Road Trip!

We just got home from a family road trip where we drove this many miles:


The kids were rock stars. I mean…rock solid rock stars. We drove in 12 hour increments and they stood it. No tears, no whining, no fights.

Before you think we are raising angels, please. We have a 3rd row seat. Separation is the key to happiness, folks.

We stopped first in Temecula, near where we used to live. JFK Amy met us there with her family and pizza. We stayed at a SpringHill Suites and I have to give them huge props here because when Gabriel hurled his dinner and half the pool water all over our room at 11 pm, they very quickly moved us to a new room. File it away, Mama Network, it’s always good to know the hotel chains that can handle a family of five and a puking child without breaking a sweat.

The next day we hit the mall in Temecula, because Disney Store. And Williams-Sonoma. Then we went to Front Street in Old Town for dinner. We love Old Town Temecula and if you are ever in the area, it’s worth a visit. Craft breweries, antique stores and restaurants with locally sourced food and wine.

We made a point to stop by the old house and dig up the St. Joseph statue that helped us sell it. Then we had dinner with our old neighbors and the kids got to play with their friends. It was pretty awesome. And weird to see our house that’s not our house anymore.

Our time at Grandma’s and Papa’s can be summed up in one word: Water.

My parent’s pool is probably 40 years old. They don’t make them like that anymore. It’s huge and it’s deep, almost ten feet under where the diving board used to be.


The kids were in it early and late and they got to do that most magnificent summertime So Cal thing—come home hot and sandy from the beach and jump in the cool pool to wash it all off.

We also hit the Long Beach Aquarium, which is such a great deal.

Shea took this picture with his cell phone!

Shea took this picture of a bioluminescent jellyfish with his cell phone!

On Sunday we had a big ol’ pool party. There are 7 August birthdays in our immediate and near family, from my niece turning 4 to my mom turning 69. There was cake. There was sangria. There was pulled pork.

And in the middle of it all, there was an army of preschool girls, long hair curly and straight, marching around my parent’s home with dollies under their arms. They were led by Faith, and she knows her way around Grammy’s, from the paints and crayons in the play room to the big bag of Otter Pops in the freezer in the garage.

They got what they wanted because they only asked the daddies. And if that didn’t work, they asked the Papa, who these days only loosely resembles the man I called “Dad”. I actually saw him stand and wait patiently while they each chose the perfect pop.

I felt better after he told the two oldest boys “Take what I give you and be happy!”


When I see this picture, I can’t really blame him. But dear God, the men in this extended family of ours have to gather their wits about them before these ladies are teenagers or we are all in trouble. Do you hear me? TROUBLE.

Annie is not here because one of the themes of our trip was puking and it was her turn.

We drove off the driveway at 9 am and after stopping to meet my friend Jo and her kids—who were driving home from Oregon while we were driving home to Oregon—we pulled into our driveway at 10:30 pm.

At 2 am, Kate hurled all over her bed and needed a shower, completing the puke trifecta. It was ok though because I got to wash her hair, something that hadn’t happened in a week. “But mom,” she told me, “it wasn’t like I didn’t have a pool bath every single day.”

My wise girl. It’s true that in summer, soap and chlorine are interchangeable.

We have four weeks til school, but many of you are sending your chickens back to school in the next ten days.

I have one thing to say about that: YOU MADE IT.







Summer Boom

Back in California, we had summer thunderstorms.

But nothin’ like what happened on Tuesday.

If we lived somewhere flat, I’d have been huddling in the cellar. Because there is no that the sky can be these colors without mayhem following.

This was the beginning...

This was the beginning…

Sustained wind at 40 mph? Blowing all the newly mown field grass and dirt up the street?

Up to 100 lightning strikes per hour?

An inch of rain in an hour?

“Hasn’t been like this since I was a girl” said my neighbor who has lived here her entire life. “Did you bring it with you?”

The rainbow came in the middle

The double rainbow came in the middle

And my husband, standing outside with the camera. No matter our cell phones were blaring warnings to stay inside, downstairs and away from windows.

The dogs were not impressed. Sugar retreated to my closet and stayed there til morning. Lizzie, who is too stubborn to follow Sugar’s example on principle, had to get the fur scared off her on the balcony by a huge boom of thunder.

It was a fine and awe-inspiring display of the majesty of the heavens. Take a look. These pictures are basically the same view over the course of an hour.




Summer Spaghetti Salad ~ Dana

What a weird summer we are having, right? I talked to Aunt Candy who lives in Ohio this morning, and she said that it has been in the 50s at night, and the mornings smell like fall. And here in Southern California, it’s 4:00 in the afternoon and my air conditioner hasn’t kicked on all day. I don’t know if you know what that means… but mid-July and no air conditioner might just mean the second coming. Of course, the two summers that I was pregnant, mid-July brought temps of 105 and higher. Of course.

But summer, hot or cold, means family get-togethers and days at the beach. And in my family, a get-together is incomplete without this lovely spaghetti salad. It has been that way since the beginning of time, and it is something that I will pass on for generations to come. Seems a bit dramatic for pasta salad? Well. You haven’t tasted this one.

It’s a great way to use up the bounty of produce from the garden, if you have one. I’m in the beginning stages of revamping mine. I need all new planter boxes and a new watering system. But I digress. The original recipe calls for spaghetti, but a few years ago, my cousin Dawn Marie mixed it up by using Rotini… easier for the little kids to eat, and the seasoning blend gets lusciously trapped in the curves. I’m in.

So here you go. My mom’s Aunt Arleen introduced it to the family, somewhere in the 1950s, I’m sure. Be sure and mix it up the night before to allow the seasonings to really sink into the pasta. Enjoy your summer!


My bebes. Image by Cean One Studios, San Diego, CA

Spaghetti Salad

1 lb spaghetti (or any shape of pasta, really)
1 bottle Shilling Salad Supreme (found in the spice aisle)
¼ cup red wine vinegar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 red onion
1 medium to large cucumber
2 tomatoes
2 green bell peppers (you could probably switch out pepper colors, too, but there’s already a lot of red and orange, so I like the contrast of the green here)

Cook pasta, drain and cool. Add vinegar and oil. Add Salad Supreme and stir in. Add remaining ingredients. Toss and let stand all night, to let the seasonings melt into the liquid. Salt and pepper to taste before serving.


I hate the summers Inland California. Hate is a strong word, I know, but I mean it with every fiber of my being. Sometime in early June, the thermometer hits 97 and it doesn’t dip below that number for the next four months. In other places, summer lasts 75-90 days. Here: 120.

Our summer is like winter in Wisconsin or Maine. The kids cannot go outside for days at a time. We usually have at least one round of over 100 degree temps that lasts for more than 14 days. California homes are not built for this. We have no basements and I was dumb enough to make Shea buy the house without a loft. “Why on earth would we need that open empty space?” I asked him.

Short. Sighted.

Don’t even get me started on the Edison bill. Tier 5? Tier 5 is a common occurrence during July and August. At dusk, when it’s cooled down to 90 and we turn the kids loose in the streets, the moms huddle up and compare bills. We have a house fan, which helps us keep our July and August bills under $400. My neighbors either pay upwards of $600 a month or set the thermostat at 82.

The winters usually calm me down, with a few weeks of frosty, heater required weather in December and January. Not this year. This year it never got cold. Which I think explains why, for the first time since we moved here, we are seeing mosquitos and fleas. And ants. The ants are everywhere, assaulting us from the front door and the garage and up from the slab through the middle of the house and back down the staircase.


It was 89 degrees on Halloween, 85 degrees on Thanksgiving and 80 degrees on Christmas. We got a grand total of 4.9 inches of rain. Our average is 7.6 inches. We haven’t hit the average since 2010.

It’s enough to make me want to throw my shoe at any fool who still insists that climate change is a liberal media myth.

Did I mention that I hate to be hot? More than anything? It’s why we got married at the end of November. It’s why we’re moving to Oregon. I picked the town based on the average high temps in July (89) and December (45). That’s blissful compared to the average temps here in July (100, with some days at the end of the month averaging 103) and December (69).

We’re going up there next week to look for a house. Of course, they’re having a heat wave and the temps are going to be in the 100s all week.


To fend off Summer Seasonal Affective Disorder, I count it down.

From July 1 to October 1 is the 90 days of summer, of which we have 79 left.

School starts in 38 days.

Halloween is in 111 days.

Our projected moving date is in 119 days.

Thanksgiving—which this year falls on our tenth wedding anniversary—is in 138 days.

And attention shoppers, there are only 166 days left until Christmas.

Yeah, I went there.

I’m telling you, it’s the only way to stay sane when it’s 103 at noon.




















Celebrating Midsummer ~ Dana

Here in the United States, most of us only know about Midsummer from the Shakespearean play, Midsummer Night’s Dream, but Midsummer isn’t a holiday that is celebrated by the general population. Midsummer is another name for the Summer Solstice, which is the longest day and shortest night, of the calendar year, which takes place on June 21st. Flowers and fruits are in full bloom, the earth is warm, and there is a lot of fun just waiting to be had.


Summer, in full bloom!


In our modern lives, when we can have as much light as we want for as long as we want it, thanks to electricity, we have lost a bit of the “magic” that this night held for our ancestors. Imagine how glorious the longest day of the year would be if all winter, we had darkness, real darkness, around 4:00pm. No street lights, no reading lights, limited candle light… we certainly would celebrate the return of the sun into our lives, wouldn’t we!

Traditionally, all throughout Europe, Midsummer was celebrated by lighting bonfires, which represented the burning sun. Festivals included singing, dancing around a maypole, flower wreaths in girls’ hair, and bountiful feasts of the summer harvest. It was also a time for love and romance, as the month of June is named after Juno, the Roman goddess of love. In England, as evidenced in Midsummer Night’s Dream, fairies might be sighted in the magical moonlight, wreaking havoc in the love lives of mere mortals. And in Sweden, where Midsummer is still a national holiday, young women are supposed to place seven different wildflowers under their pillows. At night, their future husbands will appear to them in a dream.

So how can we celebrate this lovely time today? The best way to honor the longest day of sunshine is to get out and enjoy it!! How about a nice long day at the beach, followed up by a (legal) bonfire as the sun dips below the water? Or a pool party with a fire pit? Or picnicking in a park, picking wildflowers? Working in your garden? Attending a June wedding? Midsummer is our first day of summer, so spend the day doing whatever summer means to you! We will be enjoying the Lavender Festival at the Highland Springs Resort, a local organic farm. Then we’ll head over to my mom’s house for swimming and a bar-be-que, complete with watermelon and homemade ice cream. When I get home, I will probably light a candle rather than a bonfire to celebrate the glory of the sun, but I know that we will be kicking off a summer full of long days running in the sprinklers, trips to the beach, and sun-kissed skin as we trundle off to bed.