Blog Archive

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend 2012

Let's see what we did for the holiday weekend...
We went to Mountain View to visit Edward and Jennifer.  First stop after unloading at the apartment: Walmart for fishing poles and snacks!
Second stop: Stevens Creek Reservoir.
Twas super windy that afternoon, which made us shiver and have a terrible time casting properly. We had to borrow sweatshirts from our hosts because us Davisites didn't even think about a possible marine layer.  Brrrr.
Eddie didn't do much fishing...because his attention was diverted by the cellophane bags of snacks.  It's nice that he doesn't eat many crackers and chips at home because us adults were (mostly) left to fish uninterrupted while he munched.  We didn't catch a single fish.
Eddie can't cast worth a darn but he sure can reel it in!  He got his own short pole...not a kid's pole, but a "dock" pole that is about the same size as the Barbie ones they sell for youngins.
That night we had a scrumptious dinner of sausage and peppers, cheddar/mushroom mashed potatoes, and creme brulee for dessert.
Eddie helped do the dishes (while Uncle cleverly "helped" by sitting on the chair so Eddie wouldn't tip over).
Davie, Auntie, and Uncle.  The latter two threw a nice dinner gathering...that lasted until midnight.
Eddie and I shared a room and he woke me up at 7:30 the next morning.  Eeeeeeeek, I was so tired.  I knew what time everyone else was planning on waking up, so he and I got dressed (him in his space "shubble" shirt--used to be Uncle's), and snuck out of the house to get bagels at a local shop.  
That day we drove to Hollister for the air show.  Airplanes, fair food, and nice weather: we all enjoyed ourselves.
This was the only plane people could sit inside...and Eddie took advantage.  Over and over and over again.
On the drive back home, I spied a giant compost facility...and got super excited when I realized it was ZBest.  Some of my municipal compost samples came from there!  I made Dave take a picture.
After swimming and hot tubbing that evening, my parents came over for dinner. Jennifer made chicken in a Thai sauce and I made rice and a beet salad.  For dessert we had gluten free scones (see them on the tray) piled with Nutella, strawberries, and whipped cream.  Boy howdy!
My, oh my.
After dinner we watched a show (and the Edwards snuggled!).
On Monday morning Jennifer and I went shopping for fabric for the couch she's redoing.  You can see in the photo above that my mom is sitting on a wooden couch.  Jennifer and Edward refinished the wood and now she's working on new cushion covers.  We totally scored at JoAnne's: she used a coupon for 40% off PLUS the special order upholstery fabric was 50% off!  I bought some beading supplies so I can make more bracelets with Eddie.

Once the car was all packed up, Edward suggested that we do the 8 Minute Abs workout.  Ouf, I'm pretty sure I'd have been better off with only 5 minutes (or 1?) stomach and neck are still sore.

Then we had a quick In-n-Out lunch with our hosts and took off for home where we were greeted by two very happy doggies.  It was nice to see our American flag flapping in the breeze above our garage when we got back: a nice reminder that the holiday is meant to commemorate everyone who has, does, and will serve our country.
We got home on Monday with enough daylight for Dave to change the oil in his car. 
And what great weekend doesn't conclude with another yummy meal?  Dave wanted steak, I wanted salad, we both wanted corn.
We love BBQ sauce mixed with ranch dressing and it was particularly good on this salad.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Visiting the Schwinds!

My friends John and Jessica, their twins, and their doggies moved away from Davis the day after my QE last year.  At the time, I had been so over busy from my May-August exam prep to feel too heartbroken about it (especially since I knew it was something they wanted to do).  But as my life went back to normal, I did get pretty sad that they weren't here anymore.  No more random weekend or holiday meals with them, no more seeing John at AgChem events, no more doggie play dates.  Dave and I drove by their old apartment on a few occasions and remarked at how the new residents obviously weren't as lovely as Jessica...because they didn't even have pretty potted plants on the patio!  (How judgmental are we?!)  =)

Once I decided to go to Jill's wedding, the first thing that occurred to me was how (relatively) close the Schwinds were to SC.  I was appalled at the high cost of a rental car to get me to their house, but I knew this was an opportunity I didn't want to pass up.  Lucky for me, my parents both wanted me to be able to see them, too, so I had a little financial support for my cause.

And boy oh boy am I glad I made the trek to see them.  It was a short trip, but so worth it.

After a delicious country ham breakfast at Cracker Barrel with my extended family, I left Columbia, SC and drove toward their home in Lumber City, GA.  Calling it (or anything else in that area) a city is a stretch...these places are more like dots on a map.  I brought our Garmin GPS along for the ride, lest I get lost.  And thank goodness I did, because I forced it to "recalculate" my journey a few times.
Thanks, GPS. It sent me a mile down this dirt road before I decided to turn back around because some recent logging activity messed up the road enough that my little rented Nissan couldn't handle it.
Perhaps because I was raised in the overbuilt CA suburbs, but I was really surprised by how many dirt roads there are "down there."  In fact, Jessica lives on a dirt road.  And not like how my parents' house is on a gravel road but their address is on the paved road nearby.  No, no.  In this agricultural area, few of the roads are paved, save for the highways.
You know you're in the south when there's endless greenery and red, red soil.
You also know you're in the south when gas is a dollar cheaper than in CA.
I took a few photos of the plantation forests to show my students.  Lots and lots of trees, all in neat rows.
Anyway, I met up with Jessica in Vidalia (yes, where the sweet onions come from) to drop off the rental car. This was the closest rental car place I could find to return my car. Then we drove 45 minutes back to her house, making one pit stop at a CVS for cokes and to look for the Time magazine issue that highlights attachment parenting (with such a controversial cover photo, neither of us were surprised we couldn't find it).

When we got to the Schwind house, I was greeted by two very happy doggies (Rudi and Daisy).  John was inside with his baby girl, June.  Once little man Jude woke up from his nap, Jessica's dad took us on a tour of the surrounding area so I could see where her family lives (cousins, aunts/uncles, grandparents, etc.) and her family's farm land.  It was really nice to see all the things I'd heard Jessica talk about over the years.
The Schwind house.
John had dinner ready when we got back and Jessica's mom was there, too.  We all had "supper" and then headed off to bible study and a nighttime church service at their Southern Baptist Church.  I enjoyed the service since learning about other denominations has always interested me.  It was also remarkable how prominent Jessica's family is at their church.  Her maiden name is Smith and nearly all the beautiful stained glass windows inside the sanctuary had Smith nameplates on the bottom.  I was also really impressed by how well the babies did during church--a little jealous, in fact, because Eddie would not have been so quiet at 7pm.
Miss June!
Right when we got back, there was still enough light out for John to show me around his magnificent garden.  I couldn't believe that he already has nearly-ripened tomatoes, jalapenos, loads of yellow summer squash.  My garden in Davis won't be producing much more than herbs for a couple of months. I thought John was joking when he said I should take some squash home in my suitcase, but he was totally serious.  (And of course, I did take some home.  Eddie and I ate some in a sausage and sage pasta last night and they were delicious!)
John showing off his amazing garden.
We had dessert back at their house and then they got the babies down for bed, leaving me and my friends to talk about whatever until we had to go to bed.  John goes to work at 7am, yikes!

The next morning Jessica and I played with the babies, ate breakfast, etc.  While they were down for a nap I hung the diapers on the line and took the doggies on a walk so I could give Jessica some time to herself to do whatever she needed to get done (I'm not a big fan of house guests that hang around you constantly).
There are oodles of these ponds around their house. I thought this one was particularly pretty and told John that I had to yell at the dogs a few times to keep them from going for a swim.  He casually agreed that was a good idea...because there's a 10 foot long alligator who lives in there!  (And it likes to snack on cute dogs.)
Rudi and Daisy show me the area.
Intersection of that dirt road and this dirt road. See the street signs?
Then we packed ourselves and the babies up and headed off to John's job so we could all go out to lunch.
John doing some work while holding June before we went to lunch.
Jessica and I were both headed back to CA that evening--me back home and her on a business trip.  They took me to a southern food buffet where I loaded up on biscuits, fried chicken, and overcooked veggies.
You'd never know there was a restaurant inside this building.
My lunch!
And just like that we were on the road in John's truck, having handed off the babies to Jessica's dad.

Our three hour drive went smoothly until the AC stopped working on Jessica's side of the cab.  It was blowing hot air!  So we had to make our way sharing my vents and keeping the windows down a bit.  Lucky for us, it was pleasant outside, not humid at all.  We also nearly ran out of gas...I guess we should have checked that before we took off.  But we made it on time for her flight and I enjoyed a peaceful 3 hour wait, just sipping a sugary coffee drink and reading my book.
Me and Jessica.
My 24 hours went by fast...but it was great!  Just the child-free break I needed.  =)

Friday, May 25, 2012

Jill's Wedding

Last weekend I went down to South Carolina for my cousin Jill's wedding.  My mom had planned to go with me but then wasn't feeling well enough to go.  So I went alone and it was such a great little "break" for me...something I didn't realize I needed so much.

I had to arrange for someone to teach my Friday discussion section and for Dave to take Monday off to stay home with Eddie.  And after finagling the finances a little, I came out with an excellent little trip.

My flight on Friday was great; I got lots of grading and reading done.  I arrived at the hotel where everyone was staying around 11pm.  My aunt and I shared a hotel room, which was fun.  Saturday morning she and I had intended to walk around the zoo and botanical garden in Columbia, but we got up late and then decided to have a long, leisurely, and scrumptious lunch at a place my cousin Kathy had seen on Diners, Drive-in's and Dives.  We were a loud bunch, I'll tell ya!

Kathy, Chip, and Trey
Aunt V taking a picture of me taking a picture.
This is my "fried green tomato pimento cheese BLT" with cinnamon sweet potato fries. And of course, a glass of sweet tea.  Trust me, this is the only way to eat a BLT.
Fried dill pickles with ranch dip!  This is what greasy, salty heaven looks like.
Then we had to scoot back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.
This is what I wore to the wedding.  Who's the lady without the glasses?!
And it was a lovely wedding! Jill and Jason were married in his church and it had the most beautiful, bold-colored stained glass windows I've ever seen outside of Paris.  No one else was taking pictures during the wedding, so I didn't either.  I did snap a picture of the wedding party while they were outside at the reception venue taking professional photos so you can see how nice everyone looked.
No, that's not a shotgun on the ground.
The reception was nice and low-key (at least for me). I just sat around talking to lots of people.  It's funny, I always hang out with the "older" folks at these family events, people of my dad's generation.  It seems that I have a lot more in common with them, than with their kids who are closer to me age-wise.  I always knew I was an "old soul" but I think this trip really solidified that fact for me.  =)  In fact, I was talking to much to various people that I missed getting a glass of champagne and a piece of cake!  Oh well, I probably didn't need the treat calories anyway.
Susanna gives the best toasts at weddings!
Sunday morning all of us Levie folks met up for a late breakfast at Cracker Barrel.
No trip to the south is complete without eating country ham.
And then I had to say goodbye so I could drive off toward Georgia to visit some friends.

It was a 3 hour drive.
And I was getting a little bored.
I don't know about anyone else, but I often find that my mood/excitement about a trip changes between the time I plan a trip and the time I actually go on the trip.  During the planning stages I'm rearing to go and full of excitement.  But often, by the time the trip arrives, I'm so busy getting things ready for my departure and absence that I sort of re-think the whole thing.  Especially the cost...  But this trip wasn't like that at all.  I was excited the whole time, soaking up the family togetherness.  And after this short, but wonderful visit with everyone, it made me realize that while expensive, these trips really are worth every penny.  You never know when you'll get to go back and it's so important to maintain these relationships.  That being said, I know we'll go back as a whole Bower-Levie family sometime soon...and I can't wait!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Love Dirt

Oh my goodness, how I heart this dirt-loving child of mine.

I bought him this shirt at the Soil Science Society of America conference in Pittsburgh, PA in 2009.  He was with me, as a wee 3 month old. Isn't it crazy that is nearly fits him now?

Showing off his handy dandy notebook...just like Steve has in "couscous" (Blue's Clues).

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Sleeping with books

Eddie sleeps with about 1/4 of his book collection in his bed every night (he probably has 20+ books in there on a good night).  He has two strings of holiday lights hanging on a book shelf (stars and spiders), which are on a timer to be on for about 2 hours each night.  It is enough light that he can easily read himself to sleep but not so much that it would interfere with sleeping.  And read he does!  I hear him flipping the pages and "reading" to himself every night for up to 45 minutes.  (I love that he can entertain and self-regulate himself!)

A couple of weeks ago, my cousin Mike posted a picture of his son sleeping with a book in his hand.  Conrad had fallen asleep while reading and was still holding the book up in the reading position.  It was hilarious.  And it started a conversation about how both our boys sleep with tons of books.  Clearly, we come from a family of educators who support any time of day!

Then a few days ago I get a text from Mike at 7:30am:

Mike's text: "Ignore that he looks like he's in a casket and note the foreground.
It totally made me laugh...because I KNEW I'd find Eddie in a similar situation.  So I went into his room, took this picture, and sent it to Mike:

Ah, these silly boys!

Since we're on the topic of books: Every third Tuesday during our afternoon off together, Eddie and I go to the library.  Books are borrowed on a three week cycle so we make sure to return our old books and check out some new ones.  I've learned that it is very difficult to find books according to the Dewey Decimal system in the children's section, probably because small folks take them off shelves and reshelve them at random, if they reshelve them at all.  Plus, so many books are set upright on top of the bookcases so children can see the covers. So I usually just wander around looking at books until I find 4-6 that suite Eddie's particular interests that month.  Eddie goes through monthly phases of fascination, it seems.  One month it'll be dinosaurs, another month it'll be fish.  This month it is pirates and space "shubbles" (shuttles, or really, anything having to do with space exploration).  I assume this jump from topic to topic is normal...?  It's interesting because these fascinations are not usually related to the "theme" he's learning at school that week.  Sometimes I know why he's interested in a particular topic (like pirates...we took him to see that pirate movie recently), but other times I have no idea why he's suddenly interested in something we talk about all the time.  I guess his little brain just works that way.

One topic that has NEVER ceased to interest him is construction: tools/ heavy machinery/building things.

This Tuesday we borrowed two books about pirates, one about space travel, and a kid carpentry how-to book.  He found this one at a table in the big kid reading room and wanted to take it home, too.  We sat at the table together looking at all the pages for a good 10 minutes (quite a long time for him to sit quietly).  I love that he knows what most of the tools are, too.  He didn't know what a coping saw was, though, and now calls it a "copysaw."  Heehee.  Hopefully he and Dave can make something from the book--like the cargo ship or tool box!
He's asked me to read this book about 12 times since we got it yesterday. It isn't exactly "read out loud" material.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

New Nephew!

Our new baby nephew was born today!  He weighed the same as his cousin Eddie--a whopping 8 lbs, 2 oz.    What a blessing to have a new baby in the family.  I can't wait to meet this little guy!
We can already see that he's quite handsome.
And how wonderful to have another John Bower in the family!  I can't wait to see him wearing his Papa John's signature plaid shirt so they can be twins.

On Easter Sunday when we saw Bernie I told Eddie there was a baby in her tummy.  He said, "I want to see it.  Where's the baby?" and tried to lift her shirt to see.  Haha.  I showed him this picture when he got up this morning and explained who it was.  Again he said, "I want to see it!"   He'll get to go visit this weekend with Dave but I'll be out of town this weekend so I'll have to wait until later. Phooey on that.

Now I get to plan a welcome-to-the-world celebratory meal for us to enjoy.  His heritage is Italian, Filipino, and Irish.  So perhaps corned beef, potato gnocchis, and purple ube cake for dessert?

Congrats to Mike, Bernie, and Zennie!