Friday, December 30, 2016

Garden of Light: Thai Red Pork and Pumpkin Curry

This happens to me every year.  December is another busy month.  Since we're out of town for Christmas, we pack so much into every weekend, and the days come faster and faster and my blogging, well, I end up telling you all about December in January.

So stay tuned for Christmas and Chanukah, but for now let's backtrack to earlier this month when we made our annual trek to the Botanical Gardens "Garden of Light."

BH has a couple new words this month, including "Christmas Tree" and "Lights."  Both of which got used a lot that night. 

He definitely got more out of it than last year.  Chasing after his brother.  And Thatkid is old hat at it now, remembering all his favorite spots and sharing them. Like the trains.

Both boys sat enthralled by the singers as we ate our dinner.

And then it was time to visit Santa.  Thatbaby was 0 for 2 on Santa visits, but I was hoping the familiarity would help.  That and having the entire family in the picture.  As usual, he was very interested up until it was our turn.

But once we got up to the big guy, he was all out.  In a series of pictures, this was the best one.  And it's not good!

As a reward for bearing with us through Santa, we brought the boys over to Thatkid's favorite part of the garden - the snow!  Thatbaby tried sledding with Thatboy and was scared out of his ever lovin' mind. 

So he sat and drank hot cocoa while watching his brother sled.

And when Thatkid finished up on the sled, they practiced their snowball technique for a bit.

Unfortunately, this was an exceptionally warm weekend, and so both the sledding snow and the snowballing snow was mushy and melty.  Not ideal conditions.

It definitely got colder as the month went on.  I had several runs that were in 30 degree weather.  Weather like that makes me worry that I'm cold blooded.  I don't mean that in a "heartless" way, but when I go out in the cold, I feel like it takes me days to warm up.  I spend the days shivering through the house no matter how many blankets and sweatshirts I put on.

Sometimes you need to get warmed from the inside out.  Curry is fantastic for that.  Both because it's a nice, warm, dish, and, because the spice level is also good at raising your internal temperature.  I have a week spot with curries that have a coconut base, and this one seems especially seasonally appropriate with pumpkin being one of the star ingredients.  Don't skimp and use coconut milk.  I mean, flavor wise it would be fine, but coconut cream gives a beautiful thickness to the sauce.  This works fine with chicken, but pork has such a great fall apart quality when cooked into a curry.  So if your days (or hearts) are cold, this is a perfect recipe to thaw you out.

Thai Red Pork & Pumpkin Curry
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb pork loin, cut into cubes
2 red chiles, seeded and chopped
2 Tbsp Thai red curry paste
12 oz coconut cream
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
1 lb pumpkin, cut into cubes

  1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over high heat. Add the pork and sear until lightly browned.
  2. Add the chiles and red curry paste and stir fry for 4 minutes.
  3. Pour the coconut cream into the pan and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
  4. Add the chicken broth and pumpkin.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas!

May your day be warm, bright, and full of love.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Mommy Mondays: You Rock!

Yesterday as we were driving, Oasis came on the radio.  Thatboy and I both started singing along, reliving our high school days.  A small voice piped up from the backseat "What happened to our Christmas music?"

You see, as soon as Thanksgiving is over, it's Christmas music all the time in our car.  But even when it isn't, we don't do a lot of radio play.  Both my kids love music, but they listen to curated playlists more than the radio. 

Thatkid has his very own playlist, filled with his favorite songs.   Although recently we've been doing a lot of musicals instead of pop request.  Hamilton, Peter Pan, even A Little Night Music.  He's somehow decided that every song that exists must be from a show of some sort.  I don't think it helps that a lot of the Christmas movies we've been watching feature Christmas songs we all know and love.

As for Thatbaby?  He loves nothing more than dancing.  I was rocking out in my car this morning to Los Peces En El Rio while he watched from the kitchen table.  When I came in, he grabbed my hands and started bopping.  This is how a lot of dance parties start in my house.  I'll start singing something, and he'll dance, begging for "muh" if I stop.  Of course, Thatkid joins in - singing, dancing or both.

Thatboy and I both love the fact the kids love music so much.  Thatboy definitely thinks of himself as some sort of indie-music loving hipster while my interests cross just about every musical genre.  I think it's this variety and our own love which has our boys so into music.  That and it's constantly playing.

I'm not against screen time.  Goodness knows Thatkid watches his fair share of television, but when I can I try to throw music on instead.  Which is the other reason we have dance parties.  If I'm up early with the boys, I throw on music while I make breakfast.  We often listen to our Victrola during dinner.  And of course, there's always the car!

I have memories of family sing-a-longs in the car when I was growing up, and I hope my boys have the same!

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Runday: Wrapping Up 2016

This would probably be a more fitting post for next Sunday, the last Sunday of the year, but the last Sunday of the year also happens to be Christmas.  And I don't know if I'm going to get a post up.  So look at me!  All ahead of the game!

This year I ran 18 races. That includes 1 half marathon, 3 10ks and 13 5ks and 1 one-mile race.   I'm pretty sure that's the most races I've ever run in a single year.

The year started off really well in terms of my running.  Had two resolutions, one was to increase my running, and one was to run all the holiday races.  Well, as far as the first resolution went, I did great for about 6 months.  I ran almost every day.  It was only once I started my current job that it became much harder to keep that up, and I definitely noticed a difference.

My second resolution was much easier to keep!  I managed to get a run in for most major holidays! Some of those races were great, and I'll be adding them to my permanent race schedule, and others...well, they didn't make the cut. 

Here's my breakdown of what I ran this year.

Races I loved:
Resolution Run - New course + great swag!
Sweetheart 5k- Hard course, but the kind of trail run I know I can conquer
Fit Foodie 5k  - I mean, duh guys.  You know how much I love this race, it never disappoints.
Carrera de los Muertos -My favorite course, so much fun, great entertainment on the course, very family friendly.
Jingle Bell Run  - Family friendly with so much to do before and after the race itself.
Mother's Day Run - Okay, so this one is really in there because it was my fastest race of the year!   I really want to get back there.
Grape Day 5k - Gotta love a small community race.
Mardi Gras Run - Despite a poor start to the race, that was on me.  The race is well run and lots of fun.
Zombies Run Virtual 5k- I love everything about Zombies Run, this isn't any difference. 
Sharon's Ride 5k- Another family friendly race, I've got a lot of them on the list this year.
Avenue of the Giants Half Marathon - Really?  I have nothing bad to say about a beautiful run through the forest.
Legoland Miracle Mile - I'm super bummed we can't run this again in 2017.  It is the PERFECT run for kids.
St. Patrick's Day 10k - This one is definitely going on the list for next year!  I thin the family would love to join in the post-race festivities too.

Races I didn't love:
Cinco de Mayo Trail Run- I can't believed I paid for this kind of torture.  This was one of the hardest, least enjoyable races I've ever run.  I don't need to conquer it!
OC Turkey Trot - the course was super flat, but also a little boring.
Scripps Ranch Ole Pro - I'm really glad I did this race, but I'm okay not doing it again.
Spooktacular - The race was fine, but nothing spectacular
Surfing Madonna- This race may be getting too big for its britches, it was very disappointing this year.

I can't wait to see what 2017 holds in store!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Open-Faced Prosciutto and Plum Sandwiches

After our race on Saturday we decided to continue with the family holiday activities and brought this act down to the Hotel Del Coronado.  It's one of our annual traditions to visit and see it all decked out and drink hot cocoa.  This year the beautiful tree was covered in white lights and ornaments.  Silver packages circled the boughs.  Thatkid took one look and said "It's a White Christmas!"

Which is a totally novel concept to all of my boys.  Because the only thing white about our Christmases is the white sand.

Last year we added a new element to our visit, ice skating!  Since Thatboy took to the ice last year, this year it was my turn to skate with Thatkid.

We also stumbled on an area we hadn't previously visited, and found even more fanciful decor.

Last year our visit to the Del was on Christmas Eve, and it was noticeably colder.  This year it was downright warm.  So much so that as the boys sipped their hot cocoa, I went with an iced drink instead.

And for dinner, I went with a warm weather twist on some Christmas classics - fig and sugar plum.  Both take a decidedly summery twist on this open faced sandwich, but the flavors seem very holiday-esque. 

Open-Faced Prosciutto and Plum Sandwiches (From Cooking Light)
1/4 cup fig preserves
juice of half a lemon
1/4 tsp grated peeled ginger
1/3 cup goat cheese
4 slices county wheat bread, toasted
1 cup loosely packed arugula
2 ripe plums, cut ito thin wedges
3 oz thinly sliced prosciutto
  1. Combine fig preserves, lemon juice, and ginger, stirring with a whisk, set aside. 
  2. Spread 3/4 oz of goat cheese on each toast slice.
  3. Divide arugula, plum wedges, and prosciutto evenly among sandwiches
  4. Drizzle each sandwich with 1 Tbsp preserve mixture.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Mommy Mondays: 18 months

Weight: 27lbs 6oz (+ 19 lbs, 2 oz)
Height: 35"(+ 13")
Head: 19"

Sleep:  It's the same.  Over Thanksgiving was the worst, he was up for hours each night, or up 6 times.  Of course, other nights he doesn't wake up at all.  He still wakes early, although he appears to have dropped his morning nap, so we're down to just one nap a day.  I wish I could say that led to better night's sleep, but well, it just hasn't.

Eating: I figured out our apple issue.  Apparently he doesn't like apple peel.  So I peel the apples and then he eats them.  His eating has been up this month, or maybe he just likes what I'm serving better?  I don't know.  Still a huge fan of grapes.  I keep a big bowl in the fridge and both boys love to help themselves.

Best Moment: I was trying to entertain Thatbaby at a restaurant so I started making "Toddlers and Tiaras" faces at him, the faces the little girls on the show make - duck lips, head nods, tracing hearts around their faces.  And he picked it up really quickly.  But that's not the best moment.  The best moments are the times when he spontaneously starts doing them to entertain us.  Whether it's a quiet moment at the dinner table, or a time when I seem sad.  I've always said that Thatkid is the jokester, and Thatbaby loves to laugh, but Thatbaby is definitely developing a sense of joking himself.

Monthly Wisdom: The above picture convinced me that we cannot have a french door refrigerator.  It is hard enough keeping him out of the cabinets, pantries, toilets, bathrooms, and recycling, our saving grace is that he can't open up the refrigerator.

Goals for the Upcoming Month:
-  Sleep more!
- Another car trip.  I feel like this is going to be a much harder age for it.

Things Thatbaby is doing:
-  More new words!  He's started repeating things we say also.  Some of his big phrases right now are "Buh bye, gotta go,"  "Mo mobo" (more motorboat) and "eat dat."  And while he still doesn't seem to have his brother's name down, he's pretty close with Thatdog.
-  Cooking.  He's my little helper in the kitchen.  He will even drag a chair in there if he thinks I'm making something without him.  He likes to dump and pour things into bowl, and he love stirring even though he's a terrible stirrer.
- Another tooth broke through.  Which I think brings our total to 11.
- We are definitely in the "NO!" stage for just about everything.
- He knows body parts like eyes, ears, and mouth.
- He loves the song "Open Close them" and wants me to sing it all the time.
- While in home depot one day I spun the cart around singing the motorboat motorboat song.  He loves it.  He asks for it all the time.  And it doesn't have to be in a cart, he's happy if I swing his arm while singing it.
- He is big on cleaning up.  He will throw things in the garbage, wipe down the floor or any spills, and lately he even likes washing dishes (which really consists of squeezing the sponge over and over)
- He has started drinking from a regular cup.  I only put a little bit in the cup, but it makes him very happy to drink like a big boy.  And he is so careful about putting it down on the table when he's done drinking.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sunday Runday: Jingle Bell Run

It's December, so you knew this was going to be coming.  It's our 7th year participating in the Jingle Bell Run!  Okay, so it's my 7th year.  Thatboy and Thatkid's 6th year, and Thatbaby's 2nd year.

This year Thatbaby was big enough to sit up in the wagon all by himself, which he LOVED.  He wiggled and danced and smiled the entire time.

When we went to the tree lighting, Thatbaby missed out on cookie decorating, so when we got to the race, Thatkid made sure it was the first thing we did, so his brother could do it too.  Which sounds more altruistic than it was.  Really, he didn't want me to force him to share his cookie with his brother.

This was Thatbaby's first cookie decorating experience.  And he just didn't understand it.  He didn't want to frost it, and he most certainly did not want to put sprinkles on it.  Really, he just wanted to eat it. 

I loaded him back into the wagon to eat his cookie.

While Thatbaby munched, Thatboy and Thatkid joined the rest of the crowd in warming up with the MC.  Honestly, it was one of the most fun warmups I've seen at a race!

Santa was also present, and both boys received candy canes, but neither was interested in any photo ops.

And then we headed over to the start of the race.  Thatkid decided he wanted to run with me, not sit in the wagon.

So we split up.  Thatboy pulled Thatbaby in the wagon, while Thatkid and I ran ahead.

Typically when Thatkid "runs" a 5k, he doesn't "run" the entire race.  There's a spurt of running, followed by walking while whining, or jumping on to the glider board of our stroller.  For the Jingle Bell Run, the reason we bring the wagon is because after a couple blocks, Thatkid is done.

But this race was different.  Thatkid didn't want to stop and ride in the wagon.  He didn't even want to walk.  He wanted to run the entire thing.  3.1 miles is a long way to go when you're 5 years old, but this little trooper wasn't quitting.  Even though there is a very steep hill along the route, and only one water station.

He was hot, he was sweaty, but I could see how proud he was of himself as he kept on running.  And when he picked up speed to cross the finish, knowing that the cheering crowd was for him.

We finished the race and a little bit of time to sit and wait for the rest of our party.  I missed them crossing the finish line, but I caught them shortly after!

The rest of the family had a really great experience with the run also.  And Thatboy happily donated his medal to Thatbaby.

We headed back over to the Kidzone after the race so Thatkid could build an airplane.

And while he worked on that, Thatbaby played with the inflatable games set up for the kids.

Pretty successful morning!  I love the Jingle Bell Run.  It's not flashy.  They don't do major advertising.  The course isn't my favorite.  But it's one of the best ways we ring in the season as a family.  It never fails to provide a wonderful experience for all of us, and it's great to watch my kids grow as the years go by.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Light 'Em Up: Grilled polenta with mushrooms and gorgonzola

When we start the holiday season, we jump right in.  Over the weekend we attended our town's tree lighting.  We went last year and Thatkid had such a great time I knew we had to return again this year.

For one thing, this gave me a chance to introduce Thatbaby to snow!

Which he loved!  Thatkid got cold relatively quickly but Heaty McHotlegs didn't seem to mind it at all. We couldn't get him out of there.

I ended up taking Thatkid to decorate cookies while his brother played in the snow.

After the cookie decorating, both boys sat for a little face painting.

I'm always surprised at how well Thatbaby sits for face painting.  Thatkid decided they both needed snowmen.

And then it was off to watch hula dancers, carolers, and the main event - the tree lighting!

Thatbaby sat transfixed by it all.  He has a thing for both Christmas trees and Christmas lights, so he was as happy as an be.

After the trees were lit, Thatkid decided he wanted to see Santa.  This was a huge deal because Thatkid has been Santa-shy for the past 4 years.  He likes the idea of Santa, but never wanted to be anywhere near the man in red.  In fact, he had specifically told me that he did NOT want to see Santa at the tree lighting.  

I thought Thatbaby might be equally as interested.  He loves looking at pictures of himself with Santa from last year.  And he went right up to this guy and happily took a candy cane.  But when the time came for lap sitting?  Well he was having none of that.  

But hey, one out of two is better odds than I usually get for Santa pictures!

We made one final stop to visit with the reindeer before heading home for the night.

I'm also starting to get ready for holiday get togethers.  Planning appetizers and desserts that please a crowd.  There's something about cheese that really works for appetizers.  You find it on cheese plates, baked brie, or even a great cheesy dip.   This combines two of my favorite appetizer tricks, cheese and polenta.  I love making polenta ahead of time.  You can cut it into rounds or squares and then top with all sorts of goodies - chutney, salsa, salad, or cheese!  This season I'm topping it with gorgonzola and mushrooms which gives it a warm, tangy, earthy flavor.

 Grilled polenta with Mushrooms and Gorgonzola
1 lb polenta
4 Tbsp olive oil
6 shallots, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
10 oz mixed wild mushrooms, sliced
2 sprigs of thyme, chopped
1 cup white wine
1 1/3 cups heavy cream
1 cup gorgonzola, crumbled
1 1/2 cups Parmesan, grated
juice of 1 lemon

  1. Prepare polenta according to package directions.  Pour into a greased pie pan and refrigerate 4 hours.
  2. Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.  Cut polenta into triangles and and place on hot grill pan for 3-5 minutes, until lightly charred.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a saucepan over low heat.  Add the shallots and garlic and cook 5 minutes, until translucent.
  4. Turn the heat up to high and add the mushrooms.  Cook 4-5 minutes.  
  5. Add the thyme and cook for another minute.
  6. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 more minutes.
  7. Add the wine and reduce cook until it's reduced by two thirds.
  8. Add the cream and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sauce is reduced by one third.
  9. Turn the heat down to low.  Add the gorgonzola, Parmesan, and lemon juice, stirring constantly until the cheeses have melted.  Pour over grilled polenta.

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Picnic Perfect Lobster Rolls

My local supermarket is currently hosting their lobsterfest.  They put up a big tent that takes up a good quarter of the parking lot.  Over the weekend when I was checking out I asked the cashier about it.

"Do you get a lot of people who come for the lobsters?"
"Oh yeah.  We usually sell out."
 "Really?  They're $9.99/lb.  Which isn't any cheaper than they usually are."
"Well, we do get them in from Maine.  And we cook and clean them for you."
"Which you do anytime of year, right?"

We got to talking about lobsters in general.  I'm a bit of a spoiled brat when it comes to lobster.  While most people think of it as a fancy meal for special occasions, our family used it as an everyday kind of meal.  Thatdad would bring it home any time it was cheap and we'd have lobster races across the kitchen floor. 

Which means while most people enjoy their lobster on its own, served beside drawn butter and perhaps a baked potato, I have no problem chopping it up and using it like its less lauded shellfish brethren.

Like chopping it up and tossing it with mayonnaise for a sandwich.  Which is not a unique or novel idea.  Lobster rolls are very in right now here on the west coast.  They took their sweet time getting here, but now there are lobster roll trucks, lobster roll restaurants, lobster rolls are everywhere!

What's funny is, lobster rolls are probably the easiest thing ever to make.  The same basic concept as egg salad- lobster, mayo, and some add-ins.  Anyone can do it.  So pick up a lobster.  Cook it or have it cooked for you, and have your own lobsterfest!

 Picnic-Perfect Lobster Rolls (From Cooking Light)
1/3 cup chopped celery
2 Tbsp chopped green onions
1 Tbsp chopped tarragon
3 Tbsp canola mayo
1/2 tsp grated lemon rind
1 1/2 Tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
3/4 lb lobster meat
4 New-England style hot dog buns, toasted

  1. Combine the celery, onions, tarragon, mayo, lemon rind and juice, dijon mustard, cayenne and lobster in a large bowl.  Cover and chill for an hour.
  2.  Divide lobster mixture among buns.