Jaded Optimist

Mothering, making, and generally blathering on

behind, behind, behind September 27, 2014

Filed under: Baking,Family,Kids,Personal,Sewing — bonniep @ 11:38 pm

Our cherry tree had 8 cherries this year.


Baby C enjoys the beach, and big C enjoys building “fairy houses” there. One of the days we visited was warmer than the other.


We went to the fair. Actually, two fairs, but not a lot of evidence.



Baby C enjoys swings now (again). And coffee shop stops. And plums.


One last pair of shorts for M.


I actually finished a sweater in time for the child it was made for to still fit in it.



The baby who wasn’t walking runs now.



The first day of school (5th and 1st grades) happened. They chose to dress alike. Baby C was dressed the same until a small nail polish incident happened.



There are good reasons to have me as a friend.



Baby C loves books, her grampy, and hanging out on the deck. Not necessarily in that order.




OK, still about a month behind in pictures, but I will get there. Someday.


Easter April 21, 2014

Filed under: Baking,Family,Kids,knitting — bonniep @ 10:28 pm

Easter is one of the major neighborhood holidays (an ever increasing list) and expanded this year from just being a group egg hunt and driveway brunch to an afternoon goat roasting. As the lone vegetarian in the neighborhood I brought an enormous couscous salad. Apparently the goat didn’t go so well so I didn’t miss out (although M happily ate her goat with some ketchup).

Anyway, Easter. There is the egg coloring.



C likes to make hers look like people, well, babies. Causing conversations like “You can eat my eggs but not the babies!” “C, you can eat your own babies.” We did 30-1 eggs (1 lost to cracking in the pot and sacrificed to baby C’s lunch). Fun for everyone but I think next year I will hide the glitter now included in the Paas sets. There is a tiny smattering of glitter everywhere and it reappears no matter how much wiping and sweeping I do.

Easter morning there is a neighborhood egg hunt.



Action shots! While the kids are hunting eggs, the adults are eating breakfast in a driveway and chugging coffee. This year I made a sour cream coffee cake with chocolate cinnamon swirl and rhubarb ginger scones.



Someone made bacon, so baby C has been inducted into the club. As she plowed through G’s plate of bacon I said “Well, she is definitely your daughter!” and then had to awkwardly state that of course there was never any doubt about whose daughter she was, ha ha ha!


Oh, cute sweater on that baby? Thanks! Knit it last summer and finally sewed the buttons on…yesterday. Thank goodness it still fits. You can tell she loves mommy-made as much as the other girls.




Birthday Party December 22, 2013

Filed under: Baking,Kids — bonniep @ 11:07 pm

Baby C will turn 1 on Christmas Eve, but in an effort to have actual guests at the party we celebrated today. “Catered” by Subway for sandwiches (and then I also made some PB+Js) with some chips, mini oranges, and grapes things were going to be pretty laid back, until I started planning the dessert menu. There were a few things I wanted to bake that wouldn’t have worked on a cookie platter for neighbors…then we decided to have Christmas Eve dinner out with friends so there was that dessert that didn’t have a place and time anymore…then there were cranberries and extra salted caramel buttercream frosting in the fridge…

So here we have, Hazelnut Chocolate crepe cake, pumpkin cheesecake swirl tart, cranberry crumb bars, grasshopper squares, vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, and chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel buttercream frosting.


Heh heh. Actually got it all done in the last 48 hours with not too much stressing. That crepe cake was the most work but it is deeeelicious. And, I didn’t burn my hand in three different places like I did cooking last weekend! The low point was probably hitting grocery stores around 10:30 Friday night in sweatpants buying a huge thing of Frangelico (of which I needed about 2 T, but the grocery store doesn’t have nips and I needed to get that stage of the crepe cake done that night) as well as a huge thing of Jim Beam for G’s Manhattan barrel. Keeping it classy.

The party was in between baby C’s naps today, so she was well-rested and her usual chipper self. And she gave some good photos with her birthday cupcake.


The vanilla cupcakes are all gone, but if you know of anyone needing some dessert items…send them my way! We have lots of leftovers!


Christmas is how many days away?? December 16, 2013

Filed under: Baking,Family,Kids,Sewing — bonniep @ 10:34 pm

Well, I did get the first round of Christmas baking—the annual neighborhood goodie exchange plate—done this weekend. This is a terrible picture (thanks darkness!) but all but two of the plates have found a home so not sure I will get a better picture.


Chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel frosting, peanut butter cups, sugar plum macarons, maple nutmeg sugar cookies (cut out to spell “joy” plus some other shapes for everyone), and chocolate coconut cheesecake squares (MSL). The lead up to the cookie plate is fairly lengthy—I pull out all my Christmas Cookie magazine special issues, troll blogs, look at cookbooks, etc. in an effort to make a plate that is balanced between colors, flavors, and looks. Recipes with high yields are my friends (OK, I made double batches of everything but the cheesecake squares) and something that I am interested in cooking helps. The kids were my assistants this year on the cutouts (er, they are terrible at making efficient use of the space!) and of course unwrapping and placing the peanut butter cups. I actually purchased a special Christmas apron to wear this year during the baking, and made about four extra grocery store trips in an effort to find plum jam (much rarer than you might think), Dutch processed cocoa (ditto) and a 9×9 baking pan (sadly, I had ordered the latter two from amazon but then had them delivered to the wrong house, along with a bunch of presents for the kids. grrr.) As the baking ramps up, I start to get a bit crazed (out of sour cream! plum jam not nearly as thick as expected! how do I only have 19 oz of powdered sugar!), and then attempting to store all the goodies and make up the plates leads to some tense moments. The wrapped plates do not look nearly as nice as the unwrapped plate, but with kids carrying the plates in the rain to deliver….ample plastic wrap it was. Sometimes I think maybe I have gone a bit overboard (…not all of the neighbors participate in the exchange, yet I make plates for all of them) but then the thanks start rolling in with descriptions of what different families liked best and it seems mostly worth it. So, until next year…

The next baking opportunity with be the first birthday party for this set of chubby cheeks attached to the cutest baby ever.


But before that, I need to do teacher gifts, some final shopping and mailing, Christmas cards (need photos first!) and enough wrapping that I can’t think about it right now. I may or may not sew some Christmas skirts for the girls (place your bets now!). G was supposed to be out of town this past weekend, but due to some medical issues with M he stayed home, allowing us to get the tree and house decorated and outdoor lights up. However, M’s issues have meant that she (and thus I) have been housebound for multiple days. Great for getting baking done, not so great for mental state. Hopefully she will be back to school tomorrow. But then who will squeeze the crud out of baby C?

At least the intense (for Seattle…) cold has left. Dry air plus carpeted house plus a baby that only scoots has the expected result…


There were some shocks hard enough to hurt! Worth it to see her in these pants I made though…


Baby C has been super fun lately—crawling every now and then, and will pull up to her knees (progress!), babbles quite a bit, and today when I asked if she wanted a hug she handed me the book Hug! Might have been a coincidence but I think she is pretty clever. Not a big fan of mittens though (another reason we are glad the cold is gone!) Well, I should probably be tackling that list from above….more later hopefully!


Fremont Friday November 30, 2013

Filed under: Baking,Family,Kids,photography — bonniep @ 10:08 pm

Thanksgiving has been and gone. Our guests preferred last year’s Winter Luxury pie to this years pie of many pumpkins despite its strong showing at the pie taste test. However, I believe I achieved pie nirvana with a deep dish apple sour cream crumb pie. I made six or seven other things for Thanksgiving, including a cranberry fig sauce which I forgot to even remove from the fridge and which we will now be eating for days, but really could have stopped after the pies.

The now five of us usually spend the day after Thanksgiving in downtown Seattle, getting a vegetarian brunch in Fremont and then walking around to visit the troll under the bridge, look for used clothing, marvel at the boutiques and get some fancy snacks. The past two years we have then moved onto Ballard for more small store shopping and dinner. No 5am Walmart shoppers here! My learning curve with the new camera is quite steep and the lens I have for it, well, does not lend itself to nice portraits in overcast (read: winter in Seattle) weather. However, this means the Christmas card shot remains elusive and thus photos from the day can be shared here.



Those girls are fierce!


It was a great day. Baby C hardly napped (hard while walking around in the cold in a stroller with no suspension while all sorts of interesting people are around—you can see her attention is often diverted in the photos…) but was a sweetheart the whole day anyway. Despite picture number one up there, she is a happy smiling baby at all times. And “crazy eyes” M is suffering from 3 separate ailments (much to my shame when I took her into the pediatrician on Wednesday to check her out) but complains about none of them and is second only to Baby C in good cheer.

Baby C seems to be speeding towards her first birthday but remains firmly rooted to the ground for now. She dances and pats and will occasionally clap to music. She has given high fives. She waves and says “hi” pretty clearly, and “mommy” and “daddy” less clearly. She attempts to blow bubbles during swimming class (and baths) but usually ends up coughing up a bunch of water and then sneezing. And then immediately trying again. She gets excited for books, Birthday Cat, and daddy sightings, squealing and bouncing for joy. She spent about 20 minutes the other day repeatedly trying to put on a hat and headband, but mostly throwing them backwards over her head.


She loves to unload things and evenly coat the floor in toys.


She has one tooth on top and three on the bottom and several more that seem to be on the way (and which only bother her at 4 am).


We still haven’t gotten good shots of her in the chair this month. Sigh. These may have to do.



Well, much Christmas shopping to be done, a first birthday to plan, and Christmas baking to be commenced. I have pulled out all my Christmas cookie magazines from years past and need to nail down a plan for the annual baking plate to be shared with the neighbors. 2010 is here, 2011 is here, and 2012 wasn’t blogged last year but I still managed to get it out despite being 9 million months pregnant (you may notice the plate has just four items this time—something had to give).


I believe the photo is from one day before my due date…which was 11 days before the baby was born.


What a difference a year makes. Sniff.


Pie throwdown and more November 24, 2013

Filed under: Baking,Kids,knitting — bonniep @ 10:42 pm

Baby C turned 11 months old today, but more importantly I made pie and people came over to eat it. Over the past however many years, I have been on a quest to find the best pumpkins for making pumpkin pie. Sugar pie pumpkins are the ones most often seen in stores—they look like little jack o lantern type pumpkins. I discovered Long Island cheese pumpkins at a local specialty market (Central Market, which is Whole Foods-esque) a few years ago—they are wide, flat, and peachy colored with almost neon orange flesh. And last year we tried Winter Luxury pie pumpkins from a local pumpkin patch/corn maze—they look like regular pumpkins covered in a beige lace and are fairly yellow of flesh. But never have we tried all of them at the same time.

So today I cooked five pies, using exactly the same recipe for each (a hybrid of three recipes I found online) and frozen crusts (Marie Callendar, I am not crazy enough to make that much crust. Also, not good enough at making crust). One pie used Libby’s solid pack pumpkin (which I understand is a special hybrid unique to the Libby’s company but similar to butternut squash), and three more used the various pumpkins mentioned above. Earlier in the week I had roasted each one, pureed the flesh, and left it to drain in a cheesecloth lined strainer. The fifth pie was a combination of all the leftover fillings from the first four pies.

I ran into a few issues trying to cook multiple pies at once which could account for some differences in looks. In general the self-roasted pumpkin pies cook longer, probably due to extra moisture in the pumpkin. I wouldn’t say that the spice mix I used was that great—a little bland. And I realized far too late that I had forgotten to include salt in all the pies, which could have made a huge difference.

Anyway, five pies made and labeled A – E, we had about 30 people over to the house to taste test and vote on the pies. Voting was taken fairly seriously and many made the effort to sample all five pies. Votes were 1-5 for taste, texture, looks, and overall and were tallied by software engineer and finance guests. Sadly, G did not save the file with the final results and I am a bit too tired to recompile them all now. Might redo the work later though.



A=Libby’s solid pack pumpkin, B=sugar pie pumpkin, C=hybrid (a little of each), D=long island cheese pumpkin, E=winter luxury pie pumpkin

As one who spends hours many years roasting and pureeing pumpkins I was quite prejudiced against the Libby’s and going into it would have said the Luxury Pie pumpkin would be the best. However I feared that the familiar taste of the Libby’s would garner many votes. Without the scores in front of me I can’t report exacts, but the overall winner was C, the pie made with a combination of the leftover fillings from the other four pies. I guess the whole is better than the sum of its parts? A, the canned pumpkin and D the long island cheese pumpkin were close. The solid loser was B, the sugar pie pumpkin. No need to buy those anymore (actually I had given up on those a while back but for completeness felt it necessary to include it here!) I will say that every pie had some folks that loved it and some that hated it (OK, noone fully loved B).

So, that was fun. I still need to decide what to make for Thanksgiving dinner—to be honest, I have about six pies worth of frozen puree left to work through!


Speaking of pumpkins…I found the photos that I had been looking for of big C behind the pumpkin wheelbarrow.

078pumpkincarvingplus 164

The more things change…

And little C turned 11 months old today, but I haven’t done the formal photos yet (see: pie baking). You can tell she is quite upset.


So, hopefully more soon! (New knit hat, and lots of other knitting and sewing happening here…)


Busy week October 27, 2013

Filed under: Baking,Kids,Sewing — bonniep @ 10:48 pm

Last week we had big C’s 10th birthday party, her actual birthday, little C’s 10 month birthday, an adult costume party, a costume bingo night at M’s school, and two pumpkin carving parties. OK, that covered about 9 days but still was pretty darn packed. And I don’t even have pictures of it all. Also, several of these events, with the addition of some teething and a cold for little C, also led to some late nights/sleepless nights. I am sure this week, with flu shots, the last soccer game of the season and Halloween will be so much easier, right?

10th Birthday

Big C wanted a spa and slumber party for her birthday and we agreed. I think this may be the last slumber party for a while though. There was little slumbering.

The spa portion was at a kids spa nearby and each girl was able to get two services (hair, makeup, facial, mani, pedi). The girls had a blast.


They did a “runway” show at the end, walking the pink carpet, but I think M more sashayed. C recently got her braces off and now wears a retainer, not sure if she is trying to hide it in these pictures or just striking a serious pose?

Then it was home for pizza and ice cream cake, watching The Princess Bride, and not very much sleeping. How can those kids stay up so long? Eventually I sat in the room where the girls were (supposed to be) sleeping, in the dark, for about 45 minutes until I was fairly sure there was deep breathing all around. Then, it being 1:30 in the morning, I went to bed. Yet one girl still claimed the next morning to have not slept at all. And most of them were up by around 6:30 anyway. Phew. I think C was happy though. Not sure how many of the girls noticed the banner she had created for herself…


Tuesday C actually turned 10 and between present opening, a dinner/fro yo outing, and a trip to the orthodontist the day was fairly packed. C is a pretty awesome kid although there has been some tween moodiness lately. She reads a ton of books, sews when the spirit moves her, plays a lot with her Monster High dolls (and includes M in her play a lot), likes to make projects in Power Point and is rocking out at school. She has a good group of friends, will go into the store on her own to pick up coffee for me, and tears up talking about a book she heard at school where a baby misses its mommy. 10 years has gone by in a flash.

10 Months

Baby C has had some sniffles this week but that hasn’t held her back much. She has two major tricks—waving hi (and perhaps saying Hi!, it is hard to tell) and flinging both arms over her head when you say “Yay C!”. She will also play peek a boo somewhat consistently. Everyone seems to adore her—she has a very winning, open smile. She continues to be a fantastic sleeper—napping such that I can go to the gym, bedtime without much fuss and sleeping until morning most nights. She loves meat and happily eats almost anything I give her—bits of bread with hummus, Indian food (rice with saag paneer for instance), salmon—except for avocado, which she won’t touch. Today she even had her first candy corn (due to a miscommunication with M). She is a babbling, scooting little charmer who is going through a serious daddy-loving phase right now. At her last appointment she was >95% for height and around 75% for weight (29.5 inches and just under 20 lbs.) She has been enjoying her music and swimming lessons, splashes a ton in the tub, and squeals with delight for certain books.


Why so few photos? Well I got a new camera a few weeks ago and have been trying to figure out how it all works. Unfortunately my favorite lens doesn’t work with this new camera so the learning curve has been steep. However, I now have the ability to make some videos, so the effort will be worth it I think! That said, I haven’t figured out how to show the videos here yet. And it is getting late.


Between costume making and pumpkin item baking, we have been getting our craft on around here. No photos of the costumes G and I wore (batman and wonder woman, respectively) and not sure I will be putting the costume back on any time soon for photos. G helped me customize a red pleather bustier for the wonder woman costume and it was pretty rocking though. Big C picked Aphrodite as her costume, M wanted to be a ghost, and baby C didn’t register any opinion and thus was happy with Big C’s old tiger outfit. Aphrodite’s dress was clearance at Nordstrom’s and just needed some strap shortening. Her headpiece was put together by C and G using some items from Joanns and accessories were all things from around the house. M is wearing a huge white sweatshirt to which we attached various floaty fabrics, a hat, and spooky makeup.


Hopefully some better pictures on Halloween.

M and I put in some serious kitchen time today thanks to a post on this blog, Brown Eyed Baker. I made the maple pumpkin cheesecake bars on Friday and today we made pumpkin donut muffins and pumpkin spice latte cupcakes. Yum.


Several more cans of pumpkin in the pantry, and multiple fancy pumpkins awaiting roasting in the garage, so there should be lots more baking in the coming weeks!