Wednesday, December 12, 2012

what we're reading now...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012
I am still planning to put together a list of my favorite children's holiday books, but for now, here is a glimpse of what has been shoved into my lap with the highest frequency in the past month or so.

Silly Sally.  I picked this up on a whim at the library, thinking that A might like the "silly" theme. The pictures are bright and bold, and it is funny to see Sally's upside-down march to town.  Once again, however, it's the rhyming that captures his interest.  I read it no less than six times, yesterday, several of them in consecutive order.  Thank goodness it's short!

Llama Llama Time to Share.  I tried to avoid buying this book, the latest little Llama adventure.  My spending on books has been, ahem, out of control, and I thought it might be good to leave this particular title for the library.  We could check it out as much we wanted.  However, my plan was foiled when A discovered it at a bookstore we visited on our weekend in Bodega Bay.  He enthusiastically yelled, "Share!  Share!" which sounds (adorably) something like "Sa-ow!  Sa-ow!"and yanked it off the shelf, tearing one of the pages in his excitement.  Even if he hadn't torn a page, I might have had to give in.  I love that he loves books so much.

Ten Apples Up on Top.  This lesser-known Seuss title is not exactly a favorite of mine.  I bought it for a unit on apples several years ago, and I'll admit the kids loved it.  I should have realized that once he discovered it, A would too.

Little Blue Truck.  I overheard a few people chatting about this book and its sequel, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way, at our bookstore.  I have something of a competitive nature, and I was horrified that I wasn't aware of its charm.  "I must have the best of all the best books!"is probably the thought that crossed my mind (I'm not proud of this flaw).  Anyway, I snuck over to Little Blue Truck, and attempted to thumb through it quickly as though I was completely familiar with it.  I humbly confess that it IS just as delightful as you might imagine, and that I took extra time admiring the friendly illustrations before purchasing both books.  A loves them.

This is Not My Hat.  I was ecstatic when I found out that Jon Klassen, author of one of my favorite new books, I Want My Hat Back, would be coming to our local bookstore for a signing/reading. I decided that A and I would have to go, and it couldn't have been better.  He was charming and funny (not to mention young!) and A had just really gotten into I Want My Hat Back about a month before the signing, which was perfect.  I wasn't aware that Klassen had a new book coming out, so was happily surprised to pick it up and have it signed as well.  It's just as funny (perhaps even more so) as its predecessor, though I know it will be some time before A grasps the humor of the story.  Because the illustrations are so simple, however, he really enjoys reading it.  I am beginning to think he might grasp the fate of the thieving fish at the story's conclusion, which could be rattling to his newly sensitive, anxious toddler state.  Even if he does, I'm fairly certain he'll still want to hear it a few times a week.

Three by the Sea. For some strange reason, this book made a real impression on me as a child.  James Marshall's writing and distinctive illustrations are comically charming (see George and Martha, Miss Nelson is Missing) of course, but there isn't exactly anything earth-shattering about three friends telling stories by the sea.  Their names are Lolly, Spider, and Sam, which is, I suppose, memorable enough in itself.  Needless to say, I broke the book out on one of our recent flights and A was captivated.  He especially loves the monster story.  Note: Three by the Sea is written under the name Edward Marshall, one of James' pseudonyms.  I discovered this tidbit while researching Marshall, and I'll include a fascinating bit straight from the ever-reliable Wikipedia, which I love because of what Sendak had to say about Marshall.

It is said that he discovered his vocation on a 1971 summer afternoon, lying on a hammock and drawing. His mother was watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and the main characters, George and Martha, ultimately became characters in one of his children's books (as two hippopotami). Marshall continued as a children's author until his untimely death in 1992 of a brain tumor. In 1998, George and Martha became the basis for an eponymous animated children's television show.
Marshall was a friend of Maurice Sendak, who mentions him as the "last in the line" of children's writers for whom children's books were a cottage industry. Sendak said that Marshall was "uncommercial to a fault" and, as a consequence, was little recognized by the awards committees. (Marshall won a University of Mississippi Silver Medallion in 1992, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears was a Caldecott Honor Book in 1989.) Sendak said that in Marshall you got "the whole man", who "scolded, gossiped, bitterly reproached, but always loved and forgave" and "made me laugh until I cried." In 2007, the American Library Association posthumously honored Marshall with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal for his "substantial and lasting contribution to literature for children."

You Can Do It, Sam.  One of our favorite bedtime books is Kiss Good Night, featuring Sam and Mrs. Bear and their sweet bedtime routine.  I wasn't aware there were other Sam titles until we came across this one and another, Don't You Feel Well, Sam, in the library.  There is something really unique about the way Amy Hest writes, a repetitive prose that at first seems disarming but eventually becomes incredibly appealing.  Example: "Mrs. Bear and Sam walked towards the little white house, and the sun was just sunning up the little white house."  (Not an exact paraphrase, the book is snugly packed into the bookshelf in the room where dear A is snoozing).  We read all three books frequently.  It's not unusual at all to hear a loud "Sam!" demand.  

Duck on a Bike.  I am not a huge fan of the David books.  Am I really the only one to find the illustrations extremely creepy?  I look at David and I shudder.  Seriously.  Thankfully, Duck on a Bike is devoid of strange children, and is instead another farm animals tale.  A gets to practice all his sounds while looking at hilarious pictures of a duck riding a bike, quite proficiently I might add.

I should note that A is also really into Extra Yarn, Blue Chameleon, Boy + Bot,  and The Lorax right now, all of which I've written about before.  He'll even sit down for an entire reading of The Lorax.  He really is a bookworm.

Of course I've purchased a pile of books for him for Christmas.  The holidays aren't helping my book buying problems.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

latest online treasures

Wednesday, December 5, 2012
We have been UNBELIEVABLY busy the past few weeks.  All caps is necessary to truly express the level of craziness that ensues with yet another set of flights for baby, family wedding, Thanksgiving festivities, not one but two dreadful bouts of sniffles/sad coughs, and a lovely weekend celebrating my dear MIL's 60th birthday in the gorgeous but decidedly bird-stalked Bodega Bay.  I have a LOT of fun internet gets better and better as the holidays descend upon us.

50 products you can't live without, via Bon Appetit's Seal of Approval. I will probably have to print out the entire list, minus the mayo, of course.

21 classic opening lines in books. I'm predictably partial to Dickens.

John Krasinski loves his wife. Ah!  It's like Jim in real life.  It IS Jim in real life.

Daryl Dixon's playlist. You know you want to listen.

The Daily Dot says what all of us amateur foodies are thinking.  (rather, thought, considering that I'm posting a full two weeks post-Thanksgiving).

Joy the Baker (and SK, and Homesick Texan!) swaps cookies with Ina Garten!

The story behind Zou Bisou Bisou. I still have trouble getting this confection of a song out of my head.

2012 movie trailer mashup.  I was surprised at how many scenes I didn't recognize.  Perhaps I'm off on my game?  The more likely culprit for my film inadequacies is a certain pint-sized treasure that keeps me on my toes and away from the movie theaters!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Autumn wonder

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

- Posted from my iPhone

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the end of an era

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

I'm not the least bit ashamed to admit that after putting my little A to bed on Sunday night, I snuck out alone for an early evening showing of the Twilight finale.  I hope my loyal few won't think me ridiculous when I say it was bittersweet.  Oh, the many hours I have spent reading those delicious, poorly written books, talking with my mom (who was a rather inexplicable, but utterly devoted fan) about Edward's princely qualities, and mocking the altogether satisfying movies.

I'm really going to miss this.

P.S. True love triumphs!

P.P.S. I was thisclose to putting Nikki Reed's duet with Paul McDonald in the post instead of Green Day.  Better clips from the movies in that one.  And ok, I like the song.  Oh, the self-loathing! 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

weekly distractions, second edition

Thursday, November 1, 2012

-On the Road poster art.

-Jessica Biel's wedding dress.  So pink.  Remember Gwen Stefani's? I'm sorry, Mrs. Timberlake, but your confection doesn't come close to this fashion statement.

-Smitten Kitchen's pancetta pot pies.  Made 'em already.  And they were every bit as delicious as they look.

-Art of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  P.S. I love Design Sponge so much.

-Lennon and Maisy Stella, who star in my new obsession/guilty pleasure Nashville, shot to internet fame long before the show's premiere.  Understandably so.

-Starbucks isn't all bad.

-TV character business cards.  My favorites are Jesse Pinkman and Phil Dunphy.

-Loving The Daily Dot.  Especially this gem of a find, a four-year old overwhelmed and SO DONE with the drama of the election.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

baked rigatoni with kale

Tuesday, October 30, 2012
As I was hastily preparing this dish a few nights ago, after a short-lived crisis wherein I realized I did not, after all, have a full pound of kale, I wondered why I had never written about it before.  I've made it loads of times, each one with results as satisfying as the first.  On that occasion, the first mouthful of the toothsome, hearty whole-grain pasta coated with creamy, cheesy sauce and interspersed with dark green kale was so supremely comforting and good that I swore I would never return to plain old mac n' cheese.  Why should I, when the insertion of that most celebrated and trendy veg made it a transcendent experience?

Despite my best intentions, it was quite some time before I was really back in the swing of things in the kitchen, post-baby.  It's hard at the beginning, of course, for all the expected reasons: you're exhausted, baby's schedule (and thus, your schedule) is completely minute you're swearing that you'll nap after the tenth feeding of the day and the next you are eating your words because you can't help but stare in amazement at your precious sleeping bundle.  For me, there was a brief window of time when the stretches of sleep became a bit longer in the evenings, and instead of taking turns with the baby, my SH and I were actually able to sit down at the table collapse on the couch in front of the television with plates of food I successfully prepared myself.  Those meals were simple at first, but eventually I made things with a few more steps, a bit more prep work, and perhaps enhanced by a flavorful herb or two.

With the advent of solid foods, cooking dinner became more challenging once again.  I didn't have quite as much time to prepare, both because the wakeful periods during the day were very long and though my beloved little A settled into a decent nap routine, he almost inevitably woke up in the middle of each nap and required a bit of soothing back down AND because I made almost all of his food.  Aside:  I found this to actually be easier (and cheaper!) than storebought food, and incidentally, every thing I made actually tasted like what it was supposed to be, which was not my experience every time I tried a jar of baby food.  I could write a whole additional post on my homemade baby food experience-perhaps you'll see it in a few years?

Anyway, to get back to the main reason I'm writing, the amazing baked rigatoni with kale, I positively have to share the joyous time when baby can finally EAT WHAT WE ARE EATING.  After months of double duty dinners, preparing mashes and purees alongside standby soups and pots of beans and rice, it was a welcome relief to gradually begin making baby A his own little plate to match ours.  It was exciting, because it represented his healthy growth and development, and every time he ate a morsel of chicken breast or slurped bolognese sauce off a chunky piece of rigatoni I was thrilled, and not a little proud.  It's also equally convicting and inspiring: I am much more conscientious about what we eat, because I know that A is going to be eating it with us.

I was cautious with those first few table food dishes-I wanted them to be tasty, but also manageable.  This particular blend of hearty green and pasta was a great dish to meet our needs.  The sauce isn't heavy, the cheese is just right (and I need a lot of that, since baby A has yet to fall in love with whole milk), and the bigger pasta is the perfect finger food.  We have made it many times, with kale and also with a substitute of spinach.  It's never let me down.

I found the recipe on a particularly beautiful blog, The Kitchen Sink Recipes.  Blogger Kristin hails from Chicago, takes incredible photos, and writes warmly of food and family.  She recently had a baby girl, and this particular post, eat as three, is what inspired me not only to document the dish I have grown to love so much, but also to write a bit about my own little family eating as three.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

weekly distractions

Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Ok, I wholeheartedly confess that I am borrowing a page from's playbook here.  She has a post every week or so entitled "stuff I found while looking around" containing all kinds of interesting Internet tidbits.  Inevitably fascinating and often totally obscure, her discoveries are far more intriguing than mine, but I liked the idea of collating some of the things I enjoyed most during my daily weekly obsessive browsing.  Of course, everything I read is heavily pop culture-based, but that shouldn't surprise my loyal few.

Classic movie posters with a Toy Story twist...-courtesy of graphic designer Jim Tuckwell

Coldplay's latest video, dystopian comic-styles:

Over at Lainey Gossip, Duana (frequent contributor) joyfully expounds on the news that Tina Fey and Amy Poehler will be hosting the Golden Globes-including a hilarious photo bomb...

Equal parts heart-wrenching and impressive-Henry Thomas' audition tape for E.T., via Huffington Post

New, harrowing trailer for Zero Dark Thirty:

NY Times piece on the background of Justin Cronin's rise to fame with The Passage.  The second novel in the trilogy, The Twelve, is out today.  I'm so excited I can barely stand to start it, dreading its inevitable conclusion!

That must be really hard for you.

Love this.  And for the record, the new phone is a MAJOR upgrade.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The best kind of mail

Sunday, October 14, 2012

This arrived over the weekend, my beautiful, wonderful sister's wedding invitation.

"A heart well worth winning, and well won. A heart that, once won, goes through fire and water for the winner, and never changes, and is never daunted."

Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend

- Posted from my iPhone

Sunday, October 7, 2012

what we're reading now...september (rather, what we read...september)

Sunday, October 7, 2012
September was a lovely month for us, full of birthday celebrating, trips to the beach and aquarium, and even an early visit to a local pumpkin patch.  Clearly, not a lot of blogging was happening.  We were reading all the while, of course.

Extra Yarn.  Is it wrong that I coerced by little baby into loving this book?  I took one look and decided that he HAD to like it.  Illustrated by Jon Klassen, the clever genius behind I Want My Hat Back, it is a great little story about a magically voluminous box of yarn that transforms a little town, all at the hands of a young knitter named Annabelle.  Didn't that one brief descriptive sentence make you want to read it immediately?  I thought so.  For the record,  A does actually love it.

It Looked Like Spilt Milk.  I was surprised that A developed such a strong connection to this book at first.  It was a selection on a whim from the library, a classic that wasn't part of our own collection.  We are already on our first book renewal, and I don't know if he'll be able to part with it.  Even though I know that the simple, deep blue pages with single stark white illustrations are exactly the kind of thing a young mind like his can comprehend, I somehow thought he would lose patience with it.  After all, he doesn't grasp rather abstract concepts like a cloud yet.  I know I harp on this all the time with my reading lists, but conceptual books that focus on a repeating pattern like this one are truly great for emerging readers.  Yes, I did just refer to my ONE-YEAR OLD toddler as an emerging reader, but I think it's an apt description.  For those years until a child begins to read, every reading behavior that they practice, from exploring books to choosing them based on pictures is a part of the reading process.

Who Took the Farmer's Hat?  We have a farm obsession going on in our house.  Farm animal puzzles, farm animal magnets, fancy farm animal noise-making toys.  All of this has resulted in baby A's incredible proficiency at imitating the sounds of the biggies (cow, horse, sheep, pig, etc.)  Another farm animal book, especially one as old-fashioned and adorable as this one, can't hurt!

A Visitor for Bear.  I adore this lovely book, which lends itself to reading in a British accent.  The tale of a persnickety bear who doesn't quite realize just how lonely he is until he is worn down by the repeated friendly efforts of a "small, grey, bright-eyed" mouse, I consider A Visitor for Bear to be one of my best new finds of the year.  I was thrilled to discover that there are several other Mouse and Bear titles, and can't wait to get my hands on them.

The Three Little Pigs. Yet again, a Paul Galdone classic haunted our little house for the ENTIRE month of September.  I cannot tell you how completely attached A becomes to virtually all of these extremely traditional fairy tales.  I checked out a cute James Marshall riff on The Three Bears this week and we barely made it through four pages before he shoved it off my lap.

Diary of a Worm.  Another book that I really thought might be beyond A's interest, Diary of a Worm has become a fast favorite.  Doreen Cronin's books are always funny, but these Diary editions (Worm, Spider, and Fly) are especially enjoyable because of the detailed, yet not too busy illustrations.  So far, I haven't won A over to the other books, but I'll happily continue reading this one.  My favorite page, by far, is when the worm tells his vain sister that no matter how much she looks in the mirror, her face will always look like her rear end.  Ha!  We moms and dads need a bit of humor to get through nine million readings of the same book!

Knuffle Bunny.  It took me a while to warm up to this book, and all of Mo Willems' work.  I am all about children's books that subtly showcase adult humor, but I felt like I needed a bit more substance than what these have to offer (Ok, I did totally love the book about Pigeon finding a hot dog, and Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, a recent find at the library, is hilarious).  A pulled this book off the shelf one day, and as I opened it (with a sigh, I might add), I found a faded yellow Post-it stuck to the first page.  In my mom's handwriting were the words, "Cute book."  She'd picked up a copy at the elementary school book fair years ago and saved it for my classroom library (not the first or last time she generously assisted me).  It was like finding a little treasure, a little bit of my mom, however small and seemingly insignificant.  A fresh perspective immediately came over me as I started on the first page.  "She thought it was cute," I told myself.  That's good enough for me.
P.S. A has now taken to grabbing the stuffed Knuffle Bunny at our local bookstore and hugging it.  Too bad the $25.00 price tag will prevent him from adding it too his collection.

Coming up in October: holiday books edition!

Sunday, September 30, 2012


Sunday, September 30, 2012

I wanted to write about Homeland because it is easily some of the best television I have seen in years.  The general story lines are riveting and intense, and the acting is exceptional.  Claire Danes is a tour de force.  There was a moment in the first season where I literally gasped with astonishment at her skill.  I wasn't one of the hardcore initiates into the My So-Called Life fan club, and though what little I saw of her portrayal of Temple Grandin impressed me, I never paid Danes much attention.  I have been very, very wrong.

Thus, if you loved Angela Chase, Homeland is for you.  And also if you were a 24 fanatic.  Or if you would like to see Damian Lewis in a role other than Captain Winters.  Heck, if you appreciate quality television at all, this show is truly a safe bet.

For the uninitiated:

A convenient character-based recap, via

New York Times previews the second season. (SPOILER ALERT!)

My fave tv freak, Michael Ausiello, breaks down what he knows about Season 2.

P.S.  Homeland and its cast swept the Emmys last weekend.  You'll be jumping onto a popular, crowded bandwagon when you tune in!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Every day occurrence

Sunday, September 16, 2012

This is how we start our day.

Books, always books.

- Posted from my iPhone

Friday, September 7, 2012

what we're reading now...august

Friday, September 7, 2012
August passed us by like a whirlwind.  Our precious few days at home were spent visiting cousin L at her apartment in San Francisco, exploring new (to us) treasures like the local Children's Museum, and of course lots of gallivanting around in the backyard, chasing after balls and climbing up and down the slide.  The rest of the month found us in Texas, first for our annual pilgrimage to Campmeeting and then for the most exciting adventure of shopping for a WEDDING DRESS for my sister!  Baby A has become quite the seasoned traveler.  He cheerfully toddled around various airports, leaving a trail of Cheerios in his wake and charming every soul he passed, and due to my meticulous flight planning, took decent naps on every single flight.  I will say that it is absolutely NO JOKE to travel solo with a toddler, but all in all, we managed fine.  

As is my way, I am just now composing a list of what we read during the month.  It continues to bring such happiness to my heart to see how much A genuinely loves books, and our time spent together reading is truly precious.  

Cowboy Small. We started reading this treasure just in time for our trip to West Texas.  I remember reading Lois Lenski's Strawberry Girl when I was young, but I wasn't aware she composed picture books.  The storyline is very simple, which is perfectly appropriate for A.  It was fun to be able to point out things to him that we would be seeing at home.

Owl Babies. I am sure it is unsurprising that this book is incredibly adorable and sweet.  I love that the eldest owl baby is a girl.  That they are huddled together on one branch when the mama owl swoops home.  That one of the owls is named Percy!

It's Time to Sleep My Love.  I ordered this book for our trip to Texas, thinking I could add it to the collection that will live permanently at my dad's house.  I like to have a few goodnight/bedtime books when we're away because I think it helps with the transition to sleeping in a new place.  Granted, A had never laid eyes on the book-I thought that perhaps his exposure to the illustrations of the so-sweet-I-can't-take-it On the Night You Were Born might attract his attention.  As it turned out, I couldn't bear to part with the book once I read it.  It's a beautiful, rhythmic poem, that seems to get better each time we read.

Ferdinand.  Be still my heart!  Baby A has grown to adore this MOST beloved childhood book!  Even now, I can still hear my mom's voice, telling me about the bull who wanted nothing more than to "sit and smell the flowers."

Frog and Toad are Friends. I will confess that we've been diving into Frog and Toad mostly because of me.  A seemed to really enjoy A Kiss for Little Bear, so I thought he might like the equally simple and straightforward Frog and Toad tales.  There is something to be said for stories that contain such basic plots, particularly for young readers.  A tends to respond to them best when he's feeling a bit sleepy.  Is this a sign?

The Best Nest.  In the last week or so, Baby A has developed the most adorable habit-picking out a specific book and toddling over to us, shoving it towards our faces and then promptly settling down into (or attempting to climb up towards) our laps.  At first there were only one or two books he gravitated towards in this manner, and this was one of them.  His obsession has grown considerably, to the point that I might not ever want to see Leo Lionni's Swimmy ever again in my life, but I think I'll always manage to dredge up some happiness while reading The Best Nest.  A mere glance at the familiar pink cover plunges me straight back into childhood days spent at my beloved grandmother's house.  Always notorious for her frugality, Memaw only kept a few books and toys at the house for the grandchildren, and this was one of them.  It looked exactly the same back then, bright pink cover and all.  We must have read it thousands of times, considering the poor shape it was in the last time I saw it. I'm so glad that A loves it too.

Hattie and the Fox.  We've been reading a LOT of farm animal books, and while I am not enamored of all of them, it's actually been a great thing for A.  The constant exposure to the familiar cast of characters (cow, horse, pig, sheep, goat, chicken, etc.) has definitely made an impression.  He imitates sounds and is probably not far from being able to point out an animal when prompted.  Mem Fox is a literary specialist, and can be counted on for excellent reading options for young children.  Other favorites of mine include Koala Lou and Time for Bed.
The Gingerbread Boy.  When I taught kindergarten in the Bronx (oh, such warm and wonderful memories!), I decided that my unit on fairy tales would be focused on The Gingerbread Boy.  The fact that there is a veritable plethora of adaptations is largely what convinced me.  I thought my little learners might be able to pick up on fairy tale qualities better if wrapped in the comforting familiarity of a common plot.  It is fascinating to glimpse the same understanding (even if only a flicker) with Baby A.  When we embarked on our second trip to Texas, I had a copy of Richard Eglieski's The Gingerbread Boy sent to my sister's house.  I thought it would give me a great opportunity to test my theory that he would gravitate towards it, having read the Paul Galdone version at least 100 times in the week before we left.  It's exactly what happened-he loved it, and it was easily the book he asked to be read the most while we were gone.  For the record, the adaptations pictured are my favorites.  There are many others, including Gingerbread Girl, The Library Gingerbread Man, The Gingerbread Man Loose in School, and Jan Brett's Gingerbread Baby and Gingerbread Friends.  Most of these are a bit too complicated given A's age, and while I like Jan Brett, her illustrations are extremely busy.  

Green Eggs and Ham. Ah!  I have been sucked into the vortex of Sam-I-am!  I knew this day would come!  Interesting tidbit: Dr. Seuss reportedly wrote this book in response to a challenge from his editor that he could not compose a book with fifty words or less.  Clearly, he was victorious.
Tikki Tikki Tembo.  Once again, I have to re-list a book, because I must honestly include what we have read during the month.  Like The Best Nest, Tikki Tikki Tembo has become one of A's obsessions.  Let me tell you, it is looooooong.  Despite its charm, and despite our incredibly adorable child, both SH and I probably inwardly groan when we see it clutched in his chubby little hands.  I have already determined that I will not give in to the temptation to skip words, however.  I'll read every single word of that old man's opium-induced haze, darn it!

I can tell that A's reading habits are changing, which means I'll probably move to a monthly post like this one.  No need to write at length when our rotation includes the same favorites from week to week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Oscar Party 2013 is going to be awesome.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Let's face it, last year was rather lackluster when it came to good films.  Perhaps I wasn't giving the movies my full attention, given that I had a much more important and adorable preoccupation, but I truly don't think it was an exceptional batch.  I promise I'm not just saying that because the only movie I felt appropriately lent itself to a good female costume was The Help.  I hate to sound like a movie snob here, but the fact that The Help was one of the nominees is a powerful statement in and of itself about what was available last year for singling out.  It's not that I didn't enjoy the movie, because I did.  Slumdog Millionaire it was not.  This year is turning out to be much more encouraging.  Take a peek at what's coming.  As usual, most of the biggies won't be out until November or December.

Les Miserables. 

I'm more familiar with the novel than the musical, but I still got goosebumps as I watched this teaser several times.

The Great Gatsby.

It's very, very Baz Luhrmann, obviously.  Definitely cool.

Anna Karenina.

I'm extremely excited about this lavish, unusual adaptation.

Django Unchained.

I can remember when the first Inglorious Bastards trailer was released, and I rather disdainfully dismissed it.  I had to eat my words, because it was one of the most entertaining movies I saw that year. I am now eagerly anticipating the latest Tarantino offering.

Zero Dark Thirty.

Kathryn Bigelow's take on Osama Bin Laden's capture and death has apparently been fraught with controversy, even involving a reported suit against the Department of Defense and the CIA.  The teaser is sparse and intriguing, but I do see Jessica Chastain (otherwise known as The Actress That Was In Every Movie Last Year) and Kyle Chandler (Coach!).


When Ben Affleck steps behind the camera, he can do no wrong.  Hasn't let us down once.  I am really excited to see this movie, though its chances for actual awards may be slim.

No trailer for this BIG movie yet, but do we even need to see one to know it's likely to be amazing?  LOOK at Daniel Day-Lewis.  He IS Lincoln.  Spielberg's project is based on the Doris Kearns Goodwin Pulitzer-Prize winning book, Team of Rivals, and besides titular chameleon Lewis, includes a very impressive cast.  

Other likely contenders:

The Master-Paul Thomas Anderson feature, thinly veiled attack on Church of Scientology, Joaquin Phoenix's glorious return?
Killing Them Softly-Brad Pitt's reunion with director Andrew Dominik (The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford)
Arbitrage-Richard Gere and finance
Hyde Park on Hudson-FDR had a love affair?  I had no idea.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

sweet potato and kale pizza with rosemary and red onion

Sunday, August 19, 2012

It is nothing short of a travesty that I have kept this recipe to myself for so long.  This particularly lovely shot of the MOST UNBELIEVABLY DELICIOUS pizza was taken in January.  Yes, that is how long I have been making it, over and over, and yet I have not taken fingers to the keyboard to write about it.

I wrote about a new blog find, twopeasandtheirpod, quite a well back, sharing their wonderful recipe for baked pumpkin doughnut holes.  By the way, what is the generally accepted rule about the spelling of doughnut?  I prefer this spelling, not what appears to be a bastardized "donut."  I digress.

Maria and Josh, bloggers and new parents, have lots of great-looking recipes.  Many sweets, and I would say fairly heavy on the veg side, but that's good for those of us looking to eat more healthily during the week.  I have told you before that I'm quite proud of my attraction to kale, and it was really the unique combination of the superstar veg and sweet potato that drew me to the pizza.  I will also confess that I'm unusually drawn to pizzas with no sauce.  It's weird, I know.

Anyway, I can't say enough about this dish.  Sweet potatoes are thinly sliced with red onion and roasted, which is the perfect time to let your pizza dough rest.  I've been using Trader Joe's fresh dough, and while it has been a learning experience manipulating it properly, I think I'm getting better.  Chopped kale is tossed with a bit of balsamic vinegar, and once the sweet potatoes are done, all are scattered across the top of the dough, along with a bit of freshly chopped rosemary, and then topped with cheese.

You guys, there aren't words.  The pizza is otherworldly good.  Even my vegetarian-loathing* SH can polish off a few slices handily without complaining that it's not a whole meal without meat.  Last night, I gave Baby A a slice, and he cheerfully plucked a golden cheese-encrusted piece of kale right off, shoving it into his little mouth and causing my heart to burst with pride.

Is it acceptable to make the same dish every single week?  I could totally do that with this pizza.

*He doesn't loathe vegetarians really, just the lifestyle :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

loving lately

Friday, August 10, 2012
Chronicle.  SH found this gem one recent evening, singing its potential praises via his newfound appreciation for Rotten Tomatoes.  I was disdainful at first, certain that the fact I'd never heard of it boded poorly for the little film.  Granted, our movie nights aren't exactly what they used to be, and I'm clearly off my pop culture game because a quick perusal of my trusty entertainment sites revealed that critics adored the movie.  Full of unknowns (with the exception of Michael B. Jordan, of The Wire and Friday Night Lights), it's an interesting story, with old-school special effects that are actually quite compelling.  

Divergent trilogy.  I know I'm not alone in always keeping an eye out for the next YA (young adult) series that will capture hearts and imaginations.  While this is no Twilight saga (alas, my wounded heart mourns the impending breakup of our real-life Edward and Bella!!) or Hunger Games, it's still a compelling, well-written set of books.  Like the Hunger Games, the books are set in a dystopian future, though there are no messy love triangles and the concept (division into various factions based on character traits) is somewhat less violent.  I was especially lucky to come across the books right after the publication of Insurgent, which meant I had two to look forward to reading.  Now I'm just like the rest of the fans, eagerly awaiting the third installment.  

Heartless Bastards, Arrow.  I've always loved "All This Time," a totally addictive Heartless Bastards tune that was a part of an Austin City Limits sampler a few years ago, but I never sought them out.  [Full disclosure: my love affair with "All This Time" was really ignited when it was used on a FNL episode that prominently featured Tim Riggins.]  A few weeks ago, one of my fave blogs, Dinner A Love Story, had a great post about the best things about the summer, essentially, and co-author Andy claimed "Arrow" as the Best Album to Cook To.  It's good, people.  Really good.  Even Baby A, who is also obsessed with "All This Time," agrees.

Trader Joe's Coconut Milk Ice Cream, Chocolate. Not too long ago our beloved Joey came for a visit with his lovely girlfriend.  Times have changed, OBVIOUSLY, since the days of yore when Joey, SH and I would prepare elaborate and delicious meals together and relish the cool California evening, sitting in the backyard for hours and rising late the next day only to repeat the whole process.  There is  a bit more rushing involved to our dinners now, and I hardly act as the sous chef I once was.  We usually eat inside, often on paper plates, and there aren't quite as many Jules glasses, but we continue to enjoy our time together.  I can always count on Joey finding little gems at TJ's (chocolate-covered frozen bananas, seasoned mahi-mahi, etc.) which I have yet to discover, and on this trip, he brought the best one yet.  I literally cannot get enough of this coconut milk ice cream, and I am not alone, as it's practically cleaned out of the freezer EVERY time I go shopping.  It is indescribably good, creamy and delicious without feeling the least bit heavy.  I am in love.  Purchase some immediately, if you're lucky enough to find it.  
Baby Gap pajamas.  As Baby A steadily approached his first year, it became increasingly difficult to find pajamas that would fit him. Apparently, most one-pieces are only made up until about 9 months.  At first, I bemoaned this discovery, feeling that he could never possibly be as adorable in two pieces as he was in the snug zippered one-piece footie pjs.  Turns out, my sadness was completely unwarranted, both because my little baby looks precious in EVERYTHING and also because these Gap pjs are so great.  Functional, high-quality, and super cute.  It pains me to admit that he does look a bit more like a little boy and less like a baby when he's wearing them, but I need to be reminded every once and a while that this new, exciting toddler stage is going to be great fun too.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Thursday, July 26, 2012

what we're reading now...july 15 (a belated post)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Inch by Inch.  For some reason, I had the idea that all of the Leo Lionni books were rather lengthy.  I only owned An Extraordinary Egg before Baby A was born, and I knew it would be years before he'd be able to enjoy it.  I could not have been more wrong, and I could not be more in love with the simple titles I have lately discovered.  Inch by Inch is rapidly becoming a new favorite.

Little Gorilla.  I had my eye on this little board book for months before finally succumbing to its 1970's charm.  It's incredibly simple, just a story about a beloved baby gorilla and the jungle animals that watch him grow up.  It felt appropriate, considering Baby A's momentous first birthday was July 5 (tear).

Boy + Bot.  I found this at our local bookstore a few months ago and snatched it up for A's first birthday.  Its greatest features are the illustrations, which are brightly colored but almost vintage in style.  A doesn't appreciate the electronic voice effects SH and I both use for the bot, but some day he'll find them quite humorous.

What Pet to Get?  Like last month's The Cow Who Clucked, this is a book that I might not have paid much attention to had A not yanked it from the shelf.  Yes, he has now taken to joyfully pulling piles of books off the shelves.  It's become a daily morning activity, and when his dad comes in to take over, he'll find A wedged in the space between our reading chair and the bookshelf, the floor covered with books.  As I was haphazardly replacing the books in a spare moment, What Pet to Get? caught my eye.  We've been reading it ever since.  The illustrations are bright and oversized, the pages a pleasing, slick texture, and the story of a boy who has a more "exotic" taste in animals adorable.

The Odd Egg.  My love affair with Emily Gravett continues.  This particular book is probably more notable for its illustrations than the story, which is merely the progression of an assortment of birds waiting for their eggs to hatch.  I'm sure Baby A will howl with glee at the surprise ending when he's a bit older.  For now, I think he enjoys the "flipboard" effect of the pages as each egg hatches.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

traveling with baby: after

Thursday, July 19, 2012

I will begin with the most important part of this post: WE SURVIVED!  And then shall move to an apology for only just now writing about it.  For all I know, one of my two loyal readers could very well be eagerly anticipating my traveling-with-an-infant advice!

As I am now constantly pressed for time, I thought I might create a recap of sorts with bullet points, rather than attempt to write long, witty paragraphs.  Not that I'm really that witty, anyway.

what worked for us:

  • timing the flight for maximum baby sleep time.  A slept like a CHAMP on both of the long transatlantic flights.  He woke up and nursed a few times, as he STILL does at home, but essentially kept to his normal night sleep.  We selected late afternoon departure times, and we only spent an hour or two playing and eating before he was ready for bed.  I think that for the most part, babies that are around A's age just know when it's time to sleep.  Even though we had to deal with horrible jet lag on our return, I am still glad that A slept on our flight home.  Side note: this is not rocket science, but we made sure to recreate our bedtime routine as well as we could: bath (in this case, a cool washcloth), book, boob (I apologize, sensitive readers!  I had to keep with the alliteration theme!).  We also changed him into pajamas.  
  • Ergo carrier in the airport.  I didn't think twice about bringing my carrier, but am now incredibly glad I did.  I was able to carry A this way through security, and it made traversing through various terminals so easy.  
  • new books.  These were by far the most successful items in what I like to call my "bag of fun," which I ruthlessly safeguarded and constantly reminded my SH not to disturb without my express permission.  I divided all the new items up into three separate groups, one for each new flight-heaven forbid there be any intermingling!  Two books that were particularly successful were Karen Katz's Baby Loves Spring and Dr. Seuss's All Aboard the Circus McGurkus, both of which were spur-of-the-moment purchases at our local used bookstore.  I'm not the biggest fan of the Katz lift-the-flap books, but Baby A was all over the $2 copy I found. 
  • stuffing the car seat bag with extra items you can no longer fit into your giant suitcase.  My dear sister-in-law shared this tip with me, for which I shall be forever grateful (though you would think I might have been able to figure it out).  Because A is already in a big convertible car seat, we purchased a bag to enclose it and then checked it for all our flights.  There is lots of room in the space where a wee one normally goes, and I filled it to the brim.  Car seats are checked for free, so no one blinked an eye when SH lugged the bag onto the counter.  *Note: Packing light is always your best option, but because we were traveling abroad with lots of uncertainties awaiting us, I felt better being as prepared as I could possibly be.  
  • small canvas bag with a few toys and books for the car.  I used the aforementioned car seat bag to store this item, and while not necessary for every trip, I have to say that it was SO nice to have a few familiar car toys to hand to Baby A when we embarked upon a three-hour drive as soon as we landed.  We've gone through a brutal phase of car seat rebellion at home, and since then I've always made sure to have two or three special, car-only toys that I can count on to appease A.  Our favorite is this Leapfrog phone, which we have had for MONTHS now and still retains its charm. 

what we didn't need:
  • miscellaneous inexpensive toys.  I raided the Target $ bin before the trip thinking it was a great place to snag things that might keep A's interest for a short while but wouldn't be devastating to lose.  As it turned out, he was absorbed mostly by his books when he wasn't sleeping or jumping up and down on my lap, trying to touch the hair of the person sitting in front of me.  I think it's still a good idea, but just didn't seem necessary during our experience.  While we were actually on vacation, A mostly played with the items I'd brought from home that were completely familiar.  
  • 500 blankets.  Even though we traveled to a cooler locale, I would have been fine with just one or two.  They take up too much space  (even in the car seat bag) and proved to be a hassle in the airport, when A threw them down to the floor repeatedly.  
for next time:
  • more food.  I rationed my baby food pouches fairly well, but by the end of the trip, we had to supplement with local baby food.  This turned out to be okay for the most part, but A definitely didn't eat with as much enthusiasm as he does at home.  I think for a big trip, it is a great thing if you're able to have access to what is most familiar to your baby.  If we had been in the U.S., the problem wold have been easy to rectify.  It didn't turn out to be a huge deal, and now that we're plowing through all kinds of new dishes (clam chowder! refried beans! crunchy kale and coconut bowl!)  it wouldn't hardly matter at all, but I'll remember for future babies.  
  • pack the medical stuff!  Fortunately, baby A was completely healthy for the vast majority of the trip.  He picked up a tiny cold (while I developed a monstrous one) at the end of the trip, and while his nose was running only slightly, it was enough to send panicky waves through me when I realized I had forgotten the nasal aspirator and saline drops.  Even if you never use them, it's a good idea to have a small bag containing those items, along with baby tylenol.  Again, not something that would have been an issue if we had been local, but still helpful.  And comforting. 

All in all, our trip was a marvelous success. A was a complete and utter gem the entire time, even though he faced daunting crowds of unfamiliar people and had to endure two rounds of jet lag.  While we probably won't be planning international travel any time soon, it was a good experience, and proved to us that our baby (and most babies) are much more resilient than we give them credit for.

crunchy kale and coconut bowl

I am horrified to realize that the last time I posted a recipe was back in JANUARY.  Lest you think we've been eating take-out and beans and rice all this time, I can assure you that despite my pitiful time management skills, I have indeed continued to provide a home-cooked meal almost every night and have even tried out a few new recipes along the way.

One of these is destined to become a new favorite (for me, at least-SH hasn't been fortunate enough to try it yet): crunchy kale and coconut bowl, courtesy of Joy the Baker.  Joy's blog is one of the most widely known and beloved foodie blogs, inevitably appearing in the reader feed of all the other biggies.  Because her focus is baking, I didn't spend a lot of time perusing the blog.  I happened to click over one day to land on this unbelievably unique and delicious recipe, and presto, Joy was added to my list of daily foodie reads.  I immediately bought her new cookbook, prepared this dish, and I haven't looked back.

Obviously, I get huge points for my love affair with kale, easily the most popular current "super food."  I had roasted it several times before, and it's almost addictive. The combination of large toasted shards of coconuts and Asian dressing, while unusual, pushes it completely over the edge to another realm of tasty.

Note: I was thrilled to have the opportunity to cook farro, which I had never tried before, but Joy says that brown rice would work just as well.  As per one of the comments on her original post, I think I'm going to add chickpeas next time.  I love them almost as much as I love doughnuts.

Happy cooking!

Friday, July 13, 2012

what we're reading now...june

Friday, July 13, 2012
I deleted my partially written introduction, mostly because I wrote it oh, a MONTH ago.  That's about par with my blog style, correct?  Instead, I will just cheerfully present our favorites from the whole month of June, no introduction necessary.

Green.  I had the good fortune to go on a lunch date with our dear librarian friend recently, and we made a trip to our local children's bookstore (it's truly wonderful, and I feel incredibly lucky to live in such close proximity).  She lit upon this book immediately, which is a good thing, because I certainly never would have picked it up.  It's a stunning concept book, each page a depiction of the various shades of green throughout the world.  My favorite is "sea green," showcasing a giant sea turtle drifting through blueish-green water, though "shaded green," a gorgeous portrait of a boy sitting under a tree with a book, is a close second.  There are few words in the book, but it provides a great opportunity for talking to your child about what they see on each page.

Pouch.  Another gift from our dear friend, Pouch is the story of a shy joey, who wants to explore the world, but isn't quite comfortable being too many hops away from his mama.  I'm pretty sure Baby A can relate.  We have the board book version, which somehow makes the story even more endearing, probably because Baby A can more easily actively participate in the reading.


The Quiet Book.  For the record, this book didn't capture Baby A's attention the way it did mine, though I'm sure some day he will admire the illustrations.  I can feel my entire body relaxing and my heart warming as I read the incredibly poignant and thoughtful pages.  There is a companion book, The Loud Book, but I think that I'll stick with this one, reading things like "best friends don't have to talk quiet" and "first look at your new haircut quiet."

The Cow Who Clucked.  This was a book fair purchase that I never paid much attention to until one day when Baby A plucked it off the shelf.  About a cow who has lost her moo, who sets off on a day-long journey encountering not just the typical farm animal but also a bee, snake, and squirrel, it's another great example of how even very young children are captivated by patterns and predictable text. Baby A doesn't often sit still through other books of this length, but he seems to thoroughly enjoy hearing the animal sounds and gazing upon the splashy illustrations.

Old Bear.  Words cannot express how much I love this dear book.  That Kevin Henkes is a man of many talents.  To think that the mind behind such characters as Lilly and Chrysanthemum (side note: does anyone besides me remember how to spell "chrysanthemum" as a direct result of watching Anne of Green Gables 100's of times?) could create such an appealing vision of the seasons, as seen through the eyes of an old bear dreaming he was young's a wonder.

And now for the titles that Baby A and I indulged in during our late-night reading hours, both trying to recover from SERIOUSLY TERRIBLE jet lag after our European adventure (post-travel post soon to come!)

Swimmy.  Our dear librarian friend came through once more by initiating Baby A's Leo Lionni collection with this especially adorable book.  She knows that we've taken several trips already to the Monterey Bay Aquarium (Baby A has loved these trips from the very beginning, and seems to take it in more there than at the zoo), and felt it would be appropriate.  I love the sparse, only faintly colored illustrations and am especially enamored of the description of brave Swimmy as "black as a mussel shell."

Tikki Tikki Tembo.  Funnily enough, Baby A has never once wriggled out of my lap during a reading of this classic tale, which even a four- or five-year old might not tolerate. I partially attribute this to my feet tapping and knee raising to the beat of Tikki Tikki Tembo's monstrously long name, but perhaps also to the simple, blue-toned illustrations and the relatively quick way I read the text.  It's one of those books that I vividly remember from childhood (in fact, one of my lifelong friends is visiting this weekend, and if she reads this post she will be sure to chant out the beloved moniker wistfully) and probably contributed to my fearful fascination with wells.  I'm sure that Baby A will love it for many years to come.

Blue Chameleon. I'd only seen a few Emily Gravett titles before I happened to pick this one up at the library, and I hadn't quite caught the spark yet.  I'll admit to being inordinately drawn to flash and bold color.  Having a baby of my own has inspired me to make the effort to appreciate books that are slightly more subtle, but often just as wonderful, and perhaps more so, than a Llama Llama or even a Seuss.  Blue Chameleon is a perfect example of such a treasure.  Calm, sweet, and simple, it's a great choice for young children, both for teaching about colors but also to talk about the feeling of loneliness and the longing for friendship.  (In case you're wondering, Baby A and I do NOT have deep conversations about such topics...YET).

The Three Bears.  I have already gone on about my newfound appreciation for the Paul Galdone  classics.  Though I love the humorous turn that emerges in modern-day versions, particularly for its appeal to the adults reading the story, the extremely traditional Galdone approach seems especially appropriate for very young children.  They aren't going to get the humor anyway, and even at Baby A's tender age, I think there is a vague comprehension that comes with the methodical, orderly "The porridge was neither too hot, nor too cold, but just right," semantics.  It's on the long side, I'll warn you-if I didn't use it as a pre-nap read, I am not sure we'd get through it every time.

One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.  Yes, I know I've written about this one before, but considering how often we've read it in the past two weeks, I felt it would be pure dishonesty not to include it in our June list.  Even though its monumental length will probably be grating in a few years, I find it extremely satisfying to read it in a rhythmic, quick pace.  Weirdly enough, it seems to soothe Baby A, and is the perfect final book just before a nap.  Sort of like a glass of warm milk.