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.

Friday, October 08, 2010


It's been a whirlwind week and a half of changes. Last week, my sweetie's parents came for a visit, so we left the cutie with them for a day and took off, just the two of us.

Change #1: It was my very first night away from our cutie since the day he was born.

Here is the deep Jacuzzi tub in our room at the Wild Iris B&B. I had not had a bath since I became pregnant, so I was obsessing over it. It was as lovely as I had anticipated.

When we returned the next day, our cutie barely acknowledged us. I would say he didn't even notice we had been gone. I was both sad and proud: he is really an easygoing baby.

My mom also came to visit. Why?

Change #2: It was our cutie's birthday!

We are now the proud parents of a one-year-old. We had a very nice party for him, and he actually seemed to enjoy it very much. He loved being the center of attention, and he ate an entire piece of cake--probably more sugar in one go than he had had in his entire previous life. How could he not have fun? The next day, though, he was tired and very clingy: he wanted mom, and no one else. I think after the party, not to mention several days of Nana putting him to bed and giving him baths, he was missing his usual routine.

Change #3: Our cutie outgrew his infant car seat and graduated to a convertible car seat.

For non-baby-owners, the seat is convertible because it can switch from rear-facing to forward-facing as the child grows. He will probably be in this seat for the next three or four years. No longer can I take him out of the car, seat and all: this seat stays in the car. I'll miss the convenience, especially when he falls asleep in the car, but it's probably just as well: lifting him in his (very heavy) infant seat was becoming increasingly difficult and my back was not happy.

Finally, the biggest of all, change #4: Today our cutie started day care. He will go two days a week, partly so I can have some life to myself, partly so that he can learn to play with other kids. This is a biggie. I had a very hard time dropping him off this morning. He, of course, barely noticed me leaving--he was too busy playing. I worry that he'll miss me, that the other kids will scare him, that he won't eat or nap, that he'll cry all day. Probably none of these thing will happen, or at least, not where he is :-). I, on the other hand, have been tiptoeing around the house as if he were in his room napping and then feeling sad when I realize he's not in the house at all. This is going to take some serious getting used to.

I feel like last week I had a baby and this week I have a little boy. I miss him already!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The 52nd President of the United States

So, our cutie learned to crawl two weeks ago, and this is his parents' measured response:

Yes, we have fenced in the entire living room.

It's rather hilarious, and makes me think of those historic Presidential houses, like, say FDR's childhood home in upstate New York. All the furniture is set up the way it was when the President lived there, but the room is fenced off so you can't actually go in. You can only view the glasses on the side table or the rattle on the floor from a distance. We're just preparing our cutie now for his future life as a VIP.

(Of course, those historic homes are never in ordinary suburban settings like ours, but I'm sure that's just a zoning issue we could easily take care of, once our cutie is actually the Leader of the Free World. Assuming, of course, that there is still a free world or that it has an American leader in 2062.)

I realize as a babyproofing solution, this will work only until our cutie figures out how to climb onto the couch, but I figure we've got a few weeks before that happens.

Monday, June 14, 2010


So, prior to having a baby, I had been told that you can see babies' personalities pretty early on. Not just if they're fussy or cheerful, but also how they sort of approach the world. Which kind of makes you think how much influence you, as a parent, have on them. I mean, as a daughter, I definitely know there are ways I see the world that are influenced by my parents, but maybe I was also inclined in those directions at birth. Who knows?

Anyway, I can definitely see glimmers of our cutie's personality. He is a very good-natured baby. I say this even though, for the past month, he has been getting up at 4:30 am every morning. For the day. When we finally stagger into his room at 6:00 am, he looks at us as if to say, "Where have you been??? The day is getting away from us!"

He's stoic. Every day I give him liquid vitamins fortified with iron, which taste awful. Like grape-flavored blood. Nasty. The first few times he cried and squirmed, trying to get away. Now he just opens his mouth and gets it over with. It makes me ashamed of the way cough syrup makes me gag.

He rocks to music. Seriously, he'll be sitting there on the living room floor, and if you start singing to him, or put on a CD with a nice bouncy beat, he'll start rocking back in forth, generally in time to the music. He does this when we sing songs in Mandarin class, and during music class as well. Usually he also grins. It is insanely cute.

He's very inquisitive. He looks at everything. I call him Linda Blair because when I am holding him, he is constantly whipping his head around to look at whatever's caught his interest--and he can get it pretty close to 180 degrees around. He has never looked at me when I am carrying him. *I* am a known quantity.

The looking-at-everything also includes things in his hands. This has really struck me, because of course as a new parent, you are warned that babies stick everything in their mouths. It's their way of exploring the world--grab something, put it in their mouths. And our cutie does put things in his mouth, but only after he has looked at them for a long time, turned them this way and that, passed them back and forth between his hands, and banged them on the floor. Then, he might--not always--put them in his mouth. Actually, he usually has to have seen something a few times before he'll deign to chew on it. This is very comforting to me as his mother.

He will sit by himself and play for quite a while. Last week he even started amusing himself to the point of laughing. By himself.

All of which leads me to think he is destined to be a scientist who spends a lot of time alone in a lab with the music blasting :-).

Moms, how much of your babies' personalities remained unchanged as they grew up?

Thursday, June 03, 2010


Check out our adorable cutie in the sweater I knit him! I am so proud of this little sweater; I knit it out of denim yarn, which shrinks in length but not width when washed and dried. This meant I had to do some math and knit it longer than I wanted it to end up, which was especially challenging in the yoke, since this is a raglan sweater (ie, one with diagonal sleeve seams, not a sweater made of rectangles).

Before and after pics:
Before washing: length 15"

After washing: length 13"

It really couldn't have turned out any better, if I do say so myself. I love it!

Friday, April 23, 2010

I think I might be sick

So this morning, our cutie fell off the couch.

We were getting ready for our walk with a neighbor. I put his coat on, and sat him down on the couch, then turned to get my coat. I heard a huge thud, and when I turned around, he was no longer on the couch. He must have rolled forward and somersaulted off. I thought there was plenty of room between him and the edge. I was wrong.

I was so freaked out that I cannot tell you if he was on the (thankfully, carpeted) floor face up or face down. He did start crying, though, hard. By the time I called the doctor's office, waited on hold, then spoke to the nurse, he had calmed down--a good sign, she said. She gave me a list of things to watch for, but based on my answers to the questions she asked, she did not sound terribly concerned.

Now, a couple hours later, he seems totally fine, and has probably forgotten the whole thing. I am still shaking. My heart is still racing. Very, very freaked out. It might take me days to recover.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010


Easter in our family is an excuse to eat. My sweetie and I are atheists, but he has many fond memories of his large extended Italian family gathering on Easter to consume vast quantities of food, so we are continuing the tradition in our house. I even made his Nana's Easter Pie:

Easter Pie is a wonder: dense as a brick, but so addictive that you will eat a second piece and immediately regret it. It is a pie crust wrapped around Swiss cheese, Italian sausage, ham and hard boiled eggs, then washed with a sugar-and-egg glaze. The sugar glaze makes the pie: it's what convinces you that second piece is a good idea.

The recipe I got from my sweetie's Nana (via his aunt) was just what you would expect from a 93-year-old woman who's been making it for decades. It started out "Make a pie crust," instructed me to assemble "some" ham, cheese, and sausage (but specified four hard boiled eggs), then, for the egg wash, suggested beating an egg with some sugar. When I asked whether we were talking a tablespoon of sugar or a half cup of sugar, no further clarification beyond "Nana just tastes it" was forthcoming.

I made it last year: 2 tablespoons was not enough. This year I used 1/4 cup and it was almost--but not quite--right. And oh yeah: the pie weighed 17 lbs going into the oven. It was a monster. Fortunately we had guests to help eat it. Plus we gave leftovers to the teenaged boy next door.

At my sweetie's insistence, we also dyed eggs:

Our cutie was already in bed by the time we created these beauties. But he got to enjoy them the following day:

Hope you had a good Easter!

Sunday, March 14, 2010


This morning our family attended a really interesting ceremony. One of the women in our PEPS group is Indian, and it is an Indian tradition to have a ceremony to celebrate a baby's first solid food. It's akin to christening; family and friends gather, a whole lot of food is involved, and there are certain rituals to be followed: the baby starts with sweet rice pudding, then eats little bits of five other foods made especially for the occasion. Then each of the relatives--grandparents, great-grandparents, uncles--takes turns giving the baby a tiny bit of food.

It was really sweet, and the baby was adorable, dressed in a tiny sari with anklets, a headdress and a little tiny ring on her hand. And boy, was she ready for the food! She lunged for the spoon with great enthusiasm :-).

Years ago, I attended a bris, and at the time I thought that it was a really nice to have a ceremony to celebrate your baby's arrival and welcome him into the community. I've never been to a christening, but I would imagine it expresses a similar joy.

When my sweetie and I got married, I asked our officiant what she believed, since she was creating a nonreligious ceremony for us, and she said, "I believe in ritual." She meant that there is something valuable in marking the important events in our lives, and gathering friends and family to make a public celebration. When we were planning the wedding, more than one person wondered why we were bothering to have a wedding, since we weren't religious. Apparently God wants you to spend lots of money on a big party, but without the need to appease him, sensible people would just go to City Hall. Or maybe if you don't believe in God, than there's nothing to celebrate, not even your love. I don't know; this question baffled me each time I heard it. But ultimately, I agree with our officiant: ritual is important.

Some part of me regrets that our cutie will not have any welcoming ceremonies. But he does have godparents, if you can call them "god"parents: my sweetie's brother and his wife. They will take care of our cutie if anything should happen to us. I suppose if they were godparents in the usual sense, they would also promise to raise him in the appropriate faith. We would all stand up in a church and they would swear this. Instead we just called them on the phone and they agreed that we could put their names in our wills.

But, thinking about it now, I realize that, in a way, they are true godparents, because when we considered which of my sweetie's brothers to ask, we chose the one who, like us, is an atheist, and that fact did play a significant role in our choice. I'm not militant about it; I've never in my life attempted to convince someone that God doesn't exist, even though I can't even count how many times people have tried to do the opposite to me (ranging from the combative to the infuriatingly smug "You'll understand the truth when you're ready." Have I ever, ever, said to anyone that should they come down with cancer or something, they'll realize that life is random and God is a lie? Never). But, it's important to me; having a kid has only reminded me how important.

Even if we don't have the rituals to prove it.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Nerves of steel, heart of stone

The cutie and I are locked in a battle of wills over his naps. He refuses--I mean refuses--to nap longer than 40 minutes. Seriously, I can practically set my clock by him: did he go down at 1:48? He will be up at 2:28. He may be a minute early, but he is rarely a minute late.

I want him to nap longer, not just for my own sanity, but because he needs it. Babies need a lot of sleep in order to learn. Not to mention in order to not be cranky.

He is now five months old; supposedly at four months, babies start figuring out that if they cry, you'll pick them up. Before then, they supposedly do not cry unless there is actually something wrong. How researchers know this, I don't know. But he is certainly crying more determinedly than he used to, and I have noticed that going in briefly to comfort him and then leaving actually now seems to make him cry harder.

So, my effort to make him sleep more and longer, yet not spoil him, calls for nerves of steel and a heart of stone, because that baby will cry for an hour before falling asleep for 40 minutes. This is not a ratio that makes for a happy mommy. Then, after he wakes up, I'll tell him he needs to sleep another 40 minutes at least (his naps should be 1.5 - 2 hours, according to sleep research--and I believe it, because when he gets up after 40 minutes, he's fussy and tired again within an hour), and he will cry for another 30, 40, 50 minutes before I either give up (at this point a solid two+ hours of listening to him cry or waiting for him to wake up and cry, and my nerves are shot) or he finally falls asleep. If he does fall asleep, he'll then sleep for a good hour or more. It's getting past that first 40-minute wake-up that's the trick.

He's still sleeping reasonably well at night, though he's started taking longer to fall asleep after midnight feedings (sometimes he'll lie awake and talk for an hour after feeding, and you can imagine at 2:00 in the morning this does not make me happy. Especially if my sweetie is snoring blissfully beside me), and he's also started trying to wake up for the day at 5:00 am. I feel like pretty much every waking minute of my day is spent trying to get him to sleep a little bit more, and being alternately angry, despairing, frustrated, worried, frantic and just plain exhausted.

I think I'm going to get an ulcer.

On the bright side, I've started reading Anne Lamott's Operating Instructions. What a great book. She expresses so many of the feelings I've had, good and bad, since my cutie was born. Hopefully hers grew up OK, but I don't think I'll research it, just in case.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010


Don't ask me why, but I love this picture.

I call it "Baby in the Wild."

Monday, March 01, 2010

The Agony of Defeat

Alas, I have failed to medal in the Knitting Olympics.

As you can see, I am one thumb short of finishing the main knitting. Less obvious is the fact that there is still attached i-cord trim to do, not to mention the weaving in of ends (oh, how I hate weaving in ends!).

I was slowed not merely by having a baby who requires continual attention (though, thank goodness, no longer constant attention), but also by a special kind of Second Glove Syndrome. Similar to Second Sock or Second Sleeve Syndrome, SGS refers to a reluctance to finish the second one because the first one took the edge off the interest. However, in this special version, as I plowed ahead with the second glove, normal SGS was exacerbated by my absolute inability to read the directions. Instead, I'd assume I already knew what was next, would continue without reading, and find I had misremembered and done it incorrectly, thus requiring frequent ripping back and starting over. I guess you could say I DQ'd due the equipment failure of my brain. It had nothing to do with the pattern, which, I must say, was extremely well written, when I bothered to read it.

Still, I am pretty pleased with the project. Assuming I finish the thumb (which is by no means certain, since it's in the 50s today, other projects are clamoring for my time, and as these past two weeks have demonstrated, I do not have a great deal of uninterrupted knitting time to spend and so the urge to move onto something I might use in our current spring weather is strong), these will be the best-fitting pair of gloves I've ever owned. They fit like, well, gloves :-). I have to say that I cannot say that about anything else I have knitted. The sweaters I've done fit me fine, but in general no better or worse than store-bought sweaters. These gloves, though, are tailored perfectly to fit my wide, stubby hands, even down to this:

I knitted in a bulge for my rings :-).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Two annoying facts

Fact #1: Even though the Olympics are taking place in Vancouver, in the Pacific time zone, NBC is still showing them on TV on the West Coast on a tape delay. This means that even though the ice skating takes place at a perfectly reasonable hour, if you are not lucky enough to be sitting in the arena in Vancouver, it's still not starting for you until after 10 pm, even if you're a mere 130 miles away in Seattle.

Fact #2: It is a VERY BAD idea to stay up until midnight watching ice skating on tape delay when you have a baby that you know will be waking up between 12:30 and 1:30 (aka, ten minutes after you go to bed), because this means that you are guaranteed to be up until 1:30 or even later. Since the baby will be up again at 4:00 to feed, and wakes up for the day at about 7:00 am, this means you are screwed.

I do appreciate that covering the Olympics is probably a logistical nightmare, but it pissed me off four years ago when I simply had to go to work the next morning, and it REALLY pisses me off now, when I have to be awake enough to keep a baby alive and not screaming, that they deliberately show ice skating so late that you have to stay up past midnight. It's not a live sports event overrun, it's planned that way. It pisses me off. And yes, I will be voting with my remote, because man, I feel like crap.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The feel of cotton

Today is my sweetie and my second wedding anniversary. It's certainly been a busy two years!

I have to admit, I was a little worried what having a baby would do to our relationship, but I was wrong. Having our cutie has only brought us closer together. We both love having him in our lives so much, and sharing the pleasure with each other is wonderful.

Of course, I am sure once our cutie is a little bigger and we need to start making more serious decisions, we will have more disagreements, but for now, we are basking in the glow.

I want to take this occasion to say: I love being married to this man. There isn't a single moment that I wish I were still single. Sometimes he drives me crazy, sometimes I wish I could have a little time to myself, but I wouldn't go back to my old single life even if I had the choice. I'm really surprised by this. In my twenties, I did not want to get married. I did not want to have to compromise or accommodate anyone else. I wanted to be gloriously selfish and not let anyone make any claims on me.

But the funny thing is, even though I do compromise and accommodate my sweetie, even though he makes claims on me every day, I don't feel like I spend any energy on it. It's nearly effortless. Or maybe natural is a better word--so natural I don't notice it. On more than one occasion, I have thought that I don't do enough, that I let my sweetie take care of me too much, until he turns to me and says, "You're so good to me. You do so much."

I think marriage is sort of a balance between two impulses: the urge to give up and let the other person take care of you, and the urge to be the best person you can be so that he never thinks any less of you than he did the day you were married. So far I think we are striking a pretty good balance.

Happy anniversary, sweetie. I am sorry you are too sick to go out, but I'll make soup and grilled cheese sandwiches :-).

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Linen stitch

I am currently obsessed with linen stitch.

What I love about linen stitch is that it makes handpainted yarn sing. Alas, this photo does not do justice to the lovely contrast of colors linen stitch creates. I have sort of a love/hate relationship with handpainted yarn. I frequently fall in love with a yarn in the skein, but once I knit it up, I am bitterly disappointed. Either the yarn pools, creating uneven blotches of color throughout, or, even worse, it doesn't pool, resulting in little scattered strips of colors, which all run together into a muddy mess. It's like visual static. It's like an impressionist painting, and I do not mean that as a compliment.

Linen stitch, though, creates stitch-by-stitch contrast between colors, and looks particularly good in a skein with highly diverse colors, like this one, which is hot pink, olive green, and chocolate brown. For some reason, this does not result in visual static, but rather imposes a certain order on the chaos, allowing the colors to shine. I discovered this in a sock I was knitting while pregnant (have not yet knitted the second sock), am currently knitting a sweater of my own design using linen stitch, and now, of course, am knitting Bobbie, a pair of gloves entirely in linen stitch.

That makes three WIPs in linen stitch. But the gloves will certainly be done (deadline: the dousing of the Olympic torch), and I am dying to get back to that sweater: it's the first one I am designing myself, and I am loving how it's looking so far, thanks to the power of linen stitch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Knitting Olympics

I am knitting like a fiend right now. So much so that I have not had time to take pictures and post. And anyway, how interested are you really in my knitting? :-)

This is a quick post to keep myself somewhat honest: I am going to be participating in the Yarn Harlot's Knitting Olympics. I don't know why: I'm not really a joiner, and I have a four-month-old baby who cuts into my knitting time. Not to mention that I am halfway through a sweater that I really want to finish, but will likely put on hold for the Knitting Olympics.

I guess I just like the Harlot, I like the winter Olympics (way more than the summer Olympics, which I can honestly take or leave), and I do need a new pair of gloves.

Oh yeah, I'm knitting gloves. Bobbie, to be precise. According to the rules, this project needs to be a challenge to complete in the 17 days of the Olympics. I figure this qualifies: I have never knit gloves before (the fingers intimidate me); these gloves are knit in sock yarn (small needles, lots of stitches), entirely in linen stitch (which I love but which will make them extra fiddly) and have attached i-cord trim. I've never done attached i-cord before.

Also, see above re: baby.

To make this project extra fun, I do not yet have the yarn for it, and the opening ceremonies are tomorrow night. Happily, Madrona is going on right now, in Tacoma, a mere 45 minutes away (according to Google Maps). I have never been to any sort of fiber or knitting event before, so even though I am not taking any of the classes, I will pack up the baby tomorrow, before the ceremonies, visit the marketplace, and buy myself yarn for gloves. Hopefully I will be able to restrain myself from buying yarn for any other purpose, real or imagined, but I have my doubts.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How did they know?

Thursday was my 40th birthday. It was kind of an odd birthday, considering it was a big one: I went out for lunch with my oldest friend (as in, we've known each other since we were 4), but did not do anything big and fancy.

This was partly because my sweetie was out of town this week, on business in Tampa. It just so happens that his brother, sister-in-law, and nephews live in Tampa, and his parents have a winter condo there (to be nearer the grandkids, of course), so while he was there on business, he got to see his family, too. It worked out nicely, except that my sweetie felt bad to be missing my big birthday.

My in-laws sent me a very nice little flower arrangement, but as they were taking my sweetie to the airport on Friday, he happened to mention that it was my 40th birthday. My in-laws were appalled. They had not realized it was a BIG birthday. They felt a simple flower arrangement was not enough. They insisted on stopping and buying me another gift for my sweetie to take home with him.

Here it is:
That, my friends, is a waxed paper bag filled with a 1/2 pound of deep fried bacon.

My in-laws may win me over yet :-).

Friday, January 29, 2010

Say cheese, Part II

For Christmas, my sweetie bought me a gift certificate to Cook's World, a place here in Seattle that has cooking classes. I was really excited to receive this (although a couple people at my sweetie's office were offended on my behalf, even after he explained that I like to cook), especially once I saw that they offer a cheesemaking class.

Last Saturday was the first of two classes, where we learned how to make soft cheeses. I promptly came home and tried out the recipe for cream cheese.

Here is the cheese after I've cultured the cream and let it sit for a day. I've just put it in the cheesecloth, where it's supposed to drain for 12-14 hours.

Next, you hang it in the refrigerator for 36-48 hours:

Here is the finished cheese, spread on an English muffin:

It is pretty darned tasty cheese, though I suspect the second batch that I have hanging in the fridge will be even better, as I let the cream culture longer.

Tomorrow is the second class, where we will learn how to make hard cheeses. I'm most excited for this part, although I fear it will have less practical application, since hard cheeses require rather larger investments in ingredients, equipment, and time.

Yes, I am mildly obsessed with cheese.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Where do I go from here?

I applied for a job today. No, I don't really want to go back to work just yet. Our cutie isn't even four months old, and my plan was six months to a year at home. But....I started freaking out about money. Not that my sweetie doesn't make a perfectly respectable salary, one that probably millions of people in this country could live on with no trouble whatsoever, but I am embarrassed to admit that, after years of living as carefree single people in New York City, we no longer know how to live on a budget. It doesn't help that my new unemployment coincidentally coincided with large medical bills (hey, did you know it costs $25,000 to have a baby these days? Good thing we have health insurance. Too bad it didn't cover 100%, but I can't really complain; it was pretty darned good), a trip to New York, and Christmas. So I looked at our hemmorhaging bank account and freaked out. I am very conservative when it comes to money; I like a healthy cushion, and our cushion is shrinking much too fast.

I am wildly conflicted about the whole thing. When I first moved to Seattle, I immediately found a job, even though my sweetie encouraged me to take my time and decide what I wanted to do. But I found I was very uncomfortable sitting at home, not earning my keep, as it were. I am happy to say I am not feeling that same discomfort now: I do understand the value of staying at home and taking care of our cutie. There are times when it is really, really boring (I love my son, but I can only coo at him or squeak the squeaky toy for so long before the fun pales), but overall I just love spending the day with him and watching him change in small ways almost every day.

I don't want a job. Or, more accurately, what I want is income without having to put my son in day care. Because, you know, day care costs a lot of money, which sort of takes a big bite out of the whole purpose of having a job. Not to mention some stranger will be holding (or worse, not holding) my cutie when he cries. I don't give him my undivided attention every waking minute, but I do give him a lot of undivided attention, and I just can't believe he'd get that in a day care.

I believe I've mentioned that I hate job hunting more than anything else. Nevertheless, I've started hunting. I am going to try do it in a very casual manner, applying only for jobs that I think look really interesting. I am not going to get too invested and I am not going to torture myself. That way when I can't get an interview to save my life, I will be able to smile and say it means I get another day or week or month at home with my cutie.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Happy new year

Happy new year! 2009 was certainly another interesting year for us, and our cutie promises to keep us on our toes in 2010 as well. Here he is doing his new favorite thing, grabbing his feet:

Looking at this picture, I am reminded of something a friend once said to me, when his daughter was tiny: that having a baby, and watching him/her grow and discover the world, is full of little moments and achievements which are utterly riveting to you, and totally boring to everyone else. So: he grabs his feet, now. Isn't that cute????

Here is our cutie during "tummy time," which he generally hates. It makes sense, since tummy time is suppose to be good for him. Even babies don't like doing what's good for them! Anyway, this week he discovered how to get out of tummy time: roll over. Not only will you then be on your back, but your parents will be so thrilled and proud they won't put you back on your tummy for several hours.