About Me

My photo
Concord, California, United States
I am a sometimes-writer, everyday mama, creative failure and experimental cook. I am interested in living a beautiful life, spending time with my family and making things that I can feel proud of. When I'm by myself I'm usually outside. Don't bother calling because chances are that I didn't bring my cell phone because I couldn't find it. If you see me walking, it's because I lost my keys and if you see me with only one child... I'm probably in big trouble.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Principal's Award

I'm having the most chaotic, brain-twisting day that I completely intend to complain about later... but I don't have any time for that right this second.   I will say that it is partially due to F#C%&(! snails.

For now, I just want to say that I'm super-proud of Bunny, who came home with the honor of a Principal's Award, which she received at mass and in front of the whole school.  She won it for environmental care!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Snail, Head This Warning

To The Snail With The High Tolerance For Alcohol, party on someone else's squash.   I know about eggshells and I'm not afraid to use them.

I'm telling you, my little vegetable babies are being devoured at night by the most dangerous of vampires.  The snail.

My beer trap may not have worked, but I'm hoping to have better luck with crushed eggshells.  I guess that the egg shells are too painful for the snail to crawl over.  Imagine his surprise tonight when he goes to dine at the chateau Holler with his plus one.

 The white specs in these pictures are the crushed egg shells that I scattered in the garden.  I'm hoping that they are small enough to do the job.  Also, I'm not sure what kind of senses a snail has, but it is probably possible for him to find his way around this egg shelled obstacle course...

I only had 14 eggs, but if this works I plan on continuing to sprinkle my egg shells here in the future.

Now, the question is, what will I do with all of these?

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easy Vegan Meal Idea for Summer

These tofu kabobs are not low-carb, but they are also not that high either.  The big culprit (other than them being delicious terrible because they are fried) is the flour you need to roll them in.  When they have a little coating of flour it makes them crispy on the outside.

Who wants to eat slimy, slippery, mushy tofu?  Not me!  Really, I'm not a huge fan of tofu anyway.  It gives me a belly ache, so as delicious as these are, they are probably not for me anyway.

If you have a vegan or vegetarian guest at your BBQ this summer, this is an easy way to please all.

Preheat your oven to 450.

Spray a cookie sheet with your favorite cooking spray and spread your cut veggies on top.  I used mushroom, zucchini and onion for these kabobs.  Sprinkle the vegetables with a bit of garlic pepper  or another seasoning that you're particularly fond of!  Pop them in the oven for about five minutes.

In the meantime, heat oil in a large pan.

Cut your extra firm tofu into cubes and roll each cube first in soy sauce and then in flour.  When all of your cubes have been coated cook them in the oil, keeping a close eye on them and turning them often.

Remove them from the oil and let them cool a bit before kabobbing them.

I'll be serving these with a store-bought peanut sauce.


Chilled Asparagus with Coconut Curry dipping sauce

I just made this to take to a friend's house for dinner tonight.  It's vegan and low carb!

If you like curry and feel like preparing a healthy, plant based treat for your family, this makes a great appetizer or snack!

Here's how it's done.

Steam asparagus and immediately run it under cold water and put it in the fridge.  Or, remove it from steam and transfer it directly to ice water.  You want your asparagus spears to be firm.

Mix one package of silken tofu with one can of coconut milk, one large, heaping tbsp yellow curry powder, 1/2 tsp sat, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp apple cider vinegar and half the juice of one lemon.


To The Little Slimy Bastard Who Is Eating My Summer Squash- Part 2


Dear Squirrel or Bird or Rat or Cat Who Isn't Eating My Squash Leaves At Night,

It seems that I owe you an apology.  The true culprit has been unveiled.  

In my previous post, my good friend (and the man who Bunny likes to tell people is her "other dad") Mathew suggested that the villain is not any of the for mentioned critters, but is rather (DUN, DUN, DUN) a slippery, slimy, sleuthy, slug.  He suggested that I make a few slug traps out of small containers and beer.

I am sad to report that the slugs didn't take the bait.  Is it that they don't like Sierra Nevada and prefer Red Stripe (something we would have in common) or perhaps they just drink a lot of beer and have particularly high tolerances (this is California, after all),I will never know.  

My traps were empty.

My squash look like this!

 And I found several of these on and around my squash.

So, if the beer didn't work, what now?  I am so sad, but I really don't want to put chemicals all over my vegetables.  I also don't want to kill the slugs in any sort of violent way.  Truth be told, I think that they are sort of cute and if I could just prevent them from eating my vegetables by offering them something they' d prefer in some sort of slug approved slug garden, I'd consider it.  

So, how do I keep the slugs out of my garden and off of my vegetables?  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Things That Bunny Will Wish I Hadn't Made Public Someday

This is probably worse than a naked baby picture.

This is the dinosaur that Bunny colored at school today
And this is what she named it.


Concord is great.

There is a big movement towards children's art here in the east bay, which makes sense because this is such an inspired place!  It's hard not to want to make things when you are surrounded by beauty.

There is a small cottage near our school.  The sidewalk in front and yard are scattered with creative signage and colorful, staged, homey pieces of functional art.  It's called the aRt Cottage and you can read about it here!

Upon entering I had this feeling that I was standing in the coolest place ever.  The house hasn't been gutted and transformed into an open floor concept, as you might imagine a gallery to be.  Rather, it's still very much maintained its cottage appeal, offering small rooms that are minimally and artistically furnished, as something on display in a museum might be.  You have the feeling that a you are within the art when you are inside the cottage, and thus sort of feel that you are an actual part of the art... like a living character in a series of portraits.

Each room is beautiful, fun and really quite happy but not cluttered. There is just enough inside each room to understand the purpose of the room and little enough so that you don't feel someone is supposed to live there.

The backyard is small and otherworldly.  There are tree stumps with painted cushions and a large fire pit.

The aRt cottage caught my eye because I noticed a sign that said there would be children's art classes available there in June.  I went in and just fell totally in love with it.  My girls instantly felt comfortable there... so much so that Bunny suggested that we get a realtor and try to buy it.  To say it was a really  nice place to be, is not being fair.  I can't really explain why, but it just had a nice feeling about it.  It was definitely a place that I'd like to make a part of my children's lives.

So, I've signed them up for classes.  During the week of June 18th they'll go to 3 one hour sessions at the cottage and may even make a fairy garden.  The best part is that all materials are provided to them and it only costs $10 per session!!!!

To The Little Bastard Who Is Eating My Summer Squash

Dear Squirrel or Bird or Rat or Cat Who Is Eating My Squash Leaves At Night,

There is a large tree, plentiful with rich, juicy, sweet oranges out back.   Help yourself!  Invite your friends.  Have a party.  Feast on citrus!  I promise to never bother you and will always sweep up the scraps of your half eaten oranges and gutted peels.  I will even keep Sherbert inside each night so that you can have an entirely uninterrupted meal as often as you'd like!

So, watch your carbs in someone else's yard and stay AWAY from my peppers and squash.

I am serious about this you little M$T%&R F$!@^*S.

With the utmost respect,

Anna Holler

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spearmint Tea

This is the easiest drink in the world!

It's delicious, thirst quenching and super-slim.

All that you need to do is fill a large pot with water.

Chop a small cluster of spearmint and add it to the water.

Bring the water to a boil and allow it to reduce by 50%

Add 6 black tea bags and allow them to steep for 3-5 minutes

Remove the tea bags and most of the spearmint.  I like to leave a few pieces of spearmint in the pot because they make a nice garnish.

Let the tea cool (I am impatient and stick the whole pot in my freezer for an hour).

After the tea has cooled transfer it to your pitcher, pour yourself a glass and enjoy.

This tea is so minty and flavorful that I find sweeteners to be unnecessary.

It's refreshing and nice on the breath as well!

Enjoy the warm weather!

Weight Update

Recently I posted about some big lifestyle changes that I implemented exactly two weeks ago!

Over the past two weeks I've worked REALLY hard.

Yesterday when I put on jeans that were previously snug, I noticed that they slipped right on with no trouble.  Jay hugged me and mentioned that I felt thinner and I could also just sort of feel something happening.

But today was the day of truth.

I am ELATED to tell you that I hopped on the scale and was 8 pounds lighter than I was two weeks ago!  8 pounds is a lot and I'm crazily excited!  I had been feeling miserably out of control and defeated and some of the changes that I made have been sacrifices.  Of course, I'm only scratching the surface of the weight that I want to lose, but it certainly is motivating to see such a significant change in two weeks.

It makes all of the wine I stopped drinking worth it.

Hooray!  Hooray!  Hooray!

Hooray!  Hooray!  Hooray!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Groovy James + PB&J= Love

Groovy James is so smart.

He actually went into Lila's lunch box and pulled out this container that housed her leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich from lunch today.  He was so concentrated on getting the sandwich out of the box that I had to get it on film.  Sadly, I took the sandwich away from him, but he got one bite and a lot of praise for his problem solving skills.

He just looked at me in confusion, probably thinking, "if I'm such a good boy, why no sandwich, lady?"

Le Conflict

I've always considered myself a feminist.  Back in my 20's, when I was less comfortable in my skin and constantly in a battle for my rights and my equality, I was loudly a feminist.  But, as I've gotten older and settled into life, become comfortable, made choices and learned to respect and tolerate the opposite choices of my friends and peers, I have started to speak instead of scream.  I've stopped labeling myself a feminist and started to just be who I am.  I used to use the word "feminist" to define myself.  And now I use other words too.  One of them happens to be mother.  And none of the words that I use pay my bills (feminism didn't either).

I imagine that many people from my past would be surprised to learn that I became a stay at home mom.  Some might even think that I would be miserable in this role.  After all, feminism is largely seen as a movement away from stay at home parenting and towards career.  Men had more choices and rights.  Now women, generally have as many choices and rights, so a failure to utilize this freedom must be an oppressive backlash to progress, right?

So, before I get to the heart of this post, I want to preface it with two questions.  1.) Is it wrong to feel as fulfilled by traditional career-parenting as you would be by a career outside of the home?  2.) Does gaining financial benefit from an action make you realize it to a greater degree?  For instance, if I enjoy writing and blog every day am I less of a writer than someone who is equally productive but is paid for it?

Now to the point:

I catch up with my friend Julia on the phone most mornings.  She's one of the most intelligent women I know and over the years we've seen each other through many twists and misadventures.  We are both currently mom's and stay-at-home parents.  Julia and I discuss a great many things.  We enjoy talking about the books we read, our husbands, crafting ideas, our writing and, of course, our children.   When I have a problem, Julia is one of the first people I go to and I often feel that she bounces interesting, thought-provoking conversation off of me, to which I am very grateful.  Our conversations are often conceptual, rather than being about day-to-day goings on.

Today, she expressed a distaste for an article she read in this months issue of Marie Claire.  It was in interview with Elizabeth Badinter about her new book called The conflict.

Elizabeth Badinter is a french feminist and probably a pretty smart (though in my opinion, ass-backwards)  firecracker.  The premise of her book is that women are crazy to give up economic independence and return to stay at home parenting.  The movement towards green parenting (breastfeeding, cloth diapering, homemade baby food, co-sleeping) is oppressive and will have harmful effects on families as a whole.  In a nutshell, she believes that women are giving up their identities as women and as PEOPLE by giving up their jobs and staying at home with their children.  The relationship between man and woman will be harmed and strained by the relationship between mother and child and the relationship between father and child will be strained because the dad will not have as much opportunity to be present for the child.  The child is also harmed because it has spent too much time being nurtured which is unhealthy toward the development of independence (as an attachment parent, this is ludicrous to me). When the children grow and women have a few free hours in front of them, they will be nothing because they have identified as only mother's.  They will not be able to get their careers back and their children will not need them as much (or worse!  WILL need them as much) and they will be barren of purpose in the world, unable to be true members of society.

I'd like to address this under the canopy of my experience.  I'm only one person and I am only responsible for and representing myself... but I also think that I'm a rather common person  and my experiences are reflective of a great many people.

Growing up, I was never driven towards a career.  I deeply valued relationships (somewhat passionately).  I loved socializing and participating in creative actives, but there was never truly anything that I wanted to be when I grew up.  I am a hard worker and everything I do is done 110% and to its full potential, so it isn't an issue of drive.  One thing that I have always loved is caring for people.  Naturally, it's what I do and what I'm good at.  I find great fulfillment in nurturing.  Though, I wouldn't say that parenting came easily or naturally to me, it was something that I embraced, worked at and continue to work hard for and feel incredibly fulfilled by.  I absolutely love spending my time ensuring the happiness of my children.  When they were little they slept in bed with me... right there between Jay and I.  I extended my breastfeeding with Bunny and did not with Lila and never felt pressured to do it or oppressed by either feeding method.  I used disposable diapers.  I didn't make my own baby food more than a few times.  I laid down with them to go to sleep and still do if they want me to.  I walk them through their homework.  I work with them on their projects.  I read to them.  I play with them.  I cook with them.  I craft with them.  I'm at field trips and I'm in the classroom and I'm at every event that I know is happening in the school.  I'm screaming my face off at sporting events, holding cold water and a healthy lunch.  I hold them when they cry and I celebrate their accomplishments.  I have watched them closely for 8 years and I have been pushed to my limit and grown and struggled and worked HARD for my children.  I am proud to say that I am a good mother.  I'm not going to be insane and suggest that in order to be a good mother you have to do what I am doing.  I am saying that I am doing what I am doing and I know that it works for myself and my family and I am proud of the work I do.  

The choices that I have made were not obligatory.  I might be a cookie cutter stay at home mom, but I am truly doing what comes naturally and feels good to me.  And I love my life.

What feels restrictive and oppressive to me is the claim that I am not doing enough.  I feel squashed by the assertion that my role in the world is not important enough and that I am only a mother because I don't have a job.  Last year, I got a job because I needed to have one.  I worked hard.  I believed in my job.  I loved the people who I worked with.  I worked hard, before, during and after work.  But my heart was with my children and I eventually stopped working because I wasn't able to do what I loved to the extent that I wanted to when I was working.

It is true that I am a mother.  I am also a writer.  I am an artist.  I am a gardener.  I am a wife.  I am a friend.  I am a crafter.  I am a baker.  I am an adventure seeker.  I am an advice giver.  I am a listener.  I am an event planner.  I am many things and though being a mother is probably the most rewarding, it does not define me.  If I had to call myself anything, it would be "a work in progress."

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Delicious Treats

Last night I plucked a half a dozen oranges from our tree in the back yard.  Now that the weather has warmed up, our oranges are seriously sweet and juicy.

After the girls went to bed I squeezed the oranges and put the juice in the fridge to chill overnight.  Everyone was really excited to wake up to homemade orange juice this morning.

So much of my children's food preference is determined by presentation.  They will eat just about anything if it's served to them in a way that they think is fun or creative.

I decided to surprise them with the easiest dessert idea for this evening and I know that they are going to go nuts  for it.

I halved, juiced and removed the pulp from and orange.  Then I filled each half with fresh squeezed orange juice and put them in the freezer.

I promise you that my girls are going to be so excited to finish the day with this healthy and delicious frozen treat!

And as a little treat for myself, I made an easy but delicious iced coffee.  It's just cool black coffee, ice and light whipped cream (>1 carb and 20 calories per serving).

Mmm... I should do this more often.  It feels like luxury but it isn't a cheat!

all in a name.

They say that it's always a good idea to google your name and see what comes up.

Usually I find very little about myself and a lot about this other woman named Anna Holler who died back in 1935.  Her family kept these amazing records of her life with her husband Glen and I can't help but feel somehow kindred with her.  Maybe it's because we share a name and have daughters so close in age?  Whatever the reason, I feel that when I look at the pictures of her it's as if I'm looking at my own life in another time.

 This is a photograph that I found on this website.  That is Anna Holler with her daughters, Dorothy and Evelyn Holler.

The Love of a Murderer

Dear Sherbert,

I know that you love me, so there's no need to continue bringing such elaborate gifts to my doorstep. Day after day you out due yourself and though I appreciate that you are a daring and brave warrior, please, save your energy to fight things like coyote and mountain lion.  Or, if you ever see a fruit rat, I would support you in a quest to keep our home rat free.

And also, can you please get that crazy look off of your face.  The whole world shouldn't be able to see your dark passenger so transparently.

With love and respect,

Anna Holler

Think Pink!

This is a perfectly pink bouquet that I picked from my garden this morning.

Both Groovy James and I love it!

I divided the roses from my pruning this weekend into two smaller accompanying bouquets and am enjoying the prettiest table on this side of the Rocky Mountains.

Road Manners

I have a nice husband and it's a rare day that I'll take to my blog to complain about him.

But the day has come.

Here's the thing:

Jay is a great driver and I am not.  He's fearless and has a great sense of direction.  Of course, too much Grande Theft Auto at an impressionable age has left him a side dinger and squirrel assassin who drives a car that's bumper is being held on by zip tags, but all of this aside, Jay can and will drive anywhere.  Even though he insisted that speed bumps were not designed to make you slow down before going over them and actually had a heated argument with me about it, I'd usually prefer that he drive.

I was never the type of person who couldn't wait to get her license.  In fact, I was almost 19 years old when I finally got it.  I have always hated driving and if there is someone else who is willing to take on the drive, I am generally pretty content to be in the passenger seat.  That said, the only place that I refuse to drive is New York City, and now that we live in California, I don't have to worry much about it.  When I am behind the wheel, I am ridiculously careful and very concentrated on my actions (even if it seems like I'm just wildly singing with great animation in my facial expression... I am actually paying close attention to the road).

This morning Jay and I picked up a little conversation set for the backyard.  We went into the store and he paid for the furniture while I went out to the car to put down the seats in order to fit everything inside.  Then, I pulled the car around.  The parking lot was not crowded but there were several other cars there.

Now, I was parked in a way that to just pull out and drive directly to the store and pull in front of it to load the car, I would have had to go against the arrows in the parking lot and then against traffic and pull the car up to the store pointing the wrong way.  I considered this briefly because I could see Jay and three store workers staring at me from the entrance and I felt a little bit of pressure.

But I'm just not a natural born rule breaker.  I am a rule follower.  And I remember in driver's ed when I learned that most accidents happen close to home and in parking lots.

So, I pulled out and made a left (instead of a right towards the store).  I took my next left towards the back of the parking lot and drove around to the most convenient lane that had arrows pointing towards the store and then drove up and pulled in front... all very legally and without adding more than 30 seconds to the trip.

I pulled up to the store to see three bewildered and irritated employees and a husband who was rolling his eyes and on the verge of telling them that I was just his ride and he didn't even know me that well.

The whole ride home he spent arguing with me about whether or not I should have driven against the arrows in the parking lot, claiming that it wasn't busy enough to acknowledge them and a cop couldn't give me a ticket for it anyway.

First, let me just say that in California, you can get a ticket in a parking lot for driving against the arrows and not observing the stop signs.  Second, how could I possibly predict what cars would come in or back out in the time I was driving to the entrance of the store?

I feel livid that people were annoyed with me for protecting my safety and the safety of everyone around me.  All because it added about 30 seconds to the time it took me to pull out of the spot and in front of the store.

This got me thinking... where are people's manners?

I may not be a good driver, but I am certainly aware of the rules of the road.  I know how to use a four-way-stop, something that seems to have evaded the brains of many fellow drivers.  I stop for pedestrians at crosswalks... even when I'm turning right and could probably get away with cutting through the intersection first if I stayed really far to the left and went super fast.  I stop for stop signs and I slow down at yellow lights.  I let people in and I don't scream and yell when someone is going the speed limit on a one lane road.  I don't tailgate.  Sometimes I even let more than one car in if we are merging in a busy place.  When I am in a parking lot I don't drive through the spaces and I do follow the arrows.

I am sure that I am the source of anger for many people, snug in their stupid cars, in big hurries to get to some place that doesn't matter at all...

...and I think that's dumb.

Under Construction


So, it's done, for now.  I feel a little funny about not having anything rocky-horror related in my template. Truth be told, I'm not a particularly big fan of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, but I am a big fan of puns.

I am not in love with the way my blog looks... but it's better than it was.



Blogger is making a lot of changes and they've pretty much nullified my template.

I'm going to make some updates, but in the meantime I'll use this very ugly and generic blogger template. 

Hopefully the changes will be swift.  I tried to upload a pre made template yesterday but blogger has removed the option, so I am stuck using the custom template builder and I'm not happy about it. 

Wish me luck.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Dear Fat, I hate you.

You can pretty much always tell how I'm doing by the number on the tag on the inside of my jeans.

I starve when I'm sad.

I eat A LOT when I'm stressed.

And I spend all of the rest of my life trying to undo the damage done from the tough times.

So, in 2010 we lost everything we owned to the bb's.  It was easily the worst thing that has ever happened to me personally and there was a lot of crying and a deep sense of being violated.  These were terrible times that I'm glad are gone and I'm not going to focus on much here... but my point is that the sadness shrunk me down to practically nothing at all.  It seems very unfair that I'm never able to enjoy being thin because I'm always so depressed.

I spent the following year working pretty hard to rebuild our lives.  We moved to a nice house (but in a  crappy neighborhood.) I got a job and tried to balance all of my responsibilities as a stay-at-home-mom with those of a working mom- which was an insane, crazed undertaking.  We began fertility treatments and month after month I pumped my body full of baby making drugs only to be disappointed by my failure to get pregnant.  Then we moved to a money pit in New Jersey and settled in.  Then we moved again, but this time across the country and on less than a months notice... smack dab in the middle of the holiday season.

This was a stressful year and a half or so...
..and now I'm fat. Again.  My god.  I can't believe it!!!!  

But I'm also happy and in a good place emotionally and mentally.  I have the time and motivation to turn this ship around and get healthy.

Often I find that the way I want to eat is not the way I feel healthiest, so I'm putting all of my idealistic food issues on the back burner and making some big changes.

Actually, I made them.  10 days ago.  And I have to say, it's going pretty well... though not without some fight.  It is me against the fat and I'm going to win the war.

Here's what I changed.
1.) Diet
No sugar.  No flour.  No starchy vegetables.  No rice.  No super sugary fruit.
Lots of lean protein and green, leafy vegetables.  Berries and a little bit of dairy is okay too.
This part is easy for me.  Protein keeps me feeling full throughout the day and I've never been one to do a low carb diet by eating bacon cheese-burgers and blocks of cheese.  As long as I'm not feeling hungry, I am able to successfully stay away from high carbohydrate foods.

No alcohol at all for the time being.  I love to drink wine at the end of the day, so this really stinks.  But it had to be done... I'm not sure when I'll let myself drink a little again, but outside of a special occasion, it won't be for awhile.

No more added salt.  Anyone who has had a meal with me knows how much this hurts.  Giving up salt makes food not worth eating in my opinion.  Giving up salt is WORSE than giving up wine.  Without it... I'm not even hungry.

No more added sweetener.  Outside of a vitamin drink that I have once a day, no more fake sugar.  I do like a little sweetness in my coffee, which is a sacrifice but it's not the end of the world.

2.) Movement
As you can read, I've been out doors a lot working in the garden.  I've never been one to love organized activity and won't ever join a gym or tie myself to any kind of work out routine, but I feel that as long as I'm moving and not just sitting on the couch watching Big Rich Texas, I'll be okay.

Also, my mom's personal trainer has a workout video called Strong Mind, Strong Body, that I've worked out to  several times.  It's really a butt kicker though and she says things like, "Smile.  If you're not enjoying it you shouldn't be doing it."  Truth be told, I'm not enjoying it.  The video is great and if you're a person who loves working out... you'd probably get a lot out of it.  But my friend Julia said it best when she said that working out is like going to a dentist.  It's something that you have to do in order to maintain good health, but it's not fun.  I know that there are many people out there who disagree and really love a good, sweaty, breathy workout... but I'm not one of them.  I will probably continue to force myself to do parts of this video because I can really feel them helping, but I don't know that I'll be able to make it part of my life permanently.

Bunny is at track three days a week and I've been using the opportunity to walk the track while she runs.  Usually I only walk one mile, two at the most... but it's better than sitting on the bleachers and watching.

I hope I start to lose a bit of weight soon.  I feel like I'm fighting for every pound.  In the past all I've ever had to do is skip flour and sugar and the pounds would fall off... but this time has been a little bit discouraging.  It's only been 10 days, so I'm trying not to feel too sad, but in the past I've lost a tremendous amount of weight immediately.

Either way, I'm going to stick with it because I know that this lifestyle is better and healthier than I have been.  Wish me luck.   Some of it hurts.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

My rose bushes are amazing, but they have been completely out of control.  They've taken on such a life of their own that I'm surprised they haven't reached out and grabbed unsuspecting dog walkers and children passing by.   I haven't had rose bushes previously and admittedly didn't know much about maintaining them, but one thing is clear, these bushes needed to be clipped back desperately.

I worked and worked and worked and worked outside today.  I clipped and swept and plucked and watered.   I must say, all of this yard work has left me a lovely golden brown before Memorial Day even approaches.

 I can't believe how peaceful gardening makes me feel.  I have never been the sort who enjoyed working outside before but I have thoroughly loved every second of making this yard my own.  I even feel like I get a little workout when I'm out there... particularly when I'm picking the really giant weeds!!!!

I managed to clip back the rose bushes on the right side of my yard as well as the bushes lining my walkway... which was really a mess.

I clipped all of the mature roses off of the bushes and I also tried to clip back the stems that poked into the walkway.

Unfortunately for my roses, I found a deep, orange speckling covering many of my bushes.  A quick Internet search let me know that this is called rush and is a fungus.  I went out and clipped a lot of the leaves and branches with this rust off of the bushes.

This is the result.  There are still so many buds too!  I still have to do the left side of the house, which is going to be a challenge because there are many bushes and they are full of mature roses
And just look at what I collected for my kitchen table!  I can't even express how much I love having fresh cut flowers for my home all the time.

I also have some very exciting news!  Remember how I planted seeds that my friend Siet sent me?

Well, things are going very, very well!  Less than a week later I have babies!

These are the yellow squash that are growing from seeds!

These are the green peppers that I planted only a few days ago but can't believe how much they are growing!

The cardinal climbers are poking through the soil!
And my jalapeno peppers are also thriving out there!

Growing food is so much fun!

Great Lunch

We're having a little heat wave in Concord.  As I type, the girls are wearing bikini's and gobbling their lunch up in the back yard.

I just made them the greatest steamy day meal and they are out there pleased as can be.  A cold pasta salad is so much nicer than a pb&j on a hot day.

I used about a quarter of a box of pasta- el dente and put on ice to chill.
I added one large peeled and cut cucumber.
Cherry tomatoes
chilled asparagus
purple onion
chopped carrot
a dozen or so black olives
chopped celery

Then, I mixed 1 part olive oil with two parts apple cider vinegar- a tsp of salt, a 1/2 tsp of garlic, a1/2  tsp of onion powder, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1/2 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp Italian seasonings  I ate a bit of the veggies and dressing before adding the pasta and it was DELICIOUS.

If Bunny wasn't allergic to casein, this would have been great with a bit of feta cheese on top.  And, if you are a pork eater, you could add a bit of ham to this in order to make it a dinner.

I served this salad with a whole wheat roll and a bit of Earth's Balance spread on top.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Friday After School

It's hard to believe that it was only a year ago when my girls were playing in the fire hydrants of south Philly with the other neighborhood kids.  So much has changed.

They are enjoying the freedom of Friday afternoon.  No homework.  Nowhere to go and nothing that has to get done.  With week schedules that are jam packed with too much action, one afternoon of free play is necessary.

Because we don't have my dream backyard just yet, the girls are making the best of our garden hose!


And they aren't the only Holler's who love the sunshine!  Groovy James is quite the sunbather himself!  I may need to invest in a bet of doggy sunscreen!  

From The Garden

I am loving my garden!

Our bounty of roses is prolific and shoots a rainbow of color across our front yard.  Have you ever seen roses so purple before?  I haven't!  

This is a smaller flower that is less mature on the same bush.  A little bit pinker when it's a baby!
And these are yellow and sweet green peppers!  

Now, I'm off to trim our roses back!  I'm excited to make a giant bouquet!  

Loving Life!

I talk a lot about how beautiful California is, but it's because I honestly can't believe how lucky I am to live here.  

Every day I drive my car around Concord and marvel at the amount of love I have for this place.  I sincerely just love this community.  Concord is beautiful with weather that beats San Francisco's by about 5000X in my opinion (keep in mind, I am a guilty sun worshipper)!  We are basically surrounded by mountains and every way you twist your  body you have a beautiful view of something!  This town has tons of character and plenty of cultural diversity.   The BART is less than two miles from our house and Jay's commute into work is under 45 minutes- none of which has to be driven!  And as far as families go, there is just a ton to do.  This weekend alone there is free swimming at our local pool and a family festival.  We have Water World and Pixie Land and fantastic parks and schools.  

The more we settle into the area, the more I feel at home and fall more deeply in love with it here.  I really look forward to living the rest of my life in this town.  

Here are a few pictures from track practice last night!  

Bunny, with her Larry Bird water bottle and torn up runners knees. 

The view from the track field!  And this pictures does not do it any justice.  Believe me!  

Lila, practicing her dance and cheer routine.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The 99 Cent Store

On the east coast we had dollar stores like the Dollar Tree.  Usually I'd go in there for things like paper plates that I needed for a birthday party or gift bags or paper towels.  When I was trying to get pregnant I stocked up on their ovulation predictors and pregnancy tests because they measure the same thing and worked just as well (and lets face it... I went through them like candy)!   Most merchandise at the Dollar Tree was made like, well, like it cost a dollar, I guess.  I picked up a few fun Halloween decorations there and I also picked up some festive Christmas decorations, but generally, it wasn't a place that I'd normally go for anything other than an odd or end.  I certainly wasn't using its shelves to decorate my home, that's fershure.

In California we have a 99 Cent Store.  This place blows my mind.  Okay, so it is full of the same old crap that the Dollar Tree had.  I am not going to make any claims that the overall quality is something really amazing, but they do tend to have name brands and you can buy things at the 99 Cent Store that you'd pay 3 dollars for at the grocery market.  They even sell produce and groceries (though, this sketches me out just a bit... I mean, WHY is that huge bundle of asparagus 99 cents?)

Today I totally scored this old, metal, vintage "your brain on drugs," sign, which I promptly came home and nailed up to my wall of crazy colors.  For the record, I did not purchase this because of what it says or because I think it's funny.  Last night when I was talking to my husband about it and asked if he liked it, he said, "Yeh.  I guess it's funny.  It has a cartoon chicken on it."   I found this disturbing to a place deep in my core.  I said, "I didn't buy it because of what it said.  I mean, you don't buy a T-SHIRT because of the writing on it."  At which point my husband had a hardy chuckle at my expense, claiming that most people DO, in fact, buy t-shirts based on their catchy slogans and not their color.

So, to set the record straight, this sign could have said a great many things that would not have mattered to me.  What mattered to me were the colors they chose, the effect of kitsch and the contrast of color.

Also, I grabbed jalapeƱo plants, sweet peppers, yellow squash and green squash plants for my garden!

It doesn't look like much right now, but I'll bet we'll have some awesome little peppers and veggies by the time summer is in full swing.

I found these bright flower prints and put them on the yellow walls in my bedroom. They're so sunny and happy!

And I found these prints and used them to make a succulent grid on the big, open space in my kitchen!

My point is that the 99 Cent store is full of awesome stuff and with a little imagination you can save a bundle while making fun, quirky decorations for my home!