Monday, October 22, 2018

Mommy Mondays: Fall Bucket List

I don't know about you guys, but I LOVE these bucket lists.  We don't always get to everything on the list, but it's fun to sit down and brainstorm as a family about activities we want to do.  Thatboy is already asking about our plans for winter activities.  And it was 90 degrees on Saturday! 

The only problem I run into, is that some of my favorite activities don't always fall on their appropriate season.  Like apple picking is always done during the "summer" here, even though it is definitely a fall activity.   And while Christmas falls in the winter, most Christmas activities happen in what is traditionally considered fall, based on the calendar.  And this year?  Channukah actually falls in the fall!

But I'll sit here, sipping my cider, dreaming of cooler weather and sharing the adventures we've had and plan on having for the rest of the "fall."

*Go Apple Picking
*Make Chili
*Drink apple cider
* Make pumpkin muffins
* Make candy corn
*Make creepy gingerbread houses
* Corn Maze!
* Go on a hayride
* Oktoberfest
*Go to a pumpkin patch
*carve jack-o-lanterns
* Go to Fall Festivals
* Read Halloween books
* Watch Halloween movies
*Brick or Treat at Legoland
* Listen to Halloween Playlists
* Visit a haunted ship
* Trick or Treat
*Dia de los Muertos Festivities
* Watch the Macy's Day parade
*Go see a movie on Thanksgiving
*Celebrate Thanksgiving
*Take family photos


You'll notice there's a decided lack of fun things like "go see beautiful fall leaves changing colors."  Such is the tradeoff for living in California where fall marks wildfire (and arson fire) season because of the high heat, extreme dryness, and high hot winds.  It's not my favorite tradeoff!  

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Oktoberfest: Sauerbrauten


San Diego boasts no fewer than 18 Oktoberfest celebrations.  And every year I vow we're going to make it to one.  And we haven't made it since 2009.

It's not my fault!  As I've said before, our weekends are SO full in the fall.  But this year, one of the local breweries were having their Oktoberfest late, on a Sunday.  And our Sundays are usually pretty quiet.  It was an adults only event, requiring tickets, so after checking in with our babysitter to make sure she was available, we planned a day date.

Of course, as often happens, after making that plan our Sunday filled up.  Sunday school, a birthday party - the event was from noon to 6pm, so we just made arrangements to head over around 2:30, after all our morning events.

So I guess really it was our own fault that by the time we arrived, they only had one stein (included with the price of our ticket) left.  Which isn't the biggest deal, except the first beer in that stein was free.  So while they subbed in a non-Oktoberfest stein, filling it wasn't as great of a deal. 


What wasn't our fault is that although they billed it as "adults only" and "tickets required" there were tons of kids running around.  And anyone who showed up was welcome to come join in the Oktoberfest festivities.  Which means that "free" stein of beer, just became a VERY expensive stein of beer since it included an unnecessary babysitter for two kids who would have been just as happy to run around playing with the other kids there.


Thatboy took part in a stein holding contest.

He did not win.

The guy next to him, who was sitting at our table did though!  So it was like we were part of the winning team.



The best part of the entire experience was the food.


I can't tell you about the German chocolate cake - I'm not a sweets girl.  But the sausage was excellent, the schnitzel was way better than expected, and the pretzel?  Well, I haven't met a pretzel a pretzel I didn't like.



While we ate, Thatboy and I reminisced about the food we ate in Austria.  We definitely have a soft spot for Austro-German (Germanic? Austro-Hungarian?  Eastern European?) cuisine.  And like my love of various other cuisines, I credit my parents.  

Wurst were introduced to us from an early age, with bratwurst being my favorite.  So much so that I introduced it to my kids last week - and they were likewise big fans.

But brats are easy.  For our own fall celebration at home I wanted something a little more special.  I was inspired by the new and improved Good Eats Reloaded which premiered this week.

If you've been reading this blog for a long period of time, you'll know I'm a HUGE Alton Brown fan.  If you're new - HI!  I'm a big Alton Brown Fan.  I've been super excited about the Reloading of an old favorite, so I popped open one of my Good Eats Cookbooks (I have all three) and pulled out this Sauerbraten recipe.    Sauerbraten, or "sour meat," gets its name from the vinegar marinade it sits in for days.  And while this dish is time consuming, it couldn't be easier.  You pour a bunch of vinegar in a bowl with the meat, let it sit, then pop it in the oven.  You end up with a super flavorful pot roast that goes perfectly with your favorite Marzen beer! 


Sauerbraten (From Alton Brown)
2 cups water
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 cup red wine vinegar
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chooped
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
6 whole cloves
12 juniper berries
1 tsp mustard seeds
3 1/2-4lb bottom round
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
18 gingersnaps, crushed
  1. Combine water, vinegars, onion, carrot, salt, pepper, bay leaves, cloves, juniper berries, and mustard seeds in a large saucepan over high heat.  Cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Pat the bottom round dry, then rub with oil and salt on all sides.  
  3. Heat a large saute pan over high heat.  Add the meat and brown on all sides.
  4. When the marinade is cool, place the meat in a large glass or metal bowl and cover with the marinade.  Refrigerate for 3 days.
  5. After 3 days, preheat the oven to 325.  Transfer the meat and marinade to an ovenproof pot or dutch oven. Add the sugar to the meat and marinade.  Cover and cook for 4 hours.
  6. Remove meat and tent with foil to keep warm.  Strain the liquid to remove the solids.
  7. Return the strained liquid to the pot and place over medium high heat.
  8. Whisk in the gingersnaps and stir until the sauce has thickened.
  9. Strain the sauce once more to remove any lumps.  Slice the meat and serve with the sauce.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

One on One: Boysenberry Milkshake


I have a special trip planned for Thatkid and myself coming up next month.  It involves an airplane ride across the country, a hotel stay, and doing a bunch of fun things he really is looking forward to.  And I felt a little bad about it.  I'm overly sensitive to sibling dynamics, and while there are a ton of benefits to being an older child, they shouldn't get all the fun.

So I planned a special weekend for Thatbaby and I too. It didn't include an airplane ride across the country, because I'm not crazy, but t did involve a very special hotel stay and a bunch of fun things.  We did a little drive to Knotts Berry Farm!

We left pretty early in the morning and managed to miss all the traffic, so I was surprised when we checked in that our room was ready.  I finished up at the front desk, while Thatbaby impatiently whined and pulled, begging me to finish up because right across the lobby, someone was waiting to say hello.


He was SO excited to see Snoopy.  Which was a big part of this trip.  In fact, I booked us the super special Camp Snoopy room!


It came with that stuffed Snoopy, which of course HAD to go to the park with us.  They were inseparable.

We walked over to Knotts Berry Farm and made a beeline to Camp Snoopy - the children's area of the park. A familiar friend greeted us.  And despite having seen him only moments before, he had to go say hi again.



And then it was time for the rides!  The great thing about Camp Snoopy is that all the rides are really geared for the smaller audience who usually gets overlooked.  Nothing was too scary for Thatbaby.



And he adorably buckled in Snoopy beside him on all the rides.



We stopped for a little lunch, where he convinced me he needed a giant cup of strawberries.  And over the course of the day he ate all but two of them!


After lunch we had time for a few more rides.  Including a horse drawn buggy and a train ride around the park.




They did a mock hold-up of the train, which Thatbaby did NOT appreciate.


Because Knotts Scary Farm had begun, I ushered him out of there a little early, so we didn't run into anything scary on our way out.  And I ushered him right over to Mrs. Knott's Chicken Dinner restaurant.


The little guy was pretty happy with his jello appetizer, biscuits and jelly.



Although as he licked all the butter and jelly off his biscuit then asked for more butter, I had my own little appetizer.


It was a busy night, and dinner took hours.  We were both pretty tired from our long day - especially since Thatbaby didn't get his typical afternoon nap.  We headed back to the hotel and I ran him a nice, warm, bubble bath.   He had interrupted my nice, warm, bubble bath a couple weeks back and expressed interest in the face mask I was wearing at the time, so I picked up a hydrating jelly mask for him.  He was so happy about it.



After bath I whipped out some new Snoopy pajamas for him, which was greeted with equal enthusiasm.  And then we curled up on the bed together and watched a little television while waiting for a special friend to drop in.




Having Snoopy tuck him in was an awe-inspiring moment for him.  He made me show him the video a couple more times before tucking in to bed.  

The next morning, we hit up the hotel pool.  They have their own little splash pad which made this trip over the top for Thatkid.






After the pool we got cleaned up and headed to meet up with a friend before going home.  It was a pretty epic weekend.  And Thatbaby had a wonderful time.  His one request for the weekend was that he wanted a milkshake - because Thatkid had preemptively bragged about the one he was getting on his trip.  And so I found one for Thatbaby.


Knotts Berry Farm is known for their boysenberries.  In the late 1920s, Walter Knott, who was a berry expert, was the first to commercially cultivate the berry.  He began selling them from his farm stand, which eventually grew into Knott's Berry Farm.    His wife, Mrs. Knotts, began making preserves out of the berries, which made Knott's famous.  

Now boysenberries are all over Knott's Berry Farm.  The barbecue sauce is made with boysenberries. The salad dressing is made with boysenberries. The churros are stuffed with boysenberry syrup.  That beer I was drinking?  Boysenberry beer.   So naturally, Thatbaby found himself with a boysenberry milkshake.

And the great thing about Knott's Berry Farm, is that you can take some of that boysenberry home with you.  Which I did.  In syrup form so I could make milkshakes for the rest of the family!

Boysenberry Milkshake
1/4 cup boysenberry syrup
1 cup vanilla ice cream, softened
2 Tbsp whole milk
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender. 
  2. Pour into a glass and serve!



Monday, October 08, 2018

Mommy Mondays: Bowl-O-Rama

Thatkid's birthday fell on a Tuesday this year, so his actual birthday was a little uneventful.  There was a doughnut for breakfast, presents, then school, then out for pizza for dinner.

The big celebration happened on Saturday - his bowling party.



Thatkid has been bowling two times in his whole life, but decided a couple months ago that what he really wanted for his birthday, was a bowling party.

Such a throwback to our childhoods!  I can't even begin to count the number of bowling parties I went to when I was a child.  He hasn't been invited to any bowling parties, so he's either right on the cusp of the resurgence, or they're just not a thing anymore.

But a bowling party sounds really easy - they don't even let you bring your own food (minus the cake) so all we had to do was show up! Of course I couldn't do nothing, so some bowling ball balloons were easy enough decor.


And once the kids arrived, there was bowling.


And pizza.




And more bowling.



Lots more bowling.






Eventually I rounded all the kids up for some cake.  And oh that cake.


Like last year, Thatkid requested I make his cake.  Vanilla on the bottom, strawberry on the top.  Purple frosting. 3 bowling balls stacked on top of each other on top of the cake, and 2 pins beside the balls.  And bowling balls all along the sides of the cake.



I made a slight adjustment to his request, because 3 balls don't really balance well on top of each other when you're dealing with three dimensions and not just two. 



A couple little white dots on black plates and we were ready to go.


After cake, the kids bowled a little more and then I gathered them once again to take some pictures and send them to the table to grab their favors.




We sent them home with bowling pin sippers, gutterball gumballs, and those black balls filled with bowling balls, each of which were filled with a bowling pin stress ball, socks, and a slap bracelet (super retro for a retro kind of party, no?)


And with that, they were on their way.  We did a quick cleanup, and then we were on our way also!  Thatkid had a great time with his friends and I think we're going to start seeing a lot more bowling parties from this group!

Sunday, October 07, 2018

Sunday Runday: Grape Day 5k

Oh HELLO running friends!

It has been waaaaaaay too long since I've posted a Sunday Runday.  I'm sorry.  I missed you too.  There are a couple of things I have backlogged, but between you and I?  Summer running had me really bummed out.  Too hot.  Too sticky. I kind of stopped enjoying it there for a bit. 

But luckily cooler weather is upon us, just in time for my fall race season.  October always starts me racing all through the new year.


Beginning with the Grape Day 5k.  The last few years I've found myself running it with Thatkid - or more correctly, run/walk/whining with Thatkid.  So this year when he told me he didn't want to run it, I wasn't too bummed out.  I haven't run a race for time since March, and I haven't run a race since April!  After a really ugly summer, it would feel good to stretch my legs a bit.


Then earlier this week, Thatkid decided he really did want to run the race.  With a $10 coupon coming through my email, I signed him up and resigned myself to the fact that maybe it was better to take it a little slower with my race return.



Saturday morning was gloomy.  Overcast and sprinkling.  Perfect running weather if the sprinkling didn't turn into anything more ominous.   Thatboy dropped us off at the start and went to find parking.  Thatkid and I walked around a bit to keep warm, but the nice thing about running a race close to home is that we didn't have to get there very early.  In no time at all Thatboy and Thatbaby were walking up the road toward us and we were heading to the start line.



As usual, Thatkid took off like a bullet.  I reminded him to keep his speed in check so he would make it all three miles, and all three hills.  He backed off a bit, only to put on the burners when we passed the groups of cheerleaders cheering us on.  ("I had to run fast, or they would have kept cheering for me to run fast!")

We hit the first mile marker right after the first water station and Thatkid was excited to see that he had run his fastest mile to date.  So excited he charged right up the first hill.




It wasn't too long after that he asked if we were almost done with mile 2.  We weren't.  We weren't even at 1.5 miles yet.  And we were about to hit the second hill.



But at the top of that hill, we were halfway done, and heading downhill for a brief respite.  One more hill, and we were turning around and running downhill to mile marker 2.  The weather ended up being perfect for the race, and I love running by all the old houses and the tree lined streets.  Thatkid and I pointed out houses that would be really cool to live in and decorate for Halloween.


Then we were heading back out toward the main street, and those cheerleaders.  Thatkid decided he wanted to conserve some energy, so he could really sprint to the finish.  We walked a bit between cheerleaders.




 "When we get to that 3 mile sign, I'm going to run as hard as I can."  He told me.  And true to his word, he took off.   The road was empty in front of him, and I hung back as the crowd went crazy cheering for the little dude.  One of the policemen, on a bike, rode over and gave him an escort to the finish.  He was talking to him, but when I asked after the race when the policeman said, he couldn't remembered.  He was too focused on the finish.

And finish he did.  It was adorable to watch and I knew he was beaming with pride.  Especially because we had talked about the fact that he was about to break his own personal record.



Usually after the race, we grab breakfast as a family at the local coffee shop.  But this year, the burger joint down the street, who had just started serving breakfast earlier this year, offered a discount for racers and was one of the two locations to pick up your free post-race beer.  Which made it a no-brainer for a new family tradition.    I already love the place for their breakfast burritos and the kids are a fan of any place that has chocolate chip pancakes.



But I was tickled pink to see that the free post-race beer they were offering was brewed especially for today.  A local brewery - Burgeon - had created a Grape Day 5k beer!





A personal record for Thatkid and a fun new beer for me made for a very enjoyable race morning!