Easy Homemade Gak recipe

Kaili likes to watch Creative Galaxy and after each episode her creativity is sparked. She comes out wanting to cook or create. I thought about how I used to make Gak with my students and how easy it was. How come I haven’t done this with her yet?

We walked to the drugstore to pick up some of the ingredients. Once the littler one was in bed, we set out to make some homemade Gak.

This comes together in five minutes, it’s too easy.


4 oz. school glue

1/2 cup water + 1/4 cup HOT water

1/2 teaspoon Borax

Food coloring



Mix glue and 1/2 cup water in small bowl or container and mix well.

Add in food coloring if using.

Dissolve the borax in 1/4 cup of hot water. Mix until it’s completely dissolved.

Pore the borax water into the glue mixture.

Stir the Gak and watch as it changes into a solid mass. Knead the Gak for a bit until it’s no longer sticky and wet.



It’s a great sensory activity. Mesmerizing.





Cooking Cravings- Butter Lettuce + Blue Cheese + Cayenne Candied Walnuts

I wanted to love this salad, with that….I make a whole hell of a lot of salads like this, I pick a lettuce, add a fruit, a cheese and a candied nut. Sometimes I throw spices on the nuts but I never make them spicy spicy.

It lost me with the lettuce. Butter lettuce is just too delicate, especially paired with crispy apple and nuts. Maybe grapes would be a better choice? Or just stick with a spring mix blend of lettuce and herbs. The other thing that didn’t work for me was the vinaigrette. It was a tad bitter, it need a bit of sweetness so next time I will add some honey.

All said and done, this is a good salad but for me who makes them daily, not good enough. Although the walnuts can be eaten every damn day, so good!


Dressing Ingredients

3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 small shallot, finely chopped
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper


1 large head of butter or Boston lettuce, separated into leaves, larger leaves torn
Apple, halved and cut into thin slices- I used Fuji
1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings
1/2 cup cayenne-candied walnuts

In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, blue cheese, shallot, salt, and pepper.

In a salad bowl, combine the lettuce, apple, and onion. Drizzle in the dressing to taste, toss lightly, and top with the cayenne-candied walnuts.


Cooking Cravings-Sweet Chili and Mustard Glazed Salmon

Sunday I took three recipes out of Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook Cravings to try this week. Usually  during the week I don’t actually “make” dinner. I figure out something easy for me and the picky girls. But this week, with Shane working from home I decided to meal plan. I thought it would be the perfect time to knock out a few of Chrissy’s healthier recipes. She has some really good looking dishes in there but those need to be saved for “special occasions” or otherwise known as Saturday’s.

Monday night I made the sweet chili and mustard glazed salmon. This is a really simple dish and cooks in no time. It was good, good enough to make again but not good enough to “put on rotation”.


4 skin on salmon fillets

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2/3 Thai sweet chili sauce

2 TBS Sambal oelek

2 TBS large grain mustard

Position oven rack 4-6 inches from heating element and preheat the broiler.

Season the salmon all over with s and p. In a small bowl, stir together the sweet chili sauce, sambal and mustard.

Pour the mixture into a large cast iron skillet or oven proof pan. Set the skillet over med-high heat and heat until the mixture begins to simmer. Lay the salmon, skin side up, in that sauce. Cook until the salmon starts to turn pale pink on the outside, about 2 minutes, then move the skillet to the oven and broil until the skin crisps and the salmon is med-rare, about 3-4 minutes.

Remove the salmon from the oven and transfer the salmon to a plate. Return the skillet to the stove, add 1/4 cup water and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping, until the sauce thickens. Pour the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.


I served the fish with pesto zucchini noodles and tomatoes. I made the pesto and spiralized the zucchini earlier in the day. Then when time came, I blistered some cherry tomatoes over high heat, added the pesto just to heat it through and tossed in the noodles. Very easy and delicious.


Home is Where the Kids Are

Kaili was very excited to have mommy and daddy back home. She wouldn’t leave my side for a good two days. We were a bit jet lagged, the time change was only four hours but our  red eye flight, not getting a full nights sleep and bloody Mary’s first thing in the morning didn’t really help our cause.

Back to school sickness hit Kaili right before we got home and then it was passed to Averi who has an ugly cough. It took a few days for all of us to get back into the routine but I think we are all settled in pretty well.

Shane picked up Wags at the airport a few days after we got home. Kaili was eager to see his medals.


I think they suit her.

We spent the weekend being homebodies, enjoying the weather and each other.


Dinner and music outside, Kaili loves to dance to her favorite songs.


She also loves this dress, today is the third straight day she has worn it. I may have let her wear it to school to avoid a fight. I need to wash it and tuck it away somewhere for a week or two.





Closing Time

“Open all the doors and let you out into the world
Closing time
Turn the lights up over every boy and every girl.
Closing time
One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer.
Closing time
You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.”

It’s amazing how fast two weeks can go by.

We woke up Sunday morning and ate whatever was still in our fridge for breakfast. Thinking it was a good time for a second go at faceTime, we called the girls. Even though we were coming home in a few days Kaili still took it hard and it was a sad moment.

To shake the sadness, I  packed up the essentials and headed down to the pool, Shane soon followed.

After a few hours of relaxation and a slightly darker tan we slipped into the bar for lunch. Since it was Sunday most of the restaurants offered the national dish of Brazil, Feijoada on their menu. Shane wasn’t being a team player, he got the host to put on American football and ordered a hamburger…side eye… but he promised to help me a little with my order, since it’s meant to be shared. I jumped in head first to my delicious lunch and it was probably the best meal I had. Although, my mom can give them a run for their money.


After lunch we met  Cathy and Patti at their place, not far up the road for a car to drive us to Maracana stadium. Apparently the drive to opening ceremonies was a long haul due to traffic and closed roads, this time the driver to precautions and we went through the mountains and Favelas to get there, it worked out great. We had time for a snack and then we made our way to the stadium.


This was a sight to see and a pretty special place for me to walk into. The turnout of people was pretty spectacular.


The athletes came in and took their spots and then the show began.


The show started out strong but I have to say that after London, I am not sure anything can compare. Once the semantics were over, the party began. It was a concert for the Cariocas, which was awesome for them. They were having the best time. But for us Americans whom didn’t know any song or performer it became an old story after awhile.

The rain picked up and it was getting later by the minute so we decided to start our journey through some wild weather back to Barra.  Our driver Max was waiting for us where we left him, luckily. We had an interesting ride back, Max told us about how two men tried to carjack him while waiting for us. He was telling us the story in very broken english and google translate all while driving in the rain. He wanted to show us what he did so he leaned over Shane and opened the glove box and pulled out a knife. Apparently he threatened these men with it and scared them away but it was a interesting play of events, especially for Shane who was in the front seat and not sure what was going to happen. We laughed about it the rest of the night. We made it home just fine and I’m pretty sure the closing ceremonies were still going after we fell asleep.

If there was any day to sleep in, this was it. Our final day in Rio. Nothing really to do as the pool is closed on Monday’s and we had check out after lunch. We lounged around, grabbed some food and chocolate for the girls and then met Patti and Cathy at theirs for our ride to the airport. We were very lucky to have access to the Delta sky lounge this trip. Free food, drinks, wifi and a place to relax really can’t be beat.  The airport was swarming with media trying to catch interviews with athletes and even artists entertaining waiting passengers.



With that our trip home was a cinch. After a very good meal and some free wine I watched a couple of chick flicks and then reclined myself down for some sleep.

It’s really too bad the media made Rio out to be this terrible scary place because it was brilliant. I can really appreciate the hard hand that came down on Lochte because this city of Barra did not deserve that negative bullshit. The people were funny and went out of their way to take care of us, even with a language barrier. There was no harm in grabbing a taxi, and even alone I would have felt safe…(that is taking common sense precautions.)

That said there were a few things that I missed being out of the states. Their paper products leave much to the imagination as does their plumbing. There were zero signs posted outside of stores or restaurants so you have no clue if a place is open or when it’s closing. And their food, well let’s just say we have it really good here in the states. But after two weeks, it gets easy. The transportation, the shopping the language and ok not the food but most everything becomes easy and natural. I will miss it and I get why people love it there, it’s a pretty awesome place to visit.


Obrigada Rio!


We took Friday and Saturday to be tourists. We spent Friday  wandering around Pepé beach and walked up the coast to Barra beach. We stumbled upon a farmers market serving fruit, fish, cheese and freshly made pastels.


The weather threatened to dribble on us and although the sun was hiding the weather was still enjoyable.

We tucked into a kiosk by the beach for some drinks and a snack.  fullsizerender-3The views and the waves were hard to beat.

We picked to end our day at the Windsor hotel for a last adult beverage. They had a rooftop pool and bar and since the weather wasn’t perfect for sunning we had the place to ourselves.


We planned a dinner with Wags, his mom and Patti. I really wanted us to try Porcao a local Churrascaria  but the one in Barra was closed for renovations. Instead we went to Fogo de Chao, which we have been to in San Diego…so much for branching out.

The food was fine but again we were disappointed in the salad bar offerings. Dessert was and has always been the best part of the meals here.


Saturday morning while lounging around our place I was trying to find something new for us to check out. I came across a TripAdvisor  forum talking about a little island right by Pepe beach. They have a water taxi that will take you across the lagoon for 1 Real$ and once there we could eat and drink at some of the local restaurants and bars. Shane did the legwork to figure out where we find this ferry taxi and then we called an Uber and set out.

We were let off on the road and told to walk down an alley way and the ferry was waiting for us.


Once we were on the small island we tried to map our way to one of the restaurants but the island is so small that even google maps was confused. So we just wandered around.


Finally we found one of the places that we were looking for. Clearly it was well marked, amazing anyone can find it.

fullsizerender-8This is when we really felt like we were in Brazil. It was low key, tropical and scenic.

We sat along the water and took in the sights while we waited for our order of pastel de carne.


We spent a few hours on the island and then left for the beach to meet Wags  for a last hurrah. We met some very nice and interesting people, did some dancing and enjoyed the night with the cariocas. It was a great finale to our trip, now it’s time to get ready for closing ceremonies. I can’t believe the two weeks is almost up.


Cristo Redentor

Our plan for Thursday was to meet up with everyone first thing in the morning to go see Christ the Redeemer. Patti was great enough to do all the leg work on the arrangements. She got us a van to take us all out there which was nice. The only problem is the traffic here is absurd and it took about an hour and half to go 24 miles.  We were dropped off at Copacabana beach to pick up our ticket to head up to Corcovado. The lady at the ticket counter told us that the visibility at that moment was very bad and might not be worth the trek up so see clouds.

After some discussion, we agreed that we would eat something on the beach and then go back and get tickets.


Once we got our tickets we were put into another van and settled back into more traffic. It’s like there are only two roads in this enormous city and everyone is on them.

Once you reach the top and climb up to statue the views are incredible.


You can see full panoramic view of Rio, from Maracana stadium to Impanema beach.


We really lucked out with the weather. We had 100% visibility and once we saw what we wanted the clouds rolled in and took over the entire place. The weather turned chilly and that was our queue to head back. None of us were looking forward to getting back in that van but I guess the one road back into the city is a faster route because we  were back at Copacabana in minutes.

Our driver and I were communicating via WhatsApp which has been a great tool here. He was back to pick us up and ready to take us home. Again the drive was incredibly long and once we returned the day was practically over.

Shane Wags and i went to dinner with Wags’ dad at a churrascaria that was recommended to him. We had a decent dinner although the meat here just isn’t the same as at home, and the vegetables leave little to be desired. At least that is what we have found so far. Once we all consumed way too much food we made our way home for the night. Now, what do we do tomorrow?