Friday, November 25, 2016

An Ina Garten Thanksgiving

Since we spent this Thanksgiving just the four of us, I was not going to let the day pass without an attempt at making a (mostly) traditional spread. I've actually looked forward to hosting Thanksgiving for years-my house has just always been too small. So, this will be the dress rehearsal of hopefully future years in a home that has a table built for more than two!

Naturally, when menu planning, I decided to follow the guidance of entertaining extraordinaire and my personal food hero, Ina Garten. She hasn't failed me with any recipes yet, and even though I'm "entertaining" someone who already enjoys my cooking and a picky three-year-old, I still want to experience the foods of the holiday in celebration of the day. I'm keeping it simple and will miss some favorite sides but I only packed so many dishes, pots, and pans, and well, we always have Christmas to add in any missing favorites (like this-mushroom leek bread pudding-make and thank me later.)

Thanksgiving 2016 Menu:

I can't believe how simple this was and SO flavorful too. Leave it to Ina for simplicity and ultimate flavor.

In my opinion, haricot verts are always fancier than your average green beans, and when they are tossed with the gremolata, tasty! (I did forget pine nuts though, so they could have been even better.)

Full disclosure-I couldn't source the truffle butter in time, otherwise these would have been authentic Truffled Mashed Potatoes.

Cranberry Sauce and Stuffing*
Not pictured above. Trader Joe's fresh cranberry sauce and stuffing-because I'm the only one who likes them and,  #convenient.

Black Beans*
Not pictured above. Because the male Haseltons requested them...I find this so strange for a Thanksgiving spread... But, in the words of Henry: "Mom, I don't like green beans, I like BLACK beans!" Ok, kid.

As evident in the picture, there was some level of failure in the production of this pie. The crust was made a little big for the pan, and the filling made more than the pie could handle so the cup overrunneth when transporting to the oven. However, was my first pumpkin pie and taste was not compromised!

A good looking and tasting plate if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016


Custom art created by my super talented friend Virginia :)
Baby GIRL (I still can't believe it!) Josephine arrived earlier than expected this month and is a total delight. I was truly convinced we were having a boy, and minutes before we went into the OR, the doctor went over last minute instructions about getting "him" out safely and how "he" should be fine, etc. So, as I said to Scott, cat was out of the bag. He asked me if I wanted confirmation and I said I didn't need when it just got it. He asked again and I said, ok, and it was then that he told me we were having a girl. I still couldn't believe it-she had said boy several times (and prior to this day as well) so I didn't believe him.  I thought perhaps at the time of the sonogram it did appear to be a girl but they can be wrong, so I figured things had changed. It was not until they were actually taking her out that I heard the doctor say "Dad, why don't you tell her what it is" and he smiled and said it was a girl. I cried (though, full disclosure, I would have cried if it were a boy too-this was my child!) and couldn't believe it. I still can't, and often wake up thinking "I have a daughter!"

Henry adores her and loves hugging and helping her (which I'm going to file away in my pictures and mental archives knowing full well it won't last forever!) and was particularly fascinated by her umbilical cord. 

With her full term due date being Thanksgiving, I think we are all feeling very thankful for her safe (yet surprising and a bit crazy) arrival, and that Scott's mom was able to come out so quickly to help care for Henry, that his dad later joined us, and that my parents will be here next week to meet their first granddaughter. 

While we'll be celebrating Thanksgiving on our own as a family of four this year, we will certainly be missing our families and wish you all a happy and healthy holiday. We certainly have much to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

This is Halloween

Halloween is easily my favorite holiday-it encompasses all of the qualities that to me, make a great holiday--dressing up in costumes, decorations, pumpkin-flavored foods, generally colder weather, dressing up kids in costumes, and no gifts.

At three years old, this was the first year that Henry declared his costume desires when I started asking in the spring (when I generally start scheming for myself). He very clearly said he wanted to be a hammer, me to be a screwdriver, and Scott to be a toolbox or a saxophone. For the past six months he has very much remained dedicated to this hammer costume so I knew I had to bring it to life.

Moving across country provided ample boxes to choose from, since my internet searching revealed about four adult hammer-tool costumes yet plenty of MC Hammer options. I'm a maker anyway, so I knew I was going to construct it somehow, and figured cardboard was probably going to be the best material. Of the four inspirational images, I found, this one was the one that seemed the most appropriate and able to be replicated.

This was probably the cheapest costume I will ever construct too, because all it included were three moving boxes, duct tape, silver spray paint, a few staples, and two sheets of poster board.
Though I felt bad I didn't deliver on my own screwdriver, he was
agreeable to my modified themed costume. 

The hammer "head" was clearly the piece de resistance, and I'm certain the Smithsonian is going to be calling wanting it for their American History of Halloween showcase exhibit that is still seeking funding sources. The "handle" was a bit more of a challenge in that I thought poster board would provide the best sturdy construction, but it did prove to be hard for him to go up and down stairs due to the restrictive nature. In hindsight, felt or a fabric might have been a better know, for my next tool costume.

Our trial run with the costume-Hilloween on Friday.
Costume improvements were made for the big day.

Obviously, it's extremely gratifying to hear strangers compliment your costume and share how it's their favorite and how you don't see costumes like that anymore, but I was really just a defining mom moment to bring his vision to life. He owned it and watching him walk down the street and hear him make his "trick or treat" requests just makes Halloween even more of an epic holiday to experience it through his eyes. And, I think he may have equally enjoyed handing out candy as much as receiving it. Once we were home, he'd meet adults at the sidewalk and give them candy to which they were always delighted to receive from this very gracious little boy.

Halloween in DC was pretty epic itself-which was a huge relief to me, wanting to provide Henry the experience that he knows. It reminded me of certain neighborhoods in Fullerton where kids are bussed in and the streets are flooded with parents and costumed children. The neighbors are gathered outside in many cases, enjoying the social aspect of the holiday, and the decorations are over the top.  Besides our own street we went to a few blocks over to a small one-way street where the neighborhood really collaborates and hangs lights across the street as well as includes very theatrical decorations. Makes for really efficient trick-or-treating!

Hope everyone had a great Halloween themselves! Only 364 days until next year!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Resident Tourists: The Kennedy Center

While I was certainly familiar with The Kennedy Center and its fame as a world-class performing arts venue, my dear friend Ashley, who lives in Washington state, sent me some great information about free nightly programs on their Millenium Stage, as part of a "arts for everyone" initiative, that she read about in her Rachael Ray magazine. So thanks Ashley and Rachael for sharing!

I found a performance that looked like something Henry might enjoy on a night we were free, and so a date night was put in the books.

Henry and I hopped on the metro and then walked about a half mile through the Foggy Bottom/George Washington University neighborhood (my date had some whiny moments as we were sans stroller) to the Center, which is quite grand-and that was after I started walking up to the Saudi Arabian Embassy, its next door neighbor, on accident. Whoops!

Since we had the show to catch, I wasn't able to take in much of the Center's features and know they offer daily tours, that I'd really like to come back and enjoy.

The performance featured an Italian troupe from New York City as part of the "Kids Euro Festival" that performed Italian fables and stories in both Italian and English, which was fun to hear.

At the risk of sounding like a total snob, the show was so-so, but did a great job being a guinea pig for our first trip and to check out the venue itself, transportation, and to gauge Henry's interest. The free nightly programs range from music to dance to theater, so no doubt we will be back for something else as much as a headlining performance in their main theater. My fingers are crossed that this Christmas, they or another theater will feature the Nutcracker, as Henry loves Tchaikovsky and the Nutcracker's music specifically, so allowing him to see a children's version of the ballet would be a total holiday highlight. 

Following the performance I discovered there was a free shuttle to and from the metro so my date didn't have to walk back to the subway-he seemed pretty grateful for my ability to read, and discovering such conveniences!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Pumpkin Patching

There is no denying that fall on the east coast is beautiful. We drove from DC to Whitehall Farm in Fairfax, Virginia, and it could not have been more picturesque with the leaves changing and the 60-degree temperatures. Having endured so many hot falls at home, it's been a welcome to change to wear a sweater and need to keep it on past 10 a.m.!

The farm delivered everything we (namely Henry) could have wanted out of a pumpkin patch trip--farm animals that needed feeding, pumpkins to pick, a pumpkin sling shot, bounce houses, hay ride, tractors to watch, corn hole, and a corn maze. It was a great day :)

I will admit, the patch wasn't as bountiful as I would have imagined!

Slinging pumpkins at nearly nine months pregnant!


Henry feeding the farm's mascot, Henry the Cow.

This boy loves anything "cute and tiny"...pumpkins included!

One of our pumpkins has fallen victim to a bushy-tailed rodent, so this carefully selected squash will be living indoors until next weekend when it's carved and put outside!

Monday, October 24, 2016

Resident Tourists: Smithsonian National Post Office Museum

I'm somewhat embarrassed to admit I had no idea there was such a Smithsonian in existence, though I suppose I shouldn't be surprised seeing that it is a government department with a detailed history worth preserving and sharing.

This was the first time Henry and I took the bus, which was a learning experience. The necessary bus stop is relatively close to our home, and the ride was short though pretty crowded. I did realize buses do not run at the frequency of the subway, which was more pronounced on our way home when we waited about 20 minutes (with looming rain storm) and then the bus was a further 15 minutes late. Bigger lesson learned was that you have to request stops--here I thought these people were making special requests to hop off...nope. We only went one stop past ours thanks to someone else needing to get off, but lesson learned. And we made it home before the clouds broke and skies poured!

Having a three-year-old who is a big fan of the mail system (so much that he dressed up as a mail carrier last Halloween), I knew an early visit was in order.

Mailboxes from around the world.
They have an interactive exhibit that allows you to design your own postage stamp and email it to yourself, though it comes through as a Cinderella stamp--"because they are beautiful, but unable to be used as a valid stamp." 
Henry's creation :)

The stamp exhibit would be a stamp collector's dream-it's the largest in the world.
As expected, the museum houses a history of transporting the mail--from the Pony Express, to stagecoaches, to rail, trucks, and air.

Several cool artifacts are kept here, including Amelia Earhart's flight suit, the Unabomber's handcuffs, and a mailbox that was across the street from the World Trade Center on September 11.

Henry's favorite exhibit was the giant semi-truck, which was part of illustrating the transportation of mail.
After a few hours of walking around, lunch was in order. Union Station, a large transportation hub with many dining options, houses the Shake Shack, which locals deem the closest burger to In 'n Out. Admittedly I was suspicious of such claims, but I enjoyed the burger and while I wouldn't say it was better than In 'n Out, it was quite tasty and Henry gobbled up his grilled cheese. And, they offer a frozen custard dessert as well as beer and wine on their menu so frankly, that wins some points against In 'n Out! I am sure we will be back when the burger cravings hit hard.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Resident Tourists: The West Wing

While we missed the watching the final debate and most of the abysmal Dodger game last Wednesday night, we had a good excuse--we enjoyed a personal tour of the West Wing, courtesy of Scott's boss.

Frankly, I think it was time better spent rather than being frustrated by the potential POTUS's banter, and instead being in the professional wing of the current President's quarters! 

I was a bit bummed to learn there are no photos allowed inside the West Wing or the Rose Garden, so any included here are in the permitted areas only-primarily the press briefing room and outside the offices. 

This tour can easily be filed under "Is This Real Life?" in my filing cabinet of life. Walking among the halls where the highest level of movers and shakers in our government make decisions in times of war and peace is quite sobering. Seeing the Oval Office, Cabinet Room, Roosevelt Room, and the door (yes, only the door, not the inside) of the Situation Room was mind boggling too. Also interesting of note is a Club 33-esque members-only private dining room, The Navy Mess, that looks to be FANCY and I'm scheming as to how I can get an invite. This girl needs a lovely ladies lunch every once in a while!

Outside the entrance to the West Wing (!!!)

While we can't dine in the Navy Mess, we were able to help ourselves to some presidential styrofoam cups and water. Pretty sure these will remain on prominent bookshelf status moving forward.

Professionally speaking, this was probably the coolest spot to me that we checked out.
I'd like to think Henry warmed up this stage for Bill Murray who would crash a press briefing the next day with his World Series thoughts. Obviously, he was right!

Like the West Wing itself, this room was quite small, and I imagine it times of tension, could feel like a shoebox when anyone at that podium is being grilled by the press.

Ribbon Cutting scissors for the opening of the press room...I would have guessed they would have been grander!

The following photos are from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which is next to the West Wing, and houses the offices for White House staff. The West Wing is actually pretty small hence the majority of the offices being housed in this building.

Hot mic!

You give him the head seat at a beautiful table along with official White House cup of water and he thinks he's the boss.