Saturday, November 26, 2011

Go-Karting

For a while now Chloe has been asking Matt to take her go-karting. We checked into a couple of indoor go-kart/amusement places and they allow seven year olds to drive, but Chloe doesn't meet the height and weight requirements--they're a one size go-kart and they can't adjust or make modifications to them.

And, lets get real, did you think when one of Matt's kids told him she wanted to go go-karting that he would really take her to your run of the mill putt-putt and go-karting place? I'm fairly certain that's what Chloe had originally thought when she said she wanted to drive a go-kart but we found this place instead.


Its some distance from us in NY state and so we decided to make a day of it and drive up to check the place out yesterday. Lots of young boys and girls practicing their skills for club kart racing or kart racing nationally.

We met the owner, Tim, who was a super-nice guy and he showed us all the karts and told us about the kid kart racing club. Chloe was excited to learn to drive a go-kart especially when she saw the other kids on the track and we made an appointment to have Chloe's first kart racing lesson with Tim today.

The lesson was 2.5 hours and Chloe got to wear all the protective gear and her favorite, the race overalls. The lesson began with a lesson on braking and using the gas and then Tim took Chloe out on the track.



Tim instructing Chloe before she goes out on track for the first time.


Chloe and the kid kart she drove for the day.


Firing up the engine to go on track for the first time.

Chloe did fantastic and had lots of fun. Oliver was a little disappointed that he couldn't drive a kart, but he enjoyed running around with Mommy and watching the karts & motorcycles on the unseasonably warm, sunnny day.


Oliver playing with the iPad.
 After the lesson was over, Chloe got to go back on track with Matt and both of them loved that. She even had a spin out. We are taking the karting slow with Chloe and are approaching it with a wait and see attitude---which means we aren't rushing out to buy her a $6500 super-tuned kart anytime soon! Of course, a super-tuned kart for Matt is a different story....



Looking good!


Chloe following Tim in her first lesson on track.


Chloe takes a turn.


Of course, we had to be fitted with the GoPro camera so Chloe & Matt could analyze her driving at home.


Chloe (with the GoPro on her helmet) and Matt on course.


Danica Patrick, eat your heart out.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011

We spent Thanksgiving this year with our friend Bryan. We missed having Sue, Bryan's wife, come this year too, but she was in Texas with their daughter.

It would just be five of us this year--3 adults, 2 kids and 2 begging dogs. Oh, and a 21 lb. kosher turkey. Its go big or go home with the turkey around here. We use the leftovers for "Turkey Curry Buffet" day!


After the turkey was in the oven, it was time to set about tuning and charging the batteries in the RC cars.  It was like Christmas morning for Oliver when he came downstairs to see all the RC cars on the coffee table. "WOW!" he exclaimed.

Late morning is when we break out the cheese tray, dips and a quiche.

Then, its time to race.
Oliver driving his "Ghini" (aka Lamborghini) RC car with Bryan. Most the time he preferred pushing it rather than using the remote.

Chloe and Matt set up the race course.

Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines.

Oliver is impressed.

Chloe tests her skills by trying to drive the RC car without the cones falling off.

Not to be outdone, Oliver attempts too.



After racing, we prepared for the big meal.

 And carved the turkey, which Oliver declared "No like turkey!". So he ate mashed potatoes, which he spit out, and all the strawberries and blueberries from the fruit salad. He then asked for ice cream. At least he stayed awake this year for the meal.

The adults enjoyed our Thanksgiving meal with a celebratory nice bottle of wine.
We capped the evening off with dessert and a marathon of Grand Turismo 5 on Bryan's PS3.

We hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What Thanksgiving Means to Me...

Family & Stuffing.

That's it. That's Thanksgiving. Having my family around & having the family recipe for stuffing.

My grandmother's stuffing as interpreted by my Dad because we don't have a written recipe.

Its not put in the bird (yuk), its not gourmet with hard to find ingredients and special seasonings. It's a meal unto itself and it's Thanksgiving to me.

I'm glad I had my sous chef to help me make it for this year's Thanksgiving dinner.

And now, I am going to document the family recipe. Of course, you will note that there are no measurements. There is no specific amount to put in, you just eyeball it.

First ingredient: Cornbread. I used two packages for the base of the stuffing. I live in the north and there is an abundance of corn muffins. Regular cornbread mix is hard to find so I had to go with the corn muffin mix. It has more sugar than the regular cornbread mix.


My sous chef mixed the cornbread and then I poured it into my pre-heated cast-iron skillet and baked it.

The finished cornbread.
While the cornbread was baking, I boiled some eggs.
And Chloe helped me chop some celery, onions, sage, jalapenos and garlic.
Oliver wanted in on the action. He actually just wanted to play with the measuring spoons and eat a boiled egg.
We then gathered the next two ingredients, chicken broth and a whole chicken. I used a store bought because I am lazy. Chloe and tore apart the chicken.
We added the chicken to the other ingredients.
I then took the cooled cornbread and crumbled it in the baking pan. Fancy pan, I know.
I then added in the rest of the ingredients and a little salt and pepper. After it was well mixed I poured the chicken broth over to make it moist.  I baked mine at 375 until browned.


Yum!!! I always have an obligatory piece of turkey, some potatoes, a vegetable and a huge, heaping helping of stuffing.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Ugly Side of Fall

One of the three piles of leaves outside our house. This one is pretty tame. Most piles also have tree limbs (from Snowtober), mums, and discarded hay bales from fall decorations in them. Its a mess.

The leaves are dropping swiftly now. Only a few more trees hold on to their leaves which means that there are huge piles lining the roadways making it impossible for more than one car to pass through. I am sure it is a daunting task for the clean up crews to remove all the leaves from the streets, but it seems like they have just thrown their hands  up this year and declared defeat. Most years the first snow fall comes before all the leaves are removed making the roads messy and nearly impassable. I expect this year to be no different.

Chloe upset that Oliver is destroying her leaf pile.

Oliver "helping" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge).
 Of course, two people I know like the piles of leaves. We'll see if this keeps up when they are in their teens and it is one of their jobs to clear the yard of leaves. Right now though, they love to rake. Chloe loves making piles and romping through it. Oliver loves to destroy the pile of leaves and send the leaves swirling around the streets and neighbors houses.

Playing with Daddy on a warm, fall day. And just a note, our yard had been completely cleared of any and all leaves just a few hours before hand. Look at it---leaves everywhere.
I have also been busy baking. Somehow I am perpetually on the bake sale committee every year at Chloe's school. Matt "volunteered" me when Chloe was in kindergarten and since I get an email in the fall and again in the spring telling me to bake something and drop it off at the bake sale chairs house. The fall bake sale is always the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. I don't mind doing it, but its just an added stress to bake all these goodies when you are also the one who cooks Thanksgiving dinner.  And, of course I always channel my inner Martha and plan something a)containing tons of ingredients--none of which can contain nuts or processed in a nut factory---the rules of the bake sale and it makes for a long time reading labels b) requires assembly c) contains hard to find special ingredients.

Why do I do this to myself? Why can't I just bake sugar cookies? Anway, my great plans included turkey cake pops, "pumpkin" cupcakes, M&M cookies on a stick and chocolate mini loaves. Two out of three came out as planned. One didn't happen at all (cake pops). The ingredients were to hard to find. I went to two specialty cooking shops and one specialty grocery store before finding all the ingredients for the "pumpkin" cupcakes---and they are just cake, icing, orange sugar crystals and green fruit roll ups. How hard could that be? HARD apparently.

I've learned a valuable lesson---even though I live in the shadow of the largest city in the U.S., no one bakes here. There are specialty bake shops in NYC, but they didn't have all the ingredients. I did find one specialty shop that carried everything for all of my bake sale wish list---but they were in a small town on the NJ/PA border. Most of the stores in our area have their Christmas baking items out and have clearanced their fall baking items and its not even Thanksgiving yet!  I was so worn out that I gave up searching for all the candy parts needed for the cake pops---too difficult to find it all.  In the end, this is how it turned out....
The "pumpkin" cupcakes. I guess I should have started searching for orange sugar crystals and orange food coloring back in August. And green fruit roll ups don't exist. The fruit roll up stems were an improvisation---lets just say blue and yellow make green.


Popsicle sticks for the cookies---good luck finding those. In the end I just made giant cookies.

It was Oliver who reminded me, it all eats the same anyway....
Enjoying his M&M sugar cookie sans popsicle stick.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Crayola Factory

I took the kids to the Crayola Factory in Easton, PA yesterday. It was on our summer to do list and we never got around to it. Chloe was super-excited to go, though she started complaining about the distance about half way through our hour long trip.

The factory itself is not really the factory and you don't really learn about making crayons. I thought there would be exhibits about crayon making, etc., but the place is more of a homage to crayons and all the cool crafts you can make using all of Crayola's products---which my kids were totally not interested in. They know what crayons can do and they weren't about to sit down after being in a car for an hour and make a craft. Here's our tour in a nutshell:
  • Wanna make an owl puppet using Crayola school glue? NO!
  • Want to use the modeling clay to make a sculpture? NO!
  • Want to use crayons to color the picture of the leaves? NO!
  • Want to use the sidewalk chalk to color on the floor? NO!
  • Want to run like wild banshees through the building? YES!
Getting my two to sit down and create something just for the sake of making something? Not going to happen. They could do that at home. There were some exhibits and activities they did like---using the two coins given to you at the Crayola vending machines for a glow in the dark marker, writing on the glass wall using Crayola dry erase markers, the color dance wall and of course, the Crayola Factory gift shop where you could find every Crayola product ever made.

The trip wasn't a total bust as you also get admission to the Canal Museum along with the Crayola Factory tour. My kids loved the Canal Museum. You get to learn about canals by helping a canal boat go through the locks and dams in a small scale creation of a canal. I didn't get a photo of them learning about locks and dams as I was too bust trying to help Oliver get his boat through the locks and not flood the entire place out.
The Canal Museum was definitely the highlight and was lots of fun and both Chloe and Oliver loved it. There are also lots of other hands on activities with water, canal building, building blocks, etc. which I did manage to photograph.


Chloe at the entrance to the "factory".


In the Canal Museum learning about water flow, canals and dams.


Building blocks in the canal museum.


Chloe with the world's largest crayon!


Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Not Sure What I Was Thinking

Last year I paid a professional photographer to take photos of the kids. The editing and proofing process took a really long time and I wanted to use the photos for Christmas cards. The entire thing stressed me out so I thought that Iwould take the photos this year since I have a nice DSLR camera and there are some great spots outdoors to snap photos. It all worked out in my mind....

Today was a beautiful day and there is no school the rest of this week. This morning, I set out to get the kids dressed and ready but it all went terribly wrong when I wiped a certain toddler's face. What followed was a 1 hour temper tantrum and rage-enduced vomiting.

Later in the afternoon, everyone seemed to be in better spirits so I got the kids ready and headed out the door to our favorite outdoor photo spot in a nearby county park. In other words, the same location our professional photographer took us to last year. Upon arriving at the county park, we discovered that there was lots of damage from last week's noreaster and much of the park was off limits, including our photo spot. So, I went to another county park a couple of miles away. I managed to snap a few photos before my DSLR decided to stop working. Unfortunately, most of the photos were of Chloe, who sat nicely for the photos. Oliver was already covered in dirt before we even took the first photo.

Hopefully, Matt can figure out what is wrong with my camera and we can make a second attempt at Christmas card photos. If not, looks like I will be making an appointment with a professional photographer.

In the meantime, I leave you with the best of what I got today.

Chloe--she listens and sits and smiles while Oliver runs amuck.

I managed to snap this as Oliver was walking by to throw rocks. He is NOT posing believe it or not.

I'm thinking that this photo may be the Christmas card winner. It's just not what I imagined I wanted though.

So Oliver. He's showing me some rocks he just picked up. I so wanted to get the kids outfits in the photos because I think they are darling.
 
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