Tuesday, October 30, 2012

No Horsin' Around

On our recent trip to Bates Nut Farm to the pumpkin patch, my hubby got up close and personal (with his camera lens) to some draft horses that were pulling wagons for hayrides.  When the girls realized how big draft horses are in person, they decided that it would actually be very difficult to ride one considering how wide the backs of the horses are.  They are very pretty horses and my hubby took some nice pictures of them!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dash to the Desert

Going on camping trips during the school year can be a real challenge due to schedules, school activities (both for the kids and for Augustus as a teacher and speech & debate coach), church, etc.  Thankfully, though, we close enough to the desert to get there in just a little over an hour and Anza Borrego Desert State Park is at our disposal.  In times of economic hardship and budget crunches, with outrageous camping fees at California parks and recreational areas, the bargain price of camping for FREE (yes, you read that correctly) is great!  All we do is drive out to a pull-off on one of the roads in a designated recreational area, park the van, and set up a tent.  Another huge bonus is that it is legal to have a campfire in a protected enclosure, so we bring the basin to our fire pit which fits the bill.  We have our favorite area in the park called Blair Valley and there are several short to moderate hikes right there that are great for the family during the day.  So, last weekend, knowing that we could only go for a short trip, we dashed out to the desert on Friday afternoon and came back on Saturday around lunchtime, with enough time so that Augustus could get cleaned up to go and chaperone Homecoming.  

Four really cool highlights from our trip:  (1)The three older girls got up in the morning, with their Dad already off hiking, and decided to take a hike of their own.  They started up the big hill directly behind our tent (in my full sight the whole time) and made it half way up.  I loved seeing them go out on their own adventure, helping each other along, and developing camaraderie as sisters.  (2)As we ate breakfast, we heard the tale-tell sound of an Air Force jet coming (the military does training out over the desert).  As the jet came into sight, it was so low, if felt like you could just reach up and touch it and then a second later it had darted over the next hill and was gone.  (3)Before leaving and after packing up,  we went on a short hike to a historic Native American village sight were there are morteros, deep indentations and also more shallow indentations for both grinding grain and rolling out the dough; the Native American people came to these areas seasonally.  Once the girls got going, they kept looking all over to find evidence of more morteros and also old cooking sights in the boulders and campsites.  It was fun seeing them imagine being out there in a different era, having to fend for themselves in that terrain.  (4)And finally, the highlight for me personally was seeing the most brilliant shooting star that I have ever witnessed.  It was glowing red and yellow on it tail end, light a natural firework flying through the sky.  Both Augustus and I were aghast and in awe of this evidence of God's wondrous creation.

The night sky is amazingly beautiful out there.
Waiting for dinner in the dark.  We didn't get as quick of a start as we had hoped for, but we made it.
Enjoying being around the campfire.
Tricks with glow sticks.
Our campsite from up above.
The hubby playing with his camera as the sun rises.

Selah, up the hill, hiking with Isabella and Arianna.
Isabella and Arianna, hiking.
A steep uphill.
Our campsite.

Dakota, basking in the sun.

Friday, October 26, 2012

My New, Favorite, Go-To Meal

Here is a dish that I threw together with all the tastes that I like and items that I usually have on hand.  My hubby loved it so much that he wants to eat it over and over and says it could go on the menu at P.F.Chang's.  It is vegan, but it is really an Asian-inspired dish, so I think it would work for many different palates.  The other great part about this dish is that it really is just a template for the ingredients that you enjoy.  Mix and match the items I suggest and use a different sauce if that is what you have on hand.  The tofu can always be switched out for your favorite meat, too.  

First, toast 1/4 cup of raw cashews in a very lightly olive oil coated frying pan.  I use my non-stick, ceramic frying pan for this recipe.  When they are a medium brown color, transfer them to your serving dish.

Next, saute 1/4 of a chopped yellow onion in a frying pan for a couple of minutes, adding in more olive oil as needed.  Then, add 1 chopped serrano pepper (or the amount you desire) and 3 minced garlic cloves.  When this is all lightly browned, transfer to your serving dish. 

Ahead of time, press the liquid out of a rectangle of extra firm tofu; I use between 1/3 to 1/2 of the package.  Cut it up into small squares.  Then, saute it on all sides until it is golden brown.   Transfer to serving dish.

Also, ahead of time, prepare 1/2 package (or approximately 2 servings) of Asian rice noodles according to the directions and set aside.  Pour 1/4 to 1/3 cup of Trader Joe's Soyaki sauce (their Teriyaki sauce with sesame seeds, etc.) in the pan and heat it up.  Put the rice noodles in the sauce and stir frequently to heat through and spread the sauce out evenly.  When the sauce and the noodles begin to fry and/or stick to the pan, put them in the serving dish.  Mix everything together and put chopped cilantro and scallions in the dish.  Mix together one more time and voila!  Your meal is served!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Our "Paris" Poodle

From time to time, Lilah has to be groomed which we do at home.  She may not look as professional, but she's a country dog, so it fits the bill . . . which is considerably cheaper than taking her to be groomed.  In fact, after using the clippers for just two haircuts, I had already recouped the price of them versus taking her to the groomers.  Have I said how much I love, love, love that standard poodles don't shed?  Because I really do!  She does lose hair like humans do, but not in copious amounts and it isn't constantly plastered on my clothes right before I walk out the door.  The girls have a Barbie movie called "Barbie and the Fashion Fairytale" in which Barbie also has a standard poodle that she takes with her to visit her aunt in Paris.  So, when it came time for Lilah's trim, they requested that I clip in like a  "Paris" poodle.  I usually go basic, but the pom pom's on poodles legs are traditional and were used for helping them to retain heat around the joints while retrieving birds out of the water for their owners.  Yes, suprrisingly, standard poodles were traditionally hunting dogs and judging from Lilah's skills and many squirrel wounds, I would say that she hasn't lost that centuries' old tradition.  In fact, her speed, athleticism, and agility is a thing to behold.  Well, now that I have waxed poetic on the many virtues of the standard poodle, I'll post a few pics of the recent haircut and get off my soapbox.  :-)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Pumpkin Patch Pictures

Livia, happy as always to smile for a picture.
At least they are all in 1 picture.
Livy right in the middle posing front and center for the camera. 
So pensive.
Not too excited about smiling for the camera after being stung by a wasp.
Not sure what this is all about.
Okay, I can be pleasant for Papi and the camera.
I'm kind of getting into this.
Little D, hamming it up.
Maybe this one will turn into a coach for our little princess.

Friday, October 19, 2012


Here is a song I was listening to today and am really enjoying.  
It is 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord).

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Our First Vegan Birthday Cake

Since changing the way we eat, I am re-learning how to bake using very little fats and oils while also eliminating eggs, butter, and dairy.  Tuesday was my hubby's 34th birthday and I found a recipe for chocolate cake with chocolate frosting in the McDougall's book, The Starch Solution.  The recipe looked easy enough to make and I had Augustus pick up a few ingredients that I didn't have on hand at Trader Joe's on Monday.  Also, the recipe called for a 8 X 8 pan, which I have, but doesn't look very festive.  So, instead I used a bundt pan and it came out beautifully.  The girls loved the results and were happy to see that birthday baking is still alive and well in our household.  So, yay, to our first delicious and successful vegan birthday cake!  I know there will be many more to come.

Ready to begin!

About to go in the oven.

The finished product.

Happy Birthday!

All my favorite people.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Loose Tooth Time

It had been awhile since we had a round of loose teeth, so it was about time.  Then, a couple of nights ago, within five minutes of one another, my #1 and #2 lost one of their baby teeth.   Isabella's was the first to go, and then Selah, inspired by this progress and her big sister cheering her on, gave the final twist on one of her top front teeth.  This whole scenario gives my husband the willies and he shies away from it.  After the teeth were actually out, though, he returned to document it in photos. 

The funniest part of the night was when Selah asked to speak with me in private.  She proceeded to ask me what I did with the teeth after I took them out from under the pillow, "Since we know you are the tooth fairy, Mom.".  I told her I used to put Isabella's in a little container for her and leave them there, presumably left for her by the tooth fairy, but that her (Selah's) other two were in my jewelry box.  I assured her that I would keep them safe for her.  It was cute how she was keeping it a secret from her little sisters so that they could have the excitement of the tooth fairy for their first couple of teeth that fall out.