Sunday, September 30, 2007

Sonny Bunny's Birthday

My son, Wil, started life a little rocky. I had a normal, uneventful pregnancy, just like the first time around, severe heartburn included.

I was now an experienced mother, having given birth to my daughter just two years before. I knew what to expect. My regular doctor was out of town and the other doctor from his office came in to see me. I told her how with the birth of my daughter I was given pitocin and my labor was eighteen hours long. She assured me she wouldn't let me go that long this time.

True to form, after several hours my labor wasn't progressing satisfactorily so I was given the dreaded pitocin. This time I decided I wasn't going to tough it out and after a while I asked for some pain medication. "Oh, it's too soon for that. You'll have to wait a bit."

A few hours later I was throwing up from the pain and asked again for some pain relief. "Oh, it's too late for that now. You're too close to delivering." Great.

The worst thing for me was being hooked to the monitor and being able to see when the next contraction started before I could feel it. And then all of a sudden the waves of pain trying to take over my consciousness. While I "hoo-hoo, hee-hee-ed" I could hear other women down the hall screaming. "I guess they didn't go to Lamaze," I remarked to the nurse. She answered with an appreciative smile, "You are doing so much better than those other women today!"

Finally the doctor was called in and the birthing began. I was really exhausted at this point (I think the labor was actually worse this time around) and several times I had to be prompted by the doctor to push. Our little bundle of joy finally arrived.

The doctor was right. Instead of eighteen hours it was only seventeen.

Anyway, shortly after the family that had been there with me went home to get some rest and so I could rest. A nurse came in to take Wil to the nursery when she noticed something wasn't quite right. He was struggling to breath.

Suddenly there was a flurry of activity in the room and Wil was whisked away.

Soon the doctor came in to explain. Because the actual birthing had taken so long (remember she kept urging me to push and I kept trying to rest for a minute first) he had aspirated fluid and that was what was causing his distress.

He was in the NICU for nine days. The nurses there kept saying he was the biggest baby they had in there. They were used to seeing preemies, not full term babies. Finally we got to bring him home.

First day home from the hospital.

He's been a happy kid since.

Having a snack.

Taking a nap with a puppy.
First rifle.
Today: happy and handsome.


Friday, September 28, 2007

Quick Update

I managed to clean the garden out fairly well. The only things remaining are the grapes, obviously because they are permanent, and a few marigolds which still seem to be thriving. I got it all rototilled up to the vertical hoop thingie (for the climbing peas, beans, etc) before I ran out of gas.

I went to the Lowe's Garden Center to check if they had any winter vegetables in yet but I didn't see anything. Upon asking one of the salespeople I was informed that because the sales did not meet expectations last winter season, they were not going to be getting any winter plants in this year.

I thought I'd go to a smaller, local store, Robby's Nursery, off of Allen Rd. They had some sorry looking eggplant, some bunching onions, and Savoy Cabbage. They did have a nice selection of herbs, but that's not what I was looking for. When I asked the lady there, she said pretty much the same thing. She told me the growers last year ended up dumping a lot of their crop because of poor sales so they were not growing anything this year. She said she did order whatever she could but didn't know when anything would come in or even if, in fact, anything would be arriving at all.

We could try doing some seeds, but I really like the instant garden from the six packs. And I'm not sure how successful that would be after our fiasco with the seeds this summer. Well, at least my garden has been cleaned out.

My Roto Zip flex shaft drive nut came in the mail yesterday. YAY! Now I can continue to work on my current big project, the lizard and the patio tile. Here's a preview of the lizard.

As you can see he is only half way finished. So that is what I'm going to work on this weekend. Hopefully I'll have something good to report next week in regard to the patio (like it will be finished?).

Wednesday, September 26, 2007


While I wait for the drive nut for my Roto Zip to get here I figured I might as well clean out the summer garden. As you can see in the picture it's quite a mess.

It was really strange this year. You may have noticed the only plants I really mentioned or showed pictures of were the peppers and grapes (against the fence) and of course the wonderful tomatoes. That's because those were the only things that were growing.

We tried some of our usual no-fail veggies, like carrots, beans, and beets. I can't tell you how many packets of carrot seeds we went through. Most of them never germinated. And I'm talking about different brands and varieties. Kern County is a huge carrot growing county. You may recognize Grimmway Farms (producers of Bunny Luv carrots) or Bolthouse Farms (producers of the 100% juices and misc carrot products). They are Kern County based.

The beets and beans grew but never prospered. We did manage to grow a few squash, but thinking back, they were planted along the fence also. We planted some watermelon, which also failed.

I thought maybe the soil was getting "used up" and I was going to have to go to the store next season and buy commercially made soil enhancers and mulchers. I didn't know why our usually reliable poop pile didn't seem to be doing the job it should have.

I think I discovered the reason after talking to my husband the other day. I told him I'd noticed the weeds and grass were getting out of hand in the poop pile lately and I'd have to go pull the plants and turn it. He mentioned he'd just "spray RoundUp (a powerful herbicide) like last time".

I asked him if he thought that would be a good idea. And then I asked if he thought that might be why the garden didn't produce as usual.


Well, you gotta give him credit for trying.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Patio Update

The paper is all down and all I was waiting for was to get the mosaic lizard insert finished before I started laying down the tiles. I've had a few set backs in that regard.

I was going along just fine. I found a diamond wheel for my Dremel tool that was doing a great job, especially for the tight spots like the lizard's fingers. But then I guess I must have been pressing too hard or something because all of a sudden from inside the Dremel came a few clacking noises, a couple of shots of flame, and black electrical smoke came pouring out. I quickly turned it off so I wouldn't blow up along with the poor Dremel. Now what?

Well it must have been a sign from above. The next night we had the chowder with the neighbors and Dean mentioned trying a Roto Zip. Obviously that would mean having to lay out some more money for a new tool, something I'm not totally averse too, but I had been spending a lot of money lately.

Sometime very early in the morning, like around 2 am, I woke up and couldn't get back to sleep. So I came out to the living room and turned on the tv. I started watching an episode of something on DIY Network and lo and behold; one segment was on the versatility of the Roto Zip tool.

I went out and bought one the next day, along with their version of the diamond cut-off wheel.

It worked really great, like a hot knife through butter, as the saying goes. The only problem now was this particular blade was too big to get into the delicate smaller finger areas of the lizard.

Then I got the bright idea to put the smaller, thinner Dremel wheel on the Roto Zip. It would have worked except the shaft of the mandrel was too short. That meant I had to go and buy the flex shaft attachment.

Of course I did that. I got home and started the process of attaching the attachment to the tool, but something was wrong. The instructions mentioned the "silver drive nut" and even had a picture of it on the parts page. It was at that point that I noticed the lubricant was missing too. I got on the internet to see what my options were and all I could figure out was I had to wait until Monday morning to call the Roto Zip company. It almost sounded like this wasn't an uncommon occurrence, as it said in their web site if you are missing anything from your package to call the company and they would send the missing piece(s) right away. So that's what I did.

Meanwhile the lizard is on hold. So I started playing with the tile to see what pattern I wanted. I figured I had about three options: the regular grid, the diamond style, or the brick pattern (like the running bond pattern for bricks). I already knew I didn't want the diamond style so I laid out a few tiles in the other two patterns.

Regular grid pattern
Brick pattern

With the large variation in color the brick pattern seemed just too busy, so my husband and I decided on the regular grid. Besides it will be easier.

So even though I had wanted to wait until I got the lizard done before I started laying all the tile I'm getting a little restless and may just get started anyway. I just hope that drive nut gets here soon.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Clyde Goes To Training

Saturday we brought Clyde to the hunting trainer. I was excited because this is the first hunting dog we've owned that's going to be professionally trained. I can't wait to see what he'll be able to do once he gets in the field.

The one thing I did not anticipate was how hard it was going to be to actually leave him there. I felt like a mom leaving her kid at school for the first day of Kindergarten. I felt kind of guilty. But it's all for his betterment.

Saying goodbye to Clyde.
As we were leaving another new dog came in and was put on the line next to Clyde. He was a young Labrador Retriever. Maybe he and Clyde will be kennel mates.

When we got home I'm sure the other two dogs were curious as to where Clyde was. Funny thing was, though, they didn't seem too upset. Or maybe that's not so unusual. Chester, the oldest, seemed quite happy that he's back in the top dog position and he doesn't have to worry about the youngster challenging his authority. And Gus, even though he's quite the lover, not the fighter, seemed relieved to have a little peace and quiet for a change. There's no Clyde to constantly nip at his legs, tail, or face in an effort to entice him to some rough housing.

Sheldon, the trainer, encouraged us to visit whenever we want. He even said I could take as many photos as I wanted. We'll be sure to take him up on that, even though it's a 3 1/2 hour one way drive.

Meanwhile, I bet Clyde is going to be an outstanding student.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Clam/Mussel Chowder

Here is a very basic chowder where I used all the leftover clam and mussels from the Seafood Extravaganza. Don't be alarmed by the unusual color. The greenish tinge comes from the chopped up mussels. This can be made with either only mussels, only clams, or as I did here, both.

The ingredients include: bacon; onion; garlic; clam and/or mussel meats; chicken broth; water; potatoes; milk or cream; salt and pepper to taste.

Cut about 1/3 pound (approximately 6 slices) bacon into little pieces and saute over medium to low heat until they are almost crispy. Add one finely diced onion and 2 cloves minced garlic. Cook until the onion is soft.

Chop your clam and/or mussel meats into little pieces. I had a little more than I thought: 4 cups.
Do the same with the potatoes. I used six potatoes and got four cups small diced.

Add the meats, potatoes, one can of chicken broth, and one cup of water to the pot.

Bring it to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. This would be a good time to season with a little salt and pepper. Cover and let simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Add two cups of milk or cream and simmer over very low heat for another 10 minutes. Reseason to taste.

This may not be your classic New England clam chowder, but it's a good way to use up the leftovers. Also you can portion it out and freeze it easily in plastic zip lock bags or something similar.

Simple Clam/Mussel Chowder
  • 1/3 pound bacon, about six slices, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 - 4 C chopped clam and/or mussel meat
  • 4 C diced potatoes
  • 1 can chicken broth
  • 1 C water
  • 2 C milk or cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
Saute bacon over medium to low heat until it's almost crispy. Add the onion and garlic and saute until the onion is soft. Add the clam/mussel meat, potatoes, broth, and water. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 15 - 20 minutes, until the potatoes are soft. Add milk or cream. Let simmer over very low heat for another 10 minutes. Reseason before serving.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Patio Work

Yesterday I worked on the patio just a bit.

The concrete has been curing for a total of 9 days (since last Saturday). Kevin, the concrete guy, recommended putting a layer of roofing paper between the slab and the tiles. Some of the internet sites I visited concurred, others didn't mention it. When I explained what I was doing to the guy at the tile shop he said it couldn't hurt and certainly wouldn't be a bad idea, so I did it.

The bare slab after curing for 9 days.

I got a roll of roofing paper and indoor/outdoor carpet glue and went to work.

The first two rows are done.

It took a little longer than I thought it would to get all the paper glued down; about an hour and a half total. It didn't cost much--about $35 which included the paper, two tubs of glue, and a disposable spreader for the glue. It means just a little extra peace of mind in case the concrete cracks. The idea is that the tile will be less likely to follow suit. Also it provides a moisture barrier from the ground up, meaning it will be less likely to crack the tile.

The paper is all glued down.
Today I can trim the excess paper off the edges and it will be ready to start tiling. I may wait for that until possibly Sunday or Monday because I'll be bringing Clyde to his trainer this weekend. Also we have a forecast of possible rain (likely not much though) for Thursday or Friday.

Yesterday I also bought a little drill bit for my Dremel tool that's supposed to cut tile. I was hoping I could use it to help shape the mosaic lizard I want to put in the patio. It turns out it's "not for floor tile". They were right. Oh well.

I found another accessory I could use with my Dremel though. Today I will try to find the diamond "cut off" tool. The website says it's recommended for hard materials like marble, brick, stone, etc. That sounds like what I'm looking for.

I'm sure you'll be the first to know!

Here's a bit of trivia: cement is one of the ingredients in making concrete. You learn something every day!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Dog News

The other day we were sitting out back enjoying the cooling weather. We've been having a pretty bad gopher year and my Honey Bunny had put the hose on in a new gopher hole. While we were sitting there the little beastie suddenly popped up from another hole about 20 feet away. The dogs surrounded it while it danced around on it's hind legs, just daring any of them to a fair fight.

I had my camera with me but things were happening too fast. Chester lunged and suddenly whirled around. He yelped loudly while spinning on his back legs like a championship reining quarter horse doing the pivot. The gopher was attached to his lip and was flying out like a swing on a carnival ride.

While I was in laughing hysterically, my H.B. was panicking. He jumped up and attempted to dislodge the gopher from Chester's lip. He finally managed to separate the two combatants. I was afraid the gopher would escape down another hole so I grabbed my shepherd's crook which was hanging on the fence and beat the little creature. Yes, to death.

Chester on a great point (after the gopher was dead).

After I took the above picture Chester quickly snatched the gopher up again. I guess he wasn't quite done with it. While I tried not to pee my pants because I was laughing so hard, my H.B. once again managed to remove the gopher from Chester's mouth and quickly buried it in it's hole.

Saturday morning I went to the "Responsible Dog Ownership Day" event at Yokuts Park. I brought Gus with me because the night before (the "seafood extravaganza" night) Marylee (who works at Hoffman Hospice) was just going crazy over him. She couldn't get over how sweet and gentle he was and thought he might make a great "therapy dog". I promised I'd check it out and found her at the Hoffman Hospice booth. I met the volunteer coordinator, Kim, and picked up some info. While we were there Father Scotty Bourne was getting ready to bless the pets. Although I'm not Catholic I figured it couldn't hurt, so Gus got blessed by the priest.

Gus, the blessed dog!

Last night I was throwing the ball for the dogs and Dean's dogs decided to join in the fun.

Shelby on the left in the back, Clyde in the foreground in the middle, and Al, Shelby's son, the chicken killer and fastest dog in the west, on the right. I'm hoping to bring Clyde to the trainer this weekend. I'm just waiting for a call back from him. And that is all the new dog news!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Seafood Extravaganza

Friday night we had our long awaited "seafood extravaganza". The last time we did this was several years ago. This is something you want to do with a lot of people. The more the merrier.

I don't know what other people call this type of dinner, but you've probably seen it done on television or in a magazine. It's where you get a bunch of different kinds of seafood (usually shellfish) and some vegetables and just dump all the goodies right on the table. No plates, no silverware. Just bowls for the condiments and lots of napkins and fun.

We invited our neighbors Dean and Nancy, our hay supplier and long time friends Franz and Vicki, and our other good friends Danny and Marylee. Dean's son Randy was also in town so he came over and Carli and Marcus showed up too. Of course our son was there as well.

I'm not going to give exact directions because my husband did all the cooking that night. This is one of those things where you get what you prefer. For our seafood extravaganza we used corn on the cob, red potatoes, onions, artichokes, garlic, and parsley. We had shrimp, mussels, dungeness crab, and steamer clams. There was sliced sourdough baguettes and sweet French loaves. The only condiments were lots of melted butter, mayonnaise, and our favorite hot sauce "Tapatia" (it doesn't have that vinegary taste like Tabasco).

The table is ready for the goodies!
We had two giant pots going on the stove. Both had some crab and shrimp boil seasonings in them. One pot cooked all the vegetables and the other cooked the seafood. The timing has to be just right so some food doesn't get under cooked while other food gets over done. When it's done it gets dumped onto the table (after straining the liquid) that hopefully has a good disposable plastic table cloth on it. Then everybody digs in and goes to town!

Digging in!
After all that some of us even managed to have a slice of either French apple pie or chocolate pie from Marie Callender's.

The clean up was really easy. I simply put what was left back in a pot and rolled up the table cloth and put it in the dumpster.

After our guests rolled out the door we rolled to bed. We haven't eaten yet. (Just kidding.)

Later this week I'm going to make a chowder from the leftovers. Stay tuned!!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Baby Blankies

My mother tried a few times to get me interested in needle crafty stuff. When we were very young she sewed a lot of our clothes. I just couldn't get into sewing. My first attempt at a simple straight dress was a disaster. I refused to wear it. Not even as a night gown. It was truly hideous.

My next attempt at sewing was a project in seventh grade Home Economics. We were supposed to sew a fairly simple bag, suitable for beach going, complete with a drawstring handle. If I had followed the directions everything would have been A-Okay. However, I couldn't understand why we were supposed to do one step prior to the other when it seemed obvious to me by doing the second step first I could save some time later. I was wrong. It seems by doing the step I thought would save me time I sewed the thing shut where the drawstring was supposed to go. I obviously then used more time to undo and redo correctly what I had done wrong to begin with.

It seems sewing was not my forte.

A couple of years ago a friend at work was having a baby. I decided to try sewing one more time. This time I would try something I thought might be easier, like a baby quilt. Oh, I didn't have a pattern to follow. After all, it's basically just a bunch of squares or triangles all sewn together, right?

Ech. Sewing is not my forte.

I managed to finish the thing and it was okay, but obviously the work of a novice. I figured it could still be very useful, as my friend wouldn't be concerned about actually using the thing and having the baby ruin it. I handstitched my initials, the date, and the letters "SUPON". When asked what that stood for I explained: It's for baby Spit Up Poop ON blanket.

I got a chuckle out of everyone at the shower for that, but then I was totally shamed by a real quilt another girl made. This was something I would have framed and hung on the wall. Oh well, I tried.

My mom also taught me to knit and crochet, something I picked up a little easier. Actually, my knitting is a little lacking, but I can crochet an afghan like there's no tomorrow! So with the impending birth of my first grandchild (a girl) I've been a little crazy with the crocheting.

I don't think I'll ever attempt to make clothing again, unless it's a hat (I made the whole family hats that had built in scarves once!). I'm almost thinking I might attempt another SUPON quilt. The time is right!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poor People Food

Being an army brat and growing up half my young life overseas, I never realized how poor my parents really were. I did notice that we didn't eat a lot of steak or roasts, and we never had the endless supply of pick-your-flavor-sodas that we have now. But that doesn't mean we had the distended bellies like the Biafran babies so popular at the time. "Finish your meal, there are babies in Africa that are dying." Sound familiar? (So how would my finishing my meal help them?)

Even as an unsophisticated kid with no special kind of culinary knowledge at the time it did not make one whit of difference. We never went hungry, even if we did have to eat some boring to me, sometimes, food. One thing we could always count on was spaghetti and meatballs (not meatsauce--ugh!) on Sunday. My dad taught my oldest sister how to make the sauce and meatballs, she in turn taught my second oldest sister, and she then taught me. Nowadays I don't make my sauce from scratch anymore and I just throw the meatballs together using the basic ingredients, no measuring. Somehow they always come out good.

People talk about "comfort food". To me that means food I like and food that reminds me of happy times. One of these is simply pasta with browned butter and parmesan cheese. How can you go wrong with that? We actually had it quite often, but think of the endless possibilities to switch it up now. Add bacon and eggs and it becomes pasta carbonara. Add a little shrimp and flour to the mix and it becomes a shrimp alfredo. Cold pasta with chopped veggies and a bottled Italian dressing becomes a pasta salad. Leftover pasta cooked with eggs in a skillet and veggies becomes a frittatta. See what I mean?

Today I'm making the basic pasta with browned butter and parmesan cheese. Perhaps not the most healthful meal, but it is simple and filling.

All you need are three ingredients: your pasta of choice; some butter; and some grated or shredded parmesan cheese.

Get a pot of water boiling and cook the pasta according to the package directions.

Meanwhile, start to melt a cube of butter over low heat in a sauce pan.

Once the butter is totally melted it's time to turn up the heat. Increase the heat to about medium, constantly stirring or swirling it around in the pan.

Very soon the butter will turn this nice brown color. Now is the time to remove it from the heat.

Put the cooked pasta on a plate or in a bowl, spoon some of the browned butter over top and sprinkle with the parmesan cheese. Here it makes a nice accompaniment to some left over baked chicken.

Eventually I'll share our other pasta recipes. Meanwhile let your imagination go wild!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Just For Fun

Carli and I got went to one of those inexpensive nail salons on Friday and got a pedicure. I thought I'd have a little fun with it.

This is one of my current favorite drinkie poos. It's called a "buttery nipple", although I'm not sure why. I think it should be named after the Werther's caramel, because that's what it tastes like. It's simply equal parts Irish cream and butterscotch liquer. I usually get the cheaper brands because we like to drink just a little. ;-) And no, I did not just have a few prior to getting my toes painted!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Pouring Cement

The work on our patio has begun. Before it was just a hodge-podge of miscellaneous sized tiles and bricks. Here it is cleared of our tables and chairs.
Then I put Wil to work removing and stacking the bricks/tiles. Of course I had to pay him.
It was inevitable that we'd come across loads of these ants underneath.
Finally everything was cleared out and just the border and dirt were left.
I removed the old borders and added a lot of sand. Then our cement guy, Kevin, came and leveled everything. There's my honey bunny supervising.
Bright and early Saturday morning the first load of cement came in. I had to move because it was splattering a lot more than I thought it would.

The cement got poured out until it looked like a great big giant diarrhea pile.

Then Kevin got in there and shoveled it all over to spread it out.

After all the cement was in (it took about one and 3/4 buggy loads) it was screeded (where a long board was dragged over the top to even everything out) and then the smoothing process began. This was done several times.

Eventually it got all smoothed out. Now it just needs to cure.

The borders were pulled out and right now it's looking pretty good. I could leave it at that if I wanted. But my grand idea was to tile the area so it looked a little prettier and more inviting. I have a few ideas.

Hopefully I'll be able to show the finished tiling job soon!