A Treat From Me To You: These Muffins Rock!

I’m not normally a baker. But ohhh, these muffins! Something really good did come out of being stuck at home, trying to use up what’s in our freezer!

This recipe started out using canned pumpkin as the base. Then a light bulb went off. We’ve got all this frozen fruit put away! How about using up some of that great fruit from our garden?!

There’s no oil and no white sugar, just dates and stevia for sweetness. And instead of white flour (which is in sort supply these days), it uses whole wheat flour, almond flour and oats. Luckily, we already had all these alternatives on hand.

Here’s a video showing how they came out, fresh from the oven!

And here’s the Recipe:

Preheat oven to 360 degrees. Grease two muffin tins and set them aside.

Measure 3/4 cup of uncooked dry oats into blender and whirr on high until it becomes a fine flour. Add the oat flour to a large metal bowl.

To your now-empty blender, add:

  • 1 c. almond milk
  • 1 Tb. chia seed
  • 12 dates (I always cut them in half just to check for any overlooked pits!)

Blend well, the add the milk/date mix to the metal bowl. Also add:

  • 3/4 c. whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 c. almond flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 Tb. stevia
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. walnut pieces

Final step: add approx. 2 cups of pureed fruit. (Measure the fruit before puree-ing in the blender). This is a great use for frozen peaches! Just defrost slightly and then pop them in the blender. If you don’t have frozen fruit, you can substitute one (1) 15-oz can of plain pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling). Or use 1-3/4 c. unsweetened applesauce.

Tip: I add a handful of frozen blackberries to the batter, straight from the freezer. That lets them retain a bit of their shape and taste.

Muffin batter (K. Dustman photo)

Mix well, and spoon into muffin tins. Bake for 35 minutes, until top edges are browned.

Muffins, fresh from the oven.

Enjoy!!

 

The Story of the Ridge Route (Part 1)

First, of course, came early game trails and Indian footpaths. When the Spaniards arrived, their carreta roads made use of those same rough tracks. They’d follow the route of today’s Temple Street north through what we now call Hollywood to reach Cahuenga Pass. Then it was onward to San Fernando, crossing the foothills at Newhall and up San Francisquito Canyon before veering east to Elizabeth Lake. Eventually the rude track emerged from the mountains at Quail Lake and Gormon Station, then dropped down Canada de Las Uvas (Grapevine Canyon) to reach the plains of San Joaquin Valley.

For Episcopal bishop William L. Kip, who undertook that journey to tend souls at Fort Tejon in 1855, it was a four-day ordeal by mule-drawn wagon. By 1858 the speedy Butterfield Overland stage reportedly was able to cut the time from L.A. to Tejon to a speedy 32-1/2 hours, though passengers would have arrived considerably jostled by the experience.

Auto Club of So. Calif map from 1912, showing the early route to Bakersfield winding east through Lake Elizabeth.

The road itself remained a twisty dirt path well past 1900. Early Gorman settler Mary Ralphs described the trip by horse-drawn buggy from Gorman to Bakersfield as a day-and-a-half journey. In the opposite direction, to L.A., the trip took two days plus, broken up by layovers at Lake Elizabeth and Newhall. And the difficulties weren’t limited to just the hours and the dirt and the bumping. No, that old road also required fording a creek close to sixty times, according to Bakersfield historian Lawrence Weill.

But that was the old wagon days. And then came the automobile!

One of the earliest motorized journeys along the old wagon road – gleefully reported by the Bakersfield Californian in April, 1903 – was that of adventurers T.E. Baker and F. Hughes, who accomplished their 150-mile drive from L.A. to “Kern City” in 31 hours’ driving time – miraculously, “without one single breakdown.” A heavier-footed motorist with the inauspicious name of Jackson Graves ventured over the same primitive dirt road in the summer of 1911, spanning the distance from Saugus to Bakersfield in a mere 12 hours.

By then, the motoring public had become a large enough lobbying group that even the government began to take notice. When a three-person California Highway Commission was formed in 1911 (a branch of the  Department of Engineering), one of their primary missions was creation of an auto-worthy road between Los Angeles and the fertile, oil-rich San Joaquin Valley — preferably by a more direct route than the long, leisurely, easterly jog of the old wagon road.

Surveys for just such a new highway were ordered on January 25, 1912 and actual surveying began the following September, led by engineer W. Lewis Clark. For the next eighteen months, with mules carrying their equipment, the survey party hacked and chopped their way through some of the most survey-inhospitable landscape imaginable.

“[C]linging to the precipitate walls of canyons where no pack mule could keep his feet, across ravines and along the crests of the mountains, the surveyors fixed their stakes, and, link by link, laid the lines along which this mighty highway should run,” as a 1916 California Highway Bulletin later enthused.

Surveyor W.L. Clark on the left.

Once that preliminary survey was completed, a few months of wrangling followed over the best route. And, of course, real money was needed to actually build the new road.

Luckily, series of state road bonds had already been issued, beginning in 1909 with enabling legislation for an $18 million bond issue (which became effective on December 31, 1910 after voters approved). Despite bearing favorable interest rates of four and five percent, those bonds found few at first. They “have not been readily salable,” a newspaper column confessed in February, 1913.

That hurdle was finally surmounted by assuring bond purchasers that road construction would begin in the county with the most bond purchases. Voila! L.A. financiers quickly snapped up some $270,000 worth of bonds. Work on the new Tejon route was finally ready to begin!

A second bond measure, passed by the Legislature in 1915 and quickly ratified by the voters, kicked in December 31, 1916, adding another $15 million to the state’s road-building coffers. And a third bond issue was approved at a special election July 1, 1919 – authorizing a whopping $40 million more. Yes, the new automobile-owning public was all for better roads!

Grading for what was initially termed the Tejon Route (soon more popularly dubbed the “Ridge Route”) began on Sept 22, 1914. A second stage of the grading contract was let that December. And just a year later, once the fills had been given a few weeks to settle, the new roadway was finally “thrown open to travel” in October, 1915.

Where once there had been only mountains and sage, depressions and gullies, a neatly-graded, freshly-oiled roadway now opened its arms to eager travelers. The brand new road became “instantly popular with the motoring public.” Total length: 30 miles. Total width: 24-feet of graded road bed. Cost for grading: $450,000.

In place of grades once as monumental as 20 percent, the new Ridge Route touted much gentle slopes said to be no greater than six percent. That benign figure, however, may have been measured only by the eye of a friendly beholder rather than by instrument. In real life, a few grades still reached a fairly steep seven percent. But even those were a big improvement over the old wagon route.

The new oil-graded Ridge Route was indeed an engineering marvel. And the feat was accomplished almost exclusively by manpower and mule-drawn Fresno scrapers. A steam-shovel and dynamite were used only on a single especially difficult cut (known as the “Big Cut” or “Culebra Cut”). And that particular undertaking moved an astonishing million cubic yards of earth and rock.

Postcard of the “Big Cut” (also known as Culebra Cut or Swede’s Cut) circa 1920. (Dustman collection)
The Culebra Cut as it looked in September, 1992. (Dustman photo)
A steam shovel being used in highway construction (1916 Calif Hwy publication).

As the road left the mountains on the north, engineers nixed the notion of simply paving over the original old wagon track down Grapevine Canyon. For one thing, that early wagon road included onerous 20% grades. Simple observation also convinced them that leaving the roadway in the belly of the canyon would mean constant erosion from spring rains and snow runoff.

Instead, the road-builders decided to loop the new roadway across the hillsides in a series of gentle bends that moderated the drop and weren’t as prone to erosion. The result was a series of sweeping, swooping curves across the foothills of Grapevine Canyon. They made for many accidents. But also for many dramatic photos.

The Grapevine Grade, circa 1923. On the back of this postcard was the handwritten notation: “1200 turns in 20 miles; 30 miles on straight-away into Bakersfield.”

With its much-welcomed opening in 1915, the newly-graded Ridge Route now cut 24 miles off the distance between LA and Bakersfield compared to the old Bouquet Canyon route – and saved more than twice that versus the Tehachapi road.

“Winding to the Summit” was the caption of this early postcard. There’s one small wooden guard rail barely visible just left of the third car.

The Ridge Route was, they said, southern California’s magnum opus in mountain highway construction. And the scenery was magnificent. As the S.F. Chronicle enthused in 1916, the new road traverses “the wildest of southern California mountain country, a section previously known to only a few ranchers and oil companies.”

A contemporary California Highway Bulletin offered a similarly glowing description:

Enraptured by the panoramic beauty of the scenery at every dip and turn of the road, the traveler is lulled into happy forgetfulness of the fact that but a few brief seasons since where he now rides in cushioned and upholstered luxury, mountain goats and coyotes monopolized the solitudes of these perpendicular canyon walls and mountain ledges.”

Magnificent views there might have been. But a driver’s attention really needed to be glued to the roadway. Estimates varied of the number of twists and turns in the new route. One viewer counted a total 697 turns, which taken together represented a dizzying 110 complete circles. Written on the back of the an early postcard was another motorist’s own computation: “1200 turns in 20 miles”!

Many were the stomachs that didn’t appreciate all that twisting and turning.

Something had to give. And within a very few years, it did.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 of the Story of the Ridge Route!)

Looking toward Black Mountain from the Ridge Route. (Dustman collection).

 

Reinvention Is The Spice of Memoir

New beginnings? We’ve all had them. In fact, life is always starting anew, it seems. And not just when we’re young!

Maybe you recently retired – and a whole new vista has opened up: Time to travel. Time to sew or read. Time to just explore what you can do and who you might be without the confines of a job.

And think back: Going off to college, or clocking in that first day of a new job. The birth of a child. Getting married and jumping off into a whole new life as a couple. Or how about a big move? To a new town, a new place, or a new house. Yes, those were all fresh starts, too!

Becoming a parent often marks whole new episode in life. (Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.)

Take a minute to remember all new beginnings you’ve had your life. (You’ll probably find it’s a long list!) Who were you, back then? What were you excited about as you started something new? What fears did you have? Did things turn out as you expected? Or did the river of “real life” sweep you off to somewhere totally unexpected?

Whether it was your first marriage — or your third! — it started off brand new! Who were you then, and what were your hopes and dreams? Was there any fear or trepidation? Did things turn out as you expected? (Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy).
This month, I wanted to share three fun writing prompts

to get you thinking (and hopefully writing) about your own fresh starts in life!

  • Remember a time when you found yourself in a new physical space. What did you do to embrace this change? What steps did you take to get comfortable and make this fresh place yours? How did you personalize your dorm room or your first apartment? Did you plant anything special in the yard at your first home? What did you hang on the wall at a new job? Did you bring a special mug to work or add a favorite picture to your desk?
From flowers to a hanging basket, antique bench to countrystone pathway, firewood to freshly-lacquered front door, someone took special steps to add their signature and make this house a home. How have you personalized a new place? (Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy).
  • Now think about the ways you have personalized your space at home right now – things that make you feel especially good to look at; things that remind you of what you love and who you are. Maybe it’s plants or family photos. Maybe it’s an antique that used to belonged to someone special. Perhaps it’s a favorite pen or coffee cup for your desk. Or simply shells you picked up on the beach. What do those things say about you? How do they reflect what you care about?

    What do you keep on your desk to remind you of a favorite trip or person? (Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)
  • Finally, share what you’ve learned from the transitions and “new beginnings” in your life. Maybe you found that taking things slow made the transition much more manageable. Or perhaps you adored the adventure of jumping in with both feet and figuring things out as you went. What would you tell a child or a grandchild who was fearful of starting something new? And what stories are you eager to share about one of your most memorable new beginnings?
There you go! Your Memoir prompts for this month!
Hope you’ve enjoyed them. Please drop me a line on Facebook
and keep me posted on how your memoir is going!
~ Karen 
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Want to get more accomplished? Check out our new booklet, The Power of Lists! It’s a quick Kindle read. Check it out right here.
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Productivity Hacks 101: The Power of Lists

When it comes to productivity, you probably already have your own list of what doesn’t work.

Working longer, harder, more hours trying to cram it all in, for one thing.  That’s just a sure-fire recipe for burnout.

How about following each and every Bright, Shiny Object that crosses your path relentlessly? Yeah, that doesn’t work, either.

Lists are great, but even lists can be done wrong. And by “wrong” I just mean in a way that doesn’t produce results.

Lists can help you rewrite your current life trajectory.

A good list should feel attainable and freeing, not intimidating. And keeping your list updated shouldn’t take a lot of work.

So that’s what doesn’t work for lists. What does??

The Power of Lists” can help with exactly that. Like to take a look? It’s right here on Amazon!

It’s a short read. And because it’s an e-book, it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee. All designed to help YOU get from where you are to where you’d like to be!