Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dancin' In The Light

                                     Wanna go to a music jam, potluck and square
                                           dance under the stars? Come on along!

        A group of us musicians from Green Valley Lake and Running Springs carpooled over to Mt. Baldy Village last night for the most enjoyable evening I've had in a very long time.

                           I loved these boot birdhouses for sale at a boutique in Baldy Village

                                         Meet our hostess Belinda.  Her apron says it all:
                                              "I've got your low carb diet right HERE..."          
                                       Oh yeah, and one more thing: she's a hell of a fiddler.

             We wasted no time breaking out our instruments.  Banjos are a very good sign...

              And when there's a stand-up bass...well...that's it. I'm pretty much in heaven.

                                                              Happy to be there

                              Robbie and Belinda are preparing for winter at their idyllic
         Mt. Baldy hideaway...but guys, I think you might need a bit more wood than that!  ;-)

                                       Next up, a hearty potluck! These apples came from
                                                     Frank and Sandy's GVL apple trees!

                                          Robbie and Belinda's mountain cabin is the cutest
                                         place I've seen in ages.  And inside it's even cozier!

                                Our dear friend Sandi is going through chemo right now, so you
                                know this infusion of music, laughter and dancing has got to be
                                     good for the immune system as well as the soul...

                  That a girl, Sandi...take your treatment! Your oncologist would be proud!
                                                             Time for the square dancing!

                                             "Come a little bit closer
                                             Hear what I have to say
                                             Just like children sleepin'
                                         We could dream this night away...

                                                      ...But there's a full moon risin'
                                               Let's go dancin' in the light

                                                  ...We know where the music's playin'
                                            Let's go out and feel the night....

                                                   ...But now it's gettin' late
                                                 And the moon is climbin' high...

                                              ...I want to celebrate, see it shining in your eye...

                                            ...because I'm still in love with you...

                                              ...I want to see you dance again...

...because I'm still in love with you...

                               ....on this harvest moon..."    ("Harvest Moon" by Neil Young)

                         And the party continued well into the night. We drove away
                                        exhausted, happy and very very grateful.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Fall Surprise in Green Valley Lake

                                             The maples are in bloom here in Green Valley Lake


 As it always does, fall started slowly, with scattered hints of reds and yellows...

Each sunrise brought colors slightly changed...

Beauty and more beauty with each passing day

Our neighbors to the east in Big Bear share in the glory of fall

And to the southwest, poplars glisten in Arrowbear, while a snowboard 
sign reminds us of what is to come in mere weeks

An explosion of color

This is the scene just steps from our cabin

This tree seems to be lit from within

The maples seem to be on fire

And speaking of fire, this is, of course, peak fire season. We literally put a big "X" on the calendar as each fireless day passes. Adding to our concern, the government shutdown has closed our nearest and most well equipped National Forest Service fire station. 

So, we're a bit anxious. But we're finding ways to distract ourselves.

   Sandy prepares to ceremoniously split a gigantic fall squash 
   grown right here in our Green Valley Lake community garden

Oh, my!  
Another diversion: I've been sitting in with a local bluegrass/old-timey
 band called "Grits 'n' Grady." 

       "Grits 'n' Grady" had an actual paying gig this past week    
     down in charming Oak Glen. What a treat! 

But then...something crazy happened. Something miraculous...

Five inches of snow fell on October 9th!

This was a record: the earliest snowstorm in recorded history here on the mountain!

                    What a rare treat to see the greens, reds and yellows of fall 
                     intermingled with the pristine white of the early winter snow

Definitely not something you see every day

       The snow melted within a day or two, but that didn't stop 
the kids from taking advantage of the situation:

Meet the newest Green Valley Lake mascot. 
I like his spirit!

Happy Fall, everyone!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

10 Ways We're Living More Simply

    The natural beauty of Green Valley Lake makes #10 a no brainer: get out in nature.

     Before we left on our sailing adventure, I did alot of reading on something called "The Simplicity Movement."  It means different things to different people,  but the modern American version started way back in the 1800's by Emerson and Thoreau.

 They came to be known as the Transcendentalists. What they preached was self-reliance, and seeing and immersing oneself in the transcendental beauty of life that is all around us.

  Anyway, in these post-materialistic times, when we are told that we absolutely MUST have the newest iPhone and a new car lease every 4 years, despite the fact that more and more of us are living on Walmart and Starbucks salaries...well...there's a bit of a disconnect there.

 We learned to live very simply when sailing through Mexico and Central America.  Upon returning to the states, we decided that would try, if possible, to not return to the full time corporate rat race that gave me so many migraines and panic attacks back in the day.  We have a bit of money saved up.

 Is this even possible, we wondered?

The basic theme is this: living on less is empowering. Having too many material things can be a weight that threatens to pull us under.

 But I like having cool stuff! 

 What to do, what to do...

 The answer, as always, is somewhere in the golden middle...

So, if you're inspired and intrigued but don't really know where to begin, here are 10 ways that we are trying to Live More Simply:

10) Get Out In Nature!

                       The natural beauty of Green Valley Lake as seen from the deck
                                                of our friends the Huckabys

   It's basically using nature as entertainment, as diversion. Study after study shows that just getting out there, out of the house, out of the car, out of the office and into the fresh air heals our mind, body and spirit. We all know this intrinsically -- it's just a matter of simply doing it. It's fun and it's free. And just because you don't live someplace beautiful like Green Valley Lake is no excuse to not get outside.

                             Nearly every city and town in the country has at least one park or
                                scenic walk like this one in Irvine, California. Get out there!

 So ditch that gym membership, grab a bottle of water and a packpack and climb that mountain!

                              OK, that first one was easy, and doesn't take much
                                        work or sacrifice. Which leads me to:

9) Basic Cable

OK, this was (and is) one of the toughest sacrifices for me. I love nothing more than sharing my pithy insights on the latest HBO/Showtime programs around the water cooler (well, I suppose the fact that I no longer have a water cooler makes this a bit easier to swallow).  We're just saying no to Netflix as well.

I learned to live without TV during our 18 months of sailing. But as proud as I was during the trip that I had "kicked" TV, like any good addict, I knew I would mainline that sweet electric IV again immediately upon returning to land.

I love movies too, of course, but knowing that all of the cool TV shows and movies are out there on DVD and digital, and that if they're that good I will eventually see them, eases the sting a little. I just need to be patient.

What we do now is watch slightly used (read "older") movies on basic cable. Sure, with the commercials a 2 hour movie takes 3 hours to watch, but we mute the ads and actually talk to each other during the gaping silences. (If you live by yourself, talk to the cat during the ads. Or play with the Rubic's Cube.)

8) No restaurants

This one is actually easy and fun for me. I'm a housewife now, and I love it. I'm really passionate about preparing healthy and delicious meals that don't break the bank. It's fun for me. The rare time that we do go to a restaurant, it's a special treat that we really appreciate.

7) Leftovers

                                See? Even Orlando Bloom doggie-bags it from time to time

 People: the next time you go to The Cheesecake Factory and find yourself sitting horrified before a gigantic macaroni and cheese entree with thousands of calories and wondering how you got there...just stop. Eat slowly and savor it. Then bring on the doggie bag. You've got a good 3 lunch servings in there -- that'll cover you for the whole week!

6) Dumb phones

                                                       Yep. This is us.

   Here's a dirty little secret: I hate texting. Carrying around this baby means I can honestly say: "I don't text."  The comedian Louis C.K. recently (and bravely, I thought) shared that he doesn't have a smart phone, and he doesn't want his children to have them.

 I agree with his reasoning, which was basically that once we're away from the house, it's just not good to be electronically connected all the time. During our every waking moment.  I love the computer, and I love being online. At HOME. And then when I leave the house, I rejoin the real world.

 It's really freeing. And might I add, we save a bundle.

5) Simple Pleasures

                            Playing the game of Life with our friends the Lesters

It sounds corny, but it's true. Break out the board games, people. When was the last time you enjoyed a good game of rummy?   Instead of doing 18 holes at Pebble Beach ($500 a pop!) why not take the kids for a kitchy round of mini-golf?

                                                           Mini-golf fun in Green Bay

The downside to the "simple pleasures" rule is: we don't go to the movies anymore.  Or Angel games. I do miss both of these. Alot.  But we just can't rationalize the expense on our "economy plan" lifestyle we're trying to live.    (Will we make it through Oscar season? Time will tell...)

So...get a hobby, why doncha?

                                         We plan on whiling away countless winter hours
                                                       playing music with our friends

                Another thing: get a library card. Again -- it's fun and it's free. It's a no-brainer.

4) Recycle, reuse, etc.

                               We love our can crusher. The very act of crushing is therapeutic.

This also means we drive and maintain our 10 year old cars. It's not fancy, but we
love the car payment ($0 dollars a month).   Also, Chris does most of the maintenance
              here at the cabin, including painting, heater reinforcements, etc.

3) Chop our own firewood

                                           This is me. Self-reliance 101. It's all worth it, right?

For the price of a $15 permit, Chris and I have gone into the forest several times and cut/chopped/split enough firewood for the whole winter. That's about $600.00 we saved!

                As most of the wood we reclaim was burned in the fire of 2007, it's a dirty job.
                                            We look like coal miners before we're through.

                                         But it's good, rewarding physical work,
                                       and we'll reap the rewards all winter long.

2) No shopping

I know.  Shopping is practically a religion for us Americans. In my 20's we would plan the whole day around a trip to South Coast Plaza. And shopping IS like a drug for me. I'm fine being away from designer duds for months or years, but after just one hour at the mall, I'm like:

 "I NEED that $400 Coach purse!"


                   For now, I'll leave the shopping to the Real Housewives of Orange County
 (pictured here is Real Housewife Vicki and her daughter Brianna, shopping at South Coast Plaza).

1) And what the simplicity movement is REALLY about is...

Limiting waste.

                             I'm pretty proud of this soap sandwich I've constructed in the shower

It always amuses me when I watch people like Vicki Gunvalson of The Real Housewives say something like: "Some people don't appreciate the good things," to rationalize the latest extravagant purchase.

Well,'s not that we don't appreciate these things. A room at a 5 Star Resort is undoubtedly beautiful. The 700 count thread sheets are deliciously soft and welcoming. The $200 dollar dinner in the restaurant at the Four Seasons goes down real nice.

It's not that we don't appreciate the good, the tasty, the shiny, the beautiful.

It's that so much of it is a waste.

And in this day and age, with so much suffering going on in the world -- such extravagant waste, well...I guess there's no way to say it, except to say that it's sort of in poor taste.

                    “When you are content to be simply yourself and don't compare or compete,
                                                                              everyone will respect you.”

                                                                                                        ― Lao TzuTao Te Ching