Blog Archive

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Protein Production

Woo! I found more eggs today. I don't know why that surprises/excites me so much but it does. I've found 3 sizes/colors of eggs so far so I think at least 3 of the 4 birds have started ovulating. Hopefully the fourth one will soon so I will be assured that it isn't male.The two on the left with holes in them are the first two they laid--I blew them out so I can keep them. You can see that some are really small, one is really blue, and one is brown. The smaller ones are sort of an olive greenish-gray color.Dave finished the nesting box before heading back to Gualala on Sunday evening. Hopefully I will find time to paint it tomorrow night. Dave really wants to get it installed so the birds will get used to laying in it instead of on the floor of the coop. Since it has been so hot this week--100F!--it should be cured in time to use it this weekend. Once it is all done I'll post a picture of our "finished" coop.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sous Chef #2

The best helper Eddie can be in the kitchen is when he's busy unloading drawers. Our kitchen gadgets have become old news to him...but when we go to Grammy's house in Gualala he's endlessly fascinated by her stuff.

We took these pictures two trips ago (you can see his hair is still shaggy), and I just ran across them again. Isn't he soooooooooooo stinking cute?

Now that he knows how to open cabinet doors, though, we'll be baby proofing some of her lower cabinets next time we're there (at least the ones with chemicals and glass bowls and the random tools she keeps in the kitchen--a hammer, scissors, pliers). I finally got the outlet covers installed in our house and I took some up to Gualala for exposed outlets. I hate those round push-in kind because they are soooooo hard to pull out and god forbid you leave one on the floor and step on it. Trust me.

My dad gifted the outlet covers to Eddie for Christmas (isn't that what every child wants, childproofing supplies?). They are spring loaded so they automatically cover the outlet when you pull a plug out. To insert a plug, you just press and slide to expose the openings. Nifty!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jennifer and Eggs

This past week Edward's new girlfriend, Jennifer, was visiting northern California. He took her to do some of the usual stuff: SF, wine tasting in Livermore, Yosemite...and Davis, of course. =)They spent Thursday-Saturday here in Davis with us. I'm so glad she got to spend some time with us! She's great and I fully approve of her. =) She fits in with us crazy Levie-Bowers nicely!

Thursday afternoon after I got back from the last day of my workshop, we went to the Davis Creamery to get some ice cream. I gave Eddie his own spoon and let him have a whole scoop of avocado-coconut (it was super good!). In case you're wondering, he's THE messiest ice cream eater ever. I actually apologized to the salesgirl for the huge mess he made (she promptly brought out a mop). But Eddie sure did enjoy himself! Then we went to the co-op to buy a few things for making pizza.

That night we made a lot of pizzas--one was gluten free/celiac-friendly for Jennifer. We each decorated our own pizzas. (We tried to make mozzarella cheese, too, but the milk we used didn't curdle fully. It was close enough so we used it anyway and then made ricotta from the whey.) When Dave got home that night he ate some of our leftovers while we watched Green Zone. He said the only way he could tell which pizza was made with the gluten free dough was by deduction: my pizza was "over loaded" with tomatoes (whatever) and Edward's was super spicy from all the fresh jalapenos he put on it. So that left only one. Yep, the dough that super good!Friday we all went to the American River Confluence to play in the water. We left in the afternoon so Clark's Pool was completely shaded when we arrived. It was good and bad; we didn't have to wear sunscreen, but it was a little cold. Everyone except me and Eddie went swimming and jumped off the rocks.

There were two girls sitting on some rocks by the water giggling and snacking. Suddenly one of them started screaming "help me! Someone HELP ME!" We all look over at them to judge whether she was being stupid or really needed help. Her friend was standing there laughing at her so we figured she was fine. A while later when they walked by me to leave, I asked why she was screaming earlier. She said, "Oh, there was just a praying mantis on me." I shot her a weird look, and pointed out that she really shouldn't scream for help unless something is really wrong because it sorta worried all of us and we didn't know if we should jump in the water and swim over to help her or not. She gave me a "you're an idiot" look and snapped, "Well, I would have yelled 'help me' if I'd really needed help." I told her that she HAD yelled that...she seemed annoyed and embarrassed and just walked away from me. Stupid girl!

Saturday we made Jennifer-friendly pancakes using a new recipe and they were super good. We added finely chopped nuts (pecans and walnuts) and oats. Edward and Jennifer went on a tour of the underground tunnels below downtown Sacramento while us Bowers went to a birthday party for Cassie's daughter, Leila. She turned 3 and the theme was princesses--Eddie got a crown in his goodie bag and there was a castle bounce house! I wasn't sure Eddie would like getting knocked around inside the bounce house, but he really liked it! (Except when he knocked heads with another kiddo...)Once Edward and Jennifer left for the airport on Saturday, Dave and I settled back into our normal weekend routine: laundry, a trip to Home Depot for project supplies, cooking, gardening, etc. Our plan was to finish installing the new panel doors...but we had to change that after I tended to the chickens on Saturday afternoon. Dave decided to build a nesting box for our feathery girls instead because one of our gals has started laying eggs!

I found two blue/green eggs in the coop while I was refilling the water container. Our two Americanas (Noodle and Vindaloo) are called "Easter Egg Chickens" because they lay pretty colored eggs. So I'm guessing it was one of them...but I'm not sure. This morning when I checked for eggs again, I found another underneath the hanging water container where I'd earlier seen Tom Ka (the white Brahma) laying down.

The eggs are pretty small but the color is nice. We only kept the one from this morning to eat since I didn't know how long the others had been out there. I blew out the first two and will (try to) turn them into Christmas tree decorations.

While Eddie napped this morning I planted a bunch of drought-tolerant perennials in the front yard and then transplanted some baby ferns to the patio yard. I really want to get that yard landscaped--the rock-hard dirt look just isn't doing it for me.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

The Beeman

A long time family friend of the Bower family sent us this book recently. It is about a little boy and his grandpa, who is a beekeeper. The illustrations are gorgeous, it is a cute story (practically tailored to Eddie and John), and the back has a nice summary of all the details of bees and honey making for older kids to learn from. The last page has an apple and honey muffin recipe, which of course I made since we just harvested honey and picked a bunch of apples (really it is just like zucchini or pumpkin bread, just using apples and honey instead of the other fruit and sugar, respectively).
If you're looking for a cute, educational, new book for your kiddos I recommend this one!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Whirlwind Weekend

Whew...I can't believe last weekend was here and gone so fast!

Friday Dave was home with Eddie while I was at school--my flipping instrument was giving me fits and even after replacing the o-rings it still leaks. I haven't used it for more months that I care to admit and I'm starting to get really unmotivated and frustrated. The only good thing that happened at school was receiving a software package that I ordered about 2 months ago (it had to come from Germany) and I got to mess around with my old data and that did make me happy.

That night Allison and I went to see Anthony Bourdain speak at the Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento. We're cheap gluttons so we brought our own chilled Rose wine, cups, olives, crackers, and brie. Our seats were great--third row--so we could clearly see him. The only part of the show I didn't like was the annoying/awkward people who spouted their love and admiration for Bourdain instead of simply asking a question during the "question" session at the end. He was a good sport and would usually cut them off before they made complete asses of themselves, or he'd give an anecdote related to what they were saying.Saturday morning we packed up and headed off to Aptos for our college friend's wedding. It was an amazing wedding at a hilltop vineyard with an indoor pool (I want one). Eddie was a good boy, despite not taking more than a 20 minute nap the whole day (!!!). I didn't actually see the wedding because Edimus was being too noisy and wanting to run around, so he and I hung out in the front of the house.We met lots of nice people at the reception and got to see my beloved Amanda--my roomie and best friend from college and study abroad program in South Africa. Oh, how I missed her!For anyone planning their wedding who will have young kids present: you will get extra marital blessings (and possibly gifts) from your parent friends when you provide highchairs and goodie bags for the children attending your wedding. I'd never seen anyone take such care for their wedding guests before--Amy you are amazing! She even had gift boxes for us folks staying at the hotel.Sunday morning we drove back to Davis, making it back by about 11:45am. I was able to clean the bathroom, do some laundry, and help Dave install a roof on the chicken coop before I had to leave for a workshop I'm in this week (it is a science communication and policy development workshop put on by the Heinz Center and the John Muir Institute of the Environment at UC Davis...the kind of thing where you have to be nominated to even apply for a spot).

I hate that I had to give up 5.5 hours of my precious "family" time on a weekend for a school/work thing...putting Eddie down for a nap at 3pm knowing I won't see him until the next morning was sorta tough since I'm usually with him every night. But the workshop has been great so far and I'm really glad I decided to take the time to attend.

More on the workshop later, it is time for bed!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Washing Machine Repair

Remember just a few months ago when I was singing the praises of having a washing machine in my house? Especially now that we have a baby who dirties not only his own clothes, but also mine and tons of cloth diapers?

Well, you can imagine my dismay when it started acting weird and quitting half way through cycles. It flashes all the lights and beeps a specified number of times as an error code. It kept alternating between "water not hot enough," "tub not draining," and "clogged in drain line." I was seriously having nightmares about it quitting completely.

Dave did some research online and decided to start by removing the filter that is before the pump and drain line. After that we would move on to testing the voltage of the drain pump and then see if the control board was still functioning.
This is the filter housing:WHOA.

This is what four years of washing dog-hair-laden clothes/linens and one year of cloth diapers does to a filter. It doesn't help that my long-lost UCD ID card was stuck in there with some coins and a hair clip. As in, INSIDE that 3" long plastic tube thing I'm holding in the above picture. (I looked EVERYWHERE for that card wonder I couldn't find it!) No freaking wonder it wasn't draining!!!!!!!! Isn't that disgusting???

(Since we had the washer and dryer pulled away from the wall we decided to finally install the dryer vent thing in the outside wall. We bought it back when we replaced the water heater. Now the garage won't have to get all steamy and hot when we use the dryer. Woo!)

So I think every year around Eddie's birthday we'll clean out the filter...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Labor Day Weekend 2010

Just like last year, we were up in Gualala for the holiday weekend. We did so's the rundown:

1. Eddie and I got up to Gualala at 6pm on Friday and went to Pizzas and Cream with Dave. While our pizza was baking, Dave and Eddie walked to rent a movie (Did you hear about the Morgans?) and I got to enjoy a glass of wine while reading the paper...heavenly!2. Honey harvest on Saturday morning--119 quarts! I used the blower to blow all the bees out of the supers that Dave, his dad, another Dave (Allen), and Wally removed from the hives. The rest of the time I was in charge of prepping the frames by cleaning the excess wax off of them before handing them over to be decapped.3. Sunday Dave and I pressed apples for a cider trial run. The only ripe apples were Gravensteins (our favorites for apple sauce, pies, and eating). We got 4.5 gallons from 1.5 boxes--about an 80% return by weight Dave thinks. It was super delicious! We left one gallon for John to drink, canned 13 quarts, and 2 quarts are fermenting on the kitchen counter right now. It has only been 4 days and already the alcohol content is high enough that you can smell it!4. At John's behest, we made abalone and "green" pasta for dinner on Sunday night. My wrist STILL hurts from tenderizing it.

5. Monday morning we went blackberry picking with Michael. Dave carried Eddie in the pack and it was surprising how content he was. Eating about a gallon of blackberries didn't hurt...Ruby jumped into the back of the van...right into Mike's box of berries. Her paws were totally purple! We made me run along the dirt road outside the car for a few hundred feet before letting her in the car because we didn't want her to stain the seats.6. Eddie was exhausted and conked out so we let him nap in the car. Dave drove me out to the most recent logging site to show me the new roads they are building. It is such a turn on that hubbs is out there every day working on such big equipment--he literally moves mountains. =)

After that we went to the river so they dogs could rinse off and play.
7. Dave and I stayed at the Coast House, which was nice, except that Dave still had a cough so he slept downstairs so he wouldn't wake me up. The best part was that Eddie slept until after 7am every day!

8. Eddie and I ate at Trinks for breakfast before leaving on Tuesday morning--we ordered the griddler combo (2 eggs, 2 pieces of bacon, and 1 huge pancake) and it wasn't enough for both of us so we also had to order a scone to go. Eddie ate about 80% of the food! Once his teeth finally poke through his tender gums and he's no longer Mr. Crankipants his appetite is intense!

9. Mike, Bernie, and Zennie were up there for the weekend, too, and it was so nice to have everyone together. It was really nice and we all had a great time! I looooooooooooooooved holding Zennie whenever I could and Eddie and Bernie played a lot together, too.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Grandma's Veggies

We're always told to eat plenty of fruits and veggies--they have lots of fiber and essential vitamins and minerals. Plus, they taste good.I always prefer veggies over meat, always. I like the crunch I guess. Dave would prefer to eat a hunk of beef for every meal. Luckily for his vascular health, Cupid paired him with me. =)

My favorites are green salads with spicy lettuces loaded with goodies: peas, corn, beets, carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans...and of course all the fruits that masquerade as veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers). I love, love, love salad bars!

As a child I would always order a green salad with ranch dressing at restaurants--and I'd get upset if my parents wanted me to eat something more hearty (my dad generally thinks you should get the most caloric bang for your restaurant buck, barring unhealthy fried foods). Once when he and I were eating an early morning breakfast at Ruggies in Livermore before heading to our cabin, he made me order pancakes with eggs instead of a salad because he didn't want me getting too hungry on the ride up there. I was annoyed, but I've since learned that bodies do need a good balance of veggies, protein, carbohydrates, and fat.Even though I do love eating veggies, I would not recommend eating these veggies. They are made of ceramic and are not edible.These are home decorations. How weird, right? Yes indeed. My grandmother had these in her house for as long as I can remember. When she passed away my dad and I were dispatched to Georgia to pack up the house before it was sold. Many of the items were given to specific people (china, linens, artwork, tools), but some of the stuff we just took to Good Will as donations. We packed up these tacky veggie "dust collectors" and figured we'd give them to Good Will so some other geriatric citizen of La Fayette, GA could buy them.

One night my dad and I went to dinner at his Uncle Walter and Aunt Doris's farm. Before the food was ready I was looking at contents of the bookcases in the sitting area off the kitchen. Sitting in a basket near the fireplace was a collection of the very same ceramic veggies that my grandma had! My grandma and her sister were the best of friends, despite the 12 year age difference.

(This side of our family is doubly related, and therefore everything is "doubly" important/sentimental to me--and we've always socialized with this part of our family the most. My grandma and her sister married my grandpa and his brother, respectively. So all the folks in my dad's generation from these two families are double cousins.)

Seeing a matching set of veggies at Aunt Doris's made me tear up and smile. When we got back to the house that night I dug out the box of veggies and put them in the pile of stuff we were going to take home with us.

Now they sit on top of a cabinet in our kitchen. I usually forget they are there, but when I happen to notice them it makes me happy to think about my grandma and my aunt, both of whom I miss dearly.Pretty much every single "nick nack" in our house has some sort of sentimental value to me (otherwise what's the point of having it?). We aren't the type of people who go out and buy decorations just to decorate. Every so often I declutter the living room, but there's never much to get rid of since most things are near and dear to my heart. However, if our house burned down and we lost everything I would eventually get over the loss of all our "stuff" because the memories associated with "things" are really the only important things.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

A Year of Sleeping

It is incredible how much and how fast babies develop! Nearly every month Eddie's sleep habits changed. Recognizing this early on, I decided to make one adjustment each month to ease him into my ideal sleeping situation.

My goal has been for him to put himself to sleep while in his crib, in his own room. Nursing him to sleep was ideal as a newborn, but I wanted him to learn that being alone and in the dark was okay.

He first started out in a bassinet placed in our bed so he'd be super close to me, but protected from the dogs (and Dave's flailing arms when he violently turns over in bed about a million times every night).
Eddie on his first night home:Over the next few weeks we moved his bassinet next to the bed, then to the foot of the bed...... and finally put him into the bassinet part of the Pack-n-Play at the foot of the bed when he got too heavy for the pretty bassinet.

December was my month to get Eddie to sleep in his crib, in his own room--he was about 3 months old by then. I wanted to get him sleeping in his own room before I started school again--but since the thought of possibly not hearing him from the other room until he REALLY started screaming, I decided to buy a baby monitor first. I figured the change of rooms might upset him because the temperature, smells, and sounds would all be different.

He amazed me and did just fine with the transition to his crib. Poor kid, sometimes I don't give him enough credit for how well he'll do. I let my own insecurities get in the way. (Isn't that the hallmark of motherhood? Or is it just me?)

For the first week or so I didn't sleep well at all because I kept worrying that I wouldn't hear him and he'd have to really start crying before I'd wake up. But those monitors (even the cheapest available from Target) work really well! I keep a small fan blowing in each of our rooms at night and I can still hear his breaths on the monitor.

My goal for January (4 months old) was to get him to put himself to sleep, rather than letting him fall asleep while nursing.

When he was a newborn I'd nurse him on one side, go change his diaper, then nurse him on the other side so he could fall asleep on the breast. But then I wanted him to be awake when I set him down so I nurse both sides and THEN changed his diaper (it wakes him up a bit).

There were only two times that he really cried for a long time (25 minutes and 43 minutes). Usually he'd cry or whimper for 5-15 minutes before crashing.

I know they say not to pick babies up even if they cry for a loooooooooooooong time but I just can't do that. The 43 minute episode just about killed me so I went in after about 30 minutes, took him into the bathroom to change him (he was wonder he couldn't fall asleep), and then held him in my arms by the crib until he recovered his normal breathing from the gulping he was doing while crying. It was as unemotional as I could get--no kisses, no back rubs, no talking to him. Once back in the crib he whimpered for a bit and then slept through the night--TEN AND A HALF HOURS!

Praise the Lord, it was a miracle. (My breasts, however, were not so amused. They really missed his nighttime feedings.)

At his 6 month check up, the doctor was alarmed that I was still nursing Eddie when he woke up in the middle of the night. So that very night I started only changing his diaper when he woke up at night. The first few times he was not happy about it and cried for like 20 minutes before falling back to sleep. But it took only 4 nights before he consistently slept through the night.

By the end of February (6.5 months old) my goal was to get him to stop associating eating with sleeping. At this point I nursed him before any of the other bedtime stuff happened: he'd nurse, take his fluoride drops and a bath, change into his jammies, brush his teeth/gums, read 1-3 short stories and finally be put into the crib. His bath alone can take 20 minutes because he really likes playing with his yellow cup, sucking water out of the washcloth, chewing on his plastic books, and splashing water out of the tub. At this point we still bathed him in the kitchen but then we moved his baby tub into the big bathtub so I didn't have to worry about flooding the kitchen anymore.

After our trip to France in April (8 months), he started pulling himself up on things--so we stopped using the baby bathtub all together because he started standing up in it! So we started using a seat that securely suctions to the bottom of the bathtub. Otherwise the bedtime routine remained the same.

Sometimes we find him sleeping in the weirdest positions. Here he is in April:But usually he looked like this:
Now we do dinner at about 6:15-6:30pm, followed by playing until nursing at 7-7:30pm, then finally the bath/bed routine around 7:30-8pm. He usually sleeps from about 8pm through to 6:20am. Once he started sleeping through the night and going to bed consistently at 8pm or earlier, Dave and I began to feel like a couple again. When he's home we can eat a leisurely dinner or snack, watch movies, or whatever. On nights when Dave is at work, I use about 2 hours of my "baby free" time to finish cleaning the house, getting food prepared for the following day, etc.

Here he is on a WONDERFUL but rare Saturday morning in July (11 months old) when he slept in until 9:15am. Dave actually went in there and poked him to make sure he was still is an eery feeling to wake up naturally as a parent--we've become so used to being awoken by an alarm or a baby fussing.On the very rare occasions that he wakes up at night now, I'm always alarmed. About 99% of the time I think to myself, "I'll give him 10 minutes and then I'll go in there." And I wake up hours later and think, "Ah, he must have put himself back to sleep because I sure fell back to sleep!"

I'm hoping he'll remain a good sleeper and that his future siblings are the same way. When I hear other parents tell me that their 2 year old still wakes up at night it breaks my heart--I have a feeling that most sleep training is really training the parent to let go and deal with listening to some crying while the child transitions.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Thai Curry with Summer Veggies

You can put anything in curry--they are so versatile and delicious. Dave and I could probably eat curry every single day.

Indian or Thai, spicy or mild, meat or veggies--anything goes.

Here's how I make a Thai curry with store bought curry paste and summer veggies from the garden. I had zucchini, Japanese eggplant, tomatoes, and basil that day. And from the pantry I used a variety of canned stuff: baby corn, water chestnuts, mushrooms, and coconut milk. I always try to keep this stuff in the pantry so I can throw something quick together for dinner. Start to finish, this it takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.

1. Saute sliced zucchini and eggplant in a little oil. It is rare to brown or caramelize foods in Thai cuisine, but if you like that extra level of flavor, by all means, brown away! If you are using meat in the curry, start by browning it, then add the veggies.2. Add minced hot peppers if you like spicy curry. Let cook until the peppers are a little bit soft.3. Dump in all your canned veggies, stir, and bring to a simmer so everything gets warmed. If you don't like coconut milk just use whole cow's milk. No biggie.4. Stir in the curry paste. I use about 4 tablespoons per can of coconut milk. Bring to a simmer for a few minutes to make sure everything is warmed.5. Right before serving, stir in chopped tomatoes and plenty of basil. Adding the basil too soon will cause it to turn black from the heat (although the flavor will still be good) and the tomatoes will disintegrate. I personally like chunks of tomatoes in my food, but if you have tomato-haters in your house you can add them (the tomatoes, not the people...) earlier so the simmering curry sauce will blend them right in.Edward and Dave think that meatless meals are just "snacks." So I pan fried some salmon patties...Thai curry and salmon patties are a weird combination but it was the only defrosted meat I had available at the time. The last time I made curry Dave fried up a polish dog to go along with it...ew. I guess I need to have some shrimp or chicken breasts defrosted next time so we can just add it to the curry and avoid eating weird protein just to have protein with dinner. (Men are so weird about meat.)

Best Tuesday

On Tuesday we decided to go hiking with the babies and doggies since I didn't have to babysit little Anthony (sadly, he won't be coming at all anymore since his family moved). Michael is on paternity leave so he and Zennie got to come along with us. He introduced us to an easy walking trail at the American River Confluence area. It was basically flat, mostly in the sun, and about 15 minutes from the car. Not bad at all!

I should have brought an umbrella for Michael to hold over Zennie so she wouldn't have to be in the direct sun. But we lathered her with sunscreen and she was fine in the front pack.
We played in the water for about 2 hours. Potatoes and Ruby went swimming (Emmy didn't) and Taters even jumped/fell into the river from a tall rock! The babies thoroughly enjoyed playing in the water.We ate lunch out there, in the little bit of shade we could find. Eddie kept dropping his cheese, muffin, and banana pieces on the beach and would just pick them back up! There's no telling how much sand he ate that day! (I have found loads--literally--of sand in Eddie's diaper the day following intense sandbox playing. He apparently likes the taste or texture in his mouth because I've seen him scoop handfuls of it into his mouth and then look at me like, "Look what I can do, Mama!")Zennie peed on me while I was holding both her and Eddie while Michael swam. I sorta shrieked out of surprise and a lady who was on the beach with us (panning for gold) laughed and said, "Well, no matter--urine is sterile."The babies and the doggies (and I) slept the whole drive home. Well, until we got to In-n-Out for an early dinner. =) We ate at Michael's house, let the babies play together, and then us Levie-Bowers headed home.

It was a great day. Hopefully we can go again soon on a weekend when Dave is home because I know he would have enjoyed it too.