Friday, July 31, 2009

Do you remember your first love?

*MUST WATCH!!!* Look out for the little boy's expression at 1:12 and witness a little heart sing with joy... :) So very, very, precious!

From Yasmin Ahmad's series of one-min TV spots for the Petronas company.


Monday, July 27, 2009

It's our party and we'll have fun if we want to...

1. With Henry & Melissa, 2. Wonderful friends and hosts, Julie & Sarah, 3. Cupcakes outside, 4. Shower balloons, 5. Many, many presents to open, 6. Love, love, love!, 7. Girlfriends :), 8. 10 more books!, 9. Swaddling blankets and crib sheets

I know, it probably is a little much to have had three baby showers but we've made many good friends here in AA, and are really blessed that they all want to celebrate our impending parenthood with us. This time, it was with my classmates from the School of Education. I explicitly told our friends Julie & Sarah who hosted that I wanted it 1) to be a co-ed thing (why can't our guy friend celebrate with us too?); 2) games-free (I don't want anyone smelling anything off diapers or measuring my tummy); and 3) to be as casual as possible. And it turned out to be everything I had hoped for and more :) Thanks to wonderful weather, we grilled burgers outside and had plenty of snacks, drinks, dessert and good company. There was some talk of babies and parenthood but mostly just good chatting among friends about food, pets, crazy grad students, and whether or not Eve Aronoff was going to bomb out of next season's Top Chef... In fact, everyone had so much fun that it went on from 5 till almost 11, way longer than any baby shower I've been to (which I hope meant people treated it more like a party than a baby shower to begin with...)

We also got beautiful gifts, from things we registered for (blankets and crib sheets) to books to add to Baby's already large book collection, and yes, of course, more clothes... :) Both of us-- I'm glad we had a co-ed party so Jude wouldn't be left out of the fun-- had a wonderful, wonderful time :) Between this party and the birthday/shower extravaganza we had for Jude, I've come to realize that really, a baby shower doesn't have to involve only women, finger foods, and silly games that embarrass not only the would-be mom but the people in attendance as well. It can and should be anything *you* want it to be. To those of you out there expecting a baby shower, remember, it's *your* party, so make sure you have fun!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Babymoon + Pitchfork = Pure Awesomeness!

1. View of Michigan Ave from our hotel room, 2. The Flaming Lips, 3. The Threadless booth, 4. Chicago by night, 5. Banana Royale, 6. Love the sign!, 7. Crowds, 8. The extraordinary foie gras hotdog, 9. Close enough to take a photo of the signage

I'm SO glad we took this babymoon- it was one of the best trips we've taken to Chicago and definitely a most wonderful way to 1) celebrate one of our favorite cities in the U.S.; 2) enjoy our last babyless vacation; 3) partake of so much good food we were barely ever hungry over the four days; and 4) indulge in some seriously rocking good music. On the food front, old faithful La Pasadita was as trustworthy as always to satisfy, to the point of actually defeating Jude with its Super Carne Asada Burrito which he astoundingly couldn't finish... Our high hopes for Hot Doug's were also more than fulfilled (despite an hour and a half wait)- the foie gras and Sauternes hotdog (with truffle aioli, foie gras mousse and Sel Gris) was, in a word, extraordinary, single-handedly the most exceptional tubed meat we've ever tasted. Honestly, someone should give the man an award... There were also a couple of serendipitous finds, the most outstanding of which was Hot Chocolate, a dessert bar we stumbled upon when looking for some late-night sweets. We walked in not knowing that pastry chef, Mindy Segal, is a three-time James Beard Award-winner for Outstanding Pastry Chef. And then we had her desserts and knew why (see here and here). Who knew chocolate could taste so complex and that a banana dessert could have so many more dimensions than just... well, banana?? And then there was Tweet, a quaint little breakfast nook in the Uptown/Edgewater neighborhood where we got brunch yesterday before heading out. Jude loved his Caprese Omelet and while my biscuits and gravy was a little on the rich side, it was delicious and satisfying, perfectly complimented by yummy decaf Intelligentsia coffee :)

And of course, there was Pitchfork, which really blew our minds this year (and which I was able to more comfortably enjoy thanks largely to the folding chair Jude had the foresight to insist we bring along...) I'm not sure it's actually possible, but every year we go, there seems to just be exponentially more people. And this year-- maybe it's just us-- we noticed more families than ever with young children, even infants. We also had more than a handful of people randomly start conversations with us either dispensing advice on how to bring a baby to a music festival (one woman has been bringing her preschooler to Pitchfork since he could crawl- in her words, "He thinks it's just one giant picnic with people playing music."); how to keep the kids occupied (a ball, bubbles, and the baseball diamond seemed to suffice...); or making us promise to come back next year with Baby in tow. It was sweet and communal and really, really nice :) The music was outrageously good, notably (for me anyway) The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and M83. BUT the band that truly blew out minds out of the water was closing act, The Flaming Lips. We've never seen them 'live' but have heard that they're an awesome performing band. See for yourselves why:

The Lips were part of Pitchfork's "Write the Night" concept where ticket-buyers got the option to choose songs for the setlists of the bands. 25 songs appeared on The Lips' list and they played about twelve. The #1 song was played last and stirred the whole of Union Park into a rapturous, reverent singalong. Ladies and gentlemen, The Flaming Lips play "Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots":

Friday, July 17, 2009

Last hurrah

So Jude and I are off to Chicago tomorrow for our last couple vacation before Baby arrives- my friend, Julie, calls it our "babymoon" :) We've been looking forward to this for a while now- a combination of taking a break from work and all the baby prep, enjoying some "us" time in one of our favourite cities in the summer, and making our annual pilgrimage the Pitchfork Music Festival which we've attended every year-- except last year-- since it's inauguration. Everyone thinks we'll be able to score prime spots from which to watch the bands because of my "delicate condition"- no one wants to be that jerk who gets in the way of the pregnant woman wanting to see Yo La Tengo up close... ;) We also managed to land a really awesome deal (40% off regular rates!!) at the Intercontinental Hotel Chicago right on Michigan Avenue off Hotwire, which only makes the trip all the sweeter.

There's too much about Chicago that we love to describe here but on this trip, apart from Pitchfork (see sample playlist of the bands playing below), we're also hoping to hit the Art Institutes of Chicago to visit their new wing. It's been years in the making and Jude and I have always loved their amazing collection. In particular, I'm eager see Chagall's America Windows again. Kept in storage as the new wing was being constructed, I remember how it took my breath away the first time I saw it.

We've of course also planned several food stops: an old trusty favorite- La Pasadita for their blow-our-minds, knock-our-socks-off tacos, and a new adventure- Hot Doug's for foie gras hot dogs and duck fat fries. Yes, yes, you read that right, foie gras hot dogs and duck fat fries :) I probably can't have the foie gras but potatoes fried in duck fat- man!...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Being in class again

After almost twenty years of being in school, I'd like to think that I'm a pretty good student- not in terms of grades or anything but more the whole knowing what it means to be a student thing, i.e. paying attention, taking notes, asking questions, etc. But when it comes to the classes we've been taking in preparation for Baby's arrival, it's a whole other ballgame man... Oh, don't get me wrong, we're both trying to be really good parent-students: following the instructions to fold the swaddling blanket down the correct corner, holding the pretend baby the right way to practice burping, nodding appreciatively when we're told the different colours and textures that poop comes in, etc.

But really, can't there be a more scintillating way of teaching the class such that neither one of us feels like falling asleep an hour into the class, or something that keeps us from checking our watches every 15 minutes?...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Bibio - Haikuesque (When she laughs)

Just thought to share a tune that has been on constant replay in the Yew-Koh household. I have to admit that I just love the title to this track and wished that I had thought of it myself :)

Some background info aboutBibio - its the nom de plume of Brit music producer Stephen Wilkinson, who, according to the Pitchfork review of his new album, is producing music unlike any other that he's released so far. I have to admit that Bibio's album, Ambivalence Avenue, has placed itself as my 2009 summer listening fave so far!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Eve of eve on Top Chef!

Ann Arbor represent! Via Jude, I found out today that Eve Aronoff of Ann Arbor's own eve will be one of the contestants on the new season of Top Chef starting in August! We fell in love with eve (and Eve's cooking) the year after we moved here and have been going to the restaurant almost religiously every year since for our special occasion celebrations (see here). We even brought my parents and sisters there when they came to visit in 2005.

Admittedly, our recent visits to eve have been a little uneven-- a plate of over-seasoned scallops comes to mind in particular-- but we do appreciate how interesting Eve's food always is. While its roots are French, there's often an innovative twist of that special something something, whether it's lavender in her sauces, lemongrass in her rice, or rose water in her quinoa. And her triple chocolate pots de crème will always be one of our favorite desserts anywhere :) Another plus, every Thursday between 9.00 and 11.00, appetizers are free!

Jude and I had a conversation about her chances on the show and we're not sure. It's not like she's some self-trained line cook or a sous chef like many Top Chef contestants often are- she already owns her own restaurant and has also presented a meal before the James Beard foundation which is no mean feat, so it's not like she has anything to prove. Whatever the case is though, it'll be exciting to watch someone whose food we're actually familiar with on the show- it's already one of our favorite things to catch on TV... :)

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Meet Molly

This is me with Molly, our doula. She's going to be supporting Jude and I in the labor and delivery process come the big day. The word "doula" comes from ancient Greek meaning "woman of service" but has evolved to now refer to a woman trained and experienced in childbirth. Basically, her job is to "mother the mother". She provides physical, emotional, and informational support to both the mom and dad during labor, delivery and in the immediate postpartum period. Studies show that when doulas are present at birth, women have shorter labors, fewer medical interventions, fewer cesareans, and healthier babies.

Thankfully (depending on how you look at it), because of our measly grad student stipends, we qualify for free doula services through Doulas Care. But I actually know Molly from school- she's a fellow grad student and we even took a class together a couple of years ago. She's just wonderful- warm, funny, and so generous in helping to demystify some of the unknowns coming our way. Another reason why Jude and I are opting to have a doula present is also just as a source of comfort and support, especially since our parents will probably not be with us (my parents are arriving the week after Baby's EED). We think that having a non-medical personnel there who knows us personally and not just as a patient and her partner will really help to ease much of the anxiety, not just for me, but also for Jude. This is as much of a life-changing experience for him as it is for me and whatever we can do to reduce extraneous distress or pressure either one of us might feel will definitely be helpful. While the doctors and nurses are there to respond to the medical aspect of the process, childbirth is also a profoundly emotional and spiritual experience, and we believe that having Molly there will help us appreciate that dimension a little better.

We've heard from friends who've had a doula with them that it's just one of the best decisions they made, especially when it's their first time- information on the procedures to expect, clarification of medical terminology, massages when you need it, running out for ice-chips so that dad can be by mom's side, suggestions for different birthing positions, advice/advocacy when medical personnel suggest non-necessary procedures, that extra encouragement during labor, etc. We've only met with Molly "officially" as our doula twice and she's already been such a wonderful source of comfort and assurance; we're certain that her presence by our sides come some time late August will be more even more invaluable :)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A baby week

Two nights ago, I dreamt of Baby. I dreamt of her birth-- unsurprisingly, I didn't dream of the pain involved (I think my mind is subconsciously blocking out that part of the process)-- and how she looks- a full head of hair and huge eyes :) In my dream, she cried a lot and was *very* pink... It was an extremely vivid dream, which is why I still have a mental picture of it in my head today. I think my mind is responding to what is shaping up to be a baby-filled week for us: starting with our tour of the Birth Center last evening, we have our first infant care class scheduled for tonight, our final ultrasound tomorrow, and on Friday, we're meeting with our doula, Molly, to go through our birth plan.

The tour of the Birthing Center at the C. S. Mott Children's and Women's Hospital was both exhilarating but also a little unnerving. Walking around the hospital and being acquainted with the facilities made me a tad nervous as I envisioned ourselves in one of the birthing rooms sometime within the next two months. Having said that, it has always been comforting for us to know that Mott's is one of the best pediatric and women's hospital in the country and I'm sure we'll be well taken care of in every way. I love the fact that they only have a very small nursery and that as much as possible, they believe in rooming the baby with you; it's the university hospital and hence a teaching hospital, which means that they'll always be experts and professors doing rounds and checking in on you; a home care nurse will visit us at home within three days of discharge to make sure that Baby and I are doing well; and security-wise, they have what our friends like to call the Baby LoJack which basically tags the baby with a security chip such that if anyone but the parents tries to take the baby past different parts of the hospital, the whole hospital shuts down, including doors and elevators. It's a great security measure but we're also seeing the potential for a lot of comedy- I'm imagining grandparents or relatives carrying the newborn around and unwittingly setting the system off and inadvertently putting the entire hospital on lockdown ;)

For the little bit of anxiety it caused, I'm still glad we did the tour- it's reassures us once more that all three of us are in good hands; we now know exactly what to do to make sure we get to the hospital and checked in properly when the moment hits us; and little by little, a bit of the mystique and unknown of this whole childbirth/delivery business is slowly being stripped away... :)