Monday, October 24, 2011

Decadence vs. Balance

Prosciutto wrapped pork loin. Got pork?
I knew I was going away for a fun weekend with party people to celebrate my friends 40th birthday. I did my best damage control on Thursday and Friday. Yoga, running, more yoga, kale smoothies...the effects of which lasted maybe 5 minutes after arriving in Healdsburg, CA on Friday.

We had a chef come over to our rented house where we ate a fantastic meal of the aforementioned pork loin, mashed potatoes, a great salad (although I do remember a lovely lemon vinaigrette and asparagus I can't remember what else was in there) and a molten lava chocolate cake that was TO DIE  FOR. We ate outdoors on the expansive deck of our rented house on the Russian River by candlelight. Suffice it to say, I ate amazing food, and drank entirely too many cocktails and I danced A LOT because every song that came on I exclaimed, "I love this song!" I had SO much fun. Of course, even though I disappeared early, I had a touch of the vodka flu the next day which was our wine tasting day.

I took a lovely morning walk with one of the other girls on the trip, and after we got ready a driver came to pick us up to take us wine tasting for the day. First stop, breakfast burritos. Next stop, Oakville Grocery for sandwiches. Somewhere around this time, I started to not feel so good. The motion of the van was starting to get to me. But I hoped it would pass.

Needless to say it didn't, and at some point I ended up really not feeling so good, but I managed to truck on with the day. The Ridge, Wilson, Dry Creek, Hawley. All wineries I had been wanting to go to, but I can't say I ended up trying all of their wines. Luckily, by the late afternoon I managed to pull it together and turn things around. Back at the house, more cocktails flowed, pizza was ordered and the hot tub was fired up. It was a super fun night.

It was one of those weekends that flowed fast and hard and I survived. It was totally fun, and now I am back to my sane, suburban life and happy to see my kids. And sleep in my own bed. And rehydrate. :)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cold Weather Yummies

It has actually dipped down into the 70's here during the day. Not exactly cold, but considerably cooler. The mornings are damp and overcast and the boys are wearing jeans instead of shorts to school. I made a pot of my Butternut Squash Turkey Chili which I had for dinner the last 2 nights. It's warm, hearty and healthy. I made it on a whim, so did not use my crockpot and it turned out fine.

I have also been getting into the Fall spirit, experimenting more with pumpkin. My son came home from school and told me about a pumpkin-pie-in-a-bowl-type dessert he made at school. He wanted me to replicate it at home, and it was pretty easy. I wouldn't say it's healthy. But hey, we all need a treat sometimes!  And, no cooking is involved!!

You'll need:
graham crackers (1-2 per serving)
1 can pumpkin pie filling
1 box vanilla pudding mix, prepared
1 can whipped cream

Prepare your pudding - the box calls for milk to whip up the pudding.....

I was very bad and used sweetened, condensed milk....

I poured out the can of pumpkin pie mix in a bowl......

And mixed it with my vanilla pudding.......

I had my helper stir it up.........

Meanwhile, I crushed some graham crackers in a plastic bag by rolling them with a rolling pin, and putting in a bowl. Then, we poured a couple spoonfuls of the pumpkin/pudding mixture on top, and added a squirt of whipped cream from the can (classy, I know).

Isn't it precious??
 A very small amount was rich, sweet and filling. This made several servings, so we shared it with Chip and ate it again the next night too. What would I do differently next time? Well, I would make a healthier version for sure. I would use 100% pumpkin, and add my own spices, I would use a non-fat milk for my pudding (I'm apprehensive about trying non-dairy milk in pudding). And lastly, I would make my own whipped cream. I made it this way because it was a weeknight and I wanted to make it easy for my son to help. It's always fun to try things and figure out a way to tweak them.I think this would also make an easy, individual serving dessert for a Fall dinner party.

What have you been noshing on lately? Does the change in the weather make you crave different foods? What fun seasonal foods do you make with your kids?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

First Field Trip! A Milestone for My Buddha Baby

Aaah Buddha. We aren't Buddhists...we started calling him that when he was a baby, because he was bald and well, fat. And peaceful as well, all things Buddha.

Today we got to take him on his very first field trip, for preschool at Uesugi Pumpkin Farm. We have been going there annually since we moved to our town in 2005. We met his class and went through a corn maze for kids, that was full of colorful and textural story boards. It was so fun to hear Buddha run from one to another going "Oooh! Look!". All the kids were adorable!

Every year, we like to have our boys stand by this sign and take a picture so we can compare how much they have grown. He looks like such a big boy now, just more mature, not necessarily SO much taller.

This was him last year with his brother Monkey!

We went on a hay ride and a train ride, as well as watched a movie about how pumpkins are grown and harvested. We also picked out our own pumpkins.

It was a gorgeous day in the mid 80's. Buddha got us all to himself, which is rare. Monkey was in school and little bro got all the attention from us today. It was really fun. (Ok, besides the meltdowns he had when we had to wait in line for the hayride, as well as the train. Which is why you don't see any photos of that. )

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Adventures in Coconut Water, Kale and Squash

I'm just going to say it. I don't get the coconut water hype. I had tried some when I was getting my hair done a couple weeks ago and enjoyed the flavor but didn't examine the label closely. I bought some on my own today at lunch and again, picked it up blindly without reading the can. Maybe if I was totally burned out on water and just wanted the taste of something else...I just cant justify 12 grams of sugar. It was tasty, but I really think I should have only had about half of this can. In the end, I just don't think that it tasted so great that it was worth the sugar. I will stick to plain water unless I'm in the mood for a treat. In which case, I'd have ice cream and cake (hellloooo?).

I've been experimenting with red kale lately. It has the same amazing health benefits if it's green cousin, but with a slightly different flavor. It's less bitter and more mild. I still like the green kale in my smoothies much more, maybe I"m just used to it. So far I've made the red kale by sauteeing it with onion and garlic and its really good. An excellent side vegetable if you are looking for more variety. Can't beat the B vitamins, vitamin A as well as the other minerals you get from this tasty veggie!!

I bought a spaghetti squash last week and was tempted to just make it the way I usually do. That is, roast it, clean out the innards and make "spaghetti" with the strands, and eat with butter and parmesan and garlic. Well, I happened to see this recipe for Spaghetti Squash Lasagna on Skinnytaste and thought I'd branch out. I did not get any photos of it, as I made it at my parents house. Everyone was actually surprised at how much more they liked it than they thought they would. No one in my family is a fan of the spaghetti squash like I am apparently!

Have you ever tried red kale? How do you like to eat it? Spaghetti squash is in season and I'm looking forward to trying more recipes!

Thursday, October 6, 2011

It's a Weird Day, but I'm Thankful

Killer No Longer At Large
I'm still reeling from all that happened yesterday. As I drove to work, there were news reports of a shooting that had happened in the early morning hours at a quarry in the same town that I work in. All day, the shooter of several people was at large. Our office had moved recently, and the area surrounding where our office had been was apparently blocked to traffic and heavy with police/sherriff and SWAT presence from many agencies. The shooter had killed 2 people (another one later died) and injured several others. Then he took off to a company right across from where we used to work and attempted to carjack an older woman, by first punching her in the face and shooting her too. Later, his car was found at the very gas station that we always went to because it had the cheapest gas. Good Lord, it was crazy as we followed the news stories in the office, afraid to go out at lunch since our new office is still only 5 minutes away from where all of this was taking place.

Chip had a training class that day, and wasn't being called to the scene. As a matter of fact, he was going to be home early to have dinner with us for a change. I was hoping the sherrif's department would hurry and find the guy so my man didn't have to go!

I couldn't be happier to be going home to hug my babies as 5pm approached. Then suddenly, I see in my Twitter feed that Steve Jobs had passed away. My heart sank even further. I knew when he stepped down from the helm at Apple, his health was failing. I hadn't heard much about him since Tim Cook took over. Since I had been so focused on this killer at large, I was completely caught off guard to hear about the passing of a man who is largely responsible for revolutionizing the way we use personal computers and gadgets. He essentially integrated technology into our daily lives, and created products that we have coveted and craved. I couldn't imagine how his wife and 4 kids were feeling. I drove home with my heavy heart and was so relieved when I got there to see my husband and boys.

Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs
The call came, before dinner was made or a cocktail had been poured.. Chip had to go out to Cupertino to assist in the search. I was hoping it wouldn't be a terribly long night. After baths and dinner I got the kids to bed and fell fast asleep but it wasn't too long before I realized Chip was home again, however the shooter was still on the loose. Sigh.

I will admit I was awake between 1 and 2:30 a.m. soaking up news about Steve Jobs. I loved reading about everyone's memories of him, and recognition of all that he had done for the modern world. I am here at home now, watching the rain pour down outside. Thankful the shooter was taken down this morning so our community can breath again. Thankful for my family, for Chip's safety. Thankful for Steve Job's determination to be one of the crazy ones who believed he could change the world. And he did.

Linking up here today:


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine Flow Smoothly

Backpacks and Mommy's Purse Ready to Go
Since my son started kindergarten and my other son started preschool this year, there have been more than a few mornings that have been super hectic. Like the day we were literally running across wet grass and I pushed my son inside his classroom just as the bell was ringing, only to realize as the door was closing that only one of his shoes was tied. Or the time that he was crying as I was yelling at him from upstairs telling him he needed to be ready because I was coming downstairs and we needed to leave NOW. Then the other time he went to school without brushing his teeth because we ran out of time. The best was me running across the lawn carrying Buddha because his short legs weren't running fast enough and I almost did a face plant in my wedge heels. Yeah. Not my finer moments as a Mom. I have my excuses. I have two small children and I work full time, so I have to get myself ready in the morning too. My husband works most nights so I try to let him sleep so I am pretty much solo. But, I know there are people in worse situations, so I'll save my whining. I have figured out how to get my crap together. It only took a few weeks.

Here are some things I have learned along the way to get our day off to a good start::

Give yourself extra time. I go to work after I drop off my son at school at the bright and early time of 7:40. That means, we need to leave the house no later than 7:25. Every day, I shoot for a 7:20 departure time. Honestly, even if I left the house at 7:30, we would still be on time. But shooting for 7:20 always leaves us with enough time to drive there without speeding, park the car, and walk to the classroom and have a nice chat along the way.

Set secondary alarms/timers. I think it doesn't matter if your kids are young, or even up to high school. Shoot, this even helps me stay on track. I have an alarm set for me on my iphone at 6:00 a.m. At 6:15, another goes off  for me to wake up the Monkey. At 7:10, an alarm goes off for him to put his shoes on. At night, I have an alarm that goes off at 7:30 p.m. to make sure the kids are getting in bed.

Make lunch the night before. I know this is not always possible, depending on what it is, some things are just not good if they are prepared and packaged the night before.  I think doing as much as possible should suffice. While my son is eating breakfast I throw together whatever last minute stuff needs to be made,  assemble it all with an ice pack and a drink, zip up his lunch container and put it in his backpack.

Set clothes out the night before. This saves so much time. After my son gets out of bed and goes to the bathroom, he immediately proceeds to get dressed. I don't have to worry about him taking forever to pick something out, or fumble around in the partial darkness of the morning to find something that matches. It's there, its ready, wear it.

Make for a quick departure. I put everything we need to run out the door in one place while my little man is eating breakfast. Jacket, check. Backback, check. Lunch in backpack, check. My purse, keys and phone. Check, check check.

This has really been working out well for us. If my son starts to dawdle or lag, I just remind him now nice it is to have a good morning where we are not yelling and screaming and running across the lawn to beat the bell. He immediately starts cooperating. He knows those days suck too.

What routines or processes seem to work for your family to get everyone out the door in the morning?