Building a fence

For some reason, a past owner of my house built a chain link fence about 12 feet from the property line.  There is a hill separating my yard from the neighbors, but the hill doesn’t drop much until it is past the property line at that section.  Additionally, there were some huge bushes planted behind the fence that had gone crazy.  They didn’t appear to have been trimmed for a long time and had been allowed to grow through the fence.  This resulted in a 50-60 foot long area by 15-20 feet wide that was being wasted.  As an avid gardener there was no way I could let that stand.

My property line after I had removed some of the bushes.
My property line after I had removed some of the bushes.
So much wasted space over there.
So much wasted space over there.

I ended up working on brush and fence removal off and on for almost two year.  I hadn’t realized just how much junk was growing in that spot.

Now that I have cleared that area, I needed to build a fence quickly so my kids wouldn’t go down the hill and hurt themselves on accident.  I went with 4×4  pressure  treated posts and 2x4s and 7.5 inch dog eared fence boards.

Mostly, I think the fence turned out well.  I did get off of my straight line with one of the sections, but as I add to the fence I believe it will not be noticeable to anyone besides me.

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I am going to put the extra area gained to good use.  I already planted a pomegranate tree, and will be adding a chicken coop to the area in the near future.

-Joshua

San Diego County Fair 2017: Where The West is Fun

Last year, I didn’t have a chance to write about the San Diego County Fair itself. So this year, I decided to take as many pictures as I could while we were there and write about our favorite parts! I will try to write about the Zucchini Race in a separate post. Hopefully, I will get to it!

Because we were “exhibitors,” we were able to enter through a different gate that had no line to get into the fair. That alone is one of the big pluses of entering the Zucchini Race every year!

After checking in at the agricultural building with the boys’ zucchini cars, we walked around to look at all the different displays located in the area.

We always seem to come to the fair during chicken week. So those were the small animals on display this year.

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I’m afraid these displays of chickens are what got us started on eventually wanting a chicken coop!

This is the hydroponics display. It is different every year. But it is always beautifully set up.

After the races at 11 AM, we head out into the main part of the fair. We always gravitate away from the all the rides and carnival games… but there is one thing you just cannot avoid: Fair Food!

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Somehow, we always end up at Chicken Charlie’s. This year’s interesting offering: A Krispy Kreme fried chicken ice cream sandwich…

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The menu at Chicken Charlie’s!

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Meet the Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger. It doesn’t sound like it should taste good but it does! It tasted so good that the kids ate it all up and didn’t leave any for Josh! It is kind of expensive ($10.99 for one), which is why we only bought one and all seven of us shared it.

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The fair special for our sides: french fried onion rings, fried zucchini, and chicken tenders. Lots more of the fried zucchini than anything else… and only Josh and I liked it. Silly kids don’t like their veggies even when they’re deep fried!

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One of many ice cream vendors at the fair. The signage here is always a little bit overwhelming!

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I still remember coming to the fair with my parents and my brother when I was a teenager, and getting frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate on a stick. I should have gotten one just for old times’ sake. But Corran and I really wanted funnel cake instead. The rest of the family got ice cream.

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Our favorite part of the fair: The Garden Show! Josh likes to walk through here and get ideas for our yard.

Since this year’s theme was the Old West, the displays weren’t quite as vibrant as in past years. I still loved them anyway.

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I love this part of the garden show! It is called the Children’s Garden, and we take our kids here every year. They have different activities for kids about eating healthy, and learning about fruits and vegetables. They even get to go home with a small plant. Last year, we came home with a few tomato plants and they gave us so many yummy cherry tomatoes! This year, the kids came home with bell pepper plants and beefsteak tomato plants.

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The kids digging for gold nuggets so that they can each bring home a plant! Gwen LOVED this activity. She has always enjoyed playing in the dirt. There were also craft activities on the other side of the garden, like coloring and making a ladybug out of egg carton pieces.

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I love to walk around and look at all the plants on display in the children’s garden. There are fruit trees, berry bushes, and all sorts of raised beds full of edible plants.

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I had to take a picture of this flower rainbow. Just lovely.

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One of the many peaceful displays at the garden show. So inviting!

 

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My kids loved this model railroad display. It must have taken a lot of time and effort to set this up!

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Another annual visit to the Gem and Mineral Show in Mission Tower. Every year we come here to look at rocks. This is Matthias’ favorite place. He has always been our family rock hound.

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They have these grab bags for sale every year too! The kids always enjoy opening up their bags when we get home to see what interesting rocks or fossils they received. Two of my kids also got a free polished rock from the vendor. Gwen held tight to hers for the rest of our day.

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I had to take a picture of these small animal carvings! They really are very tiny!

Our next stop was the home and hobby building, which is right next door to Mission Tower. We had never actually been in here before, but I’m glad we were able to this year! It is full of collections of different objects: rockets, disneyland pins, quilts, matchbooks, Star Trek memorabilia, even fake plastic food. If you can collect it, it was probably here! The baked goods competition was also here (my secret reason for wanting to come take a look). I am considering entering next year.

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This was a fun collection! Packing Peanuts!
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This right here is one of the reasons we come to the fair. You happen upon these jewels of activities that you just were not expecting! Each of my kids was able to make a marble out of polymer clay and take it home to bake it until it was hardened. They were so enamored with the process of making these that we had a hard time keeping them away from their clay marbles once they were done designing them. Josh and I are considering having this as a little hobby for the kids.
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Say Bye to Ian!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip to the fair. I know that there are no pictures of the rides, but they would have been quite expensive for all the kids to ride everything (although some years we have gone on the rides and they are a lot of fun too!). Usually for our family, the fair is a place to learn and still have fun!

-Lynn

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Quick looks at past posts…

For a few days at a time, I will be stickying various posts from the very beginning of our blogging journey. Some of these posts will be from 2015! I think you will see a big difference between our posts then and our posts now.

Don’t worry though! We will still be writing new posts. If I have a chance this week, I will be hopefully be writing a post about our day at the San Diego County Fair this past Saturday. And I think Josh has a post planned about orange sorbet!

 

-Lynn

Watermelon Sorbet

Coming off the success of the Lemon and Sugar Free Lemon Sorbets I made a week ago, I have been thinking of other fruits to make sorbet with.  Sorbet is so easy that it can be made quickly with little prep time.

After having family over for dinner we had some leftover watermelon.  I knew I had to use it for sorbet.

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I had never juiced watermelon before.  It seemed to me the easiest way would be to chop it into pieces, and then toss it in a blender.  This watermelon didn’t have many seeds, but I did remove them before putting in the blender.  I wouldn’t want seed bits to get into my sorbet.

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I ran the blender on the “liquefy” setting until I thought all the chunks were broken up. To be safe, I ran the juice through a strainer, however, that was basically unnecessary.  There was very little solids left over and they would probably have been fine in the sorbet. IMG_4690

I had around 2.5 cups of juice, so I adjusted my recipe accordingly.  This is a forgiving recipe to make so it can be adjusted easily to make more or less.

As with the other sorbets I have made, I first made the simple syrup. Place the water and sugar in a small pot.  Over medium heat, boil until the sugar dissolves. How long this takes depends on how much you are making.  Once the sugar is fully incorporated into the water, remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool.

After the simple syrup finished cooling, I mixed the watermelon juice into the syrup.  I put the juice mixture into the refrigerator to get cold.  This is something I did to help ice cream freeze better, but I don’t think it is really necessary with the sorbet.  I just do it out of habit.

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Then the juice mixture goes into an ice cream maker, and is churned according to manufacture directions.  It will end up a bit loose and soft even when fully churned.

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Place the churned sorbet into a freezer until fully frozen.

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This is a really sweet sorbet.  Watermelon is rather sweet on its own, and the addition of all the sugar adds to the sweetness.  If you have a raging sweet tooth like I do, then you will like this one.

 

Watermelon Sorbet

1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3/4ths cup watermelon juice

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar, and boil until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Stir in the watermelon juice. I put mine in the refrigerator to get cold, but this isn’t really necessary.

Transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer instructions. When the sorbet has frozen (it will still seem quite soft), transfer to a storage container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. The sorbet will solidify in the freezer.

 

Wednesday in the Garden: 06/07/2017

I was negligent in posting garden pictures last week.  I have some animal, I think an opossum or racoon, that likes to dig in my garden beds.  It seems to be going after beetle grubs that live in them.  Unfortunately, that means a lot of uprooted plants and seedlings.  Last Wednesday, it dug a lot.  There were a number of destroyed plants so I didn’t feel like taking pictures.

This last week, we have had typical beautiful San Diego weather. The May grey I spoke about last time has continued into June Gloom.  I am sure you will all feel very sorry for us.  It has been a bit overcast with temperatures in the low 70s.  Very gloomy I know.  It is ,however, perfect plant growing weather.

First I have tomato pictures because my mom really wants to have fresh tomatoes.  The second picture isn’t very good, but it is a Wagner Blue Green tomato.  I grew those last year, and they were a favorite for every one that ate them.  I think this is my only one that survived this year though.

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Pay no attention to the weeds in the background.  All the extra rain this year has made the weeds go crazy.  I have cut them much more then I have had to for years, but they keep coming back.  In this garden bed is green beans, peppers, purple basil, and some flowers.  The crazy plant in the back is our New England Sugar Pie pumpkins.

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The pumpkin plants are spreading all over the ground, and already have pumpkins growing.

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This bed has more beans, Desi squash, patty pan squash, carrots, and some cauliflower plants that is still hanging out.

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The Desi squash is a lot like zucchini, except they grow round rather then long.  They are at their best when they are about the size of a baseball.  We are starting to get a couple of Desi blossoms.

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This week I picked 5 wax beans.  Mostly there are just blossoms on the bean plants though.

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Last week, my 3 year old daughter and I picked out some flowers to plant.  She wanted to be like her 3 biggest brothers and have her own garden bed.  Her favorite color is purple, so there is a number of purple flowers in her bed.  She also went with some pink since that is also a nice color.

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My 13 year old’s garden bed is going well.  He mostly has corn and each of the plants has some healthy looking ears on them.  His plants are pretty short though, so I am hoping that is just due to the type of corn.

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My 10 year old’s bed is doing well.  He has been dug up multiple times, killing many of his plants.  Finally, it seems like his plants are getting ahead and growing well.  In particular his Madhu Ras melons are doing well.  They have blossoms on the plants right now.  He is really looking forward to eating the melons. I added some Swiss Chard to his bed to replace some of the plants that were dug up.  Between his chard and some others I plants, we will soon have chard coming out of our ears.

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Everything in my 8 year old’s bed is growing well.  He is very excited about how tall his corn is.

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The last pictures will just be some random ones from the beds.

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I hope that all of your plants are growing well right now.

-Joshua

Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California

Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.

Click here for more info about Lego Star Wars Days

This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.

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This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.

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After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.

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For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.

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There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.

The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.

We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.

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I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?

Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.

We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.

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One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).

We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.

Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.

The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.

We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!

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This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.

After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!

We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!

 

 

Sugar Free Lemon Sorbet

Last week, I made Lemon Sorbet.  When I told my mom what I was making she wanted to have some of it, but she can’t eat much sugar.  She asked me to make her a sugar free version of the sorbet.  I made it on the same day as the regular sorbet, but just took a while to post about it.

I haven’t used sugar substitutes very often so I was curious how it would turn out.  We have both Stevia and Splenda at the house that I could have used.  My mom prefers Stevia so I used that to make the sorbet.

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The Stevia is supposed to be able to be used exactly like sugar, so I decided to use the same recipe.

I was worried when I first took the Stevia out of the bag.  It is much lighter and fluffier then sugar.  When I put the sugar in the pot of water, it sunk to the bottom of the water.  When I put the Stevia in the pot, it floated on top of the water.  I was concerned that it wouldn’t stir into the water correctly when I started to make the simple syrup.  However, as the water started to heat up the Stevia quickly dissolved into the water.  I stirred the water until all of the Stevia had dissolved into the water, making a simple syrup.

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I juiced enough lemons to get 3/4ths of a cup of lemon juice.

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Then I mixed the lemon juice into the simple syrup, and put the lemon mixture into the refrigerator to cool.

After it had cooled for a couple of hours, I put the lemon mixture into my ice cream maker.  I made a smaller batch of this one then the regular sorbet, so it froze much faster.  I walked away from it for a little to long, and it froze more then I wanted.  However, that didn’t seem to affect the final product.

Because I overdid the sorbet in the ice cream maker, it didn’t have the same smooth appearance as the other one I made.  I am not happy with the way it looks in this picture.  I don’t have any pictures of how it looks scooped since I gave it to my mom and dad, and they took it home to eat it.  Both my mom and dad said it tasted good, and I just have to hope they are telling me the truth and not being nice parents.

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Sugar Free Lemon Sorbet

1 cups water
1 cups sugar substitute (I used Stevia)
3/4ths cup lemon juice

In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine the water and sugar substitute, and boil until the sugar substitute dissolves, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Stir in the lemon juice. Transfer to ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer instructions. When the sorbet has frozen (it will still seem quite soft), transfer to a storage container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve. The sorbet will solidify in the freezer.

-Joshua

 

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Scones

I have a confession to make: I use our blog as a place to store recipes! So I often refer back to my old posts to bake a certain flavor of scones or figure out a macaron recipe. Sometimes, a post will just be a reference for me so that I can find a recipe again. That is likely what this post will be. Perhaps later, I will be able to improve on these scones to really make them pop. I am thinking maybe some cinnamon chips or a cinnamon brown sugar filling.

There is nothing very spectacular about these cinnamon scones, but they are definitely yummy if you like cinnamon! I baked these for an order but wanted to have two types with glaze and two types without glaze. Sadly, these cinnamon-y scones ended up being the unglazed ones. I think they could be brought up a notch with some vanilla glaze though!

I have been baking scones a LOT lately, but that is okay. I’ve been baking different flavors of scones and I am getting to where I can probably start making the basic scone recipe from memory!

I do plan on making July macaron practice month though if I can. So expect a lot of macaron recipes at that time… if I can get my macarons back to where they were before the new oven that is!

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Brown Sugar Cinnamon Scones

  • Servings: 16 servings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Vanilla glaze

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-5 tsp milk/water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Fold everything together just to incorporate as much of the flour as possible; do not overwork. When you have shreds of dough, pour the dough out onto a floured surface and finishing working the dough into a ball there.

Pat the dough out into a rectangle. Using a bench knife, cut the dough rectangle in half, then each half in half. Cut down the middle to form 8 squares and then cut each square on the diagonal to form 16 triangles.

Transfer each triangle to a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, leaving an inch or two of space between each wedge. Bake for 12-17 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before drizzling with glaze.

Stir together the powdered sugar, milk/water, and vanilla to make the glaze. Add a teaspoon of milk/water at a time until the glaze is desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled scones.