So much for my goal of blogging regularly. I blinked and two weeks went by! Somehow even though the kids are now at school all day, I find myself even busier and struggling just to keep all the plates spinning. In any event, here's what we were up to this week ....
Reading -- I love cooking but am not always comfortable coming up with my own recipes. I've been reading Salt Fat Acid Heat this week and LOVE learning about all the science behind cooking. I've always had a general idea of how these four elements work in cooking, but this book is so interesting and has been giving me the confidence to experiment more (there's nothing worse than spending a whole evening cooking and having the entire family have to eat something yucky for dinner). The kids and I are on the second book in the Book Scavenger series and love it! It's especially fun because it's set in San Fransisco and we just visited there this past summer -- I'll eventually finish those vacation posts!
Cooking -- this Slow Cooker BBQ Beef was a HUGE family fave this week -- I hardly had any leftovers for lunch! I'm about 15 days out from finishing my Whole60 -- it's been going awesome, but I have a bachelorette party coming up right at the end, so I'm still figuring out my strategy for that!
Playing -- now that Cam is more proficient at counting money, the kids have had more frequent and intense games of Monopoly. This week it seems that someone always ends up crying, but I guess they're still getting math in?
It's been so long since I've done a Friday Five that I almost forgot what to share! We are also smack in the middle of wrestling season, and with both kids wrestling this year, I feel like almost all of our non-school time has been spent in a gym. So we haven't had a lot of creative time lately, which has been driving us all nuts! Nevertheless, here's what we've been up to this week ....
Making -- the kids are PUMPED for the Eagles in the Super Bowl this weekend and have been busy making signs to hang all over the house with oil pastels and decorating all our windows with these amazing gel crayons (they wipe right off, promise!!).
Playing -- I've finally succeeded in getting the kids to play their math homework games together! We are always looking for dice, so this set of math dice has really come in handy!
Cooking -- we successfully wrapped up our first Whole30 of 2018 and I decided to extend it to a Whole60 -- I'm just not ready yet! These pork chops with potatoes are a huge family fave and I always wish I had an enormous cast iron skillet so I could cook double the recipe at once!
Wanting -- not to become that super annoying clean-eating friend, but I tried out Vital Proteins collagen in my coffee this last Whole30 round and kind of love it. Maybe I'm just imaging it, but I do feel like my skin and hair have been better. I always get a bad case of dermatitis in the winter, so I'm willing to try anything! I'd like to kill two birds with one stone and try the Collagen Creamer, but I need to wait until I finish up my canister of regular collagen.
Reading -- Kane is obsessed with the Adventures of Tin Tin and has a volume with him at all times. I love that he is digging into something himself, but it's impossible to get him to put it down to do anything -- like walk down the street. My mom brought me some of my favorite childhood books on a recent trip and we've all been enthralled with Black Beauty this week. I love the Illustrated Junior Classics version and we are finding all sorts of neat tidbits about the value of treating animals (AND PEOPLE!!) with kindness and respect. Love
We just finished our first successful Whole30 in a looooong time and I feel great! And, as I've done in the past, I've decided to just keep going for another 30 days. It's become routine by now and so much easier for me to continue on at this point. So all the meals this 30 days are Whole30 compliant. I tried a lot of new dishes, but have plenty of standbys sprinkled in. And we only dined out three times this entire month, which is a pretty amazing feat for our family.
I am not a big fan of cooking fish at home, but this Sheet Pan Teriyaki Salmon and Vegetables was so easy and so tasty that I picked it to share. Great for a weeknight meal!
Ingredients - 1 to 1 1/2 lb salmon filet - 1 white onion, sliced - 1 red bell pepper, sliced (you can really use whatever veg you want -- I used up some cherry tomatoes I had in place of the pepper) - 2 to 3 cups brocoli florets - 2 to 3 cups green beans - avocado oil, for drizzling (olive oil works too) - salt and pepper
Directions 1. Preheat the oven to 425 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 2. Add the vegetables to the lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil, season with salt + pepper, and lightly toss to coat the veggies. Arrange them flat on the baking sheet and transfer to oven. 3. Roast the vegetables for 10 minutes. 4. While the veggies roast, combine the sauce ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Continue to cook, stirring often, allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken. Turn the heat off once it reaches a consistency you prefer. 5. When the vegetables finish, move them to the sides of the pan to make room for the salmon. Drizzle the salmon with oil and a sprinkle of salt + pepper. 6. Place the baking sheet back in the oven, and roast for 15 minutes longer or until salmon is cooked through. Once finished, drizzle the entire dish with teriyaki sauce.
Oh holy hell! I started this blog post back in October and then who knows what happened. Part of it is that I had just gotten a new camera, this trip was the first time I was using it, and I'm not really happy with the photos. Part of it is just that I've been busy doing all kinds of random things and haven't had as much time to blog. In any event, I haven't been able to get back to editing photos until now! I'm determined to get through them though because I love having a catalog of our experiences and I so rarely print out any photos that I take, so at least I have them here! So, back to our 2017 summer vacation ....
I think that the best worst part of planning any vacation is trying to parcel out where and how to spend each day. We allotted four days for our excursion to Yosemite and we could have just as easily spent an entire week there -- especially since it's a bit of a trek from San Francisco and we spent the better part of two days traveling there and back.
Joel had a bunch of work to do in the a.m. before we hit the road, so I took the kids to La Boulangerie on Pine for breakfast. By the time we got back, the car was packed and we ready to go (thanks to Joel's brother for letting us borrow his car for the Yosemite trip!). The kids were exhausted and slept a lot of the ride out but they woke up right as the twisty mountain ride started. We hadn't spent a lot of time planning on where to stop for lunch because we wanted to get as far as we could first. But the kids needed a break from the car and Priest Station Cafe seemed like our best bet. It was fine -- nothing fancy. But the view is pretty.
It wasn't too long after lunch that we arrived at our lodging location. If you talk to anyone about going to Yosemite, they'll tell you that you need to book everything far in advance. And they are right. And we didn't. I went to book an in-the-park stay a few months ahead of our trip and the annoying park system (it is SO annoying - you select something to book and then a person emails you back saying what they actually have available. And back and forth. And back and forth) basically laughed at me. But what was available turned out to be one of the best surprises of our trip. We booked a Hillside Villa at Rush Creek Lodge. It was an incredibly family-friendly lodge that reminded me of what I think an upscale Wolf Creek Lodge would be like (I haven't been). The villa was roomy and nice, but still woodsy. We checked in and the kids booked it to the amazing pool before we had chance to do much else. As Joel and I settled in with drinks from the pool bar, Joel remarked that this was the kinds of "camping" he could get into. Ha!
When the kids tired of swimming, we checked out all of the games they lodge had to offer. There are a few different restaurants at the lodge, but the kids weren't in the mood to sit down and I was kind of sick of eating huge meals. So we chose to hit up the general store for sandwiches and chips and we picnicked outside. Btw, we hit up the general store HEAVY over our stay there. It had everything, but as you would expect, was expensive. Next time we'd definitely stop at a grocery store first to stock up. The villa had a fridge so we bought things for breakfast the next morning. After din we hit up the nightly s'mores station -- the kids were thrilled! They got back in the pool while Joel and I cozied up to a fire pit and hit up the bar again. The sunset was gorgeous!
We all slept HARD that night, which was a good because I woke everyone up super early to get into the park. I smelled what I thought was campfire and told the kids it must be the wood-burning furnaces that are in the villas (it gets cold at night!). But then we started our drive into the park (the entrance is only 1/2 mile from the park's 120 west entrance) and it got cloudier and cloudier. And our eyes burned a bit. I pulled up the park's website in the one spot the internet worked and BAM, forest fire mania in the park. It appeared that there were two pretty serious forest fires burning in Yosemite, but the park was still open. On our drive in, I read to the kids from a great guide to Yosemite for kids -- it helped me plan our trip there quite a bit too. It happened to include some good info about the role of fire in the park and that helped lay a good foundation for our trip there.
We stopped at the typical vantage points on the way down to Yosemite Valley. My plan was to stop at the visitor center there and confirm the hike I wanted to do was going to work out.
We dressed in lots of layers knowing that it would be cool when we arrived down in the valley but as we hiked throughout the day, it would get warmer. I didn't want to waste much time at the visitor center -- I heard the trails get really crowded unless you get moving in the morning. I was a little worried about the air quality and hiking with the kids, but Joel and I figured we'd see how it went and we could always turn around. So we confirmed our hiking plan with a ranger and hit the trail!
Joel and I decided to try an ambitious hike: Vernal + Nevada Falls. A 5.4 mile, 5-6 hour hike round trip. You take the mist trail up to Vernal Fall and then keep climbing up to reach Nevada Falls. We did a loop and took the John Muir Trail back down and I was SO happy -- the way up was super slippery. I'm going to put this not-so-humble brag out there: our kids rocked it. This was a HARD hike (I had a harder time coming down than going up -- my knees!). It was hard for most adults. But our kids persisted without much whining. And it was an amazing thing to do together.
The falls were insanely beautiful and every turn revealed new mountains of rocks jutting up higher and higher. And when you turned around to see from where you climbed -- WOW. Everyone was into it and I was happy that I hadn't applied for a permit to hike to Half Dome because I think the kids would have pushed for it (it wouldn't have been a good idea) given the chance.
At the top of Vernal Fall we took a little break to have a snack and drink water (and snap a vacation tradition photo of Joel fielding work emails and phone calls mid-family-activity). We rounded our way up the side of Vernal Fall to continue hiking up to Nevada Fall and came across an awesome field of rock sculptures. The kids would've stayed building for a long time, but I was worried they'd hit a wall and we pushed on.
The hike up to Nevada Fall was steep and didn't have any of the same mist sprays onto the trail that Vernal Fall had. There was a little more complaining this length of the hike, but we eventually made it up! And we had lunch sitting basically on top of a waterfall (we'd packed bread, cheese, fruit, and some goodies from our lodge's general store and everyone ate with no complaints).
We had a long hike back down and I didn't get a ton of photos because I was trying to deal with my old knees. But we loved feeling the runoff spray coming off the mountains as we wound our way down. We returned to the Yosemite Valley visitor center with not much time left before closing. But the kids were dead set on getting their junior ranger pin so we picked up the packets and got to work. One of the tasks was to learn something new from a park ranger. With time dwindling, we headed over to the Indian Cultural Exhibit and Village at the Yosemite Museum. The kids beelined for a ranger demonstrating Indian instruments. We stood listening to an eagle bone flute and I had total deja vu. I knew this guy. HOW did I know this guy? Lightbulb. It was Park Ranger Shelton Johnson featured in our kids guide I mentioned above. He started out as a ranger in DC and then ended up in Yosemite -- fate!
The kids got his signature on their ranger packets and we hightailed it back to the visitor center to collect their badges. They were SO excited. And we were SO tired. We headed back to the lodge, ate at at the nightly poolside barbecue (I've never seen the kids eat so much barbecued fish), and crawled to bed!! SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave
No, that's not a plate of homemade fancy sweets for dinner. That's a shot of the kids' experiencing augmented reality at the Artechouse Nutcracker exhibit. Real life has been a little crazy lately and, as you might have noticed, I haven't had much time to post much less grab a good shot of a homecooked meal. And I'm actually so far behind on sharing our monthly meal post that I have a month and a half to share!
I am feeling good about how 2018 is looking though. We've got a new round of Whole30 lined up (SO excited), lots of family celebrations, trips, and a new property in the works too! I'm going to spend the rest of the holiday break brainstorming a bit about what I'd like to do in this space in the upcoming year. I have lots of different ideas percolating, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here's what we ate for the last month and a half!
We are on day 4 of winter break and LOVING it! I can't remember the last time we had so much downtime and everyone reallllllly needed it. Cam and I made these cookies the other day and are sharing them over at The Land of Nod blog -- go get the scoop and get baking -- I hear Santa might love them!
The winter holiday season is one of my most favorite times of the year. I love how each year we create and celebrate all sorts of family traditions. We celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas in our home so there is a lot of celebrating! One of the kids' most favorite ways to celebrate Hanukkah is by decorating new dreidels each year. And they love to go through our collection and remember what we've done in the past. This year we decided to keep it simple and sparkly. Head over to Honest to Nod to see what we're spinning this season!
Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite holidays! I love getting up early, having my coffee while reviewing my cooking schedule for the day, and having friends and family hang the whole day before dinner. We always have our kiddos eat with the adults, but this year I also wanted to add a kids table that focused on fun and creative activities that are also in the spirit of the holiday. Head over to Honest to Nod to see how we plan to do just that!
Fall is finally here in D.C.! I've got the fireplace tuned up, my slippers out, and cozy sweaters ready to go. We've been cooking up comfort food, crafting, and holiday prepping. And you know just everyday life too, including ...
Making -- Cam got a chance to test out one of OOLY's new gift sets this week and they are fab! The So Much Color Art Gift Set is chock full of rainbow goodness for sketching and writing and I am ALL for gifting art supplies instead of more toys. So add these to your holiday list!
Playing -- we break out the puzzles when the weather turns cold and Kane is still going strong on presidents.
Cooking -- when Cooking Light called this Magic Green Sauce, they meant it. I could put it on everything, but it is absolutely delish on these Pork Medallions with Scallions.
There is a lot not to like about America right now, but if this chili is All American, then at least we've got that. Because it's DELICIOUS. Something about the combo of proteins that just makes it absolutely fantastic. And it just gets better after sitting for a bit too, so leftovers are still crazy good. I've taken to making a double batch and freezing one because it's become the kids fave nacho topping for an after-school snack (hence the nacho photo above). But it's just as tasty on it's own, so make sure to add this to your fall menu!
This fall has continued with a lot more dining out and take out than I'd like, but that's just how its going. I've kept up with the Plated a few times a week and that's helped a lot too. Nevertheless, there are some new goodies mixed in.
Ingredients - 6 ingredients hot turkey Italian sausage - 2 cups chopped onion - 1 cup chopped green bell pepper - 8 garlic cloves, minced - 1 lb ground sirloin - 1 jalapeño pepper - 2 tbsp chili powder - 2 tbsp brown sugar - 1 tbsp ground cumin - 3 tbsp tomato paste - 1 tsp dried oregano - 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper - 1/4 tsp salt - 2 bay leaves - 1 1/4 cups Merlot or other fruity red wine - 2, 28-ounce cans no-salt-added whole tomatoes, undrained and coarsely chopped - 2, 15-ounce cans no-salt-added kidney beans, drained - 1/2 cup shredded reduced-fat sharp cheddar cheese
Directions 1. Heat a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Remove casings from sausage. Add sausage, onion, and the next 4 ingredients (onion through jalapeño) to pan; cook 8 minutes or until sausage and beef are browned, stirring to crumble.
2. Add chili powder and the next 7 ingredients (chili powder through bay leaves), and cook for 1 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine, tomatoes, and kidney beans; bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
3. Uncover and cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard the bay leaves. Sprinkle each serving with cheddar cheese ... or save and serve over nachos!
Day 18 (M) -- Spinach and Feta sausage sandwiches (obviously my new go-to quick meal) Day 19 (T) -- dinner out Day 20 (W) -- Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Day 21 (Th) -- leftovers/brinner Day 22 (F) -- dinner out in NJ Day 23 (Sat) -- dinner out in NJ Day 24 (Sun) -- dinner out
Day 25 (M) -- dinner out Day 26 (T) -- dinner out Day 27 (W) -- Spicy Crunchy Shrimp Bowls with Sushi Rice and Pickled Radish (Plated) Day 28 (Th) -- All American Chili Day 29 (F) -- dinner out Day 30 (Sat) -- dinner out
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