Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Chanukah Oh Chanukah: Latkes!

Happy Chanukah everyone!  This week I'm going to take a page from my dear friend Reid and share a different Chanukah song each day.   Last night was the first night of Chanukah.  And in honor of such, I've picked Chanukah Oh Chanukah as the song of the day:

I picked this song because it completely encompasses our holiday meal last night.  Chanukah is not one of those big feast holidays.  There's no big turkey and family dinner like at Christmas (turkey right?  Thatboy informs me that's tradition even though his family does steak and rice.)

Despite this fact, Thatmom came over for a very festive dinner. 

 While I got the table ready she played with the sevivon (dreidels) with Thatbaby.  And just like the song states, there were plenty of latkes to eat.

And after dinner, there were, of course, presents.  Thatbaby couldn't be torn away from his new train table.

(I was only after I took a photo of Thatbaby playing that I was able to snap this because he ran screaming from the room "don't take my picture!")

Thatbaby made us a present in preschool.  Let's just say it was...heavy.

 (yeah, that's a brick)

Given that we will be spending half of Chanukah with the inlaws, I prompted Thatboy to open his "I'm not an alcoholic" gift last night.

And  I didn't make out too poorly myself! 

Latkes are plenty easy to make, but incredibly time consuming.  When I was a kid, I was in charge of grating the potatoes and onions.  It's a great job for a kid, but Thatbaby isn't quite there yet.  Other than that it's pretty basic.

2 lbs potatoes (I used Yukon gold, but you can use any potatoes.  Even sweet potatoes.  Or a combination of varieties)
1 onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
salt and pepper
oil for frying
  1. Grate the potatoes and onions into a bowl of cold water.
  2. Drain potatoes and onions, then place in a kitchen towel and wring out to remove any excess moisture.
  3. Add eggs, flour, and salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet until hot and shiny.  Mound potatoes and onions in your hand to form small patties.  Place patties in hot oil and cook, about 5 minutes per side, until brown and crispy.
  5. Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Night Lights: Take and Go Winter Sandwiches

On Saturday night we headed to the San Diego Botanic Gardens for their annual Garden of Lights.  We've been going every year since Thatbaby was born and it's always a big hit.  The first year was wonderful because he was just beginning to focus on objects and was in awe of the lights.  This year however, he has really got into the excitement of it all.  He points out every Christmas light we see during car rides, so was beside himself when we told him we were going somewhere covered in lights.  Even moreso when we pulled the sled out of the garage and told him there'd be snow.

The snow is one of Thatbaby's favorite part of the Garden of Lights.  Growing up in Southern California, we don't see snow on a regular basis, so we take it when we can get it.  And Thatbaby can't get enough of it.  He took turns with Thatboy and I going down again and again.

After that he ran to play in the rest of the snow.  Which was a little packed and icy.  He spent a lot of time falling down, and laughing hysterically.  And trying to make snowballs which were really ice balls, and throwing them at us.  And laughing hysterically.

After we got our fill of snow, we headed out to check out the rest of the gardens.

Thatbaby ooohhed and ahhhed over all of it.  Running up and down the light-lined paths.

We got him to slow down to sit and listen to the performers of the evening singing Christmas songs.  He was so good, a fellow spectator commented on how sweet and calm he was.  She left right before he started shaking his head like a maniac to make himself dizzy enough to fall off his chair.  Which he did 3 times.

Thatboy felt this was the most successful trip to the Garden of Lights we've had in the past 4 years.  What made the night so successful?  According to Thatboy it's because we brought our own dinner instead of stressing about eating before, after, or spending a million dollars on the food available there.

Typically, this is the kind of setting that calls for a picnic - sandwiches to be easy and packable.  But cold sandwiches are no fun on a cold winter evening.  So instead, I used an old camping trip - wrapping warm sandwiches (and potato wedges) in foil to keep them warm. 

It's the best of both worlds.  Easy to pack, easy to eat, but still warms you up from the inside.  Grab a thermos of hot chocolate and you're ready to hit whatever winter festival is in your neighborhood!

Take and Go Winter Sandwiches
3 sandwich rolls
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1/2 onion, sliced
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
1 steak (or chicken breast or 3 sausage links, etc.), cut into small pieces
2 Tbsp butter
3 slices provolone

  1. Preheat oven to 250.  Melt butter in a skillet over medium high heat.  Add pepper, mushrooms, and onions and cook until soft, about 10 minutes.  Remove and set aside.
  2. Melt the remaining butter in the same skillet.  Season your meat with salt and pepper and cook until done, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add in the veggies and cook for another minute until warmed through.
  4. Divide the meat and veggies into 3 piles.  Place a slice of provolone atop each pile. Cook for an additional minute until cheese is melted.
  5. Cut open the sandwich rolls and place a pile on each one.  Wrap each sandwich roll in foil.  Bake for 10 minutes.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Going from 2 to 3

Thatboy and I waited 5 years after we were married to start trying to grow our family. For us, we wanted to wait until we were ready.  Mostly, I wanted to wait until Thatboy was ready.  Adding a third into the mix changes things up and as much as babies are amazing, if you're not prepared for those life changes, it can be really hard.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went out to breakfast with the family.  UDubb and I sat next to each other and were talking about new mother stuff.  Her best friend is due in January and we were discussing how different your life is once you bring a baby into it.

We both agreed the stupidest thing people warn you about is the lack of sleep.  Yeah, sleep is different with an infant, but after a couple weeks, you really get used to it.  It's not the biggest change in your life.

For me, the biggest change had to do with free time.  It becomes virtually nonexistent.  If you're home with the kids, it's not like you're sitting and watching television.  Most of your time is dictated by the schedules of your little one.  And I give a serious side-eye to anyone who expects to come home to a clean house and a hot meal when their wife is home with their infant child.  It's hard to get things done with a baby.  If you're working, you're usually racing home to pick up the kid, take care of dinner, and get them to sleep.  Those hours after work before bed become minutes once everything is said and done.

And then there are the weekends.  I can't speak for everyone, but for me, there's no time after work to run errands or pick something up, which means everything has to be done on the weekends.  Cleaning is also a weekend job.  And of course, as your child ages, there are a million activities in the weekend.  Playdates, birthday parties, swim lessons, the works.  Have a free weekend?  Excited to spend the day lounging on the couch?  Not so easy when you have a kid who doesn't really want to just sit on the floor quietly coloring. 

Before we had a child, I told Thatboy he had to be done being selfish.  It's not just about you anymore.  So my number one recommendation for those thinking of having a child is to make sure you're ready to share your time.  And give up those lazy weekends!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday Runday: Jingle Bell Run Race Recap

It's that time of year again, one of my favorite hallmarks of the holiday season - The Jingle Bell Run!  This is my fourth year running this race. Although running is a bit of stretch, for the past 2 years I've been walking the race with the rest of the family.  I love it as a family activity, even though I think I get more out of it than the other participants who complain about being tired and hungry the entire 3.1 miles.

But I can't help it.  I love the community atmosphere.  I love the costumes.

And I love the family atmosphere after the race.  Since one of the sponsors is Sprouts, this is probably the best post-race spread you can get.  There were bagels, doughnuts, coffee cake, chips, oranges, bananas, and after you collect, they hand you a reuseable shopping bag filled with popcorn and kind bars.  And the drink situation has the typical water and coffee, but also hot chocolate and apple cider.

There's also a beer garden with the San Diego classic, Stone beer.  I told Thatboy we take it for granted that this is our typical race beer as opposed to the Miller Lite or Michelob Ultra that is often handed out at non-San Diego races.

 Since most of the kids aren't hanging out in the beer garden, I love that The Jingle Bell Run has a host of kids activities for them.  Thatbaby is old enough where I thought he would enjoy the 1k Reindeer Dash.  And he kind of did, but he was a little tired from the 5k.  He shed his early morning fleece for his spiderman shirt underneath and seemed to have a burst of speed anytime a spectator yelled "go Spiderman!" at him.

Afterwards we headed over to the kid's tent where there was airplane and truck building as well as cookie decorating.

I really do love this race.  For me it is the perfect way to usher in the holiday season.  Even if it's less of a run and more of a morning out with the family.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas is For Kids: Lazy Carnitas

We got home from vacation just in time to head over to the Pirates for their holiday party.  Thatboy remarked that in the span of a year, the party guests ratio had changed.  We are now outnumbered by children.  Which isn't so bad considering that kids really get into the magic of the holidays.  We headed down to the beach to watch the tree lighting.

We actually ended up missing the lighting itself because the boys were going crazy on the playground.  We did catch a quick glimpse of Santa before Thatbaby flipped out screaming that he didn't want to see Santa.  I believe 2014 will be the year of no Santa pictures.  Instead we got a quick picture of the lighted tree before heading back to the Pirates.

Once there, the kids did a gift exchange and popped open Christmas crackers.  Which reminds me, I need to find that silly crown and tape it for him.  Or maybe I'll just wait until he remembers it.

Then the Pirates popped on some Christmas cartoons and the kids gathered around the firepit watching Rudolph and Frosty until their little eyes got droopy and yawns formed on their little lips.  Then we all went home and dreamt of sugarplums.

This pork is very un-holiday-ey.  Tamales are traditional for Christmas.  And I love tamales. But tamales are a little time consuming.  This is ridiculously easy.  And not so time consuming.  Usually when I make carnitas it's an all day affair.  For my crockpot.  This is a 15 minute meal, tops.  It probably can't really be called carnitas, it's just pork with taco seasonings.  But carnitas sounds fancier right?

Lazy Carnitas
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
1 pork tenderloin, cubed
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp oregano
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add pork and spices.  Stir and cook for 6 minutes, until cooked through.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Just a Quick Weekend Getaway:Chicken Noodle Soup

I mentioned yesterday that we were anxious to get our decorations up because we were out of town last weekend.  It was just a quick trip, we left on Friday night and came back Sunday afternoon.  We didn't catch up on any sleep, and our Sunday was a whirlwind getting ready for the week, but sometimes you just need that break from the everyday.

We got to spend some great family time.  We spent Saturday morning at the Living Desert, one of our favorite parts of Palm Desert.  It was a great morning to be there, we happened in our feeding time, so we got very close and personal with some of the animals.  Like the giraffes.

Thatbaby had a request, he really wanted to ride on an animal at the zoo.  Seemed like an easy enough wish to grant.

But riding on a statue of a warthog wasn't good enough.  So we found him something a little more...mobile.

Riding a camel was the highlight of Thatbaby's day.  He loved every moment of it.  It makes me smile, because he is so like me in that regard.  Fearless when it comes to real animals, but terrified of costumed characters like Mickey Mouse. 

We spent the afternoon at the pool.  In December.  Completely spoiled, right?  Then in the evening we kind of attended the Palm Springs Parade of Lights.  It was completely coincidental and I would have avoided the crowds if I'd known better.  But I didn't.  And so we ended up eating at a restaurant a block away from the parade while Thatbaby and Thatboy ran up to look at the passing floats every 5 minutes.

It's hard to vacation in December.  You come home, still in vacation mode, knowing the holidays are right around the corner.  It's very demotivating.  All I want to do is, nothing.  I'm ready to just curl up on the couch with a blanket and movies.  Dinners here are going to get lazy my friends.  Soup lazy.  Soup lazy is the best kind of lazy, because you can even be lazy eating it.  Curled up on the couch with a blanket and movies. 

Chicken Noodle Soup

1/2 bag of egg noodles
1 chicken breast, cooked and shredded
1 onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
28 oz chicken broth
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
  1. Cook noodles according to package directions.
  2. While noodles are cooking, place the chicken, onions, celery, carrots and mushroom in a crockpot.
  3. Stir in the broth, cream, oregano, thyme, and basil.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.  Cook on low for 8 hours.
  5. Stir in egg noodles and serve.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas: Sesame Maple Ginger Tofu

As soon as we got home from Thanksgiving with my family it was time to get ready for Christmas.  We had a trip planned for the first week of December, so in order to enjoy our Christmas decorations as much as possible, we got right to it.  By the time Thanksgiving weekend was over, our home looked like this:

It's bright all right!  There are other houses decorated on our street, but ours glows like the sun.  We continued the light show inside:

We poured hot chocolate, turned on Frosty the Snowman, and decorated the tree.  Thatbaby was especially helpful this year, as the lower right corner of our tree can attest.  He loves every ornament on the tree, declaring each his favorite.  And he loves to turn on the tree every night when we get home from school. 

The one thing our new home is missing is a fireplace.  Which makes me a little sad, because I do love to curl up in front of a nice fire.  But it's especially detrimental during the holidays.   How do you hang your stockings by the chimney with care if there is no chimney?

I made my own stocking holder!  So not so much "by the chimney with care" but now at least they're hung!

Thatbaby got into his own holiday crafting.

Last night I made this tofu dish that is on our regular rotation.  And I realize I've never shared it here.  It's not even mine to share really, it's one of Cara's dishes.  To give you some perspective, she posted this back in 2010, and we've been eating it regularly since then.  It's a tofu dish that even my picky tofu eaters like.  Thatboy likes the fact that it's not mushy, and Thatbaby likes the fact that it's soft and flavorful.  I like the fact that it's easy.  I usually toss it with some vegetables that I roast with the tofu.  Just throw some brussels sprouts or broccoli on the baking sheet before you pop it in the oven.

Sesame Maple Ginger Tofu (From Cara's Cravings)

1 block extra firm tofu, pressed, cut into 1 inch squares
1/4 tsp salt
1 TBSP tahini
1 TBSP soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 TBSP pure maple syrup
1 tsp cider vinegar
1 TBSP sesame seeds
pinch of ground ginger
pinch of red pepper flakes

  1. Preheat oven to 475.
  2. Line a baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick cooking spray and add the tofu cubes.
  3. Lightly spray the top with more nonstick cooking spray and season with salt & pepper.
  4. Roast for 10-12 minutes, or until the pieces of tofu are lightly browned on the bottom. Turn the pieces over, and roast for another 10 minutes.
  5. Whisk tahini, soy sauce, sesame oil, maple syrup, vinegar, sesame seeds, ginger, and pepper flakes in a small bowl until combined.
  6. Remove the tofu from the oven, and toss with the tahini mixture.
  7. Pour the the tofu back on the sheet, and drizzle the remaining sauce on top. Return the sheet to the oven and roast for another 5-7 minutes.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Mommy Mondays: Don't Leave Me!

Separation anxiety.  If you're a parent, you know what I mean.  It raises its ugly head in so many different ways. 

Around 5 months, your child first begins to realize that you're not always around.  And usually that's not a happy discovery.  But separation anxiety arises slightly later.  At 5 months, a child realizes you're gone.  At 8 months, the child is capable of realizing you're leaving.  And that's where separation anxiety kicks in.

If you work outside the home, then chances are, you've experienced this at daycare dropoffs.  But moms who stay at home aren't immune to separation anxiety.  It's not like they never leave their children!

And separation anxiety is not a one time thing.  It comes in waves, peaking at different points.  For us, it was most intense at 13 months.  During which time, if we sat Thatbaby down on the floor for a moment, he became hysterical.  But it showed up again at 18 months.  And every now and then we still get glimmers of it.

So how do you deal?  I've heard so many different solutions.  Most of which involve ignoring and walking away.  Like ripping a bandaid off.  I can't say that this is a good or bad solution, and I think it's situation specific.

What we did was exactly the opposite of what is recommended.  Instead of leaving a crying child, I stayed.  "2 minutes" was the refrain.  And although I never actually stayed for 120 seconds, sometimes longer, sometimes less, it worked for us.  My child needed a little bit of acclimation time into his surroundings.  And once he was comfortable, he was okay with me leaving.  This is obviously not going to work for every child, but it harkens back to my constant mantra - figure out what works for your child and go with it.

It also helps to have really great caregivers - daycare providers, family, whoever you're leaving your child with.  We've been really lucky with that.  At daycare, as soon as I was ready to leave, Thatbaby was whisked away to pick out a special toy or look at pictures.  When we left him with a babysitter, she likewise would pull out something special to play with.  Distraction works wonders.

And my last words of advice, remember.  It's just a phase.  It won't last forever.