Saturday, August 30, 2014

To The Bat Cave

For Jack's second paddling experience, we decided to take him on a group paddle to the Nickajack Bat Cave. Flat water, a cave, and bats seemed like a perfect combination for a family paddling excursion.

The Nickajack Cave is a wildlife refuge that provides sanctuary for endangered gray bats and is managed jointly by TVA and Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency solely for their protection.

This is a short paddle to be done close to dusk. We put in about an hour before sunset which gave us time to get up close to the cave, take some pictures and make sure Jack was comfortable on the water.

On the way to the cave Jack really wanted to hold a paddle, so we took turns letting him use our paddles. We are going to have to buy him a small paddle before our next outing.

Once the sun went down, the bats started their exodus from the cave. Jack wanted to know why the bats were coming out. So we repeatedly had to tell him that it was their supper time and they came out to eat bugs.

There were quite a few people at the cave to see the bats at dusk, but it wasn't overly crowded. A few people had pirate's flags on their kayaks and Jack spent the rest of the evening pretending to be a pirate.

Besides watching the bats, Jack enjoyed pretending to fish with a short piece of rope that he would throw into the water. He also thought that it was fun to shout into the cave, "Hello!" and "Anybody in there?" and hearing the echo come back to us.

The entrance to the cave is gated off, so we couldn't actually enter, but we could see in pretty far. When the bats came out, they tended to fly straight up the rock face and into the sky, as opposed to flying out onto the water into our faces.

The paddle back was in the dark, with a crescent moon overhead. We were on the water for about two hours and probably paddled about 2 miles according to MapMyRun.

Jack wanted to know if we could paddle home. Not this time, buddy. I hope Daniel enjoyed our family paddle for his 34th birthday.

Monday, August 25, 2014

What's Cooking?

Happy Monday All. Here is a recap of what I have been cooking lately...

Lazy Stuffed Peppers via Cheryl Style 

I tried the Lazy Stuffed Peppers recipe again and this time it wasn't a flop! The biggest change was to cook the rice separately and mix it in at the end. 

To be honest, I thought the flavor of this dish was a little bland. Maybe because I used the cheese as a sparse topping instead of a big element. I think if I made it again, I would use sausage (or at least half sausage) instead of ground beef. Jack will try peppers now, but still isn't really a fan of peppers or tomatoes.

Parent Score 3/5 | Toddler Score 3/5

End-of-Summer Juicy Tomato Sandwich

Sometimes you just crave things like tomato sandwiches. They remind me of summers as a kid. The warm toast, the juicy tomato, the cold Miracle Whip. I will always love this sandwich. 

Fruit Smoothie

Jack and I make a smoothie almost every day. One cup of frozen fruit, one cup of juice, blend. Sometimes I add in some yogurt, but it is always a sweet afternoon snack. We have to have it outside on the porch because Jack says it is too cold for drinking inside.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Pineapple Grilled Salmon via Make the Best of Everything

I was so excited about the idea of this dish. Unfortunately it didn't meet my expectations. Don't get me wrong, it was good, but the flavors of the pineapple didn't translate to the salmon. 

The grilled pineapple, on the other hand, was loved by our entire household. In the future I would just grill the fresh pineapple and skip on the pineapple plank – it made the salmon take forever to cook.

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5

Fruit Trifle via Taste of Home
I made this dessert for our small group on Sunday night (I forgot to take a finished photo though). I was running short on time, so I substituted cold pudding cups (8) instead of making the pudding. I think the sour cream in this really gave it a nice kick. The kids loved it, but it tasted more like an adult dish and not just pudding with fruit and angel food cake.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

Skinny Shrimp Alfredo Pasta Bake via Damn Delicious 
Every once in awhile I will get it in my head that I will make something with an alfredo sauce, and every time I do this I end up not making alfredo. Daniel and I don't really care for the creamy white sauce (too rich) and I just cant bring myself to put cream cheese in a pasta dish (even though I know it will be delicious)! 

For this dish, I used half a pound of shrimp and half a pound of sauteed chicken. And instead of making a white sauce, I just stirred in mozzarella with a bit of cream until it melted. Not exactly alfredo, but still good. 

Parent Score 4/5 | Toddler Score 4/5 

Crockpot Enchilada Soup via Your Cup of Cake 

I don't make many crockpot dishes, but this one is a win. The only thing I changed was using a chopped up fresh red pepper instead of roasted red peppers and corn from a can instead of frozen. This dish was a big hit. The flavors were perfect and it didn't feel as heavy as eating enchiladas. Jack cleaned his bowl.

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5

BBQ Chicken with Corn on the Cob and Zucchini on the grill

We have really enjoyed our grill this summer and this was a simple dish to throw on the grill. Everything cooks quickly (about 5 minutes per side).

Parent Score 5/5 | Toddler Score 5/5 

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Jack's First Day of Preschool

Monday morning we woke to a wet, foggy day. I set my alarm to make sure we wouldn't oversleep and Jack wanted to know why it was so dark outside.

We hadn't talked a whole lot about preschool, just here and there – like when we drove by the school, but Jack was still excited. I asked him what he wanted for breakfast and we made pancakes together. Then he dressed himself, it was even appropriate to wear his rain boots since it was raining.

Our little guy is very independent (when we went to preschool orientation, Jack ran in to play and never looked back), so I expected the first day of preschool to be easy. And it was. 

I must admit that I got a little teary-eyed walking him in, but as soon as we were inside I was distracted by the dropoff. Actually I was distracted by all of the crying kids. Jack did not cry, he just ran in to play and I had to ask him to come back for a hug and then I left.

To treat myself to my first morning of freedom I went to the Olive Bean cafe for a latte. At pickup, Jack was a happy camper. He didn't want to leave because he was too busy playing. 

Day 2 of preschool went pretty much the same way (except it had stopped raining). I think Jack will love preschool. I have mixed feelings about how much he will actually learn since he is almost 3 and stuck in the 2 class because he has a November birthday, but I think he will have lots of fun and I will have a bit more time to get projects done.

Another thing we took care of this week was getting Jack a much overdue haircut. He was starting to look pretty shaggy. I kind of like him with longer hair, but it was getting in his eyes.

I think this is about the 6th haircut he has had and it was the best experience so far. We have been choosing to drive to Pigtails and Crewcuts in East Brainerd because they have toys to play with while you wait, the staff is professional and fast, and the kids get to pick to sit in an airplane, police car or firetruck.

This was a very successful week for Jack – preschool and a haircut with no tears invovled.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Father-Son Day: TKO

Jack has become very fond of watching certain YouTube videos with Daniel. 

In particular, they like to watch anything that moves fast: cars, motorcycles, dirt bikes, trucks, helicopters taking off, and the like. 

Last week Daniel said he was thinking about going to watch a motocross race (the Tennessee Knockout Enduro) that was happening in Marion County and he wanted to take Jack on Sunday afternoon to watch the finals. 

I knew they would have a blast and had originally intended to go with them, but then I realized that preschool was about to start and I still need to get Jack's things ready.

So off my boys went to the woods to watch off-road motorcycles race. 

I can't pretend to know what it was like or give any relevant information about the event, but I do know that both Daniel and Jack had a blast.

It poured rain and Jack didn't want to leave. They came home wet, without shirts and Jack had blue lips, but all he could talk about was the motorcycles in the woods. 

We were meeting with our small group from church on Sunday night and I told Daniel we needed to be there at 5pm. He texted me at 4:40pm to say he would be home at 4:30. His phone was on central time and he had no idea! I told them to come straight to small group and brought changes of clothes for them with me. 

According to Daniel, he asked Jack on several occasions if he wanted to leave and he kept saying he wanted to watch one more.

They showed up at small group, wet and happy. I am glad they had the chance to go hang out together. I know they will be going to future events, though maybe next time they will wear hiking boots and take the BOB stroller with them.

An official video from the 2014 event via SeatTime.

Image {via}

Family Hike at Fiery Gizzard

On Saturday we had originally planned to go on a group hike on the Fiery Gizzard Trail , but it was cancelled at the last minutes. So...