Sunday, July 2, 2017

Lemon bars

1.  Start with the crust from America's test kitchen lemon bars.  But don't use their foil sling, that is useless.  They come out easily if you use an ungreased glass dish, but the crust is a little thick.  It's a better thickness in our slightly larger metal pan, but I don't know if they will come out.  Bake it

2.  Move on to the filling in Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, and Betty Crocker.  Basically, 2 eggs, 2T flour.  And lemon.  Both of them are too light on the lemon.  Use 4 lemons worth of zest and juice, which is approx 1/2 cup lemon juice.  Follow instructions on beating the eggs and such, and pour over the warm crust once it's baked.

3.  Bake for about 25 minutes at whatever the cookbook says.

Sorry if you are a real person reading this.  We've made it twice and I didn't want to forget the specific combo that worked!

Friday, June 9, 2017

I live and die by my Google Calendar - even in the summer

Ah, the halcyon days of summer.  (Yes, I had to look that up in the dictionary.)  Lazy days in the park, at the beach, by the pool.  Impromptu trips to get fro-yo.  Setting up the sprinkler in the back yard.  Blowing bubbles, coloring, playing catch.  Running through the woods, only going inside for lunch.

If you think that I'm describing my summers as an adult, I have a bridge to sell you.  It's not far off from my summers as a kid though.  No beach, but the occasional pool.  And lots of time in the woods. Those were the days before Lyme disease.

Now, as a full-time working mom of 2 kids, I live and die by my schedule, which is kept on my Google calendar.  I've got two - one at work, and one at home.  During the school year, it's always a delicate balance.  Thanks to full time preschool for the young one, and after school care for the elementary kid - it's not terribly bad.  Until you add in:

- Sports
- Music
- In service days
- School holidays
- Norovirus

Then what is a difficult, but do-able schedule goes south and all hell breaks loose.

The good thing about having two engaged parents with reasonably flexible jobs, and the ability to work at home occasionally for a few hours (when the kids permit) is that we share drop-off and pick-up, and we work those around our schedules.  I have late meetings with Asia 2x a week or more, husband has early meetings on some days. So those days he goes in early and I got in late.  I do drop off and he does pick up.  On other days, we switch. We make it work.  Until.  That day when it all falls on the same day:

4:10 meeting
4:00 - 7:00 big kid has to be at baseball for a game
4:15 to 5, little kid has soccer, and parent must be present
5:15 pick up for kid #3, who is not our kid, at music practice.  Because we each take a day and that's our day and they don't get out of work until 6:15.

It probably goes without saying that *most* of our (relatively generous, because we are old and have seniority) vacation time goes to sick kids, or in-service days, or school holidays.

With all of that, I have to admit we all look forward to summer. But really, summer is no different when it comes to the schedule.  Summer is full of "summer camp Tetris". I have a spreadsheet.  Because: of course I do.

The weeks are laid out from week 1 to week 10.
The columns are laid out with 
- kid name
- camp name
- camp start and end times
- camp location
- cost

And of course, I have two kids.  The camps are first listed as "ideas" on the side.  When we've booked and paid for it, I highlight them in green.  Then, I have to put the camps into my all important calendar.

The calendar is important because for *some* reason, the vast majority of summer camps consider "full time" to be 9 to 2.  I'm not sure who YOUR boss is, but MY boss doesn't consider 5 hours a day to be "full time".  Sure, some offer extended care for a fee, generally $30-35 a day extra.  That can easily take a $200 or $250 camp to $350 for the week.  Times two.

When you overlay these crazy hours with your own work schedules, you can see why the calendar is so important.  An example:

Week 2: Baseball
8:30 am, Parent A leaves home with kids.  Make sure both kids have lunches packed.  Baseball kid must have his baseball gear and lunch and snack and water.
9:00 am drop off kid #1 at baseball camp
9:20 am drop off kid #2 at preschool
1:30 pm Parent B leaves work to pick up kid #1 from baseball.  And then goes home with said kid and works from home a few hours before picking up kid #2.

Which parent is Parent A and which parent is Parent B varies by the day.  Fun times.

Week 4: Morning sailing camp and after noon lego camp
Sailing camp is 9 to 12
Lego camp is 1 to 4
Shoot me now

Week 5: Chess
Chess camp is from 10 to 2 pm.  WTF

Week 7: Full day camp at the university.  7:30 to 5:30 baby!  Lather them up in sunscreen, pack lunch, water, and swim gear.  Whee!

All in all , we have 9 weeks of camp for a 10 week summer.
Big kid:
Full day camps (or at least close - 9 to 4 is what I consider "close enough") - 5
Fun but PITA partial day camps - 4

Little kid:
Half the summer in preschool, 3 weeks of camp, everything is full day.

Now, I do realize that the reason a lot of summer camps are short is two-fold:
1.  It mimics the school day
2.  Not enough "stuff" to do for more than a few hours.  I mean, who besides my kid wants to play chess for 8 hours?

I'd like to argue that the typical school day and school year is antiquated.  I mean, it was created decades ago when most people lived on farms.  The kids had morning and afternoon chores, and they never went to school in the summer because they were busy in the fields and at harvest.  Mom AND Dad were usually at home.

Now that it's 2017, I wonder if we might want to -ahem- adjust the school schedule to make more sense with how society lives TODAY.  More than 70% of kids live in homes with 2 working parents.  Companies are not often understanding of the need for flexible schedules.  I'm not suggesting we have our kids in school for 40 to 50 hours a week (shoot, I don't like working those hours either!)  But maybe a large-scale review is in order.

Who else lives and dies by their schedule?

Sunday, May 14, 2017

2017 Goals, weeks 14-19

Yeah, getting a little behind.

1. Exercise: as of Saturday 5/13/17 

Running: 300 miles: To date: 138.5 miles  So, I finished the half
Biking: 500 miles: To date: 48.44 miles (been mostly running)
Swimming: 50 miles: To date: 10.08 miles (only 3 times in a month and a half).
Walking: 150 miles: To date: 68.56 miles
Weights/ yoga: 30 minutes a week (1560 this year): 403 minutes - way behind here
So, yesterday was the half marathon.  I had four goals:

1.  Finish
2.  Under 3 hours
3.  With a smile on my face
4.  Not in pain

I managed the first 3!  Here's a recap.  First, I ran with my Moms in Motion training group.  I am the slow one.  But really, I like to think of it like this: I'm faster than everyone on the couch.  It's very hard for me, as a type-A competitive person, to do these things. 
- Most of my running friends are just fast.  Some of them are tall.  Some of them are slender.  But most of them just have the build and ability to run - run faster without injury.  It's VERY hard to accept your body's limitations. But I've learned that I have to.  I know one woman who started training 4 weeks ago and finished in under 2 hours, coming in 2nd in her age group.
- The last time I ran this race was 7 years ago.  I finished in 2:11:04.  This time I finished in 2:52:20. (#155/189 in the 45-49 age group)  I decided that I didn't want to be in pain. Last time I was injured with sciatica/ piriformis so badly that I couldn't run for a year.  When I started up again, I ended up with achilles tendonitis. So, how to run without pain?
- I use a pretty strict run/walk Galloway method now (reduces injury and fatigue because walking and running use different muscles).  I start off at a 4:1 run:walk (though this race I ran the first 9 mins).  I maintain that as long as I can.  But this method - in the book that I bought - basically says "walk before you need to".  (I started running a year ago, with a 2:3 run:walk ratio.)  My run pace is around 10:30 to 12:00, and my walk pace is 17:00 to 20:00.
- My hips tend to ache at mile 7.  Especially going up hill.  It's a bummer.  This is why I am now remembering that I don't like half marathons.  They are not my jam. I like 10Ks.  My body likes 10Ks.

On the actual race -
- It's beautiful. Rolling hills of ranches and wineries.  This is important.  It comes into play later.
- The start was pretty good, if a bit slow.  Cold and windy.  I ran the first 9 minutes (with my friend Cheryl, who is in her 60s and was aiming for a sub 2:30.  She did it!)  When I took my walk break she looked back and I said "go!"  Our group carpooled up to the start, and I was PRETTY sure that I told everyone my goal was sub 3-hours, and 2:50 would be awesome.
- The first half is up hill.  At mile 6, there's this massive hill called "Corkscrew hill".  I remember it well from last time.  At the bottom of the hill is when I could *just* start to feel my hips.  I walked up the whole hill.  I also took a picture.  It's the only "mid-run" picture that I took - but I took it because - this is supposed to be FUN.  What difference does a couple of minutes make?  I wasn't going to PR.

- For this reason, when I had to go to the bathroom at the transition point, I used the porta potty. I stopped my Garmin. So when someone asks me how long my race was?  Chip time: 2:52, watch time: 2:49.  Why suffer for another 6.5 miles if you have to go???
- I also started up my iPod at mile 4.5.  Usually I'd make it until 7 miles.
- The second half is mostly downhill.  I ended up running with another couple of ladies doing the run /walk, but we weren't quite on the same schedule.  They were still doing 4:1, but after mile 7, I couldn't manage it.  I switched to more of a 2:1.  It's okay - the vast majority of people around my pace were doing a run:walk combo.  I felt like I found my people!  In my training group, I'm the only one.
- From miles 7 to 12, the hips were a definite issue.  It's rolling hills course, and I found that there were times (gradual downhills) where my hips actually felt BETTER running than walking.  So the last half of the race, I would run until things started to hurt, then I'd walk until it didn't hurt.  2:1, 2:2, 2:3, 1:2...it really varied. During all of my walk sections I made sure to enjoy the scenery.  It's the whole point I signed up for this thing again anyway.
- Right at mile marker 11, there was a steep downhill.  Even walking, it hurt.  That's when my knees decided to join in with the hips.  There's a steep 1/2 mile hill at 11.5 miles.  At mile 11, I decided to take an ibuprofen.  I never do that.  I stopped and stretched.
- I remembered what the finish line was like.  I was able to run a bit more near the end - 1 min run, 1 min walk.  I set myself up for being able to run the last few blocks, so I could have a strong finish.  Most my team was already having wine/beer (they thought they'd missed me?  At 2:30?  You must have mistaken me for someone else). But my hubby and kids were there to cheer me on, and Cheryl was at the finish.
- So then I gave my post-race treats to the kids.  Drank water.  Walked around a bit.  Found my beer and wine drinking friends. I seriously don't want to drink after a half.  Went to the toy store with my family and ran into an old friend.  It was great.  She told me that she's pretty sure a young woman died at the finish line. Not so great.  Sat for awhile, limped off to the bathroom, and started the long drive home.  (I don't feel particularly social after a long race, I guess.)

- I retrieved my car from my friend's house and did the grocery shopping.  And then?  Well, the rest of the day, and today - the only things that hurt are my right toes and a spot that got chafed from the bra.  Which I didn't notice until I took a shower.  So, was it the grocery shopping?  Was it the ibuprofen?  Despite the pain during the run, I'm pretty much unscathed. That's a abnormal for me for a long run.


2. Grocery bill: Keep it under $7000 ($134.62/wk)$2679.56.  $141.03/ week.  These last 2 weeks were really big, compared to the prior 3.

3.  Weight: I have no idea.

4.  Family:
Go on 12 family hikes: Um...run run run run.  And it's allergy season.
Do game night once a week: Not much of this.

5.  Crafts:
- Crochet a blanket - DONE, and little guy has claimed it.  I decided that I felt way to beholden to the day's temperature to continue on this trend for the next blanket.  So now I'm doing something else.


- all the other crafty stuff: nothing

6.  Sleep: ugh.

7.  Food: eat vegan 2 days a week. I'm not sure when or if I'm going to jump back on this train.

8.  Cookbooks: Try 1 recipe from every cookbook I own.  Ditto.  See #7. I'm making a lot of things over and over again.

9.  Work:
     a. Skills: Learn enough programming to automate the data pulls for problem lots (which requires pulling data from 2 different databases).  Haven't worked on this yet.  REALLY need to.
     b. Personal:  Don't engage.  Really.  

10.  Home: Contact contractor/ architect on adding a second bathroom. Need to get moving on the fixing of the plumbing first.

11.  Garden: need to plant stuff.  And more stuff.

12.  Spouse: I don't think we got a date in April.

13.  Beverages:
- Drink less coffee and more tea (one cup coffee per day): doing okay here, but work is KILLING me because our ice maker is broken.
- Do not buy any wine aside from my two wine club memberships.  

- Drink two 24-oz bottles of water a day, minimum.  I managed this on my running days.

14.  Mom's nights/ dad's night once a month: Jan, check.  Feb, fail. March, fail.  April: fail.

15.  Host friends.  Jan, check.  Feb, fail.  March, fail.  April, success on day 1!!  May - need to get on this.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Lentil Curry

This is an offshoot of Red Lentil Curry.  I decided to play around with the tried and true recipe.  Because I had tomatoes, and I ran out of red lentils but had extra brown.

It was delish, I think.  I have a bad cold.

Lentil Curry:
1 small onion, diced
2 T canola oil 
1/2 tsp turmeric 
1/2 tsp coriander 
1/2 tsp cumin 
1 tsp curry powder
1/4 tsp garam masala 
1/2 tsp fresh garlic, minced (3 small cloves)
3 roma tomatoes, chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 c. red or brown lentils (I used a mix)
2.5 c. water
1/4 c to 1/3 c coconut milk 
1-2 Tbsp tomato paste  
1 tsp salt

Saute onion in oil until soft. Add garlic and saute one more minute. Add spices and saute one more minute. Add tomatoes and cook 5-6 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft.  Add lentils and water.

Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover, simmering for 15-20 min. Check periodically.  I needed a bit more water.  Once it looks done, use the immersion blender if you like it a bit creamier. I still wanted a few chunks.

Add coconut milk and tomato paste and cook 5 more min, or until desired consistency.  Add salt.

This was good with my Indian roasted cauliflower and Trader Joe's garlic naan, found in the freezer section.  My big boy goes NUTS for that stuff.

Monday, April 3, 2017

2017 Goals, weeks 12 & 13

1. Exercise: as of Saturday 4/1/17 

Running: 300 miles: To date: 62.9 miles  So, six weeks till the 1/2 marathon. And I'm only up to 6 miles.  Hm.
Biking: 500 miles: To date: 48.44 miles 
Swimming: 50 miles: To date: 7.96 miles (only once in two weeks).
Walking: 150 miles: To date: 51.99 miles
Weights/ yoga: 30 minutes a week (1560 this year): 368 minutes - nothing in 2 weeks eek!

Starting to stress about the half marathon.  Especially since they've changed it since I last did it. Now they are "nickel and diming you".  Like, you have to drive up (45 min or so) to pick up your race packet the day before.  If you want to pick it up here in my own town, it's $10.  (used to be free).  If you want to pick it up the morning of the race, it's $15.

So, just to kind of screw them, I was going to go with the "free" option. Except it will cost $10 in gas ($9.60 actually), even in my tiny car.  However, if I carpooled, or got several other people's packets at the same time, it would pay for itself.  Anyway.  I have time to decide.  But I won't be doing this race again.

2. Grocery bill: Keep it under $7000 ($134.62/wk)$96.77 & $83.69.  My produce box was missing something this week too.  Hopefully I'll get a  credit.  $1735.95 so far, or $133.53/ week.  This was a BIG week post vacation.  And party.

3.  Weight: I have no idea.

4.  Family:
Go on 12 family hikes: Well, we went on 3 family hikes on our trip last week.  They were very short. About 3/4 mile each, took an hour (you know, 4 year old pace, with snowball fights).
Do game night once a week: Not much of this.

5.  Crafts:
- Crochet a blanket - less than 30 days to go

- crochet a purse: nothing
- participate in my quilting group's exchange: I cut a bunch of blocks.  We are all making 20 half square triangle blocks for each other.
- make 12 snowflakes: nothing
- attempt to make socks: I've pinned a bunch of instructions?  I did make two pink "pussy cat hats".  One to donate to the Yarn Bomber.  One for a friend.

6.  Sleep: Been a pretty good week, though vacation - not so much.  Got kicked out of bed by the 4 year old.

7.  Food: eat vegan 2 days a week. I'm not sure when or if I'm going to jump back on this train.

8.  Cookbooks: Try 1 recipe from every cookbook I own.  Ditto.  See #7. I'm making a lot of things over and over again.

9.  Work:
     a. Skills: Learn enough programming to automate the data pulls for problem lots (which requires pulling data from 2 different databases).  Haven't worked on this yet.  REALLY need to.
     b. Personal:  Don't engage.  Really.  

10.  Home: Contact contractor/ architect on adding a second bathroom.Nothing. But we did talk to the plumber about (finally) replacing the sewer line.  Nothing like $8k bill!  Haven't gotten the written estimate.  But he did just come by this weekend (again) because our neighbor's backed up (again).  Yuck.

11.  Garden: need to plant stuff.  And more stuff.

12.  Spouse: we did manage March date!

13.  Beverages:
- Drink less coffee and more tea (one cup coffee per day): Uh, lots of coffee this week.
- Do not buy any wine aside from my two wine club memberships.  Been hitting the wine more the last few weeks.

- Drink two 24-oz bottles of water a day, minimum.  I managed this on my running days.

14.  Mom's nights/ dad's night once a month: Jan, check.  Feb, fail. March, fail.

15.  Host friends.  Jan, check.  Feb, fail.  March, fail.  April, success on day 1!!  It was a no-baseball weekend.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vacation Post

This is just going to be a short compilation of our quick spring break (quick, because the kids were sick so much this weekend we had to only go for 1/2 week.  Not enough vacation time left.)

What did we do: Went to the snow
How did we save money:
- Winter gear - we have some from forever ago.  Bought the kids new boots ($20/each).  Which will probably never be worn again.  Will donate.

- Lodging - got sticker shock looking at Mammoth Mountain ($1280/ four nights, 1 BR condo, cheapest I could find.)  Googled, opted to go a little north to sleepy town of June Lake.  ($672/ four nights, 2 bedroom cabin duplex.)  Reverse Creek Lodge.  We really enjoyed this place.

- Food - took food and grocery shopped.  By far, the cheapest food was what we brought with us - mac and cheese, raw veggies, bagels, cheese & salami.  Next cheapest was shopping at the Vons in Mammoth (do NOT go at 6 pm on a Saturday!!)  But most of my shopping is NOT done in large stores, because they don't have the best deals.  Finally, when really out of something - the June Lake general store.  $5.49 for a loaf of bread, whee!!  But we needed to eat.  And they were really nice.

Approximate cost for food for the four days: $90.  Seems like a lot, but less than eating out for sure.  Plus way less pain and suffering than eating out with a four year old.

- Entertainment.  June Lake has a ski spot, which is much less populated and much smaller, and more family friendly than the southern neighbor, Mammoth.  It was also < 1 mile from the cabin.  It's also quite a bit cheaper - kids 12 and under ski for free.  And...we saved even MORE money by...not skiing at all.  People who ski regularly probably: 1. have their own gear.  2. Know how to get cheaper lift tickets on-line, or at Costco.  People like us, not so much.

We priced out skiing for 1 day at June Lake, and it looked like it would be approximately $600.  That's rental and lift ticket for hubby (who actually knows how to ski), rentals and lessons for the kids, and a lesson for me, who last went skiing in  1998.  The cost to do the same at Mammoth would have been quite a bit more expensive, at least $200.  We thought about it, but the June Lake website went down the night we were thinking about booking, so that sealed it.  

I realize that I'm not too old to learn a new skill. But...do I want to?  I mean, in the best of times, skiing is like golf - expensive.  And I live at the beach.  If I want to learn a new skill, shouldn't it be something like stand up paddle boarding, or rock climbing?  Something that doesn't require a 5 hour drive to accomplish?  Maybe if we go some day where we would ski for more than one day, it would be more worth it.  Cheaper cost per day.

In any event, the area is surrounded by the Inyo National Forest.  Our cabins had sleds that you could borrow.  The owners of the lodge directed us to a nice little spot with lots of places to sled.  And no snowmobilers!  So, our days went like this:
1.  Wake up.  For me, that usually meant "wake up on the couch".  Because the upstairs was HOT.  I would wake up at midnight sweating, and move downstairs where it was cooler.  I usually woke at 5:45 or 6.  Kid #1 woke up at the same time.  Kid #2 always ended up moving from his twin bed in the kid room to the king bed in the parent room.  So daddy and Kid #2 woke up at 7, and not always well rested.

2.  Drink coffee (instant, because we had it).  
3.  Make and eat breakfast - bagels, eggs, toast with nutella, toast with almond butter and bananas.
4.  Go for a hike.  There was a snow-filled hill behind the cabin area.  We climbed it, including some rock climbing.  At the top, we wandered through another cabin's yard (more than 50% of the homes here are second homes, usually only inhabited in the summer).  This got us to a road, and we wandered down some streets back to the cabin.  The hike usually took an hour, was about 0.75 miles (you know, hiking with a 4 year old) - and involved a LOT of snowball fights.

5.  Watch TV, make and eat lunch - sandwiches and raw veggies, or grilled cheese and soup.

6.  Do the dishes.  Go sledding (which involved a drive).  We sledded for an hour in the afternoon - more snowball fights, made a snowman one day.

7.  Go back to the cabin.  Warm up, have cocoa, make and eat dinner, watch more TV, maybe play a game, read.  Bed at 9.

Pics below!





















Monday, March 20, 2017

Instant Pot Pasta and Meatballs

So, I got an instant pot.  On Amazon Prime day.  It was a super duper deal.  If you don't know what this is, you have been living under a rock.

It's a 6-in-1 or 7-in-1 combo appliance which is the best thing since sliced bread. Or so they say.  I heard lots about it forever and ever, before I finally bought one.  It's a Canadian invention, I think.  So, thanks!

Why did you need one?  Good question. I already have a crock pot, a rice cooker, a yogurt maker, and two pressure cookers.  Did I get rid of those?  Of course not.

Anyway, unfortunately I haven't tried a lot of things, because I'm too busy to try new recipes.  Thanks baseball.  And full time job.

What I *have* been using it for is recipes that I already made and liked, and adjusted.  The instant pot has been great for cooking dried beans (without paying attention to a pressure cooker).  I haven't tried yogurt (too busy for that).  I have a great recipe for Mediterranean chickpeas and rice - I used to make it in the stovetop pressure cooker, but I had issues with burning.  Perfect in the instant pot.

So here's the magic: one pot pasta.  I've waxed about how awesome this is before.  Problem is: it sticks to the bottom of my enamel cast iron dutch oven.  When I got the instant pot, I googled pasta.  I found a bunch of recipes.  I merged them together to try and match what I was already doing.

And so here it is, with one caveat: I've never done it.  It's totally my husband's meal, usually on Thursday but sometimes Monday.  I decided to blog it in case we accidentally throw away the back of the envelope that it is written on.

One (instant) pot pasta:
1/2 an onion, diced
other veggies as desired, diced
olive oil
1 24-oz jar of spaghetti sauce
1 24-oz jar of water
12 ounces of pasta (I use penne, fusilli, whole wheat works well too)
frozen meatballs (I think we use about 1/2 bag, so 8-12 ounces)

1.  Turn on the instant pot to saute. Add oil and onion and veg, saute until soft.
2.  Add pasta, sauce, water, and meatballs
3.  Press cancel on the pot to stop saute
4.  Close lid, make sure vent is turned to "close"
5.  Press "Manual"
6.  Set time to 5 minutes

It will start on its own.  Heat up, get to pressure, cook 5 min at pressure.  When done, let it natural release for 10 mins (counts down too), then open vent for quick release.

Enjoy.

Now, if you are a pasta snob...keep walking.  This absorbs the sauce into the pasta.  It's delicious.  It's easy.  The kids love it.  It's not fancy.  It won't come out al dente.  It's a bit mushier than the standard 1-pot pasta.  But I don't care.