My Nemesis: Basketball Photos

One of the primary reasons I wanted to upgrade to a DSLR camera was to get better quality images of my kids various activities.  The hardest thing for me to get a handle on thus far are basketball pictures.  I know a large part of it is due to the poor lighting in the gym but I also attribute a lot of it to me not using the proper settings.  In these photos I’ve set the aperture to the lowest possible setting.  My thought was that I would only be trying to focus on one moving target instead of multiple.  Then I set it to Auto ISO and put it on the sports setting.

I feel successful in that it’s not just a bunch of blurry ballers but unsuccessful in that I still feel there is a lot of noise and just not as sharp as I had hoped.  Any advice would be most appreciated!  Oh, I should mention that at this time I only have an 18-55mm lens, I figure I shouldn’t upgrade until I know what I’m doing…



Turkey Spinach Sliders

This recipe from Bon Appètit Magazine, July 2013 is such a great take on turkey burgers. We love it because it’s easy, has a lot of flavor and is easily made Paleo and/or Gluten-Free just by omitting the buns so you can accommodate everyone.  I don’t fry the patties in the skillet as the recipe suggests, I like to use my Cuisinart Griddler instead.  It cooks the patties quickly and they are less oily/greasy, plus I don’t have to stand there and watch them. -TJ


  • 1/2 bunch flat-leaf spinach, thick stems removed, leaves chopped (4 c.)
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 3/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • Kosher salt, fresh ground black pepper
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 12 slider buns or small dinner rolls, split, lightly toasted *Omit for Paleo or gluten-free
  • Mayonnaise, sliced red onion, and pickle slices (for serving)

Combine spinach, scallions, garlic, turkey and cumin in a medium bowl; season with salt & pepper.  Using a fork, mix gently just to combine.  Form turkey mixture into 12 (1/2″ thick) patties.

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in 2 batches, cook patties until golden brown and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.  Do no press down with spatula during cooking.  Transfer to a plate.

Serve turkey-spinach patties on buns with mayo, onions & pickles.


Grilled Cilantro Chicken with Pickled Tomato & Avocado Salsa

Normally I am the one sharing recipes with family and friends but every once in a while they are kind enough to send me one!  I love having new things to try so although the words ‘Pickled Tomato’ scared me (a lot) I felt obliged to give it a try.  I have a serious aversion to large chunks of tomato so I made pico-de-gallo instead.  I also made a few other minor changes so I could use what I had on hand as well as make it Paleo.  This recipe is a definite keeper and going in the book.  You can find the original recipe from Sunset Magazine here, I am sure their picture is much prettier. -TJ



  • 1 lb. Roma tomatoes, diced
  • 1 Serrano chili, minced
  • 1/2 c. red onion, diced
  • 1/2 c. distilled white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 4 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 Tbsp. minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp. ground mustard
  • 2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 firm, ripe avocados


  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 c. fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 c. chopped cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
  • boneless, skinless chicken thighs (whole or strips)

To make salsa:  In a bowl, combine tomatoes, chili, and onion; set aside.  In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring vinegar to a boil.  Add honey and salt, cook, stirring until dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove from heat; set aside.  In a separate bowl, combine ginger, garlic and dry spices.  In a separate saucepan heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium high heat until rippling.  Add ginger mixture and cook, stirring until fragrant, 1 minute.  Remove from heat, stir in seasoned vinegar and pour over tomato mixture.  Let salsa cool then cover and chill at least 1 hour and up to 4 hours.  About 1 hour before serving, cut avocados into 3/4 inch chunks, add to salsa, bring to room temperature.

To make chicken:  In a large bowl, combine olive oil, lime juice, and seasonings.  Add chicken, making sure to coat well.  Let stand at room temperature, turning occasionally, 30-45 minutes.  Heat a grill to high and grill chicken, covered, turning often until no longer pink in the center.  The time will vary depending on which chicken pieces you use.  Transfer chicken to a platter and spoon salsa on top, saving half of the liquid for another use.


Vacation Mission: Cali-Stylin’ Part 2

Today was a long, hard, vacation planning day!  Poor me, I know.  I would want to slap me too.  Anaheim/Disneyland is part 1 of our trip.  Beach/LEGOLAND is Part 2.  I started this day thinking that after all of yesterday’s research, I had finally picked the perfect place for part 2!  First thing this morning, feeling super proud of myself, Bam! I made the reservation.  Then something caught my eye and I looked closer at the ‘resort’ which turned out to be very disappointing based on the guest’s photos.  Question:  How could I have possibly made an uninformed decision?  Answer: If you are trying to sell something you don’t point out the flaws!

So today, roughly 30 minutes after making the reservation I decided to cancel it.  Then I spent my second full day of really important research feeling like I was never going to get the place I wanted for the price I wanted.  Finally I went back to Vacation Rentals By Owner which I dismissed early in yesterday’s research for reasons I don’t remember.

Coming from a cold wintry wonderland we really wanted to make sure the kids got to experience the beach.  We were adamant that we had a place ON THE BEACH.  Then started thinking about how much salt water sucks when you aren’t used to it and wave after wave knocks you down.  Eyes burn, nose burns, can’t taste anything but salt, sand in the bum.  Maybe that won’t be awesome, maybe that’s a novelty.  Should probably have a decent pool if the kids hate the beach.  Should NOT stay on the beach.  Have I mentioned I’m an over-thinker?

Regrouped and decided on a place I found on VRBO which is at worst a time share but at best a legit condominium complex.  Pool, beach, kitchen, YAY!  Let’s hope they accept my request…  By the way LEGOLAND Hotel, be reasonable to us little people (a.k.a. minions).  Are you kidding me?  Try to remember who keeps you in business.  I suppose it’s similar to the shaft we get on the purchase price of Legos (which we keep buying).  Maybe they are in fact – marketing geniuses.  – TJ


Vacation Mission: Cali-Stylin’ Part 1

Recently we decided to take our moderately large family to the Happiest Place on Earth; Disneyland.  We’ve never taken our kids before and now that the ages are 14, 11, 10 and 7 we thought it would be the perfect time.  We’ve talked about doing this for years but between worrying about the kids being to young and how expensive it is we always pushed the idea aside and went camping instead.

So, we finally make the commitment to the kids and it’s time for step 1: Reservations.  Whenever I tried to make reservations I would get stalled because I couldn’t find a room big enough and the airlines wouldn’t let me search for more than five.  I quit and got frustrated more than once thinking how odd it was that I was having such a hard time.  Wondering if it was operator error or if the websites just don’t accommodate families larger than five and thinking maybe I should call.

Then yesterday the planets aligned and it all fell into place!  I’m talking serious good fortune (or what seems like it to me).  Maybe that’s what they do, frustrate the hell out of you then when something works you are overjoyed and pounce on it.  Maybe I was set up but never the less, my first inquiry yesterday took me right to the suites for larger families and the airline website let me put in 6 (not 5) passengers!  Even better – the package I purchased and the flights were even cheaper than expected.

Now for step 2: Activities.  This is where hopefully some readers out there can help.  What are the must see or must do activities in Disneyland and California Adventure for various ages?  The boys are 14 & 10, the girls are 11 & 7 and I’m pretty sure they won’t all be loving the same things.  I was there with my mom and aunts last year for a fun trip with my 90-year-old grandpa who loves Disneyland.  I didn’t do too much recon while I was there but I saw enough that it looks like there is a lot more for the girls than the boys.  Thoughts, advice, tips?  I would love to hear your suggestions!  -TJ


Giant Lego Gandalf at the Lego store in Downtown Disney!

Paleo Buffalo Chicken Tenders


This recipe for Paleo Buffalo Chicken Tenders from The Primal Palate is really good and more importantly, super easy!  They post a dill dip with their recipe that I did not make so click the link above if you want to try the chicken tenders with the dip.  I have to confess that I don’t think my Texas Pete’s wing sauce was 100% Paleo so I recommend reading labels to find the right one for you.  I wonder what the lovely people at The Paleo List would say about Texas Pete’s and Franks Red Hot types of sauces? – TJ


  • 1-2 lb. boneless, skinless chicken tenders
  • 1/4 c. liquid coconut oil
  • 1/4 c. Frank’s Red Hot
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 400° F.  Whisk sauce ingredients together in a small bowl.  Place chicken in a gallon Ziploc bag and pour sauce over chicken.  Seal bag and toss chicken in buffalo sauce.  Place chicken tenders on a broiler pan and bake at 400° for 25 minutes.  I gave the chicken another quick coating of the buffalo sauce after I took it out of the oven.