Feb 25 2009

What’s for Dinner

This week’s veggies: collard greens, kale, pea shoots, chard, two bulbs of fennel, bok choy, spinach, radicchio, some very lovely carrots, a butternut squash, and an acorn squash.

Tonight we’re having Thai food delivered: I’ve been feeling sluggish all day and I don’t want to cook. But I like the looks of the squash. I think tomorrow I’ll stuff the acorn squash with quinoa: this recipe looks like what I’m envisioning. I’ll make a salad out of the pea shoots and radicchio to go with it.

Friday night the kale, carrots, and the butternut squash can go into a minestrone-type soup: there’s a recipe in Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food. Robin and I will probably have the bok choy for lunch.

Saturday night I think we might go out to eat: Pops and Mo gave us a gift certificate to one of our favorite restaurants, so we could have a nice meal out as a family.

Sunday night: A garlic-rosemary roast pork loin roasted with fennel, and garlicky chard on the side. Monday we’ll have leftover pork with the collard greens. And there will most likely be enough pork for sandwiches on Tuesday night too, maybe with a spinach salad.

Feb 24 2009

Baby Talk

Tonight, during his nightly walk with Robin, Sam bought a packet of Pepperidge Farm cookies from our corner grocery store. He set them on a countertop when he came in, but Robin wasn’t fooled. My son knew exactly what was in that package, and he knew he wanted it, nevermind that he hadn’t had his dinner yet. He stood there underneath the cookies, pointing and saying “dee da? ba ba ba!”

“All right,” I said cruelly, “if you can tell me what you want, I’ll let you have one. Say ‘cookie.’ If you can say ‘cookie,’ I’ll give you one.”

“Ehn!” said Robin, pushing up on his tiptoes and stretching out his hands.

“‘Cookie,'” I repeated, heartlessly.

“Ehn!” said Robin. “Ehn!” And then he managed it! He grabbed the cookies! He pulled them off the counter and hugged them to his chest!

Then what did he do? He brought them to me, and laid them deliberately in my lap. “Dja!” he exclaimed.

I gave in. I opened them up and I gave him a cookie. It wasn’t English, but I couldn’t pretend I didn’t know what he was saying.

Feb 24 2009


Robin has awesome new rain gear:

For once, the scratch on his face isn’t from the kitty. He tumbled headfirst into a bush when we were at the park. He’s fine, of course.

The rain slicker has a froggie-shaped pocket, so it matches the boots.

Feb 18 2009

What’s for Dinner

In the box: collard greens, pea shoots, chard, kale, arugula, radicchio, spinach, bok choy, carrots, leeks, fennel.

Tonight I’m making a beef barley soup with the last remnants of our leftover corned beef brisket. I threw in the pea shoots because, you know, why not.

Tomorrow’s lunch: leftover soup. Dinner: pork chops and collard greens, maybe along with a French potato salad I’ve been wanting to try.

Friday lunch: spinach salad with bacon. Dinner: farfalle pasta with winter pesto (using the spinach and kale); roasted carrots and fennel.

Saturday lunch: leftovers, or something from the pantry. Dinner: baked polenta with cheese, leeks, and chard.

Sunday brunch: crepes at the crepe place! Dinner: roasted beet salad with arugula, radicchio, and blue cheese; steaks.

Monday lunch: PB&J. Dinner: Hot and sour soup with bok choy.

Tuesday lunch: leftovers. Dinner: I think I’ll try this arctic char recipe from Whole Foods (probably with the tomatoes and artichoke hearts rather than the broccoli). I usually avoid cooked fish because I’ve just never been a fan (although I love sushi), but lately I’ve been thinking I should give it another try.

There’s not much really new going on in our house. Oh, except Sam has started a new tradition of going for an evening walk with Robin when he gets home (usually while I’m finishing up dinner). The boy loves it and I think it’s really good for him to work off some energy at the end of the day.

Last week’s Sam-friendly menu seemed to go over well. Sam has been making a conscious effort to give me more positive feedback when dinner is good, and that’s been really nice for me to hear. I definitely appreciate the effort on his part. I snapped this picture of our Valentine’s Day calzones, don’t they look cozy all cuddled up together?

Feb 14 2009


Well, it turns out I had no reason to be stressed about Robin’s eighteen month checkup. He’s gained weight and height, enough that he’s back on a normal growth curve: he’s 31 and a half inches, 22 and a half pounds. And Dr. Simons pronounced himself fully satisfied with Robin’s communication skills. He recommended a book if we wanted to work on his language (It Takes Two to Talk) but stressed that he does not consider Robin to have any sort of language delay, and that the book was really just in case we were freaking out and needed to do something to reassure ourselves. Which we are not, and do not.

Poor Dr. Simons. I think he must deal with a lot of pretty intense type-A parents.

Valentine’s Day has been really nice so far. I got flowers! And I’m wearing a pretty new dress.

Feb 11 2009

What’s for Dinner

In the veggie box: collard greens, pea shoots (!), one bunch of beets, a head of fennel, kale, leeks, bok choy, carrots, lemon, and a rutabega that’s green where I’d expect it to be purple. I’m a little dubious about the rutabega.

Last week’s meal plan strayed off course when I decide to corn my own beef instead of buying corned beef at the supermarket. This involves rubbing a brisket with salt and spices and letting it sit in the spice mixture for a week (in the fridge). So I have a corned beef brisket getting ever-cornier on the bottom shelf of my refrigerator. Instead of the corned beef I made soba noodles with bok choy (not a success; we christened it “buckwheat glop”) and a sweet-and-sour cabbage dish that Robin and I thought was delicious but Sam didn’t much care for. Along with the cabbage it involves ground beef, ground pork, tomatoes, vinegar, a tablespoon of brown sugar, dried cranberries, and rice. It’s basically like stuffed cabbage, only freeform, all stirred together in the pot instead of being made into individual bundles. I’ll post the recipe if anybody’s interested.

Sam, it turns out, doesn’t like cabbage. This is really too bad as I love cabbage. I got a little frustrated and accused Sam of just not liking food; he is, you see, the kind of person who can go all day and just…forget to eat, which is a state of being entirely foreign to me. Also, Sam has in him a wide streak of the taciturn Nevada mountain man. When he really enjoys a meal his typical reaction is a satisfied “Hey, that was all right!” When he doesn’t like something, on the other hand, he’s most likely to shrug and say “Well, that was alright.”

You can see how this can get discouraging after a while.

There’s also some tension between the sorts of dinners I know Sam likes (starchy pasta dishes, white bread, anything with lots of cheese on it) and what I consider to be healthy eating (whole grains, fresh leafy greens). I mean, there’s some overlap: he likes meat, and I’m convinced that grass-fed beef and other naturally raised meats are perfectly healthy food sources. And compromises are possible: I try to include at least one pasta dish every week, but I generally buy whole-grain pasta. But yeah, every time I plan a stir-fry I know perfectly well that Sam won’t be very excited about it.

I really expected him to like the sweet-and-sour cabbage though; it was tasty, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs fare that seemed right up his alley. I guess I can forgive an aversion to cabbage. He doesn’t like cole slaw either, which also seems alien to me.

Anyway, Sam has promised to be more demonstrative when he actually likes his dinner, and so this week I’m trying to give him plenty of opportunity by fixing things that should appeal. It’s maaaayyyybe not the week I would have chosen to have rutabega on the menu…

Tonight we are having orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe. Tomorrow, pea-shoot bubble and squeak, with grilled sausages (Sam loves sausages, can’t get enough). Robin and I will have collard greens for lunch.

Friday lunch: garlicky braised bok choy and fish sticks. Friday dinner: oven-“fried” chicken (actually covered in a crispy melba-toast coating and baked) and potato salad.

Saturday lunch: roasted root vegetables, except that I think I’ll put in the kale instead of potatoes (kale seems to roast well), and what’s left over can be reheated as a side dish for dinner. Valentine dinner: home-made pepperoni calzones and chocolate souffle.

By Sunday the corned beef will be ready to eat, with buttered potatoes and maybe some cabbage for Robin and myself. And then the corned beef will provide leftovers for dinner on Monday and probably sandwiches on Tuesday as well.

Oh, and: that pureed broccoli soup recipe from the New York Times came out quite well. It’s basically cream of broccoli soup with potatoes instead of cream, but it’s tasty. I didn’t bother to make the croutons, just bought some at the store, so our soup looked like this:

I also liked the picked broccoli stems, although I was the only one who ate them.

Feb 11 2009


Robin’s just about a year and half old now, and we’re kicking it up a notch on the weaning. We were already down to three nursing sessions a day—morning, noon and night. That happened fairly organically. There wasn’t much conscious scheduling on my part other than a vague notion that I didn’t want to be nursing every hour and a half anymore. I guess I just started pushing it a little, not offering the breast first thing when he got fussy (but continuing to nurse him when he really demanded it) and that’s what the schedule settled into.

The real breakthrough was giving up our midnight nursing sessions. Boy, am I happy about that. The baby book advised me to refuse middle-of-the-night feedings long, long ago, but Robin had different ideas. And when it’s two A.M. and you just want to go back to sleep and the baby is screaming his head off and you know that simply nursing him will send him right back into slumberland…well, anything the books may say suddenly becomes a lot less compelling. So Robin got his way on that for a long time.

But it’s been a couple of months now without any midnight feedings. Again, all I did was keep pushing just a little: offering pats and soothing words instead of putting him to the breast right away. For a long time Robin pushed right back, insisting on a feeding, and then something changed; suddenly he was willing to be soothed. He would go back to sleep without the nursing. It was totally a change in him, not a change in anything I did. And boy, does it make my life easier.

So yeah, that was the biggest step as far as I was concerned. But lately I’ve been feeling that we should continue the weaning process. So as of today we’re dropping the morning session. I gave him a cup of milk instead, which he drank, and that seemed to go over okay although he definitely noticed the change in routine. He has a signal he gives when he wants to nurse: we have a nursing pillow on the couch, and he’ll walk up to it and start patting it. He’s been doing that off and on throughout the morning, like, “hey Mommy, I think you forgot something.” But I when I give him his milk cup instead, he accepts it.

The other two nursing sessions are going to be harder to give up. The noon feeding puts him down for his nap, and the evening feeding puts him to sleep for the night. “Milk coma,” we call it, and it’s by far the easiest way to get him to drop off. If for whatever reason he doesn’t nod off while nursing, we know we’re in for a long evening of increasingly-crabby baby, until finally either Sam gets him to sleep by walking and bouncing him, or I lie in bed with him singing lullabies while he squirms all around and kicks me in the face. So yeah, I’m not particularly eager to give up one of the most potent tools in my mothering utility belt. We’ll keep going with two nursing sessions a day for a while longer yet.

Feb 8 2009

Chinese New Year Parade

Here’s a thing I love about living in the city: last night, as we were sitting around after dinner, we heard the sound of distant music. “Oh yeah,” said Sam, “I think the big Chinese New Year’s parade is tonight. Should we go see it?”

“Sure, why not,” I said, and so we put a jacket on the boy and walked down four blocks, and there it was: lights! floats! firecrackers! lion dancers! stilt walkers! fan dancers! marching bands! and almost more little children in spotted cow hats, shaking their tufted ox-tails, than you could even say “awwww” at. But we said “awww” at them all.

There were shiny silver oxes:

(yes, those ARE small children in rooster, hare, and ram costumes surrounding the ox. yes, they ARE adorable.)

There were glittery gold oxes:

There were scary electric oxes with glowing demonic eyes:

The interesting thing about this ox-herder is that she was either pregnant or wearing a costume to make her look pregnant. Shout out to pregnant ladies in the Year of the Ox!

And there were close encounters of the lion kind:

This lion came up to be petted by, and to flutter his eyelashes at, the onlookers. When we got home we flipped on the TV and the local commentators were talking about lion dancing. They said that using the motion of the head and articulation of the face parts, like the eyelids, the dancer is supposed to be able to convey eight separate emotions. One of them was sleepiness, which I thought was awesome. Wikipedia has a lot more on lion dancing and what the different colors of lions signify. I did not know that lion dancing is linked with kung fu!

Robin liked the parade:

I thought he might get scared when the big dragon came by, with those little poppy firecrackers going off in its mouth, but he just stared at it. And he really liked the ribbon dancers, the marching bands, and the troupes of little kids in their cow costumes. At several points he did his best to squirm out of Sam’s arms so that he could run into the street and join them! Not this year, little buddy.

Feb 5 2009

First Words?

I am resolutely not worried about Robin’s speech development. I am not worried about it even though the baby book engages in base scare tactics, warning us to “alert our pediatrician to possible signs of developmental delay” if our toddler is not speaking at least fifteen words by eighteen months. I am not worried about it because Robin is happily babbling away and I have talked to many other mothers of little boys who tell me that their boy, or another boy they know, wasn’t really talking until two years or even later. (It’s a boy thing. The girls are little chatterboxes, all of them.)

I am not worried about it even though Robin’s eighteen-month checkup is coming up, and the doc told us that if Robin wasn’t talking by this point he’d want to check his hearing. Robin’s hearing is fine. He turns his head when we call his name and he imitates sounds that we make. He is interactive and very conversational, it’s just that the sounds he makes to indicate how he’s feeling or whether he wants something aren’t English.

In fact, as I was fretting on a low level about that upcoming checkup, it occurred to me that I may be drawing an arbitrary distinction around what counts as a “word” and what doesn’t. We’ve been focusing on the English, trying to tell ourselves that when Robin points at a dog and says “da-gi!” he’s saying doggie, ignoring all the times he points at his juice cup and says da-gi, or points at a dog and says guh! or buh! We tell ourselves that when he runs to Sam calling da-da-da! he’s saying daddy, ignoring the long hours when Sam’s at work and Robin shouts da-da-da all day anyway.

But there are things that Robin only says in certain contexts, never randomly. He says “awwww” when he lays his head on my shoulder, or when he pets the cat. He says “mmmm!” when he sees food that he wants to eat. He doesn’t make these sounds at any other time. They are meaningful. He clearly understands that awwww is an expression of tenderness, while mmmm! is an expression of yummyness. Are these words? I think they must be something very close.

Feb 4 2009

What’s for Dinner

In the veggie box: leeks, collard greens, kale, lemons, arugula, broccoli, some truly gorgeous looking carrots, bok choy, cabbage, oranges.

What’s for dinner:

tonight: um, spaghetti with tomato sauce out of a jar. The veggie box came late, we didn’t get to the store, and I’m just not feeling inspired.

But I’ll make up for it tomorrow by roasting a chicken with lemon and making a side salad with arugula, oranges, feta, and sugared pistachios. Sounds fancy eh? But it’s just a salad so it looks easy to throw together. The fiddliest part of it is the pistachios, which get tossed with egg white and sugar and toasted in an oven for half an hour—I’ll just have to make sure that I do that early in the day so the chicken can get in the oven at the right time. Oh, and Robin and I will have the collard greens for lunch, with bacon and vinegar.

Friday lunch: fish sticks. Dinner: I’m intrigued by the New York Times’ Recipes for Health feature, so I’m going to try out their Pureed Potato and Broccoli Soup With Parmesan Croutons (I can make stock for the soup with the bones from the previous night’s chicken) and Pickled Broccoli Stems.

Saturday I’m not planning to cook because I think Robin and I are hanging with a friend. So either we’ll scrounge dinner out of leftovers and pantry staples, or we’ll get takeout.

For Sunday brunch we always go to the crepe place. Sunday dinner: corned beef with boiled cabbage and carrots, yummmmm.

Monday lunch: Indian-spiced lentils with kale. Dinner: leftover corned beef!

Tuesday lunch: braised bok choy and brown rice. Dinner: …it’s entirely possible that it will be yet more leftover corned beef, like maybe corned beef sandwiches or something. If the corned beef is gone I’ll come up with something else.