Well, for those of you that tuned in Saturday only to be taken to a dead link, my apologies. Hopefully this will be worth your wait! Last month, as you may recall, Mr. N enjoyed a “pie” for his birthday meal of choice. It was an easy decision for him. Miss A, however, took her time deliberating. Continue reading
If you received a post notification today and stopped over only to find it missing, I apologize. The post (detailing a certain 7-year old’s birthday dinner of choice) will go live Monday. Until then… Continue reading
I’m exhausted. Those of you reading along the past couple of weeks know that we’ve been busy. We’ve had our share of ups and downs. Life is like that though. The inevitable roller coaster ride. Sometimes we glide along smoothly and at other times we’re taken up, down and around. I should be in bed. I should be asleep. Or at the very least, I should be using these early morning hours when I’m tossing and turning to catch up on laundry, my work, the mundane list of to do’s that’s been piling up this busy summer, but when words are spinning around in my head, sometimes I just need to put them down. Continue reading
Just a brief post to say we’ve all recovered and we’re bound once again for one of our favorite destinations! Finger Lakes New York here we come! Hopefully Hobbs will keep himself out of trouble while we’re away! What do you think?
If all goes as planned, we’re hoping to bring back some fresh cherries, wine and a lifetime of memories. We then hope to have a delicious cherry recipe to share too. We’ve been dabbling in the kitchen, but haven’t given it our official spoon ratings yet. It does appear to be blog-worthy though as Mr. N did declare, “You should make this more often. It’s delicious!” Perhaps I found a non-dessert 4 spooner?
So, until next time…we’re on the road again – laughing, smiling, singing, planning, scheming and probably breaking up a few sibling squabbles along the way (“He’s touching me.” “She started it!”). Frankly, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Last week I asked Mr. N what he wanted for this year’s birthday meal. He thought for a while and wasn’t really coming up with anything. Then he said, “I’d like pie.”
Great! What about for dinner? “Pie.”
Then he laughed and said, “Pie for dessert and I guess something that goes with that Brazilian cheese bread from the blog.” Okay. Easy enough. I can handle pie. In fact I love making pies. As for dinner, I needed to work around the Pao de Queijo (which incidentally was the recipe where we first came upon our good friend Sally for which we have been grateful ever since). That’s when we came upon Eva’s recipe for Barbeque Sauce and the plan all came together.
But you remember that old saying…best laid plans. It was one of those weeks. It started last Friday. The kids wrapped up school for the summer. What’s normally a happy celebration for Mr. N and Miss A, was a touch more bittersweet this year. Mr. N wrapped up elementary school, saying goodbye to his familiar classrooms, friends, teachers, hallways and bus friends. He’s now off to Middle School, which also means he and Miss A’s years of schooling together are finished. While the end of each school year is always a mix of happiness and a pinch of sadness for Mike and I, the kids felt it this year too.
Then we entered the last weekend of Mr. N’s show. Each show of the weekend was sold out. Friends and family, old and new came to cheer him on. But all good things come to an end and so too did his second big show. It’s always hard to say goodbye to people you work closely with (particularly in acting where you really get to know people on an emotional level), but even more so when you’re only 10-going-on-11 and aren’t used to these types of goodbyes. Fortunately we still had the birthday to look forward to and it was only a few days away.
A few long days away. Mr. N ended his Monday evening on a high. He was congratulated by someone from a local news station who told him, “You can really act. I mean really act. It was amazing.” So, you can imagine his absolute elation. Someone from tv!!! Mike and I too were on a bit of a high – proud of our baby boy, wound up from closing night and also a tad bit relieved that our trice weekly trips into the city were over for just a bit. It was a late night. Mike and I couldn’t sleep, so stayed up far too late watching tv. We finally turned in only to be woken two hours later by the doorbell.
Now this in and of itself was slightly alarming. Who rings a doorbell at 2:30 in the morning? We both creeped down the stairs and saw people shining flashlights in our door and window. We turned on the lights, hoping that would send them running. No such luck. I now understand the saying, your heart is pounding out of your chest. I thought it was about to bust its way right out of my chest. We heard whispering, and then the door knob jiggling. I ran for the phone, called 911 and breathlessly explained the situation. The calm operator took my name and information. She said to give her a second and to stay on the line. When she came back, she said, “Those are my officers at your door. Your alarm sounded.” What? No it didn’t. We hadn’t even set our alarm that night. How on earth could it have gone off? Besides we would have heard it. So after a few minutes of assuring the 911 operator that we were unarmed, we were told to open our own door. Everything was quickly sorted. Mike headed back to bed and was snoring within minutes. I, on the other hand, was full of adrenaline and not able to sleep a wink. So after 20 minutes on the phone with the alarm company, I headed to bed. I was asleep for maybe another 20 minutes when the alarm went off again. This time audibly. Fortunately (or disturbingly) the kids slept through it. Mike made sure the house was safe and returned to sleep. How does he do that?! I spent the next 45 minutes sorting things out with the alarm company on the phone. Not happy. No sleep for me.
Then I went to work. It was one of those non-stop days. We’re short-staffed and I’m feeling the pinch. Not to mention there were some unnecessary political issues. Just what I needed on no sleep. I finally made it home. Late. Upset. I fired off an email and wound down slightly watching Miss A’s hoola hoop show. She does not like when I’m stressed or upset and always puts on some kind of show to cheer me up. It worked. So we went in the house and began to wind down for the evening. That’s when I noticed Hobbs didn’t come to greet me at the door. Both cats always greet me. Odd. So we started looking. And looking. And looking some more. At this point the kids are panicking. Mr. N is near screaming, Miss A is crying, and I was about to lose it. Mike got the kids outside to look, so I could concentrate inside and listen. Really listen. I thought I had heard him a few times.
Now, you might imagine the thoughts running through my head. Especially so soon after we lost our little Charlie last year. What now?! Not on Mr. N’s birthday week! Then he appeared in Miss A’s doorway. I ran to pick him up and instantly knew something was wrong. He was wet. He was breathing with a rasp and his eyes were not right. More than that, he clung to me. Something was wrong, but what?! I grabbed a blanket and my keys, stopped to show Mike and the kids I found him, and I was off to the vet ER.
After several hours at the vet ER, it was determined he’d need to stay overnight in the oxygen bed. They didn’t know what was wrong, but something had happened and he was in severe respiratory distress. He either choked on something, nearly suffocated in something or ate something he wasn’t supposed to. This made total sense. This cat eats everything. Truly. I’ve found him in the bag of spinach trying to sneak away with a leaf. He’s eaten through bags of lentils, powdered sugar and rice when the pantry has been left open. He even makes off with Mr. N’s LEGOs on a regular basis. Not surprising at all, but scary nevertheless. Remember this pic? He’s one that will keep us on our toes.
Fortunately, after two nights at the hospital and sleepless nights for me, he returned home. It was great to have him home, but that too presented problems. He wouldn’t eat. He needed rest and our other kitty, Chipper, was not so happy with Hobbs getting so much attention. So it turned into two more nights of sleeplessness as we had Hobbs shuttered in our room so we could keep a close eye. He spent much of the night kissing my face or nibbling at my hands to be cuddled, all the while Chipper was head butting our door to try and get himself in the room (we had to keep him out so we could tell if Hobbs was eating or not). Seriously? They look so innocent don’t they?!
Well, it was finally Mr. N’s birthday. Hobbs was home and eating again. All was right with the world, which is when I of course woke up sick. It’s no wonder. It was bound to happen. You can only be pulled so far in so many different directions. Probably a sign that I should slow down. But I powered on. We got through Mr. N’s laser tag extravaganza with his friends and were finally ready for the birthday meal. I wasn’t going to let this special dinner go by the wayside. He needed this. That pie was still on his mind. No wonder – a week of goodbyes, I’d need pie too.
We stopped at the farmer’s market in the morning and Mr. N decided on a peach, rhubarb and blueberry pie. Done. Mr. N and Miss A spent the day playing while Mike and I organized the house. If you can imagine how cluttered a house can get after weeks of not really being home and everything coming home from school…it’s not pretty. So first floor accomplished. Then we started dinner. The kids husked the corn to go with the slow cooker pulled pork that I knew would pair well with the Pao de Queijo.
We served our slow cooker pulled pork with a sauce, inspired by Eva, next to the Pao de Queijo, adapted from Sally, corn on the cob and our balsamic fingerlings. We ate our BBQ dinner on China, because, well, why not! It was a celebration after all and after the week we all had, we were ready to celebrate. The kids even busted out their Goose Watch Grape Juice, while Mike and I enjoyed a Lamoreaux Landing Estate Red (a perfect match with the BBQ).
The true highlight of the meal though – what we all had been waiting for – was dessert. Our pie. While Mr. N may have needed a little pie, it turns out it was just what I needed too. You may remember, I (rather oddly) find therapy in making pie crust. Today’s pie crust was no exception. It was probably the equivalent of a few spa treatments or hours with a psychologist and at least three yoga classes. Whew! Do I feel better!
We tossed together the peaches (peels on), rhubarb and blueberries and soaked them in sugar, flour and Verjooz.
We poured them over the first layer of our pie crust. We opted for the 9-inch by 13-inch pan and made this more like Grandma’s Blackberry Cobbler than a traditional pie. Incidentally, this was the first year, in many years, Mr. N didn’t request the blackberry cobbler for his birthday. I guess he was feeling a little more adventurous this year! Perhaps it’s the 11-year old in him now!
The top layer of crust was laid over the fruit and the cobbler (or pie) was baked in the oven for 60 minutes at 375F.
The pie came out of the oven bubbly and golden brown. We could all barely wait to dig in. We again broke out the good dishes and settled in for some serious dessert time. The kids chose to have their cobbler with milk (same way they eat Grandma’s). Mike and I chose without.
Cream or ice cream is probably more common to serve over cobbler and pie, but in my family it’s been tradition to serve it with milk. Everyone eats it with milk. Admittedly I’ve never eaten it that way and never will. I prefer mine straight-up so the sweet and sour can shine. The kids, however, have taken a page from a long line of milk and cobbler eaters. They never eat it plain.
One thing we did all agree on – this was a four spoon dessert. All. Around. Four. Spoons. Maybe it’s the sour bite of the rhubarb and Verjooz or the sweet bite of the peaches and blueberries. Then again, maybe it’s just that this is just what the doctor ordered for us all. Whatever the case, this is a bright, happy and filling summer cobbler. Fresh fruit macerated in sugar, served warm with a crispy, shortening crust – delicious!
And tonight we’ll all tuck in with full bellies. Summer is here with lots of fun in store. Hobbs is rapidly improving, although, still trying to eat everything in sight. Apparently he learned nothing from this ordeal…
Our little boy is happy, healthy and now 11 years old. Speaking of health, this cold appears to be the 24-hour variety and I’m on the mend. And barring all emergency room visits and silent alarms, I think I’ll make a point to take this week a little easier. And if things don’t go according to plan, at least I have this left over pie to shovel in my face, I mean eat gingerly and ladylike.
Print this recipe: Summer Cobbler
Truthfully though, tonight we’re sitting around happy and full. While it was a trying week, we’re all here together. Healthy(er) and ready for a fun summer. I think we’re all even ready for the next adventures that are fast approaching. I believe I mentioned a while back that we’d be sharing some news shortly. Well, we’re just about ready now. Stay tuned…Until then, this Summer Cobbler is waiting to be made. Even if you’re not in need of a little therapy-by-food, it’s just darn delicious.
From our last several posts you can tell we love the Finger Lakes Region of New York. We’ve been drawn to the area from the first time we stopped in with the kids years ago. While we love the quaint towns, friendly people, scenery, museums, etc., a large part of what drove us to stop in the first place was the wineries.
Mike and I have been visiting wineries since a trip to Southern California early in our marriage. We were on our way from Palm Springs to San Diego, enjoying the desert and mountainous drive along I-15, when I needed a pit stop. We were both hungry, so figured we’d stop to eat as well. We ended up getting off the highway near Temecula, California and stumbled upon a winery. We had never been to a winery before, but we figured there was a good likelihood that it had bathrooms and food (plus we enjoy wine). It was a beautiful, old world looking building called Thornton Winery. While there we did our first wine tasting, enjoyed a snack and decided that since this was so much fun, we’d stop at one more down the road before getting back to the Interstate.
Our next stop, Wilson Creek Winery, was the one that permanently hooked us on wine and viticulture. We’d apparently just missed the vineyard tour and Gerry Wilson, the proprietor, felt bad. We had no idea that there even was such a thing as vineyard tours, but he showed us around a little bit anyway. We listened, at first to be polite, but before long, we were having a fascinating conversation about wineries and life. We spent quite a bit of time with Gerry that afternoon and from then on, stopping and visiting wineries on vacation has become what we do.
We don’t consider ourselves to be oenophiles. We’re still learning how to identify the nuances of wine and couldn’t tell an aroma of currants from an aroma of blackberries, but we’re getting there. Most importantly though, we know what we like and we’ve developed a palate for wines from a wide variety of regions – not just California. In fact, we’ve stopped at wineries in 20 different states as well as Canada. The wine industry has exploded and has made for some fun pit stops on our many road trips throughout the states.
And yes, this includes trips with and without the kids. You see, Mike and I both recall having to stop with our parents at “boring” historical sites along our vacation routes (like the Sod House), and can each recount our “dreadful” experiences at the Amana Colonies along I-80 in Iowa. (Ironically the Amana Colonies now offer wine making walks!) While these stops are likely not at all boring or dreadful, and our negative feelings surely had more to do with our ages, Mike and I still vowed not to put our kids through such “torture.” Instead we take them to wineries!
While our kids at times roll their eyes and say the proverbial, “Aw, do we have to?” Mike and I just remind them that it could be a lot worse. “Back in our day…” Truthfully, for as much as the kids might initially complain about stopping to do something we like to do (it is a right of passage after all), we generally all have a great time. Mike and I make sure to make it an enjoyable experience for the kids and we’ve actually had some of our most memorable and relaxed meal time conversations and family games while at wineries. And then afterwards the kids make us stop at roadside historical markers for their enjoyment – oh the irony!
Truthfully, that’s how we pull it off. We spend our vacations doing a mix of activities that everyone enjoys. If Mike and I pick a winery, then the kids are on deck to decide what’s next and somehow or another, we all manage to have fun no matter where we end up – winery or a kids’ museum.
So since we’re often asked how we end up at so many wineries on our vacations and since it is travel and winery season, we figured we’d share a few tips for visiting wineries with kids in tow. We should start by saying, we don’t recommend planning a weekend evening with friends at a winery with the kids (unless it’s a private event for families); we wouldn’t suggest spending hours drinking the day away (we don’t visit wineries to “drink”); and we certainly don’t condone drinking and driving while intoxicated under any circumstances. However, if you’re looking for a relaxing lunch stop, enjoyable evening sunset or are truly interested in learning a little bit about wine and viticulture, then visiting wineries with your kids is perfectly acceptable, and it can be fun.
Tips for visiting wineries with kids (Mr. N and Miss A both started around age 3):
1. Prep your kids for winery behavior.
Having done this more than once now, the kids know what we expect when we say it’s time for “winery behavior.” Basically it’s similar to restaurants, museums, stores, etc. We ask that they stay with us, or in an area we designate as kid-safe, don’t touch things that don’t belong to them, keep their voices lower, no running and be polite. You’re the best judge of your own kids and can determine what they can handle. For us this means we sometimes select the few wines that we want to try, make our purchase and leave. Other times, this means that we have a few minutes to enjoy our tasting, ask the host questions and savor our sips.
2. Avoid weekends if possible.
This isn’t always possible, but if it can be avoided, wineries are much less crowded on weekdays. Crowds can be difficult with kids, not impossible, but it’s certainly easier when the wineries aren’t overflowing with groups and crowds. Wine hosts are also less harried (justifiably) on weekdays and it can make the whole experience more enjoyable. You’re also more likely to meet an owner on a weekday. If you’re into wine making and the business of wine, wine owners are fabulous conversationalists. These are some of our favorite visits!
3. If avoiding weekends is not possible, choose places with large outdoor areas, kids’ activities, or restaurants.
Sometimes you only have time for weekend travel and if you’re wanting to stop at a winery, consider places that you know have restaurants or large outdoor areas. Restaurants are great places to enjoy your tasting while feeding the kids, and large outdoor areas can give the kids room to run. Some wineries even have kid’s activity areas that include games, toys, coloring, etc. One of our favorite stops in Estes Park, Colorado, Snowy Peaks Winery, even has a playroom visible from the tasting area where kids can play while you taste. Genius if you ask us!
4. Make sure to have something for the kids to do.
Obviously not all wineries will have playrooms. In this case, come prepared. We bring small games, books and of course electronics – iPods, iPads, etc. to keep the kids occupied. If you plan to have a glass of wine after the tasting on a veranda in the sun, or to watch the sunset, never underestimate the power of a deck of cards and a good game of “Go Fish.”
5. Don’t plan more than 2 to 3 wineries in one day and make sure to stop for kids’ activities in between.
Some trips we’ll plan one winery visit over lunch or for dinner. It allows Mike and I to squeeze in our interests while feeding the kids. On other trips, we travel through wine regions with the intention of stopping at more than one winery a day. In this case, we usually stop for a tasting mid-morning, lunch and sometimes late afternoon. On days like this we’ll make sure to spend the rest of the time doing activities the kids choose – museums, historical stops, hiking, parks, fairs, mini-golf, the beach, etc. No one complains on these days!
6. Limit your time at the tasting bar.
This is one of those where you need to follow your kids’ lead. If the kids are entertained, occupied and content, you can enjoy your tasting a little longer. Perhaps ask the host about the grape varietals, where they’re grown, how they got into the business, etc. Wine hosts and owners are generally very passionate about their wine and wineries and appreciate when people want to learn about what they do. Alternatively, if you want to stop and enjoy a tasting, but also spend some time with the kids, sample a few of your favorites and purchase a glass to sit outside and enjoy some snacks together. However, if you know you’re on borrowed time with the kids, sample a few of your favorite wines and make a purchase to enjoy at a later date.
7. At the winery do your tasting at the end of the bar or near a seating area for your kids.
When wineries aren’t crowded, it’s often easy to find a table or picnic bench that’s within close proximity to the tasting area. These tables are a great place to set the kids up with their activities. If it’s a bit more crowded and seating is limited, the kids will stay by us at the end of the tasting bar. They usually end up finding a spot along the wall to sit and read or play their game. The key is to keep them out of the way, but close enough so that the winery staff knows you’re on the ball. This leads well into our next point…
8. Do not leave your children unattended.
Wineries are not meant for children. That’s not to say that children aren’t welcome, as we mentioned, some wineries plan for them. However, wineries are intended to be adult establishments. Wine hosts and other patrons will not appreciate your child running a muck through the gift shop or in the vineyard, no matter how cute you think they are. This is not a time to let them test their independence. Keep them close, entertained and behaving.
9. Ask if the winery has sparkling grape juice available for tasting or purchase.
Some wineries will have both red and white sparkling grape juice which is always a thrill for the kids. They love to do a tasting and pick which one they want to purchase. It’s a great way to make the kids feel involved and an easy way to keep them entertained.
10. Reward good behavior.
As we mentioned we often let the kids pick activities in between wineries and let them share in the vacation planning process. It generally keeps things running smoothly and often times makes it more enjoyable for us all. I’m sure the kids have led us to adventures we never would have otherwise experienced! But that said, we’re also not above bribery every now and then, and have been known to let the kids pick a souvenir from the gift shop. You may recall Miss A’s winery mascot collection!
11. Don’t push the kids beyond their limits.
Don’t plan to visit a winery when the kids are over tired, and if they are hungry choose a winery with food options.
12. Research wineries ahead of time.
Some wineries will mention kid friendly areas, games or even outdoor walking paths on their websites. Hikes are a great way to get the kids outdoors, exploring and off the beaten path (just make sure to stay out of restricted areas and do not touch grapes or vines!). Our travels and tastings have led us to discover frog ponds, donkeys, Bocce ball and even petting zoos!
13. Thank your host.
If you enjoyed your experience and your wine, we believe it’s important to purchase a bottle (or two or three). Wineries don’t make a fortune at the tasting bar (in fact many offer free tastings), but rather their income is generated from selling their wine. Purchasing a bottle is a great way to bring a part of your trip home, and most importantly, it’s a way to thank your host. They also make great gifts for family and friends.
14. Leave it as you found it.
If your kids have a snack or are playing with their toys, make sure to clean up the space before you leave. Wipe away the crumbs, put away any toys or games provided by the winery, make sure your kids’ personal belongings are accounted for and throw away any trash.
15. Finally, when you leave the winery, if outdoor space is available, let the kids run.
Before we load back into the car, whether we’ve stopped for lunch on a long drive, or are heading back to our lodging nearby, we make sure to “shake the sillies out.” While the kids are good about “winery behavior,” we realize it’s not their preferred state of being. So we always get a bit of movement back in our bodies. When a winery has a large open area, we run races, play tag or have tickle fights (making sure to avoid crowded areas and be respectful of other patrons of course!). If there’s no outdoor space, we’ll play follow the leader back to the car where Miss A determines when we walk, skip, gallop, jump, or run. In fact, when we pull into a winery now, the kids immediately evaluate the landscape and make our post-visit game plan.
What do you think? Is a winery now a part of your family vacation game plan? I know it’s a part of ours! In fact, we’ve got an opportunity to head back out to the Finger Lakes for a bit of family fun this month and I would say the kids are just as excited as we are – and we’re excited! Amazing how a few stuffed animals, games of tag and grape juice can change their perspective. Truthfully though, it really is all about quality family time. Whether we’re doing something Mike and I enjoy, something the kids love, or something we will all have fun at, it’s about being together, making memories and seeing the world; it just so happens we learn a little bit about wine making in the process.
We’ll be back next week with a special birthday boy’s recipe request and then we’re off on our travels where we hope to share a few more recipes with local New York fare. Happy June everyone!