21 January 2013

Pond Skating

I used to go ice skating quite a bit when I lived in Boston. MIT actually had a physical education graduation requirement (yes, you read that right; you also had to pass a swimming test!) which I largely satisfied with ice skating classes because they didn't require an extra shower before heading back to class. Anybody who knows me knows that I'm all about time management and efficiency.

After leaving MIT, my job was only a few blocks away from campus. MIT offers alums access to their athletic facilities for a reasonable fee, so I would often head to the rink at lunchtime. I even bought skates for Mike so that he could join me. But then we moved to the Gorge and haven't skated since. The Gorge offers just about every other outdoor sport, except skating. There is an indoor rink in Portland at the Lloyd Center shopping mall, but who wants to skate in a shopping mall? And in the perpetual circular herd?

So when a friend hosted a skating party on his pond, we were pretty excited! It's not consistently cold in the gorge, but the past several weeks have been solidly below freezing. The ice was quite thick; the owner drilled down into the ice and stopped when he got tired. We decided to wear our snowboarding helmets, since we know at least one person who had cranial issues associated with a skating fall. We invited our friend Nikki, who was also a frequent skater growing up in Wyoming, to join us.

Thankfully, the old skills came back quickly. Although this was the first time that Mike used his skates, he also had some skating experience from his youth. In pretty short order, we were all comfortable on the ice and having fun.

This was probably the best skating experience I've ever had! The ice wasn't rink smooth, but it was pretty dang close. There was a thin layer of snow on top of the ice, but that served to make the ice a little slower, which suited us just fine. And there was plenty of space to skate freely.

The scenery and sunset were amazing.

We skated until it was too dark to see the bumps and crevices on the ice. And then we skated just a little longer. And then we skated back to shore where there were hot drinks and a bonfire waiting to warm us up.

It was so much fun that we went back the next day. And then I went back AGAIN the day after that. It was definitely the highlight of my winter!

Thanks to Grandma Donna for watching Anders while we skated! Maybe next time we'll try putting him on a sled...

- Corinne, Mike and Anders

06 January 2013

Monster Tracks

For Christmas this year, our friend Jaime gave Anders, Bridger, and Lauren each a pair of "monster" snowshoes. They are a kids snowshoe in the shape of a giant monster foot. We've had plenty of snow this winter, and Corinne and I have been able to take a few snowshoe walks around our property. But now that Anders has his own, we can take the whole family out. (At least in theory...)

Jaime and Lauren came out one snowy afternoon, and all five of us ventured outside for our first big snowshoe walk.

There was quite a bit of falling down from both kids. A lot. Much of it was on purpose, of course, because falling into the snow is pretty fun.

It took a while for them to learn how to get up on their own, but once I convinced them that if they fell down on purpose that I wasn't going to help them up, they were pretty motivated. Before too long, they could fall down and get up themselves as much as they liked. I think Lauren fell into the snow so that she wouldn't have to go as far for a snack. She ate a lot of snow. (Good thing it all appeared to be white snow.)

The snow was fairly deep, so the kids would follow in the trail of at least one adult ahead of them. Anders' endurance for snow shoeing has far surpassed his endurance for all other snow activities so far, but that really isn't saying very much. We need to get him outside in the winter more so that he gets used to it.

Before we had made it a quarter of the way around our property, the two kids were ready to head back inside. So I lead them back toward the house while Corinne and Jaime continued on their walk. I walked them back through the woods and tree wells, partly because I thought that it would keep them interested, but at least partly because I thought that it might be funny. As it turns out, I was right.

My help came in the form of 'words of encouragement.'

The monster snow shoes were a big hit this winter. We hope that this enables us to get the whole family outside into the snow more often!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders

01 January 2013

Best Recipes of 2012

Here it is: our annual Favorite Recipes edition for 2012. We didn't do a great good job of keeping track of new recipes in 2012, but we're going to bend the rules a little bit to make it more interesting.

Quick-Fried Zucchini with Toasted Garlic and Lime
Source: Rick Bayless
This is a delicious vegetarian taco filling that was passed to us by our friends Simon and Lindsey. Great use of summer squash!

Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque
Source: Eating Well
I really like the peanut and squash flavor combinations from West-Africa. This soup is easy and freezes well.

In lieu of new recipes that we discovered this year, here are some of our longtime favorites that we returned to this year.

White Chicken Chili
Source: Adapted from Trim Kids
This is a quick, weeknight-friendly and hearty soup/stew that our friends Malinda & Jean turned us on to. It's made mostly from pantry or freezer staples. If you don't have leftover chicken, poaching is quick and easy. (Or you can pick up a rotisserie chicken, if you are so inclined. I am not.)

Sauteed Green Beans with Smoked Paprika and Almonds
Source: Cook's Illustrated, November 2008
This is our favorite way to have green beans, hands down.

Spicy Sichuan Noodles (Dan Dan Mian)
Source: Cook's Illustrated, May 2001
Cook's Illustrated is not exactly known for their ethic foods, but this one is a real winner. We love udon noodles. While the recipe mentions the possibility of a substitution to a thick spaghetti, thankfully we have never been forced to make that substitution.

Stir-Fried Beef and Broccoli with Oyster Sauce
Source: Cook's Illustrated, September 2003
Oddly enough, here is another Cook's Illustrated non-American dish that has been in our regular rotation. It may not be authentic - we actually have no idea - but it is certainly reliable and delicious.

You can check out the recipes from other years through the recipes tag.

Happy Eating!

- Mike, Corinne and Anders