Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Daring Bakers Challenge Revealed: CROISSANTS!

I am so excited to announce this month’s Daring Bakers challenge! Croissants ala Julia Child. I have wanted to make homemade croissants for years, but was too intimidated by the idea to try. Well, the Daring Baker’s challenge made me face my croissant fears and look ‘em square in the flaky eyes.I’m officially addicted to baking croissants now. In fact, I’ve made 4-5 different batches of them this month and plan on doing more (once my knee heals!). I even ventured into making chocolate-filled croissants. There was definitely a learning curve and I had a few flops (especially when using the pre-corrected recipe that called for WAY too much flour), but also enough successes to make it worthwhile. This is not a fast process; it takes about 12 hours to make a batch of croissants, but it sure seems to pay off once you take a bite of the warm, flaky goodness.The Daring Bakers go retro this month! Thanks to one of our very talented non-blogging members, Sarah, the Daring Bakers were challenged to make Croissants using a recipe from the Queen of French Cooking, none other than Julia Child!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Jungle Cake

Annika's little friend Gage had his 5th birthday party this past Saturday. Gage's mom is a good friend of mine and asked if I'd be up for making his cake. Ummmm..... an excuse to bake? Count me in!! Unfortunatley, a few weeks later, I volunteered to help with the Bite of Broadview and was going to be manning the dunk tank all Saturday. So, I didn't get to attend Gage's shindig. That didn't stop me/us from getting the cake made. The party had a jungle theme, so the cake had to follow suit.

The cake was a multi-day project. I baked early in the week and froze the cakes; it consisted of a 10" tier (comprised of 4 cakes) and a 6" tier (comprised of another 4 cakes). Thursday night, I stacked the cakes and then covered them with the green fondant. After that, I did the work on the palm trees. On Friday, Eric (aka, my amazing artistic director and sculptor extrordinaire) helped create the animals. While he sculpted, I did the painting for the animals that required paint (zebra, giraffe, snake). Our house was really warm on Friday, so we ran into a little difficulty with the fondant/gum paste... it kept slumping. ACK! We wound up using toothpicks as internal support and we rotated the animals in and out of the refrigerator, just to keep them cooler.

All in all, a huge success!!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dipping my toes into photography

Last weekend, I did something I rarely do. I took some time just for me. What did I do during this chunk of time, you ask? I took a 3.5-hour photography workshop just for moms. The workshop was hosted by Seattle Mamas with Cameras, and I can't even begin to describe how much I learned. I walked in with VERY little knowledge of how to use our new camera, let alone how to take a photograph instead of a snapshot. I've been interested in photography for many years, but never did anything about it. Now that Eric and I have our new fancy-schmancy camera (that we purchased with the goal of being able to take better pictures of our kids), it seemed prudent to learn what in the heck I should be doing.

We started out learning a few basics about photography terminology (ISO, apeture, f/stop, shutter speed, etc.) and learned what in the heck some of the buttons and dials on our cameras did. There were two instructors, one is a Canon mama and one is a Nikon mama, so we had lots of expertise to guide us. After the "these are the basics" portion of the class, we headed outside. The workshop was held at a fantastic location here in Seattle. The Good Shepherd Center is an historic building that originally was a place for unwed mothers to have their babies. After 60 years, the center was closed and the building was eventually purchased by the city and the grounds were turned into a park. The building is used as a school and a community learning center. The grounds are GORGEOUS! There are beautiful gardens scattered around and a great play area for kids. (I'm planning on bringing the kids there so they can play on the playground equipment; they'd love it there!)

Our first assignment was to "get to know" a flower in the garden. I chose this yellow something-or-other flower. After spending time with him, I took pictures of some gorgeous purple artichokes; my pictures, sadly, didn't do the beautiful plant justice.

I also hung out with some beans that were near the yellow flower. I found them interesting and worthy of being photographed. I truly appreciated that the flowers and beans held still and didn't cover their faces as I took their pictures.... unlike our beloved children. ;)

I think this is my favorite picture of the day. There's something about the brick wall that really grabs me.

We spent about 45 minutes (if not more) outside and then returned to our classroom to learn a bit more about photography. This portion was more about the art of photography instead of the brick and mortar details of photography. One point our instructors kept driving home was it is important to tell a story with photographs. The story behind a photograph is often what captivates those looking at it.

After returning home, I decided to try my hand at applying the many, many, many lessons I learned during the workshop. Conor decided he wanted to take my picture with Annika's camera while I took his picture. (He loves running around saying "cheese!!" with the camera.) I caught this moment and really feel it tells a story. His eyes are practically dancing and even though most of his face can't be seen, it is evident how happy he is.

I was trying to play around with the use of light in this picture. Eric's mom recently made this hat for Annika (isn't it adorable???) and I wanted to include a picture with the thank you note. So. we did a little experimenting with the natural light that was streaming into our kitchen. Annika decided that Bunny was feeling shy. I like that she isn't engaging with me or the camera; her focus is on Bunny. I love how her face is so soft and angelic in this moment. I don't like how bright the sun is shining on her hat, but oh well!

There is still SOOOO much to learn, but I feel like at least I have the basics to take some "keeper" pictures of our life now. Hurray!

Friday, September 16, 2011

San Diego Trip - Part 3

Our last stop before heading home on Monday was at Del Mar beach. It couldn't have been a more perfect way to end our fun family weekend. It was relaxing, playful, and warm.... triple bonus!

Abby and Conor walking from the van to the beach

Almost immediately after setting up our "base camp", Annika and Suzanne headed down to the ocean to get their feet wet and take in the amazing view.

While Suzanne and Annika tip-toed in the water, Conor got to work on making sure no grain of sand went untouched.

Annika showing me her "I'm happy to be at the ocean" smile

Suzanne and I kept finding some really neat shaped rocks, only to discover they weren't really rock, but compressed sand. Suzanne found one that reminded her of E.T.

You can't see it very well, but the black sand really made my footprints show up. It was a pretty cool result of meandering around on the wet sand.

Annika had a BLAST playing in the ocean. Unlike at home, the water was actually somewhat warm and didn't cause any body parts to immediately go numb. What a concept!

At first, Conor was quite aprehensive about the water, which surprised me because of how much he loves to splash normally. Once his comfort level went up, it was like pulling teeth keeping him out of the water.

My version of sand art

The kids and me before departing for the airport ... back home and back to Eric!

As we packed up the gear, Annika decided to make herself into a living sand castle. Unfortunately, that meant half of the beach wound up traveling to the airport with us. She wound up having a "bath" while standing in a bathroom sink to get rid of most of the sand. I figured the flight home might get a bit uncomfortable with half of Del Mar beach attached to her little body.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

San Diego Trip - Part 2

Soon after arriving in San Diego (and after Conor was down for his MUCH overdue nap), my former college roommate (Rachel) and her family (Jason - husband, Hannah - daughter, and Eliana - daughter) stopped by for a visit. OK, 'stopped by' isn't exactly accurate .... they drove 2+ hours from L.A. to visit. Fortunately, Rachel's brother (Jared) lives in San Diego, so they made the trip a two-fer event. Our girls played in my sister's backyard and the grown-ups caught up and took turns wrangling the kids. Eventually, Conor woke up and joined the fray.

Rachel and I met in Sept 1992 when we were randomly assigned to be suitemates at WWU. We hit it off almost immediately and realized we have now been friends for half of our lives. How is it possible that much time has passed?!!?!!? Wasn't it just yesterday that we were cramming for tests (note: Rachel used to study so much that she could tell us which page in her notebook certain items could be found.... she put the rest of us to shame!), camping as a huge group at Chuckanut, eating dinners in the dining hall, rescuing her computer during a fire drill, and generally being goofy teenagers in college.

I am so appreciative that Rachel and her crew took the time to visit us last Saturday and am REALLY hoping they come up next summer for her high school's 20th reunion (hint, hint, hint!)

Hannah getting ready for the LPGA tour

Eliana discovered a helmet and proceeded to wear it backwards ... had all of us in stitches!

Eliana and her daddy

Eliana and Annika chillin' in one of the pool floats

Jason being a goof


Jared and Hannah

Eliana and Annika (or "Hanukkah" as Eliana said it) doing a little artwork on the putting green

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

San Diego Trip - Part 1

Last Saturday, the kids and I packed up and headed down to visit my sister and her family (well, the parts that aren't in college in Washington and Idaho) for a long weekend. Per the display boards, our flight was set to take off on time. SWEET! I got in line to board the plane and was told Conor wasn't on the reservation. Ummm... yeah he was. Right after booking the tickets online, I called the airline with his info. The ticket counter gal explained the computer won't let lap children in the row in front of an exit row. Guess where our seats where! Yup! Right in front of an exit row. Because he didn't have a car seat, we were able to sit there. Don't ask ... I have no idea.

Just before pulling away from the gate, we found out from our pilot that a gauge in the cockpit was broken and needed to be replaced, but it would only take 10-15 minutes to replace.... once they found a replacement gauge. Mind you, I booked our tickets based on times that would work around Conor's nap time. Delays weren't in the cards. The gauge was replaced within 20-25 minutes and then we were off. As we taxied down the runway, our pilot slowed the plane and then turned ... not a good sigh. He got back on the intercom and said there was another mechanical problem. This time, a circuit breaker to the flight data recorder flipped. We had to go back to the gate and get it checked out. By this time, a few of us were wondering if the plane really wanted to stay on the ground and if we agreed with that idea. Eventually, we were back on the runway and took off without a (correction, without another) hitch. Unfortunately, we were over an hour late by this time and Conor got really cranky on the flight. Everyone in our general area knew he was late for a nap. (Side note: I apologize to everyone in our area for the screaming child.... especially to the kind man who sat next to us and had every right to give me the stink eye, but chose not to).

Eventually, we arrived at our destination and got to enjoy seeing our extended family... well, some of them. My sister was still at work and our niece Abby was out with her friend Madison. We got a little lunch and then Conor got a MUCH needed nap. HURRAY!!

A little bit after we arrived, my college roommate and her family stopped by for a visit. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our vacation recap to read more about our San Diego shenanigans!

Conor on the plane (before the screaming began)

Annika chilling on the plane. She was a rock star traveler!

Abby and Annika chillin' in the pool



Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Labor Day Weekend 2011

This past weekend was Labor Day weekend and it was just the right amount of busy for the Olson clan. There were happenings, but not so many that we felt rushed to move from one activity to the next.

On Saturday, we had a BBQ with our good friends the Russells. We had a fantastic meal and experienced the joy of watching our kids play together. Dave and Eric have been friends since they were in college together. Dave was Eric's best man when we got married and Eric returned the favor when Dave and Nicola got married. Their little Anne was born 3 1/2 months before our Conor entered the world. It has been such a treat to watch our kids grow together and get old enough to now play together. Annika and Anne playing with Anne's tea set gave my heart wings.

On Sunday after Annika's swim lesson, we met our friends the Hoglunds and Minnichs at Bitterlake Park for some family fun time. The kids had a great time running everywhere and making good use of the playground equipment. Unfortunately, our camera's memory card ate a bunch of the pictures we took of the day, but we did wind up with a number of keepers just the same.

Annika proved again and again that she's a monkey bars rock star. She can get her wiry little body across them like you wouldn't believe.

I thought ahead and remembered to bring the kids' rubber balls with us and am so glad I did. The kids had a great time kicking, throwing, and rolling them all around the park.

Here's Ethan having fun on one of the random bikes that were at the park.

Little Miss Grace giving us a peek into her as a teen and borrowing Elaine/Jim's cars for a night out with her friends. Notice her perfect 10 & 2 hand positioning on the wheel!

Once the kids discovered the water fountain, we knew all other toys were pointless.

They had a great time taking turns drinking the water and splashing water on each other.

Liam also turned the water fountain into a basketball hoop. That boy can think outside the box!

Here comes the tickle mouse!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Winter Hats

A couple of weeks ago, summer FINALLY arrived here in Seattle. Until then, we had a rather soggy, cold summer. You'd think that I'd get the idea to make the kids' winter hats when it was cold out, but 'twas not the case. I waited until last weekend when it was gorgeous out to get struck with the idea that "hey, fall will be here before we know it... the kids are going to need hats before we know it." So, we packed up and headed to the yarn shop. I found a pattern that called for me to dye yarn using Kool-Aid... really, how could I pass up THAT opportunity???

The kids picked out the main color for each of their hats. Annika picked a hot pink and Conor picked a dark purple. The other colors (orange, light blue, green, and light purple) were thanks to some great directions and Kool-Aid.

I made Annika's hat last weekend and finished up Conor's hat this weekend. Yes, our children are the ones wearing summer clothes and wool hats. I promise you that come winter, they'll refuse to wear the hats for some reason. Mark my words. :p

Annika being silly

Conor in his new hat

Playing Kinect while wearing summer attire and wool hats (sigh)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Rockin' out with Conor

For the past few days, I've been in charge of Conor's drop-offs and pick-ups because Eric has been home with Annika, whose school is closed for cleaning before the new school year begins.

While in the car yesterday, I decided it was time to pop on a little toe-tapping music, because it just was that kind of day. I asked Conor if he'd like to listed to some music and he quickly responded with an enthusiastic, "YAH!!!!" (pronounced "Ja" because he's apparently really in touch with his Scandinavian heritage these days.) I thumbed through my CDs and found the Footloose soundtrack. Perfect!! Conor LOVED it! He wiggled his feet and clapped his hands to no end as we listened to the theme song ... he even cheered for me as I sang along. That's my boy!!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Zoo Visit & Modern Technology

Annika and Eric are currently at the zoo. I'm at work. (They win!!)

Per Eric's IM from earlier this morning, they were going to the zoo tosee the animals and have a picnic lunch. I'm jealous that they're off having fun, but also glad that they're having some one-on-one time together. I think it is very important for each parent to build an independent relationship with each child, just as it is important for the kids to develop a relationship with each other that is parentfree.

Last night, Annika was so excited about their upcoming zoo trip that she pulled out some paper and her crayons to draw a map of the zoo with the animals that she wanted to make sure they saw. The top of the list was the giraffes, followed by tigers, bears, and lions. I hope she gets her wish and sees all of the critters that were running around in her mind.

Even though I'm at the office, I can still basically see what they're seeing with the amazing technology that we use on a daily basis. Eric was able to snap a picture and send it from his phone to my work email address. I love that we're so connected!!

I'm pretty sure she's looking at a bear of some sort... brown bear? grizzley bear? Smokey the Bear?

Eric sent this one a little bit later: Annika hanging out with a big goat.