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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Kayaking, Fishing, Horse Puppets, and Cupcakes

A couple of weekends ago we had a jam-packed fun time.

Edward and Jennifer came up to visit us the weekend after my birthday. They arrived Thursday night and Jennifer worked remotely Friday while Dave worked. I did some school stuff, errands, took Eddie to school, etc. and then spent a good amount of time getting our fishing gear organized. We all bought fishing licenses that afternoon after having an adult-only (!!) lunch downtown. Fishing didn't work out on Friday because we failed to check the tide calendar.

That evening we had a hot dog and deli salad dinner at one of John's burn piles in the woods. We've done these a lot recently and it was fun to have more people with us this time. I love these dinners because preparations are a snap and there's virtually no clean up!
Papa John and Eddie messing around while we got dinner organized.
Saturday morning I went up to Point Arena to the school to be a judge for the cupcake wars fundraiser. I had to taste all 28 cupcake entries...ouf. Luckily our friend was there selling his coffee and there was a kid selling hotdogs to cut the sweetness.  The event was a raging success, selling out of cupcakes and raising just over $2000 for the school.  I'm glad I participated and hope that I can do it again next year...unless I enter in the adult category!

Edward and Jennifer brought Eddie up to the school once the cupcake thing opened to the public at noon. Dave had met up with a fellow daycare dad to haul big rig loads of donated wood chips up to the preschool. He met us at the school for cupcake treats when he was done.

As soon as we had gulped down our coffee and hot dogs, Jennifer and I met up with my friend Naomi and went down the street to the Arena Theater.  We saw a showing of the London Theater's War Horse play, using the most amazingly engineered puppets. The story is sad but the puppetry was just incredible. You should check out this video of a horse puppet meeting real horses--the acting done by the puppeteers is so life like!

After getting back to Gualala that afternoon we lazed around a bit before having a nice dinner.

Sunday morning we took off to Cook's Beach for another fishing attempt, this time at low tide. Edward, Jennifer, and I biked there (it took all of 5 minutes down Highway 1) while Eddie, the dogs, and Dave drove.  We climbed out onto the rocks to fish, using squid for bait. No one caught anything but we did get some nibbles. I'm not sure if they were from fish or crabs, though. Regardless of the lack of fish for supper that night, we had lots of fun. Eddie had a gaggle of adults to build castles in the sand, the dogs convinced random people on the beach to throw sticks for them, and we all enjoyed the warm sunshiny weather.
Auntie Jennifer fishing!
Eddie, the dogs, and Dave prepping the fishing gear. Well, I guess the dogs are just there to lick up the squid juice.
Edward and Jennifer.
Edward immediately hooked his line on the rocks below us. He spent about a half hour dealing with it, including a climb down the rocks to the water's edge. I would cut the line!
Eddie's pointing to a purple star fish we spied on the rocks in the tide pools. 
That afternoon we rented kayaks and took them up river.  Eddie and I were in a double and it was his first time kayaking. He did great, even paddling a little. Mostly, though, he collected sticks on the beach and then launched them like arrows from the elastic cargo bungee on the front of the raft. We were happy to run into Naomi and her two doggies playing in the river. Eddie wanted to go home with her and the dogs!  But we convinced him to keep playing in the water with us.

We picnicked on a gravel beach just south of a fly fisherman. Our egg salad and chips lunch was delicious.  Just nearby the beach we saw an otter, which was very cool.
Me and Eddie!

Our picnic on the beach.

Edward.

Jennifer in her single and Eddie and I in our double.
After getting home from the river, our visitors packed up their stuff and took off down the road. I sent them off with butterscotch lattes to go so they could have an enjoyable ride. It was a busy, fun, and somewhat exhausting weekend...I can't wait to have them visit again soon!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dave Quiz

Let's play a game.

You might be married to Dave if (select all that apply):

A. You get emails like this:
B. You get calendar event invitations like this:
C. Everything in your husband's office is at least 20% larger than normal (desk, chair, mouse, monitor, computer tower), leaving you unable to use the office in his absence because you are not 20% larger than most wives.

D. You have to set the table with cocktail sauce when it's taco or burrito night because it's a must-have condiment for your husband (and his dad).

E. You find yourself refusing to pack food into his lunchbox because you're grossed out that there is mold growing inside and you are teased for being dramatic and overly concerned as he throws his food into the box himself. Ew, mold.

F. You find a zillion extra pictures on your phone if you let him be in charge of taking the picture. You discover that he just snaps away, even when you're not ready yet.


G. Your 5000 square foot house routinely uses only $70 in electricity in a month. Related: you are used to hearing your husband spout off how much money it costs per hour to run such-and-such light fixture and seeing him daydream when he talks about LED fixtures for the garage and kitchen remodel.

H. He asks you to plot the propane usage so he can calculate how much lower the electric bill will be once we switch from the electric stove to the propane stove. And you do it.

I. You fear for your life when you have to drive his truck.

You should have answered all of the above

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Dogs and Their Kitty

Given the number of dogs-staring-at-the-cat pictures I have on my phone, I figured it was appropriate for a post about it.

How the dogs interact with the cat varies over the course of the day. While us humans are at work or school, the kitty has free roam of the house and the dogs are locked up in the office. She seems to enjoy having free rein over the house, as evidenced by the tongue lick marks I've found on the butter when we forget to cover it, things she's knocked off the coffee table, and occasionally finding her hiding somewhere weird when we get home.  She'll sometimes be up high on a shelf or in a pile of as-yet unpacked moving boxes because the dogs were let out before she could run back her to laundry room.

But when we are home, a feline-canine magnetism develops that is hard to ignore.
Taters turns into a statue, positioning himself with a good view of the kitty. He won't move a muscle unless you offer him food or suggest a romp outside. And sometimes not even then. We think he stares at her in hopes that SOMEDAY she'll surprise him and want to be chased through the house. But I think he'll have to wait a looooooooong time for that to happen.
Ruby gets magnetized sometimes, too.
 I don't know how they can stand to stare at her for so long. Once bedtime rolls around, they make sure to get a good spot for horizontal position staring while we get ready to sleep.  Usually we place Nina on a king sized pillow between the headboard and my pillow. She used to stay there for quite some time but has recently decided that she'd rather walk around the entire bed to find the perfect nest, despite the crazy dogs lurk
If Nina would allow it, Ruby would have her snout shoved into Nina's fur (or better yet, her "undercarriage") whenever they're in bed.
Pretty girls!
Clearly, Nina is not too perturbed by the canine affections.
Sometimes, Ruby will get too tired to actually stare at the kitty so they'll snuggle up for a bit. Nina tries to groom Ruby, but Ruby always growls.
Our sleeping arrangements shift depending on our moods (do we want a cat taking up space in the bed tonight?) and Eddie's requests (sometimes he wants Nina to sleep with him). Like I said, she usually sleeps on a pillow in our bed. But sometimes she sleeps with Eddie--and half of those times he ends up in our room in the middle of the night complaining that Nina is walking all over him. So then we put her outside the hallway and she goes about her nocturnal feline business.
Eddie and kitty!
I get up to pee nearly every night and lately I've been finding Nina and Taters snuggled up together in the middle of the bed, where Taters sleeps every night.
ISN'T THAT ADORABLE?
Here's another one in case you didn't realize just how cute it is to see your dog and cat (and husband) snuggling.
Sometimes Nina chooses the weirdest places to sleep. She's soooooo soft and silky and warm that I put up with it.

I think they'd snuggle this way during the day if it weren't for annoying Ruby trying to police the situation. We call her the Yard Duty, except she growls and barks instead of blows a whistle.
In this case, Ruby was warning Dave to stop bothering her. He was stroking Ruby's head with one of Nina's shed whiskers and she was NOT happy about it. Of course, I could have taken a similar picture when Ruby is "protecting" Nina from Taters....Ruby seems to think Nina needs protecting sometimes.

Ruby wasn't thrilled at getting a bath from Nina. 
Oh, the complexities of inter-species homes...

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Work, Study, Play Weekend

Saturday I volunteered us to help at Eddie's daycare workday. We worked with two other dads to install a 30'x20' wooden border around the swing set. In a couple of weeks a dump truck load of wood chips will be delivered and we'll rake those around the swings for a soft cushion. I got to dig some of the post holes, something I hadn't done since the last time we did a daycare work day in 2011. 
Eddie got into each of the 24 holes we dug to make SURE they were deep enough. He was a happy, dirty kid that day.
There was one other kid there, two year old Drake, who had a grand time running around with Eddie. Toward the end, the kids and I went to the general store to get burritos and chips for everyone.
Drake and Eddie picked all the yellow sour grass flowers and floated them in the rain water the pooled inside the giant tires.
When we got home, Dave spent some time studying for his upcoming water operator exam. I took a short nap while Eddie watched some shows. Since I didn't take any pictures on Saturday afternoon, I had to work really hard to remember what we did the rest of the day.  It's crazy (embarrassing?) that I find myself forgetting what happened just a few days ago.  I was able to determine that we went running at the airport together before eating a lasagna dinner with Papa at our house. Oh, and I know I made a double batch of America's Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies (the name doesn't lie).  

Sunday was the start of Daylight Saving and we had a yummy breakfast of bacon, eggs, grits, and venison sausage with gravy. Dave went to the office to study while Eddie and I did our usual Saturday chores--washing the sheets, cleaning the bathrooms, and vacuuming.  Eddie's room was a COMPLETE AND TOTAL DISASTER and it took him a 1.5 hours to clean it all up--and a third of that was with me "helping" him (read: getting on his case about NOT playing with everything and just putting it all away). He and Dave are going to be gone one night this coming weekend and you better believe that I'll be removing about 30% of the stuff from his room. Less stuff, less to clean up! He doesn't play with much of it anyway, it's just in the way of the toys he wants to find.

That afternoon Eddie had a 6 year old girl, Tali, over for a movie. It was this sweet child who held Eddie's hand when he was scared to get on the big scary school bus for the first time and sat next to him in the "preschool" seats for the whole first week.  (Bless her heart!)

Anyway, she brought stuffed animals and popcorn to share. I brought out the tubs of my own stuffed animals from childhood and we all had a grand time digging through them. We even found one of my mom's topsy-turvy doll, a toy that probably lived here on the coast back in the 1940s. Eventually we settled on the couch downstairs to watch Mulan. I wanted to watch something new that none of us had seen, but kids are kids and they wanted something familiar. It was a sweet change to have a calm little girl in the house who sat contentedly, petting the dogs, and cuddling her stuffed toys.  Before her grandma picked her up, we all drew chalk art outside.

I  made clam chowder that night, which was ready when Dave got home. Mmmmmm, if I didn't know how much butter was in it I would want to eat it every night.
Taters made a good bed desk for Dave.
A text conversation between Dave and I. He's slightly obsessed with anime.
PS. I adore our profile pictures--both of Eddie with pirate face paint from a day at Cassie's when he was a wee tot.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Biscotti

Ever since tasting a biscotti sample at the grocery store before Christmas, I've been on a biscotti kick. Last week I finally decided to make some. It was my first time and they came out super good. Next time I want to make a copy-cat version of the ones I tasted at the store (chocolate chunk and pistachio).

I used this recipe as a guide, but modified it by adding orange zest, almonds, and chocolate chips, and swapping out half the sugar for maple syrup.

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon orange or mandarin zest
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • sugar for dusting
Preheat oven to 375F. Beat wet ingredients plus zest in large bowl. Mix flour and powder in a small bowl, then stir into wet ingredients. Mix in almonds and chocolate chips. Scoop out half the dough onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or silicon sheets. Oil your hands and shape dough into a rope shape the length of the pan. Pat down to 1/2" thick. It will be about 4" wide, depending on your pan length. Repeat on a second pan. Bake 25-30 minutes until slightly browned. Cool on racks until you can handle them. Cut with a pizza cutter into 1/2" thick slices. Return to pans, cut side up and bake for 6-10 minutes. Flip over to other cut side for another 6-10 minutes. They should cool to be crispy, perfect for dunking in coffee, milk, or cocoa. 


The recipe made two giant cookies.

I used a pizza cutter to slice them while still warm.

After the second baking I let them cool a bit...

...and then made a silly face instead. 
I brought them to the office so folks can munch on them with an afternoon coffee now that we have a Keurig maker. One of the guys said, "How DARE you bring those in here? Ooooh that's dangerous, girl." I laughed and pointed out that he didn't have to open the tin, he could have just walked on by. He said, "I have to tell you, those are the third best biscotti I've ever had...no wait, those are the three best biscotti I've ever had. I ate three already this morning!" What a nice compliment!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Eddie's Songs

I'm in the living room working on the couch and Dave is down the hall in our room. Eddie's in his room, singing loudly, even though he's supposed to be asleep.


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Summer 2013 Garden Tally

Well, I am finally done processing all of my 2013 garden produce. I know, it's just about time to start planting the 2014 garden.

What got me to the finish line were the dried spices I had stowed away in the laundry room until I had time to deal with them.  In the evenings I like to settle down on the couch to watch a show before bed. I like to have something for my hands to do while in front of the TV and rubbing the seeds off dried plants filled that need.

Throughout last summer I collected dill seed heads whenever I was in the garden and spotted some. I stuffed them into paper sacks, which I left open to dry. It took me weeks of rubbing, but I finally finished with a quart jar nearly overflowing.

Last spring I planted cilantro here in Gualala during spring break. By the time we moved up here the place was a weed-veggie jungle and I didn't remember anything about the cilantro. I found the scraggly plants when I was weeding one of the beds. By then it was flowering and the honey bees really liked it, so I left it alone to go to seed. The heads were sort of scattered throughout the plant so I hacked them all down once they had dried in the garden and brought them home. Our kitchen table was piled high with the dead plants for a few days. Dave and I would watch something on the laptop while rubbing the seeds off. We got a whole quart!

In the fall, before it got too cold (not that it ever really got cold this last year), we walked around the neighborhood and collected wild fennel seed heads.  The stuff is a weed around here. One of our neighbors asked what we were doing and he commented that he'd never even tasted fennel. I said it was a common spice in sausage and after he smelled some that I crushed in my hand he realized he had eaten it his whole life. I was able to get a pint so I might take a few tablespoons to him so he can try cooking with it.

As I was putting the dill and fennel away this morning I realized just how many seasonings I've been able to grow.  Herbs are obvious: the green or "herbaceous" part of any plant like basil. But spices always seemed like something regular people just purchase, rather than grown. Not so: I was able to grow lots of seeds for seasoning.

Top: serrano peppers from my dad, lemon verbena leaves, fennel seeds, mint leaves, Thai peppers from my dad.
Bottom: dried onions, coriander, dill leaves, dill seeds, tarragon leaves.
And here is some of the rest of our dried foods stash. We haven't tried everything yet, but I can report that the zucchini works well in lasagna instead of noodles (just rehydrate for a few minutes with hot water until they're pliable) and the carrots resemble fresh ones when cooked in soup. The bell peppers are good enough to eat like crackers!
Some of our dried veggies and fruits from last year. Zucchini and yellow squash, bell peppers, carrots, apples, peaches, apricots, beans, and eggplant. I haven't tried the eggplant yet but I'm not confident that we'll like it.  Maybe in lasagna?
 The final tally for all frozen, canned, and dried "put up" food for 2013 was:

  • 12 quarts plum pulp (will make jam or fruit leather later)
  • 14 pints no-pectin plum jam
  • 12 pints pectin plum jam
  • 3 trays dried apricots
  • 24 quarts canned apricots (for FIL)
  • 7 gallons frozen apricots (for pies)
  • 26 cups frozen strawberry peaches (for pies)
  • 14 pints pineapple apricot jam
  • 11 pints low-sugar apricot jam
  • 9 pints low-sugar apricot peach jam
  • 4 quarts apricot simple syrup (left over from canning--excellent mixed with champagne or rum)
  • 24 quarts canned pears (my dad actually did this for me using pears given to the Bowers by their lawyer...the guy's family operates a produce packing plant and gave them some cases of fruit after one of their meetings...weird, right?)
  • 2 quarts canned pear simple syrup (good with champagne)
  • 5 dehydrator loads of zucchini
  • 4 pints dried onions (grown in Davis)
  • 2 gallons frozen blackberries (for jam or pies)
  • 30 pounds canned green beans (my dad and Jennifer helped with this)
  • 5 gallons frozen green beans
  • 10 quarts Gravenstein apples (for pies)
  • 6 quarts dried Gravenstein apples (for snacking)
  • 14 pints candied jalapenos (canned)
  • 12 cups frozen pesto
  • 4.5 quarts fermented peppers for hot sauce (jalapenos, peppinos, Hungarian hot wax--will be ready next month)
  • 3 quarts fermented cayenne-garlic (accidentally got some yogurt along with the whey inoculate in there)
  • 7.5 quarts canned tomato basil sauce
  • 11 quarts frozen rosemary pizza sauce
  • 9 quarts frozen ratatouille
  • 4 quarts frozen chopped chard
  • 7 quarts frozen hot salsa fresca
  • 15 pints canned chipotle salsa verde
  • 18 pints canned salsa verde
  • 1 pint dried bell peppers (store bought)
  • 1 quart dried carrots
  • 1 quart dried figs (from a local family)
  • 1 quart coriander seed
  • 1 quart dill seed
  • 1 pint fennel seed (wild)

We purchased some of the produce from a local family ranch (some basil and tomatoes and beans) but most of it was from our garden. You can see why settling down to write my dissertation was so hard during the summer--never mind the distractions of moving, starting a new job, and my mom's passing. In the next few weeks I'll spend my evenings planting seeds in peet pellets to get our 2014 garden started.