Tuesday, June 30, 2009


My nephew Andrew came down for dinner tonight and brought his new camera gear. He is absolutely loving photography and took some awesome pictures of the boys and even my sister and me (especially considering we were up all night last night with the mama dog). He is starting his photography business and you can check out some of his other photos here. These are completely unedited, and very candid...

I am 10 years younger than my sister and 13 years younger than my brother. They had their kids when I was in high school, so I never expected to have children close to my siblings' children. Yet, my sister had a boy 10 years after her youngest (she was a little surprised) and I had Ryan a year and a half later; two years after that Max arrived. The boys are close and have been since birth. Janette and I were together at least once a week if not more often. I babysat for her when she went back to school when I was pregnant with Ryan and the grew up with each other. My sister moved in with us a few years ago during her divorce and lived with us for almost two years. Less than a year later they moved back in, due to breast cancer. I'm so glad the boys have each other. Most people assume they are brothers when we are all out together...I can't understand why!

Here's my sister and her youngest...My sister thinks she looks terrible, but I think she is looking amazing. Especially for being in the middle of chemo!

I'm never in front of the camera, so I get nervous, start laughing and then my eyes disappear...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Starwberry Jam

One of the advantages of living in the Central Valley of California, is that we have amazing produce. I have five fruit stands within 2 miles of my house, and I'm sure there are probably more - I just don't drive that way. I picked this up and within one day everything was melting into juice. So, I chopped up all the strawberries and made strawberry jam. It's never to early to start making Christmas presents. Although, I don't think there is any way this jam will make it to Christmas. I have almost finished the runt which is really interferring in my no-wheat diet!

I chopped up 6 pints of strawberries...

added 2 1/2 cups of sugar...

Add cooked until it gelled...put it into pint jars, boiled for 10 minutes in a water bath and was rewarded with the sweet sounds of the lids sucking down as I was leaving the kitchen. I hadn't even cleaned the kitchen, so it was really within a minute of taking them out of the water.

My grandmother used to love caning. Apparantly it was the only thing she liked to do in the house. My mom would tell me as we were caning that her mom said it was the only think she did around the house that lasted more than a day. I never met my grandmother, but I really understand her sentiments!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


Since graduation a few weeks ago, I have been in the slow process of purging my house. It has been spurred on by many different reasons not the least of which since my sister and her kids moved in with me, I have downsized into my bedroom and the kids room. Additionally, three years of graduate school combined with the fact that I hate housework - things tend to pile up on me.

This terrible picture is of my living room, covered in laundry. You see, laundry is the bane of my existence. I do it, but it ends up on a counter top I built on top of my washer and dryer. When we need clothes we sort through the pile. Occasionally, my mother will tackle the pile and fold everything for me. But then, one of the real problems begins of where to put it all? Because not only do I have to sort and fold, but some of the clothes go back to their dad's house. Then there is the inevitable sorting of which clothes are now too small and have to be either given to a friend or packed away for Max when he gets bigger. Then, the worst thing of all are the socks...I wont even go there because it is just too painful...

So, in the middle of all of this mess, I lost steam. I just couldn't face it anymore. Which, I then did something solely for my own sanity. I put away what I had folded and picked up the rest and put back on top of the dryer. Sometimes you have to bite off a piece that you can chew without choking. It will be waiting for me tomorrow. You see, as much as I keep hoping that the laundry fairies will come in the middle of the night and make my house pretty, they never show up...Do they ever show up in your house?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


I harvested a few things this past week...Something had gotten in my bed of garlic and onions and pushed everything over. The garlic had turned brown and even though it hadn't grown as big as I would have liked - it needed to come out. Since I was harvesting the garlic, I decided to take out the onions that were in that bed as well. They weren't forming good size bulbs and I really needed the bed to plant my watermelon and butternut squash plants...So here are my onions:
and my very first garlic braid!
My first few yellow tomatoes and of course I usually get two eggs a day. I can't wait for teenagers to start laying...2 eggs a day is no where newar enough for this household who have all become egg snobs.

Although I think the brown one is a double yolk...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Boy's Big Days

The boys have been having some big days lately! This week they learned how to shoot a BB gun and how not to shot themselves, each other or anyone else! I know that a lot of people do not like guns and believe me I understand. I come from a long line of hunters and my dad bought my first gun when I was four. He immediately taught me gun safety and took me hunting with him so I understood that guns kill things.

We ate everything he killed and my poor roommate in college looked at everything I cooked very suspiciously. What I'm trying to say is that I grew up with guns. However, when my husband left - I made sure that his gun went with him. I did not and do not want a gun in my house with my children.

But you see, it appears that I have a Blue Jay nest somewhere near my backyard. I've never really had a problem with Blue Jays until a couple moved in. They don't like anyone or anything in the backyard. They start screeching around 4:30 in the morning. It sounds like an alarm clock and is more than annoying.
I don't trust my kids and it's way too dangerous. I realize that there is a huge gun debate in this country and I really understand both sides of the argument, but this is not the place for me to get into that debate. What I wanted to say, was how excited they were that I finally allowed them to touch their father's BB gun and taught them how to shoot.

They very quickly "ran out" of BBs and the gun had to go away again. I am just not ready for that to be a regular part of our lives.

I also made an arbor thingy for the entrance to my vegetable garden out of concrete reinforcing wire I had left over from the tomato cages. This stuff is HARD to cut! I got out the Dremel, and boy did it go fast. The boys wanted to get in on the cutting...(after all, it was throwing off sparks, making loud noises and was a power tool)

Max ran into the house while Ryan was cutting and came out a few minutes later and announced that he was now protected...

Because I was using leftover material, the arbor is not the strongest structure and I used old tiki torches for support...

We also went to their first baseball game! I tried to explain the basics...but here's the main difference between my kids:

Ryan wanted to know how they built the lights so big and tall...

Max was into the ketchup...

And we had puppies...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Happy Father's Day!

My dad is helping me frost Ryan's snake birthday cake!

Today is Father's Day and I just wanted to say how much I absolutely adore my father! He is amazing and I love him. My dad is someone who always takes care of responsibilities even if it means hardship to himself. His family is always first, which sometimes means he has to work very long hours in order to take care of everyone. He has a huge heart and is a decent, caring, wonderful man. He is incredible moral and has very high standards that I always want to live up to. He is also the most intelligent person I have ever met, he is an inspiration in his very quiet way. Dad, if you are reading this - I love you more!

Today is also the summer solstice, which means it is the first day of summer and the longest day of the year. So, happy summer, enjoy the sunshine and the absolutely beautiful if crazy weather we have been having lately!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Egg Casserole

Jenna -
Here is the recipe for the Egg Casserole:
Melt 1 stick of butter in a large casserole dish
10 eggs beaten
1 pint of cottage cheese
1 pound of Monterrey Jack (really and cheese you like)
1 pound of cooked meat (I use ham, but any breakfasty meat will do)
1 small can of green chilies
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. flour
Pour mixture into baking dish, cover and let sit in refrigerator overnight. Bake at 350 for 35 minutes. If you have an over like mine that isn't always accurate, might take a few more minutes. It should be slightly, turning golden brown on top and eggs not runny. Let sit for about 10-15 minutes to set up. I have also cut the butter down to half and it turned out fine. You'll understand when you take it out of the oven and realize that your arteries could clog just by looking!

Being a Stay at Home Mom

I get to be a stay at home mom again! I have missed this so very much and am so glad that I get this opportunity this summer. I am no longer in school and my new job hasn't started yet. YIPEEEE!

I am absolutely loving the slower paced lifestyle. I would say that we can sleep in, but the boys don't understand the value of that yet. However, there is no rushing around in the morning trying to make breakfast and get everyone ready to get out the door, already late before we even get in the car. We don't have to even leave the house unless we want to. Yesterday we went to get chicken and cat food at the feed store. It was wonderful! I so look forward to the days that I don't go anywhere!

As much as I love being home, there are a few things that are a problem for me. One is that I cook three meals a day. That is not the problem - I love to cook (for the most part), and I cook really good food. The problem is that the kitchen is a mess at least three times a day. It doesn't matter how many times you do the dishes, they always need to be done again! And as I complain about this, I honestly know that this is not because it's summer, my kitchen always needs cleaning of some sort. After all, I have 7 or more people living in my house, and sometimes more...

The other problem is that it feeds into my isolationist tendencies. I have a difficult time making friends and forcing myself out of the house, or even to call people. I have belonged to a women's Bible Study for mother's of young children for going on five years now. These are women who I respect and admire. We all met and went to the park this morning and it was a lovely time. All the kids had a good time and I really, really enjoy hanging out with these women. But, I constantly feel like I am sticking my foot in my mouth. Well, honestly more like both feet and maybe some chin. Although, I got to hold a baby. It hurt and was so wonderful all at the same time!

It's hard for me to force myself out of my comfort zone, pick up the phone and invite someone over. Or invite myself over to their house. I wasn't the most liked kid growing up, in fact, I was the beat up kid who everyone made fun of...Curling up with a good book is what I have done most of my life! So, I am going to make a huge effort and force myself to make more connections! Just so I am being honest, here are some of my reasons why I don't just pick up the phone:

1. I feel like they don't really like me and are just being polite.

2. My house is always a mess. I am not the world's best housekeeper and think there are way too many more fun things to do and people to be with than have a perfectly kept house. However, I don't like people to see my lack of a clean house...vicious circle because in reality I am a perfectionist and want me house to be perfect.

3. I'm a single mom. I need the company most when I don't have my kids around - but that is usually family time and I feel bad asking to come over when families are having dinner and well - family time.

4. My boys are full-fledged boys. As much as I try to encourage their creativity, imagination and resourcefulness, not everybody appreciates or understands that boys are well, boisterous.

Ok, so here is my list of pathetic excuses and I will be working on them this summer...I will consider this personal growth time and invite someone over while there are still dishes in the sink and not try to frantically wash them before my guests come over!

After the park, I decided to splurge and took the boys to In-n-Out for lunch!

Yes, Ryan is in a Hulk costume. The only surprising thing about that, is that Max is not in costume!

Ice Cream

“Mom, do you have a recipe you use for your ice cream?”


“Would you share it with me?”

“Sure. I take some eggs, some milk, some cream or half and half, sugar, flour, salt and vanilla. Mix it up and pour it in the ice cream maker.”

“Gee, considering I haven’t done this before, I’m not sure that helps much.”

“Why not?”

Ok. How much sugar? How many eggs? How much milk?”

“Just throw some together, taste it to see if you need to add anything.”

Ok, why the flour?”

“It makes it smoother. I’d probably only put in a tablespoon or so.”

Strange as this conversation is – this is how I learned to cook. And for most things if I call my mom and ask, these are the kinds of recipes I get. These are also the kinds of recipes I give other people when they ask. Well, you take a little of this and a little of that until it looks right…Right now, I am officially apologizing to everyone who has ever called and asked for me to share a recipe especially those of you who would be self proclaimed non-chefs.

So, I did what my mom told me to. I used 2 eggs (fresh from my chickens), about a cup of sugar, some heavy cream (left over from the most amazing mushroom cream sauce I made the other night), milk, salt, flour and vanilla.

The ice cream was awesome! Here's Ryan on top of the playhouse eating his...

I sliced fresh strawberries for mine...This is really yummy summer goodness!

Recipe: (Well, an approximate recipe)

Beat together:

2 eggs

1 cup sugar (or less if you like it less sweet. I actually prefer a little less)

1/2 - 3/4 heavy cream or half and half

1 - 2 teaspoons vanilla depending on taste

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon of flour if desired. (I made it both ways, since I had to turn around and make more the next day. I did notice with the flour it was a little smoother, but I like it either way. I am trying to limit our intake of wheat, so it's absolutely delicious without it.)

Enough milk to make 4 cups of liquid

Pour into an ice cream maker and freeze!

I have a quart size ice cream maker, so this is for that amount...change recipe as desired and feel free to add fresh fruit, caramel swirls....Also, this recipe is uncooked, so you are eating raw eggs. I have no problem eating raw eggs since they are in most of my favorite foods - hollandaise sauces, homemade mayonnaise, cookie dough, brownie batter...if this concerns you, you could always cook the mixture until it thickens a little and is hot but not boiling. This completely changes the texture and now you have a custard based ice cream recipe instead. A lot of people prefer this, but I love the simplicity and ease of having the mixture in the maker in a matter of minutes!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Chicken Training

I love my chickens. They make me happy just sitting and watching them eat my bugs and scratch the ground. I also love gathering the eggs and every time I crack one open, I smile because that came from my chickens. I had three chickens left from last year's attempt at backyard chicken raising. After a couple of incidents with a Pomeranian and then a toy poodle, we had some losses and even had to start all over again with a new flock.

However, one of my chickens doesn't lay. She is over a year old and either she doesn't lay or she eats her eggs. So, I gave her to my mother. I have two hens currently laying and 6 teenagers getting ready to lay very soon. Since I really enjoy watching the chickens I choose ones that I thought were pretty, layed pretty eggs and were available at my local feed store. So, I have a black New Jersey Giant, an Easter Egger (since no one can say for certain if it an Aracauna or an Americana...), a Silver Laced Wyandotte, a Golden Laced Wyandotte, a Maran and then three that we are unsure of. I think a Red Sex Link and two Wellsummers. We'll see once they start laying since the Wellsummers are supposed to lay beautiful dark chocolate brown eggs.
So, here is the problem. My chickens aren't exactly legal. And every morning around 5:30 they start to make noise - a lot of noise. I had no idea that hens could make so much noise. They like to bawk. Except it's more of a BAWK, BAWK, BAWK!!! Add to this that I am not a morning person and I am trying to keep the neighbors from reporting me. I am running out and letting them out of the coop to shut them up, but now I think they have trained me. They bawk, I let them out...Anyone have any ideas about how to make them shut up without annoying my neighbors?

Monday, June 8, 2009

photos of the day

My younger son is a ham. He has discovered that he is funny. He has also discovered that he likes to make people laugh. And he like to have his picture taken even if he is the only one around to do it.

And because he really is absolutely adorable, I couldn't resist taking a few more!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Weather and Water

The weather has been amazing this past week! I have lived in Fresno for the past 9 years, and I have yet to experience more than a week of spring. We tend to go from fogged in to 3 digit temperatures overnight. We have had rain. RAIN! Which is awesome considering the humongous draught we are in.

Puffy clouds in blue skies. Also very unusual since our skies tend to be either fog, or some smoggy, smoky, grayish color. When Ryan was little I told him the sky was blue and he argued with me! I can go outside without the possibility of heat stroke. I can send the kids outside without the possibility of heat stroke and red flag days which mean that no one should be breathing the air let alone running around outside.

Although I realize I am lucky to live in a zone where we (not me for some reason, but people around me) are already harvesting tomatoes and peppers, the weather is very difficult thing for me to handle. Besides that fact that heat is my own personal enemy, it is also my plants enemy. In fact, we almost have two short seasons rather than one long one since plants shut down in temperatures over 96 degrees. This sucks since we count the number of days in a row over 100 with regularity. I have been known to say, it's only been 5 days over 110...

I love the puffy clouds and beautiful temperatures!!!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Garden Update

I'm having mixed success with my garden this year. My onions and garlic look awesome, but the onions aren't producing bulbs.
My potatoes are growing like gangbusters, but I think they have early blight. Anybody know if this is why some of them look terrible?

I have replanted my zucchini, squash and cucumbers three times now and am considering one more try. Not sure exactly what is going on. My absolutely best looking plant is a volunteer tomato plant. Three years ago, I planted a yellow pear tomato. It has reliably seeded itself every year since and is always my most prolific producer.

The rest of my tomatoes I started from seed indoors at the end of January and diligently took care of them every day - took them outside to visit the sun, brought them in at night. None of them compare to my volunteer which started to grow at the same time I planted out my other tomatoes...gardening can be a maddening process!
I do have a few tomatoes though!

I had two peas that germinated from seed. I cheated and bought seedlings at a sale a few weeks ago. I'm considering planting more seeds and just see what happens. The beets, spinach and radishes didn't germinate at all! They were all in the same barrel, so I'm thinking foul play - probably the cat. She likes to sleep in pots! My carrots sort of came up, so they are going to get a re-seeding as well.

The lettuce is done, it just gets way too hot here. I am already excited to see whether reports in the 90s, because it means it wont get that hot!

The peppers are starting to look good and my tomato plants are growing, just no tomatoes yet. I am trying to finish making my tomato cages so they can have some support.

The melons didn't like the sudden heat and neither did the strawberries. Everything probably would have been fine except I didn't have the drip system up and running smoothly yet. So the strawberries are toast and the melons just keeled over. And I don't think the chickens helped out either!
My lemon tree doesn't seem to be doing so well. I have all these tiny little lemons that are already turning yellow and falling off. I'm hoping that some of them decide to stay on the tree and actually turn into lemons.