Bear Hole

Chico is only about an hour away from us (like most everything).  One afternoon before school got started we were able to take the big kids over there to explore Upper Bidwell Park.  Earlier this summer we had a fun family day in Lower Bidwell.  This day was hot so we went looking for water.  We quickly settled on the Yahi Trail which follows the creek for several miles.
It was so nice to take a hike without the little boys.  I mean, we love going out as a family but when everyone has generally the same stride you don't have to worry about telling this one to slow down and this one to hurry up.  It was really peaceful.
So, we walked.
Took in the scenery.
Jumped in the creek if we got hot.  Walked some more.
 We made our way to Bear Hole, one of several swimming holes along the trail.
Those black rocks were hot enough to fry eggs but the water felt amazing!
And it felt good to make some special memories with Abs and Joe.
We topped the afternoon off with take out from Tong Fong Low-the best Chinese food around!
If you are local,
what's your favorite afternoon getaway?


Blackberries for the pickin'

As many blackberries as we eat while we pick them, 
we are still lining up as soon as the blackberry cobbler comes out of the oven!
At our end of the summer staff party, we had a blackberry bake-off/taste-off.
Sarah's tried and true blackberry bars were present. 
This is what my kids asked for after our first berry picking.
So good.  I could eat half the batch all by myself.
Blackberry banana bread (just add blackberries to your favorite banana bread recipe)
and lemon ricotta blackberry muffins were my contributions.
Both were good
the champion of
blackberry AWESOMEness
had to be
Bekah's blackberry filled donut holes!
She used a Krispy Kreme dough recipe and squooshed it around the blackberry filling.
Deep fried and glazed.
What what!
What is your favorite blackberry dish?


Color in the garden

Red tomatoes.  And yellow ones too.
Finally!  Might be my favorite thing to come out of the garden because it means sweet snackin' cherry tomatoes and tomato sandwiches and tomato + basil pastas and fresh salsa and (a new discovery-thanks, gina!) tomato jam!  

Black beans (almost)
This is proof for my neighbor who scoffed at my black bean plants.  They happen to look just like green bean plants.  She just wasn't believin' what I was growin'.  See and believe, sistah!
Yellow squash
as big as my head when one hides from me long enough.
Orange pumpkins
several kinds...my renegade jack-o-lanterns
We have maybe a dozen of these sugar pumpkins that I can't wait to eat up in soups and pies and curry.  But not all at the same time.
More renegades.  I don't know what kind they are but they are so cute and tiny.  And yellow!  Anybody else know what they might be?
We'll have enough to start preserving soon!

I was able to talk to Gina and get the recipe we used for the Tomato Jam.  It is sooo good!  Try it on cream cheese with crackers, spread it on a sandwich or wrap, add it to the top of your dinner roll or cornbread.

Tomato Jam
5 lbs. tomatoes chopped
2 small onions diced
1/2  cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar (*the original recipe called for 2 cups but we thought that made it too sweet)
juice of 2 lemons
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp smoked paprika (*original recipe calls for 1 tsp)
1 1/2 tsp cumin (*original recipe calls for 3/4 tsp)
1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
chopped jalapenos to taste (*our addition-makes it more like a pepper jelly)

Throw it all in a pot and allow it to simmer until it becomes syrup-y (approximately 3 hours but it depends on the juice level of your tomatoes).

You can see we took the liberty to experiment with the recipe a bit.  That's what makes cooking fun for me, just being creative.  So, throw in what you like and let me know how it comes out.  You may just discover the next best thing!


First day of Fifth Grade

I think this day was harder on me than first of kindergarten.
I mean, fifth grade, people!
That's the last grade in elementary school.  And then there are only three years of middle school and only four more of high school.  She's practically out of the house already!  I could barely contain myself.
We took these pictures at home because she said I would embarrass her if I tried to take them at school or ask any of her friends to get in a picture with her.
So, Abs is into all things London right now.  Not because the Olympics just happened there (although that was a fun thing too) but because her favorite authors are from London.  You know, JK Rowling and Jenny Nimmo.  I'm sure there are more but those are top of the list.
I couldn't leave her at school without embarrassing her at least a little...
She's refusing to look at me.
Just waves me away.
Leave, mom, please!
We had a little girl talk recently and I told her she can't leave me at home with all these boys by myself.  Dylan will graduate high school in about 15 years so she'll only have to live at home until she's 25.  Ab thought that was totally reasonable.
yeah, right. 


Wild West

A few of the Woodleaf families got together and went wild for the last western night of the summer.
There were shoot outs and chase scenes galore.  That probably had to do with the fact that we had mostly cowBOYS and only a couple cowgirls (one being a just a babe).  But the old mining towns were that way too, I believe.
There were also tests of strength.
When your own child is able to look you eye to eye it's time to make sure she knows that my guns are bigger! 
In reality, this is totally unneccesary.
Abs is a sweetheart and I thank God on a daily basis that he gave me a girl like her.


Self Portraits + more

This one has learned how to turn on my camera turn it towards himself and take a picture.  So when I upload (download? whatever.) pictures to my computer I will occasionally have a few surprises. 
Isn't it amazing what a 4-year old kid can figure out by himself?!
Or with help from this guy. 
Trek can also make some really crazy faces.
 He taught me.
Pretty good, right?
And D is following close behind.
He actually said
"hey, mom, take my picture. ehhhhhh."
Oh, kids (and Jono).
You make me smile.


First day of (home)school

We are homeschooling Joe this year.
I'm not homeschooling everybody.  In fact Big D starts preschool this year!  We just take it year by year and try to do what's best for each child.  So I am excited to be spending a little extra time with my Joe Joe.
Thursday was the first day for him (the others haven't started yet).  I told him we were going to start the day off official-like by getting dressed.  No pj's the first day of this mama's school!
He goes back to change and comes out dressed like this...
Now that's official.
And this is what he thinks homeschool is going to look like...
And this is what he will look like when I get through with him...
p.s.  Joe thinks this face makes him look hard core.
Jono thinks it makes him look like he put something hard core in his ninja turtle thermos.


Garden Update

The bounty.
Mint.  Spaghetti squash.  Straightneck yellow squash.  Zucchini.  Green beans.  Eggs.
One of our beds.
 A lot of green tomatoes.
Renegade pumpkins and tomatoes have sprung up all over the place.  I let a few of them grow.  We'll see soon what they turn out to be.
My biggest problem this season has been the ground squirrels.
Ground squirrels.  Grrr. (Through gritted teeth)
They nibble on the pumpkins and spaghetti squash.
Now the squirrels will eat whole zucchinis!
What the heck?
I have tried putting dog hair around and sprinkling cayenne pepper.  It seems to work for a day or so and then they are back, wrecking my plans for sneaking veggies into all our meals through the winter.  We have also tried one kind of trap that they have eluded no matter which way we set it up.
Any suggestions?

This update is actually 2 weeks old.
In the last couple days we have finally started to get ripe tomatoes.  Yea!
And several pumpkins are fully orange.
I will try to post more recent pics soon.

Happy harvesting to all you farmers out there!


Throwing Pots

I acquired a pottery wheel over a year ago and I just tried it out for the first time this summer.
Ridiculous.  I know.  My background in throwing pots is limited to an 8-week class at a local community center (with Joan who was awesome!  she had this great vibe. she was confident anyone could be a potter and I believed her.)  However, it has been quite a few--and by few I mean 6 or 7--years since my class so I invited up a couple other friends who knew something about it.

I threw, they threw, the kids threw.
We threw clay all over the place.
Tried to center, got off balance, tried to re-center.
Trying to teach someone else a skill you aren't really sure of yourself is quite a challenge by the way.
Those who weren't in the throes did some hand building.
 Abby had already learned to make coil pots with her art teacher at school so she whipped out a couple (they may be the only pots that actually survived).  Trek worked on volcanoes and bombs that shoot out of them.

The hand built stuff turned out nicer than the thrown pots.
My friends and I discovered that we don't remember near as much as we thought we did.  We might need to pull in someone with a little more experience next time to jog our memories!
So, some of them may be a bit wonky but it was so great to get my hands in it again.
And I was thrilled to see my big kids getting into it.
Joe's first pot is on the left.
We really need to try this again soon!


Dylan helped me pack

for an overnight outing.
1 night + 1 day.

Thanks for helping, D.


Comic strip legos

We had a little photo sesh with the legos.

They created some scenarios where, of course, there was lots of fighting and explosions and poor little lego guys flying to pieces.  Not one of their airships made it through unscathed.

Joe turned his pictures into a comic strip.
(we used Picasa to create a photo collage and then added text.  i downloaded the comic strip font from www.dafont.com)