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Oh, hey August

August 1, 2014

Damn—when did August get here?!?  We have less than three weeks before school starts.  Time to start working on syllabi and assignments—ugh.  How is it possible that every year, summer goes by more and more quickly?!?

When last we spoke (you know what I mean), we were wrapping up our Oregon trip.  On our last full day, Ryan and I did an amazing hike up to the top of Paulina Peak, which overlooks Lake Paulina:

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Beautiful! And definitely a hike that we were happy to do without a toddler, haha.  We love hiking with Lila, but not all hikes are two-year old-friendly.

And then…it was time to travel home.  This involved a three hour drive to Portland…a four hour flight to Dallas…and a 1.5 hour flight to Huntsville.  Oregon, I love you but you are officially too far away.

Lila did great, but was seriously BEAT by the final flight:

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Now that we’re back in Huntsville, we’re doing our best to enjoy these last sweet days of summer before they slip away.  We’ve been hiking up on Monte Sano:

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It ain’t Paulina Peak, but it’s only five minutes from our house. Winking smile 

We’ve met up with friends for some pre-semester drinking:

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Totally necessary. 

Yesterday, we headed to our favorite Huntsville farmers’ market—the Greene Street Market.  Lila snacked on cherry tomatoes as we browsed:

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Can I just say that we’ve turned some sort of corner in terms of toddler eating?  This week, at least?  She’s been eating like a champ—all sorts of fruits and veggies.  I guess even picky toddlers aren’t immune to the appeal of summer produce. Smile 

After loading up at the market, we walked down to Big Spring park and watched the fish and fed the ducks:

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…and then finally headed home for a farmer’s market dinner.  We had something else planned, but couldn’t resist digging into all our new goods right away:

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That salad is topped with farmers’ market cherry tomatoes and some raw gouda that I bought as well.  The hummus (from The Hummus People) was masala garlic-flavored, and was SO good.

Finished it all off with a farmer’s market double-chocolate cookie.  Oh summer…please don’t go!!! Smile

Hope you have a great Friday!  Happy weekend!

Black Butte Photo Dump

July 24, 2014

Gah!  I had gotten really good about blogging in Portland…but here in Black Butte, not so much.  We’ve been having an awesome time—I told my mom that it feels like summer camp for adults.  Here are some of my favorite (i-phone) photos from the week.  Hate it that this vacation is drawing to a close!

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It’s been a good trip!

Portland —> Black Butte

July 21, 2014

Hello again!  Hope you’ve had a good weekend.  We wrapped up our time in Portland on Saturday, which I would be sad about…but we have one whole more week here in Black Butte Ranch, so there’s really nothing to complain about. Winking smile 

In Portland, we wrapped up our trip with another hike in Forest Park:

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…plus a wonderful dinner at the Huckleberry Pub, that included a lot of beer for Ryan, and a bacon-wrapped meatloaf sandwich for me. 

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Just a light dinner, really. Winking smile 

On Saturday, we hit up the food trucks for lunch on the waterfront before our drive:

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…and explored the Saturday market:

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…until it was time to go.  We loaded up the car and headed three hours south to Black Butte Ranch, where we’ll be spending the next week with Ryan’s family—his immediate family, PLUS aunts, uncles, cousins—we have a big group here!  It’s really fun to see Lila with all of the other kids—many of whom she’d never met before this trip. 

On top of the fun family time, Black Butte is beautiful—check out my morning run view:

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I mean…really.

We’ve had a great time so far, biking around, taking Lila to the pool, and just hanging out.  Tomorrow we’re attempting Stand-Up Paddle lessons in the lake.  I’m sure we’ll be awesome at it—Ryan and I are kind of known for our crazy coordination and balance skills.

Happy Monday!

Amazing

July 18, 2014

…is what Portland is.  I have to remind myself that the weather isn’t always this nice, because man—this place is pretty great.  We had an awesome time exploring all that Portland has to offer today.

After showering up, we ate breakfast at the hotel and then headed out to the zoo, which was only about 15 minutes away by car:

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All of the usual suspects were there—lions, tigers, bears.  The weather today could not have been more perfect, so we took our time strolling through the various exhibits.

As usual, the hippos were the biggest hit.  I don’t know why, but Lila loves hippos. 

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Actually I guess I do know why—they’re pretty funny, right?

We headed back downtown for lunch at a bakery, and then went back to the hotel where Lila proceeded to nap for a solid three hours—I think yesterday’s day of travel caught up with her!  She woke up rested and ready to go, so we went out for another adventure.  Around 4:00, we drove to Forest Park, which our friend Whitney had recommended.  It’s pretty amazing—a HUGE park with hiking and biking trails, literally about 10 minutes away from downtown.  One minute, we were sitting in traffic, and fifteen minutes later we were on the trail:

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Lila has become quite the little independent hiker over the summer.  She insisted on walking on her own for much of the trail.  We stopped to throw rocks in a little splash pool, where the light was just gorgeous:

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Seriously—it felt like an enchanted forest. 

For the last bit of the hike, Lila asked to ride in the Ergo…and I was happy to have her on my back.  Smile 

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After such an active afternoon, we were ready for some serious dinner when we got back to the hotel.  We walked to Prasad, a vegetarian restaurant attached to a yoga studio that had good yelp reviews.  It did not disappoint—the food was beautiful, tasty and fresh.  Just what we wanted:

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Even Lila, though initially skeptical, dug into her brown rice, avocado, and bean bowl:

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…though I do think she was more excited about the ice cream we got after dinner.  Winking smile 

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Mmmm…cookies and cream from Ruby Jewel.  Amazing.

Quick, somebody tell me something bad about Portland—otherwise I might try to convince Ryan that we should move out here!

Have a good one!

Portlandia

July 17, 2014

Greetings from Portland! 

We’re spending next week out in Black Butte Ranch with Ryan’s family, and we decided to fly into Portland a few days early and spend some time here on a mini-family vacation before meeting up for the BIG family vacation.  We left yesterday bright and early—and I do mean EARLY.  Our flight left at 6am, so we were up and moving at 4:30.  Lila was pretty out of it, but she did great on our flights—now that she’s easily entertained by movies and the i-pad, flying is a whole (peaceful) experience—for the most part. Winking smile 

We got in around 11:30, picked up our rental car, and made it downtown to our hotel by about 1:00.  Ryan and Lila promptly went down for naps, but I was inexplicably full of energy—excited to be here I guess.  So I took a stroll around the Pearl district by myself, with Powell’s Books as my (obvious) destination.  I’m an English teacher—would I go anywhere else?

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By the time I got home, Ryan and Lila were up and ready to hit up the pool.  We spent about an hour in the indoor pool/hot tub—Lila loved the hot tub.  A girl after my own heart.  Smile 

After showering and getting dressed, we headed to the lobby for one of the perks of hotel living—free happy hour!  Wine, beer, and milk were enjoyed, respectively:

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For dinner, we got a special treat—Ethiopian food!  We love Ethiopian, but don’t have any options at home.  This was Lila’s first experience with it, and she actually did pretty well!  She loved the veggie sambusa that we started with, and did pretty well with the veggie platter.  Surprisingly, she wasn’t crazy about the injera (the big pancake you use to eat the food) , which I thought she would love. 

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Unfortunately, because of the time change, Lila was up and at ‘em at 5:00 this morning.  Fortunately, that meant that she and Ryan were first in line for a Portland specialty–

Voodoo donuts!  They picked up a box of donuts while I hit the gym.  A big bite of a maple bacon donut was the perfect post-run treat. Winking smile 

We’re headed out to explore this morning—I think the zoo is on our list!  Have a great day!

On Ryan’s Plate: BBBQ (the extra “B” is for “Bodacious”

July 15, 2014

Say you’re driving down the road and you get a sudden hankering for some BBQ, as you often do. You come to a crossroads with three different BBQ restaurants. Now you’ve got a dilemma. How can you decide which one is best? Our friend Jon Sealy developed a helpful rule of thumb that can help you instantly determine a BBQ restaurant’s quality. It all has to do with the exterior décor (of course, you could use Yelp, but what fun is that?). If the place doesn’t have any pig pictures, statues, or iconography outside, it’s probably pretty bad. Take, as an example, the unnamed BBQ shack below, which is probably also a meth lab and local McCain election headquarters:

Now, if the place has some kind of swine symbols, such as Hog World’s dancing pigs seen below, it’s probably a safe bet:

Further, if the pig or pigs are wearing clothes, you’ve probably got a great BBQ joint on your hands:

Obviously, the very best BBQ places have a statue of a pig wearing overalls, a bandana, and a chef’s hat, plus sauce on his face, but any pig in clothes probably indicates a terrific meal. What I particularly like about a pig in clothes is the implication that he’s a cannibal– ready to feast on the sweet, juicy meat of his hog brethren. But maybe I’m reading too much into things.

I thought of Jon’s test this week as I was cooking up pulled pork for the first time. I’ve never cooked pulled pork, despite being a lifelong fan, from my days of eating Lloyd’s pulled pork sandwiches after school. (There’s no pig on the Lloyd’s container. There’s probably no pig inside a Lloyd’s container either.) It was high time for that to change.

As you’ve seen from Anna’s recent post, we’ve been on a bit of a slow cooker kick lately, so I decided to go that route. It turned out to be surprisingly painless (for me, anyway, if not for the pig who gave his shoulder for the meal).

First, I coated the meat with a rub made of pepper, garlic salt, brown sugar, and paprika (that’s the blurry container in the photo):

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After putting the pork in the slow cooker, I added a marinade of honey, liquid smoke, molasses, and a whole can of Brother Joseph’s Belgian Dubbel from Huntsville’s own Straight to Ale brewery, because everything tastes better with beer (exception: ice cream [wait, exception overruled]).

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Then the pork cooked for about 8 1/2 hours on low, at which point it could be pulled apart by hand (that’s where the name comes from! I never knew. Seriously). Add a little BBQ sauce, and you’ve got a terrific sandwich on your hands.

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As sides, we added a red cabbage coleslaw and some over-roasted okra. The result was a colorful plate that even Lila enjoyed:

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On the plus side, this meal is chock full of local goods – the pork, cabbage, and okra all came from Huntsville’s Greene Street Farmers Market – so I don’t want to get any guff from Barbara Kingsolver.

In the end, my first foray into pulled pork was a success. I wouldn’t rate it as a pig in clothes with sauce on his face, but I would rate it as a dancing naked pig. And a dancing naked pig is perfectly respectable.

Get Your Goat

July 14, 2014

Hello, friends!  Happy weekend—did you have a good one? 

Ours was fun.  We spent Friday night relaxing at home—Ryan actually made pulled pork in the slow cooker, which he wrote a blog post about.  It will be up later this week!

On Saturday, we went to a pump class at the gym (ouch) and then escaped the house to dinner and a movie with one of our friends.  We saw ‘Neighbors’—ummm, hilarious.  Hilarious, despite our relating to the Seth Rogen/Rose Byrne characters wayyyyyy too much.

Sunday truly was our fun day.  We headed to Elkmont, Alabama, which is about 45 minutes away.  First, we walked along the rails to trails path that starts right in the middle of town:

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After walking for about 45 minutes, we headed back to the car to go see…goats!

Elkmont is home to Humble Hearts Farm—a goat farm!  They’re always at our local farmers market, selling delicious cheeses and ice cream.  On Sunday, they had an ice cream social out at the farm—you got to play with the goats and tour the facilities.  It was HOT:

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…but still a lot of fun.  Lila was pretty wary of the big old billy goat (“I don’t like him! He has a beard!”), but she loved the smaller ones:

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Ryan has (strangely) always talked about wanting a goat.  Maybe some day—these guys were awfully sweet!

They also had a small farmers’ market set up.  We bought ice cream (of course) for the ride home, plus blueberries, peaches, and some cheese.

We got home, ate some quick lunch, and then crashed—all that hot sun really wore us out!

For dinner, more farmers’ market goods were on the menu—Ryan picked up some purple hull peas on Thursday, and we were excited to cook with them.  We cooked them, along with a bunch of torn kale (probably about 3 cups), some organic chicken sausage, and an onion, in chicken stock.  Brought it to a boil then simmered for about 30 minutes—delicious!

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I thought Lila would love the peas and cornbread muffins, but surprisingly, she went CRAZY for the kale!  She kept requesting “More kale! More kale!” 

Not sure what all is on the agenda for today.  Gym this morning, and then probably some travel prep—we leave for Portland on Wednesday! 

Have a great one!

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