Thursday, May 05, 2011

Move over, Mozart

I don't know if I've blogged this before, but I often say that when I was pregnant, I knew I would think our cutie was the cutest baby ever, but I didn't know he would actually be the cutest baby ever.

When I say this, I say it as a joke, but I also totally mean it. My sweetie once tried to explain the joy of parenthood to a committedly childless coworker, and she dismissed his comments with, "Oh, you're just smitten."

Which, well...yes. That's the point.

Anyway, I haven't blogged much, and I don't want to turn this blog into Cute Moment of the Month, because I do know that our cutie is really the cutest only to us--I know this, even though I don't believe it--but I couldn't resist this one.

Our cutie has recently discovered butter. Oh, he's been eating toast with butter (even butter on both sides) for months, but on toast, the butter is melted. You can't see it, and anyway, I've always just called toast with butter "toast," so as far as he knows, toast is not toast if it's not soggy with melted butter.

But recently, I gave him bread, untoasted, with butter smeared on it.

To say he understood immediately the appeal that is butter would be an understatement. In fact, he ate all the butter off the piece of bread I gave him, handed it back to me, and demanded more. When I said, "Do you want more butter?" he nodded and said, "Buh!" Note: instant acquisition of new word.

I learned within a few minutes that the butter must be spread to the very edges of the bread, or he will hand me bare crusts for further application of butter. By the time he had consumed the first piece of bread (buttered twice) he was marching around clutching his buttered crusts and singing, I am not kidding, a Butter Song.

"Buh, buh, BUH! Buh, buh, BUH!"

His first original composition, and what better inspiration could there be? I am one proud momma.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring is for rodents

Back when we lived in Connecticut, when I was in high school, there was a church on the corner on the main road through town which had a lawn that sloped rather steeply down to the street. In the spring, the lawn was covered in crocuses. I didn't think that much of them at the time, but as I've gotten older, I remember that lawn and the beautiful early spring flowers, and I wish I could have crocuses like that. Especially here in Seattle, where it seems like dreary, dreary, wet, gray, dreary winter will go on forever.

Bulbs generally do well in our climate. An hour or two north of here, tulips are a huge industry, and in the spring you can drive up there to enjoy them--if you can stand the hordes of people doing the same. Even in the city, tulips and especially daffodils abound, and in the early days of spring, you might even spot some crocuses.

So, back in November, I planted 100 crocus bulbs along the edge of our lawn. I was very pleased with myself, since my gardening urge does not always extend to actually planting anything. I looked at my little strip of dirt and looked forward to crocuses in the spring.

I saw my first squirrel about 1/2 an hour later. I'm surprised it took that long, frankly. By the next day, there were holes all over the little strip, and half-eaten bulbs strewn around. I took a deep breath, and thought, "OK, 100 bulbs. Surely some of them will make it to spring?" I figure the squirrels took at least half of them, maybe as many as 75, by the end of the first week.

In January there was a warm spell, and some of the bulbs began to sprout. Little green shoots poked out of the ground. The squirrels were grateful for the help finding them. I counted another dozen dug up and gone.

Finally, a couple weeks ago, some more shoots, ones that managed to survive the squirrels' further depredations. I started to see two or three tiny buds. A smidge of purple peaked out.

Then it hailed. The smidge of purple turned to battered purple petals on the ground.

Finally, finally, yesterday, I got my single crocus. Yes, single. 100 bulbs, one flower:

The picture doesn't do justice to the beautiful deep purple. The sun was so bright yesterday, as if spring might come after all. I had to take pictures.

Good thing I did, because by this morning, a squirrel had eaten it.

Saturday, February 26, 2011


Last night my sweetie and I had a date night. After a movie, popcorn & soda (shared), dinner at a bar, and the babysitter, we spent $110. That's not what this post is about, but I'm kind of shocked, really. It was hardly a fancy night out.

The movie we saw was "The King's Speech", which we really enjoyed. We haven't been to see a movie in the theatre since "Julie & Julia," I think, so I'm glad it was a good one. It was weird to see Helena Bonham Carter not acting like a crazed freak. I hardly recognized her.

Anyway, maybe halfway through the movie, Bertie's older brother, the future King Edward VIII, shows up. I think, "Hmm, he looks familiar." After another scene or two, I realize he's Guy Pearce. I had a huge crush on Guy Pearce back when he was in "The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert." If you never saw it or don't remember it, Google some pictures. He was a beautiful man. Beautiful.

He's still handsome, but my primary reaction to him in this movie was, "Good grief, he's now old enough to play Colin Firth's older brother??? How is this possible? How old am I????"

You see, in my mind, Colin Firth is older than me, and Guy Pearce is my age. Augh!

A quick check of IMDB this morning has relieved me somewhat: they're both older than me, but Colin Firth is the oldest. So there!


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bao zi like mom used to make

Everyone tells you that once your baby is eating solid food, you should feed him whatever you're eating rather than cooking him special meals. We do this at dinner time, but unfortunately, I have problems with feeding my 13-month-old baby cold cereal for breakfast and tv dinners for lunch, not to mention myriad sweet and/or fried crap for snacks. Last week once or twice I fed him frozen cha siu bao (steamed barbecue pork buns), which he loved, but which I felt had too much sugar and mystery red food coloring for my comfort. So, today I found myself making bao zi (filled buns) like my mom used to make.

Now, before you get all excited about some fabulous authentic Chinese recipe, check out the in progress photo:

Bottom left, filling; bottom right, bao zi ready for steaming. Middle and top right, canned biscuit dough.

Yep, my mom made bao zi using canned biscuit dough. I know this doesn't really eliminate every last chemical from my baby's diet, but hey: it's a start, and I figure the canned biscuit dough is no worse than the store-bought bread I feed him. I actually had a little trouble finding the right dough--everything now is huge and laden with "butter" (in quotes because do you really believe it's butter?). Over to the side, I finally spotted some store brand "Homestyle" biscuits that come 10 to a can, and it's a small can at that. They bake up into pretty lousy biscuits, but they're perfect for bao zi.

The filling was where it's all worth it to me: no mystery meat, no food coloring, and only a little bit of sugar, plus some veggies. I don't know what my mom put in hers, but I used:

Two boneless pork chops, ground in the food processor.
A little gelatin sprinkled on about 2 Tbsp of soy sauce.
A medium shredded parsnip.
A small shredded carrot.
A little (maybe 1 tsp) dark sesame oil.
Some grated fresh ginger.
Maybe a third of a cup of chopped scallions.
Some chopped cilantro.
Maybe a couple tsp sugar.
Some salt.

The filling was something of a what-do-I-have-in-my-kitchen? process--the only thing I actually bought for it was the pork--but I think it turned out pretty well.

Flatten a round of biscuit dough, then put a rounded teaspoon (or more) of filling on it. Stretch the dough up around and pinch closed on top. You can really stuff these--biscuit dough is stretchy and doesn't tear easily.

Steam for ten minutes. See how they puff up into pillowy goodness? That's why they're bao zi and not dumplings. Yes, the middle one is missing from the picture--I had to do some quality control testing.

I made twenty bao zi and still have filling left, so I'd say you could get about 25, maybe 28 bao zi out of two small pork chops. I ate, er, six, while steaming the second batch, so I'm hoping there will actually be some left for our cutie's lunch tomorrow, especially since I intend to serve these for dinner tonight for my sweetie and me :-).

Oh, as for my mom, she doesn't make these any more. Like any sane person, she buys her bao zi frozen from the store

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Flat Stanley visits Seattle

When I was a kid, there was an obscure book I loved called Flat Stanley, which I had checked out of the library once but which no one else had ever heard of. I remember thinking that hiding in the picture in the museum was cool, but also being puzzled as to how his skull got flat without crushing his brain. No one could discuss these things with me, because no one else had read the book.

Fast forward 30+ years, and Flat Stanley is not only not out of print, it's now something every kid reads, and has, like, 5,000,000,000 sequels and projects schoolkids do, where they mail Flat Stanleys to far-away friends and ask for pictures of his travels. I don't know how this happened, but I'm pretty impressed. Somewhere at some publisher there's a marketing genius who I hope has been properly thanked.

Last month, Flat Stanley came to visit us, courtesy of my sweetie's friend's third-grader.

Stanley and our cutie admiring the view.

Stanley awed by the Fremont Troll.

At Pike Place Market. See our cutie peeking out behind his daddy's head?

We had a good time :-).

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Another first

Well, right on schedule, less than a month after starting day care, our cutie came down with an ear infection. Actually, it should be "ear infectionS", since he has it in both ears.

The cutie has had colds before, but never an ear infection. The first time he had a cold, we were so nervous, but with each succeeding time, I became more and more blase. I would worry that maybe he felt warm, take his temperature, and find that he was perfectly normal, not to mention annoyed that I had interrupted whatever he was doing. My son is very focused; don't get between him and the music table. I became convinced that I would know when he had a fever; I wouldn't just think he was warm, I'd know he was warm.

Yeah, well, I didn't. Yes, he was mildly fussy and clingy, but he has been for a couple of weeks now, so I didn't think anything of it. Yes, he had a cold, but he'd had it for four or five days, and he's had colds before. Then on Tuesday evening, my sweetie said, as we were putting him to bed, "Does he feel warm to you?" Since the cutie was already going to bed, we didn't want to disturb him by taking his temperature. On Wednesday, I forgot, until my sweetie came home from work and said again, "Does he feel warm to you?" His temperature was 101.5.

I freaked out. The doctor's office was already closed, but I called, and talked to a nurse, who talked me off the ledge and told me to give him Tylenol. By the next day, he was at 102, and no longer "mildly" fussy. He was crying continually and refusing to eat--he'd put food in his mouth, then spit it out (or pull it out with his hands). We took him to the doctor, and found out about the ear infection. Poor cutie--his throat was probably too sore to swallow. (Although, oddly enough, he seemed to have no trouble swallowing cookies.)

And I had had no idea. I felt terrible. So much for mother's intuition!

Thursday was awful; by fortunate coincidence, my sweetie had taken that day off; needless to say, he did not do any of the things he had planned to do with his day off. Instead, he held our cutie all day while he cried. The cutie was better yesterday, and almost back to his old self today. He has suffered no permanent damage (yet) from my obliviousness.

We are giving him a pink liquid antibiotic which is exactly the same as it was when I was a kid. Smelling it took me back to my childhood, when we frequently had one of these pink bottles in our fridge. I haven't tasted our cutie's, but I know exactly what it tastes like. He doesn't know yet that it tastes awful; he just thinks it's sweet. He points at the infant Tylenol like it's candy. Doubtless this has been an adventure for him--he gets held all day! And eats sweet liquids in bright colors! Not to mention cookies! And he's acquired several new toys!--but *I* am very glad it seems to be winding down, and we have all managed to survive, even if only barely.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Kind of Evil

For our cutie's birthday party, we bought a cake.

I actually went to Costco and bought a sheet cake (which, alas, I failed to take a picture of). Well, I guess technically it was a layer cake, since the sheet was cut in half, doubled up, and filled with "2 LBS OF CREAM CHEESE FILLING" according to the label. The whole thing swathed in sugary frosting and decorated with a blue dinosaur and our cutie's name.

The thing about the cake, though, is that while it was cheap ($17!) and actually pretty good, it was also about twice as much cake as we needed. So that leftover half a cake sat in our fridge, getting picked at and picked at by my sweetie and me, until we were both heartily sick of it. Not to mention weirded out by the fact that a) we were eating cake every day and b) after a week and a half, it still hadn't gone bad.

So there I was, staring at a quarter of a cake,wondering if I could make myself throw it away. I have a real problem throwing away perfectly good food, even if it is questionable as to whether it is "food" and definite that it is not "good food."

Then I remembered Bakerella. I have been mysteriously obsessed with her cake pops for some time, but I knew I would never bake a cake just to turn it into cake pops. But here I was, with a quarter of a sheet cake and 1/2 LB OF CREAM CHEESE FILLING. How could I resist?

So, I scraped off the sugary frosting and mashed up the cake and filling:

Then shaped my cake balls.

Here's the tricky part: Do not use chocolate chips to coat them. I did not have any semisweet chocolate in the house, so I thought I could make do with chips. No. Chocolate chips "melt" into sticky goo, which is delightful in a cookie but horrendous for smoothly coating anything. The balls I coated in melted chocolate chips were stringy hairy messes. I'd show you a picture sweetie ate them.

Ahem! Anyway, here are some of the finished ones, coated in nice Ghirardelli chocolate, after a quick run to the store:

Technically, these are cake balls, not pops, since they don't have sticks, but whatever. They are yummy.

And yes, I am fully aware that, even though I just made them yesterday, they are still 2-week-old cake. And we are still eating cake every day. Shut up.