Friday, May 22, 2015

Blue Apron

Partly because I've been wanting to try it for a long, long time, partly because I got a 2-of-3-meals-free-for-your-first-time thing, and partly because I was using my birthday as an excuse, we decided to try Blue Apron.

Blue Apron is the classiest of the meal-planning-type companies. You pay them to surprise you with mystery recipes, perfectly-portioned ingredients, and the promise to repeat next week. They use new and unusual ingredients often, and all their packaging is recyclable.

When you're on the website, you'll see there aren't a lot of options. You can pick 2- or 4-person meals. With the 2-person plan, you get 3 meals, and with the 4-person plan, you can choose either 2 or 4 meals. 

From there, they ask if you are vegetarian, and then ask you to list (from their limited options) the things you don't eat (which are all meats). I found that a little strange. There were no options for dairy, gluten, nut allergies, that kind of thing. For example, Sam is allergic to mint, and 2 of the 3 meals they sent us contained mint! Fortunately, we could just omit it and move on with our lives, and were lucky an allergen didn't play a more central part to the dish. It would be better if you were allowed to be more specific about dietary restrictions (like legitimate ones, not like "I think X is icky").

After ordering, we waited til delivery day, and it arrived (an hour before dinner time, cutting it close) in a refrigerated box.

The instructions said to cook any seafood dishes first, for optimal freshness, so we did the hake that night. Oh, we said we were not vegetarian, and I did leave all the meats except I think shellfish, lamb, and maybe one other, so they sent us one fish dish, one turkey dish, and one vegetarian dish. I was glad, because I was worried all 3 would be meat and I can't do meat that often.

So, Night One:
Rice-Flake Crusted Hake with Sautéed Daikon Radish & Yuzu-Soy Sauce

Yeah. First of all, hake is basically cod. It was a good fish, not a really fishy fish, and our apartment didn't smell like fried fish after (I don't think). Also, Sam and I both hate mushrooms and shiitake mushrooms were basically the most prominent ingredient after the fish. We ended up eating some of them though (the flavor was good but the texture was too gummy), and I think we both deserve major points for that. The radish was interesting, I actually liked it. There was yu choy in there too, and it also was pretty good. The rice flakes though seemed like a good idea in theory, but they fried up hard and crunchy in a not-good way, and that was again a texture mistake. And the yuzu sauce was tasty, but the soy a little too much.

Right off the bat here, I have to say a couple of things. First of all, Blue Apron claims that all their meals (or at least the ones we got) can be done in half an hour. This is a big fat lie. With two of us working feverishly on each meal, we were still never done in under an hour, while the recipes claimed the would take 25-30 minutes or 15-25. Ha!

Second of all, the portions were all over the place, while claiming to be just right for two. In the first one, we had tons of fish and hardly any vegetables. Also, there was no way a toddler was going to eat mushrooms for dinner. She had macaroni and cheese that night. The second meal was right on for portion size (we even made a bit extra for Ros), and the last meal had tons extra. I'm ok with extra if it's good, but when I think about how many mushrooms... Anyway.

So! Back to to the hake! All in all, a good-ish meal, but it took way longer to make than advertised, and Ros was starving and I realized halfway through she wouldn't eat anything, so I started making her that Mac and cheese too, and accidentally shattered a plate. We have a tiny kitchen and will often use the unused stove burners as extra counter space, so I had the plate of cooked veg next to the pan I was frying the fish in, and had turned on the burner for the noodles to cook, and, was the wrong burner. We discovered this a few minutes later when the veg plate exploded, I screamed, the baby cried, and tra la la.

Onto Night Two:
Turkey Kibbeh with Cucumber Salad & Mint-Yogurt Sauce (sans mint, actually I added some to mine and it was good)

This is the only dish of the three that we both agreed it was something we would make again. The pine nuts and dried apricots were delicious additions to the little meat patties. And while I don't much care for cucumbers (though earlier this year I decided I could tolerate them on occasion), the salad was pretty good and a great compliment to the meat.

This meal still took twice as long as advertised, but the portions were really almost perfect for the 2.5 of us, and we all enjoyed it (even Ros, but she likes anything in a patty).

Night Three:
Orecchiette Pasta with English Peas, Pecorino Cheese & Mint (sans mint)

This one was the one that was supposed to be 15 minutes, but it took 15 minutes just to shell the peas, which was actually fun, but, was it necessary...?

Also, the recipe included ricotta to make lemon-ricotta, which is the base for the sauce, but I feel like they put in the wrong cheese, because I have never seen ricotta be dry and crumbly... It still tasted fine though.

This was a tasty dish, but it included "pea tips" which is basically leaves and stems from the pea plant. Those were a little strange. The flavor was fine but it was kind of stringy and weird, so after trying it, neither of us ate those.

In any case, Blue Apron was fun and kind of exciting (mystery recipes and all that), but I don't think I'll do it again, especially not at the regular price. There's a different, similar service I'm going to try, since I got a gift card for it somewhere. Perhaps we will like that one better. I will let you guys know when we do that one how it goes!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Fun In Moab

Last weekend we were in Moab to enjoy the "warmth" and the out-of-doors. It actually ended up being rainy and sort of chilly the whole time we were down there, but we still had a great time.

Sam and I drove down with Ros on Friday afternoon, and we met up with some other family who had driven down the day before. Because of that, we missed the day they went to Arches, which was kind of a bummer, but Sam and I have both been there before (but it was like 15+ years ago for me, so I will still have to go back!).

We stayed with a very nice couple who used to babysit Sam and his sibs when they all lived in New Jersey, even though they were out of town until the morning we left! They were still very kind to let us stay, especially since there were like 2 races in Moab that weekend and hotels were basically full-up.

Anyway, so Saturday morning we woke up and had breakfast and drove into town to meet up with my parents and sibs, and we decided rather simultaneously that the previously planned hike to Grand Gallery (a pictograph panel, a very cool one, look it up) was altogether too strenuous, too steep, and too difficult to get to, so we decided instead to go to Canyonlands National Park and hope we had the same amount of fun. Note: I'm still planning on hiking to Grand Gallery one day, but this was not that day. I need to be in better shape for that.

I was kind of expecting Canyonlands to be lame, if I'm being honest, but it actually turned out to be quite fun and very beautiful.

The first thing we did after the visitor's center and lunch was to drive out to Upheaval Dome (which is really a crater, by the way), which we hiked to the top of and pondered its origins. I'm still not convinced by the meteor theory, but the salt dome theory has its flaws too, in case you were wondering (again...look it up). Anyway, it was a great view. 

After the Dome, we went over to Aztec Butte. At this point, it was well into Rosalind's normal naptime, so she was quite the crank. She nearly fell asleep in the car, so we left her with my mom, whose knees needed a rest, and hiked first to the top of the shorter butte with Ancestral Puebloan (Anasazi to you plebes) granaries on it. That was interesting. There was even "Anasazi Goo" aka bits of food from way back in the day left in the pantry to get hard as a rock.

After the shorter butte, we grabbed dad (who was sitting in the shade on the cyanobiotic soil crust) and hiked the taller butte, which I think is the real Aztec Butte. The hike was hot and pretty strenuous (ie you actually had to be part goat because it was primarily vertical) but was super fun to do. Finally we reached the butte-top and holy cow, it was an amazing view!

Sam kept disappearing ahead to find the next cairns, and eventually from the butte top we heard "found it!" There were other AP structures up there on the opposite cliffside, so we climbed back down part of the other side to get there. Unfortunately, the trail was closed from rockfall, so we had to turn around (except Eric and Sam went ahead a little ways and we got appropriately mad at them). There was actually another structure up there that we could get to, but I think we all decided it was fake (or at least modern, hiker-built).

We then hiked down (oh the knees!) and met up with my mom and Rosalind, who were meeting us at the trailhead (Ros had apparently not slept at all, the stinker).

After that, we were all pretty beat, and drove over to the Green River Overlook (no hiking involved, fortunately). The view was almost literally breathtaking. I remember when I got up to the edge and looked out I found myself saying "Wow!" under my breath. It was truly a gorgeous view.

After the view, we went over to Mesa Arch. It was another hike, so I was basically like, "Nope," and only hiked as far as I needed to to get the arch in my view, then sat down and waited for everyone else (well, Sam waited too). Oh, we also got attacked by a dust devil, which, in case you're wondering, stings like the dickens and really pushes you around!

After all this, we went back to Moab and got dinner at Milt's, which took way too long but was still delicious. After dinner, we drove over to the really awesome Rotary Park that had a bunch of giant instruments for everyone to play. That was pretty fun. I took a bunch of video snippets of everyone playing, hoping to splice them into a montage, but I couldn't get it to work even though I downloaded like 3 different apps ARGH.

Sunday morning we got up and chatted with the Dickersons for a bit before we had to leave, then went down to help everyone else get out of the hotel room. We then piled into our cars and drove north to Green River (which is a sad remnant of whatever glory it used to be many years ago). There, we filled up on gas and bought sandwiches for lunch, then headed out to Goblin Valley State Park.

We ate lunch once we got there and spent a couple hours wandering 'round amongst the goblins. It was pretty fun. We found "an actual little cave" and a goblin that looked like a turtle, and lots of other interesting things. There were some jokes made about Ros being the Goblin Queen, and we even found her a throne.

After Goblin Valley, Ros was again in anti-naptime-meltdown but still refused to sleep in the car, so after calming her down a bit, I made her comfortable carrying her on my front and we all went hiking up Little Wildhorse Canyon.

It was pretty difficult to hike carrying Ros on the front, but I managed it. She actually slept off and on, which was very nice.  The canyon was seriously awesome and got incredibly narrow at parts, like the trail was just a line on the ground almost, just big enough for your feet, and the canyon walls only a couple feet apart!

We hiked in a couple of miles almost, right to where the slot sort of turns back into regular canyon, had a snack, then turned around and hiked out. The boys of course decided to prove their worth again and hiked up some rubbly-cliff thing, and Sam almost died when he slipped and landed on Ian (or maybe Ian almost died). It was kind of funny though. We took some "slot selfies" sans Dad, because he hiked ahead so that if there was a flash flood he would "be the last to die." In his defense, it had been raining...

After that we piled back in the car and, after a brief stop at the South Temple Wash Panel (of pictographs), drove back home (we stopped in Price for dinner-- a hopping town, let me tell you). All in all, it was a pretty fun trip, and it was great to get outside for fresh air and hiking!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Pick Up Every Pebble

I have started several blog posts in the past few months but haven't completed any of them-- I'm sort of stuck in a rut where I'm worried everything I write is annoyingly baby-related or an opinion I haven't fully formed and therefore am not entirely prepared to defend should people rise up in arms against me. Add that to the fact that I have hardly any pictures on my phone to share (since I quit it for lent and all that), and I'm a boring blogger.

In any case, Rosalind has hit another "milestone" with 15 months (um...a month ago), so I figured I would do a little update on here so that the 2 of you who read this and don't see her on the reg can be in the know. 

Okay. So like I said, Ros is about 16 months old now. She babbles nonsense all day long and is ALWAYS moving. She carries things from room to room and puts things where they don't belong. For instance, my earplugs in the trash and her rabbit in the dryer right as I started it-- but she knows they don't go in there, because if she put something where it's not supposed to be, and I don't notice, she will alert me so I can fix it. Also, if something is out of the ordinary...oh boy. I viciously cut my finger on the blender yesterday and she keeps making noises of worry and trying to remove my bandage (ow).

She is very good at following basic directions, like "go put those in your hamper" or "go put that in the trash" or "go find your bunny." Once, Sam was showering and I asked her "where's Daddy?" and she took me by the hand and led me into the bathroom. That was unexpected.

Ros recognizes letters and when she sees them she will start to "recite" them. She mostly goes "A, C, D, E, D, E, D, E, Beh, D" which I think is funny. She also know several body parts and will point to them when you ask where they are, but still calls everything "eyes" --although she says "ah" for head and hair (which I think is actually "hat"), and sometimes "mo" for mouth or mole (and she will find every blemish on your body and call it a mole; it really makes you feel good about yourself). OH and she calls belly buttons "billy-billy" which I think is adorable.

We are trying to teach her to call herself "Ros" instead of "baby" because technically she's a toddler now and therefore a big girl, but I think mostly it's just confusing her so far. She calls Sam "Didi" and I still don't really get called anything, but she does know who I am if she's asked. She knows a bunch of other words too, and will try things out if you tell her to say them: cheese, go, spot, sit, up, down, no, yes, all done, please, bib, hat, ball, koala, etc. Koala is my favorite-- she says, enthusiastically, "KOHL!" or sometimes, "goll" or "golla-kohl" or similar (she has a little bandana with koalas on it that she likes to put on her head and walk around in, I think that's the only reason she knows that word). Oh, and she says thank you. The way she says it changes, right now it's "die!" which I don't have to tell you is humorous when she goes around saying it all the time. She's starting to put words/phrases together too. On our trip, she was sick of being in the car, and Sam was grabbing her some dinner, so I was with her in the car reading her a book as a distraction, and as soon as I finished, she said "ah da, go-go?" (All done, can we go?). I was impressed.

She used to tell me when she was about to poop, but she doesn't anymore. She actually pooped on the toilet twice when she was doing that, but I wasn't anticipating it would become a regular thing. We are just in the subliminal messaging phase of potty training, and I don't think I'll start actively introducing it for at least another year. She can take her time (for now), she's still super young.

She's doing better with a fork and spoon, and somewhat better with a regular cup (we are starting with smoothies since they're thick), and is sort of learning how to pour-- when I give her the chance.

A couple funny random things: when she bathes, she loves it, but she hates having water poured on her head (understandably). But every time I pour it on her head, she splutters, drops everything, and immediately tries to evacuate the tub. Like pulling up in the edge and lifting her leg to get out within a split second. It's hilarious. Also, we've had the side off of her crib for a few months now, and while she pretty much has stayed in bed since day 2, she will sometimes (when she's not super sleepy), get out of bed and come to her door and bang on it. Then as soon as you open it, she will waddle back to her bed and lie down so you can tuck her in again, smiling all the while. I totally can't be mad about that, even on days she does it twice.

She also loves animals and gets very excited at birds, fish, cats, rabbits, geese, dogs, etc. Every dog she sees she calls "Spot" (Sam's parents' dog) now, and will tell it to sit, or tell it no (apparently we boss Spot around a lot...). We seriously need a pet.

She also loves to be outside. She loves exploring and chasing after balls (at a snail's pace) and putting sticks, leaves and dirt all over herself. Sometimes she will wander through the yard and pick up every minuscule dead leaf or pebble and hand them to me. We must clean up the yard!!

Things I wish she would learn: 
-How to get dressed
-How to blow her nose
-How to change her own messy diapers
-How to tell me why she's unhappy

Also looking forward to:
-Yogurt not being an ordeal
-Sending her to nursery in a couple more months

Anyway, I think that's about all. She's really quite a delight to be around when she's not starving or has missed a nap. She always makes us laugh.