Sunday, May 31, 2009

Veggies galore!

1. Our first farm share of the season, 2. Finn helping us pick out fingerling potatoes, 3. Picking up the first farm share of the year, 4. Warm asparagus-mushroom salad

After talking about signing up for our first CSA for so long (see here and here), we finally got our first box of veggies from the farmer's market today :) It was a fairly small share but apparently, quite typical for the first of the season (plus we're splitting it with our friends, Tanya and Wil). It was a fun mix of spinach, mizuna, two kinds of radishes, green onions, asparagus, rhubarb, oregano, red lettuce, and fingerling potatoes. To complement our first haul, we also bought a quart of strawberries (for strawberry rhubarb pie/crumble/cobbler!), and some wild elm mushrooms that looked too gorgeous to resist (I really do love mushrooms of any kind...)

I was excited to taste some of the produce so for dinner, I made a warm salad by first slicing the asparagus finely and sauteing them with the mushrooms with butter and olive oil, some garlic, green onions, and white wine, and then tossing that with the red lettuce and vinaigrette (note: with farm share veggies, we were prepared to have to clean them very thoroughly because they're truly organic and unprocessed in any way, a.k.a. Bugs and Dirt Central). The salad was delicious- fresh, lovely lettuce with just that little bitter bite and the asparagus was crisp and crunchy even after having been sauteed for a while. And everything went perfectly with panko-breaded pork cutlets. We're really looking forward to experimenting with the rest of the stuff we got like the rhubarb and radishes which we've never cooked with before. I'll be sure to post about more farm share food adventures so stay tuned... :)

*Update: Strawberry-rhubarb cobbler success! See here :)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Our little girl's tunes III: Her own iTunes iMix playlist

Just based on the last few times we've put the headphones on my belly and the countless occasions during which she's kicked responsively when I was just listening to music in general (like *right now*...), we've come to the conclusion that the little chipmunk might just really enjoy music :) And since one of the things we registered for is a Fisher-Price DwellStudio bouncer with its own iPod connection, we thought it might a cool idea to make her her own iTunes iMix playlist (on top of the several albums we've already set aside for her- see here, here, and here.) Think of it as a mix-tape for the 21st century ;) We're also contemplating burning it into CDs as a thank-you gift for our showers.

Less music for her, but also music about her and about us already being in love with her, the collection is a mix of some of our favorite songs. I didn't want anything cheesy like "Butterfly Kisses" or predictable like "Isn't She Lovely" which is why many of the tracks probably aren't conventional in terms of baby songs. But they each carry our hopes and wishes for her, whether it's that she'll always remember the infinity of our love for her no matter how fallible we know we are and will always be, that she will blossom and grow up strong in spite of adversity and unhappiness, or that she will always see all that is beautiful and magical in the world she's about to come into.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Enough...

Ok, I really should stop shopping for the baby. Every time I buy something for her, I tell myself it'll be the last one, and then I'll stumble on something else and say the exact same thing. Like this kimono onesie that was on sale at Elephant Ears in Kerrytown. I lurve the awesome color and groovy print. Plus it'll be a cinch to wear because it literally wraps around her.

I'm beginning to think our little girl has too many clothes already- the little section of our closet that we set aside for her is practically bursting, what with the clothes her grandparents and aunts have bought her (and I *know* more baby shopping is in the works for her two excited aunts...), our Oliebollen score last month, and pieces here and there from my office shower and friends (like this adorable vintage linen smock from Dot). And that's the thing about having a girl- everything's so adorable that you want to buy them all. Ok, but I shall go on record here on the blog and vow to not buy anymore clothes for her... at least not till after the two more showers we have coming up and the state of our registries after... :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Our little girl's tunes II: John Coltrane- A Love Supreme

Ok, so I probably should have either warned her ahead of time or started with the volume softer, but I didn't and I think I might have startled our little girl with that first trumpet blast (although I personally wouldn't quite use the word "blast"...) Jude recently got a pair of Sennheiser headphones (I call them his Princess Leia headphones) and he thought it would be a good idea to prop it on my belly to play something for the baby tonight. His first choice- John Coltrane's A Love Supreme. Something about the grace and transcendence of the suite seems particularly appropriate for the occasion :)

After an initial jab (and I mean a real*jab*) right behind my belly button with the opening of Part I, she seemed to settle down a little. Jude's imagining the amniotic fluid amplifying the music in there and that our little girl is virtually buoyed in her own personal concert hall surrounded by the strains of Coltrane and his quartet. I think her favorite part is between 1:56 and 4:16 of Part 3 when the piano solo kicks in- there was definitely heightened kicking... ;)


A Love Supreme, Part 1: Acknowledgement - John Coltrane



A Love Supreme, Part III: Pursuance - John Coltrane Quartet

Monday, May 18, 2009

The perfect salad

A couple of years ago, I posted something about what wonderfully scrumptious entrees salads can be, especially as the warmer weather approaches (not tonight though, what with the frost advisory and all...). For lunch today, I think I stumbled on what might be the perfect salad combination- fresh, bright, flavorful, hearty, healthy, and doesn't make me feel like a bunny who just chomped through a cabbage patch. It's actually inspired by the Cyprus Salad at Zingerman's and starts with our favorite salad cheese, halloumi, a pungent, salty Cypriot cheese that becomes all gooey and squeaky when you pan-fry it.

Salad ingredients:
- One package of halloumi (just under half a pound is usually enough for Jude and I- it's a hearty cheese...). We buy ours either from the Middle Eastern markets or Whole Foods.
- Salad leaves (we like a mixture of romaine and arugula)
- 2 fresh tomatoes (vine-ripen or heirloom if available)
- Handful of pitted Kalamata olives, 5 or 6 per person (ours is brined in water and olive oil)
- Slices of red onions or chopped green onions

Dressing:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice or red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
A squirt of honey (I know, I try to be exact in my recipes...)
Lemon zest (don't leave out!)

1. Slice halloumi into about 1/2 inch slices. Dry excess moisture. Heat non-stick pan to medium heat.
2. As pan is heating, assemble salad and dressing (except lemon zest) separately.
3. Pan-fry halloumi in oil-less pan. Don't worry about the moisture that will start bubbling; it'll evaporate and you'll get a lovely toasty exterior- about 4 to 5 minutes on the first side and just a couple of minutes on the other. Don't let it burn or the halloumi will get tough.
4. Just before the halloumi is ready, dress the salad. Plate the halloumi on the salad, and sprinkle lemon zest over.
5. Serve with a chunk of good bread and smidgen of butter (Plugrá preferably...)

I've made halloumi salads many times before (see picture here with mangoes and mesclun) but I think today's combination of the olives, lemon zest, and Greek dressing went especially well with the punchy saltiness of the cheese. And it really filled us up till the evening. Testimony to how yummy it was- I forgot to take a photo... :)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Proust Questionnaire

Since the trend of memes hit blogs and Facebook a couple of years ago, I think I've done my fair share of soul-searching and public self-exposure. But I have to say that this one was tough. The Proust Questionnaire-- popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust in the late 19th century-- is supposed to reveal an individual's truest nature. James Lipton often gives an adapted version to his guests on Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio and periodically, there's a section devoted to celebrities' responses to the questions on Vanity Fair. I always feel as if I should be clever or witty when answering these types of questions but for this one, I've really tried to be as honest as possible, which I think is also what made it so hard.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Shared love, genuine laughter, and good food.

2. What is your greatest fear?
That I won't be a good mom.

3.
 What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?
My need to be liked.

4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?
Not so much deplore, but I get impatient with people who only like to talk about themselves.

5. Which living person do you most admire?
Aung San Suu Kyi

6. What is your greatest extravagance?
A good haircut.

7. What is your current state of mind?
Hopeful

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Being nice.

9. On what occasion do you lie?
When someone asks me if they look fat in an outfit. So don't ask me.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?
My feet.

11. Which living person do you most despise?
I don't think despising someone is a very healthy attitude to have.

12. What is the quality you most like in a man?
The absence of chauvinism or machismo. And the courage to cry.

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?
Self-assuredness, the kind of confidence that makes you so secure about yourself that you don't need to be mean, catty, or unkind to other women to make yourself feel better.

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
"I'm sorry."

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?
Jude.

16.
 When and where were you happiest?
Sometime in 2001 when I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with #15.

17. Which talent would you most like to have?
Self-control. And to play jazz piano.

18.
 If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
To be braver.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?
I'd like to think that it hasn't happened yet. It gives me hope and makes me work harder.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?
I kinda like being me, so I'd like to be me again, please.

21. Where would you most like to live?
Anywhere where I'd be surrounded by my family and loved ones.

22. What is your most treasured possession?
My health.

23.
 What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?
To not be surrounded by people whom I love and who love me.

24.
 What is your favorite occupation?
Making lists. Grocery lists, Things-To-Do lists, baby names lists, etc...

25.
 What is your most marked characteristic?
That I smile a lot.

26.
 What do you most value in your friends?
Honesty and loyalty, which I realize can be mutually exclusive.

27.
 Who are your favorite writers?
Shakespeare and Shel Silverstein. And the people who write for The Today Show.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?
Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird.

29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?
I really wanted to have a good answer for this, but as of right now, I really don't have a clue.

30. Who are your heroes in real life?
Anyone who spends their lives bettering the plight of others.

31. What are your favorite names?
Chloe, Eliot, Emma, Liam, Noah, Sophie

32. What is it that you most dislike?
Cruelty and bigotry.

33.
 What is your greatest regret?
Every occasion when I did something I knew beforehand I shouldn't but did it anyway.

34.
 How would you like to die?
Content.

35.
 What is your motto?
"This too, shall pass."

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Build-Baby's-First-Library Shower

1. 30 books!, 2. With a garland of pacifiers, 3. Reading "Olivia", 4. Cutting my shower cake, 5. With Christina, 6. With Lillian and Christine, 7. My shower cake, 8. Enjoying the company, 9. Non-book gifts

So this afternoon, my friend Tanya threw me a shower with the folks in my research project office. We do research into early literacy development and so she thought it would be a great idea to have a Build-Baby's-First-Library theme shower where everyone would bring one or two of their favorite books as gifts. Jude and I really love the idea and it was made all the more wonderful by the knowledge that they would be really good books because everyone on the project is in one way or another knowledgeable about the kinds of books that are both fun and good for little children. On top of that, many people also brought books that held a special meaning for them-- the first book they read to themselves, their favorite book from their childhood, a book whose main character reminded them of themselves, etc.-- and so when it was time for me to open the presents, everyone had something interesting to share about why they brought the books that they did.

Being gifted with these books means a lot to me. I love the fact that even before our little girl is born, she already has a library of 30 wonderful books, many of which are going to last her for years to come. Our daughter may not grow up with the fanciest, hottest, loudest, or flashiest toys that everybody wants, but she will have wonder, joy, awe, adventure, fantasy, and merriment all the same.

She will have books :)
You may have tangible wealth untold.
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
But richer than I you can never be –
I had a father/mother who read to me.
— Strickland Gillilan

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Our little girl's tunes: Camera Obscura - The Sweetest Thing

Just because my daughter loves to move to this track while her mom is listening to it :)


The Sweetest Thing - Camera Obscura

Thursday, May 07, 2009

New cravings...

...that have only started pretty much in the last two weeks or so. And some of which I'm trying not to give in to too often:

1) Indian food- specifically, the keema matar (ground lamb and peas curry) and naan at Madras Masala.
2) Fresca. Emilee was the one who got me started on this. It was her alternative to beer or Coke for me whenever we went over to their place. But we never actually started buying it for ourselves till recently and now I'm totally addicted. My only comfort is the fact that it's calorie-free. But because it's sweetened with aspartame, I think I'm going to cut down on it soon.
3) Ice-cream. Okay, more specifically, strawberry ice-cream. And even more specifically, either Häagen-Dazs or Archer Farms (from Target). And this is coming from someone who's never been that huge a fan of strawberry ice-cream to begin with. What is this baby girl doing to me???
4) Tomato, garlic, and olive tapenade pasta. It's a recipe I came up with a while ago, and in the past 2 weeks, I think I've made it at least 4 times. I don't really know what it is- maybe the combination of the comforting pasta with the salty-sweetness of the tomatoes and olives (which I've only acquired a taste for after we moved here...), but I'm loving it :)
5) Unagi (broiled eel) on rice. Okay, I totally know why I've been craving this. In place of any kind of raw sushi, every time we go to a Japanese joint, it's been either eel or shrimp tempura sushi rolls. And while shrimp and I are going through a bit of a rough patch right now, dear unagi- you continue to make my wasted sushi-loving heart go pitter-patter until I can have me some chu-toro or hamachi...

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Happy thoughts

Finally, Ann Arbor is quiet again- Commencement is over, the undergrads are slowly moving out, and today, I drove into the parking structure with 219 spots open (unheard of at 9.30 in the Fall or Winter semesters). While I love October and November, I really do enjoy these few weeks of cool, breezy tranquility before it gets too hot or the Summer Festival or art fairs start to bring droves of people from the area into town. It's also a time to really appreciate the perks of being in a place that enjoys four very distinct seasons- everything's suddenly so green and trees and shrubs are blossoming like there's no tomorrow :) While just a month ago, we were experiencing snow storms.

Yoga this week was about renewal- it's the beginning of May and Spring is in full bloom (pun fully intended) and it was wonderfully calming to be practicing while feeling all that breezy, sunshiney energy spill into the studio as I focused on the tulip bulbs outside during Vrksasana (tree pose). I'm feeling really good these days-- hopeful and inspired-- and on a beautiful morning like today's, no matter how your day or week has been going, I hope you're blessed with some positive radiance as well :)

And we'll collect the moments one by one
I guess that's how the future's done...
-Feist, "Mushaboom"

Friday, May 01, 2009

Yay Jude!

As I'm typing this, Jude's probably wrapping up his dissertation proposal defense. He's worked so hard on this for so long and I'm so very very proud of him! He's got a great study going and I think it'll make a kick-ass contribution to the field :) Clearly, the baby thinks so too- she was kicking (or punching) me excitedly all through last night as I listened to him go through his slides for the defense. I think our little girl already loves the sound of her Daddy's voice :)

We'll be at Cafe Zola for dinner tonight- I think after so many sleepless nights and nervous days, Jude definitely deserves it!