Sunday, April 23, 2017

Striking Culinary and Choir Gold

Alison's Herron High School Choir group won gold at a competition this weekend, and the medal was a fitting description for our culinary adventures as well.

It all started with a mid-week date night at the Indy Monthly Best Restaurants event where the magazine's top picks offered up great samples of their work. It was followed up with a dinner that paired the courses with great drinks.

We got really lucky with our table mates and met a couple of the guys who own a few of some of our favorite Broad Ripple restaurants. Which led us to celebrate Alison's choir gold status on Saturday at The Vanguard.
Barring our vacation extravaganzas and that week when we eat out at new places when Ali is at summer camp, it was probably the best Wednesday dinner we've ever had. The venue was pretty awesome, too: a former fancy restaurant-turned-Ivy-Tech-culinary-school with a penthouse view of downtown.

We had Ali's friend Corie with us at The Vanguard -- we'd snagged her from the choir competition. The girls were in a food coma before the dessert arrived.

After, we were all in a bit of a state. We should have walked home rather than driven and next time we probably will. Especially when we have Ali along and we're in Broad Ripple for a meal, we end up at Brics for ice cream. Not this time.

The only thing that saved us from dying of culinary excellence was that the four of us shared two desserts.If we'd each had our own, we'd probably have exploded. It would have been an OK death, though.

It was even better than we'd been led to believe, plus we ran into Kip and Robin Tew so it was a bonus.  If you're coming into town to see us anytime soon, you can trust that you'll get to know the place. I had Sunday brunch at another site recommended by the restaurateurs -- Ruth's Cafe -- with one of my favorite people in the world: Vicki Burdick.

The table could barely contain the pancake I substituted for toast, but we managed. And again, the recommendation was spot-on. I can't believe we've never been there before.

In other weekend activity, we celebrated science with Ali demonstrating how to crush a soda can with atmospheric pressure.  "Hey Mom, can I do a science experiment," she asked while I was distracted out in the yard.

"What are you going to do?"

"Crush a can. With fire."


"WHAT is she going to do?" Jeff asked.

"Crush a can," I said.

"Not unsupervised!" he said.  I went inside.

"I'm supervising," I said.

She glanced over.  "OK."

It was pretty cool. She replicated an experiment her Chemistry teacher did last week. Jeff was impressed and suggested she could do a larger can next time -- one of his big craft beer can.

Flush with confidence, she said she was pretty sure she could crush the microwave or refrigerator. I'm going to send a note to her teacher and ask that he offer up a different kind of experimental inspiration this week. Maybe a chemical reaction that results in yummy food.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Pot brownies and a giant chicken

This may be the first year Alison got a chocolate bunny in her Easter basket. For the longest time, she didn't like chocolate so I never got her a bunny when she was little. She made do with Laffy Taffy and gum.

When she finally embraced chocolate, I tended to get her dark chocolate bars and fancy bites. But this year, I found a bunny shaped container of her favorite Ferrero Rocher truffles along with some super cute baking supplies. In addition to liners, I found tiny baking tins that look like little terra cotta plant pots. I thought she'd make pretty cupcakes decorated like potted flowers.

"Oooh. I can make pot brownies and take them to school," she said, a wicked gleam in her eyes.

I worry about that girl.

She doesn't remember an Easter when we didn't go home, and this year was no exception. In past years, we've had pretty complicated egg hunts. One year, we had an egg shoot. This year, we hadn't planned a hunt, but Jaime's foreign exchange daughter, Andrea, hasn't ever participated in an egg hunt so Jaime and I hid 100 of them around Donna's house.

It took them the better part of an hour to find them all and to sort out who had found those with Lottery ticket prizes. I made them take a photo at the end showing off their loot as if it were a squirrel hunt.  No one questioned what that meant.

On the way down and back home, we passed by what may be my favorite piece of yard art, ever. I'm trying to talk Jason into getting one. I mean, who doesn't need a giant chicken? It's got to be six-feet-tall.

Like Jason, Jeff doesn't see the charm but I'm going to work on him. Or I'm going to get Alison to make him some of those pot brownies.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Don't say it's over

Suffice it to say that when you spend a few days in paradise, the return to reality does not come gently. It was rougher for the Maine contingent of our Spring Break party so I shouldn't be complaining at all.

A winter storm canceled the Mainer's flight home and resulted in a stay in Miami then arrival to snow. Our only real setback was sitting behind a two-year-old who really wanted off the airplane. By some fluke, we'd flown out first class.

It was coach going home. I'm short so I always have plenty of room. Jeff always sleeps so it doesn't really matter that much as long as he can be on the aisle. Ali tends to stretch across me, so we're pretty low-maintenance travelers.
We will forever be grateful to Gary Reed and his generosity in taking us all to the idyllic Beaches resort in Turks & Caicos and to everyone in our party who makes family travel something to desire rather than to dread.

Highlights of the trip:

Alison spent a ton of time in and underwater and came up with a collection of sand dollars, conch and assorted small shells that will result in a decor redesign, I suspect.

James and David ended up with new beachwear thanks to luggage lost (but eventually recovered) on the flight in.

We counted more than 200 geckos and got a great shot of Godzilla, King of the Lizards.

I overestimated the length of the beach and left a bunch of my soles in the sand and might have done more damage to an ailing leg. But none of us suffered much more than a little bit of sunburn.

The snorkeling group saw sea turtles, sting rays, a giant lion fish and bunches of other swimmers.

We had amazing meals, including snails for Ali, Grandpa and me at the French restaurant one night.
Ali wasn't a fan. I'm ambivalent. Jeff was adamantly against the attempt.

Ali wore one of her bikini tops upside down one day.

James and David won about as much at the casino as they had to spend on clothes to make it through the days until their luggage was found.

Peter was placed on the DL with me after tossing a ball to Ali and reminding himself that he'd hurt his shoulder when Nicodemus -- attached by leash -- took off at a dead run when Peter wasn't looking and nearly got to the door carrying just an arm.

Jen discovered that paddle boarding on Pleasant Pond in Maine is much more tranquil than in the Turks bay where speedboats zip up and down the coast.

It's time to turn our attention back to getting ready for a work week. Ali still has a bit of homework to focus on.

But the laundry is done; we've restocked the fridge and I've spent too much of the day backing up photos.

It's time to face Indiana spring. Which could mean boots and sandals all in the same week.

But there's always Spring Break 2018 to look forward to.