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

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Jumping Off Roofs and Other Risk Taking Behavior

Have you had a chance to read the article "The Overprotected Kid" by Hanna Rosin? I have stumbled across references to it on several blogs (including A Cup of Jo). It is an excellent read about how kid's play has shifted in the last 30 years. 

How we used to roam free and how now kids are watched 24-7 with very little time for exploratory play, or play that allows children to take risks. It is a fascinating article. Especially when I think back to my own childhood (and the stories my mom would tell us of her childhood)...

When I was in my 20s, I started sharing my risk-taking stories with my parents and I think they were pretty surprised (as I am sure my grandparents were surprised when they learned that my mom and her brothers had floated down the river by their home, amongst other things).

Some of my unsupervised, risk-taking behavior as a child include: 

Hermitage, Tennessee (Ages 7-8)
  • Climbing out of the window of my house (onto the roof)
  • Roller skating down a paved hill in my neighborhood. 
  • Riding down the paved hill in my little red wagon
  • Baking cookies and selling them door-to-door in our neighborhood
Corunna, Ontario, Canada (Age 9-11)
  • Sneaking out of my friends house (by climbing out a window and jumping off the roof)
  • Floating in the Saint Lawrence River that was close to my house, at night
  • Climbing onto the top of my elementary school building (on the weekend)
  • Reading in the tops of trees
  • Canoeing down a creek behind a friend's house
Searcy, Arkansas (Ages 12-15)
  • Roaming in the woods next to our home
  • Climbing onto the roof of the shed in our back yard to read books
  • Roller skating around the court square (after 10pm)
  • Jumping off the tall cliffs at Heber Springs

As a child of the 80s, I experienced a lot of the unsupervised play that this article talks about and I believe it has helped shape me as an adult. Now that I am a parent, I wrestle with wanting to supervise my child to the nth degree (I actually wrote about this concern right before Jack was born). 

Jack is two-and-a-hafl, so I have plenty of time to (hopefully) learn how to balance my fear and desire to keep him safe with my desire for him to learn independence, creativity, problem solving and risk taking. 

As the article states, all of the strict playground modifications and parental monitoring hasn't really reduced injuries, so we have to weigh the risks and let the kids explore a bit more... Besides, our current home is surrounded by tall rocks and trees and I'm pretty sure there will come a day when I have little control over what Jack climbs.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Love Where You Live: Green Gorge Trail

A couple of years ago when Design Mom was living in France, she had a series entitled Love the Place You Live. It was one of my favorite blog series and it really made me think about the things that I loved about where we lived (at the time we were in rural, north Alabama). 

Everywhere we have lived I have always found things to love and treasure. Currently I am lucky enough to live somewhere I adore and hope to stay and I wanted to share a bit of why I love this place so much...

If you are sitting on our back deck, there is an abundance of trees. The trees that are in your line of sight are situated in Green Gorge Park, on the street behind our home. Green Gorge Park houses the Green Gorge Trail – a short 2-mile trail that is located within the gorge. Even though neighborhoods surround the park and trail, it is incredibly peaceful since the trail follows the stream and is completely surrounded by trees.

A week ago, we took a family hike on the Green Gorge trail. It was a perfect spring afternoon and we were all happy to get out of the house. Sophie was in doggy heaven since we let her roam off leash.

We did about half of the loop (crossing two bridges). Jack did great for the first third of our walk, then he abruptly stopped and said we needed to turn around and go back to the car. Since we figured we were close to halfway into our loop, we pushed on.

Closer to the halfway mark, Jack stopped us again and asked for water. Since we weren't walking very far we had not brought water. Instead Daniel carried Jack for the last leg. That seemed to pacify him until we could get him a water bottle.

We enjoyed our walk immensely and love that we live so close to this trail. Once Daniel is working less hours (he's been working 60 hours a week since the first of January), he intends to start doing shorter trail runs here.

The park is small and the trail isn't that long, which makes it perfect for taking a toddler. Next time we will take our kid carrier and walk for longer.

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