Friday, February 29, 2008

The Day That Never Was...

Or was it? Something eerie about April 29th, no? My watch thinks it's March 1st. Apparently, my cheap Target bauble missed the memo.

And since today wasn't, a note to MetaDaddy explaining what I did today.

Image via XKCD.

When Pre-Toddler Maternity Clothes Are Just Useless

I'm a mess today. And not for the usual reasons.

Last weekend, I gave in and accepted that I could no longer comfortably fit into most of my pants, so I made the switch. I took my maternity clothes out of the suitcase and put my "real" clothes in, not to be seen for a long, long time (*sniff, sniff*). It struck my how small my maternity wardrobe is, but it's just as well. I don't have that much room for vanity.

Conscious of the temporary wardrobe that is was, I spent relatively little on it. However, I made it a point to buy a few frilly things that might have cost a bit more because if you don't feel like you look good, you just don't feel good. It's like being on a diet...if you deny yourself the stuff you love all the time, you're just going to end up rebelling and binging when the opportunity arises. And doesn't it always?

Today, I wore a pair of khaki pants that I wore all the time until I outgrew them. It's amazing how you think you couldn't possibly outgrow something "that big," then one day, you literally can't fit them past your cankles. They're nice, comfortable, and they hardly look maternity...except for the wonderful stretchy panel :-) Perfect for the office, back when that was my gig.

Enter MetaToddler.

We go out, he in his always precious garb, I in my newly discovered khaki pants...and other stuff. We're not out for five minutes, and I look like a hobo. I picked him up to go down the stairs into the garage, and his little dust-collecting shoes left wee little footprints all over me. When I realize what's happened, I have dirt on what looks like half of my pants. Appropriately, I don't realize until we've been to several places.

I think the khaki pants might not be making it out of the closet this pregnancy. What's more, I might have to invest a few bitter dollars into a few pairs of forgiving jeans and corduroy. Fortunately, I still remember a few of my maternity clothes haunts. Specifically, Gap, which is where I found some crazy deals. I got most of my pants from there, and the average cost was $10-15 (purchased on clearance). Shipping on all maternity clothes is free, and you can return the duds to the store (i.e., no return shipping required). Currently, they're out of corduroy in my size (dang!!), but I'll be investigating a few other options.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Reusable Bags: Angry Little Girls

Looking for a reusable bag for your own *special* personality? Have you checked out Angry Little Girls? It's where hilarity ensues ;-)

The Vegetarian

The Native

The Fashionista

The Green Shopper

The Determined Shopper

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Quote: Sir Winston Churchill

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.
--Sir Winston Churchill

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Around the Internet

Office Depot Coupons via Dealcatcher - I like the Sharpies on page 3...$2 for a 12 pack. But beware the hands of kids.

Antibiotics do little for inner ear infections - Personally, I hate using antibiotics unless absolutely necessary (e.g., mastitis). The more you take them, the less likely they'll work when you need them. Yes, but you know I'm paranoid. This study found that "antibiotics don't significantly prevent fluid buildup in young children with inner ear infections." However, the article does go on to say:
"'To the best of my knowledge, physicians generally don't prescribe antibiotics for acute otitis media in order to prevent middle-ear effusion; they prescribe them to bring about more prompt resolution of the infection and of its symptoms, especially pain," said Dr. Jack Paradise, a professor of pediatrics and otolaryngology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh."
A bit of research to think about if you find yourself dealing with your child's ear infection. Though I truly hope you don't.

Employees at this Walgreens Distribution Center Are More Than Disabled - A Walgreens distribution center in Anderson, South Carolina employs 700 people, 40% of whom are disabled. It's an inspirational story, but it really makes you think about why it's a rarity. The workers interviewed for the story love their jobs. They're loyal and devoted. How is it that there are people who are willing and able to work, but can't find an unbiased chance?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Spoiler

If you haven't seen the awards show and you don't want to spoil it for yourself, stop reading :-)

However, I'd like to share. I don't usually watch the show because I find it boring. The only way to watch it in my book involves Tivo. Then again, that's the only way to watch most things. And if I do watch, it's likely because I want to see something (e.g., a performance). This year, I wanted to see Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova perform music from the movie Once. And what did I forget to do? Tivo it. So when we got home two hours after it started, I raced to the TV to record it. And what did I find? The last few notes of their performance. Typical. Thank goodness for You Tube.

And then, they won!! Awesome. The acceptance speech was brief, and unfortunately Marketa was given the bum's rush when the music started playing just as she started speaking. But she lucked out...cuz Jon Stewart is a stand-up guy. He brought her back to give the speech of a lifetime. Very sweet. So if you want to hear both acceptance speeches, watch the whole three minutes.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Waffles are Wonderful

So like, there's a restaurant that makes nothing but waffles, appropriately called The Waffle.

Classic waffles. Chocolate waffles. Blueberry lemon waffles. Even gluten-free waffles!! And of course, eggs, hash browns, burgers, and fun vegetarian fare, like the un-BLT. Nothing like "fakin bacon" to bring a twinkle to that eye.

Oh man, I could really go for a waffle right now.

The Waffle
6255 W. Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90028
(323) 465-6901


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Around the Internet

Mortgage rates skyrocket - Have you noticed how mortgage rates are climbing instead of dropping? If the Fed keeps dropping rates, how does that makes sense?!?
"When people hear that the Fed has cut short-term rates, they expect long-term mortgage rates to move in the same, downward direction. But it's a stubborn fact that when Fed rate cuts are deemed inflationary, long-term mortgage rates go up. And that's what has been happening in the past few weeks."
Specifically, lenders aren't too keen on lending money on the cheap. If inflation is on the horizon, they're better off upping their rates to reflect the state of the economy.

U.S. postal rates will increase in May - Yes, again. To 42 cents. However, if you purchase Forever Stamps prior to May 12, their value will rise to match the price adjustment. Otherwise, stock up on 1 cent stamps. More details here.

Classic Beach, but Much More in Santa Monica - The New York Times says Santa Monica's a good place to visit. Obviously, we agree ;-)

ThingamaBaby Naming Contest

Great Scott! I can't believe I won something!!!

AJ over at ThingamaBaby held a contest to help him and his wife name their newest addition, soon to make his appearance. While it seems the contest hasn't resulted in a chosen name, they did manage to choose 20 winners. And my submission, Twain, was one of them. Personally, I think it's a cool name. But much like AJ, I was shot down by my spouse. At least it won MetaToddler a cool new pair of shoes.

Good luck on your new ThingamaBaby :-x

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Around the Internet

Autism Breakthrough: Girl's Writings Explain Her Behavior and Feelings - A beautifully inspirational story about a girl diagnosed with severe autism at the age of four. She is unable to speak, but has found a way to communicate by typing. Much like I see the frustration bubbling as MetaToddler struggles to communicate with me, it turns out that Carly just wanted to be heard. Now, she is.

Koko art via Daily Candy - Frame your walls with art by Koko and Michael...yes, the signing gorillas. Not cheap, but you'd be helping fund the Gorilla Foundation.

Photo of "Pepper" by Michael

Griffith Park Railroad for Kids - When I was a kid, I used to love, love, love riding the mini train in Griffith Park. Kids have to be 34 inches, however, so MetaToddler's not quite there yet. The minute he hits that milestone, we'll be trekking to the good ol' park, though. Free train ride!!

Trader Joe's Bans China - While I generally trust the products that Trader Joe's carries, I have been put off by a few products that come from China. The frozen roasted corn or canned organic black beans, for example. However, they will be pulling "single-ingredient" Chinese-grown food products because of customer concerns by April 1, 2008. They're still confident in the products, but I guess the customer's always right.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Vaccines for Babies

Vaccines are a tough bag. Here's the CDC's chart of recommended immunizations for babies. But if you have an infant or toddler, I'm sure you've seen it once or twice ;-)

Well, unless if you're like us. We discussed vaccines with our pediatrician, and agreed to hold off on vaccines for MetaBaby. Not because we're cheap, irresponsible, or optimistic. In fact, it's the opposite. All of the vaccines that today's babies are expected to cope with are grueling. They're young, immature systems are put through the wringer enough without adding the unnecessary burden of so many shots. At least that was our thinking.

Because I nursed him exclusively from birth, he was protected by the immunizations I've been given over the years. That said, if I hadn't nursed him, we obviously would have given him shots from day 1. But we were comfortable in understanding the protective qualities of breast milk. We've also been very protective of his health, and have been observant of anything out of the ordinary. He's been fine. He got his first shot at the age of 12 months, and he's slowly been given more.

So he has relatively little experience with shots. And they haven't really bothered him. I sit him on my lap, distract him for the prick, and it's over before he knows anything happened. We leave the doctor's office all smiles. And although he has a bump on his upper thigh for a few days after, he's otherwise fine.

However, I know it's likely this reaction will change after a while. And perhaps because it's been a while since I've gotten vaccines, I didn't realize all of the potential pain associated with shots. I figured it was just fear of the sharp something heading towards tender skin.

Kathryn, over at Ryn Tales has two great tips on minimizing pain for vaccinations.

1) Apply ice to the area for 20-30 seconds prior to the shot. I've never heard of anyone doing it, nor have I thought of it myself. But reading this was a truly "duh" moment.

2) Much more complicated for my monosyllabic verbal abilities. Use the Ventrogluteal Site for Intramuscular Injections. For several reasons, the traditional buttock or upper-middle thigh area are not the best in terms of safety and/or pain management. However, despite the excellent description, I couldn't tell you exactly where it is, so here are a few photos to help put the pieces together.
"The ventrogluteal site is relatively free of major nerves and blood vessels, the muscle is large and well defined, and the landmarks are easy to locate. It is an excellent IM [intramuscular] injection site, even in infants. Simply place the palm of your hand over the greater trochanter (hip joint), index finger over the anterior superior iliac tubercle, and middle finger along the posterior iliac crest. Inject perpendicular into the center of the V formed by the separated fingers."
I know I'll be discussing this area for a shot the next time we go in. We'll see how it goes. But take a look at it for the yourself. If your little one seems to suffer with shots, why not do what you can to keep the pain to a minimum? A lollipop can only do so much, after all :-(

Monday, February 18, 2008

My 2 (Fashion) Cents

I figure this is the North Pole Preppy look. You know, for elf interviews, and press conferences.

I'm just saying.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Does Alcohol Cook Off Entirely?

Sometimes I like America's Test Kitchen, sometimes I don't. I find the recipes can be a bit fussy for my taste, despite my rather fussy tastes. That said, there are usually a few tidbits of information that I enjoy having learned. Mmm...culinary nerd.

Case in point: America's Test Kitchen From Cook's Illustrated: "French Classics"

Does cooking remove all of the alcohol (e.g., beer or wine) in a dish? I've always wondered this, and I'd decided that the answer was "no." That said, I have nothing on which to base my conclusion. I'm just being conservative. I am a true believer in the flavor enhancing benefits of alcohol in food, so I won't stop cooking with it. A little white wine in a rather bland beef stew can make it sing. And MetaDaddy's chicken breasts, onions, and tomatoes cooked in a bit of vermouth makes me dance to the table every time.

But America's Test Kitchen has finally answered the question I had always pondered. And here's what they had to say:

When you add alcohol to a dish, it can't all burn off because alcohol and water, which are very fond of each other, form an azeotropic mixture.

Professor Guy Crosby: "This is a mixture that you get when you have two different molecules that mix together that have a very high affinity for each other. And so they basically behave as though they're almost a single compound."

In other words, the vapor that evaporates is a mixture of water and alcohol.

"When the alcohol and the water mixture in the pot begin to simmer, the liquid is actually beginning to boil at a temperature quite a bit below the boiling point of water. It's actually just a little bit above the boiling point of alcohol. Alcohol is about 170 degrees fahrenheit, whereas this mixture will start to evaporate at about 175 degrees fahrenheit. And the first vapors that come off the pot will be very high in alcohol. And as more alcohol is removed, the amount of water in the vapor, and as a result the temperature of the simmering liquid in the pot continues to rise until towards the very end. The vapor will be around 95% water and 5% alcohol and it will be boiling at just a little below the boiling point of water. But you'll always have that mixture of about at least 5% alcohol remaining in the pot."

But wait, there's more!

Does it matter if you cook with the lid on or off? Here's what their tests showed.

Lid On
Type of Stew - Beef
Time - 3 hours
Alcohol Reduction - 60%

Lid Off, Wider Pot
Type of Stew - Chicken
Time - 28 minutes
Alcohol Reduction - 90%

Resulting Theory
You can remove the majority of the alcohol from a dish if you simmer using a wide, uncovered pot. The wider the pot or skillet, the faster the alcohol evaporates. In fact, you'd see a significant different in using a 12 inch versus 10 inch skillet.

Nifty, huh?

Another interesting bit of info is in how the liquid is reduced in a broth with alcohol.

Reduction #1: Reduced 2 cups of wine to 1/2 cup, added 2 cups of broth, and reduced everything to a final volume of 1 cup.

Reduction #2: Combined 2 cups of wine and 2 cups of broth and then reduced the mixture to 1 cup.

The resulting broths were quite different. #1 had a "smooth, clean flavor" and #2 was "overshadowed by booziness." So if you want cut corners while cooking, don't do it by failing to fully reduce your alcohol before adding other liquids.

Bon appetit!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Random Thoughts of a Crazy Lady

I could go for a gummy bear.
I would settle for a gummy worm.
I can't eat gummy food because of my braces.
I can't eat more food because of the braces than because of the morning sickness.
MetaBoy likes drumming.
He drummed in his class today.
He drummed on the sofa.
He just drummed on me.
MetaBoy likes his string cheese.
It's bland, so I'm thinking of exposing him to a more flavorful cheese.
First exposure to Irish Cheddar: failed.
Will try again.
I like the cheese, though.
The cheese will definitely not go to waste.
Feeling a bit unpleasant this afternoon, coincidentally after having cheese.
The cheese is not the cause, but the cheese is getting the emotional blame.
Right now, the thought of cheese is revolting.
MetaBoy enjoys being scared.
Every time he's startled, he giggles with delight.
MetaMommy does not enjoy being scared.
Every time she's startled, someone gets snapped at.
MetaBoy likes dancing.
He'll grab a place mat for the table, put it on the floor, and start Irish dancing.
He doesn't know he's Irish dancing, yet.
He will.
Much to MetaDaddy's dismay, MetaBoy seems to gravitate towards pink.

Exhibit A

Exhibit B

Both were completely unprovoked.
Both were hard to separate from our otherwise very boyish boy.
MetaDaddy has been using the same soap for years.
He used it in Ireland.
He stopped using it once he moved here.
He started using it again once he found it online.
His last order is in the same package, but smells slightly different.
He keeps smelling his hands.
He's made me smell his hands.
I think we'll be selling a lot of soap in the near future.
I didn't even notice the smell of the soap.
MetaDaddy is usually more observant than me.
I don't care for Valentine's day.
I think it's a holiday that blows an ideal out of proportion.
And it focuses attention on one day when we should be kind and loving to each other every day.
But I'll take his desserts any friggin' day!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Explaining Myself

So, yes. I'm the Queen of Quiet. Sultan of Subtle. Mistress of Mystery.

In short, I'm 13 weeks pregnant, and the proof is in the pudding...or scan, if you will. We wanted to wait until the end of the first trimester, so we're now sharing the news. It's been tough to keep under wraps, though. It becomes so ingrained in how your day goes, that it's hard to say "I'm so tired that I can't make dinner" without explaining why.

It's been a strange time. The first time around, my morning sickness was awful. Food, for the most part, was the enemy. The smell, nay the thought of it, was enough to send me running. Bananas, high on my good list, were suddenly banned from my diet. Same went for Grape Nuts cereal, avocado, beef, and I'm sure various other things I've since forgotten. I had to ask co-workers to move their coffee mugs farther away from me because the smell was making me sick. This was life until around the 5 month mark. I could eat, but it was all very precarious.

So far this time around, morning sickness is inconsistent, though definitely not as bad. I haven't really had to give up any foods, though some are much less appealing than others (and I don't usually know until shortly before the meal). Roast chicken might sound good in the morning, but not so much at 6PM. But, I've survived. Generally speaking, my "morning sickness" is worse at around 5PM, which means dinner that night will be leftovers or delivered. As a result of our increased take-out, I'm pleased to know that Santa Monica has banned non-recyclable food service container. One less pang of guilt included in with our Thai spring rolls. Mmm...spring rolls.

With the exception of my occasional bouts of exhaustion, things haven't changed much at the MetaHome. MetaDaddy helps a bit more in keeping the place clean, which is a constant battle with the Cheerio-monster roaming around. And I'm getting a few cheeky comments on my slowly expanding belly. He gets to giggle at the shirts I wear under sweaters...because they no longer cover my midriff. *le sigh*

On the bright side, he made me Nigella's gooey chocolate pudding. Priceless.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kraft Commercial

Monday, February 11, 2008

Fair Trade Truffles

Chocolate isn't just an obsession for women, let me tell you. An open box of chocolate is in as much in danger around my husband as it is around me. Sometimes, more. And while fair trade chocolate has been on the back burner of the things I worry about, I am quite conscious of it after being reminded of the issue by Baby Toolkit and Cathy over at Chief Family Officer. Avoiding plastic, pesticides, chemicals, genetically modified food, partially hydrogenate fats, high fructose corn syrup, antibiotic laden meats, and so on...well, it's hard to be good on all counts. However, on a holiday known for its chocolate exchanges, what better time to be hyper-conscious of the source of our chocolate?

I was looking on Cook's Illustrated website, and they have a nice listing of
Mail-Order Truffles. In search of the best truffles, they ordered a bunch of chocolate from places all over the internet. They list pricing, packaging, and flavor ratings, alongside a note of which they recommend.

I was torn as I read the list. I can appreciate taste-tester's flavor analyses, but what about the origin of the chocolate? Is it fair trade? It's not the kind of issue Cook's Illustrated tackles, so I figured it was hit or miss. I took their list and figured I'd try and find out for myself. I know that some chocolate out there is fair trade, but they don't identify it as such in their marketing. I can't say why for sure, but I've heard that fair trade chocolate isn't always the tastiest by comparison, so perhaps some companies want to be identified as flavorful over and above anything else. Perhaps they can't prove the source of the chocolate, so they'd just as soon omit the fair trade aspect from their advertising. Just a shot in the dark.

One thing I've learned in my research is that fair trade is simply a name that is given to a problem. Much like with the term"organic," you can find alternative practices that produce the same result. Furthermore, because getting the label of "fair trade" costs money just like getting the "organic" label, it's not a title everyone wants to go to the expense of procuring. In other words, if you want your chocolate dollars to go to companies that support ethical labor practices and sustainable farming, you might not find out simply by asking "do you use certified fair trade chocolate?" In fact, if you have a favorite chocolate, I suggest you contact them to find out where they source their chocolate from. You might already by supporting your beliefs while consuming your healthy dark chocolate.

Go over and read Cook's Illustrated article for their reasoning in choosing their favorite truffles.  Then come back here and see what I've found out.

Highly Recommended, per Cook's Illustrated:
Fran's Chocolates - Here's what they have to say about why they do not currently use certified fair trade chocolate.
"The chocolate we purchase is of the highest quality. We look at taste and quality to determine what chocolate we will purchase. Farmers who grow high quality flavor beans are receiving a higher price then your average bulk cocoa beans. "Fair trade" sets the price above the bulk bean price but does not have any criteria for quality. Our biggest concern about certified "fair trade" chocolate is that it does not address the issue of quality."
Best Buy, per Cook's Illustrated:
Dan's Chocolates - They purchase their chocolate from the World Cocoa Foundation, which identifies itself as follows on their website:
"The World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) supports cocoa farmers and their families worldwide. WCF programs raise farmer incomes, encourage responsible, sustainable cocoa farming and strengthen communities."
Recommended, per Cook's Illustrated:
Vosges Haut-Chocolate - They do use fair trade chocolate. That said, they note that because they rely on their vendors to provide them with fair trade chocolate, they "trust" that said vendors are honestly representing the origin of the chocolate. Fair enough, I say.

Neuhaus - I didn't find anything to indicate they use fair trade chocolate. This website notes that Dagoba is fair trade certified, so I assume they would note that Neuhaus is, too, if they were.

Godiva Chocolatier - Godiva is owned by the Campbell Soup company. Co-op America says that as of July 2007, Godiva does not sell fair trade chocolate

Joseph Schmidt Confections - Owned by Hershey's, it doesn't seem to use fair trade chocolate, either. If they did, I suspect they would say so here.

Jacques Torres - Jacques Torres is fair trade per this fan of his work.

Recommended with Reservations, per Cook's Illustrated:
See's Candies - I've seen nothing to indicate that See's uses fair trade chocolate. In fact, I've seen various blog posts and old articles indicating that they do not use fair trade chocolate, but the most recent was dated 2003. I called, and the sales representative said that they did not use fair trade chocolate, though he seemed a bit confused by the question. My conclusion: they probably don't use fair trade chocolate. If they did, they'd probably have let someone in the media (or their sales department) know about it.

A few others I found:

Endangered Species Chocolates uses fair trade chocolate.

Scharffen Berger is owned by Hershey's. This website says "they are known to monitor their cacao producers for farming and labor practices, but none of their chocolates have as yet been certified as fair trade or organic." However, Hershey's has defeated a request for transparency on this issue.

Dagoba is owned by Hershey's and claim that they have "good labor practices and a safe work environment." However, as above, Hershey's has defeated a request for transparency on this issue.

Ghirardelli, now owned by Lindt-Sprungli (large multinational company), doesn't seem to use fair trade chocolate. However, I e-mailed them asking about it, and I'll update this post if and when they respond.

If you'd like to check out more chocolatiers that use certified fair trade products, check out Green LA Girl's post. And this site has a handy chart at the bottom of the page reflecting organic and/or fair trade chocolate, as of November 2005.

Keep in mind that you don't have to do a lot to make an impact. Not too long ago, organic food was nearly impossible to find. But the public's demand has changed that. If we ask the questions that get See's and Ghirardelli stumbling for answers, and spend a few extra dollars in seeking out fair trade chocolate, the market will begin to turn and make it more available. And wouldn't that be sweet?

Free Pancakes at IHOP on Tuesday

Go City Kids lists a cool deal at IHOP (formerly the International House of Pancakes). They call it Pancake Day.
"In England, they call Mardi Gras Pancake Day, and the International House of Pancakes plays along by naming the day National Pancake Day. Diners at all IHOP locations can enjoy a free short stack of buttermilk pancakes and are asked to donate what they would have spent on the pancakes to their local children's hospital through the Children's Miracle Network."
That's a good deal, and a nice gesture for the Children's Miracle Network, to boot.

In Ireland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada, Mardis Gras is known as Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Day, Pancake Tuesday). Other cultures have similar events on the day before Ash Wednesday. MetaDaddy makes a great Shrove Tuesday Pancake, even though he's threatened to stop if I keep calling it Schroeder Tuesday. He couldn't tell me why it's specifically pancakes for the celebration, so Wikipedia to the rescue. They cite a pretty logical reason:
"The reason that pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent is that the 40 days of Lent form a period of liturgical fasting, during which only the plainest foodstuffs may be eaten. Therefore, rich ingredients such as eggs, milk, and sugar are disposed of immediately prior to the commencement of the fast. Pancakes and doughnuts were therefore an efficient way of using up these perishable goods, besides providing a minor celebratory feast prior to the fast itself."
But here's me being nitpicky. Shrove Tuesday was last Tuesday, February 5, 2008. IHOP is celebrating it on February 12, 2008.

I'm just saying.

February 12, 2008
7 A.M. to 10 P.M.
Free shortstack (donation in kind suggested) go get your eat on!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

How to Tell a Virgo?

MetaToddler loves to help with laundry. Moving the clothes from one pile to another. Putting them in the washer. Moving them to the dryer. Closing the doors. Pressing the buttons. It's all good fun.

I was about to start to sort clothes, and I threw a pair of pants on the floor. He picked them up, walked over the hamper, and put them in.

Be still my beating heart. He IS a Virgo!!!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Baby Sign Language, Part 2

Language has become a big issue in the MetaHousehold. MetaToddler, who is about 18 months now, has very few words that anyone other than MetaDaddy and I can understand. Words like mama, dada, and baby come to mind. We know he's trying to say words like book, banana, and bread, but they all sound like "ba." We know because of the context, and we know his inclinations. There's no way anyone else would be able to figure it out without some training.

I've mentioned our attempt at teaching him sign language. It's coming in real handy these days. He, like most toddlers, is rather high anxiety. When he can't explain himself, he gets quite frustrated. And when he doesn't get what he wants, he has a melt down. The signs he knows are very useful in getting his point across.

He currently knows about 16 signs well enough to express his desires.

Food related: eat, more, fruit, water, banana, cheerio, milk
Play related: up, down, sit, book, telephone
Misc: bath, diaper, blow kiss, bye, please

Every time he says "please," I shiver with delight. He's still working on bread, crackers, yogurt, and car. He thinks he's doing them right, so he doesn't seem to understand why we keep "correcting" him. We can understand him in the right context, but it's not easy.

We're also working on teaching him the following:
thank you, wait, sorry, hurt, finished, orange, avocado, blocks

While I don't put too much time into learning new signs, I do give it a little effort. I Tivo Signing Time and watch it with him when we get a chance. He'll mimic signs on the program, and we work on them throughout the day, when possible. I also go online to find specific new signs I want. Since I don't do well learning signs by reading the action, I found Michigan State's American Sign Language Browser, which has a short video clip for each word in their dictionary. When I can't find a word on there, I go to Life Print, which has a lot of signs explained verbally and with photos, though no video.

Someone saw MetaToddler signing the other day and asked me about it. She was thinking of teaching her daughter to sign, but asked if I thought his speech has been delayed as a result. Someone apparently warned her that it might happen. Honestly, I hadn't even thought of it. Perhaps sign language has delayed his speech. However, if anything it's because he's so successful in communicating with me. If he couldn't get his point across, he might try harder to speak. That said, I've also heard that sign language can speed up a child's language skills. Personally, I just figure he's going at his own pace. He's not frustrated and I don't have to deal with many tantrums (I know, I know...more to come). But he'll speak in due time, and when he does, we'll long for the days of watching him sign "please."

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Cooking With A Toddler

Wow. It's like she was in my kitchen last night.

MetaBoy was in a pretty good mood, so when I started making dinner, he came over to the kitchen and hung out. He had his little bowl, took a spoon from the drawer, and started spooning imaginary food. I thought "precious!!" So I gave him his little pot and lid so he could cook properly alongside MetaMommy. He had his fun, then proceeded to use the pot and lid to make precious little dents in the floor.

Then half-way through, as per his recent inclinations, he climbs up on the dining room chair and sits at the table. He starts by signing for food...then whining for food...then wailing for food. All of this, mind you, took no more than 30 seconds.

So, I calmly ask him "what's wrong? What would you like?" He signs that he's hungry. So I make him a little snack, and put it on the table in front of him. It entertained him for a few minutes, but all the while I've got my eye on him like a hawk because he loves throwing food on the floor. Why? Because he can. The other reason? Because climbing on the chair is only half the fun. The other half is standing on it. Standing on the chair gives him a one-way ticket back to the floor with a very stern warning, which he usually chuckles at as he runs off to find his car, Elmo puppet, or book.

On the bright side, he didn't spend the evening doing his other favorite trick. Whining non-stop while hugging my leg as I drag him across the kitchen in my feeble attempt to make dinner. Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth across the the kitchen. Our only saving grace is that the kitchen is tiny and ridiculously well-laid out, so there isn't that much dragging involved. That said, this behavior is usually rewarded by some Sesame Street and Cheerios. We're good as long as that lasts, but once the kitchen "dance" resumes, all we can do is clasp our hands together and hope MetaDaddy will walk through that front door before we become uncivilized. Poor MetaDaddy for the knot of stress he walks into on those special days.

But last night wasn't that bad. Makes me think about getting a dog, though ;-)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Missing A Junk Food Platter

Why did I have to find out about this today instead of pre-braces?

Simon L.A.'s Junk Food Platter

To quote Jonathan Gold:
"The centerpiece of the sampler is a giant blob of pink cotton candy affixed to a paper cone kept erect by a few fistfuls of housemade Cracker Jack. There are Rice Krispies marshmallow treats, in chocolate as well as the traditional blond, a heap of freshly fried doughnut holes, two reasonable facsimiles of pink-marshmallow-frosted Hostess Sno Balls and two more of miniature Hostess Cup Cakes, a jiggerful of vanilla milkshake and a bag of cookies — oatmeal raisin and chocolate chip — that may or may not make it back with you to the car. If you are interested in feeling the way you might have after gorging on funnel cake, ice cream and caramel apples at the state fair when you were 13, the Junk Food Sampler may be for you. This isn’t a dessert; it’s a diabetic coma on a plate."
Sigh...this is why he won a pulitzer. I can almost taste it. Except I can't, darn it all!

Ah, it can be my reward for all of the brushing, flossing, and teeth wrangling.'t tell my dentist. Shhh....

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Hot Dog Dilemma

I like hot dogs. I don't eat them, but I like them.

When I was a kid, a favorite meal was my grandmother's Chilean twist on a hot dog, which I long for every now and then. I don't think I'll find it though. It's a plain old hot dog on a plain old bun. The glory's in what you put on top. Let's start with ketchup, mustard, and mayo. But just to make it interesting, let's skip the sauerkraut and relish for fresh tomato salsa and cooked & diced potatoes. And pile it on high. So high you question your morals and ethics. So high that you think you're living a life that isn't your own. So high that you almost can't get it in your mouth. Ah, but then you manage. Gluttony at its finest.

First off, I've given up on gluttony because it's a tough life to live (just ask Anthony Bourdain). Easier and more pleasant to eat until I'm no longer hungry, which is always less than any fast food or restaurant portion. But don't get me started on portion sizes. That's a whole different rant.

The other reason I don't entertain the hot dog notion any more is that I just don't like eating hot dogs any more. Yes, I like the taste, but I don't like what's in them. I don't like a food that generally prides itself on being known as the miscellaneous food. It's full of hormones, fillers, antibiotics, nitrates, nitrites, and what I'm assuming is a wide variety of other unknowns. None of that is good eats.

I see hope on the horizon, though. I just heard about a new hot dog stand in the LA area on Good Food (scroll down to "Grass-Fed Hot Dogs" piece to listen). Let's Be Frank has all-beef hot dogs made from 100% grass-fed beef. They aren't packed will all of the bad stuff I listed above, and they're dairy and gluten free. Sue Moore, co-owner, was the "meat forager" (no, seriously) at Alice Waters' Chez Panisse, which is a good sign to me.

We're no vegetarians, though as a family we've significantly cut down our red meat consumption, as well as our overall meat consumption. But every now and then, you gotta give into temptation.

They only have a few carts (one in L.A., two in the San Francisco Bay area), but they sell their franks online. Let me know if you've tried and loved :-D

Monday, February 4, 2008

Around the Internet

Depleted Helium - Here's another worry to add to your list of environmental concerns. No more balloons for the wee ones!!

Cracked Cabinet - Coolest. Dresser. Ever.

Why people believe weird things about money via Chief Family Officer - Or why people tend to avoid risk to the detriment of their bottom line. It's an interesting concept to keep in mind the next time you find yourself being risk averse. Are you avoiding an actual or perceived risk?

Oscar nominees cross their fingers at luncheon - With talk of the end of the writers' strike, the Oscars are looking brighter than ever.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Recipe: Spanish Omelette

My contribution to food for gameday.

I made a Spanish omelette from Nigella's new cookbook Nigella Express. She has a great collection of delicious, comforting recipes. However, they're not always quick or easy. This book is her attempt at quick and easy and comforting.

This recipe isn't for what I would call a Spanish omelette. However, the recipe was easy, and the end result was quite tasty. Even more interesting, it really reminded me of potato skins (a secret love, truth be told). I think it was a combination of the potatoes, cheese, and the smokiness of the roasted bell peppers (Trader Joe's carry a selection). We cut it into 8 wedges and had it with salsa, but I think a bit of sour cream would have really been a great touch. Yum!!

Spanish Omelette
Serves 4

225g baby new potatoes
4 eggs
2-3 ounces chopped caramelized or flame-roasted peppers from a jar
3 spring onions finely sliced
2-3 ounces grated Manchego or Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon butter
drop of oil
salt and pepper to taste

Turn on the broiler and let it heat up while you start off the omelette. Cook the new potatoes in boiling water for 15 minutes, until cooked through, then drain and cut in half.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, then add the potatoes, peppers, spring onions and cheese and season with salt and pepper to taste. I found the potatoes a bit too large, so I lightly broke them down with a masher.

Heat the butter and oil in a cast iron skillet, and, when hot, pour in the omelette mix and cook gently for 5 minutes. Instead of flipping it to set the top, simply put it in the broiler for a few minutes.

Turn the omelette upside-down onto a plate to let cool. It's fine if it feels a bit wobbly because it'll continue cooking once it's out. Once cool, slice in to 4 large or 8 smaller wedges.

For more ridiculously tasty gameday ideas, check out Simply Recipes ;-)

Friday, February 1, 2008

Presidential Primary in California - Are You An Independent?

We're California residents. My husband is registered as an independent, but I'm not. As a result, I received my official sample ballot for the upcoming presidential primaries on Super Tuesday, which includes candidates for my party. My husband's sample ballot is for state and local measures, which he found rather depressing. He really wanted more action, I suspect.

In an attempt to take advantage of California's 3 million registered voters without a party affiliation, the Democratic party began allowing independents to vote in their presidential primary. Per the NY Times,
"Democrats began allowing independents to participate in their party’s presidential primary in 2004, and campaigns now see them — the fastest-growing group of registrants in California — as potentially pushing a candidate over the top in the primary on Feb. 5."
However, both of the primary parties don't agree:
"Republicans only allow their own party members to vote; the state’s American Independent Party also allows decline-to-state voters to cast ballots in its primary, but the party’s presence is very small."
Contrary to what is suggested about independents in the article, my husband is quite engaged in politics, he's just stubborn in that he doesn't like to let other people know what he's thinking. Just like a guy, huh?

If you don't have a party affiliation and you'd like to vote in California's Democratic presidential primary, you have to ask for the Democratic ballot at your polling station. Otherwise, you will receive a nonpartisan ballot.

And whatever your party, Happy Super Tuesday!!

Photo: © Photographer: Megnomad | Agency: