Sunday, September 30, 2007

Remember Your Daily Vitamin?

I always aim to take my daily vitamin, and I try to get my husband to take his, too. But it's hard! When we were both working, I would take both out and leave his on the counter next to his coffee. On his more cooperative days, the vitamin would vanish. That said, sometimes I would forget if I took the vitamins out. I would second-guess myself and I became really paranoid because I didn't want to take 2 vitamins daily.


My solution:
Every Sunday, I put one vitamin for each of us in each compartment of a 7-day pill organizer. I stored it in the cupboard next to the mugs, so we remembered when reaching for that all important first cup of coffee. Going forward, I always knew if I took my vitamin that day. And for that matter, I knew if I should remind him to take his :-)

Unfortunately, this is no longer a safe option for us. Toddlers and kids can get into 7-day pill organizers easily, which can be very dangerous. We'll have to go back to using the childproof bottles the vitamins came in and devise some new scheme to remember whether or not we took our vitamins.

Any suggestions welcome!!

Babyproofing Away from Home

When you visit someone's home with your infant or toddler, it can be a bit of a challenge to keep your little one safe, especially if you're staying overnight. For example, visiting his grandparent's home is a wonderful opportunity to share some quality time and create that family bonding that kids need. However, grandparents who don't have kids over often might unknowingly have some dangers in the home. It's not necessarily cheap or easy to babyproof a home, and if you're going for a short stay, it's probably not worth the time and expense. I found this list at EHow on how to quickly babyproof your home. There are some pretty good ideas here that are just common sense. For example, move plants, medications, vitamins, and delicate/breakable things out of reach. Also, close the front door and doors throughout the house (especially the bathroom door -- and lower the toilet lid). I might add that if there are breakable things, secure them with museum putty; it'll save breakables in the event of earthquakes, toddlers, and naturally clumsy people. You might also consider masking or invisible tape to cover outlets and tie up curtain cords. And from personal experience, keep floor lamps (and all other tall, lightweight items) out of reach so your walking wonder doesn't try to pull himself up with it.

Whatever you do, don't get carried away. All the safety measures in the world don't compare to a set of watchful eyes. And if you're visiting family, odds are everyone is going to be doting after your little one, which limits the amount of trouble s/he can get into.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Photo Hunt: Original

My sister-in-law's wedding cake. It's a cheese cake. Cheese as in Camembert. Soooooo good!!


Why Have I Been So Tired?

Oh, I've been so tired lately. Sleepy, sleepy, sleepy. Usually, if I get a few hours of uninterrupted sleep, I can at least cope through the day. But I just can't seem to find the energy to do more the the basic necessities these days.

Last night didn't help since after going to sleep, MetaBaby woke up at 9, 11 and 2:30. We threw out some theories, including teething and gas, but in the end, we were clueless. This morning, the culprit reared its ugly head. The kid has a cold. This also explains my exhaustion. It seems that I, too, have a cold. It's the kind that makes you tired, a little congested, and clouds your head a bit...nothing too bad, but enough to confuse and confound. It's the 3rd cold he's had; once at 3 months, 6 months, and now at 13 months. We had a good healthy stretch there. But he's touching more public things now that he's walking, and his hands still tend to make their way into his mouth pretty often. There's only so much I can protect him from.

*le sigh*

So our poor little Boogie is plagued with a runny nose and some cranky pants. I just hope he finally settles down and naps.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Quote: Albert Einstein

Play is the highest form of research.
-- Albert Einstein

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Blogosphere 9/27/07

Manpurse from David Lebovitz - Does a manbag make a man gay or just European. HI-LAR-I-OUS!!

Interesting History as told through NY Times articles from Kottke - Reports ranging from Lincoln's assassination to the sinking of the Titanic to the first mention of television as a concept. Nice place to go scavenging for history, n'est pas?

She's Geeky via Blogher - Lots of she-geeks out there, it seems.

Green Birthday Parties at EnviroMom - Tips and ideas on green and frugal birthday parties that kids will love. Time to start thinking out of the box :-)

Home Made Doll House at Juggling Frogs - You have to check out this attention to detail. Not impossible, but thorough.

California's Unclaimed Property Search

In the state of California, unclaimed property goes to the state. The original intent was "for the State to both (a) safeguard lost property from being used by private interests for their own gain, and (b) reunite the lost property with their rightful owners." Items from safe deposit boxes, deposit checks, refund checks, etc. find their way to this database. Though I like to think I'm pretty good about keeping up on things like rebates and refunds, I like checking this website every now and then to make sure I'm not leaving any money on the table. I also like to check friend's names. If I find any, I email them the info so they can follow up. Feels good to do good, no? My most recent search yielded a find for 3 friends. Woo Hoo!

California's Unclaimed Property

Note: Our homeowners' association recently received a letter from the state regarding a refund check from an insurance company dating back 10 years. The name of the property owner was wrong, so there's really no way we would have found it. If you are a member of an HOA, or if you own/work for a company that might have unclaimed property, be sure to search under those names, too, as you never know what you might find.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

13 Things About Chile


In honor of the independence day I...um...forgot to mention :-o

Happy September 18th!
  1. Chile's national dance is the cueca. Women who dance "la cueca" alone do so to symbolize women's struggle against the dictatorship.

  2. Doesn't look a day over 175, and yet celebrates its bicentennial in 2010; free from Spain the 18th of September, 1810.

  3. The current elected president, Michelle Bachelet, is the first female president in Chilean history. She was inaugurated March 11, 2006.

  4. Chileans call their country "país de poetas" (land of poets). They have two winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda. Incidentally, when Neruda was a kid, he knew Mistral.

  5. It's about twice the size of California, stretching 2,880 miles long, and 265 miles at its widest point east to west. It's wedged between 3,998 miles of coastline and the Andes (the longest mountain range in the world) with an average width of less than 110 miles in between.















    The Moai statues at Ahu Akivi, Easter Island. Photo: Jason Devitt"

  6. Easter Island is part of Chile.

  7. Chile has 3 regional extremes: temperate; desert in north; Mediterranean in central region; cool and damp in south

  8. It has some severe natural hazards to contend with: severe earthquakes; active volcanism; tsunamis

  9. The Chilean Seabass is actually called the Patagonian Toothfish.

  10. If you live in the northern hemisphere and want to go skiing in the middle of summer, Portillo's got you covered.

  11. Chile charges a $100 reciprocity fee in cash after your long, long, long flight, but before you're allowed to officially "enter" the country. It's good for the life of the passport, though.

  12. There is an abundance of seafood and produce, and all of it is eaten with lemon. It seems every meal I was served in a restaurant was accompanied by a lemon. In fact, I do not know one person of Chilean roots that does not like lemon. Eating a lemon is not just tolerated, it's expected. Note: this will wreak havoc on the enamel of your teeth.

  13. A popular coffee shop in Santiago: Cafe con Piernas (coffee with legs).

Fendi Fashion



It always strikes me as odd to see stuff like this for sale at Costco, even if the price is discounted:

Fendi Handbag $1,129.99

Blogosphere: Food & Recipes

Tortilla de Patatas from Smitten Kitchen - This was a great recipe adapted from her new favorite Spanish cookbook, the New Spanish Table. I made it, and it came out delicious. It was not a quick recipe, though it was not too difficult. Best part? Leftovers that you can happily eat hot, warm, or cold. In fact, I'll be right back.

Halibut & Saffron Rice from Tiny Morsels - Looks mighty good, though I haven't tried it yet. It's on my radar for a future meal, though :-)

A Pig Farm - A beautiful post on farm life, pigs, and sustainability. An interesting quote from her post:
"Is it not ironic that we take naturally lean cattle, who just want to eat grass, and we raise them in feedlots to fatten them up while at the same time we take naturally fat pigs, and we breed all the fat out of them?"
Adults do the strangest things.

First NY Times Restaurant Review from Kottke - This is just funny. The way restaurants and food were regarded back in the day has certainly changed.
"The lights will be brilliant, the waiters will be curled and perfumed and gloved, the dishes will be strictly en règle and the wines will come with precision of clock-work that has been duly wound up."

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chilean Andes

Car Seat Safety

In the state of California, kids have to be in a car seat until age 6 and 60 pounds. Here's a chart to check out your state's seatbelt laws by age and weight. I don't remember ever having been in a car/booster seat as a child because it wasn't the law back then. In fact, I remember being allowed to sit in the bed of our pickup truck. It's amazing how things have changed. By all accounts, if I was a kid today, I'd be 12 before allowed out of my booster seat. I'm crossing my fingers for our wee little MetaBaby.

When we were debating car seats before MetaBaby was born, we did all sorts of research and just got more and more frustrated and confused. By all accounts, despite the huge range in prices, there was little that made us think more money meant more safety. More important, cheaper seats are not more dangerous. However, at some point we took a step back from the infant seats and began to research convertible seats. We knew the convenience factor of infant car seats was undeniable, since no one wants to wake a sleeping baby.

Here was our reasoning:
  • The more you move a car seat, the more opportunities there are to bump, bruise, or otherwise damage it. This might interfere with the ultimate goal of the car seat as a safety device.

  • Because the convertible seat is one unit, as opposed to two like the infant car seat, it seemed safer. Less parts to click together when securing, or break in a collision.

  • As a small person, it seemed like carrying around 10-15 lbs, plus the weight of the baby, was enough to do some potential damage to my back. I have enough back problems as it is.

  • Our goal was to wear our baby as much as possible. If we went out with him, we would put him in a sling. Keeping him in a car seat promoted less baby wearing.

  • It's not necessarily good for a baby to be in the same position all day. Having a convertible car seat forced us to move him around more. That is, we were less likely to leave him in the seat just because he fell asleep.
We finally decided on the Britax Decathlon. When we first brought him home at 9 1/2 lbs., it felt like he was swimming in it despite being well secured by the additional cushions included with the Britax to accomodate infants. He soon filled it out perfectly. At no point did we regret our decision for the car seat, and we would definitely make the same decision again. We even saved a bit of money since we did not have to buy a second car seat once he outgrew the infant model.

Personally, the safety of car seats is something I take quite seriously. I've seen baggage handlers at airports toss car seats onto conveyor belts. As a result, I would never consider checking a car seat a safe alternative. As with anything, once it leaves your sight, you can no longer be assured of how it's being protected. My concern with the gruff treatment of car seats stems from the following information from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

Q: Can I use a car safety seat that was in a crash?

A: If the car safety seat was in a moderate or severe crash, it needs to be replaced. If the crash was minor, the seat does not automatically need to be replaced. The NHTSA considers a crash minor if all of the following are true:

The vehicle could be driven away from the crash.
The vehicle door closest to the car safety seat was not damaged.
No one in the vehicle was injured. The air bags did not go off.
You can't see any damage to the car safety seat.
If you are unsure, call the manufacturer of the seat. See the resource section at the end of this handout for manufacturer names and phone numbers.
As I consider the safety of car seats, I can't help but wonder about the infant safety on public transportation. I have considered public transportation, but I don't see how I'd feel safe without a car seat for MetaBaby. Per Babycenter, car seats are not yet allowed on public transportation because there is nothing to secure them on, though they are still a relatively safe method of transportation.
Overall, buses and trains are very safe forms of transportation; because of their bulk and weight, they absorb much of the force of a crash. Still, it can be unnerving to think of bringing your child on a moving vehicle without a protective seat.
I confirmed that Los Angeles' MTA and Santa Monica's Big Blue Bus do not have a method of securing a car seat to any of their buses (or trains), nor do they have any plans to accomodate them in the futute.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Thick, Flowing Locks

It doesn't always look it, but I have pretty thick and heavy hair. When I see a new hairdresser, they usually gasp at the quantity of hair. I once went to a Super Cuts type place, and the stylist actually got a bit annoyed at me because she suggested I didn't use any conditioner. I assured her that if I hadn't used any conditioner, she would not have gotten the comb into my flowing locks.

How much hair is too much? I washed and towel dried it as best I could. It was a warm day. Five hours later, dry. Mind you, my hair is currently just above my shoulder, so when it was long (i.e., half way down my back), drying was an all day affair.

How much hair is too much? When it gets long, I can't put it in a pony tail because no rubber band, clip, or other device invented can keep it from sagging like an elephant's butt. High pony tails are just not an option.

How much hair is too much? I woke up one morning and found a clip in my hair. I have no idea how long it was there.

Resident Curatorship Programs

The housing market is in a slump. The days of easy mortgages at "too good to be true" rates are over. If the thought of buying a house has you down, how about becoming a curator? You can get a charming house by the state, free of charge, with the caveat that you restore it. NPR's story Living History in a Maryland Farmhouse was intriguing. Maryland's Resident-Curatorship Program was set up because the state owns many historic properties on public parkland that it refuses to sell. However, some of the properties were falling into severe disrepair due to the lack of maintenance. The solution: contract a "resident curator" who is granted a lifetime leasehold to the home free of charge (i.e., no rent, mortgage or property taxes for the curator(s) lifetime(s)) in exchange for an agreed amount of restorative work that will be performed on the property. For example, the curator agrees to spend $150,000 over the course of 5 years to get the property into shape, and is responsible for all future repairs and maintenance.

On the one hand, the lack of equity for this investment might sound senseless. However, how many opportunities do you get to live in an idyllic, historic house (e.g., 200 year old farmhouse) without a mortgage or property taxes? If you plan on buying and staying somewhere, why not there? Most of the properties are in rural settings and are buffered from development threats because public lands dedicated to natural conservation purposes surround them.

Things to Consider:
  • No rent, mortgage or property taxes
  • It would be difficult to afford both the mortgage and restoration on such a needy structure
  • Any restoration expenses can be written off as charitable deductions to the state (per NY Times)
  • Invest your savings. You won't have property to leave your kids, but you'll have a much bigger nest egg
  • These are serious fixer uppers; not for the faint of heart
  • Opportunity to preserve a historic property
  • Renovations are bound by principles to be followed, but not a detailed set of rules
  • You've live near deer!
  • If you opt to live in a farmhouse, and you have a barn, think of the possibilities. Chickens to supply your omelette habit, a pet pig (yes, a pet), gardening and composting!!
Policies, some of which are less than optimal:
  • Generally a curatorship proposal must represent at least $150,000 worth of improvements to the property.
  • Improvements must be completed within five years.
  • The curatorship is subject to periodic inspection by state officials, and can be terminated for non-compliance.
  • Resident-Curators agree to open the property to the public three to five times each year as required by DNR.
  • Restoration standards must comply with “The Secretary of Interior’s Standards for Historic Preservation.”
  • Minors cannot be parties to a Curatorship Lease Agreement.
This program is not suited to our needs. I still have nightmares about that time 10 years ago when my cat brought in a dead mouse from who knows where. I just don't see myself settling well in such a rural setting. I'm also worried about lead paint since the removal of lead pain in older properties can be really difficult, sometimes leaving microparticles of lead in the home, which can settle on everything. Yes, I'm paranoid. And yes, that would stop me from considering this program. At least while MetaBaby is a baby. Perhaps when MetaDaddy and I are retired and looking for a nice, cozy home and are willing to put in some serious sweat equity, which would be much required. That said, Spain sounds nice, too.

Mmm...Spain.

Other states that have or are starting up similar programs: Delaware, Massachusettes, Vermont, and Pennsylvania. Other states might be willing to consider such programs if you approach them with the idea. After all, that's how the program started in the first place.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Hand Dominance

It seems some studies have been done to determine the genetic predisposition of a person to being right-handed or not right-handed (i.e., left-handed or ambidexterous). In this study, for example, the researchers concluded the following:
Therefore, we suggest that humans are born with hand preference that is prenatally determined. This work should also impact the social aspects of handedness. With this knowledge, it should be possible for the parents to predict that their newborn with a counterclockwise hair whorl will develop into a left-handed or ambidextrous person in 50% of the cases.
That is, if the hair at the crown of your child's head swirls in a counter-clockwise direction, s/he has a 50% chance of being left-handed or ambidexterous. While the number seems to correlate with random chance, it's actually more significant because left-handed people make up anywhere from 10-20% of the population, depending on the source of your statistics (e.g., Anything Left-Handed, ABC News, and the University of Washington).

This reminded me of a Discover Channel program titled
In The Womb: Multiples. It addressed mirror image identical twins, identical twins whose traits are identical, but reveresed. For example, the hair whorl flows in one direction (e.g., clockwise) on twin A, and the opposite on twin B; twin A's birth mark is the right shoulder, and twin B's is on the left; or twin A is right-handed while twin B is left-handed. Per the program, the theory is that some left-handed people are the surviving mirror image twins of identical twins. "Some fetuses spend the first trimester of pregnancy with a companion that later disappears—a phenomenon called the 'vanishing twin syndrome.'"

Per North Suburban Parents of Multiples:
In approximately 23 percent of identical twins, the fertilized egg splits later than 7 days following conception. The original right half of the egg becomes one twin and the original left half becomes the other.

This may be a partial explanation for the fact that a little over one third of identical twins are left-handed, double the rate in the general population. In extreme cases, all of the internal organs are reversed in one of the twins, with the heart on the right, the liver on the left, and the appendix on the left.
Virgin Media's "fascinating twin facts" states that "A higher rate of twins (18-22%) are left handed compared to non-twins (10%)."


This image from Genetics shows an example of hair whorls. "The counterclockwise parietal scalp hair-whorl on the left is of a NRH person, and the one on the right of the RH author swirls clockwise."



Per those photos, MetaBaby's hair whorl looks like it's counter-clockwise to me. As of yet, he's still an equal opportunity hand user, so we'll see where this leads us.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Household Chores

MetaDaddy:
Sometimes, I could use some help with things. And when you offer, especially at these times, it makes my day. For example, when you offered while I was making dinner, and I just heard the laundry buzz, I really needed an extra pair of hands to move the clothes from the washer to the dryer, and more what was in the dryer somewhere else.

My hero!

That said, when you offer to do a favor, and I accept, optimally you should check to see if the laundry's dry before actually removing it from the dryer. It helps with the whole "doing a favor" part of doing the favor. I'm not saying I'm perfect by any stretch. I botch up recipes all the time. Like when I misread the part that said "marinade for one hour," resulting in that great Thai delivery. Good intentions, good intentions.

I'm just saying.

Update: Upon reading this, MetaDaddy reflected on how the clothes did feel dry to him. To be fair, some pants had tumbled into a knot, thereby preventing thorough drying. So while it might seem like he never helps around the house and on the one occassion he did, he did a lousy job, I must say this is absolutely not the case. He's great, and helps with everything, including dinner, chores, and most importantly, all that is MetaBaby. It only seems fair to straighten that out if I'm going to vent on the one incident. But we're all human, and sometimes, even the best of us "miss" that knotted up pair of pants that didn't get its full dose in the dryer. Again, just saying.

Parents Mag Sept 2007

If you're anything like me these days, getting through a magazine is such a feat that it feels like it should require some sort of medal at completion. If nothing else, cake, pie or a muffin. Unforunately, I'm still waiting for my muffin :-|

That said, the information I walk away with is always worth the effort. In case you're still trying to get through Parents Sept 2007 issue, here are some things I found especially enlightening.

Get rid of your old computer - Donate unwanted but still working computer equipment to the National Cristina Foundation, which provides used computers to disadvanted people in your community.

Homemade Stamps - 3 ingredients: the plastic top of a laundry detergent bottle, a sponge cut into a fun shape (e.g., square, heart, circle), and a glue gun. Glue on the sponge to the bottle top, which serves as a handle, dip in paint, and stamp away.

Prescription Errors - As with adult prescriptions, kid's presciptions can have errors. It might be the wrong pills, wrong dose, or something else, any of which can be a serious medical hazzard. Always check the prescription for accuracy. Don't sign a consultation waiver until you're either satisfied or you've seen a pharmacist, especially if you've never used the medication before. On that note, don't sign anything unless you've read it; you might be signing to decline meeting with a pharmacist. Per Parents, 15% of kids receive a presciption drug with a potential dosing error, according to a study in The Journal of Pediatrics. Here are some questions to consider.

Pick Fresh Apples - Find a local farm to pick fresh food at Pick Your Own, as well as a lot of great food facts.

Sears Kid's clothes - A warranty for all kid's clothes: "If an item wears out before your kid outgrows it, Sears will either repair or replace it with the identical item in the same size or, if it's unavailable, a similar item of equal value in the same size." Just take the article of clothing and your proof of purchase back to Sears.

Fun Sandwich Bites - Cut a sandwich into fun bites with an apple slicer.

Sandless Sandbox - If you don't like the idea of sand in your kid's sand box, fill it with dry oatmeal instead. That way, if he eats it, all he got was a little more fiber ;-)

Flying Delays with Kids - If you're stuck in an airport with your little one, ask for kid-friendly activities in the terminal. Las Vegas' McCarran Airport has a mini control tower and tunnel. Orland Airport has a 3,000 gallon fish tank. We might be using this one soon :-) Cheap Flights listed more on this pdf.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Rorschach Tests for Fun

Rose reminded me about Rorschach tests. They're so entertaining! I've always liked deciphering images out of something abstract. Nothing intellectual...just playing with images. An attempt to keep my creative side active :-)

It's Beautiful Outside!!

The day started out bright and sunny as usual. Blah.

But now, it's overcast, breezy, and slightly humid.

Could it be rain?!? It rained a few weeks ago for about 3 minutes. No joke. Just enough to make the ground slippy and generate that dusty smell of faux rain. If you don't know that smell, and I'm sure some people don't, it's unpleasant and causes a slight cough. Close the window and pretend it never happened.

If it does rain, however, I hope it happens after traffic for the sake of the road warriors.

4:30PM on a Friday via Sig Alert. Note the 3 red dots on the short stretch of the 10E from Santa Monica. Ouch!

So, cross your fingers with me...rain, rain, rain, rain :-D

Follow up: No sooner to I click "Publish Post" and the rain starts...tap, tap, tap, tap, pourrrrrrrrrrrrrr. Sorry traffic!! I didn't realize my blogging powers!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Recipe: Fast Beans & Veg

I tried one of Mark Bittman's Quick Meals. The ideas are nice and simple, resulting in easy tailoring for varied tastes.

Tonight, I opted for # 2, Fast Beans and Vegetables. While it was quick, most of the time spent was chopping. So the faster you chop, the faster the meal. Here's my interpretation:

Fast Beans & Veg
1 cup cous cous (or quinoa) cooked per package
1 medium onion, sliced
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 medium bell pepper, cut into cubes
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes, chopped (about 2 cups)
Salt, pepper, and cilantro to garnish

Cook the cous cous per the package instructions. It should take about 3 1/2 minutes in the microwave.

Sautée the onion for about 5 minutes (I like mine pretty soft). Add the garlic, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add the zucchini and bell pepper and cook for another couple of minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the beans, tomatoes, onion mixture and toss. Add salt and pepper to taste and generously sprinkle on cilantro.

Verdict: Yum!!

Note: Great for leftovers. The bean mixture, cous cous, and a little shredded leftover chicken make for a colorful (translation: nutritious) lunch.

Breastfeeding as Obscene

A great visual analysis of the "obscenity" of breastfeeding.

A comparison: You Tube allows one, but pulled the other (because of breastfeeding?)

New Music

Whatever your taste in music, it's always nice to hear something new. J Elliot started a blog called One Song per Week where he posts a new song that he wrote, recorded and uploaded in the comfort of " closet of [his] studio apartment." Jealous, aren't you.

Well, if you'd like to hear something new, or if you'd like to support an artist, check it out. Dishing out something new every week, but there are always prior week's leftovers for sampling. (It all comes back to food, doesn't it?)

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

13 Random Images

...and here's what they got me thinking.
  1. This that make me want to travel.
  2. This makes me want to wake MetaBaby so we can play.
  3. This makes me wish I had a garden...and knew what to do with it.
  4. This makes me want to eat a pear.
  5. This reminds me how much I love Spanish food.
  6. This makes me want a ham sandwich.
  7. This makes me want a spot of afternoon tea.
  8. This makes me feel old; she just turned 30.
  9. This makes me want to go to the farmers' market.
  10. This makes me giggle; she has a cow, man.
  11. This makes me wonder how many women endure the same struggle. Via Post Secret.
  12. This made me wonder what I have in my diaper bag. Not enough to take a photo, which scared me. But just enough to wonder if anyone's tried this photo challenge with parents' "go bags." Anyone?
  13. This just makes me happy.

The Thought of Thursday Thirteen

This whole "Thursday Thirteen" thing sounds a bit intimidating. In theory, I have to come up with 13 somethings...optimally new somethings. Don't know how long I can keep this up, but I'll give it a try. If nothing else, it's a nice reminder that Thursday's rolling around.

Following in the tracks of the mom part of What Works For Us :-)

Homemade Cat Toys

If you're a cat person, you might appreciate this like you appreciate the cat in Shrek 2 and 3 (though #2 was better). If you're not a cat person, well...that's something you should really assess with your therapist.

Anywho, it made me laugh. And Zach Scott, the director, is a total cat person. Like you know, totally! (say it like a Valley Girl...it works better.)




Via Cute Overload

A side of cute: This makes it all better.

Happy Birthday, Smiley :-)

It's been a fun 25 years, no?

Via Slashdot

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Landlord

I'm sure everyone's seen this by now, but if you haven't...it's....it's...it's different.

The Landlord starring Will Ferrell and the toddler.

Traffic in America

Averages are so much more succinct when they're spread out over the year. Consider this.

Commuters in Los Angeles experience the worst congestion in America, resulting in an average delay of 72 hours per year. It was followed by Atlanta, San Franscisco, Washington and Dallas.

Personally, having been born and bred here, I'm used to the traffic. I don't like it, but I'm used to it. We're lucky enough to live in Santa Monica which means we're usually driving against traffic, though we're not immune. I know that going anywhere after 3PM is a gamble. And there had better be a really good reason to brave traffic once 5PM rolls around because there is no question as to the severity of traffic. I don't like driving far on Thursdays or Fridays. This is my life.

But traffic is bad everywhere, and its only getting worse. More people are commuting farther distances on an aging network of highways that aren't built to sustain this level of traffic. And many cities, Los Angeles included, have mediocre public transportation. The whole thing spells disaster.

Happy Driving!

NY Times Website & Archives Now Free

As of midnight tonight, the New York Times website and archives through 1987 will be free all readers. Users will be charged for content from 1923-1986, though some will also be free.

Welcome to the age of the internet, NYT.

They realized that only loyal readers were paying for access, while many readers who linked from other websites were less likely to pay for access to one interesting article. They were losing advertising dollars on 13 million unique visitors each month.

Going forward, Rupert Murdoch has even discussed free access to the Wall Street Journal. We'll see how that goes.

As for now, count down until midnight...free news!!!

Marina Del Rey Memorabilia

A couple of fun restaurants in Marina Del Rey have suddenly closed, leading to some disgruntled residents. The Harbor House and Edie's Diner both had great views and a loyal clientele, many of whom are disappointed by this turn of events. It seems the two were due to close anyway when the property owner finalized plans to demolish and contruct a mixed-use development. However, even they were surprized by MDR Restaurants, Inc's sudden closures because, as the president of EMC Development, LLC, Edward Czuker said, "since I took over this leasehold 18 months ago, I have been providing them with free rent as well as paying them a cash subsidy to ensure their continued operation."

Wow...something pretty ugly must have happened for the management company to call it quits if they were in fact getting free rent and a cash subsidy.

But on to taking advantage of the situation. Are you redecorating? Do you need some red vinyl booths? Counter stools? A milkshake machine? Other random restaurant stuff?
A public auction is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 25th, Inspection of items to be auctioned is scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, September 24th, and 8:30 to 10 a.m. Tuesday, September 25th.
There's always a silver lining.

Via LA Eater

Monday, September 17, 2007

Free Sweets

Free gelato...today only...AND I'M MISSING IT!! I'm consoled by the "free cupcake" part on Thursday for the first 1,000 customers. But oh how I hate lines and crowds.

*le sigh*

Intelligence Tests

Because it seems I thrive on wasting your time, some time wasters:

Intelligence Test, Part 1
Intelligenct Test, Part 2
Intelligence Test, Part 3
Intelligence Test, Part 4
Simple IQ Test

Shopping for Stationary

Oh, I love stationary stores. The paper, the cards, the pens, the pencils, the joy!! When I was in college and I needed a pick me up, my cheap version was to wander around the stationary store for too long only to buy a pen with a funky color of ink (usually purple :-).

Stationary stores are sadly not as kid-friendly as I'd like. That, or they're just not as friendly to my needs as they used to be. Oh, I still love the stuff, and I browse websites yearning for this and that, but I just can't justify it anymore.

*le sigh*

Here's what I see:

Moving List - Who has time to move? I can hardly get through a day that involves staying put.

Shopping List - It's called Excel. Learn to use it.

Address Book - How retro. I've got diapers, wipes, a change of clothes, food, a sippy cup, toys...not to mention MetaBaby's stuff. I'm not carrying a book.

Magnets - Choking hazzard.

Letter Stamps - Choking hazzard.

Labels - Choking hazzard. Trust me on this one. Every time I've put a sticker or label on him, he's tried to eat it. That never goes well.

Paper weights - Choking hazzard. I mean, it almost looks like candy. Mmm...candy.

Clips - Choking hazzard. OMG, is there anything he won't put in his mouth?

Cute stapler - Ooo, this is cute! Dang, I don't need a stapler.

*le sigh*

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Great Grater?

Cook's Illustrated has a few recommendations on box graters.

They highly recommended the Cuisipro Accutec Box Grater because it's ultra-sharp. However, readers found out the hard way that the grater has plastic pieces that cause it to fall apart after a few runs in the dishwasher. It turns out it wasn't dishwasher safe. The magazine contacted Cuisipro, and "the company will replace any box graters damaged by dishwashers. (Visit www.cuisipro.com for more information or call 302-326-4802.)"

Sharp is good, but only when the grater doesn't attack you in the process of grating.

They go on to list a few other box graters, including their second favorite (now their favorite) Oxo Good Grips Box Grater.

Personally, I've mangled my knuckles one too many times just opening drawers with box grater. So I got rid of ours and use a small, flat microplane grater like this one. I've debating getting another in order to have more grating options, and I'll sooner do that than buy a box grater again. Ouch!!

Cook's Illustrated's advice on cleaning a box grater:
"Graters coated with sticky residue from soft cheeses can be a chore to clean. If you don't have time or space to throw the grater in the dishwasher, rubbing a hard, stale crust of bread (such as the end of a baguette) over the dirty grater plate will remove most of the mess. To finish the job, scrub the grater in hot, soapy water."

Blogosphere Tidbits

Food, Home, and Environment - Stuff around the blogosphere to teach and entertain.

Food Recalls over at Frugal for Life - Federal cases on food recalls that are currently open, but NOT making news.

Recycle Old Crayons over at EnviroMom - Don't throw them out. Collect old crayons and ship them to Crazy Crayons for recycling. Start a collection with friends and groups in your community to save on shipping. And don't leave your used crayons at restaurants since they'll just toss them.

Freegans and Free Food over at the LA Times - Stores throw away perfectly good food every day. Freegans try to reduce their consumerist society's tendencies by living off of others consumer waste. So in addition to picking herbs and ripe fruit from trees around town, when Whole Foods throws away food because it's not as pretty as customers would like, the Freegans are there. I respect them. I really do! But whoa...that's hard core. I'll stick to the farmers' market.

Recycle Clean Stuff over at Green LA Girl - Don't toss a half empty bottle of juice into a recyle bin. Empty it, give it a rinse (if possible), then toss it. The additional fluid uses more engery to transport, makes a mess, and can cause injuries at the plant. Also, if a bottle cap is of a different material than the bottle (e.g., plastic and glass), remove the cap.

A Disgustingly Large Burrito over at Los Angelous - Eww.

Single Parent Families

I had a rather tumultous childhood. Back and forth. Here and there. I moved a lot. For the most part, I was raised by my maternal grandmother. Young for a grandmother, she was still straddled with the lack of a formal education and an age which prevented her from getting stable, long-term work. We struggled at the best of times. Even when things were better, she was so bad at managing money that we were never able to save for a rainy day. In that backwards way, she taught me a lot about money.

When you have a two-person household, it's hard to keep secrets. It's hard to pretend like everything's OK. And kids are very observant; they know what's going on. Reading this article by Barbara Ehrenreich reminded me of that. Kids have so much more insight than adults give them credit for, but they have such little control over their surroundings that they can't really have an impact on their environment. In her article, Ehrenreich discusses single-parent homes headed by mothers. The job(s) that some mothers have don't provide sick days, so when her child falls ill, she has to choose between her child or her paycheck because a missed day will result in her termination. Of course, we all want to say that our child comes first, but no paycheck means no rent, food, or clothes. The clear-cut question gets harder. Kids, feeling like a burden, find themselves shielding their mothers from these tough decisions by not telling them when they're sick or injured.

The most severe story she shares:
"Eric, then age 7, got hit by a car on the way home from school but chose not to tell [his mother] for fear she'd lose her second shift job if she didn't go in to work. Later an older sibling called her to say that Eric was crying because his arm hurt from being hit by the car and she had to take him to the hospital. When [his mother] informed her boss, he was adamant: 'Leave and you're fired.' Her pleas didn't move him. She did leave; she was fired. Eric turned out to have a broken arm."
A two-parent household makes life so, so, so much easier for so many reasons beyond money. That said, keep in mind that when you are struggling with something, communicating with your kids is a great way to help them learn and grow, and it's only fair. They expect a lot from you, and if you're preoccupied with other concerns, letting them know and help in their own special way is so important. Whatever you do, don't pretend your kids don't know something's going on. You'd just be fooling yourself.

I'm just saying.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Blogger Play - A New Toy

Maybe you're looking around for inspiration.
Maybe you seek out good photography.
Maybe you like to check out what's going on in the Blogosphere.

Whatever it is, Blogger's new toy is cool. Blogger Play shows photos uploaded to Blogger in real time. You can pause, go back, skip forward, and click on a photo to take you to its respective blog. And if you're in just that kind of mood, you can just watch the endless images of life go by.

3 Minutes with Alan Alda

Alan Alda recently posted on the Huffington Post. Yes, that Alan Alda. Hawkeye. He was also in ER, The West Wing (which I really miss), and countless movies.

What's he up to? He's giving quick and cheap recipes for oatmeal. It's actually a clever idea. He prefers the steel-cut Irish oatmeal (found at Trader Joe's and various other food stores), which happens to take 40 minutes to make. However, he makes a big batch once a week and heats up a daily serving every morning in about 3 microwave minutes. Ahh...brilliant, Hawkeye! He goes on to argue the point that oatmeal, and he by association, are not boring, but quite the opposite. This oatmeal is "the kind that pops in your mouth when you bite into it in little glorious bursts like a sort of gummy champagne." Hmm...I don't know about that, but I'll let it slide.

Besides oatmeal, he also gets into a debate with himself about the existential meaning of life, which is indeed interesting, if potentially depressing. There's a reason people don't smile when you say "Camus." That said, he's funny, and funny is as funny does. It seems he's also written a few books. Prolific.

Either way, enjoy his oatmeal. It's good for you.

Hertz Ad

A terrible recording of a funny, funny ad.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Geeky Bib

I found this precious little bib on Etsy, and guess what! I couldn't help myself.
  • It's large...covers up any unsightly stains.
  • It's very absorbant...great for those "bonus" drool days.
  • It's super stylish...did you get a close-up look?

Recipe: Minty Lime Cooler

Every now and then, the Border Grill sets up a stand at the Santa Monica Farmers' Market. I always feel spoiled when they do. So despite the toddler, stroller, and vast amounts of food I'm usually juggling as I head back to the car, I always manage to make a pit stop. They usually have a few tasty desserts, one or two delicious meals like a tamale or lime chicken tostada, and they always have their minty lime cooler. It's refreshing combination of flavors gives me a renewed sense of energy. You can feel the flecks of mint, small enough to give you a crisp burst with each sip. I went online and found this recipe. I tried it, and it's pretty spot on. You can blend (I used a stick blender) the lime, sugar, and mint beforehand, though don't keep it too long since the mint won't fare well. When you're in the mood, give it a good shake and dole it out with some sparkling water.

Border Grill’s Minty Lime Cooler Recipe
This recipe serves: 2
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Ingredients
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup packed mint leaves
1 12-ounce bottle sparkling water
lime slices, for garnish
mint sprigs, for garnish

Cooking Instructions
1. Combine the lime juice, sugar and mint in a blender. Puree until smooth.
2. Fill 2 tall glasses half-full with ice cubes. Pour half of the lime juice concentrate in each. Top with sparkling water, garnish with lime and mint and serve.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food Ingredient Substitutions

Save yourself a few bucks and a trip to the store by substituting that rarely used ingredient. Cooking for Engineers has a comprehensive list of substitutions for various ingredients here. Allspice? Chives? Self-rising flour? Not any more.

Saving Our Food

The battle over food in America á la Starsky and Hutch.



Via Eating Liberally

Feeding Your Ravenous Teenage Boy

The more I think about this "parenthood" thing, the more I realize how blind I was. Sure the pregnancy and labor was a challenge. And yes, it's still pretty hard to get an uninterrupted night of sleep. However, when MetaBaby gets older, things should be easier, right? I know, I know...LOLOLOLOL.

Well, here's something I surely didn't bank on. Teenage boys eat a lot. Like, a tall boy who's playing sports might consume as much as 4,000 calories. WHOA!!! At least that's what Georgia Orcutt said in her interview on Good Food. She described how her boys would go "blind" when they opened the refrigerator in search of something, which they'd never find. She was constantly running out of food she was counting on like milk, bananas, and cheese, so much so that she would walk through her house yelling "who ate all the cheese?" I'm sure I'll be that mother one day. And yes, I will be "mother" at that point, and only "mommy" in unkind jokes, to which I have every intention of responding harshly enough to put the jokester in his/her place. Let that be known, jokester.

So she wrote a book entitled How to Feed a Teenage Boy: Recipes And Strategies , which sounds like an interesting read for anyone in search of tips on how to keep food in the house with ravenous boys. She mentioned some clever tips like teaching her boys how to cut up an orange, which while fundamental, I suppose not all teenage boys think of doing. Hence, starvation. She also put all of the food needed to make a sandwich in a box in the refrigerator and labeled it "food." Her boys can now feed themselves without driving they're mom bananas.

Mmm...bananas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Santa Monica Vegans

I have a pretty hard time managing to feed our 3-person household healthy food, while being conscious of both cost and ingredients. And we're not even vegetarians. I can't imagine how this person does it.

Easier Mornings

When I was a kid, I loved to play cards. Not crazy eights, old maid, or poker. I loved canasta and carioca. This lead to my rather impressive ability to shuffle cards, which still seems to make my in-laws think I'm a card shark pretending to be a gin rummy novice. In my defense, I've never played gin rummy before, but it turns out that it's not entirely unlike canasta, which I played for yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeears!!! So the next time I win, that's why :-)

On the Huffington Post, Elisa Taub posted a technique on making mornings with her family run smooth. She was constantly having to remind her kids to brush their teeth, get dressed, make their beds, and so on. This, needless to say, got old. So, she started the Breakfast Club. It's an exclusive club where Elisa has something fun like a card game or simple art project every morning. The caveat: members will only be accepted for entry if they have finished their morning routine and eaten. Now her kids, who are perfectly capable of getting themselves ready for school, do just that. They're ready sooner, and no stress on the part of their poor parents who are likely having a hard enough time assembling themselves if they're anything like me. Even better, another chance for quality time with their brood. These years don't last forever. Might as well make them count.

However you feel about the Breakfast Club, I'll tell you that the simple act of playing cards or sharing some family time is so valuable. We don't always appreciate how much nicer it is than sitting down in front of the TV or computer, but it is because it requires so much more socializing.

I'm just saying.

Got Perfect Pitch?

I know I don't. And my husband...well, he has other talents.

If you're wondering about yourself, go find out here.

Via NPR

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Eddie Izzard is Funny

Or so says I.

To Laugh or Not to Laugh

Sometimes, my husband reads my posts and laughs. I actually hear a chucke, which is rare unless provoked by Eddie Izzard or intense tickling.

And so the banter begins.

"What? What was funny?"
"Um...all of it."
"Well, you didn't laugh the whole way through, just once in the middle."
"Ya, but it was all funny."
"Come on! Throw me a bone, here!"

And that, my friends, is the sound of me turning into a pleading sack of goo. Dammit. He wins again.

Catching Up

It's taken me a while to get back into a routine upon returning from our trip. MetaBaby's been teething, so he's been waking up at least once in the middle of the night. Much to my dismay, one of those times lasted 90 minutes, and ended with me rocking him to sleep in my arms. We both fell asleep, and I woke up with a stiff neck. Go figure. And when we get back from a trip, there's always so much to catch up on. Grocery shopping, mail sorting, unpacking, laundry, etc.

Before I leave, I like to do a few things to lighten the load for our return:
  • Change the sheets and towels so I'll know everything's fresh for showering and sleeping. After a long flight, I just want to feel pampered, and this is as close as I'll get to that.

  • We don't buy too much food the week before we leave so it won't go to waste. The day of our departure, we dump all of the food and drinks that will expire while we're away.

  • While dumping food that we need (e.g., milk, eggs), I simultaneously write up a shopping list. When we get back, all I have to do is grab the list and go shopping. No sifting through shelves and cabinets with groggy eyes, which will inevitably lead to buying more or less than I actually need. Best to write lists with fresh eyes.

  • While we're away, we separate clothes that will need to be laundered when we get back home. For example, socks and underwear go straight into the outside zippered pouch of the suitcase. All shirts and pants get turned inside out so they're easily distinguishable from clean clothes. This makes sifting through clothes easier during our trip, too, because we know what's OK to wear. Of course, we did laundry in Ireland because we stayed at my mother-in-law's home, which was excellent because we were able to pack relatively light (for such a wee fellow, he needs a lot of clothes). That said, we only laundered enough to get by while we were there.
So when we got home, I got this ridiculous surge of energy and did 4 loads of laundry, went grocery shopping, then collaped the minute I sat down at around 6PM. Fun!

I'm reminded of all of this because today I confronted our receipt pile. I haven't had a chance to go through it in a couple of months. Usually, I like keeping all of our receipts in date order so that when it comes time to match them up with our credit card statement, it's a breeze. But I've neglected that since we've returned. I pulled everything out and for some fabulous reason, I was finished sorting, matching, and filing everything in about 30 minutes. So I'm finally feeling back on my game, which is good because I was really starting to feel a bit behind on everything.

Speaking of everything, time to catch up on all of that, too.

There Was a Crooked House

This right here makes me consider trying the whole "childhood" thing again.

Hmmm...on second thought, maybe I'll just play with MetaBaby's stuff.

The ridiculously cute Kid's Crooked House.

Via Thingamababy

...we could sell our condo and move into a...wonder about the property taxes...insurance...does it come with a garage...

Monday, September 10, 2007

Short Books Worth the Time?

So I found the Lazy Library, and thought "self, you could surely use a short book. Maybe you'll actually finish it." Hmm...self was right. This needed to be investigated. So I go and browse under business, one of the top 5 popular searches, and I found a book that I remember so fondly: Caps for Sale. I will definitely buy it, though it'll be for MY SON since it's a kids book. WTH? I look under business, and I find a 48 page kids book? Yes, it's good. And though I don't remember the premise, I'm sure it has a pretty good message about something, possibly even business related. But this is hardly what I'm looking for when perusing reading material for myself. Especially given their intro on their website:
"Ever read a book that was a few hundred pages longer than it needed to be? Yeah, so have we. Fortunately, there are authors out there that would rather have a concise and effective book than a lengthy and diluted tome, and that's where we come in."
There are some great books that really are short, so I'm not attempting to say a short read isn't worth it. Personally, I believe that a mark of a good writer can be measured by what isn't written on the page. And maybe the Lazy Library does have a few of these great selections. I'm just saying :-)

Via Lifehacker

Lego Madness

This is so clever. A keychain rack made using Lego. You can hang the rack somewhere (e.g., by the front door), and when you get in, attach the lego on your keychain to the Lego on the rack. Buy it or make it at home, which seems pretty easy. I love how quirky it is. And who doesn't like quirky?

For more Lego madness, Makezine's got you covered. A sampling:
  • Art and sculptures
  • A Milkscanner...that uses milk...the white liquid kind...3 cups of it.
  • Lego ice cube tray
  • A 120lb desk made entirely of Lego...about 35,000 pieces
If you play your cards right, your kid could be this fabulous. Unemployed because there's only so much time in the day, but fabulous nonetheless.

Not-So-Sappy Greeting Cards

Funny greeting cards by Sappy Cards for those who like to ruffle feathers. Their website isn't up yet, but you can see some of the cards at one of the following...and chuckle quietly to yourself...

Hella Good Products
Quack Media

...and a little review by Make (click on the article to enlarge).

Via Daily Candy

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Random Quote: Phyllis Diller

It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge.
~Phyllis Diller

The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook

After much hemming and hawing, I finally decided to get The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, by Amelia Saltsman. My initial hesitation was because I worried that despite cooking often and having access to the same farmers' market, I would find the recipes too difficult or labor intensive. Well, I'm glad I bought it. There is a degree of labor involved, but nothing too scary. A bit of chopping, mixing of dressings/sauces, and other such prep work, but that's to be expected. I have found no recipes that start "Day One."

To date, I've made the following, all of which have been successful:

  • Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado Salad
  • Melon, Cucumber, and Mint Salad
  • Tomato and Cucumber Bread Salad
  • Indian-Style Cauliflower Soup with English Peas
  • Halibut with Fennel
  • Roast Pork Loin with Red Currants and Provencal Herbs
She designed the book so that with the exception of certain pantry items, everything can be purchased at this particular farmers' market. In the back of the book, she breaks down the recipes and crops by season. Several topical informational references on foods like citruses, apples, and tomatoes are included, which provide the reader with an understanding of how to choose and work with the best ingredients at his/her disposal. You'll also get tips on how to shop at the market, basic kitchen techniques, ideal pantry items, and so on.

Overall, I've gotten some great recipes and culinary ideas out of this book, as well as a greater appreciation for the changing supply of food I find at the market. As a relatively new FM shopper, I'm used to having certain foods year-round, so the lack of certain foods as seasons change is quite a dramatic thing for me to accept. It's nice to have a bit of information on when to expect certain foods, and even better, how to use new and unknown foods like sapote (a "custardlike South American native with hints of pineapple, citrus, and banana"). I'll let you know how that one goes ;-)

As for our favorite recipe thus far, here it is. It was so good, I made the salad 3 times so we could use up the dressing. Once without shrimp, once without basil, each time delicious! The dressing feels very Thai, which we love, and the mango and lime compliment each other very well. On that note, this past week was the last of the mango crop at the market, which saddened me. Hence, the picture...golden, delicious lovelies.

Shrimp, Mango, and Avocado Salad
1 large mango, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 tablespoons canola or other mild cooking oil
2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Thai chile paste
1 pound shrimp, grilled or boiled and peeled
1 large head butter lettuce, torn
1 cup sugar snap peas, strings removed and cut into bite-sized pieces
3 green onions, including several inches of green, thinly sliced
1 Reed or other avocado, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 cup small cherry tomatoes, preferably Sun Gold, stemmed
1/2 cup each fresh mint and basil (preferably Thai or opal) leaves, torn
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves, torn

To make the dressing, put one-forth of the mango, the oil, vinegar, lime juice, fish sauce, and chile paste in a blender and process until smooth. You should have 1 cup; set aside.

Place the shrimp, lettuce, peas, green onions, avocado, tomatoes, remaining mango, lime zest, basil, mint, and cilantro leaves in a large bowl. Toss the salad with just enough of the dressing to coat well. Reserve the rest for another use; it will keep refrigerated for up to 1 week.

How To Choose Mangoes: Seek out fragrant, smooth-skinned fruits that give a little (like a ripe avocado) when cupped in your hand. Ripe mangoes will keep on the counter for up to 1 week, and in the refrigerator for up to 1 month with some dehydration (skin will start to shrivel).

I have yet to see a bad review of the book. Here are a few others I've found: Cook's Library, Sustainable Table, The Boston Globe, and an interview on Good Food.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

How to Chop Herbs

I've heard this tip from a few different sources now, so I thought I'd share.

If you're using fresh herbs in a dish, don't chop them. Instead, tear them up. When you chop them, you release all of the flavorful oils into the chopping block. However, if you simply tear them into your food, you benefit from all of the flavor of the leaves. Besides, it's easier and quicker.

Bon Appetite!

A Bookworm in the Perfect Pantry

I love reading, though I don't do it as much as I'd like to these days. And I love reading and learning about food; there's so much to learn out there!! From new foods to techniques to exotic experiences to the memories they provoke, there's so much to share. With all of your five senses, so much to take it all in.

When I found Lydia's delicious ongoing project over at The Perfect Pantry, I was smitten. She asks readers, or Bookworms, to provide a list of 5 food-related non-cookbooks for her collective library. The list is a fabulous compilation of must-reads, and I'm lucky enough to be her guest bookworm this week.

Oh, the glee!!

Here's a breakdown of why I chose these five.

Pomegranate Soup, by Marsha Mehran - This was a beautiful book about 3 Iranian sisters who, after escaping the Iranian revolution, find themselves in a small town in Ireland. Food was influential in their survival, brought them to Ireland, and is their constant source of salvation through everything they endure. Food becomes a character; it takes the nurturing role of the parents they lost. Many of the more delicious recipes are interspersed throughout the chapters.

Toast, by Nigel Slater - I had never heard of Nigel Slater when I found this book in a book store in London, so I didn't actually get it until a few years later. When I finally picked it up, I could not put it down. It was simultaneously thoughtful and hilarious. My husband, who is Irish, could relate to many of the references (e.g., food, desserts, candies), so I consulted with him on unfamiliar topics. However, the book would have been a marvelous read without his insight. It was a very easy read, too, because some of the chapters were just a few pages; a perfect "between naps" book ;-)

Kitchen Confidential, by Anthony Bourdain - He's gruff, rude, hilarious, charming, and a brilliant guide to the seedy underbelly of the commercial kitchen. Yes, it's been around for years, but it's a great read if you never got around to it. He puts the romance of the kitchen in perspective by describing the shady characters who run the high-end kitchen, make the delicious bread, and open the doomed restaurants. He also provides some great information (e.g., avoid fish on Mondays and opt to eat during the week instead of weekends). And I learned that though the thought of being a chef would be enticing (not for me, but perhaps my husband), I learned that there's nothing that would convince me that this would be a good career path. It's brutal!

Eating Between the Lines: The Supermarket Shopper's Guide to the Truth Behind Food Labels, by Kimberly Lord Stewart - I'm trying to scrutinize the food in our refrigerator and pantry a lot more these days. To that end, I got this book after hearing an interview with Kimberly Lord Steward on Good Food. I haven't finished it, but keep in mind that it's very readable and she designed it so the reader can skip around without adhering to chapter order. It has so much information on food that is, in my opinion, hard to find in general, even moreso as part of one comprehensive resource. Among many other topics, she breaks down the meaning of organic, addresses how to read a food label, and defines the mercury issues with fish.

Hungry Planet, by Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio - I said it before and I'll say it again: This book is beautiful. It's more a book about the photography, but there's so much to learn about it. You can't help but analyze and compare the quantity and quality of food in different cultures around the world. Time's preview to whet your palate.

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Island

Life can be unfair...her second miscarriage

Some medical professionals can be completely void of feelings...her ultrasound tech

People can be selfish...her boss

Others can be kind ... go be kind

The Island

Pre-Cookie Monster

Pre-Cookie Monster? Distant cousin? A study in evolution? You decide.

Enjoy!



Via Geek Sugar

An IKEA ad

A terrible ad that has to be shared. I apologize in advance and encourage you to give it a miss if you offend easily :-)

Via Cool Baby

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Recipe: Black Beans

Inspired by some delicious photos on some of my favorite blogs, I've put together a short list of easy black bean recipes. I haven't had a chance to make them all yet, but I will. They all look like wonderful recipes.

Here at the MetaHome, we love black beans. I use sprouted beans (from the farmers' market as I can't imagine sprouting beans at home), which are very soft, so it really takes 20 minutes of cooking time. And with a great flavor foundation of onion, celery, carrot, garlic and olive oil, I save on sodium and calories by cooking with water instead of broth. You'd think the flavor would fall flat, but they're absolutely delicious. Even little MetaBaby loves his bean mix.

Here are a few other easy ideas and recipes for black bean meals.

Moros y Cristianos (Black beans and white rice) from The Perfect Pantry - Cuban-style black beans made with dried black beans and lots of garlic. Very easy, but it does take a while.

Black Bean Confetti Salad from Smitten Kitchen - Black bean salad made with canned black beans, bell peppers, and a fun dressing. Yum!

Black Bean and Tomato Quinoa via The Unemployed Cook - Quinoa is great grain because it's loaded with protein, so it can serve as an entree or side dish. Besides, it's pretty quick because the recipe calls for canned beans.

Salsa with Black Beans from Tea and Cookies - This is more a meal idea than a recipe. Black beans are a great foundation to a nutritious, flavorsome meal. Try using a tasty canned bean like Trader Joe's Cuban Style black beans (OMG, so good!!!).

Mango and Black Bean Salsa
from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook

1 red onion, diced
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup fresh or thawed frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup canned black beans, rinces and drained
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

In a medium bowl, mix the onion, mango, bell pepper, corn, beans, lime juice, salt, and pepper. Let stand 5 minutes for the flavors to blend. Stir in the cilantro.

Shopping Cart Cover

People keep asking me about our shopping cart cover, so I figure I'll post about it.

As I've gotten older, I've become more of a germophobe. So when MetaBaby came around, I wasn't keen on exposing him to certain things, such as shopping carts. I really wanted a cover for the seat in the shopping cart, but a friend pointed out that his kids never wanted to be in the shopping cart, so for his purposes it was a waste of money. I realized that even though I wanted a great and perfect cover, it might be a waste of money if our energetic little lad didn't tolerate being in the shopping cart. That said, as he started teething and putting everything in his mouth, I knew that he'd just suck on the handles, railings, etc.

I looked around at covers, and they ranged from about $20 to $108, and everything in between. Since I didn't know how long we'd get to use it, I went for the cheapest option.

It's very basic. The elastic trim allows it to stretch to fit over the shopping cart seat at various stores, including Costco, Albertson's, Trader Joe's, and Target. However, it doesn't fit the seat very snuggly. As a result, when I put him in and latch him in with the cover's harness, he's still not very secure because his movements are enough to wiggle the cover out of place. That said, he can't chew on the shopping cart, which is the reason I got it to begin with.

In summary, if you go for this cheaper option:
  • Your baby will be protected from whatever grossness that shopping cart has been through.
  • There is not a lot of padding on this cover, so if you're baby can't sit up well without support, you should probably wait to use it or provide alternate padding of your own.
  • This model has a tiny pocket for stuff in the front, which is accessible to the baby. However, I find it too small to put anything in it. Even if I could, he'd end up dropping it because of his current inclination to test gravity.
  • Some covers provide loops to hook toys onto, thus preventing the aforementioned testing of Newton's law. This one does not.
  • Some covers provide a storage pocket on the back that hangs into the cart. This one does not.
The cover has worked out pretty well for me. I started using it pretty early. He was about 18 lbs at 3-4 months, which made it really hard on my back to carry him in a sling. Once he was stable enough to sit up, I started using the cover and added a little padding of my own (blanket on either side) to keep him protected if he managed to topple over. I don't mind not having a pocket for storage of toys because I try to travel light. However, I do wish there was a loop/hook on it sometimes so he could play without dropping every-single-thing. As for the safety problem, I would prefer something that fit on the cart a bit more snuggly, but it's actually worked out fine. I just don't separate myself from him. That said, I can't imagine separating myself from him in the store, anyway. If I had to do it again, I'd either buy the same one again or this one, which looks like it might secure onto the cart better.

For other ways to keep your baby safe and protected, take a look at the Juvenile Products Manufacturers Association's (JMPA) list for Baby Safety Month. That said, isn't every month "baby safety month"?

A Sad Day In Music

Will be missed...

Luciano Pavarotti

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

A Missing Babyproofing Tip

Keeping your home baby-safe is tough. And there are so, so, so many gadgets to help you do it. There are lists all over the internet with tips on how to keep your home safe (e.g., here, here, and here (via CFO)).

I just have one thing to say. In all of my reading and talking and listening and sharing and watching, I have never heard anyone say "close your dishwasher completely." Perhaps everyone does it and I'm the only spaz, but I don't always shut the dishwasher door completely so that it clicks. And when you have a little toddler who's learning to walk by leaning and pulling on anything and everything, guess what! He's going to support himself against it and fall backwards in slow motion, giving both himself and his poor MetaMommy enough time to have an attack at the thought of the soon to form lump on the back of his sweet and precious little head.

So, close your dishwashers completely.

Note: MetaBaby was not harmed in the making of this post. While he did fall, he first fell on his well padded tushie, and then backwards, so he was fine. He got my blood running, though. That's always exciting!

Peet's Legacy

Oh, the whole coffee thing is so amusing. Sure you need your cup of joe, but the prices some places charge is just highway robbery. But some people need it. I'm fortunate enough to not be one of those people, so I'm not going to pretend to relate. I've been caffeine-free for a long time now (thanks to MetaBaby), but my husband's not. He's a scary man before his cuppa. Not scary, scary...but you're better off talking to him after, or at least during his morning coffee. And if he's getting ready for work, just get out of the way. He's in work-mode and you're just likely going to get steamrolled. He's mellowed since MetaBaby, though, so mornings aren't as dramatic as they used to be.

So, he needs his coffee. And his coffee of choice is Peet's, which is fortunate because there are a couple of Peet's in Santa Monica. It's pretty strong coffee, though, so it's not everyone's cup of...err...tea. Well, I just heard that the founder, Alfred Peet, passed away. An obituary to the man who fed Starbucks their wee little coffee beans in their infancy.

"His reputation in the coffee business was well in place in 1971, when he was approached by a group of entrepreneurs who asked him to provide his roasted beans for their new venture, Starbucks, in Seattle.

"Peet supplied us with roasted coffee, and he taught me how to roast coffee," Baldwin said. "He was very generous."

There ya go. So if you like Starbucks, he's why.