Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In the Good 'Ol Summertime

I fear that once again, summertime is going to cause me to be somewhat of an absentee blogger.

I'm really trying to be "present" in the summer this summer. Does that make sense? It's hard because I want to the boys to love summer like I did, but I'm also struggling with getting work done. I got a new assignment from a client, which is very, very good financial news, but it also means yet even more to try to squeeze in since I do most of my work at night. I'm also trying to maintain my morning workout schedule. Eamonn is also working out in the mornings now, so we're vying for space! But that's a good thing. I've settled on a schedule where I get up and start work while he's working out. As soon as he's finished, I go downstairs and do my workout.

It seems to be working--all of this working out.

This morning I did Day One of Couch to 5k. I did it. And it wasn't very hard at all. Considering I despise running. It's just one of those things I wondered if I could do. The answer: I can.

With that said, I'm not formally starting the program right now, so all of you C25K nuts who just got all excited: calm down. I just wanted to see if I could do it. I'm thinking when we're back from Ohio in August is going to be more feasible in terms of time.

So, everything that's going on here is WORK, tennis lessons for the boys, WORK, hockey for Declan, WORK, swimming lessons for the boys, WORK, playdates, summer reading program at the library, the occasional doctor or dentist appointment, etc., etc.

AND, one of my favorite activities: CAMPING! Last weekend we camped down in a place called the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. It's a national park and we had a blast. I ate many (MANY) s'mores and I have determined that I am the champion marshmallow roaster.

So I'll be here and there this summer, but when I'm more there than here, here are a few pictures from the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Setting up camp. We camped on the South Rim for the bargain rate of $12 a night. This was a very sparse camp. We had a great spot--shady!--but it was vault toilets and only a small drinking fountain and spigot on the camping loops. Truly, pack it in, pack it out. It was fun. I was happy to get home and get shower though. I think 3 days without a shower in the summer is about my limit. There was also some excitement because there was a bear roaming the campground. On the final morning it was just a few sites down from ours. He's not malicious--just hungry for camper food. We had to keep a very clean camp!

The Taj Mahal of tents is up!

Checking out the view.

This was actually taken on the way out of the park, but I was trying to make it look like we were just getting there. And now I've outed myself.

Views from a hike on our first afternoon/evening.

Another canyon view.

This is us.

We came home via Gunnison and Crested Butte. CB is a very remote town. In the winter, there's only one way out because the mountain pass closes. I like remote. I want to live there. Inside the ski/mountain bike museum in Crested Butte. Cool history about the sport and town.

Anyone see the irony here? Anyone? Bueller?

Coming home via Kebler Pass outside of Crested Butte. Stunning views.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bake Yer Bacon

I love bacon.

Yes, I know. It doesn't fit with anything else I talk about in terms of good eating. I especially love the bacon in England/Ireland--back bacon. People say, oh, that's just like Canadian bacon. It isn't. The end.

So a few months ago, I had a Bacon Revolution. I don't think I've told you about it. And you may read this and say, oh yeah, I've done that for years. But for those of you in the dark, I'm here to show you the light about cooking bacon. Because while I love bacon, and I especially love the flavor when it's cooked in a cast iron pan (which is how I've done it for years), it's messy and I nearly always burn it because I'm running around trying to make pancakes or waffles, etc. to go with it.

Burned bacon doesn't make anyone happy.

And then Tara told me about baking your bacon.

It sounded weird.

And then I did it. I am now a convert. It's easy. I just did it tonight for BLTs.

Check it out:
Line a cookie sheet (one that has sides) with foil (curve the foil up at the side of the pan.

Put your bacon on the foil.

Put it in a cold oven.

Turn the oven on to 400 degrees. For those of you in England, I think that's about Gas Mark 6.

Cook for maybe 15 - 20 minutes. I can't remember the exact time. Keep an eye on it because when it's done, it will burn, just like on the stovetop! Take it out when it looks like it's done to your liking. We like ours a little crispy.

Drain on paper towels.

Eat it up. Try not to eat too much. That's hard, I know.

Crumple up the foil and put your cookie sheet away without washing it because it's still clean.

You can thank me later.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Unsuccessful Dream Killer

As I write this, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final is about to get underway. Aside from the fact that it totally bugs me that people try to put their own spin on The Star Spangled Banner and sing it in a different rhythm so it's hard to sing along, I'm pretty darn excited.

I love hockey.

Good thing considering that we leave early Friday morning for a hockey tournament.

But whatever.

My point here is that to this day, Declan thinks he's going to the NHL. And I'm very glad for that because of something that happened on his first day of Mini Mite hockey. First day.

Picture this. About 35 or 40 kids, 6 and 7 years old. Declan was 6. It was his very first official day of hockey. He'd done all of the learn-to-skate, learn-to-play hockey, intro to hockey, and hockey camps that he'd been eligible to do at this point. This is a kid who, at the age of 3, told us he wanted to learn to skate. And pretty quickly after that, skating became hockey and hockey became playing as goalie.

By the ripe old age of 6, he has already started watching hockey on TV. He has already started playing hockey in the basement (mostly making up his own rules so that his little friends don't actually want to play with him). He makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..."

It is beyond sweet.

So it's October 2006 and 6-year-old Declan is one the ice, stick in hand. The kids skate around and warm up. A coach skates to center ice and blows his whistle. All of the kids gather around. The coach gives a little speech. I assume it's some sort of motivational speech, welcome to hockey, yaddah yaddah yaddah. The coach is talking. I see all of the kids raise their hands. More talking. They start doing drills.

I was wrong when I thought the kids were getting a little "welcome to hockey" speech. And I found this out after the practice when I asked Declan what the coach said. There was no, hi, great to have you. Nope, it went something like this:

Coach: "Who here thinks they're going to the NHL?"

Of course, every hand goes up.

Coach: "Well, actually none of you are going to the NHL. There is no one here who is going to the NHL. And because none of you are going to the NHL, we're not here show off or let people be superstars. We're here to learn and have fun."

Now, his words are true, I'll grant him that. Statistically, it's unlikely that a little Mini Mite from a small rural Colorado mountain town will end up in the NHL. And I agree, overall, with his message. Kids need to learn the sport, have fun and not have all of the crazy competitiveness that comes, regardless, with kids' sports.

What I resent and despise is killing a child's dream by saying "You know those dreams you have? Well, they're never coming true." His speech would have been better served being directed at the parents: "Keep your shirt on, your kid isn't going to the NHL."

Anyway, right or wrong, from that second on, I despised that coach. And I still do. I try not to be a person who dwells on stuff for too long, but that has always bugged me.

And I probably should get over it because clearly Declan still has the dream. He still makes comments like, "When I play for the Blue Jackets..." Sometimes he'll say in a horrified voice, "What if I get drafted by the Red Wings?!?!?!" They're the Blue Jackets' archrival, in case you were wondering.

So tonight while I was cooking dinner, a player for one of the teams playing tonight (Vancouver Canucks--Finn's favorite team vs. the Boston Bruins) talked about how Game 7 is the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, the playing out of a fantasy since he was a child. He talked about how as a kid he played hockey in the basement, in the driveway, in the street, or on a pond with his friends and in their games, it was always Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. Never Game 3, never Game 6. Game 7 is IT. It is THE DREAM of anyone who has ever played hockey.

Which wouldn't be me, of course, I can't even really skate. But I have heard that Game 7 scenario in my basement more times than I can count--coming up through the air ducts, floating through the house, whether it's spring, summer, winter or fall. Regardless of whether we've been away at hockey, camping or the pool. It is their dream and they replay it over and over and over again.

So I admit I got a tiny tear in my eye when I heard the player talk about what playing in the biggest game of his life tonight meant to him. Maybe a coach told him he'd never be in the NHL one day, and yet, there he is on my TV screen right now, living out his greatest dream.

And so really, is it so wrong to let kids dream big dreams? Do we need to be the ones to say to them, "You know, that's not going to happen, right?" I grew up riding horses and for a long, long time, maybe into high school, I had a dream of going to the Olympics. Now clearly, there came a point in my life where I realized I wasn't going to the Olympics, but I figured that out on my own and it didn't diminish the love I had for riding or my commitment to it. My point is I didn't have some jackass telling me I would never achieve my goals and dreams at any point, let alone when I was 6.

So go chase your dreams--whatever they are--and don't let anyone ever tell you they won't come true. And then look for me in the stands in 2018 or maybe 2022 when I'm watching Declan in the gold medal ice hockey game at the Olympics. Because when he goes, I'm definitely going, too.

Learning from Red Wings goalie coach Jim Bedard.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mmmm, Good

I've pretty much kept recipes over on my other blog, but this one is the bomb and more people read this blog, and this is too yummy to not share.

Cooking Light's Salmon, Asparagus, and Orzo Salad with Lemon-Dill Vinaigrette

It was good. Good, I tell you.

A few notes: I didn't have fresh dill and used dried. Next time I'll up the lemon juice by at least a tablespoon. I like a lot of tang.

Finn was 50/50 on it, as he said. Declan ate it, but I noticed he didn't eat all of the asparagus. Eamonn liked it, but admitted he was so hungry after his bike ride up Vail Pass tonight that he would have eaten anything I put down in front of him.

I loved it and had trouble stopping at the 1 1/4 cup serving size. We ate it as a main dish and I served it with fresh strawberries.

Next year I'll make sure to make it in the prime asparagus season.

Incidentally, have I told you how much I love my Cooking Light cookbooks? I do. I really do.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Last Time

Today was Declan's last day of elementary school. And the last time the boys will be at the same school...until they're in high school.

I got up at a ridiculously early hour to get my workout and shower in before making chocolate chip pancakes and bacon.

I think I actually feel asleep standing up during the all-school slide show at 2pm.

I have spent nearly every day of the last 10 days at school. Plays. Music concerts. Class parties. Park trips. Pool trips.

Today, for example, started at 8:15am with class plays. At 10am there was a "continuation" ceremony and celebration. Then on to the park for a picnic. I delivered ice cream sandwiches. Back to school. Clapped the 5th graders into the gym. Then the epic slideshow.

It won't ever be like this again.

I think I might be a little relieved.

Check him out: Middle schooler

And maybe just a little bit sad.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Is Gaga the New Madonna?

Aside from the fact that music from my high school era is now playing on the oldies station in Denver, I'm feeling really old because I don't recognize any of the "modern" music on the radio. I have to constantly ask my kids, "Who's singing this?"

I've become more acutely aware of this in the last few months. When we are in Aspen for hockey--good grief, was that February or March--they usually play music during game stoppages. As a fan, I love that. Declan says it's distracting to him.

Whatever. He's only the goalie.

Anyway, I recognized the music playing, but I never knew who it was. Someone usually clued me that it was Rhianna, Lady Gaga, Usher, Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, Bruno Mars, Pink, etc. And then there are other times when I don't recognize a darn thing.

It's very humbling.

But the whole thing about my question about Lady Gaga goes back to her outfits/costumes. And what about the dress of meat? Ewww! If that doesn't turn you into a vegetarian, I don't know what will. So I was wondering if her crazy outfits are any different than the antics of artists in other generations. Elton John and all of his whacky glasses. Madonna and the cones on her boobs (there's a story about Eamonn and Skylar putting cones on their chests in a UDF in Powell. I won't go into the details here. A small amount of alcohol may have been involved.). Is it just something that happens in every generation's musical lifetime?

Because I do wonder--what the heck did my parents think of Madonna? I loved her! I was a Wannabe, trying to wear my hair knotted up in the bandanna, etc. Ohhh, I thought I was so cool. And what did parents think of nut jobs like the Thompson Twins, who were neither named Thompson, nor were they even related. In fact, there were three of them. Flock of Seagulls--what's up with the hair? There are just countless examples.

My mother's favorite group when she was young was the Kingston Trio. They probably weren't too objectionable to her parents from my point of view. It probably all started with Elvis and the Beatles. Neither of which my parents were into, which I found shocking. How could you not love the Beatles?

Anyway, I'm feeling old in the music department. I probably need to download some new music (because who buys CDs anymore?) since the last time I bought anything was...well, I can't remember when. Oh wait, I bought Eamonn some Tom Jones for his birthday. But I'm thinking that won't actually bring me into the modern age.