Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Wonder-ful: Strawberry Lemonade

I'm by no means a social media guru.  I'm more like your grandmother trying to navigate through most forms of social media.  I'm just barely getting the hang of it. 

A couple months ago I saw a pretty picture of kids in lights on instagram.  Because I knew the ....grammer?  poster?  whatever you call the person who took and posted the picture was in San Diego, I clicked through to find out where it was.

It was a pop-up museum called "Wonderspaces."  In general, I find that most of these pop-up museums are just a way to take your money so you can take pictures and post them to social media.  And I'm not willing to fork over money to take pictures.  (See?  Not social media savvy) But these exhibits, while definitely beautiful and instagram-worthy, were also really interesting pieces of art.  And I knew Thatboy would love it.  He loves modern art, and especially shiny things.

There were a couple virtual reality exhibits, which Thatbaby couldn't deal with.  But there were other interactive exhibits like a room with plants that were hooked up to some stereo system so your touch triggered different sounds.  And this one where you could write "To Do" notes.

Thatkid's favorite exhibit was squid soup, which is the same exhibit that caught my eye initially.

Another interactive exhibit was body paint, where movement was captured by color splashing across a screen.

Thatbaby's favorite exhibit was "Into the Breath."  While they loved looking at the giant balloon shaped exhibit, they loved even more going inside.  It was like a bounce house without the bounce.  The idea was a space where you can just enjoy and appreciate the quiet.  And Thatbaby did...for about 2 minutes, which is pretty good for a 3 year old.

"The Border" symbolized the edge of dreams and waking.  Thatbaby loved it.  It was like a kid's fantasy come to life. 

And because all kids love balloons...

The kids loved the space - although Thatbaby had a serious 3 year old meltdown and had to take a break for a while (which you'd never guess from these photos, but I wasn't going to take photos of him screaming and crying.)

When we got home, we got the little guy down for a nap.  He was MUCH happier when he awoke.  And ready to make one of his favorite drinks.  My kids love lemonade, and in the summer I love homemade lemonade.  Thatbaby asked if we could make strawberry lemonade, and so I was happy to comply.  Lemonade is easy enough for even a 3 year old to make - with some supervision. 

Strawberry Lemonade
1 1/2 cups strawberries
5 lemons
1 cup sugar
3 cups water
1. Trim strawberries and cut them in half.

2. Combine strawberries and the juice of 1/2 a lemon in a blender and puree until smooth.
3. Press puree through a sieve into a pitcher to remove strawberry seeds.
4. Juice the remaining lemons.  (If you're working with a small child, keep that sieve handy.  It'll catch those lemon seeds)

5. Combine lemon juice, sugar, and water in the pitcher with the strawberry puree.  Stir until sugar dissolves.  Serve over ice.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

Lavender Fields Forever: Lavender Martini

I recently reconnected with one of my old lawyer friends, from back when I used to lawyer.  Once we got in contact, we went back to old habits of sending each other events we thought would be interesting.  Which is how I ended up at a Lavender Farm one Saturday morning.

She had sent me info about a yoga retreat, run by another lawyer friend of hers.  The idea of a yoga retreat sounded nice, and needed, but it was the location that sold me.

Keys Creek Lavender Farm is located in Valley Center.  I came across it several years ago, when I stumbled on their Mother's Day brunch.  Over the years they have restricted public access more and more, and I have never actually gotten around to going.  A yoga retreat, with an old friend, at the very venue I've always wanted to go to, was a definite must.

The retreat was organized by Saerin Ally Cho and she had a space set aside for us all to meet and grab some tea or water as we trickled in. 

One of the farm workers pointed out this interesting looking tree.  He told us that it's a "Century Tree" that rarely blooms, but was in bloom while we were there - as was the one directly across from it.  He couldn't remember the last time they both bloomed at the same time. 

We began the morning with a little meditation in the crystal maze.

And then we headed up to the main event - the yoga!

After yoga, complete with the longest Savasana I have ever encountered (which was soooooooooooooooo nice), we headed back to the meeting tables for lunch.

The spread was incredible.  So much fruit, and a delicious vegetarian curry over steaming basmati rice. Oh!  And salad.  Of course. 

We ate, and talked, and ate some more.  Then we headed over to the farm's salt water pool to cool off a bit - or just enjoy the sights.

While we relaxed poolside, the Farm made us all lavender martinis.  Heavy on the vodka!

And then we got a private tour of the farm and the distillery where they turn the lavender into oils.  We rejoined for a final chance to share our thoughts on the day before parting ways, a little calmer, a little more centered.

I would love to tell you that I came home with the ability to recenter and ground myself at home when faced with the stressors of everyday life.  I didn't.  But I did come home with some lavender jelly, lavender soap, and a great idea for a martini.  Especially since I have my own stock of lavender at home - bushes in the front and back yard!  Mine has less vodka than the ones they made for us, and isn't quite as purple, but it's still a very refreshing drink for these hot summer days.  If you're not a drinker, or have little ones at home, the syrup also works really well with lemonade.

And a quick plug to my new food stylist - Thatkid is the one who arranged the drink and the lavender for the photo.  He's such a helper. 

Lavender Martini
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 Tbsp lavender buds
2 shots vodka
juice of 1 lemon
  1. Make the lavender syrup.  Combine the water and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove from heat and add lavender buds.  Let sit for 20 minutes.  Strain and cool completely.
  2. In a shaker, combine vodka, lemon juice, 1 shot of the lavender syrup, and ice.  Shake and strain into glasses.  Garnish with lavender sprigs.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Crave Wednesday: Vanilla Rum Custard Sauce

Before Thatkid started camp for the summer, I decided to let him take a couple of days with no school, no camp.  "Camp mom" if you will.  I let him pick the activities we did on those days.  One day he wanted to spend at Legoland.  Which makes sense.  When we go as a family, he doesn't always get to do all the big rides he wants to.  Because Thatbaby doesn't want to go on the big rides.  And the lines are long.  The following week, I kept Thatbaby home from school for his yearly physical and decided that turnabout was fair play, so he got a day at Legoland all to himself also.

One of Thatbaby's favorite rides is the Jungle Safari, which always has a super long line.  But we made it our first ride, before the rest of the park opened, so it wasn't as big a deal to wait.

Meanwhile, on his day, Thatkid rode every roller coaster, speed ride, and ride that Thatbaby is too short for.

They both had a great time on the pirate ride.  Thatbaby even went on it twice.

I let each of them pick a special treat while we were there.  I guess no matter how different they are, they both have a sweet tooth for the same thing.

As for me, this is the perfect season for ice cream.  I don't like it when it's cold outside, and it has been one hot summer.  So hot in fact, that I'm already jonesing for cooler fall weather.  I'm picking out fall wardrobes, and dreaming of chili.  And once that weather hits, ice cream time is over.  Then it's time for those warm, cozy desserts.  The chunky sweater desserts.  Warm, rich sauces over bread puddings and apple pie.  Are you there with me? 

Vanilla Rum Custard Sauce  (From Cooking Light)
2 cups 2% milk
1 vanilla bean, split length wise
1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/8 tsp salt
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 Tbsp dark rum
1 tsp butter

  1. Place milk and vanilla bean in a large heavy saucepan.  Heat to 180, or until tiny bubbles form around the edge of the pan, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat.  Let stand 30 minutes.
  2. Remove vanilla bean from pan.  
  3. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean into milk mixture.  
  4. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt, stirring with a whisk. 
  5. Add to milk mixture, stirring with a whisk.
  6. Add egg yolks to milk mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.  Bring to a boil and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute or until slightly thick.  Remove from heat.
  7. Stir in rum and butter, until butter melts.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Very Berry July: Triple Berry Handpies

Every summer we make sure to attend one of the concerts at the Children's Museum.  It's close and easy, and the boys love it.  Since becoming members of the museum this year, the concerts are free.  And we're taking advantage by going to every one of them.  They are just really easy nights for us.  I pick the boys up from camp and preschool, Thatboy comes home from work, and we head over.

The museum is open an hour before the concert, only for families attending the concert, which gives the boys time to take part in their favorite activities with less crowds.  There are often crafts for the kids to take part in also.  Recently it's been a wooden boat the kids could put together with some volunteer help.  And then most of the kids found their way over to the water cycle exhibit with their boats to test out the sea-worthiness.

There's wine, beer, and Gelato for sale, and usually some sort of food you can purchase.  And face painting.

And of course, there's the kid friendly music, encouraging the kids to get up and dance.  Hullabaloo, the perennial San Diego favorite, always has a concert.  And this year we've also got to expand their musical palate with reggae and Latin music.

I also love the venue because it's so easy to picnic.  And I do love to picnic.  We bring our basket, and our blanket and make a whole evening of it.

I always bring fruit - which is a crowd favorite in my family.  And I'll either pack sandwiches, or just picnic charcuterie, 

Or, if the food choice would make the whole family happy, we'll just buy dinner there.  The weather has been insanely hot at these concerts lately, so we also always bring lots of liquids.  Homemade ice-tea is one of my favorite things to bring.  I make it with herbal tea, so the boys can enjoy it too, without keeping us up all night.  They love picking out the flavors.  This is a peach ice tea.

Any good picnic also needs some kind of sweet treat.  With the glut of berries we have in our house, berry hand pies are the perfect summer picnic addition.

The filling for the hand pies is amazing, and there's enough left over to use it on just about everything.  And I used it on just about everything.  I don't think there's a piece of bread or muffin in my house that didn't end up with the filling on it.

Triple Berry Handpies
2 cups blueberries
2 cups blackberries
2 cups strawberries, quartered
1 1/2 cups sugar
juice of 2 lemons
2 balls of pie dough, rolled out into circles
1 egg, beaten
  1. Combine berries, sugar, lemon juice and a pinch of salt in a pot over medium heat.  Bring to a simmer and simmer 20 minutes.  Let cool.
  2.  Use a large glass to cut out rounds of pie dough.  
  3. Top each pie dough round with 2 Tbsp of filling.
  4. Brush the edges of the dough round with egg and fold in half to form a semicircle.  Crimp the edges with a fork.
  5. Heat canola oil in a pot until it reaches 365 degrees.  Fry each handpie about 5 minutes, or until golden.  Drain on paper towels.