Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gardening This Week

Okay, so I haven't posted much because Daeton and I have had a head cold all week. So we are home sick and Kaela is grumpy because she is bored. I did get to Home Depot on Sunday, when the kids were at their dad's house and used about $50 in store credit and a little of my money and bought these plants;

Boys Will Be Boys

I hear hammering and go outside. Daeton informs me he is making his own remote control hot air balloon out of misc parts from a broken radio. I tell him to wear goggles and walk away!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Aquarium of the Pacific Educator Appreciation Day

Daeton and Kaela feeding the Loriketts.

We are at the Aquarium of the Pacific today. We came with my sister and her son. It is Educator Appreciation Day so I got 'me plus 3 tickets' for free and we only had to pay for one child ticket (and I used my AAA card for a discount).

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Can You Make A Living From Mystery Shops?

I have a friend that is unemployed right now and called me, asking my opinion on mystery shops. She saw a 'help wanted' ad for mystery shops and the ad said she could make a full-time income doing them.

I've done Mystery Shopping on and off for a few years for about five different companies.  Most are similar in the required work and how the report needs to be turned in (scan receipts, answer detailed questions, etc).

I'm not going to give details on 'how to' do a mystery shop but wanted to give my opinion on them. First, there a few types.  You can go eat somewhere like a nice steak house and need to order a drink from their bar to and they'll reimburse you for the 'dinner for two with drinks and dessert' and maybe give you a $5-10 bonus.  Second, they might just pay you to go somewhere.  Go test drive a car and get $30, park your car at an airport parking garage (schedule this if you are planning to fly to get parking for free) and they'll reimburse you for your parking.  Sometimes they'll want you to purchase something, like a women's pair of jeans, try them on and wait one hour and then return them and they'll pay you $15, other times you have the option to return or keep the item.

So, there are a few types, but they mostly pay you $5-15 (the dealership ones seem to be an exceptionally large pay).  The mystery shop places will also added extra bonuses if they are on a tight deadline to get some of the shops done.

Here are a few legit companies that I have done mystery shops for:

Do remember they have to be done in a timely manner and the online report (takes about 1 hour to fill in) usually needs to be done the same day.  If you do not do them correctly, they won't pay you.

Also, most payments are made to you through Paypal.  So, once paid you will need to transfer the funds to your bank account. 

IMHO (in my humble opinion) you will not be rich, not be receiving full-time income, nor even part-time income doing mystery shops. They are added extras and can be fun and exciting but the ads offering $20-50K a year are false-advertising.

How To Make Strawberry Jam (Preserves) Water-Bath Canning

I made two double batches of strawberry jam (or technically preserves since it is super chunky) this week with the kids.  Kaela helped with the first batch and Daeton helped with the second batch.

I know a lot of people think it is too hard to do, or confusing, so I took some photos and thought I'd do a little intro to show how easy it is. 

First, you need lots of strawberries (you can use other fruits as well, we will be doing this with peaches in a few months when our tree is ripe).
Next you need a huge pot.  The measurements of all the ingredients will be less than 1/4 of the pot but once it is at the end and at a roiling boil the mixture will be to the top of this pot.
You also need a metal spoon (not shown) for stirring.

Third, if you want your jam to have a shelf-life, you need to heat the CLEAN jars and keep them in very hot water while you are making the jam.  The lids and rings need to be in here as well.

This is a before picture, on the counter top, of my jars, rings and lids.  I wanted to make sure to pair them up since I had some regular and some wide-mouth rings (better to figure it out now and not when the jam is ready to be poured).

FYI... jars can be reused, rings too. However, if you are doing it this way you need to buy new lids each time *More below about this.

So, we washed the strawberries, cut them up and mushed them a bit and put them in the pot and turned it to a medium flame.

Add the pectin and lemon juice.  **Complete recipe with measurements below.

Kaela cutting up strawberries. The green stems need to be removed.  If you are getting strawberries from a roadside stand ask for some 'older' ones.  They are a little mushy and will be sweeter (but you do not want moldy).

Me stirring the pot.  This needs to be done frequently when everything is heating up.  Once you get it to a boil you can slowly add the sugar, stirring every few cups as you add more.

Once all the sugar is mixed in, bring to a rolling boil for one solid minute, stirring constantly, and then remove from heat.

Ladle most of the white foamy stuff that is the top layer out from the pot and discard (I filled two cereal bowls of it).
Now your jam is done.  Have some damp washcloths and a potholder for the jars (they will be hot from the water and SUPER hot once the jam is inside- you do not want to drop a jar of hot jelly).

Jars are ready, in hot water, in the sink.

(pic of foam).  If you don't get it all out it is okay but it will look weird in the jar once the jelly has settled. If you don't remove it at all it will have a weird, frothy taste, so try to get as much as you can.

Ladle the jam into the jars (a second person for team work is great at this step).  Wipe the rim of the jar (to wipe away jelly that dripped there.
Put the lid on.
Put the ring on and tighten sometimes you can recheck once the jars aren't too hot and re-tighten one more time.

Not everyone does this but I learned to put the jars upside down after they are wiped off and to leave them for at least a day to set.

(pics aren't upside down yet). 

That is it.  Do NOT forget to label the jam if you are storing or giving to others.  In a cool pantry this jam should keep for a year.

It needs to be refrigerated once it has been opened and the seal is broken (it will make a 'pop' sound, like a grocery store jar).

Second double batch I made I kept a tiny bit that was left, kept in the pot and added bananas and more sugar and made strawberry-banana jam.  It is kinda gross looking (the bananas give it a brown-ish color) but it tastes great.

* If you are using (clean) old lids you can make freezer jam. It tastes the same but needs to be either frozen or refrigerated and eaten.  You can not store it in a pantry.

** Complete recipe below.  This is the same recipe I have been using for about 15+ years and is from a Better Homes and Garden's New Cook Book from the 1960's or 1970's.

Strawberry Jam.
8 cups strawberries, caps removed.
(1) 1 3/4 ounce package of powdered fruit pectin (I've tried gel pectin once and it worked the same).
2 Tablespoons lemon juice.
7 cups of sugar (do not skimp on this, trying to be healthy, it won't set right and won't be sweet. Substitutes, like Splenda can be used for diabetics, I've never tried it).

When all done recipe book says to put the jars in boiling water for 15 minutes to 'set' the jar lids.  I have never done this, it isn't the way my mom taught me how.  For me, the heat of the jar in hot water and the heat of the jelly always sealed the jar just fine and I've had the jam last at least a year.

Final note, for those allergic to ingredients in pectin, I learned a way to make pectin recently with fruit seeds, pith and cheesecloth. I have not tried it yet but will post if manage to figure it out.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

So Random Photos

I like to take pictures of things that interest me, make me laugh, or intrigue me. This one was the latter two.

First, this truck is VERY sideways.

Second, it wasn't parked; someone was driving it, towards the freeway on-ramp.

Third, it is for sale. There is a dollar sign on the front and back and a phone number across the back.

Price was not disclosed.

Other 'so random' photos to come. I think I'll make it a weekly blog post! :-)
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Thursday, June 16, 2011

Niiiiiice Parking

I LAUGHED when I saw this woman park in a red zone so she could 'park close' and run in the gym for a few minutes.

I hope she is getting exercise other ways!

Okay, being sarcastic, but seriously hate when people block entrances, park illegally in red zones or handicap spots AND of all places, are going to the gym!

We were in the store next door, waiting for Daeton to get his haircut, so I noticed she was only there about 15 minutes.

Just a pet peeve. Like people waiting for me to pull out at the grocery store to have my spot, but there is a spot open 5 spaces down.

Disney Sale For Kids' Birthdays

Michelle and I have been hanging out with our daughters at the mall or (today) park while Daeton and her son are in their strings camp. We went to the Disney Store yesterday and I found these on clearance. The 'Mickey Head' chip and dip bowl was $4.99 (regularly $12.50) and the 'snack platters' were $2.99 (regularly $14.50 each).

Boys Will Be Boys

Crazy morning! All three of us were too tired to get up. Daeton was the worst. I was ready, had water bottles, snacks, and the car loaded. Kaela was in it and ready sans putting on shoes.
Daeton was still in bed! So, I start the car and pull out of the garage, knowing full well Daeton will come-a-runnin'. And he did. In 'pajamas' (a t-shirt and boxers) and carrying his clothes.
Before pulling out he begs me to get his toothbrush; he forgot to brush his teeth but is too cold to get out of the car.
I run in, grab his toothbrush, wet it, put a DAB of toothpaste on it, grab a Ziplock bag to put his toothbrush in afterwards and hop in the car.
I start driving and I see THIS (see photo).

I somehow missed that Daeton FULLY brushed his teeth, using the drinking water to rinse and spit, and he spit it all in the bag, sealed it, and left the bag on the car seat (which Kaela later handed me with a 'Here's Daeton's spit bag' in front of Michelle and her daughter! 

All I can say is 100% boy! 

Does anyone have any crazy 'my kid ....' stories?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Free Gloves Or Safety Glasses For Men

Here is a cool freebie.  Click here to get a free pair of either gloves or safety glasses.  Gloves are men sizes.  Shipping is free too. Limited to one per household.


Band Camp (strings) For the Week

This week is going to be a busy one.  Today through Friday Daeton has band camp.  It is all string instruments (viola, violin and cello. Daeton plays violin).  The camp is 8:45-12 noon every day.  Kaela and I are hanging out with my friend, Michelle, and her daughter (Kaela's age) and we have been exploring the city of Saugus.  Today we went to Starbucks and hung out for a while and then went to a HUGE mall.  Not sure the name of it but it looks like an outdoor mall with about 50 stores but there are a few differences to enter an indoor mall (we entered from ground level outside to second floor inside).  We went to Justice For Girls and the girls shopped through the clothes.  There was a decent selection of 40% off and Michelle found an online coupon on her cell phone for '40% off your entire purchase' too but we didn't have time to stay.  By the time we found the place we were limited on when we had to go back and pick up Daeton and Michelle's son (also in the band camp, playing cello).

Tomorrow we have the plan to go back there, immediately after dropping off the boys, so we have more time to explore.  Malls are NOT my 'thing' and I do not like shopping but it is fun to be with Michelle and for the girls to hang out so it is worth it.

I'm also going to have to take a lot of pics tomorrow.  There is a theme at the mall of 'wild west' and there are HUGE decorated/painted bears at all the entrances.  It reminded me of the cow thing New York did or the horse one some other state did. New York Cows This link has some pics of the cows.

I doubt we can climb on the bears but I'm sure, with the four of us, we can think of some crazy poses for the photographs.  The bears, all by themselves, are simply amazing too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Big Z game

Kaela and I at Big Z's.

Big Z's fun place!

Up next? Big Z's. We are here for pizza and video games. Kids are going to run around and play (and hopefully get tired) we might drop by the park afterwards. And, end of the day is to drop them off to their dad's house.

Farmer's Market in Simi

Found out we have a brand new Farmer's Market in Simi. This one is by TGIF's and the Regal theater. We went and saw Judy Moody's Not So Bummer Summer and walked over to this afterwards. Movie tickets were $13 for all three of us. I bought two for $9 from Living Social (will post link later). The third tickets was an expired code I had that still gave me 1/2 credit. :-)

Next book on my list: Super Freakonomics

If you've read Freakonomics you were probably wowed, like me.  I just learned about a sequel, Super Freakenomics.  Same two authors, new statistics for our society.

How patriotic are prostitutes? Can you make more money at McDonalds than dealing drugs?  Which is more dangerous, a gun or a swimming pool? 

These questions and more are answered in both books. 
Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner are brilliant men that think outside the box. 

I'd love to have a book discussion with others after we all read the second one (don't skip the first, read it fast).
First post from cell phone! Super cool that I figured this out (on accident). We were at Lassen's Health Food Store and Kaela saw these and was jumping up and down for me to buy them! Why? Because she ate them at Amy's house and love them. These should be fully mature in 62 days! I have do not know how to cook, prepare them bur will have to figure it out soon!

Judy Moody and the Not So Bummer Summer Movie Contest

We are going to go see this movie today and I saw this, via email, from Day Tripping Mom (homeschool family that does a lot of field trips).  This is a contest to win some free things about the movie and some children cooking items.  All you have to do is post a comment on the thread of discussion to be entered.  You must do it by June 12th.

Here is what you can win:

  • “The Everything Kids” Cookbook
  • Pottery Barn “Playful Chef” Cooking Set
  • Judy Moody Sunglasses
  • (2) Judy Moody Activity Books
  • Jump Rope
  • JM Not Bummer Summer Book
  • Mini Movie Poster
  • Mood Rings
  • (2) T-Shirts (1 Adult & 1 Kid Size)
  • (2) Zorbitz bracelets
Easy and fun!  I hope I win but wanted to share it too! :-)

Strathern History Days in Simi (great for Father's Day too)

Something to do next Saturday, during the day.  From old colonial times or Simi Valley.  Buildings, furnished houses and exhibits from early 1900's in Simi Valley.

Strathern Museum is having its annual History Days on Saturday June 18th,  9am-4pm.

Enterance fees:

$7 per person.
Children under 5 free.
$20 max per whole family.
Military person and family free.

This can be a fun, carefree day to stroll the grounds and look at the vendors.  Ham Radio demonstration, tractor parade, demonstration on how to put horseshoes on a horse, etc.  Not a ton but some hands-on things for the kids to do too.

Chumash Indian Museum Summer Solstice Celebration (evening 6/18).

Next Saturday the Chumash Indian Museum (previously known as the Interpretative Center) is having a Summer Solstice Celebration.

It is from 5pm-10pm on Saturday, June 18th.

Bring chair or blanket, warm clothes and flashlights.  You can bring your own food or purchase there from vendors.

3290 Lang Ranch parkway
Thousand Oaks, CA

From their Facebook Page:

A celebration in the Chumash Village: Traditional California Native Songs & Storytellers


The Ventura County Astronomical Society will participate in our celebration with a special presentation of the wonders of the sky with a slide show and the use of telescopes beginning after dark

ADMISSION: $5/Adult~$3/Senior & child (under 12)~$10/Family (limit 5)
(Includes admission to museum & Gift Shop)

This museum is incredible.  The curator, Walter Graywolf (a friend of mine), has put a lot of time and effort into building up the museum, adding to the exhibits and creating more community events. 

Their summer pow-wow should be coming up soon too.  You do not have to be Native America to attend. This is a great event for the whole family to learn about Chumash culture and other Native American heritage.

SVPD 40 Year Anniversery Open House This Weekend & Camarillo Concert In The Park

There are a few fun things going on in Simi this and next weekend.

Saturday, 6/11/11, the Simi Valley Police Dept. is having an open house to celebrate their 40-year anniversary. It is 10-3pm. and open to the public (which means FREE too). Here is a rundown from the SV website:

  • McGruff the Crime Fighting Dog
  • Guided tours of the Police Station
  • Patrol cars, police motorcycles, and the Mobile Command Center
  • Members of the SWAT Team and CSIs
  • K-9 Unit Demonstration
  • Ventura County Sheriff's Aviation Unithelicopter
  • Ventura County Fire Department equipment
  • Bicycle safety/registration information
  • Obstacle course
  • Jumpers
  • Face Painting
  • Glitter Tattoos
  • "Mug Shots" for the kids
Address is: 3901 Alamo St, Simi Valley, Ca. 93063.

Also, in Camarillo, the kick-off for Concerts In The Park is Saturday. Each tribute band begins at 7:30pm.  Bring blankets, sweaters and dinner and enjoy the music with your family.

Join us in the park this Summer! Concerts begin at 7:30pm. Movies will begin at dusk, approximately 8:00pm. Please be sure to review the event etiquette guidelines as you plan your evening in the park.

June 11th - Caught Red Handed (Country Music)
June 25th - Rick Braun (Soul-Jazz, Trumpeter)
July 9th - Air National Guard Band of the Southwest (Patriotic, Big Band) 
July 23rd - Super Freak (Disco)
August 6th - World Classic Rockers (Classic Rock)
August 20th - Steve Tyrell (The Standards)
September 10th - Raymond Michael (A Tribute to Elvis)  All events are at off of Carmen Dr, off of the 101 FWY at Constitution Park. 

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Fun summer stuff

I've been trying to find some fun things to keep the kids busy once summer is here so that I don't hear 'I'm bored' too much or don't have to fight multi-media being on all the time.

1- Got on eBay, a build your own house thing. I bought two. They were super cheap. Kaela wanted to do it and I let her.....well, TRY, that is. The thing sucks, broke a few times and she gave up on it. Daeton hasn't tried his yet, I think I'll do with him to see if it is just too cheaply made or if Kaela was being too rough.

5-in-1 Solar Power kit. I haven't even shown the kids yet.

I also bought (no pic shown) three super heavy boxes to 'make your own stepping stones.' They were brand new, in plastic wrap. I bought them for $4 each at Simi Thrift.
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SVRR Track award picnic

We had the award picnic today for Daeton and Kaela's track team, Simi Valley Running Rebels too. They both received trophies, their yearbook, a 'good grades certificate' and some medals (Kaela) and ribbons (Daeton). We missed picture day because it was right after my car accident and we didn't have a rental yet. There is a few random pictures of Kaela in the book but I didn't see any at all of Daeton. :-( I told him he needs to participate more in the events and not miss the practices so much (some misses were due to his leg being hurt from the accident).

We got there 1 1/2 hours later and didn't stay for the water play (water balloons, the water spray part of the park is on and everyone brings squirt guns and super soakers). The kids are tired and the day was quiet cold (for us in Ca). It is overcast, cloudy, chilly breeze and 70 degrees (F). Daeton was shivering and begging to go home! LOL! I think being overtired doesn't help when a person is cold.

We haven't decided if they are doing cross-country this year but it doesn't start until the end of August so we have a little bit of time to decide. "I" want them to do it, but they are unsure.

We are now home and have an hour until we need to leave, again. This time for kickball practice.
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Rockstar Kickball Party

The Newbury Park kickball league had their end-of-the-year party last night, theme was 'Rockstar.' I took a ton of pics (all on FB) but here are two cute ones to share. First is a random stranger that was just SOOO rocked-out I had to ask if I could take my pic with him. :-)
This is my younger brother and I. He was a few awards, including the Rambo Award and received a certificate and a strip of fake bullets to wear across his chest! The kids were with a friend and it was a fun night. I carpooled with three other friends and it was 3am by the time I got home. Got a phone call at 6am of 'your kids will be dropped off at 6:45 so that I can go running.' Got up when they arrived, went back to sleep for a little bit and got up again.

I am definitely T-I-R-E-D mommy today!
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Friday, June 3, 2011

Pic of me & D

This is after Daeton's double performance tonight. He performed with two other students in his strings class (Daeton is learning violin) and then he performed as Starvling (and old man) in A Midsummer's Night Dream in is Much Ado About Shakespeare class. He was 1/2 in costume in this pic. I took a few videos but they aren't too great. My sister took some pics so I'll have to get her to send them to me so I can upload them (she has a better camera).

Both Daeton and Kaela had art work and other projects on display in various classrooms too. It was Exhibition Night at Huckleberry Learning Center. This is the place they both take a few enrichment classes. Today was the last of classes for the year. We are done until fall. They still have until the 9th for their school year to be out but are done with these classes so just need to do book work at home or field trips and other fun learning.

Monday-Friday of next week Daeton is attending Jr. Orchestra Summer Camp. It is a three-hour-a-day camp for one week for kids that play the violin, viola or cello. On the last day, in the eve, they'll have a performance.

Kaela and I are going to hang out with my friend, Michelle, and her daughter while Daeton and Michelle's son are at the camp. It is too much gas and time to go home and back so we figured we'd explore the city nearby or find a park or Starbucks to hang out at. Michelle and I can can chat and catch-up and the two girls can play. It will be a lot to be there at either 8:45 or 9:30 am (I need to check on which one with the teacher) considering it is 1/2 hr drive. But it will be worth it for Daeton to get a 'boot camp' for the violin to really set in all he has learned and for him to learn more before he has a long summer break. There is another 'camp' that I read about that is here, in our city, that is the same price so I might put him in that one too, later in the summer (there is two sessions). He seems to really like the violin but needs to practice a lot more. I'm hoping the more he learns and expands with it, the more he'll enjoy it and decide to just play, at random, because he likes it.
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Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Fruit Trees- Peach Tree Sick

My fruit trees are getting huge. I REALLY cut them back this winter but the sapling branches and leaves are all over both and fruit on the peach tree. The peach tree is a dwarf and the plum i semi-dwarf (but before I pruned it it the shooter branches were above the roof of the house). I LOVE these trees and wish I had the yard to have a dozen fruit trees. Besides these two I have a tiny orange tree (barely-above-knee-bush size).

The peach tree has some weird disease growing on it that seems to dry out the branches. First there is white fuzz then it dies and turns black and the branch underneath is messed up and dried out. I need to take the pics to a nursery and see if they can tell me what it is and if it is repairable. In the winter I cut off most of the diseased branches but it is there, again, on two main ones. I don't think I can cut it all off without cutting the tree so far back that I'd kill it. :-( These trees were both gifts to me from my mom and step-dad and I've always loved them. When the fruit is ripe I make jam with them and share with the neighbors. It won't be until late summer but the harvest is something to look forward to. The kids get excited when we get the first few pieces of fruit that are ripe enough to pick.

Last year birds ATE UP the peaches before I could pick them. I couldn't figure out why it was happening since it had never happened before. It dawned on me that my dog, Zeus, was getting old and no longer such a spaz that the birds were afraid to hang out. Last year he ignored the birds and choose to nap or rest in the shade so they snacked on most of the fruit. A friend, Judy, told me to hang CD's in the trees. As they spin the sun will reflect on them and it scares the birds away. I'll have to do this soon, since the fruit is starting to grow and I already see bite marks on the fruit and leaves. We put Zeus to sleep in November so he isn't here at all now to scare away the birds or squirrels.
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