Monday, May 27, 2013

May Daring Kitchen Challenge: Swedish Prinsesstårta

Talk about taking a challenge down to the wire! I just, just, just finished this month's challenge. It wasn't for lack of interest, just a lack of time. This time of year seems to be when things get busier and time flies by faster than expected. I'm stunned that June is just around the corner!!

This month, we were challenged to create a Swedish Prinsesstårta (aka Swedish Princess Cake). The cake is a single sponge cake that is cut horizontally into thirds. In between the first and second layers are raspberry jam and a pastry cream. Between the second and third layers are more pastry cream and a dome of whipping cream. The cake is topped with marzipan, which is traditionally colored green, and is garnished with a marzipan rose.

I asked Annika what color our cake's outside should be (she didn't know the cakes are traditionally green) and she responded, "My favorite color, of course! Green!"

After many failed attempts at the marzipan rose, I changed gears and made a polka dotted marzipan bow instead. Eric asked if it was a bow tie and I decided it was as a nod to Matt Smith's portrayal of Dr. Who.

Once I got the polka dots in place, I proclaimed that the cake was finished. Annika, quite perplexed, asked, "but what about the princess??" I'm fairly certain she was expecting a princess cake like the one I made for her 3rd birthday.

Through this process, we discovered that Annika is a HUGE marzipan fan. As I trimmed here and there, she happily disposed of the scraps and asked for more.

The final result was ok, but nothing to write home about. As Eric put it, it's a jam sandwich with whipping cream on hard bread. I took a bite and agreed with his review. I was concerned that the cake as a whole would be dry, which is wasn't thanks to the whipping cream, but the sponge cake edges were kind of crisp. In addition, the pastry cream didn't turn out as silky as other pastry creams I've made in the past; I don't know if I did something wrong or if it just isn't an overly smooth pastry cream. I ran it through a sieve, but still wound up with little lumps.

Even though the results weren't mind blowing, I'm still grateful to have had the opportunity to make a new dessert from a different culture. Much to Eric's grandfather's chagrin (tee hee hee), I do have some Swedish blood in me, so it was neat to have a Swedish-based challenge.

My "Dr. Who" Prinsesstårta

Pretty layers!

Korena of Korena in the Kitchen was our May Daring Bakers’ host and she delighted us with this beautiful Swedish Prinsesstårta!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Family Outing to the Burke Museum

Just like most other kids, our kids are fascinated with dinosaurs. Eric had the brilliant idea of taking to the Burke Museum so they could see some dinosaur fossils in person.

I really like the Burke because it isn't overwhelming large and really focuses on local history/science. We saw plenty of fossils and a number of reconstructed dinosaur skeletons, a mastodon skeleton (very cool!), plant fossils, and the kids even had the opportunity to climb into a replica of a cave that was created when a rhino carcass was enveloped by lava many, many years ago. The kids even got to measure themselves against a dinosaur leg bone to get a better perspective of the creature's size.

Both kids had a great time and were enthusiastic about what they were looking at. They asked questions about the animals and cultural exhibits and were happy to participate in the hands-on activities that were sprinkled around the museum. I think the plastic dinosaurs were probably the favorite item! 

Heading to the museum

Looking at some fossils
(our apologies to the museum staff for the amount of
hand prints our children left of the glass display cases!)

Say cheese!

That's one big mastodon

Conor inspecting some fossils

The hands-on area had a periscope for kids to "find" dinosaurs; Annika and Conor LOVED it

Annika giving Conor a boost so he could find dinosaurs

Eric explaining about the dinosaur's leg bone

Annika measuring herself against the leg bone

A piece of Native America artwork

Annika checking out a Native American sculpture

Annika counting the eyes on the totem pole

Of course, our kids were drawn to the computer and professed they had "lots of work to do"

More "work" was done on this computer, too
 After we exhausted the museum, we took a bit of a detour on the way home and stopped for a treat at a local Ben & Jerry's ice cream shop. We walked in a little hungry; we walked out full and sticky!

Conor says "YUM"

Like Annika's face paint? Eric did that for her during Conor's nap

Happy, chocolatey girl!

Conor's ice cream technique includes only licking in the middle
so he winds up with two mountains and canyon on a cone

Eric expertly reapplying the escaped caramel to his ice cream

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bouncy Birthday Bash

Last weekend, our family friends hosted a party to celebrate their son Ethan's 6th birthday. God bless them for having it start at 9:45; those of us with nappers at home really have to stick together! :)

The party was at a bouncy place in Bothell. What's a bouncy place, you ask? Well, it is basically a warehouse-size room that has a bunch of inflatable climbing/bouncy/play structures for the kids (and their adventurous parents) to play on/in and, essentially, exhaust themselves. It was great!!!

When we first arrived, Annika was off like a shot, but Conor wasn't quite sure of the whole thing. The bouncy structures had rather noisy fans to keep them inflated and Conor wasn't quite sure of things yet.

I mean, come on ... this is scary, ferocious-lookin' stuff! ;)


So, we took it easy and hung out at the drinking fountain for a bit. He thought it was pretty fun to have water appear when he pushed the lever. I'm terrified to think about how many germs he probably picked up during this warming-up phase, though. Eww!

Once we found Annika (which took some doing because she was having the time of her life running around like the ball of energy that she is), she took on the role of big sister and gave Conor a tour of the joint and pointed out how much fun it was. He didn't buy it.

Eventually, I had to resort to a little tough love and gently put him on one of the easy, low-key bouncy structures so he could see it was just like jumping on a bed, something we discourage at home, but cheer on at bouncy places!

Once he realized things weren't as scary as he originally thought, he was geared up to have a great time and bounce himself into a sweaty haze. He adopted a slide that he felt comfortable with and used that to build his confidence and sense of adventure.

While Conor was busy going through the tube, up the stairs, and down the slide, Annika decided to conquer mountain climbing... sort of. There was a blue pyramid thing in the same play structure that Conor was sliding in and Annika decided to perch herself on top of it. Thank goodness she is small and solid muscle; she shimmied herself all the way to the top!

(the perspective shot)

There were also some bigger slides that the kids (and their mama) had fun on. Note to self: Jeans slow you down on inflatable slides ... wear knit pants next time! Annika decided to go down on her tummy and her posture completely reminded me of a penguin sliding down an iceberg into the water. Conor adopted a Superman pose as he slide down.

And some bonus videos of the kids on the big slide, for your viewing pleasure!
A special thank you to the Minnich family for including us. We had so much fun celebrating Ethan's birthday and burning off a ton of energy with your crew!
Happy 6th birthday, Ethan!!

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Annika's Observation

A recent conversation between Annika and me was entertaining enough that I needed to record it for posterity.


Annika: Mama, why do you do the same thing over and over?

Me: What do you mean?

Annika: Laundry. You do our laundry over and over.

Me: (mentally agreeing with her!) Well, we need clean clothes. If I don't wash and fold them, who would?

Annika: What about God?

Me: Hmmm... I have a feeling God might have a few more important things to take care of.

Annika: Oh, yeah. How about Nana? She could do our laundry.

Me: If Nana's clothes are dirty, I think it is fair for her to wash them, do do you think it is fair for her to wash our clothes?

Annika: Probably not.

Me: So, God and Nana are out. It's back to me doing our laundry.

Annika: Yup!


Whew - I am so glad we got THAT cleared up!!! :)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Little Drummer Boy

Karen's birthday celebration

Yesterday was Eric's mom's birthday. To celebrate her special day, his dad treated the four of us to a very fun, very fancy, very kid-free night out.

If you've never heard of or been to Canlis, it is AMAZING! You're treated like royalty from the moment your car stops in front of the door. You don't park your own car at Canlis... oh no ... their valets park it for you. Snazzy! The staff at the restaurant are obviously held to incredibly high standards and conduct themselves like I've never seen before. They work with precisions, professionalism, and (occasionally) a little bit of stealth (but in a good way).

I think one of my favorite parts of going to Canlis is the fact they have (and use!) crumb sweepers to ensure the tables are crumb free during the dining process. SERIOUSLY! Coolest thing ever! (At home, we call Buca is our crumb sweeper!)

We had a gorgeous view from our window-side table; perched way up high sipping on adult beverages and dining on fantastic food, we could see Gas Works Park, planes land on Lake Union, and all of the poor saps stuck in rush hour traffic on I-5 and the Aurora Bridge. Yup, best seats in town!

Eric and his dad ordered the halibut (I tried a bite of Eric's and thought it was incredible); Eric's mom ordered the lamb chops, and I had the NY steak. I don't recall being that full in a LONG time. Oh! And we also had an amuse-bouche of a curried carrot soup that, I swear, was made of pure silk! To die for! Their soups and sauces were all silky beyond belief! Oh! and their rolls were fantastic; I had a honey and milk roll (two in fact) that were so delicate and tasty.

Conversations covered everything from sports, to world events, to funny family stories. We laughed often and smiled all night long. While I adore our kids with every ounce of my being, it sure was nice to have a fantastic meal without a single "Mama" request.

After dinner, we were offered the dessert menu, but didn't order any due to having insanely full tummies. The restaurant knew we were celebrating Karen's birthday and couldn't let us leave without a little something, so our waiter brought our a plate of bite-size dessert (like everything else, delicious!) for us to have.

Eric's parents are true gems and, no, I'm not just saying that because they treated us to an evening at Canlis last night. They are truly great people. I can't even count how many times I've told people that I hit the in-law jackpot with them. I hear of so many in-law horror stories and am grateful to have Eric's parents as my in-laws. They are wonderful, caring people who we really enjoy spending time with.

Oh, and 12 hours later ... I'm still full!!!!

Menu cover
Jack and the birthday girl (aka Karen)

Eric and yours truly

Karen's birthday plate
Happy birthday, Karen!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Fun at the Kids' Fair

At the end of last month, a local shopping area (U. Village, for you locals) hosted a kids' fair, and we decided to check it out with a few of our friends to see what it had to offer.

We convened at the covered play area and burned off some energy as we waited for the two other families to arrive. It didn't take long to realize that our kids probably aren't going to fit in the play area much longer. They hardly fit in the play cars and Annika could scale the climbing structure in 3 steps. (Wahhh!! Our babies are growing up!!!!)

After finding everyone, we headed over to the fair, where there were a variety of vendor booths, as well as a fire truck, police car, and performance stage. The kids were highly impressed with the fire truck and all its splendor. Conor was less impressed once it was his turn to talk with the firefighters and climb into the rig, though; he left that to Annika. Unlike her little brother, Annika had no qualms about climbing into the fire truck and poking around a bit.

After peeking in a few booths, everyone agreed it was time for lunch. Fortunately, we picked a close restaurant that didn't have a lunch rush yet... considering we had 5 adults and 6 kids, we needed a decent amount of space. Our lunch was tasty, but loud and chaotic (go figure!).

We'd promised the kids they could have balloons before we left for their swim lessons. They REALLY wanted to go to the balloon animal guy's booth, so we waited in an insanely long line and anxiously kept an eye on the time and how slow the line was. (I think Eric was about to break out in hives due to the slow line ... he hates cutting things close when it comes to time and we were definitely cutting things close.) As a distractor, Annika and I jumped out of the balloon line  and hopped over to the hair booth so Annika could get her hair braided. The gal was amazingly fast and even sprinkled some glitter on Annika's hair to make it extra fancy! Fortunately, we reached the front of the balloon line JUST in time. Annika requested a heart wand; Conor asked for a flower wand. Both kids got exactly what they wanted! Eric and I were highly impressed with how fast the balloon guy worked and how versatile his designs were!

AND, we made it to swim lessons just in the nick of time.

Conor in the play area

Our climbing champ

Checking out the fire hose

Firefighter Annika to the rescue

Teeny tiny kids .... HUGE fire truck

Monday, May 13, 2013

Spring Heat Wave

What we deem to be a heat wave here in Seattle is probably nothin' compared to what people in other parts of the world consider worthy of being called a heat wave. I tell those people, deal with it ... we're usually soggy here, so anything over 60 is a heat wave, darn it! :)

Last week, we had a play date scheduled with Annika's little buddy Allison. Fortunately, the weather was stupendous and the kids were able to have a play date that included running through the sprinkler in our front yard. They had a ball with the new sprinkler that I picked up for just such an occasion.

I'm pretty sure the kids' feet hardly touched our lawn most of the afternoon. As I look back through the pictures I took of them playing, hardly any of them included land based children. Instead, most pictures had leaping, jumping, hopping, or running little ones. So much fun. So many smiles.

After they tuckered themselves out, the kids headed to our deck, which was still bathed in warm sunshine, and enjoyed a picnic snack of grape popsicles and refreshing water. They set out towels (aka the tablecloth) as well as plastic plates, cups, and silverware on our kid-size picnic table. I'm not sure why they insisted on plastic forks, knives, and spoons, but who am I to judge what is and what is not proper popsicle picnic protocol??

Around and around and around they went

Up and over

Right on through

One of the few feet-on-ground moments of the afternoon

Allison leaping through the water

Airborne Annika

The girls enjoying their water and popsicle picnic

Popsicle boy