Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What the Dickens!: Crockpot Shepherd's Pie

This was, by far, the busiest Christmas ever.  It felt as though it were nonstop, go go go go!  It began with our arrival, which coincided with TBIL's Christmas Party.  So before we had even unpacked the car, we were whisked into activity.

The next day, TBIL had something else in store for us.  This was such a welcome change from years past when his Christmas activities were those I had planned, or those he excluded us from.  The day after we arrived, we headed to The Dickens Christmas Fair.

The festival transforms modern day San Francisco into Victorian England.  There are costumed performers and spectators in period garb.  Shops sell wares that you'd find in Dickens' time.  And many of the stores bear names that come straight from the novels (Like Fezziwig's shop where dancing is held).  Walking through the narrow lanes give you the impression of what it must have been like to do your Christmas shopping in a village many years ago.

One of the highlights for Thatbaby were the shows. As we headed into the Victoria and Albert Concert Hall to watch a melodrama, I was concerned that we'd need to beat a hasty retreat.  After all, this is a child who can barely sit through a half hour cartoon program.  But he was enthralled.  He cheered, he clapped, he didn't want to leave when it was over.  This continued to be the theme of the day for him.  There were various stages throughout the grounds with singing and musical troupes.  Every time we passed a performance, he wanted to stop and watch the singers or musicians.  And every time they finished a song he would turn to me and ask for "one more song, please."

Most of the things in the shoppes were pretty hands-off for little fingers, but there were a couple of things Thatbaby was invited to investigate.

Thatbaby wanted to go and explore every store.  From the one selling hairpins, to the one selling handcut men's clothing, to the one selling period baby clothing. 

We didn't find the kids area until we were almost ready to leave, but we still had some time to play around.

What was Thatbaby looking at so intently?  Well, he had found the carousel.  And there was no way he was going to leave until he got a turn.

My child always looks so happy on carousels, doesn't he?  I promise he was a grinning fool for most of it.  Especially since he got to ride the tiger!  He was the only one on the ride, as it was getting late, and had his pick (and an extra long turn).

We grabbed dinner at the fair.  Thatbaby and I shared a meat pastie - a handpie with meat inside.  I use the term "shared" very loosely, since Thatbaby ate most of it.  And really enjoyed it.  And I can't really blame him.  There's something about those old, homey foods that just warms you from the inside out.  Shepherd's Pie is a similar meal that could also be found in the same time period.  Historically, the recipe involves chopped/ground lamb, hence the name "shepherd's" pie.  This is a modern take on the classic recipe, using ground beef instead of lamb.  And cooked in a crockpot, which I'm pretty sure didn't exist back in Dickens's day.  Unless that's what they called you if you stood over a pot all day stirring.

Crockpot Shepherd's Pie
1 lb ground beef
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups mushrooms, chopped
1 tomato, diced
1 tsp thyme
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 cups green beans, chopped
6 cups mashed potatoes
  1. Combine ground beef, olive oil, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, thyme, tomato paste, and green beans in the crockpot.
  2. Spread the mashed potatoes on top of the meat and veggie mixture.
  3. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Mommy Mondays: A Tale of Two Holidays

I don't know if this is exactly the right place to talk about this, but I thought it should go somewhere, after all, we're not the only family with a variety of religious traditions!

Thatboy and I had a big talk about religion when we started getting serious.  Long before the word "marriage" came into the picture (for me).   It was important for me to raise my children Jewish, and with Thatboy's Catholic upbringing, I needed to know he was on the same page.  It was a dealbreaker for me.

Thatboy was more than happy to agree.  He hadn't really been an adherent to Catholic tenants since he was about 16 years old. He loved the Jewish traditions he experienced with me.  The only issue became Christmas. 

Because I'm Jewish, we always spent Christmas with his family.  (Going on 13 years now!)  There was never any debate or tradeoffs, trying to squeeze in holiday celebrations with both families.  So how were we going to handle it once we had a child?  Especially because Thatboy didn't want to give up that special time with his family.

We discussed what it was about Christmas that he loved so.  And it turned out that for him, Christmas was really about spending time with family - a decidedly nonreligious aspect. He loved the sites and sounds of Christmas, the movies, the tree, the lights.  Also things that tend to draw more from a secular background.  And so I had no problem agreeing to celebrate Christmas with Thatboy, his family, and our future children.

So Thatbaby gets the best of both worlds.  Although you won't find a nativity scene anywhere in our home, there is a menorah and a Christmas tree.  So one holiday isn't seen as "better" than the other, the "good" presents are divided between Chanukah and Christmas.  Santa brings one (small) gift to Grandma's house, and fills the stockings we hang at home.  All the other presents for both holidays come from us (and family and friends).  Thatbaby plays with the dreidel and sings Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (Santa Reindeer song) as loudly as he can.

As he gets older, we plan on sharing with him that the winter holidays mean different things to different people.  Different cultures have different ways of celebrating.  Daddy's family celebrates one thing, and mommy's family celebrates another, so he gets to share in both. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

Road Trippin': Quinoa Stuffed Peppers

As I alluded to in Tuesday's post, we spent Christmas Week with Thatboy's family.  I'm not going to lie - I was not looking forward to the roadtrip.  

I used to love roadtrips with Thatboy.  We would make a fun day of it - stopping for sightseeing and meals.  We spent the time singing to the radio and talking about everything going on in our lives.

Roadtrips are not as much fun with a small child.  Last year, our 6 hour trip took 12 hours.  We stopped just about every 2 hours so the little guy could get a clean diaper and some food.   When we went to Yosemite over the summer, he spent much of the time needing constant attention from those of us in the front seat.

This year our trip went surprisingly well.  We began by heading off what is always our first toddler tantrum - packing the car.  Thatbaby does not like Thatboy packing up the car.  He wants to go and help.  With that in mind, one of Thatbaby's Chanukah presents this year was his very own luggage!  Luggage that he could take out to the car himself!

We also stuck his constant companion in the backseat with him so he could have company.  Poor Thatdog.  It was not his ideal location.  I had to remove coloring books and magnadoodles from his back several times.  To be fair, at least now I wasn't the only one who was subject to Thatbaby's demand that there be no sleeping in the car.

We managed to make it up with only one stop, when Thatbaby started screaming that he had to get out of the car, and out of the car RIGHT NOW.  Which meant we took a fairly long and early lunch break. But we still managed to make it up to TBIL's house by 6:30pm for their annual Christmas Party. 

I was off cooking for the week, but I'm sure most of you aren't that lucky.  So I'll share with you one of the big hits from the days leading up to our trip.  Stuffed peppers aren't anything fancy, but anything with beans are very popular in my house.  This recipe is a bit of a twist because it uses quinoa instead of rice.  Really, any grain would work well with stuffed peppers - including barley or wheatberry, but quinoa is what I had on hand.

Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
1 tsp olive oil
1 cup quinoa
1/2 onion, diced
2 cups vegetable broth
1 can black beans
1 tomato, diced
1 can diced green chiles
4 bell peppers, halved from stem to tip and seeded
1/2 cup grated monterey jack
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add quinoa and onion and cook until onions are translucent, about 3 minutes.
  2. Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed.
  3. Add black beans, tomatoes, chiles, and salt and pepper to taste to the quinoa and stir.
  4. Microwave the bell pepper halves for 4 minutes to soften, and then divide the quinoa mixture between the halves.
  5. Place the bell peppers in a baking dish and sprinkle with the cheese.  Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and cook for 5 minutes more.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

More Christmas Treats - Date Pockets

Every year, I send in a little treat for Thatboy's office co-workers.  Something he can pass around easily as a way to spread some holiday cheer.  This year was no exception, and since we're Thathouse has turned into the "house of truffles" lately (we also sent in truffles to Thatbaby's preschool teachers), I made a batch of Earl Grey Truffles and sent them in.

When I was asking Thatboy for the best day to send him in with treats, he told me he'd like to bring them in on Tuesday, because that was the day that his department was having their Christmas Party.   And oh, by the way, he needed to bring in cookies to the party too.  Did I mention that he told me this on Sunday?  2 days before he needed to bring in the cookies?

I associate dates with the holidays, even though there isn't really anything especially winter-season about them.  But sweet dates, a dessert on their own, seem to bear with them the idea of sugar-plums and holiday sweetness.  It makes sense to create a kind of jam with them and tuck them into cookies.  I'm sure the idea was partly inspired by Hamentaschen, a cookie associated with quite a different holiday, but everyone loves cookies with a sweet surprise inside, don't they?  Thatboy's office certainly did!
Date Pockets
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 lb butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups oatmeal
  1. Combine dates, sugar, and 1/2 cup water in a heavy bottomed saucepan and cook for about 15 minutes, until dates have "melted" into a jam.
  2. Cream the butter in an electric mixer.
  3. Add the brown sugar and mix well.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt, and add this to the wet ingredients, beating well.
  5. Stir in the oatmeal.  The mixture is going to be thick, so add water by the Tablespoon until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a workable dough-ball.  Shape the dough into a flat disc and refrigerate for 15 minutes.
  6. Preheat the oven to 350. Roll out dough until it is about 1/8 inch thick.  Use a cookie or biscuit cutter to create 2-inch circles.  
  7. Spread the date filling onto half of these circles.  Place the other half of the circles on top, pinching around the edges to seal.  Bake for 15 minutes. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Twas the Night Before: Savory Green Tomato Pie With Beef and Onions

'Twas the night before Christmas,
and all through their homes,
the readers were thinking,
"Oh No!  Not a poem!"

But Thatgirl was tired,
and weary from travel.
Her nerves had been frayed,
and slightly unraveled.

A week with the inlaws!
How would she cope?
There better be liquor.
One only can hope.

So while she settles in 
as best she is able,
here's a meat pie recipe for 
your holiday table.

Savory Green Tomato Pie with Beef and Onions (from A Canadian Foodie)
2 Tbsp olive oil 
3 onion, sliced
4 Tbsp cornstarch
3 stalks celery, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 lb ground beef
1/2 tsp sage
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/4 cup butter
pie dough
3 green tomatoes, sliced
  1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  Add onions and saute about 20 minutes, until onions are caramelized.  
  2. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat.
  3. Add 1 Tbsp olive oil to the skillet,  Add the celery and carrots and saute for 3-4 minutes. 
  4. Add ground beef and continue to cook until meat is browned.
  5. Add sage and garlic and saute until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  6. Add Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, and butter, and cook until butter mlets.
  7. Stir in 2 Tbsp cornstarch and let cool.
  8. Preheat oven to 350.  Roll out half of the pie dough and use it to line a baking dish.
  9. Place the meat filling in the dough-lined baking dish.  
  10. Mix 1 Tbsp corn starch with the onions, and layer the onions over the meat.
  11. Lay the tomato slices over the onion and season with salt and pepper.
  12. Fold sides of pie dough over the meat and tomatoes.
  13. Roll out remaining pastry dough and place on top of the folded dough to cover the top of the "pie."  Press down on edges to seal, and crimp with a fork.  Pierce the cover several times with a sharp knife.  Bake for 1 hour.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Mama Mondays: Potty Time (Part 1)

I expect this is going to be a many-part series as I discuss the trials and tribulations of potty training.  I mean, it is a rite of passage.  And not one I've been particularly anxious to start.

It's not that I want to keep Thatbaby a "baby."  And I can't wait to not have to buy diapers anymore.  But I am not looking forward to that time period where I can't just rely on the diapers.  When I'm going to need to have intimate knowledge of the location of every restroom of every store we frequent.

Right now we're trying to let Thatbaby take the lead on the whole potty thing.  (I know, given my typical parenting philosophies you're probably not too surprised.)  What does this mean?  It means that we didn't rush out and buy him a potty the minute he turned 1.  Or 2.

We've introduced the idea of the potty to him.  Which means bathrooms are an open-door affair at Thathouse right now.  Monkey see, monkey do?  I guess that's the idea.  Thatbaby also regularly asks to sit on the potty before he takes his bath, which was inspired by the fact that Thatbaby usually pees as soon as the bath starts running (so regularly, that Thatboy runs the water, waits for Thatbaby to pee, and then once the tub clears, he fills the tub)

Given that success with voluntary potty time, we've been discussing that he can sit on the potty whenever he wants to go to the bathroom.  He does ask from time to time, but not with any regularity.  And as I learned one morning when he didn't want to put on clothes, he still hasn't quite mastered the art of knowing he has to go before he actually goes.

We did go out and get him a potty seat and stool for Chanukah (wish is I'm sure on every 2 year old's wish list), so now the guest bathroom is officially "Thatbaby's bathroom"  with a toilet seat perfectly sized to fit his little bottom.

I'll update this post when we either have some potty success, or to tell you what it's like to have to join my child at college for diaper change

Friday, December 20, 2013

My kind of casserole: Mushroom and Bacon Barley Casserole

In hate to admit it, but I'm a bit of a food snob.  I prefer homemade mac and cheese to the stuff in the blue box, I won't eat plastic that comes in individually wrapped slices masquerading as cheese, and the idea of a casserole usually doesn't interest me.

It's not so much the idea of the casserole, as the idea of certain kinds of casseroles.  Growing up in Western PA, the typical casserole was a combination of meat, cream of ____ soup, and potato chips.  Sort of an odd conglomeration.  But really, any dish that combines various ingredients and is baked is a casserole.  And if the ingredients are good, the casserole is the perfect kind of meal.

This casserole is chock full of deliciousness.  I love the chewiness of barley, so a dish in which it stars is usually a good start.  Add in some dark green spinach, some earthy mushrooms and some melty cheese and you're almost home-free.  And of course, everything is better with bacon.

Mushroom and Bacon Barley Casserole (From Prevention RD)
4 cups beef broth
3 cups water
8 slices nitrate-free bacon, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1 Tbsp thyme, minced
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups pearl barley
1/3 cup Madeira wine
4 oz gruyere, shredded
1/2 cup sundried tomato halves, chopped
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
  1. Preheat oven to 375.  Bring stock and 3 cups of water to a simmer in a saucepan.
  2. Cook bacon until crisp, remove and set aside.
  3. Add onion, thyme, and garlic to bacon grease and saute until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  4. Add mushrooms and salt and cook for 10 minutes.
  5. Stir in barley and cook for 1 minute.
  6. Add Madeira and cook for 2-3 minutes, until the wine is absorbed.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and stir in 2 cups of the broth.  Cook until the liquid is dearly absorbed.
  8. Add remaining broth mixture, 1 cup at a time, letting each addition get absorbed by the barley before adding in the next.
  9. Stir in half of the gruyere, the tomatoes, soy sauce, pepper, spinach, and bacon (chopped).  Place the mixture in a baking dish.
  10. Sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake 15-20 minutes.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Cookie Monster: Spinach Lasagna Rolls

This is turning into a very cookie-centered holiday for Thatbaby.  Cookies in the morning, cookies in the evening, cookies at suppertime.

That may be a bit of an exaggeration.  It's not so much that Thatbaby eats cookies on a regular basis, but they are certainly more plentiful around the holidays!  There were the gingerbread cookies at Chanukah/Thanksgiving, the cookies at all the holiday parties we've been going to, cookie decorating at the race, and then came Little LO's cookie decorating party!

Thatbaby had a blast decorating the cookies.  He actually did better than I anticipated.  I thought he would be anxious to just eat the cookies, sans decoration.  I mean, this is the kid that asks to eat the unbaked cookie dough!  But he was very into the sprinkles ("red things"/"green things").  I couldn't quite convince him that the frosting would make the sprinkles stick better, but his cookies were very colorful for the short time they remained flat.

Although I'm not exactly sure that Child Protective Services has ever been called for an unhealthy amount of cookie consumption, I do want to assure you that Thatbaby is also eating from the non-cookie food groups.  His favorite right now are these lasagna rolls.  So much so that they have made it onto our meal plan 2 weeks in a row.  I'm a big fan of traditional lasagna, but I also like that these are self-contained.  It makes them very easy to pack into Thatbaby's lunches!

Spinach Lasagna Rolls
8 lasagna noodles
2 cups ricotta
1 bunch of spinach
8oz mozzarella, shredded
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
1 egg
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups marinara
  1. Cook lasagna noodles per package instructions and place them on a flat surface.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.  In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, spinach, 1/2 of the mozzarella and parmesan, egg and garlic in a bowl.
  3. Spread the spinach and cheese mixture down the center of each lasagna noodle and roll up.
  4. Place half of the marinara on the bottom of a baking dish and then place lasagna rolls on top, seam side down.
  5. Cover the rolls with the remaining marinara, mozzarella, and parmesan.  Cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.  Uncover and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

A Night in the Garden: Lemon Chicken Caesar Salad

One of our other holiday traditions is visiting the Garden of Lights at the Botanical Garden.  We like the Botantical Garden year round, but when it's all lit up for the season, it really is the most wonderful time of the year.

As soon as we got there, Thatbaby was anxious to see "Samta."  Thatboy graciously offered to stand in line while Thatbaby ran around like a crazy person.

Once again, the idea of Santa outweighed the reality and Thatbaby was thrilled to see Santa up until it was actually his turn.  Then he wanted to stay far far away.  

He was pretty happy with the candy cane he got after the visit though!  And continued to talk about "Samta" for the rest of the evening.

We grabbed dinner at the garden, and then walked around enjoying all the lights.

The Garden brings in snow every year, but only on certain nights.  According to the schedule, the night we went wasn't supposed to have snow, but as we were walking around and looking at the lights, a couple remarked that we needed to take Thatbaby over to the snow area.  Apparently the schedule was off.  Or wrong.  So we headed over to the Children's Garden for some snowtime fun.  But not without a stop to see the trains.

The model railroad set up for Christmas is always fun, with Santa driving the train.  The next stop was the snow.

We took Thatbaby to see the snow last winter, but I don't think he remembers it.  He had a blast running around the slippery white stuff, but didn't love it when his hands got cold, wet, and "dirty."

In honor of our evening in the garden, I bring you a garden-style dinner.  It may seem odd to have a salad in the winter, but our recent cold spell (It's been in the 40s on my morning runs!) turned much much warmer on Sunday.  I don't think we've hit spring yet, but I'll take it where I can!

Lemon Chicken Caesar Salad
2 lemons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
1 head romaine lettuce
Caesar Salad Dressing
  1. Combine the zest and juice of the lemons with garlic, salt and pepper in a ziplock bag.
  2. Add the chicken to the bag and refrigerate overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 425.  Place chicken and marinade in a baking dish and bake for 30 minutes.
  4. Slice the chicken.  
  5. Tear the lettuce and top with the sliced chicken.  Drizzle the dressing over.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Jingle Bell Run 5k Race Report: Slice and Bake Cookies

I have a feeling it ties into my anxiety disorder, and in that sense it probably isn't all that healthy, but I adore traditions.  I love looking forward to doing the same fun things every year.  And around Christmas, that includes The Jingle Bell Run 5k.

This year was especially fun.  In part, because Thatbaby is finally at an age where he can take it in and enjoy it.  And also because this year's expo was especially fun.  Like the Sprouts booth - which seemed to have taken the entire store and brought it out for the participants to fill their bags with.

I didn't take anything that would make a mess of my bag, which meant I left the chips and salsa and hot cocoa.  Not pictured below are the orange wedges, banana, muffin, bagel, and coffee we enjoyed.  Seriously, how amazing are these people?

My bag still ended up full of water, coconut water, some immunity drink, joint powder, kind bars, Justin's almond butter packets, trail mix, carrot bread and coffee cake.

This year's Jingle Bell Run really ended up being food-a-palooza.  Our next pre-race stop was the cookie decorating tent.

Thatbaby was probably more interested in the cookie itself than decorating, but he still put in a good effort.

The finished project.

Although all thoughts of the cookie quickly vanished when he overheard me telling Thatboy about the smoothies Jamba Juice was handing out.

Finally it was time to line up for the start of the race.

There was a lot of prerace warming up that involved dancing and moving around.

And then we were off.  Not especially fast.  Actually, kind of slowly given that we were pulling Thatbaby in his wagon.  He loved seeing all the costumes, "jingle balls," dogs, and the planes that flew over Balboa Park on their way to the airport.  

I don't love this new course, I miss actually going through the park and I don't love the giant hill we now climb up.  There are no mile markers, but at a certain point, Thatbaby decided he wanted to get out and run himself.  And he did for a bit, until he wanted back in the wagon to keep working on eating his gingerbread cookie.  He came out one more time so he could run across the finish line and get his medal.

We figured Thatbaby would fall asleep as soon as we got into the car and I had planned to do our grocery shopping while he slept in the car with Thatboy.  Except he didn't fall asleep.  So he ended up doing the shopping with me.  And then we decided to grab some lunch before heading home, since he would surely fall asleep in the car on the way home.  

This time we were right.  He was out before we got onto the freeway.  We took this opportunity to get rid of the remaining gingerbread cookie while he slept.  And I unpacked the groceries and got a little workout in.

When he awoke, Thatboy headed out for a surf.  Thatbaby and I did our typical weekend adventure while Thatboy was away - cookie making.  One of the best things about this time of year is that slice and bake cookies make their way into homes across the country.  And why not?  They make it so easy to bake up a quick Christmas cookie.

I've got nothing against storebought cookie dough, but this is an easy thing to keep and make in your own freezer too.  It's one of the easiest cookie batters to throw together, and if you roll it into a tube and throw it in your freezer, you can slice and bake whenever you want!

Chocolate Slice and Bake Cookies
1/4 lb butter
1 tsp vanilla
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
  1. Cream the butter in an electric mixture.
  2. Add the vanilla and beat well.
  3. Add the sugars, egg, and chocolate and mix well.
  4. Combine the flour, cream of tartar, and salt in a separate bowl and then add it into the wet ingredients. 
  5. Roll the dough into a tube, wrap in foil, and refrigerate or freeze until ready to bake.
  6. When you're ready, slice the tube and bake the cookies at 400 for about 8 minutes.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Mommy Mondays: Preschool Days

I wasn't expecting to have to deal with the whole "preschool issue" as early as I did, but now that we're a couple of months in, I thought I would share how we dealt with that stressful experience.

Thatbaby's daycare is divided into 3 rooms/age groups.  There is the infant room, which holds children between the ages of 6 weeks and 1 year.  The wobbler room is a transitionary room for kids between 12 and 18 months. The toddler room is from 18-30 months.

When Thatbaby turned 18months in April, he moved into the toddler room.  At the time, all but 2 of the kids were already 2.  As the approached 2 1/2, they started moving out of the room and into preschools.  By July, Thatbaby and his October-born classmates were the oldest kids in the room.  In August, they began moving the new group of 18-monthers into the room, and in September they started talking to us about where we were going to send our kids when they turned 2.

When they turned 2?????  Based on the earlier class, I figured I had at least 6 months to worry about that after he turned 2.  But the difference here was, there weren't any 18monthers when the class before him turned 2.  So they were all developmentally on the same page.  His teacher informed me that with such a large group of 18monthers, and such a small group of 2year olds, that the older kids often start regressing.  Thatbaby was welcome to stay, but it might be better for him to move along.

And so, we the parents of the 6 October-born babies started discussing preschools in earnest.  In our area, there are three preschools that accept kids in the middle of the "school year."  The October babes seemed to be evenly divided between 2 of those schools.

School #1 - The school that was connected to our daycare.  The pros of this school were that transition would be easy, since it was on the same campus, and they would bring the kids over to the preschool before the move to get to know the teachers and other students.  Some of the kids who had moved in June would be in his class.  We also love the teaching method the school used.  And the preschool was significantly cheaper than School #2.  The cons of the school were that it ran on a school calendar, which meant a lot of "holidays" and "vacations" for which we would need to find secondary care.  And it still closed at 5:30pm.

School #2 - Part of a national chain that gets rave reviews.  The pros of this school were that it was open later, and only was closed on holidays Thatboy or I would already have off.  The cons were that transition would be more difficult and it was much more expensive.

In the end, we decided to stay at school 1.  I obviously can't compare it to school 2, but so far we're happy.  The transition was seamless.  The teachers are wonderful. Thatbaby doesn't ever want to leave at the end of the day.  The curriculum is fun for him and he enjoys his trips to the library, music and art classes.  And I think he's going to have a lot of fun during "winter camp" which takes place over the school's winter break.   Right now our biggest issue involves a biting problem - and I'll fill you in on that once we get it under control!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Christmas at the Del: Crockpot Hoisin Pork

One of our favorite things to do around the holidays is a trip to the Hotel Del in Coronado.  Before Thatbaby was born, this included skating on their ice skating rink, but the thought of my toddler on two metal blades that are as sharp as knives, on hard frozen ice just isn't that appealing.

So now we go and just enjoy the Christmas spirit.

There's the giant tree in the lobby, which was covered in "Samtas."  Thatbaby also loved the garland strung on the upper railings.

And he also wanted to sit and watch the wreath.  We have a smaller version on our front door which he also loves.  But this one had balls on it!

We don't have window displays like NYC or even San Francisco, but the shops inside the Del do something similar.  This window featured a moving cityscape that kept both the boys interested.

Thatbaby's new favorite Christmas treat is Hot Cocoa.  So we grabbed a seat by the fire and enjoyed some cocoa on the beach.  A very California Christmas.

Although for me, this picture really captures Christmas time in Southern California.  An ice rink, on the beach, surrounded by palm trees.  Thatbaby watched the skaters for a very long time.  He was fascinated.  I think he's going to be very excited when he finally gets a spin on the ice himself.

There was an artist building sandcastles on the beach, and we headed down to check them out.

As the sun set, we let Thatbaby get his energy out with a run on the beach.  He chased seagulls, had us chased him, and generally had a great time burning off that cocoa.

While we played on the beach, dinner was cooking away at home.  Seriously, I love my crockpot.  Especially on these busy weekends.  This dinner was such a success we've already done a repeat with chicken.  Thatbaby is a big fan of the rice noodles.  Thatboy and I are a big fan of an easy night's meal. You can definitely play with the heat and protein, but the sweet and garlicy sauce makes just about everything taste good.

Crockpot Hoisin Pork
1 boneless pork loin
1 cup hoisin sauce
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp crushed ginger
1 Tbsp chili paste
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 Tbsp soy sauce
 2 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp cornstarch
  1. Place the pork roast in the crockpot.
  2. Combine the hoisin, garlic, ginger, chile paste, vinegar, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl.
  3. Whisk in corn starch.  Pour over the pork.
  4. Cook for 6 hours on low.