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Friday, October 31, 2008

I Married a Dork

My dad and Dave and I were at the store last weekend picking up some cleaning supplies. As we were pushing our cart past the men's clothing section, I heard this quite little voice saying "I want to buy some suspenders."

I looked around to see who was talking. It wasn't my dad--he looked just as confused as I did.

It was Dave. He said louder, "I want to buy some suspenders."

Then I said, "Wha....what?! Like for a Halloween costume?"

"No, because my pants are always falling down. It's annoying. I have to pull my pants up about a million times a day. I want suspenders." (This is true--he does this little jig every few minutes where he sorta kicks out his feet, wiggles his rear, and yanks at the waist band of his jeans.)

I couldn't contain myself and I laughed so hard that I might have snorted. Then my dad started laughing, too.

Ah...so we found him some black elastic suspenders and he loves them. God, he looks like such a dork.
I had to remind him that years ago I suggested that he use suspenders and he said "no way, that's for old guys." Well, well, well. His problem is that he has absolutely no butt whatsoever. His back goes straight down to his thighs. As he puts it using a belt for him is "like putting a belt on a tree trunk" since there's no bump below the belt to hold the belt up. Oh man, is he right.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cabbage

For the last few weeks I've been receiving a box of local produce from the Capay Valley. It is fun because I get whatever is in season, not just stuff that I'd normally buy. So it forces me to try new recipes and new veggies. As lame as it sounds, it is exciting for me.

This week I received some mystery greens, 2 small pumpkins, a fennel bulb (with fronds), potatoes, some habanero peppers, and a head of Chinese cabbage.

My problem is that I already have a head of Chinese cabbage in the fridge from the last shipment. Since Dave isn't here during the week and we go to Livermore every weekend I haven't been able use all my produce as quickly as I receive it. Cabbage isn't one of my favorite vegetables because when cooked it is slimy and it smells like sulfur. But I paid for it and it is in season so I'm goin got make the most of it.

What does one person do with two heads of cabbage? There's Chinese Chicken Salad, of course. But that'd be a lot of salad for one person, and I don't really like chicken much anymore. I decided to find some casserole and soup recipes that I can make and put into small containers for the freezer. By splitting up a casserole recipe into 3 or 4 smaller Corningware dishes then I can defrost one and eat through it by myself during the week. (Full recipes aren't good for one person because then I end up eating one dish everyday for lunch and dinner for the whole week. It gets really old.)

This week I made a butternut squash with caramelized onion casserole, a cabbage and hot sausage casserole, a Morrocan potato tomato casserole, and a batch of black bean cabbage soup with tomatoes in the CrockPot.

Tonight we ate the soup with some bread I made while baby sitting this afternoon. For cabbage soup, it was pretty darn good.
Cabbage Soup For the Soul
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cups chopped cabbage
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans of beans (and kind), drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 cans of chopped tomatoes, undrained
  • 4 bouillon cubes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
1. Heat oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Cook onion until it begins to brown. Add cabbage, beans, water, tomatoes, bouillon, cumin, salt, pepper, and herbs. Stir to dissolve bouillon, and cover. (You can add browned ground beef to this if you want, too.)

2. Cook on high setting for 4 hours, or on low setting for 6 to 8 hours. Stir occasionally. Enjoy!


Once I defrost the casseroles I will take pictures and post the recipes.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Long Time No Post

I know, it has been a while since I last posted anything.

My weekend activities have now shifted from hanging out with my out-of-town husband while doing our own home-improvement projects to going to Livermore to clean my parents' house between visits to the hospital in Pleasanton.

Along with classes, meetings, etc. the last 2 weeks have been insane...and the prospects of my life calming down soon are slim indeed.

More later.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Grandpa's Obituary




My grandpa passed away a couple of years ago, but I wanted to post his obituary because he was such an amazing person. I'm so incredibly proud of him and am very honored to be his granddaughter. And I miss him a lot.

This is not a post to skim through, folks. He was such an amazing person and he really did shape US history during his time in the Army and at NASA. He and my grandma always said they wanted only two things from us: to get an education and to never dishonor the Levie name. I think we should step that up a notch and commit to use our educations to improve the well-being of our country in a noticeable way.

Anyway...I hope you will read this post all the way through. If his actions during the war don't inspire you then perhaps is happy 64 year marriage to my grandma will.

Here is his Silver Star. We had to break open a safe to get it and put it on his coat before his burial:

Uncle Walter sure enjoyed breaking into that safe:
His obituary was read on the radio stations in northern Georgia on the day of his funeral.

LaFAYETTE — James Kellum "Jake" Levie III, 90, died Friday, March 3, 2006. He was born Nov. 14, 1915, in Atlanta.

His later childhood was spent in Korea
where his parents served as dental missionaries, and he returned to the United States to attend Berry School in Kentucky and then the Georgia Institute of Technology, where he studied electrical engineering and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps.

In 1939, he entered active duty in the U.S. Army Signal Corps. He was stationed in the Philippine Islands when World War II began.

In the early days of WWII, as the Japanese forces approached the Bataan Peninsula, Lt. Levie's unit covered the withdrawal of the Division. Upon the withdrawal, Lt. Levie remained behind to salvage valuable signals equipment. For his "conspicuous bravery and inspiring leadership," he was awarded the Silver Star. After the surrender of the American forces in April 1942, Lt. Levie survived the Bataan Death March. He was transported to the P.O.W. camp in Mukden, Manchuria, in April 1942 where he was appointed Protestant chaplain and performed burial services for more than 500 men. When the P.O.W. camp was liberated by Soviet troops in 1945, the Soviet commander put Lt. Levie in charge, and the Japanese commandant surrendered his sword and his command to Lt. Levie.

After the war, he transferred to Army Counter-intelligence with assignments in occupied Japan, in Huntsville, Alabama, and in Birmingham, Alabama. In 1959, he retired from the Army with the rank of lieutenant colonel. In 1960, he joined the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at the newly created Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville. He worked there until 1986, rising to the position of chief of security by the time he retired with some 46 years of cumulative federal service.

In 1941, he married Avis Virginia Nash, of Atlanta, a union which lasted until her death in 2005 (64 years). During his retirement, they lived on a small farm near Huntsville, where he tended his prized herd of purebred Angus cattle, indulged his lifelong interests in the mechanical arts and agriculture and shepherded his children through school and out into the world.

Jake and Avis moved in 2002 to LaFayette, to be closer to relatives of their generation.

Survivors include their three children, James K. Levie III, of Huntsville, Harold W. Levie, of Livermore, Calif., and Virginia A. Maloney of Brooklyn, N.Y.; five grandchildren, Julie C. Levie and Edward J. Levie, of Livermore, Kelwyn M. Levie and Ryan E. Levie, of Huntsville, and James N. Maloney, of Brooklyn; two brothers, Dr. Walter H. Levie, of LaFayette, and Jim F. Levie, of San Francisco, Calif.; and a sister, Jessie R. Gilreath, of California; several nieces and nephews also survive.

Funeral 1 p.m. Monday from the Wallis Memorial Chapel with services conducted by Dr. Todd Gaddis.

Interment in Chattanooga National Cemetery with full military honors.

The family will receive friends from 6-8 p.m. today at the funeral home.

Arrangements are by Wallis-Wilbanks Funeral Home of LaFayette.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

This post will be sorta boring to read and I apologize for that. Ever since my mom has been in the hospital I've been feeling down and unfocused...so the writing won't be clever or fun to read. I should be trying to do my chemistry homework but I don't feel like it so I'm doing this instead.

Last week we went down to Georgia with my dad for my great Uncle Walter's funeral. Although the circumstances sucked, I'm glad we were able to see all our family.
That entire side of my family has a unique bond because everyone is "double" related. My grandma and her sister married a pair of brothers--my grandpa and his brother Walter. Growing up my dad got to run around with all his double cousins. And now Edward and I get to hang out with all our double-second-cousins and double-first-cousins-once-removed.

For the first 3 nights Dave and I shared a hotel room with my dad. I've done this in the past and have always regretted it because of my dad's horrendous snoring. No amount of yelling or throwing things at him will get him to completely stop (because believe me, I've tried). My slim pocketbook kept me from booking us a separate room this time. Thank goodness Chip and Kathy invited us to stay at their house for the remainder of our trip. Dave and I made sure that Daddy stayed down the hallway, with two closed doors between us from then on.

After the memorial service and luncheon, the whole family went fishing over at my cousin Chip's pond. His friend George killed a huge rattlesnake while he was walking back to the house, which he then brought back to the pond for us all to see. It was pretty gross: he smashed its head with a stick until it died but it still squirmed around on the ground. It was gross but I touched it anyway. =)

The next day we wandered around the corn fields looking for the original (and very old) houses/barns on the property that my dad remembers from his childhood.


That day they were harvesting corn before the rains came and we got to watch. I got to climb up into the combine while Ray waited for the tractor and trailer to show up so he could off-load the corn.


It looks like Emmy is a farm-girl at heart...or maybe she just wanted to get to her daddy:

We found an old beech tree behind an equally old barn that had initials carved into it. Given that tree branches don't elongate (except at the tip, the "apical meristem") but only grow wider, the initals can't be more than about 20 years old. No one in our family could figure out who these initals belong to. Edward climbed up the tree and added our own legacy to the bark.


Wednesday was rainy (yay!) and Allison and I got snazzy new haircuts while the boys did some maintenance on her car. My dad stayed at the farm with Chip and fixed his band saw. (All major businesses in this town are closed on Wednesday so that's when Chip and Kathy get a lot of their house/farm work done. How cool is that?)

Thursday us Californians went to Rock City and Ruby Falls. I bought a shirt that says "I Love Ruby Falls" but I think the last word is unnecessary. =)

Us kiddos:
The whole family:
Friday we packed up our bags and flew home. Since we arrived about 4 minutes past the deadline to check baggage we all had to fly home separately. I went first, on my regular flight since I had no checked baggage. And then I spent a boring 4 hours in the SFO terminal waiting for Dave and Daddy to arrive. Thank goodness I had a book with me. Mind you, it was not the required book for my seminar nor was it my chemistry homework that I should have been doing. Oh well, I made do.

Friday night we slept in Livermore. My mom looked so sick and thin that I nearly burst into tears when I saw her. She brushed me off and then got upset when I told her I was really concerned and that she was scaring me. Luckily on Sunday her friends stepped in and now she's doing much better (although she is still in the hospital).

Saturday in Davis Dave and I set up the apple press my dad made for us so we could make cider. We spent all day Sunday pressing about 400lbs of apples. Then my friends John and Christina came over with a bunch of bell peppers and tomatoes for a late-night canning marathon. Whew...it was quite a busy week.

Stay tuned for a detailed apple cider making post.

Uncle Walter's Obituary

This was published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press paper. Like everyone else in his family he was such a wonderful, hardworking, loving person. I hope I can live up to his expectations of always putting family and friends first and honest work a close second.

Walter Levie Sr.

LaFAYETTE — Walter Hill Levie Sr., 89, a prominent dentist in LaFayette, passed away on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008, at his beloved farm surrounded by his family.

As a child growing up in Korea, he was introduced to Jesus Christ and shown the importance of selfless giving by his missionary parents, Dr. and Mrs. James K. Levie. After returning to the United States in 1936, he attended the University of Georgia before matriculating to the Atlanta Southern School of Dentistry, an affiliate of Emory University, from which he graduated in 1944. After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Army in 1946, he came to LaFayette to join his father in his dental practice. In 1952, he married Doris Nash of Atlanta.

He was awarded a lifetime membership in the American Dental Association and the Georgia Dental Association for his service to the dental profession for 60 years. He was also awarded Citizen of the Year in 1991 by the LaFayette Chamber of Commerce. Dr. Levie was involved in numerous civic and church activities and was a member and former deacon of the First Baptist Church of LaFayette.

His passion for farming led to innovative ideas that contributed to the agricultural community. In Dr. Levie’s later years, he continued to enjoy farming, gardening, and spending time with his loving family.

A devoted husband, father and grandfather, he was preceded in death by his parents, his loving wife of 54 years, Doris Nash Levie; and his brothers, James K. Levie Jr. and Elmer A. Levie.

He is survived by his son, Dr. Walter Hill “Chip” Levie Jr. and wife, Kathy; daughters, Nancy Levie Hearn and husband, Henry, and Annette Levie Weldon; his grandsons, Walter Hill “Trey” Levie III, Tyler Kellum Levie, William Paul Hill Weldon and Philip Henry Hearn; and his granddaughters, Jillian Lee Hearn, Susanna Parker Hearn and Virginia “Jennie” Nash Weldon. He is also survived by his sister, Ruth L. Baumbach, of Portland, Ore.; and brother, James F. Levie, of San Francisco, Calif.; and several nieces and nephews.

The family will receive friends and relatives Sunday, Oct. 5, 2008, from 4-7 p.m. at Wallis-Wilbanks Funeral Home.

A memorial service, officiated by Dr. Todd Gaddis and Pastor George Parker, will be at First Baptist Church of LaFayette, at 11 a.m. Monday, Oct. 6.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorials be made to Countryside Hospice, 104 East Patton St., LaFayette, GA 30728, or Christian Friends of Korea, P.O. Box 936, Black Mountain, NC 28711.

Arrangements are by Wallis-Wilbanks Funeral Home.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prayers for my Mommy

My mom has been in the hospital since Sunday afternoon after church. Her friends convinced her to go since her health has been declining rapidly in the last couple of months. She has an amazing group of friends; I'm so thankful that they can care for her in ways she wouldn't let me. (Whenever my dad or I asked her to see a doctor about her constant coughing, shortness of breath, weight loss, struggle to walk/stand for very long, etc. she wouldn't listen and would generally just get quite flustered and very upset. Since you can't legally force anyone to seek medical attention, we knew it would have to be on her own terms. And with some convincing from her closest friends and the pastor she made the right decision.)

So far she's had over 2L of fluid removed from her chest and she's on oxygen so she can breathe more easily. Hopefully all the tests will tell us what the problem is, what caused it, and how to treat it. She'll be in the hospital for at least a few more days and I'll go home this weekend to see her.

Your thoughts and prayers would do a world of good for my mom right now.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Whey Cool, Dude

A few months ago we took a cheese making class in New England. I bought supplies to make hard cheeses, goat cheese (my favorite), and mozzarella. While up in Gualala, Dave and I finally got around to making a batch of mozzarella. It was SO cool that it actually worked!

We weren't sure that it would work because the brand of milk you use is important. Ultra-pasteurized milk is processed at such a high temperature that most/all of the casein protein is denatured to prevent spoiling. This also makes the milk less nutritious and useless for cheese making. At the store we found Clover milk that was only pasteurized and it worked great. The recipe is called 30 Minute Mozzarella and you don't need any fancy equipment to try it yourself.

You need:

  • Thermometer (50-105F)
  • Metal pot
  • Metal skimmer
  • Variety of measuring spoons
  • Measuring cup
  • Rennet (liquid or tablet—purchase online)
  • Citric acid (available in most stores selling canning supplies)
  • 1 gallon pasteurized cow milk
  • About 30 uninterrupted minutes

As with most activities, Dave was not nearly as impressed or excited as I was:

video

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Huckleberry Season

That same weekend in Gualala Dave made mini pancakes for my breakfast. They were so yummy! Then on Sunday morning we headed outside to pick wild huckleberries along the road.

For whatever reason, the berries this year were much smaller than usual and sorta tasteless if you ask me. I’m not such a fan of these berries because they are so much work. Picking them isn’t so bad; you just pull your hand down the stem, letting the berries all into your bucket.

Cleaning them is the worst. You know how grapes have little stems that connect each berry to the bigger stem? And sometimes when you pull a grape off the bunch, that little stem stays on the grape? Imagine that but with tick-tack sized berries. No one likes eating stems so when you clean them you not only have to remove all the bark and leaves, but also these tiny stems.

My mother-in-law’s method for cleaning huckleberries is pretty efficient at doing this: you dump a few cups of berries onto a clean kitchen towel that is laid out on the table in front of you. You pick out the biggest pieces of debris, and scoot the clean berries towards you. By rolling the berries along the towel most of those annoying little stems come right off. Of course, my dad-in-law decided to go do something else while Dave and I cleaned our berries so we ended up having to clean his as well!

All clean:

And what do you do with all these berries? I made a cake and a pie:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Hotel Julie

Now that Dave is more or less permanently working for his dad, I’ve opened-up our house to any friends who need a place to stay. My labmate, Eric, stayed at the house for a few weeks before his band left to tour Japan. He’s the bass player in his bands, Second Shot and Van Hammersley. His wife, Rachael, used to work in our lab as well but then she landed a great job down in San Diego. It is a résumé-building job so she’ll stick it out for a year and then move on (and hopefully back up north). I actually know a few other couples who are in a similar one-spouse-lives-away-for-work situation as me. Eric’s stay was temporary before he left on tour, but now that he’s back he wants to “contribute financially” so he can stay at the house until he either lands a job down in SD with Rachael (not likely given the economy) or she’s done with her job (in June). Dave and I will have to figure out how much rent is reasonable and then clear out a kitchen cabinet so he can have a place to stash his food. Lucky for me, he used to be a certified veterinary technician so he’s super good with dogs—even my little Ruby who barks and jumps on him all the time.

Just yesterday my prof says to me, “Hey Julie, if we change A-Eric’s name to start with an ‘e’ can he also stay at your house?” At first I didn’t understand what he meant, but then I just laughed. So…my other labmate, Arek (who we refer to as “A-Eric” as opposed to “E-Eric” since our lab is home to both), is now staying on our futon in the office while he does some field work here in Davis. He lives in Oregon now, but has a few more experiments going down here that he needs to finish up. Then I think he’s heading back up north to get married.

Last week my friend Mari and her baby boy, Alex, stayed at our house while she was down here meeting with professors about her doctorate research. I baby sat Alex a lot while she was in meetings and we had such a ball. He’s not walking yet, but boy can he scoot across a room fast! The last time I saw him was when I helped Mari haul all her stuff to the airport when they moved back to Alaska (they live half a year there and half a year here while she finishes her PhD research and classes). He’s getting so big! Babies never seem like “real” people until they start to stand up and walk. Well, he’s almost there. By the time they move back to Davis in January he’ll be over a year old and probably starting to talk!

Whenever someone comes to stay at our house, I make sure to sweep/vacuum up as much of the dog hair as I can, dust the furniture, make the beds up with clean sheets, clean the bathrooms, etc. I’ve given up vacuuming the couches to get all the dog hair off. The fabric is a loose weave and it really just works it’s way into the cushions. Dave uses the shop-vac, but I’m just too lazy (and tired from cleaning the rest of the house) to bother anymore. (No one seems to mind/notice anyway.)

So, if you’re ever in town and need a place to stay just ask! We'd be happy to have you!

Honey Harvest 2008!

Two weekends ago I drove up to Gualala to spend the weekend with Dave and his parents. Dave had kept the dogs that week since I had to do some field work and would be gone for 20 hours straight (they are good dogs, but no one can hold their pee for that long!).

The real purpose of my going up there was to help with honey harvest. Last year my brother-in-law, Michael, came up and brought his friend Lesley to help out, too. We bottled 220 quarts last summer. Because of the fires this year, we knew there would be a lot less honey than that so we didn’t worry about recruiting a bunch of people to help. We did have two other helpers, though—Wally and Vance—who came over just because they were interested in the process.

Since it is so late in the season they not only pulled the supers (where the honey is stored) but they also inserted Apistan stripes to ward off any varroa mites:

After sorting the honey into “dark” and “normal” they cut the caps off the comb with a heated knife:

Then the frames are loaded into the honey extractor (basically a huge centrifuge) to let all the honey spin out:

The first 10 frames worth took forever to empty so we turned on a little heater underneath the extractor, which did seem to help. Dave also closed all the windows to keep the heat inside so the honey would thin out and flow better. After a while the garage was like a sauna and we were sweating like pigs.

Dave was in charge of filtering the extracted honey through two sieves, into a clean bucket fitted with a handy little valve:

Then I bottled the honey into clean quart jars:

After only a few hours of sweaty work we were done, having bottled 98 quarts. The next morning Dave bottled the honey filtered out of the wax cappings for a total of 107 quarts. Not too shabby.

We made sure to feed the bees some sugar syrup since we robbed their hives:

Man-o-man, did I eat a lot of honey that day! Whenever I had a spare chance, Dave and I would grab wads of the wax cappings that we cut off the frames and suck all the honey out. You just pop the whole mess into your mouth, and chew and suck until there’s no more honey left. Then you just spit out the wax—it is like old fashioned gum!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow morning Dave and I are meeting my dad at SFO so we can fly down to Georgia for my great uncle's funeral. He passed away yesterday afternoon.

Making life even more miserable for me is my recent head cold. I haven't been sick like this since I baby sat full time in college (children in child care are vectors for all sorts of illnesses--gross!). Since I'm now on school insurance, I had to brave the ghetto UCD health center to see a doctor. She was understanding about congested sinuses on pressurized airplanes and gave me medication to take if my condition worsens and a handy device I've dubbed a "nasal douche." It is a little bottle of saline solution that you squirt up your nose, one nostril at a time, then blow all the ickiness out into a tissue. You can feel the solution swirl up into the sinues cavities in your forehead (like when you would accidentally breath in clorinated swimming pool water as a kid). It clears your sinuses and then....tada! You can breath easy. Plus it flushes out all the virus/bacteria-containing muscus so you recover faster. Genius. (I'm going to take some decongestant before boarding, just to ensure that my head won't explode mid-flight.)

Edward and Allison are driving down from NY (with Emmy in tow) and will pick us up from the airport. We'll spend a week down there--after going all the way down there, we figured we might all as well have a good time seeing each other.

I have a lot to do before going to bed tonight (packing, cleaning the house so our new roomie doens't think we're slobs, get the doggies' stuff ready for Aunt Bernie and Uncle Michael to pick them up, gather all my homework and textbooks for the plane ride, and take out the garbage).

Jeez...this week has really been crappy.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

I Need a Thesis Bailout!

Wow, it has been a while since I've posted anything! I have been super busy doing a million small things--school has started up again, I'm nannying twice a week, I'm taking a knitting class, my duties as Student Representative for my graduate group have increased now that the new students are here, and I've been distracted by the sudden down-turn in my uncle's health. But that doesn't mean Dave and I haven't done any blog-worthy things in our spare time. I promise to post some of that stuff later this week.

The latest Piled Higher and Deeper (aka PhD) comic is super funny, even if you're not a graduate student: