I visited my granddaughters while I was in the Twin Cites for the Shade Tree Short Course. In the photo are Sylvie, Doron, Molly and Cora Clark. Sylvie is holding “Whale 1” from the Dr. Seuss book I read her.
I visited my granddaughters while I was in the Twin Cites for the Shade Tree Short Course. In the photo are Sylvie, Doron, Molly and Cora Clark. Sylvie is holding “Whale 1” from the Dr. Seuss book I read her.
I looked at some illustrations of a perfect plate, then found myself trying to make my plate of food at home look the same. Dividing one's plate into four quadrants, there's fruit in one quarter, vegetable, protein and grains in each of the other quarters.

Proportionally, for a healthy diet, this does make sense. Try my easy recipe of salsa and fish fillets at the end of this piece. When I cook for myself, I want something easy, healthy and fast - and with leftovers, so I can eat the meal at work for a couple of days too.

Life has been busy because of a trip to the lake followed by the 50th annual Minnesota Shade Tree Short Course, which I attended thanks to my employer. It was almost like I wasn't working because I enjoyed that convention so much.

However, as I drove toward the Twin Cities Monday night, I suddenly realized I wasn't going to be home until Wednesday so I probably would not be writing for the Reader that week. I am sorry, but the tree rah, rah was worth it.

The Shade Tree Short Course allows me to update my Minnesota Tree Inspector's License and earn credits toward my recertification as a Minnesota Tree Advisor. Obviously, I love trees and all the good things that trees do for our environment (the city's tree-hugger).

The Short Course is also set up to allow those with arborist licenses to earn the credit they need to keep up their certifications. One sort of humorous thing about this meeting is that there are never any lines in the women's bathrooms. No, this is mainly a guy kind of event, with a sprinkling of women.

This year's get-together had some classes that left me bemused as I learned the dangers of being the one working up in trees. Trees with live electric wires through them are the cause of some accidents in a profession that's the third most dangerous to be in.

Another danger of the profession is fatigue as shinnying up trees with belts while carrying a chain saw can be exhausting. It is especially important that the saw is not held above one's shoulders (kickback accidents tend to involve one's head). We were shown some grizzly photos on a very large screen - burns, gouges and malformed limbs. Ouch!

I learned a lot about scales and bugs that attack pine and spruce trees. The new growing zones map was revealed and yes, the lines have shifted upward. Our frost free date is now May 20 and not the end of the month. There was some concern for the early spring, but we were reassured that if the trees got frosted and lost their leaves, they could grow new ones.

One interesting presentation was about rain gardens used in a metro suburb as a way to protect a nearby lake, keeping toxic street runoff from polluting the lake's water. By the way, trees are a good tool in controlling runoff as they drink up and filter water that might otherwise flood your basement or wash into a nearby storm sewer.

The highlight of my time from home was visiting my granddaughters, Sylvie and Cora, in Minneapolis. After the conference on Tuesday, I drove straight to their house and read, "If I Ran a Circus" to Sylvie, who is nearly 4. Cora, nearing her first birthday, would crawl up on my lap from time to time, but then head out for another adventure on the floor.

As I listened and watched the tree stories the next day, I couldn't help but think of our lake home and all the trees we have up there. There are spruce, pine, white birch and oaks in our yard.

Our first night there we put our chairs out on the little deck on the back of the house and first turned on some lights on the side of the house. This lit up the trees and made for a magical setting.

Then my husband shut off the lights and we were in for a treat. Suddenly the stars above the empty tree limbs turned into bright orbs. It was a sight to behold and treasure.

The weather was lovely there, we met our next-door neighbors while we were unloading our car and found their other home was rural Rochester, on the Eyota side. Laugh out loud! Although we had found some of the oddities in our house before, this time we discovered some of the things that had been fixed up and were new.

Our new neighbors confided that their former neighbor would come to the lake and just work. He insulated, installed new windows and doors, put in a new water heater and some carpeting and a shower in the bathroom. On and on, there were things he had done. So we are forgiving him for all the really odd things he did to the house, but of course, well meaning, just misguided.

My husband and I felt giddy and kept asking each other, is this really ours? When we arrived, the house was as cold as we'd set the furnace at 54 degrees, while the outside was in the 70s. Apparently, it has good insulation. We'd hoped to have beds delivered, but settled on a blowup bed for the first night. We love our bedroom that faces the lake and imagined how we'll hear the water when it is summer.

We did hear the ice cracking and later Dale's sister told him that the ice was out just a few days later. She and her husband stopped by to visit us on Sunday before we had started another session of scrubbing and cleaning. Before heading home we went to Hayward where we purchased enough beds to fill the three bedrooms. We'll have them delivered the next time we go up. We'll need to replace the fridge already as the avocado one there went up in smoke when plugged in (after I had painstakingly cleaned out the inside).

We can hardly wait to have our families visit us there, but there are a few odd things that need fixing to make the experience child proof before the wee ones arrive. The drive up there will take some getting used to as it isn't an easy freeway drive, instead mostly two lanes and slowing down through a chain of small hamlets.

OK, so back to the plate. Last summer I canned a whole lot of salsa, but not so much of it has been consumed. Sometimes I top a baked potato with cottage cheese and salsa, but I am not a big fan of chips with salsa.

The plate divided into fours includes cooked Brussel sprouts, frozen last fall; freshly cut up pineapple slices, whole pineapples are inexpensive right now; cooked harvest grains couscous blend and tilapia with salsa.

Actually, I spread the harvest blend thinly over half the plate, then put the tilapia with the salsa sauce over it. But it followed the basic concept.

The couscous blend was purchased from Trader Joes and after boiling the water, it cooked in just 10 minutes. Rice could also be used. The Brussel sprouts needed only about 5 minutes of cooking in a small amount of boiling water.

Fish with Salsa

4 or 5 tilapia fillets thawed

Olive oil

2 cups salsa (home canned or store bought)

Heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick fry pan; lay thawed tilapia fillets in the pan and sprinkle with a little sea salt. After a few minutes turn them and after cooking a couple minutes, pour the salsa over the fish. Cook until the salsa bubbles and until everything else is ready to eat.

Artfully arrange your plate so you are following the new rules for healthy eating. Take leftovers and fix single serve portions with the couscous, tilapia and Brussel sprouts.