Mr. Pumpkin

I love this picture because it demonstrates a lot of what I’ve been feeling lately.  You might see this pumpkin pirates arm and see strength and determination.  You might see the cute little potted plant and see order and neatness.  When I first look at this picture, I see the pumpkin that had all of his pieces torn out over and over, got rolled down the entryway steps, and then went rotten just a few short days later, making this sight no longer existent.  For the most part, I am a happy person.  When things get bad I don’t usually mention it to many people, I try to move on and focus on the good points if I can.  Lately, I’ve been feeling like this pumpkin.  I feel triumphant in many areas of my life that God has allowed me to grow and learn in.  However, sometimes I feel like I have had my arms torn off and somebody tossed me down the stairs.  I mean that figuratively and literally.  I have 2 boys, ya know.  When I look at this picture for while longer, I see this pumpkin pirate put back together and whole again.  This makes me smile because I know that’s the way God sees me.  Whole.  Even when I am feeling broken, he sees me whole.

Now, I feel pretty thankful.

Date with my girl + why I homeschool

“Perhaps we shall best use this wonderful power of reasoning by giving it plenty of work to do, by asking ourselves what is the cause of this and that; why do people and animals do certain things. Reason which is not worked grows sluggish; and there are persons who never wonder nor ask themselves questions about anything they see.”

*Charlotte Mason*

One thing I am very thankful for right now is the time to teach my sweet girl.  With all of the difficulty that has come from my boys, I think it’s such a great privilege to see her light up as she learns right before my eyes.  When I sent her off to school last year with hesitation, I started doing the math of how much time we spend in the car driving to and from school, how long she was at school, how exhausted she was when she got home, and how much she missed being a part of the learning that we do every day a home and in our city.  I remember during the first week of school, I was told over and over that I would “get used to it”.  What?  God put this child in me to grow for 10 months, she grows 5.5 years and I send her away for the next 13 years (with the exception of college) to go to school for 7 hours, 45 minutes in the car (1.5 hours for her brothers and mom), and nothing left at the end of the day.  I was looking around at everyone saying, “Doesn’t anyone else find the evolution of the school-day a little unsettling, to say the least?”  I’ve been talking about this with so many people for the last year (read: for as long as I can remember really).  Everyone admits there is a problem but no changes are being made, in fact it could be getting worse.  Think of the phrase, “Yeah, ___ had a bad teacher last year and ___ is going to have her next year.  Oh well, what can you do.”  Craziness.  Yes, you CAN actually do something.  Nobody said it was an easy solution(it’s been rough for me), but we have to make change.  For now, I intend to teach my kids at home and continue to be as much a part of my communities as ever…if not more.  I have to make the choice that the “we” has to become “I”.  I have to make change.  I don’t want them to be a statistic from 2011 that could have been changed but wasn’t.  I know there are exceptions.  I have friends who are just wonderful teachers.  There are also great schools across the country.  Just think about it and try not to look at good change over your shoulder as you walk past it, even if change means difficulty.

With all of the difficulties, Miss F is full of life in her learning now and doesn’t have a dead part to her day.  The only exception would be when she is so disappointed we don’t read another chapter of what we are reading or we haven’t seen a Black Phoebe bird in the yard that day.

 For this date, my husband had taken the boys on a camping trip so we had the whole day to ourselves.  We went to the museum of art to see some of the paintings from the artists we had studied that week.

 Matisse, Monet, and Degas were 3 of them so we were excited to find this Monet here for a short time.  We don’t get a great showing of famous paintings here but this one was lovely enough for 2 giddy girls. We have LA to go to for the famous ones.

 My little ballerina was thrilled to find this Degas since we had read the very interesting story of how these paintings came to be.  The girl in the most famous sculpture was a very talented dancer.  She said she was going to be “the most famous dancer in the world”.  Her family could not keep up with their payments for her classes.  She started posing for Degas to earn some extra money but could not continue to attend.   Eventually she grew up and her sculpture had become the most famous dancer in the world.  So sweet.  Too bad Degas was a grumpy, angry sort of man.  It was a happy ending though.

We also got to see the Stickley exhibit which was sweet.  It was cute strong and adorable, just like the furniture is.  I loved that they had pieces of the wood to fit together so they could understand the way the furniture was made with no nails.  It was pretty cool.

I loved this carpet and this clock.  My picture is a little blurry because I was taking it 5 seconds while the security guard was around the corner.  I never saw a single sign about not taking them, but their body language was suggesting serious business so I didn’t tempt trouble.  The Louvre had less security surrounding the Mona Lisa, for crying out loud.

Visiting some of her favorite fish.

These are special days.

Garden in October

Just a little of what’s happening before the winter plantings.  I had fun this year with the garden and at the same time I had the most pests, especially the 2 year-old kind.  This was the year with the most expansion and I’m excited to plant more trees next spring!  There have been so many people interested in gardening this year which is fun for me.  I like to send people home with food whenever they come.  I’m glad to have enough now to do that.  This is the start of our 4th year in this house (crazy!) so the trees I rushed out to plant then are just now starting to produce.  Wahoo!

If you are interested in starting a garden, just go do it.  I started with 4 planter boxes, made by my husband, and expanded into my yard the next year.  Although the boxes didn’t produce enough to share, I really enjoyed everything I learned during that time and recommend them for starting.  I still use mine for my root veggies and to start my plants.   I still remember how excited i was to bring my sparse but cute “harvest” in to cook with.  Fun times.  You have to start somewhere!

Here are the past garden pictures as well:



The curry plant is looking beautiful this time of year.

Just planted some peas a few months ago and they are coming in nicely.  Oh wait, they were until the bugs got 1/2 of them.

It’s raspberry season!  Even though the stores seem to carry them at the beginning of summer and they are draped across fourth of July desserts, now is their time to shine in the garden.

One pickin’ from our plant.  These vines were never put back in the ground after we had taken it out to replace a piece of our fence.  It didn’t grow much because of these but it still making a lot of berries right now.

Speaking of berries, our blackberries are on their way to 2012 awesomeness.    They are going into their 4th year now and I’m finally getting the hang of it.  If I train them now, I will get ridiculous amounts next year.  Good deal.  So, every few weeks I keep weaving the vines along the fence.

I planted 2 plum trees, Satsuma and Santa Rosa, this last spring and they are growing up too.

My middle guy planted watermelons just because and here is a baby one.

This pear tree is coming into its third year and is finally making pears

My persnickety mango tree that was here when we moved in finally decided to actually make some mangos.  Sheesh.  You give a tree some water and some love and how does it repay you…

We are getting a lot of apples this year which is sooo nice.  These ones are on the other side of our fence which means my little unripe fruit snatcher can’t get to them.

The meyer lemons are turning colors soon.  I’m gonna have fun with these fellas!

The kids and some friends planted lettuce and spinach in our front porch pots in August and they seemed quite happy there.  Unfortunately, the next day some caterpillars moved in…I’m just keepin’ it real.

I love the passion fruit flower so much.  More than that, I love passion fruit.  It is one of my favorite flavors.  It was one of the very first things I planted in hopes of getting many delicious fruits a few years later.    Turns out,  it was mis-labeled and is actually the non-fruiting version.  Ugh.  It’s pretty though.

The french tarragon is happy and I’m enjoying it before it goes dormant.

Fresh marjoram has been fun to have around as well.  It has a very unique smell…much different than the dried kind.

Egyptian mint.

Another planting by my little buddy, a pumpkin this time.

A late season to tomato volunteer that is ready to go!

Roasted Fennel and Heirloom Tomato Soup

It’s Fall and also October as far as the calendar goes, but it could not be further from cool and scarf-worthy here.  That will not keep me from enticing it with spices my kitchen and soup on my stove.  I made this recipe from good-looking seasonal veggies from my fridge and tons of garlic.   It was perfect for a quiet Sunday evening at home after a long week.  It was good for the soul.  Check out the playlist at the bottom of the page for this recipe :)  I’ll try to add that when I think of it.

I love my Grandma’s dishes with this soup.  I think she would have liked this soup, too.

Go out and find yourself some great looking tomatoes…organic heirloom if you can.  The reason I get that specific kind is not because it sounds cool…even though it kinda does.  The heirloom varieties are grown from seeds that are from an old variety of tomato plant which hasn’t been altered by cross-pollination or hybridization.  Basically, the person who saved the seeds for future plants saved them in a way (involves covering the tomato blossoms to prevent cross-pollination) where they were not changed.  They are pure, which I love.

Toss the tomatoes with some olive oil, salt, and pepper, to taste.

Do the same to the fennel, onions, and garlic.  Roast them both in the oven at 400 degrees for 30-40 minutes, or until browned.

While you’re cleaning, beware of battle-scenes.  You never know when they might happen.

After they are finished roasting, pour both pans of food in the blender and puree.  I poured about a cup of vegetable stock in to thin it a bit.  That’s it.  I didn’t even have to season with extra salt and pepper or add any herbs.  When the vegetables roast, they create their own rich flavor from the slight caramelization.  The cool thing is that you won’t have to add any cream. making this a vegan dish if you leave out the creme fraiche.  Maybe that’s not cool to you, but I have some friends who will think it’s cool.  Plus, I think it’s cool.

Roasted Fennel and Heirloom Tomato Soup

5 pounds of tomatoes, chopped in large chunks

4 large pieces of fennel, sliced

2 stalks of celery, chopped

2 red onions, chopped in large chunks

10 cloves of garlic, halved

Salt and pepper

olive oil

1 c. vegetable stock

chives, for garnish

Creme fraiche or sour cream, optional

I guess it was nice to enjoy it on the patio with a tank and flip-flops, instead of inside with no fresh air.  Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy it!

New!  Just added these playlists so you can rock out to it too…if you feel like it.

Matthew West Pandora Station

Sweet Potato Waffles and a special birthday

For a mother, it is a wonderful thing to have your kids growing up healthy and strong.  The problem is just the growing up part.  Until I was a mom, I never really knew what it was like to have emotions pulling you in 2 good directions.  I’m excited about what my kids are going to do when they get older but I love them so much as they are now.  I try to remind myself that I always love them “now”.  I loved my daughter “now” when she was a feisty baby with places to go and I love her now as a feisty 6 year-old with places to go.  My little buddy is the kind of boy who has me constantly back and forth about appreciating the now because he is a lot to handle right now.  I pray for peace from this child every day.  My ice cream supply is diminishing because he has woken up every day in the middle of the night to get a piece of it.  Oh man, this is a new one for me.  How do you stop a kid from waking up every night to get into something?  I am installing  something I could have never imagine…a refrigerator lock.  This is just a tiny part.

Wow.  I got sidetracked from this little guy’s birthday.   Well, he is constantly surprising us and we are truly excited to see what he becomes, hopefully with less of my ice cream.

This is my little guy at 1.5 months old…sniff sniff. I made this shirt as his announcement which just started out of laziness.  I had made my other 2 kids announcements with extreme care so I knew I needed to do something special but requiring less time.  I’m not a huge fan of the drug store/Costco picture cards.  I had used iron-on transfers a lot in the past but I don’t like the fact that they last 1 day.  Seems to me that painting it myself would be better.  Enter: Sharpie.  It got the job done and it hasn’t faded a bit.  Now all I had to do was take a picture and mail it!  I thought I was going to be disappointed but I ended up loving it.  Just goes to show, go where your creativity leads you and you might land in a better place than you expected.

I made what was requested:  Pancakes and waffles.  He takes pictures like this a lot.  You know, he stares into the lens with his baby blues and just radiates cuteness.  He’s cute trouble…but cute still.

We made letter pancakes because when are they not special, right?  I ended up with a stack of m’s for “mommy” because they were the most fun to make.

Since bread products for a whole meal are never a great idea, I decided to make sweet potato waffles.

Sweet potato waffles

(adapted from Alton Brown’s recipe)

  • 1 c. sweet potato puree
  • 2 c. flour
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 egg whites, room temp.
  • 1 1/2 c. milk
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. butter, melted
  • 1/2 T. orange zest

Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl.

In another bowl, mix the sweet potatoes, milk, brown sugar, butter, and orange zest.  Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the wet ingredients until combined.  Beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add the egg whites into the sweet potato mixture a 1/3 at a time. It will be thick! Set up your waffle maker and go!

Then, he played in a box.

Played in his new helmet.

Played a little Lego.

Happy Birthday, little buddy!

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