Monday, 2 September 2013

Cochas - a yummy twist

I have not had time to bake or cook much since we got here with work and all, and I have been feeling the need to create so yesterday I woke up, sent S on an errand to buy breakfast, and ignored the kids while I whipped up a batch of Conchas.
For those of you that have never eaten or heard of Conchas, Conchas are a typical Mexican sweet bread that are covered with psychedelic neon sugar frosting either in pink, yellow, brown, or white. Typical flavorings include strawberry (strawberry flavored milk powder), pineapple, chocolate(powdered chocolate milk mix), vanilla. So I set out to make the bread and do at least the vanilla and chocolate, but I also wanted to experiment because I can never leave well enough alone.
I found this great recipe for Conchas on the site La Cocina De Lesley. I am reposting it here with my changes:


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 packet instant or quick active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup very warm water

  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1.5 tsp freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 cup powdered sugar plus up to 1 cup extra for those pieces that are too sticky
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon diced/pulverized cocoa from a log from Antigua(substitue cocoa powder if you have it)
  • 1 tbsp fresh mint chopped finely
  • 1/2 tsp peppermint extract
  • rind from 1/2 a tangerine
  • 1 tsp orange extract


Mix all ingredients for the sponge in your mixing bowl, and let sit a min of 15 minute (if you are like me, you will forget about the sponge and it will sit for 45 minutes - it's OK!). Look for small bubbles to show that the yeast is working.  While the sponge is sitting and bubbling away, put the milk in the dough section in a pan with the butter. Warm up slightly until butter is mostly melted - do NOT boil. Then, remove it from the heat and add it to the proofed sponge(the already bubbled yeast mixture). In a small bowl, mix the egg, salt, nutmeg and cinnamon. Add this to the sponge along with the flour.  Mix away.
I noticed that my mixture was too dry, so I added more milk which really helped. After the dough mixed for like 6 minutes, it became  nice ball that was elastic and not sticky so I took the dough hook out and let the dough sit in a corner and rise.
My helpers?
MEANWHILE.... make the topping. Add 1 cup powdered sugar and the flour and butter to a bowl. Use you potato masher or dough cutter to cut in the dough. Then add the vanilla and use your fingers to mix the mixture until it looks a little bit like wet sand.  At this point you ant to separate it into three pieces and add your flavorings. To one piece add the chocolate, mint leaves, and peppermint extract. To another piece, add the orange peel and orange extract - also to this one you can add food coloring if you wish. Work the ingredients in with your fingers - add more powdered sugar as necessary to keep the topping from being a sticky mess. Once everything is well mixed, put it in the fridge to chill.
The dough should be nice and doubled by now, but it could take up to 90 minutes to rise. Once the dough is risen, cut it in half, then cut each half into about 6 -7 pieces. Roll these into ball shapes and set on a greased baking sheet to rise again. I think I needed to let mine rise a bit more, but at this point the kids were going crazy with lack of supervision so I had them help and didn't get a full rise in.  
Preheat your oven to 350
Take your topping out of the fridge and cut it into either 4 or 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball and flatten with your hand to the size of the top of the concha. Cover each dough ball with the topping and cut pretty design into the topping. Bake at 350 for about 20 minutes until slightly browned.

Yes people, that is a knife and my kids like to eat flour.
These were very delicious, I would recommend eating them the day they were made, but you can always save them for another day. I like dunking them in my coffee.  

Monday, 5 August 2013

Adventures in Texas - Sculpture Days!

So, this summer I decided to make the most of my six, yes, 6 weeks off from school and have adventures with the children and S. We have gone and done some pretty fun things. Look for more updates about the things we did this summer as the weeks progress.

In no particular order......

Adventure 1 - Sculptures, sculptures everywhere!

Managed to get into the waterfall with getting soaked!
Today was Family Day at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden in Zilker Park. I saw a posting for this event last month in the Free Fun in Austin blog but I didn't go because, well..... I was too lazy. I mean, pack up two kids, go to an unknown event where Superboy might have to behave just scares me. Today though, I was looking for something free to do and this posting popped up again so I thought, why not give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is that he breaks a few million dollar statues right? I packed up the kids, called a friend and she packed up her kids, and then we went off to see what the hoopla was all about.

We got to the Umlauf, and I was so pleasantly surprised! The building itself reminded me of a cross between the Botanical Gardens on St. Croix and an art gallery. There was this great little waterfall to the right of the building that the kids loved exploring and that filled the air with the melodic sounds of water flowing down rocks.  From there we entered into the atrium and listened to a story being read. It was about an Octopus - how appropriate! Superboy ended up talking to the nice lady from Book People all about animals like rattlesnakes, wolverines, and badgers and how cool they were. I think she left that conversation missing an ear or two!
Scavengers on the hunt.

The wonderful ladies at the Umlauf gave each child a photo scavenger hunt of different sculptures and a dry erase marker so they could cross off the sculptures as they found them.  The little little ones LOVED this and had a great time. The older ones liked the challenge of finding different statue hands, but were not as excited as the littles.  The Umlauf also had a sand pit where the kids could make sandcastles, volcanoes, and roadways.  There was sand and water involved so my island kids had a BLAST!  I would say that this was the highlight of the trip.

Playing in the sand.
In short, other than the slight heart attack that I had when we were inside and Superboy almost knocked over a 3 million dollar statue, it was a highly successful day where they ALL had a blast. Do I recommend taking your kids to the Umlauf? Yes, should you expect them to want to go back every week - umm, probably not, but I think they will be up for it once every few months.  This trip gave me the idea that doing a scavenger hunt for all ages would be the way to go when we go to a questionable locale on our next adventure.

In order to end our day, we went Amy's Ice Cream in the Arboretum.  It was cool - they had great flavors. I got Mexican Vanilla, Superboy got Sweet Cream with gummy bears, and A got a Melon Sorbet - I think A's was the most refreshing. We then went to go see the granite cows in the little park behind the shops.  The kids all loved climbing on these statues and riding the cows off into the sunset!

Tandem cow riding!

Go have a sculpture adventure today and tell me about it sometime.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

The Ease of Living?

Who cares about playing in the mud and looking
funky if it's for a good cause right?
I was talking with a friend on the East Coast the other day - HELLO! (you know who you are) - and she asked me what was the most surprising thing about moving. I had to think about that one. There are really two things that super surprised me - no wait, three.
1) The move was easy. No, REALLY easy. I don't mean the packing or the actual planning of the move. Nor do I mean the sale of the house or all the angst of picking a place, but the settling was/has been easy. I remeber driving down Ben McCullum - see Anna, I know the lingo - about two weeks after we moved and I caught myself thinking how I felt like I had been here for years not weeks.  I had settled. I was still unemployed at that point, didn't know where anything was, didn't know anyone, we didn't have our stuff, but it(Texas) felt..... right. It was scary. How could I uproot myself and my family from all we had known for YEARS and move to an alien place and it feel right after all of two weeks? Was I a traitor to my island blood, my Caribbean way of life? On the contrary, I think living in such a wonderful place like St. Croix actually prepared me to assimilate and adapt as well as I have.

2) It is EASY to live here. Everyone is SO friendly, helpful, and prompt that life is easy. I can call the gas company and almost before I hang up, someone is knocking on my door to help out with whatever issue I had. I can get home and open the rice and there are no weevils (STX peeps know what I mean), I can take said OPENED unweevily rice and RETURN it with no receipt, no questions asked!!! There are 2 groceries, 3 drugstores, 4 gas stations, 3 banks, 3 community pools, and a MALL(!!!!) around the corner from our house.  The selection in all of those places is unbelievable, the prices are cheap, and there is way more than I could EVER want in any of those places.  Oh, did I mention there is are 2 Targets AND Walmarts within a 6 mile radius of us too? OVERKILL!

My kids moaning about the cold.

3) Everyone blows small issues out of proportion - and not in a good way.  The other day A had a swim meet - her first of the summer and it rained! Which, by all reckonings is rare in drought prone Texas. It was a nice morning between 5:30 and 7:00 am, but then it started to downpour. The kids were all under tents out of the rain, they all had chairs or shared, the meet was going on even though it started a whole 15 minutes late, it was all good to me. Heck it could have been worse right? No, it wasn't comfortable and it wasn't ideal, but kids have to learn to roll with the punches right? Apparently, I was the only one that thought so. Parents were incensed that the meet started late, that the relay's got cancelled due to time constraints, that it was raining, and horror of all that the kids had to stop swimming due to lightning. SIGH. It COULD have been WAY worse. I have noticed, that people complain if it doesn't rain, complain it if rains, complain if the DMV takes 15 minutes instead of 10, b!tch and moan if they can't do what they want when they want, etc.  Sometimes I want to jack slap all the whiners and tell them that spending time together and with family is what is important, that life could be so much worse. They could pay .50c a KW for electricity and NOT have AC, have to choose between wilted lettuce and tasteless tomatoes, have to prep for a hurricane, etc.  I know NOT everyone is this bad, but I do notice a trend of people that don't look on the bright side of life and forget to be grateful for what they do have.

All in all, I love living here. We now have some great friends, have done things that took us out of our comfort zone, gotten a job, bought a house, and enjoyed our experiences here. I do hope that both children remember to savor the bumps or potholes in the road, go with the flow, but appreciate the ease of life here.  C still dresses up as whatever he wants to when we go out. He still LOVES his pirate boots, but has now discovered super heros. A still prefers climbing trees to wearing dresses and shopping (thank goodness!). S still loves to clean and keep house(can I get down on my knees and thank my lucky stars?), and I  still like doing too much with too little time.

Living here in Texas has given me appreciation for the easy way of life that could be mine, but I still like to throw curve balls in everyone in a while, like trying to be two places at once that are 50 miles apart.  It makes life ............... i n t e r e s t i n g.

Monday, 13 May 2013

Ramblings from Texas

Wow, wow, wow! Life has changed and I've neglected this blog. I am going to try to post once a week. Now that summer is here, that should be doable... yeah, sure.

So, we moved - and then we moved again.  We are still in Texas, but rather than being south of Austin, we are now north of Austin in a little bedroom community called Cedar Park.  I got a job, we bought a house, bought a dog, planted a veggie garden, A joined a swim team - or two, C is going to preschool, S stays home and is raising kids, cleaning house, being a taxi for the kids, shopping, taking car of any loose ends that I have left behind, and in short being a fantastic house husband, AND we have been exploring Austin!
C admiring a buffalo statue near Johnson City

There is SO much to do here - Capital tours, Austin sightseeing, pioneer farms, parks, Native American Pow Wows, music festivals, Cinco de Mayo celebrations, dog parks, shopping, movie theaters where they serve food(!), parties, GIANT book stores, kite festivals, etc.  We have yet to scratch the surface, go past the tip of the iceberg, etc. in terms of what there is to do here. We like it, it feels comfortable. I can see how we will have to strive to maintain our island vibe though what with all there is to do, I can see us getting over extended. In fact, most weekends we manage to build in home time where we hang here and do stuff like paint, make flower crowns, ride our bikes, cook, etc.

Crucian peeps and others at the Dirty Girl Mud run
Scarf dancer at Powwow @UT
Do I miss St. Croix? yes. Do my kids and husband miss St. Croix? yes. In fact the other day, C asked Stephen when we were going back and NOT for vacation. When we told him we didn't know, he got very upset and muttered something about going back to his island and selling this house for sixty five nine dollars - sorry kid, we need more money than that for this sucker!

I discovered Crucians here in Texas! We are EVERWHERE!!!! Big Up Crucian massive! I need to have a real Crucian party here this summer, play some Violators, Stanley, Quelbe, and even toss some Daddy Yankee in that mix to really let the new neighbors that "we deh here, meson!" So, if you find yourself in Austin this summer, look us up and "Leh we jam!"