Wednesday, May 27, 2015

May 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Lamingtons

I'd just like to start out this blog post with an apology to all Australians everywhere ... of all time. When I set forth on this baking challenge, I promise that it was not my goal to completely destroy what is a fan favorite for you Down Under. It was just one of those days... :)

This month, we were challenged to make Lamingtons, which are basically single-servings of sponge cake that are dipped in chocolate and then rolled in dried coconut. One problem... I don't like dried coconut. To me, eating it provides the same experience as chewing on styrofoam offers. It just give me a bad chill down my spine. Fortunately, the challenge's host said we could be creative and weren't required to use the traditional coconut. Woo hoo!!

Without any issues, I whipped up my beautiful sponge batter. It was airy. It was frothy. It was the perfect color. I carefully poured it into my prepared baking pan and ushered it into the hot oven. So far, so good!

The recipe said to immediately invert the cake (once completely baked, of course) onto a wire rack, remove the pan, and then re-invert the cake so it is right-side-up on a cooling rack. "NO PROBLEM," said I. "HAHAHA! That's what YOU think," said the baking gods. As I inverted the cake (using pot holders because the pan just came out of a 350 degree oven), all hell broke lose. Actually, hell didn't break lose, but the pan sure did. The entire thing went flying out of my hand and landed on the stove ... the cast iron pan ... and the Dutch oven. Lovely. Ruined. I risked my fingers and plunged in to upright the cake and find out how much damage had been done. How much? This much:

Knowing the cake was going to be cut into bite-size pieces, I decided to carry on and make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. After the cake cooled, I whipped up the chocolate dipping sauce (yum) and then opted to roll my ugly cake pieces in brightly colored sprinkles for two reasons: (1) they aren't coconut and (2) the bright colors will (hopefully) keep people from noticing the fact that the cake went on a bit of a joy ride and got mangled in the process.

All in all, it could have been worse, but could have been MUCH better. Fortunately, the cake's taste wasn't impacted by its flight and is quite yummy!

For the May challenge Marcellina from Marcellina in Cucina dared us to make Lamingtons. An Australian delicacy that is as tasty as it is elegant

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mother's Day Hike 2015: Llandover Woods

We had an absolutely gorgeous Mother's Day this year. The sky was blue, the sun was out, and not a drop of rain fell.

To celebrate the day, we opted to lace up our hiking shoes and explore Llandover Woods, which is a hop, skip, and a jump from our house. Embarrassingly, we'd never taken the time to go there before now; in fact, I didn't even realize it was a good place to tromp around with kids until I read a "secret places to hike with kids in/near Seattle" article online.

The loop that we hiked was just over a half mile long and provided plenty of lush landscape to look at along the way. Even with the ups and downs of the trail, our kids did great!! No one complained about tired feet nor asked to be carried. Woo hoo!!

Along the way, Eric and I pointed out things we noticed, like sprouting ferns, woodpecker holes in trees, thorny plants to avoid touching, etc. The kids soaked it up and created their own backstory for much of what we saw, including a fairy family lived below a large tree with partially exposed roots.

Our hike didn't take too, too long, which was good because the kids had swim lessons later on in the day and we didn't want exhaust them. That said, it was a perfect first-of-the-season hike and an ideal way to spend Mother's Day.

Let's hike!!
Annika and Eric heading off into the woods
Annika just hanging around
Mama and her munchkins
Annika, queen of the woods
Conon, king of silly log standers
Conor found a flower and gave it to me as a Mother's Day gift...
So, Annika found a flower, too!
My little sweeties 
Eric and the kids blazing a trail
Wuv.... twue wuv!
The kids loved the natural benches we found along the way
and had to try out each and every one of them
Conor securing his role as hike leader

We found a few rock/shel piles in a certain area of the woods; it took us a couple of minutes to realize it was probably someone's pet cemetery. Of course, the kids wanted to bring the cool rocks home (especially the heart-shaped stone). After much convincing (without going into too much details about exactly why it was important not to take the pretty items), they agreed to leave the shrines intact. Rest in peace, little fishies and birds who may (or many not) have been buried there
The Olson Four in Llandover Woods

Monday, April 27, 2015

Conor's Weekend Surprise for Us

Yesterday morning, Eric and I were slowly waking up and could hear the pitter-patter of little feet upstairs. We knew that Conor would soon be in our room to let us know he was awake... about a minute later, that's exactly what happened. What was about to happen, however, was definitely not on our radar.

Conor came into our room with a surprise for us ... he brought us drinks (a beer for Eric and a hard cider for me)  and breakfast in bed (1/4 of a pancake each  in a bowl). Conor decided to surprise his entire family with breakfast in bed and took it upon himself to do all of the prep.

He found only one pancake in the fridge (leftovers from the day before), so cut it into 4 even parts, microwaved it, and even topped it with some syrup. He knew the milk container was too full for him to successfully pour the milk into cups, so he opted for drinks that wouldn't spill (hence, the 7:30 AM cocktail hour attempt ... and, no, we didn't drink them ... they went back into the bar fridge).

After he served us our food, he and Eric took Annika's breakfast to her, so she could enjoy the treat of breakfast in bed.

Not only did Conor show amazing kindness and thoughtfulness, he also showed great problem solving and reasoning skills. So amazingly proud of our little guy!!

April 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Focaccia

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was right up my alley: BREAD!! More specifically, we were challenged to make focaccia from scratch.

The timing for this challenge couldn't have been more perfect, considering my new addition to the book "Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast", which is ALL about bread making. Every recipe provided in this book yields two loaves of bread, and many recipes are adaptable, meaning you don't have to make the same kind of final product with both halves of the bread. So, I made bread by following the "Overnight White Bread" recipe, and made half of dough into a lovely artisan loaf and the other half into focaccia.

Conor helped me make the focaccia's dimples, and he was in charge of brushing the olive oil on the top of the bread... hence, we had uneven dimples and areas of oil slick on the bread, but it all worked out!

I topped the focaccia with parmesan cheese and salt... all four of us gave the bread our thumbs up. Definitely going to make it again!

For the month of April Rachael of pizzarossa and Sawsan of Chef in Disguise took us on a trip to Italy. They challenged us to try our hands at making focaccia from scratch

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Goodbye, Smudge

Today, we sadly said goodbye to our sweet Smudge.

He was the cat who had to be on or in something at all times in order to be truly comfortable. He loved attention and we often joked that he was a dog stuck in a cat's body. He was around from practically the beginning of our relationship and saw us through getting married, moving, and invading our home dogs and babies.

Smudge was a true gem and we'll miss him more than words can say.

I used to be smart

As we were driving home from the store this morning, Conor and I had the following conversation. (My face hurts from laughing each time I think back on it... you're welcome!)

Conor: Mama, I know what pokey mean. It means slow.

Me: That's right, Conor! Good job.

Conor: Why does it mean slow?

Me: I don't know. Someone thought it was a good word to be slow.

Conor: Who?

Me: I don't know, Sweetie.

Conor: I thought you said you were smart.

Me: (insert laughing)

Conor: What's so funny, Mama??

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Easter 2015 Recap: Baskets, Bikes, and Family

Whoever doesn't believe in miracles doesn't know what happened on Easter morning ... yes, the original Easter morning was pretty darned miraculous, but I was referring to the Easter of 2015. What was this year's miracle? BOTH of our children slept past 8 o'clock in the morning! Yes, folks, you heard it here first. Conor "I refuse to sleep past 6" Olson slept until after 8:00 AM. Will wonders ever cease?? Annika awoke shortly after Conor did and was content to return to bed until she was reminded that it was Easter and there were Easter baskets that required the kids' attention.

After excitedly discovering wonderful treasures in their Easter baskets, it was time for church. Due to the basket fun, we left a bit late, which wasn't ideal, but do-able considering we live so close to church. On the way, I mentioned that it might be harder than normal to find parking because more people tend to go to church on Easter and Christmas. At this point, my internal judgmental voice made a few snippy comments, when Conor piped up, "Maybe they just want to celebrate with us." I then felt in my place and realized who am I to judge how often people go to church. Lesson learned....

Easter basket fodder

Now that he's 5, Conor gets gum... even from the Easter Bunny
Annika decided Conor should practice doing head stands after brunch
 After church, we enjoyed some lovely Eggs Benedict for brunch and then some nice down time. Unfortunately, Eric was overwhelmed by the cold he had been fighting and laid down to take a nap for about an hour before we headed to my brother and sister-in-law's house. Unfortunately, his cough and congestion got the better of him, and when I tried to awaken him, I quickly realized him staying home and sleeping more was the better option. So, the kids and I packed up and headed to Sammamish sans Eric.

Our Easter celebration was quite nice... would have been nicer with a healthy Eric, but we can't control all things, can we? Our family friends, the Wilsons, were at Troy and Staci's house, which made the day even more special. Tony Wilson was the one who married Eric and me, so he definitely holds a dear spot in our hearts... and always will! It was a joy to catch up with Laurie Wilson and be embraced by her sweet words and gentle spirit. She is like a spa treatment for the soul... she is calming and serene.

Annika's favorite part of Easter (aside from the basket fodder) was the olives

Oh, and I made Easter cookies

Fun Easter with my big brother

One bonus bit of excitement for our Easter was Conor learned to ride a two-wheeler bike thanks to Annika and Ian! 



We had a lovely dinner as a big, extended family (really ... isn't that what holidays are really about?) and headed home in time to watch the sun set over the mountains. A lovely ending to a lovely day.