Friday, October 13, 2017

The Friday Five!!

I would say that I'm happy it's Friday, but I feel like each day this month the world is bringing a fresh dose of WTF. At the risk of posting even less than I have been, I just might have to get rid of all technology for a while to reset. But if we ignore all the crazy being slung this week, this is what else we had going on ....

p.s. damn you, Nats. This town just really needed a win in something this year.

Cooking -- in my ongoing quest to try new chili recipes, we checked out this cross-mac-and-cheese version this week. The kids loved it, but I'm still on the fence about whether I like the chili / pasta combo. 

Making -- we haven't have much time to do a lot of making this school year, but I did promise the kids that we could go alllll out for Halloween this year. So we spent last weekend decorating the outside of our house and it's looking pretty spooky! I actually read the directions on the spider webs this time -- who knew!? 

Playing -- one of my favorite 2nd grade math games from Kane last year was Yektti. There are lots of different variations on the basic sorting and guessing game and I'm so happy that it's Cam's turn this year. We've been playing a bunch! 

Reading -- Kane has really gotten into history of the world wars. I'm pretty much history in one ear, out the next. So my mom got him some really fabulous kids history books on WWI, WWII, and the Vietnam War for his birthday. He's obsessed. He asked to stay up to read to himself the other night for the first time ever. On that same note, he really likes to get into obscure historical trivia so we just started listening to the Stuff You Missed in History Class podcast

Wanting -- I left my old leather slip on shoes in San Fran because they were totally cooked after all that walking. I need a new pair for fall and you can't go wrong with rose gold

Monday, October 9, 2017

Stifatho + 30 Days of Dinner!!

This past month has mostly consisted of me trying to figure out back-to-school madness while trying to stay on top of freelance work and dealing with the dog. We had a fairly lazy summer so it hasn't been the smoothest of transitions. Actually, the kids seem to be handling it totally fine—I'm the one spinning (you might have noticed I've barely posted on the blog!). But I feel like I've got a new meal plan schedule in place that might actually work. I had to buckle down on cooking earlier in the day or slow cooking at the beginning of the week and shift our Plated meals to later in the week. I need to still ratchet down on the dining out, but I also have to let go of the idea that I can actually cook every weeknight (although the kids' sushi habit needs some reining in too).

In any event, it's most definitely fall in D.C. and we've all been craving warm, spiced, slow-cooked meals. This Greek Stew is one of our family's most favorites and I always double it for leftovers. Some of the ingredients sound kind of random (currants?), but don't skip them, they all make the dish.

(slightly modified from Dialed-in Nutrition)

- 3 tbsp olive oil 
- 2 - 3 lb stew beef cut into 1.5" cubes 
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 10 garlic cloves, lightly crushed 
- 1 cup tomato puree 
- 1/2 cup dry red wine 
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 
- 2 bay leaves 
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves 
- salt and pepper to taste 
- 2 tbsp currants 
- 1 cup walnut halves 
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese 

1. In a dutch oven, heat olive oil and sear meat on all sides. Work in batches to get a nice sear on all meat. Place in bowl to catch the drippings. 

2. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent, about 4 minutes. Add tomato puree, wine, and wine vinegar to deglaze the dutch oven. Return meat. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon stick, clove, and salt and pepper to taste. 

3. Cover dutch oven and braise over low heat for about an hour. Add the currants and braise until meat is very tender, about another hour. Add the walnuts and cook 20 minutes more. Sprinkled with feta cheese and serve. 

*                    *                    *

Day 1 (W) -- Baked Beef Meatballs with Sweet Spices
Day 2 (Th) -- dinner out
Day 3 (F) -- dinner in Chicago
Day 4 (Sat) -- dinner in Chicago
Day 5 (Sun) -- dinner in Chicago

Day 6 (M) -- dinner out
Day 7 (T) -- Greek Chicken Sausage Sandwiches; roasted potatoes 
Day 8 (W) -- Cod Basquaise with Yellow Rice (Plated)
Day 9 (Th) -- Seared Pork Chops with Mushroom, Zucchini, and Pea Gratin (Plated)
Day 10 (F) -- brinner
Day 11 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 12 (Sun) -- Grilled Lemon Chicken Salad

Day 13 (M) -- dinner out
Day 14 (T) -- Slow Cooker Jalapeño Popper Chicken Chili
Day 15 (W) -- Crispy Salmon with White Beans and Kale (Plated)
Day 16 (Th) -- Sticky Sesame Cauliflower with Vegetable Fried Rice (Plated) -- everyone loved the fried rice, the all veggie dinner not so much.
Day 17 (F) -- Greek Marinated Flank Steak and veggie tray
Day 18 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 19 (Sun) -- dinner out

Day 20 (M) -- dinner out
Day 21 (T) -- Crockpot Turkey White Bean Pumpkin Chili -- several friends recommended this and while it was good, I thought it needed a lot more seasoning. Will try again and add a little kick!
Day 22 (W) -- Sheetpan Chili Dijon Pork Tenderloin; roasted potatoes; spinach salad
Day 23 (Th) -- Salmon Burgers with Chive Aioli and Mache (Plated)
Day 24 (F) -- dinner out
Day 25 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 26 (Sun) -- burgers and salad in NJ for Joel's family birthday dinner

Day 27 (M) -- Beef and Cheese Empanadas with Salsa Roja and Spinach Salad (Plated)
Day 28 (T) -- Slow Cooker Chicken Parmesan Soup -- I tried to rush this one and added extra pasta too soon. So it came out more like a bake with soggy pasta. But the flavors were there, so I'll try again.
Day 29 (W) -- Indian Butter Chicken with Sautéed Spinach + Naan (Plated)
Day 30 (Th) -- Soy-Glazed Steak with Carrot, Edamame, and Avocado Salad (Plated)

Monday, September 18, 2017

2017 Summer Bucket List Final Update + 2017 FALL BUCKET LIST!!

We managed to knock a bunch of additional items off of our Summer Bucket List since our last update. This was not a banner season in terms of bucket list accomplishments, but I think it definitely marked a turning point in the kids' growth—they are in dire need of free down time and quite capable of entertaining themselves. They'd wake up pumped for an activity but then just ask for time to putter about. That being said, fall is definitely one of their favorite seasons and they were all about creating a new fall list!

First up, here's how we finished up summer:

16. New science exhibit -- we loved the new to us exhibits at the California Academy of Sciences!

17. New historical site -- our report on Angel Island and Alcatraz are still on the way, but I'll note that we had an unexpected amazing trip to historical Angel Island.

18. Have a picnic -- we had a lovely picnic lunch on the top of a waterfall in Yosemite—post to come this week!

19. Find a new beach -- we found new beaches at both Angel Island and in Yosemite.

20. Workbooks -- the kids were total champs at working on reading, math, and writing over the summer and completed several workbooks each.

21. Rock climbing -- Yosemite!

22. Find a waterfall -- Again, Yosemite. Our bucket list thanks you.

23. Baseball game -- G O N A T S

24. Ride in a boat -- boat to both Angel Island and Alcatraz.

25. See sunrise -- we left really early for Cali and caught the sun coming up on our ride to the airport.

26. See sunset -- and then we saw the sun go down behind Golden Gate Bridge our first night there!

27. Watch a meteor shower -- not technically a meteor shower, but I'm counting the eclipse for this one. It was super cool.

28. + 29. Two new museums -- we went to several new museums this summer, but I'll count the DeYoung and San Fransisco MOMA (post also yet to come) for this.

30. New science project -- saltwater taffy slime!

31. + 32. Two service projects -- the kids both helped their grandfather deliver food with Meals on Wheels and Cami also chopped off 10+ inches of her hair for Locks of Love.

33., 34., and 35. -- three new NPS passport stamps in California at Muir Woods, Alcatraz, and Yosemite.

Now, on to the Fall Bucket List!


Friday, September 15, 2017

The Friday Five!!

I have a whole slate of posts planned that I just can't seem to get to and it's driving me nuts. The kids are happily back in school, but I feel a little bit like a spinning top. I haven't even made it through our August vacation photos and there's been an overflowing basket of clean (at least folded for once) clothes in my office all week. I'm really, really looking forward to the weekend. Here's what went down this week though ....

Cooking -- the kids weekday extracurriculars run a little late for my taste this year so I'm still trying to figure out weekday cooking. I think I might need to shift some of our weekend dining out to at least one weekday, but I also just need to get more organized with slow cooked meals that are ready when we get home. This Jalapeño Popper Chili is a family fave and did the trick for one such late night this week.

Making -- I always keep my eye on Oriental Trading Co. for easy art/craft projects that the kids can do on their own. And since I banned weekday screen time (WHY!?!), we've needed a few more. Cami has loved these Mandala Sand Art Pictures, which turn out amazingly cool.

Reading -- we finally finished A Wind in the Door which I found really heavy to listen to as an audiobook. I think we need to go back and read it together to pick through the philosophical and theological layers. I really wanted to pick something lighter for our next book, but the kids insisted on returning to the Wonder series with Auggie & Me. Cam and I have also been reading Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World. We first spotted it at the San Francisco MOMA gift store (I could literally buy everything in the MOMA gift store), but waited until we got home to check it out of the library. It's great!

Wanting -- I hate taking my FitBit off, but I'm having a hard time finding a fashionable band to wear it outside of exercising. This is the closest thing I've found to what I want. 

Playing -- our Halloween costume planning has the kids all the rage about Egyptians again and Kane has renewed his obsession with Senet.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Kids Reading Lounge

It's a rainy day in D.C., so our new outdoor reading lounge is packed up at the moment, but you can head over to Honest to Nod to see how we roll it out when the sun is shining! So easy and super cozy.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We are just wrapping up our first week back to school! Other than trying to figure out how we ever got out of the house by 7.45 a.m., everything went swimmingly. Here's what else we got after this week ....

Making -- the kids needed to bring a framed picture to school so I picked up a bunch of these wooden frames to have them decorate themselves. 

Reading -- Kane is still hooked on presidential trivia and can't put this one down! I just started Rebel Mother and can't put it down either!

Wanting -- we go through an obscene amount of La Croix in our house. Obscene. This chick claims to have found the best online prices, we'll see ....

Playing -- sometimes you just have to stick with the classics. Cam love UNO and has been crushing me at games this week. 

Cooking -- Cam has continued her adventures in cooking with me. She's really outgrown the nylon starter set of knives we've used for years, so I just bought this kid-sized set of the real thing upon several recommendations. We'll let you know!! 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

California Days 3 and 4: San Francisco -- Muir Woods + Calistoga

So these two days have little in common other than they are each a short drive from San Francisco and neither took up a whole post on its own. But they are fabulous day trips!

We spent our first weekend day in San Fran daytripping out to Muir Woods, which is a National Park surrounded by larger state park Mt. Tamalpais. The kids had learned a lot about old growth Redwood and Sequoia trees and were pretty pumped to get to see some Redwoods at Muir Woods. It was also their first chance to get a new stamp in their National Park passports, so I made sure to have them this time!!

We were a little slow to get going in the a.m. and by the time we got out to Muir Woods it was almost lunch time. Parking was a bit of a challenge, but we found something roadside. We walked a short way to the entrance and picked up Junior Ranger packets for the kids. They were on top of things that day!

We intended to pick up a little snack before hiking, but once we popped into the Cafe, everyone declared ready for a full-on lunch. No problem, the food was deeeelish. And Cam spent a bit of time teaching her Uncle Steve the handgame Avocado (which was another annoying highlight of our trip—the game, not Uncle Steve).

Fully fueled, we set off on a walk through the looped Redwood Creek Trail. But it was super crowded and I wanted to get a little more actual hiking in, so when we hit the steps up to Canopy View Trail, we took them without a lot of thought or planning. It was a LONG hike up (well, at least before our Yosemite hikes which I'll get to next week), but totally gorgeous and much less crowded. The kids did great, but an hour or so in, we were thinking about how to get back.

And we started to run into others who had also poorly planned and were trying to do the same. We took a chance and turned off on to Lost Trail to catch up with Fern Creek Trail back to the looped Redwood Creek Trail. It was really a lot of steep steps down and I was so glad we hadn't gone up that way! It worked and we had a nice hike back to the visitor's center where the kids stamped their passports and were sworn in as Junior Rangers of Muir Woods.

Everyone was happy to head back to the city for Saturday night. Steve and Leslie graciously took the kids overnight so Joel and I could have a real date night. The kids ate ramen in Japantown and found liquid nitrogen-frozen cereal dessert Dragon's Breath at Chocolate Chair, which looked like so much fun! Joel and I headed out to State Bird Provisions for a totally unique and delicious take on dim sum.  And then we serendipitously ended up at Smitten Ice Cream where they churn-to-order your frozen treat with liquid nitrogen too! It's hard to pick a fave from our San Fran ice cream visits, but Smitten might be it for me.

If we were slow going Saturday a.m., we definitely were Sunday morning after date night. Plus, it took a little bit to get our coordinating stripe dress day together (there's one every vacay). But we had big plans to head out to wine country to see Steve and Leslie's wedding venue and wine taste along the way. We hired a driver for the day and headed out to Calistoga. I did more wine tasting than photography that day, so I only snapped a few.

We stopped first at super cute Casa Nuestra, which is only open to members and, fortunately, Steve and Leslie are. It was quaint and funky. The kids fed the animals farm-grown mint and the adults sampled yummy wines.

We hung for a long while just relaxing until the kids demanded to be fed too. A quick jump into downtown Calistoga and we stopped at the Palisades Deli for lunch (everyone loved). Recharged, we headed off to our second winery visit of the day at Tamber Bay Vineyards. Leslie had picked the wineries because they both had animals for the kids to check out and Tamber Bay had gorgeous horses. The kids were somehow still hungry and now bickering over iPhone usage, so we didn't hang as long there. But it was still lovely.

Not ones to dilly dally though, we headed out to the gorgeous ranch where Steve and Leslie will marry next spring! The kids are both in the wedding and are beyond excited. We poked around, had a faux ceremony, practiced creepy photos, and lazily checked out the accommodations. We can't wait for the wedding!

My good college friend Anne lives not to far away and she and her husband were driving to meet us at Solbar. We wanted to meet up at Sam's Social Club, which looks fantastic, but waited too long and couldn't make the times work. But I promised Kane we'd visit a Michelin-starred restaurant on our trip, obviously, and since Solbar has one, I figured it was the perfect spot. Solbar is in the Solage resort, which looks insanely beautiful with an amazing pool. We sat outside and had a wonderful dinner catching up with friends while the kids mostly wore down our iPhone batteries. But all in all a fantastic day!

The next morning we headed out to Yosemite, so stay tuned ....

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Interview the Kiddos -- September 2017

The kids finally went back to school yesterday and I have to say that I am totally, totally sad! I'm glad to have the kids back with friends, learning new things, getting into a routine, etc. But we had a great (and really quick) summer and I am absolutely going to miss them while they are at school (and so is Penny!). Kane is heading third grade and Cam will be in second grade, both of which are totally blowing my mind. But in an effort to take a snapshot of them at these ages, I thought I'd do another interview. I asked them these same questions about a year ago (our Interview the Kiddos -- August 2016) and totally intended to do it every three months. No big surprise that didn't happen. But here's what they had to say this year ....

Cameron -- age 7 years, 4 months
FAVORITE BOOK - I Will Always Write Back
FAVORITE SONG - Charlie XCX—all of hers
FAVORITE FOOD - watermelon
FAVORITE TOY/GAME - Stare! Board Game and Penny
WHAT ARE YOU SAVING YOUR ALLOWANCE FOR? - to buy stuff for homeless people
BEST FRIEND - Penny, Kaney, Mommy, Daddy, and Zoe
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A FAMILY - hike up waterfalls in Yosemite
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - Chicago, New Jersey, California
FAVORITE THING TO DO AFTER SCHOOL - play with Penny and art
FAVORITE MUSEUM - the Color Factory
FAVORITE SEASON - summer, spring, and winter
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS FALL? - have a family olympics and movie night
FAVORITE SPORT - swimming 

Kane -- age 8 years, 11 months 
FAVORITE BOOK - The Westing Game 
FAVORITE SONG - Shut Up and Dance 
FAVORITE MOVIE - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 and Part 2 
FAVORITE TV SHOW - Just Add Magic 
FAVORITE TOY/GAME - Monopoly, Etch a Sketch, LEGO, and Pokemon. 
WHAT ARE YOU SAVING YOUR ALLOWANCE FOR? - a toy under $100 and my college fund.
FAMOUS PERSON YOU'D LIKE TO MEET - President Obama and maybe Jimmy Carter (I really like peanuts). 
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOU GROW UP? - Can I just say the name of some of the PhDs, MD, JD, or MBA I want? OK, I'd like to be a doctor or a lawyer with a PhD or a civil engineer or an architect. 
BEST FRIEND - Do I have to answer that? Oh yeah, Cami. And Penny. And mommy and daddy.
FAVORITE THING TO DO AS A FAMILY - spend time together 
FAVORITE PLACE TO GO AS A FAMILY - either out of the U.S., a staycation, or a different state. I also just like to stay at home and go to Dave and Busters, the movies, bowling, hikes, and museums.
FAVORITE THING TO DO AFTER SCHOOL - ooooh, that's tough. Maybe spend time with my family. Play with my friends. 
FAVORITE GAME TO PLAY WITH C - we play lots of games—can you be more specific? There are lots of different categories. Monopoly, soccer (not traditional soccer, but the wrestling game we came up with. You could also call it street fighting). 
DREAM VACATION - Turks + Caicos. Or a world tour of all the sunny places with my family and friends. 
FAVORITE MUSEUM - oh that's hard. I'm going to say the California Academy of Science has a good chunk. Also Ben Franklin Institute. The Color Factory was also cool. I also like all the museums on the mall in D.C. except for the Air and Space Museum (but I like the one at Dulles). 
FAVORITE SEASON - fall and summer 
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO THIS FALL? - celebrate my birthday with Giordano's pizza, play laser tag, and eat Eli's cheesecake. 
FAVORITE MEMORY FROM THIS PAST SUMMER - vacation and spending time with family. 
FAVORITE SPORT - swimming, lacrosse, and wrestling.

Friday, September 1, 2017

The Friday Five!!

This was our last week of summer break and while I thought the kids would be charged to take on the Summer Bucket List remainders, they really just wanted to hang at home. There was a little bickering, but for the most part they just entertained themselves and didn't ask to go do anything. I think they can feel school coming! Here's what they got up to this week ....

Playing -- as soon as the kids spotted Halloween decorations this week they were all over picking out our family Halloween costumes. I won't give it all away, but needless to say they were excited to break out Pyramix to get in the mood.

Making -- I often find pre-made craft kits to be lacking, but something about the Kid Made Modern Craft Library always stirs our kiddos' creativity. Cam had it out several times this week making a variety of projects.

Reading -- we finally finished I Will Always Write Back and I cannot recommend it highly enough! It was a truly great book to read together and a great conversation primer for so many topics. The kids asked for a mystery so we just started the first book in the The Forbidden Library series, which is holding everyone's attention a few chapters in. I also started reading the kids the adapted version of An Inconvenient Truth and I think it's excellent. It breaks the issues down well and has wonderful photos and graphics to accompany the text. And the chapters are short enough that we can read just a few at a sitting.

Cooking -- the kids and I loved these Baked Meatballs with Sweet Spices this week -- super easy and so tasty! And after watching Super Size Me this week together, no one complained about eating radishes or kale either.

Wanting -- I need some new studded flats and I've had my eyes on these for years!! Even though I know I'd wear them constantly, I haven't been able to pull that trigger yet.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Chicken Parmesan Casserole + 30 Days of Dinner!!

This month's feature certainly isn't the most gourmet nor does it look particularly pleasing. BUT Cami basically cooked the entire dish herself with some very slight oven help from me. Kane is interested in cooking, but Cam really throws herself into every small detail. She's careful and methodical. She pays attention to kitchen safety. She doesn't mind prep or cleanup work (actually, she loves it) and takes her time to do things right. So I have started to give her more responsibility when she wants it, including using the stove/oven and sharper knives (all with supervision). So she's really been able to cook entire meals herself. And even though I prefer my alone time in the kitchen, I've loved spending this time with her. So, I'm featuring her first big meal this month—it also happens to be really tasty.

We were on vacation for 10 of these 30 days, but instead of leaving out vacation time, I included it for reality's sake and because, for some reason, people love to see what we eat on vacation. Happy almost end of summer!!

Chicken Parmesan Casserole
(from Emily Bites)

- 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
- 2 cups marinara sauce
- 1 1/2 cups reduced fat shredded mozzarella cheese, divided
- 2 oz parmesan cheese
- 3.5 oz garlic croutons, roughly crushed, leaving some larger pieces

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a 9 X 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
2. Spread the cubed pieces of chicken across the bottom of the baking dish in a single layer. Sprinkle the minced garlic, red pepper flakes and basil evenly over the chicken. Spread the sauce evenly across the top. On top of the sauce layer, sprinkle 3/4 cup of the mozzarella and one ounce of the parmesan evenly across the dish. Sprinkle the crushed croutons across the top and follow with the remaining cheese.
3. Bake for 40-45 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

*          *          *

Day 1 (M) -- Blackened Fish Tacos with Avocado Cream
Day 2 (T) -- dinner out
Day 3 (W) -- Cheesy Taco Skillet (with ground turkey); Grilled Corn and Avocado Salsa (Weight Watchers)
Day 4 (Th) -- Greek Chicken Sausage Sandwiches (Weight Watchers); sweet potato fries
Day 5 (F) -- Crispy Panko Chicken Breasts; green salad
Day 6 (Sat) -- grilled steak and salad
Day 7 (Sun) -- dinner out

Day 8 (M) -- Honey Dijon Salmon (Weight Watchers); brown rice; roasted cauliflower
Day 9 (T) -- dinner out
Day 10 (W) -- Fajita Turkey Burgers; sweet potato fries
Day 11 (Th) -- Boudin Bakery: Clam Chowder in a Bread Bowl
Day 12 (F) -- Presidio Social Club: East West Chicken Noodle Soup + Kale Salad (I really still didn't feel good!)
Day 13 (Sat) -- Statebird Provisions: we ate all kinds of delicious dim-sum style dishes
Day 14 (Sun) -- Solbar: Sicilian Halibut Crudo + Niman Ranch Prime New York Pavé

Day 15 (M) -- picnic dinner from Rush Creek Lodge general store
Day 16 (T) -- poolside BBQ at lodge
Day 17 (W) -- Majestic Yosemite Lodge: Caesar Salad + Capellini Pomodoro
Day 18 (Th) -- Sushi Ran 
Day 19 (F) -- Del Popolo
Day 20 (Sat) -- Mission Chinese Food (Kung Pao Pastrami was deeelish!)
Day 21 (Sun) -- airport subs!

Day 22 (M) -- Smoked Salmon Pizza with Whipped Goat Cheese, Capers, and Tomato (Plated); green salad
Day 23 (T) -- Carne Asada Tacos with Pico de Gallo, Avocado, and Lime Crema (Plated); corn on the cob
Day 24 (W) -- Chicken Parmesan Casserole
Day 25 (Th) -- Hobo Pack Chicken Fajitas; black beans; rice
Day 26 (F) -- Braised Pork in Lazy Cherry Ancho Mole (this was PHENOMENAL); Blistered Shishito Peppers
Day 27 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 28 (Sun) -- dinner out

Day 29 (M) -- Blackened Salmon Sandwich with Kale-Fennel Slaw and Rémoulade (Plated)
Day 30 (T) -- Pan-Seared Chicken with Asparagus, Tomato Jam, and Butter Lettuce Salad (Plated)


Monday, August 28, 2017

California Day 2: San Francisco -- California Academy of Sciences + de Young Museum

Every family vacation, the kids seem to come up with one or two annoying and never-ending games or activities. In Italy, it was rocks, paper, scissors and virtual hangman. Last year in Scotland and Ireland, they added staring contests and photo bombing. On our California trip, they chose to bombard us with random Presidential trivia questions (Kane is obsessed and brought three books with him on the trip—did you know that Calvin Coolidge had a pet raccoon named Rebecca!?) and their total inability to take a normal outdoor photo because they "could not look into the sun."

Between the latter and my continuing allergy/sinus issues (I finally got my dr. to call in a prescription for me the next morning and things cleared up quickly!), I just didn't get a lot of photos on our second day. Now had they brought sunglasses as I suggested, we could have avoided ridiculous photos like the one above. But what fun would that be?! Plus, I just might make that our holiday card because it's hysterical. Nevertheless, we managed to have a great second day.

We didn't want to do a big, sit-down breakfast so we walked to nearby Fillmore Bakeshop for great coffee and delicious quiche for the kiddos. After meeting up with Uncle Steve, we headed over to Golden Gate Park for some museum time. I somehow totally overlooked the fact that the enormous music festival Badlands was going on in the park that weekend, but we stuck close to the museums and didn't have a problem. It also meant though that we didn't get to explore a ton of the park itself (including missing out on the buffalo), but again, we'll just have to go back!

Our first stop was the fabulous California Academy of Sciences (included in our CityPASS), which is an aquarium, natural history museum, and planetarium all in one. It's all topped off by an amazing living roof too. We wandered around the aquarium first and took in a diver show for a while. The kids loved the hands-on area where they got to explore local sea life too. But, we were  all still adjusting a little bit to the time change and everyone was a little cranky and hungry. So we did a quick trip through the rainforest and decided to skip the planetarium this trip. I had a feeling some chips and guac would set everyone straight, so we took a quick walk to Nopalito for lunch. It was deeeelish. Food (plus a few margs for the adults who were not battling a sinus infection) helped immensely!

The de Young Museum was on my agenda for the afternoon and we walked back through a bit of the park to get there. Our CityPASS gave us general admission, but I really wanted to see The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll. So we shelled out a little extra for that. Street signs outside the museum set up some nice parallels between important issues of the 1960s and current times. And the kids played while we waited for Aunt Leslie to meet us.

We went straight to the special exhibit and had a hilarious time trying to explain all the psychedelic art to the kids. I finally stopped beating around the bush and explained what psychedelic drugs were and how they played a role in everything they were seeing. It was a pretty funny conversation. They didn't quite get that part of it, but they did seem to understand what people were protesting about. Sadly, while we've made great strides in some things, others haven't changed all that much.

Cam loved the fashion and was into the art. Kane was a little creeped out, I think. I was all in to see the rest of the museum, but I was losing everyone else. They wanted outside, they wanted to rest, they wanted to chill. So we parted ways for a bit and went back to the hotel. A little down time plus some showers got everyone back on track and we headed over to the Presidio Social Club for dinner with Steve and Leslie. Presidio is actually a National Park (we didn't have our National Park Passports with us and I was kicking myself! I made sure to carry them with us everywhere for the rest of the trip) and a former military post. Presidio has a bunch of hiking trails and scenic overlooks (Crissy Field has amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge), but we were really there to eat. The Social Club was once part of the military barracks and has been converted into a super cute and delicious restaurant.

After dinner we strolled through the Marina district and through the Palace of Fine Arts, which is an amazing place to visit during the daytime but was beautiful lit up in the evening as well. Everyone was tired and we had hiking planned for the next day, so we called it a night!

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Friday Five!!

It's been a fast week back from vacation -- lots of catching up on sleep, laundry, and down time. The kids still have another week off from school, but none of us feel much like getting out and about. I'll take a week (or two) of lazy ....

Making -- we've been keeping activities real simple this week. If the kids can do it themselves, they can do it. Watercolors is still a fave late afternoon activity for them and OOLY is our go-to brand for gorgeous colors.

Reading -- I'm loving this book about a geobiologist. I tried to read it to the kids, but couldn't get them to stay interested. I might try again because I think Cam would love it. But they did both love A Wrinkle in Time, so we're on to the next in the series: A Wind in the Door.

Cooking -- if there is anything I like about coming back from vacation, it's getting back in the kitchen! I love to dine out, but it gets old quickly. We are really trying to cut down on red meat, so I tried a bunch of new chicken and fish recipes this week. An easy fave was Food and Wine's Hobo Pack Chicken Fajitas. It's not life changing or anything, but it is so easy, quick, and the kids can basically make it themselves with some help on the grill.

Playing -- while the kids seem incapable of playing any game for more than several minutes without arguing (that's if they even can agree on how to set it up), they busted out an old fave this week and almost made it through an entire game. Cheers for Catan Jr.!

Wanting -- all I want right now is to detox from vacation eating and drinking. I literally ordered a new case of Dirty Lemon from the airplane home. It's not a cleanse and you won't lose a bunch of weight, but it does make you feel better. I like to do the Detox followed by one or two weeks of the Skin + Hair.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

California Day 1: San Francisco -- the Color Factory, Embarcadero, and Fisherman's Wharf

We just arrived home from an amazing, super-fun 10-day trip to California—we did pretty much an even split of time between San Francisco and Yosemite. I find planning vacations almost as much fun as going on them. Well, not really. But I do love researching, coordinating, organizing, and refining travel plans (and I always do a Pinterest board for each trip as a starting point to gather ideas). I generally start by putting together several lists: must-dos, if we have time activities, backup plans, and dining/drinking for neighborhoods around all three (arguably the most important list). But I had the hardest time picking and choosing for this trip! And it didn’t get much better when we arrived as I kept spotting more and more things I wanted to do. All of which is a long way of saying we’ll have to go back (and we will because my brother-in-law Steve is getting married next spring in Calistoga!).

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Easy Summer Art Activities

We're headed into that home stretch of summer: August. Sometimes I feel like the season is dragging,  but this year I feel like it's been going way too fast! Nevertheless, when August hits I always find myself in need of a few good, simple art projects that the kids can handle on their own. Head over to the OOLY blog to catch a few of our favorites! 

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Friday Five!!

Whew! August came real fast. We are in vacation prep mode this week and, for some reason, the kids have been totally focused on starting to get ready for back-to-school too. But we've still got lots on our Summer Bucket List to tackle, so onward!

Cooking -- I don't really think that these Greek Chicken Sausage Sandwiches count as cooking, but they were so easy and also such a crowd pleaser that I am definitely working them into our regular rotation.

Making -- my seasonal purging efforts have continued which means I actually made accessible and organized space for all our yarn supplies. Cam's been making pom poms again and I love it. We have a few different kinds of pom pom makers, but these are our favorites.

Playing -- I broke out a bunch of board games this week to keep math practice fun. I forgot how much I LOVE Clue (we have the version that has a second side with a Boardwalk setting)! Incan Gold continues to be a favorite as well.

Reading -- we have all been obsessed with I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives. It definitely brings up some really mature issues and I have edited a little bit as I read, but it's been a really great vehicle for conversations with the kids about issues such as poverty and privilege. And the fact that it's a true story just adds layers of both incredulity and credibility that I don't think a work of fiction about the same would have. I highly, highly recommend.

Wanting -- when we moved I got rid of my old non-stick pots and pans and went stainless steel. I love them, but I hate making scrambled eggs in them. I just can't do it without ending up with a filthy pan that's hard to clean. I'm in need of at least one non-stick and I have my eyes on this one. 

Monday, July 31, 2017

Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa + 30 Days of Dinner!!

This just might be the summer of the taco for us. From veggie to fish to meat, they are always a crowd pleaser. And they are super weeknight friendly. I made this steak version for a neighborhood barbecue and served them with all kinds of easy accoutrements so people could customize their own. It's such an easy recipe I was able to mix it up while talking to people during cocktail hour.

The rest of the month is a mixed bag of dining out, old family faves, and new meal kit options. Enjoy!

Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa 
(4 servings, slightly adjusted from Epicurious)

- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 lb skirt or flank steak
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves with tender stems, divided
- 4 radishes, trimmed, chopped
- 2 spring onions or 4 scallions, white and pale-green parts only, thinly sliced
- 1/2 serrano chile or jalapeno, seeds removed if desired, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp fresh lime juice
- 8 tortillas (corn or flour -- I like flour better here)
- 2 oz. queso fresco or Cotija cheese, crumbled (Feta also works)

1. Heat grill. Season steak with salt and pepper and grill about 4-5 minutes per side for medium-rare. Let steak rest 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, chop half of cilantro and toss with radishes, onions, chile, lime juice, and 1 tbsp oil in a medium bowl. Season radish salsa with salt and pepper.
3. Warm tortillas on stovetop until they just start to blister. Slice steak and serve on tortillas topped with radish salsa, queso fresco, and remaining cilantro.

*                    *                    *

Day 1 (Sat) -- dinner at NJ shore - BBQ with friends
Day 2 (Sun) -- dinner out at the NJ shore

Day 3 (M) -- dinner out at the NJ shore
Day 4 (T) -- dinner out at the NJ shore
Day 5 (W) -- One Pot Cheesy Taco Skillet 
Day 6 (Th) -- Plated Grilled Chicken Souvlaki
Day 7 (F) -- Plated Grilled Pork Chop
Day 8 (Sat) -- sushi out with Cam for girls night
Day 9 (Sun) -- hosted neighborhood BBQ: Steak Tacos with Cilantro-Radish Salsa; Sweet Potato and Black Bean Tacos (delish!); Mexican Rice; and Roasted Corn with Manchego and Lime 

Day 10 (M) -- Plated Salmon with Salsa Verde
Day 11 (T) -- Plated Vietnamese Pork Bun
Day 12 (W) -- dinner out
Day 13 (Th) -- dinner out
Day 14 (F) -- Beef and Bean Chili (my kids never met a chili recipe they didn't like, but particularly liked this one!)
Day 15 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 16 (Sun) -- Chicken with Red Onion and Lemon (I still leave the sugar out)

Day 17 (M) -- Plated Grilled Fish Tacos
Day 18 (T) -- dinner out
Day 19 (W) -- Plated Beef Bolognese
Day 20 (Th) -- Buffalo Chicken Tacos with Blue Cheese Coleslaw (a runner-up for the featured taco recipe this month); sweet potato fries
Day 21 (F) -- dinner out
Day 22 (Sat) -- Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Olives, and Lemon; green salad
Day 23 (Sun) -- dinner out

Day 24 (M) -- dinner out
Day 25 (T) -- Plated Blackened Cod
Day 26 (W) -- Plated Chicken Burrito Bowls
Day 27 (Th) -- leftovers
Day 28 (F) -- Chili Stuffed Sweet Potatoes 
Day 29 (Sat) -- dinner out
Day 30 (Sun) -- Slow Cooker Chipotle BBQ Chicken Sandwiches (everyone loved!)

Friday, July 28, 2017

The Friday Five!!

We've been having a great week. The kids are back at one camp, which makes for a much easier dropoff/pickup for me. I've been cleaning and purging the house like a madwoman. AND it's Shark Week, which always makes everything better in our house. Here's what's been going down .... 

Playing -- we're having a pool playdate for some of Kane's classmates this weekend and it happens to be float day at the pool, so we had to test out our new floats! Kane picked out a lobster float, Cam went with an emoji, and we had to get a ride-on banana float for good measure. 

Making -- we finally got around to doing our annual collective mural. I love this fizzing sidewalk chalk paint recipe and we use it for the mural even if we don't do the second fizzing step because it dries very quickly and has some staying power! 

Reading -- we've been on a kick with Wonder-esque reads, but I decided to kick it old school and start A Wrinkle in Time this week. 

Cooking -- these Lamb Meatballs with Feta, Olives, and Lemon are a serious family fave. I always double the recipe, but this week I also tried making them without browning them and was still pleased. The browning adds more flavor, but cooking them completely in the sauce makes for a little less mess. 

Wanting -- I always start back-to-school shopping right about now (yes, I know it's July) and that always makes me excited for fall. I wear my skinny leather pants constantly in cool weather and I'm in the market for a new pair. I love AG jeans, so I'm wanting these!