Thursday, August 15, 2013


We spent last weekend camping in Astoria with Jim's brother and his family. Our little family loves Astoria. I'm not really sure why, as I can't list a hundred things to do there, but it's a fun little getaway not too far away. 

We started out crashing at the BIL/SIL's house for a night and then all heading up to camp together. Jim got this crazy idea that he was going to get our youngest niece riding her bike without training wheels before her dad came home from work. He provided incentive using both the "show-your-dad-how-awesome-you-are" and "we'll give you a cupcake" tactics. The goal was to ride once around the loop of their street without stopping.

It worked. Tori got her cupcake, and then we learned that she's actually ridden her bike that far before. Ignore that the satellite dish is centered on the helmet. I promise she's not an alien.

When we made it to the campground in near Astoria, the first thing the kids discovered was a playground. They made this their second home and spent literally hours each day there playing. They would disappear after one meal only to reappear when it was time for another.

Ellie and the cousins really liked this little carousel, but it made Aeryn dizzy so she usually stayed away from it.

The boys struggled to set up the awning to which I just kept laughing. Of course, there were pieces missing so they had to improvise, but it was humorous.

The cousins all decided that roasted starbursts are awesome. I quite agree and was happy they were well received. We used the berry blast ones, and every flavor was downright amazing when hot and bubbly. The experiment below, however, did not yield as satisfactory of results. Cookie dough is just too soft for such a venture, but the kids kept having to try it anyway.

We headed back to the Astoria column to throw airplanes. I'm not sure why it's so much fun, but it really is. After climbing to the top (something like 164 stairs) and back down, I was amazed to realize that it was much harder this year (pregnant) than last year (not pregnant). Shocking, I know. I still sometimes think I should be completely unaffected by it.

From the top you can watch the airplanes catch air currents and see the patterns in where they land. After making our way back down, the kids started gathering all they could. Jim headed into the trees and returned with quite the handful. Several of the kids made the trek back up again to throw some more.

Ben & Kristi brought their dog, Baxter, and Aeryn really loved it. The kids all did, but I know inside she was beaming a little bit getting to hang out with a fuzzy one.

Our campsite was riddled with mole holes. Uncle Ben showed the kids how to dig up the dirt covering the hole and reach their arms inside. I'm sure there was a point to reaching in, but I can't remember what it was.

Perhaps the point was just to trap all the children and see how dirty they'd let themselves get.

After tearing down camp we headed to the beach to see one of our favorite things: the Peter Iredale shipwreck. The water was C-O-L-D even by Oregon Coast standards so our crazy littles wouldn't get themselves wet. This marks the first time we've headed to the water and no one had to change out of wet clothes. Weird.

Last year when we came the water was at high tide and we had to strategically run between waves to even touch the metal. This year, we were there at low tide and it was a completely different experience.

I've never stood in the belly of a ship before, decaying or not.

That was it. No Goonies house, National Park, or ice cream, yet it was a great weekend to end our summer all together. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chocolate Pasta v.1


Once in a while, an idea comes along that seems weird, but potentially awesome. When I found a link to this recipe on Pinterest, I could not help but feel intrigued. It is so unlike anything we've ever had and the lady who wrote the post based it off something she ate, and loved, in Tuscany. That sounded like a winner so following her suggestion we jumped on the bandwagon (ok, so it's not that popular) and tried it.

At first, I had an issue with her recipe. My typical pasta dough uses 2.5 cups of flour (measured after sifting), 1 tsp. salt, 4 eggs (with water added if needed to equal 7/8 cup), and about a tsp. of water. Her recipe used 2.5 cups of flour measured without sifting (which is probably a full cup extra sifted flour), 3/4 cup cocoa, and 3 eggs. It seemed like a very small amount of liquid for that amount of dry ingredients, and I couldn't get a dough to form until I added an additional egg and about 4 tbsp. water. That worked, and I ended up with a nice malleable pasta dough.

I balled it up, dusted it in flour, and set to work.

At first the dough was being pretty finicky but after working it through the roller a few times it started to behave. It turned out to be a beautiful dough and easy to work with. {Don't mind the blurry photo, it's a challenge to roll pasta with one hand and photograph it with the other.}

Both the kids came in and said it smelled like brownies, to which I had to offer the disappointing fact that no, there were no treats to be had.

The dough cut beautifully. There is enough humidity here that my fresh pasta dough usually has to be fairly dry in order to not stick together horribly once cut, so I routinely dust it with flour, but this one did not stick at all and was seriously the most beautiful dough I've ever made.

Following the suggestion of the recipe author, we served it with a mild alfredo type sauce (without garlic or shallots) and extra cheese.

It was perhaps the most grotesque thing we have ever eaten. Ellie, who is predisposed to like anything that is edible, initially hollered "let's put it in the book!" meaning save it for our family cookbook that we compile of our most loved recipes. After a few more bites she was over that idea completely and voted with the rest of us to never, ever make this again.

In the thumbs up/thumbs down assessment you can see how well it fared. It was fun to try something new, but I've got to say I think I'm going to end up eating a PB&J later tonight. Since we can't even remember the last time we had a dinner failure I'd say it was a worthy adventure; just not one worthy of repetition. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

And then we hit the forest...

I don't know what it is about the Redwoods. There is just a feeling of being so completely separated from reality that makes it feel like a true vacation. There isn't any cell service (at least not in the Northern parts we visit) and I think that's one of the things I really love. It makes it so much easier to focus on just having a good time together. Granted, it means I put a lot less pictures on instagram, but that isn't really a critical thing.

When I was pregnant with Aeryn, I avoided photographs like the plague. Since I now regret that, I'm making an effort to embrace being in them with my family. I will never be an airbrushed size 2 pregnant person, but I think the changes in my body are really miraculous and love that it is growing another human being. This time around I'm trying very hard to have a healthier attitude about documenting things.

I love that the Redwoods State/National Parks include coastline. Ellie is a crazy fool for water, and Aeryn is a crazy fool for sand. As such they are both completely thrilled with a chance to hit the coast. This time we ended up with only one child who was soaked higher than their waist. Any guesses which one?

Ellie built this sand castle volcano thing (I don't really know what she meant it to be) despite the fact that the water kept flirting with tearing it down. I think she really believed it would be spared. It was, for a couple minutes at least.

The Junior Ranger program at the Redwoods includes a section where they are supposed to look for certain things on the shore. Since our first stop at the coast was during high tide, we headed back in the morning to see what we could see. There were dozens of crabs smashed to bits among the rocks. Aeryn picked up this little claw and ran straight at me "I have a claw!!! I have a claw!!!"

Jim worked pretty hard to get Ellie to touch one. She tends to get nervous about new experiences like this, but I think when Aeryn started to grab the big crab that Ellie found most appealing it helped her to push past the discomfort and jump right in. Aeryn gave it to her and grabbed another and they were all happy as can be.

Crab kisses!!!

Crab dinner? Anyone? Anyone?

Aeryn took this pic of Jim and I, and I think it turned out pretty good. We were getting a little hungry...

Last year Jim & Ellie sat in this tree for a picture, so we had to do it again for a size comparison. I suppose that means that I ought to pull up the old pic at some point so we can actually see the difference.

We all (Me, Jim, & Ellie) crawled into this tree last year too. It was fun being in the Redwoods all together. Our previous two trips have had only one of the kids. They are much sillier together.

Showing our true colors. I love the reactions we get from other tourists when we take pictures like this.

This tree is the largest in Stout Grove. We met a family who was measuring trees by how many "Chelseas" around it was. This seemed like a grand idea. This tree is 16.5 Ellies and 12.5 Aeryns around. I think we're going to start doing this more often. The kids thought it was awesome. Since we tend to come here every summer, it will be a cool way to watch them grow too.

This summer is a lot less active than last, in terms of always running around camping here and there. We only have one more upcoming trip and you know, I'm enjoying this slower pace to summer. It's fun to go and see things, but it's also fun to have low key time at home all together.