The birds and the bees of butterflies

The birds and the bees of butterflies

We got our six-year-old a butterfly habitat for her birthday. Essentially, it’s a mesh enclosure that comes with a gift certificate for caterpillars.

The caterpillars were quiet at first, but after a few days, they got active and started spinning themselves into their cocoons.


Ten days later, butterflies emerged.

So we took them to the park to give them their freedom.


We unzipped the lid to free them, and waited for them to fly away.


And waited.


But they seemed quite content to hang out in their little habitat sipping orange juice.

Eventually, one flew away, and then another. But the remaining two were just hanging out on an apple core, giving no indication that they were thinking of going anywhere anytime soon.

After a while, I reached in and nudged the apple core a bit to see if the would move.


So I picked it up, and they both just continued sitting there. Since it was already in my hand, I lifted the applecore that held the two butterflies out of the enclosure and gently placed it on the grass.  They just sat there. So my daughter decided to share a flower with them.


These butterflies showed no indication that they even noticed our existence. They only had eyes for each other.


They were really into each other.


Could this be a mating thing? The directions that came with the caterpillars did warn us not to wait more than a couple days before releasing the butterflies, or we would end up with a bunch of very hungry caterpillars that we would need to figure out how to feed.

These poor butterflies get no dignity, with all the detail of their first date broadcast across the internets. Also, they should get a room.

But it did give us a good opportunity to discuss the birds and bees a bit.


After a while one of them takes an interest in the flower Gem was holding out for them.


Oh, but then they discover each other again. This time a hookup in the grass.


And, done.

She (or he) heads out on a stroll through the grass, while the other one watched her walk away.


Bye bye, beautiful.


Then they both flew away.

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

My husband turned 39 yesterday, so we made him a pie. My daughter had some thoughts about what kind of pie we should make. The conversation went like this:

Gem: I want to make Daddy a cherry pie for his birthday
Me: I just bought ingredients for coconut cream pie, because it’s his favorite
Gem: I think Daddy wants cherry
Me: Did you ask him?
Gem: Daddy, do you want a surprise?

Such is my life. For the record, we ended up making the pie I planned on, and she got away with being cute. It’s a kind of win-win. And, she was a great help in the kitchen.

The Dahlia Lounge has the best coconut cream pie in Seattle. Maybe anywhere. Aaron and I are big fans.

triple coconut cream pie

I was so thrilled to find that Tom Douglas and his team published the recipe for their Dahlia Triple Coconut Cream Pie in the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle.  This cookbook is a great teaching cookbook. It’s more than just recipes, and it covers the how and why of techniques, so you really learn how to cook rather than just how to follow directions.

That was the pie I made for Aaron’s birthday. And it was amazing.

Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Triple Coconut Cream Pie


Coconut Pie Crust
1 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup ice-cold water (more as needed)
Coconut Custard Cream
1 cup milk
1 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (stir before measuring)
2 cups shredded sweetened coconut
1 vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
Whipped Cream Topping
2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
chunk of white chocolate
1 1/2 cups unsweetened chip or large shred coconut (or 2/3 cup shredded sweetened coconut)


Coconut Pie Crust

Make sure the butter is very cold.

Combine all ingredients except the water, and pulse in a food processor until it forms coarse crumbs.

Intermittently pulse and add a tablespoon of the cold water until a pinch of the dough holds together when pressed between your finger and thumb.

Turn the dough out onto plastic wrap on the counter. Use the wrap to pull the dough into a disc.

Chill for an hour before proceeding.


Unwrap and turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board.

Roll the dough to a 1/8″ thick circle, checking underneath occasionally to make sure it does not stick to the board.

Place dough in a 9-inch pie pan, and trim, allowing about an inch to hang over the edge of the pan.

Turn the edge under, and pinch edge all the way around with fingers to finish.

Chill the pastry for an hour before baking.


Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place some parchment paper in the pie shell and fill with dried beans to prevent the shell from puffing up during baking.

Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, then remove the pan from the oven and use the paper to lift out the beans.

Return the shell to the oven to bake another 10 minutes.

Cool the shell completely before filling with the coconut custard cream.

Coconut Custard Cream
Cook the Custard

Combine the milk, coconut milk, and shredded coconut in a medium sauce pan. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean and add the bean and scrapings to the pan. Stir occasionally over medium-high heat, until the mixture gets ready to boil.

Put the eggs, sugar, and flour in a blow and mix them together well.

To keep the egg mixture from curdling in the hot milk, temper them by adding a third cup of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture. Blend well. Then add the eggs to the hot milk mixture.

Keep the heat medium-high, and continue whisking the mixture for several minutes until it becomes very thick. The mixture should be bubbling a bit through this process.

Stir in the butter until it is melted and well combined. Remove the vanilla bean.

Cool the Custard

Fill a large bowl half way with ice and water. Pour the custard into another bowl, and place that bowl in the bowl with ice water. Keep stirring the custard until it cools.

Cover the custard with plastic wrap. Place the wrap directly on the custard to keep a skin from developing.

Refrigerate mixture.

Whipped Cream Topping

Whip the heavy cream, sugar, and vanilla together until peaks hold their shape.


Spread the coconut chips on a baking sheet and lightly toast them at 350°F for 5 to 7 minutes.

A little toasting adds a lovely toasty flavor to the coconut. This is a little too much of a good thing:

Not that I would ever burn coconut. Nope. Not me.

This is a little more like what you’re looking for:

Put it all together

Make sure the pie crust is completely cool.

Make sure the custard is completely cool.

Pour the custard into the pie crust, and even out the top.

Cover the custard with the whipped cream. This can be spread on, or for a prettier finish, piped on with a pastry bag and a star tip.

Garnish with the toasted coconut chips and then use a vegetable peeler to top off the pie with curls of white chocolate.

recipe is from the Dahlia Bakery Cookbook: Sweetness in Seattle by Tom Douglas.

Happy birthday, my love. You are a wonderful husband and father, and we love you. I hope 39 is an awesome year for you.

birthday pie

FTC Disclosure: of course, I use affiliate links wherever possible, including this post.

Considering braces? Maybe it’s time to go wireless

Considering braces? Maybe it’s time to go wireless

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

As always, all thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

I had braces as a kid, and it wasn’t pretty. As if being twelve wasn’t awkward enough, I had braces for years, and they came with headgear.

My dad used to joke about using me to improve the TV’s reception.judy braces

Up until the point my braces were installed, I was flourishing as a novice clarinetist. I was in fifth grade, but had worked my way up to second chair in the sixth grade band. Then  after my braces were installed, the orthodontist told my mom I would have to stop playing the clarinet. I was not happy.

To make things worse, all those wires and brackets ripped the insides of my cheeks to shreds, and the headgear gave me tear-inducing headaches. (more…)

Kindergarten Readiness

Kindergarten Readiness

Prospective kindergartners, along with their parents, shuffled and herded themselves into the little elementary school cafeteria. The room was thick with nervous energy, excitement, squirmy 5-year-olds who have not yet learned to sit still for an assembly, and information packets fanning at the summer heat.

This was just an introductory meeting – an open house for families new to the school. These children will not start school for 3 months, but school related anxiety is already starting to kick in. At least for the parents.

If you look at my daughter, you’d likely see something like this:

five years old - ready for kindergarten

But as a parent, I’m more likely to see something like this:two year old

Looking around the room, it was easy to distinguish the parents with older children, who had ushered a child through kindergarten before, from those who were encountering kindergarten as a parent for the first time. The wide-eyed, deer in the headlights look of those in that second set gave them away. Yes, I’m a first time parent of a kindergartener as well.

kindergarten readiness

The information packet introduced the school, advised of upcoming getting-to-know-you playdates at the playground through the summer, and included a list of skills children would need to master in order to be ready for kindergarten.

The kindergarten readiness checklist is quite long, a couple pages, but it was helpful. It is simple things, such as the kids should know the numbers 1-10, sing the abc song, and go potty independently. Most of the items she mastered long ago, and others, we have the summer to work on. I did give her a long name to learn to spell.

On the other hand, I went through all the documents front and back and saw nothing about kindergarten readiness for parents. So help me out in the comments section. What do I need to do to get ME ready for her to go to kindergarten? What should I be prepared for.

I’m pretty confident that she’s more than ready for kindergarten. I’m not quite so sure about me.


How she got a carnival with pony rides for her 4th birthday

How she got a carnival with pony rides for her 4th birthday

Motherhood can pack a walloping dose of guilt at times, especially when your 4-year-old’s birthday lands at a particularly inconvenient moment with regards to time, money, health, energy, or even a working phone. This sense of guilt can then be further intensified when she patiently and politely reminds you 2 months later that you promised her a birthday party with cake and presents and friends.


So I had to come up with something fast, and just Mommy and Daddy around the dinner table with a cupcake wasn’t going to cut it. There had to be a party. And there had to be kids.

So now what?

Then my cousin, Amanda, came up with the most brilliant idea ever: her daughter’s school was having a spring carnival – we could meet up there, and then have cake and presents after.

So Gem and I baked brownies for her cake, and then we bought a bunch of frosting and decorations, and we put the girls to work decorating her birthday cake.  This was a job they took very seriously.


Doesn’t that just look delicious?


Yes, of course the grownups all politely made yummy faces as we each dutifully ate a piece.  🙂

And then there was the carnival.

There was a climbing wall: That’s my baby, waaaaaaaaay up there.


And pony rides!


A hug for the pony.


Face painting, temporary tattoos, and her bestest friend.


She got her big day, and she didn’t need to know this entire carnival was not just for her birthday.  Let’s keep that between us, ok? 😉