Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Highlights

Soooo....Wow!  Too much time has gone by since my last post.  LOL!  Let's see....Whitney is now a Senior at University of AZ.  Nathan is in his Senior year of high school and transitioned from a public HS to an online HS in his junior year and is doing dual enrollement with Paradise Valley Community College.  Nevan transitioned from home education lifestyle to his Freshman year in public high school at Westwood High and is playing baseball for Westwood and Lasorda University (USSSA Club).  Silvio is now in Junior High grade 7...still homeschooling and taking classes and involved in Student Council at Eagleridge Enrichment Program thru Mesa Public Schools.  He is still riding horses and is interested in engineering/robotics. 

We have adopted a few more animals along the way!  We have one more horse...Sunny.  He is a 5 year old beauty and about to be trained under saddle so that Silvio and I can ride.  That makes 3 in total...Monte, Stubby (who belongs to my cousin Pete) and Sunny.  We have one more dog...Master Chief...whom we adopted from Aunt Shawn.  He is frisky Black Lab who falls asleep at your feet.  So sweet.  But can't seem to keep himself out of the drinking water bucket.  Thinks its his personal swimming pool.  LOL.  So that makes 4 total...Thyme (dalmation), Luna (spaniel), Toby and Master Chief (black labs).  We have one more cat...Pickles/Buddy/LS depending on who you talk to.  We adopted him last Thanksgiving after Batman unexpectedly passed away.  Pickles absolutely loves people and is a hugger. : )  That makes 3 in total....LuciFur, Urik (who lives outside) and Pickles.

We experimented with chickens this year and adopted 6 hens from a friend.  We loved having fresh eggs every day, but soon found out that we really need to secure our yard from neighborhood predators...dogs, coyotes, hawks, etc.  We lost all 6 hens in a matter of 4 months.  : (  We are now in the process of landscaping, building fences, installing rolling gates and creating secure, private spaces that can accomodate bringing in more hens and making our horse stall area more user friendly.  We DID create a tree basin area in the front of our home that includes fruit trees and new mailbox structure.  We now have Peach/Nectarine, Anna Apple, Apricots, Goji Berries, Fig, Pomegranate.  We aim to have Avocado, Mango, Persimmon, Grapes, Passionfruit, Lemon, Lime and few more Nut trees plus an herb garden throughout the property.  Hoping to plant some of these this Fall.

I have recently re-ignited my love for essential oils and diving into my passion for holistic therapies once again!  : ) Massage, energy work, essential oils, aromatherapy.  Its time to get back to it full time.  Now that the kids are older and more independent...I have more time to develop the vision I have had all these years...a Holistic Living and Learning Center.  This will combine holistic wellness and sustainable living.   : )  Making it happen.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Oh the year is flying by....

We have been busy!!  And I am re-committing myself to writing more often to keep up with our activities.  Since our last blog post, Whitney has started college at University of Arizona and is on her way to completing her freshman year.  : )  Nathan has turned 15, Nevan has turned 12, and Silvio turned 10 while we were in NJ! 
Silvio has spent the past 8 months digging Cake Boss and The Next Great Baker and experimenting with cooking/baking.  He even baked his own birthday cake!  He has also been enjoying the Homeschool Science Classes at AZ Science Center every month, and is currently participating in AZ Homeschool Theater in the Alice in Wonderland production...he will be performing as a Card Soldier.  He is missing horseback riding, though, so we are about to start lessons again.  : ) 

Nevan has his plate full.  He is also performing in this season's production of Alice in Wonderland as The Gryphon.  He has a scene with the Mock Turtle and actually will be singing/rapping and doing a little jig.  ; )  He is also attending Eagleridge this semester 2x a week, taking an Improv Comedy Class with a final performance coming up in April, and has just joined a new Club Ball Baseball Team called the Rawlings Grinders.  He plays for USSSA.  Practices, league games, and tournaments keep us on the go all week. 

Nathan was able to spend his Spring Break skiing!! His favorite past time!  And Whitney spent her Spring Break in San Francisco! 

Justin and I spent most of Spring Break tilling and seeding our spring garden.  We have planted tomatoes, zucchini, strawberries, cilantro, watermelon, and moved our artichoke plants to a different spot.  We found out we have a Brazilian Pepper Tree in our yard!  : )  Nice surprise.  We thought it was an overgrown bush....very overgrown now, the dogs actually make forts underneath to hide from the sun.  We were pleasantly surprised when a permaculture friend of ours, Don Titmus of Bee Oasis/Four Directions Permaculture, confirmed it was a spice plant...white/red peppercorn.  Nice!  Justin loves pepper!  I just need to go out and buy a pepper mill so we can begin harvesting our own peppercorns. 

We are going to re-landscape our property with permaculture design principles in mind.  Back in August (and one of the reasons why I fell of the side of the earth for a while) I took a Permaculture Design Course with the Phoenix Permaculture Guild.  I am now certified to do Permaculture Design and looking forward to using my new skills to transform our Trinacria Farms into an organic farm and holistic learning center (very small scale).  We plan on planting more fruit trees, nut trees, more veggies, and herbs...and plan on offering permaculture for kids projects/workshops...and of course, permaculture design as a home based business.  Website for Trinacria Farms coming soon! 

Concurrently I have been involved in Self Design Learning Consultant Training program since August.  (reason #2 I fell off the side of the earth)
You can find out more on Self Design here:  
Essentially, Self Design is a process of is how we design our lives, living and learning...what do the kids enjoy doing?  what is their passion?  Silvio likes to bake and ride horses.  Nevan loves comedy and baseball.  How do we support what they love to do and help them find the resources they need to accomplish their goals?  What do Justin and I like to do?  How do we balance what WE like to do with what the kids want to experience?  There are only so many hours in a day.  The Self Design Team headed by Brent Cameron, flew into Tempe in February for a series of fabulous weekend workshops at ASU's Local to Global Justice Teach In and marked the midway point in our training.   One more collaboratory training session in B.C. this July and God willing I will be a Certified Learning Consultant by end of summer.  Income generating Home based endeavor #2!
And last but not 3rd Home Based Business of the year...drum roll please....Scentsy!!!  I had so much fun organizing Nevan's baseball team fundraiser back in January that I decided to become a Scentsy Consultant.  My new website:    I am wrapped up in warm fragrant scents every day and don't have to worry about wicks/fire.  My boys love FIRE.   Every time I lit a candle it was playtime for the boys.  All their curiosities came leaping up...what happens if we put pine needles in the flame?  what happens when I stick my finger in the melted wax?  How many of mom's incense sticks can we light at once with a single candle flame?  I love candles, but it was becoming stressful for me to keep them lit in the house for worry about what the boys were going to try next.  Now, with Scentsy Wickless, I can melt scented wax, my home smells like I have been burning candles or baking all day and I have no worries.  ; )    

We have also travelled to CA for Sarah's 1st Birthday!!  To Las Vegas to visit Uncle Sal and Olga!!  Had holiday fun with the Rizzo Clan in December/January.  Justin's mom and Aunt Barb came to visit in January and we celebrated Nevan's birthday and Barb's birthday together.  We look forward to more family visits.  : )

Tomorrow we are planting seeds in recycled, reusable, biodegradable household items for our homeschooling group's science co-op.  Then we are off to Alice in Wonderland rehearsals.  Will post photos soon! 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Dear Blog

Life is about to get busy-er and I promise to catch up on all the wonderful things we have been doing since my last post in April.  Nevan performed in Peter Pan and Wendy with AZ Homeschool Theatre Group.  Grandma Johnson flew in for a visit for May festivities.  Whitney graduated High School and she turned 18 on the same day she graduated.  She is now a freshman at University of Arizona in Tucson.   Nathan graduated from Junior High. Beau (horse) went back up to Utah. Silvio flew back to Utah with Grandma for 4-H Horse Camp...both English and Western.  Nevan did some summer writing workshops with Changing Hands Bookstore.  He also had Baseball Camp. Maceo had a Make Your Own Pizza Pool Party to celebrate his 11th Birthday.  Then we flew to NJ for our annual trek to the beach and Nonna's/Nonno's house.  We had so much fun visiting with family and friends.  We made almost daily trips to the crabbing piers.  We went to the beach, the boardwalk, Great Adventure, Carlo's Bakery, Daniel's birthday party, Sarah's baptism, Jen's baby shower, boat rides, Ralph's Italian Ice, water trampolines,  and could not get enough summer lazy days with friends.  We enjoyed Nonno's colossal tomatoes, eggplants, swiss chard and crab sauce.  Nonna made us Caponata and a long list of yummy meals... and got me hooked on Nick's telenovelas! 

Photos of all these awesome events will be added soon.

As for now, the boys have started classes at Eagleridge for the fall semester.  Nevan is auditioning for Much Ado About Nothing with AZ Homeschool Theatre Group.  He is also playing Fall Club Ball with Chandler Rangers.  Silvio is going to start horseback riding lessons as soon as it gets a wee bit cooler outside and is currently looking for an Accordian instructor.   Nathan is a freshman in high school and Whitney has started her freshman year of college and settled into her dorm at U of A.  Justin and I have both gone Gluten Free and joined 24 Hour Fitness.  And I am about to start a Permaculture Design Course and aiming to learn how to play the Harp in between Mom's Taxi Service and fall gardening.  : ) 

Friday, April 16, 2010

Que Sarah, Sarah...

Here she is!  With the most gorgeous eyes!  and the sweetest smile!  Precious baby Sarah.  Welcome to the whole wide world of parenting, Pete and Karen!  : )   The real fun starts as soon as she becomes even remotely mobile.  You can add physical exhaustion to the mounting hours of sleep deprivation...but for what better cause, I say.  We are here for you whenever you need a babysitter.  ; )  The boys are just thrilled to have a baby girl in the family.  Silvio likes to rifle through his stored bins of old baby stuff to find fun things to hand down to his cousin Sarah.  ; )  I knew he loved her dearly when he gave up his little yellow windbreaker jacket that was favorite as a toddler.  Here is a photo of Sarah with the boys...minus Maceo and Whitney.  We need a complete cousin photo session asap!

Monday, April 12, 2010

You Are There: The Deadly Tomato

You Are There: The Deadly Tomato

You Are There: The Deadly Tomato (mp3 audio) - Believe it or not, in early colonial America, one of the most dreaded, most feared of all poisonous plants was -- the TOMATO! People grew it as an ornamental bush, but to think about actually EATING it was a horror! Certain that he would die a quick and painful death, a crowd assembled on the courthouse square in Salem, NJ on September 26th, 1820 to watch the rich and eccentric Colonel Johnson actually attempt to EAT one of these poisonous fruits! Hear what happened next in this delightful old time radio dramatization from the classic program "You Are There" of this fascinating true episode from American history.

Click here for today's resource!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Horse Riding Lessons

When Silvio started taking horse riding lessons again, Nevan decided he wanted to give it a whirl too. He has been a tremendous help to us in caring for the horse clan here when Justin is out of town. I guess he figured that since he was feeding them and caring for them, he may was well learn how to ride them and truly enjoy. So both boys are now taking lessons with a local instructor who Silvio claims is the "nicest instructor he has ever had". She gives both Western and English lessons...Silvio has decided to switch back to English and Nevan is carrying on with the Western tradition. Their cousin, Marlie, is taking lessons from the same instructor and the boys are lucky to have her Duncan baby on hand to ride. Thank you Ny! for referring us to Diana! Here is a photo of Nevan riding Duncan. I'll add photos of Silvio when I get a chance.

Silvio is super excited to participate in 4H Horse Camp this summer up in Utah with Grandma Johnson. He has been patiently waiting to be of age (9). His summer adventure with Grandma is finally here!! He enjoys all the extra horsey time he gets up at Grandma's. : ) So, let's see, the last time he was up there we got a phone call that he jumped a horse over the jump rails set up for Whitney, unexpectedly. At age 6. Or was it 7? He still talks about that to this day. I wonder what his story will be THIS summer.

Estrella Wars 2010

The SCA, Society for Creative Anachronism, hosts an event called Estrella Wars every year here in the Phoenix area. Well more like Florence, which is about 1 hour southeast of where we live. It is called Estrella Wars because it used to be located way out west close to Estrella Mountain. The name stuck. This was the first year that we have participated. The kids seemed too young to go in past years and honestly, I had no desire to participate in any WAR reenactments. goes against my grain. Needless to say, it was never one of those activities that we actively pursued. This year, the boys asked to go. I decided to go ahead and dive in and learn more about it. We went. And N and S had the most amazing time. they did not want to leave. We were there from 9 am til sundown. They want to camp out next year. Estrella Wars is not only about reenacting the battles of the Middle Ages, but also recreates the entirety of community living in that time period. Individuals/families/neighborhoods create encampments and stay for a week at most and live as historically accurate as possible. We were the outsiders when we went on our home education tour day. With our modern clothes, backpacks, and water bottles, we could easily be picked out of a crowd of tunic clad villagers, jesters, and jousters. It is quite a fascinating dip into history, where everyone around you is playing the part of a personally created, historically accurate individual. We had a chance to meet a Viking couple, a woman on spiritual pilgrimage, a falcon trainer, a crossbow merchant, a blacksmith and the boys handled daggers, swords, armor, bows and arrows. They also had a chance to sneak into the encampment, where the modern folk are not allowed to visit....lucky dogs they knew families camping out. : ) The boys have since been researching more about the Middle Ages on their own, developing possible personas so they can participate next year, and aiming to learn the art of black-smithing, sword making and jousting. S was all about the equestrian events. N desiring to know more archery.
We found out our local Barony is called Twin Moons and they meet at a local park weekly, offering a chance to get more involved.

I would love to delve further into the science and arts...sewing, herbalism, etc. We are trying to convince Justin this would be a good opportunity for him to explore his interest in making his own beer...the SCA has a Mead Making Contest, but not sure he is buying it.

We will post more as the family develops their personas and skills. : )

Justin's whirlwind tour of Europe

our spring garden...

We have finally planted! After 3 years of attempted container herb gardening, we have taken the next step. Justin has built 2 raised bed boxes so far. Our dilemma has been that we *have* to create raised beds due to our regular irrigation water coming through. We don't want our plants to drown. The plan is to have a few raised bed on the north west side of the house. We currently have with tomato plants (roma and beefsteak), zucchini, and pickling cucumbers; and the other with strawberries and carrots, so far. Our watermelon plants didn't make it. We created a burmed hill with artichoke plants and plan on planting more of those for high yield. ; ) We like artichokes! The boys are also desiring to plant more strawberries and have enough to share with others. They are saving all the little plastic containers that we get from the stores and building their stash. We also have Pineapple Sage...which smells divinely like pineapple! and Blackberry bushes. Those will be added to the front yard to make a natural hedgeline between the yard and the street. I thought it would be fragrant and fun for our neighbor kids walking to school to have a berry treat on their way, as they pass in front of our home. Once we get the hoses/watering situation in the front yard under control I would like to start building a retaining wall in the backyard to the west of the pool for a large melon patch. Watermelon and cantaloupe to start. We have an automatic watering system that attaches to the main spicket line and can water up to 4 different locations at once with a set timer to water. But....I can't seem to get it to work properly. So we are all still hand watering the garden areas. Once I get that up and running, we can run lines to both boxes, the melon patch, and a prospective root garden with beets, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes. Below are photos of our cucumbers and tomatoes.

Geography and World Cultures: World's Fair: Sicilia!


Nevan and Silvio (and Justin) decided to showcase Sicily for our 1st Annual World's Fair Event sponsored by our Geography co-op! We had a wonderful time creating our posters and handouts, which included a word find with Sicilian landmarks. The boys are so creative and full of ideas! They created one poster that depict Sicilian numbers, another poster that had word translations for easy to read words like dog, tree, brother, etc...and we made a trifold board with photos from our trip to Agrigento, Messina, info. about Tindari and the Black Madonna, as well as the Trinacria and the Sicilain Flag. Silvio was adamant that we were not allowed to include anything on our display board that we had not actually seen in person...only personal photos were allowed to go up on the board. I finally convinced him that it was OK to put a printed photo of the Sicilian flag if he found it too challenging to draw a Trinacria himself. But they did both draw their own Italian flag, olives, lemons, and tomatoes by hand. Both boys remembered our trip back in 2005 and chose to focus a great deal on the Greek ruins. They are currently reading a lot about Greek Mythology and were pleasantly surprised to find out that Sicily is actually one of the main geographical locations depicted in many of their favorite Greek Myths. Nevan is keen on studying Greece next!

Silvio had fun showing our friends how to play Scopa, his favorite Sicilian card game. : )

And of course, we had food!! Cannoli, olives, cheese, semolina bread with olive oil and garlic, lemons and Pellegrino. Everyone loved the food!

Other countries represented in the World's Fair included: Scotland, France, Denmark, Indonesia, Puerto Rico, and Italy. Looking forward to the next one!

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Field Trip to the Department of Public Safety

The kids had a fabulous time on our field trip to the DPS building downtown. Various departments within the DPS gave Gang Prevention Unit, Highway Safety Unit, Drug Prevention Unit, the Bomb Squad and the SWAT team, etc... the kids had a chance to *get arrested*, remote control drive a bomb squad robot, sit in patrol vehicles, climb up into a SWAT Tanker. I think their favorite was the Bomb Squad Robots. I really had to let go of some of my biases against guns/violence/force as I watched the boys completely take in all the weaponry displays, gadgets and gizmos that police use...they were fascinated and I was equally fascinated watching them being fascinated. It was quite an eventful and fun filled day!

Should I be proud? Or concerned? Silvio can get himself out of a set of handcuffs in seconds!

The Basement Band

Nevan and his friends decided one day that they would start a Basement Band....yet to be named. His musician friends also attend Eagleridge and participate in the school band there. There are 6 of them...Nevan on drums, Braden on keyboards, LJ on guitar, Dougie and Isaiah on bass, and Silvio decided he would be the manager. He's got it all under control...down to the lights and promos. We keep reminding him that they need a name first. They meet every other week in our basement...practicing a mix of classic rock and newer groups like Nickelback. It's amazing to see these kids lug all their equipment and amps and paraphrenalia up and down our stairs every time. That's dedication! Thanks Uncle Nick for letting us borrow Maceo's drum set! Nevan is looking forward to his drum lessons! He is also taking up electric guitar and starting guitar lessons again soon. He had first learned on an acoustic, but has been excited to learn on an electric. It's fun to hear music in the house again! Just hoping the neighbors are far enough away not to be bothered by the fun that never stops. I recently went to the Paul McCartney concert here in Phoenix and thought it would be great to start a concert poster collection for the boy's music room and so their very first concert poster is Paul. ; ) Somewhere I know I have an old Rush poster to add to their wall. I'll have to dig that up soon. Anyone out there have old concert posters you don't want or use anymore?? ; )

Saying goodbye to our Twister

Twister was with us for almost 3 years. Here he is with Uncle Vance, looking rather muddy and disheveled on the morning of his departure. We had rainstorms back to back without much opportunity to clean him up before his travel adventure. Twister was adopted from the racetrack for Whitney, less than one month after we moved into our Gilbert home. He was young and didn't want to race and lucky for him his owner decided to adopt him out rather than give him a hard time. He was beautiful! and spunky! After a couple of weeks, we received another call from the rescue org...and Monte joined our family as an emergency foster placement. Monte has since shifted from being an emergency foster placement to unofficially adopted. : ) Whitney began spending more time working with Monte, who seemd more compliant to training and Twister spent alot of time lounging in our pasture, without much riding time. We decided after careful consideration that he might be happier with more attention, as the only other rider in the family is Silvio and he is just too young and inexperienced to ride Twister. Twister needed a more advanced and experienced rider. Justin's mother found a family in Utah that was interested in adopting him, so Uncle Vance drove him up there, one cold and rainy morning. Nevan was up before the sun to help Uncle Vance prepare the trailer and gather Twister's belongings. It was quite a morning indeed, as Twister decided he didn't want to load that morning. He gave Nevan and Uncle Vance a run for their money that day. It was sad to see him go...but knowing in our hearts that it was the best thing for him. Wonder what he's doing now...