Quiet life adventuredays:

Sometimes our adventure days are spent at home.
If given the choice between Disneyland and home the little mice will choose home 90% of the time. It’s incredibly humbling but for someone that loves adventures

*cough me cough cough*

it’s always a goal (of mine) to make our “quiet life” (lazy) adventure days memorable and fulfilling.

I usually start by asking each of the kids “if we’re going to have a lazy day what’s one thing you’d like to do?” For Brayden it was video games, for Kapples it was making a pie (from scratch and “trimming the edges just like Snow White”) and Co wanted family board game time.

Kap and I made our pie, Apple and Cranberry (we experimented with doing an oil free, vegan version, it was really good but still needs some tweaking so the recipe will be posted another time). And we unearthed Brayden from the land of Xbox for a game of Life, Pirates of the Caribbean style. Quite the change from the little pink and blue people I remember.

We had a blast. Our lazy days are becoming a new favorite of mine.
Maybe the kids have the right idea: “there’s no place like home”

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A lazy vegan take on Colcannon and Irish Spiced “steak”

I love hearty food. We eat a lot of “good for us” food ’round these parts but every now and then you want something warm, rich and (semi) traditional. That calls for crap I wouldn’t normally keep in my home.

Tonight I wanted Colcannon. BAD. Here’s my lazy vegan version. This isn’t fancy, clean or gourmet. But darn it it hit the spot!

For the Colcannon
Boil together: 2 2/3 cups of vegetable broth
1 tsp grey salt
Pepper to taste (I didn’t use any)
1 tsp minced garlic
4 tbl vegan “butter” they do exist I promise.

While that’s coming to a boil chop either kale or purple lettuce (you can also use cabbage but I prefer kale) I chopped enough for 3 cups.

When the vegetable broth concoction reaches a boil toss in kale and let boil for three minutes. Remove from heat an add 2 2/3 cups *gasp* instant mashed potatoes (be careful purchasing these, you’d be amazed at the processed food that contains milk) and 1 2/3 cup almond milk. Mix well.

For the spiced Irish “steak” (please note this is not a traditional recipe, more or less the gist of it made lazily and quickly)

Spray a pan with olive oil
Sauté fake “beefless” tips (enough for three servings)

Add:
1 tsp garlic
2 tbl raw sugar
2 tbl maple syrup (the traditional uses molasses)
1 tsp grey salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp nutmeg
8 oz of stout

Mix well and bring to a boil. Then…just let it keep boiling. I lost track of time because I started multitasking and washing dishes but just keep that burner on high until the “steak” becomes slightly carmelized and the liquid appears to just barely cover the bottom of the pan.

Serve on top of the Colcannon and you’re all set! I’m stupidly full now and feel slightly guilty but it was worth it!

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Part II: The ghost town that you can’t explore but has a surprisingly lovely (and easy) hike and the wonderful Mission trip that was spoiled by a wannabe Kardashian wedding.

After we left Mentryville we headed to San Fernando Rey de España http://www.missionscalifornia.com/keyfacts/san-fernando-rey.html a mission that I’m ashamed to say I didn’t even know existed (apparently I forgot my state history from the 4th grade).
It’s free to park but it’s a $5 admission for adults and $3 for kids up to the age of 15. It is a VERY well preserved bit of history and the kids were awe struck at how real everything seemed and how it has been maintained. Walking through the Convento and into the Madonna room and through the workshops was incredible (albeit dusty).

We couldn’t wait to get to the church and into the gardens and cemetery where we could see bursts of color through the breezeway of the church doors….and stopped cold when a very sparkly short dress with very big hair and a lot of makeup walked out. Next to me I heard Kap say “I think it’s a Mexican wedding” I thought to myself “she looks more like a bad Kardashian” but the mariachi band warming up made me realize how Kap reached that assumption.
Darn it. We couldn’t go in the church. Darn it. It’s the only way into the garden.
Darn it I can’t be too cranky at these people because I’m sure it’s an epically beautiful spot to create a forever…

We resigned ourselves to coming back another time but still left feeling awed and impressed.
Another successful adventureday!

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The ghost town that you can’t explore but has a surprisingly lovely (and easy) hike and the wonderful Mission trip that was spoiled by a wannabe Kardashian wedding.

For today’s adventure I wanted a Halloween type feel that had an whimsical, explorer vibe. Finding a ghost town seemed to be the perfect solution!

We’ve been to Calico and to Pioneer town so I suppose a part of me was expecting Mentryville (located outside Santa Clarita in the Santa Monica mountains) to be as open to explorers as those locations. $5 to park that accepts cash or check (they work on a drop envelope system) and you’re in.
I was aware that there are a lot of restorations going on (and good for them) HOWEVER: you can only walk up the steps of the school house, can’t go inside and only kinda peek at the large house behind the vehicle fence that takes up most of the area. *tries to hold back bummed sigh*

Don’t get me wrong I wouldn’t trust a bunch of hoodlums either but it’s during park hours for crying out loud and a caretaker or ranger of sorts lives on the property. *now I can sigh*
So we decided to hike and went on a quest for bathrooms. The roads are well maintained and paved and the vegetation is stunning. We were told there were bathrooms a mile up the trail by two very nice Armenian gentlemen. We arrived and were staggered by the smell, Kap was desperate though so we tried the door anyway. Locked.
It crossed my mind that maybe this particular area was part of the government shutdown?
Regardless, we handled it.

Moms if you don’t know how to relieve yourself in the wild you’re setting your daughter up for failure. Learn how and pass the education along. You’ll never know when she’ll need it.

We walked on and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery and the feeling of being surrounded by the hills. We took turns having races and were flushed and grinning as we headed back to indulge in the picnic I packed. I tried the abandoned schoolhouse door just to try, still locked. *double sigh*
All in all we had fun and I think I was the only one that had expectations so we got a 4 mile hike in and had some laughs http://www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=35

now on to the Mission!

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Perfect toasted pumpkin seeds

Perfect pumpkin seeds

Take all of your pumpkin seeds and thoroughly rinse off the “guts” (a strainer helps just to separate everything.
Then boil water (enough that the seeds float) and salt (I used Celtic grey sea salt). When it comes to a boil reduce temperature and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes

Grease cookie sheet (I used a spray olive oil) and pick out your spices. Kap chose black salt, garlic, parsley, basil and vegan Parmesan.

Put pan into your preheated 325 degree oven.
Wait ten minutes and then stir/shake pan to get those seeds moving then cook for another 8-12 minutes (sugar pumpkin seeds will be closer to 8, story book pumpkin seeds like half of ours were will take longer). I just cooked them until they looked dry. Probably not the best method to endure that they’re done but it works

There you have it! We’re currently munching on them now, even Cohan likes them! (accomplishment!)

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Mickey’s Halloween Party at Disneyland

Disclaimer: I love Disneyland. Any criticisms I have should be taken with a grain of salt. Also, I’m not just adding this disclaimer because Disney’s legal department can strike fear into your heart quicker than the IRS. That makes it sound like I’m about to rip the House of Mouse a new one….rest assured, I’m not that negative or that tough.

I’ve been an annual pass holder at Disneyland since I was 5. I’ve watched the park change and expand, the electrical parade leave and then come back again.
I remain a pass holder (as are my children) and in recent years we’ve made the tradition of going to the “Halloween Party” at Disneyland.
For those that are unaware there is a separate ticket to get on top of your regular admission (if you are an AP you only need to purchase the special event ticket). A few words of caution: keep your eyes peeled for pre sale, weekday nights and special discounts for buying early and AP holders, that’s when the ticket are less expensive.

On a Halloween party night you can get to the park three hours before the party starts (if you don’t wish to pay the all day admission). Kids and adults alike can dress in costume (normally guests under the age of 9 are the only ones allowed to wear costumes in the park). There are candy stations set up throughout the park and in years past you walk away with almost TOO much candy!
I ended up passing it out to my trick or treaters that year. Recently they have villain and character photo ops, most rides and restaurants are open, a special firework show (get a spot in front of the castle early), and there’s a general vibe of Halloween/Fall in the air.

Now…here’s some cons…Disney in the last few years has adopted a “more the merrier” approach. I dislike it immensely. I’ve noticed that the park just seems busier and busier and busier. Lines longer, cast members not as friendly as a result (or maybe it’s poor hiring? Did I mention I worked for the park about 13 years ago? There’s been a huge slide in guest service, trust me.) and the guests are crankier as a result.

Needless to say this years Halloween party was more crowded than last year. My eight your old (who loves candy) was pretty bummed that we lined up like cattle to get treats, it was like that at most every station (please note the cast members at the stations were perfectly lovely) Just this herd of people queued up to get a handful of candy. As the night goes on be prepared for most parents to let their rude princesses and princes to be…well…awful and to push and shove like sugar high, self entitled monsters. Again, a result of cranky parents suffering with an oversold event they shelled out money for or just bad SoCal parenting…
Another side effect of this “more the merrier *cough more money coughcough* is that the lines to the attractions are longer, again, another issue you don’t expect to encounter at a private event. Hit candy lines later when the lines and novelty of them die down.

NOW, the pros! The kids LOVE it! The photo ops in their costumes are amazing, the candy that we did get was still enough to weigh us down considerably, as the night goes on the lines for the attractions and candy get better (ps going through toon town is almost pointless, wouldn’t bother if I were you), the firework show and the graphics they project onto the outside of the castle and it’s a small world add an awesome festive, child friendly creepy feel. If we take out my negative comments about cranky self entitled parents the UPSIDE is that a lot of the guests have this great feeling of camaraderie.

We’ll be back again next year.

A word from the little mice on their favorite parts:

Cohan says: “the people who liked my mad hatter costume”

Kaplan says: “getting to see everyone’s different costumes is awesome! Also thinking that I’m Alice an I’m in a different story, I felt like I was in Once Upon a Time.”

Brayden: “the looks on the toddlers faces when they saw me in costume, like “‘you do exist!'”

All Halloween costumes were made or put together by me with just bits being purchased at thrift stores or ears at the local pop up costume shop. Inspired by Tim Burton’s wonderland, the classic drawings from the books, the Alice in wonderland Disney cartoon and etsy (I think that’s where kap saw this type of dress)

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A fall adventure: lost in a corn maze

This last weekend I got a bee in my bonnet to find a corn maze. Not a hay maze at the yearly pumpkin patches that spring up but a living corn maze that captures that “days of yore” feeling. Believe it or not you can just google “corn maze California” and there are lovely people that have compiled lists and updates to the corn mazes in your area.

We chose The Big Horse maze in Temecula http://www.bighorsecornmaze.com we got there early, I suggest you do the same. There was a line of people waiting to get in by the time we were done with the maze, selection of games (these get crowded quick regardless of timing) and picking out our pumpkins (reasonably priced by the way). It opens at 10 am but for the most up to date times please see their website.

The kids LOVED the maze and we all got to experience the fun, excitement and quaint down home quality of being in the midst of the stalks. Something that being natives of Southern California we don’t experience too often. Heck I haven’t been to a beach in three years and I’m darn proud of it.
The cost to enter the maze is $9 or the kids can get wristbands to enter the maze plus play 3 games/activities (pillow bounce, hay ride, face painting, carb cob shooting etc).
It’s worth the trip and a wonderful way to spend a morning/afternoon.

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