Monday, July 30, 2012

The Family Death-Trap

I realized the other day that even though my kids spend a lot of time on our trampoline (especially once daddy gets home) I have never taken photos because it's usually when I'm making dinner or doing dishes that they have the most fun out there.  I made a special effort to take some before I started dishes.  It's tricky to get good shots with the net around it... You either have to stick your head in the entrance and all your shots are a bit too close, or deal with a slightly unclear pic because the netting is in the way.

Our trampoline is really more like a bouncy padded room to my kids.  They love to do the log roll:
 Have daddy help them jump high, or just get bounced by daddy (when they're sitting down)
 It's prime for somersaulting practice
 I love that you can tell Jay is having just as much fun as they are :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012


So, this should have been posted back in February when we made this with Iris for the first time, but right after this is about when I started feeling the first trimester blahs and didn't do much "extra" for awhile.

I've keep getting pestered by my best friend Lindsay, who got to try said dish, because she would like to try and recreate it at home.  Without further ado...

The hardest part about making okonomiyaki here is finding the nagaimo root (also called yamaimo in some places) to make them with.  Luckily, they also sell the yamaimo flour, and after making it the first time, we used that afterwards, for easiness sake.  (Although, I'm considering trying it out with regular flour sometime, just to see how it turns out.)

So nagaimo (I should have taken a picture... I always forget to take pictures until we're in the middle of it and I realize, I may want to remember what we did...) is this interesting root that when you grate it, it not only turns all slimy and goopy, but it also makes your hands itch like crazy.  Probably you should wear rubber or latex gloves when doing this to save yourself some grief.  (or just put your hands in plastic baggies).  Here's Iris showing how slimy/goopy it is after grating:  (ps peel the skin off before you grate it)
 The main ingredient in Okonomiyaki is cabbage, which is great because it's so cheap and whenever I need it for a recipe, I always end up with tons left over, so this is a great way to use up leftover cabbage!
 As always, green onion...
 Mix flour and eggs (with chopsticks, if you want to be authentic...)
 Then dump in the grated nagaimo, green onion and add cabbage until it's the "right" consistency- it's pretty thick with vegetables, but everything is wet and still all sticks together.
 This is just thinly sliced pork chop, but you could really use any thinly sliced meat.  In Japan, they use mostly seafood- shrimp, squid, fish...  but other meats are also used.
 Ladle the batter into a nonstick skillet heated to medium.  I believe we sprayed with non-stick spray at first and decided we didn't need to after that, but it probably depends on your pan.
 Then lay the strips of meat on top and
 Cover the pan so it can kind of steam for about 5 minutes.
 You'll know it's time to flip because the meat will have lightened in color.
 The other side should be a nice golden brown.  Finish cooking for about 4 more minutes, or until the other side looks cooked.
 Japanese people all have different preferences for what they put on top of their okonomiyaki, but Iris likes Okonomiyaki sauce (a given) and Japanese mayo.  (It's similar enough to our mayo, that you could use American, but we, of course, wanted to go completely authentic :D)
 The Okonomiyaki Sauce wrapper actually has a recipe for Okonomiyaki on it too, btw.
 I have no idea what these are called, but they're little fish flakes.  To me, they smell like fish food, but when with Romans...  We also sprinkled some blended, dried, Nori (seaweed) flakes.  Voila!  Delish!  These are sooo filling.  We decided after this that we would make them a bit smaller in the future.
 We decided to try to Mochi for dessert.  I had heard of them, but had no clue what they were.
 They're kind of like ice cream balls with some kind of weird coating on the outside.  It's a little be gelatinous, but drier than gelatin, more cakey.  It's kind of cakey, yet jiggley.  That's the best way I can describe it.  The ice cream inside was good, but I didn't love the outer coating.
PS we based our first attempt on this recipe- it gives a LOT more detailed descriptions about what everything is.  However, we didn't use all the same things they used.  Basically, once you have the batter of eggs, flour, nagaimo and cabbage, you can add to it whatever you want.  I believe we used water instead of dashi stock as well.  We didn't add the tenkasu or beni shouga either.

Update: 8/3/12 I made Okonomiyaki for the first time without Iris and decided to try using some leftover bacon for the meat on top.  It was yummy! (and already sliced thin :D).  Also, I have a large, rectangular electric skillet and I did them in there so I could make 4 at a time.  Worked well.  I think I put it at about 350 degrees.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Mass Trip- The McCarthy Homefront

The rest of the time, not spend at the lake, I didn't get many pictures because it was SO SO nice that I could just let the kids run wild and play with all the "new" toys around the house.  I feel like I rarely saw The Frog while at home, because he was off occupied by some new thing he discovered.  (and Peach is always happy to follow him around, or pet the dog or cat)  

I took naps most days, ate delicious food that I didn't have to plan and only mildly helped prepare, and had no todo list. Oh yes, and I got some sewing in too.  For me, that's the ultimate vacation :)

Something I did think to capture, though, was The Frog in the power wheels.  This is the first summer he's been big enough to push the pedals and understood how to steer.  He had SO much fun in these.
It looks like Peach is going to get in...
 The Frog wanted so badly for Peach to sit next to him while he drove her around (and I did too.  cuteness.) but for some reason, she was hesitant and never did.
 They have several, so he would often change cars and leave them all over the place.   He did get stuck a few times too...
This green "dumper" was for sure his favorite
One day, we went to Parlee Farms in Tyngsborough to pick blueberries and feed the goats- it's fun and close and cheap :)
 Unfortunately, it was sweltering and the kids didn't make it very long...
 Our goal was to get enough for a pie, but after The Frog picked this many, he was ready for some shade:
 Pam stuck it out and picked enough for us, while I took the kids to feed the animals in the shade.

 The Frog, as usual, was up for it, but I think Peach was still a bit traumatized by the aggressive baby goats we fed in Kansas City, and didn't want to touch them.
The McCarthy's have a very comfy movie-watching arrangement.  I wish in this next picture I had showed the angle where you can see the 2, completely unoccupied sofas nearby...
everyone wants to be with gampie
We also went to Davis Farmland, which is another one of those places you feel like you should go back when your kids no longer nap, because it is so big and there's so much to see.  You could go in next to all the animals they had and pet and feed them- goats, llamas, rabbits, sheep... probably others i'm forgetting.
petting the bunnies
 And they had all kinds of other stations, all outdoors- a grocery store, a "sounds maze", a little house, water play, "fishing" with magnetic fishing poles in real water, a bounce house, playground, face painting (the kids would paint their own), pony riding, probably others I'm forgetting.
The Frog painting his own face

The Frog playing in the water troughs

Peach, looking to get out a fishing pole

The Frog in the bounce house all to himself

The Frog filling his cart at the farmer's market

Auntie K on a pony
 Well, it wasn't too long before we were all dying of heat.  Luckily, they also had an awesome splash pad and even though Pam and I were not dressed for it, it was looking like a fabulous idea...
Peach and Nanie cooling off

I'm amazed the water looks like this in the pic!  Pretty cool
Next to the splash pad they had this super cool, giant blow-up area full of bubbles the kids could take turns playing in.  What a fun idea!  The kids are too rough for Peach but The Frog loved it!

They also had a big bouncy slip'n slide kind of thing that The Frog went on several times, but my battery died and I couldn't get any shots of it.  (or anything else the rest of the trip :( )

All in all, we had so much fun and are so grateful to how obliging and how out-of-the way the McCarthy's go to make us feel comfortable and welcome when we visit.  They let us drive their cars and even bought a crib, so we'd have a way to contain Peach (now that she can climb out of a pack'n play) and get her to sleep.  We really only take one family vacation each year, but it's always very worth it to spend it visiting the McCarthy fam :)

Mass trip- Lakehouse with the McCarthy's

We got back to the McCarthy's and had a day to do some laundry, and re-pack to head out to the lake house the next day.  While loading the car, Peach discovered this little jewel in the garage.  Wouldn't she be adorable riding around on her own moped?
After arriving at the lake, we lost no time in slipping into swimsuits and searching out wildlife :)
The Frog holding a frog
Jay's older sister, K, brought up fixin's for "camping cones" which are waffle cones loaded with marshmallows, chocolate chips, strawberries, caramels and/or any other goodies you can think of, wrapped in foil and roasted in the fire.  Kind of clever, and a bit more little-kid friendly because they don't get to play in the fire. (Which I appreciate)
cooked camping cones

oogling the finished product and humoring me with my camera

Most of Jay's relatives were there that Saturday.  It was nice of them all to drive out so we could say hi and we treated it like our own 4th of July celebration.  (it's tricky having it mid-week if you want to go somewhere to celebrate...)
Peach playing with Jay's cousin M
Peach got right in there with the salamanders.  She had no qualms picking them up and showing them around.
Of course, there's always the cartwheel contests off the raft.

I can't believe what a great swimmer The Frog is turning out to be. He must have a great tutor (Jay).
my boys as fish
Peach L.O.V.E.S. dogs and cats and so she could often be found chasing Mickey around.  If ever found crying over something, one way that always worked as a pick-her-up was to suggest to go see Mickey.
Jay's mom, of course had to show off her specialty- pie.  This particular one is one of my favorites- strawberry rhubarb.  Doesn't that crust look professional?  Nobody does crust like her.

lookin cute in her suit
When everyone is in the water, Peach wants to get in there with the rest of them.
I was amazed she would just jump off like that.  But then again, she really likes jumping off anything lately.  (it's the cutest when she'll stand on something really flat, like her blankie and jump off that and proudly proclaiming, "see that, mommy? see that?!")
After getting in, I think she was a bit unsure about the initial shock of the water temperature...
I love this pic of The Frog jumping in
I tried to get a picture with everyone on the raft, but people kept jumping in.  (give you 1 guess who the first to jump in was while trying to take a picture...)
Not sure if she was warned, but Jay decided to expose Peach to the wonders of jumping off the raft.
Peach's hair makes them look like they're falling super fast

her little head, pre-submersion
I think she's not a fan:
I realized Jay and I hardly ever get pictures with each other, so I had his little sister, K, take a few.