May 26, 2009

Cupcake Bites on Parade!

Look what invaded my home yesterday:

Cupcake bites!! And truffles, too!

Help! Help! They're everywhere! I can't resist! Somebody throw me a rope!

It's all Bakerella's fault. I saw her recipe and pictures for these adorable cupcake bites and just had to try them. Whew! They took a lot longer to make than I thought. A lot of labor for a lot of cuteness. One red velvet cake made almost seventy! I was melting chocolate and adding sprinkles well into last night. So what am I going to do with them all? Give them away, of course!

With the last twenty red velvet balls, I decided to make truffles by just dipping them in melted dark chocolate. Mmmmmm! *lips smack and drool ensues*

Oh my. I'm in deep. Way deep. Send in a lifeguard. I'm drowning! :)

May 19, 2009

Mojave Pictorial

And now for your bloggy pleasure, the Mojave Desert in pictorial presentation:

These are Joshua trees. They were named by Mormon settlers in the 1800s because they thought the trees looked like Joshua praying to God with his arms outstreached on the day the sun stood still.

I know. I don't see the resemblence, either. But the name stuck.

Joshuas aren't true trees, however, and grow long, sharp spikes instead of leaves. They are only found in the deserts of the southwest United States, and take a looooong time to grow. In fact, it is illegal to chop one down without a permit.

Here's my dad's house. This is the courtyard in the front.

See? They even have their name above the front door!
(Yes, Ballew was my maiden name)

And here are the crazy people who live here:

And now for something completely new: I've decided to play around with collages on Blogger. Let's see how it goes.

Anne's petunias were blooming profusely in the courtyard. So
was the jasmine.

This is perhaps my favorite picture from the weekend. He looks so grown-up!

Caleb loved the courtyard. LOVED it. And so did I. The whole fenced-in feature was the selling point for me. On Saturday, Anne blew up a little pool for him to play in.

Not sure what he's doing here, but it's cute. :)

Course, there were other things about Dad's house that Caleb loved. The dog door, for example.

And watching TV in our bedroom . . .

. . . and Toby. They were best buds from the start.

More crazy people. See the family resemblence?

I wasn't lying when I said the hills are brown.

Looking out from Hwy. 62 towards the "Low Desert." Hundreds, if not thousands, of windmills line the landscape.

Also from Hwy. 62. A view of San Jacinto. (Please don't ask me how I got these pictures).

Well there you have it, friends. My weekend in pictures. Sorry this ended up being so long! I didn't realize I had so many pics to share! Hope you're having a good Wednesday.

May 17, 2009

Road Trip to the Mojave

162 miles. 3 hours. 1 sleepy son.

A drive I haven't made in eight months.

I traveled to Yucca Valley this weekend, the town where I grew up and lived for 18 years before moving to San Diego and becoming a city girl. My dad still lives in the house where I was raised. When I visit, I sleep in my old bedroom. It may be the Middle of Nowhere, USA, but the desert will always be treated as an old and cherished friend. Take the drive with me, and follow along as I get reacquainted with my old home.

8:11 pm
I left La Mesa later than I wanted to. Que sera sera. As I cruise down the 8, I watch the marine layer rolling in from the coast. The sky behind the clouds isn't completely dark yet; a little light remains. The wet air from the ocean drifts into my A/C; it leaves a moist, exhaust-fumed city smell behind.

8:39 pm
We're headed north on the 15. San Diego is behind us, and we speed past all the towns and cities that make up North County: Miramar, Rancho Bernardo, Escondido, Fallbrook. Caleb and I listen to Baby Einstein's Traveling Melodies. It is quite possibly one of his favoritist CDs, and I hope that the soft classical music will put him to sleep.

9:04 pm
I crest the hill leading down into Temecula and pass my second police car of the evening. I remind myself it's a Friday night. The cop is pulled over to the side of the road behind an unfortunate SUV. I check my speedometer out of habit.

9:11 pm
We exit the freeway onto Winchester Rd. which takes us through the heart of Temecula. We pass restaurants of all kinds, along with the Promenade Mall where Star Trek and Angels and Demons are playing. We've entered what I call The Gauntlet; for the next fifty miles or so, Caleb and I will leave the busy freeways behind and travel on surface streets and back roads in a roughly northeast direction. I call this stretch The Gauntlet because of all the traffic lights that have been put in over the years. These roads used to be traffic-light-free, but not anymore. Caleb isn't asleep yet, and he won't be any time soon. The constant stops and starts will keep him wide awake. But since he's being quiet back there, I don't really mind.

9:18 pm
Winchester Rd. takes us out of Temecula and I notice a slight change in the air coming through my vents. It's still humid, but it's lost the city smell. I sniff long and hard. More of an earthy dampness, I'd say. No sea air, no man-made humidity from golf courses and landscaping. I love it.

9:25 pm
I turn right on Domenigoni Pkwy. You know, I've never been able to pronounce that name. Neither has Jason. And we've probably made this trip a million and one times.

9:29 pm
I make a left on Warren Rd. This is the longest of the back roads we will drive down tonight. We've left the city far behind; no street lights to give guidance or reassurance. We pass only the occasional house or gas station. But oncoming traffic on our two lane road keeps us company. It's southern California, after all. Even in the middle of nowhere, it's impossible to be alone.

9:40 pm
Still on Warren. A change in the air alerts me that we are passing the dairy farms. I can smell the manure. In daylight, you can see hundreds of cows chewing the cud around feeding troughs on both sides of the road. But tonight, we just get to smell the after effects of their meal. Welcome to Hemet.

9:46 pm
I turn right on Ramona Expy and check my rear view mirror. Guess who's still not sleeping?

9:53 pm
Left on Sanderson, and I lose cell phone reception. The road takes us through the foothills of the San Jacinto mountains. Here, it is truly dark. No lights on the hills, no lights near the road. Even the oncoming traffic has dwindled down. The speed limit sign says 60 mph, but I drive the twisty road slower than that. I'm not interested in setting a speed record tonight; I'm not anxious to meet the concrete guard rail, either. I move into the slow lane and allow more intrepid autoists to go around me.

10:02 pm
I should be on the 10 by now. But the Beaumont City police have set up a DUI checkpoint right before the freeway entrance. Did I mention it's a Friday night? In southern California? I wait my turn behind a ginormous brown van, driver's license in hand. No Officer, I haven't been drinking. Yes, my registration is current. Yes, I'm opening my door because my window is broken and won't roll down.

10:09 pm
Yes! Interstate 10 at last! The Gaunlet is over; now we're in the home stretch! The speedometer reads a comfortable 75 mph as we zip past Beaumont, Banning, and the gigantic outlet mall, Cabazon. The air dries out rapidly now and the temperature begins to rise. We pass the Morongo Casino, built on Indian land. The flashing neon lights illuminate the sky for miles around: bright pinks and greens and golds. They stand in stark contrast to the utter darkness on the other side of the freeway where the San Jacinto mountains march eastward. Nothing lives on the north facing slopes, except for the stray Tamarisk tree. They are barren and brown by day and a black void by night. The highest peak reaches 10,000 feet into the sky, blotting out the stars on my right-hand side as I drive.

10:15 pm
If I follow the 10 much further, I'll end up in Palm Springs, or what we call the "low desert." But instead of heading towards the golf courses and country clubs, I exit onto Hwy. 62 and turn north. Yucca Valley is considered the "high desert" around these parts and for good reason. Palm Springs lies virtually at sea level and temperatures regularly reach 110+ in the summer. Yucca sits at around 3,000 ft. of elevation, and my dad's house, built on the mesa above the valley, sits at 3,400. Temperatures are cooler here, although "cool" is a relative term in the desert.

10:20 pm
Checking the rear view mirror again, I notice that somewhere between the Beaumont DUI checkpoint and Hwy. 62, my son fell asleep.

10:29 pm
Driving through Morongo Valley, a blink-and-you-miss-it town with exactly one stop light, a new scent invades the car: creosote. These desert bushes are more pungent at night, though I don't know why. They have tiny yellow flowers that turn into little white puff balls after pollination. And I have loved their smell ever since I was a little girl. They smell like rain, fresh cool rain on a hot day. Mmmmmm. I smell creosote and I'm a desert girl once more.

10:38 pm
We're officially in Yucca Valley! Population: 25,000. The town is well-lit but quiet. Nearly everything is closed at this late hour, but I don't mind. I could tell you stories about every fast food joint, every side street, almost every business. Hwy. 62 is called 29 Palms Hwy. as it traverses Yucca. But to me, it's Memory Lane.

10:45 pm
So close. Up Old Woman Springs Rd. to the mesa, down Buena Vista, a left on Avalon, another on Pimlico, a right on Hilton, and one last left on Belmont. I haven't passed many cars since leaving the town. Most of the mesa is undeveloped and after the close confines of San Diego, I'm loving the feel of wide open space. The lights from my childhood home wink in the darkness, welcoming me back. Dad and Anne are up, waiting for us. As soon as I pull up and turn off the car, Caleb wakes up.

We're here, I tell him.

Stepping out of the car, I inhale deeply. The air is cool, dry, pure. Desert-y. Home-y. And I've missed it.

(Pictures coming soon!!)

May 12, 2009

Happy (belated) Mother's Day!

I'm justifying my late mother's day post by citing the fact that when you have children, every day is mother's day. Who really cares if it's May 10 or May 12? You're still Mom. Right? Can I get an Amen, preach it sista! ??


I will also blame my tardiness on the fact we had company this weekend. Not of the Mom variety. More of the best friend variety. Jason's best friend, to be exact. Kevin came down Thursday night and stayed with us through Sunday. I saw a lot of this over the weekend:

And a little of this, too:

Jay and Kevin spent most of the weekend waging war and shooting Bad Guys on their respective PCs. A few times, my computer (the middle one in the top picture) was comandeered for Caleb's use. Kevin watched "Robots" with him on Friday. Caleb L O V E S his uncle Kevin. :) They speak the same language. They even have their own special morning routine when Kevin comes to stay. It involves wet bears and bananas. I think I'll stop there.

But on Saturday, we three adults got down and geeky and went to see Star Trek at a local Imax theater. :D I was very impressed. I had my misgivings beforehand (like when Star Wars decided to "go back in time" and tell Anakin's story? *shudder*). But this movie was incredibly well done. If you like Star Trek, see it.

On actual Mother's Day, Mom and Harry, me and Caleb went to church while the guys stayed home and cleaned my kitchen!!! :) They did a phenomanal job; I felt so blessed. There's just something about a clean kitchen that brings joy to my heart (and makes me want to bake and get it all dirty again!).

After lunch, Mom and I went for a hike. A little untraditional, I know, but we enjoyed ourselves. Beautiful weather, gorgeous hills and river and trees in a quiet wilderness. A little sweat and a few bugs. Some mother-daughter bonding time. Priceless. :)

Remember those green hills I showed you a few months ago? Where Caleb and I cavorted and fuzzy caterpillars hatched? Sadly, they look more like ripe wheat fields these days. A lovely golden hue that would be more appropriate in the fall than the spring. See?

The weather continues to be beautiful and spring-like, but I think we've seen our last rain until November. Somewhere around the end of this month, the land will take a deep breath and prepare for the oppressive summer heat. We will sit in air-conditioned shelter and pray autumn comes early. And for no visiting wildfires.

Ahhh. Life in southern California. Gotta love it. :)

Well, I believe I shall end this post the same way I began it: with mothers on the mind. Here's a few Mom quotes I hope will make you laugh!

"It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge." ~ Phyllis Diller

"All women become like their mothers. That is their tragedy. No man does. That's his." ~ Oscar Wilde

"People who say they sleep like a baby usually don't have one." ~ Leo J. Burke

"You will always be your child's favorite toy." ~ Vicki Lansky

May 8, 2009

A song for these troubled times

Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God.

Lord, I really need to know someone is listening to me today.

Give me relief from my distress; be merciful to me and hear my prayer.

Are you listening? I think you might be the only one who can help me.

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?

Many are distraught in our world today, Lord. Many lie to themselves because truth is so hard to face. I am one such person. Help me be courageous.

Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord will hear when I call to him.

This is the truth I stand upon. It will not fail me.

In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.

How many are angry these days! How many are stressed and anxious and un-silent! The world clamors in its misery, but the Lord asks me to be still and quiet before Him.

Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord.

Look, Church, the Bride of Christ! Your Groom does not want your money or your time. He wants your heart.

Many are asking, 'Who can show us any good?' Let the light of your face shine upon us, O Lord.

We know there are none good, except God. May we not be led astray. Help me not give in to despair.

You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound.

Real life, vivid, alive, and exuberant life, has nothing to do with a failing economy or tight purse strings. The joy in my heart is a choice that I make. Day by day. Moment by moment.

I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

A promise I will claim, every time I am worried, stressed, or anxious. The Lord is my security, before all else.

~~ Psalm 4, a psalm of David

May 7, 2009

Would someone send out for lobster and cheesecake? Pretty please??

Yeah, I know. I stole the title from my facebook status. I hope you'll forgive me. Stealing titles from myself . . . sheesh. How low can a girl go?

Actually, we're in a self-imposed quarentine. Guess who brought this on? He's about 3 foot 2 inches and weighs approximately 38 lbs. Oh, and he's blonde. With red spots. A really cutie. His smile would melt a Marxist dictator's heart.

Unfortunately, his smile wasn't enough to keep the spots away. (Apparently, the spots have never heard of a Marxist dictator.) We're mostly certain Caleb has chicken pox. Not that you'd ever guess it from the way he keeps stampeding around the house, accosting toilet paper and any other paper products he can get his hands on.

Still, the spots remain. Small, red, insistent. And itchy. Demanding to be noticed.

So visitors, ye be warned! A pox upon us! Stay away! Run awaaaaaay!
(unless of course, your name is Kevin and you are Jason's best friend; in that case, you've been cleared for our quarentine). ;)

Sooooooo, anyone want to order take out food for us and leave it down the block? :)

May 4, 2009

The Cupcake Book Strikes Again!

My friend Dawn and I made these Saturday:

They are cupcake goldfish bowls and we made them for her little girl's 2nd birthday party. Elmo's red furry face themed the party, and these were supposed to represent Dorothy, Elmo's pet fish. Amazing the things you learn as a parent, huh? Anyway, the party was a success and everyone loved the fishies!! :)

Stay tuned for more cupcake drama coming your way! Tonight, fearless Baker Nicole will brave the unknown as she unleashes junior highers on vanilla cupcakes and Oreos!

May 3, 2009

Where I've Been and *gulp!* Where I'm Going

What do you do when God asks you for something you aren't willing to give?

Well, you cry a little, rage a little, yell and kick and scream a little. Cry a little more. You ask God "Why?" You angrily refuse to listen to His gentle voice, even as He tries to quiet your fears and explain His motives. In a moment of confused desperation, you might even threaten to sever your ties with Him completely.

But then . . . after the tears dry and the anger subsides, you give Him what He wants. Because He's God. Because without Him, you really have nothing. Because if you can't trust your Creator, you can't trust anyone. And that's where I'm at now.

I'm looking for work again. Not part-time work (unless it pays enough), but full-time. Jason has had no luck with jobs so far, and me being employed is an option we need to consider. If I find work, Jason will stay home with Caleb and continue to look for work while studying for a couple computer certifications. The idea is I would only work for a few months, that this total shift in our lifestyle would be temporary.

Oh Lord, I hope so.

Craigslist has become my new Best Friend. I've submitted applications for writing gigs, teaching jobs, daycare, summer camp counselor positions, library staff, even one for a communications coordinator at a local church. Nothing has happened yet, but some of these jobs take a few weeks to process. Jason also continues his search; secretly, I hope he finds work first. I think he's secretly hoping for the same thing.

Neither one of us is uber-excited about making me the provider. Even if the situation is temporary. But God's still small voice asks us to trust Him, even if we don't understand why. I don't want to give up my status as a Stay-At-Home Mom. I'm rather attached to that title, actually. But I'm more attached to God. And if He leads me back to the workforce, I will follow. I will trust Him with my family and I will follow.

In the meantime, Jason and I enjoy quiet, precious moments with our son. We go hiking, visit SeaWorld, spend time with friends. These outings are islands of peace amidst a very stormy sea we've faced here at home this last week and a half. Housework has gone undone, phone calls unreturned, errands forgotten. Jason and I sat down last night and figured out a plan to help us manage all the responsibilities together and still have time to job search. Please bear with me if I don't respond to calls or emails right away. I still love you. I promise. :)

Indeed, I have missed my bloggy friends! I have three or four posts I want to write about our latest escapades with Caleb (complete with pictures!), but I wanted to write this post first. I've been a bit absent lately, from Blogger and Facebook, and now you know why.

I would really appreciate your prayers right now, friends. God is making a lot of changes to our lives, both big and small. Sometimes I just feel dizzy from it all. But I love you guys, and I'll do my best to keep ya'll in the loop, ok?