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Thursday, April 30, 2009

Eating from the earth

On Monday, we attended our first CSA meeting at the public library. It was uplifting to say the least, where we got to see a slide show of the farm, all the various activities that you can participate in as members, and more importantly, the different processes that go into planting, caring for, harvesting, and ultimately preparing the produce for pick-up. It made us feel like we were part of something good, not just for ourselves, but also for the community writ large. Jude and I decided that this season, we'll definitely try to make it down to the farm a couple of times if for nothing else but to see where our veggies are coming from, which for someone who grew up in a big city, is an awesome prospect. And that's one of the reasons why we decided to join a farm share to begin with- apart from the assurance of fresh, organic produce every week, it's also that we know exactly where our food is grown, how, and by whom that really appeals to us. The fact that our friend, Eric, says that Tantré Farm has the best vegetables he's ever tasted (I think his exact phrase was "vegetable epiphany") definitely helps :)

And we got a preview of exactly how true that is when we took home with us a whole bag of fresh spinach, French fingerling potatoes, and chives from the meeting. Tonight, I made a spinach-mushroom quiche (recipe adapted from here) and boiled fingerling potatoes with a garlic mayo-sour cream dip (garnished with the chives). Everything was delicious and I don't think either one of us realized that it was completely vegetarian! We would probably have been able to appreciate the flavor of the spinach a little more had it not been baked in a quiche (I can't wait for all the crunchy raw salad leaves and herbs!), but the potatoes were definitely yummy- creamy and rich (even without the dip), with a slightly nutty flavor that I've not noticed in many other varieties of potatoes.

If tonight's meal is any indication of the simple delights of fresh produce coming our way in June, Jude and I really can't hardly wait! :)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Nesting- The Beginning

1. At our first Oliebollen warehouse sale, 2. Nesting (sort of...), 3. Peg Perego Pliko P3 stroller, 4. Jude's favorite outfit

This weekend was definitely Operation-It's-All-About-the-Baby. From the moment we woke up on Saturday morning till just before dinner tonight, it was virtually all systems go to prepare in some way or another for the little girl's arrival.

9:00- Wake up remembering that we were supposed to meet Amy at the Oliebollen warehouse sale. Apparently, they only have a few every year and with discounts at 50%-90%, we weren't about to miss it.

9:10- Amy calls to tell us that we should probably get there early because the good stuff disappears really soon. She also said she was holding on to some really cute girls stuff for us just in case. She's so awesome!

9:55- Arrive at warehouse sale after a little mistaken detour to an abandoned Best Western (don't ask...). Amy's gleefully waiting for us and we spend the next hour or so in a whirlwind of whimsical prints, darling designs, and so many outfits in hand that we needed a box to carry everything. In the end, we had to set ourselves a budget and whittle everything down to only what we thought were absolutely irresistible in terms of bargain and design. See our haul here. (Note to self: baby is going to actually need more practical clothes like onesies, bodysuits, and sleepers, especially in the first 3 months. Second note to self: Baby registry.)

11:30- Back home, pretty smug about the deal we scored. We notice that the neighborhood is having a yard sale just outside our house. High on the bargains we just got, we nosy our way around to see if we can find anything else. Lo and behold, we leave with a solid wood playpen and adorable bumper guard (brand new) for under $50. Score twice!

1:30- Meet our friend, Tanya at Babies R' Us and Target to take us on a "guided" tour to set up our registries. I remember the first time Jude and I went to BRU- it was maybe a couple of weeks after we found out we were pregnant. It was all so overwhelming and we walked out barely 10 minutes after walking in. It was sooooo helpful to have Tanya with us to translate product terms into simple English (I now know what a Pack-and-Pay is!) and to tell us which things we really need and which ones are completely worthless (really, a diaper stacker? Why would I want to take out diapers that are already neatly stacked in a package just to restack them in something else?)

Setting up a registry is very new to us and we approached it with a tad of discomfort, almost something akin to shyness. Maybe it's an Asian thing since it's not traditional practice back home where money gifts are more typical. The whole idea of a baby registry is so that your friends know exactly what you need/want and will get it for you. But it also felt odd, like saying to them, "Get us this. And this. And this too." So to make sure it was easy for everyone, we tried to register for things that ranged in terms of price. This way, friends who want to get something on their own won't feel like they need to spend a lot, but friends who want to get a gift together as a group will have some choices too.

1.00- Decide to make space for baby's clothes. After all that shopping yesterday and the gifts we've been receiving from home, our little girl might now officially have more clothes than I did when we first moved here :) Now to figure out where to put them all. We clear up a couple of drawers in our dressers and put away clothes that we'll either give away or store in the basement (off-season clothes and stuff I can't wear anymore like my many Threadless tees... *sniff*). I still don't think there's enough space but we'll probably get one of those large plastic storage drawer things for her daily wear when the time comes.

4:00- Stroller purchase. After much, much, MUCH research (as my friend Teresa says, we can now write books on shopping for strollers and car seats), Jude and I had narrowed our choices of strollers and car seats to a few contenders. A few things that are really important to us are design and safety. And the cost of course. And while we knew for sure we're getting our crib and infant car seat brand new, we didn't mind Craigslisting or eBaying our stroller as long as it's lightly used and manufactured recently. The problem is that the brands and models we want are either rarely listed or listed at prices that aren't that much cheaper compared to their first-hand counterparts. But finally, on Thursday, I saw a listing on Craigslist for a Peg Perego Pliko P3, an Italian-made stroller and one of our first stroller choices, and made an appointment immediately. After literally a 12-email back-and-forth and getting lost in Newport, MI, Jude and I finally got a look at it and put an end to literally weeks, if not months, of researching and online shopping by eventually buying it. It's an older model but at $399.99, the 2009 model is just way out of our budget. And we really do like the Peg Peregos for their high ratings in design and quality. Plus this one was barely used (why anyone would spend $400 on a stroller and hardly use it is beyond me...).

A couple of things that have been absolutely indispensable in this whole process has been 1) Jude's (and my own growing) tenacity in terms of scouring the Internet for the best deals without sacrificing quality. We refuse to pay full price for something if we can get it cheaper elsewhere. The money we save can go to buying something else for the baby. But we're not going to compromise on quality or safety either; which is why we've been relying on 2) Baby Bargains (a.k.a. the Baby Merchandise Bible, as Jude likes to think of it). It gives you the low-down on almost everything you're going to need for your baby and where you might be able to find them at a reasonable price. Based on their product ratings (and an extraordinary amount of time spent reading reviews on the Internet), Jude and I now know which stroller, car seat, and crib we want, and it's just a matter of finding them at a price that we like. Which brings us to 3) the amazing support from our family and friends. Without the invaluable advice and tips in terms of what we need to get, offers of various gifts, promises to adhere to our baby registry so we'll get what we want (and not some frivolous rattle-meets-mp3 player-meets-furry puzzle plaything), or letting us know that they're more than happy to help with some of our bigger purchases, we would not have been able to do all this prep so smoothly. Thank you, thank you, all of you! :)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Love letters

So one of the things I've been doing before bed is journaling to the baby. I kept a diary until I was about 17 but this is a whole new experience because eventually, someone else is actually going to read it. I started about a month after we found out we were pregnant- I think of them romantically as love letters to our little one :) It's been a very calming thing to do before bed and I love the fact that after every entry, I fall asleep thinking of her...

I probably wasn't as consistent with it in the first trimester, just because there's only so much I could share with her about how tired she was making me or how little I felt like eating. But now that we're busying ourselves with getting ready for her arrival-- the rapid way my body's changing, music I've been listening to, books I'm reading, all the shopping we're doing, phone calls and emails of love and support we've been getting-- it's like I have something to share with her every other day. I'm hoping to keep this up as long as I can (that's if I'll still be able to write anything through colicky sleepless nights...) and one day, when she's old enough, we can start reading entries to her before she goes to bed :) When I started this little "project", I had visions of giving this to her as a gift at her graduation or her wedding-- I know, I think waaaaaay ahead-- but now, it's almost become a way for me to look back at our experiences and a part of me is doing this as much for us as it is for her.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Joe Wong on Letterman

This guy is funny. Period. Like laugh-out-loud-I-think-our-neighbors-can-hear-us-ouch-the-baby's-laughing-too funny! He looks nothing like a stand-up comedian (he looks more like an MIT professor about to give a Noble Prize winning talk on nuclear astrophysics) but the moment he opens his mouth, you're completely floored :) And so much of it is an almost self-effacing deadpan delivery. We're not talking slapstick comedy here, folks- this guy's got some sophisticated jokes up his sleeves... Some of our favorites:
I'm not good at sports but I love parallel parking. Because unlike in sports, in parallel parking, the worse you are, the more people root for you.

I have a bumper sticker that says, "If you don't speak English, go home." I didn't notice it for two years.

What is Roe vs. Wade? Two ways to come to the United States.

I have a sign on my car that says "Baby on Board." This sign is basically a threat. It just says that I have a screaming baby and a naggy wife and I'm not afraid of dying anymore.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Orla Kiely

We first came across Orla Kiely at Target actually, where they had commissioned the British designer to create a new line of inexpensive household ware. I quickly fell in love with her quirky circa-'70s vintage aesthetic and wanted to buy up all the kitchen towels, mug hooks, tablecloths, place mats, and melamine plates they had on sale. But I didn't. Much self-control ;) Later, I found out that her designs span women’s-wear, accessories, wallpaper, stationery, plus a collection of note-paper for the Tate Modern.

Coincidentally (or maybe not...), I've also been on the look out for an oversized tote bag to carry my laptop and stuff. Jude got me this wonderful booq Mamba Pack for Christmas that I really love but I suspect that in a month or so, my lower back might start hurting from carry too heavy a load on my back and so I thought a tote might be the solution. One thing led to another and before I knew it, I found myself surfing through Orla Kiely's bag collection. Her Mainline stuff is way too expensive, primarily because they're made of leather, and even her laptop bags-- while designed specifically for laptops-- are neither affordable nor as fun as her other stuff. Then I saw her Etc line, the collection for everything else. The bags still weren't very cheap but at least they were within fantasizing range. And who would then come to the rescue but my bargain maven of a husband :) A quick search on eBay found an only-used-once second-hand bag in just the right dimensions, in the classic Orla Kiely lily stem print in chocolate, and at a fraction of the cost! Yay! With only one bid and 6 hours left, our chances of winning it were good. So we bid just a dollar more than the existing bid and 6 hours later, an Orla Kiely Etc Laminated Dark Multistem Classic Shoulder Bag was mine! And free shipping too! What's best, when I'm not using it to carry my laptop, we can double it up as a diaper bag when the baby arrives :)


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

32 more ways to kill time when you actually have work to do

Re-purposed from Tym:

1. Do you like blue cheese?
Not particularly. Maybe a little in a burger, but definitely not in salad dressing. And I can't have it now, anyway.

2. Have you ever smoked?

3. Do you own a gun?
No, and I never will.

4. What flavor Kool-Aid was your favorite?
Actually, even after 6 years here and 2 years of teaching preschool, I don't think I've ever had Kool-Aid. Doesn't it turn your tongue blue?

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments?
Depends on what I'm going in for.

6. What do you think of hot dogs?
Yumm! And especially if it's a soft, steaming hot bun and a grilled all-beef frank that has that satisfying snap to it :)

7. Favourite Christmas movie?
Love Actually. Hands down. Like "I-know-the-lines-by-heart-stop-all-I'm-doing-and-watch-it-whenever-it's-on-TV" hands down.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?
Black coffee, when I still could. Preferably caffeinated and dark roasted. Like a kopi-O or Starbucks' Pike Place brew.

9. Can you do push-ups?
Not since I stopped power yoga.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewellery?
My wedding band. Because it fits into Jude's. They have our wedding date in Roman numerals engraved across when they're together such that when you take them apart, it looks like imperfections on the edges of our rings. It only makes sense when you put them together. I'll always love what that means :) Our wedding bands were the one thing we didn't mind spending a little more on when we got married.

11. Favourite hobby?
Do people above the age of 12 actually still use that word?

12. Do you have A.D.D.?
If I do, that would explain a lot.

13. What's one trait you dislike about yourself?

14. Middle names?
Siew Wan. It's my Chinese name and my late grandma gave it to me. She said I was named after a Chinese empress. Apparently. Jude thinks I was just named after a bowl (phonetically, wan sounds like "bowl" in Mandarin).

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment.
I'm cold.
I need more water.
This is taking longer than I expected.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink.
For the past few months, water, sweetened soy bean milk, and decaf coffee (yes, I gave in. Actually, Costco's line of decaf coffee packs all the punch of regular dark-roasted coffee without the caffeine. Even Jude couldn't really tell the difference)

17. Current worry?
Not being able to wake up for tomorrow's 8.15 presentation.

18. Current hate right now?
That I can't eat raw sushi. Although like Tym says, hate is such a strong word...

19. Favourite place to be?
Anywhere with the people I love- it could be the couch watching TV with Jude or back in Singapore at Tiong Bahru Market shopping with the family.

20. How did you bring in the new year?
At our friend's place with champagne & sushi, and watching the CNN telecast of the celebration at Times Square. The next day, we found out we were pregnant :)

21. Where would you like to go?
Like specifically? The store, the Hatcher library, and my office to grab some notes that I forgot. Or in general? Montreal (for bagels, museums, and festivals- not necessarily in that order), Memphis (because Jude wants to check out the music there), Ireland, Italy, Spain...

22. Name three people who will complete this.
Terri, maybe? Jill? Not Jude for sure.

23. Do you own slippers?
Do my Birkenstock thong sandals count?

24 What shirt are you wearing?
A black Gap maternity tee.

25. Do you like sleeping on satin sheets?
I wouldn't know.

26. Can you whistle?

27. Favourite colour?
Green or lavender depending on my mood. Sometimes orange too.

28. Would you be a pirate?

29. What songs do you sing in the shower?
None. It's really more of a functional experience.

30. Favourite girl's name?

31. Favorite boy's name?

32. What's in your pocket right now?
A receipt for frozen yogurt at Pinkberry.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Bat for Lashes - Daniel

Again, lagging behind the curve on new music, I only just heard of Natasha Khan's music pseudonym - Bat For Lashes (BFL). According to her wikipedia entry, she's rather big across the pond winning a variety of awards in the breakthrough and new artist categories. She's released a new album this year called Two Suns and the georgeous track below, "Daniel", is the first single off it.

The first impression of the song is that she really reminds me of Kate Bush or Imogen Heep. But BFL does have her own sensibilities and aesthetic, as evidenced in an older track "What's a girl to do" below:

Does she also look like a much "edgier" Lily Allen? Love the coordinated Animals on BMXs :)

Thursday, April 09, 2009

And we're having a...

...GIRL! :)

Jude and I decided to find out the gender of the baby at our second trimester ultrasound today. It has less to do with the blog poll (although we'd like to thank everyone who did vote- either way) and more to do with the fact that we know our parents really wanted to find out. And being so far away, this was our way of allowing them to feel closer to the baby :)

So now that we know the gender of the baby, it's like a whole new phase of the pregnancy has kicked in although essentially, nothing has changed from yesterday. Now I'm wondering more concretely who she'll (OMG, she!!) look like, whether we'll keep her hair long, how she'll look like in blue instead of pink, what part of her will be like me, and which parts will be like Jude. Or maybe she'll inherit something from her grandparents, aunts, or uncle :) With the knowledge of her gender, it's like she's gained a real identity now- there's a little girl growing in me, a person who will have traits of her dad, her mom, bits of their family, and a whole lot of her. Like this GORGEOUS song by Marc Cohn and Art Garfunkel says, our girl is going to be the sum of all the things handed down and then some. It's off one of my favorite soundtracks ever-- the TV series Mad About You-- and it truly captures everything we're feeling right now about this person who we feel like we've suddenly come to know. I'll let the song speak for itself. Listen to it and read the lyrics- I've heard it so many times but only today did I truly, truly *get* it. It moves me in such a tremendously profound way, I can't even quite articulate it. Just listen, and you'll know why I started crying buckets the moment he sings the first line...

The Things Weve Handed Down - Marc Cohn
Don't know much about you
Don't know who you are
We've been doing fine without you
But, we could only go so far
Don't know why you chose us
Were you watching from above
Is there someone there that knows us
Said we'd give you all our love

Will you laugh just like your mother
Will you sigh like your old man
Will some things skip a generation
Like I've heard they often can
Are you a poet or a dancer
A devil or a clown
Or a strange new combination of
The things we've handed down

I wonder who you'll look like
Will your hair fall down and curl
Will you be a mama's boy
Or daddy's little girl
Will you be a sad reminder
Of what's been lost along the way
Maybe you can help me find her
In the things you do and say

And these things that we have given you
They are not so easily found
But you can thank us later
For the things we've handed down

You may not always be so grateful
For the way that you were made
Maybe some feature of your father's
That you'd gladly sell or trade
And one day you may look at us
And say that you were cursed
But over time that line has been
Extremely well rehearsed
By our fathers, and their fathers
In some old and distant town
From places no one here remembers
Come the things we've handed down
- Marc Cohn & Art Garfunkel, "Things We've Handed Down"

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Landon Pigg - Falling In Love At a Coffee Shop

Landon Pigg - Falling In Love At A Coffee Shop

Once in a while, you come across a song that wears its heart so plainly on its sleeve- no complex metaphors, no hidden meanings, just a direct and simple message: "I'm falling in love with you. Like hard." Landon Pigg's "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop" is that kind of a song. We first heard it when we saw the new AT&T ad on TV and the lyrics jumped out at me with its unabashed sappiness, but not in a bad way. Apart from working really well with the ad's narrative-- some girl sending her boyfriend off at the airport and then pining for him as she receives photos of him on her AT&T phone, and then finally reuniting by some park bench-- there is an almost Nick Drakesque sweet longing in Pigg's voice that really draws you in. It's been playing on our stereo for the past hour. Give it a listen- you'll remember the moment you fell in love with that special someone in your life, and then fall in love with him/her all over again :)
I think that possibly
Maybe I'm falling for you
There's a chance that I've fallen quite hard over you

I've seen the paths that your eyes wander down
I want to come too

I think that possibly
Maybe I'm falling for you

No one understands me quite like you do
Through all of the shadowy corners of me

I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop I love so much
All of the while I never knew

I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop I love so much
All of the while I never knew

I think that possibly
Maybe I'm falling for you
There's a chance that I've fallen quite hard over you

I've seen the waters that make your eyes shine
Now I'm shining too

Because I've fallen quite hard over you

If I didn't know you I'd rather not know
If I couldn't have you I'd rather be alone

I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop I love so much
All of the while I never knew

I never knew just what it was about this old coffee shop I love so much
All of the while I never knew

All of the while
All of the while it was you
-Landon Pigg, "Falling in Love at a Coffee Shop"

Monday, April 06, 2009


As I'm typing this, the Ann Arbor sky is turning an ash gray as we prepare for the winter storm that's coming out way- complete with rain, sleet, snow and all. Yes, it's April and we're expecting 5 inches of snow by tomorrow. That's a Michigan spring for you, folks... And as testimony to how schizophrenic the weather can be, when I woke up this morning, it was all beautiful sunshine and crisp breeze. Which was a wonderful way to start my prenatal yoga practice. I had been putting it off for a while because I couldn't find a studio I liked or a time that fit my schedule. The school gym I used to go to for my regular yoga practice doesn't have a designated class for would-be mommies and many other studios have their one prenatal yoga session at strange times like Friday mornings when I sometimes need to be in school. So I finally settled on A2 Yoga, which comes highly recommended from many friends (even my adviser!) and about which I've heard really good things for the past few years.

It's a beautiful place- calming and warm without the whole new age incense-burning, water-trickling, patchouli-smelling atmosphere you sometimes get at other studios. And truly, it was a lovely morning to be practicing yoga of any kind, prenatal or not- the sunlight was streaming in through the day curtains, one of the windows was open so there was fresh air breezing in, and we did a lot of shoulder openers that made me-- corny or not-- feel like we were embracing a kind of new-season energy on this Palm Sunday. Prenatal yoga is fairly different from the Power Yoga I'm used too. The props for one- two blankets, two blocks and a bolster- it was initially a little intimidating, but I can see how they'll become indispensable once I can no longer see or touch my toes... Prenatal yoga is also less about sustaining a pose than it is about loosening and stretching those muscles. And the breathing is a lot more calming which helped me focus more as well. One particular pose-- it's not even a pose at all, really-- touched me in a way that made me decide that I will be coming back to A2 Yoga weekly from now now: we were supposed to just sit simply and practice our pranayama (yoga breathing). To help us be aware of whether we were breathing right, the instructor told us to put our right palm on our heart, and our left palm on the core of our stomach (or where the baby is). To feel the intake of breath via the lungs/heart and then the slow pressure of its release around the core area was at once refreshing, calming, centering, and strangely moving. It felt like the baby was a real part of my yoga practice today and it was a beautiful moment... :)

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Just food

Now that I've solidly gotten my appetite back and can think about food more objectively, I think I've also gained a little more perspective in terms of the things I crave(d) and am/was averse to during the first trimester and even now.

Things I couldn't eat then and still can't bring myself to now (not because I'm not allowed to but because I can't suffer the smell/flavor):
- anything that tastes too much of chicken (like plain grilled chicken or roast chicken. Fried chicken, chicken stock, chicken wings are all fine. Don't ask me what the difference is...)
- anything with dill
- pesto

Things I crave then and that still satisfy today:
- nuts
- cereal with milk
- peanut butter
- chocolate (in fact, anything sweet, creamy, fluffy, decadent, like that little tres leche cake we got from Whole Foods for dessert tonight... yum yum... )
- Annie's Honey Bunny Graham crackers
- Jimmy John's #6 vegetarian sandwich, no sprouts (I think I've had one every week since the beginning of this year)
- Cheese Delight at Oasis Grill outside my school, which is basically a simple salad, Mediterranean vinaigrette, Spanish cheese and pita chips wrapped in pita.
- fries
- Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes
- cold sweetened soy bean milk (tau huay zui) (not the soy milk you get at the supermarkets here as a milk substitute but the kind from the Asian market. It's so refreshing and so comforting because it reminds me of home. Having my second glass of the night as we speak...)

So I was trying to figure out why I couldn't bring myself to eat all that stuff that I couldn't/can't and realized that it was because they're all related to something that I had just around the time we found out we were pregnant which was on New Year's Day. I had made Bulgarian Spicy Dumpling Soup that had a lot of dill in the dumpling two days before the new year, our New Year's Day dinner was a roast chicken, and lunch the day after (just before I took the pregnancy test), was a cilantro pesto pasta. I'm not sure what it says when I'm averse to the things that remind me of the day I found out I was pregnant, but honestly, even just thinking of how dill smells/tastes right now makes me want to gag... (like that salmon patty I couldn't swallow at Whole Foods just now...)

As for the foods I love, I think it's a combination of things that easily kept the nausea and hunger away during the first trimester (all things dry and crunchy like nuts, peanut butter sandwiches, and crackers), foods that have always comforted (chocolate, sweets, and fries), and things that are cool and refreshing (vegetarian sandwiches and soy bean milk). While I still love a fried chicken dinner or a grease-laden burger now and then, too much of anything greasy actually makes me-- and the baby-- uncomfortable. Maybe we're having a health nut baby who's only going to eat healthy food as prescribed by the nutritional food pyramid ;) Now, that would be a complete hoot!