Thursday, December 4, 2008


We are going to Disneyland! Instead of doing a big Christmas for the kids, we are taking all the kids to Disneyland tomorrow! Of course, my kids don't understand as this is their first time and would probably rather have the plastic toys...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Christmas Presents

For the past few years, I have tried to make most of my Christmas gifts. This presents a problem after a while. For the first year it is fairly easy to come up with something. But after a while what can you make that friends and family will really enjoy without saying "Oh, thanks. You must have made this," with that half smile/grimace? Also, I would love to include handmade gifts for the kids in my life...any ideas?

The first year I made beeswax candles and bath salts. (I admit, very Martha-ish. But I was using one of her books.) That was many years ago when I was a poor, barely graduated professional. Two years ago, I used left over fabric from my baby bedding business and made fabulous furry blankets. I had swirled furry, fluffy fabric on one side and cool designer fabric on the other. I still get requests to make these blankets.

These are the baby versions:

Last year, I made sets of re-usable grocery bags, again from left over fabric. This was also a big hit and of course very fashionable and environmentally friendly.

So far this year I have made Kahlua. Lots and lots of Kahlua. If you have never had handmade Kahlua - this is the bomb! I have people who will never drink the real stuff and beg for more of mine...namely Darrin, who said that Kahlua was a sissy, girl drink. I have saved wine bottles from the year to fill up and bought wood topped corks to seal them. I have yet to make my labels, but that should be easy.

I have finally tried my hand at soap making. I love handmade soap and buy it at every craft show I go to. Soap from the store is not actually soap, but a detergent that dries out your skin and is made with lots of yucky stuff. Making soap yourself can be a little tricky and I'm not sure yet if it all turned out, since it has to cure for at least three weeks before it can be used. There are some wonderful
instructions on line for soap making.

And finally, I upgraded my grocery bags. I bought beautiful brocade on sale and made happy bags for all those people in my life who steal my grocery bags for overnight bags, school bags and anything else that needs carrying! These are reversible and very strong. I designed the pattern to fit my life. They fit a lot of groceries, the handles are long enough to be carried over your shoulder, but short enough to carry like a regular grocery bag without dragging on the ground.

And if I have any time left over, I would like to try to make bags out of
up-cycled plastic bags. You can iron several layers of regular plastic bags together to make a hardy plastic fabric and then make whatever you want out of it. I have already tried the melting part with varying degrees of success - although I will say it is pretty easy. And it looks really cool!

This I made for me! It is an up-cycled poultry feed bag lined in a very cool, coordinating cotton fabric...

2.5 cups sugar
3 cups water
10 teaspoons instant coffee
1 vanilla bean
3-4 cups vodka

Split vanilla bean and scrape out seeds. To a large heavy pot add all ingredients including bean and seeds. Slowly bring to a boil, stir until sugar is dissolved and then stir occasionally. Boil for 15 minutes. After it cools, measure liquid, if it has reduced to less than 3 cups, add water to equal 3 cups. If you have more than 3 cups, don't worry. You want to add the same amount of vodka as coffee/sugar liquid. Mix and bottle. This gets better with age!

I will post my pattern for bags later, because I think you really need pictures to understand sewing directions!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The last few weeks...

I have already fallen behind in my blogging aspirations...and only a month in! I have been trying to give myself grace in that this is not another thing that I MUST do, but something that helps keep in touch with my friends and a virtual scrapbook for my children. So, here goes...

The last few weeks have been a blur of activity around here. Not only have been I been furiously trying to get my papers and school work done for the semester, I am trying to start my thesis. The problem is that I am so burned out of school and feel like my brain has been deep fried. My placements have been more draining than I expected and I really hate having to have the boys in day care. I also have been trying to get started on my Christmas presents for the year. Although I think the Christmas presents are just one more way for me to procrastinate!

In children news, my baby, who is 4 and a half (and will constantly remind you if you left off the half) has requested that I take off his training wheels and he is now riding his bicycle. It's hard for me to admit that they are growing up so fast!

Although he did get a little scared when he finally realized that I had let him go for about the 50th time.

One of my chickens has started laying eggs!! Strange how the little things can you make me so happy. I love going out and finding a green egg in the nest. Now if I could just find where the other chickens are laying their eggs...they either have a very well hidden nest or one of them is an egg eater. After finding the last nest, they have stopped laying? And we have finally named the chickens. I decided that we could no longer try to describe them every time we were trying to talk about them - the big black one; the brown, eagle looking one; the tan, fluffy one. Their names are now (respectively) Mia (as she always disappears), Harriet, and Izzy.

We had a very fun pumpkin carving day where Ryan actually cut up his first pumpkin and did a fabulous job almost all by himself. Max drew out his design and insisted that it be cut out exactly as he drew.

He did take the pumpkin carver and make a few adjustments on his own as well!

I said earlier that I would write about a recent park trip. Well, while pushing Max on the swings, Ryan said, "Mom, it's like I'm flying!"

To which Max replied in song, "I believe I can fly. I believe I can touch the sky..." In the proper tune.

The thing is, where did he learn this song? And how does he constantly just crack me up?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Growing Up

Max and I just had a wonderful lunch! I was going to make butternut squash soup last night, but after Max threw a huge fit, I didn't have the time or energy to finish up the job. So this afternoon, I took the roasted butternut and mixed it with some pasta and we had a fabulous meal together. First, I want to say how proud I am of my four year old for knowingly trying squash pasta. But the best part was when he was walking away from the table, looks back over his shoulder and says, "Mama, do you have the recipe for that?"

"Well, honey I just sort of made it up."

"I want to see it."

"Okay, why is that?"

"So I can make it when I'm a grown up."

My kids crack me up sometimes!

He also loved the homemade mozarella we made the other day!

Later, I will have to write about our last park trip...

Thursday, October 9, 2008


I decided this past week to spend a month without buying anything except food, including not eating out. This is a huge deal for me. I am hoping that it will help me break the eating out habit, but also just the terrible habit of accumulating more stuff. But what happens when we have to go to a kid's birthday party or give other gifts?

Luckily, the mother is one of my very great friends and she is completely supporting me in this. She offered several ideas from how the boys could decide to give one of their toys, to seeds for the garden next year, however we decided (in other words - I decided and told the kids what we were going to do) was to make a Duct Tape Wallet.

I remembered seeing something on Martha Stewart when the TV was on in the background a while back, so I did a quick Internet search and found several sites with directions. This was way too complicated for a 4 year old and my 6 year old didn't want to sit inside and help - it was just too gorgeous outside. And the directions were horrible or I was just having a brain dead afternoon! After struggling for a while I remembered Martha and tried her site, but those directions were even worse. Once you kinda know what you're doing it's not so bad...but that first one...

The funniest part of the afternoon, was when Ryan Duct Tapped Max to the floor, although he did get it in Max's hair...I need to get better at taking pictures!

So, ours aren't as colorful as Martha's, but hey, we get the normal Duct Tape around here!

Does anyone else have ideas to make for gifts? Christmas is right around the corner...

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cheese and other happy things

After reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and other people's raving blogs about cheese making, I ordered a 30 minute mozzarella cheese making kit. I have been very excited waiting for it to arrive! Since I have also recently decided that this month I will not be buying anything except food, (I ordered the kit before the ban on purchasing) I went today to read the book at the Big Book Store. Yes, the kit comes with instructions, but since this is my self-care day, I wanted to read about making more than just mozzarella.

Although, I didn't get too far, as I got a call from my son's school that he needed new pants as he fell in the mud. (Haven't they ever heard the phrase - you'll dry, go play?) Where all this is going, is that several years ago, my father brought back a very strange looking apparatus from Spain. He got it at a street market and it was obviously an antique, but what was it?

We all had our guesses, but none of them right and we had no confirmation, so the thing went on top of my cabinets for display and has sat there for the past 3 or so years. Imagine my surprise when I see a picture in the cheese making book - turns out it is an antique, Spanish cheese press. Lovingly picked out and brought back on the plane to me by my very loving dad. So, not only do I have instructions and stuff for making cheese coming, I already own a cheese press!!! I will definitely have to try my hand at pressed cheeses now. Just not too soon, since I have to start my thesis...

I'm trying to be grateful for the things in my life, so here are a few other things that made me smile this morning:

My honey called to tell me he loved me this morning, and that he wanted me to be happy. (Kind of a struggle lately, but he is the most supportive and generally understanding man. After all, one can only be pushed so far.)

My kids have been taking pictures of themselves:

My chickens were eating the dog food!

And I have fresh bread rising on the counter for tonight along with roasted butternut squash soup!
What do you do to take care of yourself and be grateful?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Church and State

I left church early this morning. For some reason, my church, and I'm sure many others, are big on the political bandwagon these days. I'm not a big political person. In fact, I usually leave the room when people start debating politics, just because it so rife with emotion and judgement. However, this morning after a wonderful time of worship a guest speaker came to tell us why we had to save marriage through our government and it was our Biblical mandate to do so!!! I left.

Not that I am opposed to marriage, it's just that where did Christians get the idea that we need to be told how to vote, what to vote for and what to believe. When did Christian equal politics? I don't remember Jesus ever boycotting anything, having political rallies or in general have anything to do with the political system. In fact, wasn't that one of the top reasons he was crucified - he didn't save the Israelites from the Roman political powers?

Jesus healed the sick, the poor, the disenfranchised. He did not try to change the powers that be. And in fact, he called us to be a counter culture. So why are we so surprised when politics don't go "the Christian" way? And why do we try so hard to make them? Is this what we think is the Kingdom of God - a Christian political power in Washington? Or maybe could it be giving to the poor, helping out on more than just holidays, and treating every person we meet with kindness, humility and respect.

Donald Miller asked the question in his book, Blue Like Jazz - would Jesus be outside an abortion clinic protesting or inside comforting and healing the woman who just had an abortion? I feel that when we Christianize politics - we are hurting those that Christ came to comfort and heal. Which is more important?

Okay, so I am off my soapbox now, really! It just pains me to hear politics from the pulpit. On other news, I am so excited that we are having our week of fall here in the Central Valley!!! We seem to get a week of fall and if we're lucky a week of spring. It is either HOT (last week was 97-99) and then goes to cold and foggy and of course back again.) It makes me so happy not walk outside and feel a slight chill in the air! And my Big Black Chicken is still mad at me. After moving her back into the coop she is refusing to lay an egg.

Friday, October 3, 2008


Sleep, I really need my sleep. Sleep is very important to me and lately I just can’t seem to get enough of it. So, it probably goes without saying that I do not like to be woken up. This presents a small problem since for obvious reasons I am woken up usually several times throughout the night. I have two smallish children who are transitioning into their own beds and bedroom. They have nightmares. They have to go to the bathroom. They are scared. I’m sure you know the list. My mother always assured me that when I had children I would become a morning person – not true. I manage to keep a fairly nice demeanor when my children are involved.

The problem however, is not my children. It’s the dog. You see I have discovered that there are rats in the vines against my back fence and I’m pretty sure a possum (since I found a small, teenage possum in my garage in early summer). Well, my toy poodle who frequently just looks like a rat herself, since I am terrible about grooming her, has decided that it is her responsibility to bark at the intruders – all night long.

I have tried letting her in the house, but since I sleep with the windows open, apparently she can still hear the intruders and continues to bark. If she were actually doing something, say killing them, I wouldn’t have a problem with the barking. And for some reason, I keep thinking that tonight, she won’t bark. I’ve gotten desperate and last night she got put in my closet. I got sleep, for a while.

You see I also have a chicken that is currently very mad at me. She disappeared 2 weeks ago. And since I have had other chicken fatalities (not with the current dog), I assumed the worst. However, there were no feathers, no parts, no evidence whatsoever to support my pessimism. She however was nowhere to be found. For 10 days! Then a few days ago she was on the patio eating out of the dog bowl. And promptly disappeared again. I have searched my yard from top to bottom, so have my kids, their friends, my boyfriend, his kids and their friends – repeatedly. We hadn’t found the chicken in almost 2 weeks. Walking around in frustration I noticed a low bush that had a branch dying, and there were no spider webs around that dying branch – I lifted it up and not only was the big black chicken under there she had 14 eggs she was sitting on.

Since the puppies are big enough now to think chasing chickens is fun, I have locked them up until the puppies are gone. So, Big Black Chicken had to be locked up too. I moved her eggs (we had a rooster until a few days ago) to the nest in the coop. She refused to sit on them, is completely ruffled and has also refused to lay any more eggs. Did I mention that she also chews me out when I approach the cage or it has gotten light and she’s not allowed out? Who knew chickens were so adamant about their rights?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The beginning...

Cyberspace, community, journaling, staying in touch with the ones you love...these are just some of the reasons that I have succumbed to posting my very own blog. I never quite understood blogging until recently. And strangely what started my fascination - was chickens. If you are scratching your head, I am not really surprised. You see, I have always been a sort of hippie, bohemian rebel - sometimes intentionally, but most of the time just by accident. However at this stage in my life I have consciously decided that I would like to live more intentionally, environmentally friendly, eat healthier and introduce my children to the roots of their food and simple pleasures in life. Now enter the chickens.

First of all, I am a Master Gardener. That is just a fancy word that I took some classes and volunteer (or try to volunteer) to teach people about gardening, water conservation, pest management, you get the idea. At one of the community seminars, another Master Gardener talked about her backyard chickens. They are a natural pest control - they eat your bugs! (I don't spray, so this is really good news to me!) They provide fresh eggs. And, if socialized, they are pets. Wow, where to sign up? I grew up on a very small farm with chickens, among other animals, but I had no idea that chickens could be so useful, except for meat of course...

Second, let me explain that I live in the city. I live in suburbia where my neighbors open their garage doors, drive in and you never see them. I have lived here for 5 years and have met three families. (I'm sure I will complain more about suburbia later.) So, my chicken endeavors are not exactly legal. However, I asked all 3 families that I do know (one on each side and the guy across the street) if they would have a problem if I kept a few chickens, no roosters of course, and they could benefit from the extra eggs. Permission granted, I began to research the types of chickens I wanted to get.

Because I have 2 small boys (4 and 6) I wanted to have some fun. I wanted chickens that would make good pets, be good layers and look good too. This is where I started reading blogs. Two of the most useful sites I have found and were wonderful in giving all the information I needed to get started and connected me with other chicken lovers. So off to my local feed store. After several attempts (I will write about this later, because a Pomeranian breaking into the new coop is actually a very funny story) I currently have 4 hens. (I bought a total of 12 pullets, 6 succumbed to the Pomeranian, 2 ended up being roosters, 1 had a severe run in with a new toy poodle, so my mom felt sorry for me and gave me one of her laying hens to add to my three that still aren't laying.)

All of this is to say that I have found some blogs that I really enjoy reading. My particular favorite is Ninja Poodles at This has led me to realize that, I am terrible at creating scrapbooks considering all of my kids baby stuff and pictures are in one big box in the closet, and this would be a wonderful way of journaling and scrapbooking not only for my children but for my family and friends. I read some wonderful articles this week about the Amish and how they decide to use technology based on whether it hinders or creates community. I am terrible at staying in touch with my friends and to some extent my family. I try not to blame it on my life, because these are all my choices, but I reasoned that a blog would help me stay in touch, keep up and create community.

Max after swimming

Ryan after swimming