Sunday, July 31, 2011

Someone Absconded My Camera!

The kids wanted to play with my camera on our camping trip. Well, knowing how careful (not) they are with their own possessions, I was more than willing (not) and happy (not even close) to let them use my camera. Actually, Missy Lou was the one who took most of the pictures. She's pretty careful with things. So, here they are. Not things that I would really be taking pictures of, but you never really know what children think are important to preserve digitally into eternity. Obviously, you have to take a picture of yourself first. Otherwise, how are people going to know who the photographer is? This is part of our tent. Hubby and I bought this tent with the proceeds from our first and only yard sale. We had the yardsale shortly after we got married and had a lot of junk to get ride of. (Uh, oh! I just ended the previous sentence with a preposition. You're not supposed to do that. I'm sorry! Call the grammar police!)
Here's the inside of the bear box. These are metal boxes that are difficult to open and you're supposed to store all your food and smelly substances in here so that bears don't raid your campsite. Bears can be a real problem, especially since in the past people with no common sense thought it would be a good idea to actually feed the bears. Then, they got used to people and don't scare away so well. The idea with the bear box is to try to make a campsite less appealing to a bear so they don't hang around. This is our friends' dog, Sadie. She's a sweet little doggie and the kids fought all weekend over who would get to hold her leash.
And here is our campfire. Well, I guess the kids got the more important aspects of our camping trip. Now we just need to work on centering things.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

I am Exhausted!

Oh my stars! We have been on the go! This week has been one thing after another. I don't mind being busy, but why do we have to be so busy all at once. Tuesday, my mom took the kids and my niece and I to the movies. Wednesday the dog came (and stayed, I'll blog about her, too), Thursday my mom took said niece and my children and me to the water park.

We had a great time, but came home quite wiped out and dehydrated. Then, Friday, we got all packed up and went on a 30 hour camping trip up at Kings Canyon. It was a great time. We went with a family from church. The kids learned how to whittle and of course played in the fire the whole time.
The weater was perfect except for an afternoon thunderstorm, but that was rather mild in intensity. And now, I am completely and utterly wiped out. I have no idea what I'm going to make for dinner and would really like to just sit here, but that's just not gonna happen. I'll tell you all about our adventures later. Now, I've gotta go scrounge up something to eat.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Just Passin' Through, Ma'am!

We've had some excitement around here this morning. This little dog just showed up in our backyard. Yes, our backyard. I have no idea how he got there. We have two gates, which were both closed and I don't think there are any holes in the fence. And even if there were, he'd have had to come from the neighbor's yard. He's a scroungy looking guy, but he's very tame and he is obedient. And he pretty much seems to ignore the cats. So, we fed him some cat food and gave him some water. He was hungry, that's for sure. The kids are playing with him now and are so excited they can hardly stand it. So, I'm not sure what to do. He has no collar and he's pretty dirty and matted, so I'm thinking he's homeless. But.... I just can't bring myself to call animal control. Ugh. He is a sweet little dog. But, you can't just let homeless dogs stay, can you?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Housing Boom!

Well, whatever the case is for the rest of the country, housing starts are up in our neck of the woods. Or, should I say, hideout construction is increasing in our neck of the woods. What is it about hideouts, or forts, or whatever kids like to call them? I loved building forts when I was a kid. We'd get out the chairs and every blanket we could find and piece together a shanty of sorts and play in it all day. Sometimes it didn't even have to be a chair and blanket fort. The house I grew up in had a hallway that led to the back bedroom. It wasn't used much so I'd close all the doors and then I would have this long, narrow room that would become a ship or a camper-trailer or whatever it was that I'd be playing that day. It's funny that, even though things change over time and the childhood of my children is much different than my own childhood, the games children play when left to their own devices often remain the same across the generations. Here's Bubba's hideout. He uses the couch as a back wall. Duh-duh's and Missy Lou's is a little more tent-like, using four folding chairs.
Of course, there are the usual bickerings and fights that go along with team-work, but I've figured out a way to handle that. I just send them out on the front porch and tell them they can't come back in until they've verbally worked out a solution to their problem. And I tell them if I have to interfere then I'll take time off their video game time. I've been really trying hard to stay out of their problems, although they work equally as hard to drag me into the midst of them. But, whatever the case, we've got a building boom going on here in the middle of the living room.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Little Bit of Summer Heaven!

OK, this post is going to be about one of my most favorite things about summer - fresh salsa, aka pico de gallo (if you really want to sound fancy). I live for fresh salsa. I could make an entire meal out of fresh salsa. It is what makes summer summer. But, what makes fresh salsa fresh salsa, you may ask? Well, let me share. First, you need your fresh grown tomatoes. Do not, I repeat, do not use those red spheres you buy in the grocery store. You may as well just save yourself the time and effort and buy salsa in a jar.

Just look at these bad boys. Yummy! I peel them, because that's just what we do. We peel tomatoes. And dice them. Roma tomatoes are good for fresh salsa because they're less juicy, but I use the regular kind too, and just strain the juice a little. Then you add your onion (red or yellow, doesn't matter, I've been on a red onion kick lately, so that's what I use), your jalapeno (I'm experimenting this summer in my garden with a new kind of jalapeno called "Mucho Nacho". The website said it has "less heat and more meat". I like it. It has that yummy jalapeno flavor, but doesn't knock you on your backside if you get a big bite of it.), and your cilantro. The cilantro I have to buy because it doesn't grow well in the summer. It just bolts way too fast.

So, once you got all that chopped up and mixed together, you add a little red-wine vinegar, salt, pepper and garlic powder "to taste". And I have to say, "to taste" is the operative word here. Because it's really very important that you really taste that salsa to make sure it's perfect. So, get out your big bag of chips and taste your little heart out until you are sure that the salsa is just right for your family. Even if it means going through a couple dozen chips in the process.

Because really, isn't your family worth is? It takes a lot of time and effort to make the salsa, so it is imperative to taste a lot of it to make sure it's just right. Go ahead! Pile it on that chip and enjoy!

Friday, July 22, 2011

An Enduring Friendship!

"Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies"

I had a wonderful day today. I spent the afternoon with my good friend. My good friend of almost 30 years. I know, I know, you're saying, "Kristen, why you hardly look a day past 29, how can you have a friendship of nearly 30 years?" Well, truth be told, I'm a smidge past 29. L and I became friends our freshman year in high school. We were both in band together. She played the saxophone and I played the flute. But, what really cemented our friendshp was that we took PE together. For non-athletes like ourselves, PE can be a horror story. And it could have been, except that we had each other and goofed around the whole time. We were best friends in high school - cruising around in her little blue Toyota Celica, having major crushes on rock stars and athletes, going to football games, and passing notes written in code in Algebra class. You know, the usual things that high school girls do. When we graduated we made a promise to each other that we'd be maid of honor in each other's wedding. And we were. This was her wedding. (I'm the one with dark hair on the right) We were kinda young then!
This is my wedding. We were a little older.
But you know, the thing about some friendships is... sometimes they can last and last and last. L and I don't see each other a whole lot. She lives in the big city. She's got her husband and three kids and I got my husband and three kids and we don't have a lot of free time. We don't get to spend a lot of time together. But then, I invite myself and my kids over to her house for lunch and we sit for hours eating chips and salsa, drinking iced tea and watching the kids in the pool and it's like... we're still in perfect harmony. That's an enduring friendship!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thursday Morning!

Wow, Thursday already? You've got to be kidding! And it's already the end of July? Can't be! Wasn't it just Easter? Easter, 2007? Time just keeps marching on! So, yeah, we're just hanging out today. One more week of summer vacation in this house. We start school August 1. I know it's a little early, but it gives us a little more flexibility. We like to take our vacations during the off season - go to the mountains in October and to the coast in May. Plus, if Mama needs a mental health day, we can do that, too. So, we're just hanging out today. Bubba got these nifty little things in their Taco Bell Kid's Meal yesterday and has been having fun putting them together. The other two kids gave him theirs and now Bubba's got a whole pile of them to make things with!Duh-duh's making trains and train tracks. Remember I said they don't like Legos? Well, they don't. But, they love Duplos. Go figure.
And I have my tasks today. See these? Well, these, and all their brothers and sisters who are still hanging on the vine are going in to these....
And I will probably do a little more of this....I've also been doing some lesson planning for the upcoming school year. I like to spread everything out on the floor and then sit in the middle of it. That way I have easy access to everything. (See that blue and yellow book there in the middle? That's the neo-classical homeschooler's Bible! "The Well-Trained Mind". It guides almost everything I do as a homeschooler)
I've also found a great new author of books for history. Diane Stanley. I think I've bought 3 of her books so far. They are well written and beautifully illustrated. Here's the one on Leonardo Da Vinci. I also bought one on Joan of Arc and another one on Michaelangelo.
So, it's going to be a busy day. An "at home" day for us. I try to have one or two "at home" days a week. They're nice.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

One of "Those" Talks!

I hate "those" talks. You know, those serious talks you have to have with your kids and it's kind of uncomfortable and you want to get your point across, but don't want to be too preachy. And you don't often have a lot of time to prepare, because often "those" talks just come up and you have to just have it, ready or not. Well, yesterday we had to have a talk about language. Bad language. The boys were hanging out at the playground at the Community Center while Missy Lou was having her ballet class. Generally, they don't spend much time there. It's not the best place, really, to hang out. But, they were there long enough, because when we were getting into the car Bubba asks me, "Mommy what does %$&# mean?" (yes, it was the big one, the bad bad bad word!) I flinched inwardly when he said it, but he had no idea what he was saying, so I didn't make a big deal. I just told him it was a very bad word and he shouldn't say it. When we got home we had a little talk about bad words and I kind of tried to explain to him that not all bad words were equally as bad. It was a conversation I'd had with some junior highers a long time ago. But truthfully, all bad words are not created equal. There are some words that we as a family just do not use, but they are mainstream and definitely not considered offensive. Those words would be "gosh" and "darn" and "dang". Then, there is the first tier of bad words. You hear them on the radio and tv and on the street, and they aren't bad bad, but still, they are bad words. Then, there's that second tier of bad words. The ones that they can't say on tv and the radio. And then, lastly, there's the Big-One! The one people really get in trouble for. That one word that if you say it too much, people really start avoiding you. Well, I didn't explain all that to Bubba. He's only 8 afterall and his experience with profanity is... well... except for yesterday's encounter at the park... nill. But, try explaining to a child who goes nuts when faced with vagueries of any kind that while you probably shouldn't be saying "dang it", it's not nearly as bad and you won't get into anywhere near the trouble as you would if you said %$&#. This parenting thing just keeps getting harder and harder!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Saving up for the Winter.

One of my favorite books is "Blueberries for Sal" by Robert McCloskey.
Actually, I love most stories by Robert McCloskey. This one starts out, "One day, Little Sal went with her mother to Blueberry Hill to pick blueberries. Little Sal brought along her small tin pail and her mother brought her large tin pail to put berries in. 'We will take our berries home and can them,' said her mother. 'Then we will have food for the winter.'" It's really a very charming story. Anyhow, preserving food for the winter used to be a necessary task for families back before food was so easy to get from supermarkets and the like. Drying food was common farther back in history, but in fairly recent history canning food at home was pretty popular. Unfortunately, it's becoming a lost art. Generally, I like to freeze things. I freeze blueberries, instead of canning them. I also freeze a lot of peaches, nectarines and persimmons. Well, I have a ton of fruit right now. See....
My mom gets me all this, plus we finished harvesting the Elbertas from our tree, and I must say we've gotten a bumper crop. For a branch! I had planned on freezing what we can't eat fresh, but then a friend of mine showed me her canned peaches and kind of got me inspired. I hadn't planned on canning, partly because of the work, but also because you can them in sugar syrup and I just don't want to eat that much sugar. But, I had some frozen peaches left from last year that we hadn't eaten yet, and I was kind of in the mood to try something new and maybe I could find a recipe that didn't have so much sugar. So, ok, I'm going to do it. But I wasn't exactly sure how. I'd never canned peaches before. My mom had. And my grandma. But not me. However, I wasn't going to let a little ignorance stop me. I went to the Internet (my source of all Truth and Reliable Information) and found a recipe for light syrup, so I thought I'd give that a try. First, you have to sterilize the jars. Food poisoning is no laughing matter. I boiled them for 10 minutes. Then, I cut up my fruit and added a little lemon juice to keep them from turning brown.
Then, I threw in another load of laundry. Because, I'm multi-tasking. I made the light syrup and cooked the peaches a little in that...
And then I put them in the jars and filled in the blanks with the syrup. I put the lids on them and processed them for 2o minutes and....
voila' canned peaches. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Now, I just have to wait till the jars cool and I hear the lids pop, which means that they've sealed.
I also decided to get a little wild and crazy and can a few jars of nectarines. I know, I'm out of control! We'll see how those hold up. I'm not so sure. Oh well! It's been fun!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Poor Man's Gardening!

I read in a gardening magazine once a quote that kind of tickled me. "Friends don't let friends plant annuals!" That quote stuck with me. Obviously, the article was on why perennials are superior in the garden. I do think annuals have their place in the garden, though. They're great for color, but I'm kind of partial to perennials myself. One of the reasons I like them is that they reproduce themselves and if you're on top of things (and somewhat patient), you can fill in a flower bed for free. I have a medium sized flower bed in the front yard. I can never figure out what I want to put in it. I started out with scabiosa, but they kept getting aphids, so I ripped them out and tried something else, but I didn't like that something else so I decided to put in scabiosa again and just battle the aphids. But, I'm too cheap to go buy a whole bunch of scabiosa to fill it in, so just I got a few and planted them. Then, as they continue to get bigger and reproduce I just divide them up and make new plants. Dividing perennials is pretty easy, actually. You just dig up a clump. The scabiosa kind of grow in mounds, so I dug up a mound and then started brushing the dirt away from the root ball and gently pulling it apart. You don't have to tear at the root ball. It'll come apart pretty naturally if you're gentle. See, here's three little plants I got out of one clump.
Then, you just plant each little individual plant and that's that. Nothin' to it. Eventually, those little plants will grow and reproduce and I'll dig them up and separate them as well.
Yes, it does take a little while, and if you're in a hurry, it's probably better to go to the plant store. But, there's something cool about doing it this way, too. Plant propogation is a fun hobby and it's pretty easy, whether you're propogating by dividing perennials, or rooting cuttings from other plants.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What's Goin' On Around Here!

Well, here it is, the middle of July and I'm wearing a sweatshirt around the house. I think there was some sort of geological shift in the middle of the night and we're in the upper latitudes instead of the Great Central Valley of California. It's supposed to be 100 degrees at this time of year and it's almost noon and 75 degrees. Not that I'm complaining or anything. I'll take this kind of weather any time! The oldest and youngest of my offspring are outside drawing roads on the patio with sidewalk chalk and driving their Hotwheels on them. Sidewalk chalk is the greatest invention.
My middle child is folding his laundry.
There will be no tv watched, nor video games played until chores are done. So, Duh-duh's chore today is to get his laundry folded and later on at the end of the day he takes the trash out. Bubba's chore today is to sweep the front walk and he sets the table for dinner. Missy Lou takes the silverware out of the dishwasher and puts it away every day and makes sure the cats are fed and watered. So, that's what they're doing.

I, on the other hand, have declared war. On my inability to grow pumpkins. Look, this is what our pumpkin vine looks like. Isn't it pathetic?
We have one pumpkin set on. And it's not even one of the ones I hand-pollinated. I'm sure it's going to die, just like the other ones.
Oh, and we solved the mystery as to why the bees have been avoiding our little planter box, too. Hubby put this aphid/insect systemic control on the plants before they blossomed. Well, it not only kept the aphids away, it kept the bees away, too. We have no watermelons set on, or canteloupes, either. It's a sad state of affairs. Anyhow, so then I just got mad. Why can't I grow a decent pumpkin? The people at the Pumpkin Patch just outside of town can grow tons of them. The people who live a couple blocks away and grow their mangy little garden between their fence and the sidewalk can grow pumpkins. Why can't I grow pumpkins? So, I refuse to give up. I found a plastic pot (it's the one my rose came in) and filled it with the remainder of the potting soil (it only filled up about 3/4 way, but that's ok), and I planted 5 pumpkin seeds in it.
Then, I put this on it. It's one of those containers you get from the nursery. It holds a flat of six-packs. Why is this necessary? Well, we have 3 cats that used our other planter box as a potty (which is another reason we think the plants didn't do so well). So, this should keep the cats out!
And there you have it. The seed package says it's 110 days till harvest and as of today, it is exactly 110 days till Halloween. Well, I'll get it in just under the wire!