Wednesday, December 19, 2012

On vacation... see you next year!

As you well know it's been chaotic here, I've been slowing down on my poor blog. I'm hoping that next week I'll be able to fill these pages with wonderful content for everyone to read. I won't have an internet connection and I haven't been able to sit down for more than 10 minutes this month! So this is adieu until the next year.

Unless the world comes to an end...
Hope everyone has a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season!

-The Bako Depot

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7 days...

7 days until the actual ripping tournament begins. What is going on at the Bako Depot? Chaos. The kids grabbed the empty wrapping paper rolls and are beating each other to death as I write this. They put stickers on foam shapes and I punched a hole in them and tied string on them for the neighbor's Christmas presents. I don't know why I'm the "giving" kind of person who never receives anything. As for the kids ornaments, I've never been very artistic and what kid doesn't like stickers?

We leave Friday to go to the in-laws and still, I feel like the Grinch. I do have to admit, I've listened to much more Christmas music this year compared to ever. There's a wrapped Christmas present sitting on the counter that has no label. I can't figure out who it goes to (because I thought I had wrapped it) and when looking around on the package, I saw that it was my present from my husband written in sharpie.

7 rooms to clean before we leave,
6 days to keep the kids entertained (luckily I'll have partial help from hubby's grandma)
5 crappy looking kids ornaments to give to the neighbors
4 books to return to the library
3 days until we leave
2 highly energetic and not listening kids
1 frustrated and depressed mom stressing until the end of the world or year

I'm already grinding my teeth worrying about next year. My daughter will be starting school and I'm hoping to have a Charlie Brown themed Christmas next year. Small tree, limited decorations, and few presents. That's if we all survive this Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What now?

Christmas is in 8 days. 8 days of listening to Christmas music, watching those rerun Christmas movies, and hearing those deafening bells at every store entrance. What am I doing? Absolutely nothing. All the presents are wrapped, my house is filthy, no one is packed, and here recently, I'm booking photography sessions because I'm offering a free session to build my portfolio.

This year we didn't decorate the house. Why? Because why pull everything out to decorate the house for that one materialistic day that we won't even be here? There's no snowflakes anywhere to be seen, no children listening, and mostly, I just plainly don't care this year.

I'm worried. Like so many other parents, my daughter is going to be five next year and I have absolutely no idea what I am going to do. Yes, I have hobbies, although none of them are real money makers. Yesterday and today I sunk into a really bad state of depression. If only I had gotten a better college degree I wouldn't be in this foul and negative state of mind right now.

Business, as I have found out numerous times, does absolutely nothing without marketing. So any idea I have, I can't just show it to one or two people, it has to be hundreds. So I thought, why not start a blog? Eventually I'll have readers and maybe some company will want to advertise. I'll set my goal at $2,000 per month. My only problem is there's not many garden, cooking, or biography-type companies wanting to advertise on a small unknown blog. Heck, I probably aren't even writing any sense.

Everyone has been telling me "to follow God's chosen path". Seriously? I'm not an atheist, but I think God would have said, don't get married or have kids. I seriously want to do something with my life. I never wanted kids or marriage in the first place, so now I'm stuck with it and am trying to find a way to promote myself. I hate depending on hubby for absolutely everything. My new goal is to find a job or something that will put my husband to shame.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Top 10 Reasons to Love Bakersfield

When you move to a new city, you more than likely dread it. That's how I felt when I first moved here. I was new to California, had no friends or family around, and had the hardest time finding a house. After living here almost four years and finding out we may move yet again, I've come to love my crazy Bako family and the small city itself. These aren't in any order, but they are my top ten reasons for loving it here in Bakersfield, California and Kern County.

10. Free admission on certain days for the city and county museums. Some museums don't even charge admission. Crazy, huh?

9. Melting pot. Although Bako is considered one of the "armpits of Cali", the citizens are demographically diverse. You can find white, wealthy, Hispanic, African descent, middle class, Indian, rednecks, Asian, and several other cultures. It's great to expose the kids to different people and backgrounds. Makes a great geography lesson at home. So when people talk about the small dot on the map called Bakersfield, it's NOT 95% Hispanic population. Should I include all the ufo sightings we have? Seriously.

8. Speed limits. Where else can you drive 55mph down a major road in a city? Last time I drove through Omaha, Sacramento, Vegas, and LA, most of them have to drive 35-45 in town. The only thing about the 55 mph is people here don't know how to drive when the roads are *gasp* wet.

7. With our great melting pot in the greater Bako area, comes food. Almost in every corner of the city, you'll find awesome breweries, restaurants, and bakeries. We don't eat at many franchises, so when I see a Sequoia Sandwich or Lengthwise Brewery, I know it's going to be yummy.

6. Speaking of food, farmer's markets are abundant in the city. For a city of 300,000 (last time I saw the population sign), there's 5 farmer's markets available. Ours, on Brimhall, is the closest on Saturdays. There's also one on Sundays at Ming and Haggin Oaks. We live in a farming community, why wouldn't you take advantage of that

5. Like I said, Bakersfield has around 300,000 last time I looked at the sign. There's probably more than that now, but whatever. There's also a mixture of cultural backgrounds and with that, it usually creates a diverse community. Not here. People are friendly and will usually help you with anything they can. The city's motto is "Life as it should be." So Bako has tons of people with a small city atmosphere.

4. Trying to find a place to live is a breeze here. Since it's one of the armpits, house prices are much lower than other cities (Sac, Fran, LA). Right now there's actually a housing shortage and they are having to develop more housing communities. Even the older houses are scarce to come by.

3. Bakersfield: NorCal or SoCal? We're actually CenCal. According to NorCal residents, we live in SoCal and vice versa for SoCal residents. Do they even know where Bako is? "Yeah, I drove through" doesn't count. It's great living in Bako. You're five hours from anything. 1 hour from the mountains, 3 hours from the coast, 4 hours to Sac, 5 to Fran, 5 to Tahoe, 2-3 from LA (depends on Grapevine and traffic), and 5 (with no traffic) to San Diego. Oh and don't forget Vegas... a mere 5 hours away. Talk about the perfect location!

2. The summers are 100+ degrees outside. I don't know how pregnant women make it through the summers here. Luckily, the city and NOR have installed sprayparks- an alternative to large swimming pools. Kids of all ages can run through large sprinkler heads to beat the heat. I'm not sure about the hours, but they are typically open before Memorial Day and are open until September or October (depending on the weather). It's great for toddlers and those of us who don't swim.

1. Another family favorite is the San Joaquin Valley library system. I use Beale Memorial for my book needs. They have a great selection and if you need a book from another library in the system, they can get it for you! I can't tell you how many different books I've checked out. The Beale Memorial is the largest library in Kern County. They have 4 levels of books, a section for audio-visual, a computer lab, reference, and much, much more. There's no reason to educate yourself through the library. Anything you want to learn is at the library. The best part of the library is storytime. I take the kids to the preschool storytime where the librarian reads 4-5 stories with rhymes and songs in between. Then afterwards is craft time. It's a simple creation made out of basic items. Best of all-it's free! A big thank you to the library for providing mommy one hour of almost freedom.

I'm going to put in another great thing about Bakersfield: year round gardening. It's the perfect climate to grow lettuces, broccoli, carrots, and many other veggies right in your own backyard. You can grow tomatoes and summer type produce if you throw a plastic sheet over your garden. It makes me wonder why Bakersfield doesn't have more vegetable gardeners when the city is in a zone 8b and 9! Not only does it help the environment, but also the grocery bill. Too bad there aren't any tax credits/incentives for gardening...

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Homemade Grenadine

A lady at the Farmer's Market was selling bags of pomegranates for $5. So I grabbed a bag! I couldn't pass it up. There were 6-7 in each bag, so I figured I would make pomegranate juice, marinade (since we were eating chicken at the time), and put the fruit on our salads.

The first night, I peeled the pomegranate to put the seeds on our salad. The salad was very tasty, but I really hated chewing and swallowing the actual seed part. That idea was out.

I knew Christmas was coming up and I didn't know what to get the friends and family. We don't have a huge budget for Christmas since we have to spend at least $100 on our Secret Santa (thanks MIL- I don't have a job)!  For hubby's co-workers, family friends, and neighbors, I decided to Googled what I could do with all those leftover pomegranates. Homemade Grenadine! Sorry the pictures aren't that great. They were taken with my sad little Android (never buy an Android).

Bag of pomegranates

Slice open the top. Then quarter it. This will prevent the seeds from bursting open. Cut along the inside skin.

Place in a bowl of water and discard the skins.

Some seeds will float. They are still good. Just watch out for and discard old brown seeds.

Place in blender.

Blend just enough to get the seeds out of the membranes. If you blend too much, you will blend the hard seeds into the juice.

I don't have a cheesecloth, so I used a rubber band to hold a rag onto the top of a glass measuring cup. Make sure you're rag is thin to let most of the juice go through.

Squeeze the juice through the rag with a spoon like above. Discard the seeds.

Heat 2 cups pomegranate juice with 1 3/4 cups sugar. You can add more sugar to make sweeter.

Let cool, store or jar, and viola! Homemade Grenadine
I can't find the actual blog I used to make this, but here is a similar blog:

Let me know your results. Another website for this is allrecipes (no pictures though)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

New Plant-Based Cookbooks

Cookbooks. You don't really need them, but they sure are handy to have. I have two. Sad, I know. Most people I know have ten or more. Time to get some more cookbooks. Before buying anything, I wanted to make sure the recipes were good. So I headed to the Beale library (great library system). They have almost every book you can think of and after looking online for books, I decided to check out three particular books. Notice I check out books. Not e-books. There's a major difference between the two (anyone can publish an e-book, not everyone can publish an actual book).

"Forks Over Knives" by Del Sroufe: I had to wait after 40+ people to get it, but once I did, I cooked a few of the recipes and I have to say: yes! This book is a must buy. It doesn't have every plant based recipe known to man, but it's much better than it's competitors I found. This is my number one buy.

"Skinny Bitch" by Kim Barnouin had very few good recipes. At first she describes why people should eat healthier, but instead of using vegetable oil or canola oil, she uses other various oils such as olive and grapeseed. Doesn't help if you are trying to stay away from all forms of oil. I am steering clear of this book.

"Happy Herbivore" by Lindsay Nixon. Seriously? She had a lot of specialty items such as agave nectar. What the heck is that? I know its a sweetener, but I don't think its something I can grow in my backyard. She also uses kelp powder and (whole wheat) bread in her recipes. This is my number 2 cookbook choice. I just wouldn't use those recipes with the specialty items. I should have got a picture of this book to show you, but you can look it up on

I'm trying to grow our own produce so cookbooks using oil and kelp powder make no sense to me. There are a few recipes I can use out of the "Happy Herbivore", but "Forks Over Knives" has been the best cookbook so far.

Since trying these recipes, we (as a family) feel better, have less trash, and are able to figure out what's for dinner quicker. There's no waiting to defrost meat or leaking bags in the fridge of meat juice. Happy, healthy Bako Depot residents! Great way to treat yourself and lose that weight!

I am not advertising this books for any money. I'm just excited these cookbooks follow my new eating/cooking guidelines.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

December Garden

 Bakersfield December Garden

Strawberries doing great!
All the gardening websites and books say that Bakersfield is in a zone 8b and 9, a prime area for winter gardens. No wonder it's known for carrots and other winter vegetation. Living in the midwest for 15+ years, there was no such thing as winter gardening. It was a blanket of snow. However, Bakersfield is quite the opposite. Thank God!

What's up with my garden though? I've been waiting anxiously for the past few months to pull the tomato plants and peppers out of the ground. Yet, they keep blooming and producing! The tomatillos have more blooms now than they did in July and the tomato plants? Holy Moses! There's at least 5 good sized green tomatoes on it! Granted, the birds and a yucky tomato worm ate most of our precious tomatoes this year. Plus an ant invasion in the garden this summer. I'm still looking for a homemade ant repellent. Maybe I will have to plant some companion plants to deter those pesky pests.
Purple Broccoli under plastic sheeting

We are well into December. Everything should be withered, brown, and dead. The only thing I have covered are my spices and purple broccoli. The strawberries under my DIY greenhouse are doing really well too. I just can't believe it's December and the garden is still growing. It makes me wonder why the people of Bako don't have a winter garden? It's so easy! All you have to do is throw a plastic sheet over your garden (when there's a chance of frost). No hoop house required. Just make sure the plastic doesn't flatten your plant so prop the plastic sheeting propped up.

In the future I want to build a greenhouse and that brings me to another point: why aren't there any tax credits/incentives to build a vegetable greenhouse? It reduces the carbon footprint and here in the valley and we need anything and everything to reduce the filthy smog.

Here's to stocking our fridge and pantry throughout the year- no matter how cold it gets.
Thanks for reading!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bako Depot Up and Running Again

I haven't been posting as I should have since Thanksgiving and I apologize. I've been busy experiencing life! I've tried new recipes, went metal detecting in the desert, tried a few new recipes, and cannot wait to share them with you! I also put a lot of thought into what I want to do when the kids start school (next year). I will still have my son the majority of the time, but my 4 year old should be in half day kindergarten. I dearly want to homeschool them, but my patience is extremely low when it comes to kids.

What do I want to do with my life? Not go back to work. I've worked in a restaurant, office, retail, and a winery. I didn't mind the winery so much, but it was too few hours plus everyone overcrowded the small wine bar practically throwing wine glasses at you.

The ultimate goal is to grow all our own food. Basically homesteading without the livestock. I hope in the future we can save enough money to build a greenhouse. Of course, that would be a dream! I'm not a huge fan of hoop houses, but I'll just have to improvise until then. Since the hubby and I are on board with eating better, we've decided a little meat is okay. We decided we would eat a little meat when traveling since they're not many plant based options out there. I brainstormed a plant-based fast food joint, but as hubby pointed out, there's not many plant based consumers in Bakersfield here.

I also want to write a book. Whether its an e or regular book, it doesn't matter. Why didn't I start this at age 16? I have no idea. I've penned a few story ideas, so whether I can make it to the end, it largely depends on the family.

Ideally I would love to make $2,000 per month from home, but realistically, that ain't gonna happen. I'd be lucky to earn $100 in a year.

I listed baby clothes and my clothes that just don't fit anymore on eBay. I had a few viewers, but no bites. Last time I listed clothes on eBay, they sold like hotcakes. Maybe it's just because it's the holiday season? Who knows.

Things have been busy around here. However, with Christmas in less than a month, things will move even faster. I had my preschoolers watch a Netflix documentary about African children hoping it would make my children grateful for what they have/own. The result: still yelling, fighting, and screaming over the stupidest things.

Hoping to get back on the blog bandwagon before the last holiday of the year.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Not quite Black Friday, but our Ikea Trip

Since today is Black Friday, I thought I would write about one of the stores. I'm not out shopping today since I really like having money in our bank account. Plus, I'm trying to get rid of the clutter here at Bako Depot.

When coming back from LA, we stopped at Ikea in Burbank. There's a small drawer cabinet that I'm in love with, but after looking at Ikea's model, I think I can build a more sturdy version of it.

The first area we stopped at was the restroom and if you have small kids, definitely use the family restroom. Almost everything in there was designed for small children. There wasn't a small potty like we've seen at the mall, but there was a little step to get onto the big potty.

There was another step for the little sink as well. Plus, a rocking chair for breastfeeding moms. So kudos for Ikea for their wonderful family restroom! This definitely gave us the room to stretch all our legs before running around in the store.

Mommy! I can reach!

Free diapers and a little extra room if you need it. How wonderful

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

Just wanted to say Happy Thanksgiving from the Bako Depot Family!

Can't touch this on Turkey Day!

Happy Turkey Day! From all the fur and feather kids

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cleaning with the Kids

Son, 3, Mopping
Am I the only one trying to get the house clean every week by myself? To vacuum, mop, shampoo carpets, wash windows, etc. The list goes on and on. So this week, I decided to recruit some help. I can't afford to hire anyone, so I used who I have around all day: the kids.

Daughter, 4, Vacuuming
Did I bribe them? Nope. Reward them with candy? Not a piece. So how did I do it? I asked them nicely. I informed them that mommy can't clean the entire house by herself and mommy can't do any fun stuff until the house is clean. Also, it takes teamwork to get things done faster. For some reason, they listened and were eager to help.

The kids have chore charts that they get stickers on and it was the first time they almost filled it. It was amazing. The kids are only 3 and 4, but really, they can almost do everything I can. They can vacuum, but its too heavy for them to push around. That's quite alright. This is a great way to let them be part of the family and teach them responsibility.

A few things kids can do:
Wash windows (sliding glass doors)
Wipe counters/cabinets

Good luck with your new inexpensive hired help. What a great way to get your house clean for Thanksgiving and teach your little ones how to help without yelling or scolding!

Look at all those stickers!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Travel size Pillowcase

Sewing. It's not my favorite hobby. I never really got any lessons, so it's sort of daunting in my opinion. I have a machine, but when it comes to sewing a straight can bet it's going to be crooked.

Hubby bought a travel pillow for when he has to sleep in his work truck. Stores don't carry travel size pillowcases, or if they do, we didn't see any. That's alright. How hard could a small pillowcase be?

So folding the material to about the pillow size, I folded the seams over, sewed them, and viola. A small travel sized pillowcase.

This is the end result.

The pillow fits and all ends well.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Potatoes O'Brein

A freezer friendly plant based breakfast. How could breakfast get any better than this?

Potatoes. I'm not a huge fan of potatoes, however hubby and the kids are. I'll make them once in awhile since they really aren't that bad for you. They just need to be cooked the right way.

After purchasing large potatoes at the farmer's market one weekend, I diced them and boiled them for freezing. I also did so with bell peppers and onions.

First off, cook the potatoes in water in a large skillet or pan. I couldn't quite them brown since they kept burning and sticking to the bottom. I'm not sure how to get the potatoes that lovely brown, so next time I will try browning/baking in the oven. to get them that lovely brown color.

After trying to brown the potatoes, add the peppers, onions, and mushrooms. You can also add the canned Anaheim or jalapenos to it for more flavor.

Even though it wasn't brown, it was still good. The family ate it all up and wanted more. This is a great breakfast that you can make a double or triple batch to freeze for later. Talk about a filling time saver!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Hot Chocolate with Plant Milk

A nice warm cup of hot chocolate.

As the weather gets colder, hot drinks are in order. Blankets, sweaters, and a nice cup of steaming anything. This is a great time to pull out the slow cooker and warm up a cup of hot chocolate. If you're like me, you have a ton of soup in the freezer and enough hot chocolate packets to feed a third world country.

For Halloween this year, I handed out packets of hot chocolate. Definitely not a big favorite for the kids, but oh well. I don't need to buy candy. I'd rather be different and hand out something different.

When the kids want something warm to drink after a full morning of being outside, they want something warm and sugary. So it's a cup of lukewarm hot chocolate it is (with plant milk of course)!

Trying to convert them to drink plant milk hasn't been easy. So sneaking the soybean milk (meant to buy almond milk-oops) wasn't too bad. They actually enjoyed it!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Peppers in the Garden. Dead or Alive?

Cover on Pepperocinis and Tomatillos. Not even weighed down
Peppers in the Garden. Dead or Alive?

As we have now received frost and rain sprinkles, I'm officially declaring Bakersfield to be in the winter season. Most people have four seasons. Bakersfield only has two: spring and summer. I'll call it winter since I know this will drive most people crazy.

Either way, the frost has landed. It has turned many plants, including most lawns, an ugly brown. Ick. So, Ms. Busybody here at the Bako Depot (me aka Mommy), has put "pull plants from garden" on the to-do list since I've got the (small) greenhouse built.

I had a little extra plastic sheeting that I didn't want to just throw away or fold for next year. What did I do with it? I threw it over my pepperocini plants and tomatillos since they are still blooming. Seriously? Yes. Their little yellow blooms are still budding in the middle of November.

Pepperocinis. Full of peppers and still producing...

I don't have any idea as of why they are still producing when it's between 50-60 degrees during the day. Maybe they are waiting for the 80-90 degree weather to reappear soon? Or maybe it's because I asked them (yes, the plants) why they are still producing this late in the season.

The Anaheim plants produced small and sparse peppers this summer and then abruptly lost all its leaves. This left us green sticks out of the ground. I figured they would come back this summer, but no. Those Anaheims decided to be little stinkers and wait until November to even think about producing more peppers again.

Anaheim. Tiny peppers during summer. No blooms until recently.

Heck, my zucchini plants are still producing as well. They have blooms, but no veggie. That's fine. I guess I'll wait until all the tomato plants, zucchini, and peppers turn that ugly brown. I'll just have to continue and monitor them until I can bid them adieu.

Zucchini. Wilted blooms and wrapped around itself.

Friday, November 16, 2012

DIY Greenhouse

Flower bed with spinach
Building a greenhouse for the winter season.

Winter is here. Well, maybe it's officially fall, but today felt like a regular Bakersfield winter day. Today's goal was to get the old plants out of the garden. Why you might ask? Tuesday morning we had frost. That's right. That detrimental layer of thin ice all over the world. Or just our area.

Luckily, last weekend, I recruited hubby to help me build a small greenhouse for my spinach. The broccoli is planted somewhere else, so I decided to just leave them where they were and cover them. More on that later.

Scrap lumber
For my super awesome greenhouse, it took a few scraps of lumber that we had laying around, a plastic sheet/cover, and staples. I guess I should add a table saw and nail gun attached to the air compressor.

Table Saw

Using the table saw was actually pretty easy. Just lay the board down and slide. All I really had to do was watch to make sure my fingers stayed attached. Extremely easy to use. Any man or woman can use one. No excuses for me to build furniture now!
The kids with our new mini greenhouse
It was nothing fancy, just time consuming. This is the frame of the greenhouse. Basically, just a box with an angled roof. If I went to Lowe's, I could have made a door on the roof, but I didn't want to make a special trip.

How did I get everything to hold together? That's when the nail gun came in handy. This is another tool that I was afraid to use, but it was also easy. Quite fun too. When the kids aren't afraid of the air compressor noise, then they will get to use it. This is how I got the boards to hold together. Hubby stapled every possible angle and the ends of each board.

He also said this lumber isn't pretreated so this greenhouse will probably only last this winter. Next year I will buy either some steel or pretreated lumber.

Make sure you get enough staples to hold it and not near the edge. The wood will splinter near the edge. Also, don't staple wood knots. Below are a couple pictures of what happens... Oops.


 And our final greenhouse for the greenhouse. It will house two spinach plants and my potted strawberries. It's not much, but I'm starting small so I can learn.

I used a hand staple gun to adhere the plastic sheet. It might take two people to make sure it's tight. If you can wrap an odd Christmas present, then you'll have no problem wrapping a greenhouse.

Broccoli and Spices before cover
As for the broccoli... They are set in the ground in rows. They aren't real big and after seeing something chewing on their leaves, I had to put some sort of fencing around them. I don't need the tomato cages, but it does remind me to not mow my plants!

I had to buy more plastic sheeting, but for just a quick "greenhouse" cover, I threw plastic sheeting over the tomato cages and held it down with leftover lumber. Luckily, we still had some. The plants are doing much better and with keeping the tomato cages on the broccoli, it gives the plants much more breathing room inside.
Broccoli and Spices with cover

Thursday, November 15, 2012

LA Area

The Los Angeles/Disneyland trip was amazing! I was very hesitant to go, but once we got there, it turned out to be the best vacation with the kids. I figured Disneyland would be overcrowded, dirty, and unwelcoming. It actually turned out to be quite the opposite.

We got our hotel for 50% off, which saved us $100 per night. Thank God! Our meals when first going there were within walking distance and we never had to eat fast food for breakfast since our hotel provided it. I love how the kids can pick whatever they want to eat, even though its usually pancakes...

Disneyland was extremely clean, super friendly (especially to the kids), and was barely crowded. I didn't take any meals, snacks, water, etc. I took my phone and my wallet. Once I got there, people had backpacks, strollers (which had to be parked in a lot of areas), and were still able to go on the rides. This is much different than what I'm use to. Most parks have the "no lose items" rule such as sunglasses, hats, flip flops, etc. Of course, we didn't go on any huge roller coasters as a family since the kids are only 3 and 4.

Since there weren't too many people, we got to ride most of the rides. The lines were primarily 5-15 minutes for the majority. Keep in mind we went beginning of November. School and the cool weather is in session. We were lucky enough to get 75 degree days until the day we left.

After the Disneyland and Adventure park, we decided we would check out a couple other places as well. I wanted to stop at a National Forest or Park, but since it rained during our last day, we decided to postpone that idea. I'm not sure how, but hubby found the Fullerton Arboretum at the state college (CSU Fullerton). It has 26 acres of botanical gardens with each section being dedicated to different regions of the world. Their regions included:

Cultivated Region (fruits, garden)
Woodlands (Conifers, Palms, Redwoods, Cycads, Etc.)
Mediterranean (Chaparral, Channel islands) as much as California can get
Desert (Cacti and Succulents ) This was my favorite!
Children's Garden (The kids absolutely loved this area)

We spent a good deal of time there with the kids not wanting to walk. There's also a little museum (with kids activities) and gift shop there too. It was a great free thing to do with the kids.

We also stopped for lunch and Ikea. I forgot I wanted to go to The Container Store in LA, but completely forgot. However, hubby stopped at Ikea and I did get to look at a small drawer cabinet that I've had my eye on!

It was a wonderful trip overall and I cannot wait to go back! I hope next time we can afford to get multi-day tickets to really enjoy the rides and take our time. Now that I know you can take food and backpacks into Disney, it'll be a better planned trip next time. If you do go, wear some good walking shoes!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

No Naps on Vacation!

Thought you were going to get a nap today? Ha! So did I. Unfortunately when you go to a major theme park or museum, there just isn't time or the will to go back to the hotel for that precious allotment.

Going to the CA Science Museum was huge! Not only did they have tons of great  hands-on activities and exhibits, it kept the kids awake from eleven to three. This is Mommy's favorite time of the day: nap time.

We have a stroller in the back of the car, but instead of pushing it through the entire museum, we decided the kids could walk and therefore wouldn't fight over it. That saved the screaming and pushing completely. Did it help the becoming tired meltdowns? Nope. My guys are little troopers. They willingly stayed up during nap time and continued to stroll around the museum.

At least the museum was kid friendly. The kids were so tired that there were bouts of not listening. "C'mon, honey. Let's go see the next thing". I asked my son if he was ready for a nap. "Yes!" He fell asleep in the car as my daughter, not much older, stayed up the entire drive back to the hotel (a good half hour). She was very concerned about earthquakes. Out of everything in the museum, it was earthquakes.

That night the hotel had several pools, so as Lizzy had trouble listening, my son had a great time. So this goes to show that kids really do need naps, even when traveling. So when we venture through Disneyland and Carsland, we'll have to see what we can do about taking a nap. Including Mommy and Daddy. It's a much necessary part of vacation, especially for the parents.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Homesteading Anyone?

This is my number 2 reference book
Has anyone ever wanted to just stop shopping at the grocery store? Or am I just crazy? Call me a hippie, but I actually want to grow my own produce for my family. I hate having to push those bacteria-infested shopping carts for hours every week just to waste my hubby's hard earned money. That's money we could use on a vacation somewhere (I've always wanted to visit Alaska for one month)!

Apparently, after doing some research on homesteading, it can and has been done. There are various websites that have made a homestead on as little as 1/10 of an acre in Los Angeles. Wow. ( Now their family is included in the whole homesteading business and they sell their extra produce. What about us who don't live in the Los Angeles area? What if I live in Northern California? Or Central California? (Seriously, is Bakersfield north, south, or central California? No one really knows this.) According to zip code plant zone locator, the Urban Homestead's plant zone is 22 and 23. The Bako Depot's plant zone? 8. Major difference. Citrus does okay here in zone 8, but the cold night could kill the citrus trees unless you keep some heating source on them.

The first step is research. There are other great websites that explain homesteading, but what about books? What if I have a small yard? Or don't even live in California? Don't fret. Check out your local library before anywhere for books. My library has a great selection of books, so if you don't have these books, I would look on or even

This book is a must-buy for  beginners

The second step is to plan. Figure out how much land, pots, or area you want to use to garden with. My property is 1/3 of an acre with 3 chickens. I could grow an abundance of crops if we weren't hoping to move. There are multiple ways to have a garden and if you have a small area, then I would suggest you google "square foot gardening" to get the most out of your small area. Hey, 1 tomato plant will save you at least $10 worth of tomatoes. What have you got to lose?

The third major step to homesteading is figuring out what plants you (and your family) want and figure out their requirements. Full sun, good drainage, etc. You don't want to plant green beans next to tomatoes because of the green beans high nitrogen levels. You'll also learn about crop rotating to maximize food production each year.

Everything you wanted to know about composting

You'll also need to learn about composting. This book is a great easy-reading reference book that tells you the hows and whys of composting. I thought I would read a section, but I ended up reading it cover to cover.

So these are the first steps in creating your new homestead. These are vital. Like my stepdad always says, you can't get anywhere without a plan. So plan away and get the family involved. It does take more than one person to help with huge projects like these. My kids love when I ask them questions "what do you want to plant this year?" They feel like they are part of the team and will help whenever you ask. Remember, kids are proud to eat what they grow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lost my Diet

A few weeks ago, I started really watching what I ate. No processed foods, no meat, no dairy. Well, what's happened? It seems every meal I'm finding myself eat the same old foods since before I promised myself I wouldn't eat anymore. I lost my 10 pounds in 14 days and by now, I'm sure I've gained it back. I know exactly what happened. Hubby came home.

I'm not blaming him for my poor eating choices, but when the pantry is stocked with extremely unhealthy food and a family who wants the processed junk, it's unbelievably hard. The kids don't want to drink soy or almond milk. They want cow's milk. Even after I explained to them that the baby cows need their mommy's milk. Isn't that disgusting how we drink that?

And when going on vacation, doesn't the wafting smell of hamburgers make you drool for one? Yup. While the family isn't on board with the eating better change, we have been eating more fruits and vegetables. Isn't that more than I can ask for? Yes and no. Maybe I can find a group of people and actual recipes for this proper eating ritual in my area? Or online?

Eating better hasn't become a way of life for me yet. As long as the house is full of junk food (thank you Halloween), we will have to continue eating that unhealthy junk until it's gone. I do have to say we have been eating more fresh veggies and fruits than before. So maybe this is a step by step process that I'm continuing losing my focus.

How do I fix my problem? Getting healthier doesn't happen overnight. Loosing weight takes diligence and motivation. I just need to get back onto the bandwagon and lose that darn weight. I need to find a way to replace that junk with the family's motivation to live and eat healthier together. Blue Box macaroni and cheese and corn dogs need to find a way to disappear from the grocery aisles. Let's start paying for a home grown tomato and not a crunchy orange ball from the store. Weight be gone!

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Cooking Quinoa for the first time

As with anything, everything is new at one time or another. This was no different. Heck, I hadn't even heard about quinoa until I read some plant-based/real food blogs. Hubby really doesn't like anything whole grain, but trying to eat healthier, it actually tasted pretty good.

I cooked it with zucchini and yellow squash (peeled) and it was actually really filling. The website I used was They had step by step instructions with pictures. This is definitely not something I can find in my Betty Crocker or New Homes and Gardens cookbooks. One of these days I should buy some new cookbooks. According to the best bites website, quinoa is a great way to get protein.

I used 2 cups quinoa
 Rinse it out a couple times to get the outer shells off.
Below is what it looks like when you get it all rinsed off and put it in 4 cups of water or broth. I never keep broth in the house, so for me its always water.

Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. You can put a lid on it if you'd like

Still simmering...

I went ahead and added peeled zucchini, corn, and yellow squash

I didn't have time to take another picture before everyone started digging in. They were starving! Most websites say they will eat quinoa by itself as a side dish like couscous, but my family said no. They didn't like the nutty and slight bitterness. Even though the family didn't like this, I think this will be really good in some Mexican dishes. I loved this meal with salsa on top.

Friday, November 9, 2012


Everyone seems to like waffles. Me? Eh, they're okay. The good thing about them is their not made with much sugar although the flour content is pretty high. Then there's the syrup: a corn syrup artery clogging mess. Yuck. If you're going to eat syrup, you might as well buy the pure maple syrup. I typically add berries or jam on my waffles.

This morning I made the Betty Crocker version of waffles even though I had no cow's milk. Hubby doesn't know about using the soy milk, but I did add a splash of vanilla. He loves putting vanilla in his waffle batter which I don't really care for, but whatever. It hides the flour taste.

Hubby said they tasted just fine. He usually notices everything. Right now he's uploading Disney and Cars Land pictures so maybe he's just busy doing something else that he doesn't notice the difference? That's awesome since he can't stand non-dairy products.

Maybe next time I will substitute the all-purpose flour for whole wheat and the cow milk for almond milk. Maybe then the waffles will have some actual flavor to them without the waffles. Whole wheat flour is like wine in our house. It's an acquired taste. This family is too attached to the bland white flour. Time to shake things up and get back to healthy!

Thanks for reading!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Leaving LA

Today we get to leave LA. There's mixed feelings about this. Our feet won't hurt from walking all day yet there's so much to do! We have half a day to spend this morning outside of anything Disney-related in Los Angeles.

Options: Musuem (there's plenty of them)
National Park or Forest (always a favorite)
Other Specialities that require walking.

Of course, we are in Anaheim, mostly on the southern middle part of the LA area. This city is so huge it's easy to miss a lot of things. The goal today though is to do something easy and not require tons of walking like the past two days.

So we'll probably hit a National Park or Forest today so the kids can really run around. They were able to run somewhat at Disney, but with so many other people around, it's hard to keep track of them.

The kids have been excited, tired, and extremely exhausted the past two days since they walked through the entire parks. That's the price you have to pay for visiting those theme parks! As for everything else in LA, we'll definitely have to make another trip down here.

Leaving the valley smog for the LA smog...

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Disney Theme Parks

What an excursion to Mickey Mouse's shrine. After four years of living in California, I really did not want to take the kids there. The number one reason was money. It costs $100-$200 per person ages 3 and up. It cost us around $700 to get a 2 day park hopper. Ouch. Then hubby found half price on our traditional hotel, totaling $100 per night vs $200 per night. So that was $1,000 right there -not including any food.

Monday: Drive to LA and CA Science Museum
Tuesday: Disneyland
Wednesday: CA Adventure Park (I seriously wanted to go to Cars Land)
Thursday: Morning activity and drive home

The first morning at Disneyland I really didn't know what to expect since I researched several other blogs and articles online plus other people. So many people had conflicting stories about food, rides, etc. We didn't take our stroller for our 3 and 4 year old. We didn't bring any snacks or lunch. All we had on us was our phones and wallets. At the end of the day, my pockets held 4 pins. I didn't think our kids would make it at the end of each day, but they did surprising well- especially since they didn't have a nap.

The California Adventure Park was another story. I again wasn't too sure about taking the kids there, but after going to Disney, it was a blast! This time of the year is their slow season and the kids couldn't go on as many rides as Disneyland, but they did get to go on quite a few. Of course, we had to go to CarsLand both in daylight and at dark. I couldn't resist. Flo's V8 Cafe has the best macaroni and cheese. I did not follow my diet as well as I should have. It's hard to resist the temptation of macaroni and cheese. I did, however, not eat as much meat as I should have.

Well, it's been a wonderfully long day and will write more about my experiences soon!
Thanks for reading!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Surprise Trip to LA

Hubby filled in the calendar for four days this November with "busy don't plan anything". Uh? What the heck? Apparently he planned a trip to LA. I've been wanting to head down there for some time now since learning about all the fun free things to do and yes, the super expensive D and C lands. We won't get to do much, but since seeing Lightning McQueen and Towmater fill billboards along Highway 99 this past spring, I've been wanting to go.

And the time has come! We are officially now in the infamous Los Angeles. I can hardly believe it. I hate the traffic and the smog, but this city has so much to offer from kids (not including Disneyland) to adults.

Venturing out of the lovely smog filled Bako southwards, the kids weren't sure about us going to Disneyland or Carsland. We told them first thing this morning and their response: "No! I'm not old enough!" I couldn't believe my ears. However, the whole drive down here (3 hours) they couldn't talk of anything else.

Having the extra hours to fill before our hotel room was ready, we went to the California Science Museum. It was fantastic. They had everything from ecology, biology, space, animals, earthquakes, structures, and other various exhibits for free. There were other "visiting" exhibits for a cost and although we just did the free ones, we pretty much filled up our day. We were there for a whopping four hours without a single meltdown. It was unbelievably wonderful.

The kids were tired and we still had to check into our hotel room, so my son slept in the car (30 minute or longer drive) as my daughter inquired about earthquakes. She, 4, was inconceivably worried about how and why earthquakes happen (there was a earthquake simulator in the museum). I'm glad she asks questions, but the real question is what does she really retain after all that information is crammed into her head?

The hotel has 2 pools, one heated, a kiddie pool, and 2 hot tubs. The kids actually went into the kiddie pool since they are small, the bigger heated pool, and the hot tub once they were freezing from swimming after dark. There's no better exercise, right? We also met some nice people visiting from Australia. Turns out right now their country is in spring/summer right now as we are in winter. They will be going to Hawaii for a bit and then back to their country. What a vacation!

Tomorrow we will venture to Disneyland for the first time with two young ones in tow without a nap. Hubby forgot his tennis shoes, so it'll be an interesting adventure. I'm praying we don't have any meltdowns or a $0 checking account by the end of the week.

What a fantastic surprise from hubby. So much for getting out of the smog. :( The thick brown air is absolutely disgusting and makes me grateful for those clean air days in the valley, however few they are. Disneyland isn't the only choice for families visiting Los Angeles, but it is however, one of the most popular destinations. This trip is primarily for the big theme parks, but watch out Los Angeles. The next trip will be no theme parks!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jiff's Nutella aka Chocolate Peanut Butter

Has anyone tried chocolate hazelnut butter? I know I've been trying to eat better and when I found out our grocery store is out of their homemade peanut butter, I figured we would do without. I completely forgot about buying plain unsalted peanuts since I was in a hurry.

Walking through the grocery store looking for something in particular, we walked by the peanut butter. Might as well get some since we were out. Oh... nutella. I've never tried it. Instead of buying the expensive Nutella brand, we bought Jif, saving $3.

Once at home, we opened the jar to see a chocolate looking glob. Yuck. Not sure if my kids should eat it, I lick the edge of the butter knife. Oh my goodness. Why haven't I bought it before? I spread it on my kid's bread (for PB & J), and they ate it faster than their regular PB & J. "Mommy, I love our new chocolate peanut butter!"

No wonder. It was so good. I thought my sweet tooth was going to fall out and beg for more. Then I realized how healthy it must be, since all those tv commercials about Nutella said it was. Wow. All those "mother" actresses spreading it on bananas, waffles, toast, etc. "It's a healthy nut butter that my kids can't get enough of." To put it plainly, it's another unhealthy preservative loaded with sugar and oil. Another item on the "no" list. I should have realized this since its packaged, and no doubt, processed.

Looking for an alternative to this sugar nut butter, I googled "homemade oil-free Nutella". Google results: 155,000. After going through seven websites and blogs, the eighth result actually came up with a recipe that has no oil. Their website: It looks natural, without the coconut or palm oil. I can't wait to try it!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Carseats vs a Good Wash

Bottom of daughter's carseat. ICKY
Carseats vs a Good Wash

Our kids are still in their carseats- only because the government keeps upping the carseat laws. *rolls eyes* Every time we leave our house to go grocery shopping, to the library, to swimming lessons, or a trip out of town, there are always drinks and snacks in our car. My latest great idea to save money is trail mix. Apparently its great for the wallet, but not great for the car.

Those little fingers dig around the little Ziploc for the blue M&Ms first, knocking sunflower seeds right out of the bag into the nooks and crannies of their clothes, seats, and floor. Ugh. So much for a clean car. At least none of it is sticky, right? M&Ms melt and the craisins have some sort of sticky residue on them. In addition to the kid's food droppings, the dog insists on cleaning the seats for me (although he's not suppose to eat chocolate or raisins).

My son, 3, is potty training and has quite a few accidents compared to his sister at this age. I couldn't stand the smell anymore, so I decided to take the carseats in the house and take them apart to clean them. I would also vacuum the darn car since I could finally fold the seats down to vacuum. YAY!

I scrubbed the spots on the carseats with Fels-Naptha. Some spots came out and others...not so much. I've pretty much given up on trying to make their seats look like new. I've scrubbed to my little heart's content and it didn't hardly convince any part of the stain to come out. Oh well.

Elbow grease.
So I threw the fabric part of the car seats in the washer, take the plastic parts out back to hose off and the dog and chickens come running for the food still on the carseats! They quickly learned that the hose is powerful.

That day had been 103 outside. The kids had nothing to do, so I filled a bucket with soap and water, grabbed two brushes, and had the kids scrub their carseats. "This is like going to the carwash!" My daughter exclaimed. They both were so excited to have a "carseat wash" right there in our backyard. Two birds with one stone- awesome! Two thumbs up for mommy.
Carseat Wash! $5.00 Good scrubbing guaranteed!

When the washer finished, I pulled the carseat supplies out one at a time until one of the straps would not budge. I twisted it, pulled it around in circles, and it would not come loose after fifteen minutes of struggling with it.

The tools I used in addition to elbow grease.
Aggravated, I stormed out to the garage, got some of hubby's tools (I think its called a socket wrench), and took apart the washer like my child had been entangled in it. My daughter asked why I was making so much noise. "Mommy is going to win this fight!" She raised an eyebrow and left.

Taking apart the washer was almost easy. It did take some muscle to get these sturdy plastic pieces off and back on. Beware: muscle needed!

The top piece just pops off. Literally.

The second piece just pops off. Sturdy plastic.

This is the screw holding the circular bottom. All held with just one bolt.
I had to not only find the right size, but also the extension socket. Not an easy task. Good thing the garage door is just a door away from the laundry room.
This is the bolt that connects the middle part to the drum

Finally! No wonder I couldn't get it off earlier. It was knotted!

Glad I didn't call a handyman...

Might as well clean it while its out

Putting it back together, I put the bolt in the socket wrench to keep it upright and somewhat straight.

Make sure you have the washer on it

I found it easier to get on if I screwed the washer on before I put it back on. That way I didn't have to worry about the washer not going all the way back on.

I put everything back together in reverse order and viola! I have my wonder washer back! Now back to laundry...

A clean washer ready for the next wash!
Not all the dirt and grime got out of the carseats. Oh well. Good thing no one else sees them! 
 Thanks for reading!