Summer Weekends Are For Grilling – a Heinen’s Giveaway

Disclaimer: This post is part of Heinen’s #HeinensGrill campaign. I was given a gift card in exchange for a post about what we like to grill. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own.

When we moved into our house about 7 years ago my parents offered to buy us a grill. After several years of grilling with gas we opted for a charcoal Weber kettle grill and we haven’t looked back. We use it nearly every weekend in the summer. When you own a house without air conditioning, everything gets cooked on the grill so the house doesn’t heat up. It’s either that or eat cereal every night (which I’m sure the kids wouldn’t mind). Mark is the official griller in the the family, although I do sometimes take a turn by the coals. We cook all sorts of meats, pizzas, fish, veggies, fruit – you name it, we’ve likely grilled it.

On Sunday I had done my usual weekend Heinen’s run and picked up some nice steaks. It’s one thing that I can count on at least 3 of us enjoying (the only meat Madman will eat are hot dogs and ham). But Matilda loves steak so much that I now have to get her her own cut because she will eat the whole thing. So I got 2 rib-eyes and a top loin (mostly because I couldn’t decide between the two cuts and I wanted to do a side-by-side taste test). I used my favorite method to prep the meat – heavy salting with a few added flavors. I read about this years ago and it really does make a big difference in meats – especially lesser cuts. I had pretty good steaks but salt only improves the flavor and tenderness.

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 Steaks marinating in salt – rosemary and smashed garlic came to the party, too.

Basically the method is this:

  • Season steaks liberally with kosher salt – use more than you think you need. You want the steaks to be pretty well coated with salt. Use 2 tsp+ per side. Add aromatics if you want.
  • Let the steaks sit at room temperature for 1 hour per thickness of steak (so a 1.5 inch steak will sit out for 90 minutes).
  • Rinse, rinse, rinse. Rinse the steak really well under running water to get rid of all the salt.
  • Dry, dry, dry. Use clean paper towels to pat the steak very very dry so that zero moisture is left on the steak.
  • Grill!

We had an outing planned for the afternoon so I couldn’t do this to the letter, but I’ve found that you can still do it even if you won’t be around right before cooking. Just adjust your amount of salt – the more salt the quicker this works, less salt means you have more time. Since I figured we’d be gone about 4 hours before the steaks hit the grill, I cut back to about 1 tsp of salt per side, then put the steaks in the refrigerator. It worked fine. (edited to add: I googled around to see if I could find where I originally read about this method. I couldn’t but this post does a good job at explaining why this works).

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Mark, doing his thing on the Weber

Once we got home the first thing I did was pull the meat out of the refrigerator to start warming up to room temp. While Mark got the coals started I rinsed and dried the beef. Then it had about 30 minutes to get to room temp before the grill was ready. I used that time to prep a quick caprese salad and boil some read potatoes for sides.

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Local tomatoes, fresh basil from our plant = YUM!

The result? A perfect, easy Sunday dinner (with enough for leftovers for Monday lunches). I am a steak purist and will totally cringe when I see someone put steak sauce or even herbed butter on their steak… and please don’t ever cover my steak with mushrooms and onions. I will not be happy. I like my beef cooked medium rare and served plain. This method gives you a perfectly salted, tender steak that you can practically cut with a butter knife.

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 Taste test result – I was surprised liked the top sirloin better.
If I had purchased thicker-cut rib eyes I think it would have been a tie.

What is your favorite thing to grill?

Giveaway for readers: If you live near a Heinen’s they have offered a tote full of grilling supplies as a giveaway to one of my readers. You need to be local to a store as you will pick up your prize at your local Heinen’s. All you need to do is leave a comment with your favorite thing to grill OR tweet your favorite thing to grill, just make sure you use #HeinensGrill and tag me (@kakaty) in your tweet. Example: “Hey @kakaty I love salmon on the grill! #HeinensGrill”.

Use only one entry method, one entry per person.

Winner will be picked after 8 PM on Sunday 8/10.

A Day of Memories at Cedar Point

Disclosure: I was invited to the #BloggingatCP blogger day at Cedar Point and my family entered the park for free.  As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. I only share events that my family plans to attend or has attended in the past, so I know they are worth the visit. See bottom of post for some Father’s Day offers.

Was Memorial Day weekend really 3 weeks ago already? How did that happen? Maybe it’s taken this long for me to recover from a weekend of pure fun. It all started Friday night when the ClassyChaos crew rolled into their old stomping grounds of NE Ohio. We hosted a little get-together at our house and as always this group of 7 kids got along like BFFs and laughed well into the night.

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After a later-than-usual night, Saturday dawned with perfect blue skies and 70-degree temps which meant the #BloggingatCP blogger day at Cedar Point would be amazing. We arrived shortly after the park opened and quickly met up with TeamSawyer who we caught on the brand new Pipe Scream.

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After that the kids scrambled over the other new ride for 2014, the Lake Erie Eagles.

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Since we were right there, we hung out in Camp Snoopy for a bit so the kids could do a few rides. Since it was the beginning of the season and a beautiful holiday weekend, lines were longer than I’m used to… but the kids had buddies to chat with no one got cranky. Before we knew it, it was time to eat so we headed to the #BloggingatCP lunch where we met up again with Pauline and her fam. We ate a delicious lunch while looking out over the lake. This reminded me of all the times as a kid that we’d pack a cooler with lunch and eat a picnic and eat in the pavilion at the front of the park. That’s one way to save a few bucks. Or you can get the new CP all-day dining plan which lets you get food every 90 minutes throughout the whole day – what a sweet deal for an always-hungry teenager!

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After lunch the older kids took charge and declared it time to ride the water rides. Shout out to both Jeff and Jonathan who took the kids on Shoot the Rapids. Jonathan was the hero of the day when he agreed to take one for the team and ride Thunder Canyon, too. This ride gives you a 50/50 chance of getting completely soaked. You can probably guess what happened to Jon.

10346631_10152419635282674_6439873088178376276_nAbout 30 seconds before going under a huge waterfall. Photo by Pauline

 After that the kids took some time to visit the animals in the petting zoo (I had NO IDEA Cedar Point had a petting zoo!) And ride some of the smaller rides.

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By this time it was around 4 PM and Madman hadn’t ridden a single ride. He was more than happy to just hang out in his stroller and watch it all. So we decided to check out Dinosaurs Alive which has 40  life-sized animatronic dinosaurs. The area where the dinos are is the where the Paddlewheel boat used to be. If you remember the Paddlewheel you’ll remember the groan-worthy jokes the captain used to make. I’m happy to say that along with all kinds of paleontological education, the lame jokes still exist. DinosaursAliveJoke

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The C.P. & L.E. Railroad was the only thing he would ride – but he was happy 

It was a wonderful day filled with friends, fun and lots of laughs. Memories were made for all 7 kids and the grown-ups, too! We can’t wait to head back to “the Point” later this summer.

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Cedar Point is celebrating all fathers this Sunday, June 15, with great money-saving offers:

On Father’s Day, all Season Passholders can bring their dad (or a friend) to Cedar Point for just $19.99. Also this Sunday, when you buy one Meal Deal for just $13.99 plus tax, dad enjoys his meal for free (limit one free meal per group). Dads also get free admission to Dinosaurs Alive this Sunday!

All guests can still take advantage of the H2O offer where they can purchase a one-day Cedar Point admission ticket now through Sunday, June 15 and receive a FREE Soak City ticket! The Cedar Point one-day ticket for this offer is $39.99, a savings of $20 off the gate price and must be used by Sunday, June 15, 2014. For more details, log on to cedarpoint.com 

 

 

That Article on Salon

It started last night when Pauline posted it on FB and asked for thoughts. Then today I saw it all over my twitter feed. It’s an article on Salon.com called The day I left my son in the car by Kim Brooks. The article is very long but extremely well-written – it’s worth your time.

An article she mentions is also worth your read: The Overprotected Kid, by Hanna Rosin. If you haven’t read them both please go and read them, then come back.

Edited to add these other links:

This step-by-step story about a mom who is investigated by CPS for allowing her 6 year old walk alone in their neighborhood.

This interesting article by law professor David Pimentel which says among other things: “Of particular concern is how the trend toward overprotective parenting is reinforced by legal standards.”

I’m interested in your thoughts.

—–

As for me, it was around last year at this time that we allowed Matilda to walk to school on her own. She was at the end of kindergarten, school is just under a mile away and there are 4 crossing guards on the route. After a practice walk or two we let her go, hearts in our throats the entire time. And we got raised eyebrows over our decision. Weren’t we worried? What if something happens? It’s a residential route, full of other (older) kids walking and riding their bikes and yet I felt judged because we let our 6 year old walk.

In fact, just today today Matilda and another 1st grader neighbor walked to school together. I saw another mom and her 1st grader leaving to walk and I suggested he just join the girls “no, I feel safer if I go with him!” was her reply. Everyone has their own reasons, but even in a safe and pretty tight-knit community that fear is still there.

And now I’ll transition to the “did-our-parents-really-let-us-do-that” game that Ms. Brooks mentions in her article. I played around with google maps today and learned that from 1st grade on I walked a half a mile to school every day – my older brother and I walked with some neighbors. I’m pretty sure we walked home, too. I know when I was older I was a latch-key kid (my mom was a teacher at my school, so she got home a bit after I did). In middle school the walk was closer to a mile. In the summer we’d sometimes walk or ride bikes about 2 miles to the pool – which was on a pretty busy road with no sidewalks. I’d walk to soccer practice at the park about .5 mile up the hill.

All the kids in my neighborhood spent countless hours in the woods and ravine behind our houses. We built a city of forts, caught crayfish and built damns. We swung on vines and hunted for wildflowers. In the winter we’d drag our sleds to an awesome hill on the other side of the woods and spend hours sledding and building ramps to see who could get the most air. I don’t think anyone ever broke a bone. I have no idea who owned the land, but us kids were allowed to roam free through the woods.

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that red mark was my house, the woods were our domain. So many great memories spent in those trees.

There are stories of my brother and his friends “trying to find the end of the road” on their bikes, which was nearly 6 miles away. I remember a few times in middle school being allowed to walk to Friendly’s over a mile away, so I could get ice cream with friends. Summer nights were spent playing in packs until long after sundown. We’d have epic games of “ghost in the graveyard” that spanned several blocks.

I do wish my kids could have that kind of freedom. And they are still so young, perhaps they will. Part of the reason why they won’t is just location. Looking back now, the location of my childhood house was ideal. It was a neighborhood full of families and our houses backed up to a large wooded area. There is nothing like that were we live now. Yes, there are parks and streams and places to explore nearby, but they aren’t places you can build a fort or pick wildflowers. And while our immediate neighborhood has sidewalks and is easy to navigate, the pool and ice cream and even the library require crossing major 4-lane roads in heavy traffic.

But the biggest issue is this fear of leaving kids alone to explore and learn and be independent and then being judged, or worse – arrested  – for it. It’s not necessarily actual danger most people are worried about. It’s the fear of being judged, of being labeled a bad parent.

I just saw a parent on FB talking about a great volunteer program for 14-16 year olds which will be run by the city this summer… “it’s from 9-3 but there is after-care available!” she said. Because we live in a world that makes us fee like 14-16 year olds need a babysitter after 3 pm.

I’m not sure the solution. What do you think?

Guest Post: Kelly Talks Goldfish

I’m lucky to call Kelly () my neighbor*, and not only because she is a talented baker who likes to share treats. Kelly and her husband (who is also Mark’s running partner) have 2 of the most adorable girls (with a 3rd on the way) and she is always in the know about what is going on for kids and families in our neighborhood and beyond. When Kelly asked if she could guest-post about her experience at Goldfish I was happy to oblige. We’ve been fans and members of Goldfish since they opened and I think it’s good to hear another perspective – especially from a parent of younger kids. 

Disclaimer: Kelly’s family was given a month of free lessons in exchange for a review of their experiences at Goldfish Swim School, where they were already long-time paying members. As always, all thoughts are 100% personal.

It has been a year and a half since we began at Goldfish Swim School. Not really knowing what to expect from a swimming pool dug into an office building, we were pleasantly surprised with our initial experience and have been singing Goldfish praises to our friends and neighbors ever since.

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One year old K is in Mini 2, a parent-participation class

The first thing you notice at Goldfish are the facilities. Hands down, they are the cleanest pool facility catering to little ones we have ever seen. No details were spared, from the immaculate changing rooms to the hair drying station, to the Bumbo seats, a spare bucket of diapers (yes, we have borrowed from this!) and high chairs. There are books, chalkboards and a fish and turtle tank to keep kids occupied while waiting on their lesson. They truly thought of everything when designing the facility.

One of our favorite aspects of Goldfish are the perpetual lessons – all year round, same day, same time. When trying to juggle the lives of young children, having a consistent routine makes things that much easier. At Goldfish, you do not have to worry about signing up for sessions, because unless you request a time change, the lesson time will never change. Not to mention, our kids are excited and look forward to their lessons each and every week. If for any reason you have to reschedule a lesson, it is very easy to call and multiple times are offered for each level every week. We have never had a problem completing a make-up class.

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3 year old G rocks the starfish float in her Junior 2 class

Having weekly lessons has also allowed us to witness firsthand the progress our daughters have made in terms of developing certain skills and overall confidence in the water. It is amazing to watch your child master a skill they have been working toward! The entire staff in the pool is extremely supportive and constantly encouraging the children to do the best they can. Not to mention, when out of the pool, the staff is friendly, smiling and always ready with a high five! It may not seem like much, but we also value the fact that almost every staff member, not just their teachers, greets our children by their name. It shows they care, pay attention and respect our family.

Admittedly, the cost of lessons can seem daunting, but we feel that learning how to swim and be safe around water is an important lesson our girls need to know. A weekly lesson, and not just a few classes taken over the summer, along with family open swim times at Goldfish have proven to be well worth it for our family. Our experience at Goldfish Swim School has been great, and we hope to continue it going forward.

  *Funny story about how Kelly and I met: we were connected on Twitter and both knew we lived in the same town. One night she and I both tweeted about a loud party with a live band going well into the night. A few direct messages later and we learned that we live about 12 houses apart!  Note: I got nothing for posting this. I was happy to give Kelly a place to show her love for Goldfish since we’re always getting questions about why we love it, too.

My Bookshelf

I know I’m oh, about 4 years behind the masses, but OMG did you know you can get library books on your Kindle? I knew about it yet only set up my account about 4 months ago. I used to be a much better reader – reading 2-3 books each month. In fact, in Toledo I was part of the best bookclub ever. No really – we were awesome. When I moved we were just shy of our 8 year anniversary, with all but one original member (she moved away). I think many of that core group is still going strong, 14 years after the first meeting.

Anyway, what I’m saying is that with the kids being older I feel like I finally got my reading mojo back and being able to get books on my Kindle is feeding my obsession. During vacation I finished one book and completed 2 more. I’m burning through titles left and right and need your suggestions. Here’s are my most recent reads and my thoughts… if you like similar stuff, hit me with titles I should check out!

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I started out not liking the narrative style of this book but was quickly swept up in the story. I found myself craving it when I wasn’t reading. I burned through it in about 2.5 days on vacation. 

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell – count me among the millions of fans of this book. I adored it. I stayed up way too late to read it. I was sad when it was over. The characters were so real it was like I knew them. Two thumbs way up.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell – Once I finished E&P I eagerly downloaded Fangirl. It was ok, I just didn’t relate to the characters. I enjoyed the writing but I didn’t devour it like E&P.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell – I had started this just before vacation and at first I was feeling more Fangirl than E&P about it. But it grew on me and I was cheering for Lincoln by the end. I read this trying to figure out who would play each part in the movie. 

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – I went into this book expecting to hate it. For some reason I thought it would be like Eat, Pray, Love (which I hated… like threw the book at the wall hated…but finished because I was reading for above-mentioned bookclub). Turned out that I really enjoyed Wild and now I want to hike more.

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – I picked this because I enjoyed The Secret Life of Bees when we read it in bookclub and went into reading it not knowing anything about the story. Oh I loved this book, I found myself wanting to visit Charleston again and seek out the street where the house was and then I was was shocked to find out when reading the author’s notes that Sarah Grimké is a historical figure. Now I want to read more about her.

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson – I just could not get into the style of this one. I gave up after about 120 pages. It reminded me of the “choose your own adventure” books of the 80’s but not in a good way. The rewinding and starting over was too much. I usually don’t stop reading mid-book but I found myself dreading reading so I returned it.

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – nothing heavy, just an easy read which delighted me. I began reading on vacation and finished the day after we got home. 

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple – I really liked the first half of the book but then it kind of fell off a cliff and seemed rushed and odd. I liked it ok – I think the characters were well developed, but only until the midpoint when everything got weird. It was a fun distraction, but not sure I’d recommend it.

In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson – I loved Devil in the White City and enjoyed Thunderstruck so I thought I’d give this one a try. I really wanted to like this book…the subject matter (Americans living in Germany during the rise of the Third Reich) was interesting but I found myself constantly bored. I felt like I was slogging through pages. Gave this one up when another book became available and don’t regret not finishing. 

Didn’t I tell you I was on a reading roll?

Currently on hold at the library:
The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion – just downloaded – will start tonight!
Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- I had a love/hate relationship with Gone Girl, so we’ll see if I like this one.
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

What else should I add to my list? Any titles to avoid?

Sunday Supper

Disclaimer: This post is part of Heinen’s #HeinensSundaySupper campaign. I was given a gift card in exchange for a post about what eating together as a family means to me. As always, my thoughts are 100% my own. As a weekly Heinen’s customer, I was happy to be a part of this campaign. 

Growing up Sunday breakfast was the most memorable meal of the week. We typically went out to the same restaurant after church (hello chocolate chip pancakes!). If we didn’t head to the restaurant, my parents would make pancakes or waffles and we’d have a big brunch at home. While the Sunday breakfast tradition lives on in our house (these are the best pancakes, BTW), it’s Sunday dinner that I love.

Sundays are all about food, is what I’m saying.

I’m proud of the fact that we eat meals at the table, as a family, most nights of the week. I imagine as the kids get older this might become harder to do, but for now we try to cook at least 4 nights a week (with one night out, and 2 nights of leftovers). As you can imagine, with 2 working parents many of the meals are quick meals… pasta, tacos, soups and crock pot meals are in regular rotation. As someone who loves to cook, that leaves Sunday night as the night I get to really play in the kitchen. And Sunday Supper will always be something I protect as our schedule gets busier.

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Sundays are the days to get a little fancy, try something new, get the kids to help in the kitchen (without Mark or I losing our cool like we sometime do during the weekday scramble to get food on the table). Sunday is the day to introduce our kids to our favorite meals from our childhood and a chance for me to try new cooking techniques.

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Sunday’s suppers are for slow-cooked oven-BBQ chicken, steaks cooked to a perfect medium rare to go with mashed potatoes, my signature roast chicken with a simple salad made from local greens. Sunday’s are perfect to make those things that take a long time – like braised short ribs or pizzas made on the best homemade crust around. In the summer it’s the night we grill out – the kids helping me shuck corn on the back patio while Mark mans the Weber.

mmm...pizza!

Sunday’s suppers usually mean dessert, too – homemade brownies or cookies made earlier in the day with the kids, or just a scoop of ice cream (Jeni’s or Mitchell’s, please) with my family-secret-recipe hot fudge on top.

Jeni's & Hot fudge

Sunday Suppers mean family time, gathering around the table and breaking bread with the ones I love. It means spending my time and energy creating something delicious to nourish their bodies while creating memories that will last a lifetime. What do Sunday Suppers mean to you? What’s your favorite Sunday recipe?

(Don’t) Ring My Bell

Last night we had to call the police to our house because of a possible intruder.

Let me explain *said in the voice of Indigo Montoya*
I had a hard time falling asleep and it wasn’t until about 12:15 that I finally put my Kindle down and closed my eyes. So I was in kind of that hazy not-asleep-not-awake stage when I thought I heard the doorbell ring. I looked at my clock and it was 1:01 AM. “Hmmm” a foggy thought came to me “I must have dreamed that someone rang the doorbell…Or did I hear the doorbell for real. Why would anyone be at the door at 1 AM?” So I lay there for a moment – I’m not sure for how long since I was still in a hazy state. It may have been 20 seconds or 2 minutes. I finally decided I should just go check it out to satisfy my curiosity. When I got half way down the stairs I heard a buzzing and I started to freak out.

See, we live in an old house and we have a wired doorbell. There is a button at both the front and back doors. But the back button almost always sticks when it gets pushed, and when that happens the doorbell buzzes after it chimes. I knew as soon as I heard the buzz that someone had pushed the button and I knew it was the back door.

I ran upstairs and woke Mark up (he is a deep sleeper and I hadn’t heard the bell or me get out of bed). He woke up and was in a dazed panic. He ran downstairs and started going from window to window to see if he could see anything, I followed. Of course the doorbell was still buzzing but we didn’t want to open the back door to unstick the button because what if someone was out there? The way our yard and windows are, there was an area someone could be lurking and we wouldn’t know.

So I ran back upstairs to get my phone and called the police – they sent 3 squad cars over immediately. (side note: I first went to grab our landline downstairs and realized I had NO IDEA what our city’s no-emergency phone number was but knew it was in my cell phone. So instead of calling 911 I went back upstairs to call and it took forever because I was shaking and kept hitting the wrong thin in my contact list. I need to put emergency numbers by the phone!) This is when living 3 blocks from the police station comes in handy. A police SUV came down our driveway to the back of the house and we had cops at our backdoor by 1:05. They also had a car at the house behind us and the 3rd was cruising on our street looking in side yards.

The officers were really nice. We explained our sticky doorbell and how we know someone had to push it to get it stuck. They circled our house, checked our garage, checked our neighbors yards and spent about 20 minutes circling the surrounding blocks looking for anything suspicious. The one thing that struck me as funny was they asked “Where you expecting anyone tonight?” They actually asked that twice. Yeah, we were expecting guests  at 1 AM on a Monday and when they arrived we called the cops!

Anyway, we were back in bed, with hearts still racing at 1:25. I don’t think I fell asleep again until about 3:00 AM; every creak of the house settling or ping of a radiator had me jumping. I hate the feeling of being scared in your own house.

Today the police called to check on us (so nice!). They never did see anyone or have any reports of other disturbances. However, they did say that this could have been a thief scoping our house to see 1) if anyone was home and/or 2) what we did. I’m so glad we called the police because they arrived swiftly and stayed in the area for awhile. I’m also glad we have a house alarm, and that both our storm doors and inside doors were locked. Oh, and that both kids slept through it all. It also reaffirmed the expense of hiring a house-sitter when we go on vacations.

Have you ever had anything that made you freak out in your house?

(Remind me sometime to tell you about how at our old house the fire department nearly broke down the door while we were on vacation.)