Sunday, October 31, 2010

Racing to races

So most of you know that I've been participating in the zoo run every year since back when I actually ran the thing by accident. They have since changed the 5k run/walk to a 5k walk and now it's not even a 5k, but that's not going to stop us!

I still believe it is the best way to see the animals at the zoo. It's early morning so they're all up and active, far more so than during normal zoo times. AND it's less crowded. And the swag can't be beat.

Last year the whole Thatfamily participated. And although Thatmom didn't seem to enjoy it much, she'd been talking about how much she wanted to do it again for months.

So earlier this month she came down to us so we could all see the animals!

We totally overslept, so it was a race to the race. Never a good way to start things out.

We got to visit with many of our old friends:

Although I was sad that some of my usual suspects, like the grey wolf didn't make an appearance this year. Afterwards we got our goodie bag. Of all the races I annually participate in, this one really does have the best swag - AND the bag it comes in is always great. Last year it was a sling style backpack, this year it was more of a tote bag.

Thatbrother and UDubb didn't join us this year, because UDubb had her own race to prepare for.

This was a hard race for UDubb, not because she wasn't ready. She was. That girl ran a half marathon by accident this year. But the weeks leading up to the race she was sick (which is why she didn't take part in the zoo walk).

Then the morning of the race, she got all the way to the race and realized she left her bib at home and had to go back and get it. The race started at 7am. UDubb got there at 7:30 and made it just in time to participate.

And yet, even though she got a late start and was sick, UDubb STILL managed to finish before all her friends who started the race on time.

Because we all know UDubb is a rock star.

In honor of our "races" I thought I'd share with you a fabulous pre-race fuel meal. It's loaded with pasta for carb energy, and meat to burn those carbs with. And of course, mushrooms - Thatbrother's favorite food group. We've been having awfully strange weather lately, vacillating between cold and rainy and hot and sunny. This is the perfect dinner for one of those cold pre-winter nights.

Beef and Mushroom Lasagna
1 Tbsp butter
8 oz mushrooms, sliced
16 oz fresh ricotta
1/4 cup milk
1 lb ground beef
2 cups marinara sauce
9 cooked lasagna noodles
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Melt butter in small saucepan. Saute mushrooms until they are soft and tender.
  2. Mix mushrooms, ricotta, and milk in a small bowl.
  3. Cook beef in skillet until well browned. Pour off fat.
  4. Stir beef into marinara sauce.
  5. Layer 1/2 beef mixture, 3 noodles and 1 cup of ricotta mixture in shallow baking dish.
  6. Top with 3 more noodles, remaining beef mixture, remaining noodles and remaining ricotta.
  7. Sprinkle mozzarella over top. Cover and bake 30 minutes.
  8. Uncover baking dish and broil lasagna 2 minutes until cheese is browned.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A is for Apples!

I love autumn. It's definitely my favorite season, and always has been. I really miss the annual changing of the leaves, but we really try to take part in all my other favorite autumn activities.

Especially since H introduced us to Julian and the yearly apple picking pilgrimage. Because Thatdog LOVES apple picking, don't you Thatdog?

This year Prez came with us. Because she'd never been, and frankly also because she was in town. Which is always a rare and highly appreciated event. I swear, we've spent time together every week this past month because she's always traveling. As I speak this, she's on the road visiting family, working at one of her sites, and attending a wedding.

This year our annual apple picking also became a day of debauchery. Because we had a designated driver.

So after picking our apples and grabbing some BBQ for lunch, we headed home with plans to make several stops. First we stopped at Julian Hard Cider. Thatboy and I had tried to stop there last year, but we missed their opening by a week! This time they were open and sampling. We all LOVED their cider. Prez compared it to champagne. We each grabbed a bottle to take home. And when my pal Kira came to visit last week, I made sure I had a bottle tucked in for her in her "welcome and happy belated birthday" basket.

Next came a stop at Orfila, a wine tasting located conveniently next door to Julian Hard Cider. We made friends here. (Prez makes friends everywhere she goes. That's why we always bring her to Vegas) Which meant we got to taste all the super secret "for members only" wine. And our new friends told us about the little wine/beer tasting room next door. So we headed there next. Cider, Wine, Beer? It was a good trip.

Prez asked me what I was going to do with all the apples we picked. I told her that I always come up with a list of things I want to make, but in the end, we always eat them on their own. And of course, this held true as usual. Just a week or so later we were practically out of apples. I knew I wanted to do SOMETHING special with our yummy apples, (fresh picked are ALWAYS the best), I saved a couple so I could turn them into applesauce! Delicious applesauce. My second favorite way to eat apples. And ridiculously easy to make. I know a lot of people use the crockpot for this, but it doesn't take long the old fashioned stovetop way.

8 apples
cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 Tbsp butter

  1. Peel and core the apples and cut them into large chunks.
  2. Place apples in saucepan with 2 Tbsp water, 2 Tbsp sugar, cinnamon, and cloves. Cover and cook 20 minutes, until apples are tender.
  3. Remove cloves and cinnamon, then mash up apples until desired consistency.
  4. Add butter and as much sugar as you like. (Thatboy likes it sweeter than I do)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Oahu part 3: America the Beautiful

It was really important to me to visit Pearl Harbor while we were on Oahu. I can't quite explain why. Perhaps its because living in San Diego service men and women are part of my daily life? Maybe its the same reason visiting Ground Zero is a must for NYC visits. I have a need to remember that awful things can happen when you least expect it, in places of beauty.

TMIL was interested in joining us, but (surprise surprise) TFIL didn't want to go. "I went in the 60s, I don't need to go again." And yet (surprise surprise) you'll never guess who was in the car with us bright and early as we made our journey. I had given them both warnings before we headed out that no purses or bags would be allowed on the memorial and we didn't want them leaving anything in the car to get stolen. We requested they only bring what would fit in their pockets. And yet, you'll never guess what TMIL brought with her. And grumbled about having to pay to check it. I also warned TFIL that there were no restrooms on the memorial itself, so he needed to use the restroom before we got on the boat. He replied that he would probably be fine just peeing off the side of the memorial. He actually said that. And so as soon as I could, I divorced myself from the rest of the group. I let Thatboy handle his parents so I could take in the memorial in whatever way I chose. (I did something similar when visiting Dachau with a group of friends)

The USS Arizona Memorial marks the site where the USS Arizona once stood. It was moored on "battleship row" at the Pearl Harbor Naval Base when it was hit by Japanese bombers on the fateful morning when WWII showed up on the US's doorstep.

While many of the battleships hit that morning, the USS Arizona experienced the most casualties after it exploded and sank, bringing 1,177 of her crew down with her.

The Memorial spans the midpoint of the battleship which rests directly below it. It was somber being there and thinking of what was directly under us.

The gun turrets are still visible, poking out above the water. This one is still leaking oil out into the water.

After we visited the memorial itself, the inlaws went and found a bench to sit on while Thatboy and I did some more exploring. I wanted to read all the stories. Thatboy found something else to occupy his time:

The next day we were up at the crack of dawn and on our way home - in desperate need of a vacation.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Oahu part 2: From Here to Honolulu

We did manage to ditch the inlaws one day. Mostly because we went on and on about how we were going to spend the WHOLE DAY in Honolulu. ALL DAY. That's right, early morning till after dinner. The thought of spending an entire day without a nap, OUTSIDE, was horrifying. So they agreed to just meet us for dinner.

Which meant we got to get some real exploring in. As we entered Honolulu it began to rain. As we drove up the windy and supposedly scenic Tantalus Drive all we really got to see was wetness. Wetness and gorgeous trees. I'm always impressed by the change in foliage on the Hawaiian islands. Tantalus Drive was so tropic, it seemed as though it had been misplaced from our Kauai vacation last year. When we arrived at the top, the rain clouds cleared and we were rewarded with an amazing view of Waikiki, including Diamond Head, the unofficial mascot of Oahu.

I already told you about Thatboy swimming with the turtles, and now for his other highlight: The Halona Blowhole.

But first, Halona Beach! Made famous by a very famous movie scene in From Here to Eternity.

You don't know what movie I'm talking about? You will when you see it!

But if you look in the other direction you're treated to the blowhole itself.

Wait for it....

WHOOMP, there it is!

But our view from the top wasn't good enough for some people. So Thatboy and Thatbrother headed down for a closer look.

Around this point my heart was beating almost out of my chest. That's my husband down there. I was fairly sure he was going to be swept right out to sea, never to be seen from again. And frankly, he doesn't have enough life insurance to make it worth my while.

Have you noticed something missing from this trip report? You betcha, shaved ice. Sadly I only have pictures from one stop, and it was our least favorite. Although you may recognize it if you've been watching Hawaii 5-0.

Waiola Shave Ice!

For reference, our favorite shave ice on the trip was on the North Shore - at Aoki's Shave Ice.

After some disappointing shave ice, we went for a walk through downtown Waikiki. Waikiki was NOTHING like I imagined. I kept picturing something more like Lahaina in Maui (which was very unimpressive). I loved Waikiki! It was like NYC's 5th Avenue with sand! And what a beautiful beach it was.

In honor of my husband the surfer, I was sure to take a picture of Duke Kahanamoku. I was also tempted to pick up an "Eddie Would Go" sticker, but I wasn't sure where I'd put it. (I know I'm setting myself up with that one)

Okay, enough with the glamour shots, let me show you the food highlight of our trip: dinner at Alan Wong's.

There are some places that are raved about which are SO not worth the hype. This is not one of those places. Everything here, from the warm rolls with garlic butter all the way to the "shave ice" made from shaved pineapple was amazing. And Thatboy described it best when he said that it was the innovation in the dishes that really stood out.

We started out with the Hamakua Springs Tomato, Beet, and Avocado Salad.

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Roasted Beets, Avocado, and Hearts of Palm. It was light and refreshing. Crisp greens with juicy tomatoes is always the best way to start a meal.

Next came our fabulous main courses. I had the twice cooked short rib, soy braised, grilled Kalbi style.

My ribs came with gingered shrimp on top, but it didn't need to. These were hands down the best short ribs I have EVER had. They didn't have that "tastes like potroast" problem. Instead they were tender and flavorful in their own right - tasting more like steak than a roast.

Thatboy had the Kona Lobster, Two Ways.

The one of the left is a butter poached lobster on top of a shrimp mochi cake on top of edamame truffle puree. The one on the right is a "lobster lasagna" with Cioppino Sauce. He loved both, but was most impressed with the lobster lasagna, which was really a lasagna noodle wrapped around lobster and baked.

Good food can always put you in a good mood - and I was thrilled to be able to have such a fabulous meal to remember the trip by.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Oahu part 1: The No Good, Very Bad Idea

Have you ever had a bad idea? I mean a REALLY bad idea? Well I am chock full of them. Someone should really pay me to come up with bad ideas, because right now I come up with them for free.

It started out simply enough, Thatmom wanted another family trip to Hawaii, since Kauai last year was such a success. She suggested going to our timeshare in Ko Olina on Oahu, since I'd never been there. Everyone seemed in, and so Toxicesq and China threw their oar into our boat and booked a week at the same time. Since it seemed like everyone was going anyway, I made the suggestion to Thatboy that he should invite his parents, since they owned a timeshare in the same resort. This was the beginning of the end. At first they declined, but then all of sudden they had a change of heart.

Spending a week with my inlaws is difficult enough as it is, but to spend a week with them in Hawaii? AWFUL. First of all, as I've already noted, TFIL hates ANYTHING that sounds like a good time. Second of all, they don't like being outside. Which meant their idea of how they wanted to spend their time involved never leaving their hotel room. Which would have been okay, except for the fact that Thatboy actually wanted to spend some time with his parents. So let me give you a rundown of a fairly typical day:

1) This part actually starts the night before when we inform the inlaws what our plans are for the day. At which point TFIL tells us he hates our idea. Doesn't want to go. Sounds awful. TMIL expresses interest and we invite her to join us solo. She insists she won't go anywhere without TFIL. Thatboy and I plan to do the activity alone.

2) The morning we plan to leave for said activity we get a call from the inlaws saying that they will be joining us. Yippers. We head off to our destination. Day one was the Dole Plantation.

TFIL wasn't thrilled with the fact it was outside, so we promised to cut our trip short and just do a quick tour. No "World's Largest Maze" for us.

But, because I'm a crazy nut, I still LOVED seeing all the pineapple growing, right out in the open! This is a baby pineapple.

Wook at da wittle baby grow!

Eventually they start looking like the pineapples we all know and love.

And that's about when the plant can't handle the weight and they start lying on the ground. Kind of like human teenagers.

But the Dole Plantation has SO much more than just pineapples! There's also a koi pond filled with BSC koi. (They look like they're going to climb out and walk around, don't they?)

And there's a train (which we didn't ride, but I was okay with that.)

But TMIL who is a garden enthusiast wanted to check out the garden, and since we're nice like that we willingly obliged.

And we were treated to more hibiscus than I'd ever seen, in really weird colors!

3) The complaining begins. Mostly because TFIL is never happy. Not only did he not like being at Dole, but we spent too long there. And yet, every time we passed by the plantation he would ask us "What's that building over there?" Guess he was paying really good attention.

4) Repeat Ad Nauseum.

Our next stop after the Dole Plantation was Turtle Beach. Another one of my pics. Because I really wanted to see turtles! But Turtle Beach gives you not just a view of turtles, but also the beach where LOST was filmed. We didn't do a LOST tour, but we did take advantage of this vantage point!

And Turtle Beach did not disappoint!!!!

Thatboy and I had our snorkel gear in the car (don't leave home without it!) in the hopes we'd get to snorkel with the turtles, but it didn't take long to see that the inlaws were going to squash that plan too. Because neither of them wanted to hang out on the beach while we jumped in the water. (Don't worry, we headed back later that week with China and the three of us snorkeled and Thatboy got an up close and personal encounter with the turtles)

Turtles and pineapples made us hungry, so we stopped at one of the many shrimp stands in Kahuku.

I'm not sure if Romys gets their shrimp from this giant pond beside the stand, but there were signs that you could go prawn fishing here. We didn't. Whether the shrimp came from here or not, you could tell they were fresh.

And this is one of the many things TFIL HATED about lunch. I thought it was a brilliant idea to stop someplace with an awning to protect him from the sun. But it was still outside. And he didn't like having to eat outside. He informed me that he "doesn't eat in places like this."

He also didn't appreciate the fact that our meals came in styrofoam boxes. However Thatboy and I LOVED our pile of sweet and spicy shrimp. I saw someone else's plate and knew we could split an order. And one order was definitely plenty.

I love peel and eat shrimp. TFIL? Not so much.

The one thing the inlaws both enjoyed was our journey to Laie Point, which offers gorgeous views of nearby islands (islets? Little itty bitty guys)

This is the real showstopper - the island with a hole punched in it from a tsunami.

It really only took one day of spending time with the inlaws for Thatboy to realize he should never vacation with them and me at the same time. Unfortunately, we still had several days to go!