Monday, June 13, 2016

Deception Pass Camping Trip

This weekend was the official start of our summer. The kids had their last day of school on Friday and soon after they were done, we headed north to Whidbey Island ... Deception Pass, to be specific.

The drive was easy, aside from some unexpected traffic through Everett. (We did have an unexpected stop along the way when we realized we forgot to pack pillows (WHOOPS), so stopped at the next Fred Meyer our phone GPS could identify.) Aside from those things, it was an easy drive. :)

We found our camp site very easily and were impressed by the size of the state park and the fact we were so close to the beach. By standing on a rock or our picnic table benches, we could see the water. No complaints about that!!  

Our weekend's home-sweet-home

See? Water!!

Eric setting up our site
While Eric and I set up camp, the kids donned their helmets and rode their scooters around the loop our site was on. They quickly made friends with a family two spots down from us and basically disappeared until I retrieved them some time later. As soon as we had the tent and kitchen area set up, it was time to officially relax and get into camping mode. It was a little chilly/windy (we expected this, so weren't surprised), so we got a fire going fairly early in the day. 

WHOOPS!! My UW sweatshirt (and camp chair)
got a little love from some flying embers 

One of our few brushes with wildlife

The kids and I explored the nearby beach while Eric stuck close to the fire; we figured being responsible for a forest fire would be frowned upon, so left him as the sentry. The view from the beach was stunning; the sun glistened and made the water sparkle like it was crusted with diamonds. Annika and Conor happily scaled much of the driftwood scattered on the beach and practiced their rock skipping skills. We searched high and low for the perfect skipping stones. Because we weren't in water-friendly clothes or shoes, I was on high alert when it came to keeping the kids out of the Sound. For the most part, I was successful, so I considered it a win.

Exploring the beach

Panoramic view of the beach

Climbing driftwood

Driftwood  fun

Looking north

Our girl on her driftwood throne

Conor balancing

Annika skipping a rock

Our rock skippers

Our other brush with the local wildlife

After our jaunt to the beach, it was time to get roasting. The kids decided to head back on the path we took to the beach and I opted for the road route. (Six one way, half a dozen the other.) Annika decided to explore past where our campsite was and didn't arrive at our site with Conor. After a minor heart attack and a few minutes of walking the path while calling her name, we located Annika (who was walking toward us) and reminded the kids about making safe (and sound) choices. Ugh!!

Once my heart returned to a normal pace, it was time for dinner, which consisted of roasted hot dogs, baked beans, and fried red potatoes. The kids loved roasting their hot dogs and I greatly enjoyed the lack of post-dinner clean up! We really should cook more using sticks and an open fire! Naturally, dessert was the camping favorite s'mores. YUM! 

Annika roasting her marshmallow

S'more boy

Eric and Conor cozied up to the fire
Yup, this is how I camp
(aka fireside happy hour)
S'more girl

Our future food critic giving her official review

Double fisting his s'mores

Who needs napkins???
Warm toes while munching on a s'more ... what could be better?

Conor gives camping a big ol' thumbs up

We surprised the kids with a rainbow additive to make the fire extra special and fun. The family that the kids befriended earlier in the day saw our fire and wound up hanging out with us for a couple of hours while the kids played and the adults chatted. It was a fun impromptu evening. The family's little boy is 2 and thought our van's automatic door was the best thing ever; every time it opened/closed, he would cackle with laughter. That, of course, highly entertained the adults ... sending us into peals of laughter.

Our pretty fire!

Eventually, it was time to hit the sack (quite literally!) and snuggle up for the night. The wind kicked up during the night and made it a bit tricky to get decent sleep, but it wasn't horrible. Fortunately, we stayed nice and warm. I'll take loud wind over being cold any day.

On Saturday morning as we were figuring out our plan for the day, Conor climbed into my lap and said he wasn't feeling well... his tummy and head hurt. I snuggled with him for a bit and when it became clear this wasn't a passing oddity, Eric and I made the decision to abandon the rest of the camping trip and head home a day early. Fortunately, we were able to get a hold of Eric's parents before they made it too far from home. (They were going to come up and spend part of the day at the camp site with us.) Annika was really bummed that we were leaving early, but still understood why. (I placated her by saying we could put the small tent in her room that night so she could "camp" one more night.) Conor slept a bit on the way home and then took a 4 hour nap once we got home. He woke up with a fever and continued aches (confirmed that we made the right choice of coming home early). Fortunately, by the next day, he rebounded and was mostly back to his normal, energetic self. The fever did spike again Sunday night, but didn't last too long.

Not exactly the camping trip we'd planned, but still fun and one we'll remember. Maybe we can go back next summer and have a do-over trip to Deception Pass. 

Sick boy sleeping in the car

Fevers suck!

Friday, May 27, 2016

May 2016 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Twist Bread

This month, we Daring Bakers were challenged by Tandy ( of Lavender and Lime) to make twist bread. Oh darn! That sounds horrible ... NOT!!!

Tandy gave us the freedom to select the filling, so I went with a riff on cinnamon bread because I'm lazy and I had the ingredients on hand. (Let's be honest, eh?) I would really like to try this again with a savory filling (maybe sundried tomatoes, mozarella, and basil??) but didn't get around to that in time for posting here today. If you're so inclined, here is the link to Tandy's challenge recipe.

I found this recipe quite easy to follow (woo hoo!). The only struggle I had was after I sliced the loaf down the middle and then had to twist it. The outer layers sort of peeled away from me as I attempted to twist the loaf. Once I managed to get a "that's good enough" twist (an extra set of hand would have definitely helped ease the process!), I shaped the loaf into a ring (re-twisted a bit along the way), brushed it with an egg wash, and popped it into the oven. About 15-20 minutes into the baking process, the house started to smell amazing! You really can't beat the cozy smell of cinnamon wafting from a hot oven.

The final verdict? Eric thought it was ok but not spectacular. The kids loved it; Annika gladly put on her newly self-appointed food critic hat to let me know it was "flavorful and had good texture." I thought it was good, but could have used more of the cinnamon sugar filling. My co-workers (who got the remainder of the loaf the next day) inhaled it. So, there you are!

Thanks, Tandy, for this fun and yummy challenge. Can't wait to try it again!!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Our Great Wolf Lodge Getaway

Will someone PLEASE tap the breaks on 2016? This year is flying by WAY too quickly!! How we are knocking on June's door so fast is beyond me. As I write this, I can hardly believe we've been back from our weekend at Great Wolf Lodge for over a week !

Now to catch you up a bit...

A week plus ago on Saturday morning after breakfast, Eric and I surprised the kids with the news that we were taking them to Great Wolf Lodge in about an hour. (Woo hoo!) To top it off, we were going with Uncle Dave and Anne. (WAH HOO!!) Annika and Conor were stunned and ecstatic all rolled up into one. (Which is why we held off on telling them about the trip until the last minute. If we told them the night before, we'd never get them to sleep!)

After a few more minutes of excited spastic responses, the kids ran around getting themselves dressed and ready for the world. Eric and I packed the suitcases the night before, so getting ready was mostly done aside from taking Buca to the dog hotel and putting the suitcases in the van. We swung by Dave's house so the two families could caravan the hour and a half to the hotel/water park. The drive was a piece of cake; no setbacks, no traffic jams, no kid drama. Easy peasy. Hurray!! (Don't you love it when things go according to plan? Yeah, me too!)

As we headed south, we found a variety of things to keep the kids occupied. We played word games and I Spy; the kids also colored, played with the stickers I put in their backpacks, and watched their tablets. One of the funniest moments during the drive, however, was when Eric and Conor were playing the "what begins with (insert letter of the alphabet)" game. Eric asked Conor, "What begins with the letter A?" To which Conor replied, "Apple!" Eric asked again, "What begins with the letter B?" Conor's response?? (Ready for this one?) "Bouillabaisse!" All Eric and I could do was stare at each other with wide eyes and slack jaws. Impressively, Conor even know it is a food. (We interrupt this programming to introduce our newest superhero: Vocabulary Boy!!)

We couldn't get into our hotel room (which is attached to the water park) until 4 PM, but we were able to access the water park starting much earlier. So, after a quick jaunt to Centralia for some lunch, we donned our swim suits and hit the water.


Silly faces!

I have to say, prior to our weekend, I really wasn't looking forward to it. I'd heard that GWL wasn't overly impressive and was basically "meh" but kids enjoy it. I'm thrilled to report that that was not our experience at all. We had a blast! The water park had a big wave pool (aka Conor's second home), something like 6 or 7 water slides (thrill seeker Annika LOVED them), a splashing area for little kids, and an outdoor adventure/rope course. It was so fun! We spent almost all of Saturday in the water (and had wrinkled fingers/toes to show for it) and basically exhausted ourselves.

Annika channeling her inner mermaid

Conor about to hit the wave pool

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Our little fishies

The Three Amigos

We call her "Bubbles" now

Blub, blub, blub

Annika in the waterfall

Conor and Anne in the waterfall

Anne prepared for water slide launch

Conor ready to take the plunge

My water slide selfie

Anne and Conor in line for the River Ride water slide

The water park (partial)

Anne on the water rope challenge

Conor leaping onto a lily pad

Annika perfecting her "Tarzan leap"

Annika, Eric, and Conor ... in between water adventures

The poco loco Olsons

Annika ready to head up to one of the water slides

Conor and Daddy

Annika and Daddy

Underwater Annika

It's no wonder our kids are fish! So are their parents.

Anne and Dave getting in on the underwater photo action

Water slide video

Wet, tired, hungry, smiling

By the time we needed to grab some dinner, we all felt like we were running on fumes. So, we went back to Centralia for some dinner to refuel. Later that night, we went to the clock tower (aka hotel lobby) for story time. In all honesty, this was the low point of the weekend from the adults' perspective. The story was unimpressive and the gal reciting it didn't play to the whole crowd ... only to those directly in front of her. That part really was "meh".

Our room was pretty special for the kids. When booking our reservation, Eric and I decided to for the complete GWL experience and got a theme room -- it was called a "Kid Kamp"room. There was a set of bunkbeds for the kids and that area of the room was decorated to look like a tent out in the wilderness... complete with a TV (suspension of disbelief needed at this point).  Needless to say, it was a huge hit with the kids.

Conor peeking out from the top bunk

Annika's lower bunk had a window - bonus!

Our two little campers

The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at GWL and headed straight to the water park knowing we wanted to get plenty of time there before we hit the rope course and then headed home. We swam, slid, and floated until we were practically oozing chlorine and then decided it was time to head outside for a different adventure.

We weren't sure if Conor and Anne would be up for the rope course, but knew Annika would be game (understatement). As it so happens, all 6 of us went up on the course and had lots of fun. Annika and Eric scampered to the upper levels almost immediately (there are 4 levels in all) while Conor and I stuck more to the lower 2 levels, which was more within his comfort level. We spent about an hour on the course (Annika would probably still be on it if we let her) and then packed up shop knowing we needed to get back home. All four of us were big fans of the zip line. Adrenaline Annika needed no prodding; she just took off. Conor needed a little convincing to try it and the first time, rode with very big eyes. Once he was at the other end of the zip line, he was hooked.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. All four of us had a great time. The kids keep asking when we can go back, which is always a good sign!