Monday, October 29, 2012

October Garden Update

Corn seedlings put in September

With our extended warm spell referred to by the weather people as the Indian Summer, when truly they should just call it a typical So Cal Early Fall.  Unless we have an unusually cold spell the temps are usually in the 70's to 80's through October.

So anticipating this I started some more seeds in the greenhouse in August and transplanted them last month.  The corn though not that tall has sent out tassles and I'm hoping will produce before it gets cold.  It was worth the effort to see if it might.

Corn today

I finally took out the giant zucchini that had all but taken over a quarter of the garden space.  Though the leaves were large and looked great, it had taken to putting too much energy into the plant and wasn't producing that many zucchinis anymore.  So I've put the ones I started from the greenhouse out.  One is really struggling as something was really munching it before I put up some protective netting.  The other seems to be doing well and is flowering so we should get some more before the colder season forces us to grow in the greenhouse.

My butternut squash is still going strong and a small squash is to be seen next to the Lemon Thyme that seems to love the cooler days.

This year I saved the tops of 3 pineapples I'd bought and after soaking them in water for a day, I planted them in the garden.  Have to admit these are the first I've ever had success with, so will have to see how they manage as it gets cooler.  May be able to protect them with a cloche style barrier when weather changes. Still I love that they've made it this far!

Big Boy Tomato
Yellow pear tomato

My tomatoes are loaded with green tomatoes, both the "Big Boy" variety and the "Yellow Pear" that will turn yellow as they ripen. 

Then there is the golden amaranth that is about ready to harvest.  For anyone not familiar with amaranth the leaves have a high protein content and can be used in salads or cooked like spinach.  The flowers produce tiny little granules that you collect and can cook the way you would quinoa or rice.  Or can be ground to make a flour.  It does take a lot to really get a good serving amount and my growing this was more an experiment in this small space, so I will save the seed for later planting.

The eggplant is doing much better without the intense heat we had and most of the herbs seem to like this much better as well.  I'll be putting cooler weather seed crops in the ground here soon for lettuce, cilantro and mesclun salad mix.  All these bolt too quickly during out hot summers, so hoping to get some now.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Visiting the Hsu's

LA Skyline as we head down the 10 Freeway

A couple of weeks ago we posted about a couple named Frank and Debora Hsu who own the property next to ours and their visit at our home.  At the end of our time we made plans to go to Hollywood where they live to visit.

Debora and Frank are a fascinating couple, he was originally from Mainland China and left with his family to Taiwan during the time of the cultural revolution.  Debora's family came from Japan and settled in Taiwan and it was at the university there the two met.  They are a wonderful example of the American story, coming here with nothing but a willingness to work hard and the determination to take advantage of all opportunities this country had to offer. 

Frank originally used his double degree in Chemistry and Biology to work in a lab, while Debora worked in the restaurant field learning the ins and outs of operation.  After 4 years they'd saved enough to buy the first in a set of what would expand to 4 businesses.  A coffee shop, then restaurant, night club and art gallery.  All smaller businesses within the growing Hollywood community.  Debora spoke of the exhausting hours to build and keep these going and the need for nannies to help with the two daughters they would later have.  Frank would eventually come on board to manage the accounting side as Debora dealt with operations.  During this time they also worked to sponsor family members to be able to immigrate to America and get the same opportunity to succeed.

In time they would sell these businesses and eliminate the need to have to manage on a daily basis a hands on interaction with business operations and would buy property and buildings to be leased to business operators.  They invited us to join them at one of these restaurants for dinner last night.

Just some of the "snacks" that would fill this lazy susan for our enjoyment

We arrived earlier in the day for a time to visit and what Debora modestly referred to as some "snacks".  She had prepared a veritable feast of dim sum and stir fry goodies!!!   Fortunately we spent hours visiting, because we needed the time to have an appetite again for dinner : )

Late in the day we headed to the Black Angus Steak House and a wonderful meal there.  The girls hold a special place in Debora's heart as she knows the opportunities that are available to them in their lives here and as the perpetual optimist and visionary speaks to all they can grow up to be.

Flash didn't work well here with Cam and Debora

Debora and "her girls" : )

We love our time with this incredible couple and the richness of their lives and experiences.  Time always goes so quickly in their company.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Anniversary Celebration

I posted yesterday I would update after we celebrated our anniversary, pictures and information on the much anticipated dinner date we planned at the Napa Rose restaurant at Disneys Grand Californian.

In a word, AMAZING!!!  I am so happy to be able to report this, because we've all had the experience of anticipating and planning a special event only to be disappointed that it didn't live up to it's billing, or something went wrong and we've just had to roll with it and make the best.  On Sunday it looked like that could happen as Kevin's stomach wasn't behaving.  Fear a flu was trying to come on concerned us.  Even yesterday morning he wasn't completely 100%, but insisted he felt well enough to celebrate our day.  We headed out to Disneyland around noon.  With reservations at the Napa Rose restaurant you are able to get 5 hours of valet parking included at the Grand Californian, so we arrived at the hotels front entrance and were ushered in, in style.

We had several hours before our dinner time so we began our evening by walking around the parks starting with California Adventure.  The area called Cars Land opened since the last time we visited the park, so our tour began enjoying the changes that were new for us.  A lot of people extend their weekend visits, so being a Monday the parks were still a bit crowded and other than The Tower of Terror, we didn't go on any other rides just walked and enjoyed the environment. Here's a photo collage of this part of our day.

After walking around California Adventure, we went across to the Disneyland main park and I took a few pictures of some of the Halloween decorating changes they are making.

About an hour before dinner we headed back to the Grand Californian and went to the Hearthstone Lounge to call and check in on the kids and enjoy a nice glass of La Crema chardonay and a wonderful time talking about years past, changes, kids and our current plans for upcoming changes in our lives.  At last it was time for dinner, so we headed over to the Napa Rose.

We were seated by a stained glass window that looked out towards the park.  Our waiter was a wonderfully helpful and friendly gentleman who went by the nicname Saucy, as he'd been a chef there for years and new their menu and it's qualities first hand.  With his assistance we chose to start our meal with the field green salad, with edible flowers, marinated cucumbers and a fresh herb vinaigrette.  This was incredibly flavorful for a salad and was wonderful with the selection of breads they brought.

Our main course was his suggestion of the Maple Leaf Farm Duck Breast.  This is pan roasted with hot almond cauliflower couscous and blood orange jus.  It absolutely melted in your mouth and the rich combinations of flavor was superb!!  Saucy suggested we split the  side dish of carrots and we are glad we did.  It was the perfect side and amount for both of us.

You were treated like royalty here and everything including presentation is done with flare to make your dining experience memorable. We were so full we had no room to enjoy the sorbet for dessert, but I've included a photo of the presentation they do to mark the occasion.

Found a nice couple to take our photo - the duck meal - dessert and Saucy our waiter

Once our meal ended, we headed back out to the park to walk off the slight discomfort of having eaten too much.  Everything looks so pretty and festive with all the lights on so I've added here a collage of some of these scenes.

We finished by heading out to Downtown Disney, to the Jazz Cafe to pick up some coffee for our trip home and the promised breadpuddings "to go", for the kids.  With that we headed home, to be further surprised by the kids who had spent quite a bit of their time cleaning the house to surprise us and making cards for our anniversary.  Amber had apparently stopped over to check in on them and brought a card for us, a plate of hand dipped chocolate strawberries she'd made and a bottle of champagne from she and Eddie.  It was a wonderful end to a truly special day!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

29th Anniversary

It was 29 years ago today Kevin and I married.  Can't believe this much time has gone by so quickly and so many memories to reflect on in those years.

Our wedding picture - we look like babies : )

He was in the Navy just starting out with his sub schools in San Diego.  He completed one set of classes on Friday, we married on Saturday and by Monday he had to be back in class starting his next set.  So, there was no time for a honeymoon get away.  That would have to wait until almost 5 years later when the submarine he was on while away on a Westpac (6 months at sea) would pull into Guam around Christmas.  We had arranged for him to take time while in port and I flew out to enjoy a week on what for us was a tropical paradise.  It was wonderful at that point in time to break up the 6 months of seperation the deployment created and finally get a belated honeymoon.

Last year at our anniversary get away at the Mission Inn

It would be just after our 10th Anniversary that our life with kids would begin and infertility struggles ended when Cameron came into our life through the blessing of an open adoption.  A whole new world would open to us as we began the joy and trials of parenthood.

Today we will celebrate by going to a restaurant we both have wanted to try for quite some time.  The restaurant is the Napa Rose.  It's an award winning one that is located within the complex of the Disney Grand California Hotel.  We've stayed at the hotel on a couple different occassions as a family, but haven't yet tried this particular restaurant.  Am VERY excited about our plans!!  Cameron will be holding down the homefront for us as we get away.  Will post pictures of our time out tomorrow, but have some stock pictures of the Napa Rose to share today.

Napa Rose Dining Area

Open Kitchen

Grand California Hotel, Disneyland


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Barn Project/Challenge

If you've been around a little while you know we've maintained a busy agenda of cleaning up and clearing out and completing LOTS of projects here.  Several months ago I began painting the house the new Smoky Olive color, then had to stop as the weather got really hot and stayed hot!  Now that the house is painted I'm on to a BIG challenge - painting the barn.

We have a gambrel style barn/garage.  The front and back are the part of this that is the "challenging" bit I mentioned.  It's really tall and getting all the way to the top means getting creative with scaffolding and ladders.  The side closest to the house is done, and I moved on to the back by the pool.  My arms and neck are already feeling this : )

Painted side near the back of the house

This is the progress I've made on the back with just ladders and extension poles

Another view of the back of barn

The positives of this are it really needs new paint as the weather over the years has taken quite a toll on the old paint.  I'm liking the look of the new color, so while this cooler weather holds it's time to really get a move on and to get this done!!  

Will post updates as I make progress.

Oh, and just an extra - Kevin got the first coat of white on the finished stucco, YAY.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Corn Chowder for Lunch

Found another recipe that's a definate keeper.  In an effort to just use what I have on hand and not go to the store, with the possible exception of fresh fruit or vegetables if I run out, I have been searching for recipes that introduce new dishes to my regular repetoire of the tried and true ones.  I came across this one for corn chowder (click on for link). It is really good!!!  My only change was to add fresh tarragon and lemon thyme from the garden instead of just the fresh thyme the recipe calls for.

Made this for lunch and served with the last of the bread I did in the bread machine with spreadable butter our family is now hooked on. 

Frugal tip:  Spreadable Butter (click on for link)  this is something I've been using for a few months now and has worked so well for us.  As my old post states, we love butter and always had a stick of butter in a container for use on the counter as it gets too hard in the refrigerator.  With our use in cooking and for bread, bagels, etc,  we were going through a lot of butter.  Then with the heat this past summer, despite the air conditioning the butter was melting.   So when I first tried this it was just to have something I could put in the frig and still be able to use on bread without the gloppy mess it makes when it's too hard.  This recipe did the trick.  What I hadn't anticpated as a side benefit, was that by making a pound of this at a time, extended because of the oil and water and  it being so easy to spread we significantly cut down on the total amount of butter we'd been going through.  This reduction has taken us from using 8 sticks or 2lbs. a month to 1lb. and sometimes even less because this spread seems to go SO much further.  If you've priced butter lately you know that adds up quickly.

So, if like us you don't like or won't use margarine, this is a helpful and frugal way of extending your butter without the loss of flavor and making it easily spreadable.  It's a win-win situation : )

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Computer Moving Towards Normal

Computer still has issues.  Kevin has been great in making so many strides against this nasty malware.  He's still having to pull hidden files as he rids my computer and I try not to click on anything that might reintroduce this nasty thing.

We've made backups now of my homeschool records and all the many pictures I have on here.  Though I have lots of other documents, teaching resources, music, etc...  It was the pictures and school records that bothered me most when I thought they might be gone.  Also found my Facebook account had unsuccessfully been attempted to be accessed by someones computer in Kiev, Ukraine.  That doesn't really sit well, kind of creepy even though I really have little info on myself in my "personal" info. Glad for the blocks that were there and thwarted that.

My "Favorites" lists and folders had been temporarily lost so I found myself doing searches to try to find some blogs I really enjoy following, but can't always remember the blog addresses that can differ from the blogs name.  So in the process of searching I found myself following rabbit trails and finding a few others that are fun and interesting : )   Also came across a recipe I used for dinner with great success last night. It was for baked potato soup (click on soup to access recipe).  Everyone absolutely LOVED this.  Will definately be making it again.  I served it with bread I'd just made in my bread machine.   So something positive came from this mess : )

I'm a bit gun shy about making searches to complete the resources I'd hoped to find for the unit study I still want to do next month for the girls.  Will use the resources I have on hand about the Pilgrims.  Tried and true sites I've used before, and may make a trip to the Library for my other needs. 

Life moves forward for us, hope all is well for you who pop over to check in on us.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Computer Issues

While researching materials for next months unit study on the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving I  came across a site that offered multiple helpful resources including some cute videos.  It seems though that one of the videos introduced a virus that made it appear my hard drive experienced a complete system failure.

I watched helplessly as my screen shutdown then began showing one system failure alert after another.  My icons all began to systematically disappear as more system failure folders showed up on the screen.  I was able to access and start a virus scan, but wasn't sure if that's what this was or my computer hard drive was actually shot.  I decided to wait for my IT dept. head, aka Kevin, to get home and take a look.

He ultimately found it's a malware virus that trys to sell you their product to "restore" your system and thus hijacks your computer.  Kevin is still working to clean out the thing and bring back my files and tools that are in here, just hidden from my current use.

Now I am not a computer junky, but I seriously did not realize how much I've come to rely on this thing until I had no access to it yesterday.  I lamented the pictures and homeschool files I had not backed up and might  have lost.   How many times I use this to now check info for school resources, or to give me news or information updates.   I  have all sorts of teaching resources and music I've downloaded that I like to listen to as I do things around the house.

Even when ready to get dinner together I went to grab a recipe and realized I couldn't get it from my computer.  SO, moral of the story be careful in what sites you open up even if they seem perfectly legit.  Backup what you don't want to lose regularly, to a source other than your computer !!!  Realize life worked prior to computer and survival without is possible ?  :  (

Hopefully by my next post I'll have access to my pictures and tools back to be able to return to a format I use regularly.  In the meantime I am really grateful to Kevin for his hard work that gives me this much of an access back to my computer and for salvaging and backing up to CD my pictures and school files !!!!!!    The idea of losing those memories and all that work was truly upsetting. 

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Predator Alert

We've recently had some harsh reminders of natures reality.  A few months ago we had seperated the two roosters that were less dominate in our flock.  They were relegated to the "bachelor pad".
It was a pen within our chicken yard that kept them near the flock, but in their own space.  Within the course of two nights we lost them both.  We weren't exactly sure what got them.  Domestic cat, wild cat, owl?

I wrote last month about having to seperate the last and largest rooster because he was defeathering our girls and they needed a break from his overly amourous attention.  We put him in the seperate pen but this time had a chicken wire top to prevent anything from getting in.   He'd remained there for a few months just fine until the other morning Cameron found a lot of feathers and a missing rooster.  The top of the pen in one corner had the chicken wire pulled away from the fence.  We found what was left of him partially covered by bamboo leaves in the upper part of the pool area.  This was definately an owl.  All evidence pointed to their mode of hunting, their strength because he was a BIG rooster, and the way they will store their kill for later eating. 

Unfortunately on the evening of Amber's birthday we left during sunlight, but got home after dark and closed up the hens in their house.  It was the next morning we realized we were one short.

So we have been extremely diligent to get the "girls" in their protected house before dark to prevent any more free meals for this owl.  As irritating as it is for us, it is a reality in nature.  We provided a nice buffet for a mighty hunter to access.  Now we just need to prevent it from having anymore success.

I could appreciate this mighty hunter more if it hadn't cost our flock so.  Hard lesson to learn about being truly diligent with the abilities of these predators.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Projects Resume

With the final arrival of MUCH cooler Fall temps it's time to get busy!!!  We had a wonderful day of rain that fell consistently and gently on Thursday.   LOVE THIS!!!  It was enjoyable to actually have a fire in the fireplace, watch the rain falling outside and the smell of rain has always been something that triggers fond memories for me.

 So now with these helpful climate adjustments it's time to get back to the projects we'd placed on hold because it was too miserable to be outside.  Kevin and Cameron have been busy the last couple of days getting the stucco done on the back room.  They had finished the one end wall a couple months ago prior to our new AC unit being installed.  We still had the area around both back windows and the french door entrance that needed to be done.  The scratch coat is up and today they will be adding the finish layers.  Once dry I'll paint it white to match the other areas of stucco we have done on the house.

Love being able to check off items on our "to do" list.