Sunday, June 24, 2012

Summer 2012: Travel Tip #1

Traveling with small children in a crowded vehicle for many miles at a time can be quite a challenge.  One of the biggies is finding good places to stop where they can get a nice break, stretch their legs, and get some energy out.  Rest stops usually just don't cut it for us.  There isn't a lot of space to play, play equipment is non-existent, and even the dog walking areas are pretty limited.  Instead, why not stop in a town off of the highway and find a local park to chill out in for an hour or so.  We did just that on Thursday in a suburb of Sacramento.  We just looked for a developed community, drove down a few main boulevards, and ran right into a small community park with two playgrounds, picnic tables, and lots of grass for walking the dog around.  The girls ran around like crazy, were able to eat their sandwiches, tumbled on the grass, and exclaimed over the beauty of our stop (which rarely happens when stopping at rest stops).  This turned out to be the perfect solution to our kids-going-bonkers-in-the-car problem. 

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finally . . . Vacation, here we come!

A week ago, our girls were done with school and we set our sights on getting our summer vacation under way.  Finally, on Thursday, we were able to mobilize ourselves out of the house, the van fully packed and everyone packed in, including our standard poodle, Lilah.  Summer traveling and road trips are something we love to do together as a family.  On our first day on the road, Isabella told me, "I like to take trips like this because it is a fun way to spend time together as a family".  And then Arianna added, "Yeah, it's our family tradition!". 

Our first stop this summer is one of our traditional stops, my husband's hometown of Rogue River, Oregon, located in the Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon.  Our first day here, we took the girls to a historic mill, called Butte Creek Mills.  The milling stones were brought over by ship from France in 1872 and are still being used today to grind many different grains powered by river water.  One of the miller's, Mike, generously took time to give us a tour of the process so that the girls could get a good look at the entire process.  Here is a link to this neat stop:

Today, we went to the Grower's Market in Grants Pass, OR, and bought locally grown organic fruits and vegetables.  It was amazing how many local businesses were represented there selling lovely, fresh produce, goat milk products, fresh flowers, honey, plants, and lots of tasty homemade breads and goodies.  The girls were fairly patient during all of this, but they were itching to get down the street two blocks to go to the Grants Pass Pharmacy and drink a phosphate made rigt there at the soda fountain for you in any flavor that you can imagine - this still costs only 25 cents.  I chose a cup of coffee, which was 10 cents.  Then, the girls bought themselves a jumbo gumball with their spending  money.  It's the little things that make their day. 

We'll see what tomorrow brings.  :-)

I'm going to try a couple of things this summer as I blog while we travel (as I'm able to get internet access, of course).  First of all, I'm going to try and take pictures of Lilah in fun spots, sort of like the garden gnome for Travelocity.  Secondly, I'm going to add little travel tips here and there from our personal experiences as we are on the go. 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

More Recent Favorites

Isabella, our oldest; how can she possibly be almost 9?

Selah and Mommy. 
Arianna and fun with a glow stick.
I think she's about to be very worked up about something.  Funny face, though.
Livia and three of her favorite things:  her blankie, her veil, and her 2 favorite fingers.

I whip my hair back and forth.

Recent Favorites

Chaperoning prom with the hubby this May.
Arianna, the adventurer.
Little D enjoying her meal.
Thanks to my hubby who makes much better use of our camera than I do by actually experimenting with it and figuring out how to use all those cool manual settings that I so lazily bypass.  More favorites to come . . .

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In A Pinch . . .

. .  .  of the baking sort.

Before I start a recipe, I'll usually scan to see that I have all the major ingredients on hand.  But, when it comes to the usual ingredients such as baking soda and baking powder, I pretty much assume that they will be there in the cupboard when I need them.  Lately, though, my cupboards have been getting somewhat bare on the essentials; I do this on purpose to clean out a bit before summer vacation, but it has the effect of forcing myself to improvise in a pinch.  My hubby and I enjoy watching various cooking competition shows together and the contestants usually have wonderful ingredients at their fingertips and a variety of items that are practically impossible for the average person to keep in stock in their own pantry at all times.  Despite this, the art of improvisation is still necessary because inevitably, a team member will forget to buy something at the grocery store for them, time will be close to running out, or their idea will be about to fall through. 

Well, this morning, I had to improvise, as well, and quickly, because I was making the girls muffins for breakfast before they left for school.  First of all, I didn't have 3 bananas; I only had 2.   So, I substituted a ripe pear for 1 of the bananas which worked just fine (I've also used applesauce in this situation or pumpkin puree when coming up short on the banana count).  Next, though, I realized that I was all out of baking soda, the key leavening agent in my muffins, and I had only about 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking soda left in the cupboard.  So, of course, I got immediately googled about this problem to see if there was a quick fix.  Here was a handy baking soda and baking powder substitution article I found. 
 As I didn't really have as much baking powder as I needed to make the muffins rise properly, though, at the last minute I threw in an extra egg white (there is already 1 egg in the recipe) to try and fluff up the muffins some, too.  Thankfully, my banana chocolate chip muffins turned out really well and I don't think the family would have even known the difference had I not mentioned it; as it was, the girls ate them up in record time and still got off to school in the nick of time.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Review: Heart Echoes

I'm here to talk about one of my favorite Christian fiction authors, Sally John, and her most recently published novel, Heart Echoes.  One aspect of Sally's writing that I really love is that she doesn't put out novel after novel of the all-too-predictable Christian romance plots that wrap up with a saccharin-sweet, too-good-to-be-true ending, but neither does she paint a bleak picture of "real" life.  Instead, I find that the appeal of Sally's writing is found in the way that she presents characters with depth and relatability; her plots are complex, intriguing, touching, and compelling; and above all, she gently, but surely points the reader to the true hope and healing that can be found in God's love for each and everyone of us.

Heart Echoes is set in both Los Angeles and the Oregon Coast.  Sally has done her research well, as she always does, and both settings are as believable as they are different.  The novel focuses on Teal Morgan-Adams, her daughter Maiya, and Teal's husband and Maiya's step-dad, River Adams.  The plot gets off to a quick start with the family experiencing an earthquake in L.A. and this brings about repercussions that are far greater than just the physical damage caused by the earthquake itself.  As chinks start to form in Teal's neatly put together life, she decides to head back to her hometown of Cedar Pointe, Oregon, for awhile, but consequently has to come face-to-face with her difficult childhood, decisions she made as a young adult, strained relationships with her immediate and extended family, and secrets that need to come to light.  If I say more, I will give away too much of the good stuff, so I'll stop there with the summarizing.

As I read this book and also walked out the experiences of my own life this spring, I felt that Sally's book was speaking to me on a much deeper level than just being a piece of fiction that would be "a good read".  The jacket of the novel talks about "life's unexpected detours" and I can say that this first half of my 2012 has been full of my fair share of unexpected and unplanned moments and experiences.  Much of my detours recently have centered around illness in our family - from a daughter who was finally diagnosed with permanent lung damage needing daily respiratory therapy and frequent antibiotic treatment, to a flood of common viruses one after another, and even a family bout with the chicken pox.  Most of us have small trials and challenges on a daily basis and then periods in our lives that are even more challenging than usual.  When looking back on those times, though, the hope is that we can learn  about ourselves, others, and God from our suffering and trials and see God's hand in those situations and the hope that He gives us.  This is what see as the central theme of Heart Echoes and the reason that it will speak to so many, each in a different way.