Thursday, June 30

More plum jam!

It's that time of year again: plum time!

My mom's plum tree is once again so loaded with plums that I picked an entire basketful off two branches.

I cut up eight cups of them to make into jam, and I still probably have another four cups. I need to use them, but there's not quite enough to make into jam and my plum cobbler was so sour, nobody but me would eat it. (Although my plums are a bit more ripe this time around.)

Pitting plums is the pits. I finally just sliced them in quarters, like I was cutting up an apple, and cut around the pit. That seemed to work pretty well.

I cooked the heck out of it and it actually seemed to set up this time. I also know a bit more about the science of jam-making, like how you have to let it steam while it cooks for quite a while, because that evaporates the water out of it.

So my jam consisted of:

8 cups plums
6 cups sugar
1 bag of Pectin
Mix the plums and sugar together and let stand for 3 or 4 hours. Then bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer 5-10 minutes (or until the dishwasher is done washing your jars). Add pectin, return to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Pour into hot jars and seal with sterilized lids.

Anyway, yesterday was bread and jam day, and by six o clock, I was exhausted. I pretty much went to bed at 6, getting up only to put the kids to bed and do some computer stuff before returning to my repose.

Monday, June 27

A bit of makeup

Yesterday, I had just gotten out of the shower, and had left Holly in the bathroom to brush her teeth. I was going about my business when I realized that she had been in the bathroom, quietly, for a good ten or fifteen minutes. I went to look for her and this is what I found.

She had been applying eyeliner, just like mama does.

In other news, check out this growth comparison of Claire.

Notice how much of the chair she took up as a newborn:

Now look how much space she takes up at 2 and a half months:

She's getting so big! And more frustrated every day at not being able to get up and play with her big brother and sister. She jabbers now, and it's so very cute. She gets so excited, the way babies do, and she's just barely to the point where she can see toys. She still can't see my cockatiel. I think that comes after three months.

Wednesday, June 22

Fun in the sun

Well, we've had a busy couple of days!

Tuesday was a cousin's birthday, so all the munchkins got together for some fun with water toys.

That beach ball had big shower-heads on it that spouted water when you turned the hose on. The kids all either stood and let the water sprinkle them, or they caught it in buckets. They hardly rolled the ball at all.

They're redoing the parking lots in the apartment complex next door this week. Apparently they've had a lot of dirt left over, because they brought around wheelbarrows full and dumped it into all the flowerbeds. It made for a great sandbox for munchkins.

They've been out there every day with trucks and buckets and digging implements. And they've had baths almost every night.

Saturday, June 18

So much to can!

My mom loaned me this Better Homes and Gardens Canning magazine. I sat and read it this afternoon, and I'm inspired.

How to make spiced peaches and chow chow and pickles and every kind of jam imaginable! Jam with wine and brandy and herbs and spices!

I'm really curious about spiced peaches, ever since they featured in the book and movie Holes. (It's an awesome book, by the way.) They dubbed it "Sploosh" and I'd love to make some Sploosh.

Holes by Louis Sachar

Thursday, June 16

Summertime pretty happy funny real

Linking up with Like Mother, Like Daughter, to do Pretty Happy, Funny, Real. Without further ado!


Some kind of pretty purple flowers that I don't know what they are.


We visited Gramma's yesterday, and an uncle donated his Slip and Slide. It was tons of fun for small people.


I didn't even realize I had frozen that ball in midair until I was looking at my pictures!


My second-oldest brother trying to not look creepy. He's so obviously not creepy that the baby is asleep with his finger in her mouth.

round button chicken

Wednesday, June 15

Wednesday Words

I've been trying to get on some semblance of an exercise routine lately, so I thought that this might help me stay a bit accountable.

1. Which works better for you- watching calories or carbs?

Staying aware of calories, I think. Although I adore carbs, I'm more and more aware that most carbs that I like are made with refined sugars and flours (cookies, sweet breads, cake, etc.) Even dinner foods aren't all that good, so I'm trying to eat them more moderately.

We won't mention the bacon.

2. Do you take supplements?

Yep, I'm always a bit on the anemic side, so I take iron. It makes me feel like a human being! It's amazing!

3. What's the healthiest thing you do for yourself on a regular basis?

Ummm ... we probably shouldn't mention the bacon here, either. (But it's so tasty and makes me feel so satisfied for so long!)

The best thing is for me to actually exercise from time to time. I tend to be very sedentary, what with not having to walk far in this tiny apartment to reach anything. Then I'm sitting all the time, holding the baby. I found a beginner's Pilates video on Netflix Instant, so I've been attempting (ha) to do that.

Have you ever seen those Fail videos on youtube, of somebody trying to do something and failing and hurting themselves? That's me, trying to do these Pilates exercises. Maybe by next week, I will have actually finished the video once or twice.

Also, picture this as a Fail: a mommy trying to do crunches, and the four-year-old body slamming himself on her stomach. That has not yet happened, but it could.

4. If you could start a home business, what would it be?

I would love to paint portraits and do sculptures by commission. Unfortunately, the kids are just too small at the moment for me to even think about it.

5. Who did the cooking in your family when you were growing up?

Mom cooked lunch and dinner, while Dad made awesome breakfasts on the weekends. The rest of the week, breakfast was usually cereal, so eggs were like a celebration.

Tuesday, June 14

The smell of summer

Today it's 93 outside, our first really hot day. I was outside with the kids, smelling the hot air and trying to nail down what makes that unique summer smell.

Is it the hot grass?

Is it the hot sidewalk?

Is it the hot asphalt?

Is it just the air itself that smells hot?

There's a general ambiance of everybody's air conditioner units growling away, and a hint of chlorine from the various nearby pools.

Speaking of pools, ours has been getting some heavy usage. We walked over to see if anybody was in it tonight. Nobody was.

Remember last year how it was this lovely emerald green?

Right now it's just as green, but it's more of a dingy greenish brown. It's not even clear. It looks like a pond. I think they need to fire the pool maintenance guy, all he does is throw chlorine at it and leave. :-(

The firework stands are going up, too.
(Not my photo)

I know not everybody gets fireworks in the fourth of July, and even CA only gets wimpy things that barely go pop. But hey, it's a sign of summer. But man, it's weird to see them already. How can June already be half gone?

Saturday, June 11

Kids reading

I've been reading every blog I can find that talk about teaching your kids to read.

I want them to learn to read, but I'm so scared I won't be able to teach it. You should hear me trying to teach them letter sounds and having to consult my husband on how many sounds C makes and whether I should mention it to the kids.

Then I turn around and see this.

Anybody remember Calvin and Hobbes?

I don't think we'll have any problems getting them to want to read. It's just teaching the mechanics that I'm afraid of.

And here's all the munchkins together:

Friday, June 10

Snails on Friday

I went for another nice walk this morning at 5:30. This was the sunrise. I didn't even see that truck parked there until I was editing my photo.

I wound up talking to a new neighbor as I was cleaning snails out of the flowerbed shortly before I came inside. I had chucked about 25 of the buggers out into the road when this older man came walking up and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was "decreasing the surplus population" and we commiserated about the snail problem.

I told him about the snail trap I've always wanted to try, where you put some beer onto a small flat lid of some kind and leave it out overnight. He said he'd try it. I know snails are certainly attracted to the smell of certain marinades leftover on the grill. After it's cooled off.

I tried putting Claire in the high chair, but she's still too small. Her siblings, however, thought it was great.

Edit a few hours later:

Here is how far the snails made it before the sun hit them.

There are at least ten snails in this photo, plus one slug who slimed out to the road, tried to turn around and got caught by the sun. His demise was not my doing.

If you'd like to see why I despise snails so much, take a look at last year. My feud was long and bitter. I don't think I have pictures of what the snails did to my other pot of flowers, but they utterly destroyed my other pot. I think I was too discouraged to take pictures of the pathetic stubs that were left.

So yes. Snails. We has them.

Wednesday, June 8

Walking at sunrise

This morning I got up early, went out and walked.

Not my photo, but the sky looked something like this.

I just walked around our apartment block, because I'd be able to hear the baby if she woke up and fussed. So I walked until I was tired. It was wonderful to get out by myself. Heck, I haven't even been outside in days. Not for any extended length of time.

Daily Light today had one of my favorite verses in it: Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Ps. 37:4) So I pondered it as I walked. I prayed that for years and God gave me my husband and my kids. Getting out away from them helps me appreciate them. Lately we've had rampant colds, so it's been very snotty and whiny, and I was tired of my kids. It's nice to remember that I do love them still.

I'm going to try to walk regularly in the early morning. I mean, it's JUNE. It should be warm enough! I'll try to get pictures of the jillions of snails all over the grass. It's both amazing and disgusting.

Sunday, June 5

Twenty percent rain

We've had a storm spinning slowly off the coast of Cali lately, and on radar, it was so pretty that I had to save it:

It's a perfect cinnamon-roll spiral.

We only have a twenty percent chance of rain here, but elsewhere in California is getting a nice soaking. Which is really weird for June, but hey, that's La Nina for you.

My father-in-law told me that a meteorologist told him what those rain percentages mean. They aren't some weird calculation of odds. They really mean that "twenty percent of the area will get rain." And you look at the Dopplar map, and sure enough, about 20% of it has rain spotting it.

This educational post brought to you by my nap-dazed brain.

Saturday, June 4

Peppermint tea

My munchkins have come down with headcolds and croupy coughs. Upon doing some research into what sorts of things might help loosen up their coughs, I came upon a site recommending peppermint tea. Peppermint has a high menthol content, which helps to soothe inflamed nasal passages and throats. Plus it instantly eases stomach aches. There's lots more that it does, but that was the primary reason I was interested in it.

This is my peppermint bush. It started out as a small pot of half-dead peppermint I discovered thrown behind a bush in our apartment complex. I planted it, and it's turned into a shrub. There's plenty to make into tea.

This is my tea ball, packed with peppermint leaves.

There's lots of ways to make tea, but I'm going for the "southern iced tea" method, which is to boil water, take it off the heat, chuck in the tea bags and let it steep. With regular tea, you then dilute it with water and sugar, but I only have one tea ball, so mine isn't quite that strong.

Boiling hot water, removed from heat.

When you steep tea like this, make sure you keep a lid on it. With peppermint, the essential oils will evaporate right out.

After fifteen or twenty minutes, check out your tea:

It's a lovely greenish amber color. It tastes like mint-flavored water. It's wonderful with honey, but my munchkins don't like honey, so they've been getting it plain. It loosens up croupy coughs so fast, though, that they don't complain a bit. They've been sucking it down as fast as I can make it, especially at night when they wake up coughing.

We've been watching a lot of videos these last couple of days. Netflix Instant doesn't seem to have any Disney anything. And you know, with no Disney movies or cartoons anywhere in the roster, family entertainment is a sad, sad place.

Wednesday, June 1

Wednesday healthy living meme!

I think Words for Weight Loss should be called Words for Healthy Living, because it's not really about losing weight anymore. And hey, I'm fine with that, because I'm not trying to lose weight, but I am trying to lead a healthy life!

1. Has your diet changed a lot since the warmer weather came?

Yes! More fruits and vegetables, eating grilled food. But don't let the apartment manager find out, because they banned charcoal grills (propane is okay) for air quality issues. I swear, they can make any stupid rule they want for "air quality issues". I grill in secret on the weekends, but last time I left it out Monday morning and the manager noticed, so I haven't had the nerve to get it out again. When I do, I'll hide it when I'm done. My neighbors have all agreed not to tell on me (and they all have secret charcoal grills, too.)

2. Did you do anything interesting over Memorial weekend?

We went out to a movie with friends while a friend watched the kids, because our friends' (and Ryan's) birthdays happened to fall right around Memorial Day weekend. Then Monday I made jam. It was a good weekend. :-)

3. If you could plan a get together with your blog friends, what would that look like?

Play date at the park, and all our kids could run around wild, and us moms could all sit and talk. :-)

4. Do you like yogurt? What's your favorite kind or favorite way of eating it?

I adore yogurt. My favorite kind is the stuff I make myself, but it varies according to what I used as a starter. Mountain High yogurt makes for a very mild-flavored homemade batch. Kefir makes a very sour, sharp-tasting kind. I like the milder stuff, because it goes so well on strawberries or mixed with raisins (when I have no other fruit in the house). Here is how to make crock pot yogurt.

5. What's the most important quality or character trait in a friend?

I don't know. I've pondered this one, and all I can come up with is they have to not be a jerk, and we have to have something in common that we can talk about. Otherwise I'm not too picky. My problem is maintaining friendships. I tend to disappear from relationships just because I forget to call/visit/stay in touch. I'm so thankful for Facebook and blogs, because I can at least click "Like" on what people say. :-p

Book review: Tale of Hill Top Farm

The Tale of Hill Top Farm (The Cottage Tales of Beatrix P)

Yesterday I finished reading this little book, The Tale of Hilltop Farm by Susan Wittig Albert.

It's a "cozy mystery", that is, no sex, violence or swearing. The characters are nice people, the setting is friendly, and the story is well-written.

Beatrix Potter has bought a small farm in a small village called Sawrey, where she is at first looked upon as an outsider. But she begins going around and making friends with all the interesting characters. Along the way, there is rumor of a murder, and numerous thefts that must be solved.

The thing that sets this book apart from other cozy mysteries is that the animals talk. They only talk to each other, of course, but they get involved in solving the mysteries, too. We are also introduced to Potter's own entourage of pets: two rabbits, a hedgehog, and a mouse. Most of the action revolves around the village cats and a dog.

My only problem with this is that sometimes the animals are described as just animals, and other times they're described as wearing clothes, drinking champagne and doing other things that they do in Beatrix Potter's illustrations. My mind instantly unreeled Redwall lookalikes for all this, and I wound up getting confused.

But aside from that, this was a sweet little book that ambled from place to place, once you get past the weirdness of seeing Beatrix Potter solving mysteries. I'd happily read more in this series.


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