Friday, October 31, 2008

Changing Seasons

I was so taken with the beautiful colors on the grapevines in Napa, we just don't get these spectacular changes in the valley...

....I love FALL!

Thursday, October 30, 2008


We saw the most incredibly beautiful sunsets from the top of the hill. I know John and Ashley get to see these all the time but those of us stuck down in the valley are in awe.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Our Trip North

Got home last night after 3 days in Napa with the California Derr kids (as opposed to the Pennsylvania Derr kids). John took Ashley to Las Vegas for her 40th birthday and some much needed rest (the woman is a saint) and Steve, Annie and I stayed at their house on the top of Mt. Veeder with the kids. And trust me, these three young 'uns (as Steve likes to call them) require a man-to-man took all three of us to take care of them and we still came home exhausted. This is why 50-year olds should not be having kids :)

More pics and stories to follow...including a tidbit on Maggies new 'pet' (hint - it has no fur, is a member of the amphibian family, and grosses out Annie :)

Friday, October 24, 2008

CAUTION: Political Rant

This is an excerpt from a speech given by Barack Obama to the NEA. It's a great speech and Steven and I agree with everything he is saying about testing, teaching and the good ole USofA. But I would like to ask Mr. Obama a few questions, starting with finding out what his solutions to the problem are. How specifically are you going to CHANGE the system you are criticizing? Give me one concrete example of what you would do to implement the change you speak of.....Please.

I told Steve that he had just given a speech that basically said nothing, or at least nothing new. We hate tests in the Garver a family of 4 students and as a family of a teacher. Standardized tests inhale deeply (my teacher husbands polite way of saying, they suck). Tests are not a good idea, couldn't agree more. They are an imperfect measure of a students progress... they are a poor indication of a teachers ability....they waste valuable classroom time....duh.

Concluding that something needs to change is simply not enough...the crucial element is formulating a plan as to HOW to change it. What are we going to do with this mess....what's the solution?

And frankly, how much courage does it take to stand up in front of a group of teachers and tell them you're against testing ?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Annies 'New' Dresser

Though Annie was lobbying hard for a brand-new dresser, our budget (as well as our recycling nature) called for refinishing the one she has been using for the past several years. This once belonged to her Choo Choo Grandma (funny story...tell ya later) and it was in pretty good shape (paint job notwithstanding :)

I hate that I keep forgetting to take before pics of our's so fun to see the results. This is Annie's dresser with one drawer already painted. I would love to be able to say that I had also already started to take off the handles but they had pretty much fallen off in the past year...sigh.

And speaking of old handles, here's a close-up of what was left on the whitewashed country dresser. Annie picked out these cool, not very photogenic, handles at Lowes. They were indeed Made in China but purchased before our decision to boycott the country.

It's kind of hard to see in the photo, but I thought the dresser looked a bit too country for my very modern daughter so I sanded down the edges of the drawers to give it a softer, more sophisticated look.

Painted it least favorite 'color' but the only one that really works in her room. And I am actually coming to appreciate the neutrality of white and how it makes the other colors stand out more....especially on furniture.

..............Ta Da!!!!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Harvest Life

Steve and I have started yet another project and wanted to invite all our readers (all 3 of you :) to check out our new blog where we will be journaling our new adventure. See you around the farm!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bye Bye BofA

Read this ... it's pretty darn good!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Bread Pudding

Making bread pudding reminds me alot of the short story, Stone Soup. I think I'm being frugal by using up my stale bread, but 1 cup of raisins, a pint of cream, 1/2 cup of brandy, 4 eggs and two apples later, I pause to contemplate the amount of food I have just used making something that only Steve and I will eat.....sigh.

It is delicious though, so here's the recipe....and here's hoping someone out there can get their kids to at least try it!

Bread Pudding

1 cup raisins (less if preferred)
1/2 cup brandy
Soak raisins in brandy for 30 minutes.

8-10 slices of leftover, stale, bread. We use sourdough and wheat....stuff that's been in the freezer for months (waiting till it was cool enough to justify turning on the oven).

Butter one side of bread and cut into 1 inch cubes.

Mix together...

1 1/3 cups heavy cream (whipping cream)
1 1/3 cups milk
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1 teas. vanilla
2 apples (I use Granny Smith) peeled and cut into cubes

Add brandy and raisins, pour over bread cubes, stir to combine. Pour entire mixture into buttered souffle dish (aka casserole dish)....let sit 5 minutes. Set dish in large baking pan. Add enough hot water to large pan to come up to 1 inch on side of souffle dish. Bake at 350' until custard is set and top is golden and puffed slightly, approx. 1 1/2 hours. Serve warm...and for breakfast the next morning:)

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How do we define success?

A big thanks to Wendy Melchior for writing about her sons baseball game and prompting us to think about the culture of winning and losing that we are fostering today and for inspiring both my hubby and I to respond.

I write about winning every week. Our local football team has been very successful this year and are 5-0 for the season. These stories are fun and in many ways easy to compose. But I also have an idea for the opening of an article should they happen to lose. A fatalist....maybe. But sooner or later everyone loses...EVERYONE. Character is shown by how we handle those truth, character is formed thru the losses in the first place. The most compelling stories, the most interesting movies, start with losers. Losers who persevere and learn lessons and overcome obstacles.

One of our favorite movies is Little Big League about a kid inheriting a major league baseball team and against considerable odds, leading them into the playoffs...where they end up losing. The last scene in the film shows a dejected team being called back out to the field so they can be enthusiastically embraced by their fans. The story would have been less satisfying had they won. I love that these guys lose, I love that the movie makes a statement about something much more important than winning a baseball game.

Life truly should be about how you play the game.

Monday, October 13, 2008

My Big Fat Mexican Birthday

You haven't lived until you've heard karaoke Achy breaky Heart and Jailhouse Spanish!!! Steve and I attended the birthday party last night of Jesus Banuelos, his good friend and JV baseball coach. It was mostly a family affair (I was asked to take photos) so a good deal of the evening was in a language where I understand about 20 words....on a good day.

Wonderful family atmosphere, children running around on the grass area, teenagers congregating and trying to look cool, women and men for the most part full table was all men (not sure if their wives were sitting at another table). At one point as I watched the women dancing and the men watching, I told Steven it seemed to be a blend of the wedding scenes from The Godfather and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The last big party we attended that was anything like this was typical white bread; the ambiance was more, 'who can get drunk the fastest' and I just wanted to go home.

As Jesus walked into the courtyard, everyone applauded, and then he began the rounds. Every man, woman and child at the party got a hug, no handshakes, hugs all around. Aunts, uncles, cousins, bothers, sisters, nieces and nephews.....all genuinely thrilled to be here with this man. His grandmother...lined and stooped with age, tears in her eyes... held on to him for dear life, probably for good reason. Jesus was diagnosed with cancer last year and for awhile we all thought he wouldn't live to see this birthday. Steven could hardly talk about him without tearing up and every teacher at the school began most conversations with 'How's Jesus doing?' But he is still here almost a year later and fighting like crazy to stick around to see his young son and daughters grow spend time with the family that is so important to him...and to sing karaoke like there is no tomorrow.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

How to Fail Tests with Dignity

If you have trouble reading them, click on image to see larger version.

thanks for sending this John!

I especially like the teachers comment on the last one....'very funny Peter'.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

This is Why....

...I cannot vote for Barack Obama.

Monday, October 6, 2008

We Clean Up Pretty Nice

Luncheon with Mom and daughter was yesterday. We had a great time with a wonderful group of ladies. Annie brought one of her very best friends, KayKay, and they looked quite stunning all dressed up.... and disconcertingly older than their 14 years.

Our table looked good; unfortunately I didn't get a before was fun to eat off my mothers fine china and use the good silver and cloth napkins.

Isn't it interesting how little we 'dress up' any more in this day and age. Since our theme was Haunted Mansion the ladies at our table were all dolled up, and many other gals came in costumes to fit their tables themes. But so many gals just showed up in jeans and casual shirts....I was a bit surprised. Not that that's necessarily a bad's my preferred mode of dress. I just think there are times to show some respect for an event, and with all the hard work these ladies put into this luncheon this was one of those times....but maybe that's just me.

ps Mom....we had such a good time and truly appreciated all your efforts. The salads were delicious and the company was stimulating....and hilarious!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Fed Up

Does anyone know where I can get a Ralph Nader for President sign for my yard?

...or Ron Paul?
...or Bill the Cat?
...or Mickey Mouse?

Friday, October 3, 2008


My first shopping trip under the new restrictions went rather well yesterday. I had to buy sprinkler parts for the new veggie garden in the front yard and was in Orchard supply putting them into my basket before I realized I hadn't even checked where they were manufactured. I needed the big black tubing, several connector parts and a couple of misc. parts. I could only find one label on anything and it said Made in I figured that because it was the same company making all the parts, I was safe. I made my purchases, got home and checked on the website...still no I emailed the company. I would like to report that Raindrip of Fresno produces their sprinkler parts in this country but so far I haven't gotten a response....I'll let you know.

But the most serendipitous moment came as I was checking out. Mom and I are in charge of designing our table for the luncheon on Sunday and thought it would be cool, since the theme this year is Halloween, to do a Haunted Mansion look with our table. We have candelabras, fancy china and good silverware to start. Then we are going to muck it up with cobwebs, spiders, a rubber mouse...and a skull. To complete the look I had been searching for taper candles that would drip to give it that creepy old mansion look....with big ole globs of wax running down the sides of the candles. I have been to several stores but 'dripless' is the norm so I was surprised to see on the checkout counter (of OSH no less) a box of Halloween candles....dripping, creepy-looking, white taper candles ....and right there on the label for all to see...Made in USA....yippee yahoo.

ps. I do have to confess that when I got home I checked the skull, rubber mouse and spiders that we bought last week and they are all, unfortunately, Made in China....but it was before our fast officially began and my Mom paid for we get off on a technicality :)

Thursday, October 2, 2008

What a Blessing

Steve's cousin (and my very good friend) Sara and her sisters are having a yard sale this weekend and she generously allowed me to go thru her clothes and take whatever I wanted ....FOR FREE! Now, this woman knows how to dress.....even my fashion consultant (aka daughter) was impressed. Annie insisted that I take a pair of designer jeans that she tells me would retail for over $100 (compared to my JC Penny duds which I get online for about $30). The fact that I have to lose 10 more lbs. before I can get them past my hips did not deter her; she was thrilled that I even considered keeping them at all. My fear is that even if I lose the weight I will still look like an idiot....a fifty-year old woman trying to look like a kid. Sara can pull stuff like this off, she is model beautiful and beyond classy. Me....not so much.

But....I did also get a blouse and black skirt that will be perfect for a fancy luncheon I am going to with my Mom and dear daughter this weekend. It will be nice to wear something other than the same black pants that I have worn to every...single... occasion...that I've been to in the past 3 years where I am required to dress beyond jeans and a t-shirt.

I also got ---

---quite a few nicer t-shirts, which is wonderful because most of mine have been ruined while painting or gardening. It's always been my fear that if I go inside to change I'll start doing something else and won't get to the dirty I don't and my clothes have paid the price.

---two pairs of very nice sweats for winter wear around the house; one of which is Ralph Lauren (eek). Most of mine have holes in them or (again) are paint-stained.

---several sweaters, one is lime green... my favorite color!

---a couple of very pretty blouses is my :)

---many (maybe 6 or so) long flowing type preferred mode of 'dress'. Love a good skirt and blouse with clogs.

Seems almost unfair to start our clothes diet with a binge....but hey, they're free and that's legal.....Yea!!!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


...or we should be committed :)

My dear sweet hubby and I have decided to go on a 'fast' .... not a food fast, but a shopping fast. Recently we both read and were inspired by an old blog post by Diane Nienhuis about her year long commitment to buy no clothes. We both practically jumped at the thought of taking on the challenge....tho we did have to sit down and discuss the practicalities of the idea. When do we start?...Oct. 1st, aka today. Should we stock up on basics? ...No. Who would participate?...That was easy, we gave our kids the option to be included in the fun, but surprisingly no one volunteered. And as much as I feel it is a worthwhile endeavor, the thought of forcing my 14yr. old High school freshman daughter (voted 'best dressed' at Wilson Middle school ) to even consider NOT buying clothes for an entire year....well lets just say, I know how to pick my battles and I am going to completely avoid that one (wimp).

Another blog of note in the same genre is wardrobe refashion. I think that will be closer to our version of the experiment, mostly because they allow shopping at thrift stores and garage sales and I love the idea of recycling other peoples wardrobes into my own.

Now, neither Steven or I are exactly clothes horses, about half of his current wardrobe came from the Discovery shop (Cancer society reused clothing store -thanks Mom) and as for me....anything that involves trying stuff on in front of a mirror terrifies me to the point of intestinal distress, so my usual purchases revolve around things I can grab off a rack...and I always save the receipt. . Our already austere shopping habits should make this a fairly simple task, but I'm sure we will be surprised. We are considering a possible exception to the no buying new rule on items that we wear frequently (for me - white mock turtlenecks and socks) that are marked down in price beyond 75% off. Since there are certain items that do actually wear out and need to be replaced, we figured we would give ourselves some wiggle room....but I'm not sure we're going to use it . I think it might be more fun, at least for a year, to go whole hog....or sans hog as it were. We'll see.

Now on to our second and more complicated resolution. We have decided to combine this year of no new clothes with a made in China ban also. This is something we've been pondering for awhile. Several years ago I read an article about a gentleman who was trying to Christmas shop for his children without buying any Chinese goods and he found it nearly impossible....hand made wooden toys from Hearthsong just don't hold much appeal to a teenager. This gentleman's quandary really got us thinking....ALOT. Was it even possible? Would it matter?

Reading 'Lost on Planet China' has brought the whole issue up again and caused us to take a look at our own buying habits. Tho we are aware of the huge trade deficit we have compared to the Chinese, I think in our haste we just don't bother to check out where the majority of our purchases originate and if we need them, we buy them anyway. But I am feeling less and less comfortable with that process. Not only do our choices impact where future jobs will end up, the thought of buying something that has been shipped thousands of miles using tons of fuel on that journey, leaves a fairly nasty taste in my mouth. I just can't ignore it any more. A recent trip to Costco made us very aware of how difficult this endeavor may end up being. Also, because it will not be possible to always know if ingredients or parts of a whole are produced in said country it may not be possible to institute a complete ban .....but if 'made in China' is on the label, we will not purchase it. Other possible exceptions will be made if we have need of a product for our home that is not made anywhere else, we're hoping the Internet helps us out there.

Ok, so 2 people living in a small town refusing to participate in the merry-go-round that is consumerism, aren't really going to change the world, are they? Probably not..... but I don't really care. The results aren't what matter, what matters is doing what we believe to be the right thing for us at this point in our lives. What matters is doing something....however small and insignificant it may seem. And just maybe we'll learn something along the way.

What has always given me hope is that small steps can lead to sea change. As important as is the big picture , there's profound power in pulling it down to a manageable scale, to bringing it home, right down into our communities and talking action with available solutions. The little things count as much as the big things when enough people are doing them. And there's something very positive, very democratic, about the people gathering together in our common interest. How we treat the earth says much about us as a society, about our spirit and strength as a nation. I am extremely optimistic that we, the people will turn the tide.
...Robert Redford