Friday, February 28, 2014

Mid-February Snow Day

Earlier this month, we had a little bit of a weekend surprise: Snow!

By the time February rolls around, our area's chances of getting any more snow usually drops considerably. Knowing that the temperature was expected to rise fairly quickly during the day, I knew time was of the essence if we wanted to get any play time in the snow. So, the kids and I quickly donned our snow gear and headed outside.

We had a marvelous time and wound up playing on three of the four sides of our house! The kids started on the deck (while I put on my snow gear) and then we moved to the front yard. After awhile, Annika and Conor decided to go on an adventure ... aka, the south part of our yard. We threw snowballs, made snow angels, and watched our footprints create patterns all over the yard.

Their imaginations went wild as they played. I loved eavesdropping on them as they built their imaginary world with various plot lines and characters.

After an hour or so, we were quite numb, so called it a day. About an hour after that, the snow started to melt ... making way for the first few signs of spring.

Snow on our lilac tree's branches

Conor taking aim

Snow fun

I adore this photo of little Miss Annika!!

The cutest little snowball maker around! (OK, he's tied with his sister!)

Say "cheese!!"
"Mama - it's too bright!!!"
"OK, just close your eye and then open them when I count to three. 1 - 2 - 3"
"Uhh... Conor? You forgot to open."
"No I didn't Too bright!"

Conor eating a snow ball off of the house. (Good thing we vaccinate our children!!)

More snowy branches

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Daring Bakers' Challenge: Beautiful Bread

Once I read about this month's baking challenge, I have to admit that I got quite giddy. The photos showing what we'd (in theory) make were gorgeous!!

This month, we were challenged to make filled bread with either a cinnamon sugar filling or a Nutella filling. Not being a Nutella fan (or that much of a hazelnut fan, to be honest) made picking between the two recipes quite simple for me! Not only were we challenged to make filled bread, but pretty filled bread (akin to the gorgeous works by Valentina Zurkan, a VERY talented bread sculptor, for lack of better term).

The recipe was easy to follow and the process wasn't at all difficult. I did forget to pinch the outer corners together, which would have made the bread even prettier. The one thing I wish I'd done differently was stick with my gut on the baking time/temp. In the pit of my core, I knew that the temp/time would be an issue, and it was. The bread was WAY overdone (see photo below). That said, when I peeled off the top layer (then quite glad I'd forgotten to pinch the outer corners together), the bread was very tasty! It was basically a non-rolled cinnamon roll... and who can complain about that??? (This also inspired me to make a batch of Peter Reinhart's Sticky Buns a day or two later.. again, who could complain??)

I'll definitely try this recipe and technique again. Great learning opportunity and I got to experiment with a new bread-making method. :)

Cinnamon Sweet Bread
·         1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water
·         3/4 cup (180 ml) warm milk
·         1 large egg
·         1/4 cup (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter, softened
·         1/4 cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1-3/4 oz) white sugar
·         1/2 teaspoon (3 gm) salt
·         3-1/4 cups (780 ml) (450 gm) (16 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, approximately
·         2 teaspoons (10 ml) (8 gm) dry yeast
·         1/4 teaspoon (1 gm) cardamom, optional

For topping
·         1/4 cup (60 ml) of milk
·         1 tablespoon (15 gm) (1/2 oz) sugar

Between the layers
·         1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) (1/4 cup) (60 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) butter
·         4 tablespoons (60 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cinnamon
·         1/2 cup (120 ml) (100 gm) (3-1/2 oz) sugar

For drizzling
·         1 can (400 gm) (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk


1. In a bowl whisk the egg with milk, water, sugar, butter and yeast. Set aside
2. In another bowl sift the flour with the salt and the optional cardamom.
3. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead until you get a smooth dough. 4. Place it in a bowl you have brushed with some oil and cover it with a wet cloth and leave it in a warm place to double .
5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface
6. Divide the dough into 4 parts
7. Roll each part into a circle at least 20 cm (8 inch) in diameter 
8. Brush the first layer with butter then sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon
9. Place the second layer on the first layer repeat the brushing and sprinkling and then do the same
with the third layer.
10. Top with the fourth layer, this time only brush it with butter.
11. Using a knife make cuts that divide the dough circles into 8 triangles
12. Make cuts that go 2/3 of the way in the middle of each triangle. The cuts should not reach the base
of the triangle nor the tip as you can see in the picture 
13. Take the tip of each triangle and insert it into the cut you made and pull it from the underside
14. Arrange the triangles on your baking sheet
15. Pinch the two angles at the base of the triangle together 
16. Brush the dough with milk
17. Allow to rest for 15 minutes during which you would heat your oven to very hot
500°F/240°C/gas mark 9 (rack in the middle). (Go for the hottest your oven will do).
18. Bake for 5 minutes on very hot 500°F/240°C/gas mark 9, then lower the temperature to
moderately hot 400°F/200°C/gas mark 6 and bake for 15-20 more minutes (ovens do differ greatly, so
the time may differ; what you want is to bake it until the under side is golden brown). If you have a
broiler (grill) in your oven. Turn on the broiler (grill) for a couple of minutes until the bread is golden
brown on top.
19. Take it out of the oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes then transfer to a wire rick and drizzle with

sweetened condensed milk while it is still warm.

Beauty surrounded the Daring Bakers this month as our host, Sawsan, of chef in disguise, challenged us to make beautiful, filled 
breads. Who knew breads could look as great as they taste?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Many Faces of Conor

I was goofing around with the camera and asked Conor if I could take his photo. He agreed ... once I said he could make silly faces. Little did I know what I was in for. :)

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Tooth Fairy Cometh... Again

After waking up yesterday morning, I was greeted by Annika covering her mouth and her eyes sparkling. That could only mean one thing ... she lost her very wiggly upper-left tooth. (For those of you who have lost count, this brings her grand total up to 4 lost teeth.)

Apparently while I slept, Eric wiggled her tooth and realized it was time for the tooth to come out. He suggested they pull it while I was still asleep and then I could be surprised. Annika was ALL for it! And, I was definitely surprised!!

Throughout the evening, Annika kept telling us how excited she was for the Tooth Fairy to visit her AGAIN!! She even drew a picture for the Tooth Fairy and left her a snack of three baby carrots (flying around collecting teeth does built up one's appetite, you know!) The Tooth Fairy was concerned that Annika was going to be so excited, that her visit would have to be delayed until the middle of the night (like last time), but fortunately, Annika was tuckered out from the busy weekend and swim lessons, so was asleep by 8:30. (whew!!)

This morning, Annika was thrilled to announce that the Tooth Fairy did, in fact visit AGAIN, AND left her a note, AND gave her a coin dollar in exchange for the tooth. Life is so good for our little girl. :)

Look, Ma! No teeth!

Toothless in Seattle

Annika's picture of  (and for) the Tooth Fairy
It reads: "Wack me wen yoe get her"
(Translation: "Wake me when you get here")

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Carkeek Excursion

Today, it snowed. Naturally, I had the brilliant idea of taking the kids to the beach! Doesn't everyone equate snow with beach trip???

Our kids were in dire need to burn off some energy, and Conor asked to go to the beach while we were out a bit earlier. The idea stuck in my craw and after seeing the snow (and later, rain) taper off, I figured "Why not?" So, I packed up a few beach toys and the kids and we headed down to Carkeek for some beach fun. We are so blessed to live where we do... and have beaches so close to our house. We really don't have to plan ahead for a fun outing and if the weather doesn't cooperate, we aren't out anything if we have to cut our trip short.

As we drove to the beach, I told the kids that I didn't want them to go into the water because it was a rather cold day and I didn't bring extra clothes for them. The agreed to the one stipulation of our trip, so long as they could get water from puddles if they wanted to fill their buckets. OK, that sounded reasonable. No problem. Wow - that was easy. (Insert a "duh-duh-duh" soundtrack here.)

The kids made a bee line for the beach, happily dug in the sand, and flung the frisbee at each other (ok, moreover in the direction is happened to go, but with the general idea of aiming at the other.) Then, I noticed a seal just off shore. COOL! I tried to take some photos of it while simultaneously kicking myself for not bringing my zoom lens ... and that's when the kiddos conveniently forgot our "no going in the water" agreement. Damn that harbor seal. It sidetracked me at just the right (wrong?) time!  ;)

It amazes me how our children develop hearing loss at just the right time. For some astounding reason, they just so happened to go deaf just as I was reminding them of our agreement to stay out of the water. Go figure!!

Fortunately, their hearing returned (after me threatening to take them home RIGHT NOW), and they "decided" to play up on the sand instead of down on the rocks (and in the water). I decided they still have too much energy to burn, so I challenged them to run to the furthest driftwood log and then back to me. (This also gave me a chance to take some action shots of them running... so I really had two motives in sending them down the beach.)

Annika invented a new game today. She stuck a stick that was about 3 feet long into the sand. Then, she and Conor took turns trying to fling the frisbee onto the stick. Basically, a beach/frisbee version of horseshoes. What really struck me about this game was how encouraging the kids were with each other. There were plenty of "good try", "so close", and "you almost got it" comments. It made my mama heart very proud!

About an hour plus into the excursion, the cold started to sink in (and the lack of listening by our children was eating away at my last nerve), so we called it a day and headed home. Energy was burned, nature was observed, and fun was had. I call that a win!

Annika found a puddle to fill her bucket

Hey, kids! Remember? No water.

So glad they listen... like how Annika is further out here than in the photo above? Sheesh!

Conor digging holes in the sand to find treasure

There were quite a few birds at the beach today. The tide was out, which meant lots of shelled items for the birds to eat. They would swoop down, grab a treat, soar high up, drop the treat (in hopes the shell would crack), and then dive down to claim their food before another bird did. 

Our friend, the harbor seal

High flyin' Conor

Jumpin' Annika

Run! Kiddos! Run!!
(Our children have obviously inherited my habit/skill of sticking out
their tongues while thinking or working hard!)

Conor and Annika playing stick frisbee

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Soaked in Seattle

Originally, I thought of calling this post "Soggy in Seattle", but that didn't accurately convey how wet it has been around here lately. We have gotten hammered with rain storms over the past few days.... and the passes have gotten enough snow to make the skiers and snowboarders cheer with joy. (Snoqualmie Pass got 30 inches of new snow this weekend... crazy!!)

During a break in the weather, my mom and I decided to take the kids to Bitterlake Park to burn off some of their "we've been stuck inside for too many days and are about ready to start climbing the walls" energy. (Back story: Eric went to VA for 5 days to visit his brother, who at the end of last year, moved from Eastern WA to VA thanks to a promotion at work. Eric was supposed to fly out last Thursday, but a storm on the East Coast caused Dulles Airport to close... hence, cancelling Eric's flight. So, he rescheduled his travel and departed on Saturday instead. To keep me company and lend a hand get a grandchildren fix, my mom came up for a few days.

And now, getting back to our regularly scheduled program...

We took the kids to Bitterlake to burn off said "we've had a lot of rain" energey. They had a great time playing on the various pieces of climbing equipment, but the massive rain left many pieces of the play structures quite slippery... and the slides were boasting rather impressive puddles at their bases. I decided that pants could dry, so what was the harm in a little water getting on the kids, really? (Little did I know what was in our near future...)

Annika flying high

Conor having fun

"Look at me, Mama!"

Nana (aka Nanook of the North)

Annika in "jail"

Conor, the fellow jailbird

Annika running laps... sort of

"Help!! Unstuck me!!"
(Yes, I did help him, but not after snapping a few quick photos to capture the moment.
What're you missing here is the flapping of his hands and free foot. Now don't go calling CPS
quite yet... he was all of 2 inches off of the ground and in no danger at any point.)

After the second or third fall on the slippery equipment, that "protect your young, you dope" instinct kicked in and I was struck with the idea of having the kids run around on the massive lawns and ball fields instead of risking life, limb, and concussion in the playground. I challenged the kids to run hither and thither and they happily (and repeatedly) complied... especially when running through a group of birds was possible. (I'm sure the Canada geese were ready to call their union due to our children.... but decided to fly away after chasing Annika in return did little to change her idea of entertainment.)

At one point during the "hey kids -- run over there" game, Annika and Conor discovered the world's largest puddle. (It was so big, they called it a pool until I corrected them... even then, they weren't sure it wasn't a pool...)

They had a marvelous time splashing, wading, and making general merriment in the pool puddle. Even after Conor took a header smack dab into the water, they continued to show off their love of water and splashing. After a few more splashes and subsequently realizing they were, indeed, getting cold, we ushered them to my van so we could get home ricky-tick to get them in a warm bath. 

My plan of burning off their excess energy worked! Both kids wound up napping that day. Bonus!!!

Annika and Conor in the puddle

Run, kiddos, run!

Impact in 3 - 2- 1
And, spit

Big sister lending a helping hand

"Conor, we're leaving now!! Out of the puddle!"

Monday, February 10, 2014

Swimming Lesson Firsts

Yesterday was a great day of firsts at swimming lessons for our kids.

During his lesson, Conor swam the crawl stroke by himself. His teacher was right there to help him along, but he did it! He got the kicking and arm motions down and beamed with pride when he got to the side of the pool. I almost cried with pride when I saw him swim. Previously, he either kicked or had his arms going ... and always with a teacher holding on to him or with the aid of a floatation device. Yesterday, it was all Conor!!

Not to be outdone by her little brother, when it was Annika's swim lesson, she went off of the high dive for the first time! The sweet part was a little boy in line ahead of her balked when he was on the diving board, but Annika shouted, "It's OK. You can do it!!" as she waited in line. Such a supportive little girl! When it was her turn, she went up the ladder and right off the board like it was nothing. I am hugely impressed with her courage and willingness to try something new like that. What really made me laugh was her "That was so... (glug, glug, glug) .... That was SO AWESOME!" after she surfaced. That girl oozes enthusiasm!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Seahawks Celebration Parade

In case you've been hanging out under a rock, you may have missed the fact that the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII!!! Needless to say, we Seattlites (and many beyond our city limits) are pretty darned excited about this fact.

On Wednesday, the city held a victory parade for the team and it was one heck of a celebration! An estimated 750,000 people attended the festivities ... and the city's population basically doubled for the day. People came from far and wide to attend the parade; I heard of one many from Los Angeles who flew up the morning of the parade and was going to fly back to L.A. that night because he could only get 1 day off from work. Now that is dedicated!! To be honest, I wouldn't have gone out of my way to go to the parade, but my office is across the street from the north end of the stadium, so how could I not go???

I headed out into the mayhem to get some crowd shots a few hours before the parade began, and then happily returned to my office to warm up and get some work done. A few hours later, some of my co-workers and I staked out a fantastic spot on top of the parking garage near of office. I recommended the spot knowing it was a great vantage point from other days I was up there to take random sunrise and cityscape photos. It was perfect. We could see all of the activities, but not get crushed in the crowds.

It was perfect, but COLD!!! When I say it was freezing, I'm not kidding. The temperature hovered in the upper 20s to just about 31 degrees. After standing on a parking garage for the better part of 2 1/2 hours, I couldn't control my shaking, not to mention my fingtertips and toes were completely numb. (I shook so hard for so long that my neck and back muscles were sore the next day!)

All of that aside, it was so much fun to see the sea of fans; our area really came together to share its excitement. It took 38 years for the team to win the Super Bowl and every one of us was brimming with the excitement that went along with it.

Getting home that night, was a bit of an eye opener, though. I went down to the bus tunnel (like usual) and was met with a MUCH larger crowd that I'm used to. My first hint that my commute wasn't going to be "normal" was the line for the south bound train that ran the length of the bus tunnel, up the stairs from the bus tunnel, and then past my office building's main doors. The northbound entrance wasn't that backed up (fortunately) but it was still packed. As I waited for my bus (which was about 10 minutes late), I spoke with a man who told me that he and his wife waited at the Pioneer Square station (just 1 stop north) for an hour and a half waiting for a us. They eventually gave up and came to the International District station in hopes that would improve their chances on getting on a bus. I was lucky and got on the first 41 bus that arrived. There were so many people trying to get on buses that police officers were stationed at the front door of each bus to keep people from crushing each other. Fortunately, people weren't aggressive and acted intelligently. It was a slow commute through the bus tunnel, but I eventually made it home! (Some people eventually gave up and got hotel rooms, I later heard on the radio. Yikes!)

A few highlights/moments to remember:

  • The moment of loudness at 12:12
  • Seeing the 12th Man Boeing plane
  • Seeing Russell Wilson
  • Seeing the Lombardi Trophy
  • Surviving the sub-freezing temperatures
  • Watching the sea of people flood 4th Ave S... like ants on a hill
  • Watching a Pabst Beer party truck sideswipe a town car (whoops!)
  • Sharing in the celebration with 750k of my fellow Hawks fans
  • The insanely busy metro system after the festivities

The fans spilling onto the street ... about 2 1/2 hours before the parade began

The 12th Man

People were everywhere!

The SeaGals and Marshawn Lynch (on the hood)

Coach Pete Carroll

The offensive line

The wide receivers

The running backs

The 12th Man Boeing plane

Russell Wilson

The Lombardi Trophy

This post and this year's football season wouldn't be complete without one more "GO HAWKS!"