Nov 6, 2016: Gardens


Happy November, all! It has been a weekend of flora for us! Not intestinal flora, although I suppose that could be beneficial, too. 😉 Rather, the kind found out in nature. Fall has arrived, and we have some lovely colors right now—nothing like you find back east, of course, but still quite picturesque.

Saturday, we had thought to take BART into San Francisco and attend a free STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) event for kids that was being held at AT&T Park (where the SF Giants play). That would’ve largely been for Theo—Sam is a bit young (developmentally, anyway) for the types of hands-on activities they were going to have. Still, he would’ve enjoyed roaming around the stadium, I’m quite sure.

But Sam has been fighting off a cold all week, which means two things: (1) I would’ve been chasing him around the stadium wiping snot off his face every three seconds (not the most appealing way to spend a Saturday); and (2) his immune system is a bit down, and the nasty BART trains aren’t exactly the most sanitary things ever. I wouldn’t care except that Sam is also cutting molars (I’m almost certain!), and thus he is shoving his hands in his mouth every three seconds right now and chewing everything in sight. (Our new-to-us dining table now has two lovely little bite marks where a tiny beaver chewed it before we caught him. That thing has survived forty-some years and a major earthquake without a scratch, and now it has teeth marks in it. Sigh…) Last time we took him on BART, he kept gnawing the seats every chance he got. So…ewww. Given that he’s already fighting off a cold, I didn’t exactly want him gnawing on things in the cesspool of germs that is the BART train. (Don’t get me wrong—I love BART! But it’s not exactly the cleanest mode of transportation on the planet. Some trains are downright icky. Last time I had to change seats because I wasn’t sure whether the sculpture on my windowsill was made of clay or poop. True story.)

So…no BART, no SF, no STEM. Instead, we piled into our van and headed up to the Davis Arboretum. It’s a great place to take a walk, particularly in the cool months, and we never mind a trip back to Chris’s old stomping grounds.

Chris let Theo use his phone to take pictures, so at the end of this post I’ll share Theo’s gallery of images. But for now, here are some that I took. I hauled out the dSLR and got a few decent shots, but for some reason it’s not shooting as clearly as it used to. Need to figure out whether that’s user error or the camera body is just getting old…

Theo being a photographer:


Dewy flower:


Great day for a walk!










These weird sculptures are all over the college campus:


Cutie pie!


Not the most glamorous picture ever taken of me, but Sam looks adorable!


We stopped at a little Mexican place for lunch—Theo’s choice, and it was actually pretty tasty. Sam wholeheartedly approved of the chips and fresh-squeezed orange juice, anyway!

And on Sunday, it was another garden day. We took the boys to play basketball in the morning and then stopped for bagels.

Theo is airborne!


A little ball for little Sam!




After that, Chris headed home to work on painting the deck, while I took Theo and Sam to Theo’s school to help with a garden work day. The students, a few parents, and a couple of faculty members (one of them being Theo’s teacher) set up a school garden last year, and it’s really been wonderful! Their plants have been very successful (way more successful than mine!), and the teachers for each grade are integrating work in the garden into their classroom learning. They even have thirty little tree-stump seats set up in one half of the garden so that the students can have lessons outside in the garden as they’re learning about topics related to it. It’s pretty cool! And we had to miss the last garden workday, so I decided we ought to go to this one.

As it turned out, Theo had a blast! He spent three solid hours shoveling mulch and trucking it to various spots in the garden in a wheelbarrow—actually quite a hike, since the giant pile of mulch had been dumped in front of the school, and the garden is near the back. I couldn’t help too much because I had to keep an eye on Sam—I tried to get him to help, but he had missed his nap and was somewhat crabby. Still, we managed three hours before I finally had to say, “Okay, Theo, little brother is really melting down—we need to head out!” By then they were almost done anyway, and Theo had put in three hours of hard labor, so I’d say it was a job well done!

Helper Sam looking rather sleepy! You can see the back of Theo, higher up on the mound of mulch. (He’s in the Warriors jersey.)


Theo actually wheeled many of these big wheelbarrows of mulch back to the back of the school—his arms were really tired by the end!


And Chris made some progress on the deck:


Halloween was this past week, of course. I happen to love Halloween, and I was a little bummed when it looked like Sam might be too under the weather to go trick-or-treating. But as it turned out, he rallied. We put him in the wagon so he could at least be out with the other kids, and he ended up climbing out about halfway through and going up to houses. He wasn’t quite as gung ho as last year—this year, he would only go to houses that had their front doors at the front of the house. (Half the houses in the neighborhood where we were have their doors down one side, so you can’t see them from the street—and Sam would not go up to those, even with me accompanying him.) But he went to quite a few houses and would happily take as much candy as his hands could grab. He’s lucky he’s cute and so people let him get away with it. 😉

Sam rode the first half of the night in the wagon:

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Trick or treat!

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Our other excitement this week was the death of various energy-using items. Wednesday, it finally got cold enough for us to need the heat, so we tried to turn on the thermostat. It’s a new one we installed a few months ago, and it’s a booger! It’s got this EcoIQ feature that supposedly learns from your habits and then adjusts the temperature accordingly, with a focus on conserving energy. Which is all well and good until it’s in the mid-60s in your house and you ask it to turn the heat on and it refuses. Instead, it gives you a pompous little message about how it’s decided you don’t need heat right now, but if you really insist that you do, you can use a Comfort Boost. Only problem is, the Comfort Boost is nowhere to be found on the darn thing.

So we froze Wednesday night, and I got up Thursday morning to find that it was down to 58 degrees in the house. Brrrr! So I made it my mission to figure out how to override the evil thermostat and get some heat. And I did it! Finally, it announced “Now heating the downstairs.” (It thinks our entire house is a downstairs, only because we only have one thermostat to control both levels.) Only problem is, it wasn’t heating anything—the furnace wasn’t coming on at all!

The darn thing had worked over the summer with the air conditioning, so I wasn’t sure what was up. I put in a service call for the furnace, since I couldn’t get it to turn on even when the thermostat claimed it was. The HVAC company called and said they could have someone come out the same day—great! Only not great, because I was going to be gone all day. So I told them they’d have to come Friday, and we’d just grin and bear it until then.

And so I left for my first appointment of the day—a very long appointment for Theo at our Regional Center. That went fine, and Theo and I walked out to the van, which was parked on the fourth floor of a large six-story garage. And…it was dead. Dead as a doornail. Great! I had a fussy thermostat, no heat, a broken furnace, and a dead car. Sigh…

Thank god for AAA, who arrived within about twenty minutes—actually, just as some guy was completely giving me the creeps and had me ready to grab Theo and flee the garage. (Who takes a walk on the fourth floor of a dark six-story parking garage? If you wanted to just prowl a parking garage for some exercise, wouldn’t you walk on the first floor or the roof, so you could get a view? Why the dark fourth floor? And why was he staring? Creeper!) Anyway, the AAA guy arrived and the strange guy taking a walk vanished, and all was well. It turned out the van’s battery was dead—too dead even for a jump, so I had the guy put in a new one right then and there. And within the hour, we were on the road back home. To a freezing house, but home nonetheless.

The next morning the HVAC guy came out, and guess what? The evil thermostat was to blame! He verified that our handyman had indeed hooked it up correctly, but found that it just wouldn’t turn on the furnace. He bypassed it and manually tripped the furnace wire, and it fired right up. So now we’re back to square one with an old-school, non-environmentally-friendly thermostat, but at least we have heat!

And so, that was our week. In case you missed it, I had a post a couple of days ago about the fun we’ve had with Theo this election season—the only fun thing about this election season. Click here to read it. Thank god the madness will be over on Tuesday night. (Well, I’m sure it will be replaced by half the country being totally disgruntled, but I suppose that’s life.)

On a sober note, if you have been wondering how Remy, the little boy I blogged about, is doing, the answer is the same—there haven’t been any changes. He is still stable but has not awoken. If you could keep his family in your thoughts and prayers during this incredibly tough time, I know they would appreciate it.

And here are the random pix that didn’t fit into any other part of the blog:

Remy loves Batman, so we wore Batman for Remy one day. People all over the country are wearing Batman for Remy, which is really touching to see….

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Our citrus is beginning to ripen!

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Chris is a kind man who sleeps in the guest room when he has to get up at 5am for work. And he often doesn’t feel like putting on sheets, so he just grabs a sleeping bag. Which Zoe is all too happy to snuggle up with during the day, much to Chris’s chagrin!

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I had Theo model a coffee mug for a British friend of mine who is somewhat perplexed by the American notion of coffee. Turns out it’s a really good picture of Theo!

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And here’s another great one of Theo. Because he had to miss his school’s Fun Run for our Regional Center appointment, I spoiled him a bit with breakfast at Starbucks. Thought this picture of him enjoying his chocolate milk turned out particularly well!

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Sam is still ridiculously short, but he’s in a growth spurt—and doesn’t he look grown up here (even if tiny)?

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I was trying to get a picture of just Sam, but he announced, “Fie!” so we had to make it a selfie.

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That cats sleep in the bathroom at night—mostly so they won’t wake up Sam if Theo leaves the door open. But the cats aren’t thrilled with this, so some nights they do everything possible to evade capture. Check out Violet’s precarious pose!

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You don’t think I’d let you off without seeing food pix, did you? This cooking is so novel to me, since I had an eight-year break from it, that I feel compelled to share my creations. This one was some sort of pasta (oriechette?) with sautéed brussels sprouts and walnuts.

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This was a Mediterranean shrimp and orzo that was supposed to have the feta broiled on top, but our smoke alarm goes off every time we use the broiler, so we stuck with just feta crumbles. 🙂

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This one doesn’t look appealing, but it was actually very good. It’s pozole with quinoa and chiles.

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This one is a black bean chili with homemade tortilla strips. Very tasty!

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This was a South African “bunny chow,” which was essentially a delicata squash stuffed with a bunch of veggies simmered in spices. The carrot stuff on the side was actually a sort of pickled thing that added a nice cooling acidity! (Geez, I sound like someone on Food Network!) I don’t like delicata squash all that much, but the rest was tasty!

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And my favorite of them! Thai peanut noodles (yum!) with a portobello mushroom “steak” (I loved it; Chris hates mushrooms and donated his to me) and hard-boiled eggs (can’t go wrong with those!):

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Last but not least, the best of the iPhone snaps Theo took at the arboretum:







I leave you with this—a parenting win!



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