Homeward bound.

Despite their colossal computer glitch on the outward bound section of the trip, United Airlines managed to get Sophie home 40 minutes early.  Got to love a tailwind.  Thanks to the Army, we haven't seen much of Ian this summer.  He owes me a lot of lawn mowing.  I will accept cute Korean t-shirts as barter.

When one of our Crossfit coaches, Chris Shirley,  posted a link to a churro ice-cream sandwich on Facebook, I knew I had found the perfect welcome home dessert for Sophie.  Especially since I threw away all of her Halloween candy (except the Kit-Kat that I ate) when I cleaned her room.  This is now my Platonic ideal for the ice cream sandwich.  Did you know that churros are just fried choux paste?  Me neither.  Instead of piping directly into the hot oil, pipe the swirls onto parchment and freeze until you can pry them up easily (about 30 min).  Fry at 325F for ~3-4 min per side.  Drain and roll in cinnamon sugar.  Sandwich with your favorite ice cream.  I made Jenni's banana recipe and dusted with shaved chocolate.  Next time we will make sure the churros are warm, but these were definitely edible.

Happy Birthday to me!

Maddy bought me The Slanted Door cookbook for my birthday, and we adapted this recipe for my birthday dinner pork chops.  I didn't have any lemongrass so we substituted kaffir lime leaves.  Sophie had been grocery shopping with Ian (who disappeared into the wine section), and bought tamarind pods because "I know you use tamarind" even though they weren't on the list.  Sophie realized why I typically buy jarred tamarind paste after having to prep the pods.  This was the best pork I've ever made on the grill.  I bought some lemongrass the next day and will make this tomorrow night when Sophie gets home from her Hawaii trip.  Since I "use tamarind" I knew I would like the sauce--it's basically pad Thai sauce.   The combination with the flavors of the marinade was truly heavenly.

We grilled some eggplant and yellow squash and served with pesto, saving our carb allotment for birthday cake.

Scrap cake.

Scrap cake.

Maddy and Sophie pulled out all the stops, completed my birthday cake as requested.  They brought out this little cakewreck and "card" in a feeble attempt to make me think they had dropped the ball.  All that time spent mentoring them in the kitchen is truly paying off.   This cake, along with the scrap cake, disappeared in 48 hours.  I am older and wiser and totally comfortable asking for what I want instead of moping when people can't read my mind.  Next year is 5-0, and it's gonna be big--Maddy, Ian and Sophie, I'm looking at you.

The real deal.

The real deal.

Hot Shots 19

I bought "smudge-proof" face paint for this beautiful back piece.  It was not WOD-proof.  Maddy's hard work dissolved quickly with my copious sweating during Hotshots 19 workout at Tough Temple.  I scaled the cleans to 73# (that's 114 reps) and used the blue band for pull-ups.  It took me 34:18, not bad for someone who turned 49 the next day.

these colors did run

these colors did run

Ian got some great action shots and the girls mistakenly thought it was going to take 99 minutes so they sat on the couch and played with their phones until the last round.

Nice face.  Note James Arnone in background still wearing shirt--must be early days.

Nice face.  Note James Arnone in background still wearing shirt--must be early days.

The WOD was followed by a pig roast--Nathaniel and James dug a hole in front of the gym and caught a pig on fire.  I brought that ginger berry cake and a grain salad.  It rained on and off so no parades for us.  We spent the rest of the day binge-watching Master Chef and went to see the fireworks on the National Mall.  

American Gothic Bro-style

American Gothic Bro-style

The thrill of the grill.

I was allowed to "open" my birthday present a little early and used it to make dinner that night.  If you have been afraid of charcoal grilling due to the length of time you have to wait for the coals to be ready, then buy this, and problem solved.  Seriously, 15-20 minutes and you have lava-hot coals--no lighter fluid required.


I made the grilled salmon with herb butter sauce from the The Essential NYT Grilling Cookbook. This is a skin-on filet and I grilled over direct heat initially and then moved over for indirect heat to finish.  I did not turn the fish.  You can find the recipe here near the end of the article.  The potatoes fondant with oregano, or in my case, rosemary, while not cooked on the grill were a sleeper hit as well.  That butter sauce though....it could make anything taste good. It reheated well the next day with minimal separation.  

Ian, initially a charcoal skeptic, was converted by this meal alone.  Thanks to Maddy for the gif at the beginning of this post, and to Sophie for buying me the orange silicone mitts that made me brave enough to pour out those coals.


Since you been gone.

The night before Ian and Sophie got back I had a dream that the house was instantly filthy and cluttered.  When I told Ian, he said, "Not really a dream if it is reality."  Apparently, Sophie is "garbage blind" (her words)--a condition characterized by the inability to see overflowing recycling bins.

The fun has been non-stop since their return.  "Book of Mormon" was irreverent, hilarious and completely worth the ticket price.  We had a great post-theater meal at Kapnos Taverna.  Unbeknownst to us, they have a crazy cheap happy hour, and we ordered and ate the entire happy hour menu.  I want Maddy to make me the ceramic tray they use for their dip trio.  Mike Isabella is opening Kapnos Kouzina in Bethesda this fall, and I plan to be first in line.  Yesterday after my call shift, we watched "Wild."  There will be no thru-hiking of any trail by my children if I die young and tragically.  On the upside, I am pretty sure nobody will experiment with heroin either.  The bloody toenail scene was worse than any horror movie for Sophie.

While they were away I made a stunning blueberry cream cheese coffee cake that I had to take to labor and delivery or risk eating the entire thing single-handedly.  It was very well-received.  I baked in a 9" pie plate instead of an 8x8.  Bring to your next breakfast pot-luck and win.  I also made some Paleo-ish bars with raisins/unsweetened coconut/nuts--process into a paste, press into dish, chill and cut into bars.  Add chocolate chips as desired, but highly recommend.

Speaking of Paleo, I have a new split jerk PR of 113#.  One of my Crossfit BFF and I tied for first in the partner WOD this weekend, but since we were older than the other pair, Ian said, "So basically, you won."  Long run clocked in at 9 miles this weekend.  Got to get the weekday mileage up.  I am dragging Sophie to watch my workout today with the promise of Paul afterwards.  We will pick more blueberries tomorrow--maybe they can be featured in my birthday cake.

Tent Revival

Finally, a day with relatively low humidity, and I'm not going to let last night's thunderstorm ruin my outdoor coffee break.  I was dismayed to find the tent in what appeared to be ruins when I got home from work last night, but this morning after Crossfit I was able to "fix" it.  

Sophie is at Camp Letts for the week, and Ian is on yet another work trip to Ft. Hood.  I have been enjoying a relatively clean house and having things like salad and half a bag of kettle corn for dinner.  I am weighing the risk-benefit ratio of cleaning Sophie's room while she is gone.  I'm looking forward to "Book of Mormon" on Saturday and having everyone back home.

The garden is doing well with all the rain except for my big tomato plant that got knocked down last night.  I think my gardening woes of years past have been due to under watering.  I planted the radish seeds too close together this year and got a bunch of greens and some crappy, woody radishes.  I'm going to make some Saag Paneer with the greens substituting tofu for the paneer because it's what's available.  I picked blueberries and tart cherries again this past week.  The cherries became jam and cheesecake topping.  The blueberries remain in the bucket I picked them in, awaiting Sophie's return.

Crossfit at the new gym has made for a lot of gains.  I can now clean 93#, rope climb without fear and do the prescribed weight for the workouts at least 50% of the time.  The only weight I'm no longer worried about is the one my bathroom scale.  When my scooter battery died last week I pushed it home 2 miles, mostly uphill without too much trouble.

Still lots to look forward to this summer--my birthday, Sophie's trip to HI, Otakon, driving school, trip to Richmond, camping in Virginia Beach, the Spartan Sprint, but I know it's going to be over too soon.  The marathon looms in October.  Long run currently ~12 miles.  We will see if all this cross-training will keep me injury-free.


Ch-ch-cherry bomb.

I found a recipe for sour cherry cobbler that is older than Maddy.  It is dead simple, and you can find it here.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why it calls for boiling water.  I subbed cold whey I had leftover from yogurt making.  We picked enough cherries to make two cobblers and cherry bounce.  The food section of this week's Washington Post had a recipe, and like all the other recipes I found on-line mentioned that it was one of George Washington's favorite drinks.  At least he didn't waste all those cherries when he chopped down that tree.  If my calculations are correct, it should be ready in August.  Don't worry about piercing the fruit with a knife.  If you remember correctly, sour cherries are easy to pit by simply squeezing the pit out the stem hole.

I found that cookbook stand on the curb on my way to Crossfit the other morning.  It's one of those things I would never buy, but if somebody is throwing one out in pristine condition I'm not above bringing it home.  Maddy was so proud.  Curb mining has contributed to her apartment furnishings in a not insubstantial way.  UVA students have a reputation for ditching excess stuff at the end of the academic year to her benefit.  Sophie's academic year drew to a close this past week.  She is now a rising junior and has already purchased Strunk & White for her summer reading list and filled in her calendar with a schedule for reading and running.  I wish I had my kids' organizational skills.  Writing this blog post may be the only productive thing I do today.  I'm post-call, it's too hot to run and I'm too tired anyway.  I got a ten mile run in last Saturday--hoping to get 12 in tomorrow before 9 a.m.  Hoping my dinner date tonight with Ian at The Pursuit doesn't crush those dreams.  

Who'd throw a thing like that away?

Who'd throw a thing like that away?

Finally, adios.

We spent the last 24 hours in San Juan visiting the rainforest--packed with turistas, I got a migraine, and a city beach--delightfully uncrowded with plenty of sea life.  

As I write this post, the weather has turned on "full summer" mode, and I am slightly dreading our Virginia Wine Country Half Marathon this Saturday.  There is an actual wine stop at the halfway point which I will not partake of.  Like my friend Kerrie says, "Running + heat + wine= no bueno.  I am so angry at the race organizer who is charging folks an extra $15 to pick up packet on race day morning.  If you pick up the packet at a local running shop on Thursday, it's an extra $10!  It's all a ploy to get you to pick it up "for free" at the expo on Friday to ensure that the vendors get plenty of traffic.  I will be complaining when I pick up my packet for free and buy a new pair of shorts that I need like another hole in my head.

Stay tuned for our Memorial Day highlight reel from our trip to Charlottesville last weekend.

Take the wheel and steer.

I'm getting so far behind on the Puerto Rico posts that I'm just going to show you some beautiful beach pictures, give you a brief description, and talk about other stuff that has happened since we returned.  I'm pretty sure this is a picture of Crash Boat beach.   I am putting in the food truck picture because Sophie and I were at the farmer's market today and they were charging $6 a piece for some tiny empanadas.  She said, "we're not in PR any more." We got pizza empanadas there at this truck--2 for $3.   We did succumb to the lure of a Nutella-filled churro at the farmer's market ($3).  Sophie finally got her driver's permit, and she drove us to and from the market with minimal palpitations on my part.  This included backing out of a parking spot and avoiding some squirrely cyclists.   Over the course of the next 9 months she needs to accrue 60 hours of supervised driving (10 of those hours at night), attend 30 hours of classroom time and have 6 hours of professional driving instruction.  Then she can sit for her provisional license.  Per Sophie, "Mom is weak, she can only last 20 minutes of drive time."  I am hoping to increase my tolerance as Ian will be away on and off all summer for work.    Our student driver magnets have dramatically increased the following distance of the cars behind us, and I am tempted to leave them on 24/7 to prevent tailgating.   

South By Southwest

Playa Sucia is at the southwestern-most tip of Puerto Rico.  No bathrooms, dirt road access, but still crowded with families.  Next time we go to PR I'm going to rent a cooler so we can take a picnic.  I saw a giant conch shell while I was snorkeling and then couldn't find it again when I tried to show it to Sophie. 

On our way back north we stopped for lunch.  They handed us what I think was the gringo menu--all in English, all expensive.  When I asked for empanadillas en Espanol, they were happy to bring us a variety at $2 a piece.  Thanks Señor Farfan for all that tough love in my Spanish 3 class way back in 1983.

Eye Candy

Our first beach experience in Puerto Rico was on Good Friday--traditionally a holiday.  All of Puerto Rico is at the beach on Good Friday.  There was the requisite beach weirdo--feeding pelicans, lots of Medalla and salsa music and very little personal space.  These photos were taken a few days later in the early morning.  Just a few fisherman dotting the pier and plenty of good snorkeling.

For our penultimate dinner we traveled to Isabela and ate at Clmdo.  A newish restaurant whose chef, Wilson, a Brooklyn transplant, taught himself to cook and is serving up some seriously delicious food.  Note his spartan kitchen.  We were disappointed that he had run out of ice cream.  It was easy to forgive him; he makes it by hand without an ice cream maker!  I was not surprised that in his former life he was an engineer.  I know an engineer that up until I visited didn't own a spatula.  We settled for some ice cream in the town square where Ian had limited time to get a quick shot of a couple of Paso Fino horses.

Yes, that is a Mr. Softee truck shortly before it was beset upon by beach-goers at Playa Jobos. Surfers love a post session chocolate malt.

They're walking the nose....

Rincon was a winding drive down the west coast, past a traffic-stopping flea market where we did not purchase a live chicken, a giant machete, or shampoo.  The town square was largely deserted.  Even the ice cream shop didn't open until 1:00.  We spent a little time at the public beach and drove north to "Domes" named for the adjacent nuclear power plant.  Ian did a little boogie boarding; Sophie and I drank smoothies prepared by a local with a blender powered by his truck battery.  

We had considered eating brunch at La Copa Llena the next morning for Easter, but realized that would necessitate a really early wake-up and drive so we stopped for an early dinner on the way home from the beach.  If you ever find yourself hungry in Rincon we would highly recommend a stop here.  Per Ian, "the best BLT ever" and steps away from the beach.  Enjoy some happy hour libations and watch the sun set.  I would steer you away from Puerto Rico's national beer, Medalla, unless you drink PBR unironically.

Defunct nuclear power plant looming.

Defunct nuclear power plant looming.

Baleanario Rincon

Baleanario Rincon

Jose Enrique

I knew before we went to Puerto Rico that we really needed to eat at Jose Enrique.  Tucked away in a nondescript bungalow adjacent to La Placita, it's off the beaten path.  The hostess stands on the porch and whenever somebody walks by and peers into the restaurant she scoops them up with a friendly "are you looking for Jose Enrique?"  We ate there twice. 


The menu is ever changing, and the first night we had some incredible prawns and an octopus tostada.  Straightforward, pristinely fresh seafood with a nod to Puerto Rican flavors.  The other standout dish was the fried pork--basically a confit of pork shoulder with caramelized onions.  On our second visit we branched out from the appetizer menu and enjoyed the beef stew, and the salad--a pile of mustard greens, expertly dressed and showered with parmesan was a welcome relief from all the fried foods we had been indulging in all week.  They brought a round of anisette shots gratis at the end of the meal.  Sophie had a tiny sip, nearly spit it out and decided she is still not ready for adult beverages.  The drinking age in PR is 18 and there were numerous occasions when she could have easily scored a full-octane pina colada.  We wandered around La Placita for a bit listening to the salsa bands and then called it a night.  The next day we will head west--stay tuned.

Old San Juan

The Google maps lady lost a lot in translation, but we made it from the airport to the hotel in spite of her hilarious Spanish pronunciation issues.  Ignoring the many warnings in the guidebooks to avoid driving during rush hour we found parking and spent our first afternoon walking around Old San Juan.

We fortified ourselves with $3 ice cream (coconut and passion fruit), chorizo, pulpo tostones and ceviche.  Lots of feral cats, stunningly beautiful architecture, brand name American stores (think Ralph Lauren) and tacky souvenir shops--the latter primarily near the cruise ship docks.

How wonderful to sit outside on a breezy patio sipping homemade limeade after our cold, cruel winter.  It was the first of many al fresco dining experiences during this trip. Aside from the giant palmetto bug I saw in the bathroom one night, Puerto Rico is remarkably bug-free; we only ate two meals indoors the entire trip.

Pie Are Round

A very belated Pi day post, showcasing my first attempt at a British picnic pie complete with hot water crust.  I filled mine with a combination of curried carrots and cauliflower, but I used Chetna's crust recipe.  My bottom might have been a bit underdone,  but overall a "good bake."  This dough was a pleasure to work with and is definitely more "sturdy" than "flaky."  

Speaking of no soggy bottoms, after the 72 thrusters of the 15.5 Crossfit Open Workout I am happy to report that my bottom is especially firm.   I scaled it because I'm old, my shoulder hurts with 65#, and mostly because I wanted to crush it.   We will have to wait until Monday to find out where I ranked in the shallow pool that is Master's women, 45-49 years old, Mid-Atlantic, scaled division.  I will be hitting "refresh" on the leaderboard hourly.  Just kidding.  I meant every 15 minutes, okay, every 5.

In other sports news, Maddy and I got into the Marine Corp Marathon.  Luckily my body has seven months to remember how to run that far.  I will end this post with a recipe for a sauce I invented.  It would not be good to eat during a marathon, but it's excellent on seared ahi.

Gochujang mayo: take some mayo--maybe a cup? add ~1 tbs. of gochujang, a little rice wine vinegar and a drizzle of sesame oil.  Salt to taste.