Sunday, December 25, 2011

Best Birth Announcement Ever

Remember in my Christmas decorating post where I said "no one glitter-bombed Jesus' birthday?" Well, I take it back. Heavenly hosts singing praises? Brilliant stars in the night sky? Pretty "glittery," if you ask me. Sorry Pinterest, but God wins in the "best birth announcement" category.
Luke 2:  8-14
And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Thank you Lord for the biggest act of love - sending Your son to earth, that he might walk amongst, love, and die for this unworthy race of men. Thank You for continuing to encounter Your children through Your Holy Spirit; changing lives, healing bodies, answering prayers. My prayer today is that You would touch the person reading this with Your power, and give them wisdom, discernment, supernatural peace, and blessings in the coming year. In Jesus' name. Amen.

Merry Christmas friends!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Muppets and More

Posted by Beck
I love the Muppets. Some of you may already know this about me. A little bit ridiculous, but it's kind of my thing. 

A few weeks ago, we planned a trek to Hollywood to watch the premiere of the new Muppet movie. The car was packed, LJ and JP came to pick me up from work. It was 2pm and pouring rain. Everyone was hungry and LJ was about to have a melt down because they had just come from a routine, last-minute oil change (that took 2.5 hours). Said inspection uncovered a dire need for two new tires. My in-laws decided at the last minute not to join us for the trip because their dog randomly got sick and was dying.  After assessing the situation, we decided that all these little issues added up to one big flashing STOP sign and decided to scrap our trip. I was super bummed. I was even more bummed when my Hollywood dwelling brother-in-law got super close to the red carpet action and texted me a bunch of pics of what I was missing. Wah wah wah.

Fast forward to last weekend. Since we couldn't make the premiere, we decided the next best thing would be to go down and see the movie at the El Capitan theatre in Hollywood. They used the theatre in tons of exterior shots in the film and filmed the final dance number right there on Hollywood Boulevard. (Something JP and his brother serendipitously WITNESSED last January. I missed it because I left a day early to go back to work to help interview for a new team member. Saddest day ever. If I had a time machine I would totally go back and call in sick. Sorry Bill.)

So, we met up with my Muppet-loving friend Heidi and got the full Muppet experience! We were really really excited about this.

We saw an awesome exhibit of Miss Piggy's costumes from the film.

Posed in front of lots of promotional props.

(Shaking the jingle bells they gave us for the sing-a-long)

And got to sing Christmas carols before the show with Kermit and Miss Piggy! Can you say "highlight of my life?"

And LJ got this sweet commemorative Muppet bucket that he enjoyed the whole weekend.

We also found Kermit's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

(And yes, those ARE skinny jeans for little boys. When in Hollywood...)

JP's brother lives right off Hollywood Blvd in a studio apartment, so we always have a cramped, but fun time visiting him and getting an authentic Hollywood experience.

The rule for staying at Jeff's place is:  "You stay at my place, you buy me a crepe," so we went to our favorite crepe place at Hollywood and Highland.

LJ has been obsessed with guitars lately, so we knew being in a tiny apartment surrounded by several of his musician Uncle's "ge-gahs" was going to be interesting. Sure beats pretending with a frying pan or a shampoo bottle!

We also went to the Newport Beach lighted boat parade on Saturday night. One problem. We got there at 6:30pm and didn't see any legitimately "lighted boats" until 8:30pm. This made us sad.

(I really should just stick to smiling. All my "faces" turn out scary and awkward.)

So, we had two hours on the chilly beach in the dark looking at this and playing in the sand with a few dozen other parade goers.

We all got a little punchy.

Then the boats came! Hooray!

There were some pretty impressive yachts with amazing displays. I'm not sure if Heidi agrees, but we had a great time and it was totally worth the wait!




All in all, a great weekend full of tons of pre-Christmas fun!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Where Does This Farm Life Come From?

Posted by JP
Recently I was asked by a close friend, "Justin you grew up in the Bay Area. You have no training and little knowledge about farming. Now you're all about chickens and grapes and farming. Where does that come from?" My answer, "Good Question!"

I am trying to discover that answer myself, but as I reflect, some thoughts begin to surface as to why. I like the thought that I might be able to sustain my family in good times and bad times by looking at ways that we can build communities of people, animals and bugs that can work together to build a better future. Beck and I are blessed to be employed (when many are not), but what happens if that changes or if expenses and incomes decrease? As a banker I understand some of the consequences of our government printing money to take care of promises we as a government can't afford. What happens when our government printing presses catches up to us and our currency becomes less and less valuable. How do I sustain my family in the coming years when that happens? What does my son's future look like and how can I make it better with things that I can control?
These are some of the things I think about, and the answer that I have researched is to build a future and life on a farm. Other (less dire) reasons include:  the challenge, pioneering, planning and executing ideas in a way that could benefit our family. My dream is to get to the point where I create an infrastructure that will not only bless our family, but also be used to bless others and generations to come. To raise a family that could continue to sustain generational wealth and the talents, abilities and dreams of future generations to create something bigger that could impact the future is my ultimate goal.

Those are big dreams for this small 5-acre farm, but these are the things that I think and dream about. Now when I say sustainable, I don't mean; do it all by myself with my own strength and power. I believe that this culture of independence is a modern philosophy that has polluted America and is the reason and cause of so many ills in our society. I want to build a community that relies and helps each other succeed to build a better world and fight against the evils that try to pervert it. I want that community to not only include people, but also animals and bugs all working together to make a more bio diverse and human compatible community that is working to build a better farm and a better world.

Working in the bank everyday I get the privilege to people watch and have noticed that the holiday season brings the best and worst out of people. I love to hear stories of how people are getting blessed by strangers. Like my mom who went to the grocery store before Thanksgiving and got in line and as she approached the front, realized she had forgotten her wallet. The man behind her in line excused himself and very generously slipped the clerk his card and paid for my mom's groceries (under her repeated protests). The clerk began crying and she said, "That is what this season is all about!"

Conversely, I have observed that this time of year also brings out the crazies in people. Tis the season! Tis the season for family, love and cheer and Starbucks red cups. Also tis the season for the unfortunate things that come in life like job loss or loss of income, death of family members, having no family to celebrate with or existing family problems that are confronted this time of year. Tis the season!

I am a banker by day and a farmer by night and weekend. The best part of being a farmer is a farmer's life is dependent on a community of family, animals, bugs, weather and God that make this life possible. My wife does not get the privilege of staying home everyday with LJ, but fortunately we have gracious willing and able parents who watch him while we are at work. I depend on my clients who I have turned into farming consultants, contractors and buyers who continue to graciously guide me through the process of managing this vineyard. I am currently studying how to implement bio-diverse and sustainable farming practices that reduce the use of pesticides so we can preserve our water quality. A couple ideas I am exploring is planting lady bugs and other predatory bugs that could kill the bad bugs that affect my grapes. I am exploring how to use livestock grazing practices that will reduce fuel usage. I want to create a better life for not only my family, but also animals and bugs that could help build a sustainable farm.

My dream is to analyze every part of our life and dissect its impact and try to build better systems and processes that will lead to improving the lives of others. I wish some Wall Streeter's, Politicians, Pastors, Family and Friends would get inspired and begin to dream of a new kind of world, a better world and maybe when all this negative economic hoopla passes, we can achieve to build a better world one family at a time!

These are the things I think about and why I work so hard to make "This Vine Life" a reality for my family. Thanks to all of you who are along for the journey!

Merry Christmas!

(Fall pictures taken by Beck 11/25/11)

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Where We've Been - Christmas Edition

Posted by Beck

Two weeks ago I wrote a really long post about Christmas magic. The gist was that right after Thanksgiving I set out for Joann's, armed with a list of supplies and a mountain of unrealistic expectations. Ultimately I spent more $100 on Christmas craft materials and buyer's remorse soon followed. I wished I'd just opted for store bought decorations. I then went on to add some cheesy bloggy platitudes about how creating Christmas magic was worth two nights of under four hours of sleep and how the magic of the season overcomes everything, blah blah blah. It felt right at first and then as it simmered, waiting for me to add pictures of all my beautiful finished crafty creations (ha!), it felt disingenuous.

It took me almost the entire season, but the house shaped up well in the end.

Truth be told, the sleepless nights led to a cold that has lingered for more than a week, a tiny emotional breakdown in my bosses office and a change of heart where I remembered that nobody glitter-bombed Jesus' birthday in that humble stable and that I needed to give myself a break and focus on what really matters in this season that I love so much. (And let's be real, aside from putting out my usual decorations, my big craft claim to fame this year are yarn balls, a couple of paper trees and a poorly constructed door decoration that I have yet to hang.)

With that mind, I decided to dial down the expectations about a million degrees. I sat down and watched Elf and a Charlie Brown Christmas a few times, finally added lights to my naked tree (it still is only decorated with yarn balls and will probably stay that way), stood in the kitchen eating way too many cookies from a tin of assorted European numbers gifted to my husband by a client, embarked on annual treks to our favorite Christmasey neighborhoods, fell in love with $5 strands of battery operated Christmas lights (Christmas on the go!), attended our town's cute little Christmas parade, helped a friend make Christmas photo wall props, and enjoyed the ease of online shopping.

We even got away as a family for a few days and enjoyed the best Christmas magic that SoCal has to offer. (More on that.)

So, that's where we've been the past few weeks. Soaking up the Christmas season in a realistic, we work 40+ hours a week and have a kid to raise (plus 10 chickens and 5-acres to manage in our down time), don't beat ourselves up for not making fun Christmas breakfasts and covering every inch of the house in paper snowflakes and tinsel, kind of fashion.

I hope your December has been filled with lots of love, friends and joy!

We'll be back with a chicken update soon!