Thursday, April 24, 2014

Love Where You Live: Signal Point

After our Easter Egg hunt on the mountain last Saturday, we took Daniel's mom, Grandmother and sister to see Signal Point.

Signal Point offers an amazing view of the Tennessee River and surrounding valley. It is a fairly easy walk from the parking lot to the view, even for a toddler and his great grandmother. 

Signal Point also has access to 13+ miles of the Cumberland Trail in the Prentice Cooper State Forest. We haven't had a chance to do portions of this hike yet, but the view alone is worth the stop at Signal Point.

Signal Point is another one of the reasons we love where we live. If you are ever visiting our mountain, we would recommend that you make a stop to see this great view.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Jack's First Easter Egg Hunt

I have this theory that at the age of 2, Jack doesn't really care what we do or don't do. Mostly he just wants to play. Therefore I don't often make a big deal about events or visits with family until the day they happen. 

He ALWAYS gets excited when we share the news, and I don't have to worry about his disappointment if things don't work out the way we planned. We have plenty of years ahead to learn how to deal with disappointment.

The point is that we didn't talk about Easter or the accompanying egg hunt until the morning we went to hunt for eggs. About 20 minutes before we left the house, I briefed Jack on what we were going to do.

I told him he would have a basket and he would pick up eggs. He wanted to know if we would "crack" the eggs after we got them. So I explained that they were toy eggs.

Daniel's mom, grandmother and sister Amy, came up to join in the egg hunt festivities. They arrived at our house just in time to head to the Alexian Inn for our egg hunt. 

Our friends, the Reynolds, were also at the egg hunt. Their two youngest girls are close to Jack's age, so they were all in the 3 and Under division for hunting eggs.

When the whistle blew, it was kind of funny to notice that the older groups of kids immediately raced off to hunt the eggs, while the 3 and Under group was caught off guard. Parents immediately started helping their little ones and snapping tons of photos. At this age it is easy to get down with the kids to take photos.

Jack knew what to do (per our talk) and immediately started picking up eggs. He filled his basket, not realizing that the eggs actually had stuff in them. When it was all said and done, he had a decent amount of eggs and we showed him how to open them up and find the goodies inside.

After the eggs had been emptied, we celebrated with cookies and lemonade.

Two day later, we attended Sunday lunch with Daniel's dad and his wife and her family, where there was another egg hunt. This time, Jack knew that the eggs had goodies, so instead of filling his basket, he opened each and every egg before adding to his loot. It was sweet and funny how he learned from the first experience.

As always, each new experience with Jack is a joy. We love to watch him learn about new activities and holidays. It was also nice that we were able to celebrate this holiday with some of our family.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cooking with Pinterest.4

Here are my thoughts on the Pinterest recipes I tried last week:

3-Ingredient Nutella Brownies via Instructables

I have seen variations of this recipe on Pinterest and finally decided to give it a try. According to the original recipe, the writer states that since Nutella already has fat, milk and chocolate in it you don't need a ton of ingredients. Jack enjoyed helping me make this dessert (especially since I let him lick the spoon). 

The brownies turned out great. My only complaint is that they fell apart really easily.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 5/5 

Pizza Nachos via Inspired Dreamer with Queso Blanco Dip via Seeded at the Table

The recipe at Inspired Dreamer is incomplete so I used it as a starting point. I found a queso recipe at Seeded at the Table and used some basic instructions in the comments section of the original post. I used Cotija cheese for the Queso Blanco dip and it never did get to be the right consistency that I was looking for. It tasted great, but just wasn't runny like I wanted. Daniel thought that adding chicken to the dish would make it more filling (so we would eat less of it), but overall Daniel and I really enjoyed this meal but Jack wasn't a fan.

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 2/5

Quinoa Fried Rice via Cooking for Keeps with Stir-Fry Chicken and Veggies

This was a pretty delicious (and healthy) dish. The first night I served it Jack was not interested in it (even telling me he didn't like it). When we had it for leftovers, I let Jack put soy sauce on it and suddenly he loved it. So, not sure if he loved the meal or just the soy sauce. For the stir fry, I just chopped up carrots, broccoli, onions and green peppers and sauteed them in sesame oil, then added teriyaki sauce and soy sauce for flavor. After the veggies were cooked, I cooked the chicken in the remnants of the sauce. Easy peasy.

Personally I thought there was too much quinoa or not enough eggs (or both) for the fried rice. When we ate it for leftovers I heated it up in a pan and added additional two eggs to the mixture. This consistency seemed better on night two. This would be an easy dish to do meatless, just leave out the chicken (and eggs if you don't eat eggs).

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5

My version of Blueberry French Toast Bake via Pioneer Woman

For Easter Sunday, we went to celebrate with my father-in-law and his wife and her family. It was potluck style, so I made my version of Pioneer Woman's Blueberry French Toast Bake (a holiday staple for me). I used my adapted recipe, which is slightly different from PWs recipe). Also, my grocery store didn't have blueberries of regular pita chips, so I used cinnamon flavored pita chips and no fruit. The breakfast/dessert was a hit. You can never go wrong with a PW recipe.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Monday, April 14, 2014

First Rock Climb

According to Wikipedia, Bouldering is a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses. While it can be done without any equipment whatsoever, most climbers use climbing shoes to help secure footholds, chalk to keep their hands dry, and bouldering mats to prevent injuries from falls. Unlike free solo climbing, which is also performed without ropes, bouldering problems (the path that a climber takes in order to complete the climb) are usually less than 20 feet tall. 

Our new house has the distinction of sitting in front of a fairly large rock face that is perfect for bouldering. It even has a crevice that is easy for little ones to master . 

I thought that it would be several years before we let Jack try to climb the crevice, but this weekend he showed some interest and Daniel let him have a (supervised) try. He did great.

Video of Jack's first time bouldering at our house.

The rock face isn't rough, there are good hand and feet holds, and the rock isn't super vertical – just gently rounded.

Video of Jack's second climb.

We have now officially exposed Jack to all of our most loved outdoor sports. Hopefully we will have many more adventures with him in the years to come.

Video of Jack telling me, "Don't worry" while he wanders around our front yard.

Cooking with Pinterest.3

Here are my thoughts on the Pinterest recipes I tried last week:

Tuscan Chicken Skillet via The Wanderlust Kitchen

This dish reminded me of Chicken Cacciatore. It was fairly good but I didn't love the flavors, maybe too much oregano and thyme? Jack enjoyed the beans, chicken and mushrooms, though he still isn't a big fan of tomatoes (just like his daddy). If you wanted carbs with this meal, I think it would pair nicely with rice.

Parent Score 3.5/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

BBQ Chicken and Avocado Quessadillas via Inside BruCrew Life

This was a super easy meal to make, which was perfect for mid week. However, Jack wasn't a big fan of it. I think he ate two bites, and his quessadilla didn't even have avocado on it! I think if I made this again, I would take the time to caramelize red onions to go with the chicken. Also, I really should have served it with a side of black beans or some other veggie to make it a bit healthier.

I used Colby-Jack cheese instead of Mozzarella and melted butter in the pan for cooking the quessadillas.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 1/5 

Sausage and Tortellini Soup via Tracey's Culinary Adventures

I don't cook the same meal very often, but I have made a variation of this soup on and off for years. I really love the flavor that the sausage brings and it is really easy to whip up. Jack really likes tortellini, but still won't touch the tomatoes or spinach.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

Between the Tuscan Chicken and Tortellini Soup, we had plenty of leftovers this week.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Hanging Out With My Little Brother

This past weekend my brother Mark came to visit. Ever since he left, Jack's first questions in the morning go as follows: Where's Daddy? followed by Where's Uncle Mark? I think it is safe to assume he enjoyed having his Uncle Mark around.

Mark arrived on Friday night in time for a brief visit and some block building before Jack had to go to bed.

Saturday morning was a little on the cool side, but sunny so we took Jack to play at the Pumpkin Patch playground. Jack had a grand time running around on all of the equipment. Mark and I both did the zipline but Jack still isn't convinced he should try it.

After the Pumpkin Patch we headed downtown and grabbed lunch at Sugar's Ribs & BBQ before heading over to the Creative Discovery Museum. Sugar's seemed really overpriced and you didn't get much for what you paid. Even their music costs – it only plays if someone uses the juke box. We were not impressed.

When leaving Sugar's we were surprised to a small parade that looked like it might be celebrating the Grateful Dead. I'm not sure what was going on but the floats were interesting.

Jack had a blast digging dinosaurs and playing at the Creative Discovery Museum – I don't think he will ever tire of that place.

On our way home, we stopped at Signal Point to show Mark the view of the river and valley below. I often feel the need to pinch myself when I think about where I live. 

We really enjoyed having Mark for the weekend. Jack loves when we get to visit family.

Monday, April 07, 2014

Cooking with Pinterest.2

Here are my thoughts on the Pinterest recipes I tried last week:

Hawaiian Chicken and Rice via Elly Says Opa!

This dish wasn't that different from the Sweet and Sour Chicken I made a couple of weeks ago. Though I think I prefer the sauce in this version. For the stir fry part, I used an orange bell pepper instead of red and skipped the scallions. Also, I used the sauce from the chicken marinade to cook the veggies in. 

Overall, it was a pretty tasty dish. Jack loved the pineapple and chicken but still isn't a big fan of bell peppers.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

Gnocchi with Summer Vegetables via Martha Stewart

As I mentioned in my last post, I am a little smitten with Gnocchi. This was a perfect dish for spring. I added asparagus to the summer vegetables in the original recipe. This is a great meatless dish, but you could easily add chicken, sausage or even salmon if you wanted protein.

I have to admit I liked the last Gnocchi dish I made better. Jack ate most of what was on his plate after some coaxing. He even ate a bite of asparagus (we only require him to try things, not finish them). Another first for Jack is that he tried the raw cherry tomatoes while he helped me prepare dinner.
Parent Score 4.5/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

Slow Cooker Beef and Potato Stew via The Chic Site

Jack enjoyed helping me make this dish. He loves to stir whatever I am making and he helped (pretend) to peel the baby carrots. I accidentally used cream of onion soup instead of condensed onion soup, which could be why I thought it needed a tad more seasoning.

Also, I don't think the tip for thickening the stew with potato flakes was that great, if I made this recipe again, I would leave it out. 

Jack and Daniel both enjoyed this soup. I thought it could use a bit more seasoning, but other than that, definitely worth making. Jack told me he didn't like the potatoes, but he ate them as long as there were peas or carrots and meat on his spoon with them.
Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

Secret Fruit Salad via Rachel Shultz 

Jack and Daniel inhaled this fruit salad. The secret ingredient is dry pudding mix and it makes an excellent glaze. I thought the salad was a bit too sweet for me, but it was definitely good. The tart raspberries help to even out the sweetness. I left out the blueberries and added pineapple (it was what I had on hand). I think any combination of fruit would be delicious.
Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Roasted Red Pepper Alfredo via Damn Delicious

I don't often make dishes with Alfredo because I hate using sauce from a jar (too many preservatives) and Alfredo sauce always seems to be too heavy. This dish is super easy to make, the sauce is milk, cream and cheese. 

I didn't have goat cheese, so I used Colby-Jack instead. The peppers I used were from a jar and I think they were too acidic. If I made this again, I would roast a red pepper in the oven first. If you wanted to add protein, this dish would be good with chicken or even shrimp. Jack ate all of his plate. My main complaint is that it left a bad after taste in my mouth (probably from the jarred peppers).
Parent Score 3/5 | Toddler Score 5/5
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