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 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 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?