Jaded Optimist

Mothering, making, and generally blathering on

The Day itself December 29, 2010

Filed under: Baking,Kids,Sewing — bonniep @ 10:15 pm

(Scroll down for some pre-Christmas activity info.)

Christmas day was lovely, the kids are still young enough to not realize they can run downstairs and tear into presents without us. And C doesn’t get up super early. Early, just not super early. M would stop opening periodically because she wanted to play with a toy, try on a shirt, or read a new book. We did stockings, Santa, and parental gifts first then took a break for breakfast. After that was Skype calls and present opening with Uncle D and Auntie J and then Grammie and Grampy. (Although I discovered they all had opened their presents from us already.)

The girls were excited about their stockings…


They got sleds from Santa.


C got her much hoped for Felicity American Girl doll, and Santa wisely brought M a cheaper more age appropriate substitute which she calls her “my ‘mericangirl” doll which fits into the same size clothes.


(Esmeralda was also present for gift opening).

I had done a frenzy of gift making in the weeks prior, turning out (and awaiting photography) a sleeping bag, quilted and lined coat, faux shearling coat and boots, fleece dress, two pairs of pants, hippie dress, tie die fleece coat, and green satin dress for the dolls.


The sparkles on the satin aren’t very even, but this was churned out on 12/23 so I called it good. C has noted that the “fancy dresses are for Felicity and the plain ones for Esmeralda” and I am trying not to let my feelings get hurt for poor, shunted aside Esmeralda.

And then the aftermath…(this is with regular, ongoing cleanup during the opening).


(You might be able to see the blue box containing my BRAND NEW SEWING MACHINE which is all sorts of fancy. And which I have already set up and used to make a new satin dress for the dolls. And on which I have already seen an error message that triggered a safety shut off when I somehow bent a needle. The learning curve on this one might be a bit steeper.)

Backing up a bit, we had the traditional cinnamon rolls for Christmas breakfast. This is a tradition ported directly from my childhood (and every year until we stopped going to Cleveland) although I have refined it somewhat by making them from scratch instead of from refrigerator tube. These were a real winner this year (recipe found here but apparently originated elsewhere). So easy (perhaps easier if you hadn’t been on your feet all day making Christmas Eve dinner, cleaning up from said dinner, and with all of the kids presents still to wrap…but quite easy on Christmas morning!)


In the afternoon, M spent some time outside on her new scooter, C set up the Barbie Glam Jet and had a friend over to play Barbies, the dolls got their hair thoroughly mussed, many books were read…and we had leftovers for dinner.

A good Christmas.


Christmas…here and Gone

Filed under: Baking,Family,Kids,Personal — bonniep @ 9:56 pm

Wow, that was fast. I felt like we were constantly busy and yet after Christmas was over I thought of about a hundred things we didn’t do this season (cards still not made, much less sent; the girls didn’t complete any homemade gifts for relatives; no Garden d’Light; didn’t actually make cookies for Santa; completed just one felt tree of the planned six [worse still, this is a craft holdover that was uncompleted last Christmas!]). Sigh. As G points out, the girls do not seem disappointed. Sadly, of the things we did do/make/etc. I have little photo documentation. Perhaps some more photos will appear one day if I manage to snap the tree before it keels over.

A few things we did but lack photos of include:

1. Visiting Santa. A certain little M wouldn’t sit in his lap, or even approach anywhere near him, crying or not. So I am in the pictures. This has destroyed the photo such that photographer actually included a free photo in our packet of just C with Santa! Trying not to take it too hard. In any case, not sharing photos here!

2. Decorating two trees. “Tree the lesser” as seen in an earlier post was our handmade tree, although enthusiasm for that didn’t hold steady (paper chains take a lot longer to make than expected). G and C purchased a bigger, fuller tree during a rainstorm and that was our “main” tree.

3. One strand of outdoor lights. The neighborhood is a bit light crazy (I suggested we just put up some outdoor mirrors, but G vetoed that suggestion) and this was our token nod. And the main tree was in the front window.

4. Annual Nutcracker attendance. M and I sat this one out. But we did meet up with G, C, and the grandparents for dinner and then Bellevue’s Snowflake Lane.

5. Annual viewing of the Grinch.

6. Friends over for dinner on Christmas Eve. I made chickpea sensation patties with vegan gravy (outstanding), root vegetable au gratin (foiled a bit by some tough celery root), beet and blue cheese salad, baked macaroni and cheese, and decadent chocolate mousse. The latter was so easy and so good. I always try to hit dessert out of the park (and make it first) in case the rest of dinner is terrible. I was surprised to be talking to a friend recently and hear that she doesn’t make new recipes for guests. I almost always do. Dinner can be a bit of a risk at my house I guess. But I will feed you mousse!

7. Went to the pottery studio to paint a mug (C) and plate (me and M) for Santa cookies’ and milk. Although then we ran out of time to make cookies—Santa had mousse and reportedly was quite pleased with the changeup.

I did take some photos though. The grandparents were in town for a week, ending late on 12/22, which meant lots of time with the kids (C was on winter break for some of that time). Sadly, I lack photos of the train that Grandpa and C set up under the main tree, and especially the four or so large cardboard accoutrements they designed and implemented, including a painted mountain with train tunnel. Grandpa and C also steered the decorating of the (purchased from a local bakery) gingerbread house. A good way to use up halloween candy!


I think maybe they lost steam after that first side. You can’t quite make out the awesome lifesaver and toothpick people standing in front, but rest assured they were very cool.

Grandma and Grandpa were also roped into reading lots of books and babysitting so I could run outside and do a two hour new patient dentist visit. No cavities!

I did do one photoshoot of the two generations, but there were few where everyone is looking the same direction with eyes open. This is more typical:


My girls are always good for funny faces (C in the first, M in the second):


And see how they all love Grandpa (let him know, ‘cause he didn’t see it!):


Grandma and Grandpa were witness to a bit of a baking frenzy on my part. I had been warned that everyone in the neighborhood (17 houses) exchanges gifts at the holidays. I, of course, baked. But it turned out that gifts ran the gamut, and a purchased bag of Lindor truffles is also acceptable. That might save me a day (or three) next year. Not likely though, especially if Martha Stewart comes out with another holiday cookie issue. Mmm. I did discover that 16 plates require a lot of cookies though…even double batches of all cookies left them a bit sparse.


Springy, fluffy marshmallows (easy, and folks are always surprised by the idea of homemade marshmallows), Sparkling Ginger Chocolate cookies (a last minute decision, and somewhat of a disappointment—too crunchy with all that sugar), Honey Cardamom snowflakes (awesome tasting, although my decorating was hurried, and the edible glitter stars didn’t work out so great), white and chocolate mice (these were more about looks than taste, that thick of a cookie is somewhat hard to take, but I thought they looked good!), and saffron macarons with chocolate ganache filling (recipe slightly different looking in the magazine as opposed to online. And my almond meal had skins. Hence the speckles. But these were different and tasty).


I will definitely make macarons again.


(Posting before this thing stretches into a thesis length tome.)


The advent calendar said “Tree Today” December 5, 2010

Filed under: Kids,Sewing — bonniep @ 11:27 pm

So off to the tree farm it was.

The girls quickly discovered that they had many favorite trees, although they tended to ignore qualities such as fullness, symmetry, and appropriate height for the house.


The farm was not too far from home and situated under some serious wires. If the phones don’t work near the tree, we’ll know why.


The trees in general showed a lack of fullness, but G was pretty committed to following through on a tree purchase (the outing was his idea.) And then…it was Treeman! Half man, half tree! Or, 90% tree, 10% man!


The plan involved cutting down a too big tree, and then pruning it into a nice shape. The tree farmer said “I feel guilty, I just grew the tree, but you turned it into art.” Although I noticed he didn’t offer to help 😉 The girls were happy to stand around—but look at this!


Spontaneous hand holding!

And then, our tree.


Ah, the family photo with C awkwardly posed on the cut off trunk that she wanted to save (warning Grandpa—she is expecting you to make something fabulous out of it during your visit). As it turns out, once we got the tree home my suspicions proved correct and it is just a sparse looking tree. So it has been relegated to the dining room and we need to get a new tree for the front room. I see another note in the advent calendar in our future.

In other news…I finally caved and we now have a big (to me) car for hauling visiting relatives and/or kid friends. I believe we got the smallest big car possible, so the fear of driving it has abated for me somewhat.


Also, C and I did indeed complete a sewing project for Esmeralda in time for Thanksgiving (although I cranked out the last few seams on my own). The bonnet was completely designed and implemented by C. Although we called our time together “sewing lessons” C was too afraid to use my sewing machine or the iron, and often just watched me while complaining. Despite that, she has already asked when our next sewing lesson will commence. And has suggested in conversation with others that she “knows how to sew”. Hmmm.


Parting shot…