Saturday, December 7, 2013

back again

Saturday, December 7, 2013
I chose to linger here instead of writing a beautifully composed blog post about it.  Can you blame me?

It's officially been so long since I composed a blog entry that it took me two tries to sign into my Blogger account.  I had a nice long stretch of doing quite well, as you'll notice, and then TWO MONTHS of radio silence.  To be fair, I have been mightily distracted, in a good way.  The beginning of fall has always been my favorite time, and as nice as long summer days might be, I far prefer the predictable routine that comes along when school starts again, even though my little guy is years away from attending.  We've been stacking up the play dates again, attending MOPS once a week (that stands for Moms of Preschoolers, just so you know), making trips to the farm and zoo, and loving every minute of our first quarter of music class.  There have been pumpkin patches, drives to the beach, and a trip to the Christmas tree farm to do some chopping-yes, it really has been that long.

I always feel more contented when I do a bit of blogging-this space is essentially for myself, though I'm always glad to think one or two people might catch something I've read.  True, my posts can be light and frothy, but I do have a few good recipes up my sleeve since I've last written, and I can offer some solid book recommendations.  This is a great year for the movies, and I have lots to say about that.  All to say, once more, as I've done many times, I will aspire to return to my little spot of the Internet, hopefully with offerings not just frivolous but interesting and useful.  I have missed being here.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

They're back.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I neglected to post much about Mechanical Bull, the KOL's first album post Caleb's notorious public breakdown on stage.  This is not because I wasn't all over the news, or due to a lack of enthusiasm.  Rather, I blame the constant cycle of Frances audiobooks playing in my car.  My little guy will tolerate almost nothing on my musical end but Jack Johnson.  Not bad taste, at least.  There is hope for him still.    Anyway, it took a while for me to get through the album, but I am finally here to say it's solid.  I wouldn't say it's my favorite of all KOL time, but it's definitely good, and I can recognize their older stuff in the sound, which is nice.  It makes me think they were taking things really seriously when they went about recording it.

The song above, performed in a very tame fashion for a lackluster Letterman crowd is one of my favorites from the album.  I decided to include it in lieu of "Supersoaker," the first single, just because I like it so much.  Do not judge by the crowd or mood of the video, by the way.  I know this is going to be awesome in concert, when the Kings officially kick off a tour.  For now, I've relentlessly started to stalk their blog for tour news, which I expect after they finish the festival circuit.  This weekend they're headlining Austin City Limits, a fact I was reminded of only after my BFF Rose sent me an excited text to say she had them in her very sights, at an extremely hip Austin restaurant.  I was overwhelmed with jealousy, of course, but mostly happy to hear her positive report.  No behaviors to feel bad about.

Finally, I'm including a link to this most awesome musical q & a with Caleb Followill (obviously my favorite).  I was ridiculously charmed by it. Mentions of "The Grundy County Auction" right in there with Keith Sweat and The Bodyguard soundtrack? As if I didn't love the band enough already...

Thursday, October 3, 2013

thursday night

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I wanted to get my act together and write a nice little blog post today, especially because I had a delicious dinner tonight that was particularly inspiring.  However, by the time I managed to get my little guy to bed, it was almost nine, and all I wanted to do was eat a bowl of ice cream and casually debate on which of my FAVORITE SHOWS I would put on first.  Thursdays are the best.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

what we're reading now

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Those of you who actually tune in to my blog every once in a while might have wondered what has happened to my beloved installments about our favorite books-of-the-time.  It is actually not due to my apathetic and sporadic blogging history that has prevented me from a new post.  Rather, it is that we are in a "new stage" of reading, wherein my little guy eschews any new titles and only gravitates towards what he knows.  Just today, when I tried to begin one of the adorable books that is part of, ironically, a book-buying spree on my part that does not at all match up with A's interests, he took it gently from my hands, walked a few feet away, and set it on the floor.  "No Sophie's Squash," he said firmly.
P.S. Go immediately and check out Sophie's Squash.  It is about an adorable little girl named Sophie and her pet squash Bernice.  How can you not be charmed?! 

Anyway, for the most part, as I've said, we've been in a reading "rut" (in my mind), going through the same fifteen books or so, over and over.  It's not the most fun stage, but the important thing is that we're reading.  Here are a few in the current reading list.

Otis.  There are a few books in this series about an adventurous and kind red tractor, who befriends everyone on his farm and manages to save them from precarious situations.  Despite his brave nature, Otis is secretly just as afraid or lonely as his fellow farm dwellers, which makes the stories all the more appealing.

Max's Chocolate Chicken.  So far, there are only two Max and Ruby books that captivate A, and thankfully, this is one of them (the other favorite is Max Counts His Chickens, an Easter-themed number book and not part of the more traditional series).  It happens to be one of my favorite Max books, so I don't mind reading it over and over again.  I don't think that A quite understands Max's sneakiness yet, but I certainly enjoy it.

Banter.  If you've read about what books we enjoy, you have probably guessed that we (or I) have quite an affection for books with a farm setting.  It doesn't really have anything to do with the fact that I grew up on a ranch, which is not a farm but obviously shares some qualities, but more that I like the simple familiarity that comes with learning to recognize the most beloved domestic animals.  This title is written by Denise Fleming, who composes beautiful watercolor illustrations and tends to focus on conceptual writing.  My little guy really responds to concept books, as I've written about before, and this one is no exception.  It's about a search for goose, and each page reveals a different animal accompanied with its matching sound: "Hens in the henhouse, cluck, cluck, cluck...".

Hippopposites. I wanted A to have a few books that would focus on the concept of opposites, and this title stood out to me immediately.  At first, I thought it was one of those purchases that appealed to parents more, because it's a stylish book with a clean, modern design.  No messy splashes of color or busy illustrations.  For whatever reason, A took to it right away, and now lugs it around calling it "heavy", which he learned from the book, I might add.

Guys, this last one is something I'd like to refer to as "The Book that Shall Not Be Named" (though obviously you can see the title).    I fully confess that I'm a snob when it comes to books, the ones I read and even more so when it comes to children's books.  If it's got a TV character in it or was mass produced for a bin at Target I'm probably going to avoid it.  I'm not proud of my prejudice, but to be fair, there is a reason why classics remain classics and some children's authors stand out far above others (I'm looking at you, Kevin Henkes and Helen Lester!) .  I figure that I might as well be reading the best books available to my child.  As tends to happen with kids, we can't always choose what they love.  Thus, while this little book might not be the caliber of Blueberries for Sal, I must muster up enthusiasm about it for A's sake.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

browsing history

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
My little collection of links is a bit paltry today...I blame the late hour.  Most of what's circulating the past few days is related to Breaking Bad, so the post is appropriately themed.

Love, LOVE these clever, Breaking Bad themed ghost illustrations from Doogie Horner.

On a related note, here is a faux opinion piece on Gray Matter technologies.

For super-obsessed Breaking Bad fans,  Entertainment Weekly ranks all the episodes, worst to best.  *Now including the finale.

First teaser trailer for Divergent.  I have to say, I'm not currently sold on Shailene Woodley.  She comes across as a little "soft", for lack of a better word.  Those of you who have read the book know that Tris isn't a particularly tough character at the start, so maybe it's appropriate.  Perhaps I need to reread and refresh.

Stephen King's Reddit AMA.  I've gotten into a few of his books this summer, and have thoroughly enjoyed them. There is more to SK than cheap thrills, in case you didn't know.  He is unquestionably a respected author with a solid history and reputation, who has consistently delivered over the years, with only a few misses.  Most recently, I had grown to respect his columns and entertainment op-ed's on music, television, and books, despite not really having any familiarity with his work.  Now it's hard for me to move on from one of his books to something else.

Monday, September 23, 2013

toddler essentials: eating

Monday, September 23, 2013
Back in June during my blogging frenzy, I wrote about my favorite toddler toys and clothing.  I figured a natural next step is to talk about what we've loved most in the eating department.  I'm specifically going to be talking about accessories, not food, although I have included our favorite juice and snacks.  Now, I realize that all of these items won't be or aren't "essential" for everyone, but I can recommend them all highly.  I love reading about all things baby and toddler, so of course must contribute my top picks for a good dining experience.

Green Toys dinnerware.  Probably almost everything out there is on the verge of being BPA-free, so it's not really necessary to purchase plates and cups that are made out of safe, recycled materials.  However, these have held up remarkably well, much better, in fact, than my second go-to set of plates, a basic set from Ikea.  We have partitioned plates, which is extra nice if your toddler prefers his cottage cheese and applesauce to remain separate, but they also make regular plates.  The bowls are a great size for oatmeal or cereal-too often toddler bowls are small and deep or simply too small for breakfast foods, in my opinion.  All items are dishwasher safe, and thus far, after over six months of use, they have shown no wear and tear.  The one tiny issue we have had is that the cups are quite large-a bit difficult for my guy to manage.  As far as supply goes, I purchased a set that included two plates, two bowls, and two cups, which is more than enough.

Stokke high chair.  I didn't register for a high chair before baby A was born, partially because I knew we wouldn't use it for a long time but also because we have a small house and I had no idea where it might fit.  When he did start eating solid foods, we used a Fisher Price Space Saver High Chair, which was great because it fit conveniently in a standard-sized chair and could be moved when needed.  My mother-in-law, being of Danish origin and considerably blessed with a pleasing decorating savvy, mentioned around the time of A's first birthday how nice the Stokke high chairs were.  She had them for her own children, and when they stopped using them as high chairs, she often perched in the seat herself.  I admitted that they looked very attractive, certainly much more so than the big plastic high chairs with what look like impossible-to-clean covers.  AJ (I have henceforth decided to refer to him with first and middle initial-the single "A" is becoming confusing) was lucky to receive one for his first birthday, and we have loved it.  First of all, it is incredibly easy to clean.  I use a wet rag for the really sticky stuff, but often all it takes is a swipe of a damp paper towel for the seat to return to a spotless state.  There are cushions, for those of you who fear the seat looks uncomfortable, and I did use them at first, but tired of having to take them off and wait for them to air dry after a wash.  Either way, cushions or no, there is no accumulation of crumbs or mess possible with this chair.  The compact nature of the chair is also wonderful.  We have recently stopped using the tray, because it's so nice for AJ to be "scooted" up to the table with us, but when I did use it, I simply removed it and placed it under the table and against the wall, totally out of the way.  This way, when we weren't eating, the high chair looks like a simple wooden stool right next to the other chairs.  And for my final point, there is an incredible aesthetic appeal in a high chair that looks like an actual piece of furniture.  You don't have to put it away when your toddler is ready to sit in a standard-sized chair.  WORTH EVERY CENT.  Go to their website-they have some gorgeous new colors.  Side note: I do recommend the aforementioned Fisher Price seat as well-the one we purchased was all plastic with no cover, so still very easy to clean and maintain.

Tommee Tippee bibs.  These have been a lifesaver for us, and almost every other mom I know that uses them.  They are made of a thick plastic which is much more durable than the thinner, polyester waterproof bibs I had relied upon before. There is a deep pocket which catches the countless missed mouthfuls of food, making clean-up a breeze.  When AJ is done eating, I toss the bib right in the sink with the other dishes for a good scrub.  One pack of these and you're good to go.

Playtex sippy cups.  Now we are actually past the sippy stage (except for one for milk right before bed and the occasional drive in the car), but I will have you know that not all sippy cups are equal (not unlike bottles) and it took a while to find the one best for AJ.  These basic Playtex cups do still have the pesky valve that needs thorough washing, but their flow is a good speed, the valve isn't so tiny that you'll have to worry about mold or something nasty like that, and a happy bonus is that there are plenty of adorable character cups out there in the larger size. We had to have a few featuring Nemo, of course.

Target $bin snack containers.  I feel a bit silly recommending an item that is often seasonal but these have been my favorite little containers for snacks, and since I check the dollar bin regularly, it's almost always true that there will be something like them available.  I managed to snag a photo of the Sesame Street-themed bins from a few months ago, where we found ours.  I could kick myself for missing out on the Dr. Seuss bins that were out recently-there were probably more adorable containers with lids to be found!

go-to juice: Knudsen's.  It's a well-established truth, whether we like it or not, that juice isn't exactly a healthy option for fruit consumption, despite its widespread dominance in grocery stores.  I want to say that right off the bat before recommending any.  Thankfully, my little guy has no trouble with eating fruit, but I have always struggled to get him to drink.  He might drink a single glass of milk in one day, and while I regularly offer water, he doesn't guzzle it as he should.  Thus, I often provide a juice for him, particularly when we're out on a play date or trip to the park (At home, I pour a tablespoon-or less!-into his water cup, and he tends to drink a little better than if it were plain water).  It took a while for me to find the "perfect" juice, but I finally honed in upon these Knudsen's juice boxes.  Every juice box is made from concentrate, so you might as well let that go, but the sugar content varies a lot from brand to brand.  Not only is the amount of sugar fairly manageable in these boxes, the serving size is at least 1/4 less than most others I've seen.  AJ thinks they are the best, and calls them "berry juice."  Side note: PLEASE read The Honest Toddler's take on juice.  You'll thank me.

go-to non-virtuous processed snacks: Trader Joe's freeze-dried fruit, Annie's Organics whole wheat bunnies, whole-grain Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, Cheerios.  Though I aspire to have slices of cucumber and carrots next to homemade crackers as a snack some day, it is infinitely easier to have a few options that one doesn't have to prepare for snacks.  This is especially helpful for days when we'll be out of the house.  These are our favorites.  AJ eats the freeze-dried fruit like it's crack, and it doesn't build up in his teeth like fruit leather does.  He loves "bunnies" and "goldfish", and what can I say?  Cheerios are the best.  And for the record, no off-brand really meets up the standards of the original.

Saturday, September 7, 2013


Saturday, September 7, 2013

Any fresh material from Coldplay is newsworthy on my blog, but I'm especially excited about this one because it was written specifically for Catching Fire.  

Friday, August 23, 2013

pomegranate pork loin with cabbage

Friday, August 23, 2013

If you have read even a little of my blog, or happen to know me in real life, you probably know that when it comes to extreme weather, I've developed something of a "thin skin" ever since moving to California.  One might think that a native Texan who grew up in what can properly be described as a rugged, mountainous desert (all with no air conditioning, I might add) should be able to handle even the warmest days here with no complaint.  The opposite is true, actually--on those days it is usual to find me prostrate on the couch in front of a fan, wishing for a popsicle and sorely tempted to plunge my face into my son's water table.  All of this behavior on my part is ridiculous, especially considering that a hot day here is easily 10-15 degrees cooler than a mild Texas summer day.  

I bring all of my complaints up because even by California standards, it's been quite a warm summer.  There was one particularly scorching week that even my dad found difficult to bear (he was visiting for A's birthday).  This resulted in LOTS of grilling, because as everyone knows, it feels absolutely criminal to even go near one's stove on a hot day, knowing just how much hotter your house can get.  Days passed in this fashion, and my culinary inspiration trickled down to almost nothing.  I was desperate for an opportunity to turn my oven back on.  

My friends, the time has finally arrived.  In the mornings, I can comfortably wear a sweater.  I have to be careful that little A doesn't get completely soaked when he's playing with his water table (a daily afternoon activity), because the breeze can be nippy.  We have definitely started burrowing under the covers at night.  

For my first cooler weather dish, I settled upon this pork loin from the wonderfully family friendly cookbook, Dinner: A Love Story.  I had a sneaking suspicion that it would be both easy and delicious, and I was right on both counts.  This is not exactly a revelation, because pork (and plenty of other things) predictably falls apart into strands of tastiness when simmered low and slow with plenty of flavorful juices.  That doesn't at all take away from how wonderful this particular combination of wine, broth, and pomegranate juice becomes after seeping into the pork for three hours.  All three of us loved it, and A particularly enjoyed the rich, purpled cabbage, which actually ended up tasting a bit like a mild pickle.  I'm already looking forward to making it again, and as it happens, the conditions are perfectly right.  

Pomegranate Pork Loin with Cabbage, adapted from Dinner: A Love Story, by Jenny Rosenstrach

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 boneless pork loin (2 1/2-3 pounds), patted dry and salted and peppered
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice (optional: I skipped it myself)
Salt and pepper
Dash or two of soy sauce
About 3 cups any combination of red wine, pomegranate juice, and chicken broth (Jenny recommended a third/a third/a third, which seemed to work out quite well)
1/2 head red cabbage, shredded

1. In a large Dutch oven set over medium-high heat, add the oil.  Brown the pork loin on all sides so you get a nice golden crust, about 5 minutes per side.  Remove to a plate.  Add teh onion, garlic, Chinese Five Spice (if using), and salt and pepper and start cooking until soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Return the pork to the pot.  Add the soy sauce and your combination of red wine, pomegranate juice, and broth to allow the liquid to come a third of the way up the loin.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for 2-3 hours, flipping once halfway through (I set a timer halfway through).  Monitor the liquid level to make sure a third of loin is always submerged-add more juice or wine if not.)  The longer it simmers, the better.
3. About 10 minutes before you serve, add the red cabbage to the pot.  Remove the pork and slice.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil and cook until it has slightly thickened, 2-3 minutes (It won't get syrupy because there is not enough fat in the meat).  Serve the pork with the braising liquid and the cabbage spooned on top.  
Note: I was planning to serve this the next day, so after I sliced the pork, I put it back in the pan with the cabbage.  

Sunday, August 18, 2013

sprouted kitchen's coconut loaf

Sunday, August 18, 2013

We recently returned from a very busy, very HOT few days in Texas and I decided to take the kitchen by storm. Somehow, there is nothing more motivating than having been away from the comfort and familiarity of one's own kitchen.  I made several meals based on what I had in my pantry and freezer alone, than got totally on top of the grocery shopping, so much so that I won't need to return for at least another week.  The refrigerator is full to the brim (partially because of the ridiculous amounts of fruit that we go through for my little guy), and I have plenty of protein in the freezer.

Instead of resting on my proverbial laurels, I have decided to tackle a few baking recipes that have long been on my to-do list.  One of them is this coconut loaf, from Sara Forte's The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook.  I love everything I've made from her blog and cookbook, which are dedicated to clean eating and focused on whole foods.  One of the things I appreciate most about Sara's food is that it's remarkably accessible-I don't feel intimidated about the kinds of flours or grains I have on hand, and while I have been trying to experiment with a few new, more healthful products, Sara writes in such a way as to make one feel virtuous just for small efforts at change.

In my adult life, I've come to really love coconut, particularly as it's become relatively easy to find unsweetened and lowfat coconut products.  I'm not trying to be particularly saintly about my disdain for the sweetened version-it's really just too much for me, reminding me of cakes I encountered in childhood that were showered with the super-sweet flakes, when all I really wanted at the time was something chocolate.  I'm obsessed with these big flakes, which I use for one of my favorite dishes, and a can of lowfat coconut milk is a part of every curry recipe in my limited repertoire.  I love the inherent creaminess of coconut, which is somehow exotic and homey all at once.

From the moment I came across the coconut loaf recipe in Sara's book, I knew it needed to be tried.  I love having a mildly sweet loaf of bread around, something like a dessert but also light enough for breakfast.  It turned out exactly like I hoped, delicious and just barely sweet (even with the light powdered sugar glaze).  We ate it in the morning and at snack time, when little A joyfully begged for "more coconut cake!" I only wish that I had made it for a specific occasion and could have shared it with more people. I'm pretty sure they would have thanked me.

Coconut Loaf, adapted from The Sprouted Kitchen, by Sara Forte

1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted, plus more for the pan
2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup turbinado sugar
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs
1 (13.5 ounce) can coconut milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup organic powdered sugar, or more as needed

*Note: Sara (of Sprouted Kitchen) is not the first cook/blogger that has recommended whole wheat pastry flour.  It's apparently quite a bit lighter and less coarse than whole wheat all-purpose flour.  I can attest that the loaf had a lovely light crumble, probably in no small part to the flour.  This was my first foray into coconut oil, and it was quite simple.  I just measured out what I needed and melted it in the microwave in a Pyrex mixing cup.

1. Preheat the oven to 350.  Grease an 8 1/2 loaf pan with a thin coat of coconut oil.
2. Spread the shredded coconut on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until just golden brown, about 4 minutes.  Watch it carefully, as it can burn very quickly.  Set aside 1/2 cup for topping the loaf.
3. In a large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups of the toasted coconut and the turbinado sugar.  Sift in the flours, nutmeg, baking powder, baking soda and salt and stir to combine.  In another bowl, whisk the eggs together, then whisk in 1 cup of the coconut milk, the coconut oil, and the vanilla.  Gently stir the wet mixture into the dry ingredients until just combined.  Pour the mixture into the loaf pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean, 45-50 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.
4. While the loaf is cooling, combine 1/4 cup of the remaining coconut milk and the powdered sugar in the bowl and whisk until there are no lumps.  Add more sugar or coconut milk to taste, depending on the consistence you prefer (You won't use the whole can of coconut milk).  Pour the glaze over the cold cake and sprinkle the remaining toasted coconut on top.

-I just used the "sugar in the raw" I had on hand, which is pretty close to turbinado.  I didn't have a hard time finding unsweetened coconut, but if you do, Sara suggests scaling back the sugar by about 2 tablespoons.  She also notes that the bread can be made a day ahead and kept covered until serving.  It really gets a bit dry after two days, even tightly wrapped.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

daily wisdom

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
How can you live sweetly amid the vexatious things, the irritating things, the multitude of little worries and frets, which lie all along your way, and which you cannot evade?  You cannot at present change your surroundings.  Whatever kind of life you are to live, must be lived amid precisely the experiences in which you are now moving.  Here you must win your victories and suffer your defeats.  No restlessness or discontent can change your lot.  Others may have other circumstances surrounding them, but here are yours.  You had better make up your mind to accept what you cannot alter.  You can live a beautiful life in the midst of your present circumstances.  -J.R. Miller in Daily Strength for Daily Needs

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

browsing history

Tuesday, August 13, 2013
This particular edition of "browsing history" is a bit dated, given that I started it about two weeks into July and we're just as far into August now.  I still love all the topics, though, so I'm not going to make any changes.

*Mumford & Sons' video for "Hopeless Wanderer."  Jason Bateman is obviously the best, particularly when he's draped in 3+ instruments.

*The American Sean Bean, or, for diehard 24 fans, Chase:

*Cover art for Molly Wizenberg's follow-up to A Homemade Life (via the July 8, 2013 entry on Orangette). I am so very excited about this!

*Truly, the Sharknado phenomenon is endlessly humorous. Tweets and all.

*First full trailer for Catching Fire.  I think it's time to admit that when it comes to the books, I'm Team Peeta.  The movies, however? Team Gale.

*I'm going to make these gorgeous little strawberry muffins from Sprouted Kitchen as soon as I can pick up some more strawberries.  Post coming up soon about SpK's extremely delicious Coconut Loaf.

*Quinoa, best-dressed toddler on Pinterest. One of my favorite finds of the month.

*Design Sponge's "Living In: Girls Just Want to Have Fun".  I love this almost as much as I would have loved the post if it had been about the similarly titled movie.

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

*I tried really hard, for a number of years, to actively dislike Matt Damon.  I blame The Talented Mr. Ripley, and to be totally fair, it was his bang-up job in that film that instigated my aversion to begin with.  However, I have to admit defeat.  He's pretty great.  See what Cinesnark's Sarah writes about him and this latest trip to the Colbert Report here. P.S. Excuse the strange blank video screen that is somehow permanently attached to this post.


Granted, if you look at the title closely, you can see that it clearly states "in partial fulfillment of the degree..." but for all intents and purposes, I consider myself FINISHED.  You might think I feel a bit of sadness at being finished, a wistful nostalgia for the days on campus, trips to the library, and scholarly emails.  Truthfully, I am tremendously relieved.  A mighty weight has been lifted from my shoulders, and the freedom I'm currently experiencing far outweighs a sense of pride or accomplishment.  Those 102 pages were extremely hard-wrought, causing me no small amount of anxiety.  A few months from now, I might leaf through my work and reflect upon it with pleasure, but for now, I am relishing loads of non-academic books, unrestricted time with my little guy, and perhaps an afternoon or two of mindless television.

I don't miss you, William Godwin.

Friday, July 19, 2013

episode alert: the killing, season 3 episode 8 (S03 E08)

Friday, July 19, 2013
courtesy AMCtv, source

I realize it might seem a bit strange to heartily recommend an episode from a television series when  your readers might not be familiar with it to begin with. There is a spoiler-ish quality, too, to pointing out a single episode that is not the pilot--if you happened to watch the episode I'm recommending today, for example, but have not watched The Killing before, you won't be privy to the history of Linden and Holder's friendship.  The point of my little "episode alert" feature, however is to highlight particularly powerful, entertaining, and/or significant episodes, and most of the them won't be the earliest ones of a series.  I hope, that if you love good television like I do, and you happen to stumble upon what I've written, perhaps you'll remember something I've singled out.  Entertainment Weekly occasionally provides primers of information for various shows, including episodes that are critical for appreciating them, and that's essentially my goal here.

Whew.  Now that I've gotten that out of the way...I bring you the eighth episode of the third, very lucky season of The Killing, which also happens to be the most recent episode.  It's lucky, both for us and for everyone involved with the show, because it was actually cancelled very shortly after the second season wrapped.  Viewers were annoyed and disappointed with the meandering plot lines, and the "Who killed Rosie Larsen?" question, which SHOULD have been solved at the end of the first season but was inexplicably pushed forth all through the second, became tiresome, weighing down a series that had been promising.  The cancellation news was no surprise, and even big fans of the show had to admit it had gone terribly wrong. When Netflix, basking in the glow of their House of Cards success, expressed some interest in renewing The Killing, however, AMC jumped back into the ring.  I haven't read enough about the renewed third season to discover if there have been substantial changes on the writing staff, but I can tell you one thing for sure: it's better than either season that came before it.

The ever-dark, dingy, and rain-soaked Seattle of the first two seasons remains, and the creepy score continues to provide a haunting backdrop in the final moments of each episode, but there is a fresh tension within the new storyline.  Holder and Linden are reunited and on the hunt for a serial killer preying on homeless girls, plucked from a gritty underworld.  The serial killer's MO matches that from the case that plunged Linden into psychological turmoil years ago, which instills the new case with urgency, as the man convicted for the earlier crime (played to perfection by the extremely-capable-of-being-creepy Peter Saarsgard) is days away from his death sentence.

With four more episodes to go in the season, we knew as we tuned in last week that Pastor Mike, who held Linden hostage in her car, could not possibly be the killer they were searching for.  That didn't make the episode any less riveting, and while Linden spent most of it in the car, her efforts to discern PM's intentions, attempt to relate to him, and simultaneously reveal her location to Holder combined to make for an incredibly tense and emotional hour.  That Holder was visibly distressed about her abduction, to the point of heedlessly acting on erroneous information from his plucky informant, made it all the more engaging.  The fact that we witnessed Saarsgard's first hint of real panic due to his impending execution was simply a bonus, and to cap it off, the episode concluded with the menacing flash of headlights, presumably from the killer's car, bearing down upon Bullet, arguably the character at the heart of the season.  It was truly one of the finest hours of television I've seen in a long while, and certainly the best that has come from The Killing.  It might even be worth slogging through the first two seasons just to get to this one.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm obsessed

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

I'm racing through the second season and already eagerly anticipating the fall premiere.

a garlic-scented ear

Tonight I decided to improvise and create a raw tomato sauce, of sorts, in order to take advantage of my aforementioned ridiculously productive tomato plants.  It wasn't perfect, but it made for a tasty, healthy dinner, with the added bonus of being able to feel virtuous for using up my own crop.

After gathering a colander full of tomatoes, which took a while because the little guy occasionally needed a sample, I set a pot of water on to boil for pasta.  Once I tossed in the best option from my pantry, a whole wheat penne, I sautéed a couple of minced garlic cloves in olive oil just until they were toasty and brown.  I poured the infused oil over the tomatoes and added a generous sprinkle of sea salt, as well as some finely chopped basil.  Before I drained the pasta, I scooped out a cupful of the pasta water.  As soon as the pasta was done, I dumped the entire bowl of tomatoes into the now empty pasta pot.  I salted the tomatoes again and poured the starchy pasta water over the tomatoes, swirling it together with the garlic oil, and then tossed the whole mixture with the penne.  For a finishing touch, I grated over a handful of fresh Parmigiano Reggiano.  Yes, I can see how it might seem a bit much for me to spell out the entire name of my version of Parmesan, but it's honestly all I use.  You can thank Rachael Ray.

All in all, I was pleased, but there was definitely room for improvement.  For one, I think it might have been better to halve the tomatoes-there would have been a "saucier" effect.  It might also have been nice to cook them a bit with the oil.  Then there would have been the completely irresistible effect of hot, bursting cherry tomatoes.  Either way, there are plenty of other opportunities for me to try to make things better-my tomatoes aren't going away.

Even though I wasn't 100% in love with my raw cherry tomato sauce, my little A thought it was great. He happily plowed through his plate of pasta and spinach tonight in the shortest time span imaginable, asking for more when he was finished.  After his bath, as I was getting ready to brush his teeth and we were having a cozy little nuzzle, I noticed the particularly strong smell of garlic.  Thinking it must have been my hands, I immediately gave them a good scrub, but the smell didn't go away.  I then thought to take a closer look at A's head, which I had been showering with kisses, and that's when I noticed a tiny shard of toasted garlic, tucked right behind his ear.  Is it weird that it was an incredibly proud moment for me?  I know we've been blessed with a good little eater, but lately we've discovered that he's just like anyone else-once he discovers the treats he likes (cookies, chips, etc.), he will eagerly seek them out, even at meal time, turning down what he doesn't want as much.  I'm very happy that he found my impulsive tomato sauce appealing.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

what we've been doing

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Yesterday my little guy turned 2, which is both heartbreaking and exciting.  We've been doing lots of celebrating around here-honestly, it's been a little too much for him.  There have been a lot of tears and tantrums, which is why I am so glad that today, the day of his actual birthday party, turned out wonderfully. We're pretty sure it was one of the best days of his life.

Be back soon...

Monday, July 1, 2013

taking a little break

Monday, July 1, 2013

Tonight I'm going to take a little blogging rest.  I managed to get through June with a post EVERY day, and while there were a few trailers and picture posts, most had at least a little substance. I'm not sure how I will tackle July-my thesis continues to loom, and A will turn TWO in just a few short days, so there will be lots of prep and celebrating going on around here. I hope to be fairly consistent-it's been a refreshing change for me, writing a little something that's not school-related and just for fun.

I'm leaving you with a photo of one of A's new favorite activities: playing with the muffin tin.  He has a set of wooden fruit that can be halved (from Melissa and Doug, where else?) and he loves to put the pieces in the muffin tin compartments.  There's a whole world of muffin tin activities out there, actually, so I'm excited that he's figured out that such a simple household item can be fun.

Happy July to all....

Sunday, June 30, 2013

toddler essentials: dress

Sunday, June 30, 2013
Time for round two of my toddler essentials!  I decided to go with clothes/accessories this time, partially because I have a few genuinely practical suggestions but mostly because I'm obsessed with finding cute stuff for my little guy.  I will attest that there is easily twice as much out there for little girls, but I am enjoying the challenge of seeking out outfits that aren't emblazoned with soccer balls and/or monkeys.  This isn't to say that those aren't appealing in their own way--it's just frustrating to feel like there is a lack of imagination when it comes to designing boys' clothing.

Here is a list of what I have relied upon most to dress my handsome A.

 H & M shirts and onesies.  I wasn't aware H & M carried kids' clothing until just before A was born, and truthfully, I didn't dive right in to shopping there until he was a few months old.  It was only then, when we were past the pajamas/wearable blankets/snuggly infant clothes stage that I really appreciated what they had to offer.  Not only is everything RIDICULOUSLY cheap, the designs are unique, with a bit of European flair.  My A sports sweater vests, brightly colored pants, and skinny jeans, and doesn't match every other kid on the block, which I appreciate.   As for the onesies, I know my guy is on the older side for wearing them, but I think they are super convenient for cooler weather-keeps him a bit warmer than a t-shirt would.  We do lots of layering in California, and even though we're going through an unseasonable heat wave, it's only a matter of time before it's cooler again.  At H & M, you can find organic cotton onesies in a variety of basic colors, 3 for $10!!! The pictures I included give a good idea of what you might find at H & M.  Check out those suspenders! 

Old Navy shirts and shorts.  I love, LOVE basic tees and shorts from Old Navy, and can't say enough good things about them.  They are affordable, hold up well, and come in a plethora of designs, enough to indulge my Toy Story/Finding Nemo loving boy and to please me with a few that are original, like this one.

Gap pjs. It is difficult for me to restrain myself when it comes to buying these pjs.  At first, I mourned the end of footed, one-piece pajamas, but once I put A in his first pair of Gap two-piece pjs, I completely forgot why I was upset in the first place.  They are, in a word, adorable, and he is adorable wearing them.  He has more than his fair share, but to their credit, the pjs are sized well and last for a long time.  We've been wearing 18-24 months for over a year, and are just now stocking up on 2T.  And in case you're wondering if my obsession is specific to Gap, the answer is yes. The quality and designs trump other brands, in my opinion.  We have had a few pairs of Carter's pj's, but they fade and weather quickly.

See Kai Run shoes. I read about See Kai Run on a blog a few years ago, and I was really excited to try out the shoes once A started walking.  My guy was barefoot for a LONG time-no shoes at all until he was actually walking.  He had hot, dry little feet, and he wasn't in love with the idea of shoes, just marched around without them until we tried a pair of these.  They are awesome-solid, easy to slip on, and best of all, smartly designed, with bright, modern colors and a marked lack of characters or trying-to-be-trendy patterns.  For the most part, I have relied on just the one pair of See Kai Run shoes in each of the three sizes A has achieved (5, 6, 7). He wears them until he can't fit them, every single day.

Sunday Afternoons sun hat. My dear mother-in-law picked up a pair of these hats for A and my darling niece L a long time ago, and I'll be honest-at first, I thought they looked like a pair of old ladies tottering around on the beach with their big hats.  However, I have since seen the error of my ways.  Not only do the cousins look super cute sporting their hats, hardly a beam of sunlight can penetrate them.  I'm embarrassed to admit that I've lost two hats already, and we have begun to accumulate quite the collection.  Because of this I can tell you with absolute certainty that the Sunday Afternoons hats are really the best-not cheap, but definitely the prime choice for protecting your toddler from the sun.

There are a few other things that I like to indulge in, every once in a while.  I like Gymboree for button-downs and the occasional t-shirt, and I was thrilled to find Hanna Andersen pajamas at Costco (yes,  I do have a strange pajama fixation). We are on our second pair of Converse sneakers, I've bought at least one item at Out of Print, and I take advantage of Gap sales when they come up.

I've decided to write about our eating essentials next time-it's about more than blueberries!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

out of control

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Oh hello, Fresno pepper-I didn't see you there.  

I feel terrible for my photo-centric laziness of the past few days, but this thesis work is. killing. me.  And I am too proud of my daily posting habits for June to let a day slip by me.  Seriously, though-these tomatoes are RIDICULOUS. It's like The Ruins out there!  The bowl is only a fraction of our bounty.  And we could have even more if I knew anything about how to properly plant and harvest.  I need many, many cages and stakes to contain the growth that has ensued from FOUR little plants!  

In need of delish tomato-based recipes!  Send help! 

Friday, June 28, 2013

wordless friday

Friday, June 28, 2013

- Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, June 27, 2013

fruitvale station

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Notwithstanding the subject of this film, the horrifying true story of Oscar Grant, which I am glad will be depicted on film, I am excited to see Michael B. Jordan snag such a significant and weighty role.  Those of you familiar with The Wire and Friday Night Lights already know what Jordan is capable of (Where's Wallace?!) but it would be awesome to see him garner acclaim for a film role.  Side note: Those two shows I just mentioned are probably the best ever made. Just so you know.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

desperation dinner

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This afternoon after I put my increasingly not-so-little A down for his nap and headed into the kitchen to tidy up the lunch dishes, I began to think with dread about the fact that I didn't really have anything planned for dinner.  In order to stick to my meal plan for the week, I would have had to run out for chicken and tomato sauce, and even though that list is small, I didn't relish the idea of dragging A into the grocery store.  Short trips like that are almost worse than big ones.

I took a look in the fridge, hoping for inspiration, and realized that I had just enough good produce and plenty of eggs-time for a frittata.  Next to beans and rice, or simple scrambled eggs and toast, a frittata is what I gravitate towards when I'm really desperate.  I made one for the first time about six years ago, in a rare instance of following a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe, and I've never really looked back.  For the uninitiated, a frittata is basically a combination of vegetables and/or meats sautéed together with a mixture of beaten eggs poured over it and then baked.  It's like an omelette, without the pesky trouble of having to flip it or ensure that the eggs in the filling are properly cooked through.

Now, a frittata is not rocket science, and there are a few different methods out there, but I will just include my basic routine here, which works out every time with no problem.  For some reason, I am always a bit fuzzy on how long it needs to bake-I rely on a general time frame and slice into the frittata to check for doneness.

-Preheat oven to 350-375.
-Prepare your filling.  I like to use combinations of whatever veggies I have on hand, and almost never make frittatas with meat.  This isn't really a health-conscious choice, more because if I've had to a resort to a frittata for dinner, I probably don't have any tasty protein on hand.  It would obviously be great with bacon, sausage, or ground beef or turkey.  On days like today, I attempt to dump in good amounts of everything I've got.  When I'm running low on produce, I'll drain a can of chickpeas to supplement the frittata.  Today's combo was halved cherry tomatoes (harvested from our ridiculously productive tomato crop), a package of mushrooms that were miraculously not slimy, two sturdy zucchinis, a handful of spinach, and a tired leek that had been languishing in the fridge for almost two weeks.
-Saute filling in a tablespoon or two (depending on how much filling you're using) of extra-virgin olive oil, in an OVEN SAFE PAN (this is critical, because you'll be transferring the pan to the oven).  The length of time will depend on the vegetable you use, but ultimately, what you're going for is a happy medium between raw and soft. You want a slight crunch to remain, because the veggies will be cooking longer in the oven.
-Whisk eggs with a bit of milk.  A good ratio is probably 3 eggs to 1 cup of uncooked filling, but this is flexible.  I usually make a six-egg frittata.  Season eggs with salt and pepper.
-Once the filling is ready, spread out evenly in the pan. Pour the egg mixture over it.  Swirl the pan around to be sure that the egg has spread completely throughout pan.  It's completely okay if there are sections of filling that are thicker than others.  If you'd like, sprinkle the top with 1/2 - 1 cup of grated cheese of your choice.  We like sharp cheddar, and of course, Gruyere.
-Pop in the oven for around 20-25 minutes.  The time might need to be adjusted according to how large your frittata is going to be (longer for more eggs).  You'll know it's done when the eggs have set completely and the top is golden brown-give the handle of your pan a shake-if it's done, you won't see any movement.  For a final check, slice into the frittata to check to see if it's cooked through.
-For a more complete dinner, serve with a nice green salad.  If you're desperate like we are, pass a bottle of Cholula and devour the whole frittata in one sitting.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

what we're reading now

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Just thought I'd share a few of our summer favorites!  Happy reading!

Eating the Alphabet and Planting a Rainbow, by Lois Ehlert.  Never in a million years would I have expected these books to be such a massive hit in our house.  They are classic concept books, featuring Ehlert's bright, simplistic illustrations, and while the idea of an alphabet book parading fruits and vegetables and a book about planting seeds seems straightforward enough, the actual subject matter is a bit obscure.  Purple bearded iris rhizome?  Rutabaga? Kohlrabi? Delphinium? Yet somehow, A has become completely infatuated with both books, has memorized Eating the Alphabet, and asks for them all. the. time.

Ten Black Dots, by Donald Crews. Along with Freight Train, this Donald Crews title is much beloved these days.  Another counting book, which involves large, solid black dots as they form different pictures to match numbers, it's been really useful for the incredibly un-fun current state of diaper changing.  All I have to do is begin repeating the lines of the book-A completes the sentences and stops thrashing like a madman.

I Know a Rhino. Not the most compelling little book in the world, I Know a Rhino has its own little charm.  It's about a little girl's collection of stuffed animals, and how she imagines them to come to life. The pages featuring the giraffe and brown bear are particularly adorable.  Even though I brought along a mountain of books on our recent vacation, it was this one, and only this one, that A wanted to hear.

Moo Hoo.  This particular book is probably my least favorite of all the ones that have become obsessions of A's. Illustrated by Mike Lowery, who also illustrated another favorite, What Can A Crane Pick Up, it's about the friendship between a cow and an owl, disrupted by the arrival of kangaroo.  The phrase "Moo hoo" is repeated on every page, which is, to be honest, grating for me but incredibly humorous for A. I think he also recognizes Lowery's illustrations,  because of his love for:

What Can a Crane Pick Up.  Since we're talking about Moo Hoo, I figured I would also share this book, which we have had for quite some time but is still frequently requested by A. Considering that A loves anything construction/vehicle-related, it's a perfect fit for him.  The book is about cranes and the myriad of things they can pick up, including library books, kites, and planes, all topics of interest for A.

Potato Joe. I picked this up on our last library trip, and it's a winner.  We've been reading quite a few concept books, so any time I see one that might give me a break from endless readings of Chicka Chicka 1-2-3, I grab it.  I love the pictures of fat, brown, potatoes on each page, accompanied by a sing-songy rhyme that isn't the least bit annoying.

Laura Numeroff's collection: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie + If You Give a Cat a Cupcake and If You Give a Dog a Doughnut.  To be honest, these books have never been my favorite.  They are ubiquitous at school book fairs and usually very popular in elementary school classrooms, so I really shouldn't be surprised that A is completely into them.  I originally owned the collection pictured here, but picked up the other two used when I saw how much he loved them.  I think I might have grossly underestimated the usefulness  of Numeroff's books.  She has tapped into something interesting with the "if-then" scenarios-none of the items are complex (in fact, they range from things as familiar to kids as apple juice to bubbles) but the kids are still asked to remember them from page to page.  That's why I don't feel the least bit bad when I pick up If You Give a Cat a Cupcake for the hundredth time-these books might not be what will be remembered in children's literature fifty years from now, but A is undoubtedly learning something from them.

Monday, June 24, 2013

and then I fell in love....SK's tomato sauce with onion and butter

Monday, June 24, 2013
Oh, the butter.

Given my spotty blogging history of the past year or so, you might have thought that one of the reasons I didn't post much, specifically about food, was because I had fallen into the "tired mom trap" of cooking the same old easy dinners over and over.  I am here to tell you that is exactly what has happened.  For the most part, I DO stick to a rather uninspiring repertoire.  The only reason my SH hasn't mutinied is because he isn't particularly enamored with food in the first place, and as long as there is some sort of discernible protein, he'll be (mostly) satisfied.

It hasn't been all bolognese and chicken satay noodle salad, though.  As I started to get the hang of being a new mom, I did gradually try a few new dishes, and some of them have made their way into the  still predictable rotation, including this unbelievable pot of deliciousness, Deb's tomato sauce with onion and butter.

My dear sister-in-law H pointed me to the sauce, which Deb detailed on a post that I definitely remembered seeing, but passed by because I was a bit turned off by the idea of a halved onion being thrown in with the tomatoes.  I do not know why I had that ridiculous idea, because the onion adds a homey depth to the sauce, a sort of savory counterpart to the pleasantly acidic tang of the tomatoes.  What is so good about this sauce though, the thing that makes it transcendent, is, of course, the butter. Five whole tablespoons of it, almost an entire stick.  It melts into creamy swirls, which you can see in my garishly lit photo, softening and yet somehow brightening the taste of the tomatoes.  I pour scoopfuls over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with just a bit of grated mozzarella, though Deb is right-it probably doesn't need anything extra.

I should probably also mention, just in case it doesn't seem obvious, that this recipe is the EASIEST.  Three ingredients (not counting the pasta), all of which are pretty much pantry/fridge staples.  The sauce is equally delicious the next day, and as tempting to my little guy as to me.  I'm pretty sure it should be in your repertoire too.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

episode alert: the sopranos pilot (S01 E01)

Sunday, June 23, 2013

I've been looking for a few new theme ideas to help keep me up and posting on the old blog, and being a television addict aficionado, I thought it might be fun to highlight individual episodes that I, in my infinite and profound expertise, deem compelling and/or spectacular.  *It is difficult at times to convey deep sarcasm properly with the typed word, but please note its presence here.

These episodes won't always be current (this first one dates back to 1998), but I will try to stick to things that are easily accessible.  Most of the series that I adore are on Netflix, and should your interest be piqued by anything I write about that isn't, I can promise it will be worth the $2.99 charge on iTunes.  I'll also tell you that while almost every episode I choose to highlight will be from a series that I watch regularly and admire, there might be a few exceptions.

With no further adieu, I submit for your scrutiny the very first episode of The Sopranos.  It seems apropos this week, don't you think? I'm always telling people that it's important not to judge an entire series and its possibilities on the pilot.  There is a lot of pressure on them to deliver-especially these days, to an even greater degree than when The Sopranos first aired-and there is simply no way, even in an hour-long format, that a series can really give the viewer enough of the story to ensure that their interest will be sustained over an entire season.  The best that most pilots can do is introduce the primary characters in an organized fashion, begin to develop at least one plot line, and provide a few memorable cases that effectively convey the genre of the series (i.e. if a comedy, it needs to have a few good laughs; if a drama, a shocking or tears-inducing event would be nice).  Now, the ironic thing about everything I'm writing right now is that even though we probably shouldn't judge the pilot, it absolutely has to have that expectation.  Most often, the pilot is the only part of a series that ever sees the light of day.  While I might advise you to watch at least three to four episodes before determining whether or now you'll keep watching, the reality is that if the powers that be in the entertainment industry don't think a pilot is worth spending additional cash to bring to full production, it's not going to happen.

The entire long-winded paragraph I've just forced upon you is all for naught, as it turns out, when it comes to the pilot episode of The Sopranos.  It is truly excellent, containing all the hallmarks of what makes a good pilot and even more.  This is a great accomplishment, considering that the story of a mob boss and his inevitable network of henchmen, lieutenants, and goons is a confusing prospect, particularly as it's occasionally difficult to decipher the many inscrutable nicknames when spoken with a Jersey/Italian accent as thick as peanut butter.  None of that matters in the pilot, however, which is more about the troubled anti-hero as he begins to face changing responsibilities in the "regime", beautifully conveyed by a metaphor involving ducks, if you can believe it.  During the final scenes, which set the stage for the countless times Tony Soprano sits across from Dr. Malfi, we were hanging on every word.

I've actually only seen a handful of Sopranos episodes, and I'm sure there are plentiful examples of great ones.  For once, the pilot is a good start.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

browsing history

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sneak peek pics from the Divergent set, including several glimpses of Tris and Four together.

I am not entirely sure I needed to read this: 10 natural ingredients you have no idea you're eating.

Lately, I've come a bit obsessed with Buzzfeed and their galleries and lists.  Here are a few of my favorites from the past few weeks.

-Shopping at Forever 21

-What morning looks like around the world.

Jenny at Dinner A Love Story wrote about this post on "vacation house cooking".  It's something that I constantly think about for our vacations, how to prepare tasty, affordable meals that won't take me hours to prepare.  I think we might've eaten much better while we were away last week if I had seen some of these great ideas.

Jenny ALSO found the most amazing children's book blog, Mrs. Little.  She wrote about this post, "What Would Half-Pint Do?"and after I clicked on the link, I fell in love.  It's an entire post describing what the author learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder's The First Four Years.

Entertainment Weekly's gallery of "snake-bit"movie productions, which sadly includes World War Z. Never a good thing to have a huge portion of your film rewritten mid-production.  I read the book, and while the book is always better than the movie, yada, yada, yada, it is really a huge disappointment to hear that the overall plot of a movie has been drastically altered from the book.  Even Sarah Linden and Brad Pitt can't save it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

the butler

Friday, June 21, 2013

It's hard to think that Lee Daniels' latest project could be anything but good.  That is a packed cast, no? And a really amazing true story.  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

toddler essentials: play time

Thursday, June 20, 2013
When my little guy was a wee baby, I compiled lists of our favorite things, the ones we felt we couldn't live without and used day after day.  You can take a peek here and here, if you happen to be interested. Now that he's a super active, speedy, chatty and growing little BOY (how did this happen?!), our needs are a bit more extensive and diverse.  Thus, I decided to start a little blog series of "toddler essentials", wherein I'll document our favorites for eating, playing, dressing, and perhaps a few other topics.  Since I'm in the midst of planning for the big second birthday, the fun stuff has been preoccupying my mind.

The play items I'm going to list here have all been "in circulation" for quite some time now.  I'm fairly confident that they'll keep A's interest for a while longer-he plays with most of them on a daily basis.

Play kitchen. I had my heart set on a play kitchen for A practically since his birth, and didn't even entertain the thought he might not like it too.  Thankfully, he has adored every play kitchen he's come across, so I knew it was going to be a worthwhile purchase.  Of course, I would've loved to have had  this painfully adorable retro kitchen from Pottery Barn Kids, but I have neither the space nor the mountains of cash necessary.  In the end, we went with a simple Ikea kitchen.  Every time we took a trip there, A spent all of this time in the kids' section with the kitchen.  It's basic, super easy to put together, and appealingly devoid of stickers shaped like food or flowers, which I appreciated.  There are lots of great DIY play kitchen ideas out there-I'm sure Pinterest is full of them-but I'm not handy or creative, and truth be told, I'm a bit lazy about those kinds of things.  We supplemented the kitchen with a dishwasher that I scored on Zulily, felt food from Ikea (fruit and vegetables, cheap and adorable), and the Ikea cooking accessories set.  I splurged on these adorable wooden play food toys-A loves to run over with the milk and juices and pretend for us to drink them.

ABC train. We have had the alphabet train since A was six months old.  At the time, he could sit up next to the train, listen to the music, and inevitably stick the letter pieces into his mouth.  Once he could move around more, he grew more enraptured by the train, attempting to push it around and pushing the number buttons.  After that, he figured out how to snap the letters into place.  Now, it's something he turns to regularly, usually every day.  It's a battery-operated toy, complete with borderline obnoxious music, but it's one of the best toys we have, enriching even more now because A knows quite a few letters.

Music table.  This is another toy that has stood the test of time.  I purchased one as soon as A could pull up on things, and he was mightily entertained by the music, textured plastic, and even a little compartment where I kept puffs.  When he received a second music table for a first birthday present, I almost returned it, thinking we didn't need another.  I debated sending it to Texas to keep at my dad's house, but my laziness kicked in and I decided I'd add another toy to the repertoire.  As it turns out, he far prefers it to the original table, and dances to the various musical options every. single. day.  I'm so glad we kept it. Note: We still loved our first table, and I think it's a bit more interesting.

Balls.  This may seem a bit obvious, but I felt I had to include it anyway.  We have a wide assortment, from a solid basketball to soft pillow balls.  It never needs to be fancy-A's favorites are probably the super cheap balls we indulge him with on trips to Safeway.

Cars. Also a bit obvious, but just as much a part of the play routine.  We have many, and while some of my favorites are the fun B cars pictured above, A's might be the drugstore Superman car his dad picked up for him while we were on vacation last week.  

None of these suggestions are particularly special, but they have all continued to provide A with loads of entertainment.  Next topic: toddler essentials for dinner time!