Friday, September 30, 2016

SAND-iego: Twice Baked Potatoes with Mozzarella, Basil, & Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Thanks to the lovely SDMom I found myself with free tickets to the US Sand Sculpting Challenge and 3 Dimensional Art Expo.  

This was such a cool and unique experience.  Tons of sand was brought in, and artists spent days shaping it into extravagant and beautiful shapes. 

 The competition lasted the entire Labor Day weekend.  We went on the second day, so most of the sculptures had been completed.  Only a few were still taking shape.

Thatkid enjoyed watching the sculptors at work.  I think it gave him ideas for our next beach day.

 But we spent most of the time running around and checking out the finished works.

One of his favorites was the pirate treasure.

One of my favorites was "The Scream", which featured what appeared to be a wave, screaming at a woman, blown back by the power.

This one was a window, through which smaller portions of the sculpture could be seen.

Optical illusions, or trompe de oeil were featured in a number of the pieces. 

This was one of Thatboy's favorites.

Thatbaby wasn't very entertained by walking around and looking at sand sculptures.  Which is fair, he's  just a little guy.  Luckily they had other things to keep the kids entertained.  Like a giant sand pile with buckets and pails.

Thatbaby decided to try and turn himself into a sand sculpture.

And Thatkid?  Well he suckered us into a different kind of activity.  First, we loaded him into a plastic bubble,

Then pushed him into a pool of water.  Actually, most kids got pushed in.  Mine was so excited he ran himself in, sans pushing.

 The competition really embodied everything great about San Diego.  A family-centric activity with something for just about everyone, with sun, sand, and water. 

Some combinations just go with each other - like SAND sculptures in SANDiego.  Or peanut butter and jelly.  Or mozzarella, basil, and tomato. Which is what I decided to use to create a really basic, delicious dinner.  (I thought of a sand-wich, but that seemed a little too on the nose, plus no one likes to eat sand....except Thatkid.)  The twice baked potato is a family classic for me.  Thatdad used to make them every New Year's Eve.  His were filled with cheddar and mushrooms.  Frankly, I like my Italian version better!

Twice Baked Potatoes with Mozzarella, Basil, & Sun-Dried Tomatoes
4 russet potatoes
8 garlic cloves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup basil leaves, chiffonade
4oz sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/2 cups buffalo mozzarella, diced 
  1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Bake the potatoes for about an hour, until tender.
  2. Place the garlic cloves in a baking pan, pour the oil over and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes while the potatoes are cooking.
  3. Mash the garlic and add the basil, mozzarella, and tomatoes.  
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Make an incision in the center of each potato and open it up.  Fill with the cheese and tomato mixture.  Return to the oven and bake another 8-10 minutes. 

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Crave Wednesday: Pulled Pork Sandwich with Mustard Sauce

A long long long time ago Thatboy had made a deal with Thatkid about staying dry through the night.  He let Thatkid come up with a reward for every 10 nights.  And if he stayed dry for 30 nights, Thatkid picked a trip to Sea World.  But those 30 days came and went and we all kind of forgot about it.  Until last month, when we finally made good on our promise.  Hey, we didn't promise we'd go immediately, right?

This was by far our most successful trip to Sea World to date.  Thatbaby is old enough to really enjoy and participate it.  And Thatkid is old enough to take advantage of his favorite things.  Like he can finally stand still long enough for the feeder fish to nibble at his fingers.

As usual, we let Thatkid pick out the things he wanted to do.  Sharks were very high up on the list. 

Both boys love the shark tunnel, which lets you get right up and close to the sharks. But with a very thick layer of glass keeping you bite-free.

We also went to the Arctic area to check out the belugas, walruses, and crawl through the polar bear tunnels.

Thatkid is finally tall enough to ride almost all the rides.  Which he loved!  We took turns going with him.  Thatboy did the flume ride and the flight simulator, I did the raft ride.  Thatbaby is also now big enough to ride the little kid rides, so we all met up there.

And of course, SeaWorld is just chock full of ways for these boys to stretch their legs and burn off energy.

This past weekend was the first and last weekend where we had almost nothing planned.  There's always something, but this weekend it was just soccer, swim lessons, and Thatboy took Thatkid to see Lion King.  I'm laughing as I read that, but really, Sunday was the first day in forever I didn't leave the house!  And I took advantage.  I took advantage of that and the fact that it is far too warm to actually be summer.  I set Thatbaby up with the water table, and fired up the grill.  A long Sunday at home means pulled pork all week!  The tangy mustard sauce reminds me of the barbecue from summers in South Carolina.  I miss real barbecue!    We even ate dinner outside, complete with pickles, potato salad, and cole slaw.  I love my cole slaw atop my pulled pork.  That's not a South Carolina thing, that's a "me" thing.

Pulled Pork Sandwich with Mustard Sauce (from Cooking Light)
7 to 8 cups hickory wood chips
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 Tbsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 boneless pork shoulder
2 Tbsp olive oil
3/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
2/3 cup Dijon mustard
2/3 cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp hot sauce
16 whole wheat hamburger buns

  1. Soak wood chips in water at least 1 hour, drain.
  2. Combine sugar, mustard, paprika, salt and pepper in a bowl.  
  3. Pat pork dry and rub with sugar mixture.
  4. Remove grill rack and set aside.  Prepare grill for indirect grilling, heating 1 side to high and leaving 1 side with no heat.  Pierce bottom of a disposable foil pan several times with the tip of the knife.  Place pan on heat element on heated side of grill.  Add 1 1/2 cups wood chips to pan.  Place another disposable foil pan (do not pierce this pan) on unheated side of grill.  Pour 2 cups water in pan.  Let chips stand 15 minutes or until smoking.  Reduce heat to medium.  Maintain temperature at 300.  Place grill rack on grill.  Place pork on grill rack over unheated side.  Close lid; cook 6 hours at 300 or until meat thermometer registers 195; covering pork loosely with foil after 5 hours.  Drain and add 1 cup additional wood chips every 45 minutes.  Refill water pan and add charcoal to fire as needed.  Remove pork from grill; let stand 20 minutes.  Unwrap pork; trim and discard fat.  Shred pork.
  5. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat; swirl to coat.  Add onion; cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add 1/2 cup sugar, mustard, vinegar, molasses, hot sauce and 1/2 tsp salt.  Bring to a simmer.  Cook 15 minutes or until thick.
  7. Arrange about 3oz pork and 2 Tbsp sauce on each bun.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Mommy Mondays: 15 Month Favorites

 Thatbaby definitely has second-child syndrome.  I was so involved in stimulating Thatkid when he was a toddler, playing with him, documenting and feeding into his loves.  Like when daycare said he sat "reading" a book the entire time they were outside, I just had to purchase a copy to have at home.
Thatbaby on the other hand?  Well he spends most of his time following Thatkid around, so I don't work as hard at entertaining him.  He rarely gets new toys, frankly, he rarely plays with his own toys, preferring to get his hands on whatever Thatkid is playing with.

So, loaded with guilt, I figured I should document some of the things that keep him interested lately.

Thatbaby has reached an age where if you want him to sit down for a hot second, you just need to pull out a book.  Of course, you then need to be prepared to read that book over and over and over again.  These are his current favorites.  (The first got read 5 times consecutively yesterday before I found "Hungry Caterpillar within arm's reach.)

It's Pumpkin Day Mouse
Touch and Feel: Wild Animals
Pat the Birthday Bunny
Corduroy 's Trick or Treat
From Head to Toe

Color Wonder Markers
Thatkid loves to color. It's a fairly typical weekend morning activity.  The only problem is that Monkey See Monkey do.  And it's really hard to color with a 26 lb monkey hanging all over you. We also ran into the problem that he enjoys writing all over his face with markers.  Color Wonder markets address both issues.  Now when Thatkid starts coloring I grab these for Thatbaby.  He colors in his book, Thatkid colors in his. And since they only mark on their specified paper, I don't need to worry about marker on faces (or couches or rugs or tables).

Water Table
It's been really warm here, so often when we get home from school/work/daycare I'll fill up the water table and let the boys play while I get dinner on the table.  We never had a water table with Thatkid, so he's making up for lost time.  Thatbaby has a double bonus of having an activity he likes, and that his brother likes to do with him.

Swings/Slides (Playset)
This is a blessing and a curse.  The playset was a gift from Thatmom to Thatkid for becoming a "big brother."  The idea was that it would give him something to do that didn't require parental supervision while I was taking care of the new baby.  Except now it requires parental supervision, not for Thatkid, but for Thatbaby who is capable of climbing up, reaching up the beams and swinging out. 

He also has discovered his own way of swinging that doesn't require anyone to push him.


Roller Boys on Vimeo.

This is one of those "it's good to be a second child" things.  Thatkid didn't have any scooter experience until he was 3.  Thatbaby gets to play on his brother's much earlier than that.  And he loves it. 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Sunday Runday: Scent of a Runner

There's no question that running, like most other sports, brings with it a certain...smell.

Your clothes smell, your body smells, your shoes smell.

Let me share with you some of my secret weapons. 

For clothes, I know a lot of people swear by specialty detergents.  And maybe those detergents are better, but I've had great success with plain ol' Tide.    What can I say?  I'm a simple girl.

As far as body scent, if I get to go home after a run, I rely on a good, simple shower.  Thatboy and I share shower gel, so it's not terribly feminine.  But I wonder if the fact that it's made for men means that it's a little stronger than the frou frou girly stuff?  At any rate, it's a sure-fire way to de-stink.

But a little secret - I don't always have time to jump in the shower.  Especially lately when my Saturday morning runs bleed into Thatkid's soccer games which bleed into Thatbaby's swim lessons.  Yesterday I didn't get a chance to shower until after dinner!

It is definitely not ideal,  but we all do what we gotta do.  So on those days, I rely on multiple products so I don't offend the general public.

First step is Cetaphil wipes.  Which is my "scent preventative."  Removes any lingering sweat.  And there is usually lingering sweat.  Plus, it makes me feel almost showered.  Or at least cleaner.

Next comes deodorant.  I hate my current every-day deodorant, so for occasions like this, I rely on a trial size version of something more potent.

The most important scent holder is hair.  If you've ever been camping (or to Vegas) you're all too familiar with this fact.   So when I don't have time to wash my hair, I'm a big fan of dry shampoo.

So that's what keeps me from smelling like a runner.  Any tricks you've got?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Soccer Star: Roast New Potatoes with Rock Salt and Rosemary

With baseball season over, it was time to pack up the mitt and move on.  For Thatkid, that means soccer!

JDubb's mom found a league that only met once a week that had 2 open spots and just like that Thatkid and JDubb became Pumas.

 Thatkid loves soccer.  And he's pretty good at it.  I say that with the objective awareness that he's my son and I'm probably biased.  But he's fast, he's aggressive, and he's dedicated.

Thatboy was in the right place at the right time (or maybe the wrong place at the wrong time) and ended up getting made coach of the team!

And, with the objective awareness that he's my husband and I'm probably biased, he's a pretty fantastic coach.  He does a great job of rotating the kids when he sees them getting tired, and ensures that everyone gets to play whatever position they want.

So right now, and for the next few months our Saturdays are soccer Saturdays.  But my boys wouldn't have it any other way.

Not only is it soccer season, but its now officially fall.  According to the calendar.  And the overcast clouds and rain have rolled in.  It's still pretty warm out, but the grey skies make warm cozy meals seem fitting.  I've pulled out the crockpot.  I'm roasting vegetables.  The nice thing about roasted vegetables is that they aren't labor intensive.  Toss them on a pan with some oil, salt, and herbs and let the oven do the rest.

I love the way roasted potatoes get crisp, and a pan of potatoes goes with just about anything.  We had these with crockpot short ribs, and then I chopped up the leftover and tossed them with some pasta.

Roast New Potatoes with Rock Salt and Rosemary
24 baby new potatoes
1/3 cup olive oil
3 tsp rock salt
5 sprigs rosemary
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 Tbsp butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Place the potatoes in a large roasting pan, drizzle with the olive oil adn sprinkle with 2 tsp of salt and some pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
  2. Add the rosemary, garlic, and butter.  Shake the roasting pan and bake for another 10 minutes.
  3. Serve hot, sprinkled with remaining salt.