Sunday, April 28, 2019

Sunday Runday: Napa Women's Half Marathon

The first I heard about the Napa Women's Half Marathon was when they were advertising for a ridiculously cheap entry.  And I got really excited, because the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon is one of my bucket list races.

And it wasn't until months after I signed up that I realized that this was not that race.

I'm not sure why I thought it was - I'm fairly certain it said "inaugural" all over the race advertisements and sign ups.  But here I was, all signed up for a race.

Luckily, I had a lot of friends who also signed up, and we decided to make a girls' weekend of it. 

We headed up on a Friday afternoon, and got in on Saturday morning - to be fair, it had JUST turned Saturday morning moments before, but still.

After we all got a little sleep, we headed for breakfast, and then to pick up our bibs.

And then, well, when in Napa...

There was a little wine tasting...

Not too much, because we all had a race to run the next day.

But we couldn't be in Napa and not take advantage of the wineries.

We called it an early night so we could get up the next morning.  And get up early we did.  Up, dressed, and ready to run, we headed out to the start line. 

The race had a lovely start as we ran across the bridge and through downtown Napa. 

Right after mile 1, my calf started acting up.  Which was unusual for me.  I've had plenty of other aches and pains, but never had calf issues before! 

The course was rolling hill after rolling hill - which is my second least favorite type of course (after straight uphill ;-)) but I decided to just take it easy on pace and enjoy the view.  With all the rains, the wineries and fields were just the most vibrant shade of green.

And there were plenty of cool things to stop and look at.

My biggest course complaint, however, were the lack of port-a-potties.  As one other runner said to me, "it's a race for women, most of whom have had kids, of course we need port-a-potties!"  For me, I don't usually have to use the bathroom during the race, but my bladder has never fully recovered from my second child, so if there's anything in there, it finds a way out.  I use the port-a-potties mostly to empty my bladder to prevent this.  So it's not a necessity, just a way to not embarrass myself.  The lines were so long though for the few port-a-potties, that it didn't pay to stop.  I finally did at mile 9, because there were only 3 people in line in front of me, and it still added an additional 17 minutes to my time.  (The difference between my app, which pauses when I stop, and my official race time).

I will say, those last 4 miles were definitely comfortable at least!

My friend, MV passed me while I was waiting for the port-a-potty, figuring I would catch up to her when I finished.  I didn't, but that meant she was there to capture my finish!

And pick up our finisher wine glasses!

MV and I sat and watched the band while we drank our first glass of wine, then went to watch all of our friends finish.

And once all our friends finished, we sat and drank more wine with them!

The race finished right beside Oxbow Public Market, so we all headed over there to grab lunch before heading back to the room to shower and rest up a bit.  The original plan was to fit in a few wine tastings, but we were all pretty exhausted, not to mention we didn't actually have reservations for any tastings.  So instead while we rested, I spent the time finding us a fantastic restaurant for dinner.

I cannot say enough nice things about The Charter Oak.  We were initially drawn in by the female chef, Katianna Hong.   Because if you're doing a girls' weekend, you might as well go all in on the "girls" part.  But then came the fact that the menu looked accommodating to some of our food restrictions in the group.  Once we arrived, we learned what "accommodating" really meant as the waitstaff and kitchen went out of their way to ensure that everyone's dietary needs were being met, even offering to create dishes if none struck our fancy on the menu.

But strike our fancy they did - from the very first brussels sprout laid on the table, all the way to the mochi cake at the end, the menu had more than enough choices.  And everything we chose was amazing.  We were giddy as each new dish arrived and left full and happy.  And all of us planning our return.

The next morning we made a quick stop for coffee and were on our way home.

We did make one little stop to pick up some presents for the kids at home...

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Bye Bye Pandas: Passover Pandaberry Muffins

Ever since I was a little girl, I was obsessed with the San Diego Zoo.  And this is years before we even lived in California.   When I was in 4th grade, living in Pennsylvania I decided I wanted to be a veterinarian at the San Diego Zoo.  My parents went to San Diego for a conference and brought home a book from the zoo and it was one of my most treasured possessions. 

One of the best parts of the zoo, in my opinion, were the pandas.  I love the pandas at the zoo.  So given all that history you can imagine my immense disappointment when I learned last month that the pandas were leaving the zoo at the end of April.

The pandas at the zoo were on loan from China as part of a breeding program.  The program was successful, and now that the last of the babies are old enough to have babies of their own, it's time for them to go home.

Obviously we had to go visit before the last ones left.  We even waited in a ridiculously long line, because we were not the only ones with this idea.

Alllllmost there!  We could see the not-so-little guy!

There he is! Completely oblivious, just munching away on his bamboo.

I just love this picture.  Thatkid looks completely mesmerized.  He didn't want to leave.  He just wanted to stand there and watch.

Bye bye pandas!  Come back and visit ANYTIME!

I wanted to commemorate the event with a special panda treat - but we're a little limited right now with Passover.  But, Passover muffins are something we go through like gangbusters in this house, so panda-fying some Passover muffins seemed like a good way to go.

Because it's for Passover, this is also a great gluten-free recipe for use year round.  

Passover Pandaberry Muffins
1/4 cup almond flour
2 Tbsp coconut flour
2 Tbsp tapioca flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
3 eggs
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Grease 6 cups of a muffin tin.  Whisk together the flours, starch, and salt.
  2. Combine the banana, coconut oil, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer.
  3. Add one at a time, blending between each addition.
  4. Add in the dry ingredients and mix just until blended.
  5. Stir in berries.  Divide between the muffin cups.
  6. Use blackberries and blueberries to create a panda face on the top of each muffin.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Let cool in pan and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Fishy Fieldtrip: Aquarium Jello

My first big mistake was offering to be a chaperone  for the first grade aquarium field trip.  I can't help it, I always want to be a help.  And I had no idea what I was in for.

My group was 4 boys.  All friends.  All trouble.

The goodness is I knew these boys well enough that of the three that weren't mine, I had 2 of their moms already in my phone.  And if you think I didn't resort to using that as leverage on them, you'd be sorely mistaken. 

The aquarium is small, but it was hard keeping track of these kids in such a crowded environment with multiple exits to each room.

I herded them through the rooms, stopping to breathe on the few occasions they actually stopped to watch the fish.

I did manage to corral them into one of the exhibits about "animal oddities" where I had them pick out their animal super powers.

And of course, the touch pools were very popular.

The outdoor areas were my favorite since they had a single point of entry/exit.

I was absolutely exhausted by the time we got these kids back on the bus to head back to school.   So this little snack?  It's in honor of the fieldtrip, but not something we ate that day.  Honestly, I think I may have fallen asleep on the couch shortly after getting home.

After the aquarium, we all went to the beach and had lunch there.  When I asked Thatkid what I should pack, he wanted something aquarium themed.  He got a turkey sandwich and goldfish crackers.  I made it up to him later with these aquarium themed jello cups.  I used Trader Joes Scandinavian Swimmers because they're my favorite, but any gummy fish will do.

Aquarium Jello
2 cups white grape juice
2 packets of unflavored gelatin
blue food coloring
2 cups ice
gummy fish
  1.  Place gelatin in a medium bowl.  
  2. Bring grape juice to a boil in a small saucepan and pour over the gelatin.
  3. Add food coloring to reach your desired color for the "water."
  4. Stir in ice cubes and continue stirring until the ice cubes have melted.
  5. Pour the gelatin mixture into 4 clear cups and refrigerate until it has started to set, about 10-15 minutes.
  6. Using a sharp knife, cut some slits in the gelatin and use a toothpick to place the gummy fish into the slits.  Put back into the fridge until fully set, about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2019

Flower Power: Roasted Broccoli Hero

In all honesty, I don't really mind the rain.  This year I even became accustomed to running in the rain, because it went on forever.  The only thing I really dislike about the rain is when things get cancelled, because I'm not good with scheduling changes.

But it's really hard to complain about the rain when the result is beautiful wildflowers.  Growing up, the saying was always "April showers bring May flowers" but here in California, the more appropriate saying is "Rainy winters bring Superblooms."

2 years ago we had an especially wet winter and the desert paid us back tenfold.  So I was antsy to see what awaited after this winter which was so much wetter and lasted so much longer.

We weren't disappointed.

A drive out to Anza Borrego yielded fields of flowers, growing right out of the sand.  

Thatbaby commandeered my camera and became our little photojournalist.  Unfortunately, his camera skills need a little work, as most of his pictures either featured his thumb, a very blurry image I could tell you was a flower, or the corner of what I could tell you was a flower.

Thatkid defaulted to his favorite flower pasttime - identifying all the different blooms.  We always buy a flower guide for this very purpose.

I'm always impressed with how much my kids love little fieldtrips like these.  I expect them to be bored, or underwhelmed, but they love going.  They get so excited to see the flowers.  And they petitioned for a picnic in the flowers the whole week leading up to it.   I'm always up for a picnic, so I packed up sandwiches and snacks and we hit the road.

The kids went with pretty classic sandwiches - turkey and pb&j.  I knew they wouldn't be interested in ones filled with broccoli.  That's right, broccoli.  I'm always looking for new and interesting sandwiches, so when I saw this one with rave "trust me" reviews by Alton Brown I decided to give it a try.

It is the weirdest combination of sandwich ingredients you can ask for, but they work SO well together.  Sweet, spicy, soft, crispy, salty - it has just about everything.  And it is ridiculously easy to put together when you're gathering water bottles, sunscreen and other supplies for a trip to the desert.

Roasted Broccoli Hero (From Alton Brown)
1/2 cup bread and butter pickles
1/4 cup brine from the pickles
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 Tbsp chili sauce (such as Sambal oelek, sriracha, or to keep in green Trader Joe's green dragon sauce works nicely)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 head broccoli, chopped into florets.  Trim the stem and slice into thin rounds.
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 french bread rolls, split
2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1/4 cup fried onions
2 oz ricotta salata or feta, shaved

  1. Preheat oven to 400. Combine pickles, brine, garlic, ginger, chili sauce, and sesame oil in a small bowl and set aside while you assemble the rest of the sandwich.
  2. Toss broccoli with olive oil and salt and spread on pan.  Roast for 15 minutes, then toss and roast an additional 15 minutes.
  3. While the broccoli cools slightly, turn on the broiler and broil the rolls for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Spread each side of the toasted rolls with mayonnaise.
  5. Divide pickles evenly between the two rolls.  Then top with the roast broccoli.
  6. Sprinkle onions over the broccoli and then the cheese on top.