Sunday, May 30, 2010

And we're here!

After four days in our rental apartment here in Santa Clara, we've finally unpacked our last piece of clothing and put our luggage away for the next three months. We're still sort of settling in but pretty much everything's where it's supposed to be and working. Most importantly, Sophie's sleeping in her new crib as well as we could have hoped for and honestly, that was the thing we were most concerned about- that the move wouldn't disrupt her schedule too much and that she'd take to her new surroundings well. And she has :) I'm not sure if it's the combination of her maturing, curiosity about all the new things she's encountering, having us with her 24/7, or our enthusiasm and excitement about being here rubbing off on her, but our little punkin' has just been in the most awesome of moods this past week. She was on her best behavior on the plane (smiling and sleeping at all the right times) and was less affected by the 3-hour time difference than we were. So far, she's enjoyed the sights and sounds of San Francisco, spent a nice afternoon frolicking around Palo Alto and Stanford, met our old friends from our Masters program, and made some new friends in the form of Dave and Jen's twins, Blake and Jared, and their 4-year-old, Dylan!

Sophie has just been a real trooper these past few days as we got our act together with the apartment- we've been literally schlepping her everywhere like Target to get all the household essentials and Trader Joe's for groceries (it felt really odd stocking up a pantry and fridge from scratch...). She's can be quite independent when she wants to be and while she's become increasingly attached to us both-- needing to snuggle and be held often-- she's also more than happy to explore the new apartment quietly while we unpacked or sit in her high chair and stuff her face with her beloved puffs...

We'll need to pack the apartment a little more before it's photo-ready but we've been dutifully documenting all the fun we've been having so far so enjoy!

1. Watching the clouds, 2. Back-packing the carseat + overstuffed diaper bag, 3. @ Tartine - Lemon Cream Tart, 4. Going on the Golden gate bridge, 5. The day my mom's head turned into a glowing ball, 6. Sophie enjoying some Stanford grass, 7. Our first (of many) Californian sushi meals, 8. Sophie snuggling with Uncle Dave, 9. In Dave & Jen's backyard

Thursday, May 27, 2010

How much does my daughter love me?

[@ the San Francisco Exploratarium]

So much that she doesn't even care that my head has turned into a giant glowing ball...

Now, that's deep love.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Go West

I don't think Sophie has any idea what a big day tomorrow is going to be for her. That she'll be taking the second plane ride of her life. And that her day is going to involve waking up in one timezone, and going to bed in another.

As some of you may already know, we're moving to the Bay Area for the summer. Jude scored an internship with Yahoo! and Sophie and I are tagging along for the ride :) It'll be an exciting three months- for Jude to test out if working in industry is his cup of tea and for the awesome experience and exposure, for us to finally live out West for a while, hang out with our friends we haven't seen in years, and just to see for ourselves if Northern California is really all that it's made out to be. We were fortunate enough to secure a rental apartment just for the summer (which comes baby-ready no less), day care for Sophie (three days a week while I work on my dissertation at Stanford), and long-term car rental for those three months.

Which also means that we've been crazy packing this whole weekend. Three months is a tricky period to be packing for- it's short enough that we don't feel like we have to pack up all our worldly possessions, but long enough that we have to pack almost everything we need for day to day living, especially for Sophie- her toys, books, feeding implements, etc. And on top of packing for ourselves, we've had to clear the house up for our subletter who'll be moving in for two months. So the last two days has been a frenzied tossing of clothes and items into one of three things: suitcase, storage box, or our wardrobe in the study room where we're keeping all the clothes we're not bringing with us. Oh, and the four most blessed words through this all: thank god for basements...

We're really looking forward to the next three months- to beaches, coastal drives, Napa, farmers markets, San Francisco, good food, old friends, and most importantly, Sophie's first birthday :) I'll update again soon on how our little punkin' took to the move- no doubt bewildered and curious (as is her default reaction to all new things these days). It's going to be a huge adventure for us all and we can't wait!

Westward Ho!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Little Bo Peep

[click for full effect]

Have you seen my sheep? :)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

There's always a first time

Sophie watched her first movie today.

Yup, you read right. A movie. Her first. As in sat through the whole thing. And she was quite wonderful through it all. It was like she's been watching movies all her life. She was quiet (except for moments when she squealed back at the screen- more on that later...), well-behaved, and thoroughly engrossed in the film as if she knew what was going on. See for yourself...

To be fair, Sophie might have known what was going on actually. We were at a special screening of Babies, Thomas Balmès new documentary film about the first year in the lives of four babies from Namibia, Tokyo, Mongolia, and San Francisco. Jude and I have been waiting for the movie to open for months, and it finally opened in the Michigan Theater last week. Today's screening was specially for parents and their babies, with stroller parking along the aisles, special low lighting in the theater, and easy access to the changing area.

The film's a fascinating look into parenting and growing up across the world and we loved it. It's a documentary in the truest sense of the word- no dialogue, no script, no voice-over, no agenda. It's real life. Just stunning, evocative images of these amazing little human beings from their first breath to their first step. Watching them was almost like watching Sophie's last 9 months condensed but also re-projected through different lenses- learning communication, becoming aware of their surroundings, reciprocating parental affection, mastery of their physical environment, i.e. growing up. It was both amusing and affecting watching these babies growing up so differently; like a study in anthropology, you can see how varied infancy is for babies in the hyper-developed world (Tokyo and San Francisco) compared to more agrarian and tribal societies: some babies grow up crawling freely everywhere; other babies are tethered to their beds; for some babies, play is mimicking mom grinding sand on stone; for others, it's sitting around with other babies singing songs and dancing. But different doesn't mean better or worse, and that's what was so great about the film- it isn't about whether it's OK to bathe a baby in a metal tub from which a wandering goat comes by to drink or if pushing your baby around in the stroller all day is acceptable; the movie's about being a human being in the world.

And speaking about being a human being, the little human being who was with us was engaged in the movie way more than could be expected of a 9-month old. I mean, there were of course times when she would rather chew on the zipper of my raincoat or make eyes at our friend, Melissa, sitting behind us, but for a large part of the movie, I really think Sophie was actually watching the screen. There were even moments during which the babies in the movie squealed or cried and Sophie would respond by squawking back! Like she was communicating with them (she's been doing a lot of that with us lately...)

We highly recommend the movie to everyone, whether or not you're a parent. Here's the trailer, you'll see why:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

When love came to town

We really are so blessed. Despite living so far away from home, in the last year, we've had 3 visits from family already: my parents just after Sophie was born, my sister and brother-in-law last month, and my cousin Terri-- as part of her Eat-Through-the-Eastern-Seaboard quest-- came through Ann Arbor with her friend, Amanda over the weekend. It was so nice to have her here and showing her the places I've only been able to talk to her about- the university (well, the law library specifically), downtown Ann Arbor, Zingerman's...

Speaking of which, I'd like to think that Ann Arbor (well, Southeast Michigan writ large) held it's own in the food department. We have no where here as fancy as Thomas Keller's Per Se in NYC (where the girls have already eaten TWICE at), but Slow's in Detroit, Zingerman's Deli, and Blimpy Burger sure made up in sheer deliciousness and stick-to-the-bone goodness what they lack in haute cuisine-ness... I think the Deli particularly impressed them both, where promptly after her first bite of the #13 (Sherman's Sure Choice), Amanda exclaimed, "This is sooooo good!" And who knew that the key to kick-ass grilled sweet potato? Lemongrass.

All in all, it was just wonderful to have had Terri around over the weekend. We've always been really close (sometimes-- ok, almost always-- I think we share a brain despite being born 9 years apart- we both believe that the New Radicals was a Band That Could Have Been Great, that the smell of new books should be inhaled, and that Tai Wah bak chor mee-- minced pork noodles-- should have its own altar from which to be worshipped.)

Have a wonderful last day in NY, dear cousin, and I hope Peter Luger satisfied!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Friday, May 07, 2010

So long, farewell...

[from left: Alex (hidden), Burack, Sybelle, Sophie, Vienna, Oliver, Owen]

Today was our last mommy group session. And I'm sad. The group has been such a great source of support and I genuinely looked forward to our time together each week. In retrospect, it was a little like therapy actually. Since all the babies in the group are within a month or two of each other, everyone was basically going through similar experiences. And so every time Sophie came up against some developmental milestone-- like starting solids, teething, growth spurts, dropping naps, etc.-- another mom and baby would have gone through that already and would have tons of tips and recommendations to share about how to cope. And I never had to feel bad ranting about how exhausted or exasperated I am since there was always three other blurry, groggy moms nodding at me in solidarity, or a couple others looking on in sympathy because they remembered exactly how they felt when they were through that just a couple of weeks ago. We would talk about everything and anything about our babies in a way that only other moms of babies that age would be able to. I mean, generally, when people ask, "So how's Sophie?", I think the response they're expecting is more along the lines of "She's great!" as opposed to a 15-minute monologue on how Sophie's in effect slowly dropping her third nap and how that's moving her bedtime closer to 7.30 than 8.00, which sort of messes up her night feeding, and consequently wake-time as well... I don't want to bore people like that, but at mommy group, I can literally talk about Sophie all I want because everyone else there is talking about their babies too and learning from each other.

We'll definitely be staying in touch even though our session has officially ended; picnics, play dates, birthdays- we're already planning a few of those now that the weather's getting so much nicer. Although staying indoors isn't always such a bad idea. Like playing with The Parachute, which has been one of our favorite things to do at mommy group. I love how fascinated the babies always are when we start floating it above us- Sophie's always so calm and fixated on it, almost like she's mesmerized. And the parachute's such a popular thing that you can actually be a fan of it on Facebook!

Monday, May 03, 2010

Getting my food porn mojo back

The last time I blogged about cooking-- and I mean grown-up cooking, and not of the dicing, steaming, pureeing, mushing, baby food variety-- was (surprise, surprise) before Sophie was born. Since then, our cooking adventures have been far and few between, and obsessive photos of food, replaced by obsessive photos of Sophie. Lately though, as Sophie begins to learn how to play by herself a little more and is quite happy sitting in her high chair chewing on whatever toy or unfortunate non-essential household item that happens to be within her arm's reach, I'm getting my cooking and food porn mojo back bit by bit. She's also going down to bed earlier and easier which allows us to finally emerge from that early-infant haze where pre-cooked Trader Joe meals and Lucky Kitchen take-out were lifesavers.

And so last week, I attempted to recreate one of my mom's signature dishes- tau yew bak, which is essentially a slow-braised pork belly in soy sauce. We managed to find fresh pork belly at Whole Foods (sold as pork side) and I threw in some aromatics (star anise and a cinnamon stick), dried beancurd (tau pok), Chinese mushrooms, and hard-boiled eggs. I let it simmer for close to 2 hours and the end product was satisfyingly close enough to my mom's version that I might try making it again soon. It was rich, flavorful, and comforting- everything we needed in a one-pot meal, and then some...

And yesterday, for lunch, inspired by the pack of Havarti cheese we had in the fridge, and half a loaf of Parmesan-pepper bread from Zingerman's we had bought the day before, I put together a grown-up grilled cheese sandwich with apple and bacon.

It came out deliriously good- crunchy and toasty from the generous slathering of butter before grilling, melty and gooey from the cheese, smokey from the bacon, all well-complemented by the fresh, crisp tartness of the apple. Next time, I'll experiment with another cheese, a different bread, and maybe pears. Yup, Serene Koh's got her cooking mojo back... :)