Sunday, December 25, 2011
We have been playing Christmas music for the past month ( I love it when I hear my kids humming and singing along with the likes of Tony Bennet or Frank Sinatra or Ella Fitzgerald. It just ups their coolness a little more). Whenever I hear the carol "Away In A Manger" it makes me giggle to myself, because at this time of year, at our house, we really do hear the cattle lowing. Not because we live in a barn, or own a cow (although, truth be told, I have looked up photos and info on miniature cows on the internet. Miniature donkeys too. They are adorable.) but because the ranch across the street is currently full of calves and mommies who tend to call out for each other at all hours at this time of year. I love hearing it in the background, even when a little calf is being very very persistent in it's search for mama. It's sweet.
We decorated the house the day after Thanksgiving and I noticed right off that one of my favorite Christmas items was missing. It's a big red book with "The Family Christmas Book" written in green on the cover. But it's way more than a book; it's my record of Christmases past, and the ways our family has been spectacularly blessed every year. On each page, since the year Grace was born, I have taped in a photo and that year's Christmas card, and there are several lines on which to record "How we celebrated the season" and "Events of the past year". In the Christmas story in the book of Luke, it mentions that "Mary kept all of these things, and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19) - this book is where I 'keep all of these things'. Jason being born - it's in there. Our first trip to East Asia is recorded. Simple things like Grace starting dance class or Jason's first year in little league. The year we bought our house (a daily reminder to me of the grace and immense love of God for me). Our first summer project to El Salvador. Fantastic trips to Washington DC and Pennsylvania, Arizona, and a family reunion at the Grand Canyon. Answered prayer for our families. The births of cousins, and the way my kids have celebrated their birthdays every year of their lives. They are all in there, and without the book, there was a hole in my Christmas. I scoured the bookshelves and dug around in the attic to no avail.
Then, three days ago, one more spot came to mind, and lo and behold, there it was!! Last night I added this year's info and was once again reminded of how greatly we have been blessed. At this time of year it is especially good to 'ponder these things' in our hearts. Again, a Merry Merry Christmas to each and every one of us.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
2. It might be harder to be a mom than an athlete during soccer tryouts. Jason tried out and made the JV soccer team at the high school. I tried my best not to worry...I knew he would be fine either way...I knew that only a few freshmen would be chosen...When I found myself awake at 4 in the morning, I tried to think about other things and go back to sleep. I told myself I was being absolutely ridiculous (that didn't really help). In the end, he made the team and is having fun and we are all enjoying watching the games no matter what the weather. And I feel much more rested.
3. Grace is amazing. I actually already knew this, but it is good to be reminded. In October, Grace applied for early admission to Cal Poly SLO, to major in psychology. She has wanted to attend Cal Poly since she was five years old. I wasn't worried about her being qualified - after all, she did great on her SATs, has way over a 4.0 GPA, and has done all kinds of volunteer work. But, working at Cal Poly as we do, I also know that about 45,000 other kids, many likewise qualified, also apply for admission every year and most don't get in. It feels a little arbitrary, but it is supposed to be 'fair'. Let me just mention that this was also partly responsible for my lack of sleep in October and November. But, 2 weeks ago, she got a letter in the mail that began, "Congratulations!..." and is now looking forward to being a freshman this coming fall. Yahoo!!
4. There actually are wild pigs in the neighborhood! I have heard the rumors. I know men who cross the road and go over "on the ranch" and hunt them. One of my friends (whose property actually is across the road and backs up to "the ranch", which is 14,000 acres - yes, it's a real ranch) had several of them come into her yard, fight with her dogs (the pigs won), and uproot/eat her iris bulbs (I should mention that she runs an iris farm at her home, so having the bulbs dug up and eaten is not good). But I have never seen any sign of one....until Jason came home from a friend's house and mentioned that there was one by the side of the road (it had had a run-in with a vehicle and this time, the pig lost). Then when I was at a neighbor's house, she mentioned that she actually knew the guys that had hit a 300-pound wild pig - gross! Of course, in true Garden Farms fashion, my first comment was, "His poor truck!!!" It was apparently totaled - so now we will be watching out for yet another critter on our country drives.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Well, Sandy the Surfwagon has a new owner. A few weeks ago, over 1600 people (students, kids, grownups old and young) showed up for 90-minute shifts and over two days, they packaged over 200,000 meals - enough to feed 550 orphans for an entire year! And a few days afterwards, Jamey and Grace chose the winner of our Sandy giveaway at random - a Cal Poly student named Shawn. I didn't hear the conversation when Jamey called to tell her but I hope she enjoys the car! And I hope that she can come and get it soon, so I can park my car under the protection of the canvas pop-up garage. We had temperatures down in the low 20's this week, and for some unknown reason a previous owner of our house planted trees that drop 'things' constantly (berries, tiny flowers, leaves, pollen, little green things that stick and don't come off....) all around the driveway. On Thursday I left for SLO and noticed that there were tiny leaves frozen to the hood of the car. Festive! It looked like the car had been to a party, or in a parade. Which reminds me, the neighborhood Christmas Parade is today and we will not be driving Sandy down Walnut Avenue. Instead, I will be riding in the back of my neighbor's old yellow pickup truck with the other Farmgirls, all wearing our aprons. We will be collecting items (socks, gloves, granola bars) to send to troops overseas. And tomorrow we are learning to make tamales for Christmas Eve - I have been looking forward to that for months! I felt very smug about all of these good things we have been doing until I read a book this week called Kisses From Katie. It is the very true story of a girl who, at age 19, moved to Uganda to teach kindergarten, and subsequently has adopted 14 daughters and provides hundreds of children with meals, clothes, school supplies and tuition, and health care. She is 23 years old. Wow. That put me back in my place. I will just ride down the road, and continue working on my Christmas cards, and make tamales out of masa and chicken and pork. And sing Christmas carols in my head.
Friday, October 21, 2011
Over the summer, Jamey and I had some time to read and think (this can be dangerous!) as we prepared for this school year. Jamey gives most of the talks at our weekly meetings for SLO Crusade, and he likes to work his way through a book or section of the Bible (for example, he has taught through the book of Romans - one of my favorites). It's a funny thing how, once you read or hear something, it keeps recurring until it seems to be a theme in your life. For years, my friend Jill and I would tell students that the secret to life is: "Read the Bible and do what it says" - they thought we were just being simple. We actually weren't. Our students have wanted for years to do something to aid orphans overseas. We read a book this summer called Radical by David Platt (a pastor in Alabama, whose church provided foster homes for all of the children on the waiting list in that county - taking care of hundreds of 'orphans') and he then spoke at our staff conference in Colorado. The theme of the book is basically: what if we actually do what the Bible says? (This is easier said than done, of course. I don't know about you, but I've read the Bible, and there is some crazy-sounding stuff in there!) Jamey decided that this year, he would teach through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus' famous sermon in Matthew 5. This is one of the crazy sections. Still, we wanted to do some kind of project so that our students could tangibly help those in the most need. For a few years, we have been in touch with an organization called Feed My Starving Children, which provides meals for orphans and those in greatest need. Our kids were part of a group of children that packaged thousands of meals for overseas orphanages one summer. What we have here at Cal Poly is the manpower - a thousand people, more or less. What we don't have is the funding. A meal for an orphan costs about 23 cents (not bad!) but to get all of the supplies transported up to SLO and then back to LA, well, that takes more. Then Jamey got a call from a businessman in Paso Robles (just north of us). This man had some money to donate, but not the manpower. He was able to provide the money for 100,000 meals (each meal is a bag containing rice, soy protein, and other nutrients that can be cooked by simply adding boiling water to provide a porridge-like meal for 4 people). Our students still think bigger. They take the verse " God is able to do accomplish more than we might ask or think" seriously (that's Ephesians 3:20), so they have decided to raise money in order to make two-hundred thousand meals. 'Coincidentally', as this was being brainstormed, Jamey kept thinking to himself, "We have four cars." Sounds odd, but in our family, we have three drivers, and four cars. A surplus. And there are verses in the Bible (the book of John, for example) that say things like, "If you have two cloaks, share with the person who has none." Now, we generally like Sandy the Old Station Wagon (some of us more than others!), but Jamey got this idea in his head: that if we could sell tickets for a Surf Wagon Giveaway, we could raise a bit of money for the kits. It would be a great way to share with those who have none. And sometimes, we know that doing something impractical, even extravagant, is what God is telling us to do. So we are going to do it. We will be selling tickets at two SLO Farmers' Markets to raise money for the FMSC event, and we will be giving Sandy the Surf Wagon to one of the ticket holders. And it might seem crazy, but we have learned that when you feel like God wants you to do something, you should probably do it. It will make your heart happy.
Sunday, September 18, 2011
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I have found one more great zucchini recipe - this one actually came from our local paper, the Tribune. It was a pleasant surprise....in general I don't have the highest opinion of this newspaper, although we continue to get it, because I like to know what is going on around here. I just often find things in there that make me wonder about the editors, and make me dislike spellcheck, and our dependence on it. On Sunday, there was an article about the abundance of critters in our local tidepools with the headline "Tidepools Teaming With Life". Ouch. And about a month ago, for example, a headline on the second page read "Opera to get Award" (I am not making this up!!). When I started reading the article, I quickly realized that Oprah Winfrey was getting the award, not an opera. That seems like the kind of thing that should be caught and fixed before it goes to print. Otherwise it makes snobby people like me think that the nice people at the paper are really, really dumb. And that might not be true.
Recipe: Zucchini-pecan cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting
Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010
• Nonstick vegetable oil spray
• 1½ cups all-purpose flour
• 1½ teaspoons baking powder
• 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• ½ teaspoon ground ginger
• ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
• ¾ cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)
• 1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
• 3 large eggs
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 8 ounces)
• ¾ cup chopped pecans (more for garnish, if desired)
For the frosting:
• 4 ounces cream cheese (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free), room temperature
• 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
• ¾ cup powdered sugar
• ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
• ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and coat it with nonstick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until well combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla, then fold in flour the mixture. Stir in the grated zucchini and pecans, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean — the original recipe said this would take about 45 minutes, but my cake was done after 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Once the cake is done, let it cool completely in the pan on a rack. When it’s cool, turn the cake out onto a platter and carefully peel off the parchment paper.
4. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and mix until combined. Slather the frosting on the cake, and top with toasted pecans, if desired.
I will absolutely be making this one again.....after the heat wave is over.
I will absolutely be making this one again.....after the heat wave is over.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Yesterday was the first day of school for the kiddos....Jason's first day of high school and Grace's first day of her LAST year of high school (there are 178 days until graduation - her count, not mine!). I know I've mentioned before that I really think, with all due respect to Gloria Steinem, that boys and girls are just vastly inherently different, and 'back-to-school' was more proof of this. Grace made a list of clothes and school supplies that she needed, and we went shopping a couple of times. She set her alarm for 5:30 a.m. yesterday to ensure enough time to get ready without rushing. When I asked Jason what clothes he needed for school, he replied, "None." Actually, I lie - he said at one point that he wanted a new wallet, and he and Jamey got one when they were in our local surf store. And when we made him go with us to Staples last week to get a binder, pencils, paper, etc, he chose his stuff, and when we were checking out, he said, "I really didn't have to come....I don't care what I get." He really hates shopping. His wake-up time yesterday was determined by asking Grace what time they would be leaving, and then counting backwards so that he could get up at the last possible minute. And I'm not sure, but I think he chose his clothes by simply grabbing whatever his hand touched first - fortunately good ol' Mom had done laundry.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
The photo of Jason and a rather large zucchini shows what happens when you leave town for a few days. Inevitably, a huge squash will be waiting for you when you return home. (As an aside, I would just like to explain my son's hair by saying that at the time of this photo he had just gotten home from playing in two baseball games, and went immediately outside to start playing wiffle ball. And he is getting a trim today. And in the summer, teenage boys seem to think that jumping in the creek or ocean substitutes for a shower). In my quest to find great, creative uses for zucchini, I came across a great recipe for chocolate-zucchini cupcakes on the website "101cookbooks.com". Although I had to get up at 5:30 to bake them because it was so hot last weekend and we don't have air conditioning, it was worth it! Everyone who tasted them thought they were great, and they all got eaten. Here's the recipe as I made them:
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
The zucchini has started to come in from the garden, and in anticipation of the next 4 months of bounty, I spent an hour or so this spring looking up new zucchini recipes on line. I think I googled "creative zucchini recipes". This first one, pictured here, was not one of those (for some reason I feel like those recipes are too valuable to be used this early in the season, when we are not even sick of squash yet). It's not even a recipe, but I will explain what I did.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
Saturday, June 11, 2011
In the summertime, some children watch pets while friends are on vacation and get paid to do it. It makes a pretty great, relatively easy beginning job. My neighbor has 2 very large dogs and 3 miniature horses (it is vitally important that it is known that they are not ponies, but real miniature horses. There - now it is clear.). One of the miniature horses is a baby, making it therefore a miniature miniature horse. Last weekend, I fed the animals for them so that they could go to their granddaughter's dance recital down in Burbank (the big city). In true Garden Farms fashion, I did not accept any paper money for doing this (that would be a rip off, because it is so easy to feed these animals), but my neighbor needed to give me something. She often gives me fudge or chocolate cake or brownies for feeding the pets, which is ok (we are, oddly, not a big chocolate family), but this time she gave me a couple of really useful items, pictured here. A bag of lemons (they don't grow up here - it freezes in the winter) and a wheelbarrow full of horse droppings. GOLDEN! The lemons are inside, being used up slowly but surely. And the horse droppings are out in the corner of the garden, slowly decomposing. I would have put them in the compost pile, but Max the Dog kept eating them (what a disgusting creature!) so I had to put them where I could fence them off. Now that's a payment we can really use!
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
We have almost reached the end of year thirteen at Cal Poly, and as usual it is time to say goodbye to students, staff and interns who are moving forward to their own adventures. It's hard to imagine what life will be like without some of them, but then who would want to stay in college forever? Well, maybe Jamey and I would....that's why we like our jobs so much! (For example, last weekend I went to TWO Cal Poly baseball games - awesome!) All of the goodbyes, celebrations, and reminiscing have made me feel oddly sentimental and nostalgic.
Friday, May 6, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Recently, Jason turned 14 and Grace turned 17. This made a lot of thoughts run through my mind, such as, "Oh my gosh, I must be so old now, but how can this be?"
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Thursday, April 7, 2011
1. Jason turned 14 on Sunday, and to celebrate, he and 5 friends microwaved "things you're not supposed to microwave", including a light bulb, cd, and a whole egg (we bought a $5 thrift store microwave for the occasion, and did it all outside. The light bulb was colorful and amazing, kind of like a Pink Floyd concert, or so I'm told)
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
My neighbor's pasture has once again become my favorite place, because of the baby lambs that are currently being born. And now that I have refilled my allergy medicine, I can once again run (or walk!) past them every day. There are still turkeys and deer wandering around the fields, but the sheep are by far my favorites. The babies are SO cute. They actually frolic - there aren't many creatures that do. Sometimes they butt heads for fun, and sometimes they run amok. I am easily entertained.