Family Vacation Fun

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We just got back from a week long vacation to Washington, D.C. Usually we visit family for our summer vacation, but this summer we decided to take our first nuclear family vacation. We have done weekend trips as the three of us, but never a full-on road trip and sightseeing trip.

It was a wonderful week and we hit most of the sights in our nation’s capital, along with a good portion of the eastern U.S. And I mean a lot of it. A road trip really drives home the size of our great country. It took us a little over fourteen hours over two days to get to Washington, via Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia. On the way home we drove for another fourteen hours through Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois. Beautiful country, but it started to pall just a bit after delays for construction, rain and about the twelfth hour on the road. I think we’ll fly if we go again.

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The trip was a first for all of us. Not sure how Rich and I missed out on visiting the capital until now, but it was a great adventure to discover it all with Calvin. We feel like we did it all – or at least a good portion of it. And we did most of it on our own feet – our biggest day, according to the pedometer on Rich’s phone, clocked in at ten miles of walking. Count them, ten. We felt it just a bit, at the end of that day. And by a bit, I mean a lot. It was hard to walk without limping or groaning. In our defense, the ten-mile day followed two seven-plus mile days. Foot rubs and a little lie down were in order that evening. And we all slept really well.

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We worked our way through the Smithsonian museums, hitting American History, Natural History, Air and Space and Native American. We saw the Capitol, the White House, the Library of Congress and the National Archives. We walked the length of the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, stopping at the Washington Monument in the middle. And it is a long, long way from one end of the mall to the other, especially when it is hot and sunny. We also hit the not-to-be-missed Spy Museum and Newseum while we were at it.

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It is hard to pick out the highlights after seeing so many cool things. Tops on my list are seeing the actual Star Spangled Banner, Julia Child’s kitchen, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. And the Spy Museum was a great combination of camp and intrigue mixed with a dash of real history.

I can’t forget the food. I polled a few foodie friends and former and current D.C. residents for restaurant recommendations before we went. We hit a few of those, and found a few gems of our own. We managed to find stellar cupcakes, wood oven fired pizza and calzones, burgers and shakes, house-made pop tarts along with a few salads to offset all the goodies. With all of our walking we didn’t feel too overindulged, but it was good to get back to home cooking. Somehow, most of our meals since we got back have featured vegetables, fruit and whole grains.

It was nice to have a break from cooking and baking, but by the end of the week I started to get the urge to bake something. Of course, with our vacation treats still a recent memory, I am more in the mood for fruit than cookies. But I think a few more days of healthy eating will have me in the kitchen again, flinging flour and creaming butter and sugar with abandon.

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Vacation, Snow Storms and Elusive Chicken

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Vacation is over, or at least almost over. Calvin was supposed to go back to school on Monday, after two weeks off, but he had a snow day. And he has today off again. Twelve plus inches of snow and subzero temps kind of throw a wrench in things around here. We had blizzard conditions on Sunday and brutally cold temperatures Monday. Today we are supposed to hit the upper 20s, which sounds marvelous. I like winter, but in moderation, and there is nothing moderate about this weather.

The past two weeks have been pretty much a bacchanalia of good food and fun. Christmas week was full of cookies, turkey and gravy, eggnog (homemade, thank you) and all manner of other goodies. Our week in Florida was much the same, with a little beach time and a not-so-successful trip to the u-pick citrus farm thrown in. Partner crabby proprietors and less than stellar fruit and you get customers that won’t go back. But we laughed it off and went home to make a lemon tart with store lemons.

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All the fun led to a burning desire to eat better. We are just a little overindulged, to say the least. All we are craving are healthy dishes and hot beverages (it is -3 F as I type this. Can I have another cup of tea, please?). Oh, and funny of funnies, what we really want is roast chicken with plain vegetables and we have yet to find chicken in the stores. Well, there were a few packages of drumsticks, but we aren’t fans. Nothing like a weekend snowstorm with almost record-breaking accumulations to slow down deliveries and ramp up demand. We had veggie pasta Sunday and fish tacos last night. Pork tenderloin is substituting for the chicken tonight. I imagine the chicken truck will arrive sometime soon and we can get our chicken fix later in the week.

I know we probably aren’t the only ones who are craving healthy dinners. And if they are easy to throw together, all the better. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

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Blackened fish on a bed of greens

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Citrus roasted chicken (hopefully your grocery store has chicken)

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Roasted vegetables over pasta

Brownies, Custard and Turnovers, Oh My

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It’s back to reality today. We just spent a week in Colorado with my in-laws and, I must say, it is hard to get back to the routine. It was a week of hiking, eating and pretty much doing whatever we felt like. For me, that meant reading or baking during our down time or when we were waiting out afternoon storms.

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Baking, and even cooking, at 10,000 feet takes some getting used to for this Missouri girl. We made one batch of brownies that we had made before, so we knew those would work. We also tried making custard, which worked beautifully and needed no adjustments for altitude. Stay tuned for the recipe later this week, after another test batch or two.

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I made apple turnovers after we had some truly lousy apple pie at a restaurant. We needed to have “real” apple pie after our experience with gloppy filling, full of crunchy apples, surrounded by greasy, soggy, tasteless crust. My in-laws’ summer condo doesn’t have a lot of baking equipment, so we had to improvise a bit. First of all I made turnovers, instead of pie, since there was no pie plate. I tried freezing the butter and then grating it into the flour to make the crust, which worked beautifully. I will be doing that again, even in my kitchen full of gadgets and appliances.

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And there was no rolling pin, so I used a handy bottle of chocolate raspberry flavored vodka to roll out the crust. Unfortunately we forgot to take pictures of the turnovers before we ate them. Trust me that they were much better than our restaurant pie – flaky, buttery crust filled with sweet cinnamon apples.

When we weren’t eating we were hiking – short hikes, mind you. None of us are into camping out or even all day hikes.

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We managed to see bighorn sheep (the ewes and lambs, no rams with the impressive horns), mountain goats, bristlecone pines and lots of mountain vistas, as well as have the obligatory snowball fight in July.

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Now it is back to the ordinary: work, chores, views of suburban trees instead of snow-topped mountains and not nearly as many desserts. How soon until we can go back?

Rich and Sarah

Family Time, Chocolate and Butter

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We have had two weeks of treats and indulgences. Our Christmas gifts from and to each other included several versions of sea salt caramels, dark chocolate bars, cinnamon and chili chocolate, mint chocolate bars, several variations on peppermint bark and a few other kinds of chocolate. We had a full turkey dinner for Christmas, complete with butter in just about everything (yes, my butter-loving mother-in-law did most of the cooking). I made both pumpkin pies and a pecan pie (of which I proceeded to eat about half). We had chocolate pudding cake one night and blueberry almond muffins for breakfast one day. And that was just the week we were in Florida with Rich’s parents.

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The fun and indulgences didn’t end when we got home – flourless chocolate cake, homemade eggnog and almond Swiss cheese dip, along with a few meals out and working our way through all those chocolates we gave each other. We also fit in a few family game nights and celebration dinners.

My jeans (and arteries) are asking me to get back to a normal diet, with at least a few vegetables. We are gradually weaning ourselves off the treats and back to healthy eating – we had roasted vegetables and whole wheat pasta the other night. Oatmeal has been on the breakfast menu for several days and we are trying to get back into our workout schedules, though that has been less than successful. I am scared to get on the scale and may put that off for a few weeks more.

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It was a wonderful time off, full of family time, lots of relaxation and plenty of days when we weren’t sure what day of the week it was. I love days when I can sleep as late as I want and hang out in my pajamas until late in the morning. Conversely, I also love days when I can get up early just because I feel like it, not because I have to.

Today it is back to work for Rich and dentist appointments for Calvin and me. Tomorrow is back to school for Calvin and back to the normal routine for me. I guess the glory days had to end sometime. Though I am already thinking about what to bake this weekend – maybe whole wheat bread. The thought of anything rich or sweet just doesn’t appeal, for some reason.