Dec 30 2009

What’s for Dinner

This week in our box we got: a bag of walnuts in their shells, two butternut squashes (and just when I’d managed to cook the last one we had knocking around—I steamed it and mashed it up with some ginger last week), three leeks, a bunch of collard greens, a head of lettuce, one purple cabbage, six kiwis, two pounds of satsumas, and a bunch of carrots. I also have a bulb of fennel left over from last week.

The newsletter tucked into the box identifies the carrots particularly as Nantes carrots. I Googled that and learned: “Nantes Carrots are more popular in Europe than in North America. Though the flavour has been praised in North America, they are not grown commercially because they don’t store particularly well. They tend to split or crack when machine-harvested, and don’t survive shipping well.” So now I feel pleased with my unusual variety of carrots from our local farmers.

The newsletter also has this to say about purple cabbage: “During cultivation, purple cabbage changes its color according to the pH of the soil. On acidic soils, the leaves grow more reddish-purple while an alkaline soil will produce a greenish-yellow colored cabbage. This is because of pigment molecules called anthocyanins. On cooking, purple cabbage will normally turn blue. To retain the red/purple color it is necessary to add vinegar or acidic fruit to the pot.” So that’s interesting!

Tonight we’re having spaghetti carbonara with a salad of lettuce, fennel, and carrots. Tomorrow I’ll make black eyed peas with the leeks, collard greens, and some bacon, and probably some cornbread too. We’ll take the leftovers with us on Friday when we leave for Reno to spend the weekend with Nonna and Pappy and the anti-Sara, so that we can have the traditional Southern meal (which is really, according to Wikipedia, the traditional Jewish meal?) for good luck on New Year’s Day. We’ll be back Sunday night, so Monday we’ll have pork chops and sauteed purple cabbage (I’m going to watch closely to see if it turns blue!), and Tuesday butternut squash soup. The fruit as usual will be eaten straight, and as for the walnuts, I guess I’ll just put them into a bowl with a nutcracker and see what happens.

I hope everyone has a fun New Year’s Eve, and I wish you all good luck in the coming year!

Dec 28 2009

At the Park

Here’s a couple pictures I took of Robin at the park:

tree climbing

behind bars

You can see that he’s got Percy the Engine grasped in one of hands, and Boo the Teddy Bear in the other. It’s much harder for him to climb up the play structures with both his hands full, but he won’t go out without his favorite toys.

Boo was an impulse buy, a souvenir picked up in a Las Vegas Airport gift shop in order to calm a cranky toddler on the next leg of his flight. Robin has other stuffed animals and dolls, but he’s latched on to this one to the exclusion of all others. We call him the Little Bear with the Big Gambling Problem, and sometimes we make up bedtime stories for Robin all about how down-and-out Boo was before a kind little boy rescued him from the lure of the one-armed bandits.

littlest hobo

This is the box the vegetables come in. I keep it around because Robin likes to play in it. When we got home from the park he was so tuckered out that he climbed into his box and fell asleep with his coat on. Aww, the littlest hobo!

Dec 25 2009

Merry Christmas!

I hope all of you who celebrate Christmas are having a wonderful day today. I made chocolate chip pancakes this morning, and we’re taking it easy and enjoying all our new toys. We opened our presents on the solstice, but that doesn’t mean we can’t heap them around ourselves in piles and enjoy them all over again now. Which is exactly what Robin is doing:

(My big present this year was a brand new camera, the first fruits of which you are viewing right now!)

As you can see, Robin got some fuzzy new shoes (and some new clothes, not pictured), along with a whole depot’s worth of Thomas the Tank Engine merchandise. I’m not sure I’ve posted about this yet, but as anyone who has spoken to Robin recently knows, the boy is obsessed with trains. “Choo choo!” is often his first word in the morning and his last at night. He brings his trains to bed with him, and he won’t leave the house without at least one engine clutched in his little fist.

I thought maybe this train mania was a Phillips genetic legacy, but then one day at the park another little boy spotted the train Robin was holding, and started shouting urgently to his mommy: “Choo choo! Choo choo! Choo choo!” So now I’ve decided that it’s a more universal thing—little boys just love trains.

Our present to Robin, though, wasn’t a train. Because Robin’s driven to imitate us, and because Sam and I both spend a lot of time on our computers, it’s been a constant struggle to keep him off our laptops. We gave him an old laptop to play with, but he quickly demolished the keyboard. So, we decided that a great present for Robin would be an age-appropriate computer toy. After doing some research we settled on the LeapFrog ClickStart:

It communicates wirelessly with a console that hooks into the TV, so he gets to bang on a keyboard and move a mouse around, but the screen display is the television. There are lots of games for the ClickStart: it comes with four, and we also bought a Thomas the Tank Engine expansion cartridge that has three additional games. These are aimed at kids three and up, so some of them are a bit too advanced for him right now, but Robin’s already gotten the hang of the simpler games. And he loooooooves it.

He loves it to, frankly, a kind of scary extent. The first night he got to play with the ClickStart, he threw an enormous, epic tantrum—the likes of which we’d never seen before—when we finally turned it off and told him it was time for bed. Not wanting to see that behavior again, we’ve been limiting his time with the games, and not allowing it right before bed.

There’s a running debate in parenting/early education circles about the appropriate use of games and TV for small children. Some educators recommend no screen time at all for toddlers, and most recommend strictly limited amounts. Because Sam and I are both big nerds, we tend to view electronics pretty positively, and our instincts are to be fairly liberal about letting Robin explore this world. So far I’ve been very impressed with Robin’s ability to determine, for himself, what he needs in order to learn and grow: he seems to really seek out appropriate challenges for himself. There is a lot of educational content in the games and programming that we give him: he’s already learning numbers from Sesame Street—not, I think, the concept of mathematics, but he likes to chant along when they’re counting to ten. He’s only reliable up to three, but he sort of hums along for the other numbers. He does the same thing with the alphabet.

So, I only feel slightly conflicted about allowing Robin to watch his videos when he asks, or to spend time on the ClickStart. I am keeping a close eye on his behavior, though, and if it turns out that screen time really is associated with more problematic behavior for him, that’ll be a big strike against the games.

Anyway, right now we’re all headed out to the park. Hope everyone is having a wonderful winter day!

Dec 24 2009

The Crazy

I’ve either just passed or am nearing the end of the first trimester, depending on how you break the weeks down—some count it to twelve weeks, some to fourteen—and, pretty much on cue, I’m feeling less fatigue and the morning sickness is ebbing away.

Unfortunately, what’s ramping up instead is worse: the rollercoaster of emotional instability that I remember from my first pregnancy too. I call it The Crazy, as in, “Here comes The Crazy.” It’s awful because it’s so hard to recognize if you’re being crazy when you’re crazy: in those moments, obviously, your judgment isn’t functioning at its best. It always seems like I ought to be able to compensate for fluctuating hormones with rational thought, and yet in practice that just never seems to work.

I think my first inkling of The Crazy came, not from last night’s screaming fight with Sam (can’t remember the last time that happened—and this time it was over a smear of chocolate on my needlework, for which I felt Sam was exhibiting a monstrously insufficient level of remorse and concern), but from finding myself sobbing helplessly in front of the computer monitor over a relatively innocuous story of the Depression. It wasn’t even the deaths or the malnutrition or anything. It was the bungalows and the cannery that were torn down, the sense of change not necessarily for the better, the glimpse of a sweet way of life lost. The nostalgia just swamped me and I broke out crying. That seems pretty crazy.

And, oh yes, day before yesterday I was weeping openly on the street, pushing Robin in his stroller, because Sam’s taken up smoking again and I’m worried about him dying of lung cancer.

I hope the waterworks don’t last for another six months. I don’t think they did last time; the second trimester was the worst in terms of emotional fragility, probably? I joked during my last pregnancy that Hallmark should make sympathy cards: “I’m sorry you’re crazy!” Because, really, it sucks. I’d rather have the morning sickness.

Dec 16 2009

What’s for Dinner

Last week in our veggie box, we got—Nanita and Marqueño! Well, they didn’t arrive in the box, but with it. It was wonderful to see them, and as always, Robin luxuriated in their attention. I only wish the weather could have been better for their visit: it’s been rainy and cold. I think it actually got below freezing on a couple of days, which is a big deal for San Francisco. I don’t mind the rain—we’ve had a drought running for years, so the precipitation is really good—but I’ve become a delicate California flower in my ten years here, and I’m no longer equipped for freezing temperatures!

Still, it was a good week: in addition to getting to see my parents, we also had a birthday party for Sam that turned out to be a very nice chance to catch up with friends we haven’t seen in a while. Sam asked for “a pizza party with beer and party hats,” so that’s exactly what he got. I think it amused Sam very much when the waitress asked “who’s the birthday boy?”—obviously expecting it to be one of the three small kids around the table—and Sam got to say “Me!”

This week we’re continuing our social streak, hosting a Solstice party on Sunday. My good friend Matt, who’s gluten-intolerant, will be coming, so I’m trying to keep the majority of the menu wheat-free. It’s actually pretty easy given that any holiday feast centers around roasted beast and mashed potatoes. I’m thinking of getting fancy and having caviar with gluten-free blinis as an appetizer: there’s a local shop that offers “Sustainable California Caviar,” which I’ve had before and really enjoyed. Obviously it’s a big indulgence, but it’s been a couple of years since I last bought any caviar, so I think I can talk myself into it. For dessert I’ll make chocolate pots de creme, which are gluten-free without any tweaking.

Oh my god, speaking of holiday desserts, I also really need to get my fruitcakes started. Frankly I should have made them up right after Thanksgiving: the flavors get better the longer they sit.

I sort of feel like we ought to have a green vegetable on the table, but nothing in the box leaps out as good holiday feast fare: we got kale, leeks, broccoli, baby bok choy, lettuce, two cabbages, seven oranges, and six kiwis. I could make a salad, but I don’t think the lettuce will be at its best by Sunday. We also have a butternut squash still hanging around.

I think I’d better make the salad tonight. It’ll use up the carrots, and we have some leftover leek-and-broccoli rabe frittata that we can have with it. Tomorrow I’ll try out a new recipe for spaghetti with broccoli, garlic, and anchovies. Friday we’ll have kale, leek, and potato soup: Saturday I’m not cooking, so I hope we have leftovers. Sunday’s the big party, and I’m pretty sure we’ll be eating the leftovers for the rest of the week. I’ll just hope that Robin and I can eat the bok choy and the cabbages somewhere along the way—they’re the sort of thing that make a quick and easy lunch. The fruit, I’m not worried about!

Dec 2 2009

What’s for Dinner

This week’s meal plan may be nothing more than wishful thinking, because I’m still dealing with first-trimester fatigue and a touchy stomach, so there are nights when cooking seems absolutely impossible. Nevertheless I am going to draw up a varied and healthful dinner plan, in full knowledge that we may end up ordering pizza instead, and/or just tossing whatever’s in the crisper into a pot along with two packages of instant ramen.

Our box this week was stuffed groaning full, heavy as bricks: we got broccoli rabe, kale, napa cabbage, lettuce, fennel, three leeks, six bulbs of garlic, five meyer lemons, six persimmons, six kiwis, and sixteen little satsuma oranges, which taste like heaven. And all this after I had started to suspect that our box had been stolen again, and went to the store for a chicken and some green beans. Plus we still have a butternut squash sitting around.

So, tonight we’re having roast chicken and boiled green beans for dinner (this much will actually happen, I’m pretty sure), and then tomorrow, if things go well, I’ll make butternut squash soup and a salad: I have a sweet-sour celery seed dressing recipe that I think would go well on a salad with sauteed fennel and mandarin orange pieces.

Friday, in my idealized fantasy world, we’ll have Indian-spiced lentils with kale over brown rice; Saturday, pasta with broccoli rabe; Sunday, teriyaki pork and stir-fried cabbage with a lemon cheesecake for desert. Monday I’ll sketch in a delivery night, and Tuesday, leftovers.

Well, it’s a nice plan, anyway.