Friday, May 27, 2016

May 2016 Daring Bakers' Challenge: Twist Bread

This month, we Daring Bakers were challenged by Tandy ( of Lavender and Lime) to make twist bread. Oh darn! That sounds horrible ... NOT!!!

Tandy gave us the freedom to select the filling, so I went with a riff on cinnamon bread because I'm lazy and I had the ingredients on hand. (Let's be honest, eh?) I would really like to try this again with a savory filling (maybe sundried tomatoes, mozarella, and basil??) but didn't get around to that in time for posting here today. If you're so inclined, here is the link to Tandy's challenge recipe.

I found this recipe quite easy to follow (woo hoo!). The only struggle I had was after I sliced the loaf down the middle and then had to twist it. The outer layers sort of peeled away from me as I attempted to twist the loaf. Once I managed to get a "that's good enough" twist (an extra set of hand would have definitely helped ease the process!), I shaped the loaf into a ring (re-twisted a bit along the way), brushed it with an egg wash, and popped it into the oven. About 15-20 minutes into the baking process, the house started to smell amazing! You really can't beat the cozy smell of cinnamon wafting from a hot oven.

The final verdict? Eric thought it was ok but not spectacular. The kids loved it; Annika gladly put on her newly self-appointed food critic hat to let me know it was "flavorful and had good texture." I thought it was good, but could have used more of the cinnamon sugar filling. My co-workers (who got the remainder of the loaf the next day) inhaled it. So, there you are!






Thanks, Tandy, for this fun and yummy challenge. Can't wait to try it again!!

Monday, May 23, 2016

Our Great Wolf Lodge Getaway

Will someone PLEASE tap the breaks on 2016? This year is flying by WAY too quickly!! How we are knocking on June's door so fast is beyond me. As I write this, I can hardly believe we've been back from our weekend at Great Wolf Lodge for over a week !

Now to catch you up a bit...

A week plus ago on Saturday morning after breakfast, Eric and I surprised the kids with the news that we were taking them to Great Wolf Lodge in about an hour. (Woo hoo!) To top it off, we were going with Uncle Dave and Anne. (WAH HOO!!) Annika and Conor were stunned and ecstatic all rolled up into one. (Which is why we held off on telling them about the trip until the last minute. If we told them the night before, we'd never get them to sleep!)

After a few more minutes of excited spastic responses, the kids ran around getting themselves dressed and ready for the world. Eric and I packed the suitcases the night before, so getting ready was mostly done aside from taking Buca to the dog hotel and putting the suitcases in the van. We swung by Dave's house so the two families could caravan the hour and a half to the hotel/water park. The drive was a piece of cake; no setbacks, no traffic jams, no kid drama. Easy peasy. Hurray!! (Don't you love it when things go according to plan? Yeah, me too!)

As we headed south, we found a variety of things to keep the kids occupied. We played word games and I Spy; the kids also colored, played with the stickers I put in their backpacks, and watched their tablets. One of the funniest moments during the drive, however, was when Eric and Conor were playing the "what begins with (insert letter of the alphabet)" game. Eric asked Conor, "What begins with the letter A?" To which Conor replied, "Apple!" Eric asked again, "What begins with the letter B?" Conor's response?? (Ready for this one?) "Bouillabaisse!" All Eric and I could do was stare at each other with wide eyes and slack jaws. Impressively, Conor even know it is a food. (We interrupt this programming to introduce our newest superhero: Vocabulary Boy!!)

We couldn't get into our hotel room (which is attached to the water park) until 4 PM, but we were able to access the water park starting much earlier. So, after a quick jaunt to Centralia for some lunch, we donned our swim suits and hit the water.

Smiles

Silly faces!


I have to say, prior to our weekend, I really wasn't looking forward to it. I'd heard that GWL wasn't overly impressive and was basically "meh" but kids enjoy it. I'm thrilled to report that that was not our experience at all. We had a blast! The water park had a big wave pool (aka Conor's second home), something like 6 or 7 water slides (thrill seeker Annika LOVED them), a splashing area for little kids, and an outdoor adventure/rope course. It was so fun! We spent almost all of Saturday in the water (and had wrinkled fingers/toes to show for it) and basically exhausted ourselves.

Annika channeling her inner mermaid

Conor about to hit the wave pool

Dive! Dive! Dive!

Our little fishies

The Three Amigos

We call her "Bubbles" now

Blub, blub, blub

Annika in the waterfall

Conor and Anne in the waterfall

Anne prepared for water slide launch

Conor ready to take the plunge

My water slide selfie

Anne and Conor in line for the River Ride water slide

The water park (partial)

Anne on the water rope challenge

Conor leaping onto a lily pad

Annika perfecting her "Tarzan leap"

Annika, Eric, and Conor ... in between water adventures

The poco loco Olsons

Annika ready to head up to one of the water slides

Conor and Daddy

Annika and Daddy

Underwater Annika

It's no wonder our kids are fish! So are their parents.

Anne and Dave getting in on the underwater photo action

video
Water slide video

Wet, tired, hungry, smiling

By the time we needed to grab some dinner, we all felt like we were running on fumes. So, we went back to Centralia for some dinner to refuel. Later that night, we went to the clock tower (aka hotel lobby) for story time. In all honesty, this was the low point of the weekend from the adults' perspective. The story was unimpressive and the gal reciting it didn't play to the whole crowd ... only to those directly in front of her. That part really was "meh".

Our room was pretty special for the kids. When booking our reservation, Eric and I decided to for the complete GWL experience and got a theme room -- it was called a "Kid Kamp"room. There was a set of bunkbeds for the kids and that area of the room was decorated to look like a tent out in the wilderness... complete with a TV (suspension of disbelief needed at this point).  Needless to say, it was a huge hit with the kids.


Conor peeking out from the top bunk

Annika's lower bunk had a window - bonus!

Our two little campers


The next morning, we grabbed breakfast at GWL and headed straight to the water park knowing we wanted to get plenty of time there before we hit the rope course and then headed home. We swam, slid, and floated until we were practically oozing chlorine and then decided it was time to head outside for a different adventure.

We weren't sure if Conor and Anne would be up for the rope course, but knew Annika would be game (understatement). As it so happens, all 6 of us went up on the course and had lots of fun. Annika and Eric scampered to the upper levels almost immediately (there are 4 levels in all) while Conor and I stuck more to the lower 2 levels, which was more within his comfort level. We spent about an hour on the course (Annika would probably still be on it if we let her) and then packed up shop knowing we needed to get back home. All four of us were big fans of the zip line. Adrenaline Annika needed no prodding; she just took off. Conor needed a little convincing to try it and the first time, rode with very big eyes. Once he was at the other end of the zip line, he was hooked.






All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. All four of us had a great time. The kids keep asking when we can go back, which is always a good sign!