Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Annika's Talent Show Performance

Today was Annika's MUCH anticipated talent show at school. She auditioned for it last week (playing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) on her violin and today was the performance. 

I was THRILLED that the talent show was scheduled for a Wednesday, so I could actually attend it. She was thrilled that because it is the Wednesday of Catholic Schools Week, she got to have "Crazy Day" at school, which meant she could wear her pajamas to school. (Hence, why you'll see Hello Kitty PJs instead of her uniform in the one ... albeit fuzzy ... photo I have from the event.)

After parking myself in a front row seat and watching the kids excitedly file into the school gym, I looked down at the event's program and was excited to see that Annika's name was first on the list... selfishly, that allowed me to get back home and back to work that much faster. (After Annika's performance, I briefly spoke with her teacher, who told me Annika volunteered to go first. Talk about an impressive kiddo!!)

Annika did a FANTASTIC job. (Yes, I teared up ... I know, not a big surprise!) Not only did she play the song ... into a microphone and in front of the entire school ... but she also sang along as she played. I've never heard her sing the lyrics as she played before. Usually, she says the names of the notes as she plays (which is what I expected to hear today), but that wasn't the case.

She worked hard to get the song memorized (she had a note cheat sheet, just in case), and stood up there in front of everyone without hesitation and played her heart out. I don't think I could have been any prouder of her if I tried.

Great job, little one!!

Our little violinist!

Unfortunately, I experienced a technical issue and wound up not video recording her performance, but the floor after her performance was complete. UGH!!!!! If I was smart, I would have just used the video setting on my DSLR camera instead of trying to juggle the video camera and digital camera in a 30-second time period. Live and learn....

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The SeaGals have nothing on our little cuties!

Yesterday, Annika came home from school and was VERY excited to show us something.... enjoy!

Naturally, Conor could not be left out. He studied Annika's cheer and....

If the SeaGals ever go on strike, I have a feeling our kids will be first in line to offer their talents as substitute cheerleaders. What would we call them? SeaKids? ;)

Monday, January 27, 2014

January 2014 Daring Bakers Challenge: Baumkuchen

This month's Daring Bakers challenge was to make a baumkuchen (aka "tree cake"). The basic premise is the cake is comprised of teeny-tiny layers that are quickly made on top of each other. Traditionally, a baumkuchen is made (for lack of better terms) on a pole over a spit. The pole is dipped in a trough of batter and then slowly spun over the spit. The pole is re-dipped in the batter and then returned to the spit. (Repeat until lots of layers make up the finished cake)

Unfortunately, most people don't have spits in their kitchen (Conor spits in the kitchen from time to time, but that isn't quite the same, and often results in him sitting in time out for a little bit.... but I digress...)

I found a non-spit baumkuchen recipe that called for a springform pan and a broiler instead of a pole and a spit, so I gave it a try. I should have seen the writing on the wall when I realized how convoluted the recipe was and how poorly it was written. BIG RED FLAGS there.

The key to this month's challenge was the baking method, which I quickly discovered was not one to do while the kids were in the bath and nearing bedtime. The layered baking method required me to stand by the oven constantly, because I had to watch the cake to make sure each layer didn't burn under the broiler. Mind you, each layer only cooked about 1 1/2 minutes. It definitely wasn't a "mix the batter, put it in the oven, come back in 30 minutes after getting the kids' bathed and put into PJs" kind of experience.

After finishing the cake, I let it cook, drenched it in melted apricot preserves (side note: YUM), and then poured melted chocolate over the whole kit and caboodle.

The next day, we went to my brother's house to watch the Seahawks game (GO HAWKS) and I thought the cake would be a nice addition to the day. I was wrong. It was horrible. I mean "Eric took a bite and spit it into the sink" horrible. I choked down my bite, as did my brother, but I think that was it. The cake and all of the time put into it was a huge waste. Glad I tried a new baking method, not so glad on the recipe I used.

Public service announcement: NEVER USE THIS RECIPE!!

At least I got my many, many layers!! They were just not exactly tasty layers... oh well. Live and learn!

The January 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Francijn of "Koken in de Brouwerij". She challenged us all to bake layered cakes in the tradition of Baumkuchen (tree cake) and Schichttorte (layered cake).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Conor's New Talent

This weekend, Conor stunned us by figuring out how to whistle, much to the chagrin of Annika, who has been working on becoming a proficient whistler for months now, and still has a very high pitched, quiet whistle.

Out of the blue, Conor erupted with a real, full-blown whistle this weekend. Perhaps he's been taking secret whistling classes at pre-school or the house nissen has been coaching him as he sleeps.... we really have no clue how he managed it, but he did.

We have a three-year-old whistler. Don't believe me? Take a listen!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Family Fieldtrip to the Zoo

On Friday, one of my brothers called and asked if we'd like to join his family at the zoo on Saturday. Apparently, our nephew had been itching to visit the zoo and the weather was going to be cooperative. Sounded like a win to us! We enthusiastically accepted the invitation and then kept it a secret from the kids (muahahahaha!)

On Saturday, we informed the kids that we'd go on an adventure later in the day, but that was a surprise and we wouldn't tell them any of the details. (Yes, this is how we torture our kids... it's the simple pleasures sometimes.) About half way to the zoo, Conor proclaimed "Hey! We're close to the zoo! Is our adventure going to the zoo?" To which Annika quickly replied, "NO!! We're not going to the zoo!" (Sucker!) Needless to say, Conor was right. Annika had actually hoped we'd go to a park or playground, but was appeased when Eric informed her that there would be an extra surprise in the zoo (aka, our nephew Ian). As soon as she saw my brother and his family walk toward us, she squealed with glee, ran past my brother, our niece, and our sister-in-law, and practically tackled Ian right there in front of the zoo offices. It was mighty cute, I must say!!

We did a fairly full tour of the zoo, even attempting to see the bears that Conor had so desperately wanted to see when we were there a few days ago. Unfortunately, the bears were either (a) hibernating, (b) feeling shy, or (c) out clubbing because there was not a bear to be found. We saw a lot of other animals, but no bears. Sorry, Conor. We got what was probably one of the best views of the zebras that we've ever had while at the zoo. They were right in front of the African village lookout and were quite content to munch on grass in front of us.... that is until a gazelle got uppity and caused a bit of a scuffle with one of the zebras.

I think we were all a little surprised how cold we were by the time we wrapped up our zoo tour.... and by wrap up, I mean "get kicked out by the zoo workers who wanted to go home." We all had popsicle hands, chilly toes, and hungry bellies. (OK, that last one had nothing to do with the weather, but we were hungry!)

The guys (aka Eric, Troy, and Ian) picked up burgers from Red Mill while Staci, Kat, Annika, Conor, and I went straight home to start thawing our feet. We gorged ourselves on the best burgers in Seattle and then took in a few fast-forwarded football games as we enjoyed our food comas together. The day was definitely a win in our book!

We just can't go to the zoo without checking out these cute penguins!

Conor and Eric watching the penguins

Ian, Conor, and Annika perched on the kimodo dragon statue

His future's so bright, he's gotta wear shades

Per Conor, these zebras are Spot 1 and Spot 2's parents

Staci, Troy, and Kat looking at the zebras

Kat and Troy taking a little stroll

Hippo dinnertime

Ian and Conor... cute cousins

Our wild bunch

A gorgeous sunset to bid farewell to a very fun day

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Day Play Date

Our new year's eve was incredibly low-key this year, and for that, we are truly grateful! We counted down to the new year at 7 PM with the kids a the four of us toasted 2014 with 7-Up and cranberry juice served in plastic champagne glasses. The kids were in bed by 8 and the grownups were in bed by 10:30. Yes, we are WILD party animals!!

This morning, we met up with our friends the Russells at a great indoor play area called PlayDate Sea. The best way to describe this place is a habitrail for people. The use of space is incredible and the variety of activities is impressive. Plus, there is a great deal of climbing and movement involved throughout the play area. There are big slides (Eric discovered you get some serious speed if you go on your back instead of sitting up!!), air-powered nerf canons, balancing activities, and interactive electronic floor games. Seriously, someone was thinking when they came up with this place's design!

On top of that, there is free wi-fi and a coffee/food/beverage bar that the parents can take advantage of while their kids are playing. (Parents are allowed in the habitrail with their kids ... and we're so glad that was the case. We had a great time playing, too!) We spent about 2 1/2 hours at PlayDate and even then, the kids were exhausted and anything but interested in leaving. They LOVED it!

Conor on one of the slides

Is this a happy kid or what?!!?

Anne, Eric, and Dave

Annika playing an interactive floor game (I think she was jumping on frogs as they appeared)

Anne and Nic before they plunged down the slide

Conor in "The Claw"

Annika in "The Claw"