Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, and Peach Salad

"I remember when August was when you got the best, sweetest watermelon."  Thatboy told me as he grabbed a piece from the fridge last week.  His remark was a commentary on the fact that watermelon has been pretty lackluster this year.  We've tried it from all different sources, including going to pick our own.

Those watermelon pictured above had all the hallmarks of a "good" watermelon.  Hollow sounding, a creamy yellow patch...but cut them open and they were white.  Not because they were some weird white varietal, but because they were just not ripe.

But we've also bought watermelon that when cut into, raised our hopes.  Gloriously pink, as though they had been photographed for the very definition of summer melon.  And they were completely lacking in flavor.

It wasn't just us who couldn't seem to get a handle on watermelon this summer.  On our way home from camping we stopped at restaurant for lunch where Thatboy was drawn in to the watermelon and beet salad.  And the watermelon was just as flavorless as those we had been finding all summer.  That salad had other flaws as well.  With gorgonzola and a balsamic reduction there were too many competing flavors.  Especially given that those flavors were each really heavy.  It was not the watermelon salad I would have made.  It was not the watermelon salad I have made.

Typically my watermelon salads are low on ingredients.  Watermelon, mint, and feta. Skip the balsamic and do a basic dressing with lime and olive oil.  Light and fresh.

This watermelon salad is slightly more complicated, but only slightly.  I love beets as much as the next girl, but their earthiness doesn't match the lightness of watermelon.  Peaches and tomatoes are a much more complementary addition.  The salty feta gets replaced with a more mild goat cheese.  And instead of just lime and oil, this dressing is almost mojito like with its honey and rum!  Which is perfect for those less than sweet watermelons.

Heirloom Tomato, Watermelon, and Peach Salad (From Cooking Light)
juice of 2 limes
1 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp honey
1 Tbsp white rum
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3 cups cubed, seedless watermelon
1 1/2 cups sliced peaches
1/2 cup vertically sliced red onion
1/4 cup torn mint leaves
2 Tbsp thinly sliced fresh basil
1 lb heirloom beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1 inch chunks
1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese

  1. Whisk lime juice, olive oil, honey, rum, salt, and cayenne in a large bowl.
  2. Add watermelon, peaches, onion, mint, basil, and tomatoes and toss gently.  Refrigerate 2 hours.
  3. Sprinkle with goat cheese and serve.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Mommy Mondays: Starting Kindergarten

This is one of those posts where I'm sharing experience, and not advice.  Because y'all, we are only 3 days into this kindergarten thing.  There's more I don't know I don't know, than things I know.

When last we left our kindergarten saga, Thatkid had got into a better school in our district.  And that was pretty much it for a while.  It's been quiet on that front.  And then August rolled around and it was time to prep for starting school!

Back in May, we had our "school assessment" where they provided us with the list of what we needed for school.  The list was small - pencils, crayons, and scissors.  That's it.  Everything else was provided for.  And the school specifically requested we not send the kids in with backpacks.  I later learned that the PTA provides tote bags for all the kindergartners to use in lieu of backpacks.  Because kindergarten is only half a day, even a lunch box wasn't required.  So our back to school prep was pretty non-existent.

I've already said I am NOT the guru in this department.  I called up one of my friends who has been there, done that twice before with her sons and had her walk me through what we should be doing. She told me that she got backpacks for both her sons when they were in kindergarten, and used it to store a pillow and blanket for rest-time in the after school program.  This is also where the lunch box would come into play.

With this in mind, we were off.  We started with the hallmark of school - the backpack.  Thatkid picked out a blindingly neon green number.

He's fairly well set with clothes, but school shopping is a rite of passage.  And so I let him pick out some new outfits for school.  His idea of "new school clothes" is a little different than mine.  He picked out some graphic tees and basketball shorts.  I managed to throw in a pair of khakis and convinced him to add another pair of pants and some dressier shoes into the mix.  A new lunchbox, socks, and pencil box which we filled with crayons, "rainbow pencils" and a pencil sharpener, rounded out the shopping trip.

And then came the stressful part.  A little over a week before school started we got a letter in the mail assigning Thatkid to....afternoon kindergarten.  Afternoon kindergarten is from 11-2:20.  There is no morning care on campus, and the of campus care programs don't transport to the school.  Which would mean I would have to get him to school myself every day at 11.  (*Well every day except Thursday when the afternoon kindergarten went in the morning)  This wouldn't have been terrible on days I worked from home, but would be really inconvenient on days I was in the office.  And impossible on days I traveled to LA or Oakland.   Nothing is ever easy in Thathouse, huh?

So when school opened the following week, I went to the school to talk to them.  Which didn't seem like it was going to work.  They basically informed me he was on the waitlist for morning and nothing could be done until school started.  I'm not ashamed to say I cried, begged, and pleaded, but they were unmoved.  But somehow, by the end of the day he had moved off the wait list and into morning kindergarten.   We still went through a couple more classroom/teacher changes that week, but on Wednesday of last week he finally started school!

The day before, we had gone in to meet his teacher, see his classroom, and get his first homework assignment - decorate that totebag!  Thatkid used glitter paint to draw his family on the bag.  We found his seat, and thankfully noted his best friend was sitting at the other side of the class.  The two of them wasted no time in acting crazy as I had them do a couple run throughs of coming in, hanging up their bags, and finding their seats.

Wednesday morning he was still very high energy and crazy.  We ran into a bunch more friends while waiting for school to start and he was very happy to see them.  We headed over to his classroom and waited there until his teacher opened the door to greet her students.  And that's when that craziness and energy faded.  His eyes got big, he got quiet, and he asked if I would go into the class with him.  So I walked him in while he hung up his bag and put his lunch bag in his cubby for snack time.  A couple kids had already made their way over to the rug, so I sent him over to sit with one of his friends, a girl who had been on his baseball team, before I headed out.  I managed to snap a quick picture on my way out the door as he sat nervous and quiet.

The first week has definitely been a learning curve.  School itself has gone great.  He comes home every day with "star cards" which are for exceptional behavior.  He's gotten a "responsibility" ticket for doing something responsible (he can't remember what).  And he really likes it.

Aftercare however....the first day he already was getting in trouble for roughhousing with one of his friends.  The third day he "forgot" he brought his lunch and went to the cafeteria to buy lunch instead.  This kid LOVES buying lunch.  I think he's most impressed with the chocolate milk that "comes in a bag you can't open, you just poke it with a straw."  Although I'm sure the corn dogs, tater tots, and chicken nuggets are fairly big selling points too.

And after aftercare, he's been a bit of a mess.  This is the first time he hasn't napped.  Yes y'all, my nearly 6 year old still takes naps.  And needs them.  Of the three days he's been in school, he has only taken advantage of "rest time" once.  Which means he's a tired, cranky, emotional mess in the evenings.  So.Much.Crying.  He got in a couple of good naps this weekend, so hopefully that will help?  Gosh I wish you could store sleep (she said thinking of how much sleep she had before her children were born).

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday Runday: What's New?

I was realizing the other day that this year has been pretty boring in terms of runs/running/races. BUT I have been using this time to renew and replace.  Which is kinda exciting, right?

So I figured this was a good time to update on these new products that have found there way into my life, and my thoughts on them.

S  A Cell wireless magnetic bluetooth earbuds - You guys, I have the hardest time with earbuds/headphones.  Wireless/nonwireless, I just can't seem to find a pair I love.  I'm going through them like tissues.  This year alone I've had 2 pair stop working, 2 pair break, and a pair that was just...not good.  I got these on Amazon prime day and I'm not sold yet.  I like the wireless feature and they fit well, but I don't love the magnetic aspect of them.  Which I thought I was going to love.  But if they aren't magnetically connected, it just drains the battery.  Plus I find the reception to be spotty.  Like they're not receiving the bluetooth signal from my phone which is less than a foot away.

Nike Free RN Flyknit -  I love these shoes!  UDubb has been instrumental in hooking me up with sneakers, but my go-to shoe was discontinued a couple years back.  UDubb picked these ones out for me, and they are my new favorite.  So when my old pair started wearing down, I picked up this year's model.  I don't like to recommend shoes, because everyone's foot and stride is different, and what works for one won't work for another.  So let me just say that they work for me!

One of the perks of the Craft Classic 5k was their sock trade in.  It was the first race I've ever run that did this, but I love the idea.  After the race we gave them our old, sweaty socks, and they gave us a new pair.  The only problem is that I didn't get the brand, which is nowhere on the sock.  And this is a problem because I love these socks!  They're thin, sweat wicking, and super comfortable for long runs.  I pretty much destroyed them on my trail run, but my feet were in great shape.

Chantelle Sports Bra - I've been a Moving Comfort girl for....7 years?  But with the recent buyout by Brooks, I've found the bras have changed a bit.  I thought it might be time to branch out and try something new.  I'd heard good things about Chantelle as a brand for women with...more up top and they definitely delivered.  I like the lift, separation and support.  I also like the fact there's no difficulty in putting it on.  And BONUS, the top converts from regular straps to racer back, which is extra nice if you have a variety of styles in your running tops.

So what's new in your world?  Anything new to recommend?  Want to tell me about your earbuds which are comfortable, dependable, and last for longer than a month?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Bourbon Baked Beans

It's been a little quiet on the ole blog-o this week.  Which is due mostly to the fact that I've been without internet for the past 5 days.  Why?  Because we've been out in the woods!

It was pretty much a disaster of a camping trip.  I had warned Thatboy in advance that camping with our children wasn't going to be the relaxing vacation he envisioned.  I think the exact words I used were "This is going to be more work than vacation."  

He decided that he wanted to prove me wrong.  Fueled by visions of his own family camping trips (which occurred when he was a teenager and involved sleeping in campers or cabins with working kitchens) he promised to plan the whole thing.  His number one goal was to find a place with a nearby lake to swim in.  He found and booked the campsite.  "There's even a restaurant in town!  So you plan breakfasts, and we'll pick up lunch and dinner.  See, vacation!  No cooking!"

Except as we drove through town we noticed that the restaurant?  She was no longer open.  Closed for business.

And then we pulled into the campground and I asked what our campsite number was.  He didn't have an answer.  "I was going to look it up on my phone."  He didn't even think that maybe we wouldn't have cell service in the middle of the woods.  So we drove around and headed back to town to find someone with cell service to look up our reservation online.

Finally, we were back at the campground and ready to set up camp.

Because the local restaurant was closed, we ended up heading to Lake Arrowhead for dinner - which was about 30 minutes away.  During the drive Thatbaby fell asleep in the car.  

You guys know about the curse of the car nap?  If you're a parent, chances are you've experienced it.  They get just enough sleep to recharge them, making any subsequent sleep impossible.  The entire way home from dinner, Thatbaby sang and talked.  When we got back to the campsite and tucked into sleeping bags, he was bouncing off the tent walls.  It took forever to get him to settle down and go to sleep.

The next morning I went to make breakfast, only to find Thatboy hadn't packed any cookware.  Despite the fact I had asked him to make a list of all the things we had in our camping gear twice, and the fact that my mom had brought us up a cookware set that he claimed we didn't need because we already had one, and the fact that the morning we packed the car I tried to go over a list of "what we had."   Without a pan, there was no way to cook/reheat the food I'd brought.  And without a pot or coffee pot, there was no way to make the hot chocolate I'd promised the kids.  We did our best with foil, but ended up eating semi warm eggs and potatoes.  Thank goodness I had cooked them before we left or it would have been a real disaster.   

After breakfast we went for a little hike around the campgrounds, before getting dressed and heading to the lake for that swimming Thatboy had wanted to do so badly.  Except he hadn't done research to realize that the one part of the lake that allowed swimming was fenced off and no dogs were allowed.

So he and the boys went swimming, while I took Thatdog to a different part of the lake and we just sat and enjoyed the view for a few hours.  

(Between you and I, those quiet hours were some of my favorite of the entire trip!)  We met up for lunch at the "Artisan Faire" the town was having.  Which meant there was a food truck where we could grab burgers and hot dogs.  Camp food not at the campsite! 

While the kids napped, we drove to 2 different nearby towns looking for cookware so we could make breakfast the rest of the time we were there.  When the boys woke up, we headed back to the lake to give the boys their first fishing lessons!

We caught nothing.  Which was okay by me!  We headed to the next town over to grab dinner, only to find that there was no outdoor seating.  Which meant no dogs allowed.  And with the weather in the 80s, it was a little too warm to be leaving Thatdog in the car.  In fact, there were no restaurants for the next 3-4 towns over that allowed dogs.  So back to Arrowhead we went.  And another rough night was had.

Our second morning I was able to cook breakfast AND make hot cocoa.  While Thatboy built our first fire.

Today was hiking day.  And we headed up to the very top of Keller's Peak to the lookout for some killer views.

Thatboy and Thatkid headed up even further to the Peak's Lookout, while those of us with four legs, small legs, and fears of heights stayed down below.

I had found a great nearby hike for the family - National Children's Forest.  It was a little less than a mile loop, on a paved path, that promised beautiful views.  Thatboy wasn't thrilled about the idea of a paved path, but I knew it was exactly right for our little guys.  Including the one who didn't want to walk the entire trip. For 3 days he wanted to be carried everywhere we went.

The older one only made it about half a mile before he started complaining about how tired he was and how much his legs hurt.  Luckily I spotted one of those promised beautiful views and guided him towards there with the promise of a rest and snack.

We sat for a while and ate, and then, miraculously his legs felt better and he wanted to climb every rock in the area.  And the little guy, wanting to do whatever his brother did, decided he could walk a little (and climb) too.

We headed back to the campsite where I entertained the kids for a bit while Thatboy ran and grabbed dinner to bring back and eat there.  Then we managed to actually get Thatbaby to sleep!  We stayed up with Thatkid doing glowsticks and smores.

The next morning was breakfast, more cocoa, and then packing everything up to head home.  The trip felt much longer than 3 days, and we were exhausted from poor sleep, lots of work, and bored children.  The campsite offered no showers or hot water, so we were definitely not at our best in the smell department either.

Things I learned from the trip:
1) Thatboy is not the planner in our relationship.  And I should stay being the one in charge of planning everything.

2) Children 5 and under are not great at "entertaining themselves" with nothing more than a ball and some trees.

3) I used to love camping in tents when I was younger, or when it was just Thatboy and me.  But with young kids?  I don't see the need.  I think we're going to stick with cabins for the next few years.  I mean, we can still get to do all the same thing, but with warmer, more comfortable beds, separate spaces, and a place to cook meals.

In truth, you can have almost all the "fun" aspects of camping without even leaving your immediate vicinity.  We have hiking, lakes, trails, all right here.  We set up the tent in the backyard every year and we have a firepit for making smores.  We even can eat campfood in the comfort of our own yard! Like beans!  A pot of beans has always been "camp food" for me.  Because it's easy to cook over an open fire or camp stove, it's filling, and versatile.  Even Thatboy's family used to make beans when camping and use them for dinners and breakfasts.

These are cooked low and slow, sweetened by maple syrup, flavored by bacon and bourbon.  Served with hot dogs, burgers, chicken, or steak - whatever you love to cook when camping.  As a bonus, they won't leave you smelling like a campfire for days after the fact!

Bourbon Baked Beans(From Cooking Light)
1 lb dried navy beans
3 applewood smoked bacon slices
1 cup finely chopped onion
5 cups water, divided
1/2 cup maple syrup, divided
1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp bourbon, divided
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp cider vinegar

  1. Sort and wash beans.  Place in a large Dutch oven.  Cover with water to 2 inches above beans, cover, and let stand overnight.  Drain.
  2. Preheat oven to 350. Heat pan over medium high heat.  Add bacon to pan and cook 4 minutes or until crisp.  Remove from pan, reserving 1 1/2 Tbsp drippings in pan.  Crumble bacon.
  3. Add onion to drippings in pan, cook 5 minutes or until onion begins to brown, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add beans, bacon, 4 cups water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup bourbon, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, cover and bake for 2 hours.
  5. Stir in 1 cup water, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and 2 Tbsp bourbon.  Cover and bake 1 hour or until beans are tender and liquid is almost absorbed.  
  6. Stir in vinegar and season with salt.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Crave Wednesday: Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream

On Sunday, Thatboy and I celebrated our 11 year anniversary.  11 years you guys.  That's over a decade of being married.

We celebrated by getting rid of the kids for a couple of hours.  That's right!  A Day Date!

We headed to Temecula for some wine tasting, but stopped on the way to grab breakfast.  It was one of those spur of the moment things, googling places while on the highway and pulling off before we got into town.

Our destination was Cork Fire Kitchen, the restaurant at the Temecula Creek Inn.  One of the things that makes this place especially special is that it's part of the same hotel group as The Surf and Sand, where we got married 11 years ago.

The inn itself was really pretty, and quiet.  It looked like a great place to stay if you were planning a trip to the area.  We are already trying to figure out a time we can come back and stay.

We decided to split a couple of their breakfast items, since both of us wanted to try the chipotle chorizo benedict.  We also ended up with the citrus chia pudding.  I've been really into chia pudding lately, and although Thatboy was wary, he ended up really enjoying it.

With the food in our belly, we were ready for our wine country adventures.

We had picked several wineries to try that weren't as kid friendly as the ones we usually go to.  Our first stop was Doffo.

We were expecting to be more wowed than we were.  The syrah and malbec were enjoyable, but the rest of the wine list left us unimpressed.

I did like the 3-D video they showed of the winery!

Our next stop was definitely somewhere we couldn't go with our kids.  Briar Rose winery is adults only.  That's right, you have to be 21 to even be on the grounds.  And just like the 21+ pools, we definitely enjoyed the child free atmosphere.  We enjoyed the wines here more than at Doffo, again sticking with reds.  Just due to lucky timing we even got to taste one of the oldest bottles in Temecula.  They had just opened the second pressing of a 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon.

If Briar Rose felt like something out of a fairy tale, that's because it was.  The winery is housed in a replica of Disney's Snow White Cottage, built by one of Disneyland's imagineers for his wife.

While working at Disney, he designed parts of Toontown and Fantasyland.  And the Toontown roofing found its way to this Temecula replica.

The inside also stayed true to the theme.  Although it's not open to the public, you can peek in doors and windows.

Other parts of Disneyland adorn the grounds.  The lanterns that hang on either side of the entrance once lit the way in the Haunted Mansion.

And the one above this clock once hung in Splash Mountain.

The rocks at the front of the grounds came from Indiana Jones.  And to keep with the Snow White theme, there are little dwarves hanging out all over the vineyard.

We spent a long time at Briar Rose and realized it would probably be a good thing to eat again.  At the recommendation of the staff at Briar Rose, we headed over to the restaurant at the Avensole winery.  We ended up making a meal of some appetizers.  Baked brie, roasted brussels sprouts, and a crab cake.

After lunch we had time for one more winery.  We went back to a tried and true, Palumbo.  We both really love this winery, but it's small, which isn't great for young children.  So we used this opportunity to stop by and pick up a bottle of one of our favorite Cabernet Francs.

We headed home and spent the rest of the days with our boys.  Who could care less about our anniversary.  Or 11 years.  They have their own things going on.  And while they want to include us in those things, it's really all about them.  What they want.  And right now?  What they want is ice cream.  It IS summer after all.  And we've been doing a lot of ice cream lately.  Including an ice cream dinner on Saturday night.  Thatkid even made ice cream at preschool last week, by putting cream and sugar in a bag surrounded by ice and "squeezing" it.  When he asked if we could do that at home I assured him we had a much better way of making ice cream - the ice cream maker.  Just pour the ingredients in, and no squeezing required!

This is a basic, light, ice cream.  Many cheesecake ice creams feature graham crackers, or more of a cake like consistency.  This one creates a cream cheese base with fresh blueberries simmered down to a thick syrup.  Pieces of blueberries remain making it seem really bright and summery.

Blueberry Cheesecake Ice Cream (From Cooking Light)
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup 1/3 less fat cream cheese, softened
4 egg yolks
3 cups 2% milk
1 cup half and half
3 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup water

  1. Combine sugar, cream cheese and egg yolks in an electric mixer and mix at high speed until smooth.
  2. Bring milk and half and half to a boil in a heavy saucepan.  
  3. Gradually add half of the hot milk to the cream cheese mixture, stirring constantly with a whisk.
  4. Return milk mixture to the pan and cook over medium low heat until the mixture reaches 160 degrees, stirring constantly.
  5. Place pan in an ice filled bool and cool completely, stirring occasionally.
  6. Bring blueberries, powdered sugar, and 1/4 cup water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently.  Remove from heat and cool completely.
  7. Stir the blueberry mixture into the milk mixture. Pour into the freezer can of an ice cream maker and and process.  
  8. Spoon ice cream into a freezer safe container and freeze for 1 hour or until firm.