Monday, December 22, 2008

Great Blue Herons? or Sandhill Cranes?

A couple of weeks ago, we were awakened to the sound of herons calling to each other. "Breakfast is served...Breakfast is served"! :) It was a grey foggy morning, and though we looked and looked, we couldn't see anything. Then as the fog lifted...there they were. Hundreds of them across the road, eating to their hearts content. Watching them fly in to the "restaurant" was quite something. Their wing spans are 6' plus. We have always called them Herons but after looking in my birding field guides, I have come to the conclusion that these were not Herons, but Sandhill Cranes. Herons DO frequent our area, but they are primarily, believe it or not, carnivorous. They feed on fish and small mammals! Sandhill cranes on the other hand are grey, with a very similar look, but feed by "probing and gleaning the ground for insects and waste grain". Well, this was not waste grain! The field had just been planted but a week before!! Either way, Heron or Crane, they were fun to watch and listen to.

Thanksgiving Day

Think I should post for Thanksgiving before I do my posts for Christmas! Now that's a novel idea isn't it??
We picked up Mom from Bethany Home on Thanksgiving Day. She was anxious to go and looking forward to having a good 'ol home cooked meal. I don't think she was disappointed! It was going to be just Les, me and Mom for the meal, so Les suggested I cut back a bit on the whole Thanksgiving FEAST idea. But you know, it's like cooking spaghetti.....when you put it in the pot, it never looks like enough! So, you keep adding.... Well, if we were having a turkey then you HAVE to have dressing, gravy and mashed potatoes..right? Then, it just doesn't taste like the full meal if you don't have cranberry sauce, home made applesauce (by Les), jello salad, green bean casserole and hot buns from the oven. A FEAST it was! Les helped out by BBQing the turkey, so the oven was all mine.
After such a feast, with the sun shiny and bright, it was time for a "walk". Since Grandma was in the wheel chair, it was a "ride" for her :) We started out taking the easy way...down the paved road, but quickly changed out minds and decided we could roll in the orchard just as well. It was a gorgeous fall day....all the leaves were a carpet for the wheelchair and Mom thoroughly enjoyed herself as did Les and I.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Another treasure added

Every now and then I like to peruse Ebay. I go to the section called EAPG, or, early american pressed glass. Since the early 80's I've been collecting a pattern called Minnesota. It was made by the U.S. Glass Company and there are 64 different pieces available (in Minnesota pattern), some more rare than others. They were manufactured in the mid to late 1800's, and were the poor man's version of cut crystal. I happened to be looking around the EAPG section the other day and found this little treasure. I already had one large dresser jar, but this little one was so cute! And cheap! $9 added this beauty to my collection and I couldn't be more thrilled :)

Trip to Reno

Lake at the top of Hwy. 4
Reno in the distance
Wow! We had a wonderful time taking a little trip to Reno. On the way over we had the Tahoe loaded down with the desk and bookcase for Katie, a box full of kitchen items and a turkey for Ri, and a chair headed for Ri's house as well. That, along with our luggage, made for a full Tahoe!! We started out on Sat. morning and just "meandered" up to hwy. 49 to Jackson, making stops along the way at the kitchen store and of course, the Harley dealer. It was a very relaxing trip over the hill. We were able to meet the Bronco fans (Casey, Lisa, Marie, and Ri's friends Meredith and Stacy) for dinner Saturday night. Lots of fun and so nice to just visit again. The guys transferred all the goodies from our car to the other two cars divvying up all the bootie, while us girls enjoyed a leisurely stroll thru the nearby Barnes and Noble. Sunday morning we met for church at the OPC in Reno and then headed home once again. What a nice visit and ride.

Latest Project

One of my latest projects was cleaning up and repainting this desk and bookcase for Katie to go into her new room! The desk has traveled around the family a bit. Les and I purchased it new and unfinished from Al's furniture. It started out in Casey and Jerry's room, then moved to Mark and Philip's room, and now back here again for the last several months while we decided what to do with it. As you can see, paint and some new knobs can make quite a transformation! So nice to see it all "girly" and ready for Katie to make her mark on it too!!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

From the Tool Shed to the Living Room

This old buffet, which I have loved since I was a child, has finally made it into the living room. If I had a dining room, it would be there in it's appropriate place....but for now it resides in the living room. It has a long history in our Van Laar which each of us remembers in a slightly different way. When I was a child, 5 or 6 I believe, my Dad brought this home from the Modesto Cattle Auction. Just the thought of the auction brings about the memory of the sights and smells...from the auction ring with it's sawdust floor and bleacher style seating, to the auctioneer with his fascinating speed talk I could never understand, to the coffee shop on site where we got a treat! There was a huge Quonset hut there filled with antiques....mostly estate sale stuff. I am assuming that this is where Dad got the buffet. My love for antiques and anything with a history was in place already at that age. I absolutely LOVED going into the Quonset hut at the auction. People's lives were spread out there in the dust for all to see. Rich, poor, and in between. Lovely burl bedroom sets with marble topped side tables, old discarded wringer washers, and Formica topped kitchen tables accompanied by red vinyl and chrome chairs. The buffet came home in the cow trailer and was promptly placed in the tool shed. It had two drawers which locked (the top ones were lined in burgundy velvet) and seemed a good place for Dad to "lock up his tools". It had some nice storage space as well as another counter top to work on. Work bench space was a premium in the tool shed. With 4 boys who wanted to tinker too, there was always something spread out on the counter. I thought it was much too lovely a piece of furniture to be treated that way, but Dad was a practical man and the buffet served him well as a cheap work bench. If you look in the pictures, you will see where motor oil was spilled across the top and down the front and left side. There were bits of red paint dispersed all over the top and front..... International Red, of course. There was some green too, though I don't believe Dad ever had a John Deere! It was also known in the family for having the name my brother's teased my older sis with, emblazoned in red spray paint on the back! I won't write it here...she might come for me! I was living in Washington as a newlywed when the day came for Mom and Dad to move off the farm. "Dad, please, I want the buffet!" "That 'ol thing?" "Oh yes Dad, I'll fix it up!" The buffet journeyed to Washington and back again. It sat in the garage on N. Ripon Rd. for 8 yrs. being used in the capacity it had grown accustomed to....storing tools. Then it moved "home" again nearly 23 yrs. ago with lots of promises to "bring it in". Finally she's here...she shined up better than I imagined. Do you see the glow? Briwax and Formby's is all it took. The motor oil? Well, I just think of Dad, the auction, and good memories. Besides, it's great storage, don't ya know? When Mom moved to the home, I got all her "good" dishes and silverware. They're now stored in the perfect place. Dad's old tool box and Mom's good fits doesn't it?

Monday, November 3, 2008

It must have been Electrifying!!

Facing south in the blast zone where the tree used to be! Our friend Art parks his truck on our yard and occassionally works on it here as well. Last Thursday he was working here and a big thunder and lightening storm rolled thru. He heard a big lightening crack and instantaneously the "boom". Uh oh, he thought....that hit right here on the yard. But after looking all over the yard and up at the barn (after all, it's the highest spot), he could find no evidence. It wasn't until Durk came to push brush on Saturday that we discovered the "hit". It was out in the orchard about 10-15 rows north of Bacon Rd. Durk had noticed odd shredded pieces of wood laying here and there and wondered...where did THOSE come from? That's not what chain-sawed wood looks like....and some of the hunks were far too big for the pruners to have left behind. Then he saw it, a tree that had been literally "blown up" and out of the ground. We went to have a look, and here are the pictures I took. They don't nearly show the scope of what this "blast" must have been like. The wood pieces are in a radius of approx. 300+ feet. We found wood from this tree across the road south of Bacon and nearly to Jackson. It appears that the lower 3-4 ft. of the tree (the main trunk) was just blown apart into shreds. The trees around it also took a hit from all the flying wood, aparently. They are all skinned up and shredded wood is dangling from limbs 10 rows away. I know it's hard to see on the pictures, but if you look amongst the leaves you will notice the shredded bits of wood. They range in size from a couple inches long to 3 ft. long! Awesome!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Ah....sweet relief

Finally the water came and we can look forward to no more dust across the way.

Dulce de Calabaza

About a week ago a friend of ours, who sells pumpkins in all the western states, gave us two giant pumpkins and one for eating. Mind you, I've never been one to cook my own pumpkin for pumpkin pie, etc. But the story he told us intrigued me and I did a little research on it. He said this particular variety of pumpkin was selling very well due to the Hispanic market. Calabaza is pumpkin in spanish. It turns out, it's a specialty item that they use to make candy and treats. The flesh on the Calabaza is finer and creamier than your run of the mill pumpkin/jack o lantern, and since I got mine for free (they normally sell for about $25) I decided to take a "culinary adventure". For no other reason than that I really love dulce de leche, I decided to try dulce de Calabaza! (which by the way, was the most common use for calabaza)
I perused many web pages with recipes for dulce de calabaza.....every one basically similar, but a tad different from the next. Following the intructions, I hacked and carved my way thru the calabaza. I needed 1x1 1/2" pieces and some unrefined cane sugar. I found the sugar at the local market in the mexican food section. Some of the recipes said you could substitute regular brown sugar....don't try that, those turned out...well, icky! To make a long story have to really LOVE this stuff for all the effort it takes to make it. I soaked the pieces overnight in lime water, then in the morning, drain/rinse, drain/rinse, repeat. Cook at a boil for 5 mins. Let drain for 1 hour, then after coating them with a "slurry" of water dampened sugar, I placed them in a glass 9x13.
Well, the calabaza begins to 'weep' and the sugar coating gets watery...hmmmm. Didn't look too appetizing at this point :/. Into a 300 degree oven for 3 hours they go. Surprisingly, they looked better as they baked. They come out a dark caramel color, with the same caramel flavor mixed with an undertone of....what else? .....pumpkin. Let them air dry on parchment and then roll in more sugar. Either I did something wrong, or the appeal of these escapes me. They are sweet, sweet, sweet. Will I ever make these again? Nuh uh.
On the flip side, I wanted to use the remainder of the calabaza on a savory dish. I chose Pastelon de Calabaza, or "savory pumpkin pie". The dish is similar to what we are familiar with as hamburger pie, only the hamburger is prepared mexican style with chili, olives, tomatoes, etc. The recipe says to mash the cooked calabaza like you would potatoes and layer it on the bottom of a 9x13, with the hamb. combo in the middle and more calabaza on the top with cheddar cheese. I only got as far as the mashed calabaza part and how you have to add an egg and flour to "improve the texture". I did as instructed and when I asked my taste tester (Les) what he thought of the mashed calabaza....I got a thumbs down. Sigh. No sense wasting a pound of hamburger!
The cows and goats sure do like mashed calabaza though!! They all have orange smiles.

Warmin' up block at a time

Every Thursday morning at Bethany Home, Mom and I participate in the "crochet activity". They serve coffee at 10am and then when coffee is finished and all the ladies are sitting at the tables yet; it's a perfect opportunity to bring out the crochet hooks and yarn. Someone donated the yard from an unfinished project. In order to put a purpose to the project it was decided that the finished afghan would be donated to Warm Up America. WUA is a nonprofit which distributes knit or crochet afghans to those in need. You can check it out at . It's a fun project and I enjoy very much sitting and crocheting with "the ladies".

Friday, October 24, 2008

Here a chick there a chick everywhere a chick chick

One day after arriving home from Chicago, Les and I noticed that we were missing a chicken :/. We knew we had seen her once since we'd been home, but not lately. Rogue Chicken and Rooster were around, but not the pretty Red Hen. I think most of you know about Rogue Chicken and how she just showed up at our house one day about 4-5 years ago. Rooster is her son, and Red Hen her daughter. They're a scrappy bunch of chickens and have managed to survive on their own without much help from us! Every now and then when the weather gets colder, we throw some cracked corn out...puts a little fat on them and keeps them warm. So, back to Red Hen. She had gone missing and we feared the worst for her....coyotes abound around here, and a chicken really needs to pay attention to stay alive. Ah well, one down, two still around. Then, a couple of days ago...there she was, with a couple little surprises at her side! Awwwwwww......aren't they cute?

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Visit to Chicagoland

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Well, the pictures pretty much say it all :) We had a wonderful time in the Chicago area with Jerry and Bernice. Since we were not able to be at James' baptism last fall, we thought it only fitting that we could make it for his first birthday. Providentially, Jerry and Bernice's new house also closed the week before we arrived and we were able to be a bit of help in moving and painting. I DO love to paint! Throw in some fun days spent at Starved Rock Park and the new Harley Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI., not to mention a little antiquing, and it was a perfect vacation. Didn't want to come home! Thank you for the wonderful time Jerry and Bernice :)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Dust makes a beautiful sunset

Well, after returning home from Chicago last night, we were unpleasantly surprised to find that the "work" across the road STILL was not complete! Ugh! If had just gotten worse.At one point it was so thick with dust that our light sensor controlled yard light lit up!! About the only good thing you can say about it all is that it does make for a beautiful sunset. Hopefully they will finish by Saturday, when the weather prediction is for RAIN...yippee!!! I hope it's a downpour.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Country Livin' the dust :/

Last week the corn was cut and chopped in the field across the street. It's always nice to watch it grow and then after our view of the Coast Range has been completely blocked by 12''s good to see it go again. Following the chopping of the corn, always comes the dust with discing and planting, only this year so far......we get double or triple the dust :/. After installing a new irrigation system, the farmer who owns this property now needs to level it out so the flow of water, for flood irrigation, will now be moving east to west. Previously it was north to south. In the last few days there has been a flurry of activity, pulling out the old concrete irrigation pipe and hauling it away, and now the levelers have come. When they're finished....they will be followed by further discing and then planting for the next feed crop...usually some kind of sudan grass. Thankfully we leave for a week's vacation tomorrow....the dusting will be over by the time we return! But, for now, it's "eat my dust" all day long!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008


I tried to straighten out the text with the photos.....but I can't get it to move appropriately when I edit!!! Can you regular bloggers help me!!??

Apologies from an Intermittent Blogger :(

Oma relaxing at the top of the pass Sorry, sorry, sorry, for doing such a bad job of keeping up on this blog :/. I will try to do better in the future.....but I'm having a hard time figuring what is a good "regular" time to blog. Our summer has been very busy so far....even though we are having a "staycation" this year. Les and I decided that we would concentrate on some "projects" that have needed to be done for several years now. We have been tackling those and making some progress!! In June Casey and Lisa and family were here for two consecutive weekends, and we had a great time heading to Yosemite and just spending time here at the house. It was nice for Grandpa and Oma to have a chance to see Katie splish splashing in the pool!! And Tys....well, he's all boy! Next on the agenda was a surprise for Les from me.....I told Les to "save the date" and on a Thurs. evening we got dressed and headed out for a location Les knew nothing about :) He tried to play it cool....but as I drove he couldn't resist asking where we were headed and then trying to guess our final destination! It was a Ken Davis concert (Christian comedian)...we had a blast! The next few weeks were filled with preparation for a bridal shower for Elaine Hannink, Johnny and Lauren's wedding, and a trip to Lynden, WA. for Les to help out Gladys and Marion on their new house. While he painted in Lynden, I did a little painting of my own!! For several years now, my bedroom has been in a state of well....hmmmmm.....upheavel? Preparation for something better?? Anticipation!! After rearranging the furniture about 4 years ago and finding several black widows hiding in the shadows between carpet and baseboard, we ripped out all the carpeting. The plan was to paint the floor, just like the LR.....and of course, the walls would be painted too. That was, ahem, 4 years ago I emphasize! Something just kept getting in the way, like weddings, babies, baptisms, new jobs, back get the drift. So, this was my chance... I'd been dreaming of color schemes, and wall treatments. Earth and sky. They go with everything and the blue would be calming and serene....just what I needed :) The floor came out beautifully in the same muted green as the LR and the walls are actually 4 shades of blue. Darker at the bottom and blended and swirled up to the top to create a sort of mist rising to sky. I'm actually still working on it....there will be some birds in there sometime soon :) In addition to painting the bedroom, I had some fun with my bedside table. Using several different mediums, I just love the way this turned out. I should have taken a before pic! Les returned home from Lynden.....surprise, surprise....bedroom painted...ta dah! Now for the new (been sitting in a box in the garage for 4 yrs.) bed frame. Wow, I love it! In between painting walls, I worked on loads of tomatoes and peaches that brother Herman gave us. Spaghetti sauce cooked all day while I painted. It worked out beautifully. Les and I have had a few little "one day getaways" in the TR6 as well as on the Harley. The most recent being a trip to the top of Sonora Pass with Charlie De Vries. He came down on his bike from Victoria, BC, and stayed with us for about 5 days. We had a really nice visit and a gorgeous ride to the pass. That was about a week ago, and now we are looking forward to a short trip to Chicago next week. I'm hoping for fall colors..........I'll keep you posted....honest!!