Blog Archive

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Birthday Wishes!

Happy birthday, Allison!

I hope you have a fun evening tonight. Although I did notice your away message simply said: "Plans for the day: work, shower, nap, class, dinner, bed." Hopefully you can find time to add "celebrate" in there somewhere.

Anyway, this post is for you--the pooches really want you to know how much the miss/love you:

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mangia Pesto!

My house smells like garlic. Last night I harvested the rest of the basil plants from the garden--about 20 plants, I'd already done the other half on Wednesday night. My brother-in-law, Michael, came over with a garbage bag full of basil from his own garden. We sat at the coffee table, watching the Olympics, and pinching the fragrant green leaves for what seemed like forever but was only from about 9pm-12am.

All this pesto-making madness started right after work. I had to run to Costco for extra bags of pine nuts, a bottle of peeled garlic (for Michael--I used elephant garlic from the farmer's market, which I had to peel by hand) and an extra jug of olive oil. Before going out to the garden to pull of up the basil plants, I had to make-up three beds for some impending house guests that slept here last night on their way through town. By the time I finally sat down with my heap of basil, I was already exhausted.

This picture only show about half of the basil I processed last night:
Michael had a lot less basil to pinch that I did so he was able to get all his pesto made in the food processor before going home last night. I made mine this morning at 8am. What a fun thing to do on a Saturday morning!

Bathing basil:
On Wednesday night I ended up with 3 large yogurt containers full of pesto. And then this morning I ended up with 36 half-pint jars of pesto. In total I think we now have 1.5 gallons of garlicky, basil goodness in the deep freeze. Mama mia, that's a lotta pesto. Dave and I are so excited to have this much stored away. We usually ration it throughout the year but we won't have to this time!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Far Side Ranch

Last weekend Edward and I ventured to the depths of Livermore. We don't go there often since my mom's house is so messy that we can't even sleep in our beds anymore. This time we camped in the back yard in tents. (You might think I'm kidding, but really, I'm not.)

Saturday Dave and my dad stayed at the house to work on my car while Edward, my mom, and I went to the Jones' house for brunch. Donovan and his dad made fruit salad, potatoes, and eggs Benedict (with spinach instead of ham...not quite the same, but a good alternative for Donovan's recent conversion to vegetarianism).

Dyani was there and it was so fun to hang out with her. She came home from Boston for the weekend so we could all go see Donovan and Skyler perform in The Beauty and the Beast at the new theater in Livermore. During the show, Edward and I couldn't spot Skyler--our 15 year old God-brother. Finally we scanned the faces about a foot higher and suddenly we saw him! He's so tall now! The show was great, even though there were a bunch of extra solo songs that I didn't know from the original Disney movie. After wards Dyani, Edward, and I wandered around downtown until her parents had dinner ready. Once Donovan and Skyler returned from the show's cast party, their family practiced singing Amazing Grace for us since they were going to sing it in front of the whole church the next day. They were so good!

At the new Livermore theater:
Dyani and Kateri...prettier than ever:
Sunday morning we broke camp in the backyard, ate a quick breakfast, then headed up to the Far Side Ranch--our family's property about 20 miles south of Livermore in the hills. We spent the day "kerplinking," napping (ok...that was just me), exploring and collecting rocks (ok...that was also just me), staring into the murky shallowness of the pond for any evidence of fish (there are none, apparently), and eating our traditional lunch and snacks. It is traditional for us to eat sandwiches of potato rolls, smoked turkey (now chicken because of Edward's allergy), marinated sun-dried tomatoes, lettuce, and thick-sliced Monterey Jack cheese. Snackwell's devil's food cookies, Hansen's sodas, apples, a pot of drip coffee, and chips are also musts.
While out on a walk we found a dead fox:
Right when we got there I went inside and took a nap. At some point someone came in to give me a pair of earmuffs since they were going to start shooting targets. I didn't put them on, but wished I had when I suddenly woke up to very loud shots from the Swedish Mauser. I slept right through the .22 shots, but that Mauser shot will about knock you over. Groggy, I went outside to watch. Once they noticed I was there they told me it was my turn to shoot at some rocks they'd stacked-up onto an old post. I figured since I was still sleepy I wouldn't make the shot, but I tried anyway. I totally got it on the first try! I also bruised my shoulder since I didn't position the butt of the gun properly onto my arm. Oh, well. Later on I tried the M-1 and I did the same thing with the butt of that one! Geez! By this time my arm was really sore. My brother took pity on me and showed me exactly where to put the butt of the gun. He poked the muscle on my shoulder to show me where to put it...which totally tickled and hurt at the same time. Sigh...I made that shot, too and amazingly it didn't hurt....much. It would have been totally fine except that my arm was already hurt.

Before it got too dark we went around behind the cabin and shot eggs. Yes, chicken eggs. My dad glues loops of string to them so we can hang them on a metal stand make especially for this purpose. It is such a trill to see those eggs completely explode--orange and clear goo flinging every which way. Of course, nothing exploded right away since we first tried shooting them from a distance with .22 pistols. My dad had a "Julie-sized" short barrel one and a long-barrel one. We all pretty much sucked. Eventually we moved them closer to us so we could really appreciate the nasty mess.

Daddy and Edward inspecting the exploded eggs and hanging up some more (we brought 18):
We had a great time at the property and I really can't wait to go back!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

New Boat

Years and years ago my dad bought a little boat with a trolling motor so he and Edward could go fishing. They used it only 3 times. And there it sat, lonely, behind the barn in Livermore ever since. With a new set of tires and new deep-cycle car battery for the motor it made its way up to our house in Davis for an exciting new life of regular use. Well, that's the plan anyway.
I got to work super early on Tuesday so we could go to boating at Lake Berryessa in the afternoon. We were on the water by 4:15pm, which was perfect because it was still hot enough in the full sun to make you want to swim, but not too cool in the shade. We took the dogs along, not sure if they'd stay put in the boat. Potatoes is like me in moving vehicles: he falls asleep pretty much instantly (unless he's sticking his head out the window). Ruby had me worried. She gets nervous and excited and was liable to jump ship. Just in case, we kept them on short leashes and brought seat cushions for them to lay on at the bottom of the boat. When we pulled up into some shade to apply sunscreen, Ruby jumped overboard, leash and all. She swam around for a bit then went ashore to go potty. I was freaking out that she would poop on her leash since it was between her hind legs. After a lot of convincing she finally swam back to the boat and I hauled her back up into it by her collar. She didn't get out because she was nervous, she just wanted to swim and potty.

We trolled around for a while (not that we went very just takes forever to get anywhere with a trolling motor) and finally found a not-too-steep shore to stop at for swimming and eating. We ate our yummy Nugget market deli sandwiches and ginger soda, swam for a bit, and then threw sticks for the dogs. Potatoes isn't much of a swimmer but when we were out in the water he swam with us. He looks ridiculous swimming around with his huge nose high in the air. I was so happy when he actually fetched sticks that we through out into the water--I now have two dogs who love the water!

Monday, August 18, 2008

2008 Applesauce Adventure

Last weekend Dave brought 3 apple boxes full of "wind-fall" Gravenstein apples from his parents' orchard. I'd only asked for two since I didn't want to spend 3 sweltering nights slaving over a hot stove. But here I am on night 3, blogging next to the stove so I don't forget to stir the pot. Once the dishwasher cycle is done (to sterilize the jars) I'll begin straining sauce with the KitchenAid. Then it'll be another hour or so to pack the jars, process them, and clean up.

Luckily Edward is here in Davis visiting me so he "gets" to help me! You can see how tiring cutting up apples was for him:
The first night we didn't start coring apples until about 8:30pm so I didn't get to bed until after 1am. That first batch is sorta boring since I was too tired and hot to let the apples cook down much or stew with the sachet of cinnamon and cloves. I'm sure it still tastes better than store-bought, though.

Last night we divided the sauce into two pots and added a gallon of fruit pulp to each. We made a batch of apricot apple sauce and a batch of plum apple sauce. The plum was a bit tart so we added a cup of Bower family honey. I like knowing that the only ingredients were made right at my in-laws house. How much more homemade can you get, really? (I'm sure my dad will email me, suggesting that we could blow our own glass jars or something...)

Tonight's batch has been cooking a good bit longer than the first and I doubled-up the spices in the sachet. I'm hoping I can justify writing "spicy apple sauce, 8/2008" on the lids of the jars.

Step 1, fill a HUGE pot with cut, cored apples. Keep the skins on for good flavor and a nice pink color that store bought apple sauce lacks:
Next, add a little water and crank up the heat (not too high!) so they cook down. Toss in a sachet of spices (cinnamon sticks and whole cloves) to add flavor. Make sure you stir it often so it doesn't scorch. This can take upwards of 1.5 hours if you're patient so make sure you have a radio to listen to, or at the very least, a brother in the livingroom watching the Olympics to tell you a play-by-play so you don't get bored:
Then you rig-up your trusty KitchenAid mixer with the fruit strainer attachment to remove the skins for a silky smooth sauce:
Then just fill your sterilized jars, seal, and process in a rolling boil water bath for 10 minutes:

Ta-da! Now you have more jars of apple sauce then you know what to do with. This picture doesn't show all of them, but I think I ended up with 30 quarts total:
I'm sure I'll look back at this post and wonder what I was thinking...but I'd love to make my own baby food when I have kids. I could grow oodles of carrots, sweet potatoes, and green beans, cook them down like this and can them in the teeny little jars I keep my spices in. How cool would that be?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Down South

A few weeks ago Dave and I flew down to northern Georgia to visit my dad's side of the family, specifically, to see Great Uncle Walter, my late grandpa's closest brother.

My cousin, Annette, picked us up from the teeny Chattanooga, TN airport with Uncle Walter. The moment we got to the farm Uncle Walter started talking about the corn fields across the street at his son's house. Once his clothes were changed we hopped into his golf cart and off we went to see the tall, tall corn. At 89 years young he doesn't drive a car anymore but he drives his cart around the farm and across the road to check on the crops. Annette tried to convince him to let Dave drive the cart (lest he inadvertently land us in a ditch or run us into a fence like he did with his caretaker) but he wouldn't have it. Finally he agreed to let Dave operate the pedals--from the the middle seat--while he did the steering. You can imagine how well that went. But we survived crossing Highway 151 and into the corn. Some of that corn really is tall, close to 12 feet high with foot-long ears. He directed us through the rolling fields until we came to the original house on the property. It is a rickety old thing with a foundation of stacked-up stones holding it up. The story goes that the couple who built the house were killed by defiant Cherokee Indians back in the early 1800's during the forced relocation of Native American tribes out of the Deep South. None of my family members ever lived there: Uncle Walter says he just used it for storing hay and his son, Chip, now uses it to store fish feed for the pond he built in front of it.

Out in the garden with Uncle Walter and my cousin Ty:

After we got back to the house, we helped finish canning tomatoes. They had set up an outdoor kitchen in the carport since it is just too hot to do the canning inside. It is a great way to do it: you just hose everything off when you're done each night. When we were done with the tomatoes I told Annette, "I looooooooooove canning. I wish I'd gotten here sooner so I could have helped you more." She laughed and assured me that we'd be doing a lot more canning that week. I beamed at Dave, who rolled his eyes at me. More canning! Now that's my kind of vacation!
And can, we did. On Sunday morning after a breakfast of sausage patties, eggs, sliced tomato (yum...tomatoes at breakfast? I was in Heaven!), biscuits, and homemade muscadine jelly we started in on more tomatoes and green beans. By 4pm we were still at it when Allison, Edward, and Emmy finally drove up. It took them 2 days to drive down from their house in NY. Allison looked a little shell-shocked by the humidity, the accents, and the canning but she jumped right in and helped. That is, until Uncle Walter whisked her and Edward off to see the corn across the road.

The rest of the week flew by. We ate a lot, took naps, spent a lot of time talking with Annette and Uncle Walter, picked veggies in the garden, played with all the dogs, hung out with my cousins Chip and Kathy (we stayed at their very grand, very Southern home across the road), and showed Dave and Allison the grand ol' town of LaFayette, Georgia. On Monday we went down to the teeny tiny farmer's market to buy the boys some blueberries and cinnamon rolls from the Amish ladies. Then we looked around the library. Annette called us to ask us to buy some milk at the store. We didn't answer since we were in the library so I sent her a text telling her where we were. When we got home she asked us why in the world Edward and I took our significant others there. Edward and I exchanged glances--"because we're Harold's kids and that's what we do." Dave isn't big on reading but he enjoyed flipping through the Civil War books in the regional room while Allison rummaged through the used book sales carts.

On Tuesday Dave and Uncle Walter set to work fixing the handle of the pressure canner. The canner itself was fine but the plastic handle had cracked off. With some epoxy and a few new bolts Dave had it back together. Uncle Walter wasn't so sure: he kept flipping the lid over and over to make sure that there were no holes in the lid. It wasn't that he didn't trust Dave, but at 89 it is hard for him to connect two-and-two. Dave's level of patience impressed me. Finally I just told Uncle Walter that Dave was going to take it back to the house and "test" it on the canner to make sure there were no holes. While Dave toted the heavy lid back to the house and enjoyed a cold Coke on the porch, Uncle Walter took us on a tour of the shop. We sat him down on an old wheely office chair and just rolled him around the grungy floor. He showed us the lathe, the giant drill press, the gallons-upon-gallons of used motor oil from his various tractors, and this monstrous engine lift contraption. It was great.

To give Uncle Walter some time to rest--he was over-tiring himself by interacting with us constantly--we spent Wednesday afternoon at the Chickamauga Battle Field museum. It was too hot/humid outside to wander around the actual battle field...but it turned out to be too cold in the museum to stay too long. While the boys got their fill of Civil War guns Allison and I perused the bookstore. Then it was off to the Dairy Dip for lunch. Edward and I were deliriously excited about this culinary experience: I had country fried steak with pickled beets and greens; Edward and Dave had pulled pork. I can't remember what Allison had, but I'm sure it was good. I meant to take a picture of my food when I got it, but it was so good (and I was so hungry) that I forgot. So here's a picture of the empty plate:
That night for dinner Chip and Kathy made the most wonderful fried fish I've ever had. They marinated sea trout in mustard, hot sauce, and horseradish all day then breaded it in corn meal and fried it up. As a rule I don't like mustard but this was darn were the homemade pickles I ate that night, too. (I also avoid pickles at all costs. There's just something about the humidity and family that makes me do silly things like eat pickles and mustard all on the same night.)

Thursday after breakfast we went to the Tennessee Aquarium up in Chattanooga. There are two buildings here: the Tennessee River building and the ocean building. We opted to see the 3-D movie about dolphins and whales and go on the "behind the scenes" tour. We got to feed the fish!

Check out our very stylish 3D glasses:
I found a fish named Julie! I think it should be renamed Princess Julie because it sounds nicer than Convict Julie:
For lunch we walked half a mile into downtown Chattanooga to eat at this bizarre diner adjacent to the hotel we stayed at a few years ago while my grandpa was in the hospital there. This place has pretty much everything you can think of on the menu. Right when we sat down at our booth it started POURING down rain. The streets instantly flooded and the wind blew really hard. To avoid having to walk back through the rain, we forced ourselves to eat balaclava for dessert, just to kill time. Ha!

Friday night we all went out to the Dairy Dip for dinner. By this time Nancy, Susanna, and Jenny (more cousins) had come into town for the weekend. Susanna was helping me walk Uncle Walter into the restaurant. She jokingly pointed at the Dairy Dip t-shirts for sale and suggested that if I love the place so much, maybe I should just buy a shirt. I told her I already bought a shirt the last time I was here, thankyouverymuch. She had to look at me to tell if I was serious or not. (I was. I have one in green and Dave has one in yellow. So there.)

After loading 3 dozen jars of tomatoes and green beans into Allison's car, along with Emmy's dog crate and all our luggage, we departed the farm for the airport on Saturday morning. As we pulled out of the driveway we honked the horn as Annette had instructed us. The whole family was gathered on the front lawn and they all waved for us. It was great!

My rule is that you can never leave an older relative without telling them when you'll next see them. And you have to mean it. So Allison went online and figured out which week she has off for spring break, March 8-14. We're already planning that trip to Georgia: we promised Uncle Walter that we'd be there to help him start his summer garden. And we'll keep that promise.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Part-Time Nannying

I was just offered a part-time nannying position during fall quarter for a professor who works upstairs from me. He's a member of my graduate group and his wife is, too. I've watched their darling baby boy, Teo, on occasion in the past.

Before I accepted the 2 afternoons/week job, I mentioned the possibility to Vic (my research professor). He told me that my time is much more valuable here in the lab, but he understands that I need to keep-on with my life (he also understands that Dave is between real jobs so any extra income is helpful). I told him that I love the feeling of interacting with children when I'm in stressful classes because I know that every day Teo will be nothing short of deliriously happy to see me. (If you've ever nannied like I have, both you and the kids start to look forward to seeing each other on a regular basis. At that point it is a "joy" not a "job.") Vic tried to reassure me by saying "Don't worry, I'm always happy to see you, Julie!" The look I shot him clearly said "that's nice, but it isn't quite the same effect, Vic".

So now I'll be Nanny Julie again! Yay! I'm so excited for the fall quarter now! (Not that knowing I get to take transition metals chemistry isn't exciting enough...)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


Have you EVER seen such a cutie-pie pooch before?

Over the past few weeks I've been making an effort to go jogging every day and to go on a long walk with the dogs. It's as much for them as it is for me since we are all cooped-up indoors most of the day.

The first couple of nights Dave and I jogged around the park near our house a few times, logging in around 1/2 mile. Let me me tell you, that was enough for me. Then we'd take a nice long walk with the pooches (so my heart rate could come back to normal). It is well known that I hate excersizing as much as my sister-in-law, Bernie, hates cooking. And that's a LOT. But she and I both know that these things are good for us so we make an effort to do them without complaining (too much).

While we were in Georgia we ran through the corn fields a few of the mornings. Most mornings we were still so full of food from the night before that we'd just walk. It is tough to run through fields like that since the tractor trails are bumpy and muddy. My dog-niece would come with us and usually the clumsy but oh-so-cute Buttons (my cousins' all-muscle boxer). Emmy was quite concerned that I keep on track so she'd try her to best to herd me forward. Buttons, who definitely took the "short bus" to school (and probably fell off it), would run full speed into Emmy, trying to entice her to play. Emmy'd have nothing to do with that nonsense when there are humans around to be there's be a lot of yipping and nipping from her.

With Dave away working for his dad this week, I've been running around the local middle school track a few times either in the morning or in the evening. On Monday evening I ran around during a softball game. There were a few people watching the game from behind the chain link fence behind home base. On my first lap, they cooed at Ruby (who wouldn't?!). On my second lap a girl commented, "Geez, the dog is still running behind her. I wonder if she doesn't want to run anymore?" I chuckled as best I could between heavy breathing (I'm super out of shape...). Like Emmy, Ruby's instinct is to herd me no matter what. When I take her on leashed walks she usually walks behind me and it looks to most people like she's a reluctant dog. Let me assure you, she's not. She adores walks, but in her mind her job is to Watch Over Mama All The Time. Keep her on track, make sure she's always within sight, and growl at anyone--even Daddy--if they try to keep me away from Mama. It seriously cracks me up.

I wish the word "herding" didn't sound so much like "hurting." People at the park will ask me what Ruby is doing when she charges after a group of dogs or circles around a pack of kids. One of my biggest pet peeves is mumbling when you speak and I encourage enunciation. It is especially important when hollering out "Don't worry, my dog is nice. She's just trying to herd you." Many border collies will nip the heels of whatever they are herding if the animals don't respond the way they want. Luckily Ruby has only nipped my cousin once and never anyone at the park. We do keep a watchful eye since some overbearing parents could confuse nipping with rabid biting. And a law suit is the last thing I need right now. (I'm happy we live in Davis, which is known to be full of dogs and dog-lovers.)

Monday, August 4, 2008

Prayers for PearlAsia

PearlAsia, my sister-in-law's mom, landed herself at the Stanford hospital this weekend with 2 brain aneurisms. She underwent treatment for the biggest one and seems to be recovering nicely. She'll stay in the hospital for at least a week for observations and to make sure the second, smaller aneurism isn't going to be a problem. Whew...

Mike and Bernie were supposed to fetch us from the airport on Saturday night but couldn't because they were at the hospital with PearlAsia. When we found out what was wrong Dave and I just went stone-dead silent. I don't think we spoke a word on the way home in our taxicab because we were so worried/scared/concerned for her and her family.

If you're inclined, please include her in your prayers!