Sunday, July 29, 2007

Lots of updates...

Whew! It's been a busy couple of weeks! Let's see.....I finished the pink dress, picked 50 pounds of peaches, read "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows", canned some peaches, planted my garden, crocheted a Hello Kitty purse (and just realized that I forgot to take a picture, d'oh!), and eagerly run out into the backyard every day to see what has sprouted. First, here's a picture of the pink dress. It is also a Folkwear Sporty Forties dress, and I LOVE it! The picture doesn't do it justice. I'm almost done with the yellow gabacha, and I'll post a picture when I'm done.

We went up north of Wickenburg to Date Creek Ranch and picked peaches last Sunday. We ran into a monsoon storm and had to pull off the road on the way up there, but it was nice and cool and drizzley the whole time we were picking. My son wasn't too discerning with his peach selection, but did well for a four year old. We picked for about 2 hours give or take and ended up with 55 pounds of peaches (we were picking for a friend, too). My husband had never had a peach right off the tree, and now he knows what a peach is *supposed* to taste like. We ate a bunch fresh, and I still had enough to try my hand at canning. I ended up with 3 quarts of spiced peaches and 4 pints of peach butter. Peach butter = yummy! We are already planning a trip for September to go pick apples. And we hope to order 1/2 a cow with the same friend we were picking for this fall from the same ranch.

I was finished with "Deathly Hallows" by Monday afternoon, and then it was my husband's turn to read it. No spoilers here, but we really enjoyed it and thought that it tied the series up nicely.

I planted my garden last Friday, and had sprouts coming up this Thursday. Aren't they cute? Our monsoon season finally started up in the past week, and my garden is loving the rain! (Doing a happy-dance for rain in the desert.) I have more coming up now, and the varieties are: Triple Treat, Small Sugar, and Jack Be Little pumpkins; pinto beans, navy beans, California Black Eye peas, Kentucky Wonder pole beans; Jenny Lind, Hearts of Gold, and Sugar Baby melons; sweet corn, and winter squash (I'm not sure if the Hubbards or Acorns are up). I'm still waiting for my California Wonder peppers to sprout. I think everything is coming up well considering the seeds are from when I last tried a garden 2 years ago. I also planted some sunflowers a few days ago in my son's garden. The only downside seems to be that crickets are munching some of the sprouts. I have everything covered, but not too tightly. I was more concerned with birds getting at the wormy-looking sprouts. :(

Hopefully it won't be another 2 weeks before I post again, but hey, life happens, right?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

It's quiet. Too quiet.

Sorry for the lack of posts of late. I have been busy with multiple projects, including sewing the pink dress (done, and already worn twice, but I haven't taken a pic yet), nearly done with the yellow dress, have the blue flowered one cut and ready to go, re-reading the Harry Potter series before "Deathly Hallows" comes out (I'm through "Goblet of Fire"; don't know if I'll make it through "Order of the Phoenix" and "Half-Blood Prince" in time for the new book release), although I am currently taking a break to read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" by Barbara Kingsolver, since I had requested it from the library and this will probably be my only chance to read it any time soon. I like run-on sentences, can you tell? I also cooked in the solar oven twice last week, in the same day, no less. I made the Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp that is in "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", and I combined two recipes to come up with an excellent Cilantro Chicken, um, stew I guess you'd call it. I combined the Cilantro Chicken recipe from "Solar Cooking Naturally" by Virginia Heather Gurley, and the Chicken Recuerdos de Tucson from "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle". (You can go here to get all the recipes in the book: Both turned out so yummy that we inhaled it before I could take any pictures. :( (edit: I *was* able to take a picture of the crisp before it was gone! :) I love strawberry-rhubarb pie, but I never would have thought to make a crisp until I saw the recipe. Now I am going to be on the lookout for other fruit to make into crisps. This week I'm going to try more recipes in the solar oven, and I'm also going to be doing some planting in the garden. We have a good chance of rain this week, and I want to take advantage of it. I need to get out back and do some tidying, and then I'll be able to take and post some pictures. Now, do I go read or sew? So many fun things to do.....

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Making Birthdays Special

I've heard a lot of conversations lately about children and birthdays. How do we make them special? Do we tend to go overboard? Are our kid's deprived if they don't get a $200 party at Chuck E. Cheese's every year? I think, much like most of American society, birthdays have become a consumer frenzy. I feel that the birthday party should be a fun time for the kids, but we need to remember why we are there - to celebrate another year in the life of a child. I think the most important part of these celebrations is spending time with friends and family. Personally, we have tried (and not always succeeded) to have non-commercial birthday parties for our son. His first birthday was a big blowout with all the family (my husband has a HUGE extended family) at the park (thanks Nana!), and the next 3 parties were done at home. I can't see spending the vast amounts of cash to have a kid's party at Chuck E. Cheese or Pump It Up. Sure, it's fun, but I think you start to get a diminished "Wow" factor. I read an article in the Tightwad Gazette about the "wow" factor, which essentially is how much do you have to spend, both in time and money, to get a "wow" out of your kids (or other family members, for that matter) when it comes to gifts, parties, and other activities. If you go to Disneyland every year, it ceases to be special, so then you have to raise the ante and start going to Disney World, and where do you go when that ceases to be special? If we keep having parties at "party places", what happens when we have parties at home? Do the kids see them as not as good? Boring? Or do they see them as being special because they aren't the norm anymore? These are the things I wonder about. Nana is throwing my son's birthday party this year, another big family blowout at the park. She wants to do something big and special for his fifth birthday. It's hard to believe he's turning 5 this year! I think having a big party every 5 years is fine. Do we have to do something spectacular every year? I don't think so. But it can still be special.

OK, stepping off the soapbox now....

So far my son's parties (aside from the park party) have included homemade cake, ice cream, homemade games, homemade decorations, and a piƱata. For his first birthday we did a Bear in the Big Blue House theme (he loved Bear!), but it was really hard to find any decorations, especially for the cake, so I just did a carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and a "1" candle on top. We did some games for the older kids, including a treasure hunt, that went over pretty well. His second birthday was a Totoro party, based on the movie "My Neighbor Totoro". I figured out how to make a Totoro-shaped cake and also made soot-sprite cupcakes. The frosting didn't stay spikey, but they still turned out cute. :) For games we did Pin the Smile on Cat Bus. His third birthday we did a train theme (not Thomas, at the time we thought Thomas was creepy), and you can tell by the picture, that _someone_ got to the cake before I did. I was busy getting ready for the party while the cake cooled, when I hear a little voice coming from the kitchen saying "Good job!" and little hands clapping. Needless to say there were frantic phone calls made to my husband who was out getting ice and stuff, to pick up a cake from Costco. I made some railway crossing signs, including one with flashing lights made from blinking Christmas pins. For games we did a bean bag toss of Toss the Coal into the Coal Car. His fourth birthday was a Pixar Cars party. My son "helped" me paint the decorations, a bunch of road signs, and we turned the living room and entry into Radiator Springs. I did a racetrack cake and put a diecast Lightning and Mater on top. For some reason I can't find a good picture of it, so I'll just describe it: it was a rectangular cake, 9x13 I think, that I frosted in green for grass, crushed up chocolate graham crackers for the race track, formed an oval track with the crumbs, and I made a banner that said "Happy Birthday" on the computer with a checkerboard border that I stuck into the cake with toothpicks. Lightning and Mater were under the banner. For games we did Pin the Bolt on Lightning and a bean bag toss. We also made foam cars from a kit I got at Michael's. All in all, I think our parties have been successful. I end up running around like a nut, but the kids seem to enjoy themselves. I think that the memories we make are better when we infuse the process with love.