Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Dinner On Me

Two individual dinner meals ready for delivery.
"Did you have a dinner break?" said my co-worker.
"Sort-of. I was going to cook but I remembered it's youth group tonight so I didn't because my kids eat at church on Wednesday nights," I replied.
"I wish I had a dinner break." she said.
"I would have brought you something, if I would have known." I said.
"I would pay for that!" she said.

Dinner On Me was born.

The next day I made a fabulous dinner of green chicken enchiladas, rice and beans and offered it to my co-worker. "What do I owe you?" she asked.

"This one's on me," I replied. On my way out the door, the front desk manager offered to purchase a plate. I walked the three minute walk home and the three minute walk back, to bring her a plate, making it my first official dinner sale.

The first co-worker loved her meal. She and I made arrangements for me to deliver her dinner 5 nights a week while she's working. The tutoring center hours are after school and often right through the dinner hour with out a break for the busiest tutors. This works out splendidly and is a win-win situation for both of us. I am getting PAID to provide affordable, home-cooked, delicious meals--which I would cook for my ktbunch anyway--and she gets to eat real food instead of snacks or fast food.

The remarkable thing is, I never considered myself much of a cook. On my honey-moon I tried to make the Mr, Hamburger Helper (and I did it wrong) because that's what I grew up with and thought *dinners* were. When there were meal delivery sign-ups at church for the new moms, I always declined for fear of my kitchen inadequacy.

I do love to bake and there was a time I thought of offering my home-made-from-scratch pies and baked goods for sale and was told, "No one wants your pies!" I realize now, the comment really had nothing to do with me personally. Considering the source, the individual was speaking from their own place of fear and bitterness. It certainly wasn't encouraging though and I quickly gave up my idea.

I think of this as another point in time, coming full circle. I feel like the Lord is rebuilding me, into a person of wholeness, one redeeming moment at a time.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

And the Oscar Goes To...

It was that time of year again. We ditched night church {Gasp!} and stayed home to watch the 87th Academy Awards. I set the table, decorated, dressed  up, and created a photo booth. Everyday is special in this house...any reason to celebrate is a great reason to me!

Oscar Winning Menu:

Oscar Meyer hot dogs (of course!)
Red Vines
Veggie Egg Rolls
Carrot sticks
Tortilla Chips
Trail Mix
Left over Valentine Candy

These kids of mine are absolutely the best. The way they go along with all my shenanigans. I love them to pieces!!! They make my life so much more enjoyable and fun. Truly.
I found these photo props on clearance after New Years. I bought them specifically to use for this year's Oscar Viewing Soiree. 

Here is my faux mantle, all dressed up for the Academy Awards!

How we spent our commercial breaks.

I really do take the 'dressing up' part serious.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Friday Hike Day: Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Again, we stayed close to home this Friday. We went to a familiar local spot, aka: Bolsa Chica Wetlands. It's known for it's variety of birds that frequent the area.

The walk is fairly easy with a wide and flat trail. Stroller friendly for sure.

There is a peak, after a fenced area and the 'river bed', where the trail narrows and you have to climb a few stairs. That area has lovely viewing areas with benches for relaxing and bird watching.

I saw a huge bird sail over so low and slowly, that I was too surprised to pull out my camera phone to snap a pic. Which, by the way, was on some mysterious setting that made all my pix blue, but I did not know until the end of the day when reviewing my pictures.

The trail hosts a few different options that can either shorten or lengthen your walk. I don't call it a hike since it's all fairly flat the entire way. There are signs warning of possible rattle snakes. We saw a lizard, lots of birds and I caught sight of a 'flying fish' jumping out of the water. I was amazed and told everyone, "Look!" By the time they turned around, the fish stopped jumping, of course.

I recommend this walk when you don't want to drive very far or aren't up for a  very strenuous hike. Also, it provides educational opportunities. There are large sign posts, describing the wild life that live and frequent the area, as well as descriptions of the native habitat.

It is out in the open with no shade. Wear a hat, sun block and protective clothing, especially for the little ones. Even if the temps are cool, it's very easy to get sun burned.
This walk wasn't exactly interesting for the kids but it was better than staying home. Being in the fresh air and sunshine was good for all of us. It's next to Pacific Coast Highway, so don't expect it to be quiet. The sounds of the 'city' are alive and well.

After our walk, we relaxed and ate a tailgate lunch from our cars. The parking lot is small but free. There are one or two porta-potties, but you know how that can go. I did not use them or check them out.

It was still nice to get out and get our bodies moving.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentines Day!

Here's my FAVORITE DAY again. It was low key this year. I made a Valentine lunch for my sweet hearts. I cut carrots and cucumbers into heart shapes, for a spinach base salad, topped with heart shaped pepperonis and cheese slices to go along with baked pasta also topped with heart shaped pepperonis & cheese slices. I baked a few heart shaped cookies and loaded the table with valentine candy and sweets.

We invited another friend and her kids (my kids BFFs) since her Mr. was out of the country on business, and one of the youth leaders. It turned out to be really hot, so the mid-day festivities included an impromptu water gun fight.

I wanted to do more but have been fighting a sore throat and cold for a few days I had to be satisfied with what I had. I also gave each of the youngers a fresh new plush bear with a red ribbon bow. The youngest especially loved his 'baby'.

Last minute I put together a 'photo booth' for fun pix. I really liked how it turned out and I pulled it together in about 10 minutes.  That was probably my favorite part of the afternoon.

As far as favors...I let each guest take a succulent cutting and replant it into one of the assorted glass mugs and dishes I had, to take home.

It was a lovely I can focus on the upcoming OSCARS and Oscar Soiree!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Friday Hike Day: Paradise Falls

This wasn't one of our best hikes but it was ok. We started our morning late and it was pretty much all down hill from there. The one hour twelve minute drive took 1.5 to two hours on the way there and then THREE hours home. The traffic unraveled any relaxation we felt from being out in "nature".

It's hidden within a residential area. The hike is predominantly in full sun. It's hot. We saw (and caught) many lizards.

The actual falls are lovely but there are signs warning not to dive or swim due to the rocky bottom and "urban run off" that feeds the falls. I did not put my feet in this time but the ktbunch told me the water was very cold...though it didn't stop them from getting soaked. Warm breezes blew through the base of the falls, along with the occasional whiff of sulphur...which smells like rotten eggs.

We saw a lot of ducks in the creek area too. There is a trail that leads to a teepee and another that leads to an "Indian cave" which is more like a small rock tunnel. Kids liked it though.

The hike itself isn't that visually interesting as other hikes we have taken. The parking was free, just a small lot at the trail head. There's a drinking fountain but no restroom. There are restrooms next to the nature center--you have to follow a trail to get to it.

If it wasn't for the traffic, I might revisit this place but otherwise, unlikely.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Hike Day: Hacienda Heights Hiking Trail

This was a nice looking trail. Nice green, rolling hills, a mix of shade trees and sunshine. An amazing view of the surrounding city is offered at one of the peaks.

The trail was up and down and offered steep 'short cuts' in between the winding turns.

It was nestled in a residential area, next to a school and lovely park. The area is home to rattle snakes. We didn't run into any but we did come across this gopher snake, right in the middle of the trail, on our way back.

The youngers were leading the way and 2/3 of them walked right past it with out even noticing. One jumped over it, last minute and hollered, "A snake!"

At one of the peaks, we came across an interesting abandoned building, perhaps an old underground water tower? We don't know but there was a hole in the chain link fence around the structure, so naturally we went through to get a better look. The roof was caved in at spots. Inside, all the walls were covered in graffiti and the floor littered with spray paint cans. I think the kids felt a little adventurous for being allowed to get a closer look. haha.

I look forward to these hikes every week. I feel like nature is my therapy. This one didn't have any water feature but it was still nice. We relaxed at the park afterward to eat our lunches. It was semi-local so that made it a nice drive home in about 20-30 minutes.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Another 20 Days to Celebrate

We home-educate through a public charter school. We've been with this educational option for a few years now. Every twenty days, we meet with, what they title; an educational specialist. The children provide work samples from every subject and I provide a list of all the work they have done, topics that have been covered and skills learned, for that learning period, to be added to their 'learning record'or 'portfolio'.

Today was our twenty day meeting. I used to get extremely stressed by these meetings. It started 3 years ago when I was finishing my own education and the Mr and I separated. We developed a pattern of anxiety before the meetings.

The meetings never went as bad as we all imagined and once they were over, we would feel so relieved. The next year, I was finished with school but the pattern of anxiety was still there. I intentionally worked very hard to undue the stress we had associated with these monthly meetings.

It took all of that year after I graduated for us trust each other again. For them to trust that I was going to keep my cool. For me to trust that they were and would be, responsible for their own work and samples. For all of us to trust that everything was going to be ok.

Since that time of reestablishing our sense of peace, we've had a few changes, triggering the anxiety again. I work outside the house now, as well as from home. No matter what though, the meetings still seem to go very well and we leave feeling positive.

We have annual passes to Knotts Berry Farm which include a a meal plan. I had a couple client cancellations and didn't have to go into work so I took my ktbunch to Knott's and '├želebrated' another successful meeting.

Even after 16 years of home-educating, I am still figuring things out and don't have it all together. It's more challenging now in some ways, but I am proud of what we have all accomplished and over come together, as a family. I love these kids and I love home-educating!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Just Tell Me I'm Pretty!

I used to joke that all I needed was someone to 'tell me I'm pretty' and I'd be...something...putty, smitten, tempted, easy. Haha. I used this joke to imply how vulnerable and needy I felt I was. With that vulnerability in mind, I aimed to keep very large boundaries around myself.

Then one day I didn't. I let my guard down and I let myself listen to the flattering words. I started to react exactly as I expected I would. My inner nineteen year old was thrilled. My inner twelve year old was writing Mrs. ________ across her yellow peechee, in fancy cursive. It was fun and exciting to imagine all the potential and possibilities...for

I'm not nineteen and I'm farther from twelve than I'd like to admit...I can't even remember the last time I saw a yellow peechee with the athletic silhouettes on it. It wasn't enough. I'm not as easily enthralled as I thought.

How my kids take pix of me! 
When the sweet words stopped there wasn't anything left. There's more to me than my shell or body or face. It's no longer enough to be told the opinion someone has about how I look, no matter how positive. I'm worth more than that. I AM more than that. I can hold a conversation longer than a flirtatious laugh and internet wink.

Who doesn't like to be told they look nice or be complimented on how well all their days at the gym are paying off? If it stops there though and there's nothing more to offer--then it stops. Conversation shut down. If a guy can't hold a conversation beyond simplistic flattery and facetiousness...What is that? It's nothing. It's lame, boring, pathetic and foolish. Foolish to think that's all a grown woman wants to hear and foolish if one actually falls for it.

If that's all you're hearing, does that mean that's all the speaker is seeing? I don't want to be seen as 'just another pretty face' or any other body part. I am a whole person with a whole heart and a whole life of experiences. I've had better and longer conversations with people that held absolutely no romantic (or otherwise) interest in me and it was fabulous. So why would I settle for anything less than that, along with an indication of something more?

Maybe my life will change some day. Maybe I will meet someone actually interested in what I have to say and want to listen (or read? ;-) ). Until then, I am smart enough to know, flattery will get you no where.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Hello February

The growth of winter you can't see, is happening under the surface.
Not all is dead. Spring is coming.
You can count on it.
Keep loving.
Love all but love *most*---> those in need.
heart emoticon

Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Hike Day: Sycamore Canyon

Back to Sycamore Canyon this week. It's local, only about 15-20 minutes away depending on traffic. It's a mild to moderate hike, in the past it was very brown and I didn't like it, but since the rains, it hosts rolling green hills. The views from the top of the hills are spectacular. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the big city, Los Angeles.

There is a creek but it doesn't run along the trail exactly. You cross a narrow part of it along the Sycamore Canyon Trail. The hike is uphill most of the way to the peak, but that makes it easier on the way back.

The parking lot is small but free. You can also park along the street. There is one porta potty, enclosed in a nice wooden structure and the rangers keep it clean.

Clearing the tumbleweeds our friends used to block the trail. 

The trail can feel quite challenging on the uphill. The first peak offers an amazing view of the canyons, the city way off in the distance and if you are familiar with the area, you'll also recognize Rose Hills Memorial Park. The area my mother is buried at, specifically. The first hill is a great place to spread a blanket or towel and have a picnic lunch.

You can also continue along the trail to another peak, which offers a 360 degree view of city and canyon. There is also a water tower at the top. Due to the uphill nature of the hike, I wouldn't consider this very stroller friendly. If you have a small child, I'd put them in a front or back carrier instead.

Taking the steep short-cut.
The trails curves back and forth on the uphill but also offers "shortcuts" cut straight up the middle of the curves. They are steep but doable. We always take the challenge of short cuts. I believe children thrive and build self confidence in the outdoors and I've seen it to be true in my own children. My youngest is often at the front of the pack with my friend's youngest, leading the way.

I encourage my children to challenge themselves on our hikes. I feel like this is my personal therapy. I love being outdoors and I am so glad I am intentionally making time for it.

On this hike we saw hawks again and a small rabbit.