Saturday, December 31, 2011

Little Boys and Red Christmas Toys

Our family was blessed to be able to spend the day together for Christmas. While are homes are separated by 200 miles of pavement, we met in the middle in Sacramento at the home of my sister and brother in law, Christine and Tim for family, fun, food and of course presents!

As always, we ate way to many appetizers before a huge lunch and all needed a nap. But naps would have to wait. The tree was busting with pretty wrapped boxes and two little boys - Clayton and his cousin Trevor - had may surprises waiting for them.

The many surprises were topped off by the grand finale located in the front yard and not under the tree.  The two red Radio Flyer tricycles that Grandma and Grandpa (who are know as Ava and Avo in our Portuguese family) were very eager to present to their grandsons. And boy were they a hit!

Trevor is three and a touch taller than Clayton so his legs reached the pedals with no problems. Clayton on the other hand is weeks shy of turning two and still can't reach the pedals. But that did not stop him. He balanced himself and used his toes for pushing. He had lots of help to as you can see.

Of course no new bicycle event would be complete without a fall. Clayton has no fear and took a corner and went down. He cried and has a little road rash on the side of his face but he got right back on in a matter of minutes. We have added a helmet to the shopping list this week.

It was a beautiful day; the kind the memories are made from. I'm so blessed they are our memories. Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c

Friday, December 16, 2011

I Love Farmer Christmas Gifts!

I've said it many times and I will say it again, I am so blessed to work in the agriculture community and be surrounded by great people each day. Today was no different. Farmers love to share their harvest; especially around the holiday. Today brought us almonds, pecans and mandarins! All local and all yummy.

The mandarins are in season right now here in Butte County. Farm Bureau members Lou and Lola Lodigiani brought us a bag of Oroville's finest fruit. With only two of us in the office, we will each be going home a substantial portion (minus the two I already ate as dessert after lunch.) You can find Lou and Lola's mandarins at And if you hurry, you can still get these shipped to your house before Christmas. Cut-off is Dec 19th!

The almond and pecans are from past Butte Farm Bureau President and Director Ed and his wife Debbie McLaughlin of Durham. Not too many acres of pecans in Butte County (335 to be exact) so I feel very special to have this bag of nuts. Thanks Ed and Debbie for thinking of us. And you can never go wrong with a can of Blue Diamond Almonds. And the almonds you can order online and have those shipped to your house too. They make a great gift or stocking stuffer.

Do you have a favorite local product that you share with friends and family?
Thanks for reading! ~ mrs. c

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Taking the farm to the city literally!

I might be just a little giddy with excitement. You see, tomorrow I will make the trek to the big city were I am privileged to be part of an effort that will bring the whole farm to 10,000 students at 25 school sites in San Francisco Unified School District on Thursday, October 20. It's a HUGE undertaking and I cannot take credit for the work and energy that has gone into the planning of this activity. I however am very proud to be one of the more than 200 volunteers.

The project, San Francisco Farm Day, is a program of the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom (CFAITC) who is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year. So the story goes, in 1981 the San Francisco Unified School District asked the California Farm Bureau if they could help the district locate farms that teachers could visit. The Farm Bureau took the request and in 1986 the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom was born.

Jump forward 25 years and it only makes since that CFAITC head back to the city and share the story of California's farmers and ranchers with another generation of future consumers.

I am also looking forward to visiting the ever famous Cow Palace. The Grand National is taking place and its been a few years since I have been after many years as a Jr. exhibitor, then as a member of a college livestock judging team and then as an employee of the livestock department also while in college. So many memories from the Cow Palace. It will be nice to smell the straw in the barns once again. If you have been, you know exactly what I am talking about.

I am taking my camera and hope to capture the days events at the school site were I will be volunteering so stay tuned for a review of what is sure to be a FABULOUS day.

Thanks for reading! ~mrs.c

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Women and wine with dinner of course!

It's not often I go to dinner without my husband. After all I love going to dinner with him but he is not always available. This week I had dinner with friends; girlfriends in fact and I drove to Sacramento to share in what was a great evening. Just to put this into context, my house is about an hour and 45 minutes from Sacramento; not your typical drive time to enjoy dinner but when the dinner date traveled from North Dakota, you don't whine about two hours!

I'm a fairly social person without the help of the Internet but social media has played a significant role in growing my network of friends and especially women who I fondly refer to as my sisters. One of those special friends is Katie Pinke from North Dakota. We are both working moms who share a love for what else - agriculture! We have lots of other things in common as I have discovered from following her blog the Pinke Post or tracking her trips through her many tweets. But this one night we were separated by nothing more than the table in between our chairs.

Katie's colleague Sharlene Garcia also joined us; another working mom and lover of all things agriculture. The three of us spent more than three hours talking, eating, talking, drinking, and then did some more talking over dessert. I think it's fairly safe to say we could have spent a few more hours if it wasn't for the evening getting late and each of us needing to work the next morning.

I am so grateful for fabulous women, especially those in agriculture, who inspire, challenge and remind me why it is I do what I do everyday. Katie and Sharlene are two of those great women. I can't wait to have dinner again!  Thanks Ladies ~mrs.c

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Debut - The Pioneer Women on The Food Network!

Most of us have never met her, many of us wish we could just spend a day with her and all of us will get a little closer this Saturday morning when the Food Network premiere's Ree Drummond - The Pioneer Woman! I even invited a wonderful girlfriend over for the early morning West Coast premiere; I know Amy Gore is just as excited as me about this day!

So one of my "Rural Women Rock" soul sisters Katie Pinke is hosting a link-up party on her blog the Pink Post to celebrate the big premiere. So of course I had to join in on the fun. Katie asked us to each offer up our favorite Pioneer Women recipe. Well so far I have two.

The first is the Perfect Iced Coffee. This is more than a recipe, its a necessity! Trust me, if you try any recipe from Ree's website, let it be this one.

Perfect Iced Coffee, picture from

My next favorite recipe is yet another staple and I only discovered it last week. Short story. I was on a mission to find the perfect Homemade Ranch Dressing, you know the one you get at the restaurant that you wish you could bottle up and take home? Well I have never found it in a bottle so I decided I was going to make my own. I, like any other, went straight to Google and low and behold the first one to pop up was The PioneerWoman's version. I'm sure this luck had everything to do with my browsing history but who cares! I found it, tried it and I am sold. I may never buy ranch dressing in bottle very again if I don't have to. Sorry no picture; I'm obviously not smart enough to steal it from Ree's site.

I can't wait to see what other recipes my "Rural Women Rock" sisters will be sharing on their blogs? I'll be linking up will you?

Enjoy the premiere and thanks for reading! ~ mrs. c

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Weeknight Jam Fest

Most people come home on a weeknight after a day at the office, make dinner and relax in preparation for the next day. After all it is only Tuesday, there is still more than half the week left to go. But the Cecil's are not most people. I was privileged to be given these luscious local grown peaches by one of my Farm Bureau Board members. I immediately knew the fate of these peaches - JAM!

These little beauties have been perched on our counter for the last five days getting to the perfect ripeness.

 Now here is where I could have shown you pictures of all of the ingredients that went into our peach jam. The fact is the two main ingredients are peaches and sugar. The recipe also calls for a little lemon juice and some pectin.  I have shown you the peaches but I refuse to show you the amount of sugar that went into this recipe. It is obnoxious! So I will just show you the finished product.

Ta Da!

No you are not seeing a speck of peach peel in this jar. That is actually cinnamon! I love peaches and cinnamon and thought this little addition would make a great ice cream topping. YUM!

So there they are, eighteen jars of peach jam made in a span of 90 minutes on a random Tuesday night.
Do you have a favorite jam or canning recipe? Please share! ~mrs. c

p.s. - I'm linking up with the Pinke Post for Wordless Wednesday.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Husband and Son

I have so much to be thankful for. More than I could ever put into one blog post. I am pretty sure that the top things I am thankful for are in the the picture below. A husband who is my best friend, my partner in life, my partner in parenting and who loves me unconditionally and a little boy who calls me "mom." Life doesn't get any better than this.

Jake and Clayton in the backyard enjoying freshly picked sweet corn.

Isn't it pretty? And it's so sweet it does not even need better or salt!

Clayton prefers it raw.

He's telling daddy how great it is in is own little language.

Dad has been coaching on proper corn on the cob eating technique.
Looks like the kid has it mastered at 18 months old.

This is my happiness!

What are you thankful for today? Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A farwell to a special lady...

A new angel is in Heaven this week. Her name is Vi Aguiar and she is my grandmother. She lived a spectacular life that lasted 86 years but after many years of illness, the Lord needed her to continue his good work. She left us on Wednesday, July 6, 2011. I had a special relationship with my Avo (this is Portuguese for grandmother) and I am going to miss her greatly. I had the privilege of providing her eulogy during her funeral Mass yesterday in Turlock at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. It was by far the most difficult speech I have ever had to deliver in public and I will be the first to admit I was a blubbering mess but I got through it and I know I made my Avo proud. Today I'm sharing those words on my blog. For many, none of this will make sense but that's okay. Vi Aguiar was a fabulous woman and this post is my message to her. Thanks for reading. - Colleen

Our Wedding Day
 July 5, 2008
Who was Elvina Virginia Aguiar? If you knew her you probably knew her as “Vi” and didn’t even know her name was Elvina. But don’t fret, that is the way she wanted it. Her first name was her best kept secret. But all of you are here today because she touched you in one way or another.

God delivered her to us here on earth on October 1, 1924 in the then small Stanislaus County community of Patterson. She was born to parents Joesph and Mary Azevedo and was the youngest in the family behind brothers, Tom, Joesph and Henry “Hank” Azevedo. Like many in this era, she was only allowed an eighth grade education. What she may have lacked in a formal education, she made up for through her own devise. She loved to read and even more loved to learn about the history of her time. Books and movies were her vice. I especially enjoyed watching the occasional classic musical or an Elvis Presley flick with her. After all Elvis was her favorite. And with the introduction of cable and satellite television she was sure to find a movie of her liking on the “idiot box” as she warmly referred to it. She was a sports fan too following the 49ers for years. Now I will admit she also loved a good steamy romance novel and you could usually find one in her purse, on the table next to her chair or next to her bed.

My sister Christine with Avo
aand Aunt Vivian during her
 bridal shower.
We could all be so lucky to live through 86 years, nine months and five days. There is no question that Vi made the most of her time her on earth. She met the single love of her life, Joseph Victor Aguiar and married him on June 22, 1946. Together, in Hilmar on their dairy, they raised three children, Daniel, Richard and Kathleen.

Family was so very important to Vi. I can remember many family gatherings – Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve to name a few. The family got bigger and the number of family events increased exponentially when her kids were married and when it was all said and done the three kids gave Joe and Vi ten grandchildren. There is a good chance you knew this because I don’t know any woman who was more proud of her family and all they accomplished then Vi. And she told everyone about these accomplishments, probably pulled a newspaper clipping or photo from her purse to show you too.

Avo with her sons Daniel, Richard (my dad)
and daughter Kathleen at our wedding.
Right behind family being important was Vi’s love to be involved. I think she was part of every single Portuguese and catholic organization in Merced and Stanislaus County. She and Joe were always on the move – conventions, meetings, festa’s – they attended them all. You might even recall them taking your ticket while parking your car at the Stanislaus County Fair where they earned the distinguished title, “Broadway Joe and Vi” for always manning the Broadway Gate.

They also loved to travel and rarely went alone. I can remember many stories about Washington, DC with the Sherriff’s Posse and Hawaii. Vi and Joe had MANY friends. But the stories I remember often involved Arnold and Angie Souza, in fact some who knew them might say Joe and Arnold and Vi and Angie were attached at the hip. They all left this earth before her and I know it was hard for her to adjust but today she is reunited with all of them. Heaven will never be the same with these four back together again.

Avo with my brother Ricky at
 his High School Graduation.
Vi’s involvement did not stop there. She chaired the District Six Dairy Princess committee for many years. Of course I know she was also pretty proud when my sister and I graced the runway of this annual local event. Both my mom and I were fortunate to also participate on the Dairy Princess committee after she retired. My husband Jake will tell you that my love of talking, being engaged and in the middle of everything is identical to Vi’s. I hate to admit this fact in front of this many people but he is right however I am very proud to share these character traits.

Avo with my nephew Trevor
after he was born in December of 2008.
So who am I you ask? Many of you know but for those who don’t I am Colleen Aguiar Cecil. I am the oldest daughter of Richard and Mary Aguiar and first granddaughter born to Joe and Vi. While she was Vi to all of you she was Avo to me and my cousins and her 12 great grandchildren including my son Clayton.
To us Avo was homemade applesauce, lemon meringue pie and a big pot of homemade Portuguese beans. She greeted us each time she saw us with a hug and kiss; a kiss that left a mark the same color of the usually dark red lipstick that matched the color of her perfectly painted acrylic finger nails. This lady always had lipstick on, her nails perfectly painted and her hair was always done. She was probably the first person to advise me that schedules can be flexible but never cancel a hair appointment! And she had one ever week only missing if she was in the hospital. In fact I may recall a hair dresser or two coming to the hospital during one of her visits late in life to put some life back into her hair. Again she took great pride in her appearance. 

Avo with Donny her godchild
and his wife Jean
If you were new to our family, she was the first to make you feel welcomed in what was probably a loud situation – we Aguiar’s are not known for being quiet and this can be intimidating. I saw this first hand when I introduced my now husband Jake to Avo five years ago. Her Portuguese persistence and the fact she knew too much about me and Jake’s Italian charm made for hours of entertainment for the two of them at my expense. In fact I’m pretty sure it’s safe to say that while she technically has 10 grandchildren, you could easily add up the married additions and say she had a total of 16 grandchildren because each of our spouses was loved just as we are and I know they too are going to miss her.
Jake with Aunt Vivian and Avo
at my brothers high school graduation
party. This was the first time she met Jake.
So today we have to say farewell for now. Avo we love and miss you already. But know you have taught us how to love, showed us the importance of laughter and having fun and even taught us how to create your favorite dishes. Like any good Portuguese woman, Avo’s favorite dishes don’t have recipes cards. However with many family events and all of them including a meal we all spent some time in the kitchen with Avo. Because of this I know I can call on my sister Amanda for Avo’s applesauce, my sister Christine for a lemon meringue pie, my Aunt Kathy for some rice pudding and I’m pretty proud to have learned to put together a pot of Portuguese beans that she told me were good; even if I did not put any ketchup in them. It drove her crazy that I did not put any ketchup in my beans. However now that she is no longer be in the kitchen cooking for us, there is a good chance that my beans will have a dash of ketchup in them just for her. While they are not Avo’s perfect dishes, they are influenced by her and we will think about her every time we serve them.

This was the day Avo met my son
Clayton for the first time.
Today Avo will reunite with the many friends who have gone before her. After all she lived 86 years. She was funny, she would read the paper each morning, never missing the obituaries, she would say, “looks like its going to be a good day, I didn’t read my name in the paper.” Well this week she did read her name but I can tell you this, its still going to be a good day because today we celebrate her, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a great-grandmother and a friend to everyone she met.

I will end with a little piece of advice for Saint Peter today. “Open the gates and stand back, she’s coming through and you are not going to stop her!” - July 12, 2011 by Colleen Marie Cecil
Avo on our wedding day, July 5, 2008 with my immediate family.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Farmers Market Splurge

It may be Wordless Wednesday but I have a few words to share about my picture below. We are so very fortunate to have magnificent Farmers Markets here in Chico. Clayton and I often visit the Downtown market and this last Saturday was no different. However this Saturday I caved and spent a little more then normal. I usually spend $10-12 and take home great produce and some flowers.  

Check out the goods.

My Saturday morning bounty included:
1) The most beautiful bouquet of flowers for $5! Yes that's right $5 and it will make many small flower arrangements to spread throughout our house.

2) Two pounds of little red potatoes - $4. They are going to make a lovely potato salad.

3) One large red onion - $1

4) Green zucchini and yellow crook neck squash - $2. I have been craving some grilled zucchini however the plants in our garden have not started to produce heavily yet. Got one on Sunday. In the meantime I will purchase form the farmers market.

and 5) My SPLURGE - Local made lemon curd from the 2 English Ladies. These ladies have it dialed in. They suck you in with a sample. Then after you have tasted the lemon curd, they whip about another bottle to offer a taste of the orange curd. But wait, that's not all! A third bottle offers a hint of the lime curd. Heaven! So I did it. I bought the lemon curd and it is luscious on a bagel with cream cheese. Of course I should be enjoying with a scone, that is the proper English treat but I was fresh out of scones so a bagel it was. What did this little delight cost? $7.50 but so worth it. Plus if I return the jar I get a little discount on my next purchase.

Total spend - $19.50 and it all stayed local.

So what was your last farmers market splurge?

Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Father's Day with Grandpa

If you know me and you know my family, you know my dad spends his free time competitively team roping in local organized roping events. We grew up on a dairy but there was always a horse or two hanging out in their very own corral some where on the ranch.

Now that my dad has two grandsons, he is eager to share his appreciation for western traditions with his "boys" as they are affectionately called. You see my dad never had the chance to use the term boys, I have two sisters and it wasn't until the fourth time around that my parents got their boy, my little brother Ricky. We will save him for a later post, possibly one that details a visit to California from his current residence of Texas when he decides to visit his family. (Maybe he is reading and will get the hint.)

On to the Wordless Wednesday picture portion of this post. A few photos of Clayton and my dad Richard on my dad's horse, Denny over Father's Day weekend.

Me and my sisters know how to ride a horse but we never got involved in any competitive riding. We stuck with the cows and my little brother became the cowboy. However he too was distracted and decided riding a bull was more enjoyable than a horse. Again, I will save that for another post.

I know Clayton's life will be richer in wisdom and character because he too will learn from my dad just like me. It was a great Father's Day weekend in our family. I hope yours was the same. Thanks for reading. ~ mrs. c

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - What is it?

It's been a busy morning working (darn job that pays the bills gets priority) but I am now taking five minutes to post my Wordless Wednesday picture. Here is is. Can you guess what it is? Well I will give you a few clues. It is a young tree and that little nub is the new growth. So amazing if you ask me. The rest is up to you. What kind of tree is it?

I will post the answer tomorrow on this page. Good Luck! ANSWER - Yes it is a Walnut Tree!

If you are looking for more agricultural trivia, visit my friend Ellen at Life on A Real California Dairy. Please be warned, visit at your own risk if you are hungry. Thanks to her post, I now have to have cheese for lunch!!

Thanks for visiting and for reading. ~mrs. c

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Workin' dirt with Dad

Jake spends all week and many weekends farming for a living. Sure it's a job but the difference between this job and most others is farming is a lifestyle more than it is a job. So the fact that Jake chooses to turn more dirt on his days off is no surprise to me or anyone who knows him. You see the dirt for Jake, and for may others like him, is more than dirt. It's tradition, its soothing to the soul and it's what makes him who he is.

Farming is also the thing he hopes to pass on to Clayton as he grows up alongside Jake. On this Saturday Jake wanted to tend to his garden and he did so the old fashioned way. Check out this cool farm implement.

Grow little corn grow!


So maybe Clayton wasn't very helpful but he was happy to sit in the dirt.


This one is here just because I love it.

Of course Clayton never stays put. He wandered off to go and check on Dad's newly planted walnut orchard. Stay tuned for a walnut post soon. Just like Jake and I will watch Clayton grow into a young man, we will follow these little babies on their journey to producing rich California walnuts. Yep, that's right. Growing food is like growing your family, and to us this food is our family, its our life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Backyard Fun!

It's Wordless Wednesday and  its also warm in Northern California again! Mother Nature was not taking her daily vitamins for a few weeks but she is back on her A-game again and the weather was divine last night. While I was in the kitchen making dinner, Jake and Clayton were supposed to be in the backyard tending to the garden. From the pictures below you will notice that Clayton was distracted by the hose of course and I put dinner on hold to take a few pictures. If you ask me, this is what summer and family fun is all about.

What is your favorite summer family activity?
Thanks for reading! ~mrs. c

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - County Fair & Corn dogs!

Memorial Day in Butte County also brings the conclusion of the Silver Dollar Fair in Chico. This was Clayton's second Silver Dollar Fair but last year he was to young to enjoy the classic fare of the County Fair, the corn dog. Aaaahhhh! I wasn't sure he would like it but I was wrong.

I think he did pretty good too.

And by the smile on his face, I think he liked it!

Mommy enjoyed hers with mustard and  a cold beer. Aaahhhh!
So what is you favorite fair food?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Liv, Bros and Co Lemonade Stand

It's Wordless Wednesday and today I want to share with all of you a fabulous little girl, her special story and her quest to give back. Her name is Alivia Antinetti and she is the daughter of fellow California Women for Agriculture member Rachelle and David Antinetti. Is this not the cutest picture you have ever seen!! I want you to check out the Lemonade Stand website and listen to Liv's story.

That's Liv on the left with her bros. You wouldn't know it from the picture above but Liv is a cancer survivor. She fought and won!! This weekend, Liv, Bros and Co. is hosting a Lemonade Stand to raise money for the Make A Wish Foundation to return the favor for the wish she and her family received. Her goal is to raise $5,000 and I would bet she more than makes that goal. Everything over her goal will go to the Children's Oncology Group for further study of the Wilms Tumor.

You can visit the Liv, Bros and Co. Lemonade Stand this Sunday, May 29th, 2011  in Oakdale, California  from 10 am to 2 pm at River Avenue Park. Please do if you are in the area.  Jake, Clayton and I will not be able to visit but we will be mailing in our donation.

Nothing is more important in this world than our children. Liv is a living example of what strength, resilience and spirit should look like in all of us. Best wishes to Liv and her Bros on a super successful lemonade stand.
Thanks for reading. ~mrs. c

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - This one is for Daddy!

Thank goodness it's Wordless Wednesday because I really have no words for this picture. I am posting at Jake's request. These are the cutest kids I know but the picture is.... well.... let's just say if you know their fathers then I don't need to explain anymore.

If you were hoping for some glorious ag focused picture or mouth watering food shot, sorry. This week its all about family. Thanks for reading. ~ mrs.c


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