Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Abundant Life

I'm trying a new tactic this year to keep myself from being all stressed out during the holidays.  It's pretty simple - just a perspective change.  I thought of it while I was preparing for a talk I gave last week at my church's women's Christmas dinner.  One of the Bible verses that reminds me of the very 'essence' or point of Christmas is John 10:10, where Jesus says He has come to earth to give us a full and abundant life.  In the past, I have looked at many activities as events that interrupt my holiday preparations.  But this year, I've been thinking that all of these things are not really interruptions, but signs that I indeed have been given an abundance of blessings.  We get to do amazing things for our job, like visit students in El Salvador and bring them suitcases full of goodies from home.  We get to watch our son play soccer games and even captain the defense.  I get to spend a fantastic day shopping with my amazing daughter and enjoying a lunch at the one-and-only Madonna Inn.  I get to have my farmgirl friends over for food, chatter, and a craft project to make empty jars look like beautiful sea glass.  These are the things that make my life full and abundant.  They are amazing and wonderful things, and in the midst of card-writing and present-wrapping, I feel incredibly blessed, not overly-stressed (honestly I was not trying to make that rhyme; that is so cheesy!).

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Colder and Colder

 It is slowly but surely getting colder out.  We began the week in the 80's and are ending it today with our first dip into the 30's this morning.  Around the neighborhood, there are many signs that it is cooling off.  
Yesterday, for the first time this fall, I came around a corner in the car and almost nailed several turkeys who found the middle of the road a nice place to gather.  I don't know why they do this (I think they might like the warm pavement in the sun, but I'm no bird expert.  In my opinion, this is just further evidence of the stupidity of poultry).  
Also, our apricot tree starts dropping gorgeous yellow leaves onto the grass (as you can see in the picture - not seen in the picture are a few gopher holes.  We are officially at war presently with a few gophers.  It's always something here!).  The walnut  tree is also dropping nice big walnuts for us (Ha!  Take that, evil squirrels!).  
Soccer season has started at the high school, which I personally love, because it gets chilly out and I have an awesome orange coat to show my school spirit, and a hat and mittens, too.  
I harvested some horseradish from the herb garden today, washed it, peeled it, and put it into a jar of vinegar.  This is what the web site said to do... I have no idea how to actually use it, so any suggestions are welcome. 
 I also canned some plum-cherry jam today - delicious! I was waiting for it to cool off enough to have two pots of boiling water on the stove, and the oven on (I keep the lids and jars in there so they remain sterile).  I am starting to feel more confident in my canning ability after this, batch number 6.  The bag of plums pictured is the second bag from the summer - and I still have another bag down in the freezer, so I am anticipating more jam making at some point.  I need to get more jars.  As I made the jam, I thought about my Aunt Betty, who makes the absolute best sour cherry jam in the entire world.  My jam turned out pretty darn well, if I do say so myself....but it's no Aunt Betty's sour cherry jam. I wonder how many batches of jam she has made, not to mention all of the other stuff that my aunts have canned over the years (they have it down to an art form!).  I am just happy that it's cool enough now to practice - because practicing is quite delicious with toast and a cup of coffee! 

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Max's Night of Gastronomic Delight

This is a photo of how Max-the-Dog looked most all of Saturday.  We referred to it as a 'doggy hangover' or a 'gastronomic-induced coma'.  
It all started on Friday evening.  In a moment of madness, Jamey and I thought it would be a fun idea to host this year's Junior-Senior Overnighter at our house.  Our staff team wanted to appreciate our junior and senior students for all of the work they do, so we decided to give them a free tri-tip dinner and a movie, followed by a campout and some breakfast burritos.  Now, normally, we have about 75 people show up for dinner, with about 20 or so spending the night at the camp ground.  This year, however, the word spread (thank you Facebook events!!) and as of Friday afternoon, exactly 140 people had rsvp'd.  
In the chaos of feeding and enjoying the company of all of these students, we didn't keep a close eye on Max.  At one point early on, I caught him, in an act of desperation, licking up the tri-tip juice that had dripped off the table and onto our gravel driveway. You have to really want meat juice to resort to licking it off of the rocks.  I am not sure how many plates he snuck food off of - he got more and more brazen as the night went on.  I do know that he ate about a third of someone's paper plate when they set it on the deck (in his defense, the plate was soaked with tri-tip juice, barbecue sauce and salad dressing, rendering it delicious and therefore irresistable).  I heard that he took an entire piece of pizza right out of a girl's hand (his rudeness knew no bounds at this point), and later on grabbed an apple core away from another girl.
After we started the movie ('Sandlot', outside, just like the drive-in but without cars!), Max made it his duty to wander around eating all of the popcorn that students dropped onto the grass.  And probably some right out of their hands, too.  He also helped himself to a crumbly granola bar that a boy spilled onto the ground.
At about midnight, I put earplugs in and went to bed and left about 60 students out in the yard.  
Max faithfully keeps watch over the campers....and their food
At 6 a.m., I got up to feed the cats (they did not reappear until the afternoon - they wanted no part of this whole thing!) and looked out the window and saw Max, snuggled up between a couple of students on their blankets.  He looked like he had had the night of his life.  He is quite an extrovert, after all.  Upon going outside, I also noticed that one of the many bags of trash had been opened, and several more paper plates had been nibbled, along with some napkins.  
And finally, while we were preparing breakfast, Max somehow found a large roasting tray with some leftover cooking oil in it and proceeded to lick it up happily.  Oh, and he ate a few eggshells that dropped out of the bag while I was taking the trash outside (we cooked over 200 eggs that morning - all outside on the grill!)
The students left at ten that morning, and Max proceeded to crawl up onto the porch, where he remained for the entire rest of the day with a sad, slightly embarrassed look on his face.  I also think he was a little depressed that all of his new friends had gone away.  It did get rather quiet.  
It took his stomach the rest of the day to recover (I myself actually took a nap on the couch and spent most of the afternoon watching baseball and football.  In other words, just another fall Saturday for me!) but I am happy to report that he is back to normal today, eating dog food out of his bowl and chicken poop wherever he can find it.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Silver Linings

If every cloud has a silver lining, we have spent this month looking for silver, and finding it.
Grace moved to Cal Poly on September 12. We miss her.  Silver lining - she LOVES college.  On the first day of class, I received a text that was a photo of the table of contents of her psychology book with the message, "Can you believe I get to study this?"  Friday night she came home (she had a cold and wanted to take some NyQuil and go to sleep) and for almost an hour, told us all about the friends she is making, the classes she is enjoying, and how much she is loving college.
Cru at Cal Poly and Cuesta keeps us busy - up late (midnight entering names and numbers into a database, or talking to students after a weekly meeting) and up early (6:30 a.m. meeting with student leaders).  Silver lining - hundreds of freshmen have come to the weekly meetings, to the dorm Bible studies, and to an amazing Barn Dance that we put on.  So we are off to an amazing start!
The annual battle for walnuts with the squirrels has begun.  Yesterday I 'scared' one out of the tree and it dropped right in front of Max-the-Dog, who tried to pick it up in his mouth to toss it about (a favorite hobby of his) and got a bite on the lip for his trouble (the squirrel crossed the  fence to safety).  Silver lining - the walnut tree is loaded with walnuts, and Max was quite entertained for several minutes (and his lip is fine!).
As we approach October, there is a heat wave expected and it is supposed to hit 100 over the next couple of days (ugh).  Silver lining - finally, after a summer of nothing, the tomatoes are in!  So we now have a big jar of dried tomatoes, and several cups of tomato sauce ready for winter.  And more every day.  It's about time!
I had so much hope that the Pirates would finally have a winning season, but alas.  A very-late-season collapse has made that impossible (they were so close).  Silver lining - the A's (Jason's favorite team) are in front in the wild card race with just a few games left!  
And now, it's time to make lunch for some students (Grace's friends are coming over for burgers), then hunker down out of the heat and enjoy some football before another busy (but wonderful) week!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

What We Did This Summer

This summer, for the second time in 23 years, Jamey and I were given a sabbatical.  For Jamey, this means a break from meetings, emails, leading, and having to keep aware of everything that's happening in our gigantic wonderful mess of a ministry.  For all of us, it meant one precious month of togetherness before Grace heads off for college and Jason starts to drive and we never see him again.  
When all was said and done, we divided the month into three totally different parts, so there really was something for everyone.  Here's how it turned out:

Week One - "Kids At Camp - Parents Staycation at Home".  Jason and Grace headed off to Hume Lake for the week and had a blast of course.  Jamey and I stayed at home and were amazed at how easy it was to decide where and what to eat.  The highlight was probably the 4th of July - we have friends who live on the beach (yes, the beach is their back yard) in Cayucos, and because it is always crowded there on the fourth (they do a very popular parade and fireworks - people come from Fresno for Pete's sake) they head for the mountains.  Soooooo, they graciously allowed us to bring ourselves, our picnic food, our truck, and our dog to their home and enjoy a wonderful cool holiday.  Best moment of the day:  Max-the-Dog does not at all like fireworks, so when they started, he got up and tried to walk into the house, forgetting that there was a sliding glass door in the way.

Weeks Two and Three - HAWAII.  One of the great by-products of job travel is air miles and hotel points, which we had been racking up for years.  This provided us with free airfare and ten amazing nights at the Marriott Waikiki on Oahu (they have big dispensers of pineapple-infused water in the lobby).  Generous friends of ours brought us three surfboards and, through a friend of theirs, a free car to use.  Our general schedule was: sleep in, surf/beach/sightsee/hike/shop, lunch, surf/beach/pool, eat a great dinner (Rainbow Drive-In, pho restaurant, Korean BBQ, poke, for example), play cribbage/hang out at hotel.  Unbelievable, and utterly relaxing.  Pretty much the vacation of a lifetime.  

Week Four - Jamey's Solo Bike Trip.  Jamey loves to mountain bike, so he had the opportunity to head up PCH for a 5-day solo trek from SLO to Carmel.  Along the way, he met quite a few people who were doing the same thing (although most go north-to-south, because of wind).  Some were from Europe or Canada, most were doing a longer trip (San Francisco to San Diego for example), and one couple was riding in honor of a family member.  Now, Jamey is fairly neat and well-kept, but we found it amusing that people did offer him food a couple of times (either they were a: being nice, or b: thought he was a hobo).  Also, he did have the opportunity to sleep like a hobo one night, as the bike camping spot at one state park in Big Sur is actually located under a bridge.  

All in all, it was a wonderful, amazing, refreshing summer.  We once again felt overly-blessed.  It felt surprisingly long and luxurious, which is good, because August is ending and the blur of fall is right around the corner!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Summer = Zucchini

This is a picture of what happens in your garden around here when you go away for 12 days (note the 12-inch ruler at left).  There were four of them, but we were able to slice and grill one of these babies and eat it the day after we returned from our vacation.  That of course left me with about 10 pounds of zucchini to use up (we planted one zucchini plant in the garden this year, mind you).  Fortunately I have joined the trendy web site Pinterest, which is actually really helpful when searching for new recipes.  So when I searched 'zucchini' and found a recipe for zucchini hummus, I was happy to give it a try.  It didn't involve any cooking whatsoever, was easy, used up an entire zuke, and I figured if it was a huge fail, it wouldn't be that big a deal since it only takes about ten minutes to make.  I am low-commitment and really lazy this summer.
But it wasn't a fail!  In fact, it was delicious!!  So delicious that I have now made it twice - once for the family and once for the neighbors at our local farmers' market, who raved about it and are putting the recipe in our neighborhood 'Garden Farms Gazette'.  We used it as a dip with carrots, cucumbers, peppers, and with crackers.  I realize that if you don't enjoy hummus, you might think it looks gross, and in that case, feel free not to try it.  But if you, like all of us around here, spend time during the summer trying to come up with creative uses for the ever-prolific zucchini, this might be for you!

Here's the recipe:
4 cups peeled and chopped raw zucchini
3/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp ground cumin
Combine all ingredients in blender and puree until thick and smooth.  Garnish with paprika and parsley.
(Recipe from "I Breathe....I'm Hungry")

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

"Kids-At-Camp-Week" 2012

I love my kids so much it's crazy, but they left for Hume Lake on Sunday morning, and holy cow  are Jamey and I having fun at home all by ourselves!  On Sunday, we had our friends Reid and Misty over for dinner (without their kids - they have 3 and 1 on the way; clearly they needed a break!) and Jamey smoked a tri-tip and we grilled a bunch of veggies and had a big salad and cake (food that grown-ups like to eat).  Yesterday I made some shrimp po' boy sandwiches and we took them down to the beach, along with the dog, and enjoyed dinner by the ocean (doesn't the photo look absolutely peaceful?  Well, truth be told, it was horribly windy, so we didn't stay all that long, but still....).  This afternoon we are heading to SLO for some thrift-store furniture shopping (we are looking for a coffee table) and then dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant, Upper Crust.  I think the best part is that we decide what we want to do and then we do it - it's just so easy!  No negotiating, no working out schedules or rides, we just go!  This gives me hope for the future, because Jamey and I have joked about having to move to separate houses when we retire, since he loves the warm-water surf of southern California and I love the foggy rugged coast up north (better for hunkering down inside and reading!).  But now I have confidence that we will indeed be good empty-nesters when the time comes (still years from now).  And of course I couldn't relax at all if I didn't know that my kids are having a fantastic time at camp.  Grace is a counselor for the week with the junior-high girls she's been leading all year in Sunday school, and I'm sure Jason and his friends are having fun although I really don't want to think about what exactly they might be doing at this moment (chances are it involves a game of some sort, or eating some kind of food, or a bodily function...). I think about them often but I hope they have such a blast that they don't really think about us at all.  Or all the fun we have planned for the rest of the week (Fourth of July in Cayucos, drive-in, bike rides, neighborhood bbq, and so on).  Who knew that not going anywhere could be so relaxing?!

Friday, June 22, 2012


 I am not quite sure how it happened, but when Grace left for school yesterday, she looked like this girl to the left, proudly holding a Little Mermaid lunchbox and so excited about seeing her friends and teachers.  And then, in the blink of an eye, she turned into the most amazing person and graduated with honors as Senior Class President!  Jamey and I have been receiving all kinds of 'congratulations' from people who have been telling us what great parents we are, but the truth is, our daughter is just pretty much the best thing ever, and, being the first-born, of course we basically had no idea what the heck we were doing most of the time.  So when we get these compliments, the first thing that comes to my mind is, "Well, this is just proof that God is really gracious to me!"  Which is true, because not only did I get the most incredible daughter, but I have the most spectacular son as well (but this was not his graduation, so I will write no more about him today - he is at a friend's house playing soccer and riding a pig.  Yes, a real pig; no joke!).
Grace graduated with a GPA of 4.3-something, which means she is both smart and determined, which we know very well at our house- in fact, I told her years ago that I will bake her a cake to celebrate her first 'B'.  It hasn't happened yet.  The cake will have to wait until college, alas.  Miss Smartypants will have an extra-long summer (well-deserved) and then start at Cal Poly (a quarter school, so move-in day in the dorms is September 11) in the fall.  She will be majoring in psychology with an emphasis in child development and is interested in doing some kind of work with kids who are in crisis.  After watching her counsel and care for her friends over the years, I have no doubt she will do a fantastic job.  Of course, this could change, and that would be fine - she once wanted to be a nurse (until she realized she doesn't really like sick people) and then an interior designer (which is rather a hobby of hers anyway, and explains why her room is ever-changing).

A friend warned me that I would need to bring a box of kleenex to graduation, but I didn't cry (although I admit I did get teary when I thought about all of the kids out on the field and how darn proud I am of all of them - some of them went through an awful lot in high school!).  I think the emotion I've been feeling the most is excitement - I just feel like Grace is going to make the greatest grown-up!  And I can't wait to see what happens next.  I don't expect time to stop, but it would be nice if it could just slow down a little.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Behold the Sqirrelinator

ADVISORY: If you are one of those people who think that no creature should ever be killed, including flies, mosquitos, fleas, gophers, and other vile critters mentioned in stories of plagues and pestilence, please stop reading this now.  And remember, "Judge not, lest ye be judged".  That is all.

We have ground squirrels in our chicken coop.  This is bad, horribly bad.  It's an amazing set-up if you're a ground squirrel: being inside the coop keeps you and your family (of millions, it would seem) safe from the dog and the cats, safe from the poison pellets I would otherwise cram down your hole but don't since I don't want to hurt my hens, and gives you unlimited access to fantastic table scraps, lay pellets, and two delicious fresh eggs every day. That's right, the little buggars have been stealing our eggs.  I put two plastic Easter eggs in the nesting boxes and they both disappeared, one at a time.  One later reappeared with a hole chewed in one end.  What a disappointment that must have been!

Tuesday was the last straw. I was out in the yard early planting the garden before it got too hot.  I have taken to checking for eggs about every 20-30 minutes from 9 a.m. on when I am at home, trying to gather them before 'the devil critter' can steal them.  On this day, I finished planting and gave a final check (no eggs yet, but a hen was just getting into her box), then put away the tools. In the 15 minutes it took me to put away the tools, those blasted squirrels took 2 eggs, ate the insides out, and left the broken shells by their hole for me to find.  I thought I could hear them snickering at me.  Maddening!  I went inside the house with tears in my eyes because of my frustration. 

About 30 minutes later, Jamey came through the back door saying the following words that brought joy and hope to my soul: "Hey, want to light a Roman candle and shove it into that hole and see if they come out so we can shoot 'em?"  That's why I love him.  Alas, the candle did nothing.  So, after a visit to Grace's place of employment, the Santa Margarita Feed Store, we invested in The Squirrelinator, a trap with two doors that comes in a box complete with a photo of a squirrel in the crosshairs and a redneck guy who has apparently is the world record holder in stuffing a trap with squirrels. We set it up in the coop, just under the nesting boxes.   I have personally heard from families who have caught up to four at once. We were just happy this morning when we heard Max-the-dog's "critter bark" and found our first squirrel in the trap.  First, I hope, of many.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


While spring is usually a time of beginnings, for our family this year it is a time when many things are ending.
Things at Cal Poly are heading to a wrap-up.  Once again we celebrate our graduating seniors and second-year interns who are moving on.  It's hard to imagine SLO without some of them!    
Freshman high school baseball ended with a close game, Jason beating out yet another throw to first, a tri tip barbecue and a banquet, and one last picture of mom and son in his uniform.  When I looked at this picture I noticed something odd - Jason is so much taller than me now.  At the start of soccer season, just 7 months ago, he was just shorter than me.  This explains why he has been so hungry!  And why he started the school year in size 8-and-a-half vans and is ending them in size tens.
Grace is experiencing a bigger ending - the end of high school.  Graduation is in a few short weeks.  I have never really worried about Grace doing anything well - she is weirdly good at just about everything she tries. Recently she learned to sew and made me 5 pillows that look like they came from a designer home store.  So it has been no surprise to me that about once a week we have gotten a nice letter from the high school inviting us to some kind of event to celebrate great students, meaning Grace.  This week we will be going to the 'Top 30' Reception.  Next week, scholarship night.  I will try not to gloat too much, but it is really difficult when you know that your child is the best of the bunch.  It's strange for Jamey and I to feel so conflicted - proud, joyful, and excited for Grace's accomplishments and future, and yet sad and a teeny bit scared that she will be heading off into the world (ok, I know that 'the world' is Cal Poly SLO, a mere 8 miles from our door, and a place we go just about every day, but's symbolic).

 After all of the 'end-of-the-year' events are finished, I am really really looking forward to a little down time with these amazing kids, just enjoying their company.  And trying not to get too nostalgic and sentimental.  

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

T-Shirt Weather

Under the category "Global Warming Messes With Our Weather", we've been going from winter to summer and back again the last few weeks.  One person in the family threatened to write a letter to "The Weather People" and tell them to make up their minds so we know what to wear in the morning.  (I won't say who, but if you know us, you know the one who cares about what she wears and always looks cute and put-together, unlike her brother, who I really think would wear the same thing every day if possible, washed or not).
Last week, I drove Jason and his friend Deven down to SLO to go to youth group, but we ended up having about a 45 minute time in between dinner and drop-off, so I 'made' the boys go with me to look for an Ipad cover (I have been saving up for one, and my dad, once again, spoiled me by purchasing it for me.  I guess it's true - dads never stop giving gifts to their daughters.  Thanks again, Dad!).  The boys surprised me by being excited to go into Ross to 'look for cool stuff'.  Sadly, the only Ipad covers available were black with neon accents (too much like high school, I've already lived through the neon phase once, and I refuse to do it again).
However, the boys did find two "Swag" t-shirts that they talked me into buying for them so they could wear them to youth group and be funny (for those of you who don't know, "swag", according to the Urban Dictionary, is "a term used by cool kids to measure coolness and swagger.  It cannot be explained.  You either have it or you don't").
So, in the photo here, we have two boys with swag.  Each is being very much himself, which is what I love about it.  One tries to look as debonair as possible at all times, and the other couldn't take a normal photo if his life depended on it.  This is as classic as it gets!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sourdough Saga

I was given a jar of sourdough starter from a farmgirl friend.  We learned about starter and how to use it at last month's Farmgirl meeting.  One of the ladies has been using the starter for years and makes bread for her family a few times a week; I, on the other hand, would be so happy just to make one good loaf.  But alas, it seems I am lacking whatever it takes to make it work.  The starter (I learned that my starter is a daughter and that the original starter it came from is a mother - and I will refrain from making any smart-alec comments here) sat on my counter and bubbled away happily.  I fed it every morning and kept it covered with a damp towel all the time.  I scraped the "black stuff" from around the edge and threw it out (I learned that "black stuff" is normal....if however you notice any pink or red stuff, your starter has become deadly and must be thrown out completely, leading me to wonder "just what kind of stuff am I making here?").  The night before making bread, I added the appropriate flour and water and let it "sponge".  And then I began making the bread.....and nothing happened.  No bubbles.  No rising.  No action whatsoever, even after 30 minutes of kneading (mostly by hand, because my Kitchen Aid mixer, although it does fine with all other breads, for some reason doesn't like sourdough and refuses to knead it).  Two times I tried, and two times I made nice bricks of sourdough.  The first time, I threw it away.  The second time, I thought the chickens might enjoy pecking away at the brick, and put it in the coop.  It stayed there, untouched, for about four days, until I broke it in half.  With a shovel (I couldn't break it by hand or even stomp it with my boot).  The chickens were a little bit interested.  Finally, hours later, I noticed Max-the-Dog working at a half-loaf like it was a piece of jerkey (he must have reached his head through the tiny coop door to get that thing out).  So while I have greatly failed at making sourdough bread, it seems I succeeded at making the world's most expensive and long-lasting dog biscuit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I Love My Job, Part 2

I've learned to upload videos!  So here are a couple from this year at Cal Poly and SLO Cru. Back in November, we had the opportunity to organize an event that included the entire campus and quite a bit of the county, as we packaged meals for Feed My Starving Children. Our wonderful friends Tim and Melissa Niegocki (we all went to college together, back in the 'olden days', as our kids tell us) came up because Tim does videotaping projects for Cru in our region, the Pacific-Southwest (or "PSW", as we call it.  We just can't get enough of the initials).  He put together this video that shows what we did over the two days.  It made me so proud of all of our students to see them work so hard at this, and to see the whole community coming together. Over 200,000 meals were packaged in two days - enough to feed 500 kids for a year. 
There's another proud mom in California, and that's the mom of the three Holliday boys, who created the second video for an annual contest/social that we have called "Night At The Oscars" (and yes, that would be "NATO", of course). I believe we had about 900 students there that night, most dressed up just like they would for the real red carpet.  One awesome boy even wore a kilt with all the trimmings.  As I was passing by, heading to my seat, I grabbed his arm and said, "I LOVE it that you wore the kilt!"  He looked a little alarmed; I'm not sure he knew exactly who I was.  Anyway, the videos were mostly amazing, and all completely done by students.  I believe they will all eventually show up on YouTube (search SLO Crusade Night at the Oscars 2012).  The Holliday boys won the evening's grand prize (voted on by the audience).  All three brothers go to Poly - two twins and one younger brother.  For years I've thought of them as just quiet, blonde surfers.  Who knew?  Although this video is simply entertaining and fun, our students have quite gotten into the idea of 'giving back', so money raised from ticket sales at this event went to Lifewater International, an organization based in SLO that digs clean water wells for communities that have none.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I Love This Town

Grace worked for weeks on this year's Mock Rock competition at the high school.  Her friend Alison (see the last blog entry) was actually in charge of the whole event.  Mock Rock is basically a lip-synch contest, but the winners are usually large groups that recreate numbers from musicals (this year's winner was in fact a group of 16 that did a song from "Hairspray").  And the two top entries from each high school go on to compete at the county-wide Mock Rock competition in April.  Anyway, Grace and Alison were in charge of the tryouts, when a sweet boy named Cole performed a song by Peter Frampton.  Cole is one of the special ed students at the high school and is always full of joy, making him a favorite of everyone.  I love seeing photos of Cole appear on Facebook during homecoming week, Mr Greyhound competition, etc. How could anyone say no to Cole?  They could not - so into the competition he went!  And what a great job he did - it brought tears to my eyes as the crowd clapped along to the beat, and cheered him loudly as the song ended. He looked like he was having a blast!  Now, this probably would have been fantastic enough by itself, but because the students at our high school are awesome, a special award category was introduced this year.  Jamey and I knew about it because Grace came home this past Thursday covered in splotches of paint, after making all of the awards (see the photos to see her creations!).  The new category is "crowd favorite", voted on by applause and noise, and determined by the emcees.  I wish you all could have seen the delight on Cole's face as he received his award....and I really don't think there was a dry eye in the whole gym, but I am not sure, because I couldn't see anything; it was all blurry.  Fortunately another dad, Ron Wulff of Ron Wulff Photography, was there taking photos, and captured this wonderful moment.  I have added another photo as well, with Grace on the far right presenting the first place award to the "Hairspray" kids (Ron's daughter was in this number, I think). On the left are the "Blues Brothers" who took second.  They will represent our town very well, but as far as I am concerned, our kids already have the best prize of all!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Answers to the Questions in Your Head...

I know what you are thinking - "Wow, who is that gorgeous girl?"  Well, that of course is my daughter Grace (and her lovely friend Allison). Grace is a little scary, because in addition to being beautiful, she is also really smart.  Proof of this:  she was accepted into Cal Poly in December; two days ago I found out that a record number of high school seniors applied to Poly this year - over 45,000 to be exact.  So, even though I knew she was utterly qualified,  it seems she is even more exceptional than we thought!
"Why are they dressed up like that?"   They were headed to the Winter Formal.
"Where do you go to write these blog entries, anyway?"  My favorite place to go is the amazing coffee house / used bookstore Kreuzberg Coffee and Books in SLO (I love the atmosphere, but, and I feel a little sad saying this, their coffee is way too strong for me).  I wrote most of this one sitting outside the Atascadero Starbucks enjoying a small (excuse me...tall) coffee, also too strong for me,  and using their free internet.
"Why don't you just stay at home and save the money and make your own coffee?"  Sometimes I do.  But sometimes I like to hang out at coffee houses and feel like a real writer.  At Kreuzberg, they have portraits of poets and novelists all over the walls.  It's a rather bohemian place (with a cool vibe, bad coffee and free internet).
You may also be wondering why this picture of a really cool-looking bedroom is up here?  Not only is Grace beautiful, and smart, she is also really creative.  This is her bedroom - for fun on vacations and weekends, she cleans, organizes, and redecorates it.  She makes the coolest wall decorations out of canvases, paper and wire (I have told her she could sell them on  If you haven't browsed Etsy, it's pretty amazing).  The walls were lime green a few weeks ago, and I was thinking to myself, "Wow, when Grace moves out, I should repaint this room a more neutral color.  But I hate to paint.  Ugh!  How can I get out of painting this room?  Who can I pay to come and paint this room?"  and lo and behold, Grace asked if she could repaint the room over Christmas break.  Hallelujah!  It is now a modern, lovely gray color (gray is the new beige, in case you didn't know).  I love it!
"What's Jamey been up to?"  Poor Jamey is still in shock.  We just got our first bill from Cal Poly.   I suppose this is when dads know college is "real" - when they have to start forking out the money.  When he gets over being stunned, he will go back to leading the ministry at Poly, fixing things like our cars, fences, and old doorknobs that are always breaking,  and mountain biking as usual.

I hope that this has answered some of your pressing questions!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Max the Dog vs. The Skunk

Happy New Year!  Jamey, Jason and I were in San Diego on New Year's Eve at the Winter Conference (except I went to sleep at about 10:30, because I am old and tired), and Grace was on an Inner-City LA Mission Trip with her youth group (they stay inside at midnight because of possible stray bullets from celebratory gunfire).  So Max the Dog must have been lonely, and, to get back at me, last night he went looking for a friend.  Yes, around 1:15 a.m., I was awakened by barks, rustling leaves, and the most unbelievably strong skunk odor of all time coming in through our closed bedroom windows.  Let's just say that once that smell got up my nose, it seems there's no getting it out.  I have been smelling skunk ever since - at this point going on 16 hours (I tried breathing through my shirt, and then I actually put lotion up my nose, but nothing works!).  It didn't help that I opened the window to tell Max to stop the barking and go back to bed, therefore letting in even more of the odor.  That was when I noticed that Max was out in the garden rolling around in the pile of dead leaves, coffee grounds, and horse droppings that are awaiting spring rototilling (when horse poop is preferable than the way you smell, that is just sad).  That made me wonder what was rustling the leaves under the window - sure enough, my flashlight shone on the black and white culprit.  How does one make a skunk leave the premises?  My Annie Oakley reflex kicked in first, and I tried shooting it with the BB gun, thinking that if I could just make it sting a little, he would wander back down to the creek.  Alas, the picket fence was in the way, and my BBs just bounced off, and I was afraid to use the light or get closer.  Second idea - spray water on him.  But unfortunately, Mr Skunk just so happened to be right by the spigot.  Plus it was really cold out there.  Option three - I put my head under a pillow and tried to go back to sleep.  It worked, a few minutes at a time, and of course there was no skunk out there in the morning.  Just a horribly embarrassed-looking dog.  And a stench that all of our neighbors could smell.
How to get skunk smell out of a dog, his bed, and your house?  The following things have all been done today:  Open your five-pound bag of baking soda (I really have one - I use it for cleaning), shake it all over the dog (turning him from black to gray), and his bed, and in his doghouse, very liberally.  Pour vinegar on dog (this was my favorite part, because it reacted with the baking soda and made him all foamy.  And because he kept licking his nose, as if he thought it was a pickle).  Wash the dog's bed, blanket and collar with a combination of detergent, more baking soda, lemon soap, vinegar, and bleach.  Twice.  Light the strongest candles you own and let them burn all day, and try not to think of how much money you just spent on that good-smelling candle that is now half-used.  Leave dog bed and dog out in the sun, and thank God that is was sunny today.  Pick up the 75-lb dog, because he knows what's coming and is hiding from you, and plop him into the washtub that you filled with water, baking soda, and Fabuloso (it is cleaner from Mexico - I am not sure what's in there, and I don't want to know since they don't have an EPA like ours.  All I know is it is amazing!!).  Scrub and scrub and scrub, and hold onto the dog when he tries to escape and shakes his skunkiness all over you.  Give the dog the leftover fish from your fish taco dinner, since he has looked so forlorn and sad all day.

 On tomorrow's agenda - wash the inside liner of the dog bed, since it still stinks, hose out the dog house, and thank God once again that you are having 70-degree weather in January as you open the windows to let fresh air into your smelly house.
Score:  Skunk 1, Max the Dog 0