Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blogging

I was looking at the number of posts per month I blogged this year. I used to post more. A LOT more. There are some very specific reasons for the change:
  • I've gotten a lot of my initial babble out of the way. Apparently, I had a lot of built up babble.

  • I'm a lot busier chasing a running toddler than I was before. He requires a lot more attention and stimulation these days.

  • I've come to realize that a lot of people feel overwhelmed by frequent posts on a blog, even if they enjoy the blog overall. I know I've occasionally avoided a blog that posts excessively, though excessively is a relative term.
All in all, I'm just laying out that while I don't post as much as I used to, and it is unlikely I will revert to such practices, I'm not going anywhere. I'm having fun sharing what I learn and read about while parenting, cooking, and reading my favorite blogs.

So there you have it.

Happy New Year!!

MetaBaby: Growing Up and Moving On

It occurs to me that MetaBaby is no longer really a suitable name for my fearless wonder. He's getting old. *sniff, sniff*

After passing the 16 month mark, I have to come to terms with his toddler-ness. He is a toddler. I must try to remember that.

Hence, he will now be known as MetaToddler, amongst various other names (e.g., Boogie, Bear, Monkey, Wee Wee) because I love to play with nicknames. I won't tell you the nicknames MetaDaddy has been given because he'll probably get annoyed to see them laid out for the world to see. Lucky for him though, he no longer gets the quantity of cutsie ones since MetaToddler was born.

But regardless of what I call him (MetaToddler, not MetaDaddy), he'll always be my little baby.

MetaMommy's Messy Pants

After eating something messy, MetaBaby's favorite habit is to approach me, usually at a running start, and wipe his crusty little lips on my pants. Yogurt, hummus, oranges...you name it, he'll wipe it.

Yes, I'm complaining about it. After all, I do the laundry. However, I also found that unlike jeans, which soak up the slop, messes seem to wipe off of corduroy much easier.

I think I'll be investing in a bit more corduroy soon...even if they don't quite look like the one in the photo :-)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Sneaky Food Wars

Boy am I out of the loop. I had no idea about Jessica Seinfeld's troubles.
"There's a notable similarity between some of the recipes in Seinfeld's collection [Deceptively Delicious] and those in another cookbook, "The Sneaky Chef" by Missy Chase Lapine."
There are always going to be similarities in the kind of food parents prepare for their kids, but I'm surprised to hear that there are such similar recipes in each book (e.g., grilled cheese with secret sweet potatoes). I hope the plagiarism accusation isn't true. There's far too much good, easy food to tempt kids with that doesn't require rehashing tired ideas.

Around the Internet

From the book of "Better Late Than Never" by me, Bob Vila's tips on preparing your home for winter via Lifehacker. And some great ideas on keeping your apartment insulated without breaking the bank.

If you've booked flight on Max Jet, which sounded fabulous about a month ago, you might want to call your credit card company for a refund. They filed for bankruptcy on December 24th, and will only be working to assist travelers who have already started their journeys. I hope you're not one of them!

Speaking of flying, here are a few nice ways airlines seek to pacify traveling kids.

And just to keep the flight theme, we figured out a way to make meal time on our flight a bit easier, kids or not. We requested a special meal, which meant that we got something a bit more interesting than chicken or beef, and we got our meals before everyone else. We ordered three vegetarian meals, which turned out to be a tasty tofu curry. It's not exactly gourmet as it's still airplane food, but we were happy. There was a child's meal option, but it was food like chicken nuggets and french fries...that just wasn't going to cut it. While the airline we flew had a large selection of special meals (e.g., Kosher, vegetarian), they didn't offer a peanut-free meal. A concern for those with young kids or allergies. In any event, MetaBaby ate some of his meal, which we supplemented with food we brought from home (lentils, avocado, banana), and he did pretty well. Breakfast was also different, and was actually much nicer than the standard meal. Papaya, strawberries and kiwi. We couldn't have asked for better. Contact your airline for more details and to request a special meal.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Baby Jetlag & Christmas Wishes

It feels like forever and a day since I've posted.

We've since packed, did everything (we hope) that we needed to at home, and flew 9 hours to Dublin, Ireland. Funny enough, it was a glum and rainy day in Santa Monica, but a crisp and sunny day in Dublin. You're not gonna hear that very often, let me tell you.

MetaBaby slept for about an hour and a half on the flight, which isn't great. But we alternated entertaining him, so he didn't get too unsettled at any point. We, however, slept zero minutes. Zero. When we landed in Dublin, it was about 2AM at home. We got to my MIL's home exhausted. We let him run around a bit, fed him, and gave him a 2 hour nap. But we were all tired later in the day, so we all settled in for a nap...his second, our first. As hard as it was to get up after 2 hours, we did so as to recover from jet lag sooner than later. We probably shouldn't have let him sleep for that long. Oops!

That night, we all went to sleep. Wee MetaBaby woke up at 3AM hungry and confused. Once he woke (screaming, obviously), we were all awake, so off we went to the kitchen to hang out and be groovy...and to snack, of course. He didn't go back to sleep. No one did.

It was late when we finally got to sleep that morning, and we woke up at 1PM. We only gave him one nap that day and put him down at 10PM. Despite our concerns, he went to sleep after his bedtime routine. Unfortunately, he woke up at midnight, and was up for the night...again. We went to the kitchen, ate, hung out, tried (and failed) several times to put him to sleep, and conceded to the pint-sized insomniac. Eventually, MetaDaddy stayed up with him allowing me a couple of hours of sleep. He later went in with him waited until MetaBaby fell sleep on him. We all woke up at 10 AM and swore that no naps were to be had that day. I think we gave him a one hour nap and put him down at 9PM, after his bedtime routine.

Eventually, he settled into a routine. For two nights, he's slept through the night, and everyone's much happier as a result. We're feeling much better.

On the bright side, tomorrow's Christmas day. Family, food, gifting, and stories...I love the stories. Cross your fingers for us that he doesn't wake up tonight :-D

Merry Christmas to all!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Bested Once Again

I might remind you that this year, after several years of valiantly failing give each other Christmas presents, I finally suggested that we not exchange gifts. It's soooooo much easier than worrying about what to give him, especially since I've failed miserably in the past. I once said "I've decided to get you a watch, but I know I'll pick the wrong one. Would you have liked this one?" "Um," he said, "it's nice." "OK, let's go pick one out that you'd like." We're still waiting for that shopping trip.

So, it was a stress-free Christmas. The day before we were set to travel this week, MetaDaddy decided to pick up a spare pair of his favorite pants. So he went out while we stayed and finished packing. Unfortunately, they discontinued the pants, so he was plum out of luck :-(

After a long night of packing and such, we got to bed pretty late. We were exhausted! MetaDaddy usually turns the light out right away, and he's asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. That night, he just sat there...waiting. I didn't think much of it, but he finally says "so are you gonna look under your pillow?" "Ooo! You got me something!!"

Turns out he had to give it to me the night before so we could have it ready for the trip. So far, it's been a great gift and I love it...though I didn't think I would. But all I got him was a DVD of one of his favorite movies.

Bested, once again. And yet, I suppose things could be worse.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Shipping Time Saver

I discovered something after finally deciding to try it out this Christmas. If you want to minimize your time at the post office, which can be an enormous challenge, consider a flat rate box.

The box is free and comes in two sizes (11" x 8.5" x 5.5" and 13.625" x 11.875" x 3.375"). You can ship as much as it fits as long as it doesn't exceed the weight limit. Simply affix enough postage for your shipping destination and drop the box off at the post office.

Pricing as follows as of December 2007:
  • Available to anywhere in the U.S. for $8.95
  • One rate to Canada and Mexico for $23.00
  • One rate to all other countries for $37.00
The way I figure it, if your sending a few things, it's possibly a better price than standard shipping. Even if it's not, when you consider the line that's 50 deep on December 20th, it doesn't sound that expensive.

To sum, no lines, no waiting, no pulling your hair out. Even better, for the first time ever, you might actually leave the post office with a smile on your face.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Quick Pack

It's funny. MetaDaddy has traveled a lot, and as a result, he's gotten pretty good at packing. But when it comes to travel, he's a "last minute" sort of guy. So at the last minute, he can pack a small black suitcase with the utmost precision. Pants, socks, belts, cell phone charger...all in under 10 minutes.

However, it turns out that he can't pack without a hard deadline (e.g., cab driver waiting outside). We decided to finish packing tonight because he has to work tomorrow morning. He'll have enough time to get home and change before we have to leave for the airport. No time for packing.

So tonight, it took 2 hours to do what can take 10 minutes. It's like driving on the 405. You can't help but wonder "what's the hold up?!?" He was trying on clothes to see what he actually "wanted" to wear. He even tried on a pair of old, baggy jeans in his pile of clothes...only to find out it was mine. I remember putting it there momentarily, but I apparently forgot it. When I saw his leg stuck in the pants, I literally fell over laughing. "These aren't my pants, are they?"

We're just about done packing, and tomorrow is all about loose ends. This is by far the most organized we've ever been for travel. And we're exhausted!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas for the Post Office

50 cards later, we're Just about finished with the Christmas cards.

After all of the mid-nap door buzzing for the neighbors packages and banging on the door resulting in wails from MetaBaby's room, it's my turn. Tomorrow, I attack the post office with piles of mail and boxes of pressies.

Ha Ha!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Around the Internet

If you really need to wake up on time, an alarm clock that can be set to a different time every day sounds like the way to go. Read: sleep in until 9 on Saturday? Anyone? Anyone?!?

Quinoa: A Sacred, Super Crop - This is what I've been trying to tell you! And it's yummy :-)

EnviroLog - If you're going to light up the fire, why not consider and eco-friendly log? I haven't tried it, but I'm intrigued.

Slinky like toy - I'm not saying that we'll get one, but I am saying that MetaBaby might very well have a blast knocking these little guys over...not that I would condone such behavior ;-)

Women have backbone for pregnancy - It's not me. A new study shows that women's spines have evolved to handle the weight of carrying a baby in utero, which is something that men's spines just can't manage. Don't worry guys...I'm sure there are some things you're good at.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Week in Review

Between Christmas shopping, getting ready for our trip to Ireland (yes, again), and keeping up with random every day things, it seems my blogging has suffered. I've got a few posts in the works, but well...it doesn't do much if I don't click that "publish post" button.

Here's a sampling of what my week has been like:
  • In a small store, MetaBaby ran away from me...all the way out the door...onto the sidewalks...with a pair of unpurchased shoes.

  • We accidentally shoplifted a $2 bottle of mustard. I have an excuse! The store was packed, it was hard finding anyone to help me find what I needed, and the checkout was a mess. I was rushed through by the cashier, who happened to snap at a customer who asked for change while packing my bags. When we finally got to the car, I found the mustard under MetaBaby. Now under most circumstances, I would have gone back to pay for the mustard (I couldn't just return it because he'd already slobbered on it). I always correct cashiers who give me too much change! But given the stress level in there, I figured they'd probably just get annoyed with me for adding to their workload. It didn't help that MetaBaby was antsy and his diaper leaked. Ugh. That said, I can't stand the karma factor, so I feel a need to make up for it. I've decided the next time I pass a person in need, I'll drop a $5 in his collection. I usually like giving money to organizations that can make a difference in people's lives, so this is a departure.

  • I've finished most of our Christmas shopping. There wasn't much, but it's hard to get it just right. MetaDaddy had a $20 gift exchange at work (no gift cards), 2 nieces, 1 nephew, a friend who's invited us for a Christmas party, and our Secret Santa gift exchange in Ireland. We got an abacus (good for learning numbers) and some crafty things for the kids, a parking meter alarm for my husband's gift exchange (ironically, my meter almost ran out while I was wandering through Restoration Hardware), some food and a video for our friend's party, and I can't tell you what I got for the family because they read this blog ;-)

  • My husband and I agreed that we will not be exchanging gifts. Primarily because we get busy and forget sometimes. I'm just as guilty as him. But I've never been one to feel that a gift on a holiday means something more than a gift on any other day. So I really don't mind. A friend had a funny reaction though. She tells her husband: "I buy presents for everyone. You only have to buy one."
    Touche.

  • And best of all, I forgot my vision appointment. I didn't remember until MetaDaddy asked my tonight...at like 8PM. My reaction was...well, it was an expletive. I hope it doesn't turn out to be MetaBaby's first real word.
All I have left to do now is finish shopping, finish errands, clean the house, laundry, pack...but most important, tickle MetaBaby while running around the living room :-D

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

13 Doctor Who Related Things

One of my more absurd Thursday Thirteen lists. But I got a bit motivated, and it turns out, there's a lot of Doctor Who stuff on the internet. I know, shocking.

My MetaDaddy has been a fan for years, and we now watch it together when MetaBaby's asleep. Never thought I'd see the day when I'd be watching Dr. Who instead of mocking him for doing so. *Le sigh*


Dalek Cake via Torchwood.org- Go on and make a cake...if you dare!








Cyberman 2006 Cookie Jar - Who can resist evil cookies?














5" Face Of Boe With Animated Mouth - Which as we all know is modeled by Captain Jack Harkness.










Doctor Who Dalek 3D Bath & Shower Gel - Um...ya...













Doctor Who Sonic Screwdriver - A true Doctor Who fan is nothing without one, n'est pas?







The Master's Laser Screwdriver - Competely and utterly different from the Doctor's, obviously.













Remote Control Dalek - Tee hee...everything's better with a remote control.











The 4th Doctor - I have no idea who this guy is, but he looks hilarious.












Knitted Dalek via D3 - I'm so impressed, words just don't do it justice.








Doctor's Girls via Torchwood.org- I had no idea the Doctor had had so many girls!


Music Video - Set to Snow Patrol's "Run." A bit sappy, but if you like "Doctor Who" and this song, which I do, it's entertaining.



Doctor Who Spoof - It's a bit ridiculous, but then, I suppose that's the point when you get David Tennent in drag.



Bonus:
David Tennant and Catherine Tate Sketch...hilarious, but the accents are thick ;-)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Santa Monica Farmers' Market: Frank

I was saddened to hear of the passing of a farmer at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. Tsugio Imamoto, who I knew as Frank, had one of the smaller stalls, but had some really nice produce. I made it a point to seek him out every Wednesday. His mint was the best, in my humble opinion.

I didn't know him as long as so many other shoppers loyal to the FM. I regret not having gotten to know him better. An old article in the Santa Monica Mirror mentions a few things about him as a Japanese American. His father brought the family from Hawaii to California, where they learned to farm. He spent years at Manzanar during World War II, where he met his wife. And he lived his 80 years as a farmer in Southern California with his big family, which includes 10 grandkids. What a life!

I miss seeing his table. We will be making a donation to a charity in his memory.

My sincere condolences to his family, friends, and everyone who will miss his stand every Wednesday.


Baby, It's Cold Outside

Getting into the spirit with some Ella...is there anything bettah?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Baby Food: Raw Applesauce

I discovered a rather useful tip in making MetaBaby's food the other day.

MetaBaby likes apples and pears and such, but I really wish I could give them to him raw. Unfortunately, that would be a choking hazzard. A nurse at his 15 month visit suggested grating hard fruits like apples and pears. Some pears get nice and soft once they're ripe, but others (e.g., Asian pears) are as hard as apples.

I took this idea home and tried it the very first chance I got. I took a small, unpeeled (optional to take advantage of the fiber in the skin) organic apple and grated it with the closest grater I had handy, which happened to be a medium coarseness microplane grater. The result was a fresh, juicy apple sauce that could easily work for an infant's first or second stage of food. It's something that could be ready at a moments notice, which is great around hungry little lads like MetaBaby. I'll be experimenting with different levels of coarseness and playing with other foods like carrots and pears, so this should be a fun new game.

I wish I had known about this sooner, but I'm glad I know about it now.

Side note: You can do larger quantities as suggested by this recipe.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Dangers of Cooking

This has been a frightening week in the kitchen. Here are a few of the highlights.

I bought some kale to try Alton Brown's lemon sesame glazed greens. Well, let's say that for a few reasons, I will never be trying it again. Per the recipe, I heated the pan, then put the oil in. The pan got too hot, the oil burned, smoke e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e. Had to open every window, chilled the place through and through, and got the whole family coughing. And the kale was rubbery. I obviously don't have the knack. I've been banned from that recipe.

Today, I decided to make the olive oil cake from Sunday Suppers at Lucques. I started by segmenting the tangerines, which MetaDaddy noticed I did wrong. So, now MetaBaby will be snacking on tangerines for the next few days. I then figured I'd at least make the cake because at the end of the day, I know how to make a cake. Turns out, I don't...le sigh.

Here are a couple of things I learned today. Step 2 says you should mix the eggs and sugar in a stand mixer for 7 minutes, then transfer the finished product to another bowl. I figured "that's just one more bowl to clean," so I left it in the same mixing bowl. Here's why you should transfer the egg mix to another bowl. When you fold in the olive oil, it pools in the reservoir of the mixing bowl. Another thing, my favorite cake pan is one with a removable bottom. Why was this a bad idea? 20 minutes into baking, smoke was filling the kitchen, yet again. Olive oil pooled in the bottom of the oven and reached it's smoking point. We had to take the cake out, which was half done, wipe up the oil, and put the cake back in. When it was "finished," it was also charred on top. At this point, we decided to lop off the burnt part, and it was actually nice and golden. So I whisked up some cream and called it dessert. For the record, it was good. I'll try to make this again, when I've recovered.

The amusing thing was that after screwing up so many dishes, MetaDaddy (either out of pity, fear, or concern for the well-being of his first-born), helped finish dinner. On the bright side, the risotto was perfect!

I think tomorrow might be a light kitchen day. For everyone's sake.

Note:  I later found out I was pregnant.  And yes, hindsight is 20/20.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Around the Internet

Oh, how we miss concerts. Our favorite venue was a toss up between the Greek, an outdoor amphitheatre, and the Wiltern. We've seen most of our favorite bands over the years, and maybe someday, we'll get back into the groove. Certainly one of the best things about living in L.A. If you have a band or musician in mind, try searching on SeatQuest to check out their touring schedule. You might be pleasantly surprised ;-) (Via Lifehacker)

Where do you rank on the Global Rich List?

Who needs this clock when you have kids?

Taking Fabulous Photos - Any good picture I take is more an accident than not. So any tips are highly appreciated.

Part of Your World via Dooce - This is bizarre, and yet intriguing.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Doll House


If you like your home, why not make a cute little replica of it. You know, for kids!

For $10K, I want to be able to live in it.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

13 Fun Gifts

  1. A variation on the age old loose tea strainer. Nice design, and looks easy to use.

  2. Nap Warden listed out some food gifts. After all, everyone eats. Besides, 'tis the season for tasty treats! But don't limit your food gifts for local family and friends. Dorie Greenspan's tips on shipping cakes and cookies help make sense of picking the right kind of cookie or cake and packing material (e.g., unbuttered popcorn).

  3. Here are some cute toys for a gardener's delight.

  4. Get someone a gift subscription to Netflix. A great gift for parents.

  5. Looking for a pick me up, but not interested in instant coffee, over-priced coffee, or coffee that tastes like someone else's leftovers? How about a
    mini coffee press that you can use in most mugs? Insert, pour water, press, and put it back in its storage container. No stress. No mess.

  6. Storing coffee in the fridge is a bad idea.
    "If you are wondering about the refrigerator, it is a no-no for coffee. Since the temperature is generally around 37 degrees, the water that is inside doesn't freeze. It is a cold mist that lingers on the coffee and there are even more scents and flavor molecules floating around. Liquid water is coffee's worst enemy during storage. Under no circumstance would I ever recommend using the refrigerator for storing coffee."
    How about some good coffee, a nice canister, and a reminder to store properly.

  7. Plant a tree in their honor. The gift that lasts forever.

  8. SmartShopper™ Grocery List Organizer - This is so overpriced, no one should buy it for herself. However, that makes it a fun gift...if you're willing to part with $150 ;-)

  9. IntelliScanner - I like geeky stuff like this, obviously. But apparently, it's all pricey. That said, imagine how much scanning you could get done with this little baby!

  10. Hola Ola - Easy open silicone storage containers sound ideal for the busy cook.

  11. A list of cookbooks from NPR. I find cookbooks rather subjective, and while I like some of these, my list would be different. Get a feel for the recipient to see what his or her library needs.

  12. Tengu by Mr. Jones - OK, this is just precious. Ridiculous, but precious.

  13. Music!! Share some of the more unique flavors of your music collection. I love buying music on iTunes, but Amazon now sells music online, too.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Recipe: Angel Food Cake

It's been a long time in the making.

I've been wanting to make and angel food cake for a while now, but I haven't had the guts until just recently. I saw a Good Eats episode on the topic. Alton Brown gave some great tips and insight, and made it look easy enough, but I was put off from the task when a friend told me about her trouble with his recipe.

I found a recipe in Alice Waters' "The Art of Simple Food," which is actually very similar to Alton Brown's, so I tried it. Brown suggests using superfine sugar (aka caster or baker's sugar) in order to sift per the recipe, which can be purchased or made by blitzing the sugar for a couple of minutes in your food processor. As for the egg whites, I made an effort to store egg whites every time had an extra one (e.g., after yolk-only recipes). When I made the cake, I had only accumulated 9 whites, but the liquid volume came to 1.5 cups (the amount required for the Waters' recipe), so I didn't add more. The cake didn't seem to suffer as a result...just ask my husband ;-)

Keep in mind that the right pan is essential. The cake will not rise as well with a non-stick (or buttered) pan because it needs to climb the sides of the pan. I had a hard time finding a simple angel food cake pan with legs, but I finally found one at Joanne Fabric & Craft stores. Since then, I've also seen them at Smart & Final at a great price.

And remember...no egg yolks = less guilt. As long as you don't eat half the cake in one sitting :-)

Angel Food Cake
from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters

Tall, airy angel food cake is lovely just plain, but I usually serve it with summer fruit compote and whipped cream. Day-old angel food cake is delicious sliced thin and toasted.

10 servings

1 cup cake flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups egg whites (about 12 egg whites), at room temperature
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon orange flower water or rose water
3/4 cup sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Sift together the flour, 3/4 cup sugar, and salt.

In a medium bowl or in a stand mixer with the whip attachment, whisk the egg whites until frothy. Whisk in the water, lemon juice, cream of tartar, and rose water. Keep whisking until the foam is very soft, holds a slight shape, and has increased 4 to 5 times in volume. Whisk in the final 3/4 cup of sugar. Continue whisking until thye mixture forms glossy, soft peaks. The mixture should not be stiff or dry. Transfer to a large bowl. Sift a fine layer of the dry ingredients over the whites, and fold them in with a rubber spatula, gently and quickly. Continue sifting and folding until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 10- by 4-inch tube pan with a removable bottom. Smooth on top. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. When done the cake should spring back when touched gently. Invert the pan to keep the cake from sticking or deflating. (If the cake pan has legs, turn it over onto them, otherwise invert the tube pan onto the neck of a large bottle.) Cool completely.

To remove the cake from the pan, run a knife around the inside of the pan and around the center tube. Gently push up the bottom, using the knife to help guide the cake out, if necessary. Use a sharp serrated knife into water between cuts to help keep the cake from sticking.

The Joys of Parenthood

I got this via e-mail today, and I thought I'd share it with all of the pretty moms out there. Actually, I know dads can relate too, so it's really for all parents out there.

********************************************************
Before I was a Mom -
I never tripped over toys or forgot words to a lullaby.
I didn't worry whether or not my plants were poisonous.
I never thought about immunizations.

Before I was a Mom -
I had never been puked on.
Pooped on.
Chewed on.
Peed on.
I had complete control of my mind and my thoughts.
I slept all night.

Before I was a Mom -
I never held down a screaming child so doctors could do tests.
Or give shots.
I never looked into teary eyes and cried.
I never got gloriously happy over a simple grin.
I never sat up late hours at night watching a baby sleep.

Before I was a Mom -
I never held a sleeping baby just because I didn't want to put him down.
I never felt my heart break into a million pieces when I couldn't stop the hurt.
I never knew that something so small could affect my life so much.
I never knew that I could love someone so much.
I never knew I would love being a Mom.

Before I was a Mom -
I didn't know the feeling of having my heart outside my body.
I didn't know how special it could feel to feed a hungry baby.
I didn't know that bond between a mother and her child.
I didn't know that something so small could make me feel so important and happy.

Before I was a Mom -
I had never gotten up in the middle of the night every
10 minutes to make sure all was okay.
I had never known the warmth, the joy, the love, the heartache,the wonderment or the satisfaction of being a Mom.
I didn't know I was capable of feeling so much, before I was a Mom.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Legend of the Fall

Note: I thrive on puns.

It's hard running after a toddler. The jumping, the bouncing, the peeking, the arching...and the screaming from MetaMommy every time there's a near-miss.

There's a loud thump in the living room...wait for it...wait for it...no crying. We're safe.

Climbing the stairs, he sits to read a book. Don't worry, I caught him.

Walking across the clutter-free living room...stress-free...THUMP...wait for it....wait for it...WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!

How is it that of all the things that I've worried about since he's started walking, it's the simple act of carefree walking that resulted in his first bloody fall? His little teeth cut his lip. After a few cuddles and some cleaning, he was fine. He was sucking on his lip a bit, but he was smiling and playing again.

When he woke up this morning, he was fine. Well, except for the swollen purple lip and the traces of blood on his sheet. Let me tell you, every time I see that little lip, I have to give him a ridiculous hug. I'm sure he's wondering what's wrong with "mamamamamamama," but he's sweet enough to let me keep hugging him.

Now that that's out of the way, no more fall, right? Right!?!

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Cat Chatter

2 Cats Chatting:


2 Cats Chatting - Translated:

Friday, November 30, 2007

Around the Internet

Retirements Spark Air Traffic Controller Shortage - In 1981, Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers who went on strike. Guess what. That whole fleet of new controllers is now approaching retirement (25 years). And guess what the overworked and unhappy controllers are doing!

Netflix costs the post office way more than they bargained for. $21 million more, to be exact. Why? Because the envelopes, which are designed to allow the post office to sort them with machines, get snagged on their back back from customers because of frayed edges.

Game for a Cause: Free Rice

Game for the Halibut: Face Off via the Island Life - If you think you know your celebs, prepare to get served.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

13 Thoughts About the U.S. Dollar and the Economy

I'm no economist, but I read a few things here and there that catch my attention. With the writers' strike in effect, I look to the stumbling economy for entertainment. Here are 13 thoughts about the U.S. dollar, finance, and the economy.


DOLLAR VALUE
  1. Tourists from Canada, South America, etc. are traveling to the U.S. for bargain basement deals, despite the travel hassles. I've never known the U.S. dollar to be at par with its Canadian counterpart, so this was a real testament to the current state of the economy.

  2. Foreign tourists will no longer be able to pay the entrance fee at the Taj Mahal in dollars. Apparently, the 22% decline in the dollar impacted India's tourism revenue.

  3. As the dollar decreases in value compared to the Euro (a/o today,$1.47 buys 1.00 Euro), dollar holders have less spending power because imports are more expensive. As Americans buy less, European exporters sales decrease, thereby impacting their economy.

  4. In 2005, the Chinese Yuan was revalued so that it would no longer be tied to a fixed rate against the U.S. currency. As the Chinese economy gets stronger and the U.S. dollar weakens, I'm curious to know if this has impacted our Chinese imports. I haven't seen an analysis of it, though.

  5. Oil is purchased in dollars. What does that mean?
    "Oil producers sell their products in dollars. These dollars are used to purchase other goods in international markets. As the dollar lost its value starting in 2002, oil producers could afford to buy less in international markets with their dollars. To compensate for this loss of buying power, they may have raised the dollar price for oil."
    MONEY & THE ECONOMY

  6. Rapper Jay-Z and other celebs are touting the Euro, not the dollar. And just when I figured out what cheese is.

  7. Another possible rate cut, brought to you by the Fed. Bernanke's feeling the strain on the economy caused by the housing and mortgage mess, higher gas prices, tighter credit conditions, and stock declines, which means he's open to another drop in the fed rate.

  8. Banks Pay the Price for Risky Mortgage Bets - Financial institutions have been making a mint by employing a complex system where they bundle mortgages into one item and sell it to other major financial institutions. Some bundles are riskier than others. Back and forth, back and forth these bundles went until the real estate market started to soften. The backup plan on handling all high-risk loans was based on the theory that real estate goes up, not down; a borrower facing default could sell the property and pay off the loan. Once property values started dropping, selling the property was no longer viable. An obvious factor in the billions being written of at financial institutions this year. I'd like to know their profits on these transactions prior to this year, though.

  9. Reading Pays- Especially When It Comes to Credit Card Updates - Here's an interesting tip that I didn't know about. In the tiny text of the mind-numbing amendments to your credit card agreement, you might find an option to reject changes such as APR increases by writing a letter. That's worth skimming it over a bit closer going forward, methinks.

  10. Be Careful When Police and Firefighters Ask for Money - In general, I don't make donations to any organizations that contact me. I have a few organizations that I routinely donate to, and if I'm considering a donation outside of that circle, I research their efforts at Just Give.

  11. Plonkee addresses the reasons why people don't donate to charities, and knocks them off one by one. My take on it is that if you have money to spend on gifts for others, then you have enough money to donate to those who need your help. 'Tis the season to give 'til it hurts, people ;-)

  12. In the excitement of buying a home, first time home owners don't always think about the non-mortgage related costs, which can be significant. The biggest, for us, is property taxes, which in California increases about 1% annually. Other states property taxes are fixed to the market value of the property (see tips here for contesting property assessment), which seems to me as a frustrating liability. I like knowing what I owe and not having it tied to a vague estimate of market values.

  13. Speaking of housing, it looks like prices are still falling, for a net 13% from this time last year. I can tell you that although the median sales price for a new home is now $217,800, it's closer to half a million in Los Angeles. Since this is the median, a substantial number of homes here are in the million dollar range, which means that for the past few years, first-time home buyers had the choice of opting for a questionable loan (e.g., no interest, zero money down), or continuing to rent

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Stuffed

Ah, memories.

This is what I felt like after Thanksgiving...mmm...cranberry sauce

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Around the Internet

Winds of Change Blow into Roscoe, Texas - A small town gets a new lease on life with wind farms.

Google Goes Green - They're trying to make up for all of the electricity they use by masterminding some innovative power generating methods. A google of them, if you will.

Finally, a proposal to get seat belts in school buses. Yay!

Whimsy Cards - Mmm...greeting cards.

NBC Turns to Tivo Data - Finally, maybe Tivo will make a dollar. Though it sounds like viewer's preferences will be part of that new revenue source. Doh!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mind the Gap

Nooooooooo!! Emma Clark? Fired?!? Say it ain't so!!

OK, I didn't really know her name before this article, but I knew the voice. And if you've been to London and riden the Underground, you do too. She's the voice that you hear saying "mind the gap" as the doors close.

Did she get canned due to her proclamation that "she no longer used the Tube because it was 'dreadful'." Or was it because of a little slagging on her own website. Hey, what's so bad about a little humor? (e.g., "We would like to remind our American tourist friends that you are almost certainly talking too loud.")

He said, she said. We may never know the truth.

Note: "Mind the Gap" is not to be confused with "Mind the GAAP." If you're an accountant, you're groaning in pain right now.

Shark Infested Upgrades

I love technology, but I don't like maintaining it. And I love that MetaDaddy loves technology enough to go to the pains to maintain it.

That said, this cartoon is ridiculously close to home. Not that we ever have a plethora of non-working stuff...I'm just saying...



Note to MetaDaddy: No, this isn't you! You're fabulous with techie stuff. I'm just saying, remember that Mac? Totally not your fault, obviously, but remember it? Ya, I thought so.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Dinner These Days

This reminds me of dinner these days. Can you relate?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

A Beach, A Book, and A Pie

A day filled with interesting novelties for us.
  • Went for a walk on the beach and actually walked on sand. It was too cold for us to get in the water, though that didn't stop local surfers from taking the challenge. Instead, we scurried up and down the sand with our camera. Once MetaBaby got used to walking on the wettish sand, he was running and giggling like a pro.

  • I'm in the groove of my bookclub book, Middlesex. After having it on our "maybe" list for years, we finally gave in. It's a great read, and I'm at that stage where it's hard to put it down. In another lifetime, I'd be staying up until the crack of dawn to finish it.

  • We made Nigella Lawson's Chicken Pot Pie. It wasn't quite express as far as I'm concerned, but it was really tasty. In terms of prep, we only had to chop the bacon, mushrooms, chicken, and coat the chicken in a flour & thyme mixture. Honestly, the hardest part was managing to get the puff pastry on the ready dish.
Don't you love weekends?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Fun in Downtown Santa Monica

All sorts of fun stuff happening in Downtown Santa Monica. From a man-made ice skating rink, to a snow hill, it looks like the city's trying to bring everyone here for a good time. No, seriously...everyone!

Sure, it sounds like fun, but get there early to avoid traffic, as it's usually intense without this fanfare. You've got restaurants, movies, shopping, and the beach all within blocks. And now, snow in 70 degree weather. What more could you ask for?

Note: While this all sounds like fun, I will not say I'm proud of Santa Monica's efforts. Some events, like the ice rink, all seem like a significant and unnecessary drain on energy and resources. For a city that proclaims itself to be green and eco-friendly, I don't see how these actions fit with that model.

Oh, and it's brought to you by Starbucks.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Deals

It seems all everyone talks about this time of year is Black Friday. After the feast, but before resuming work, it's time to shop. Historically, Black Friday is the day of the year where retailers make enough money to go from being in the red (negative earnings) to in the black (positive earnings). I've never been into the whole idea of camping out to get a good deal on a big television, but if that's your cup of tea, make sure to do your research. BF Ads, for example, has plenty of ads listed to make sure you map out your conquests well.

Others might want to go the warm and comfy route of Cyber Monday, a sales bonanza that takes place online only on the Monday following Thanksgiving. If you're thinking of trying it out, make sure you take a few tips from this Fool (#4 is the best tip for all online shopping!):
  1. Check out comparison-shopping tools - Sites such as Cool Savings, Google Product Search, Shopzilla, and Street Prices, plus Deal News' companion sites, offer tools to compare prices.
  2. Re-sort and revisit - Some comparison websites deliver results skewed by ad dollars -- with the stores paying for placement getting top billing or activated links to their storefront. Try loading results based on price, location, rating, or other criteria to get a true view of the shopping landscape.
  3. Fill in the blanks - To capture results from retailers that may not be included in comparison sites and check on the latest promotions, type in the URL of stores directly to see whether their latest promotions are worthwhile.
  4. Erase your electronic footprints - Delete all cookies from your browser and search again another day. You want to make sure you're getting as good a price on an item as a first-time visitor to the website is. Some e-tailers serve up your old, cached search results (and old prices) if you've browsed there before.
  5. Compare clicks and mortar - Does your favorite store have an online shop? Sign up for its newsletter and get advance notice of sales and subscriber-only coupons. And also compare online and offline prices -- they aren't always identical.
  6. Crack the code - If you shop online, don't lose out by leaving the "enter promotional code here" box blank. Get the scoop on possible savings at sites such as Current Codes and Coupon Cabin. Also try typing in the retailer's name and "coupon code" in your search engine.
To be honest, I'm not really interested in either. We're not really in the market for anything we've seen in ads lately, and we try to avoid getting lured in to needless purchases. Besides, given the state of the economy per the Starbucks test, we might have some pretty good sales to look forward to before Christmas, without the crowds ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Over the years, I've ruined my fair share of meals. The most riveting of which was probably the one where I made pork chops with scalloped potatoes for my in-laws, only to find out that the pork chops I got were far thicker than the usual ones, and our oven was on the fritz. The meal, which took hours instead of 40 minutes (or so it felt) had to be saved by a few sneaky tricks, none of which came from my obviously limited arsenal of know-how.

Some thrive on stress. I am not one of those some.

Hence, I've learned a couple of things about me and the kitchen.
  • I am not to make a meal or any portion thereof for the first time in a stressful situation.
  • I am not to over-complicate the menu. One complicated thing maybe, but no more.
  • I am not to over-commit myself to cooking more than I can handle without stressing out MetaDaddy.
  • If I'm not enjoying my kitchen labor to some degree, everyone will suffer.
So, as Thanksgiving comes to a close, I would like to say I did none of that. Mostly because we ate out with some friends. It was stressful on other levels. MetaBaby, who napped and ate well, is still but a toddler, and as such, short on patience. MetaDaddy took the brunt of the force by holding and walking with him a lot. It turns out, he ate lots of turkey when he got a moment, but forgot to savor in any vegetables. Don't worry...the feast was grand, so he got plenty. He just didn't get as much of the green beans and mashed potato as he would have liked. *le sigh*

On the bright side, we got to take home some leftovers, so we're having turkey sandwiches tomorrow. Yet, we don't have 15 pounds of leftover turkey in the fridge. Whew!! And I didn't go nuts arranging the whole thing. That said, if we had done it at home, I would have ordered part of the meal so the ordeal would have been kept to a minimum. As a compromise, that's probably what we'll do next year. After all, we might have some turkey left over, but no cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. And that's just sad.

And now for something completely different: A Psychedelic Thanksgiving

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday, and good luck with all of your Black Friday endeavors ;-)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Around the Internet

George Clooney Tells Off Paparazzi - Anyone who's a danger on the streets deserves to be corrected. Good for Clooney for stopping to remind the photographer of his irresponsible behavior. Unfortunately, said photographer obviously went on the sell the footage...ugh.

101 thoughts on losing 100 pounds via Chief Family Officer - I'm generally not allowed to put my two cents in on weight matters because I don't "appear" to have any weight issues. Every now and then, I feel like I could lose a couple of pounds, but it's not something I would say to most people because they'd just get annoyed and laugh at me. Whatever. When I see great tips and reminders on how to maintain a healthy diet that will impact your waistline, I get excited. Food is not the enemy!

Holiday Express Lane for Flyers - Delays and traveler woes were nowhere near as bad as everyone feared. The additional "express lanes" helped, I'm sure.

Rotten Neighbor - What to do if your neighbor's lame. Grr.

Airlines Scramble for Fresh Options for Travelers - Scott McCartney from the Wall Street Journal breaks down the new flight options out there for air travel this year, from no-frills airlines, to all business class models. Now if they could all just depart on time, we'd all be set.

Incidentally, Scott McCartney writes a column for the Wall Street Journal. While most of the site is still subscription based, that's going to change. Rupert Murdoch wants to make the Wall Street Journal Online free, possibly as soon as his purchase of Dow Jones is completed next month. I'll keep you posted ;-)

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

L.A. is Huge!

If you ever wondered why the City of Los Angeles is so complicated and hard to manage, take a look at this map. The colored area of this map is the city, not county of Los Angeles, which includes the light gray area. It's HUGE! Los Angeles is comprised of a ridiculous number of communities, many of which represent our unique melting pot, such as Korea Town and China Town. There are a few wealthier cities that have seceded from Los Angeles, such as Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, and Burbank. Those cities tend to function a bit better because money stays local and the city has the flexibility to move slealthily to resolve problems. Some argue that the loss of revenue to the city of L.A. negatively impacts the remaining low income residents.

Like I said, complicated and hard to manage.

And just to give you a bit of perspective on the size of the city versus the metro system, here's another map. It's what commuters here call "a joke."

Monday, November 19, 2007

Campari and Wine

MetaDaddy likes Campari, so I thought of him when I read this article on the Bicyclette, a drink made of nearly equal parts Campari and white wine created by Fergus Henderson. He's an oddball chef (odd to me, not to Tony Bourdain) who has made a living on “nose to tail eating,” which essentially means he eats what most don't. Snouts? Trotters? Brain? He's got a recipe for those. And if you stop by his restaurant in London, St. John, you might even be lucky enough to find his braised squirrel.

Oy, and I thought I didn't like Campari.

Via Becks and Posh

Sunday, November 18, 2007

L.A. Auto Show and SUVs

The L.A. Auto Show is this weekend (video clip here). We're not going this year because there isn't enough to entertain MetaBaby. That said, if we really wanted to go, we probably could. We just don't care that much. It's interesting to see all of the new models and prototypes, though. And this year like in all other industries, the green models are getting all of the hype.

Update:
Later that day, Toyota got stumped (via Emerald City). Personally, I don't understand hybrid SUVs. The SUV is really just an unfortunate compromise between having a reasonable car, and an useful minivan. We have a Volkswagon Jetta, which is agile and has spectacular trunk space. We have never come short of space, including a drive up to the mountains when we took luggage, a playpen, stroller, food, and other baby essentials. In speaking to some friends, they've actually said how small the interior to their SUVs are. One said that his high end SUV that can't even accommodate his rear-facing infant car seat in any position except the middle back seat.

If you think you really need a larger car, make sure you're making the right choice. A well proportioned 4 door sedan can be spacious, easier to drive, cheaper to operate (especially with soaring gas prices), and easier to park than an SUV. A minivan will offer you more seats, as wells as a more spacious and flexible interior. But an SUV costs more to operate, isn't as spacious as a minivan, and is harder to drive and park (e.g., no compact spots).

I'm just saying.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Random Quote: Mark Twain

"A baby is an inestimable blessing and bother."
-- Mark Twain

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Funny Commercial

I saw this commercial and nearly hypreventilated. It's the last bit that made me want to watch it again and again and again...

Around the Internet

Why now might not be the time to invest in a mutual fund - An easily forgotten bit of information, in case you're looking to invest right now.

8 secret credit scores you don't know about and Beyond your FICO (via Chief Family Officer) - A couple of posts on Liz Pulliam Weston's article about the nuances to your credit rating. It's not just enough to watch your credit score because that's not the only information lenders have access to. Good information to keep in mind when evaluating your credit image with lenders

Trading in old electronics - Costco will pay you for your old consumer electronics, which might or might not be worth it. Whatever you do, make sure you dispose of your electronics responsibly (e.g., donate or take it to the dump).

Biodegradable Diapers via Sustainable Works - Really biodegradable, made with a corn based material. This also means they're breathable, less bulky, and soft to the touch. They are, however, pretty pricey ($15.99 per package or $59.95 per box of 4 packages), and they're hard to find. If the trend catches on, availability and pricing should adjust accordingly. Stuff to ponder. Do you want to lead or be led?

Contact lens case - Sure you can get free ones, but this one's plain clever. If you travel, or you misplace your case often, this might be your ticket to peace of mind.

Funny stuff on Craigs List via David Lebovitz - Examples (I could list dozens, but I'll keep it brief in an attempt to keep you on my good side):

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Oxford’s Word of the Year: Locavore

Locavore is Oxford's word of the year.
"The past year saw the popularization of a trend in using locally grown ingredients, taking advantage of seasonally available foodstuffs that can be bought and prepared without the need for extra preservatives."
Other runners-up include:
  • mumblecore - an independent film movement featuring low-budget production, non-professional actors, and largely improvised dialogue.

  • colony collapse disorder - a still-unexplained phenomenon resulting in the widespread disappearance of honeybees from beehives, first observed in late 2006.

  • upcycling - the transformation of waste materials into something more useful or valuable.

    and my favorite

  • cougar - an older woman who romantically pursues younger men.
Rrrrrreeow

13 Gift Ideas for Kids

The number of toys that have been recalled for one reason or another is atrocious. It's really got me thinking that I don't want just anything for MetaBaby because you don't know the integrity of the item. This goes double if you haven't had the opportunity to vet the item in question. That said, what do you do when Christmas or birthdays come around? People want to give your son gifts because they care about you and him, and they want to see that little face light up (his, not yours). So it's hard to say "please don't give my child a gift." It's not fair to the giver or to the kid.

I'm also torn because of my aforementioned resistance to buying too many toys.

Well, there are always ways to compromise. There are good, safe toys that MetaBaby could benefit from, so I made a wishlist for him at Amazon. It includes items like books, music (that I wouldn't hate), and a few safe toys. Of course, there are always other things, but those would involve conversations. For example, MetaNana got MetaBaby one of the cutest little wooden trikes I've ever seen, and it was perfect because he didn't have one. He uses it all the time, and it allows him to express his dangerous side (i.e., standing on the seat!!).

That said, I figured I'd compile a list of 13 other gift ideas to give or be given that:
  • don't break the bank
  • are useful to parents and kids
  • potentially good learning experiences
  • are not plastic, over-packaged, blinking things made in China
This is just a start, so feel free to add on with more ideas :-)
  1. Get something small to keep the little one happy, and make the real gift a deposit into a 529 account.
  2. Homemade "coupon" for something fun with you, like a day at the zoo or museum.
  3. Give homemade sweets (e.g., cookies, chocolates).
  4. Take a cooking or baking class together. Or a "class" where you teach the little one how to cook or bake.
  5. A few seeds and other relevant items to plant something (e.g., flowers, herbs, tomatoes).
  6. Tickets to a favorite event.
  7. A class or series of classes (e.g., dance, art, something at a local museum).
  8. Pick a favorite non-profit organization to donate to (e.g., cute of Oxfam).
  9. Perhaps the instructions, tools, and help in building something (e.g., soapbox car, or check out The Dangerous Book for Boys or The Daring Book for Girls from the library for more ideas).

    From New Dream:
  10. The makings for hand puppets: Brown lunch bags, googly eyes, stray buttons, scissors, markers, etc.
  11. Box of dress up clothes: Old dresses, high heel shoes, cowboy boots, collared shorts, and millions of other fun outfit ideas can all be found at thrift or second-hand stores have great selections.

    From Suite 101:
  12. Gift certificates to a local movie theatre.
  13. Art supplies (e.g., construction paper, paints, crayons) to replenish the back-to-school box.

Side Note: This is not a cheap gift, but it's an interesting one. Between November 12 and November 26 only, the One Laptop per Child program has made available their revolutionary XO computer.
For a donation of $399, one XO laptop will be sent to empower a child in a developing nation and one will be sent to the child in your life in recognition of your contribution. $200 of your donation is tax-deductible (your $399 donation minus the fair market value of the XO laptop you will be receiving).
Perhaps it sounds crazy to give a destructive toddler a computer, but consider the following per David Pogue, guru to the geeks:
  • Spillproof
  • Rainproof
  • Dustproof
  • Drop-proof
  • Fanless
  • Silent
  • Powered by a solar panel (6 hours, or 24 if reading) (2,000 recharge cyles, 4 times more than the average laptop)
  • Weighs 3.2 lbs.
  • Built-in video camera, microphone, memory-card slot, graphics tablet, game-pad controllers and a screen that rotates into a tablet configuration.
  • Runs on Linux (only geeks care about this one ;-)

Amazon's Customers Vote

If you like deals, check out Amazon's "Customers Vote", which started today.

How This Works

The products that get the most votes in each of six rounds will be offered at ridiculous winning prices, and the runners-up will also be sold at slightly smaller discounts. (But they'll still be sweet deals.)

Step 1: Vote. Browse our six rounds of great products, and vote for the ones you’d like to buy at an amazing discount.
Step 2: Check back. Come back on each round's buying day to see if you were randomly selected to get a deal on the product you voted for in that round.

Keep in mind:
  • You're only eligible to be offered a deal on the products that you vote for.
  • You may vote in all six rounds on the same day if you like.
  • You cannot change your vote.
  • You must return to this page on the buying day for each round to find out whether you were randomly selected to be offered a deal on the product you voted for.
  • If you're offered a deal, be sure to check out soon, as the offer is good for a limited time only.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Recipe: Pasta alla Puttanesca

I was always against pasta alla puttanesca in restaurants because of the anchovies. I finally gave it a try, and the bold flavors left me craving more for weeks. You don't get "fishy," but a salty depth of flavor that works very well with it's neighbors.

I found this recipe in Alice Waters' cookbook The Art of Simple Food. I was struck by how easy it was, so I mustered up the courage to touch the anchovies. It should be noted that after dinner, the tin of remaining anchovies was sitting on the counter. My husband walked up...and ate them. Ewwww.....

The recipe was quick and painless. It's really too much for two, so we saved the rest for a future meal. Bonus meal!

Pasta alla Puttanesca
Makes about 2 cups

Pasta for 2

1/3 cup olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce
3 tablespoon capers, rinsed, drained, and chopped
1/4 cup pitted black olives, chopped
1/4 teaspoon (or more) dried chile flakes
1/4 cup chopped parsley
3 salt-packed anchovies, soaked, filleted, and chopped (I used anchovies packed in oil)

Cook the pasta per the packages' instructions.

Into a heavy saucepan over medium heat, pour the olive oil and garlic. When the garlic starts to sizzle, add everything but the anchovies and cook for 5 minutes. Add the anchovies and cook for a minute or two. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

Remove half the sauce from the pan and add the pasta to the pan. Stir to coat and serve.

Michelin Starring Los Angeles - Follow Up

Maybe Los Angeles restaurants don't have much to worry about. I have no intention of purchasing a Michelin guide. Honestly, Chowhound is my go-to place for local food info. And from this post, it sounds like the Los Angeles Michelin guide is a bit clueless about their muse. If you don't "get" Asian food, you don't "get" Los Angeles food.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nursing a Toddler

Nursing a toddler isn't quite what I expected. That said, I didn't expect much. I didn't really think about it at all. I figured I'd nurse as long as things worked out well. My frame of mind was that if something happened that made it too challenging, we would quit. Hopefully, we'd get at least 6 months.

I had a c-section, and I heard we might have trouble nursing as a result. We didn't.

I got mastitis, and it was really challenging to continue nursing, but it was also the best cure because it helped with the engorgement.

After that, nursing has been a breeze, and it's aided us through a lot of situations. It's served to feed MetaBaby when he was hungry, settle him in unfamiliar situations (e.g., airplane), and calm him enough to sleep when overly tired. It's also been a comfort to him when he's under stress, like when he's teething.

It's amusing to note the changes in how he nurses though. When he was really young, I cradled him with the aid of My Brest Friend (yes, that's what it's actually called, and it works like a dream because it protected my c-section scar) until he got too big for it. When he got too big and active for cradling, I tried a different approach that has worked quite well up until now. I sit him on my lap facing me, and if he's feeling cuddly, he can hug me. However, he usually feels more like dinner and a show, so he entertains himself by playing with my belly...the one he stretched out. And he laughs. Cute? Yes. Mean? Oh ya! He also lets me know he's hungry by walking up to me and lifting my shirt. Fortunately, he hasn't started doing that parlor trick in public yet. *le sigh*

I'm not sure how much longer nursing will last. Currently, he's only feeding once in the morning and once at night. It certainly doesn't offer him enough to stave off hunger since he usually ends up asking for "more" once he's finished. I figure he'll regress once teething flares up again. Only time will tell.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Nursing from the Other Side


MetaMommy only knows it from this side of the fence. There is no way I would have been able to capture the male sentiment as succinctly as Greg at Daddytypes has.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Things That Annoy Me: Week in Review

  1. A woman on a non-crowded street coughed on me.

  2. I saw what looked like the uneaten remains of a cat's dinner.

  3. We went to the park and MetaBaby touched sand. He looked at his hands in shock and wonder, as if to say "what is this odd substance on my hands and why won't it come off?" Obvious next step: he licked his hand.

  4. Netflix says there's a "short wait" on Ratatouille. Don't know if this bothers me that much after seeing #2 (above).

  5. Between making dinner and leftovers, I couldn't justify eating out at all this week. Le sigh.

  6. No more dinners at Joe's Restaurant in Venice after their Michelin star.

M6 Convertible Kids' Cars

No, we're not getting this for MetaBaby. But it sure does get my heart thumping. I sure would have cooed for one when I was a kid. In fact, I think I might have.

I wonder if they come in green.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Banning rBST Labeling

Andrew Martin at the New York Times reported on the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's decision to get on my nerves. Specifically,
"Pennsylvania is banning labels on milk and dairy products that say it comes from cows that haven’t been treated with artificial bovine growth hormone, which is sometimes known as rBGH or rBST. State officials say the labels are confusing and impossible to verify."
Farmers use recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST) to increase a cow's production of milk by a gallon or more a day. The point of concern isn't with the use of the hormone, which is considered safe by the FDA, but with the "absence labeling,” which tells consumers what isn't in food instead of what is. While I don't see this happening in California, I don't like the trend since officials in Ohio are considering it, too.

Dennis Wolff, Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary, took a position that directly impacts the diet of his state's residents, and Martin questions him on his loyalties.
Rather, Mr. Wolff is bucking consumer demand, which will benefit Monsanto [rBST manufacturer] and a bunch of whiny dairy farmers. Monsanto certainly doesn’t need his help. On Thursday, the company told investors that its gross profits should double in the next five years. And I find it hard to muster sympathy for farmers who refuse to change to meet consumer demands. Most businesses certainly don’t have that luxury.
I find this a terribly frustrating ruling since I don't find the state of food in the United States to be as safe as it should be. When foods are being treated with hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc., I want to know so I can avoid them. I'll pay the extra dollar if it means I can feel better about what I feed my family.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Michelin Starring Los Angeles

A most excellent friend told me about the Michelin *oopsie* this week. It's nice to know I'm not the only one making *oopsies* these days.

The L.A. Times reported that the finicky folks over at Michelin, the French-based food rating guide that has led kitchens to greatness or catastrophe, inadvertently revealed their Los Angeles and Las Vegas ratings results on their website before their official release.

Besides the prestige of receiving a star, the article points out that an increase in business is inevitable.
With Michelin stars come prestige, but stars also bring business. "It was one of the single greatest factors in affecting our business and the demographic of our clientele," says David Kinch, chef-owner of Manresa in Los Gatos. Last year the restaurant received two stars when the "Michelin Guide San Francisco, Bay Area & Wine Country" was published for the first time. "It changed everything. It's been amazing. Visitors coming from all over the world. All of a sudden we became a part of the trail."
You'll find the fully leaked list for Los Angeles here, which includes 3 two star restaurants ( "Excellent cooking and worth a detour"), and 15 one star ("A very good restaurant in its category").

Side Note: This became much more annoying when I realized that Joe's Restaurant in Venice received a star. It was busy enough when it was one of our favorite restaurants. Now, it'll be impossible to get into...much less with a high chair. *le sigh*

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Converting From Non-Stick

Most non-stick cookware is coated with teflon, the primary chemical of which is called perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA). This allows for wonderful things like omelettes, crepes, and muffins to cook or bake without sticking to it's surface. A great technological marvel. However, if heated above a certain temperature, this chemical gives off a toxic fume that has been known to kill birds (more susceptible due to their unique anatomy), and can cause respiratory problems in humans. A response to a query in the Austin Chronicle breaks down the potential dangers to using Teflon pretty well.
The main problem seems to be that when Teflon is heated to temperatures higher than about 450 degrees (twice the temperature of boiling water) it produces toxic particles and fumes that can deposit in the lungs. At higher temperatures, 680 degrees, other worrisome substances are given off, but many of them are poorly investigated. These temperatures can be reached if a pan is left sitting on a normal kitchen stove burner set on "high" for as little as five minutes. The "take-home" lesson is to use Teflon only to cook at lower temperatures.
I'd heard about the dangers of teflon on non-stick pans for a while, but I chose to ignore them. How bad could it really be? I was talking to a friend about it and her husband, who had done a significant amount of research on the topic, was dead set against using non-stick. That brought back my nagging doubts. Should I be dead set against it, too? It's actually quite easy to overheat an empty pan, so how could I be sure I wasn't heating the surface beyond safe levels? When I got pregnant, I decided it was time to switch over.

Our non-stick pots and pans were getting old, anyway. Once they become scratched, it's time to get rid of them because scratches increase the chances of getting toxic bits in your food. There are pros and cons to every kind of cookware, but the health risks were the issues that influenced my decisions the most. I did a lot of research and decided on 3 different kinds of pans.

Calphalon Contemporary Stainless Steel 8-Piece Cookware Set - While I didn't necessarily want a set, this one fit the bill at a lower price than buying the few individual pieces I wanted. The going price was about the same everywhere I checked, so I bought it at Bed Bath and Beyond with a 20% coupon, and it came with a bonus $50 BBB gift card. I chose this stainless steel set as the foundation for our cookware collection because I wanted a metal that has fewer health risks (proven or not). Unlike other sets, this one is dishwasher safe. While they're relatively easy to clean, they can be hard to keep in pristine condition. I'm hardly interested in that, though. If I want to stare at something, I'll go stare at MetaBaby.

A few cleaning tips:
  • Always wipe dry after washing to prevent spotting. Spots and marks can be removed with equal parts vinegar and water.
  • Do not use brushes or sponges that can scratch the surface.
  • To avoid salts stains, do not add salt to your food until the contents are boiling.
  • Remove calcium deposits by boiling water with some white vinegar. Allow your pan to cool, then wash with warm, soapy water.
Pros: Easy to clean, no health concerns, dishwasher safe, handles on pans stay cool while cooking, stovetop & oven friendly, browns food nicely, safe to use with acidic foods (e.g., tomatoes)

Cons: Difficult to keep in pristine condition, not non-stick, clear lids not as useful as I anticipated

Pre Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet - A seasoned cast iron skillet has the benefit of being naturally non-stick once seasoned. It's truly easy to maintain. Just wipe it down after use, preferably while warm, and never use soap on it. It took a bit of getting used to because it's not very reactive to changes in temperature. That is, if you lower the heat, it takes a while for the temperature to adjust accordingly.

Pros: Inexpensive, conducts heat evenly, stovetop & oven friendly, browns food nicely, increases iron in food, non-stick if seasoned, can last forever if cared for properly

Cons: Heavy, can rust if not dried after washing, slow to adjust to heat changes, can't use with acidic foods (e.g., tomato) because leaches too much iron into the food, not dishwasher safe

Le Creuset 5.5 quart round oven - I had wanted one of these pots for ages. I finally decided to bite the bullet when I made the transition. The going price seemed to be the same everywhere, but I found this pot on sale at Bloomingdale's, where I also had a gift card. I ended up paying 50% of the original price out of my own pocket, so it felt like destiny.
This pot goes from stove-top to oven without a hitch. It cleans in no time, and is a great size to do a variety of foods, so I end up using it almost daily. This is definitely my "go to" pot. And all at a bargain price. That said, I love this one so much, if something happened to it today, I'd go out and buy another one tomorrow.
I purchased a Le Creuset, but there are other manufacturers out there. I'm sure used ones would be well worth a try, too. Here are some cleaning tips for any type of enameled cast iron.

Pros: Easy to clean, no health concerns, stovetop & oven friendly, browns food nicely, safe to use with acidic foods, non-stick, can last forever if cared for properly, conducts heat evenly

Cons: Heavy, dishwasher safe (but too heavy to try), paint can chip

Here are a few types of cookware that I don't have any personal experience with, but appear interesting.

Soapstone Cookware - Oven-, stovetop-, grill-safe; ; not dishwasher safe; natural non-stick surface after curing; easy to clean

La Chamba Cookware - Made of natural clay; not dishwasher safe; oven-, microwave-, grill-safe

If you have any experience with these or other types of safe cookware, I'd love to hear your thoughts.