Thursday, December 27, 2018


This phase of outdoor art is bittersweet.  Mr. Ralph got it started but all our friends and neighbors got it finished just a week before he departed.  When he became too weak to walk around (and boss around) workers and friends, he would sit on the deck and "supervise".  

Can you move that rock a little to the right?  No, MY right.  Can you switch those two plants?  Do you think that is enough sand for the base?  These men are saints.  They asked his "advice" all through the project.  They brought him bottled water rather than the other way around.

These friends had only known us a year or two so you can imagine my surprise when they just pitched in and took it over.  Bob and Paula did the artistic design, found someone who would bring their leftover concrete to make the stepping stones (with geckos stamped in a few of them), went hither and yon buying meaningful stone art and bringing it by for approval, or not.  

I cannot thank everyone enough.  They added landscape lights so it's very easy to direct a pizza delivery or guests coming after dark from the airport.

A labor of love.  By and for Mr. Ralph.

Thursday, December 20, 2018


As you can tell, we focused on the outside for a few years.  Oh gosh, did Mr. Ralph love puttering outside all morning.  Then in the hot part of the day, we could go upcountry (yes, Maui has a 10,000 ft tall mountain) to visit nurseries or to an outdoor "stuff" place or a Farmer's Market or a honey stand.  Kihei gets HOT in the afternoon.


Or we would do shopping in the air conditioning.  The first thing, of course, was a bed.  He chose a headboard that fit within one inch of the wall! 

The special turtle three panel art was made by our Maui artist friends who also moved back to the mainland to be with brand new grandchildren.  Forgive the crazy room colors.  This one is our ocean room.  The guest room is the tropical forest room.  Calming vanilla in the rest of the house and we did have a wine colored accent wall (have since painted that vanilla as it lightened up the whole room)  Corny but we love it.

We rented living room furniture for a month to see what arrangement we liked best.  We bought old people conversation pit furniture ... a sofa and a loveseat that are all recliners!  And arranged a round glass coffee table in the middle .. no sharp edges to attack our shins and room to recline without moving it.  It kinda makes the room look bigger since you can see right through it.  Same with end tables.

I remember the shopping experience of every stick of furniture in that place.  The bar stools are part of the dining set.  If we have eight people over, we have eight chairs.  If my sister was trying to teach me bridge, we had four chairs.  If the crowd on the back deck grew, we could easily take them outside.

A friend (neighbor) found that Buddha box (above the lamp) and our other friend/neighbor installed a small light inside, then hung it for us.  The stand alone chair was purchased from another other close friend when they had to move back to the mainland.

We brought VERY few items over to Maui, only things that would fit in a suitcase or carry on.  It was a process and we took every step together.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


This was our first "improvement" and I was thinking it was a ridiculous idea.  An OUTDOOR SHOWER?  We had TWO perfectly good showers and tubs inside.  He did a good job selling me on it and he was so excited, I just said yes.  BEST yes ever!  After it was built, we never showered inside again.  It is super huge, a nice large bench as well as a shelf on the wall behind the little artsy things (from Walmart).

A lot of houses in tropical areas have outdoor cold water showers without enclosures to rinse off snorkel or scuba gear and sandy bodies.  Happily, we added hot water and a bit of privacy to boot!

We had tons of cedar decking in Oregon and we treated it every year.  They still look brand new because of the product.  No one on Maui sold it (manufactured in Portland, Oregon) so I had to have it shipped over! $$$$  The owner was so nice and said if we sent her a photo, she would give us the shipping for free!  It's like putting hand lotion on wood.  Just gives wood a lot of protection from sun and water.  The first thing we did was have our neighbor kids (and parents) over for an outdoor shower party (with swim suits).  They just thought it was the coolest thing since sliced bread!

The door hooks closed to the wall when not in use as Maui does get some wind.  The builder built it just tall enough so that the neighbors on either side could not see in from their second story windows.

Jim, the builder, took a shine to Mr. Ralph and the two of them brainstormed how to make the back yard more usable.  They decided on engineered wood (plastic) and then continued scheming to build it all the way out to the backyard fence!  It would cover the existing cement patio, just meet with the patio door from dining area and be one expanse of lush.

Mr. Ralph created the "fence art" of bamboo shade/fern because the white fence was too blaring white for my eyes!  We had many good times, large groups and small, over the three years that he was alive to enjoy it.  Worth every penny ... and we became friends with the builder!

The following year we added the side deck.  I wanted all green plants with white flashes from flowers or variegated plants.  He spent hours digging up existing plants and putting them in pots, for better soil (hard clay in Kihei) and so he could install a drip system to each one.  The palm trees got their own drip also.

We called this our meditation deck.  There's a gate to the front yard at the end down there, so we could prop it open and people could join us without walking through the house.

After his death, I got rid of the huge Costco dining table and chairs, and bought a few lightweight chairs and a coffee table from Amazon (free shipping) which I put together myself!  So I have two distinct areas ... my coffee nook just outside the dining room sliding door (for four) as well as a small party area for four that we can easily change into a larger area and bring over lightweight chairs.  You might see that some of these seats are two chairs stacked.  Everyone has a spot to sit their beverage.  

At Christmas I would get a giant poinsettia for that back corner and call it good.  A friend helped me string lights on the back fence one Christmas and now I just kept them up all year.  Instant party mood.

Thursday, December 13, 2018


The before look .....

The floor plan for 952 square feet.  Smart planning to put bedrooms as far apart as possible.  The "great" room has cathedral ceiling making those three rooms look much larger than they are.

The kitchen was perfect with a great view of the little backyard.  The first thing Mr. Ralph did for me was to put up little tiny white lights along the lania ceiling.  Just like the Oregon house.

The teeny tiny lanai (patio) with roof extension to keep off the hot sun.  The back of the house faces the West (afternoon sun!).  Not very big to entertain but we set up two chairs and a table and coffee out there every morning

This is the South side of the house.  Notice all that green grass?  It didn't take long to get tired of mowing every week, fertilizing and watering.  

This is the North side of the house.  We called it the junk side as we parked a lot of things out there.  Lawn mower, garden tools, etc.

This was his first project.  Best grass in the whole yard on the north side!  He dug it up and shared it with neighbors as well as put in some patches in other parts of our yard.

This is the east part of the junk side.  Ugh!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018


For 30+ years, Mr. Ralph and I (and Kate) vacationed in Maui.  All those years we stayed at the same condo complex, Sugar Beach.  It boasts 7 miles of sandy beach.  Great for walking and shallow into the ocean, which is great for kids.  A very family oriented location and we had seasonal friends ... since we usually planned around school vacations.

Every year, we would go to open houses.  Eventually hooked up with a realtor who year after year would cart us around.  Leslie MS, you are an amazing friend.

When Mr. Ralph retired at age 75, I had surreptitiously arranged for a three month sabbatical to see if we really liked Maui ... or did we just like being on vacation there.  I rented a furnished apartment and a beater car so we could just live there.  As usual, we asked Leslie to show us around.  The perfect little house and finally, just within our reach.  We had some quick thinking to do. 

Kate was out of the nest, the Oregon house was too big and too much maintenance although I wanted a tiny place in Lake Oswego so we could go back and forth.  Just in case she ever got married and had children. 

We DID like living there and we were quickly learning where to go for less expensive food (and yes, there is a Costco and Walmart).  Cheap eats for when we wanted to go out.  Enjoying the beach and ocean and sunshine costs nothing! 

On March 10, 2014 we bought the Dream.  Two days later Kate called to say she was pregnant … due in October. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


I had my six month visit with Doogie Howser (not his real name ... but his real age!) last Thursday.  He walks in and asks (as always) "How are you doing?"  I answered "Embarrassed."

He grinned and told me to spill the beans.  Six months ago I had committed to  next week.  For all of those weeks!  So he gave me one more chance before I have to get my blood work done (to bring down the AIC levels).  Six weeks.  Six weeks of eating holidays.  Christmas cookies are my favorite!  And Chex Mix. 

I know I should be moving more and eating better.  Both of us think that's all it would take.  Being the procrastinator I am, I'd say OK, for sure I am starting ... NEXT WEEK, because six months is a long way off and I can beat this in just three months.  I wanted to lose weight before the big wedding.  (I'm embarrassed to look at photos of myself) and yet I didn't.  So this is my last chance.

Otherwise, I go on meds for Type II Diabetes.

Well, what is wrong with being on medication?  So many oldsters I know (including one of my brother) take pills.  I have a YOUNG friend who learned she had Type II and she began the battle.  Cutting way back on carbs (and she is a FABULOUS cook), doing a cleanse once a week, eating earlier in the day and moving more EVERY SINGLE DAY.  She reversed it!  And lost a little weight to boot.  Visit Leslie at Breakfast with God  (  In fact, I think she did a whole week of fasting/cleansing to kick start her metabolism.

When I was casually thinking of taking the easy way out, she reminded me of all of the horrible side effects of diabetes.  Once I read all of the things that can happen as a result of diabetes, I, too, was scared witless.

The following list is from the Mayo Clinic website.  Verbatim.

  • Heart and blood vessel disease. Diabetes dramatically increases the risk of various cardiovascular problems, including coronary artery disease with chest pain (angina), heart attack, stroke, narrowing of arteries (atherosclerosis) and high blood pressure.
  • Nerve damage (neuropathy). Excess sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels (capillaries) that nourish your nerves, especially in the legs. This can cause tingling, numbness, burning or pain that usually begins at the tips of the toes or fingers and gradually spreads upward. Poorly controlled blood sugar can eventually cause you to lose all sense of feeling in the affected limbs. Damage to the nerves that control digestion can cause problems with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation. For men, erectile dysfunction may be an issue.
  • Kidney damage (nephropathy). The kidneys contain millions of tiny blood vessel clusters that filter waste from your blood. Diabetes can damage this delicate filtering system. Severe damage can lead to kidney failure or irreversible end-stage kidney disease, which often eventually requires dialysis or a kidney transplant.
  • Eye damage. Diabetes can damage the blood vessels of the retina (diabetic retinopathy), potentially leading to blindness. Diabetes also increases the risk of other serious vision conditions, such as cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Foot damage. Nerve damage in the feet or poor blood flow to the feet increases the risk of various foot complications. Left untreated, cuts and blisters can become serious infections, which may heal poorly. Severe damage might require toe, foot or leg amputation.
  • Hearing impairment. Hearing problems are more common in people with diabetes.
  • Skin conditions. Diabetes may leave you more susceptible to skin problems, including bacterial and fungal infections.

  • Alzheimer's disease. Type 2 diabetes may increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease. The poorer your blood sugar control, the greater the risk appears to be. The exact connection between these two conditions still remains unclear.
So, as of Thursday afternoon, I started looking at grams of carbs on packages. A low carb eating plan is about 50 - 150 grams per day.  One SMALL slice of Dave's Killer Bread is 12g of carbs.  A tiny (2") potato is 37 g of carbs.  One ounce of potato chips is 16g (who eats just one ounce???)  And so on.

Luckily for me, I still like to cook.  I made spaghetti and meatballs (spiralized zucchini noodles)(enough for two dinners).  Spinach salad with warm bacon dressing, toasted nuts and chevre with a grilled piece of salmon.  One half of a 2" potato (my dessert!).  One night Jesse grilled steak.  Tonight will be cauliflower mashed potatoes, stir "fried" mushrooms, peppers, onions, carrots and green beans with a baked chicken breast.  I'm going to make a chicken bone broth based cabbage soup for one day.  

It is possible for me to eat better.  No more finishing up the boys' french fries or mac n cheese.  More protein.  More fabulous salads (my sister is the ultimate salad chef so I'm going to mimic her).  Fortunately I do not have a sweet tooth, so eggs in the morning are perfect (instead of skipping breakfast).

Send me positive vibes!


Oh, gosh!  The season has started!!  My favorite holiday of the year.  Especially because children are involved.

The little family went out to get a fresh cut tree on Saturday as I made a "fancy" family dinner.  The dining room table was transformed from arts and crafts, homework, catch-all and nail polishing station to an inviting Christmas scene.  I bought a Costco roasted chicken and pumpkin pie.  Then I made dressing (Ree Drummond recipe)(some cornbread in it!), gravy, Pennies from Heaven (Silver Palate)(candied carrot coins), cornbread muffins, homemade ranch and a super veggie tray.  And we learned a few more manners ... "I'm finished eating, may I be excused" and they always take their dishes to the kitchen.

I used the fancy wine glasses I inherited from my Adopted Grandmother for everyone.  Each boy had a knife at their setting.  After feasting and enjoying great dinner conversation, we watched The Christmas Chronicles (Kurt Russell) with a fire in the fireplace.

On Sunday, Momma and the boys started the tree decorating.  The best part is listening to them say "Oh, I member dis one" and then they tell the story.  I lost my box of favorite ornaments when we downsized ... and Mr. Ralph took ALL the boxes to Goodwill.  But we have so many memories anyway.  We each gave Kate an ornament each year so she has enough for her own tree!  

Delicate porcelain baby shoes for Baby's First Christmas, Cookie Monster (or coo coo mon mon as her two year old self called him), the Nutcracker, a red car with a blond girl driving for Sweet Sixteen, and so on.

My Mom made her a few ornaments as well.

Their tradition is to let each boy choose their own ornament.  Mr. 4.5 wants a CocaCola bottle and Mr. 8 wants and an action figure. 

Let the magic begin!