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Friday, July 30, 2010

ASTC - A Really Great Deal!

A few years ago we were visiting Wonderlab in Bloomington and I decided to go ahead and get the membership.  The boys loved the science/nature museum so much and I enjoyed the day trips to Bloomington where Indiana University is located.  Lots of great restaurants and shopping as well as science/nature.

I was so glad I did get the membership because it turned out Wonderlab was linked with hundreds of other like museums throughout the US.  With our membership card, we could get in any of those other museums for free!

Because we had a number of trips coming up, I knew we'd be able to take advantage of it.  And, did we!  I can't tell you how many times over the 2 years that we've had a membership that it came in handy.  Of course, some places we planned for, but others were just a surprise.

Like the U.S. Space & Rocket Center.  I hadn't even thought to check if it was part of the Association of Science & Technology Centers - we were going either way.  But, what a pleasant surprise when we realized it was!  

We used the membership twice at Balboa Park in San Diego,  in new towns we hadn't visited in Indiana, several times in Boston, in Louisville, and when we visited Chicago I believe we were able to use it just about everywhere we went.

If you travel and are interested in finding out more about which museums and centers are included in your membership, click here

Our annual membership with the ASTC Passport Program comes to an end this month.  So the boys and I drove over to Bloomington this week and visited Wonderlab.  They still love it although they are getting older and can see everything in less time.  We've decided not to renew our membership at this time.  We've really enjoyed the opportunities it has afforded us while the boys were young!

Brennan climbing The Grapevine

The Grapevine - pretty cool!

One of my favorites.  When you spin the drum and pluck the guitar.....

...you can see the different wavelengths!

Thomas jumped all the way to 7' at one point!

Oh, they're getting so tall!

I love this Rube-Goldberg contraption.  I could watch those little balls for hours.

This is a bubble of steam (cloud bubble).  Very cool!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Yummy Summer Vegetable Recipes

This year we joined our local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture).  Our CSA is a local farm that has a store where they sell their fruits and vegetables along with other local products.  This year we bought a half-share.  We pick up a bag FULL of great produce every Wednesday.

It's been fun learning to cook vegetables I haven't cooked much before.  And it's been a great chance to introduce the boys to foods they previously wouldn't touch.  We're learning to be less-picky eaters.  They've done great!

Our CSA's Facebook page profile photo:

In addition to our bag of goodies each week, our CSA gives us a little newsletter with great recipes.  This year I replaced my old frying pan that had seen better days with one that could go from stovetop to the oven.  It's been great for frittatas - which was one of the recipes from the CSA newsletter.

A frittata is super easy.  And versatile.  I've made them for breakfast, as a main dish, and as a side dish.

You saute 4 cups of chopped vegetables of your choice in a little olive oil.  Once the vegetables are soft, you pour 6 beaten eggs over the vegetables, and then sprinkle with cheese.  Then cook in a 350 oven for 30 minutes.  And serve.  So easy and so good.

In the one below I did spinach and chopped asparagus and added a little leftover Canadian bacon.

I do one with red potatoes a lot.  I usually saute the potatoes for a little while before adding the other vegetables to equal 4 cups of vegetables total, since the potatoes take a few minutes more to soften.

My family loves this dish.  Fast and easy, and healthy!

We've also been getting a lot of eggplants lately.  The boys had never had it.  The recipe I used for the ones below was quick and easy.  Halve the eggplants and cut out the eggplant "meat".  Chop it and saute it with onion.  Mix it with tomato sauce, salt and pepper.  Fill the eggplant havles and top with a mixture of breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Cook for 30 minutes at 350.

Yesterday we picked up our CSA bag and got a new kind of watermelon - a sugarberry watermelon.  It's dark green and is the sweetest, juiciest watermelon I've ever tasted!  It was really delicious.

Gotta love this time of year for the produce alone!

Last California Post

So, this is it.  What a great trip we had. 
Here are a few parting shots, mostly taken on my phone, so excuse the quality.

One of the main reasons we started talking about a trip to California was Legoland.  Thomas has been a HUGE Lego fan for years.  His grandparents gave him Lego Magazine for his birthday last year and they advertise the heck out of Legoland.  Our kids are not into Disney and have never asked to go to Disney World (and they ask to go just about everywhere), but Legoland was different.  Thomas begged often.

A Dream Come True

Legoland had a great mix of water park, rides, shows, and amazing Lego creations like the ones below.

All made of Legos!

The boys with a San Diego Padre (get it?)

We attended a show at Legoland on Egypt - another of Thomas's passions.  Here he is participating in the show below.  Really, this trip was just suited so perfectly to him (Legoland, La Brea Tar Pits, Sculpture Park, Children's and Natural History Museums, ocean waves, beach sand, Mexican food...)

While in San Diego we enjoyed several beaches.  Here we are at La Jolla.  It was a perfect beach.

While in Los Angeles we stayed in downtown Long Beach.  Thought I'd share a photo.

And, on our way home.


I worried that we might have seen too much on our trip.  I didn't want it all to fly by in a blur.  I made out a little quiz on our last day and the boys happily took it and did well!  They're at a great age and hopefully will have wonderful memories of our time together in California as a family.

Brennan didn't want to leave.  He said if someone would grant him the wish of just one more week in California he would love that person forever!

Me too, Brennan.  Me too.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Sculpture Park

A Sculpture Park

Aren't you tired of hearing about California?  I confess - I'm still not tired of blogging about it.

For our 30th of the "101 Places to See" sites we visited Queen Califia's Magical Circle at Kit Carson Park in Escondido, CA.  

Thomas really loves sculptures and he chose this spot as one of his "must see" locations for California (if at all possible).  Escondido is near San Diego so on the way back from L.A., we stopped to visit.

The city park is pretty but for a long time we didn't see any sculptures.  Then we parked and walked down a hot, dusty road. 

Then we rounded a corner and Thomas's face just lit up.

The sculpture garden is the only one by artist Nikki De Saint Phalle.  She is famous for her paintings and sculptures of voluptuous women, called the Nanas, installed in Paris, Tuscany, and Germany.

The Sculpture Garden is encircled by snake sculptures.  Very, very interesting.

David and me at the entrance.  Thomas took most of the photos on this post.

I'm just going to let the sculptures speak for themselves. 

The photo of this particular sculpture was in the "101 Places" book and is what got Thomas really interested in visiting.

This was one happy boy.  If we hadn't been hungry for lunch, he would have stayed a lot longer.

Even the benches were sculptures (but thankfully not snakes).

From the Book:
#36 - A Sculpture Park
It's like a museum without walls and without the try-to-keep-your-voice-down rule.  No walls means nothing's too big to fit, so you'll see the most gigantic sculptures, and sometimes you can touch them or even climb on them (check the park's rules before you do, please).  No walls also means the weather and the sculpture can interact:  the wind blows movable parts, the sculpture casts cool shadows on the ground, snow rests on top of it, and rain makes its surface slick.  The sculpture becomes part of the landscape, like a tree or rock.  And if the sculpture makes you want to do a cartwheel, go right ahead -- try doing that in a museum!

101 Places to See Before You're 12 - A Boardwalk

A Boardwalk

I was really excited that we had time while we were in Los Angeles to visit Santa Monica.  I have read wonderful things about the Santa Monica Pier and hoped to experience it for ourselves.  If I do say, I planned most of our trip well - we rarely ran into crowds because we went to places at off-times when there were not a lot of people.  This one I didn't time though, so we hit it on a busy, hot Saturday afternoon.

The pier/boardwalk from the main road

On our way down the pier.  Brennan was so excited because they had a roller coaster.  He had recently become addicted to roller coasters at Legoland.

The pier had some great shops like this one.

We saw lots of arcade games.  David and I rememebered this one from the Tom Hanks movie "Big".

The ferris wheel is the most famous ride at the Santa Monica Pier, but Brennan chose the roller coaster.

There are he and Dad towards the back.

He loved it!

We didn't go in the ocean at the Santa Monica beach but it was fun to see it from the Boardwalk.

I love mountains near the ocean!  Best of both worlds.

Had to get some ice cream on the boardwalk!

While we didn't see any flame-eaters (see book description below), we did some some street performers.

It was a fun afternoon exploring Santa Monica!

From the Book:
#42 - A Boardwalk
If you're taking your exploring seriously, you've already been to the uninhabited island mentioned in #10.  For a completely different beach experience, you need to see a boardwalk.  Boardwalks are kind of old-timey and that's the fun of them.  they have hot dog stands, sno-cones, carnival rides, fortune-tellers, and silly souvenirs.  But the best part is the people watching.  Something about being on a boardwalk brings out the wackiness in people:  you might see flame-eaters, roller-skating musicians, people juggling strange things like chainsaws.  Where else can you get all this...and for free?