Monday, August 30, 2010

apple time!

I love apple season. It signifies the coming of fall, and all the wonderful things that come with it: mainly, baseball playoffs, football, and baking. My weekends are now full of Jason's soccer games (exciting to watch) and high school football games (I am so glad Grace is a cheerleader because otherwise I would have no reason at all to go to those....) and my weekdays are full of Cal Poly students, driving kids around (mainly Jason, now that Grace can drive herself!), and trying to reap the bounty of our garden and orchard before it goes bad (also there is quite a squirrel war going on this year, but Max-the-dog and I are doing quite well, thanks to the new ammo my dad bought me, so I won't mention it, lest any of my hippie neighbors happen to read this). This year, it just so happens that the tomatoes are very late, and the apples are early, so they are all ripening right now. Our apple tree is only about 8 feet or so tall, but God bless it, it has produced about 100 or so apples (I'm not sure what variety....I was told golden delicious, but they start dropping when they are still green. As with many of the plants here, it may have been mislabeled when we moved in). I went out the other day to pick "a few" and came in with a full basket (it's like the miracle of the loaves and fishes). Fortunately for me, my sweet mother-in-law is visiting, so she stood at my kitchen counter this morning and peeled and cut apples while I put them into an apple crisp (which we will eat tonight) and two apple pies, which I am freezing for later (I might add that she is also fixing us linguine with clam sauce tonight for dinner. What a great visit this is turning out to be!). Then she escaped somehow and went shopping with my father-in-law. She doesn't know it yet, but I just went outside and picked a whole new basketful!! Ha! I see apple sauce, apple-cinnamon bread, apple dumplings, and apple butter in the future. This is a huge improvement over last year, when we got zero, thanks to those nasty squirrels, who, in one night, went out into the orchard and ate exactly half of every apple hanging on the tree. I think they did it to taunt me. Dirty buggers!
Anyway, apple prep is a relaxing, mindless task that can be done - while watching football! Maybe that's why I like apples so much....

Friday, August 20, 2010

Jason's Best Beach Day Ever

Hey look! I am learning how to put videos on the blog! I thought I would share this video from yesterday, when I took Jason and four friends to Pismo Beach for one final glorious beach day before the start of school on Monday. They sat in the sun, they boogie-boarded, they skim-boarded, they went to the candy arcade, they quoted songs and movie lines and made me laugh. And then they decided that they would try to catch a seagull.....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Garden Surprises

I came home from El Salvador to a neatly-trimmed front yard, thanks to Mom. The garden, however, is being its typical unruly self. Every year the same thing happens - I plant in the spring and the tiny seedlings look so far apart that I think they will have plenty of room to spread out. But then the pumpkins and squash go crazy, and this year the tomatoes have joined them. It makes every trip out there like a little treasure hunt - you never quite know what you will find. The Very Large Pumpkin is easy because it is already turning orange (it will soon have to go into the basement, although I don't know how, since I can't carry it). There are two other pumpkins - one in the middle of my tomatillos, and one over by the cantaloupes (these are at opposite ends of the garden, mind you). And there is a white pumpkin out there somewhere. I saw it once. The vines at this point are beginning to poke out of the fence and head into the orchard. Mixed in with the pumpkins are spaghetti squash (I planted yellow ones, but am getting an equal number of yellow and white ones. No one knows why. One of my hippie neighbors suggested mischevious garden fairies, and I know she was being serious) and what I thought were butternut squash. Turns out they are pattypans. My neighbor made a mistake on her labeling. I found out because I lifted a leaf over by the fence and found a yellow pattypan squash the size of a soccer ball, which caused my friend Heather, who was with me at the time, to laugh until she cried (this is my same friend who got me to run the half marathon - see the Sept 14, 2008 blog entry). I may have simultaneously yelled, "What the?" We cut it in half to positively identify it as a squash and laughed at the size. We are still talking about it - wish I had taken a picture of it. Anyway, there's the garden update for now - in between getting everything ready for the start of school, trying to get to the beach a couple more times, and general house/car/animal upkeep, I head out to the garden every couple of days just to see what surprise is waiting for me next!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Home - Part 2

We are home! Well, three of us are. Grace, Jason and I came home on Wednesday (Jamey and our students are remaining in El Salvador until the 23rd). After a five-hour flight, customs at LAX, and a four-hour drive north (with only a quick stop at the In-N-Out Burger in Westwood), we pulled into our driveway at about 1 a.m. on Thursday. We are realizing that there are many things to be thankful for about where we live:
1. My parents were our housesitters, so we came home to happy animals, a clean house, a stocked refrigerator, and a trimmed yard.
2. The air here is so fresh and clean! After two big smoggy cities, it seemed like we had arrived at a campsite or something. It really does smell great.
3. It was 72 degrees here today. That was the high. In August. I realize that in a few days it could be up in the high 90's, but today we enjoyed the cool breeze with the windows open.
4. Trader Joe's and other grocery stores - especially the abundance of fresh produce and healthy choices.
5. At night, because we don't have streetlights, there are SO many stars! I notice this often, but we did miss all of the stars when we were gone. The view is particularly amazing from Grace's new hammock, which is now in the backyard.
6. We all have great friends - some we are very sad to leave behind in El Salvador, and some we are so happy to see again.

above photos: our last evening in El Sal, and our first freeway view of LA when we passed over the 405 during our landing at LAX


From the smiles on these faces, you might think we were at a school or a playground. But on Tuesday and Thursday our team went to a state-run orphanage in San Salvador to paint, clean, wash windows, make lunch, and generally love on these children. Grace spent her time coloring and playing on the trampoline with the little girls, and Jason played basketball and soccer with some of the boys. It was amazing to me how sweet and joyful the kids seemed, even though they come from horrible circumstances. Rosa, the little girl on the right in the picture with me, was worried that I didn't have lunch as she offered me part of her peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I explained that we would eat our lunch later, and then she asked me if I have brothers or sisters. It turns out she has one brother, just like me. Her brother is sixteen and has moved back home with her mom, to get a job and earn some money (not all of the kids here are totally without parents - some just aren't able or willing to care for them). She misses him and loves it when he comes to visit. But she told me that she doesn't really know her mom at all - she has never been to visit. Some of the babies we held were found abandoned, and don't have names. Many of the older girls are already mothers, even though they are 13 or 14 years old. Their families have expelled them, and they had nowhere else to go.
It was a difficult and wonderful day at the same time. Later on, when I was talking to Layo, the director of Campus Crusade for Latin America, he explained to me why it is so important for us to visit places like this, and to take the Vida Estudiantil students (about 5 went this day) with us. In El Salvador, as in many countries, there is a huge gap between the wealthiest and the poorest citizens. The students who attend Matias University come from the top 3 percent of the population, and are the children of the richest and most powerful people in the country. Most of them have lived very sheltered lives, so it is a great thing, Layo said, for them to go out and paint schools in poor villages, and to serve orphans at the state orphanage. He explained that in the future, these students will be the leaders of El Salvador in politics, the arts, business, and medicine. And he wants them to remember these days and these people. As they go out with our students, they are growing in compassion along with us, and that is a very good thing.
After the morning, we sat around the pool at the hotel and let students talk about what they had experienced. And Jamey shared a verse from the Bible - Matthew 9:36 - which says, "When he (Jesus) saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." We are growing in our compassion for people, and are seeing a country full of people who God loves.