Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you smiling?

First family photo booth picture

How about now? :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Counting down 14 days

A week ago today, Anthony Bourdain's new show, The Layover premiered on the Travel Channel, and for the second time, he launched a new series/season with an episode on... you guessed it, Singapore (read about our excitement over his No Reservations episode on Singapore here). You've got to give it to the guy, I've not met another non-Singaporean who is as passionate about Singaporean food as he is. And I'm not talking about the chi-chi, often pretentious, marked-up-by-a-1000%, white-table cloth, reservations-only experience; he loves-- just as much as we do-- the food that put Singapore on the foodie map of the world. We're talking sup tulang, bak chor mee, pig innards soup, chicken rice, fish head curry, etc.- street food, hawker fare, that lies at the heart of our culinary heritage.

And so, inspired by the episode (and by our recent success with char kway teow), Jude and I spent the Thanksgiving long weekend cooking up a trifecta of Singaporean hawker favorites: chai tow kway (fried carrot cake-- which bears absolutely no resemblance in any way, shape, or form, to the carrot cake here in the U.S.), laksa, and mee siam. Admittedly, the latter two came from premixes from the good people at Prima Taste, but they tasted as authentic enough as we could get them with whatever ingredients we could find here in our little town in the Midwest (laksa leaves in Ann Arbor?- c'mon, who are we kidding?...)


Maybe it was because we really needed a break from all the turkey and stuffing we were regaled with over the weekend (although bowlsful of coconut milk, spice, and fried carbs aren't really detoxifying by any means...) or maybe it was our bodies' way of getting ready for our impending homecoming, but those three meals awoke in our tastebuds sensations that have laid dormant for too long (two years to be exact, if anyone's counting). We're not just talking about spiciness here (many cuisines in the world relie heavily on spice as well), but that complex and rich amalgamation of sweet, savory, spiciness, and of Chinese, Malay, and Indian flavors I associate only with Southeast-Asian cooking. It's food you can get no where else in the world. It's the food of my soul.

We leave in exactly two weeks. I. Can't. Wait.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Life's a happy song

"Mahna mahna movie!!"

I guess technically, it's not really Sophie's first movie (see here), but I doubt she has any memory of herself at 9 months old, so as far as she's concerned, she went to her first movie today :) We've building up her excitement for The Muppets movie since showing her the Mahna Mahna video and app and so when she woke up this morning, the first thing she said was, "I so excited! I go to the theatre and watch mahna mahna!"

We knew ahead of time that there was going to be a sensory-sensitive screening of the movie early in the morning and so had already bought advanced tickets. These screenings are specially designed for young kids or children with autism or ADHD which means that the house lights are left on and the sound volume lowered so that children aren't scared and/or overstimulated. Also, the theatre informs everyone before the show begins that during this screening, the audience is free to sing along or move about, which is just perfect for the little ones.

And because of that, Sophie had a blast of a time without even coming close to a toddler meltdown as we had feared. There were parts of the movie during which we had to let her walk up and down the steps or run along the seats but she wasn't fussy or noisy, and no one minded at all since that was the whole point of the special screening. She loved the big song-and-dance sequences and didn't need any prompting to start dancing and bopping along when they happened. And she was completely mesmerized when her favorite "Rainbow Collection" came on, basically sitting still in her seat, watching the screen in pure awe. And by the end of the grand finale, she even gave a huge applause and a loud cheer :)



As for Jude and I, we grew up with the Muppets and loved that we were reminded of the self-depreciating, affectionately clever humor of the characters. Then there was the army of cameos from celebrities like Feist, Sarah Silverman, Neil Patrick Harris, Emily Blunt, David Grohl, Jim Parsons, etc., that we had a field day identifying. Most importantly though, it was the deliriously infectious soundtrack that had us completely sold. Three songs were written by Bret McKenzie of Flight of the Conchords fame so we knew we weren't in for run-of-the-mill kiddie movie songs. Bouncy, fun, but also witty and sort of deadpan in true Flight of the Conchords style, till this morning, all three of us are still humming the theme song from the movie, "Life's a Happy Song". In fact, as Sophie was moseying about her play yard setting up a pretend picnic, I overheard her singing, "...everything is great, everything is grand..." over and over again ;) Listen for yourself and I dare you not to start tapping your toes to what is surely to become the next great Muppet song.


You know what, listen to the entire soundtrack. You won't regret it, I promise.

Friday, November 25, 2011

How did your Thanksgiving meal look like?

Sophie's Thanksgiving meal
Sophie's dinner (from top-left): dried cranberries, chicken nuggets, sautéed green beans, plantain chips, pasta, honey-roasted sweet potato, steamed peas, (repeats), and chicken-turkey sausage

Not like this, I bet... :) I take no credit for it, though- I came up with the idea to serve Sophie's Thanksgiving dinner in ice-cube trays after reading about something similar on one of the mommy blogs I follow. There's much in Thanksgiving foods that Sophie can't have (all that butter, milk, and cream) so I knew I'd have to bring Sophie-friendly foods up with us to Lansing where we spent another gastronomically successful Thanksgiving with Rick and Emilee (more photos here). I wanted to do something festive and fun, but also with variety so Sophie could enjoy a "spread" just like the grown-ups. And so I filled the tray with different things that she loves (pasta, peas, and chicken nuggets) and also some dairy-free versions of Thanksgiving favorites like sweet potato, cranberries, green beans, and turkey. We later refilled it with "dessert" options of banana and apple slices, and chocolate bunny rabbit crackers. Simply ingenious, if I should say so myself... Emilee was so taken with the idea, she asked Rick if he could pack her lunches in ice-trays from now on :)

It does take a little effort to prep the different foods but we're more than happy to do it for our own Thanksgiving meal, so why not for Sophie's? Besides, it was all worth it when we set her personal buffet in front of her- she was so excited to tuck into her meal, picking and choosing the different things she could eat. She never once asked to eat off our plate-- why would she when she had something so fun all to herself?-- and actually sat in her seat for almost the entire hour it took us to eat because she was so pre-occupied with her food.

This was so fun to put together and really such a brilliant idea, we're definitely going to do it again for play dates and maybe Sophie's next birthday party (although probably with just fruit and snacks that don't require cooking).

Thursday, November 24, 2011

What we're thankful for

Fearless climber
Your fearless invincibility

Happiest child in the neighborhood
Your laughter

"Smoochy kiss"
Your loving nature

@ the Boston Children's Museum
Your sense of wonder for all things around you

She insisted on wearing her new helmet all through breakfast this morning
Your silliness

"Earthworm, you there?"
Your endless curiosity

Squuuuuuuuirt!
We're thankful for YOU!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mahna Mahna


It doesn't matter how old you are, the Muppets' Mahna Mahna will always be rib-ticklingly funny. Always.

Sophie watched this clip for the first yesterday and she laughed from the very first viewing (yes, there were multiple viewings, of course...). Because there's just something so intuitively delightful and joyful about the whole thing. There are no words, no narrative to parse apart, and it's not meant to teach you anything; just a simple, repetitive melody and a bunch of adorable muppets. Just hilarious!

As part of the publicity for the new Muppets movie (which we're seriously considering bringing Sophie to), Disney has rolled out a Mahna Mahna app on Facebook. Watch Sophie in action! Click here.


Be duly warned though- you-- and the toddler in the house-- are going to be humming the tune for hours after, if not days... ;)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sophie_isms omnibus

Girl with balloon
Girl with Balloon

The firemen are going to the farmers market too! To buy some onions and pears.

I just woke up! I was hibernate. I slept for a looooong time.

Mr. Squirrel is hiding the acorns in the tree. He doesn't want Sophie to eat them.

Did you call me 'pumpkin', Mama? I'm not a fruit. I'm a sweet girl!

I want to be the owl. Then I can go hoot-hoot...

Cookie Monster's favorite food is watermelon.

Sophie and rubber duckie are swimming in the bathtub. We're going to Canada.

Bob Dylan gives Sophie a guitar. He has no guitar anymore. He's sad.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Random daily daycare report #19


1. Spreading the sauce, 2. Yay Erin!, 3. Erin flipping the pizza dough!, 4. Helping to slice peppers
Sophie was so excited to make pizza this morning. She spent a long time cutting up green peppers and mushrooms. Then she helped spread the sauce and sprinkle the toppings. She was very proud of her work and was excited to share her pizza creation with the other classes :)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sophie reads Madeline



In an old house in Paris, that was covered in vines
Lived twelve little girls in two straight lines
In two straight lines, they broke their bread,
And brushed their teeth (and went to bed)
...
And the smallest one was Madeline
She was not afraid of mice,
She loved winter, snow, and ice
To the tiger in the zoo,
Madeline just said, "Pooh-pooh!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

What a difference a year makes...

Earlier last month, I posted something about how stoked Sophie was for Picture Day at school. Considering the catastrophic FAIL that was last year's class photo, we were just holding our breaths that this year's would turn out at least half decent so we can frame a couple up for the grandparents.

Fortunately, thanks to the excitement drummed up by her teachers and her heightened familiarity with cameras thrust into her face (thanks to the bigillion photos her parents take of her), this year's photo was a resounding success. Have you seen a child more happy and adorable? No. No, you haven't.

School picture 2011

Oh, and about that picture from last year... See for yourself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Counting down 30 days

It's exactly a month until we arrive in Singapore.

And in preparation, Jude and I have been talking ourselves into a frenzy about the food we're going to be chowing down during our 3-week trip (as always...). It started with this list that he stumbled upon (which I barely agree with, but then again, we haven't been home in two years, so who knows what's come and gone in the Singapore hawker food scene?...) and then tonight, in a spur of inspiration, Jude decided he was going to make char kway teow, a much beloved fried noodle dish from home. Greasy, sweet, savory, and pungent- char kway teow encapsulates all things yummy about Singaporean hawker food. I was beside myself with anticipation...

We had to adapt the original recipe a little to suit Sophie and also the ingredients we could (or couldn't) find. Which means 1) no fresh cockles and 2) spaghetti as a substitute for egg noodles because of Sophie's allergies (no scoffing, you purists- it worked brilliantly). It was actually quite easy to find fish cake and preserved Chinese sausage so we at least managed to preserve the integrity of most of the main ingredients.

Jude hard at work at the wok
Chef Jude hard at work at the wok

Jude made two batches of noodles- one Sophie-friendly version with no egg or chili paste and the other with the works, i.e. extra garlic, stir-fried egg, and a pungent, spicy chili paste. And both were equally A-MAZING. I was literally standing right next to him, picking up the noodles with my chopsticks as he was still stir-frying... It was that delicious.

Dinner!
Our grown-up version

We weren't sure how Sophie would take to char kway teow- she hasn't actually had anything quite like it. But clearly, being a Singaporean foodie is in her blood and she practically inhaled the noodles from the moment we set it in front of her. When I asked if she could share her noodles with us, this was her response:

Hogging her char kway teow
Shielding her char kway teow from her parents

Best of all, throughout the evening, Sophie called out several times, "Thank you, Dada for making me the noodles!"

Singapore hawker food, watch out- we'll be unleashing Sophie Yew on you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Flip!

It snowed today. Yup, first snowfall of the season. Brilliant.

And just in time for that, guess what skill Sophie learned at daycare today?



Our daughter is officially the coolest person in this house.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The week after Halloween

It's a little like buying Christmas wrapper on Boxing Day except that you don't have to wait a whole year before using it again. What happens when you walk into Target and find out that all Halloween costumes and candy are now going at 70% sale? Well, buy your daughter her own dinosaur costume to add to her dress-up collection, of course.

ROAR!!
ROAR!

Winter's just round the corner and we have to find interesting ways to keep Sophie occupied during those snowy months when spending too much time outside will just become unbearable. If yesterday afternoon/evening was an indication, our new dinosaur friend is just the perfect thing to help with that- Sophie was so excited to step into the costume (even though it's still a little big for her) and was happy simply "riding" it up and down the living room and going about her normal play routine dressed as a dinosaur. She even kept the costume on as we read together on the couch. Best $9 spent!

And as for Jude and I, we were just happy with our bag of discounted snack-sized Kit-Kats :)

Monday, November 07, 2011

What is Dada good at?

Walking to Oval Beach
At Oval Beach, Saugatuck

This afternoon, as I was changing Sophie's diaper, she suddenly declared, "Dada is good at changing my diaper." It was a funny moment- I wasn't sure if she was trying to make a statement about what now appears to be my less than stellar diapering skills or if it was just an observation about the things Jude is good at. So I asked her, "Sophie, what else is Dada good at?" And what did she come up with?

Poking my nose.

Shaving his pokey chin.

Rockabye baby
(Sometimes, she still asks Jude to carry her like a baby in his arms.)

Do the dishes.

and my favorite...

Hugging Mama.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Bye bye Sophie the Giraffe

Over breakfast this morning, we introduced Sophie to Julianne by going through all the Flickr photos my brother-in-law has been posting. Sophie has known about Baby Julianne for as long as she could see my sister's growing belly and was so excited to finally see her cousin- "I want to see Baby Julianne on the compooter, Mama!". Sophie was of course adoring of Julianne-- "Oh Baby Julianne shooooooo cute!"-- and we're really looking forward to the two cousins "hanging out" more when we go home for Christmas.

Later, on the way to daycare, Jude asked her if she would pick out a toy as a gift to Julianne- not something new but something that belongs to her so that it would be special.

Jude: Sophie, when we get home tonight, can you choose one of your toys so that we can give it to Julianne as a present?
Sophie: Errr, ok.
Me: Pick one. Something that you play with.
Sophie: And then we can surprise Baby Julianne!
Jude: That's right, we can surprise Baby Julianne. What will you pick? Which toy?
Sophie: (after thinking about it for a while). Squeaky giraffe. I give my squeaky giraffe to Baby Julianne so that she can surprise. Yah, I can give squeaky giraffe.
Me: Are you sure you want to give Julianne your squeaky giraffe?
Sophie: Yah. I think she will like it.


At that point, I couldn't have been more proud of our sweet, thoughtful Sophie :) Not only did she not balk at the prospect of giving away one of her toys (although whether she will *really* give it up is still questionable, but still...), she chose one of her most beloved ones.

How many other ways can I fit Sophie the giraffe into my mouth?
Sophie at 4 months with her Sophie the Giraffe

My mom bought Sophie her Sophie the Giraffe chew toy when she was 6 weeks old (we've actually never called the giraffe Sophie just because it would have been too confusing) and it has always been one of her favorites. The giraffe played a huge part in helping Sophie develop her grabbing skills, it was always available for her to gnaw, chew, and suckle during those dastardly teething months, and even now as she's outgrown it somewhat, Sophie the Giraffe is still a constant fixture in Sophie's play repertoire. Just yesterday, she set up a picnic with her dolls, stuffed animals, and Sophie the Giraffe and thoughtfully fed it a hunk of pretend steak. I didn't have the heart to tell her that giraffes are herbivores.

But now, she has decided that it's her cousin's turn to play with the giraffe and tonight, we'll put Sophie the Giraffe aside, give it a good scrub down, and put it in a bag for Julianne. My sister already has a brand new Sophie the Giraffe but maybe that Sophie will appreciate having a companion giraffe from real Sophie and Julianne will have double the grabbing, chewing fun :)

And because she's just that gorgeous, here's another photo of Julianne fresh off my sister's Flickr feed :)

Hush little baby

[Sophie the Giraffe got its own article in Slate earlier this year. Read it here.]

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Julianne

And she's finally here! It took a little cajoling but my sweet niece, Julianne has arrived and she's beautiful!


I'm so happy for my sister, Sherri and brother-in-law, Piao Zhou! I can already see them being such loving, doting parents- Julianne is so blessed! And my parents and Sam were finally able to partake in the whole exciting anticipation of labour and delivery. Since we had Sophie here in the U.S., they never got to experience it firsthand. So even though Julianne is technically their second grandchild/niece, it probably feels like their first in a way, and I'm so happy that they got to share in that.

Welcome to our world, dear Julianne! We love you so much already, and can't wait to see you in December!

Sophie the Pig


We've been reading Olivia to Sophie for as long as I can remember. I used to read it to my preschoolers all the time and when our friend, Christine, got the book for us for our shower, I was more than thrilled. I remember reading it to Sophie while she was still in utero, those early months when all she could do was sit in her bouncer and stare intently at my efforts to read to her, and now, when Olivia makes a frequent appearance on our rotation of bedtime stories. The precociously sassy pig who loves building sandcastles, museums, and books and who tires out everyone around her - it's like Ian Falconer was describing Sophie :)

And so, during one of her more tenacious Olivia phases, Sophie and I decided that she would dress up as Olivia for Halloween. I wasn't about to pay an arm and a leg for a custom made costume, and so went about figuring out how I could put one together (see post from last Halloween- there was no way I would be able to sew the entire thing on my own). Thankfully, we already have a pair of black and white striped tights and matching shoes (not intentional); after much scouring, I found a plain red dress at our local children's resale shop (you can't believe how hard it is to find a simple red dress that doesn't make it look like Sophie's dressing up as Santarina); bought the ears from this lady who makes the entire outfit but sells the ears separately, and... wait for it... sewed the collar. By hand. I followed this tutorial and actually managed to make it work even without a sewing machine. Yes. I rock.

I'm pretty proud of myself- it's not exactly like the Olivia in the book, but for how much I spent on it (ears + dress + fabric from Joann's = $12, maybe? $15 at the most), I think it came together fabulously :)

Sophie the Pig!

Most importantly, Sophie had a WONDERFUL time. According to her teachers, she's been talking about dressing up as Olivia for weeks and today, she was so excited to go trick-or-treating, she sat so still and quiet as I put on the layers of clothing on her (it was really cold out), and patiently waited for everything to come together. And the moment we got outside and the parade started, it was like we couldn't stop her. Oh, she didn't bolt and run every which way like we thought she would. In fact, she was extremely purposeful and methodical, making sure she hit every house that had candy available ;) At the end of it, even though she could only have the lollies and gummies in her haul (which just means more chocolate for Dada and Mama...), she was such a happy little camper, I suspect we'll be talking about Halloween for a long time to come :)