Monday, December 28, 2009

Craft of the Day

In my attempt at procrastination this morning, I was surfing a few of my favorite blogs. And found this adorable dish scrubber here. I thought it was cute and as an added bonus uses acrylic yarn (which I have lots of leftovers from years ago).

The theory behind it, is that acrylic yarn has fibers similar to microfibers and therefore is an excellent cleaning product, with or without soap!

It didn't take very long - maybe two hours, which seems to be the perfect amount of time for cleaning procrastination! Enough time to make me feel that I have wasted time, but not the whole day and I had something completed! I haven't used it yet, because I didn't want to use it tomato sauce... That is one downside to having a cute sponge. I love being on vacation!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Are we having fun yet?

Maybe I am the only mother who does not look forward to the kids opening gifts. I love to give my kids presents - but they cause fights. Lots of fights. And we are not a fighting household. Generally, the kids are better than most kids - but they are still kids. And they are entering that age when competition and fairness are all consuming. It's not good enough they got a Wii for Christmas, it's who gets the #1 controller... Who gets to ride the new scooter, what color they get to pick for a name it, they have found something to fight over. This morning they fought over who disliked church the most...Right now I am ready to tear my hair out, if I hear one more "MOOOOOOMMMMMM!?!?" today!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Santa Cluas

I thought the idea of Santa Claus was a good one. I was raised with Santa and thought it would be good for my boys to have Santa too. But, since they spend quite a bit of time at Christmas with their father and his family, Santa comes about four different times each year in about 4 different locations. Explaining his existence and his ability to continually give gifts was easy with a quick - he's magic.
Not so easy anymore.
And, I'm starting to feel really guilty, because now they want these in depth explanations that really require lying. I don't want to do that. Because then what else will they start to question about what I have told them? I don't think I thought this through very well!
Some of the questions from this week:
"Is Santa alive?"
"When was he born?"
""But if St. Nicholas died, then did Santa come back to life like Jesus did?"
"Why does Santa come, when we are celebrating Jesus' birthday?"
Really, I just have lots of very lame answers...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Story of the Week

Max wanted to wrap his gift to his teacher. Not really having a box, not to mention we were giving her several handmade things such as a necklace, soap and strawberry jam - I decided that a gift bag would be better. I got Max to agree to the bag and after loading it with everything, I handed it over to him.
"Mommy, where's the stuff?" His hand waving over the top of the bag.
"All the stuff is in it, honey"
"No, mommy. The stuff!"
"You mean, tissue paper?"
"Yes, the stuff!"
"Well, we don't really need it."
"Are you a maniac?! The whole point of wrapping a present mommy, is so you can't see inside it!"
I was schooled by a 5 year old...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009


If, as Herod, we fill our lives with things, and again with things; if we consider ourselves so unimportant that we must fill every moment of our lives with action, when will we have the time to make the long, slow journey across the desert as did the Magi? Or sit and watch the stars as did the shepherds? Or brood over the coming of the child as did Mary? For each one of us, there is a desert to travel. A star to discover. And a being within ourselves to bring to life.
- Author Unknown

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice.

Shortest day of the year.

The first day of winter.

This is the day when the sun just seems to go away, and in certain parts of the northern world - the sun never comes up.

Today, of all days always seemed to me more appropriate to be the end of the year. Tomorrow should be New Year's Day. After all, the sun returns tomorrow. The days start getting longer, almost imperceptibly at first (depending on your latitude), but within a week, it's noticeable that the sun is setting a little bit later every day. Our traditional New Year's Day seems so arbitrary somehow.

This is the day that I always take stock. Examine my life (even more than I normally do) and decide how I want to live my life in the coming year. I don't really make New Year's resolutions, instead I look at how the way I am living my life stacks up to the way I want to live my life. Some years, I'm more on track than others.

Many things have changed for me this year. Some of them I had planned and worked hard at for years. Others have been very unexpected and painful. This next year will have many more changes. Some will be painful - for example, I will be losing my house. But almost everything this next year is an opportunity for change, growth and new beginnings.

I don't know what is in store for me and my family this year, but I'm excited!

Today is also my birthday, the start of my new year...

We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned,
so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
- Joseph Campbell

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Recycling for Labels

I had a lot of fun last year making my Kahlua labels - I cut out pretty pictures/ads or other images that appealed to me and turned them into labels with a silver pen and a little glue.

I thought they turned out nice, and it was a little recycling to boot!

This year, I decided to cut up the J. Peterman catalog. I don't usually get catalogs, but I have always enjoyed reading this one. It's sort of fantasy and romance, mixed up consumerism...probably not good for me, since I am trying to significantly cut down on the whole consumerism thing! But, I thought the pictures and descriptions would make really fun labels - and they did! It's more fun for me since I get to see them all together and my recipients might not understand the whole fun factor for me. And I tried to match the items with the recipient. A friend who loves jewelry will be getting the label with the over-the-top necklace...

I also wrote a little description for the back label - very tongue in cheek. And again, I don't know if anyone would actually read it or get the jokes...but it was fun for me!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

No Self Control

There are a few things in life that I have almost no self control over. Dr. Pepper is one of them. I have tried many times in my life to give it up, mostly because I know it is bad for me and not to mention a budget buster. However, the main problem with giving it up seems to be that I like it. I don't really want to give it up, I just want it not to control me.

But what I have really noticed this year is Girl Scout cookies. Shouldn't be much of a problem since they are only available once a year. This year I bought many boxes. Somewhere around the 8 mark...and I ate them all fairly in a week. But, I reasoned with myself I was writing my thesis, my sister was just diagnosed with aggressive breast cancer and she and her family were moving in with me, while I wasn't even home and I was in the middle of the semester from hell...

Well, yesterday we went to Target. Max saw a cookie display next to the register and started the all out adorable campaign to convince me to buy some for me. Yes, the child tries to use my own desires against me to get what he wants, and yes this very much scares me for his future. (Doesn't usually work and we don't have cookies or candy just sitting around our house.) However, this time it worked. Mainly since I was in the mood for something sweet and he was being adorable, not obnoxious.

This was a big mistake. BIG.

Apparently, Keebler has ripped off the Girl Scouts and produces Grasshoppers, which are almost identical to Thin Mints, my cookie nemesis. I think the boys got 4 cookies each before the package was entirely eaten by me. All of them. I couldn't stop. And I want more. What do they put in these things?!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Growing Up

As I dropped off my eldest at school this morning, I leaned over to give him a kiss just like normal...and he said no...

This is a HUGE deal for me. We are a very touchy, feely, kissy family. I expected this to happen, but not so soon. He is only 7 - I thought I had a least another year. And I have repeatedly told myself that my nephew, who is almost 21, never stopped kissing his mother...I really do want to raise a self-sufficient, loving, caring, independent adult...I just want him to still love me...

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Christmas Gifts

It's that time of year again, so we spent the weekend making Christmas gifts. I made soap - two kinds of Castille soap (one plain, and one rosemary-mint), and a lavender soap unsing a different recipe. Ryan keeps walking by the rosemary-mint and asking if I can cook something that smells like that!

Ryan helped harvest the mint and we also made tea. Well, more like dried mint leaves, but it makes a wonderfully refreshing tea that helps calm upset tummys. (Which really comes in handy around my house!) The tea came out so good, I think we will harvest as much as we can and that will make a great gift too. While I was researching mint tea, I ran across a couple of recipes with rose hips...that got me thinking. Would my laziness from this summer of not pruning actually turn out a decent Christmas present? Apparantly, rose hips are amazingly nutritious and supposedly taste good to boot! So, sometime this week, I will go harvest my rose hips to add to the mint, for some absolutely delicious, homemade tea.

And of course, no Christmas gift making session would be complete without Kahlua. Lots and lots of kahlua. But, since I haven't been drinking much wine, I don't have the empty wine bottles to fill up! I'm sure I can think of something...


My nephew came over for Thanksgiving and brought his camera! He has started a photography business and I absolutely love it when he comes I just need to actually get some prints to replace the ones that have been on my wall for over five years...

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Max had his first trip to the Emergency Room last week. He decided that it would be a good idea to play on top of my car. When I came outside to suggest that it really wasn't a good idea, he slid head first down the hood and landed on his head on the cement. Blood pouring out his nose...

After several hours in the ER, he was pronounced fine and he was pretty much done with sitting and waiting around...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No 'Poo Update

The no 'poo thing is kinda weird. I guess it really goes back to re-defining normal. Apparently, your hair goes through a detox stage after you stop using detergents to strip your hair and then have to add in other nasty stuff to be able to pull a comb through it again.
The first few days were fine. It was a little strange sprinkling baking soda into my scalp and rubbing it in. It didn't feel like I was cleaning my hair. No lather. And my hair didn't have that squeaky clean feeling. The vinegar rinse really helped de-tangle. I have had quite an issue of late trying to brush my hair at all, let alone when wet.
At about day 4, however things started to change. Most of my hair felt like a pile of straw. It was dry. Dry, dry, dry. Yet, strangely also felt greasy. I have no idea how it could be both dry and greasy at the same time, but there it was and I was not happy.
I used more baking soda. Which helped with the greasiness, but made it even more dry. I tried adding a slight amount of coconut oil to the ends. Now it was just dry but looked even greasier. So, after all else, I get online and look for a solution.
One of the problems with going more natural, is the lack of consistency or recipes. Whether this is with hair or cleaning solutions, it seems to be add a little of this and a little of that and there you go.
From what little I could understand, I was using too much baking soda. (And I possibly have hard water.) So, instead of using a paste, I am mixing a tablespoon of soda with a cup of water and pouring over my head rubbing it into my scalp. I also mixed up a solution of honey, apple cider vinegar and water to use as a rinse.
This worked beautifully! (Or my hair is done with detox and anything would have worked...) I went 3 days between washing and my hair didn't look oily until day 4. I washed it again this morning and it feels soft and is much curlier than normal. Maybe I hit on the right solution. I will keep trying it to see if this will be a long range plan...
One unexpected note however. The baking soda has stripped the dye out of my hair. I had no idea how much gray hair I had!!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Branding for Children

Recent conversation between Max and I:
"Mom, we drive a Honda."
"Yes, we do."
"Dad drives a Honda."
"No, dad drives a Toyota."
Max thinking for a minute. "You mean there are two types of Toyotas?"
Slightly confused I reply, "What do you mean two types?"
"Well, there's the car type like daddy drives. And then there's the toyota from Star Wars."
Once I figured out he was saying toy Yoda, I laughed so hard I cried! It's amazing how their brains work! If I could only climb inside, I would probably be amazed and enthralled with the world all over again...

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Boys are different than girls. I have said that to my boys many times, but I apparently it is more than skin deep.You see, my boys are BOYS. No piece of furniture is safe while they are around. Cushions and pillows are used as weapons, or even better - turned into forts. Comforters, pillows and other assorted soft things, turn into a "safe" landing spot from jumping off of the ledge above their closet. (Doesn't seem to matter that we have wood floors, the pillows will slip out from under them and they will crack their skulls open...)

I have a large mud hole that is growing in the middle of what little lawn I have left. They could have chosen a dirt part of the yard to "dig their new fort." They consistently try to take their playhouse apart, or add on to it, or scale it's heights...

For the most part, I understand and try not to set too many limits on their creativity and imagination, but sometimes I just don't get it. For example, why do they insist on entering and exiting the car from the windows?

Last night, we went to the park. We don't do it very often, because quite frankly they have a park in their back yard. However, I couldn't see any reason not to go, so there we were. I thought I could get a little reading done...yeah, not so much. Every time I looked up they were scaling the play structure from another vantage point in which it was not meant to be scaled. They were urging each other on to new heights and on to new danger. Several times, I heard myself yelling "stop that - I will not be going to the hospital tonight!!!"

The other parents just looked at me like I was was the worst mom ever, as their children were happily being pushed on the swings or going down the little kiddie practice slides...just wait! Some of you had boys. One day, you too will have to take them to the hospital!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I spent most of Sunday making strawberry jam. I stopped by the fruit stand next to my house after church, and they had day-old strawberries - a huge box for $8. Score!!! Although after completely filling up my big pot - I started to wonder if this was such a good idea.

I also made strawberry ice cream and dried the rest of them for use in other goodies. It's kind of disheartening however, when three full trays in the dehydrator, only make a very small child's bowl of dried fruit!
And since I already had the dehydrator going, Max and I made some plum fruit leather. The way everything gets eaten so quickly around here, make me wonder how people with large family can preserve enough stuff to actually make it through the winter. And we don't really even have winter here! We live in a valley where we grow food year round. The farmer's market never closes and they are still harvesting strawberries. I would have to be preserving everyday, all day long to store up enough stuff to keep my kids from just devouring everything in site!
I'm not complaining that my kids are good eaters...just thinking how hard it would be to grow and preserve enough food to live on...and they aren't even teenagers yet!!

My kids LOVE pickles. Actually, I'm not sure that word in strong enough. They will go through a huge jar from Sam's Club in a week if I let them. So, I picked up a couple bags of cucumbers and made pickles too. Knowing my kids, this wont last long, so maybe I should pick up some more...

I didn't make my own pickling liquid, but picked up a packet at the store. not sure it was such a good idea, since when I mixed it all together, it was this bright yellow color that completely stained my sink...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

End of Summer

Last weekend was over 100 degrees. I didn't think it would be the last weekend of summer, since summer tends to last around here until Thanksgiving. We decided to go up to the lake and go fishing. Well, the fish weren't anywhere around, but the lake was awesome!

Monday, September 21, 2009


My youngest son wanted to take yogurt to school for a snack. I still buy the small cups of yogurt for the kids to take to school, especially since Ryan's favorite does not come in a big container. However, the funny part of this story is that when I was putting his yogurt and spoon in his backpack, my little one looks up and says,"I'll have to bring it home."
A little confused, I looked at him and said, "bring what home honey?" (I was thinking the spoon, but he is already really good at bringing the bags and silverware back.)
"My yogurt."
"Umm, if you are just going to bring it home, then why do you want to take it for a snack?"
"Well, they don't have a recycling can for me to put it into."
Oh, I get it now - my brainwashing has worked...No wonder I was confused!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

No 'Poo

Strange title. At least it was to me the first time I read it several months ago. But what seems strange to someone when you are first starting a journey has a habit of becoming normal after a while. In fact, I just read a blog entry on re-defining normal.
This got me to thinking about my own life and what I define as normal. I know that to many of my friends and family, I am anything but normal. I have always been the odd man out and quite frankly - that strange tree hugger. As I have gotten older, some of them have come around and even more strange, I have realized that my mom and dad were actually quite revolutionary themselves - just using different words.
After all, I did grow up in the country, where we grew our own food, and raised our own animals. My mom milked the goats twice a day, composted and shot the squirrels over her fruit trees. She timed our showers so we wouldn't waste our water (we had a well and our own septic system). And frequently during the summer, I would wake up and she had already canned a dozen peaches/tomatoes/pears/jams...
I so wanted to be just normal when I was growing up! My mother made a lot of my clothes and we didn't have TV. All I wanted was to have new clothes from the store and watch television like the other kids at school! I guess however, that some of the things have stuck and now that I have my own children, I want to raise them in the country with our own animals and food...
Re-defining normal is also happening on my spiritual journey. What I once considered strange and odd, is something I now desire. I want a deeper, more personal connection with my God. Where I once saw him as a personal kill-joy, I now see as a source of joy, love and contentment.
Okay, those were really deep thoughts considering the topic is supposed to be about shampoo! And that is what the no 'poo experiment is all about. I have been going progressively greener for many years. I believe that what we put in our environment, on and in our bodies makes a difference to our health and well being.
I stopped using commercial cleaners about 8 years ago when I got pregnant with my first son. I couldn't handle the fumes and chemicals. I started making my own cleaners and I absolutely love them! I did take a break and started using Mrs. Myers cleaners because a friend of mine had a store and I wanted to support her. And I loved the way they smelled! But, I did go back to my trusted recipes for household cleaners. (Maybe that's a good future post.)
I started making my own soap. Nothing compares to handmade soap and everybody keeps asking for more. I make my own toothpaste - and love it! So, after reading about all the chemicals in shampoos and conditioners and how they are absorbed into your scalp, I realized this was more than just how ridiculously expensive hair products are. I decided to do the no 'poo experiment.
The theory is that you use baking soda to clean your scalp and hair, followed by a vinegar rinse. I tried it this morning and other than the lack of lather, everything seemed fine. So, I'll keep you updated and let you know how it goes! And if it works I'll give recipes too...

Monday, September 14, 2009

First Day of School

So, I realize that I'm pretty late on these pictures, but I just haven't been in the mood to be on the computer lately...But here are pictures of the first day of school.
Ryan made it to second grade!!
Max started kindergarten...He's in afternoon kindergarten which means he has to eat lunch before he goes to school.

So, I told him we would go to a special lunch...he picked Target. He decided he wanted pizza and a slushy. The differences between my boys are huge! Ryan picks teppan yaki, and Max picks Target - go figure!

Monday, September 7, 2009


I made Kombucha. And before I start my story, you need to know that Kombucha is fermented tea. The theory is fairly similar to vinegar. You start with a strong batch of sweetened tea, add the proper bacteria, cover and let ferment. After a week or so, the little beasties have eaten the sugar and the caffeine and you are left with a carbonated, tangy, slightly sweet drink.

Kombucha is supposed to be very healthy for you, it has been around for thousands of years in Japan and China. Many other cultures have similar drinks based on their local diets. Russians have kvass, and kefir and it is also somewhat related to yogurt and kimchi. In other words the fermentation process and live bacteria are good for digestion and your body.

I started drinking kombucha several months ago when my niece brought be some from Whole Foods. Unbeknownst to her, I had been reading about it, but she gave it me saying this looks like something you would drink…I tried it and was hooked. But, it is expensive!!! $3.99 for a 16 oz bottle. After several months of thinking, I decided to make it myself.

This is actually my second batch… the first one didn’t turn out too well. I ordered a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast) on eBay for the first batch. The SCOBY is the thing that floats on top and looks like a thick pancake – it also has all the necessary beasties to safely make this without mold growing on it. When the SCOBY arrived in the mail, it was a flimsy, barely there floating thingy in some liquid. It didn’t look at all like pictures I had seen online. I followed the instructions anyways, covered it and put it in a dark place. After several days there was mold growing on top. The SCOBY wasn’t growing and I decided that this needed to be thrown out.

Several weeks later, I decided to try again. I didn’t want to buy something online again, so I decided to try to make my own SCOBY from the store bought stuff. Since this is a raw, unpasteurized drink, even though it’s filtered it still has the good organisms in it. I drank about half the bottle, poured the other half into a wide mouth jar, covered with a paper towel and a week later had a nice thick pancake looking SCOBY on top. I made strong tea, sweetened it and put the SCOBY in.

A few days later, my mother came up to visit and kept asking if she could throw everything out – because this was obviously not something edible! This is what it looked like after fermenting for 8 days. I strained it and bottled it to increase the carbonation. (It looks fine from the side...In fact, you can't really tell anything is going on unless you lift the towel as in this photo...)
This batch turned out! I even was brave enough to drink it! And I do have to say, that my very Western trained brain was screaming at me that this would kill me…The real issue for me however was when my oldest son came in and begged to try it.

He loves kombucha and knew that we were making it…After I strained it, I finally let him have a little, just because honestly, this stuff looks gross…He loved it and kept asking for more. Several days have passed and we all seem to be fine, so I guess this was a success! I have a few more batches going on the counter and am now experimenting with adding flavors like dried cranberries. However, Ryan says this stuff tastes better than the stuff we got at the store!

Here is a list of purported health benefits from drinking kombucha:
-strengthens the Immune system

- detoxifies, cleansing the blood

- heals and strengthens the Digestive tract

- plays a vital role in regenerating bowel flora

- lengthens the life span

- is a health remedy against chickenpox and shingles

- reduces the formation of wrinkles

- discourages the formation of cancer

- prevents adverse menopausal symptoms

- restores visual acuity

- heals arthritis

- enhances sexual drive

- heals sweaty feet, constipation, joint and back pains

- heals abscesses

- heals blocked arteries and diabetes

- strengthens kidneys

- heals cataracts and heart disease

- restores the appetite and heals sleeping disorders

- reduces the chance of gall stones and liver problems

- reduces obesity and stops diarrhea

- heals hemorrhoids

- helps to restore color to gray hair and improves baldness

- encourages body rejuvenation

Of course none of these statements have been evaluated by the FDA, but the Chinese have been using this for centuries to maintain or regain health. For me, it’s helping me get away from my addiction to Dr. Pepper and if it helps my digestion well then that's just an added bonus!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

To cane or not to cane…

I have an old (not really old, just not taken care of) beautiful teak and cane chair. It used to be in a friend’s house until his girlfriend moved in. She didn’t like it, so it went outside – in the rain, and scorching sun of the Central Valley. After a year or so, I noticed the poor thing and asked for it. She immediately said yes, they were just going to take it to the dump. However, I had just started school, so the poor thing lived on my patio for the past three years. At least it was protected from the elements, but still…

My friend Andi came over the other day and said she would just use fabric….of course, her idea was a little more involved including leather straps and rivets, but it got me thinking about using fabric that I already had. Here was my dilemma – would just fabric hold using staples? I don’t know the long-term answer. I think stronger, thicker fabric would be better, but this was the fabric I had and so here is my fabulous new chair! And even if I have to replace the fabric in a year or two, it was free and really easy.

And, the whole thing including sanding and staining only took a couple of hours, if I had known that I would have done it years ago.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I have been doing a lot of reupholstering lately, and not all of it has been furniture for me! My friend, Amy is in the process of setting up her new office and finding a garage sale chair and ottoman as well as an old chair in her own house has really helped keep down her budget. Some spray paint and some sweat have transformed these chairs into something fun and funky to work with Jr. High kids! Of course, in the mean time, my old couch is staring at my forlornly….


I forgot to take an after picture of the ottoman, but I recovered it in the squiggly fabric on the back of the chair.

Friday, August 14, 2009


I am in the process of purging my entire house. I am going room by room trying to get all of the excess junk, stuff and accumulated things gone and streamlined. It’s amazing how much better I feel when my house is in order. However, I find that I do a lot more yelling at the kids when the house is clean! I don’t want to be mean, but it’s amazing how fast two little boys can completely trash a whole house. Seriously, it takes them about 2.7 minutes…

Thursday, August 13, 2009

End of Summer

As our summer break is winding down, I took the kids down to see my parents for a few days. And wow, what boy filled days they were!!! They learned how to shoot a bow and arrow. They learned the proper technique for shooting a BB gun, including how to figure out which is the dominant eye.

Ryan started learning to play the guitar...

We went to La Brea Tar Pits and saw all the bones of the animals and the tar still oozing out of the ground. (Made me wonder what is under all those buildings next door…)

Max got to ride one of the horses. Ryan still stays away since he remembers the emergency trip to the doctor's office because he swelled up and couldn't breath...

And they were excited to be able to use the sewing machine for the first time and make their own sandwich/snack bags. (Okay, so the last one was not so boy-y, but they were proud of what they made and mom finished off the Velcro…)

Hopefully, I'll be selling these in the next few days/weeks. But, not the ones they made, of course.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I have been part of a mom’s group at church for the past five years. It has been a wonderful source of support and inspiration for me during some of the most difficult times of my life. And it's just fun!
We have gotten together for many non-scheduled days to hang out and let the little ones play, however we have never gotten together as families. For me, not such a big deal since I am the only single mom in the group – I always bring my family!
We had a potluck at my house this past Sunday evening and it was so much fun! My sister came out at one point and asked how many kids were there and how many each family had…There were kids everywhere!!!! I loved it! I love using my house to entertain, I have set it up so it is kid friendly (because if it hasn’t been broken by now, it can’t be broken…), but I rarely get the chance to entertain anymore…I definitely need to do this more often.
So, thank you to everyone who came! We need to do this again.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Slow Food

I am a big fan of the slow food movement. After all, I absolutely love food. Well, good food. I can fore go eating if my only choices are fast food. (Which is really not good for me or the people around me.) There have been many a night where something like crackers have been dinner because nothing else in the house was good.

But back to the slow food movement. It's an organization dedicated to preserving traditional food. I can get on board with that! Additionally, they believe that the best way to preserve traditional breeds that are going extinct is to get people to eat them. Sounds counter intuitive, yet increase demand and supply will increase.

I have bought Heritage Turkeys for Thanksgiving in the past. In fact, one Thanksgiving I cooked a heritage turkey, a traditional turkey and a wild turkey so we could taste-test them side by side. Let me tell you, that heritage turkey made me a believer. It actually had flavor and texture, and you know - that turkey could still actually have sex (well before they killed it for us).

I would raise heritage breed turkeys and chickens if it wasn't for that whole plucking thing. I've already done it and it does not hold good memories for me. It might be different now that I am an adult and it would feed me and my children...hhhmmm

However, one of my problems is that I am impatient. This too might be an understatement, but there it is. It's not that I don't cook from scratch; most everything I do cook is from scratch. I can whip up a fresh tomato sauce in slightly more time than it takes to open a can, but most of my meals in the past 8 years (since I got pregnant the first time), have been of the 30 minute variety. A few of them go longer, but really it's all about getting a good dinner on the table as fast as possible.

Again, this is not to say, that they are not fresh - just fast.

As we are getting home from the conciliatory ice cream after stitches this morning, my sister tells me that we have a ton of eggplant. My eggplants are planted in the strip between my driveway and my neighbors yard and she normally parks on that side of the driveway. So, apparently it was time to make eggplant Parmesan.

This is not a quick dish. This takes slicing eggplant, draining in salt, dredging, frying, baking, making tomato sauce...Today it was even slower since halfway through I realized we were out of pasta.

Completely out.

No pasta of any kind in the house.

I really don't understand how this is possible, but it happened.

I used to make my own pasta in college and this was hands down every one's favorite dish of mine. There is nothing like fresh pasta. And surprisingly, it is extremely easy albeit extremely messy to do.

The dough takes about 3 minutes. I figured the boys would help roll it and cut it in my pasta machine - no problem. Except the pasta machine that I haven't used since college, doesn't really cut the dough. More of an imprint really.

So, now I have been cooking for almost 2 hours. And we have pasta looking type stuff. More of sheets with spaghetti imprints and globs of dough. We put it in the boiling water, waited about a minute and drained it. I threw on the eggplant, a little extra sauce and served the boys. Ryan said it was the best meal he had ever eaten and could I make this every night? Max said yum, but halfway through decided he didn't like the purple skin; but he ate everything else as long as it wasn't purple.

The good point of all this is that our meal completely came out of my garden! This made me so happy and willing to take the time to do this. (I also made another one to put in the freezer.) Everything except the oil and the flour - I grew!

Lately, I have been feeling frustrated and sad regarding my gardening capabilities. I have thought that if my family was dependent on me and my garden for food - we'd be starving. But tonight, tonight we had tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, oregano, eggplant, eggs and an old pasta machine for the most unbelievable pasta ever!!! This was slow food. And it was good.

But now I have flour over every surface of the kitchen and dining room...

Beach Last Week

I woke up one day last week and said we had to get out of the heat! It had been over a hundred for a while, so off to the beach for day we went...What an awesome day!


Since we have a less than two weeks before school starts, I have plans. Lots and lots of plans and things I wanted to get done before school starts and work begins in earnest. This morning I'm sitting on my patio eating breakfast with my sister and we hear a blood-curdling scream. Ryan comes running out of the house holding his forehead screaming. I run over and blood is spurting out of a gash just over his eyebrow.

This is more than a small cut. It is deep. I can see white. I get him calmed down and a damp towel pressed on it to stop the bleeding. Janette runs across the street to get the ER doctor, but he's not home.

I call the doctor's office and they say they can fit us in...almost 3 hours later, Ryan has two stitches. And joy, joy we already had an appointment for tomorrow, so we get to go back!
He got to choose either Sonic or In-N-Out for lunch and a shake!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Bran Muffins

I really enjoy a good bran muffin. I know that some people believe that is an oxymoron, however if they are made right they can be light and wonderful. However, I don't like raisins, especially in food. They remind me of flies. I know that I have a weird texture thing, but i just can't get over it. I don't even like oatmeal raisin cookies. Now, give me the chance to inhale an oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and look out...
I found a recipe on line for six week bran muffins. This particular recipe uses bran cereal, which I happened to have on hand from Trader Joe's (I love their bran cereal not to be confused with flakes and raisins). I understand that it costs less not to use cereal in a recipe, but I have yet to find a way to make these without it...I am trying.
I was going to have a ton of people in my house in addition to the ton that already live here and I thought I would whip up a batch of these and at least be off the hook for breakfast and snacks. (I also happen to love these muffins and have been known to eat them for several meals throughout the day.) After all, the recipe make 18 dozen, which is why the name is 6 week bran muffins - the batter is supposed to last in your fridge for six weeks. I just want to know who has a large enough refrigerator to hold this sheer amount of batter? I usually cut the recipe in fourths or at least a third which the site that I get this recipe from, will cut the ingredients for you so you don't have to do the math (very nice when you are making these at 11 at night)!
But when I got on line to retrieve my favorite recipe, the site was down. I couldn't find the same recipe anywhere! I ended up making some that were similar, but definitely not as good. So I cut the recipe in half and have decided to post it here so I will always have it, Internet or not!
Six Week Bran Muffins (With my changes)
3 cups boiling water
3 cups whole bran cereal
(I substitute 1 cup cereal for 1 cup bran)
1-1/2 cups shortening (I use butter)
4-1/2 cups white sugar (I have reduced the sugar and added molasses, which tastes awesome but not everybody has molasses on hand...not really sure why I do, but I do...)
6 eggs
6 cups buttermilk
(I never have buttermilk on hand, but I usually do have plain yogurt, so I use 3 cups plain yogurt and 3 cups milk instead)
7-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
(For half of the flour, I use a mix of flours including oat flour, whole wheat, and brown rice. I try to keep at least half all-purpose flour to keep the gluten high enough not to have a hockey puck.)
2 tablespoons and 1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
6 cups whole bran cereal
(I substitute a cup or two with oats)

In a large bowl, add boiling water to the first 3 cups of bran cereal, cool.
Cream butter, sugar, eggs, and buttermilk together. Add to bran mixture. Stir in flour, baking soda, and salt. Fold in the 6 cups of bran cereal. Stir only until moistened.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree F (220 degree C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes. (I also sprinkle on top some oatmeal and a little brown sugar, makes a nice crust the punks absolutely love!)

Monday, July 20, 2009


Since the heat is relegating me to inside projects, I am trying to get a few things done. I really need to tackle my house room by room and do a massive purge. Three years of graduate school with toddlers and my sister and her family moving in have created clutter and confusion (I was trying to think of a nice way to say disaster).

What I have done instead is decide to re-cover my dining room chairs in clearance fabric I picked up for $7. I got all three boys in one this one. They were so excited to get to take things apart and not get in trouble for it and bonus for me it took a few hours! I was too busy supervising three boys with scissors, screwdrivers and a staple gun to actually get a pic with any of them doing work...

Paint and recover a $3 garage sale chair.

And tackle an antique couch I picked up for $15...this one is going to take a while...