The Gardens at Oakmont Senior Living

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This summer my dad had the heart wrenching realization that it was time to move my step mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s Disease, into a memory care facility. He visited care homes that came highly recommended, and he made his choice of Oakmont Senior Living in Carmichael. Twelve days ago we moved her in.

The last few years have been challenging and emotional on all of the family, but especially on my dad, who was her loving primary caregiver. Through this atrocious illness, my father has lost his love, his best friend, and his companion through thick and thin for 45 years. It’s been a time of many lessons on tolerance, acceptance, unconditional love, and above all, patience, as we navigated through this journey.

I will have my second visit with her at the facility tomorrow and I will once again find comfort in the beautiful gardens at Oakmont, as I did last week. I will walk hand in hand with her out to the raised beds bursting with colorful blossoms and vines, herbs and vegetables, and ripening fruit. We will check to see if the sunflowers have opened from last week, and we may sample the cherry tomatoes. We’ll be on the lookout for hummingbirds visiting the salvia. And we’ll sit together in comfortable chairs listening to the wall fountain as it sings it’s peaceful lullaby to us.

Our hearts are burdened and battered, emotions are tender and fragile. My father, siblings and I, along with our loved ones are all bravely walking into waters unseen. But we know how to swim. We’ll do this together. And we’ll be okay.

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Carrot Tomato Soup

What to make after harvesting a large basket of tomatoes? Why, this dreamy carrot tomato soup, of course!

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

4 lbs. tomatoes, peeled and sliced in half*

3/4 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

1 medium onion, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

5 medium carrots, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken (or vegetable) broth or stock

1/3 cup fresh basil leaves, chiffonade

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

optional: oregano, rosemary

*An easy way to peel tomatoes is to heat a saucepan full of water and bring to boil. Place tomatoes in for about a minute. Remove and let cool. Skins will pull off easily.

IMG_5151Place sliced tomatoes on baking sheet and cover with most of olive oil (reserving 2 Tablespoons) and salt and pepper. Add fresh or dried oregano and or rosemary (optional) atop the tomatoes. Place in 400 degree oven for 30 minutes to roast.

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Melt butter and remaining olive oil on medium low heat. Add onion, celery, carrots and garlic. Cook until vegetables begin to get soft (15 minutes or so). When tomatoes are done, add to pot of vegetables, along with broth. Simmer on low until vegetables are tender.

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Puree the soup with an immersion blender or regular blender.

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Serve in bowls with a drizzle of cream and basil.

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Grab a spoon and enjoy this late summery goodness from the garden.  This recipe is from soulemama.com (go to tutorials, recipes & patterns and click on image titled Tomato Soup).

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Here we are, a few days after National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day, or National Zucchini Day for short. Yes, really! Did a kind hearted neighbor with a garden leave you any? Or maybe you’re up to your neck in zucchini from your own garden. If you’ve had your fill of grilling them, putting them in salads or making zucchini bread, here’s a favorite delicious snack cake to try.

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1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 3/4 cups sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup buttermilk

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cups semi sweet morsels

4 Tablespoons cocoa

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated zucchini

1/2 cup chopped nuts

In large mixing bowl, beat together butter, oil, and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla and buttermilk.

In separate bowl, add dry ingredients; slowly beat the dry mixture into the wet mixture until incorporated. Add grated zucchini, semi sweet morsels and chopped nuts.

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Pour into a well greased and floured bundt pan.

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Bake 325 for 45-60 minutes.

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U.C. Davis Arboretum

Always free and always open, the U.C. Davis arboretum www.arboretum.ucdavis.edu boasts 100 acres of gardens along the banks of the old north channel of Putah Creek. As you walk, run or bicycle along the trails of the  three and a half mile loop, you’ll come across seventeen stunning garden collections and have ample opportunity for bird watching as well. Whether you’re strolling or moving at a fast pace, this jewel offers a wonderful chance to reconnect with nature.

Sunset magazine has included the U.C. Davis arboretum in the travel section on their website: sunset.com. Look for “15 beautiful botanical gardens: tour the west’s best blooming spaces from San Francisco to Salt Lake City.”

IMG_3509Here’s the shovel gateway arbor. An artist created this 16 foot tall gateway sculpture out of over 400 used shovels gathered from members of the community in 2013. IMG_3517

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IMG_4002Recently I spent a lovely morning at this peaceful retreat with my parents. We strolled along the paths together, admiring everything and learning about the more unusual specimens through the well placed information markers. It was most definitely time well spent.

 

Gift from the Heavens

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.

~Ralph Waldo EmersonIMG_5066 IMG_4894

Isn’t it breath taking? Majestic and mysterious? Sometimes as I’m driving I can scarcely keep my eyes on the road and I have to find a place to pull over and just take it all in. The wonder. The sheer beauty. The magnitude. IMG_3554 IMG_4380 IMG_3557 IMG_3562 IMG_4475 IMG_3567Remember lying in the cool grass as a child and looking at the sky and the cloud formations? I could spend long periods of time searching the sky and finding turtles or unicorns. These days I still notice the sky throughout each day. On my walk with the dog first thing each morning. Looking out my second story office window at home. While  driving (of course, being careful to keep my eyes on the road too!). I see a lot of hearts within the cloud shapes. Not daily, but often. Did you notice them too in some of the photos above? Sweet messages from above. Nature’s awe inspiring glory blessing us. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Hummingbird

 

Look carefully in these two photos and you’ll see the camouflaged hummingbird in the midst of the alstroemeria!IMG_4343 IMG_4344

Hummingbird

magenta-green and white

carrier of light and wind

from the south you came singing

a high shrill whistle weighted with rain

everywhere you flew the grasses bowed in prayer

and a greenness came to the land as your song was heard

your wings rushed the clouds

to bring sweet wet seed from the skies

and everywhere you looked was singing.

 

~Harold Littlebird, Native American (Pueblo) poet