The first official week of summer is over and the weather has been great. We enjoyed spending Sunday at a local orchard picking blueberries and raspberries. Yes, more blueberries! We eat a great deal of blueberries in the house, especially in our Sunday morning pancakes, so I need to keep them on hand in the freezer. I am not a big fan of raspberries, as I hate the seeds, but the little guy likes them, so it was great to pick half a quart for him. I was even thinking of making a raspberry syrup out of some of them to use to flavor brewed iced tea or to use on vanilla ice cream.
This week's menu plan is to use up as much of my freezer stock as possible. I have a tendency to stock up on freezer foods when there are sales. I have a great deal of frozen organic chicken, a whole chicken, and ground turkey on hand, along with lots of frozen fruits. We use a second freezer in our basement that really is handy, but it needs to be defrosted, so I need to empty it a bit! My plan this week is to use as much from the freezer as possible and only buy perishables, such as produce and milk. Plus, we are hosting our annual holiday bbq this upcoming Sunday, so I need room to stash extra dishes and ingredients.
A few weeks ago our family celebrated the last day of preschool by visiting the Please Touch Museum for lunch and to check out their new summer exhibit, The Rainforest Rhythm. This was one of the first exhibits my little guy really enjoyed when we first started visiting the museum as members two years ago. Back then he couldn't reach all of the parts of the exhibits, such as the conga drums, but since he is taller, he had no problem playing with the various musical instruments.
The Rainforest Rhythm exhibit is adjacent to the Carousel room. To enhance the experience, the lighting in the Rainforest is muted and the gentle rainforest sounds are played in the background, such as a waterfall. At one end of the exhibit is a play area called the "Storybook Cottage," that is toddler friendly. The Three Little Bears tale can be played out, complete with taking a “nap” in three different sized beds and my child's favorite thing to do: organize the three sizes of dishes!
The Rainforest Rhythm exhibit will be on display all summer, until September 6th. I know we will be back at least two more times this summer to play the cool pipe organ again!
As part of this month's Blogher Book Club I had the chance to read and review A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. This was an interesting book, the first in a trilogy. Check out my review of it on Blogher!
In the past month I've had the fortunate opportunity to visit my friends in Maryland at their beach house on the Chesapeake Bay, twice. Both times I took my trusty companion, my three year old monkey boy, who enjoyed playing with his buddies while there.
Traveling with a three year old can be challenging, particularly when driving long distances alone! The trip to their beach house on Deal Island takes 3.5 to 4 hours without stopping from my house. With traffic and stops, it can take 5 hours! For the most part, my little guy was a trooper. He only complained a bit going there last week, and was surprisingly delightful the two times it took five hours due to traffic madness! I've learned a bit about how to make a long road trip work more easily with a preschooler.
Pack a lot of snacks, mostly healthy! I decorated a plain brown lunch bag with his name and a doodle, then filled it with an assortment of little containers of pretzels, dried fruit, crackers, granola bars, fruit sauce (mango happy baby fruit squeezy or apple sauce squeezy) and a lollipop. I also added sunglasses and a little car. It was like a goodie bag for the car! I restocked it on each trip so that he found something new in it each time. He was in control of which snack he ate when and I found that he did not abuse this power!
Pack a small cooler with kid-cups of water, milk, juice and keep it cool with ice packs. Also inclued a bottle of water for the driver! I kept this on the front passenger seat for easy access when there was a drink request.
Pack some snacks for the driver! I found that munching on honey wheat pretzel sticks was the perfect way to snack without much distraction and it helped me stay alert. I also brought a couple of soyjoy bars.
Pack a simple lunch so you don't have to rely on fast food. This backfired on me when we needed to stop for a potty break and all I could find was a chick fil a or gas station. But it had potential!!
Fill a small tote bag with toys, a notebook, pencils, and books that can be easily reached from the car seat. My son also wanted a map, so I gave him a printed page of my directions that I wasn't using. He loved pretending to follow along our route.
Keep the cd player in the car stocked with kid music. Let's just say we listened to a great deal of tunes from the Imagination Movers.
Bring your kid's favorite blanket or lovee in the car to encourage napping. Sometimes, driving in silence is just what I needed!
Take potty breaks or just run around breaks as needed. On one of our trips we stopped at chick fil a that had an indoor playground. While it did throw us off schedule, the physical activity was just what my son needed so that he could endure the end of the journey. Kudos to the Dover, Delaware chick fil a...what friendly staff! They really catered to moms with kids! It was the cleanest rest room I've ever seen in a fast food restaurant!
We are now looking forward to future road trips, now that we know what to bring along to keep everyone entertained and happy!
I took last week off from menu planning, as I was away for most of the week and my husband was in Chicago on business.
This week we are home all week, so it's back to cooking and planning! I discovered a cooking magazine that I purchased in 2000 called Summer Get-togethers. I found a number of fun recipes in it that I'll try over this summer. I also subscribe to the Food Network magazine, which I find a lot of inspiration from for my menus. This week I'm also perusing a cookbook I borrowed from the library, but plan on purchasing, as it is that good. Cooking from the Farmer's Market, a Williams-Sonoma cookbook, has beautiful photos and a number of great recipes using fresh veggies and fruits. I made a dessert recipe today from it, lemon bars with a coconut crust. It was great! (Recipe originally called for lime juice, but I had a bunch of lemons on hand.)
Sunday: Father's Day cook out with grilled chicken marinated in Chiavetta's, grilled corn on the cob fresh from the farm, fresh green beans (topped with lemon juice, grated parm and a pinch of salt,) and lemon bars.
Last weekend we took our monkey boy to the June Fete, a local carnival that is a fund raiser for our hospital. It is a carnival on one side and a horse and pony show on the other. While we are not horse folks, as my husband is deathly allergic to them, we do enjoy seeing the beautiful creatures in their dressage. The little kids that ride them are just adorable!
The weather was on the verge of rotten. Overcast, rainy, with threats of thunderstorms all day, but we had fun anyway. There were lots of little kid rides on one side, with the bigger kid rides on the other side of the fair grounds. We checked them all out and asked our son what he wanted to ride on. He has been looking forward to this fete for the past year, as we often drive by the fair grounds throughout the year and talk about the fete. (It is usually just a huge empty field all year, so we imagine where all the rides are stored, like in a GIANT garage or warehouse.) My darling boy declared the little kid rides too scary, since they were for kids only, and we couldn't go on them with him! What did he want to ride? The ferris wheel! I hate ferris wheels. They just freak me out. It doesn't help that about a week ago a little girl fell to her death out of one on one of the NJ boardwalks. But, my son wanted to go on the ferris wheel, thanks to Curious George, I suppose. We checked the height requirements and learned that he was ok to go on it with an adult. He loved it! He talked about it all day and all the things he could see from being up so high. Later, he agreed to go on the Merry-go-Round, since I could go with him. He would not ride on a horse, though, since they are scary! We sat on the bench seat for our ride. Go figure!
Our monkey also got to see his first real magic show. He was delighted and amazed! It was so cute to see his reaction to the magic. It helped that the magician was really good and handled the crowd well. Of course there were carnival games. Our little guy played a fishing game that guarranteed a prize. He won a stuffed frog, which has been named Warehouse Frog. (An Imagination Movers reference, for those who are wondering.)
I've had an ice cream maker for at least 13 years and probably only used it twice. This weekend I doubled that and made strawberry ice cream with some of the berries we picked and also chocolate ice cream using bittersweet chocolate. Let's just say, it was child-approved! For the strawberry recipe, I did not use eggs to make a custard, like so many recipes call for; instead I followed a recipe that came with my ice cream machine. It was creamy without being too rich. For the chocolate ice cream I did use egg yolks to make a custard, then mixed in the melted chocolate. This batch is still not quite solid enough, since I tried to rush it to have it for dessert tonight. It was the consistency of melting soft serve ice cream, but by tomorrow it should be solid. The taste was good and I need to make more this summer to experiment with recipes. I will be trying vanilla next, as I've been saving the vanilla bean from my empty vanilla extract jar just for something yummy like this! (I saved the bean in the empty extract jar and added a bit of vodka to keep it moist.)
What inspired me to make homemade ice cream? Last week we stopped by a local dairy farm market to purchase milk and some produce. They sell their own fresh milk, cream, half and half, etc. along with their own homemade ice cream. The ice cream was hands down better than any we have had recently, especially the mass produced kind sold in stores. My ice cream isn't as good, yet!