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Undivided Attention August 23, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Parenthood,Sharing and Caring,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 12:44 PM

Today is the second day of school.  Summer is over.

I think this has been one of out best summers.  It seems as the kids get older, the summer gets easier.  We picked a few camps for them to attend- now it’s more sleep away camps.  We planned some down days, and we planned some adventure days.

I have had a list of places I have wanted to go, but time has always escaped.  However, this year I planned ahead.  We did 2 museum days in Dallas.

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Dallas Heritage Village lunch at Angry Dog and then the Frontier Flight Museum

The second trip was inspired by the trip Kate’s girl scout troop made to Austin at the beginning of the summer.  The troop was working on a government badge and we visited the LBJ library, the UT campus, 2 tours of the state capital, Congress bridge bats, swimming, BBQ and lots of fun.  As we toured the LBJ library, I thought what a fun history lesson to connect to Dallas.  SO, I rented the 3 hour long documentary on JFK and we all watched it.  Then we went to Sixth Floor MuseumOld Red Museum and lunch at Klyde Warren Park.

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We also went to Turner Falls, OK for hiking and swimming, Waco to the Mammoth National Park Site The Magnolia Market Silos for lunch and Dr. Pepper Museum

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The best part of all these trips is the undivided attention I have from my kids and they have from me.  We have had some of the best conversations, funniest moments and we have no distractions.  There was one teachable moment that really stood out.

We took a trip to Lawton, OK to get a burger.  (yes, its part of my discovering the 5 best burgers in OK)  It was about a 3 hour trip one way.  Meers store and restaurant used to be a mining cabin, but now serves burgers.  It also serves a lot of service men and women due to Ft. Sills located a few miles away.  As we were eating lunch, we noticed a young man dressed in fomal military attire eating with his family.  The kids asked about him, and I told them that he probably came from the base we passed on the way in.  When it came time to checkout, I told our server that we would pick up the service mans bill.  The owner said that they were nervous about having time to eat since he had to be back for graduation ceremony.

For about an hour of the ride home we talked about creating a ripple effect of “doing good” or “paying it forward”.   Small things that we do for one another can have a great impact.  Just recognizing someone, eye contact and a smile, showing appreciation and gratitude can go a long way.  What is your ripple effect?

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I’m a little behind…..CA trip summary April 13, 2016

Filed under: Interests,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 8:44 PM

I came back from my trip to Napa, CA and was excited to post pictures, but I brought the flu back with me.  After laying low, and then uploading all my pictures, I’m ready to share my trip!

We drove up to Berkley the afternoon we arrived.  Chez Panisse was on my list to vist.

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Chez Panisse- new American Gourmet.  Known as one of the inspirations for California cuisine. Restaurateur, author, and food activist Alice Waters co-founded Chez Panisse in 1971 with film producer Paul Aratow, then professor of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley. The restaurant focuses on ingredients rather than technique, and has developed direct relationships with local farmers, ranchers, and dairies.  This is where farm-to-table began.

The service was outstnding, the food was simple and divine.

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Roasted Turnip soup with sorrel and creme fraiche.

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Grapefuit and avocado salad with kumquats.

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My mom and I both had the halibut.  It was baked perfect with butter and white wine.  I wanted to lick the plate (but I didn’t).

I came to eat, so I wasn’t going to leave without dessert.

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Rhubarb Galette with vanilla ice cream.

Here is a picture of the open kitchen.

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We then headed up to Napa.

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A great doccumentary movie (that I also find funny- but it’s not a comedy) is Somm.  It follows four guys who are studying to be a Master Sommelier.

SOMM trailer

DAY 2:

We had a tour scheduled at Beringer.

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This was a great first stop to learn about the history of the area, the types of soils that the wine grape varietals grow in, how the wine is harvested and made.  This time of year is bud season.  The grape vines are just beginning to bud, the weather is perfect (70’s) and it is not crowded.  We toured the wine caves, had a barrel tasting, and did a food and wine pairing.  Since I am not much of a wine drinker, the pairing was fasicnating.  I really noticed how much the taste of the wine changed based on what type of food we were eating with it.

As a side note- I couldn’t help but think about this book series I read.  Secrets (The Michelli Family Series Book #1):  by Kristen Heitzmann

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To have a wine label that says Napa Valley, 95% of the grapes have to come from Napa by law.  Other wines label California- come from somehwere else.

Next stop was the CIA, which was next door in the Greystone (old Christian Brothers Winery).

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We had lunch here.  There is a student run restaurant.  I had a lentil soup and a goat cheese salad.  My mom had an roasted eggplant sandwich.

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The rest of the afternoon we drove around a just stopped at some smaller wineries like Frog’s Leap, Rutherford, Elizabeth Spencer, and we did an olive oil tasting at Round Pound.    We stopped at V. Sattui, which has an amazing deli to grab some “snacks” for dinner.  Our hotel was serving wine from Mario Andretti’s vineyard (can’t say much for celebrity wines).

Day 3:

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This was truly the “vacation day”.  We headed up to the northern part of Napa towards Calistoga stopping by Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars.  They won the Paris Blind Tasting in 1976 (that was a good year!) for their Cabernet Sauvignon.  This was a HUGE deal because the vines were only 3 years old. We also visited Chateau Montelena which won the 1976 Paris tasting for their Chardonnay.  Without boring you with a bunch of wine knowledge and history- there is a good movie about it called Bottle Shock.

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Chris Pine plays Bo.

This is Bo now.

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This was the wine.

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We also stopped at Castle Di Amarosa.  It is modeled after a Tuscan Castle.

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Did I mention how wonderful Napa smells?  There was jasmine, orange blossoms, and flowers blooming everywhere.

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Calistoga is know for their mud baths, so how could we not try a mud bath?

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Yes, it was awesome.  Then there was a mineral bath soak, steam room and a massage.  AND………..dinner at Bouchon.  Bouchon is the Bistro to the French Laundry.

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We had this amazing French dinner, and stopped by the bakery to get some treats for breakfast the next day.  Since restaurants are like museums to me, I wanted to go see the French Laundry and have my picture taken there.  (The French Laundry is one of the top 50 best restaurants in the world).  This is where my birthday trip is frosted and has a cherry on top.

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So, I take my picture by the French Laundry- Thomas Keller’s restaurant- and I think “I’m just going to ask for a clothes pin” (it’s like grabbing a match book- it’s a souvenir).  When I ask the Marte’ D, he was so friendly and hospitable, that he not only got me a clothespin, but the menu of the evening, a magazine they publish twice a year, short bread cookies, AND invited me to go back to the kitchen and meet the chef and tour the kitchen!!

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DO you see the stars above us?  They are a 3 star Michelin restaurant.   I got to talk to Chef  David for about 15 minutes.  It was incredible.  If you like movies here are a few other favorite restaurant related movies….

CHEF

Ratatouille

The Hundred Foot Journey

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Day 4: Etude, drive through Sonoma, Sausalito, San Francisco for the afternoon/evening.

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Those are the highlights……….a very memorable trip and a great vacation destination- even if you don’t drink wine.

 

 

 

A side trip + quick meal March 13, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Parenthood,Sharing and Caring,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 10:26 PM

It was a very rainy Spring Break week.  We had already planned a quick trip down to San Antonio.  The last time we were down there- we only had 2 out of three kids and one was still in a stoller.

We hit Bluebonnet Cafe (pie), Guenther House (pioneer mill- great breakfast), the missions, Alamo, Riverwalk, Pearl Brewary (and CIA), a movie, HEB, Magnolia Cafe (another great breakfast), Natural Bridge Caves, and a short stop in San Marcos.

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Upon returning, I had to work a catering event plus we had basketball games.  Here is a quick stew with ingredients I usually have on hand.

Chickpea Stew

In a skillet, soften:

1 diced onion

1 shallot

In 1-2 Tbsp olive oil

Add :

2 cloves diced garlic

1 tsp minced fresh ginger (I often keep a tube of minced ginger in fridge)

1 Tbsp curry powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

2 chopped carrots

(you could also add diced potato, frozen peas, eggplant….)

In a crockpot add:

1 can coconut milk

2-3 cans drained and rinsed chickpeas

Then add onion mix from skillet.  Simmer on low 4 hours.  Serve over rice.

 

Traveling by tastebuds February 16, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Step by step,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 2:04 PM

It’s not always possible to jet set and experience another culture, but you can travel easily with your tastebuds experiencing other cultures through food.

It’s amazing to go back and looks at some cuisines of Europe and then see the influence that has spread into regional cooking in the US.  If your looking for a fun tour- try looking into countries that were into exploration.

I happened to find a great deal on a bottle of saffron.  Saffron is the dried stigmas from a small purple crocus. Each flower provides only three stigmas, which must be carefully hand-picked and then dried, an extremely labor-intensive process. It takes 225,000 stigmas to make one pound of saffron, making saffron the most expensive spice in the world.  Saffron is used in spice blends for paella, curry, and bouillabaisse.  Saffron is native to the Mediterranean, and most imported saffron comes from Spain.

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This recipe is for a braised chicken dish.  Last week I was using different thickeners for sauces.  This sauce is really interesting in that it uses hard boiled egg yolks and nuts to thicken the sauce.  Chicken thighs, unlike chicken breasts, do better when cooked longer.  Chicken thighs, which are less expensive, are dark meat full of flavor and can hold up to stews and braising without drying out.

Season chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.  I happened to get skinless, so when adding to the skillet add a little olive oil.

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Brown on both sides.  This will take about 10 minutes total.  Then remove the thighs to a plate.  Add 1 diced onion and 3 cloves minced garlic.  When the onion is translucent add 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon and 1 whole bay leaf.  Stir.  Add 3/4 c. sherry,  1 c. chicken stock, and 1 can diced tomtaoes.  Bring to a simmer.  Add chicken back into skillet, cover and place in a 350 degree oven till  chicken reaches 190 degrees.

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When the chicken comes out of the oven, ladel out about 1 cup of the liquid/sauce into a blender with 2 hard boiled egg yolks (save the white for garnish), 1/2 c. toasted slivered almonds, and a pinch of saffron.

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Add puree to chicken and stir in.  Squeeze a half of lemon over the sauce.  Serve into bowls and top with chopped egg white and parsley.  Enjoy a taste of Spain!

 

Week in Review- a vacation January 31, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Parenthood,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 8:57 PM

We spent the last week in Florida and it was a busy week.  Here is a recap and some highlights.

We flew in to Ft. Lauderdale and spent the weekend with my grandparents.  My kids haven’t seen their great-grandparents for a while.  Actually they hadn’t met my youngest yet.  Four generations.  My grandfather was born in 1920 and my youngest was born in 2010.

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The kids were able to go to the beach.  It started with walking on the beach, putting our feet in the water, next thing they were swimming in it.  It was a little cold for me, but they enjoyed it.

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We headed up to Orlando for the rest of the week.  In my opinion, a trip to Disney/Universal  requires some research and planning.

Day 1: Epcot

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I picked Epcot first for a couple of reasons.  The last time I was at Disney (34 years ago) there was only Magic Kingdom and Epcot.  It was a bit nostalgic.  Secondly, I thought it would be a good entry into the week.

We bought 2 day magic your way passes.  With the passes we could pick fast passes for three rides 30 days in advance. (If you stay in teh park you can pick 60 days in advance, we opted for a condo 10 minutes away that had a kitchen, laundry, pool, movie theater…)  Our three fast passes were Test Track, The Seas with Nemo and Spaceship Earth.  The fast pass was nice, but the lines in Epcot were low and we were able to ride other rides like Mission Space with no wait.  By far, Test Track was our favorite.  We rode 3 times.  If you have a Hot Wheels fan, this is the ride.  You are able to design a car within parameters and then you get in a car and it goes through performance tests.  The last test is speed, which whips you around the outside of the building.  The best part of The Seas with Nemo is the large aquarium, it was also a favorite.  We ate in the World Showcase- lots of good food options.  We added the fireworks/lasewr show as an additional fast pass.  This gave us front row seats.

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Day 2: Free Day

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We headed out to Gatorland in the afternoon.  This was only 20 minutes away, there was another gator place with airboats, but it was 45 minutes away.  Gatorland have hundereds of gators, gator wrestling, ziplining over the gator “pond”, and so much more.  We really enjoyed it.

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Day 3: Universal Studios

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Harry Potter, Transformers, Despicable Me, Rip Rocket, Men in Black, Shrek, Revenge of the Mummy.  My 11 year old was all over this.  He had a blast.  Most of the rides on this side of the park were 3D/4D rides or indoor rollercoasters or a combination.

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This one is sometimes hard to get a “smiley” picture from.  Needless to say, we rode this ride 3 times.  We did not get the fast passes for Universal.  There were very little wait times for rides.  I highly recommend the aps for both Disney and Universal.  The aps have maps, wait times listed for rides, showtimes, and other great information.

Day 4: Universal Islands of Adventure

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Harry Potter, Jurasic Park, Spiderman, X-men, Dr. Suess, Popeye.  This side had a lot more amusement park type rides.  Rollercoasters, log rides, free falls…

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Harry Potter fans……this was soooooo much fun!

Day 5: Magic Kingdom

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We had fast passes for Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain and 7 Dwarfs Mine Ride.  We did some classics like Peter Pan, Its a Small World and Pirates of the Carribean.  The “kiddie” rides had long wait times.  There were lots of strollers in the park.  I am so glad I did not have anyone in diapers, in a stroller or needing naps.

What worked for us is timing the rides.  We stood in line for 60 minutes to ride Space Mt, and then got right back on with our fast pass.  We watched part of the parade at 9pm and then headed back to Thunder Mt and Splash Mt.  There were no lines so we just kept getting back on.

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We had a great week, lots of fun, great memories!

 

Hello Burgers. January 8, 2016

Filed under: Interests,Meal Planning,Sharing and Caring,travel — clappingonthedownbeat @ 1:38 PM

I’m really not a huge burger fan.  Actually, my favorite burgers are veggie burgers.  But then last spring I read and article on the 5 Best Burgers in OK.  I started mapping the sites out and started thinking, “2 hours isnt that far for a burger excursion”.  So last summer I put on my list (remember I really like lists) places to go check out for burgers.  In no particular order, here are some of our favorites.

  1. Folgers in Ada, OK    A 12 seat diner experience

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2. Spork, Dallas   A funky family friendly joint with the best Bulgogi kimchi fries

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3. Off Site Kitchen, Dallas     Green chili burger, Yum.

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Every once in a while I try my hand at burgers at home.  I must be turning into a southerner.  After 10+ years in Texas I now love pimento cheese.  This is a simple burger topped with a fried egg and an aged cheddar pimento cheese spread.

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For this burger, I had my ground beef in a vacuum sealed bag, so it was already flat and thin.  I cut the beef into 6 rectangles and seasoned with salt, pepper and granulated garlic.  I cooked them in a cast iron skillet and then finished them in the oven.  I fried 6 eggs over easy/medium.  In a food processor I made the pimento cheese spread with pimentos, green onions, mayo, cream cheese, and a really good aged cheddar.  Lastly, I buttered and toasted the challah rolls.

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Hello, burger.

 

Yogi on the Road July 28, 2013

Filed under: Interests,travel,Yoga — clappingonthedownbeat @ 10:25 PM

Well, we have been a-traveling this summer……here are a few highlights:

IMG_20130719_111057  hiking

 

DSC06985 Brian’s 20th HS reunion

 

IMG_20130721_165205 hiking

 

DSC06999  on top of The Mesa

 

DSC07032 hiking to Hanging Lake   DSC07037

0-12  where Brian proposed 14 years ago

DSC07011 Dinosaur museum

 

DSC07055   Cadillac Ranch   DSC07050