Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Kelsey Creek Farm

Not long ago the three of us enjoyed an outing at Kelsey Creek Farm.  Who would have thought that there would be an entire historic farm tucked away in the neighborhoods of Bellevue?  It turns out we've been missing this great opportunity for years!  We admired the rolling green pastures, visited with the ponies in the upper paddocks, and then headed down to the main barn and pigpens.  It turns out that they  not only have a huge copper-colored mother pig, but also a whole litter of pink baby pigs snuggled up in the straw.  Delphinium was enchanted.  We also saw chickens, sheep, cows, and some seriously quizzical goats.  We will certainly be back another day, and next time we'll be sure to bring a picnic. 

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day '11

On Memorial Day I try to always remember the sacrifices of the brave soldiers who fought our battles down the years. From the revolution to the wars going on today, there have been people who've given the ultimate sacrifice in support of American principles and policies. Both my grandfathers served (and lived thank goodness) and I absolutely honor the hardships and courage of all these heroes. However, some people seem to see this as a day to celebrate the "glories" of war and display a grossly overwrought version of patriotism. To me this skews the real purpose of the holiday and detracts from those it was originally meant to remember.

"I cannot believe that war is the best solution. No one won the last war and no one will win the next."

Eleanor Roosevelt

Friday, May 27, 2011

Cute Baby Bits #2596

If you've ever had any contact with a toddler, you know about the classic game.  It consists of picking something up (a ball say) dropping it, and saying "uh-oh!" as if you are taken completely by surprise.  Then you repeat the steps dozens of times or until your mom gets so tired of hearing it that she distracts you with kitties.  Delphinium learned to play this game a little while ago, and I try my best to be patient.  Then, a few nights ago, I was trying to make dinner, and Delphinium was registering her displeasure at the lack of attention by crying and clinging to my pant legs.  I was slicing rounds of squash, trying to focus on the knife and not the baby, when one of the squash rounds rolled off the cutting board and on to the floor.  She stopped crying and bent to look.  Then she grabbed the squash, turned her little teary face up to me, and said "uh-oh?" as if she was wondering if this were some new version of the game.  I agreed "uh-oh" and the rest of dinner prep went off without any crying.  All I had to do was throw vegetables on the floor every couple of minutes. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

International Food Month: Indonesian

As many of you know, M. happens to be a really incredible maker of Indian curries.  I am not making this up. My favorite is his tomato paneer, but really, that man can do amazing things with curry spices and just about anything you might find in the crisper. That is why I hardly ever tinker with curry. Why dabble when you have a master to take care of business? Nevertheless, it was fun for me to try out an Indonesian curry recipe. There are a million variations on this recipe, but I just picked one at random (it's actually a chicken recipe where I swapped in tempeh) and it happened to be quite good. Tempeh is a fermented soy bean cake that is traditional to Indonesia. It is something of an acquired taste, but it has a mild, nutty flavor, and the texture is firm and satisfying. Making this dish reminds me that I want to use it more often. More on that in another post.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sick Baby

Our day began very early (2:30am) with the baby tossing her cookies in her crib. After clean up, changing, cuddles, and a story she went back to bed without complaint. However, when she woke at 8am, she had another episode. That was only the beginning. In fact, I'm skipping a description of the rest of the morning in order to protect the sensibilities of my readers. There can't be much sadder than a sick baby. They just collapse against you, and wait for you to make everything better. When you can't make them better, the recriminations start. By lunchtime the baby was glaring at me. Now we're following the pediatrician's guidelines and eating bananas, potatoes, and rice. Her majesty is not pleased by this diet. Also she is tired of drinking water and would like her milk NOW please! Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Baby Language: Thirteen months

I am having such a good time watching the baby grow up. She unfurls new leaves and stems so fast I'm afraid I may miss one. This is that stage of language development where I think she understands much more than she can communicate. I'm constantly discovering that she's trying to use a word, but I've been too dense to notice what she means. For instance, we were at music class the other day when she started saying something that sounded like "boo ooo". I thought she was noticing the owl on the wall, but when I turned around there was a balloon floating near the ceiling. Here's a list of her current vocabulary (or at least those words I can understand):

Mou mou (rhymes with cow) = Meow Meow = Kitty
Mama = Kitty or banana or me
Dada = The man himself (he doesn't even have to share!)
Fsh = Fish or shoes or cheese
Baa ooo = Balloon or bubbles
Baa baa = baby (I think)
Wow = wow (It's so stupendously cute because she makes her mouth into a very round "o")
Hi = Hi (usually accompanied by one of her patented two-handed waves)
Uh-oh = Something has been dropped

Then there are also a whole bunch of animal sounds, but since they are very inconsistent, I won't count them here. Yet. I have no idea if she's ahead, on target, or behind in her language skills, and I don't care. It seems to me that she's fabulous in every way. Now if I could just get a title to myself instead of having to share it with a fruit...

Monday, May 16, 2011


Yes it is true!  Another big milestone for sure!  Delphinium is now walking with serious purpose.  She started out just cruising from one bit of furniture to another, but after a few weeks of that, independent steps began.  She's a pretty cautious girl, so there weren't any mad rushes and big falls (or bonks thank goodness!).  Instead she carefully levers herself onto her feet, takes a moment to be sure she's steady, and then tentatively steps out. 

You never know what combination of foot ware and flooring surface you might find, so it pays to be watchful.  Now that she's had a few weeks of practice, she's up to about ten or twelve steps at a time, but she still has to catch herself quite often to make sure she doesn't fall.  When she does take a tumble I'm amazed at how controlled she is.  So far no bruises (know on wood).  When she makes a long series of steps, she looks up to be sure you saw, and then claps her hands at the thrill of success.  Side benefit?  You can carry a whole lot more toys when your hands are free!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

International Food Month: Swedish

The next country we visited after Libya was Sweden.  Of course many Swedish recipes use meat, but we also found a fair number of mushroom items.  I remember my wonderful Swedish grandmother making us a fabulous mid-summer meal that featured mushrooms folded in flakey pastry.  It was heavenly.  Unfortunately I do not have the recipe, and I do not make very good pastry.  Thus we went with a mushroom soup that I found mentioned in several places.  In the end, I took a basic mushroom soup recipe and amended it to include some of the Swedish flavors I kept seeing.

Vegetarian Mushroom Soup

Satute about one pound of mushrooms and 1/2 a cup of chopped shallots in a mix of olive oil and butter (just enough) for about five minutes.  Once they are wilted, add about 2-4 tbs of dry sherry (this depends on how dry the mushrooms are) and about 2 tsps of dill .  After that is well mixed, add about 4 tbs of plain flour.  I like to blend the flour with some of the stock to prevent lumps, but that's just me.  Top up with about 3-4 cups of stock.  Whisk carefully to avoid lumps.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and cook for at least 15 minutes.  Finish with cream (if you're feeling naughty) or milk if you aren't.  Chopped fresh dill, chives, or parsley are nice on top. 

The soup was actually really good (if I do say so myself) and we ate it with steamed potatoes, sweet and sour beats (as my mom makes them) and beat greens too.  It was certainly a meal I would make again, and next time I might experiment with different types of mushrooms.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Kindermusik Redmond

For a couple of months now Delphinium and I have been attending Kindermusik classes in Redmond.  We don't actually live in Redmond, but we heard that the music classes there are especially good.  We were not disappointed.  Our class is with Miss Anna, and she does a wonderful job of making the classes fun and age-appropriate without allowing them to become overwhelming for the little ones. 

First we play with toys such as puppets or balls as the other children arrive.  This is a great way to warm up to the activity, and by the time we sing the welcome song, the children are most happy to participate.  Each day has some activities that stay the same, and other things that change each time.  We always sing, we always dance, and we always have some playtime too.  Delphinium's favorite part is playing with the bouncy balls, no wait, maybe doing drums, or perhaps having a line dance.  It's just too hard to choose.  I'm not very good at explaining it, but something about Kindermusik is a good fit for us where Gymboree was not.  It's less twee, less overwhelming, and also costs about 1/3 less at only $68 a month.  Yay for Kindermusik!

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Mothers' Day '11

Well it seems that I've now been a mother for more than a year! I still cannot believe it's really true. Sometimes I look at our beautiful little girl and think that I must be back to being a nanny because she can't possibly be ours. But she is! At the top of my life list were a real career, a wonderful husband, and a baby of our own, so I feel completely spoiled. Of course it is not easy, and from time to time it can be really difficult to look after such a busy little person. I would not trade this job for any other one in the world.

I guess that was happy Mothers' Day to me. Now this is one for my mom. What made me want to be a mother in the first place, what makes me the halfway decent mother that I am (on my good days!) is the relationship I've always had with my mother. She's not your normal type. I've always known that she was my biggest fan, and someone that gave me armor against all sorts of trials and troubles (also mean people). It also gave me confidence that I could do or be anything I liked. If I can be half so good a champion for my daughter, I will be doing a splendid job.

Friday, May 06, 2011

International Food Month: Libyan

We started out with the country most in the news when we made the actual list. I confess that I know almost nothing about Libya beyond what makes the headlines. After some research I found that Libyan food seems to be a cross between Middle Eastern and African traditions with a smattering of the Med. thrown in as well. It's a place with so much history, and that means all kinds of food customs too.

Of course all the lamb and mutton recipes were out since we're vegetarian, but I did settle on a lovely lentil salad and summer soup. For the salad, I combined several on-line and book recipes to create one that worked with the ingredients I had on hand. No, no, no I did not scour ten thousand sources to ensure that this is one hundred percent authentic. If you are Libyan and this is not how your grandma made it, please cut me a little slack:

Libyan Lentil Salad

-2 Cups Lentils
-2-3 Cups water or stock
-1 Medium Onion chopped
-2 Bay Leaves
-2-3 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
-2-3 Cloves Garlic -- finely chopped
-Peel of one lemon
-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
-Dash Cinnamon
-1 Teaspoon ground cumin
-2 Teaspoons coriander
-Salt And Pepper
-Green olives

Saute olive oil, onions and half the garlic until soft. Pour in lentils, bay leaves, spices, and enough water to cover. Cook for thirty minutes or until tender. Drain the lentils, and then add the remaining ingredients including the other half of the garlic. Garnish with green onions, yogurt, or cheese as you choose. The recipe for the soup is here. Both were quite tasty, and I would definitely make them again.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

International Food Month

There we were, at the table, eating one of those meals. You know the ones. They're easy, relatively healthy and tasty, and you've made them a thousand times. Pasta, red sauce, and salad for instance. Or maybe some sausages, potatoes, and peas. Those are just two examples of the sort of menu I fall back on constantly. There's nothing wrong with those meals, but it just gets boring. It's boring to prepare the same thing over and over, and it's boring to eat it too. Why, then, don't I just break out and do something different? It's mostly laziness plain and simple. After a long day, it's just so easy to get out that packet of pasta.

Then one day it struck me. If I didn't get out of this food rut, we'd be eating the same six or eight meals for the rest of our lives! I've actually met grannies and aunties who refused to serve (or eat) anything but a few safe and familiar dishes. That will not happen to us! I do not want our baby to think that food consists of peas and potatoes baked, boiled, fried. I want her to taste things that are fresh and flavorful. Oh and by the way, I want that for us too. Thus we embarked on International Food Month (hey when you're a stay-at-home mom you need goals)

Here's the plot we hatched. We would take on twenty-five countries in roughly thirty days (that leaves some nights to go out woo!). We made a list of the countries in advance, and posted it on the fridge so that we would be inspired to continue. We would research traditional recipes on the internet and in cookbooks (yay library!), and then we would do our best to prepare a dinner from each country. The pact also stated that we could buy the ingredients that were needed for the meal, but we should try to stick with recipes that don't require too much money or supplies that we are likely not to use again. We're trying to be moderate here!

Some of our country picks were fairly familiar ones like Mexico, Italy, and France. Others were much more "out there" such as Egypt, Vietnam, and Kenya. We did not order the countries according to the month because we want to be free to cook each one as we find good recipes. If this all goes as planned, by the end of the thirty days we'll have prepared a whole range of new recipes, and we'll have the chance to try a lot of new flavors too. Best of all, we won't see the same old, same old fall back meals for at least a month. Wish us luck.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Ding Dong

I went to Facebook last night and started seeing all these cryptic messages.  Finally I put it together, and went to the New York Times for the story.  Sure enough Osama Bin Laden is dead.  What a weird feeling.  I halfway expected him to remain at large for the rest of his life.  The scary part about it is what effect the death might have on his followers.  Will people rally around him as a martyr, or will they lose their fervor and fade away?  Let's hope for the latter.