Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Soft foods only please...

A huge thanks to everyone who sent me messages today about Jude's oral surgery :) He's doing fine now-- a little groggy and sore-- and just needs to take it easy for a couple of days. I was really anxious the whole day though- he's been having this epic saga of a tooth situation with the dental school here for almost two years and today, they were finally going to fix the mess they had created in the first place. It was going to be a really long and involved procedure (4 hours to be exact) involving his jaw, sinuses(!), cutting, hammering (!!), and suturing of some sort. And he was under strict instructions to make sure there was someone to pick him up after because he was going to be so drugged up. When I saw him getting wheeled out of the periodontics clinic in a wheelchair, I thought my heart would break... :( He might have been able to walk on his own but he really looked groggy and the doctor had to take him in the wheelchair all the way to the car.

So now he's on a strict very soft foods-only diet for at least the next week or so. I scoured my recipes for things to make this week and also got some great advice from friends, so for dinner tonight, it was roasted sweet potato soup with ginger and cumin and a strawberry-banana milkshake for dessert (the man's in pain, I'll make him a milkshake with every meal if he wanted). We also have ingredients for pork congee, rice pudding, mac & cheese, butternut squash risotto (thanks for the idea, Emilee!), mashed potatoes, and mushroom soup. Just because he can't chew doesn't mean he can't have a proper meal. I refuse to let him have Jell-O chocolate pudding cups and ice-cream all week...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Help!

Ok, here goes. Our second trimester ultrasound is in 9 days. That's when we find out if everything's going smoothly for the baby according to schedule and more importantly, the gender if we want to know. As mentioned here, Jude and I haven't decided yet if we do want to find out and nightly "So what do you think, hunny?"s don't help us make up our minds any easier.

Here, our dear blog readers, is where YOU come in. We've set up a poll right here on the blog so you can help us. It's up on the sidebar till the night before our appointment and by that time, we'll see if we come any closer to making a decision thanks to your input! :)

Friday, March 27, 2009

SELMA Café

It can't be a lovelier day for this time of the year- the sky is a bright, cloudless blue, there's a nice brisk spring breeze but nothing unbearable, and the sun, oh yes, the sun :) And Jude and I kicked it off with a lovely breakfast at Selma Café. We've been meaning to go there for a couple of weeks now but only managed to do it today. Selma Café runs out of Lisa Gottlieb and Jeff McCabe's beautiful light-drenched home on the west side of Ann Arbor and is aimed not only at supporting seasonal and local foods but also creating and sustaining a community of people committed to the same ideals.

What draws Jude and I to Selma is the warm, down-home Ann Arbor vibe and also the fact that the whole outfit is completely volunteers- and donation-run. All proceeds go directly to the local farmers and producers that supply the ingredients and to non-profit groups working to expand access to healthy, sustainable food resources. Every week, people who'd like to help out can sign up online and help with the prep work on Thursday night and as wait staff on Friday mornings. The chefs (as well as the menu) rotates weekly and these are people who are either presently or formerly chefs in some of Ann Arbor's swankiest restaurants (like Logan or Eve) volunteering their services at Selma.

And all this out of a house, not that it's an overly huge house at that. The house was B-U-S-Y, many eating, many cooking, many serving, and all were in a great mood. Apparently, on busy days, they serve up to 160 meals out of Lisa and Jeff's kitchen. And not just milk and cereal- we're talking all-American breakfasts, big waffles, bacon, and fruit, and this morning, Spanish tortillas with chorizo, and house-cured ham with biscuits and gravy. The food was great— hearty and delicious. And there was granola, milk, bread and eggs for sale if you wanted. But even greater was the obvious fellowship and the sense of being connected to a community and the way in which the room buzzed around the shared love of food and place.

Jude and I will be back for sure- both as patrons and as volunteers. On top of joining the CSA this year, we think this is another good way for us to support the local food community and to reinforce our commitment to eating and preparing food more thoughtfully and wisely :)

1. Breakfast: Spanish tortillas with home-cured chorizo, 2. Self-serve bread, eggs, and firewood station, 3. Menu for 27 March '09, 4. Selma Cafe

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Boat That Rocked- MUST WATCH!!



Bold, exuberant, irreverent, and fantastically brilliant! Ladies and gentlemen, it's Radio Rock and you can't miss it!!! :)

Where the Wild Things Are trailer



Debuting on Apple Trailers today, the Where the Wild Things Are trailer is a complete delight! Marked indelibly by the magic realism of Spike Jonze and set to the wondrous strains of my favorite Arcade Fire song, "Wake Up", this trailer gave me goosebumps in anticipation of October :) And yes, you saw right, Arcade Fire-- an inspired choice for Maurice Sendak's story-- whose songs are at the end of the day all about child-like abandon, adventure, and escape...
Somethin' filled up
my heart with nothin',
someone told me not to cry.

But now that I'm older,
my heart's colder,
and I can see that it's a lie.

Children wake up,
hold your mistake up,
before they turn the summer into dust.

If the children don't grow up,
our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We're just a million little gods causin' rain storms turnin' every good thing to
rust.

I guess we'll just have to adjust.

With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am goin' to be
when the reaper he reaches and touches my hand.

With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am goin’
With my lightnin' bolts a glowin'
I can see where I am, go-go, where I am

You'd better look out below
-"Wake Up", The Arcade Fire


Wake Up - Arcade Fire

Monday, March 23, 2009

Getting to know the onion/turnip

According to the maternity websites that I follow, this week, our baby's roughly the size of an onion (or a turnip, depending on which website you look at...) That doesn't seem particularly big (and still far from the watermelon it's expected to become in August), but considering how just a month or so ago, the little thing was the size of a pea, I'd say it's definitely going through a growth spurt. Not only has the baby developed fingers, toes, teeth, and tastebuds (!), this week, it's developing sweat glands. Sweat glands, people, sweat glands!

Also, sometime in April, Jude and I will be getting our second trimester ultrasound, which is when we could potentially find out the gender of our baby if we so choose. And that has been *the* question everyone's been asking us lately. To know or not to know? We were talking about it today and began thinking that back in Singapore, almost all our friends chose to find out the gender of the baby in advance. I don't think I knew anyone who didn't. And so at home, the question was less, "Do you want to find out?" than "Boy or girl?" Here though, the question has invariably been whether or not we even want to know in the first place. And our answer: we haven't decided.

On the one hand, there's something romantic and mysterious about the not knowing, about that one last surprise at the end of the journey. If labor is as painful as I'm imagining it to be, then maybe on top of being gifted with our baby at the end of the trauma, the added bonus of finally finding out whether it's a girl or a boy will make the process a little more bearable. We also won't have to deal with gift baskets full of all blue or all pink onesies... On the other hand, finding out the gender of the baby is a way of getting to know the little one that much more as it continues to grow in me, a kind of bonding, if you will. I mean, if it's already peeing and perspiring in me, and using up 15% of my calorie intake, I should at least know if it's a boy or a girl and stop calling it "it". Besides, it might seriously help the naming debacle Jude and I constantly find ourselves in (right now, our girls name list is almost twice as long as the one for boys- in Sam's words, though, they both need work...)

What about you? Did/Would you choose to find out?

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Why it's ok to feel stupid - especially in Science

Some comforting advice for myself ... and perhaps for a few of you out there.

I was amazed that the Journal of Cell Science has the wherewithal to publish an essay like this. Kudos to the author of the essay and the editors of the journal.

Justification for recent bouts of self-flagellation and insecurity ;)

The importance of stupidity in scientific research

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Our first lullabies album?


I've loved The Innocence Mission for a while now. They make the kind of music you want to listen to on a lightly rainy day, curled in bed with your sweetheart, a book, and a mug of hot chocolate. Their music is delicate, wistful, and radiant like little fireflies of magic. And sometimes tinged with the delicate soft ache of sadness. My favorite song of theirs so far, "Tomorrow on the Runway":


Tomorrow On The Runway - The Innocence Mission

Then I came across their album, Now the Day is Over. The album is a collection of tunes that vocalist Karen Peris is fond of singing to her children, lullabies of sorts, if you will. Her husband Don is the guitarist and while we can never know such things for sure, you get the sense they are lovely, soft-hearted parents. There is such shimmering beauty in these simple songs-- songs you and I already know-- that it makes me look forward even more to when the time comes for swaddling blankets, tiny fluffed pillows, hushed singing, blurry eyes, and even cries for milk at 3.00 in the morning. Listen to how she's remade the often cheesily sung "Moon River" into an entirely different being altogether:


Moon River - The Innocence Mission

And then there's this one, "Bye-Lo". As one reviewer said, he listened to this track when he and his wife found out that they were having a baby, and for the first time in his life, he cried:


Bye - Lo - The Innocence Mission

I think our baby just got his/her first lullabies album :)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Year of Eating Locally

Close to a year ago, in commemoration of Earth Day, we posted something about doing more to eat locally, seasonally and sustainably. This year, we've finally taken a decisive step in that direction. Together with our friends, Tanya and Wil, we joined a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farmshare. A CSA is a way for the food-buying public to create a relationship with a farm (for us, it's Tantré Farm in Chelsea, MI) and to receive a weekly basket of produce. By making a financial commitment to a farm, people become members (or "shareholders," or "subscribers") of the CSA. The cost was a little high upfront, but between our two households and at the prospect of getting fresh, locally-grown organic vegetables, fruits, and herbs for much of the rest of the year, it actually works itself out in the long run.

I'm excited to receive our first batch of produce come May/June- I think veggies like arugula, peas, and chard come first. It'll be inspiring to cook based on what's at its peak of flavor, freshness, and seasonality. Alice Waters said it best when she writes that cooking seasonally also gives you an appropriate reverence for place and time, for what Nature had intended for us to eat at a certain point of the year. While I appreciate being able to get tomatoes even in the winter, nothing tastes better than the burstful sweetness of heirloom tomatoes smack in the middle of July.

Also, I'm really looking forward to trying vegetables that we may not otherwise buy on our own from the market. I have no idea what to do with beets or kohlrabi, but we'll soon have to learn if we're going to be getting a basketful of them every week. It'll be an adventure to explore new flavors and ways of cooking, or maybe even eating them raw because they will be so fresh and flavorful. Our friends who've joined CSAs in the past warn that it's a lot of veggies for a week even after you share it between two families (for instance, with Tantré Farm, each week we'll expect to get 1 to 4 salad greens (lettuce, arugula, etc.), 1 to 4 cooking greens (collards, Swiss chard, spinach, etc.), 1 to 4 root vegetables (carrots, potatoes, etc.), 1 to 4 fruiting vegetables (tomatoes, corn, squash, etc.), 1 or 2 alliums (onions, garlic, etc.), 1 to 3 brassicas (broccoli/cabbage family), and 1 or 2 herbs), but maybe this will be a way for us to simply incorporate more vegetables into our diet, and learn how to dry, cook, or preserve them in ways that will allow them to keep longer. The possibilities are endless and we can't wait! :)

Friday, March 13, 2009

Elmo, meet your match...

[Typing this as I crawl back up onto my chair having virtually fallen over from laughing too hard...]



Only Ricky Gervais would dare give the eternally 3-year-old reigning prince of Sesame Street a hard time for the incongruity of wearing pajamas when he's naked the rest of the time; only he would give Elmo such a jab the poor muppet looked like he was going to fall over himself; and only a brilliant British comic would broach the subject of necrophilia on a children's show on public television.

I love Jude soooo much for forwarding this to me... :)

(via The Huffington Post)

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Not a Facebook poke

SO- I may or may not have felt the baby move last night. Jude and I were watching the Season One marathon of Breaking Bad when I felt a bit of an ache in my abs. Not like a sharp stabbing pain, but it sure was uncomfortable. Maybe it was the baby's way of protesting that I was unglamorously and awkwardly slouched over a throw blanket and two pillows. Apparently the kiddo's limbs are developing fast this week so perhaps it needed to make that known, like a polite "Erm... excuse me mom, but I'm kinda growing in here and you're squishing me" poke.

Or it could have been the little one reacting against my decision to have a triple Blimpy burger with grilled onions, mushrooms, Swiss cheese, mayo, ketchup, tomato, lettuce, and a side of veggie fries at 4 in the afternoon (Yes, it would seem that my appetite is back with a vengeance of epic proportions...). In which case, it was probably a less benign "Good god, woman! You sure this much grease is OK for me?" jab.

Or maybe it was just indigestion... ;)

Saturday, March 07, 2009

"I'm not locked in here with you, YOU'RE locked in here with ME!!"

Otherwise known as the best line in the movie/comic and spoken by our favorite character, Rorschach (played by a brilliant Jackie Earle Haley who so boldly and uncannily embodied Rorschach that I can't imagine that had Terry Gilliam's directed the movie, he would have been played by Robin Williams), the most compelling and complete of all the characters in The Watchmen series, if you ask us. The movie was very good- for what it was able to do. The last time I felt vaguely the same way was when we watched the film version of my favorite novel, Possession and hated it. Like The Watchmen, I think it's unfilmable. Layered storylines, narratives within narratives, flashbacks, complex characterization- all things that are hard to capture on film no matter how advanced your CG or skillful your editing. To make The Watchmen work on film, the film-makers had no choice but to pick out the master narrative from the lot and concentrate on that, but in the process, lose the depth, complexity, and intensity that is so much a part of why we love the comic (or comics, depending on how you look at it).

I genuinely appreciate how faithfully Zack Synder abided by the aesthetic of the narrative- to the point of being almost too much of a moving storyboard for some very iconic frames of the comic. Meaning the movie managed to capture the devastating vision of the story, but not quite its tragic soul. Constrained by the film medium, it left me just a little cold at the end, and not quite with the all-consuming bitterness and bleakness I actually felt in a very real way at the end of my challenging week-long struggle with reading it (let's just say it's not the best thing to set aside for bedtime reading if you want to be flipping back and forth between pages, looking for hidden connections, and drawing connections between the various narratives- an experience I re-visted last night at 4 in the morning after returning from our midnight IMAX advanced screening.).

Whether or not you've read the comic, I'd still recommend that you watch the movie- it did the best it could given the difficulty of the source material and I'm glad we saw it. But for those of you who haven't read it, please don't take the movie as a representation of what The Watchmen is- it's so so so much more than the film, and then some...

Monday, March 02, 2009

"Dark was the night" - an awesome compilation

I have been hearing raves about this compilation for sometime now, but it was only recently that I made the time to look for it. And .. oh my... what a compilation this is - not only do the contributing artistes read like a who's who of indie music, each of the songs stand on their own and with repeated listening (as evidenced by my Last.fm status). Produced (or in the Art world - curated) by The National's Aaron & Bryce Dessner - in association with the Red Hot Organization, famous for their stellar charity compilations benefiting HIV and AIDS related projects. Unlike most charity albums, this comp exudes a slow, contemplative mood that has interesting shades of grey.

Red hot allows you to embed up to 3 tracks from the compilation on one's website. Here are my 3 favourites (you have to give Riceboy Sleeps a listen!).

A DIY cooking weekend

1. Topped with homemade crust, 2. A dream fulfilled..., 3. Homemade pizza Layer 1, 4. Homemade pizza Layer 2

If there was anyone who knew what it means to dream of pie, it would be my husband this past week- the kind of deep, profound yearning that one must not take likely. And we're not talking about just any kind of pie- no, not a sweet, syrupy apple pie nor an eggy, dessert-only custard pie. People, we're talking the kind of hearty, rich, alcohol-infused, gravy-drenched, stick-to-your-bones-because-it's-winter, feel-it-in-your-gut-the-next-day kind of meat pie. Ever since reading this article in the the NYT Magazine last week about Fergus Henderson's Guinness and Steak Pie, Jude's been dying for us to try making our own meat pie, trotter gear and all. And since the article advocates a whole large communal pie instead of insipid individual ones, we decided to make it a whole social event with Molly, Jason, Rick and Emilee. It helps too that I'm now graduating into my second trimester and am slowly picking back up my desire to cook (which I thought I had all but lost at Week 6...)

It was a little intimidating initially to think that we would be making everything from scratch, including the crust (which after my sad attempt at Thanksgiving, did not give me much confidence...). Thankfully (or not), Ann Arbor ran out of trotters this weekend (Sparrow Market sold out and the guy behind the meat counter at Whole Foods- believe it or not- had no clue what trotters are! Was everyone equally inspired to make meat pies this weekend?). And so we had no choice but to use another recipe and I settled on this one by Jamie Oliver which got plenty of good reviews. The entire process from prepping the veggies to us actually sitting down to our first bite of pie probably took a little more than 4 hours, but I think it was well worth it. The Guinness ended up smelling and tasting more like a very rich red wine, and the beef was cooked till meltingly tender. Plus, thanks to Rick's patient coaching, my second attempt at making my own crust was a veritable success- light, flaky and tasty! The pie was an all-round hit and I'm glad I helped to fulfill my husband's meat pie dream :)

Inspired by the success of the Guinness steak pie, we decided to experiment with making our own pizza for dinner tonight, although not really from scratch. We bought fresh uncooked wholewheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's, rolled it out and topped it first with a little tomato sauce, baked breaded eggplant (yum!), and fresh mozzarella. We let that bake for about 15 minutes and then added arugula, shaved Parmesan, drizzle of olive oil and sea salt and threw it back in the oven for a couple more minutes. I have to say, I could eat that pizza forever and ever, and ever- deliciously tasty from the eggplant and cheeses, light and crusty (not chewy), a little bite from the arugula, and just so fresh out of the oven that nothing store-bought or delivered even comes close. I'm not sure if it's my appetite slowly coming back after weeks of nuts- and cereal-craving, but honestly, dinner was really quite delicious :) Besides, I don't really like my pizzas heavy with too much cheese, meats, or sauce like it's typical here in the Midwest so the fact that we could choose what and how much we put on the pizza was just perfect! Jude now thinks we should totally invest in a pizza pan (we had to borrow Rick and Emilee's) so we can make the kind of pizzas we love every week :)