Monday, August 25, 2008

1st Day of 1st Grade!

Well, summer's officially over. Sean and Ashton started first grade today, and rode the bus to school this morning- I swear they were more excited to ride the bus than to go to school! The only reason they got to ride to school on their first day is because we got to go to an ice-cream social and meet their teacher and put away the 50 bucks worth of school supplies in their little cubbies and drawers last Friday. This included a tour of the school, playground, classroom, bus loading area, and where exactly they were supposed to line up when the bell rang. They also got to meet their new teacher (yep, they are in the same class this year), and she seems really nice and very organized (and as a librarian, I greatly appreciate that!), has been teaching for 20 years, and is nationally certified. I think they are in good hands! Here is the picture I took of them before school started, under the same picture I took on their first and last day of Kindergarten.

Their heads are inching closer and closer to the bottom of that picture frame. I think they grew nearly as much over the summer as they did during their entire year in kindergarten! Goofs. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Blueberry Jam!

I bought a whole bunch of blueberries at the store this week because they were only 98 cents for a small package. They weren't getting eaten as quickly as I'd anticipated, so this morning I decided I wanted to try my hand at making jam! I also have some small red berries (elderberries I think?) that Kevin's mom picked from the bush in their garden that I thought I'd throw in as well. I searched online and found this recipe (complete with pictures) on how to make blueberry jam, and it seemed easy enough (I only wanted to make one jar, so I didn't need all that extra canning equipment), so the boys and I got started! Here are the boys "smashing" the berries,

and in this picture you can see all the ingredients (blueberries, red berries, Knox gelatin, a little sugar, lemon juice) except for the apple juice that I used in place of the bulk of the sugar.

"Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble." (I thought that was appropriate since my twins were helping me here... A little too evil? Halloween is coming soon, gotta prepare early! :)

Isn't it a lovely color?

And viola! Just the perfect amount for my little round pot:

I did taste it while it was still pretty warm (I can't help myself!), and it has a nice subtle flavor not hidden by a lot of sugar. It still has a little of that tartness, and you can even tell there is just a hint of apple in there. It's amazing that I was able to produce the exact amount I wanted (a little guess work on the ingredient portions on my part), and still have it taste about what I was aiming for. Yeah me!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Flamingos On The Roof

Flamingos on the Roof Flamingos on the Roof by Calef Brown

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's funny. Most people think that working as a librarian is all about recommending books to those asking for them. But it's really a reciprocal deal, although most library users I help don't realize it. When they ask for a book, not always a new one, I usually read the brief description given to store away for the next time someone ask for it. Or maybe to add to my own list of books I want to read. Now don't forget here that I love children's books best, and have developed my taste for poetry over the years as well. I was helping a patron find children's "classics" that she could buy for her new granddaughter. She, in turn, recommended this book to me. I read it to my boys as one of their bedtime stories, and loved it more and more with each poem. They rhythm and meter of each poem has it's own snappy feel, and the images they leave in your head are fresh and original. The boys liked this book as much as I did (yeah, they like poetry!) and have requested it two nights in a row now. I want to leave you with a sample of Calef's genius:

Weatherbee's Diner

Whenever you're looking for something to eat,

Weatherbee's Diner is just down the street.

Start off your meal with a bottle of rain.

Fog on the glass is imported from Maine.

The thunder is wonderful, order it loud,

with sun-dried tornado on top of a cloud.

Snow Flurry Curry is also a treat.

It's loaded with lightning and slathered in sleet.

Cyclones with hailstones are great for dessert,

but have only one or your belly will hurt.

Regardless of whether it's chilly or warm,

at Weatherbee's Diner they cook up a storm!

Other poem titles we thoroughly enjoyed: Ten-Cent Haiku, Poseidon's Hair, King of the Tire, Barnacle Built for Two, and Tiny Baby Sphinx.

View all my reviews.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Snow Leopard at the Sacramento Zoo

Yes, another zoo this summer! The Sacramento Zoo wasn't crowded at all- almost all of the other visitors were moms with their little ones in strollers. Have you noticed I'm an animal nut yet? Well, I have dozens of pictures of all the animals we saw, but I took the most (*gasp!*) pictures of the snow leopard. So this blog is dedicated to pictures just of her (at least, I think it was a her). So sit back, and enjoy the show!

It was hot today (can you tell?)- in the upper 80's, low 90's. Snow leopards live in the highest parts of the Himalayan Mountains and they love the thin frozen air. They have special large nasal cavities that circulates the air to warm it before it goes into their lungs. They also have huge round paws, with thick tufts of fur in between each toe and surrounding the foot pad. The size is to help them walk on the snow without breaking the crust, and the fur tufts are to protect and warm their puddie-paw-pads. :)

Here is my goofy Ashton in the foreground.

Doesn't she have beautiful spots? Do you know the difference between a leopard and a jaguar? Jaguars have a spot in the center of their rosettes, where leopards have empty circles. This applies to all leopards, not just the snowy kind.

Here is another picture panting in the shade- aren't her eyes piercing and lovely?

This picture shows the length of her tail. A snow leopard's beautiful bushy tail is as long as it's body- about 3 feet. They use their tails for balance on those high rocky precipices, and also because chasing the bharal they love to eat can gallop down a hill at full speed and change direction instantaneously, so the snow leopard uses its tail as a sort of "rudder" to change direction to follow their prey. They also use their tails to wrap around their bodies when they sleep for warmth and cover their nose and mouth to warm the air they breath.

Check out this profile- isn't she beautiful?

While I'm at it, here is a link to the Snow Leopard Trust site. If you'd like to learn more about snow leopards and their habitat, send a free snow leopard e-card, or purchase cool stuff to help support this endangered animal (there are only an estimated 3-7000 left in the wild), this is one of my favorite places to go.

Finally, I have one more treat for you- a video clip! Yeah! So graceful, even in the hot humid weather.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Busy Tuesday!

This morning (my second day off on my week vacation, just me and the boys!) I got in a nice 30 minute bike and a quick 3 miles on the treadmill before I started my day with Sean and Ashton- since the sun is coming up later and setting earlier, I caught the tail end of the sunrise this morning "on film" (wish I'd thought to grab my camera sooner!)- the pink was breath taking, and there was this one circular cloud that caught the fringes of the sun's good morning and stood out showing off her glory! This picture doesn't do it justice, but it's what I've got to share.

Today we spent the day with James and Christine and her family at her parents' pool- the boys swam for nearly 4 hours! They are really getting to be awesome swimmers; their freestyle is metered and even, with nicely cupped hands- and they were even swimming down to the bottom of the deep end! They don't need me anymore, that's for sure! Poor guys burned their bellies a bit because they never once got out of the pool long enough for me to put on more sunscreen (although I should have made them get out), and they cried when I put on some lotion tonight before bed. Here they are with James:

Here are two short videos- the first is of the boys swimming:

And the second one is of them floating. Sean is in the Blue suit, and Ashe is in the Red:

And another picture from yesterday's swim with Haley in her pool.

What lucky guys! Tomorrow we are going to the Sacramento Zoo, and then to my grandparents' house for even more pool time, and dinner!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekend Baking

Two accomplishments this weekend, and not much else other than all the running I did. First, I made a blueberry pie, recipe compliments of fellow co-worker Caroline from the library (isn't it beautiful!?!),

and a challah bread from Then, I went to the Greek festival on Saturday with Kev's parents, and for some reason I had a craving for some sweet-ish bread, and Alice (his little sister, who will be graduating from Douglas High School this next year and go on to become a brilliant astro-physisist) suggested making challah. Perfect! Here is the braided bread, unbaked. There was a tip with the recipe to sprinkle some cinnamon on the baking sheet to enhance the aroma of the bread without making the bread taste like cinnamon, and I must say my house smelled heavenly while it was baking!

Both new recipes to me, and both fantastic~ the pie was awesome, even if it was still warm when served, and the bread was so smooth and elastic when I kneeded it for the 5-8 minutes called for in the recipe. It was a pleasure to make this bread- almost as much as eating it!

The egg wash I used is different than the one called for in the recipe- I used an egg yolk and just a touch of 8th Continent Vanilla Soy Milk, so it is a pretty yellow color- this also gave the crust a rich dark color, and the vanilla complimented the sweetness of the bread nicely. The pie is gone, and the bread almost gone. The boys loved it! :) I'm happy to make things my boys like, because they're not always crazy about my experiments. I also made shrimp risotto for dinner tonight- here's a picture of my counter in the middle of the hubub... Can't cook with wine and not have any for all my efforts!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Emily the Strange

Emily The Strange (Emily the Strange) Emily The Strange by Cosmic Debris

My review

rating: 2 of 5 stars
Yes, strange and very dark indeed. Could be considered YA or adult (graphic) literature, but it reads like a picture book. Wasn't able to relate with this particular book(except perhaps with Emily's penchant for cats). I DON'T like to be bored- I'm always reading something at least, and I like to be up on my YA lit...

View all my reviews.

Street Running

Today, my shoes dictated my run. How funny is that? I have a new white pair of Asics Nimbus running shoes that I've only used on my treadmill and bike inside. So when I decided spur of the moment that I wanted to go run outside instead of on the treadmill, I just left. But when I got up to the entrance to Whites Creek Park, I decided I didn't want to get my shoes all dirty, so I headed back down the street to do a street run instead of a dusty dirty trail run. Ended up running about 6.5 miles- here is a link to the map of where I went this morning...

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Breaking Dawn

Breaking Dawn (Twilight Series, Book 4) Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
While this one wasn't quite as good as the previous three, I felt like there were a lot of things in this series that needed wrapping up, and Stephenie Meyer did a very satisfying job of this. What I needed to happen, happened. A friend of mine mentioned why she though this last book didn't do quite as well- you have to be a mom to really understand the emotion and absolute feelings behind Bella's actions. Of which I understood perfectly. I did watch Stephenie's Amazon interview, and she said she might write something more from Edward's perspective~ looking forward to that if she does! Now I just have to wait my turn for for "The Host" ...

View all my reviews.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

New Favorite Nourishing Energy-Inducing Smoothie!

The Pneumatic Diner calls it a "Snoopy." I ordered one on a whim (was in the mood for some peanut butter that day), and received a tall glass of thick cream-colored smoothie-yumminess! I was only able to drink half of it, but there was no way I was going to waste the remainder, so I brought the rest home in a to-go cup and stuck it in the freezer. It was just as good frozen as it was straight and frothy from the blender! I've been thinking about it since then (just last month) and today finally presented a chance to do a recreation in my kitchen. Here's the recipe I threw together and blended for about 30 seconds:

1 banana
3-4 TBSP Peanut Butter (I used the crunchy kind)
Couple banana ice-cubes (I had some mushy bananas that I didn't have the heart to toss, so I mashed them up and stuck them in trays in the freezer for future smoothies! Yeah! These can be optional, of course)
Vanilla Soy Milk- enough to cover most of the ingredients (8th Continent is the brand I like to keep in my fridge). Of course you can use regular milk too.

There was just enough for 3 smallish servings (that's really all you need for the energy boost this drink provides), but I'm going to warn you now, it won't seem like enough because of how lovely and creamy these turn out! Sean and Ashton thought it was pretty spectacular too! (And I made some extra after I finished mine to put in the freezer for later~ :)

Friday, August 1, 2008

Hiking Mt. Rose

Yesterday morning a fellow bandie, Bryan, and I got up stupid early to hike to Mt. Rose summit before I went to work. (I started late that morning, and I didn't have to be at the library until 10:15. Bryan, however, is an elementary school music teacher and has the summer off. Lucky guy.) It was just me and him because everyone else is up at Lake Tahoe Music Camp this week. We got up to the base at bit after 5:30, and here is the first picture of the day- still a little dark, but you can see the haze over Tahoe to Bryan's left:

I didn't look at the sign before we headed out, so I didn't notice I led us onto the bike trail instead of the hiking trail, and added about a half hour to our hike. Oops! Found this post up the trail, after we backtracked. How many times have I done this hike? Way too many to make a wrong turn right off the bat, even if it was still mostly dark out. Sorry Bryan! But at least we got a good warm up, eh? :)

Mount Rose Wild is the fire lane/bike trail, and we were supposed to stick to the TRT side. Oh well. Here I am overlooking Tahoe at about 6:15, on the correct path. The sun comes up fast! And my hair looks funny from the back I just noticed. Don't worry, I'm growing it out again!

Skipping forward a bit, we were walking towards this awesome waterfall when the trail suddenly ended! Crap! How could I have gotten off the path AGAIN!? I looked around and saw the trail on the other side of the stream to our right, and did my best to bush-whack it back through the slick wet branches. And my best landed me on my backside, scrabbling on my way down in slo-mo for purchase of some unobliging leaves. Complete your visualization of me with my feet in the air, and me completely stuck in the brush, laughing 'cause I couldn't pull myself out. With a little help from Bryan, we managed to get back on track, and I glanced back trying to figure out how we were supposed to get across. Was it this way?

Or this?

Turns out, it was neither, but we found it just fine on the way back! You can kinda see where I forced my way through, about in the middle of the picture (maybe if you enlarge it, that is) Whew!

There is a very tall peak in the background of this lake. For bonus points, does anyone know the name of that mountain peak, or the lake? This is a north-westish facing photo, if that helps...

Here is another picture just before we left the tree line, with three lakes in view. I don't know if you can see them through the smoggy smoke though. It was getting close to 7:30 by this point, and only about another half hour to the summit.

When we did get to the top, I saw something in a bag, and though it was a mini laptop for some reason. Probably because it was black, and there were also pens with it. But upon inspection, it turned out to be a notebook left for hikers to sign and leave a little note behind in remembrance of their climb to the top. The first entry was June 2008, so it has only been there for a couple months. Way cool of someone to leave this for everyone! I wonder where it will end up when it gets full, and if it will be replaced? Here is a picture of Bryan signing, barely able to hold the pen because of cold hands.

It's weird- my hands didn't feel that cold until I tried to write my own little message. I didn't even need a sweatshirt even though it was early- but then again, it's usually super windy up there, and it wasn't yesterday morning. And there was no swarm of flying bugs like my first hike to the top. The clouds floating over the hills toward Lake Tahoe behind me looks like something out of a fairy tale... And how green it is down in the valley below!

I'll put together a special present for the first person to find my entry on 7/31/08 and post back here what I wrote. But a little warning: the book is already half way full, and it's only been there for a month and a half!

And finally, one last goofy victory photo at the top! I'd really love to do this hike again soon, even if I have to go before work again, and if it means another dark bruise on my butt. Any takers? :)