An Easy Night Out
March is my new favorite month and it has nothing to do with the weather. Turns out that the first break from team sports we’ve had since August happened in March. I couldn’t believe it when I realized it. We had been on the go every Saturday morning since school began with only Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s off, three busy weekends without sports in the mix!
So, for two glorious Saturdays in a row the Meekma family didn’t run out the door with balls and shinguards and other sports gear. Instead, we lounged. I had a difficult time at first, but I got in to it.
I’ve tried to not overschedule the kids and the family and think I’m doing a pretty good job. No martial arts, gymnastics, piano, acting, yoga, gardening (all classes the girls have asked for). One sport and one “art” per child each trimester. And girl scouts. But even that has us moving around a lot.
For two consecutive Saturdays we didn’t leave the house. I gave up the farmer’s market. We played Wii. We watched movies. I occasionally sent the girls outside to scooter or practice dribbling and passing. Just because we weren’t going anywhere didn’t mean we became sloths. David hung some shelves and art (I supervised) and painted (again, I supervised) a wall that needed some color. We read. We napped.
Our recent weather played into this stay-at-home feeling, of course. It is much easier to relax when it’s rainy and gray.
But I still love doing something on Saturday evening so I picked two family-friendly outings that gave us an excuse to bathe and put on clean clothes.
One Saturday we dined at the original Olamendi’s in Capo Beach. They still serve tasty Mexican food in an eclectically, decorated space. Day of the Dead memorabilia mixes with ephemera about Richard Nixon, since it was one of his favorite restaurants when he stayed in San Clemente. I almost didn’t notice the life-sized wooden crucifix next to our table, but luckily one of my girls pointed it out to me.
I had a killer salad with nopales and carnitas while David and the girls opted for more traditional enchiladas and chimichangas. The kids’ meals came with dessert, a fruit chimichanga with whipped cream on the side. Happy girls. Jealous dad.
The following weekend, we went to the opposite end of the culinary and cultural spectrum to Irvine for authentic Chinese food at Chef Chen’s in a shopping center off I-5 at Jeffrey.
Every business in this center caters to Asians; there are Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese shops. We’ve had pho, shabu-shabu and Korean hot pot meals here. I’m always surprised we are often the only white family chowing down at these fabulous, authentic restaurants.
Chef Chen’s has familiar Chinese fare, great moo shu chicken and pan fried dumplings for the kids. The waitresses usually help us try something new each time. Per a recommendation, David ordered the Wu Xi Ribs and was not disappointed. These weren’t the red-tinged spare ribs of our childhood, but were braised, fall-off the bone ribs, more like a short rib dish. The girls were literally stealing out of David’s hands. Chef Chen’s is known for its “roast beef sandwich” which is a scallion pancake wrapped around beef and fresh herbs and scallions.
One time we tried the seafood soup that you cook at the table. David and I had a difficult time identifying everything in the tasty stew. One item that Maggie really liked was unfamiliar to both of us. Different texture – like crunchy jello. Turned out to be sea cucumber.
We always visit the neighboring bakery for a dessert to end our visit to Asia. Both girls are gaga over the mango and strawberry mochi, while David prefers the cream puffs. It’s a trip around the world, but only 15 minutes away.
Rebecca Meekma is that friend who always knows something fun to do and the Calendar Editor for Parenting OC. Follow her blog at www.ParentingOC.com.