Buttes.

This photo was also borrowed from the state parks web site. It was taken from the very top of North Butte, looking in a northwest direction toward the valley.

     Elizabeth enjoyed exploring one of the mortars that the native peoples used to grind their acorns in.

This is "Little North Butte" that pushes out from North Butte itself. It's a nice steep little climb up and around it and back to camp.

In this longer view you can see all the way through the rock on the right. I always imagine that small             boys must have delighted in climbing up to sit in the hole and play in ancient days. Perhaps girls as well!

                                Everywhere you turn, there is a fabulous view inside the Buttes!!

                                                           A very well-preserved grinding stone.

                                    Willard, Jennifer and myself bringing up the rear of course!

                                     Elizabeth, my sister's granddaughter, and our great-niece.

                          Here are a few of the wild animals that live inside the Sutter Buttes. Coyotes...

                                                                      Golden eagles...

                                                               Diamondback rattlesnakes....

                                                                          White deer...

                                                                       and Wild Boar!!

           This is one of my favorite photographs of inside the Sutter Buttes. I have a dream, and that is to climb North Butte! Both of our parents climbed it, our mom in high school, and our dad climbed it many times in his youth with his brother and friends and their dogs. In those days, in the early 1900's, permission was not needed!

            I should have climbed it when I was younger as well, but we usually hiked in a different area of the Buttes, and the opportunity never presented itself. I surely would like to climb it now. It looks deceptively easy from this viewpoint, but believe me, that mountain at 1,863 feet is higher than it looks and it's no easy climb!! Perhaps next spring...

Now we are home again, looking at the Sutter Buttes from "our view," across the valley to the east             a ways.