Friday, September 30, 2011

Fun With Fall

Fall is my favorite time of year, so I wanted to show you some of the fall-ish things going on in our home.

Thanks to Pinterest, I have been really into bunting. Due to my one-handedness, I had to have my mom trace and cut them out for me. They aren't all that advanced as far as buntings go, but they still make me really happy! This one says "Trick or Treat."

Beck's "Crafting for Dummies Tip:" For easy bunting, pick out a fun combo of scrapbook paper, cut into triangles, print out letters on computer paper or use stencils. Fold over a string or ribbon and hang as desired. So easy!

This one says "Happy Fall."

As you may remember, I am not much of a chef, but I do love to bake. For the past couple of weeks, I have been trying to use pumpkin as much as possible. So far we've done pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin waffles, this awesome and easy pumpkin spice cake (I followed the recommendations in the comments and added 3 eggs and a 1/2 cup of applesauce.) And today, these delicious (and relatively healthy) whole wheat pumpkin chocolate chip cookies (I used regular eggs because egg whites were too hard to do one-handed and subbed 1/2 cup of applesauce and one stick of margarine in place of the suggested 1 cup of Smart Balance.)

They were delicious! But, you don't have to take my word for it...

(Since they're "healthy," I let him eat two.)

LJ found a more practical use for the fall decorations.

Goodnight moon!

Do you have a great fall or pumpkin recipe? Maybe a fun fall craft idea for home decor or kids? I am always looking for ways to become more "Martha." Add your ideas or links in the comments and help a non-domestic diva out!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

"Only Blue Skies and Green Lights"

I am not sure exactly what that means, but it's what the waitress put on the back of the tag at the Country Kitchen in Lockeford. Maybe it's a deep metaphor that we should aspire to have happy filled days in the sun with no road blocks on our journey in life, just "green lights". (Or, Beck just told me that it's probably because a lot of bikers and travelers stop through there, so it is a country-ish way of saying, "have a nice day." Whatever it means, we thought it was worthy of a mention.

When we wake up and we look out our window and see skies like this; despite our not perfect, recently house-took-all-our-money-and-we-are-scary-poor lives. I can look at a sky like that and begin to count all the blessings that God has given us.  

And then I see this.....

Yea....that's not supposed to happen! Our vineyard is full of leaks from the combination of previous neglect and stray animals (don't tell Beck, but it's coyotes) chewing the pipes to get water. This was a leak that took me several attempts to finally conquer. I put together many pipe modifications to come up with a solution. Finally I was able to put together a piece of pipe and used good old fashion superglue to fasten it tight. It's not a perfect solution, but I am hoping it will do the job for now. Just get me some duct tape and call me MacGuyver!

We also have another problem. We have some type of leaf fly. It doesn't hurt the fruit, but it eats the leaves and the leaves are what gives the fruit it's sugar content. We had the sugar tested and it read below what it should be. So this means that we are probably going to have to wait to harvest our grapes until the end of October, when we were scheduled for the first week in October. This gets complicated because we have a leaf fly eating the leaves. I am not sure what we are going to do and I am hoping we can still harvest this year. We are believing God for a good 10 tons of grapes to help us cover our losses. If you're the praying type, we'd love for you to stand with us in prayer for this number too.

As we settle into the small town of Lodi, we are beginning to participate in some of the Lodi traditions and events. One of which is the Lodi Grape Festival. The Lodi Grape Festival is the poster child for small town fairs; good food, hot weather, and great fun. One of the exhibit halls had these collages made of grapes that the artists created into these elaborate fun pictures. Here are a couple of them....

I am truly amazed that these were made of real grapes. It goes to show you what you can do with a little imagination and a lot of fruit.

Speaking of imagination. LJ is growing up faster than my grapes are growing. He is going through the unique stage of I want to be like my Daddy. I am going to enjoy it because I am sure in about 12 to 13 years, he will be going through the stage of I want to be anything, but my Daddy. But for now I am enjoying watching him learn how to farm...... 


Wearing my hat and shoes.....

And already trying to drive.....

We also go for walks around the farm.....

We heard time is supposed to move slower on the farm, but lately I feel that I can't get enough done and I am always behind the 8 ball. But maybe I should listen to the waitress and enjoy the "blues skies and green lights"! -JP

Monday, September 19, 2011

Hitting the Reset Button

*Note: this blog was handwrtten by Beck, but typed by JP because of her current disabled status.

To be perfectly honest, my crazy thumb incident happened just in the nick (yes, pun intended) of time. I was almost at the end of my rope with the stress of work, moving, life, etc. I believe everything happens for a reason and that God always has a plan. It sounds weird, but I truly believe that this injury was a gift from Him. In a cleverly ordained way I have been given a unique opportunity to refresh my mind and spirit and renew my relationship with my beautiful son.

Being a working mom is hard. I'm sure being a stay at hom mom is hard too, but after two weeks of child and home care bliss, I can say that it freakin' rocks.

Now don't misunderstand, my current gig isn't without challenges - I am disabled after all.

I can't use my left hand, which means tons of silly little things are hard to do. Like, tying shoe laces, putting on baby socks, folding laundry, using a broom and dust pan, putting in contact lenses, showering, etc. But it's ok- we just wear slip on shoes, don't clean, and don't shower. (JP editor's note:  ;-( and ewww.) It's a perfectly stinky wonderful solution.

All that to say LJ and I are enjoying our unexpeted time together. We go for walks down country roads...

We play with oodles of brightly colored ribbon from the craft drawer...

(ribbon is also good to dance in)

We do a little farming and visit the Neighbors

Just have a nice time being together and reconnecting with one another.

This time has allowed me to really get to know my son again. He has such a fun personality, loves pretending, and is full of so much joy. (Full disclosure - He has also been known to color on the window sill and squirm on purpose as I struggle through one-handed messy diaper changes, but I'll spare you the pictures of that stuff.) I love being his mommy more than words can express and I wouldn't trade this time for anything in the world.... even the use of my left hand.

Keep smiling friends -Beck (As typed by JP)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

We've Gotta Crush

Excitement with a bit of nervousness is in the air in Lodi. Harvest season is here! The fields are full of workers and machinery and tons upon tons of grapes are being picked off their vines.

The grapes are almost to their maximum level of sweetness and it will be only a couple more weeks until our grapes will be harvested. Since we are new to this wine country thing, I thought it would be a neat experience to take my family to watch how the professionals create wine. We took a tour at a local place called Estate Crush. This is a company that specializes in creating boutique wines for small vineyards. We had a blast and I thought we could share a little bit on how they create wine.

The grapes come in on trucks and they get crushed in a crusher. Matt, our tourguide/wine maker, showing us that you can customize how hard you want to crush the grapes. After the grapes get crushed they get dumped into square bins for fermentation.

As the grapes ferment in the bins they give off heat. I put my hand near the surface of the grapes and it was very warm. It was so interesting to see that through this natural process the grapes turn into a heat source.

The bins of grapes are poured into these vats where it goes from grape juice into wine. This is also where the wine maker can customize a wine and make it either more dry or sweet according to their taste.

The wine is stored in wine barrels for 10 months or longer and the storage room is kept at an even 65 degrees. The room is kept at such a low tempurture to keep the wine from evaporating. During these 10 months the winemaker tops off the wine barrels every few weeks to make sure there is enough wine.

Also, the winemaker adds oak sticks and balls to give the wine an oaky flavor. Matt told us that you add a little oak at a time because it's like cooking with salt; if you add too much salt, it's hard to make it less salty. Matt also gave away a little known secret. When a wine is not sweet enough, they add sugar to the wine, just like you would add sugar to a food dish like spagetti sauce to enhance the flavor.

All to make that perfect bottle of wine you always dreamed of!

Our family isn't planning to go into the winemaking business this year, but with our new knowledge and a great local business to help, we may try it out with a couple tons of grapes next season. Exciting!

In the meantime, we will keep preparing for this year's harvest. We have the perfect worker monitoring the sugar content of the grapes and the states of our vines. Thanks LJ!


PS: Thank you to all our supporters and followers. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dear John Deere: Letter from a Nut

Dear John Deere Tractor Company,

I wanted to write you a letter to my express my gratitude for your products. When I see green and yellow, I am reminded of my childhood and how I used to imagine how awesome it would be to have my very own riding lawn mower. I have recently purchased one of your products and I am amazed at both its capability and its addictive nature.  When I am on my John Deere, it does not feel like work, but more like a Disneyland ride with it's bumpy, fun and All-American nature.

I have read parts of your instruction manual and I have watched your safety video, which tells me to not take my son on tractor rides. Although I do agree that I need to use caution and turn off the vehicle when my son is in the area, I am dismayed that you would advise me in this way. Do you really expect me to deprive my boy of a tractor ride? That's like making a chocolate cake and telling my wife that she can't have any. It just doesn't work.

The great thing about your product is that I can leverage it to get my friends and family to do work for me for free. I realized this last week when I told my brother that I needed to finish mowing the vineyard and he gladly volunteered to do the work for me.  Now I have him hooked! 

Then my old college roommate Dave, and his wife and son visited the vineyard. I easily enticed Dave to take the tractor for a ride. He stayed on it for a couple of hours and by the end was covered in dirt from head to toe. I asked him how things were going and he grinned ear to ear and I knew he was having the time of his life.  

So you see, everybody loves my John Deere. Even the horses sometimes come to the fence line to watch the marvelous design of the John Deere! 

In short, thank you John Deere for fulfilling my childhood dream. I am now not only a fan, but an owner, a believer, a promoter and a friend. 

Forever yours in green and yellow,