extra-long day trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

On Friday, Gavin suggested we go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for the weekend, after some discussion, we agreed that a spur-of-the-moment overnight trip might be a bit ambitious, and the crockpot wouldn’t be done until after 3pm, which would put us smack in the middle of Friday afternoon traffic.

Instead we decided to make a day of it, leaving at 7 am, which would’ve put us there by around 10, except we hit traffic (it took nearly an hour to get past the 1-lane section of 101) in Petaluma, we we arrived just after 11 (we also made a stop at Grandma D’s to have a snack and use the bathroom).

Popular exhibits on this trip included the Open Ocean, “scary” moray eels, and red octopus — I wish I’d gotten a photo of it! It was amazing!!
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The cephalopod exhibit was very popular with the boys, although the loop of the giant octopus taking out the Golden Gate Bridge terrified Patrick. Squid racing was quite popular as well.

IMG_2039It was an averagely busy Saturday, so after a few hours (and after lunch), we took an hour-long break, and walked along the path for some fresh air, and some space. We headed back to Grandma D’s around 4:30ish, for dinner and the children’s bath time before we headed back home.

It made for a very long day, by the end of it, Patrick was fall-over-exhausted. I was very glad to have a membership pass, as we didn’t see a large portion of the exhibits except to rush past them in hot pursuit of a small child.

Asian Pear Butter (2014 edition)

This year I decided to give Asian pear butter another try. I didn’t use an exact recipe, and I used my crockpot.

  • Fill crockpot to the top with cored and sliced Asian pears (I used my corer-slicer), add 2 cinnamon sticks for flavor
  • Cook covered on low setting for 24 hours/overnight/until the pears are a soft, watery mushy mess
  • Run pears through food mill (I got around 12 cups of liquid)
  • Put liquid back in crockpot, add a cup (or so) of sugar, and any other spices you feel inspired to use. Reduce on low partially covered until you like the consistency, I think mine was 18-24 hours?
  • Refrigerate or can according to a reliable resources directions (I followed the directions in Ball’s Blue Book).

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This year’s attempts ended up with a rich caramel color and while it still has a slightly grain consistency, reducing it longer really helped with that. Working with the theory that apple butter and pear butter can be used interchangeably, I’ve come up with several ideas from around the internet. With most of these I’m probably going to take the idea and modify it slightly, I already have a favorite pizza dough recipe, and a tried-and-true cinnamon roll-dough recipe.

  • Thumbprint cookies (using pear butter instead of jam), I’ll find something in one of my cookbooks and swap out jam for pear butter.
  • Asian Pulled Chicken Slidersleaving out the spicy jalapenos, were Monday night’s dinner. These scored an “okay to make again” from Gavin, the boys gave a thumbs-up to the rolls (King’s Hawaiian Butter Rolls) and a nasty face at the idea of chicken in a form other than breaded tenders. Everyone enjoyed the side of lightly simmered green beans.

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Handrails

Because it was Labor Day something around the house had to be fixed, last year it was the downstairs bathroom sink, this year it was the handrails on the stairs — as Oliver pointed out one day, “mommy, dem bo-ken!”

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So we got Gavin, and put him to work, it is labor day weekend after all.

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We took down the old railing — and by “we” I mean Gavin, the boys over saw. Then we patched up the walls, cleaned the walls, primed and painted.

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After a false start, and ambitious trips to Lowes and Mead Clark, we’ve decided to replace the handrails as stripping the paint would damage them further. After some sanding, priming and painting (spread out over a week … or two? to let all the paint dry properly), they were finally ready to be installed.

The boys “helped” with the instillation.

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The new brackets were the sturdiest looking ones they had, they’re screwed solidly into the studs and we hope to not need to deal with them again for a number of years. IMG_1945

 

Asian Pears 2014 – update

Back in August I posted about the 2014 Asian Pear haul, and promised to update once I’d done something with them. I’ve tossed easily 20-30 lbs of them so far this week — they’ve splatted onto the ground, rotten and moldy, and with the help of Sasha’s extension picker we’ve hauled in several tubs of pears and there are more on the tree. I took about 10 lbs to school this morning much to Ms. Donna’s delight.

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First up, I got a slicer-corer to make anything I attempted easier. I picked one up at the local grocery store and it is the best just-under-$5 I’ve spent in a long time.

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Then, (with the help of Sasha who’d already made a batch or two), I made Pickled Asian Pears with Lemon. We made 14 pints, after a mix up about pints vs. quarts. I think we quadrupled the recipe? So now I’m looking for ways to use pickled Asian pears — I’m sure there will be posts on that to follow.

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After that, I made Ricotta Stuffed Asian Pears with Cinnamon, they “looked interesting” and the children flat-out refused to eat them. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but my expectations were not met. The ricotta/honey tastes good, but it doesn’t work for me with the pear.

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Finally, I tried Dried 5-Spice Asian Pears. I dehydrated them in the oven. I didn’t bother with the 5-spice (didn’t have any on hand), and other than miserably heating up the house all day long, and forgetting to core them first, they turned out pretty well.

I’m also trying crock-pot pear butter again — I tried the batch Sasha made and it was less revolting than my attempts, so I decided to try it again. This time I’m finding recipes that use pear butter so it does not languish in my pantry. Toss a bunch of pears in the crock-pot, add some cinnamon sticks, cook on low for 20+ hours, food mill, put back in the crock pot, add some sugar, cook some more, hope like mad the apple butter recipes that I pinned work well with pear butter as well — fruit butter is fruit butter, right?


I know, I know:

What about the Asian Pear Sorbet and Lemon Sorbet with Asian Pears? Those aren’t going to be made any time soon, freezer space simply won’t allow for the ice-cream bowl right now, and I’ve had really hit-and-miss luck with internet sorbets.– the last one turned into a frozen block of fruit juice.

I also stand by my previous assessment of Greens with warm breaded goat cheese and fig balsamic — candying, etc. gets to be too much work for a salad — eventually the asian pears might make into a salad, we’ll see.

 

fortress of sunflowers: and now there are 3

I meant to take a few more photos of these as they grew — they have surpassed the children in height — but that didn’t happen. The six pack of starts has now dwindled to three — one never got started, and two got knocked over during vigorous play. The bush has been removed it bloomed and then looked “yicky” (Patrick’s choice of words).

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Hopefully, the remaining three will last long enough to reach the promised 12 feet tall.