Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Keeping an Eye on Amazon's Black Friday-Movies

Here's a link to all of the movies and TV deals Amazon will be having over the coming week. The price isn't listed on each item, but I suppose it might show up as the sale approaches. And some of the listed prices are pretty good (e.g., The Tale of Despereaux for $5).

Keeping an Eye on Amazon's Black Friday

Amazon has some Black Friday deals going on right now. It's something to keep watching because the deals change every few hours. We got a copy of Wall-E for $4.99!! I'm sure it will come in handy this Christmas with all of the cousins ;-)

You can scroll through all of the items that will go on sale today, though the price isn't listed until it actually goes on sale. I saw a couple of things that will keep me refreshing throughout the day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Silly Stuff on Amazon

Laptop Steering Wheel Desk - This is not an item I would consider, but David Pogue's tweet about it led me to check it out. The comments and user uploaded pictures...brilliant! I can only imagine that the manufacturer might be annoyed, though.

Sample comments:
"This has been a total lifesaver. It allows me to prop my sheet music against the wheel, allowing me to play the guitar with both hands while driving." by Brent

"The product description is incomplete. This doesn't need to just be used for laptops! I use it to chop vegetables, play solitaire, and roll dough for delicious croissants (at stoplights of course, I'm not dumb!). This is an amazing time saver for busy urbanites on the go." by Dan

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Free Bag of Groceries from Whole Foods!!

I'm sorry to have found out about this offer too late to share at a reasonable hour. It sounds like a great deal if you know how to fill a bag of groceries with expensive Whole Foods stuff ;-)

Friday, October 13, 2009 at 7AM
"The first 200 customers at Whole Foods in Woodland Hills will win a free bag of groceries."

Whole Foods
21347 Ventura Blvd
Woodland Hills, CA 91364

Monday, November 9, 2009

Thomas Keller Book Signing with Williams Sonoma

Food geek that I am, I was so very excited when I heard that Thomas Keller, food hero, was signing his new book, Ad Hoc at Home, at Williams Sonoma in Santa Monica, CA.

Post news, I realized that MetaBoy was home from school for Veteran's Day. Today. The day of the book signing.

And there goes my glow.

I drove past, and the line was almost too long for me alone, nevermind with monsters in tow.

I'm still thinking of getting the book, even though it won't be signed. I keep reading glowing reviews. To rub salt in the wound, I found a picture of how he signs his books...very artsy!

(Photo from clarakim via Twitter)

If you're looking for Thomas Keller's next William Sonoma event, check out their site. He'll be in doing a lot of flying over the coming month!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Halloween Candy Buyback

Got a whole bunch of leftover Halloween candy that you're tempted by, but should really avoid? Check out Halloween Candy Buyback. Here's how participating dentists will work the deal:
"We buy back Halloween candy from neighborhood kids for $1 per pound, then send it to the troops overseas! What a great way to brighten the day of an American soldier."
Less temptation, less cavities, less calories, less sugar, less sugar madness. Sometimes, less is more.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Avoiding Food Spoilage

My recent method for attempting to avoid having food spoil:

Keep a brief list of foods that are ripe or near expiring in the kitchen (e.g., on the counter or fridge).

For example, I have a lot of ripe pears lying around, but I keep forgetting to use them. I put "pears" on my list, and I'm reminded to have a pear as a snack instead of an orange or crackers. I'm also encouraged to use them in breakfast or a dessert. This worked with my abundance of apples, which turned into a tasty cranberry apple pie, and blueberries, which made their way into my yogurt and the kids' snacks.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Imogen Heap Covers Michael Jackson's Thriller

Imogen Heap, formerly half of the duo Frou Frou, covers Michael Jackson's Thriller. Very moody. Nothing like the original, but very Imogen...if you know what I mean

Monday, October 26, 2009

Refunds on Your Baby Einstein Collection

Did you feel cheated when you found out that your collection of Baby Einstein DVDs weren't educational in the least, even though they were marketed as such? Ya, it's payback time. Literally. Per the NY Times, "the Walt Disney Company is now offering refunds for all those “Baby Einstein” videos that did not make children into geniuses."

If you'd like to take advantage, here's the link:

The Baby Einstein™ DVD Upgrade / Moneyback Guarantee

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Best Costume: A working Apple iPhone

This is quite possibly the best. costume. ever.

"Working" Apple iPhone Costumes

Sure, it cost the guys about $2,000 to put together and they each weight about 85 pounds...but how cool are they!?!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Souplantation's Free Breakfast for Kids During Pajama Month

Apparently, Souplantation offers kids a free breakfast during pajama month, with the purchase of an adult meal. I found out about this too late, but I'd love to go to see a bunch of kids at a restaurant in PJs. It just sounds precious!

I overheard someone talking about it, and I couldn't resist finding out more. It looks like there is no current info on the Souplantation website, though they did a press release in 2007.

It turns out that this deal only happens once a year, which was October 18 this year (i.e., yesterday). I guess I'm a day late and a dollar short. So, I guess I'm posting because I was amused. And it's something to look forward to next year ;-)

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Around the Internet

Cheese or Font and Ice Cream or Paint - Some fun, if silly, quizzes.

Marshall's Stiletto Car - I saw this "car" driving around Santa Monica. MetaBoy didn't see it, and he didn't believe I saw a shoe drive by. How do you convince a 3 year old of something ridiculous when he's making up ridiculous stories every day?

Expense A Steak - A shady website where you type in the amount of an expense that you need legitimate receipts for, and you get a PDF of receipts laid out in that exact amount. Don't tell the IRS about this one ;-)

Twirling on Her Toes, Giving Orders - A funny article in the NY Times about a couple who didn't anticipate how their lives would change when 2 of their 3 kids went off to college.

Gov. Schwarzenegger's cute breakfast - I'm guessing he didn't make the smiley face. He doesn't seem like the smiley face making sort of guy.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cirque du Soleil hits Santa Monica

Here's a fun thing to do in Santa Monica. Cirque du Soleil comes back to the Santa Monica pier 22 years after their humble beginnings to debut their new show, KOOZA. Select tickets are available at a 25% discount, which is a great deal given ticket prices. But as I was searching, I found few discounted tickets are left, so act fast! We'll be going in November with MetaBoy, so we're very excited.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

What To Do When Riding a Dead Horse

I was reading this Yahoo article on the World's Strangest Monuments. I was terribly annoyed that there wasn't an accompanying photo of each monument. An interesting idea poorly executed.

I went off to find a few pictures online to satiate my curiosity. What's the internet good for if not satiating curiosity? In my search, I found a funny list of what to do if you find you're riding a dead horse, like Saint Wenceslas, whose statue is doing just that in Prague.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Over-groomed poodles

These over-groomed poodles really made my day.

Poor poodles :-(

Happy MetaMommy :-D

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

National Punctuation Day Baking Contest - Fun contest!! Not this year, but MetaBoy and I might enjoy participating in future years.

Restaurants Look Beyond Chicken Fingers - After seeing a dip in restaurant visits of groups with kids, some restaurants are changing their approach by offering healthier kids' meals, and making them free. Personally, I'm very excited at the thought of healthier kids' meals because I'm tired of seeing pizza, grilled cheese sandwiches, and nuggets. That said, I'm cautious with a healthier option, too, because I'm not sure that restaurants take kids' meals as seriously as they take those of adults. We went to La Grande Orange in Santa Monica, and I was sorely disappointed in the quality of MetaBoy's food: cold fries, mushy berries, and bland fish. Needless to say, he didn't finish it, which speaks volumes, let me tell you.

On that note, if your kid isn't eating his food in a restaurant, give it a taste to make sure it's edible!

Farmers markets fear Los Angeles' fees - Unrealistically high fees for farmers' markets in Los Angeles have historically been waived, but possibly not for much longer. While this will not impact markets held in parks, private property, and outside of LA (e.g., Santa Monica and Culver City), it could force affected markets to move or close. If fees are going to be assessed on these markets, the city should make them fair, which they are not.
"Rodgers called the monthly bill, which would total $80,508 a year, 'infuriating,' and 'an arbitrary number,' adding, 'No one has given any indication what this is really for.' If the market had to pay that and received no relief, she said, it would have to close or find another space."
Is it OK to replace unsalted (sweet cream) butter with salted butter if you reduce the total amount of salt in the recipe? - If you can't log in, here's what it says. You should not use salted butter in recipes because:
  • The amount of salt varies from brand to brand
  • Salt masks flavor nuances found in butter
  • Salted butter almost always contains more water than unsalted butter.
What I took away from it is that I can use salted butter, but I will have more control over the flavor and texture (due to water content) of the end product if I use an unsalted butter.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Recipe: Fash Black Bean Enchilada

This recipe is from a book called "Whole Grains for Busy People," hence the whole-wheat tortillas. But you don't taste the heft of the tortilla because it's slathered in a tasty salsa. You also have black beans, corn, and lots of other good stuff, which makes it an oxymoron: a healthy & tasty dinner. The less cheese you use, the healthier. But it's a nice addition as a small amount makes everything congeal nicely.

Another thing I like is that I can get most of the pre-made ingredients at Trader Joe's. Specifically, I use their organic black beans, fire-roasted red bell pepper, shredded cheese (though I sometimes buy my preferred cheese and shred as needed), frozen corn, chunky fire-roasted salsa, and hand made whole-wheat tortillas.

I should note that I find this recipe isn't very enchilada-like in terms of flavor since it doesn't use enchilada sauce. The recipe notes that you can use it, but watch for sugar content as enchilada sauces tend to be very sweet.

It's piping hot after 3 minutes in the microwave, but it cools down in a few minutes if you cut it up into small pieces, which is a must for kids. If you don't cut it up, it takes a long time to cool down.

Black Bean Enchiladas
From Whole Grains for Busy People by Lorna Sass

1 ripe, firm Hass avocado, diced
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup diced roasted red bell pepper, preferably fire-roasted
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup frozen corn
1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/4 cups chunky salsa, preferably fire-roasted, plus more to pass at the table
1 medium size tomato (optional - see * below)
4 large whole-wheat tortillas, about 10 inches in diameter
Shredded romaine lettuce and lime wedges, for serving

Toss the avocado in lime juice and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside.

To make the filling, in a medium bowl, combine the beans, roasted red pepper, 1/2 cup of the cheese, corn, onion, cilantro, and 1/4 cup of the salsa (see below for non-spicy alternative). Add salt to taste.

Distribute 1/2 cup of filling across the middle of each tortilla. Roll up. Set 2 enchiladas, seam side down, on a microwavable dinner plate. Pour a strip of salsa (or tomato puree*) along the length of each tortilla. Sprinkle with cheese. Repeat to make 2 more enchiladas. Cover lightly with waxed paper to catch splatters. Microwave until heated throughout, about 3 minutes for both of them together.

Alternatively, before sprinkling on the cheese, heat the enchiladas on a nonstick pan, in an oven preheated to 375F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle on the cheese and continue heating until the cheese is melted and bubbly and the enchiladas are piping hot.

To serve, tuck some shredded lettuce under and around the enchiladas. Set some diced avocado to one side and a lime wedge to the other side. Accompany the enchiladas with a bowl of the remaining cup of salsa.

*If you'd like a milder version (e.g., kid-friendly), cut a tomato in half and grate the pulp of both halves into a bowl. Use this instead of 1/4 cup of the salsa. To make a single mild serving, put 1/2 cup of filling in a small bowl, add a tablespoon of the tomato puree, mix to combine.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Tea Collection: Stylish Girls' Clothes

The Tea Collection has the cutest clothes for girls!! I'm not crazy about the boys clothes, but there are a few nice things. But the girls clothes...if they came in bigger sizes, I'm might be doing my own shopping there. Even better, they have a section of dresses under $30, which is very reasonable for cute, stylish clothes. And if you're lucky, you might find a promotional code with Google.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

$25 Vouchers for $1 via Restaurant.com (with a catch)

I know I sound like an ad, but I'm not. I just love a good deal!!

MetaDaddy cringes when I start obsessing about coupons. He stops talking to me if I suggest that he use one. Is this a guy thing? Or a MetaDaddy thing? I don't think I know any guys who like using coupons. Just like I don't know any guys who like carrying coins. I firmly believe that the reason tip jars are everywhere is because guys just kept saying "keep the change." All those Starbucks baristas just knew how to take advantage of a theme.

So I was meandering around the internet, minding my own business, when I noticed that Restaurant.com is having a sale that they claim ends tonight. The coupon code NINETY will get you 90% off of your purchase. For example, I purchased a $25 gift certificate for $1 (the catch: minimum purchase of $35), which usually costs $10. So when I use it, I'll end up having paid $11 for a $35 purchase. Once you purchase the "gift certificate," you receive the voucher via email, so you can print and use it right away.

Not every restaurant participates, but I figure it's a nice way test a new place I've been meaning to try out. I've used these vouchers before, and had no problem. I printed one out for a friend to use, and she had no problem. So I'm looking forward to trying some new places!!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Recipe: Quinoa Banana Pudding with Dried Mango

I made this recipe from Whole Grains from Busy People by Lorna Sass when we had friends over. One person commented that she's tried making quinoa desserts, but the quinoa flavor always seems to overpower the dish. We decided there are enough bold flavors in this recipe to balance out the quinoa nicely. The coconut milk, banana, and ginger all stand up well to the quinoa, while the mango provides bursts of sweetness. I omitted the nuts, but they would surely provide an interesting layer of texture.

I chose to substitute honey for the sugar, but I only used 1/8 cup because it is sweeter than sugar. Also, if you intend to share this with kids, keep in mind that the ginger infuses a little kick at the end. If you think that might be a problem, consider reducing the ginger, though don't eliminate it; it's a lovely, fragrant addition to the dessert.

Quinoa Banana Pudding with Dried Mango

1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 can (13.5 ounces) unsweetened coconut milk
1/4 cup sugar, plus more to taste
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup dried mango slices, snipped into 1/2-inch bits
1 packed teaspoon grated fresh ginger, plus more to taste
2 large ripe bananas
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
Coconut flakes for topping

Rinse the quinoa well to eliminate the bitter taste when cooked.

Bring the quinoa and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the water has been absorbed, 12-15 minutes.

Add the coconut milk, sugar, and salt. Boil gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Add the mango and ginger. Continue cooking until the mixture thickens to a pudding consistency and the mango is soft but still chewy, about 3 minutes.

Slice half a banana and set aside. Mash the remaining 1 ½ bananas and, off the heat, stir into the pudding. Add more sugar, if needed, and then stir in the walnuts.

To serve, garnish with banana slices and coconut flakes.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Recipe: Drop Biscuits

I've been craving biscuits for the past few days, and out of nowhere, America's Test Kitchen decides to show me how to make drop biscuits. That is, biscuits without the hassle of rolling and cutting. Mix the dry, mix the wet, add the wet to the dry, scoop and drop onto baking sheet. Bake. Cool. Eat.

It was so easy. Too easy. This could be a problem.

Biscuits are essentially savory scones, so a little tweaking could result in super easy sweet scones. The possibilities are endless.

In the meantime, I'm gonna go get some butter for my biscuit.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Bento Box as Art

Do not attempt this at home!

A truly inspiring bento box. I mean, this is art. It must have taken forever to do, and regardless of how much time I had, I could never do it. Ever. But I just love looking at it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Recipe: Passion Fruit Chocolate Cloud Cake

I've made this cake more times than I can count. It's my go-to cake when I need something delicious, reliable, and pleasing to all. The cake is rich, fudgy and dense; you really can't eat more than a small serving. But as a result, it really feels like a treat. It's become more standard since finding out that a friend has Celiac disease, which means that she can't eat gluten (wheat, pasta, rye, barley). Even small amounts are a problem, so she had to purchase a separate toaster at home for her gluten-free toasting needs. It's been a huge lifestyle change for her and her family. So when we have them over for dinner, I like making a few different things with as many gluten-free options as possible. It's not that hard as long as you think about it beforehand, but it does take some thought and research. For example, soy sauce is not necessarily gluten-free. I didn't see that one coming.

But I digress. This cake is a great flourless chocolate cake. My favorite part is the freshness imparted by the fruity contribution. Nigella's original recipe included 2 tablespoons of Cointreau (an orange liquor) and some orange zest. But I wanted to try something different, so I consulted The Flavor Bible, which has become a great source of inspiration for trying out new flavors. I found that passion fruit goes well with dark chocolate, and it reminded me that my favorite chocolate ever is a passion fruit dark chocolate from Jin Patisserie (absolutely wonderful!!) in Venice, CA. So I substituted 3 tablespoons of passion fruit puree for the Cointreau. I cut the fruit, put the pulp in a sieve, and scraped out, on average, 1 tablespoon from every 2 passion fruits. I thought it was a nice start, but it could have used more; the fruit was too subtle. I'll add at least another tablespoon next time. That said, it was still delicious, and I thought the Cointreau in the cream served to bring out the passion fruit in the cake.

Chocolate Cloud Cake
from Nigella Bites by Nigella Lawson

250g (9 ounces) dark chocolate
4 ounces unsalted butter, softened (1 stick)
6 eggs: 2 whole, 4 separated
7 ounces sugar
3 tablespoons passion fruit puree (from about 6 passion fruits)

Cream topping:
16 ounces double cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon Cointreau (or other orange liquor)
1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350F.

Line the bottom of a 9" springform pan with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate either in a double boiler or a microwave, and then let the butter melt in the warm chocolate.

Beat the 2 whole eggs and 4 egg yolks with 2 ounces sugar, then gently add the chocolate mixture and the passion fruit.

In another bowl, whisk the 4 egg whites until foamy, then gradually add the 5 ounces of sugar and whisk until the whites are holding their shape but not too stiff. Lighten the chocolate mixture with a dollop of egg whites, and then fold in the rest of the whites. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 35-40 minutes or until the cake is risen and cracked and the center is no longer wobbly. Cool the cake in its pan on a wire rack; the middle will sink as it cools.

When you are ready to eat, place the still tin-bound cake on a cake stand or plate for serving and carefully remove the cake from its tin. Don't worry about cracks or rough edges; it's the crater look we're going for here. Whip the cream until it's soft and then add the vanilla and Cointreau and continue whisking until the cream is firm but not stiff. Fill the crater on the cake with the whipped cream, easing it out gently towards the edges of the cake, and dust the top lightly with cocoa powder.

Serves 8-12.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A New Dryer?

We have an old clothes dryer. That is, it was here and well-loved when MetaDaddy bought the place over 10 years ago. It's basic, but it works. It doesn't have any bells and whistles; you turn it on for a set amount of time, and it dries the clothes.

I've recently started looking longingly at the bells and whistles on newer dryers, though. I know, blasphemy! But the thought of a dryer that can sense if the clothes require further drying is so...hot! No more overdrying clothes, which means savings in terms of energy usage and clothes (clothes that spend less time in the dryer last longer). That's green, right!?! Further amenities that I covet: drying racks that allow a user to dry clothes flat, a low heat setting, a wrinkle reduction cycle.

I was further compelled to research new dryer options when our dryer started to take longer to dry clothes. I always put it on for the same amount of time, but recently, it doesn't always dry the load of clothes, despite a clean lint trap and a hot drum (i.e., the dryer is transmitting heat). I'm starting to wonder how much more life it has in it and whether or not it's worth investing in to repair.

As I started researching, I found a few models that I liked. The problem is that the very few user reviews that I found on Sears and elsewhere weren't generally positive. None of them. And I began to remember a good rule of thumb: the more bells and whistles, the more that can go wrong. If one component doesn't work, either your unable to dry your clothes, or best case, you've just paid for a feature that doesn't work. What do you do? Do you bring someone in to fix or replace it, potentially leaving you without a dryer for a period of time? I do a LOT of laundry with my two messy little monsters; I can't afford to be without a dryer for very long. And I was further discouraged by Dooce's account of her non-working washing machine woes.

Oh, one more thing. A rebate program for appliances is scheduled for the fall, which means our dryer purchase might be subsidized. More details here. Hopefully, Sears will still have some good deals then. Currently, they have deals that end every few days, but start up again the next day.

While the rebate might be an incentive, I'm still on the fence. Do we get rid of old reliable? It's seen us through many, many...many disasters. MetaGirl is a messy eater, but that pales in comparison to the messes MetaBoy challenged his onesies to.

Flashback: Ewwwww.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

August...Gone in a Flash

You need time, motivation, and content to write a post. I've been lacking either the time or motivation part for the past couple of weeks. I have plenty of things to write about, I just never seem to have time to sit down during the day to write more than 140 characters (e.g., Twitter post). If I do have time, I'm so tired I can't muster the energy to pick up the computer.

August was exhausting. We had a single birthday for both kids, which entailed some planning. I thought the birthday work was over, but boy was I wrong. For the subsequent two weeks, we proceeded to have random slices of cake, birthday songs, and gifts, topped off with a trip to Legoland before MetaBoy turned 3 so he could get in free. More on that later...hopefully ;-)

Perhaps now that September is over, we will resume regularly scheduled programming. And by that I'm pretty sure I mean: random, occasional posts. Having two young kids is...wow. I had no idea how time consuming or exhausting it could be. The older she gets, the more time consuming it is. I'm assuming this levels off after a certain age, but I guess I'll find out in due time.

How do people with more kids manage? Or with twins? Ack!!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Top Chef's Tom Colicchio's Commercial

I'm an avid Top Chef watcher, so even though he's kind of selling out, I got a kick out of this commercial

Friday, August 14, 2009

Remote Area Medical (RAM) Comes to Los Angeles

Health care coverage is the "it" topic these days. What's the best way to cover the most people with the best coverage for the least amount of money? Ya...it might be a while.

A truly impressive effort by Remote Area Medical (RAM) seeks to serve the most underserved, up until now in rural areas.

As 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley reported in 2008, "Remote Area Medical sets up emergency clinics where the needs are greatest. But these days, that's not the Amazon. This charity founded to help people who can't reach medical care finds itself throwing America a lifeline."

A past expedition in Knoxville, TN brought free services to 1,343 people. The 276 volunteers helped provide 504 eyeglasses, extract 1,066 teeth and do 567 fillings for a total value of $235,497.00 in free care.

This week, RAM is serving the Los Angeles area, their first effort in an urban setting where an estimated 22% of working-age adults lacking health insurance. In a few days, they've already treated thousands. If you're curious about their progress, check out their twitter updates at RAM Los Angeles. It's interesting to see how much their accomplishing. And if you're motivated to give, they need donations in the form of people, water, food, and money.

Via Twitter:
If a patient needs glasses,lenses are ground on site and the patient gets to pick frames.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

Fancy Cupcake Wrappers - I don't make cupcakes often, but I suspect I will as MetaBoy starts school. It's a great alternative to a giant cake. And with these precious cupcake wrappers made from recycled paper, I don't think I'll be able to resist. (NOTE: some items on this website are for baking (e.g., liners), but others are to be used as decoration only.)

SOS: Your recipe requests answered - Looking for the recipe to a favorite restaurant meal, dessert, or drink? The Los Angeles Times to the rescue with Culinary SOS!! That said, some things are best left to the professionals ;-)

Cocoa Butter, Raw and Orgamic - I wonder if "orgamic" butter is like buying a Rolecks instead of a Rolex?

Politics of the Plate: Selling the Farm - A heartbreaking story about a 144 year old family farm that has to be sold off because being a dairy farmer is more about going into debt that making a living.
"In Vermont, where I live, that translates to a loss of $100 per cow per month. So far this year, 33 farms have ceased operation in this one tiny state. Meanwhile, the price you and I pay for milk in the grocery store has stayed about the same."
It really makes me wonder what's happening to our food supply when small, productive farms run by families willing and able to work are run out of business.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Recipe: Pie Dough

This is not my great secret on pie dough. This is simply a collection of information and tips that have helped me gather the courage to make pie dough. If you're intimidated, I hope this helps...because it turns out it's not that bad ;-)

I've always been intimidated at the thought of making pies. Not so much by the filling as by the crust. I've tried some recipes, and as someone who follows a recipe with precision, I was always frustrated when the resulting dough seemed so difficult to work with. I've also been dismayed at the time it takes to get a crust ready for use (i.e., chill in the refrigerator before using). That just requires a lot of patience in my book!

But I've been tempted yet again to try my hand at making pies. In reading various cookbooks, it occurred to me to try making a free form tart because
  • it only requires one rolled out circle of pastry
  • it doesn't require a dish (e.g., pie pan, tart pan)
  • you can put as much or as little fruit (within reason) as you like into the tart and it holds up pretty well
So, I went with Michael Ruhlman's Ratio for a sweet pie dough: 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat, 1 part water, plus sugar. I mixed 12 ounces of flour with 2 tablespoons of sugar, then added 8 ounces of very cold cubes of salted butter (or use unsalted butter, but add 1/2 teaspoon salt). A pastry blender would keep the butter from warming at the touch of my hand, but I don't have one so I use my hands. To offset the warmth of my hands, I put the diced butter in the freezer for about 10 minutes, then toss it into the flour and start rubbing the butter to mix. The butter doesn't have to be completely blended in. The best description I've heard for the look of mixture is that it should look like damp sand, though it should contain plenty of chunks of butter. I then add up to 4 ounces of ice water. Since one of the tricks in getting the pastry right is getting the right amount of water in, Ruhlman points out that the amount of water required will vary from pastry to pastry because of the weather, humidity, the kind of fat used in dough, etc. So I pour out 4 ounces of water, and slowly added it to my pastry until I achieve the right texture: sticks together, but isn't too wet. I then cut the mass in half, shape each into a disc, wrap them in cling film, and put them in the refrigerator. Chill for at least 15 minutes, though some sources say as long as 1 hour. Something to consider if you have the time.

That's the tough part, which I've found that after a few attempts, is no longer as tough as it used to be. I chill the dough for 30 minutes, or I wrap it up well, put in a zip top bag, and freeze. When I need it, I leave the frozen disc in the refrigerator overnight, and it's ready to use. Since the above proportions give me enough pastry for two discs, I can use one now, and freeze one for later.

Now, here are some random tips I've picked up from here and there:
  • From Sherry Yard's The Secrets of Baking: "The secret to flaky pastry is to make the butter believe it is solid. The small pieces of cold butter must be left whole and flattened within the dough. They must not be allowed to combine with the flour but should remain intact."
  • Ruhlman says that too much water or kneading will result in a tough dough. But Yard tells us that having a slightly wet, tacky dough is better than a dry one. As in life, it's all about balance.
  • The addition of a bit of acid (e.g., 1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar) will help inhibit the gluten proteins, which can make rolling easier.
  • If you mix the dough by hand, all you need is a bowl and a scale (for precision). Though some recipes suggest using a food processor, that's a lot of extra cleaning up!
  • You can buy premade dough that can be rolled out at home (e.g., Trader Joe's frozen pastry circles). Since you still have to roll out the dough for your purposes, you're only saving that first step of mixing everything together, about 10 minutes. Yes, you have to chill it. But you would also have to defrost the frozen dough.
  • If you buy a premixed dough, you can't control flavor (e.g., Ruhlan's savory dough: omit sugar, add 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano).
  • Use good butter. We love Kerrygold Irish butter, which we find at a reasonable price at our local Trader Joe's.
  • If you're intimidated, you'll likely find that after a few attempts, it's actually not that difficult or time consuming. And the end result is lovely. It feels good to make something so basic and versatile.
Some other sources that provide some great tips and insight on technique and recipes for their version of the perfect pie dough:

Cook's Illustrated's Foolproof Pie Dough @ Serious Eats

Pie Crust 102: All Butter, Really Flaky Pie Dough @ Smitten Kitchen

Perfect Pie Crust @ Simply Recipes

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MetaBoy's Budding Personality

A post from April that I forgot to actually post. MetaBoy has only become more of a character. Good fun!


Found an old group picture of MetaDaddy, me, and several friend, two of whom had babies on their laps. He identified us, and then said "I can't see MetaGirl." I tried to explain that the picture was taken a long time ago, before MetaGirl or even he was born. He just stared at me blankly, mumbled "uh huh," and walked away. Guess it'll be a while before he understands the concept of "time" or "before you were born."

When we drive to places he's been before, he knows it. He says "laundry" when we pick up the dry cleaning and "shopping" when we go to the farmers' market. In fact, all we have to do is make a right on a particular street, and he assumes we're going shopping, which he will consider a good or bad thing depending on his current mood. One day, I was driving us home, but I wanted to finish listening to an interesting piece on the radio. So when we were a block from home, I passed our street so I could drive around for an other few minutes. Well, he went nuts. He was screaming "home, home!!" I started trying to console him saying we were going home, but he didn't calm down until we were physically heading back home. He definitely didn't get my wonky sense of direction, as MetaDaddy would attest to.

He likes sleeping with one of his little dolls. Be it Peter (Rabbit) or Wallace or Walden (Wubbzy's friend), he's never alone. But today he asked to sleep with...a water bottle filled with cold water. Brilliant business idea or pending disaster? TBD.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

August Mayhem

Welcome to August, month of many, many birthdays in the MetaHome.


Friday, July 31, 2009

Recipe: Very Veggie Frittata

I like the simplicity of Mark Bittman's recipes. They're more suggestions than instructions to adhere to. I have How To Cook Everything Vegetarian, and it's great because it gives me all sorts of inspiration for cooking meatless meals. That said, I could easily add some meat to the recipe and make something else. The genius in his recipes is that he allows you to find your own way.

Case in point, the More-Vegetable-Than-Egg Frittata, or as I like to call it, the very veggie frittata. I've never been that interested in frittatas, primarily because they seem fussy to make. That said, despite liking eggs, I don't really care for omelettes and other egg dishes, so I've never been motivated to try. But his spin intrigued me. In experimenting with his "less animal-product-centric diet," he tried changing the proportion of eggs and vegetables and such in the frittata.
"I call it, for want of a better term, the more-vegetable-less-egg frittata, one in which the proportions of eggs and vegetables are reversed, and the veggies take center stage.

Instead of six eggs and a cup or two of vegetables, I use two or three eggs with three or four cups of vegetables. Think of it as a big vegetable pancake bound with just enough creamy-cooked eggs to hold the thing together."
It's genius.

It's quick, easy, healthy, and I can put anything in it. That last bit is important because it means that I can use up all the lovely vegetables that won't last much longer. That extra bell pepper, the unused string beans, the leftover boiled potatoes...SAVED!!

While cooking times vary depending on your ingredients, I've averaged about 20 minutes (8-10 minutes sauteing and cooking the vegetables and 12 cooking the frittata untouched). Dinner done in 20 minutes? Yup. Feel free to add a salad with all of that extra time you have on your hands ;-)

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Around the Internet

Are We Farmers Market Failures - Hey, out there! Vote for your favorite farmers' market here. Show how much you love your farmers. And if you live in the Los Angeles area, definitely do this. We're not in the top 20, but we have some spectacular markets! The Santa Monica market on Wednesdays, anyone? Perhaps we're taking for granted how our wonderful weather allows us to have strawberries, tomatoes, avocados, and so many other foods for so many months of the year. But think about how lucky we are, and vote! Now, I'm off to slice up some sweet, juicy watermelon and tuck into some green, yellow, and red tomatoes...mmm...

Starbucks tests new names for stores - A sign of the times: Starbucks is experimenting with avoiding the use of their name in new stores. I never thought I'd see the day...

How to Take Better Baby Photos - Tips on taking better pictures of babies and kids. Some of this is over my head, but I think I still learned something.

Coolio: The Next Julia Child? - LOL...no. Do you even remember Coolio? Well, back when, he got all into food and starred in an online cooking show on My Damn Channel.

Risk of mad cow disease from farmed fish? - There is now concern that eating farmed fish who are fed byproducts rendered from cows might be at risk. So now, who's going to be protecting consumers from this? Because the USDA and the FDA can't handle what they have on their plates so far. And I think we all know how unlikely it is that any corporation or industry will self-regulate.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

MetaDaddy Gets Home

MetaDaddy gets back today, Saturday. I'm so, so, so looking forward to seeing him, as is MetaBoy. He's been antsy for a few days.

MetaDaddy will likely be glad to be home after 10 days of intense business travel and jet lag (15 hour time difference between here and China).

The way I figure it, when he gets back, he'll find:
  1. MetaGirl has grown (I'd swear she has)
  2. I'm now strong enough to pick up both kids...and possibly him. Michelle Obama arms!
  3. MetaBoy was 100% in diapers 10 days ago, but is now practically fully potty trained. I'd say he's successful 80-90% of his waking hours. He might be more successful if I wasn't so scared to move him from pull ups to underwear. I'm waiting for MetaDaddy to get back to make the full transition.
It's been all about survival these past 10 days. So close...so close!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dining at The Yard with Kids

I cook for my family most days...at least I do when MetaDaddy's home. This week has been more about surviving, so I'll take up any offer to eat out. But I still go to my usual farmers' markets because it's a treat I just don't want to give up. The fruit, vegetables, and sunshine...it's just all too perfect.

My take on food is that if I buy something that's fresh and tasty, I'm better off doing as little as possible to it. Weiser Farms Cavaillon melons, Fitzerald Farms nectarines, Rutiz Farms Galante strawberries...how can I improve perfection?

When I see a restaurant that boasts of using farmers' market fresh produce, it makes me happy. I love seeing these wonderful ingredients incorporated into a clever ensemble by someone with much more culinary talent than myself. But I'm usually disappointed. I hear the word "farmers' market," but I don't see it on my plate. Grr.

Well...that brings me to a curious incident involving 3 things I mildly obsess about: the Santa Monica farmers' market, local restaurants, and Top Chef. And this is where I get sheepish. I'm generally just a reserved person. I keep to myself. As obvious by my wordy blog, I've got plenty to say, I just don't always say it in "real life."

So, I'm walking down the street in Santa Monica pushing MetaGirl in her stroller. I'm about to step off the curb onto the pedestrian street, but it's a tight squeeze since I'll be maneuvering through two parked trucks. As I'm managing, a tall someone comes walking through, and I decide it best to move...I didn't want a trampling incident. I look up (way up...he's tall), and I saw someone familiar. (This is where fame can be a pain in the butt.) "Oh!! That's CJ from Top Chef!" So, I ranted into the void that is Twitter, as one does.
To: CJ from Top Chef. Dude, I know you're tall, but really? Are you too tall to see some people, even if they have a stroller?
Then, I forgot about it. But a few days ago, I get a reply from...CJ! :-o
BigCeej: @MetaMommy I'm sorry. Come to my restaurant, The Yard. I'll cook for you.
After some hemming and hawing, I asked a friend who is similarly Top Chef aware if she'd like to join me and the wee twosome. She accepted, so we went. That's when I turned all shades of red. In the restaurant as I admitted to be the one, the only...MetaMommy. It's kind of a stupid name to admit to in "real life." I'm glad there were lots of other things to keep me distracted, like needy kids.

So we chatted for a bit, and he told us about his food. CJ, aka Chris Jacobsen, has recently taken over and has reworked the menu to feature fresh farmers' market food. He's minimizing freezer space, improving the look and ambiance of the dining room/bar, keeping prices reasonable, and generally changing the nature of what "pub food" is in Santa Monica. It doesn't have to be frozen or deep fried to be good with a drink.

We had a few small dishes. I'm not going to pretend I know food like some people know food. I don't have a refined palate, nor do I obsess about details. I just know if I like it or not, and I enjoyed the food. Though I was impressed by some of the lovely farmers' ingredients, like the Cavaillon melon (a super juicy, flavorful melon that looks like a cantaloupe, but puts it to shame...poor cantaloupe). I also know he shops from the farmers because...well, that's where we had our "run in." If he's shopping there, you know the food will be fresh and seasonal.

My personal favorite were the fish tacos, which I'm still craving. As my friend pointed out, it would be a lighter option if it was a soft taco, but it was still mighty tasty. And even closer to my heart is a restaurant's tolerance of young kids. Despite having 2 young kids in high chairs in a place that had previously been popularized as a bar with bar food, there were plenty of healthy options for them and I didn't feel like a nuisance for having my kids or stroller. The only way to survive eating out with young kids it to find a way to keep kids content, which is hard enough for parents without feeling challenged by staff. With us, all of the staff were great. And MetaGirl, always one to make herself known, got all sorts of wonderful attention.

Overall, it was a pleasant experience. It's 1/2 a block from the beach with a patio, allowing a nice beachy view. Fresh, seasonal food that isn't too fussy. Yes, it's a bar, but don't be put off by it. And a nice getaway for a quick bite or a full meal, even if you have kids. The Third Street Promenade is a couple of blocks away (on Third between Broadway and Wilshire), but I can't think of one restaurant I would recommend to anyone. It's the little places, like this one, that are off the Promenade that are worth visiting.

In the effort of full disclosure, CJ did comp the meal (completely unnecessary, but very appreciated!). However, that was due to the above mentioned trampling incident. He was apologetic and really nice about it. And I'm pretty sure that I was more embarrassed about it than he was. After all, I'm the one who goes by MetaMommy ;-)

The Yard
119 Broadway (between Ocean and 2nd Street)
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 395-6037

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Missing MetaDaddy

It's funny the things you take for granted. I stay at home, and MetaDaddy goes to work. I'm at home with the kids all day, he's at work all day. Sometimes he has to leave very early (e.g., 6AM) for a meeting or a flight, and when he does, I think "poor guy" as he wakes me to give me a goodbye kiss -- I promptly nod off again. Other times, as I'm surrounded by cranky offspring while making dinner at 6PM, I think "lucky guy." Those days, I get annoyed when he's late. Regardless of the time, when he gets home, it's a treat for everyone. The kids get to hug the daddy they missed so much, I get a relief of parental pressure, and I think he gets to relax a little (as much as you can at home with kids prodding you).

So when he goes away on business, I think it's tough on everyone. It's tough on the kids because they know something's different, but they don't quite understand it. MetaGirl might be a little less aware given that she's 11 months, but there's definitely something amiss. And MetaBoy is constantly asking "where's daddy," to which I reply "he went to the office on an airplane and he'll be back soon." I don't know if that's the best thing to say, but he seems OK with it. He chimes in with "and he's going to bring me a present!" because that's what MetaDaddy told him at the airport as we were saying our goodbyes.

Obviously, it's tough on us, the parents. Him because he's traveling, dealing with airlines, coping with jet lag, tolerating food that can be hit or miss, and missing home. Me because there's no reprieve from the mayhem. They wake with me, spend all day with me, and I only have that short bit of time between their bed times and mine. I love them, but OMG! That's a lot of giggles, whines, smiles, complaints, hugs, pushes...tears.

It's funny how getting by day by day can help you take for granted the little things. Having MetaDaddy around is wonderful because we all love him so much. But it's more than that. He helps everyone function better. He teaches and shares things with the kids that I don't. His point of view gives the kids balance. He helps me from getting overwhelmed or taking on too much, for everyone's sake. He's the yin to my yang. The woo to my hoo. The melon to my proscuitto. Mmm...proscuitto...

6 days and counting.

Miss you!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Free Ice Cream at Milk

I haven't tried it due to dietary constraints, but I hear Milk's ice cream is wonderful. One of these days, we'll all sit down for a taste.

But you all are in luck for this Sunday is National Ice Cream Day.

"Milk is doling out free scoops of its decadent, house-made flavors like banana dulce de leche, mint chocolate chip and strawberry. Just say the secret code phrase--"I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream"--for one scoop in a cone or a cup."

Milk, 7290 Beverly Blvd., Mid-City; 323-939-6455

Sunday July 19 from 8AM-11PM

Via Tasting Table LA

Monday, July 13, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

Quinoa Recipe - I struggle, occasionally, with the wet, heavy quality of cooked quinoa. This is a clever technique fixed that. Finally, I had light, fluffy quinoa that rivaled the texture of cous cous. It does take longer to make this way, so I find it's worth it if I won't be mixing it with something wet (e.g., a meal with a lot of sauce which will wet the grain again).

Hart High Student to Compete in National Cooking Competition - This 17 year old already has an impressive culinary resume. I'm so impressed to see that kind of dedication to anything, especially at that age.

Yes We Can Food - I'm so jealous. I wish we had something like this in L.A. Depending on the month, they make apricot jam, pickles, or tomatoes. Farm fresh food canned during their peak season. Mmm...so jealous.

A Martha Stewart Cartoon...For Kids - Um...is it a good thing?

An unexpected way to boost the economy - Breastfeeding can help bolster the economy by preventing illnesses in infants. Just doing our part to help ;-)

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Blue Berries and Green Shopping

Fun stuff this weekend.

We went blueberry picking in Camarillo. Pickings were slim, but it was an interesting experience. A little too hot to be fun, but I like exposing MetaBoy to new food things. And this was definitely new. Blueberries grow on bushes? In the ground? From dirt? A pound of blueberries for $3.50! No, not organic, but I'll let it slide this time. I'll make plans to do this earlier in the season next time.

Afterwards, we stopped by the Camarillo Outlets for some deals.

I always take my shopping bag in my purse. It's small and folds up into nothing, so it's easy. And it means I'm always ready to refuse a shopping bag from stores. I did this when we bought a little something at Banana Republic, and they gave me 10% off. I got a 10% discount for using my own bag!! What a great surprise.

Good on Banana Republic for encouraging shoppers to do the right thing! I wonder if any other stores do this

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Living in a Discount Culture

This was an interesting segment about discount shopping on Marketplace. Ellen Ruppel Shell's latest book Cheap:the High Price of Discount Culture is her analysis of bargains in the U.S., which she says can end up costing consumers more than they think. For example, if instead of buying the boots you love you buy the most discounted pair which you never wear, did you save money? Personally, I find myself always repeating the question to myself "yes it's cheap, but will I use/wear it?" If not, I won't buy it. My argument is both about money and space. I can't afford space for stuff I won't use. I taught myself that lesson years ago, but it primarily stems from my Virgo nature. Practical, organized...boring ;-)

Another interesting comment was about "sales" and how prices are set:
"How many of us, for example, have ever paid full price for a mattress. There's an object, you know, it's always, quote, unquote, on sale. Well, it's really not on a sale. That's the real price of the mattress. The other mattresses in that department store have higher prices, but the merchant doesn't really expect to sell those mattresses. He rotates all his mattresses into the sale pile, and he expects to sell them at that sale price, which is actually the full price."
That information will forever change how I see sales. I'm tempted to buy the book, but like those never worn boots, will I ever get around to reading it?

Maybe if it's on sale ;-)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Heels for Babies? Seriously?!?

In case you're baby is too happy and comfortable, here's a product sure counteract that. Heelarious Shoes...

"Your little one will look fabulous in these soft crib shoes designed to look like high heels! Each pair of heelarious heels is packaged in a darling purse-shaped gift box, complete with a rhinestone closure. Red satin heel with leopard satin lining for infants size 0-6 months."


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Social Security Numbers Easily Guessed

An interesting new report shows how easy recent Social Security numbers have become to guess.
"It was far easier to predict SSNs for people born after 1988, when the Social Security Administration began an effort to ensure that U.S. newborns obtained their SSNs shortly after birth."
Yikes! This new study has me rethinking the safety of providing information on blogs. I intentionally don't provide any real names for such reasons. But it sounds like all thieves really need is a name, date of birth, and home town to come to a close approximation of a Social Security number.

So if you or your kids were born after 1988, it's that much more important that you safeguard such basic information.

Here's how the system works:
"The Social Security number's first three digits -- called the "area number" -- is issued according to the Zip code of the mailing address provided in the application form. The fourth and fifth digits -- known as the "group number" -- transition slowly, and often remain constant over several years for a given region. The last four digits are assigned sequentially.

As a result, SSNs assigned in the same state to applicants born on consecutive days are likely to contain the same first four or five digits, particularly in states with smaller populations and rates of birth.

As it happens, the researchers said, if you're trying to discover a living person's SSN, the best place to start is with a list of dead people -- particularly deceased people who were born around the time and place of your subject. The so-called "Death Master File," is a publicly available file which lists SSNs, names, dates of birth and death, and the states of all individuals who have applied for a number and whose deaths have been reported to the Social Security Administration."
While the study says that if you were born in a big state on a busy day you're probably still safe, I figure it's worth being cautious. Even if the Social Security Administration begins randomly assigning SSNs, that will only benefit future applicants. And as I understand it, even if your identity has been stolen, it's still incredibly hard (if possible) to get a new SSN.

Source: Researchers: Social Security Numbers Can Be Guessed

Monday, July 6, 2009

MetaGirl's Eating Habits

When I first started making baby food for MetaBoy, I was die hard. I followed all of the instructions to a T to assure flavor, food safety, proper tenderness and texture, etc. I wanted to make sure that his first foods served as a gateway to a lifetime of gustatory pleasures. OK, I might have overestimated the seriousness of those first foods, but I stand by my intentions. From 7 to 12 months of age, he was unintentionally vegan because I was so cautious with everything I made for him. He only drank water, and did so happily (my theory: you can't miss what you've never had, eg juice). He ate all sorts of fruit, except apple sauce (odd, but true). And he loved eating. So as long as I was shoveling food into his mouth, he was happy. He never demanded to take the reigns. He was just happy to be eating.

Oh, how I miss that.

MetaGirl could not be more different. She hated having food put into her mouth. She only wanted to use the spoon as a toy. At some point, she settled into a groove where she allowed us to feed her. And then, as suddenly as it started, it was over; the spoon was banned. She refused all food that approached her with a spoon. We tried the obvious spoon, the sneak attack spoon, the stealth spoon...she was too good. She shut us down every time.

So when she was about 9 months old, I changed strategies. I stopped making baby purees and started looking for soft finger foods. It turns out that her refusing the spoon didn't mean she was refusing food. She LOVES finger foods.

I started her out with soft foods cut into tiny pieces, and she gobbled it up. We've done avocado, tofu, bread, peas, peach, apricot, plum, melon, watermelon, banana, cooked vegetables (e.g., eggplant, zucchini, carrot), and any other soft foods I could find in the refrigerator, freezer, or on our plates. One twist I've taken is to make a lentil puree, freeze it in one ounce cubes (these are great!!), and defrost as needed (e.g., one for a meal). When I reheat it in the microwave, it dries out just enough so that I can easily roll it into a ball for baby handling. I've slowly made the pieces of food ever so slightly bigger, but they're still relatively tiny. I did recently give her half of a small apricot without the pit, and she ate the whole thing. It was a hilarious mess to behold. With her newly discovered independence, she now happily eats her meals with the family.

The take home lesson? All kids are different eaters, but that doesn't mean that eating is off the table (har har). If your baby isn't eating, try a different approach. It might take a while, but take cues from your baby, and just be mindful of food size and tenderness for choking hazards.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Busy Times

It feels like I haven't been here in ages! As I can see from the date of my prior post, my feeling is indeed accurate. That said, if you're ever wondering what I'm up to, just follow me on Twitter. I'm more likely to update there than here these days since it's easier to post 140 characters than a full blog post. I can be so wordy sometimes!!

We've been busy lately. MetaDaddy had to go away for a week on business, which left me to care for the kids...alone. OMG!!! I don't know how single parents do it. I had the two for one week without the stress of having to go to work, and I was run off my feet. Both are at such a different, yet demanding age.

MetaBoy is constantly learning, asking, playing, running, eating, drinking, taking, pushing, reaching, watching...and so on. He just never stops. Which is why I really love nap time and I hope he does, too...for at least another couple of years.

MetaGirl is a completely different challenge. She crawls, cruises, reaches, peaks, wiggles, climbs, escapes, chews, all the while grinning like a Cheshire cat. She is in constant need of attention, and beams with delight when she gets it. The flip side is that she scowls, and might even cry, if she doesn't get it. As for her eating habits, ugh. I could feed MetaBoy anything with a spoon. She will not eat anything off a spoon. In fact, I've had to come up with a completely new food regimen for her because everything I learned with MetaBoy is wasted on her.

Between meals, playing, non-overlapping naps (not by choice, I promise), and the rare errand, I hardly had time to sleep...much less play on my computer. Sad, but true :-(

This past and coming week are busy with other new and exciting things for MetaBoy. He is attending some fun classes and meeting new friends. As such, things are still busy and chaotic for everyone else. And then, MetaDaddy has to go away on business again for another week! Eek!!

At this rate, July is going to fly by. I find that bittersweet. On the one hand, it'll be nice to have stressful things out of the way. But on the other hand, I like savoring the little moments when MB takes me to the kitchen and insists that we dance. Or when MG looks up, sees me, and grins like someone's just made her day. You just don't want to let those little things get tangled and forgotten amongst the dry cleaning and groceries.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Congratulations, MamaGeek!

My blogging buddy, MamaGeek, has done it now. Twins!!

The way I figure it, with twin infants (twinfants?) and an almost three year old boy, I'll probably never hear from her again. But if I do, it should be good.

Wishing her and Sam scads of luck, joy, and sleep.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Anniversaries, Campanile, and Kids

If it's not in my calendar or on my "to do" list, I will forget it.

Case in point, my 2 year blogiversary came and went with nary a sigh. Back in June of 2007, I was posting a ridiculous 3, 4, or 5 times a day. Wow. These days, it feels like I'm averaging more like once a week. What a difference a baby makes.

They Call Me Mommy - June 2007

Speaking of dates of significance, tomorrow MetaDaddy will find out if he has to travel on business during our anniversary. If he has to go, he has to go. I guess we can't do our annual Campanile dinner. We've done it 2 years in a row, but that counts as annual in my book!

A nice dinner out with 2 kids under 3. Hmmm...just as well, you say? Perhaps. That's what MetaDaddy would probably say if he wasn't scared to ;-)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Aer Lingus Cuts San Francisco to Dublin Route

As a family that routinely flies to Dublin, Ireland from Los Angeles, we were in agony when Aer Lingus, the only airline to fly a direct route between the cities, canceled it. MetaGirl comes along, and they pull this on us. Why, why, why?!?
"The airline is stopping Shannon flights to Chicago from September 1, while services from Dublin to Washington and San Francisco are being dropped from October 25. It says the restart of these services in summer next year will be 'subject to review'."
Ugh. We flew via Chicago last time. A pallet of luggage and bathroom water froze while being loaded on the plane. We will not be doing that again. We were hoping to go via SF this Christmas, but it doesn't look like that'll be happening.

Back to the drawing board.

Aer Lingus cuts US winter service

Friday, June 12, 2009

Better Cake Mix Alternative?

I like baking, but it can be such a daunting task with kids running/crawling in circles around your legs. Making the batter for a cake or cupcake is really quite easy, especially in a food processor). But sometimes, it's more the thought of baking from scratch that's a deal killer. The thought of taking out the flour, baking powder, salt...putting them all away...cleaning up. Blegh!

One of the bigger benefits to home baking is using good ingredients, and knowing that there are no partially hydrogenated fats or high fructose corn syrup lurking in there. As such, while I'm not a fan of cake mixes, I can appreciate what this one offers.

Naturally Nora Cake Mixes

Stars Cake Mix Ingredients: Unbleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Chocolate Cookies (Wheat Flour, Sugar, Canola Oil, Cocoa, Baking Soda, Salt, Rosemary Extract), Baking Soda, Natural Vanilla Flavor, Cream of Tartar, Salt, Carob Bean Gum, Guar Gum Contains Wheat Produced In A Facility That Also Uses Mllk, Soy and Tree Nuts.

There are currently only 6 reviews on Amazon, but they're all positive. So maybe they taste OK? Possibly, dare I say, good?

Is it the best option? I'd say no. But if you're gonna open a box, this feels like a better option.

I probably won't be using it any time soon since I've got a baking bug right now, and MetaDaddy kindly asked that I stop trying to fatten him up.

Time to fatten the kids up, I suppose ;-)

Via Daily Candy

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

UV Index Forecast

I was listening to the radio, and someone mentioned that the UV Index forecast for the Los Angeles area will be 10 tomorrow. What does that mean? That means that a fair skinned person who isn't wearing sunscreen can get burned in 4 minutes.

Let me say that again.


It takes me about that much time to get the mail.

Whatever about me, it's the kids I worry about. Sun damage as a child carries through for the rest of your life. Besides which the worst damage is experienced as a child. I've heard before age 6 is crucial, and I've heard before age 20. Either way, best to be careful with delicate skin, especially early on.

MetaBoy is fair, but his skin leans towards mine, so we both tan instead of burning (to a point, of course). Obviously, he still wears sunscreen, but I don't think I'm as paranoid as I could be. MetaGirl, however, is like a sheet of paper. She practically glows in the dark. Her porcelain skin would not tolerate any sun, I'm sure of it. Much like MetaDaddy, I'm sure she will burn, not tan. I always keep her covered, be it in her stroller or under a hat, but she'll only tolerate that for so much longer. Then, the sunscreen fight will begin.


Check out the UV Index Forecast for your area. And keep your sunscreen handy.

Note to self: Buy more sunscreen.

Friday, June 5, 2009

David Lebovitz's Shopping List

One of the best shopping lists ever!!

List everything you're making, highlight what you need to buy. Brilliant.

David Lebovitz's Prep List

Prix Fixe at P. F. Chang's

Do you like P. F. Chang's? They've got a prix fixe special: Four course dinner for two for $39.95. The website mentions Valentine's Day, but there's no expiration on the deal. So if you're interested, might be worth a call to your Chang's of choice.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Around the Internet: Food

Bad, bad, naughty food.

The Cookie Cake Pie - This is so over the top. My teeth hurt just looking at it!

Chain Restaurants Engaged in Obesity-Promoting "Waist Race" - Ever had the Cheesecake Factory's Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls? "With 1,570 calories and 69 grams of saturated fat, you'd be better off eating an entire stick of butter."

If that's not a motivation to cook at home, I don't know what is. To spur on that sentiment, here are 5 things that we don’t have to do in the kitchen.

That said, even if you cook at home, that doesn't mean your "healthy food" is what it claims to be. This article addresses some misleading manufacturer's labels found on chicken, salt substitutes, artificial sweeteners, wheat bread, foods containing fiber, and foods claiming to not contain trans fats. For example,
"roughly one-third of the fresh chicken sold in the U.S. is 'plumped' with water, salt and sometimes a seaweed extract called carrageenan that helps it retain the added water." How does that impact your dinner? "Untreated chicken has about 45 to 60 mgs of sodium per four-ounce serving. So-called enhanced or 'plumped' chicken has between 200 and 400 mgs of sodium per serving, almost as much as a serving of fast-food french fries."
Maybe it's just as well that Jamie Oliver will be putting a U.S. city on a diet.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Movie: Away We Go

I LOVE Dave Eggers. I thoroughly believe his book "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" defined a generation. If you got it, you really found Eggers speaking your thoughts, even though his situation was probably nothing like yours. If you didn't get it, then you probably thought he was a whining idiot. I got it, and I've had a soft spot for him ever since. Mind you, it's been at least 10 years since I read the book, so who knows how I'd feel about it today.

I just heard about a new movie directed by Sam Mendes and co-written by...Dave Eggers! Away We Go, per the trailer, is reminiscent of Juno, but for adults. Funny, heart warming, soul searching...how do you handle getting your life ready when you've got a baby on the way. Maybe it's a movie that girls can relate to...especially those who've had a baby...and are me.

Eh, I don't know who the audience is, but I know that if we didn't have to pay $100 for movie tickets, a meal, and babysitter, we'd see this as soon as it hit theaters. Ah, parenthood.

Looking forward to the full feature via Netflix. In the meantime, the trailer.

Trailer: Away We Go

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Cookbooks: Ratio and The Flavor Bible

I cook at home for my family. The extent of my training is from cookbooks, which I read for fun (easier to finish than a novel these days), and TV personalities, primarily those with entertaining accents (yes, Jacques, I'm looking at you).

But you don't really learn much from those sources, other than a specific recipe and an occasional tip. One of the reasons I watch Alton Brown religiously and subscribe to Cook's Illustrated is because I want to know how the cooking and baking processes work, so that I can understand how to negotiate a recipe to serve my needs.

Yes, certain foods are easy to vary (e.g., add more vegetables, use less salt). I have no problem changing things up in a stew, for example. Herbs and spices are always mere suggestions. And there's always room for some vermouth! But when it comes to making bread, pie crusts, or cakes, I'm at the mercy of my recipe books. I love my books, but sometimes I wish I understood why certain ingredients are listed so that I know whether or not I can substitute or omit them all together.

Enter Michael Ruhlman. His most recent book is Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. This is the book I've been looking for since I burned, cut, and maimed myself while foraging for sustenance in my sad little kitchen oh so long ago. This book gives you the ratios of how to make foods that require precision, thereby offering me a foundation from which to be creative in the kitchen.

For example, as he states after offering the ratio for bread is 5 parts flour to 3 parts water:
"You can make fresh bread without opening a single book or scouring a website for random recipes, and you can make as much or as little as you like. That 500 grams of flour or 20 ounces of flour with the water, a pinch of dry yeast, and 2 big pinches of salt make a good loaf of bread. But if you want to liven it up, add a tablespoon of freshly chopped rosemary and a head of roasted garlic and stretch it out for a roasted garlic and rosemary ciabatta. Other fresh herbs such as thyme, sage, and oregano work beautifully, too. Or use other intense, flavorful ingredients: poblano and chipotle peppers, kalamata olives and walnuts, chocolate and cherries, pistachios and cranberries. Caramelized onion! A sausage! Cheese! The variations are limitless because you know the ratio, 5 parts flour, 3 parts water."
After giving you ratios and a few other tips, he gives you a few recipes to understand how to use the information. Because the point isn't to walk away with a recipe, it's to walk away with an understanding of how you can make every recipe bend and yield at your command!! Mwa, ha, haaaaa!! Hmm...too much? OK, it's at least a great tool in understanding how you can manipulate recipes to suit your ingredients on hand, or alter the servings needed (serves 4 vs. serves 8 isn't always a matter of doubling everything).

Now that this book is in my hot little hands, I'm much more keen on getting The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. After hearing about it at every turn (a fun review here), I checked it out from the library, and found that it wasn't for me. Much like a dictionary, it lists foods and their complimentary pairings. For example, if you look up cherries, it will list every food that goes well with cherries, as well as a list of foods that go exceptionally well with cherries. Personally, I found that it put the onus on me of understanding what I cook, and that's just silly. But as I feel a bit more confident in cooking and baking, I might feel more inclined to have such a tool in my kitchen. As a home cook, it really can come in handy. If I'm debating on what to do for dinner and I know I have some herbs or vegetables that I want to use up before they go off, this book would be a great way to figure out how I can use a few ingredients effectively. Things like that don't just come to me...I need help! And how likely is it that I'll find a recipe in a random book or online as easily? Riiiiiight.

So these are my exciting new kitchen finds. Have you seen anything exciting out there?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Farmers' Market Shopping Cart

‘Hook and Go’ Urban Shopper
- I see these at the farmers' market all the time. Given that we'll be using a stroller for the foreseeable future, I don't need this. But, oh how sleek and smart. One day...one day...

$59.95 @ Sur La Table

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Recipe: $10 Meals for 4 via NPR

How Low Can You Go? $10 Meals for 4 on NPR - Four recipes submitted by professionals, all ringing in under $10. Personally, I love Jose Andres (a charming Spaniard, though aren't they all ;-), but all of the recipes look good!

From Chef Jose Andres, A Family Favorite For $10

Navy Chef Gets Creative With A $10 Skate Meal

Chef Ming Tsai Makes $10 Dish His Kids Love

The Neelys Get Playful With A $9 Mac 'N' Cheese

And if you continue on to the comments, you'll find hundreds of recipes submitted by readers.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Los Angeles vs My Mood

Ya see, I want to be in a good mood. I really do! And today, I have no serious symptoms of the bug that MetaBoy oh so graciously passed on to me. There's a bit of a sore throat, but no fever, no chills, no headache...two miserable days, and I'm feeling good again. And I got a lot of rest, since I had little energy to do anything other than watch TV with the kids.

But I digress. I woke up smiling with energy to spare. Had a busy day making up for the big load of nothing that I've done all week, including grocery shopping. It's amazing how quickly you can run out of food when you don't buy more. As I said in a recent tweet, we haven't relied on take-out this much since MetaGirl was born. In driving around and getting things done with my positive attitude, it occurred to me: it's hard to stay in a good mood in this city.

Trader Joe's - It's a small store with narrow aisles and a lot of shoppers. Why do people leave their carts in the middle of an aisle, blocking other shoppers, and walk off as if enchanted by elves? Or perhaps they insist on "gently" pushing you as they walk past, despite the fact that you're carrying a baby and you're hardly in anyone's way. Maybe, if you're lucky, that pushy older lady who just had to get in the store right NOW might say "thanks" as she sees the pile of rubble left in her wake. Slight exaggeration? Perhaps. But only slight. This is the last time I go to Trader Joe's in a good mood. I need to be crabby to go there if I'm going to defend us.

Traffic - People don't know / understand / respect traffic laws. I understand getting distracted by a "shiny" and not noticing the light has changed. We've all been there. But don't make a left from the right lane...while crossing 2 lanes of traffic. That is NOT OK.

Home Maintenance - Someone turned the ringer off on the phone. I don't know who did it, and I don't really care. I didn't notice for days since we don't get many calls at home. We only realized it when the answering machine came on this morning despite the lack of rings. I was going to check it, but I forgot. So when the lady called with the estimate I had been expecting for several days, I missed the call. In her message, she said something to the effect of *gee, you're phone and fax machine are the same number. I'm leaving for the day, so I guess I'll have to call you tomorrow to fax you the estimate.*

My reaction:
  • If you can print out an estimate, you have a computer. Get an email account. Use it.
  • If you have an estimate, you have a dollar figure. Don't hang up without giving me some information.
  • If you're calling me to tell me essentially...nothing...don't call me.
And while we're at it...
  • When you give me a time frame for service, honor it. If you don't, don't start calling me a week before the bill is "due" to "remind" me.
  • Be thorough. Don't change shower handles without suggesting it might be a good time to change washers. As far as I'm concerned, if that unchanged washer is the cause of a leak, it's you're fault.
Is it just me? Is it just Los Angeles?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Costco Proposed Settlement of Class Action

Just a little FYI...

Costco - Notice of Pendency and Proposed Settlement of Class Action ("Notice") - If you're a member of Costco, this might benefit you.

Here are some broad strokes:
  • "If you have been a Costco member at any time since March 1, 2001, you may be entitled to benefits from a class action settlement."

  • "The Complaint alleges that Costco members who pay an annual membership fee to renew their Costco memberships after their expiration date has passed received a renewal membership term of 12 months beginning from the previous expiration date, instead of the date on which they paid their renewal fee. For example, if a Costco membership expired on January 31, 2008, and the Costco member renewed the membership 2 months later on March 31, 2008, the members renewal membership would expire on January 31, 2009, not March 31, 2009."

  • "Costco members who renewed their memberships 3 months or more after their previous expiration date will receive 3 months of free membership. The value of this benefit is $12.50 or $25.00, depending on the type of membership."

Monday, May 18, 2009

How to Freeze Everything

I've been reading a lot of random things about food lately. Mark Bittman, NY Times columnist and author of How to Cook Everything, has some tips on saving money in the kitchen. Here's how he puts it:
"If I tried to sell you a new appliance that could help you save money, reduce food waste and get meals on the table faster, the only thing you’d ask would be 'How much?'"
Ah, how we take our freezers for granted. Well, his article has some great tips on what foods to freeze and how. Best tip I took away from this: since food doesn't get "better" in the freezer, it should be used in weeks or months, not years.

Here's an accompanying video of him on the Today Show. It's short, amusing, and informative. But you'll get a lot more information from the article.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


This bird prolly takes better pictures than I do ;-)

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Around the Internet

Healthy lifestyle triggers genetic changes: study - It turns out it's never to late to change habits for the better. Don't just blame genetics. Do something!!

Sugar Content in Packaged Breakfast Foods - A visual aid. And if you want to check other foods like processed snacks, beverages, and more, click at the links on the top of the page.

Our Milk Money - Here's an interesting website where self-employed parents list their products or services. So with your purchase, you can help support a family. And if you're a parent looking to make some money on the side, this might be a good place to list yourself.

News Map - A cool, if overwhelming, news aggregator.

Blame Poverty, Not Pork, for the Swine Flu - So the article is interesting, but a rather nutty comment stuck out.
"IPCC chair Rajendra Pachauri says we should have two or more meat-free days a week. New York Times food columnist Mark Bittman equates the environmental impacts of livestock production to those of nuclear war. On the loopier side is Paul McCartney’s ex-wife, Heather Mills, whose global warming worries led her to recommend that people switch from cow’s milk to milk from dogs and rats."
OMG! If it's between rats milk and no milk, how about no milk, for goodness' sake!?!

I'm just saying.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Photostory Friday: Dining Express

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

So, with MetaGirl rolling everywhere, putting everything in her mouth, and generally taking all sorts of liberties with MetaBoy's toys, MetaBoy's trains are often banned from the living room. I feel bad, but those little magnets are like some tasty little treats to her...how do you say no to a tempted infant? You don't. Eliminate the temptation.

Poor MetaBoy :-(

But he found the fix. The trains, tracks, and all related paraphernalia, are now dining room accessories.

Oh bother.

Dancing Fool

It's Friday. Feel good. Dance!

Bird Loves Ray Charles

Friday, May 8, 2009

Recipe: Farmers' Market Spring Melange

Here's a contribution to Kerry's Farmers' Market Report. Fun!

Amelia Saltsman, author of one of my favorite cookbooks, The Santa Monica Farmers' Market Cookbook, inspired me yet again. Well, she and the farmers' offerings this week. I kept walking past the beautiful English peas thinking "must resist, must resist." Shelling the peas can be tedious. Furthermore, the minute the pea is picked, the sugars starts to break down into starch (if I remember correctly), which means that by the time you buy "fresh" peas from the grocery store, they're unlikely be very sweet at all. If you want sweet peas, your better off using frozen. I've heard this many, many times, so I guess you could say it's been drilled in to my "pea" brain.

But I did it anyway. Why? Who can resist the thrill of a challenge!?! Besides, the peas at the market are pretty fresh, so it's the best case scenario for fresh peas.

I took her Spring Melange recipe as a guide, and bought what I found and/or liked at the market. My melange included leeks, green garlic, Swiss chard, asparagus, English peas, mint, and lemon.

I've never used green garlic, but it was actually lovely. Its mild, garlicy flavor permeated the dish without overpowering it. I used fava beans last time, but heavens...if shelling peas was tedious, fava beans are at a whole new level (shell, boil, peel from skin). Speaking of, I found shelling the peas rather therapeutic, though MetaDaddy thought I was nuts to try it and rather discouraged such future endeavors. We'll see about that. As for the Swiss chard, I felt it toughened up the feel of the dish. I'll try spinach instead next time.

The final touch of mint and a good bit of lemon really brightened up the dish. I threw in some chopped up roasted chicken and served it with brown rice for a well rounded meal.

I'll definitely be doing it again!