Food and Garden Dailies started as a way to record my family's favorite recipes. It has come in handy many times when I'm asked for a recipe. I simply email a link to the blog! But I couldn't just stick to recipes. The kitchen is tied to the garden in so many ways...and so I let you into my ever changing garden as well.

If you're interested in my all-time favorite recipes, check out this post first: My Favorite Recipes

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Sabbatication: Back to School

Pin It It's been two weeks since Katie started school, and nearly three weeks since we arrived in Tucson. The time has flown by!

It was so hard dropping her off for her first day of school. Hard on all of us. Brian and I were nervous throughout the day, hoping it was going well, hoping she wasn't sitting by herself, hoping she'd have the courage to talk to someone! Isn't that every parent's fear when their child is in a new situation?? And, I know it was Katie's fear too.

That first day ended well. I knew all was good when Brian & I picked her up with a smile on her face. Whew~!! She made two or three friends that first day, and continues to lunch and chat with these girls. They've even exchanged phone numbers and have called each other regarding assignments. What a relief.

She's settling into school, learning to understand the Turkish accents of her teachers. She seems to like (most of) her teachers and SSA-DM is a comfortable place for her. That's well worth the 20-25 minute drive to the school!! The homework load has been light so far, which has surprised us. The school has a reputation for a heavy load, so I think they're all in a honeymoon period right now.

As Katie went back to school, so did Brian...sort of. He goes in to the UA each day, working with Jeanne Pemberton, who was one of his undergraduate professors. He does some research and some writing, and then comes home. This semester there's no teaching, student advising, faculty meetings, or even work to bring home! YEA!!! It's nice having him with the family every night and weekend.

While the two of them are at school, I'm supposed to be studying. I brought photography and Photoshop tutorial books along with the goal of improvement in both areas. So far I've dabbled a bit, but haven't really done as much as I should!!

I'm also *studying* for an elementary education basic skills test. Yes, I took one of these things 20 years ago. Yes, I had licenses in several states. And while I was a stay-at-home mom they all expired. Oh, well! Because it was all so long ago, I need to take a test again (and pass it by next summer) to just keep the subbing license. To get my regular teaching license up to date, I have to pass that same test and take a few classes in anything related to education. Still not sure if I want to do that. I seriously like subbing...especially as a mom! (*Studying* is hardly the word for it...mostly I'm going through the prep book, making sure I remember what I'm supposed to remember.)

So, what have I actually been doing during the day, rather than studying?

-Driving around, taking detours when I want to re-visit old memories.
-Lunching with friends.
-Facebooking a bit too much.
-Taking Tahoe to the dog park.
-Photographing all my memories, as I come across them. Sadly I usually only have my phone camera with me!
-Driving Katie to and fro school (this takes up 2 hours of my day!!).
-Going to the library.
-Cooking & tidying up. (Can't really call it cleaning, as we don't have much stuff here!!)

I'm looking forward to cooler weather (below 100 would be great!) so I can be outdoors for longer periods of time!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Sabbatication: How to Get on Base

Pin It Now that Katie was enrolled in a good school, we called the school to get a copy of the dress code and school supply list. We were doing our big shopping trip, and wanted to ensure we bought appropriate supplies/clothing. Katie was BEYOND thrilled to learn that for the first year, this school would not be wearing the Sonoran Science Academy uniform (a polo shirt with their logo and then navy/tan pants, long shorts, or long skirts). The school told us to come in any time...they'd be there.

We arrived shortly after our phone call, only to find out we weren't on "The List". We called *W*, our contact at the school only to find she was shopping at Staples. So we arranged to meet her at a certain gate an hour later. No problem! We weren't in a hurry and had plenty of time.

Approaching the gate...wondering if we'll get on base...

When we came back we had a bit of trouble finding her, as we weren't familiar with the area and parking lots. Once we made contact with her, we got our car in a line, opened up all the compartments and went into an ID tent. The tent was semi-permanent, hot and stuffy, with just one fan blowing on the guy working there. Not the job I'd want! We submitted our driver's licenses, car insurance and registration and signed waivers allowing them to search us at any time. I'm sure this is all standard stuff, but it's a lot more security than I'm used to when trying to enter my child's school!

Once we were cleared, we watched as they finished our car check...complete with big mirrors underneath. We drove through to another checkpoint where we showed our licenses (again) and a temporary pass. Then we followed *W* to the school for the first time. This was on Wednesday.

Thursday evening was an open house orientation where you got your schedules, paid your fees, and met your teachers. We were assured we'd be on "The List" for this event. Still, we made sure to come early just in case. Which was a good thing. Once again, we were turned away. Thankfully we had *W* on speed dial. 10 minutes later she met us at the gate...a different gate where we went into an air conditioned permanent ID Badge building. Showed our licenses, insurance, and registration. Followed *W* to the school....hoping this wouldn't be our daily routine!

The orientation went smoothly. Friendly teachers. Still not sure on the principal...very reserved Turkish gentleman who was quite formal. Got schedule, PE uniform, paid money. Paid more money. Went home.

We made an appointment to come back on Friday so Katie could take her math placement test. Again we were assured we'd be on "The List" and would easily get through security. And, I'm sure you know by now that we weren't on "The List". Back to the first ID/Badge station....the one with the auto search, ID check, and escort to the school.

Katie takes the test, gets into the advanced math (thankfully they're picking up right where she left off in Oregon) and life is good. We physically watch *W* email us our application for a "Contractor's Badge". When we got home, we promptly filled them out, emailed them back, and held our breaths.

Sunday we receive an email confirming that we will be on "The List" for Monday, and should be receiving our Semi-Permanent ID badges on Monday.

Ahhh...sweet success!! We left a bit early Monday morning (just in case...). When we got to the ID check gate, WE WERE ON THE LIST!!!!! We showed our licenses, insurance, and registration and drove through by ourselves. YEA!! The girl made it to school on time.

Monday morning I received an email stating that *I* was cleared for my badge. Brian wasn't! They ran his information and couldn't find anything. He called and learned they were one number off on his license...that one number off has been an issue lately! When we went to pick up Katie from school in the afternoon, we came early so I could get my badge. Thankfully Brian was with me, as his was ready too!!! The guy we spoke to told us we were pretty boring as far as background checks go. I'm sure he says this to everyone, but for once it was great to be boring!!

Now we both have clearance to go on base (ONLY to/from her dilly-dallying.) from 06:30-18:30 M-F.

Hopefully there are no evening programs later than 6:30, or anything on the weekends. If there are, I fear we are back to square one with the car searches and escorts...

(On a side note...we learned that this is the first charter school on a military base. The newspaper said it was the first on an Air Force Base, while Katie reported that her school said it was the first on a military base in the world. Either way, there were photographers there for the first day of school recording the "historic moment". Also...we are 1 of 8 families (out of 110 students) not living on base. And, we are only 1 of 2 families without a connection to the base!!)

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sabbatication: How Katie Ended up Going to School on a Military Base

Pin It
When looking for a home, one of the most important factors (for me, anyway) is the school district. Sadly, Arizona is ranking pretty darn low on the education totem pole, and Tucson schools just aren't what they used to be. (Maybe they never were much, and I just got really darn lucky with fabulous teachers and programs throughout high school....)

To promote competition among schools, students can apply to go to any public school. It's pretty much the old school voucher system, but they call it, "Open Enrollment." Basically you apply and they accept or decline, usually based on enrollment numbers. By the time we knew we were going to Tucson, all of the recommended public middle schools were closed unless we moved into that specific neighborhood. Problem was...we couldn't find any acceptable rental homes within our budget near those schools. Sure there were apartments, but at 40+ I'm just not that into apartment life!

I was feeling frustrated at the options. So frustrated that *I* considered homeschooling. Thankfully Katie had the good sense to flat out refuse to be homeschooled, even with a group of kids. I was looking, applying for open enrollment, getting turned down, when Brian asked if I'd researched charter schools. Silly me. No, I had not. And the girl even goes to one!

Well....Arizona is the land of charter schools! 25% of the schools in Arizona are charter schools. It appears there are at least 100 in Tucson alone. Charter schools exploded about 15 years ago, again to create competition. Like the public schools, they are hit or miss.

One of the first I found when I started googling, was the Sonoran Science Academy. I looked at its mission statement, curriculum, and read the entire website. My first thought was that this sounded nearly identical to the school Katie attends in Oregon. Only the languages they teach here are Turkish or Spanish. I'm still trying to figure out the Turkish connection...all the administrators and most of the teachers are Turkish!

There were two "branches" of this school in was in the northwest area, where we were first looking to rent. Upon calling, I learned that the NW school was filled, but they did have room at the Broadway/Kolb site (hmmmm...a block from my childhood home...which is another story I need to tell....) and there was a brand new school opening on base.

I quickly started asking my Tucson friends about this school, and everyone confirmed its reputation as one of the best schools...not just in Tucson, but in the nation. On paper it was pretty darn dreamy. When Katie learned of the "heavy homework load" reputation, she just shrugged, saying she was used to that. OK....

The B/K site was for K-8, while the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base school was just middle school, with fewer students altogether. After talking to school personnel, I was fine with either school. Both were equidistant from our rental home. I left it up to Katie. Ultimately, she chose the Davis-Monthan one because 1) it was smaller, 2) it was only middle school, and 3) ALL the students would be new...not just her. I thought she made a well-informed choice! So we quickly got her records together and sent in our application!

Admittedly, I gave no thought at all to HOW we would get on base. I guess I just thought we'd drive up and go to the school. Having no military background at all, I was completely ignorant.

Next up...the frustration of trying to get to school!!

Sabbatication: Getting Settled in the House

Pin It So we got to the house...only to find that the code we had to enter the garage didn't work. UGH. We were so tired and so ready to crash. Poor Katie burst into tears.

We called our landlord's cell phone, but couldn't reach her. We had her address (a 20 minute drive) so we drove to her home only to find no one home. We left notes on her garage and front doors and then went to wait a bit at the closest eegees, hoping she'd soon get either our note or phone message.

We were giving her until 9, otherwise we'd find a hotel for the night...

Just as we arrived at eegees we got a call from her boyfriend. He had the code! YEA!! We were just one number off... We got our eegees (2 pina coladas and one strawberry/lemonade) and headed back "home". THIS time the code worked. We were so tired I think we were giddy!

Upon entering the home, we were thankful to find a nice, clean, simple southwestern home. COMFY sectional couch, complete with a recliner and large flat screen TV. 2 full baths, 3 bedrooms. Little galley kitchen where we bump butts a lot. Tiny kitchen table with three chairs. The master has a great mattress, and Brian and I are getting used to a queen bed again. The master's decor is a safari theme...complete with green and purple walls. WOO! Katie's room was nicely decorated in a brown/sage green theme which she just loves. And the office was functional with desk, comfy chair, fold out single couch, etc. Plenty of room for us to work and for *a* guest to stay! Married folk will have to flip a coin, I guess...

The house was stocked with lots of kitchen gadgets, coffee maker, clocks, games, books, linens, pillows, bedding, cleaning supplies, dishes, cookware, storage containers. Plus the internet and cable TV was already hooked up so there were no service call waits. Oh, and EVERY room has a ceiling fan. I know those HGTV designers would rip them right out, but they are appreciated by our family!

The next two days were errand days...a HUGE shopping trip to Target to buy some basics, school supplies, and some school clothes. Then came the grocery shopping. Our cabinets and fridge are well stocked with the exception of spices. We have three. This will be hard for the cook who is used to having at least 50 spices on hand at all times! I'm trying to be a smarter shopper as I don't want a lot of stuff leftover when we leave in December.

Once the shopping ended, our focus was on Katie's school...the Sonoran Science Academy on the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. But you'll have to wait for the next sabbatication note to hear that riveting story...

(Did you notice I gave a link to eegees multiple times in this post?! It was definitely deliberate. Yes, eegees (no caps LONG before no caps were trendy in brand names) is a Tucson institution. They're known for their shaved ice drinks which are out-of-this-world, unbelievably fabulous!! They're not your run-of-the-mill slushies. No sirreee! Upon returning, they were our first stop.)

Sabbatication: And, we're off!

Pin It The car was packed and we were off! Surprisingly we weren't that squished inside! After a false start (forgot something and realized it a few blocks away) we were off! We drove and drove and drove. And drove some more. Took a lot of rest breaks. And drove and drove and drove!

We shot straight down I-5, and found ourselves in Sacramento around 5:30 p.m. Brian's cousin, Rob and his family live there and we'd hoped we'd have time to stop and say hello, as they only live a few minutes off of the highway. Thankfully our timing was right. We had to stop for dinner in Sacramento anyway, so we called to see if they wanted to meet us. Instead we ended up at their home for a quick pizza dinner. It was a nice break after 10 hours of driving! Tahoe even got to run around for a bit and play.

After our quick meal, we were off again, stopping for the night in Santa Nella, California (an hour south of Stockton). We got a good night's rest (Well...Brian, Katie, and Tahoe did!) and were up early and off by 7 a.m. the next morning. We drove and drove and drove, and drove some more! We considered meeting up with my friend, Lauren, in Los Angeles, but we realized that this day's drive was longer and we didn't want to get into Tucson too late. We skirted L.A., got on I-5, and headed east. And drove, and drove, and drove.

Yes, our drive was about as boring as my commentary!

To entertain ourselves in the car...the first day we listed to an audio book, "The Wednesday Wars," which is one of next year's "Battle" books for middle schoolers. Great book...kept the attention of the whole family. The second day we started another audio book, but some of us (me) kept falling asleep and couldn't keep up with the plot. So that got abandoned.

To while away our time we Facebooked! Thank GOD for Facebook that day. We kept in touch with friends and family...sharing pictures of our drive (lots and lots of brown) and maps of our current location. The iPhones ROCK and really came in handy. When we tired of burgers on the road we were able to quickly find the next taco joint on the road. Same with gas stations. That map feature has been indispensable since we left McMinnville! Katie read a bit, watched movies and listened to music on the iPods, and YouTube videos on the phones. Oh, and she was the TEXTING QUEEN that day! Yes, our gadgets kept us occupied.

To relieve Katie from too much "Tahoe time", Brian and I sat in back with him giving her a little more room on occasion. It was actually really nice to sit in the back and pet the pup. He was a great travel companion....a far cry from his early days when he'd throw up five times before we got to Salem (a 35 minute drive).

So that was our drive.

We got into Tucson around 8, found the furnished rental home right away, but couldn't get in. Some of you know how that played out, but for the sake of a cliffhanger, I'll end there for now. Stay tuned for the rest of the story...

Sabbatication = Sabbatical (Brian) + Vacation (Me!)

Pin It The Very Beginning

So when I heard that Brian was interested in doing research at the UA, I was a bit unexcited. It wasn't Europe or New England, or any place really appealing to me. After all, I grew up there. I've seen it/done it and's just Tucson. Then I started reconnecting with a bunch of old friends from school (elementary - college) and got a bit more excited. Some of them are still in Tucson and others come home for holidays and vacations. Cool!

Then, just as I was getting a bit excited about coming back to my hometown, we played the numbers game and realized that if we didn't rent out our home, we simply could not afford to go. That would be paying to go to work, and who wants to do that?!! I was very particular about our potential renters. They simply had to have a personal recommendation from someone we knew. I didn't want total strangers living in our home with all our stuff. I just wasn't comfortable with that at all. So, our potential renter pool was quite small. Finding a renter would be like finding a needle in a haystack.

There was some interest...not a lot, but some. There are not that many people who need a furnished home for just 4 1/2 months!! We gave ourselves a deadline...if we didn't find renters by a certain date, we would simply stay in McMinnville. All spring I truly believed that this would be the outcome. So much that I re-did a garden bed in the backyard and put in a vegetable garden.

At the last possible moment (literally a day before our deadline) we learned that a new Linfield family wanted to rent our home. Wow. Really?! OK! Into planning mode I went...

We rented the house out with the exception of two rooms: Katie's bedroom and my office. Those rooms would be used for storage. We had to clean out our dressers, closets, bathrooms, pantries, put away knick-knacks, breakables, etc. Plus, we completely emptied out our guest room, leaving just the bed, armoire, and nightstand. All the rest of our stuff went into the two storage rooms. By the time we left there were just mounds of piles (organized, but still mounds of piles!) in these two rooms.

So the house was was packing our car....the Honda Accord with everything we'd need for 4 1/2 months! We had a huge pile on the dining room table that was "have to take", and another pile that was "want to take." Most of it was clothing and the piles were HUGE. We had some Space Bags that we filled, sucked all the air out, and squished our clothing into a space 1/3 of their original volume. Impressive!

Once we packed the computer, clothing, some books and other little essentials, we found we had plenty of room for the "want to bring" pile. Everything in the "want to bring" pile fit too...with room to spare! YEA!!! At that point, we began stuffing little things into crevices...more books, DVDs (out of original cases....into smaller ones), favorite kitchen gadges, a few more pair of shoes, a volleyball...even Katie's huge stuffed cow made the cut. The cow had to be in her personal space, but it made the cut. We were very impressed!

The next morning Brian loaded his and Katie's bikes onto the car. Katie got in the back seat, and Tahoe took up the other half. Brian's parents waved as we drove off.... for two 11 hour days of travel!

Next installment: The long drive and arrival in Tucson...

Sabbatication: We're not in Oregon anymore...

Pin It Since I last posted a month ago, my life has come (nearly) full circle and I am back in my hometown of Tucson, Arizona! I grew up here (kindergarten - college) before marrying Brian and heading all over the U.S., ending up in Oregon. There's a lot of back story about how we got here and why we're here. Thankfully I've been journaling on Facebook and will repost some of those posts to get you (those of you who are interested, anyway) up to speed.

But before that, I will admit this blog is going to be going in a different direction for the next four months. No longer do I have a garden to tend to and nurture...we now have a rock yard with low-maintenance desert plants. No longer do I have a gazillion spices and oils and vinegars in the pantry...we have salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil. So the gardening and the cooking have been streamlined...significantly!! Simplicity is the name of the game for the rest of 2009.

Rather than post pretty pictures of *my* Oregon garden or our uninspiring Tucson landscaping, I'm on the prowl for stunning desert yards and landscapes in other people's yards. I'll also post our "sabbatication"* stories....let you know how our little family of three is adjusting to the Sonoran Desert.

*"Sabbatication" to be described in next post!