Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September 2015 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Soda Bread

This month's Daring Bakers' challenge was a bit of a double-edged sword for me. It was very exciting because it was the first time I was the challenge host. It was a little bit of a let down because there wasn't the anticipation of "what will this month's challenge be??" on the first day of the month.

As the host, I was able to choose any baking task that my little heart desired and my heart chose to challenge our bakers to make soda bread. I thought it was a fun nod to my Irish ancestry and my desire to travel to Ireland.

I made the whole wheat soda bread recipe my parents brought back from their first trip to Ireland in 1985 as the example for the challenge when I wrote it up a few months ago. To keep things fresh, I opted to make my other go-to soda bread recipe when I baked for the actual challenge this month. It is definitely a comfort food for me and it didn't fail to hit the mark.

Interestingly, I made the soda bread and banana bread (ewww!) the same day. The kids had slices of each as a scientific experiment. Both kiddos gave a thumbs up to the banana bread (probably because of the chocolate chips I included in the batter) and a "so so" rating to the soda bread. (I'm ok with that ... more soda bread for me!) What really tickled me was when Annika referred to the soda bread as "caffeine bread" because she thought the "soda" of soda bread was in reference to soda pop, not baking soda. :)

Annika: Bread Judge #1

Conor: Bread Judge #2

My Irish soda bread - ta da!

For the month of September Meredith from the Poco Loco Olsons challenged us to experiment with soda bread. (HEY! That's ME!) 

Monday, September 21, 2015

Annika's First 2nd Grade Soccer Game

This Saturday, Annika and some of her classmates donned their black soccer uniforms, tied their cleats, adjusted their shin guards, and took on the 2nd grade soccer team from St. Luke's.

We had an 8:00 game, which actually worked out really well (not in terms of fatigue levels, but in terms of the weather). We didn't see a single drop of rain during the game; the weather held off until we were packing up and driving out of the school's parking lot. Talk about luck!

Our kids really inspired me. They had a great time during the game and rarely were without smiles on their faces. It was incredibly infectious to see how much fun they were having. During halftime, one of the kids said he thought the other team had scored more goals, to which another student said, "We don't keep score in 2nd grade. It is all about having fun and I'm having fun!" (WOW!!)

This was the first time our kids played on a compressed sand field and did that ball ever fly on that surface!! They did a lot of running just to keep up with the ball.

The kids cheered for each other, helped each other, and worked together really well. SO proud of our Panthers for showing what having fun and teamwork are all about.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Final 2015 Family Camping Trip: Ft. Flagler

Simply put, we had a fantastic weekend!

Because stopping there would be a pretty darned boring blog post, I'll go into a bit more detail about our lovely trip to Ft. Flagler State Park. :)

This was our first two-night camping trip with the kiddos and it was a marvelous start to longer family camping trips. This trip required a ferry ride and, those who are familiar with the WA State Ferry system, Friday afternoons/evenings are the worst day/time to try to get on a ferry. Now, ask me when we needed to be on a ferry. YUP! Friday afternoon. We got the kids as soon as they got out of school and high-tailed it up to the Edmonds ferry dock. We didn't make it on our "pie in the sky" ferry, but did make the next one, which was the one we knew was our more realistic option. We planned ahead and had a change of clothes for the kids and had sandwiches from Subway for dinner. Easy!

After a 1/2-hour ferry ride, we were back on the road, winding our way up over the Hood Canal Bridge and eventually arriving at Ft. Flagler State Park. We got there a little after 6 PM, so there was still plenty of light to set up camp and get settled in for the weekend. Eric, genius that he is, packed our little cheapy badminton racket/birdie set, which kept the kids happily entertained while he and I got our camp ready. The only downfall was our site seemed to be surrounded by stinging nettles, which made retrieving the stray birdie a bit of a painful experience at times.

Once the sun went down, we crowded around our campfire (YES! The summer's burn ban was lifted and we got a real, honest-to-God wood fire! Eric and I were positively giddy when we read that the ban was lifted!) and roasted s'mores and looked at the stars. After the kids settled down in their sleeping bags for the night, Eric and I were entertained by a couple of shrews that bravely checked out our site and chewed on the little scraps of wood by our fire pit. Those little things are FAST and sort of hop more than walk. (Yes, our expectations for entertainment really do go down out in the wild.) 

Our Saturday morning was filled with climbing logs, exploring the camp grounds (and scoping out which lots looked like ones we'd want to reserve in the future), more badminton, and doing leaf rubbings. The previous night wasn't 100% restful thanks to some noisy coyotes in the area, so a slow start to the day was quite ideal.

Conor: King of the Log

Mama's camping buddies

Flying Annika

Conor working on his leaf rubbings

Annika and Eric: A mighty cute leaf-rubbing team

Ta Da!
 Once our morning coffee kicked in, we packed up and headed toward Pt. Townsend. On our way out of the park, however, we decided to stop at the bunkers to peek around a bit and see what was to be seen. Eric and I are both history buffs, so stuff like this is right up our alley! The kids had a great time climbing in and out of the open (low) windows and looking in the various rooms. Someone (very wisely) at some point marked what the various rooms were used for, so we knew which rooms were used to store the powder kegs, which were the latrines, etc.
Racing toward the bunkers

Annika, just hanging around

Conor getting a new perspective on things

Sometimes I really do climb the walls

Forget Spiderman, I've got Ericman
 After exploring the bunkers, we piled back in the car and headed to Pt. Townsend. Our original thought was to grab a casual lunch and poke around town a bit. Little did we know that there was a farmers market, art show, and some other even in town all on the same day, making parking practically impossible to find. We did find a spot near the farmers market, so we poked around there a bit and played in an adjacent park for awhile. We abandoned our hunt for a near-by family-friendly restaurant and headed out of town a bit before locating a Mexican restaurant that looked good and had plenty of parking. It all worked out for the best because our waiter mentioned that the Hood Canal Bridge would be closed again for repairs the next day (aka when we were heading home), which helped us decide on a "get up, eat breakfast, and go" approach to Sunday.
Conor and Eric at having a car race at the Pt. Townsend park

Annika enjoying the sun in Pt. Townsend

Saturday's weather was truly ideal! After we returned from Pt. Townsend, we changed into our shorts and headed down to the beach to play and fly our kite. The kids had a great time splashing around the water, finding shells and unique rocks on the beach, and digging in the sand. The beach has a bit of a jetty, so there was plenty of real estate to explore and not feel like we were in a sea of people. (I'm sure the fact that Labor Day was already past helped quite a bit with that, too.)

Annika flying the kite at Ft. Flagler's beach

The beach

The Driftwood King and Queen

Building sandcastles

Eric turning Annika into a sand mremaid

Mt. Baker in the deistance

My two favorite guys

Conor playing beach ball soccer
For our second night, we (once again) had a lovely fire and sat under the stars taking in the beauty of the night sky. We also played a "pass the story" game as we sat around the fire. We created a story about a mouse name Malcolm who was a baker (he lived in the same tree that the Keebler elves live in, in fact!) and he went to the county fair to compete in the cookie and pie-making contests ... he won a blue ribbon for his marshmallow, chocolate chip, and cheese cookies and for his cheese meringue pie! He had 17 brothers and sisters, who helped him work in his bakery, and had to deal with the fallout of a racoon bandit who stole his baking ingredients. Talk about a story that was full of drama!!!

We roasted hot dogs for dinner and s'mores for dessert. Yum! And, yes after the kids went to bed, Eric and I tuned in the "Shrew-a-vision" for our entertainment.

The next morning, we remained very focused so we could get across the bridge before its scheduled closure and are so glad we did. About 5 minutes after we left, the rain started to sprinkled down. Talk about timing!!!

On our way out of the park, we did make one quick unexpected stop ... we saw a mama and baby deer nibbling on the grass by the side of the road. Gratefully, the camera was at my feet and no one was behind our car, so I slipped out of the car and snapped a few photos before we continued on our merry way... tired, dirty, smelling of camp fire, and grateful for a fun weekend together.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Conor's 1st Kindergarten Soccer Practice

Last night, Conor had his first soccer practice with his kindergarten team and, to be honest, the boy has probably never been happier!

For an hour, he got to run around and kick a ball with his friends from school. Seriously! What could be better for a 5-year-old boy who loves sports and has more energy than can be measured? By the end of the practice, Conor was pink cheeked, sweaty, and smiling from ear to ear. Truly, he was in his element.

I cannot begin to express how impressed I am with the coaches who ran the practice. They maintained control and really kept the kids engaged. It could have easily turned into a "baptizing cats" situation, but it was anything but that!

This morning, Conor was disappointed to learn that soccer practice wasn't every day and that he'd have to wait until next week for his next practice. I think he is finding how much fun kindergarten can be... it comes with sports! :)

Monday, September 7, 2015

Conor Lost His First Tooth

Every so often (ok, practically daily), our kids remind us in some way that they are growing up and are no longer our wee little babies. Well, yesterday, Conor proved that he is constantly eeking toward adulthood by losing his first tooth!

He'd asked for an apple as a snack (no problem!) and a short bit later, returned asking for it to be cut up because biting into the apple was hurting his loose tooth (lower, right). Eric took a peek into Conor's mouth and said that the tooth was probably ready to come out. Once he said that, Conor started to debate whether he (not the tooth) was ready, and Annika ran to the freezer to fill a cup of ice to prepare for the big event.

It didn't take Conor long to agree to having his tooth pulled out. Annika was a marvelous coach and told him how it wouldn't hurt and she knew he was brave. (It was really sweet!)

Before I had time to grab my camera, Eric already had the floss around Conor's tooth and he was ready to pull it. I actually had to hold him off for a second while I got my camera settings where they needed to be (I'm so persnickety!).

With one good tug, out popped the tooth!! It didn't just pop out ... that sucker went FLYING! All four of us were looking for it on the ground. Fortunately, Annika spotted it near Conor's foot ... whew!

We quickly got ice in a paper towel for his mouth. All the while, Annika kept proclaiming how proud she was of Conor and singing his bravery praises. "I'm so proud of you, Brother! You were SO BRAVE! You did SUCH A GOOD JOB!" (Future life coach?)

Later in the evening, I whipped up a quick tooth pillow for Conor to use at bedtime. Which he promptly misplaced before bedtime (whoops!). Annika loaned him her tooth container so he could leave his tooth for the Tooth Fairy, who left him a lovely note and a $1 gold coin.

His lower left tooth is fairly wiggly, too, so I have a feeling we'll be doing this all over again in the next week or so. Stay tuned!

Goodbye little tooth

Holey smile
Conor and his tooth losing life coach
Big kid!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Front Yard Soccer Practice

The kids are both signed up to play soccer this fall with their classmates. Both kids could hardly wait, so decided to have a little at-home practice session today... partially because Conor's new shin guards arrived in the mail today.

They practiced kicking, throwing, and juggling the ball and did a great job! While they worked on their soccer skills, I took the opportunity to brush up on my sports photography before their first soccer games in a few weeks.

Power kick

Bootin' the ball

Aiming for the fences
(Yes, I do know that I'm mixing my sports references)

Juggling the ball

Soccer girl

Juggling the ball... can't be outdone by Sister, you know!