July 24, 2012

I couldn't resist...

Isn't it funny how we as humans impose our own emotions on our pets? For example: The remaining two chickens I have are doing fine, but I'm convinced they are sad and lonely without their sister. In reality, they probably already forgot about Rafiki (RIP!). So what does this mean? It means I went out and bought 2 baby chicks to add to our family....

Introducing, Poppy (a Rhode Island Red) and Noche (a Black Sex-link):

I got them yesterday at the Higby's feed store in Dixon, and oh my goodness are they adorable! Poppy was quite the loud one on the car ride home, but both have seemed to settle into their new digs just fine. Because they have spent the first 5-10 days of their lives being handled by people in the feed store, they actually like to be picked up and cuddled. Which is the best!

July 23, 2012

Vacation blues and good news!

It's my first day back, and I've already got the vacation blues. Most of you probably follow me on facebook/twitter/instagram, but in case you don't here's a recap of my crazy week of "vacation":

I started out my vacation by taking a quick trip to Truckee to have a "retreat" with myself that mostly involved strategizing for J. Jasper Events. I got to stay and visit with my friend Kim, which was a great added bonus. Though the weather was super windy, I still got to put my toes in Donner Lake:

I had to leave Truckee quickly, as I got a text from Paul that one of our chickens was severely hurt. Poor Rafiki was attacked by a raccoon who snuck into the coop. I had to bring her into the vet to put her down. I was crying a lot and was slightly embarrassed because, hey, she's just a chicken! But, she's my chicken (one of the first we got) and she's like a pet to me. We had a proper burial for her and some of the neighborhood kids said goodbyes. Emma even made her a tombstone:

Part of my "vacation" was catching up on J. Jasper Events stuff, because in case you didn't already know - I've quit my "real" job and will be working for myself starting mid-August! I am so incredibly excited and so happy to have supportive friends and family that have helped me reach this decision. So on Wednesday evening I found myself sipping champagne at the Fairmont Hotel, meeting with my clients who are getting married there in November. As I started driving home, I snapped this photo - it was a gorgeous night, the meeting had gone really well, and I was content.

I ended my trip in Santa Cruz, meeting clients, friends (old and new) and family. I also visited downtown SC (which I haven't been to in ages) and walked by my old stomping ground, the Red Room. This is where Paul and I met, so it always has a special place in my heart:

And today it's back to the grindstone. I'm excited to finish out the last 3 weeks I have here to move onto bigger and better things (i.e. making J. Jasper Events bigger and better!)

July 10, 2012

Weekend Rules

You may have already seen a few of these photos, but I wanted to share with them you anyway! This weekend was pretty awesome - I taught my first jam class through Lifecrowd in SF. We made a batch of apricot and a batch of strawberry jam. There were 6 participants, and I think all of them had a really good time! I'm still trying to find their photos online - but for now, Erin and Jenny's instagram shots will do (yes, a few members of LTD made their appearance):


I don't think you're ready for this jelly.

On Sunday, I was able to meet up with my dear friend, H. K. Hummel, who was in Sonoma County for a short visit. We were able to have a picnic with friends at Sugar Loaf State Park, take a walk with Coco, eat yummy snacks, and have good catch-up time. We were also able to squeeze in a few good shots:

Sonoma County view

Fancy an outdoor shower?

Best outdoor clawfoot around...

June 26, 2012

J. Jasper Update

I'm currently updating J. Jasper's blog, so I thought I would post some pics on here to show you what I've been up to.

This past weekend I got to work with Rebecca and Evan on their beautiful wedding at the Lake Merritt Sail Boat House. The skies were blue, the air was warm, and everyone was in great spirits! It really was a perfect day.

The I-do's
The views of Lake Merritt

But my favorite part of the wedding was the AMAZING backdrop that Rebecca created to hide the lackluster walls. She got her inspiration from here:

from 100layercake

Here's her creation:

Didn't she do an amazing job?? There were 4 of these panels - it really dressed the place up. Seriously, this girl worked hard. And to give Evan some credit, he built his own photobooth! That too was amazing - I didn't get any photos, but hope to post the "official" photos soon. Mazel tov, friends!!

June 15, 2012

Canning and Pickling 101

As you may have already seen on Facebook, I'm hosting (teaching) a class on canning jam and a class on pickling veggies for Lifecrowd next month! I'm pretty stoked to share my experience with other people that are interested in preserving the amazing fruit and veg we get here in CA. I'm by no means an expert, but I have been doing it for a long time so I feel like I know a thing or two about it.

In preparation for the classes, I'm perusing the internets for fun, simple recipes. A few blogs that I read have sung praises for this new book by Marisa McClellan called Food in Jars (based on her blog of the same name). For only $13 I think I'm going to order it - the recipes seem simple and easy to make. I will report my findings soon.


In the meantime, if you're interested...sign up for my Canning Fruit or Pickling class! They are doing a 2 for 1 deal right now, so 2 people can go for $15 each! 

June 13, 2012

Superfood Salad!

As I was browsing pinterest the other day and saw this yummy recipe for a "Superfood Salad with Lemon Vinegrette." Doesn't it look amazing?

Well I decided to make my own version of this, and here's what it looks like:

It's actually very different than the recipe posted above (but I was working with what I had in my fridge). Here's what's in mine:

  • Quinoa
  • Roasted garlic cloves
  • Arugula
  • Fresh corn
  • Cilantro
  • Cashews
  • Dried cherries
  • Cherry tomatoes
All mixed together with a dribble of olive oil, salt, pepper, and a whole lemon squeezed. Makes 2 delicious servings!

May 23, 2012

I'm Shannon, and I have PRGD...

PRGD = Post River-Guide Disorder

  • Losing focus when the weather gets warmer
  • You find yourself enjoying the smell of dirty wetsuits or poly-pro
  • Your car and your clothes are way too clean
  • Any song that reminds you of summer makes you wanna cry
  • Hopeless daydreaming about quitting your "real job"
  • You're thisclose from packing your car up and hitting the road with your dog
  • Air conditioning makes you sneeze
  • Dirt roads remind you of put-in
  •  Spending too many summers with your hands on the oars, feet in the sand, sun on your face, carrying heavy objects, living in your bathing suit, reading, swimming, talking about life with random strangers, doing dishes in the dark, hiking in the desert, sharing a house with your co-workers, eating deli sandwiches, and making life-long friends.
  •  I'm still trying to figure this one out! Can you help me? (besides getting on the river, of course!)

March 28, 2012

Propaganda posters

I just came across the coolest posters on Etsy! They are supposed to be like the old propaganda posters from the world wars. I think my favorite is the pinterest one - check out this shop for a bunch more!

March 15, 2012

viva la Mexico!

In 6 short weeks, this is where I'll be! The Arroyo House, owned by our friends Ericka and Matt. It's about an hour and a half north of Cabo San Lucas, on the Sea of Cortez (and away from any tourists!) We are lucky enough to be visiting the house while they are there, along with our good friends Martin and Emily. Some of you may remember that I wanted to spend my 30th birthday in Mexico, but didn't get a chance to because I had been laid off (and it didn't make sense to spend the money). Well, now we have the money, I got the vacation time approved, and we've just booked our tickets! We will be there for my very thirty-onederful birthday, and I can't think of a better place to celebrate!

March 12, 2012


Have you ever grown your own sprouts? My dear friend Heather used to do it all the time. Since spring is here I'm itching to grow stuff, and sprouts provide instant gratification (well in 2-4 days)! I'll let you know how it goes!

March 5, 2012

Keeping up with the Jones'

Paul and I finally joined the club and got iPhones. We figured that since we get phones once every 2 years we should get the 4s. And folks, let me tell you. I was skeptical. I didn't think Siri was worth it, but she totally is. I am officially in love...

February 27, 2012

You say potato...

I say deliciousness! I'm so excited - today I ordered my first set of potato "seeds". They aren't really seeds, they are just pieces of potato with the eye on them. Why not get them from the grocery store you ask? Well, I wanted to get special organic ones. I found a place called Grand Teton Organics in Idaho that sells a bunch of different varieties (and they must be great, they are from Idaho after all!) I ended up getting French fingerlings and Kennebec's. French fingerlings are my favorite roasted with a little bit of garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. Kennebec's are great for mashed potatos and french fries - I've heard that In N Out uses Kennebec's for their french fries. Mmmm....

February 23, 2012

Desktop Coop

How adorable is this mini paper desktop coop??

Here's what mine looked like:

Go get your own here!

February 15, 2012

Tom -YUM soup

I made this bomb-diggity soup a few days ago and it BLEW my mind away. Now, I haven't been to Thailand, but this soup tasted super authentic. Here's what it looked like on the website:

And, here's what mine looked like:

Ok, maybe mine didn't look as nice, but it sure was yummy!

Enough of the food pics. Here's the recipe. Straight from Sunset Magazine:
  • 1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk
  • 1 can (14 oz.) reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 1-in. pieces
  • 1 pound boned, skinned chicken breast or thighs, cut into 1-in. chunks 
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms 
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
  • 1 tablespoon Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce (nuoc mam or nam pla)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar 
  • 1 teaspoon Thai chili paste
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro 
In a medium saucepan, combine coconut milk, broth, ginger, and lemongrass and bring to boil over high heat. Add chicken, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Reduce heat and simmer until chicken is firm and opaque, 5 to 10 minutes. Discard lemongrass. Garnish servings with basil and cilantro.

February 14, 2012

On Spring gardens....

My seeds are here!

 My lovely heirloom seeds are here, straight from Baker Creek Seed Co. in Missouri. If you're ever in Petaluma, they also have an awesome shop there as well. Check it out! I'm so very excited to start these babies in my new seed starter (I splurged and got a new one this year - last year I used old yogurt cups but I don't have many left).

I'll let you know how things progress. I got some pretty interesting seeds - lemon cucumbers, sweet peas, orange tomatoes, mini bell peppers, tiny pickles (and about 15 other varieties).

February 10, 2012

Job Update

my morning route to work

Many of you have been asking me about how my job is going, so I thought I'd share a little bit about that.

First of all, if you didn't know I'm now the Statewide Events and Meetings Coordinator at the California Faculty Association (CFA). This is the union that supports the 23,000 faculty (professors, coaches, librarians) at the 23 California State University Campuses (CSU). The organization itself has a lot of members, but the number of staff is fewer than at NWP (my last job). It's really exciting to work for an organization that is politically involved and stands up for the rights of it's employees. It is very evident that the staff (and members) are very aware of what's going on in the world. Every thing is political, and though some people might not like working in an environment like that, I've come to like it a lot. But, for those that know me, you know I'm a political person - I've always been an advocate for something!

While I like working for a political organization, and like being surrounded by informed individuals, I like that my work itself isn't political. I'm organizing logistics for events, managing registrations for conferences, and working with hotels to make sure that things go smoothly. I know that some folks may find that boring, but I thrive on organizing anything (must be my OCD!) So I would say, so far, so good!

My commute hasn't been so bad either. When I was working in Berkeley, my commute was an hour - now it's and hour and 15 minutes. Most of that is spent on the train, whizzing through the pastoral views of Vacaville, Dixon, and Davis. I love being able to read, nap, or listen to music and not have to deal with traffic.

The only downside to my new job is that Coco is having to adjust to being home alone again. Though we are lucky enough to have neighbors that check in on her, she's still stressed and sad about us not being home all of the time. We're trying to deal with that as it comes, but as more than a few people have told me...."it's time that she becomes a dog." Instead of the human/baby that I treat her as :)

January 30, 2012

Defending Your Flock Against the HOA (aka your neighbor doesn’t like your chickens)

Recently, I had the unfortunate experience of having to defend my dear chickens at my neighborhood Homeowners Association (HOA) Board meeting. After numerous complaints from a single neighbor, my husband and I had to attend a hearing in which the fate of our chickens was in the hands of 3 unknown Board Members. Though I won’t go into about the actual specifics about my case (that’s a different post), I did realize I had a new wealth of information to share with other folks who may be up against a similar threat. Here are a few tips to help you navigate through the murky waters of HOA rules.

Tip # 1: Do your research
This may sound pretty obvious, but knowing the rules is the most important part of building a case for your chickens. Read your CCRs carefully. Don’t just pay attention to the rules about animals, think beyond the box. Have some knowledge in your back pocket. 
  •   What are the proper channels one should take when filing a complaint against a neighbor? In our case, the HOA encourages neighbors to resolve issues on their own. Our neighbor never contacted us with her concerns about the noise our chickens made. Knowing that the HOA encourages neighbors to deal with issues on their own shows that she a) doesn’t know the rules, and b)if she knew them, she didn’t act upon them.
  • Find out what the proper dispute resolution sequence is (for my HOA, it was having a hearing, then mediation, then arbitration). It’s good to know what steps you’ll need to take in case they deny your case.
  • Are there height/dimension limits to any coops built in your yard? Do they need to be a certain distance from your neighbors’ houses? This is important to know. For example, if our coop was another 2 feet taller, we would have had to get approval from the HOA to build it.
  •  How much authority does the Board really have? In our case, the Board had the final say on issues – meaning one cannot get a measure put on a ballot for the neighborhood to vote on. Some HOA’s allow members to gather enough signatures to get something on the ballot (how democratic!) This is worth looking into just in case the Board decides against you – you could still get a petition going and leave the vote to the masses. 
  • Get your city and/or county’s municipal code, and be sure to include it with your materials. Many CCR’s defer to the municipal code (be sure you don’t have more chickens than you are allowed!) Thankfully for us, our city doesn’t have a restriction on the number of hens you can keep for non-commercial purposes. 
  • If your HOA is run by a management company, get to know the person that works with your Board. If they are friendly, use their knowledge of the CCRs to help build your case. This proved to be a great resource for me - I was told there was a 1987 CCR that prohibited poultry in our neighborhood (which changed in 2007). I never would have known that if I hadn’t *gently* prodded my contact. 

Tip #2: Get the support of your neighbors
I can’t stress this one enough. Thankfully in our neighborhood, everyone loves our chickens. It was really easy to pass a document around for their signature, stating that they did not believe our chickens were loud or a nuisance to the neighborhood. If you do get people to sign a document, be sure to include specific language related to the CCR’s. I used “loud” and “nuisance” because there is a rule against loud animals that are a nuisance. This allowed the Board to compare the CCRs with the support signatures apples for apples. Once you get those signatures, create a graphic that shows your house in relation to all that signed your petition. This is a great way of visually showing those who support you in your neighborhood. Finally, if you’ve got great neighbors like mine, you’ll have them come as your posse to the Board meeting. I had 5 adult neighbors (and 1 child) attend the meeting and speak in support of our chickens. Hearing this from others really showed the good impact our flock was making in the neighborhood. (Note: a carton of eggs is a great way to show your thanks)

Tip #3: What have other Associations done?
Google “HOA and Chickens” or any combination of “chickens”, “HOA”, and “CCRs”. You’ll be amazed at what you find. Backyard chicken has a few great forums with information from other chicken owners and their experiences with HOAs. I found a few promising articles and presented this information to the Board. I think it’s important to highlight that people all over the country have chickens, and there are many different ways of accommodating them in a HOA (whether that means restricting the number of chickens, or how the decision to allow chickens is made).

Tip #4: Are you willing to compromise?
On a personal note, this was the hardest part for me to come to terms with. If the Board votes no more chickens – are you ready to go to the next level (i.e. court) to keep them? Are you willing to give up a few hens to keep the neighbor(s) happy? After taking everything into consideration, I decided to pair my flock down from 6 to 3. Sure, I miss the extra eggs and the sound of a happy coop. But, because I showed the Board that I was willing to compromise, they agreed to let me keep my remaining girls. In the end – totally worth it.

Go to the meeting with confidence and your head held high – after all, you are a steward of this uncharted urban chicken-raising territory!

January 29, 2012

Garden Porn

If you can't find me, it's because I'm in a corner somewhere studying this:

Baker Creek's 2012 Seed Catalog. From the folks that own the Seed Bank in Petaluma.

Anyone else nerding out over purple tomatoes??

January 27, 2012

The Chickens Prevail!

Eli and Foghorn. Eli came to the meeting to show his support!
A huge collective sigh of relief has descended upon the Sunnyglen Drive neighborhood – we get to keep our chickens! I thought I’d share a bit about how sh*t went down at our HOA Board meeting last night.

In case you need the background:  Paul and I have had chickens in our backyard since last March. In September, our next door neighbor began complaining about the noise they were making (and separately, the noise coming from our house, our music, and our guests). Because so many complaints were filed, the HOA needed to have a hearing where we would discuss the future of the chickens (namely, if we were in violation of the CCRs of the HOA).

You know me - I had graphics, a powerpoint presentation, and handouts prepared for that meeting. I practiced my argument numerous times in front of friends. That HOA (and our neighbor) had no idea what they were up against! We made it to the meeting with a convoy of supporters. I was nervous. I began by introducing ourselves and the context of the situation. I then started my argument, focusing on the one CCR having to do with animals. It states:

“An occupant may keep domestic dogs, cats, fish and birds provided he/she doesn’t keep them for commercial purposes…keeps no more than the maximum number allowed by Governmental Regulations…and the Association can prohibit the keeping of any animal that it determines to be a nuisance to any person of reasonable and normal sensitivity.” (emphasis mine)

To me, the argument was clear – we were within our rights as homeowners. Chickens are domestic birds. The City of Vallejo has no limit to the number of chickens a person can raise. And our neighbor (the complainant) is not reasonable, nor is she of normal sensitivity. 

I broke the CCR down sentence by sentence, and when I got to the part about her being unreasonable, that’s when things got heated. Note: this neighbor is a BOARD MEMBER of our HOA. She was not allowed to vote in this case, though she was allowed to defend herself as a member of the development. I proceeded to tell the Board how bat shit crazy she is. How she has complained about the noises from our house since (literally) the day we moved in. About the passive aggressive notes she leaves in our mailbox. How we’re more than happy to turn the music down if she would just call us or come over. How I got rid of 3 chickens just to compromise, and she still is complaining. How all of our neighbors have signed a document stating the chickens are not loud or a nuisance to our neighborhood. All of which makes her the unreasonable and sensitive one.  The 6 neighbors that came to the meeting with us spoke about their love for the chickens, and about our neighbor’s “character.” That they too have been harassed by her for different reasons.

She did not like this one bit.

When it was her turn to defend herself, she started reaching for all the ammo she could. She presented to the Board a log of every noise that has bothered her coming from our house (from music, to chickens, to parties). Most was between the hours of 7am-10pm (which is completely allowed). She said the noise resonated throughout her whole house. That her son wakes up screaming because the chickens are noisy. How numerous people “come and go” from our house, and how our garage has become the neighborhood hangout (jealous much?) How she’s had to rescue Coco before when she escaped out of our yard. How our cats somehow end up on her porch. There were so many lies I couldn’t keep track of them all. It took everything I had not to laugh or smirk (which I did a few times, whoops!) 

In the end, the Board decided that the chickens were indeed allowed. They diplomatically and politely told our neighbor that because she’s the only one sensitive to the noise and that it’s something that doesn’t affect the whole neighborhood – the complaints should be forwarded to the police.

She did not like this either. 

The Board encouraged us to come to some sort of compromise - and we're ready and willing for that. Now we’re just waiting for her phone call (though I’m not expecting that anytime soon). In the meantime, I gave Foghorn, Leghorn, and Rafiki a big hug and some treats this morning. I’m so happy I get to keep my babies!

January 23, 2012

January Update

Wow, it's been a month since I've posted, which means I must be really busy! The month of December consisted of Paul's 30th birthday blowout party, Christmas Eve (hosted at our house), and a New Years Eve celebration in Oakland. Between all of the chaos I was able to relax and gear up for my new job. And speaking of that....

I'm now into week 4 at the California Faculty Association, which represents faculty at all 23 CSU campuses. I'm the Statewide Events and Meetings Coordinator, and this past weekend was my first event! It went really well considering I'm new, and there were over 200 people for me to meet. I'm definitely feeling slightly overwhelmed (in a good way), but that's okay. My commute from Vallejo to Sacramento has been great as well - I've been driving to Fairfield and then taking the Amtrak to downtown Sac. It's been so nice to drink my coffee and stare out the window in the mornings, and decompress in the evenings. The only hard part about this transition is leaving my baby girl Coco alone all day. She's starting to get used to it, and luckily I have amazing neighbors that check on her every day.

Other than that, our lives are pretty full! Paul has been working in Gilroy trying to finish up a job at the new library. I have 3 meetings (1 in Sacramento, 2 in LA) between now and April, so I'm busy busy! We're hoping to take a much needed a vacation to Mexico in May or June - we'll see if we can squeeze that in as well.

Thanks everyone for the well wishes about my new job. I really appreciate them!