Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Dallas Fall Fun {double pumpkin emoji}

WASPy children in a pumpkin patch... equal parts shocking and unique, I know.  

#Basic autumnal endeavors?  We've got 'em in spades, y'all!  

Last weekend, we visited E's parents for an early PawPaw birthday celebration, and we squeezed in two of our favorite Dallas activities as well.  Austin is home, but I feel like the luckiest duck to have such a good excuse to frequent the Metroplex.  

Other than our friends and family, I think I might miss the Dallas Arboretum most of all.  We lived practically across the street from its entrance, and that proximity + our membership made it so easy to zip over whenever we felt like some fancy fresh air.  There were many weeks during the annual Tulip Festival, the 12 Days of Christmas Gazebos, and Pumpkin Village when we strolled and picnicked nearly every day.  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center here in Austin is wonderful but not quite as convenient {and, frankly, the Arboretum is more fun -- and I rarely admit Dallas has a leg up on Austin in any arena!}.  

Anyhoodle, it was so good to be back!  We arrived early enough on Friday morning {which was absolutely gorgeous, weather-wise} to get a decent parking spot and skipped straight to the Pumpkin Village.  I've seen it dozens of times, and it never fails to impress.  The kidlets had an absolute blast {they especially enjoyed this year's addition of the chuck wagon}, and, while I don't think I'll win any contests for the coordination of youthful fall fashions, we did get to put the ol' checkeroo next to Forced Photos with Decorative Gourds on our Stuff White People Like Ultimate October Bucket List. 

{looking back through my camera roll, Moosey" was really being a photo hog on this particular outing - I must have 30+ shots of her draped across various hay bales and giant squash.}

Oh!  And we also ate hotdogs, al fresco -- a theme of our entire weekend, apparently, because...

...we woke up Saturday morning and headed straight to the State Fair! 

I'm such a Fair Fan.  It brings back so many memories of attending with my parents {and also of many glorious victories and horrendous losses inside the Cotton Bowl}, and I love that we're making more with our brethren. 

With kids in tow, we like to arrive after the gates open {7am} but before most of the exhibits are up and running {usually 10}.  This gives us ample time to park and buy coupons so we're amped and ready for a proper Fletcher's corndog breakfast when the stalls begin serving {9:45ish}.  Yes, folks -- it's both an art and a science. 

This was B's first Fletcher's and I have to say... I was most nervous when he took his first tentative lick and subsequently shoved the stick away.  I've become rather attached to him and really didn't want to have to leave him for adoption with the prized piglets.  I'm almost over the shock of his hatred for ice cream, but I'm not sure I'd survive a distaste for Fletcher's.  Thankfully, he warmed up to that dog as it cooled and proved another zealous fan!  

I should note we did make a concerted effort to sample the much-touted vegetarian Fletcher's but never did hunt it down. Anyone have an actual taste or is it the fried food version of Sasquatch?

I'm tempted to put this on my Christmas card... FA LA LA LA LA FLETCHER'S 4-LYFE. 

The Children's Medical petting zoo was a huge hit, per usual. L almost had E convinced to buy her a baby goat, and the miniature donkey licking B in the face was apparently the best thing that's ever happened to him. 

Random Parental Musing: So many of our "bigger outings" up until recently  have mostly been for L's benefit; I knew enough this time around to realize an 8 month old doesn't give two hoots about zoo animals, etc.  But now - HUGE duh - B is his own little person with his own reactions to new things, and it sometimes takes me by surprise when I realize oh man, THIS IS THE AGE! When the magic really starts to happen! When petting zoos and mule saliva elicit delighted squeals and frantic baby-signs for "more! more! more!"  18 months is awesome!  {except when it's not} (but, mostly, AWESOME}

L was very specific in her ride requests -- she wanted the cars, the bears, and the carousel, in that order.  Didn't matter that there were a dozen fun, age-appropriate rides en route to the carousel from the bears, oh no.  The tiny Type-A heart wants what the tiny Tyoe-A heart wants. And it most definitely DOES NOT want to ride the desired rides out of order OR its brother to sit next to it on a horse for a photo-op. And don't let said brother fool you -- he thought those swings were pretty nifty once we started moving {phew -- potential psychological scarring averted!}. 

All in all, a fabulous Fair outing! 

And now that I've successfully taught L all the words to the theme from State Fair, we'll be working on our best Ann-Margret choreography for next year! 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

beans & stuff {Fiesta Bean Salad}

Dropping a few photos here first - pre-beans / virtual-scrapbook-style - 'lest some "firsts" slip through the cracks...

B got his first haircut! I finally broke free from the delusion of baby mullet whispies potentially morphing into luscious man-cub curls and sent that "party in the back" packing. When the stylist found out this was The Very First Haircut, she asked if I wanted to save a lock of hair...and seemed mildly appalled when I politely yet assuredly declined. Am I the only stone-cold mom who equates bundles of hair and baby teeth with serial killer trophies? Am I missing some sort of nostalgia gene? 

ANYHOO, neuroses aside, I think the end result turned out super cute - clean without necessitating electric clippers and steering clear of the Lloyd Christmas look.  B was not a fan of the actual cutting process but found the bribery dum-dum serviceable. 

This past weekend, we {sloooowly} trekked up 35 to Waco {between Friday afternoon traffic, a super random rainstorm, and an "oh shit, we forgot the tickets" detour, the 100 mile trip took us 3.5 hours} to visit Mama J and watch the Bears play Rice. 

I was going to record this as L's very first football game but just recalled she attended the first 15 minutes of a homecoming game when she was B's age. For accuracy's sake, we'll say this was her first legitimate fandom attempt! 

She lasted a full 3 hours of game time and took down a Lemon Ice, soft pretzel, and kiddie popcorn for cheering fuel. This is pretty much a spot on impersonation of my game day priorities, so I feel confident she represented my ticket well! And I know E loved having her tag along! B and I kept Mama J company throughout a heartbreaker of a Horns game - get it the hell together, special teams. 

Now...to the beans! 

I have to thank y'all for all the splendiferous {we're having A Moment - sometimes good / sometimes not so - with Fancy Nancy right now} vegetarian cookbook recommendations!  I now have a huge list for library investigation, and can't wait to happily page my way through them. 

The following recipe did not come from a cookbook but was an all-around hit with adults and tiny meatloaves {veggieloaves?} alike a few weeks back. A lot like the "Texas Caviar" I always pick up for New Years' celebrations, this bean salad is just so fresh, tasty, and pretty, to boot! 

Fiesta Bean Salad 
adapted from The Garden Grazer

- package of fresh black eyed peas {mine was 14 oz}, simmered in chicken broth with a heavy lid on top for 60-90 minutes {until tender} and drained {you could also use canned or the original calls for a can of garbanzos...but nothing beats fresh black eyed peas if you have the inclination!}
- 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed 
- 3 Roma tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 red onion, diced finely 
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 small avocados, pitted and chopped 
- 1 T olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 T apple cider vinegar
- small squeeze of honey
- 3/4 tsp cumin
- shake of chili powder
- coarse sea salt to taste 
- blue corn chips, for serving 

Toss together all ingredients through avocados in a serving bowl. Whisk the remaining ingredients {save for the sea salt} together in a small mixing bowl to form a dressing - or shake them together inside a glass jar. Pour the dressing over the bean mixture and toss to coat. Sprinkle sea salt to taste. 

Serve room temperature or chill for a few hours. If chilling, you might omit the avocado until you're ready to serve to prevent browning {although the vinegar does keep it decently green!}. 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Jackson Hole 2015: Part 2

Day 3: Friday, September 4

Jeesh, I'm bound to forget everything if I don't get crackin'.  Plowing right on through... 

Since B was still feeling a little iffy and we'd scheduled family portraits for the afternoon, we decided not to push his health / our schedule with a morning of hiking. We decided on a powerwalk through some of the horse pastures {the Shootin' Iron Ranch is partially a polo facility...we were told we could actually BYOPony; sadly, we left all our fillies behind to guard our vault of solid gold bricks and mountains of rubies} up to a nearby playscape. 

I think E and I did a bit too good of a job with our Seinfeld impersonations, as L quipped "I had a long! And I loved the pony!" in a decently impressive Polish accent every time we drove past the horses after our initial encounter.

After running around a bit {and making E try all the crazy "big kid" equipment -- sit-and-spins-on-crack, walking-merry-go-round-of-pain, etc}, we strolled back to the house and packed up for lunch at Snake River Brewery.  SNB never disappoints -- everything is incredible but the fish and chips are insanity {and I, Official Kids' Meal Temperature Taste Tester, do believe they have the second best kids mac and cheese in town!}, and I love their Dim Witbier. 

Digestion / naps / telecommuting occurred in various combos for all family members. We probably went to the grocery store this day as well {always a safe bet -- I don't think there was a day we didn't pop into the Jackson Whole Grocery (ha! puns!) at least on Earth}. We woke the kids up a little early to primp for photos {which made them a touch grumpy but SORRY, MEMORIES} and were pleased as punch to work with Adam J Howard again {must remember to go back and link to him; stupid mobile posting} -- he photographed our family last year at Mormon Row, and he's super fun and talented! This year we took advantage of that million dollar view and just hung out in the back yard. Can't wait to get the frames back!

Dinner at home and yet another early bedtime {banking Zzzzs for the M Family's arrival!}. 

Day 4: Saturday, September 5

This was the only day the weather screwed with us. The forecast showed rain but only until 9 am, so we decided to chance it and head into the Park, figuring we wouldn't begin hiking until 9:30 or so anyhow. B was once again not the picture of enthusiasm in the pack, but I was running on McD's caffeine and feeling great! Also: No bear sightings signs! Yay Taggart Lake! 

Taggart Lake is maybe my favorite hike in the Park -- waterfalls, streams, a gorgeous lake, new growth forest, decent elevation changes: it has a little bit of everything {Bradley Lake starts at the same trailhead and is excellent too!}. Unfortunately, we got about 3/4 mile in and it started sprinkling...we trucked on for a bit, thinking we'd ride it out, but then it started pouring and we threw in the towel. Had it just been L with us, we might have powered through, but I felt horrible dragging B's shaky immune system through the rain. 

Of course, right as we reached the trailhead {although still a good piece away from the parking lot}, the rain stopped. The kids weren't too wet due to their pack rain covers, so we decided to let them down to play a bit.  They were having a blast jumping in puddles when the skies opened up yet again, this time with seriously blinding rain. We each grabbed a kid and booked it for the car {maybe a 1/4 mile away still}. Our heads, legs, and feet were soaked clear through by the time we jumped back in the car. 

There were a lot of angry protestations... madder than wet cats, the tiny humans were! Not even Idina randomly appearing on XM The Blend could cheer them up {out of snacks + cold + wet = no bueno}. 

We did perk up once we pulled into the grocery store parking lot {again!} for some fresh soup and a baguette. After lunch at home...you guessed it...naps! Naps in JH are glorious! Even children who don't take naps take naps in Wyoming. I'd move here if it weren't for all that snow. 

We drove to the park at the base of Snow King snoozing. The morning rain made the afternoon super chilly --

Around 5;30, we walked over to Thai Me Up {more puns!} for shishito peppers and pad see ew and Melvin Brewing Co's beer {I like the Killer Bee Ale}. The service at this place leaves something to be desired, but the food is amazing so we keep coming back. 

Sunset over the pond as I rocked B to sleep -- total magic! After both kids were in bed, E and I watched a Dateline {and realized we were parental-controlled out of watching anything above a PG rating on the cable...not cool} {also, how is Dateline not PG13 at the very least?}. Pretty soon it was time for E to go pick up the M Family, so I tuned into a Say Yes to the Dress marathon and anxiously awaited their return. 

E {oh dear, we have two Es now... let's go back to Evs to avoid confusion} is one of my closest friends, and her O is only 3 weeks older than L. We were in the same pledge class at Wake but really didn't become friends until our senior year, and man, I'm so thankful we both chose to live on the Chi O halls {I didn't really want to} so that we were given the opportunity to really connect. She is one of my favorite people in the universe, and I was ecstatic when she and J decided to join us in JH this year. It's hard enough finding another couple you enjoy vacationing with for a full week...add in 4 meatloaves under 4 and disaster is entirely possible. I was actually pretty positive we'd all have a blast, though, but this grouping exceeded my most optimistic expectations! 

The Ms arrived much like we did -- totally weary from traveling so long/late with 2 children {+ their time difference from ATL was 2 hours to our 1} but totally jazzed to check out the house; E and I also whisper-screamed and hugged and performed a whole other host of other reunited-girlfriends behavior. We did chat a bit after their kids were asleep, but decided to save the rest for coffee the next morning...and the next seven days! 

Day 5: Sunday, September 6

What fun to wake up and have your buddies here! O and L hadn't seen each other in person in 2 years but pretty much took right to each other's company. L was so excited this was the day she was going to wake up and see O; it was like Santa-level excitement.  I'd packed a decent amount of preschooler time-sucks (various art materials, Play-Doh, DVDs for if we got truly desperate), but they never touched any of that once they were together. They played a ton of Captain Hook / pirates and were constantly hiding under the covers and in closets together. It was such a blast to as see them bond! 

Since the Ms had just endured a heinous travel day, we had another lowkey horses / playground morning. 

Can't recall if we went to the grocery store or not this day. If we didn't, it was a small miracle. 

After naps, we explored a little deeper into our "backyard" {there was fence-hopping, hence the quotation marks} and checked out Flat Creek. 

We all loaded up for SRB {again!} for supper. 8 people in a Suburban is even more cozy when four of those people are in car seats. We were generally happy sardines, though. 

Home again for kidlet bedtime, then the menfolk built a massive fire. So many beverages and laughs. 

Labor Day: Monday, September 7

On our second full day as a Party of 8, we were determined to head back into the Park.  After a few pit-stops {the grocery store - obvs, and a gear rental establishment to procure a pack for the Ms}, we were on our way.  Taggart Lake, Redux it was -- storm-free this time! 

We switched B out of the pack we borrowed from friends {thanks, P family!} in favor of our pack since we were never able to adjust the shoulder straps to a comfortable setting for him.  Since L is older and can {kinda, sorta} be trusted to sit somewhat straight {thus negating the need for the shoulder straps}, she hitched a ride with me.  B was much happier with this scenario and ceased the whining -- huzzah!  In turn, I got to hear Strega Nona's magic pasta pot rhyme about 392 times on our 5 mile jaunt.  So relaxing. 

Taggart Lake!  You are as lovely as ever! 

We stopped halfway for snacks by the lake and then continued along the Valley Trail back towards the trail head.  I think 3 of 4 kiddos snoozed a bit {the fourth being L} in the packs, but everyone was ready for naps upon return to the house.  Evs worked a little while E, J, and I lounged about on the back deck.  I believe we actually had to wake a few small fries up in time to pack it back into the Suburb for the Town Square Shootout.  

Every evening {save for Sundays} in the summer, there is a reenactment of a famous pistol duel in the town square -- complete with old Western costumes, etc.  Pretty cheesy but solid {and free!} family fun.  All the information we were able to find claimed Labor Day was the last day, so the kids were all jazzed up attend.  We got ourselves some ice cream and settled in with the gathering crowd to wait... and wait... and wait...

... for the shoot out that wasn't to be. No clue what happened but the actors never showed and the crowd slowly dissipated.  Kind of a bummer, but we were able to snap this stellar photo encapsulating our brood's complete and utter enthusiasm for vacationing.  O and L played a rousing game of Hide & Seek while we brainstormed a replacement activities.  We decided the patio at Genevieve's would be just the ticket and strolled on over.  B was in quite a mood, so me and my pinot noir shadowed him in the yard of a neighboring coffee house {Persephone's -- also recommend!} until his mac {that would be my pick for the #1 kid's mac in JH} arrived.  We supped quickly and headed back home for tiny people bedtime and more wine {and beer} {and fire building} for the adultfolk {A LOT more wine and beer, if I'm remembering the evenings correctly}. 

3rd {and maybe final?} installment coming soon!