Friday, April 27, 2012

March Daring Bakers Challenge: Nazook

OMG! I have discovered a little bit of Heaven on Earth. Normally, I would write something such as "it is is my children's laughter" or "Eric's smile", but that simply isn't where I'm going today. Instead, this little glimpse of Heaven is in a newly discovered baked treat called Nazook. (Or as Eric now says, "Nazook of the North")

What is Nazook? It is an Armenian pastry that basically is a flour and sour cream-based dough with a sweet filling ... all rolled up together (akin to a cinnamon roll).

The assumed key to the delight that is nazook? Butter. Lots and lots of butter! These bad boys are delightful warm and cold ... in the morning with a cuppa coffee or as an after-dinner treat. 

I took the extras to my office yesterday (Lord knows our little group of 4 does not need 40 nazook in front of us and taunting us with their buttery, sugary goodness) and was told they are possibly the best treat I've brought to work... and that's saying a lot, considering I bring in a lot of baked goods on a fairly regular basis.

I'll soon post a nazook tutorial (and the recipe) ... I just have to pull the pictures off of our camera. Stay tuned!

The Daring Bakers’ April 2012 challenge, hosted by Jason at Daily Candor, were two Armenian standards: nazook and nutmeg cake. Nazook is a layered yeasted dough pastry with a sweet filling, and nutmeg cake is a fragrant, nutty coffee-style cake.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Hanging with my BFF and The Pioneer Woman

I abandoned my family twice in two nights this week.Yes, I felt guilty, but also knew that I needed to do some things that were just for me. So, I bit the bullet and scheduled to be away from my family on consecutive nights. Crazy, I know! (The kids and Eric were fine and survived with nary a scratch or emotional scar ... WHEW!)

On Monday, I attended a monthly Mamas with Cameras meeting and learned all about capturing the moment when snapping photos. Great information and I can't wait to get a jump on this month's photo assignment.

Last night, my BFF (Kate) and I went to a local book store and listened to The Pioneer Woman (aka Ree Drummond) as she spoke about her life on a ranch in Oklahoma, how she got into blogging, as well as being a mom, foodie, wife, and dog lover. It was highly entertaining to listen to her funny stories and know Kate was there laughing right along with me. Kate and I both adore cooking and The Pioneer Woman is a constant resource for great recipes... not to mention hilarious anecdotes!

Ree spoke for about 45 minutes and then the book signing began. Kate and I were in group L. There were 50 people per group... you do the math. As soon as Ree (yes, we are on a first name basis!) was done talking, the book store employee announced that group A could get in line. Kate and I patiently (and loudly) chatted for about 20-30 minutes and then we heard "Group B!" SERIOUSLY? We'd be there all night before they got to our group.

So, we decided to walk around the shopping center and catch up. We wandered around, chatted to our hearts content, got frozen yogurt (FYI: Cake batter frozen yogurt topped with blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries is beyond yummy!), and even stopped at Ross so I could get some pants for Annika. We meandered for well over an hour, laughing and chatting the whole time. Knowing Kate had an hour-long drive home and we both needed to get up for work the next day, we decided to check the status of the line and if we were still a ways off, we'd put up the white flag. We wandered back into the book store and asked about the status on the line; just as we did, we heard "Group D!" Yeah, not gonna wait around. Fortunately, we had the option of leaving our books for Ree to sign and we could pick them up on a later day.

Yes, we missed out on the chance to have a 1:1 encounter and photo op with The Pioneer Woman, but spending extra time catching up with a life-long friend was much more of a gift than meeting a well-known blogger could ever hope to be.

Kate all a-twitter ... yes, she's a goof -- just one of the reasons we've been friend for 30 years!

Kate enjoying The Pioneer Woman's presentation

The Pioneer Woman

The Pioneer Woman singing "Endless Love" to her dog Charlie

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Conor's First Swim Lesson

Today, Conor had his first-ever swim lesson. He was beyond gung-ho for this event. "I go 'wim yesson!" was a common phrase out of him all morning long. The basic goal of the class is to get wee ones comfortable in the water; no pre-Olympics training going on. Each student has an adult (or two, depending upon the family) in the pool and the teacher leads activities to help the kids develop an understanding of being in a pool.

As soon as his toes hit the water, Conor was pretty sure we'd pulled something and he wasn't liking it AT ALL. He was ticked off and really unsure of the whole thing. Eric was in the water with him and did an amazing job of smiling the whole time to help Conor gain some comfort ... even after the cold water started to take its toll and Conor began to shiver and shake.

Eric and Conor pre-swim lesson

Conor learning to kick in the water (note: Eric is smiling, Conor ... not so much)

In the pool ... Conor is thinking he got ripped off

Eric STILL smiling... Conor STILL not so much

Annika photo bombed me!

Things greatly improved for Conor once the bin of pool toys made an appearance

THEN the purple noodle was discovered and things really improved

Whoa, Nellie! He's actually (sort of) enjoying himself

And there's a smile!!!

Eric's Birthday ... Again!

We have a tendency ... and I kind of think it is a darned fine one ... to celebrate each person's birthday more than once. For example, we celebrated the March boys' birthdays when we were in Kennewick in March, celebrated Eric and Conor's birthdays on their actual birthdays, had Conor's friends shin-dig last weekend, and celebrated Eric's birthday (again) at my brother and sister-in-law's house yesterday. Seriously, does it get any better? We've turned having a birthday into something akin to a sports season!

We couldn't have asked for a better day! The sun was out and the temperature hovered right around 70 degrees. We (ok, Troy) grilled flank steak for dinner (YUM), Staci served homemade bread (YUM) and salad, and we brought homemade grashopper ice cream pie (disclaimer: no grasshoppers were harmed during the making of the pie) and molasses cookies for dessert.

Troy and his family gave Eric a REALLY neat present. They had a professional frame created that pictures from the first football game at UW's Husky stadium and the last win at the stadium (Eric and his dad attended that game together) prior to its demolition last fall. Also included in the frame were the tickets used by Eric and his dad at the game. Truly a neat keepsake that will find a place of honor in our home.

Annika and Ian having a little water fun in the hot tub

This girl loves the water

Staco amd Troy being entertained by the kids

Ian's rashguard filled with air made him turn into Super Ian, muscles and all

Annika sporting some stylin' turtle goggles

Eric and Annika having fun on the big toy

Eric and Conor being silly

Annika and Conor going tandam down the slide


Staci and Troy being goofy

What evening would be complete without a sippy cup-toting keyboardist?

Annika and Kat chilling out together

Thursday, April 12, 2012

More Easter Pictures

A few more gems from our Easter preparations to share! We had such fun preparing for Easter with the kids and teaching them some of the traditions that go along with the holiday. They love doing projects, so this was a win-win day!

Annika creating her pink egg

Conor watching his "lellow" egg's transformation

Eric teaching Annika how to make two-toned eggs

Waiting is so hard at times!

Conor admiring his orange egg

Learning the importance of "gentle"

Half pink, half yellow

Ta da!!
Here are MY Easter eggs ... and sheep ... and bunnies .... and carrots

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter Eggs

The day before Easter, we taught the kids how to dye Easter eggs. They were very excited to choose the colors for their eggs and watch the shells transform from white to the selected color. We found out on Easter that the kids are much more impressed with dying their eggs than eating them. Oh well! 

Annika and Eric inspecting the pink egg

Conor willing his egg to turn yellow ("lellow")
What a wonderful Easter we had yesterday!! The weather couldn't have been more ideal and the day had a great pace to it ... steady but not frantic.

After everyone was up and dressed, the kids got to dive into their Easter baskets and discover what the Easter bunny brought. "Candy!" became the most commonly spoken word the rest of the day.

The kids and I went to 8:30 mass (PACKED!); the original plan was that we would go to the Jesuit parish (about 25 minutes away) for 7:00 mass with my brother and his family, but I didn't sleep well and realized that waking up at 5:30, getting out of the door, safely driving to St. Joseph, staying awake during mass, and making it back home wasn't in the cars. (Sorry, Nelsons... I'm a slacker!). ;)

After mass, the kids and I high-tailed it back home. While we were at church, Eric's folks (aka Bestemor and Bestefar) came down from their house so we could have Easter together. After a yummy brunch of hot crossed buns, frittata, fresh fruit, and bacon, we broke out the mah jong tiles.

The weather could not have been better yesterday!! After Bestemor and Bestefar headed back home and after Annika's swim lesson, Eric, the kids, and I headed out to the front yard to play. We kicked the soccer ball around and decorated our front walk with sidewalk chalk. I even took advantage of the good weather and tried out a few of my new photography skills ... now to see if any of them turned out—stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zoo Trip

Recently, we had a sunny Saturday, so the kids and I packed up and headed out to the zoo. We were going to see animals galore and burn off some energy ... until we got there at 4:15 and found out that the zoo closed at 4. Dang it! I thought it closed at 6 ... and it does, starting May 1st. Grr...

We played at the playground adjacent to the zoo, so the plan to burn off energy wasn't a complete failure. Unfortunately, every other family in Seattle had the same idea and the playground was PACKED. Being a solo parent with two kids in a crowded playground is the ultimate definition of stress. It never failed that when Annika when one direction, Conor would bolt the complete opposite direction. I'm shocked I didn't come home with strained neck muscles from looking in so many directions at a high speed!

Fortunately, the next day was also sunny, so all four of us packed up in the van after church and headed back to the zoo. (We are very lucky that it isn't very far from our house!). Having a 1:1 ratio is much more relaxing and highly recommended!

We had a great time exploring the zoo, but apparently were there during nap time. We saw the top of the tiger's head as it laid out on a high rock snoozing. When we got  to the lions and hippo areas, those animals were also sacked out. The trip wasn't a loss, though, Being at the kimodo dragon exhibit during feeding time more than made up for the fact that we saw quite a few sleepers. It was really neat to see how the kimodo dragon was fed!! We also got a few really good looks at the giraffes as they ate their morning snack. Of course, the penguins were their normal busy selves, giving us plenty to watch and talk about.

Conor taking in the view

I'm pretty sure this giraffe was doing yoga

Annika up in the monkey tree

Our little cuties


Conor in the monkey tree

Annika making her "monkey face"