San Diego County Fair 2017: Where The West is Fun

Last year, I didn’t have a chance to write about the San Diego County Fair itself. So this year, I decided to take as many pictures as I could while we were there and write about our favorite parts! I will try to write about the Zucchini Race in a separate post. Hopefully, I will get to it!

Because we were “exhibitors,” we were able to enter through a different gate that had no line to get into the fair. That alone is one of the big pluses of entering the Zucchini Race every year!

After checking in at the agricultural building with the boys’ zucchini cars, we walked around to look at all the different displays located in the area.

We always seem to come to the fair during chicken week. So those were the small animals on display this year.

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I’m afraid these displays of chickens are what got us started on eventually wanting a chicken coop!

This is the hydroponics display. It is different every year. But it is always beautifully set up.

After the races at 11 AM, we head out into the main part of the fair. We always gravitate away from the all the rides and carnival games… but there is one thing you just cannot avoid: Fair Food!

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Somehow, we always end up at Chicken Charlie’s. This year’s interesting offering: A Krispy Kreme fried chicken ice cream sandwich…

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The menu at Chicken Charlie’s!

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Meet the Krispy Kreme Triple Cheeseburger. It doesn’t sound like it should taste good but it does! It tasted so good that the kids ate it all up and didn’t leave any for Josh! It is kind of expensive ($10.99 for one), which is why we only bought one and all seven of us shared it.

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The fair special for our sides: french fried onion rings, fried zucchini, and chicken tenders. Lots more of the fried zucchini than anything else… and only Josh and I liked it. Silly kids don’t like their veggies even when they’re deep fried!

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One of many ice cream vendors at the fair. The signage here is always a little bit overwhelming!

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I still remember coming to the fair with my parents and my brother when I was a teenager, and getting frozen cheesecake dipped in chocolate on a stick. I should have gotten one just for old times’ sake. But Corran and I really wanted funnel cake instead. The rest of the family got ice cream.

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Our favorite part of the fair: The Garden Show! Josh likes to walk through here and get ideas for our yard.

Since this year’s theme was the Old West, the displays weren’t quite as vibrant as in past years. I still loved them anyway.

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I love this part of the garden show! It is called the Children’s Garden, and we take our kids here every year. They have different activities for kids about eating healthy, and learning about fruits and vegetables. They even get to go home with a small plant. Last year, we came home with a few tomato plants and they gave us so many yummy cherry tomatoes! This year, the kids came home with bell pepper plants and beefsteak tomato plants.

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The kids digging for gold nuggets so that they can each bring home a plant! Gwen LOVED this activity. She has always enjoyed playing in the dirt. There were also craft activities on the other side of the garden, like coloring and making a ladybug out of egg carton pieces.

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I love to walk around and look at all the plants on display in the children’s garden. There are fruit trees, berry bushes, and all sorts of raised beds full of edible plants.

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I had to take a picture of this flower rainbow. Just lovely.

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One of the many peaceful displays at the garden show. So inviting!

 

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My kids loved this model railroad display. It must have taken a lot of time and effort to set this up!

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Another annual visit to the Gem and Mineral Show in Mission Tower. Every year we come here to look at rocks. This is Matthias’ favorite place. He has always been our family rock hound.

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They have these grab bags for sale every year too! The kids always enjoy opening up their bags when we get home to see what interesting rocks or fossils they received. Two of my kids also got a free polished rock from the vendor. Gwen held tight to hers for the rest of our day.

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I had to take a picture of these small animal carvings! They really are very tiny!

Our next stop was the home and hobby building, which is right next door to Mission Tower. We had never actually been in here before, but I’m glad we were able to this year! It is full of collections of different objects: rockets, disneyland pins, quilts, matchbooks, Star Trek memorabilia, even fake plastic food. If you can collect it, it was probably here! The baked goods competition was also here (my secret reason for wanting to come take a look). I am considering entering next year.

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This was a fun collection! Packing Peanuts!
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This right here is one of the reasons we come to the fair. You happen upon these jewels of activities that you just were not expecting! Each of my kids was able to make a marble out of polymer clay and take it home to bake it until it was hardened. They were so enamored with the process of making these that we had a hard time keeping them away from their clay marbles once they were done designing them. Josh and I are considering having this as a little hobby for the kids.
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Say Bye to Ian!

I hope you have enjoyed reading about our trip to the fair. I know that there are no pictures of the rides, but they would have been quite expensive for all the kids to ride everything (although some years we have gone on the rides and they are a lot of fun too!). Usually for our family, the fair is a place to learn and still have fun!

-Lynn

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Quick looks at past posts…

For a few days at a time, I will be stickying various posts from the very beginning of our blogging journey. Some of these posts will be from 2015! I think you will see a big difference between our posts then and our posts now.

Don’t worry though! We will still be writing new posts. If I have a chance this week, I will be hopefully be writing a post about our day at the San Diego County Fair this past Saturday. And I think Josh has a post planned about orange sorbet!

 

-Lynn

Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California

Every year, if possible, we attend Lego Star Wars Days at Legoland California on Saturday. It is one of the highlights of our year and we had been looking forward to this year’s Lego Star Wars Days for a few months! We were not able to attend last year since we did not all have membership passes.

Click here for more info about Lego Star Wars Days

This is definitely a geeky post so feel free to skip if Star Wars is not your thing! This post will also be mostly pictures.

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This year’s banner at the main stage near Miniland was great. I really liked the Death Star logo. This is where most of the contests for Star Wars Days takes place: Jedi Trivia, Family Build Challenge, and Costume Contest.

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After taking a quick ride through the Lego Ninjago ride, we went to the Model Shop Rooftop, which is also very close to Miniland. Usually, when we go to Lego Star Wars Days, we don’t really ride many of the rides. We are off having too much fun being Star Wars fans! The Model Shop Rooftop is where you can pick up some free goodies: this year’s giveaways were a poster, two pop badges, and a pin.

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For the droid hunt, you walk around Legoland, usually near the Beginning or in the Star Wars Miniland area to find a costumed member of either the Rebel Legion or the 501st to “catch” you. This year and the last year we went, we were caught by members of the Rebel Legion I think. They will say to you, “How long have you had these droids?” Usually, we just smile widely and say, “We’ve been looking for you!” Then they put the red ribbons over our droid hunt ribbons and give us each a raffle ticket for a 4:30 PM drawing for prizes.

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There were also two contests to enter at the Model Shop rooftop, one was a drawing to win a piece of Star Wars artwork, and the other was to guess the number of Lego bricks used to build a full-scale R2D2.

The highlight of our visit to the Model Shop rooftop though is the fan gallery. Star Wars fans and Lego fans bring their own creations (called MOCs) to display.

We were able to talk to two MOC creators and we were so impressed with their models that we went and bought two power functions motors to play with at home! It helped that I had a 15% off coupon to use at the Big Shop.

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I LOVED this Lego Star Wars Ferris wheel. We are also big fans of the Star Wars Rebels (minifigures on Ferris wheel left side) cartoon series as well as the Freemakers (minifigures on Ferris wheel right side). Can you find Grand Admiral Thrawn on the Star Wars Rebels side?

Isn’t this carousel awesome? Poor Chewie is probably not enjoying waiting his turn.

We also picked up our Scavenger Hunt entry forms at the Model Shop rooftop. The Scavenger Hunt is always fun for the kids.

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One of the questions from the Scavenger Hunt entry form: How many Y-wings are in the battle around the Death Star? Answer: Zero! Because X-wings are cooler, and Y-wings are slow (sorry to any Y-wing pilots out there).

We also got to see the newest Star Wars Miniland addition: the planet Jakku and Kylo Ren’s Star Destroyer The Finalizer.

Another highlight to our day: seeing the 501st and the Rebel Legion walking around in costume. Of course, we took their pictures and also had our pictures taken with them.

The most impressive costume to me: Kylo Ren’s.

We haven’t had the kids enter the costume contest for ages 12 and under for a few years, but we always enjoy watching it at 4 PM. This year’s contest was hilarious. Kids say the craziest things!

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This year’s three winners were 3rd place – General Grievous, 2nd place – Lego minifigure Emperor Palpatine, and 1st place – a probe droid. You can see the prizes they won on the platform.

After the contest, they had the raffle for the tickets we received during the droid hunt. We didn’t win, but there’s always a chance!

We had a blast at Lego Star Wars Days 2017! Hopefully, we will be able to make it again next year. Until then, may the Force be with you!

 

 

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Scones

I have a confession to make: I use our blog as a place to store recipes! So I often refer back to my old posts to bake a certain flavor of scones or figure out a macaron recipe. Sometimes, a post will just be a reference for me so that I can find a recipe again. That is likely what this post will be. Perhaps later, I will be able to improve on these scones to really make them pop. I am thinking maybe some cinnamon chips or a cinnamon brown sugar filling.

There is nothing very spectacular about these cinnamon scones, but they are definitely yummy if you like cinnamon! I baked these for an order but wanted to have two types with glaze and two types without glaze. Sadly, these cinnamon-y scones ended up being the unglazed ones. I think they could be brought up a notch with some vanilla glaze though!

I have been baking scones a LOT lately, but that is okay. I’ve been baking different flavors of scones and I am getting to where I can probably start making the basic scone recipe from memory!

I do plan on making July macaron practice month though if I can. So expect a lot of macaron recipes at that time… if I can get my macarons back to where they were before the new oven that is!

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Brown Sugar Cinnamon Scones

  • Servings: 16 servings
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 5 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Vanilla glaze

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3-5 tsp milk/water
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl; flour, baking powder, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Using a pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. The mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in the heavy cream and vanilla extract. Fold everything together just to incorporate as much of the flour as possible; do not overwork. When you have shreds of dough, pour the dough out onto a floured surface and finishing working the dough into a ball there.

Pat the dough out into a rectangle. Using a bench knife, cut the dough rectangle in half, then each half in half. Cut down the middle to form 8 squares and then cut each square on the diagonal to form 16 triangles.

Transfer each triangle to a baking sheet covered in parchment paper, leaving an inch or two of space between each wedge. Bake for 12-17 minutes until golden brown. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Cool completely before drizzling with glaze.

Stir together the powdered sugar, milk/water, and vanilla to make the glaze. Add a teaspoon of milk/water at a time until the glaze is desired consistency. Drizzle over the cooled scones.

When Life Hands You Lemons: Make Lemon Scones

I have been sadly absent from the blog the past month! Many, many thanks to my hubby, Josh, for keeping the blog going. I mentioned at the beginning of May that three of our kids have birthdays in May (plus there is Mother’s Day to think about) so I was concentrating on those things as well as a big model rocket launching birthday party we had out in the desert on May 13th. That was definitely one of the more unconventional birthday parties we’ve done!

As Josh said, we have an overabundance of lemons coming from our lemon tree. And that means finding ways to use them other than in lemonade or lemon curd, although lemon curd is definitely something I want to make!

I had been wanting to make blueberry cheesecake scones for a while, but then I realized that they would be even better with lemon added as an extra layer of flavor. I also nailed down my recipe for lemon poppy seed scones. I had never actually written it down in recipe form.

So here are two new scone recipes for you all!

Let’s start with the lemon blueberry cheesecake scones. The most difficult part of making these scones is… how do you get the cheesecake part in? These aren’t the prettiest scones in the world, and I actually thought they tasted just okay. But… I’m not the most reliable taste tester right now as nothing really tastes good to me! So I have to depend on what my family tells me. Josh said these were yummy and I should post about them! They probably could have used some glaze just to make them look prettier but I don’t think the glaze would have added anything in flavor since the cheesecake filling was there to add a punch of lemon.

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The cheesecake filling was just 8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice, and 1/2 cup of sugar beaten together until smooth. The filling was too much for one batch of blueberry scones so I ended up making two batches. I attempted to keep the filling from oozing out of the scones too much by patting the each batch of scone dough out into a rectangle, spreading half of the filling over the rectangle, and then folding the dough in a gate fold like you would with paper

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Then, I sealed up all the open edges as best I could. Mostly, the sealing is to prevent the filling from coming out while patting the dough out again and then cutting the dough into wedges. One batch made 16 small scones.

Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake Scones

You can easily double all the ingredients to make 32 scones if you want to use a whole brick of cream cheese.

Ingredients

Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream + juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup dried blueberries, soaked in water and drained
  • 1- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream for brushing tops of scones
  • Coarse white sugar, optional

Cheesecake filling

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

If possible, rub the lemon zest into the sugar before adding the sugar to the dry ingredients.

Sift together dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and lemon zest. Using pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. Mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make well in center and pour in heavy cream and lemon juice. Fold everything together; do not overwork. Fold in the dried blueberries until you have what looks like shreds of dough.

To make the cheesecake filling, use a hand mixer to beat together the cream cheese, sugar, and lemon juice in a small bowl until smooth.

Pour the dough out onto a floured surface and knead the dough gently as if you were making pie crust, until the dough comes together to form a smooth ball. Pat the dough out into a rectangle. Using a spatula, spread the cheesecake filling over the rectangle, leaving some room at the edges for sealing. Fold the dough in a gate fold and pinch or fold over the edges to seal. Don’t forget to seal the middle where the folds meet. You will now have a square of dough. Carefully pat the square out into a rectangle again and using a bench knife, cut the rectangle in half. Cut each half in half again, then cut down the middle of the rectangle so that you have 8 squares. Cut each square on the diagonal to get 16 triangles.

Using the bench knife, transfer each wedge to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Make sure there is an inch or two separating each wedge. Brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream and sprinkle sugar on the scones if desired. Bake for 12-17 minutes on the middle rack or until golden brown. Allow scones to cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

The lemon poppyseed scones are pretty straightforward so I will just post the recipe. I will note that instead of drizzling the glaze on, I brushed it on so that each scone was covered evenly in the glaze.

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Lemon Poppy Seed Scones

Ingredients

Scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • Zest of 2 lemons
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 cup heavy cream + 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tsp poppy seeds
  • 1- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream for brushing tops of scones

 

Lemon glaze

  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon water or milk, until desired consistency

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

If possible, rub the lemon zest into the sugar before adding the sugar to the dry ingredients.

Sift together dry ingredients; flour, baking powder, salt, sugar, lemon zest, and poppy seeds. Using pastry blender, cut in the butter to coat pieces with flour. Mixture should look like coarse crumbs. Make well in center and pour in heavy cream and lemon juice. Fold everything together; do not overwork.

When you have what looks like shreds of dough (almost like when you are working with pie crust), pour the dough out onto a floured surface and finish kneading it there until the dough comes together and forms a smooth ball. Pat the dough out into a rectangle and using a bench knife, cut the rectangle in half so that you have two squares. Cut each square in half, then cut down the middle of the rectangle so that you now have eight squares.  Cut each square on the diagonal to get 16 triangles.

Using the bench knife, transfer each wedge to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, making sure there is an inch or two separating each wedge. Brush the tops of the scones with heavy cream. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if desired.

Bake the scones for 12-17 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the baking sheets for 2 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. Allow scones to cool completely before brushing with glaze.

To make the glaze, stir together the powdered sugar and lemon juice in a small bowl. Add water or milk and continue stirring until desired consistency. Brush the glaze onto the cooled scones.

I know that finishing the dough on a floured surface does add one step to the usual scone method, but this extra step helps me very much not to overwork the dough. It usually only takes 5-10 kneads before the dough comes together, smooths out, and forms a ball.

Also, baking time is very important! 2-3 minutes makes a big difference between a moist scone and a dry scone! Once the scones are golden on the edges and still pale on top, they only need about 2 more minutes to be perfect. There is also the burnt scone! Which I have done before.

 

May the Birthday Month!

This will be a very short post, but I just wanted to let you all know why I might not be able to post very much for the next few weeks. 

We have five children: four boys and one girl (she’s the youngest :). And the oldest three boys have birthdays all in May! So May is always a busy month for us.

I attempt to be really, really supermom this month because they each get their own cake and we do something special together on the days of their birthdays. Yesterday, we went to Legoland!

Ian also requested a chocolate cake with vanilla buttercream. 🙂


I didn’t really get a good picture of the cake when it wasn’t sliced. But boy, was this cake good! Which surprised me because the layers didn’t rise very much. I used Dorie Greenspan’s recipe for Devil’s Food Whiteout Cake. I used a plain vanilla butter cream instead of the meringue frosting though. 

I think I’d need to double the recipe to get the height I would want in a layer cake, but this cake did turn out better than I expected!

The next cake is a chocolate chip cookie pizza. I’m tempted to try making a deep dish version!

Using a Bread Maker to Start Challah Bread

Our bread maker is an old Toastmaster that we have had a long time, and it has been through A LOT. It’s a little bit beat up with a lid that doesn’t fit on quite right, from when it fell off the kitchen counter a few times. Fortunately, it still works… mostly. We are kind of in the market for a new bread maker, but in the meantime, I use our old faithful Toastmaster. I might be a little bit sad when it has to go.

Bread makers don’t seem to like me very much, so I don’t use them very often. The bread I make in them always falls! So lately, I’ve been using our bread maker just to start doughs for me. It’s been great for starting cinnamon roll dough and challah bread dough!

I don’t think the recipe I use is really authentic. I made challah rolls for Easter lunch and that dough had honey in it. (By the way, those rolls were amazing. I was practically dropping a few on the floor by accident, just so I could eat them.) This one does not. The recipe is just from the manual that came with our Toastmaster. Somehow, that manual has survived up until now, though its cover is falling off and it’s getting a little tattered on the edges.

Challah Bread Dough

  • Servings: 1 large loaf
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, room temperature, plus enough water at 80 degrees F/27 degrees C to equal 1½ cups
  • 1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4½ cups bread flour
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast

Glaze:

  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp water

Topping:

  • 1½ Tbsp poppy seeds, optional

Directions

Place eggs, water, vegetable oil, sugar, and salt in the bread pan. Then, place bread flour into the bread pan and spread it out to the edges of the pan. Make a little well in the middle of the flour and pour the yeast into it.

Use the dough cycle on your bread maker.

When dough cycle is finished, place the bread dough on a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into thirds, making three 13-inch-long ropes with tapered edges. Pinch ropes together at one end and braid together. Pinch together at the other end and secure braid.

Transfer braided dough to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper; cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine glaze ingredients and brush onto braid. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake at 350 degrees F/177 degrees C for 25 minutes, or until done.

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I can’t describe how much I love this bread… This recipe makes a HUGE loaf. It’s enough to feed my family and then some. After making the bread topped with poppy seeds once, I usually leave them off now. I make sure to do the egg glaze though. It just gives the bread a really beautiful color.

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Sometimes I succeed at making a pretty braid, and sometimes I don’t. I’ve also overproofed the dough. It doesn’t seem to matter though. My family eats this bread up no matter what it looks like.

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Challah loaf with poppy seeds as a topping

My kids will request this bread. If we have it around, they ask for me to use it for grilled cheese.

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This is a second loaf I made that I sprinkled flake salt on.

So if you have a large family who loves homemade bread, this is a really simple one to do! It looks pretty and it tastes great and leftovers will get eaten up as soon as possible!

-Lynn