Saturday, August 22, 2009

Enjoying Summer Fruits

"God blessed us with a good harvest this year." Miriam
"Do we have to have peaches in our lunch everyday?" Brahms
"We don't have to have tomatoes in every meal." Tim
"Let us leave some grapes for the birds." Brahms
"Zucchini again?" Miriam
"Peach pie for breakfast... I don't mind." Shannon

Most Available Items in our Summer Menu
Grilled zucchini
Steamed zucchini
Peaches and cream
Peach Cobbler
Peach Pie
Little peach Pies
Stir-fried zucchini
Peach and tomato salsa
Sliced Pears
Spinach Salad with Peaches
Grape Jelly
Peach Preserves
Peach Marmalade
Fresh Tomatoes
Grilled Peppers
Eggplant ( in Pinakbet)

We had a good crop of fruits and vegetables this year. The mild temperatures allowed the plants to photosynthesize longer resulting in bigger and sweeter fruits. This could also have resulted in lower insect population. The pears (Green Anjou) showed some codling moth (Cydia pomonella) infestation but compared to last year this is significantly less. The apple tree (Fuji) which was heavily pruned (for shape) last winter did not produce this year. Probably the lack of another host (apple fruits) reduced the population of codling moth. Codling moth is the worm in wormy apples or pears.
The plum tree (Santa Rosa) did not produce fruits this year due to weather problems. The tree was at the peak of flowering when the area had strong rains and winds in early spring. It is still being trained to grow away from our neighbor's yard just like the peach tree next to it that grows vigorously every year no matter how severely it is pruned. I'm positive that this tree will give us a good crop next year.
The peach tree (Orange Cling) was laden with fruits that it broke one of the large branches. We enjoyed eating a lot of peaches and were able to share with friends and neighbors. Miriam and I also brought some to the church office for whoever wanted them. At this time there are still some fruits that need to be harvested but now we can't keep up and I'm now tired of canning. The the pears are all ripening. The problem with pears is that very few people I know like them. In our family, only Miriam and I eat them.
We had four varieties of tomatoes this year: Pink Brandy Wine, Golden Jubilee and Early Girl. The fourth one was planted late and it is the Husky Cherry. Now that the other three are finishing their productive stage, this one is just beginning to produce.
Next to the tomatoes are zucchini plants (yellow and green). During the early stage, these plants produced a lot of huge leaves which was detrimental to production. Most of the starch and sugars produced by the plants were being funneled to the leaves. To solve the problem, I had to remove a number of the leaves in order for the plant to resume flowering. Since then and until now the plants continue to produce at a consistent rate. Four hills of zucchini is too much for a family of five. We tend to miss a lot of the fruits that before we find then they are already too old for eating. My friend, Sue, tells me that I should try stuffing them but I think that it is too inconvenient. So we just suffer with grilled, steamed or stir-fried zucchini.
We also have three grape plants (Pinot Noir) which were originally planted for shade. Now they produce substantial amount of fruits that last year I started to make grape jelly and grape molasses. I am planning to replace them with table grapes but there is a lot of resistance from the rest of the family. They've been blessed by the shade that these vines provided that they are reluctant to accept any idea that involves removing them. We'll see what I will do next.
All our plants are free from pesticides. Fertilizer was applied once during the entire season for the tomatoes and zucchini. Composted chicken manure and redwood compost are applied yearly in the garden as mulch or soil amendment. Produce from our backyard make great food!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Everyone's in School Now

It's the third week of August and my three children are in school. So I will write down my observations at this stage. We now are dealing with only two schools unlike last year when each kid went to a different school. Morning schedule is simpler, and now it's easier to keep track of everyone's arrival time. This makes it more convenient to plan for after-school activities such as going out to see movies, eat, and the not so fun things like going to the doctor, orthodontist or dentist, etc.

Shannon and Brahms are a lot happier being together and in the same school. They talk about what each other is doing in school and they help each other. They, including Miriam, now do their homework together which means that none of them get to do the "down-load-talk" to the one who is struggling to get some homework done. When someone is stressing to solve a problem and the other is dying to let out some stuff from the head, it is a tricky situation. With the current schedule, that is not the problem anymore. The new challenge is for them is to figure out who should talk first when all the homework is done. Sometimes I act like a referee saying, "She's still talking", "Let him finish his sentence!" "Wait for your turn!", "Miriam's talking to you!" I guess I still have to continue with that job.

Last year the choice of music that is played in the house was a great cause of distress. People complained about each other's choice of music. Yes, each person has an Ipod and could listen to their own playlist without affecting others. However, there are two rules that would prevent this from happening: 1) No headphones are allowed when you are with the family; 2) Retire to your bedroom ONLY when you are going to nap or sleep. As a result we all have to listen from a common CD player and thus the problem. Well, we sucessfully solved that problem by assigning days to each family member when they can use their own playlist (music selection) for everyone to listen to. Each kid gets two days per week while Tim and I combined get one day. That's alright for Tim because all the CDs in our library are all approved by him. I, on the other hand, have to suffer a lot because my exposure to various music genre is very limited (by choice) :) This arrangement is one home improvement at the Lewis House.

Miriam is in Mr. N's (Nordquist) class. It's a 4th and 5th grade combined. Being with a lot of older kids (plus her genes) Miriam is the smallest student in the room. She may be short but she's smart and an independent worker. She can be a friend to anyboby. Sometime I look at her and hope that she could maintain that innocence, abundance of forgiveness and lack of malice in her dealings with others. But then she'll grow up and have to learn to evaluate the people around her and expect them to conform to some guidelines. Yes, expectation is often the root cause for a lot of relational complications. The bible says that "unless you change and become like little children , you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." Matt. 18:3 Anyway, Miriam is happy in her new classroom and new teacher. She's very excited!

Another observation worth mentioning here is that Brahms has been helping more in the kitchen. I thought that he probably has more time now since he spends less time in the school bus, but he thinks that he manages his time better now. He gets to learn how to cook beyond rice and boiled eggs and makes my life easier. That's a good thing!

Preparing a weekly menu has helped us in the past years of school. Menus served as my shopping guide. It has also allowed Tim to help me better. On regular days (when he's not traveling) he would make breakfast while I prepare lunches to go. We are on our second week of school and I have not yet written a menu. So I'd better stop blogging and make one now.

Friday, August 14, 2009

A Special Day

Birthdays are milestones. They are reference points in our lives that indicate how far we have gone. They function as markers that help us recount the blessings enjoyed and trials we've mastered.

Tomorrow is Mom's (Marilyn) birthday. Eighteen years ago she became a part of who I am. It was around that time when I asked her if I could call her "Mom". She graciously granted me the choice to do so. Although I was aware of the narrow difference between her age and mine, the respect that I have for her prevented me from addressing her in any other way. From that day on and until I die, that will be the way I address her and cherish the acceptance that she had shown me.

Mom, Happy birthday! Hope to see you again soon.


I can remember when I was in high school, Mom would say: “We don’t need to write down the rules, you already know the rules.” How that rankled then, but then, more and more, I have come to appreciate how true it was that common sense, responsibility and compassion were just expected of us into us from a young age. High expectations are part of the heritage that I pass down from Mom to my own kids. No excuses!

Happy Birthday Mom


I feel that I am too young because everyone talks about the days before I was born. Sometimes I feel like I know nothing that my siblings talk about. Although when it comes to my grandma Marilyn, I have my own special memories of her.
I remember when I asked if I could have a dollhouse. I was very patient. Then our family went to their house. I was so exited. We were out on the garden when Grandpa and Grandma told me to come with them into the shop. There I saw a dollhouse with all the little details. I was so happy! I never imagined it to be so good. I know that she loves me because she gave me her own dollhouse.

Happy Birthday, Grandma :)


I remember when I was just a small kid, when I got to go to Grandma Marilyn's house, where my older sister and I would run around the huge garden and search for frogs. Grandma would always come along with us and show us the best places to find them. We would look in the compost pile, near the water wheel, and in the bushes that she just watered, but what I remember the most is that whenever we found another frog, she would not say "Let it go." or "That's enough frogs." She would say, "I'd better get another jar." She would just let us have fun and tell us to keep finding more until we found the largest frog in the garden. Grandma would just keep going in and out to get more and more jars until we had half a dozen jars lined up on the porch, filled with frogs, but frogs were not all that filled the jars. Love also filled those jars. Grandma had spent her time and given her love to us through those jars. That is the type of person I want to be when I have grandkids.

Thank you for your giving me love, fun, and frogs.

Happy Birthday Grandma!


Whenever we go to Grandma's house, there's always something new and special she shows us. Sometimes it's a new collection of cool rocks, a giant toad that moved into the garden, or a batch of brownies right out of the oven. Right now, I wish I could send her something special or say something special that would express my gratitude and thankfulness that I have Grandma as a part of my family. I'm not much for profound statements or choosing amazing gifts, but I'll give it a try.

Happy birthday Grandma!

Thanks for being an amazing person and grandmother to me!

Have lots of cake and ice cream.

Love you!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

Summer 2009

This summer passed like a swift wind. There was hardly any time to savor the warmth of the sun, facetiously speaking. Could it be that the unusually mild temperatures made summer seems as though it lasted only for two weeks? Could it be that there was so much work to get done that the ticking of time was not accurately accounted for? Could it also be that the mind was so focused on thought and sights that were intriguing and thrilling that the mundane, such as keeping track of time was ignored by default?

“Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity.” Henry Van Dyke

Shannon and Brahms, who are now both in high school, will be starting school tomorrow. I therefore assume that summer is technically over. Miriam, being in a different school district, has to wait for another week before she goes to school. She intends to sympathize with her siblings by getting up early and working on her activity book (Math, English, Science) as part of her everyday activities. After a fun time of traveling as a family, Tim is now scheduled to travel to Asia. Summer is really over.

For the sake of accounting and preparing myself to shift to normal everyday, I'm going to list the things that we did this summer.
Shonto Mission Trip Tim, Brahms and Shannon left to go to Shonto, Arizona, a community of Navajo Indians. There they helped build different houses or parts of houses by pouring cement, painting, roofing, framing, etc. They worked hard, Tim arrived limping for another week, but they came home refreshed.
Blitz and Crocodile Dock What could be better than attending VBS? (Answer: Attending two VBSs in one summer) Miriam participated in Blitz at Lakeside Church and Crocodile Dock at Cornerstone Christian Church. One of them coincided with the time when the rest of the family were in Arizona. This helped me in trying to keep her occupied while her siblings were not available to do the job. A great way to keep her thinking of spiritual things.

Cousins' Visit A highlight of this summer was a visit from the other Lewis family (DJ, Julianna, Saskia, and Dave). We don't seem to have the gift of choosing a good place to show our visitors but they are always a pleasure to have and to hang out with. They marked this years' visit by presenting us with a Jelly Belly Dispensing Machine. We are enjoying this equipment in regulating our sugar consumption. My father-in-law, AKA Grandpa George, also came during this time of mini reunion. He showed us pictures from their most recent trip to Israel. We missed Barbara but we saw her pictures wading in the Dead Sea. We also got to enjoy the black cherries and flowers that she sent.

Visitor from Africa Brenda Allen, our missionary friend, gave us a short visit. She's lives and works among the Maninka people in Guinea (Africa). She has a very interesting ministry there as a nurse and Mariamo (woman of God).

Canada We headed to Canada both for adventure and meeting friends and family. We enjoyed seeing Niagara Falls, great lakes that are the size of oceans, and the city of Toronto and London. It was fun staying at 33 Harbour Front. Then, after nineteen years, I visited my relatives in Toronto. It was good to eat a lot of Filipino foods but most of all it was good to see my brother and sister and their families again. We all have grown older but there are things that remained the same. This is comforting and scary at the same time. We brought two kinds of presents for them: Blue Diamond Almonds and NIV Bibles.

Aside from relatives, we also got to meet some of my old friends. Soni, who is now married to Cris, had us over at their new condominium space. It is in a new building, they are among the first few occupants. Cris cooked a great dinner for us and our favorites were the cassava cake, tropical fruit salad and the special cupcakes. Soni also joined is when we went to Alliston.

It was great to see Peter VanderZaag again. If ever considered one as my spiritual mentor, it was Peter. However, we've lost communication since my family moved from Fremont to El Dorado Hills. This was the first time that Tim really had the chance to sit and talk with him. The last opportunity would have been on the day that we got married but he was too occupied with the details of the wedding. Our visit with him (Carla, his wife, was in Nashville at the time) and Ruth VanderZaag (daughter) was inspiring and educational. I've always considered Peter and Carla as godly people. For one thing, Peter was the one who led me to meeting my Savior. He mentored me in my younger days as a Christian. Tim and I both are really happy to have seen them again.
Miriam Turned Nine We made it home for Miriam's birthday! This is the first time in three years that Miriam woke up at home on her birthday. All she wanted was a nice dinner with the family. Later on we invited the Lippuners for more celebration.

Leadership Summit Tim had a blast attending the the Leadership Summit by Willow Creek. He admits that this is probably the best conference that he has ever attended in a long long time. After the conference was over his brain was over-flowing with new thoughts that he would talk about it whenever he is not working until we are already in bed. It was my suggestion that he consolidates his thoughts into different versions depending on the amount of time available for someone to hear him. One-minute, 15-minutes, 30-minutes, or one-hour version. I think I'm getting the 5-day echo seminar!

Child Evangelism Fellowship Training Brahms and Shannon attended this training right before school started. It seems appropriate for them because they are regular helpers in the children's ministry as well as AWANA. They enjoyed and learned so much from it.

Civilization IV Our family enjoys playing hot seat Civilization. In this game each player heads a civilization. The game starts in 4000BC with each player getting one settler and a warrior. It usually end in 2050 AD or when a player is elected in the UN as the world dominator or when a player finishes building the Alpha Centauri. We've played many games of CIV as a family. We do this whenever we are not doing anything. This summer we started a new game and it's a lot of fun! Right now, as always, I'm in the lead! Shannon is trying to catch up and she's still trying! Brahms and Miriam are at war with the Aztecs. Tim and I just traded world maps.

This is summer 2009 in a nutshell.