August LootCrate

Remember how I decided to get Ryan a subscription to LootCrate for his birthday?  The August box arrived yesterday!
Theme: HEROES

What’s inside:

  • HEROES booklet
  • Shwings – shoe accessories
  • Deadpool Magnet
  • Groot Funko POP! figurine
  • Monthly button
  • TMNT Leonardo’s bandana glasses
  • TMNT Leonardo kidrobot figurine
  • Sonic the Hedgehog air freshener
  • Digital Loot card with codes for 3 games/apps

After July’s VILLIANS box, Ryan was a little hesitant if it was the right fit.  It was cool and all, but he didn’t really associate with the posters and socks.  After seeing the loot this month, he’s now excited.  When he had time to sit down and check out the items, the first thing he did was put on the TMNT Leonardo glasses.  He said that Leonardo was always his favorite character, so it was fitting that he received this particular set (I saw on other unboxings that the other characters were included in the crates too).

My personal favorite item of the box was the Shwings.  I don’t wear lace up shoes, but I would totally rock these (if he’d let me have them).  It’s funny, as each item was being pulled out of the box, I was wondering if it was like Mary Poppin’s carpet bag.   The box didn’t look that big, but more goodies kept coming out!

We’re (I am, at least) excited for next month!

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It’s a jungle out there

We may not have the variety of vibrant flowers that you will find in farmers’ markets in the Pacific Northwest, but there is something to be said about the access to tropical fruit!

My childhood home is nestled in a jungle.  Ok, that’s an exaggeration, it wasn’t always.  Through years of overgrowth, the jungle has taken over.  My parents grew all sorts of plants.  Pulling up to our house, you would immediately notice the wall (it was a fence) of Surinam cherries, stalks of tall orchid plants, and a large monster of Bougainvillea.  Looking closer, you’d see a small garden of carrots, green onion, Hawaiian chili pepper and lemongrass.  Walking around to the back, you’d see a large Money Tree, kalamungay, a star fruit tree, and a trifecta of large shade trees fruiting lychee, avocado, and jackfruit.  Clusters of banana trees, adorn the corners of the yard along with ti leaves in green and red.  Coming around the other side, a unique sight, a mountain apple tree snaking up a retaining wall, too tall for us to reach the fruit, but perfect for our elevated neighbors to snag a shirt full of pommes.  There’s an old trellis once the support for bunches of the tiniest grapes you’ve ever seen, now displaying a collection of colorful orchids in all shapes, colors, and sizes.  Below this, large basins filled with water lilies.  We used to have an outdoor shower, now it’s the watering system for an assortment of potted plants.  There’s a small path with a hopscotch game paved in the concrete that is obscured by a short plumeria tree on one side and an ‘Ohi’a Lehua tree on the other.  So even when the plants weren’t overgrown and all over the place, it still felt like a jungle to me.

Even with the variety of fruits we had growing in our yard, my mom used to wander around Chinatown during her lunch break and come home with exotic fruits like pitaya and rambutan, and bags full of tamarind.  It was always exciting to see what she would find. Granted some of these were probably imported from Thailand or wherever, but I knew people who had this stuff growing in their yards (imagine their jungles!).  This was maybe 20 years ago.

Today, I’m sure you could still walk into Chinatown and find this sort of stuff, but with Farmer’s Markets popping up routinely, why risk being chased by rats and homeless people?  Also, it’s become hip to uncover the unusual.  Look at brussels sprouts, kale and quinoa.  Acai bowls have a permanent space on menus at every cafe.  No one eats iceberg lettuce anymore because mesclun greens and arugula is much more flavorful.  Instead of finding a harvest of pitaya (which isn’t difficult, many stalls at the farmer’s market offer both white and pink varieties), you can find “pitaya bowls” loaded with granola and sliced fruit!

If you’ve never seen pitaya — dragon fruit — in real life, you will think I played with the color options on the image.  Well, I can’t say I didn’t, but it was only to make the picture match what I had in front of me.  My camera on the “normal” setting made the colors appear muted and dull.  It really was this vibrant fuchsia!  It stains like crazy, but why wouldn’t you want hot pink lips (and fingers, and blouse, and pants, etc)?

I hope if you’re ever in Hawaii, you stop at any one of our Farmer’s Markets (they not only have fresh produce, but some stalls offer fresh-baked goods and/or specialize in prepared food items that will knock your slippahs off) or cafes to try the locally grown foods.

Preschool Year 2

It’s amazing how fast kids grow. One day, she is your chubby faced toddler not wanting you to leave the classroom, the next, she’s waking up every hour asking if it’s time for school. No dear, it’s 3am.

See the difference between first day last year and first day this year? She was one of the tiniest kids in the class, but now look at this big girl.

She went in like a pro: put her sleeping mat and extra clothes into her cubby, grabbed breakfast, and said her goodbyes to daddy, mommy, and brother.

I’m so proud of her!

Fancy living needs fancy cookies

As I’ve said before, being out in Hawaii kinda sucks for buying fabric.  But it doesn’t just apply to fabric, it goes for anything, really.  A vendor Ryan works with calculated that things cost something like 230% more in Hawaii than in Texas.

Say a tube of toothpaste is $2.00 in Texas (Just say for example, don’t even get me started on extreme couponing and how with your store card it’s 1.60 and with your 60 cent double coupon plus the manufacturer coupon for 40 cents makes it totally free and you can get 10 of them. STFU.), here the same brand and size would be $4.60. Other thingsn to put into perspective, milk is 6-7 bucks for a half-gallon! Seriously.

So when it comes to other “luxury” things, like Cheryl’s in Ohio or anything from Milk Bar in New York, buying the ingredients to make it ends up costing the same as if you were to just order it off the website and pay the exorbitant amount in shipping fees (oh free shipping you say?  let’s not forgot the offer is only for the 48 contiguous states, so regular shipping still applies, and for good measure, add $15 for handling.  You know, I’ve mailed lots of things, both locally and to the mainland.  It takes the same amount of effort no matter where the intended destination.  Just sayin’.

A few weeks back, while in Orlando, I tried Cheryl’s butter cream frosted sugar cookies.  I had never heard of putting frosting on a cookie, and it shocked the vendors.  It was like telling me you’ve never heard of frosting on a cupcake (I’m pretty sure that’s standard?).  C’mon, why would you put frosting on a cookie?  Frosting is not like icing, it doesn’t even and it would look like a mess if you packed them up.  Whatever, I took 2.

Why had I never had these cookies before?!  I don’t like soft cookies.  Keebler Soft Batch cookies would taste better if maybe they were cooked.  And what is up with frosting on cookies?  But these worked.  Soft sugar cookies with frosting.  It wasn’t just any frosting either, this wasn’t like birthday cake frosting, these weren’t smearing and getting all over.  I would describe it as “frocing” it looked and tasted like frosting, but was more stable like royal icing.  LIGHTBULB!  I know why we don’t have these in Hawaii — frosting isn’t stable in the humidity.  Well, I could definitely do something about that.

 

Soft sugar cookies with pineapple buttercream frosting

**Sugar cookies – adapted from Skip to my Lou

Duncan Hines French Vanilla cake mix
2 large eggs
1/3 c. vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 350.  Mix ingredients well.  It gets thick, but you will want to make sure there are no lumps.  Using a small scoop or teaspoon, make balls about the size of a half-dollar.  Flatten slightly onto a prepared baking sheet lined with a silpat or parchment paper.

Bake for 11-13 minutes.  Unless you want a crisper cookie, do not let these brown.  Makes 3 dozen.

**Pineapple buttercream frosting – adapted for Hawaii humidity from Heather Homemade

1/3 c. salted butter, at room temperature
2 1/2 c. powdered sugar, slowly adding another 1 1/2 c. until desired consistency
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp of pineapple flavoring
2 1/2 Tbsp milk
5 drops of yellow food coloring

Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth.  Frost cookies.

 

The frosting by the original recipe was gorgeous.  It was a pearlescent yellow and had a smooth creamy consistency.  It also melted right off the cookie.  I added more powdered sugar and it got more stiff, but lost that creamy consistency.  I found that using a wet butter knife across the top of the frosting helped with aesthetic.  Doesn’t matter too much though when you start eating them!

I would still place an order with Cheryl’s, as there would be the benefit of flavor variety, but if I’m ever in need of a quick fix, these whipped up nicely.

On a roll

I’m still determined to make a better bread.  I’ve somehow veered away from making ‘survival bread’ and am focusing on making delicious breads to eat.  The first one was too dense, then the next one the crust was hard.  The Spanish rolls were good but not quite as buttery as I imagined. I want to make a bread that looks, smells, and tastes like what I’m imagining in my head.  How do grocery stores and local bakeries do it?  Well, I have a theory and it involves sponge and a a day of letting it sit, but I’m way too impatient for that.

Anyway,  I made some dinner rolls to go with … dinner!  Actually, after dinner.  Apparently, if you’re going to bake in Pyrex you should bring down the oven temp — the crust cooked and hardened while the inside was still dough.  Oops.  So what should’ve taken 20 minutes and consumed with the pasta I made, ended up being an hour post-meal with butter and strawberry jam.  Still good!

There’s one thing I don’t get about all these recipes.  People post them, other people try them and comment about how they love them, but when I try it, it doesn’t come out how everyone else describes it.  Is it being in Hawaii?  The ingredients here aren’t the same (Big Island Hawaiian Honey is a lot darker and actually made my bread look whole wheat)?   I don’t know exactly why.  But what I do know is that I need to boost my confidence and make some recipes that I know will turn out.