Tag Archives: California

Guest Blogging at Five Flavours

8 Dec

Today I’m guest blogging at Five Flavours, a food blog run by my Kiwi friend Shanti. I first met Shanti ages and ages ago on flickr—way before I even dreamed of starting a blog, we were friends, and she asked me if I would guest post on her blog. I had a lot more time for adventures in cooking back then, seeing as how it was pre-baby, pre-etsy shop, and pre-photography business.

I could never decide on what to make, however, and one thing lead to another and now, probably a year later, I am finally making good on my promise. Shanti requested I make something that speaks of my home. I happen to live in the Central Valley of California, and after changing my mind dozens of times I settled on making an adapted version of Mollie Katzen’s Rebaked Potatoes. These are fantastic. Head on over to Five Flavors to read the post. It’s got lots of cheese in it, so you know it’s going to be good.

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This Must Be Underwater Love…

27 Sep

I have been meaning to write this post since we got back from vacation, but all the craziness of starting back and work and getting into a new routine derailed it. Plus I had about a million photos to edit. You see, taking photos isn’t good enough for me anymore. I have to monkey around with them in Photoshop now, too. These are my precious memories of Isobel, and in 25 years I’m going to be able to look back and say “I’m so glad I adjusted that white balance.”

I had been looking forward to taking Isobel to the Monterey Bay Aquarium since she was born. Or really before that, to be honest. It was even on my Life List. I’m such an MBA fan girl. I would go there once a year if I could, but given that money is tight and the aquarium is far away, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to take Isobel this year. Fortunately, we were near Monterey for my cousin’s wedding so we were able to stop by right before I had to return to work.

Anthony was convinced Isobel would not get a whole lot out of the trip but he’s a nice enough guy to indulge his crazy wife’s request. (Also, he’s not stupid.) She’s too young to enjoy it, he said. This experience is going to be more for us than it is for her.

The aquarium was an hour’s drive away from our hotel so first thing in the morning, we set off. The previous day we had just gotten hopelessly lost in the woods and my nerves were still a bit raw from the experience but fortunately we just had to say on Highway 1 so it was easy.

On our way to the aquarium I passed by some beautifully healthy succulents, and, er, helped myself to a couple of their babies.

I’m going to hell, aren’t I? Whatevs.

We were ready to eat by the time we got there and I don’t regret eating at their restaurant at all. It was BY FAR the best museum/day trip/food on the road I’ve had EVER. I bought a selection of cheeses! And fruit! And fresh clam chowder in a bread bowl! Oh my god, I’m having flashbacks just thinking about it. Anthony had a fantastic-looking slice of pizza and something else but I can’t remember. The verdict? Nom. Nom nom nom. Isobel had a bit of everything we ordered and loved everything, too.

To our delight, Isobel LOVED the aquarium. L-O-V-E-D it. She interacted with the exhibits, watched the otters play, ran around the kid area, and said, “HI FISHIE!” about every ten seconds. It was PURE JOY to see her loving every minute.

At one point we took her outside to see the ocean for the first time.

Pure. Joy.

She was fascinated and could not stop staring at it.

We tried to get different family shots with the ocean in the background, but it was hard because she didn’t want her back to the ocean. She wanted to look at the majesty!

She also wanted to push her stroller around and around through crowds of people. Because we loaded her up in the car and drove four hours and paid several hundred dollars so she could push her stroller through a group of people in Monterey as opposed to at the park at home.

I can’t really complain. It was adorable.

I also tried getting some photos of her on my lap. Yeah, that didn’t work out well as she wanted to run around and play, Mom, not sit on your lap like a lump! You can see I’m totally miffed in this picture.

The part that was less than pure joy? The fact that she was just too stoked to sleep. We were there during her nap time and we brought the stroller for napping purposes. Usually, even if we are out, we can get her to nap in the stroller. She napped through the wedding reception like a champ. No amount of pachas or stroller time or mommy hugs could counteract the SUPER AQUARIUM FUNTIMES though, and she refused to sleep. She eventually slept in the car ride back to the motel, which was a blessing.

Refusing to nap, bitches!

I wanted to get a photo of her and Anthony under the “Devoted Dads” seahorse exhibit sign, but she was in the midst of a no-nap fuss and not having it. Of course, that may prove just how devoted of a Dad Anthony is.

I normally try to avoid gift shops because we don’t need any more crap, thank you very much, but it was Isobel’s first time at the aquarium and they totally make money off of parents like me because I convinced Anthony to get her not one but TWO stuffed sea creatures:

We named the jelly “Bloop Bloop,” after the noise they make when the float around, the octopus “Cthulhu” for obvious reasons. Our favorite game to play with the octopus is to put it on her face and yell CTHULHU! over and over. Surprisingly, she adores this game.

The best, the very, very best part of this visit happened outside. After she had gawked at the ocean for a half hour we decided to take her to the outside tidal pool tank that was covered in a “waves” every thirty seconds or so. The waves terrified her at first, but soon she realized there were fishies in the tank, and the wave itself was a fun game, and best of all, there was a special little nook just for her. We were probably in that area with her for an hour and she just loved it. She played with other kids, she danced in the ocean spray from the wave, she talked to the fishies… it was just heaven to watch her enjoy herself.

I may have taken a couple (hundred) photos.

(Waving to fishies)

I tried to let Anthony know how much I appreciated this trip. It meant a lot to me.

Home on the Range

23 Sep

I can’t believe I’m working in the garden every night. And I’m loving it. I honestly don’t think I’d be out there if I didn’t have Isobel. Before baby I spent time after work decompressing by processing photos, surfing flickr, or watching TV. But I don’t want our after work routine to be spent in front of the TV. My mother had very strict TV limits with us, and plus we couldn’t afford cable, so we were allowed an hour of antennae-TV a day, which usually meant snowy episodes of whatever was on PBS. She set a high standard, especially because we have access to DVDR’d episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba on demand. It’s very tempting to turn it on and fold the laundry in peace.

But that’s not why I became a mother.

So! The backyard beckons. She knows every day at around five o’clock we go out there and play for a couple hours before bed.

Proof I have no yardworking skillz

Right now I’m only focusing on my plants on the patio, because those are the ones I love and my skills really don’t go beyond container gardening at this point. I mean, I can prune the power-hungry wisteria over there but trust me, there’s no reason to until the leaves all fall off. Much more manageable that way. And the lawn? Well, the neighbor is still working on that.

This bucket is one of Isobel’s favorite outdoor toys. She likes to fill it up with water or birdseed and then dump it out again. She is also developing quite the little sense of humor as I saw her putting it on her head and saying, “Hat! Hat!”

These begonias clearly need some help. They used to be a lot healthier and happier but something’s been snacking on them. Also when I was moving around I noticed there were tons of black widow egg sacks on them, which I promptly crushed with a shovel.

Remember my golden scooter? This scooter is very special to Anthony and me because it came with the house. The side of our house by the pond was so overgrown with weeds when we moved in that we didn’t notice the previous owners left this scooter back there for an entire year. That’s right. Anthony had to literally dig it out of the weeds that had grown around it. Nature was claiming the golden scooter for its own.

Just look at that scooter! Some boy somewhere is weeping that it’s missing because it’s painted solid gold and very obviously magical. This is what it looks like right after someone rides it:

It's magically delicious!

Some of my plants still look pretty good despite all the neglect I’ve lavished upon them.

My patio table, however, needs some help.

Zorro looks on, disappointed in my gardening skills.

Look how fresh and clean everything looks after a good sweeping and some repottings!

Jupiter watches with interest whenever he sees us outside and begs to join us. Sorry, I’m clearly some sort of Cat Dictator.

Let me outta this hell hole

I call this shot “Begonia Vision” because you can see Isobel playing in the background. Also I was out of hanging pots and just added the barely-still-alive String of Banana plants to this one. It’s a party in that pot!

Also looking a lot better on this side. Less places for Black Widows to hide, certainly. Although the guy installing our cable didn’t do a pretty job of it.

I’m actually working on the patio and I couldn’t be prouder of myself. I originally posted about the patio to shame myself into working on it, but in the end, that held no sway whatsoever. Apparently I don’t hold myself accountable to the internets. I’m doing it because I love, which is the best reason to do anything anyway.

Pretty Pictures: Orchids

19 Sep

This orchid room was on display at this year’s county fair. Isn’t it just gorgeous? I’m kind of torn—I’m a reverent supporter of xeriscaping and hope to one day convert my front and back yard into a water-conserving paradise. Growing orchids in our climate is kind of the equivalent of buying oranges from Chile in the off-season. I love orchids but I just don’t think that they were meant to live everywhere and since it takes so much time and trouble to grow them here I have to wonder if it’s worth it. If you’re an orchid aficionado and that’s your passion, that’s one thing. But the casual gardener like myself can’t really justify the time, energy and money it takes to sustain plants that abhor my climate.

I mean, I tried. After I graduated high school I had enough disposable income to spend on exotic flowers yet not enough to move out and support myself so I filled my bathroom at my mom’s house with orchids. I learned a lot about orchids in that time, namely that you shouldn’t try to grow them if you live in a hot, dry, savannah-like climate. They did okay in the bathroom, which received lots of light and was constantly a bit humid from the showers my sister and I took, but removing them from that room was practically a death sentence. When I finally moved away from home I ended up returning the orchids to my parents’ bathroom. They were unhappy anywhere else.

I could never get them to bloom after their initial flowering, but I could get them to grow and look happy as long as they stayed in the bathroom. Whenever I see orchids in the store I’m tempted to try again but I can’t justify spending twenty bucks on a project I don’t have the time and energy for.

Aren’t they lovely though?

The Widow

18 Sep

They look like they are made of latex and poison.

I would not call myself particularly afraid of spiders. I don’t like them in my house, and I certainly don’t want them crawling on me, but if I see them I can generally leave them alone and not freak out about it. I give them their space.

I have been on a black widow murdering spree, but I’ve found many other spiders in my yard and I leave them be. They aren’t a danger to my family and they are a part of the ecosystem. But black widows are dangerous and they love the valley.

I have been happily cleaning up my patio while Isobel has been contentedly playing in the backyard each evening. After I get home from work she grabs her shoes asks to go “outside” and we spend about two hours playing on the patio. It’s been lovely.

Wednesday was like any other day. We were outside and Isobel was holding an imaginary conversation with her bunny. She wanted to lie on the picnic blanket which had been stored outside. I obliged.

When it was time to go inside and make dinner, Isobel was having so much fun on the blanket she didn’t want to go in. She was happy enough to go inside, though, if the blanket came with her. I gave it a good shake to loosen any collected debris and we went inside.

We had been playing inside for nearly an hour before it happened. The black widow was hiding in the blanket. And it was pissed.

I don’t know when or how it got in there since we use this blanket so often. I don’t know what made it decide to choose that exact moment to attack. I don’t know why it chose me and not my baby. But I am so, so grateful it did. I would gladly take a spider bite for her. Any spider bite.

Isobel and I were sitting on the blanket playing together in front of the TV. (Top Chef finale!) Zorro was with us. The blanket was in a pile as opposed to being all stretched out. Isobel prefers a pile because she likes to nest in it and cover her baby in its voluminous folds.

I was lying down on the blanket near her when suddenly, the widow charged out from the blanket and ran across it heading straight for me. It crawled right up my hand and onto my wrist. I didn’t scream. I didn’t flip out. My thought process became as fast as lighting.

Get it off.

Get the baby and the cat away.

Kill it. Kill it. Kill it.

In one movement I shoved Isobel and Zorro off the blanket as I flung it off my arm. I brought the folds of the blanket together on the spider as hard as I could. I crushed it and I rubbed it. Poor Isobel is not used to such rough treatment from me and started crying. I gathered up the blanket and threw it on the front porch, then searched Isobel’s body for the telltale target-shaped mark that would mean she had been bitten.

She had not.

And as far as I could tell, I had not, although I must have come very close.

Later in the evening, after Isobel was tucked safely in bed, I went to examine the blanket, the crushed spider, and take photos. To be fair, I was guessing that it was a black widow. I am very familiar with them but the whole incident happened very quickly and I didn’t slow down to confirm anything. I listened to my gut.

I carefully unfolded the blanket in the weak yellow porch light and there she was – shiny and black and full of poison. The dominatrix of spiders. The widow. I leaned in and snapped a few photos.

Slowly she started to writhe.

I crushed her without fear this time and when I was done, so was the spider.

There was not much left of her.

Before this incident I had done some reading up on black widows as they are one of the last natural predatory dangers to us in my area, aside from gangbangers with pit bulls and gigantic pickups with trucknuts. Here’s what I learned.

Look at it! They are the scariest-looking of all spiders, including wolf spiders and tarantulas!

You may remember from earlier complaints that we have somewhat of a black widow problem.

Black widows are common in the hot, dry areas of California, such as exactly where my home is located. And since our house was vacant for quite some time before we moved in, the property developed a nasty, unchecked widow problem. I found them everywhere, multiple times a day, and they were HUGE.  Clearly I need to find out more about them for Isobel’s sake.

I decided to read up a bit on black widows since they are so common and technically they are one of the only threats in our area. One should be familar with the threats in one’s area, yes? Other local threats include crooked politicians, mumbling tweakers, gang bangers and the Local Royalty.

I found out some interesting things about them, such as:

  • Females do not usually eat their unsuspecting mates. It’s the exception to the rule. Often times he ends up living off the food she traps in her web, the freeloader. (Murder one husband and you’re branded a ‘black window’ for life. Sheesh.)
  • Males are small and brownish with fangs too small to be a danger to humans.
  • They have the GALL to frequently attack and kill CATS. Those BASTARDS. (Although probably the cats started it. STILL.)
  • Although they may have an undue bad reputation regarding husband-murdering, they are still JERKS but for different reasons.
  • Black widows are more venomous than rattlesnakes, but significantly less dangerous: no one has died of a black widow bite in over ten years.
  • In looking for natural pest control I wanted to see if there were any creatures I could add to my habitat that would control the problem via The Circle of Life. But the natural enemy of the black widow is a mud dauber wasp. A MOTHERFUCKING WASP. THAT IS NOT COOL, NATURE. NOT COOL.
  • Chickens love to eat black widows, so look for a flock of chickens in my yard soon.  They will be rigtht next to my guard llamas.

Black widows are one of the main reasons I’m cleaning up my backyard. They love to hang out in secluded spaces. I’m going to sweep the hell out of my patio in the hopes that they will move somewhere else. I’m mostly worried for Isobel as black widow bites are especially dangerous to small young children.

Now, I’m off to see if chickens are also effective against crooked politicians.

Plucky, Indispensible Librarian with Floaty Hair

2 Sep

I had my meeting yesterday and know only a little more than I did before it. Basically we’re going to figure this process out as we go along. I have a job for the rest of this school year, but after that? I could get laid off at any time. Same as before. So there’s that.

I wore all black in protest yesterday–less to accomplish anything and more just to express my feelings about the situation. Staff members on campus have organized different days where we’ve all worn black to protest the cuts to education and I felt that even though I’d be protesting alone at least I’d be able to express myself.

In awesome news, my excellent Twitter buddy Nic Piper sketched a quick comic based on my situation and a conversation we had in the comments wherein he called me “a plucky, indispensible librarian with floaty hair.” I thought that was basically the raddest thing ever said about me and told him that I’d want that carved on my tombstone. You can enjoy the full-sized comic here.

Thanks again, Nic. This made my day.

Here we go again

31 Aug

I expect to spend most of tomorrow feeling very hopeless and sad.

I don’t know what the future holds, but there are certain changes happening in the library that are anything but good. For the students or for me.

I don’t know how much I can say for certain about my situation, but these changes that are happening are not for the students’ best interests, but in the interest of our catastrophic state budget problems.

Tomorrow I will most likely be asked to create the automated database checkout system that will eventually replace me.

I don’t have any more information than that right now. I don’t know how much longer before I’m laid off again. It could be a year away. It could be a bit longer.

It could be less than that.

I imagine the actual plan itself is incomplete and details are released on a need-to-know basis.

I’m heading to a meeting tomorrow to hear the beginning of my end and how it will all go down. I’m planning on wearing a lot of black. And I’m going to be very sad.

I’ve headed down this road before and I somehow survived, but there’s only so many times I can dodge this bullet.

Chain Reaction

24 Aug

What a fun couple of days I’ve had. If you still follow me on twitter I’d like to personally thank you for putting up with me, because the last week or so has been nothing but Old Lady Tweets. And by that I mean complainin’ about my arthur-itis, crohn’s pain, migraines, or any combination of the above. It’s just been a helluva week for my body.

It all started because I decided to be proactive and get the whooping cough vaccination. California is having a whooping cough epidemic, and since I have a little baby and work around 1600 lovably germy children, I thought the sensible thing to do was to get vaccinated. Because I’m a responsible adult. I don’t enjoy being stuck with needles, but I will do anything I can to avoid 1. taking time off work, and 2. Isobel getting sick.

What I didn’t count on was having an allergic reaction to the vaccination. I’ve gotten plenty of shots before but I’ve never had a reaction. Boy, that was fun! My arm turned red and blotchy and swelled up enormously. I looked like Trogdor. It hurt like a sonofabitch. It started aching just in the shot area at first but that ache spread to hurting all the way down my arm and into my fingers.

To complicate things further, I have an autoimmune disease. I may have complained mentioned that once or twice. What this means is my body is already trying to kill itself on its own without any help from the outside world. Throw an allergic reaction into the mix and my Crohn’s went haywire and I’ve been suffering the worst migraines I’ve had in years. I’m talking face-down-surrender-into-unconsciousness-in-a-bath-of-ice-packs kind of pain.

I had to miss my first day of work for the year, which makes me feel like crap. Yes, it’s only the second week of school, and yes, I need to take a sick day. I’m pretty sure the entire office thinks I’m one big faker. Before I got Crohn’s I only missed two days of work! Staying home is not a luxury; it’s something that’s required for my body. I hate that I appear flakey to coworkers who don’t know (or care) that I have a disease but I can’t help that. It is what it is.

My arm has shrunk down to resembling something of a normal arm now but I’m still feeling a lot of the effects of the reaction. I really have the best mother and husband in the world. Every time my body conspires to take me out they step in and care for Isobel when I’m not able to. My sister did, too, when she lived with us. Sure, I have debilitating health problems but on the other hand, I’m really lucky to have my mother, sister, and husband willing and able to pick up my slack.

Life List: Take Isobel to the Local Water Park

4 Jun

Earlier this week I received a call from my friend Michael. Mike is a colleague of mine with two little kids, a boy and a girl born before and after Isobel. He’s one of the nicest guys on campus and his wife is the uber-talented lady who made this purse for me.

Mike and his wife Liz were arranging a tip to a local park with some other parents and kids we knew. Was I interested? Um. YES. I was so interested, in fact, that taking Isobel to that park to play and enjoy their water park equipment was on my life list. It would be more accurate to say I was ecstatic.

This park is in the older side of town, the side of town Anthony grew up on. Not exactly in the heart of the ghetto, but near it. The park is small and graced with mature shade trees and a reliable assortment of bums and drug activity. It also used to contain a tiny pool that was widely regarded a public bathroom. Eventually the pool was drained and abandoned and the park was left to its own, increasingly shady devices.

Recent years brought change to the park. The City decided to modernize it and bring children back to play beneath its lonesome trees. A play ground area was created and the nasty pool was replaced with a functional water park offering relief from 100+ degree weather to local kids who don’t have an air conditioner let alone a pool.

Now, I’m not usually always proud of our City. It’s done a lot of questionable, wasteful, and frankly, stupid things, but boy they got it right with this water park. Bringing families back has lead in a decrease of criminal activity and transients stay clear of the water and playground areas. You can still find them if you look, but children are safe there with supervision.

When the weather heats up kids flock to this park to play and splash in the water. I knew that one day we’d have a kid and we’d bring her to this park. I just didn’t know that day would come so soon.

Life list item accomplished! And holy cow, it was fun, more fun than should be had on a week day evening. Originally we planned on just Anthony and I suiting up the kid and taking her over there. Instead we went with four other families and an assortment of seven young kids ranging in age from four months to six years. Babies crawled on blankets while older kids splashed around. Parents relaxed and chatted. It was like a play date, barbecue, picnic and water day all rolled into one.

Isobel sat on my lap at first but after about 20 minutes decided, all by herself, to join the watery fun. She toddled near the sprinkler toys and giggled. She squealed. She screamed with happiness.

“Mama!” she said, “Agua!” She grinned in delight. The rest of the afternoon she kept repeating “Mama! Agua!” over and over and she toddled back and forth from the area where we set up our blankets and the water’s edge. She was fearless. She loved it and even though bigger kids splashed her right in the face several times she quickly got over her shock and went back for more.

Overall, this was even more fun than I could have imagined and we decided to make this a regular event among our friends. I can’t believe my luck that we have such a great (free!) water park, that we have such great friends, and that I have such an amazing, wonderful, courageous, and beautiful daughter.

After any adventure I like to come up with a list of things we’ll do differently next time:

  • Isobel has this habit of pulling things out of any bag she sees, including her diaper bag. When we got to the park we realized that she removed her swimming suit bottoms from the diaper bag and left them somewhere in the living room. Oops. She wore her diaper with no liner instead. It worked just fine but the whole suit would have been cuter.
  • Even though she had just eaten before we left all the playing, running, and keeping her body temperature up worked up an appetite fast. She was nearing a meltdown when we finally took her home. I would have felt a lot better if we had brought a pacha and snacks for us.
  • We brought our trusty car blanket out to sit on but a larger blanket would have been more fun.
  • Anthony and I got completely soaked running in to get Isobel when she was splashed. Next time we are wearing water-friendly outfits and towels.
  • Money for the paletas man.
  • Next time we are hella bringing my bestie’s family. Baby K would love this and so would his mom and dad.

Poll: Who Won the Avocado Blog-off?

2 Jun

(If you are wondering what the heck I am talking about, please see my previous posts as well as Palinode’s post and comments. Hopefully that should clear things up for you. No promises.)