Friday, February 12, 2016

O is for Oreo, the Tarantula

Many years ago we had a pet tarantula.

Now this thing did not come into our lives because we asked it to, but it walked in all on its own. You should also know that creepy things don't really freak me out too much so I was okay with this.

We were on a family bike ride, minding our own business, when I saw a largish something, crawling across the road. As we got closer, the kids realized it was a gigantic spider so they jumped off their bikes to take a closer look.

He was a really neat specimen of a spider, and being the homeschooling mother that I am, we got him into a bag someone had littered nearby and rode him home.

Then being the crazy homeschooling mother that I am, we got him a nice little habitat.

At first I thought he must have been a lost pet. After all, those giant things weren't indigenous to my area, were they? After some internet research I found out that yes, they are in my area, especially in the fall.

These spiders, especially the males, come out the last year of their lives to find a mate. The males develop a stirrup in their last year, which they use when they mate. Sadly, they then continue to wander around until the cold kills them. This big guy had the stirrups and was a wanderer so we had most likely saved him from a cold and lonely death.

After some more research we decided to keep him, and give him a name.

I don't remember who thought of it, but he was named Oreo.

We fed him crickets that I bought at the pets store. They needed their own little habitat and feed too, of course. Actually what you do with the crickets is called gut-loading. You feed the crickets good healthy vitamin squares, which the spider then eats, and then he gets the nutrients he needs, through the crickets.

I didn't get any pictures of the crickets, but they were a bit annoying. They weren't too loud but they were great escape artists and would always find ways to get out of their cage. A few times I would find one wandering around and would yell at the nearest child to get it back in.

Oreo was pretty big guy.

We fed him once a week or so, and got him out every now and then.

He was very mellow, and never moved very fast, except when he was chasing his cricket.

 The kids had a blast with him and liked holding him and letting him walk down their arms.

 As I researched more, I found that they are actually very harmless, and do all sorts of things before they bite.

First, they shoot off hairs from their abdomen. These are like little slivers. Once, near the end of his life we had a friend that was really trying to get him out to hold him, and Oreo, who wanted nothing of the sort, shot him with a few hairs.

If they are still threatened by you, they will come up on two legs to look as big as they can. Oreo never did this to us though.

Their third line of defense is the run and hide. And finally, if they feel completely trapped, they will bite. But their bite is no worse, or poisonous, than that of a bee sting.

The actual danger to having these guys as pets is that you will accidentally kill them. Tarantulas are extremely fragile and any fall would kill them. So we made sure that only people that were comfortable with spiders held him.

He was so big, that if you thought of him as a crab walking up your arm, it was mentally easier to hold him.

He was a fun little guy, who lived a happy life with us for over a year.

The last few months of his life, he started spewing out hairs any time we tried to get him out, and became quite moody - a crotchety old spider, I guess.

So that was our story of Oreo. If you live in Northern California, watch out - the fall is tarantula season.


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Friday, February 5, 2016

N is for Nothing in my Brain

Last week My Sweetie and I were away celebrating. This week has been a good one, but my brain is still on vacation.

Hence, this Nothing post, which is a collection of funny/thought provoking things I have seen recently on the internet.


This one is so, so true. We try to live very simply, and remind ourselves how much we really have.

That one was HILARIOUS.

Amen to this one.

I will be shamelessly honest, this is me.

And this is a great way to think of patience.

Have a great week!

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Monday, January 25, 2016

M is for Marriage

How fitting that M is this week.

Because this week, I am celebrating 20 years of marriage to My Sweetie.

So, my thoughts on marriage.

Years ago at a friend's wedding we were attending, the pastor said this simple, yet profound phrase to the happy couple.

"You have chosen your love, now love your choice."

This is so, so true. There is a shift at the time of marriage. You're no longer 'in the market', and you now focus your attention to your love. It is easy the first few years, but with time, don't let that focus shift. Children will come and grow up and move out, families will change, and even good friends will come and go. But most likely, this person that is your dearest will be with you for a very long time. They are probably the one person on this earth that will know you the deepest and longest.

So focus on the marriage relationship. Be thankful for the mate God has given you. Pray together, make your relationship fun, and realize that it is not all about you and your needs. On the contrary, marriage is about giving, not taking.

But all is not roses. There are bad days, days when I drive him nuts and when he is annoying the heck out of me. And then there are amazing days, when you can't even begin to imagine what life would be like without this person. Through the good and bad, the happiness and sorrow, we both need to stay grounded in Christ.

We are two imperfect people, that both need God's grace equally. And that is the crux of marriage; seeing the unmerited grace that God gives to us in redemption, and then letting that not just trickle into our relationship, but opening up and flooding our marriage with mercy and forgiveness.

Marriage is the best most wild and crazy ride of your life. It has made me grow, shaped me, and given me my bestest friend.

"...therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife. 
and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. 
What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."   
~Matt. 19:5-7

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

L is for Learning Still

The letter L makes me think of Learning.

Since I have already done a post on my kid's learning, I thought about what I do to keep my brain active.

Here is what I do, and plan to continue doing, to keep my mind thinking.

Sudoku/Kenken/Logic Grid Problems

Sudoku and Kenken are number puzzles. In Sudoku the numbers 1-9 cannot repeat in a line, column, or black box. In Kenken, each box has a mathematical symbol and a number the numbers in the box must equal that number when using the function listed.

Once you get the hang of solving them, these are lots of fun.

With logic grid problems, a number of categories are given to you, with a number of clues. You need to decide which item goes where in each category. A great online Logic Puzzle Site that I play is found here.


This is another way to keep your brain active. I don't do this as often as I would like, but I can always use another washcloth or scarf.


I try to read a wide variety of books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Some of my recent reads are:

  • The Wilderness Family by Kobie Kruger
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver
  • My Life in France by Julia Child
  • My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell
  • Dead Lucky by Lincoln Hall
  • The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlem
  • Mouse Tales by David Koenig


  • The Mysterious Island by Jules Verne
  • All Things Wise and Wonderful by James Herriot
  • O Pioneers! By Willa Cather
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre by B. Tavern


Seriously. Teaching my kids has really pushed the limits of my brain. Some of the things that I have taught that I felt I knew nothing about? Geology, Biology, Government/Economics, Algebra, and World History are just a few. I lesson plan a few weeks ahead, and really learn whatever I am teaching.

It is really important to keep your mind active, and to be diligent in doing brainy activities. Soon, those homeschooling years are going to come to a close, and I'll need to be even more diligent about exercising my brain.

Blogging Through the Alphabet” style=

Thursday, January 14, 2016

K is for Kale Bacon Salad

I really do try to cook seasonally. This means knowing what is in season in my area, and planning my meals accordingly.

We love to eat salads in our home, but right now, one head of lettuce is over $2, sometimes pushing $3. Just down the aisle from the lettuce though is a bunch a kale, usually around 89-99 cents a head.

So last year, I experimented and came up with this delicious kale salad.

Start with an onion.

Chop it up into wedges, and then thickly slice a zucchini in half moon slices.

Place on an oiled baking sheet, drizzle with oil and salt and pepper.

Bake at 425 until slightly softened.

Chop up some bacon.....

and saute in an iron skillet. SAVE the bacon fat.


When I prepare kale, I remove the center vein. It can get tough and chewy, and so I spereate each leaf and cut it out.

Chop the kale, and into a bowl it goes.

In goes the zucchini, onions, and bacon.

Next, I prepare one of my best cooking friends, garlic. This is for the dressing so I mince two or three cloves.

The first time I made this salad I felt it was missing something so the next time I got out the dried thyme to add to the dressing.

This is where things go fast. Warm up your saved bacon fat in the skillet.

When it begins to steam, I add the minced garlic.

That cooks for only about 30 seconds, and then I add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, pepper and my thyme.

Once it gets bubbly again I take it off the heat, and immediately pour it over the salad and toss completely. The warmth from the salad gets into the kale and it begins to soften a bit.

And that is it. This hearty, winter salad is a great way to get those greens in the winter months and is so yummy. After all, most anything is delish with bacon.

Kale Bacon Salad with Warm Dressing


1 onion, cut into wedges
1-2 zucchini, sliced
olive oil
pepper & salt
4 slices bacon, with bacon grease reserved
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. dried thyme
3-4 Tbs. vinegar


Place onion and zucchini on a greased pan and toss with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees then cool slightly. Meanwhile, chop kale and place in a large bowl. Chop bacon and fry in pan, reserving grease. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and add to kale along with roasted vegetables. Bring bacon grease to medium-high temperature. Add minced garlic and saute 30 seconds. All at once add thyme and vinegar. When heated to a bubble, pour over kale salad all at once and mix completely. Serve immediately.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Our Holidays ~ 2015 {Journal Entry}

We had a wonderful two weeks of vacation the last part of December.

I stayed off of Facebook, didn't check emails, didn't do any 4-H planning or homeschooling, and just spent time with the family.

It was wonderful.

Here is some of what we did.....

We are Star Wars nuts over here so that was definitely on the list of things to do. And we were not disappointed.

Annual Christmas Eve Appetizer Night. This year we did some fun things with shrimp and fried it two ways - tempura and coconut shrimp. Coconut Shrimp won by a long run.

Christmas Day is quiet for our family. We spent the morning and afternoon together, playing games and eating our ham dinner. About 4:00 though, the house filled up. Our friends, who have 12 children plus a daughter-in-law and grandchildren, came over for games and munchies.

 Our church has so many opportunities for fellowship. And each year, a family opens up their home at Christmas for an adult party. We eat delicious food and play a huge White Elephant game.

We slept in each morning I came down to find Nutsy and My Sweetie working on a latch hook project.

Each year I get a gift for our family. We don't make a big deal about gifts and each give small things to one another. This year, my gift was to replace our Dutch Blitz game and I even found an extension deck so that all six of us can play at once.

We headed to The City one day. We hit our favorite beach, Baker Beach, and love seeing that view. This year it was a bit chilly so we didn't stay too long.

Next stop is always Fisherman's Wharf. We get some chowder then head next door to Boudin for some authentic San Francisco sourdough bread.

This place always makes my mouth water, and the whole area is so beautiful at night.

We headed to the grandparents that night, where we played Up the River. Nutsy pulled all my old toys out, and created a Fisher-Price town.

The next morning we had a lovely breakfast and opened presents. It is such a joy to see my kids being in the home I grew up in, playing with my old toys, and visiting with the grandparents.

Next stop was the other side of the family where we met up at a Japanese restaurant.

When we are all together there are 18 of us. After lunch we went back to my sister and bro-in-laws house to hang out.

Here are all eleven grandchildren with Obachan (Japanese grandmother).

Me and my sister-in-laws.

Finally, we headed up to our friend's house for New Years' Eve. They had some baby goats that were so darling. The one Dasher is holding is probably going to be her county fair goat.

Happy New Year! I think I took this shot at around 12:30 am. We were still going strong, playing games and having a great time.

Games on New Year's Day too. Bookworm, her friend, and I were on a Skip Bo kick this year.

And another treat that day, the other family also visiting for New Years made some amazing Cioppino.

Finally, on the last night of our vacation we made hamburgers. With homemade french fries.  (Can you tell we like to eat?)

And that was our vacay. I am so thankful for these crazy people that I call my family.