Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Last night the kids and I went to an event that Robert was in charge of organizing at the college. It was a small affair, and everything went very well. We've gone to it each year for some reason, and the only disappointment this year was that there weren't grapes on the fruit platter that Robert had ordered (said Zion, "It's not a party with out grapes!"). After it was all over we packed up the leftover food and juice and empty wine and water bottles for recycling and headed home.

When we got home Robert took the recyclable stuff right over to the bins by the garden. Suddenly I heard, "Hey, there's still wine in this!". I glanced over and saw Robert holding up a nearly empty Sauvignon Blanc bottle. Looking pleased with himself he quickly downed the remains of the bottle, standing there by the trash cans.

My husband is too sexy for wine glasses (or any cup at all, apparently).

Monday, April 28, 2008

And now, a few words from our Liel

Last night as I was putting her to bed Liel rolled over and looked up at me.

"Norrrrrrmally", she said, "um, normally when go on a motorcycle ride we wear helmets. And we have a little basket with fruit punched tucked in it. And then we unclip the basket and take the fruit punch out!" She rolled back over.

No, we haven't been on any motorcycle rides lately. Haven't even owned a motorcycle in her entire life. But what biker wouldn't want a basket (or, "baksick" as Liel says) with fruit punch tucked inside it?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A mouthful of Spring Valley

Earlier this week Zion asked to go get Vietnamese food for dinner. Since he asked this right before dinner we did not indulge him, but I told him we could probably go later in the week (with all it's lovely rice (instead of wheat) Vietnamese is just fine for our Sephardi Pesach rules). Later in the week turned out to be today, and shortly after Robert got home we headed out. We tried a new back roads route, since traffic around here is fairly dreadful from approximately 330-530pm on weekdays. Our new route was longer, but quicker since it was actually quite empty, and we arrived feeling pleased and perhaps a bit smug.

We ordered spring rolls, a couple different beef and noodle dishes, and a chicken and sticky rice dish. About 30 seconds into our meal it became apparent that we hadn't ordered enough chicken. So please, if it looks like I'm going to forget about this the next time we go, help me remember that my kids will chow chicken!

By the end of the meal it had also become apparent that Liel hasn't quite figured out when to stop eating something yet. Both kids had asked to eat chicken "on the bone" and we'd obliged them. Suddenly I looked up from my noodles and noticed that Liel was holding a chicken leg bone that had been striped bare. So bare, in fact, that part of the bone was gone. "Liel", I gasped, "where's the rest of that bone??" I think I was hoping there was some other explanation beyond the obvious. Liel stared at me. "I ate it", she said. The bone was quickly removed from her possession.

Exhibit A.

On the way home the kids ate the orange slices the waitress had brought at the end of the meal. When Liel handed me hers (cause, you know, I love hanging on to sticky, partially eaten oranges for 15 minutes in the car!) I saw that she had, once again, failed to stop eating when most people might.

Exhibit B.

Our drive home produced two other mildly interesting bits. The first was a woman dressed in very tight clothing. Yeah, I know, nothing terribly unusual there, but every time I see something like that I can't help but wonder how the person in question can stand it. Isn't it terribly uncomfortable? I mean, she looked like a sausage stuffed into it's casing- but a sausage doesn't have to move, and she was walking down the street. Robert opined that women's clothing in general appears uncomfortably tight to him, so maybe it's all just a matter of what you are used to.

We also drove by what passes for a health food joint in Spring Valley. Among the menu items painted on the window was "Multi-grain power porridge". Try some today!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Faux wedding

Yesterday our good friend Mr. Faux got married. His wife, Kaori, is a completely lovely person and we couldn't be happier for them! We also had a kick ass time at their wedding and reception, so the good feelings are running high around here.

Our exciting day began with a quick car seat swap with Kenny and Giselle in the Bronx. They then took the kids back to our house for what proved to be a day of fun and games (trains, bug hunting, blowing bubbles on the deck). It was some good sibling love as they did a full day of babysitting- lunch, nap time, afternoon play, dinner and bedtime. We are ever so grateful!

After we made sure that Giselle turned right at Broadway and not left (there was no reason to think she'd turn left, we're just lame like that) Robert and I caught a 1 train down to Times Square, then transferred to the R up to the Upper East Side. The wedding was a Buddhist one and was held at the New York Zen Do.

Here are Mr. Faux and Kaori entering the room.

Next there was some candle lighting and quite a bit of chanting (the Heart Sutra), but they were too far away for us to get a good picture of (flash and all). Eventually they sat down and the Abbott guided them through some vows (mainly involving admitting and releasing bad misdeeds of the past, and promising to continue walking on the Buddhist path). They both read statements/vows to each other and then the Abbott spoke again, giving them advice (in both English and Japanese- their vows were in both languages as well) for a happy marriage.

Afterwards there was a group photograph, but after they had us all in the room the photographer realized she needed to get the pictures of the bride and groom with the Abbott first, as he had another engagement. While we waited we chatted with one of the monks. He asked if there would be a reception afterwards, and we said yes, at the Mandarin Hotel. His response was exactly like that of every other New Yorker. "Oh", he said, widening his eyes, "that's nice!"

Robert and I walked across Central Park to the reception. Here I am, posing in the springtime and showing off some of my fine hand knits (it was cool enough that I found my legwarmers very useful indeed!).

The reception was very nice, as predicted. I think it was the best wedding food either of us had ever had, barring our own wedding, catered by the fabulous Rachel, of course! We spent a happy hour or more chatting with Ethan, Amanda, Ferko and Kat, having cocktails and appetizers. My favorite appetizer was this fabulous shot glass filled with curry spiked coconut milk, tobiko (fish eggs) and a huge shrimp. It was awesome. I downed about 4 of those, and let me tell you, I wish I had one (or 6) right here right now! Dinner was also lovely, and we were seated with people we really enjoyed (including the above mentioned) and next to the band who were totally rockin' (a Brooklyn based bluegrass band called Nieces and Nephews). Here are Mr. Faux and Kaori- she'd changed to this awesome sparkley princess dress!

Here's Robert and me- you can see I'm now wearing the lace wrap I knitted for the wedding.

And here's Robert and Mr. Faux, in what is sure to be the best shot of the entire event.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Chest Freezer

A dream of mine came true today- or at least partly true. We have a chest freezer! We've both wanted one for several years...we have dreams of stocking it full of yummy fresh local summer produce (yes, I realize that clause could have used a comma or two) to enjoy in the winter. And today we got one! We drove out to CT (again...I've literally been to CT three times in my life, twice in the past month) and bought it from a family out there. They are new home owners and it came with their house. I'll never know why they didn't want it, but I'm delighted to give it a loving home. Can't wait to roam around the Hudson Valley picking fruit this summer...

And, lest you think fret about the energy we'll use keeping all that fruit frozen let me assure you that I have plans afoot. Plans which involve Robert building me a solar dehydrator. I've had these plans for years, too (literally since we lived in Santa Barbara!), and I'm thinking this may be my summer.

Food preservation, here I come!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Notes on the kids, garden, knitting

Yesterday the kids and I planted seeds in our "garden" (aka the 12"x 10' strip 0f dirt on the south side of our house). We planted red and green lettuce, arugala, and leeks. Zion planted the leeks and is quite possessive of them- they are his leeks, and he was in charge of watering them today. I hope we get a decent crop of seedlings!

I'm about 2/3'ds done with my first Hat for Akkol! I found out today that the founder of the group just today flew to Akkol to adopt her 4th child (and all of them were adopted as teenagers, I believe). She's taking 270 pairs of socks- one for every child in the orphanage. The goal for this coming winter is to knit nearly 800 pairs allowing the group to include another nearby orphanage.

This morning the kids were asking about the unfinished hat, and who it was for (they ask this about all my knitting projects). I explained and we talked about orphanages, the children who live in them, and how this particular orphanage was someplace very cold and so I was trying to help the children stay warm in the winter. Liel got a very concerned expression on her face and said, "Can we adopt them, mama?" I almost cried.

And this afternoon Zion and I sat down and typed out the ABCs. I had him find all the letters and he knew them all except for U, X, and Y. He's also starting to learn about the sounds letters make and when he wanted to spell a word starting with T today came up with 'tugboat' all on his own. Later he correctly identified B as the first letter in 'bunny' (OK, so he said D first, but even that was close, right?). So cool to see him learn!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

MIttens for Akkol

I've joined a new knitting group- Mittens for Akkol. The purpose is to knit warm woolies (mittens, hats scarves, socks and sweaters) for children in orphanages in the far north of Kazakhstan. The winters are bitterly cold (temps as low as 40 below zero), and the kids need to be warm! Goodness knows that's something I can empathize with. I just joined today and I'm super excited to get to work!

Saturday, April 12, 2008


I don't know when most kids start singing, but although he has enjoyed music and us singing since his earliest infancy, Zion has rarely made any effort to sing himself. But today he has sung "Johnny B. Goode" 3-4 times! Its especially cute when he strums his guitar while he does it.

And then, at bedtime tonight, Liel made her first attempt at singing! Her choice of song was "Train to Chicago" (by the band Drink Me). I'm not sure how mere words can capture the hilarity of a 2 year, holding her stuffed Ice Bat, swaying back and forth on her bed and singing, "Drunk on the train to Chicago, I feel alright....", so I'll just say that I had a hard time singing through my giggles and I'll try to get a video of it. You'll love it.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spring, and dinner

We had acutal spring weather yesterday! It was gorgeous. Sunny, and 70 degrees. I felt like I was home! The kids and I went to the park with some friends and had a lovely time. Thankfully our friends shared food with us, as I was a bad mama and only had crackers and vitamin water with us!

Today was gray and 60. I know I should be grateful for 60, but what can I say? Yesterday spoiled me.

I've been on a Sichuan cooking kick since I last posted. We're having our 3rd Sichuanese dinner 4 days tonight: red braised beef, rice, and broccoli. I can't wait. Red braised beef is essentially a stew cooked with chicken stock, soy sauce, rice wine, brown sugar, ginger root, scallions and star anise. It's delicious. Zion wanted to make chocolate cake, but we didn't get around to it. Maybe tomorrow?

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Fruit flies

So remember how I said we were going to by some fruit flies for Newt today? Yeah. Well, we did. Liel and I stopped to stare longingly at my new favorite fish (Ranchus- they are soooo chubby I could just squeeze them!) and Robert and Zion got the fruit flies. When Liel saw them at the check out counter she wanted to join in, too, so we hurried over in time for me to hear the girl working at the register say, "OK, so your total is $19.67".

"Holy shit", I blurted out, staring at the tube of tiny, yucky flies as Robert handed over his credit card. "Did we just pay $20 for fruit flies??"

"Yes", said Robert. "We don't need a bag", he added to the employee. "They can keep reproducing in the tube for like 6 weeks."

"Wow. Um, I think maybe we'd better lobby for Newt to be released into the wild after 6 weeks. $20 for fruit flies??"

Those better be magical fruit flies, that's all I'm sayin'.

Keeping up

That's about what I've been doing lately. I'm still working on my dad's sweater vest and I'm kinda anxious about it since I don't know if he'll like the color, or if it will fit. It's coming out a bit bigger than I'd intended, but Robert says it's a little tighter than he'd like so hopefully it won't be huge?? Robert's chest is a few inches bigger than my dad's. I also made it too short so I need to rip back a row or two. Not a big deal, but more than I want to do at the moment!

A couple of days ago the kids and I were out weeding in the "garden" (right now its a strip of dirt on the south side of our house. In the summer we optimistically try to grow vegetables there. Its literally about 18" wide and 10 feet long. I'd much rather dig up a bunch of grass but as this isn't our house....) and we found a tiny salamander under a rock. He's about 3/4" long and black with red on his back. Turns out he's a Redbacked Salamander. Zion really wanted to keep him, so we set up our aquarium with dirt from the garden, and a rock and some dead leaves and moss and sticks. This afternoon we're heading to the pet store to buy him flightless fruit flies, one of the only bugs that will be small enough for him to eat. We've named him Newt, just for kicks.

In food news, I haven't baked in like 3 weeks! 3 weeks! I might go insane, but I'm making some kind of attempt at better health. I feel my resolve cracking however, and might make a banana caramel upside down cake tonight, if we pick up bananas while we are out. Yes, I know bananas are totally unlocal. But it's realllly good and frankly, I don't eat many bananas. In the dinner department I'm planning to cook up some Shredded Beef with Sweet Peppers from the ever-popular (at least at my house!) Land of Plenty cookbook. I lusted after it on my blog last summer and my badass brother got it for me for my birthday. Love love love it.

Friday, April 4, 2008

April Showers

Rainy rainy April. I'm sooooo ready for spring! The upside of it still being cold (getting warmer, I admit, but high 40s is still cold in my book!) is that I still have time to use up some of the stew beef from our last Paidom order before it's too warm for me to want to stew.

Tonight I'm making beef stew for dinner. Its my own recipe, but by happy coincidence it tastes quite similar to one of my favorite tagines at La Maison du Couscous in Brooklyn. If the weather is still cool enough for stew where you live (or maybe if you have a crock pot, I've never really used one of those and am not familiar with their magical powers) I highly recommend you try it out.

1 lb stewing beef, cut into chunks
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 c water
1/2 c Chinese style rice wine for cooking
2 carrots
3 smallish potatoes
1/3 c green olives, chopped
1 preserved lemon, chopped

Salt the beef and brown in your stewing pot with approx 1 T oil. Mine needs two batches. I put it in the upturned pot lid to wait when it's browned. Add more oil to pot if necessary and add onion. Cook until it's softened a bit, then add ginger and turmeric. Cook until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Return beef to pot, and add water and rice wine. Bring to simmer and cook, covered, about 60 minutes (longer is fine, too). Chop carrots and add them. Cook another 30 min, chop potatoes and add them. Cook until things are nearly tender then add olives and preserved lemon. When everything is tender and lovely add the peas, still frozen. Stir them in, turn off heat, and cover. In about 3 minutes the peas will be defrosted and not overcooked at all. Serve (cilantro and/or parsley are nice, but plain is good, too!).

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Food laws

OK, so kids and parents often disagree about food, right? At the tender age of 4 (or, um, 18 *cough* just for full disclosure, you know...) subsisting off of Kool-aid powder and Marshmallow Fluff seems like a good idea, but as slightly mature parents we know better, and try to impress our hard won knowledge upon our offspring.

Zion has always been a fairly easy kid as far as food goes. He'll try anything and likes most of it. But lately he's been announcing that he doesn't like X- usually when faced with it at dinner time. I suspect this is a part of his burgeoning independence; he's marking his territory, as it were. Luckily, we have a plan. We've had it from before we even had kids, as a matter of fact, and truth be told, it's actually my parent's plan. But we like it, and imitation and flattery and all.

So the plan is this: each child is allowed a short list (probably about 5 items) of foods that they don't have to eat. The list can be changed any time other than immediately prior to a meal. This way the working-towards-independence child can have a voice in his/her food choices, while we as parents still get to pretend that we can enforce our will. Perfect.

Anyway, last night I made lentil soup. Both kids like lentil soup. Except last night Zion decided that he didn't. We figured he was old enough to understand and appreciate the food list, so we explained the concept and he enthusiastically put lentil soup on his list. He'd have cashew butter and honey for dinner, he decided. It was easy and peaceful and the rest of us sat down with our soup while Zion munched on sandwich. But a funny thing happened. About halfway through his meal Zion's face started looking a little bit sad and he announced that he was tired of cashew butter. I asked if he'd like some lentil soup and he brightened up and said that he would. So I brought him some soup and he ate it. And then he told us that he didn't think he wanted to have a list of foods he didn't have to eat- he'd just eat everything. We told him to rock on.

Coconut Lentil Soup

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 T fresh ginger, minced or grated
1.5 tsp garam masala
2 c lentils
4 c chicken or vegetable broth
1-2 c water
1 can coconut milk (NOT cream!)

Saute the onion in some oil in your soup pot. When it's browned a bit add the garlic and ginger and garam masala and saute another minute or so (if you think it's starting to burn it's time to stop!). Pour in the broth and water and lentils and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk and simmer until the lentils are tender. Season with salt and pepper to taste (I don't usually do pepper, but you might like to). Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Connecticut- closer than you think!

Robert and I are both from big states. Very big states. We both grew up knowing that we could drive for hours in any direction and still be in our state. I can't speak for Robert, but I find the smallness of states in the Northeast very difficult to wrap my head around. Take today, for instance. Robert wanted to go see the robot exhibit at the Bruce Museum, which is closing in a few weeks (the exhibit, not the museum!). The Bruce Museum is in Connecticut. We live in New York. How long do you think it took us to drive there? Anyone? Bueller? About 20 minutes. *shakes head*

The exhibit was cool and the kids loved it. There were robot building tables, exhibits with knobs to turn and buttons to push, and lots of old tin type robots, all from the same man's collection.

However, their favorite robot was almost certainly the robot horse. It had a carrot to 'eat', and a brush for its fur. The children made liberal use of both.

Afterwards we went across the street to a park with dinosaurs for riding!

PS- Liel is wearing a jacket made by my friend Megan at Home Spun Goods. This is her second year in the jacket, and I can attest that it is: 1. gorgeous 2. beautifully made and 3. adored by my little girl. Makes me kinda wish she made big person clothes!