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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Calumet Fisheries

1. Smoked trout, 2. Winter car picnic, 3. Smoked Chubs, 4. Dad & Sherri with our lunch bounty

Christmas has come and gone, my family has been here 10 days, much love has been shared all round, meals have been cooked and eaten, our waistlines expanded as a result, and all eight of us successfully made our way to Chicago in two cars and in the middle of a snow shower. In other words, there has been much to blog about. But between enjoying the family's company, soaking in all that we love about Chicago, and trying to keep up with a rambunctious hellion of a 17-month old, time to ourselves has been too precious to squander on the Internet.

BUT- for what I am about to share with you, I will make an exception. Because something so awesome cannot be kept to oneself, something so mind-blowingly delicious cannot be contained. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Calumet Fisheries. In the city of Hot Doug's foie-gras hotdog, droolsome La Pasadita tacos, and robust dry-aged streaks, the smoked fish from Calumet has shot to the top of our must-eats in Chicago. Yes, humble smoked fish. Old school style. Smoked and sold in a literal shack on the Calumet Bridge on Chicago's South Side. And yet, recognized not only by food experts like Anthony Bourdain but also the James Beard Foundation Awards in the America’s Classics category.

And now we know why. Because the smoked seafood is just downright delicious, *freaking* delicious. Delicious, I tell you. Succulent, toothsome shrimp; flavorful trout; and the chubs, oh, don't even get me started on the chubs- fatty, silken, melt-in-your-mouth awesome. I was having a smoked fish epiphany and I didn't think one could have a smoked fish epiphany. And all this at the back of our rental car in the middle of a parking lot along Lake Shore Drive, with half my mind on whether or not Sophie was taking a good nap. So imagine how much more my mind (and gut) would have been blown had I had all my wits about me and was enjoying my meal sitting down properly somewhere. We might just take a detour and pack ourselves some more smoked fish on our drive back to Ann Arbor. Oh heck, we shall...

People, I kid you not. Calumet Fisheries. On the South Side of Chicago. It will be worth your while. Go. Please.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Second sledding- much better, but I don't think we're quite enthused yet

In the end, even though Sophie gamely sat through her first sledding experience with her Yiyis and Mama with no cries or complains, she was probably most happy just sitting on the ground, playing with the snow and watching the fun her Yiyis and Uncle Piao were having from afar.

With a little more snow coming our way over the weekend, we're thinking of trudging out to the Huron Hills Golf Course and taking advantage of the steeper slopes there. It's a public course and open to everyone to sled in the winter for free. My dad is particularly thrilled at the prospect of sledding in a place at which he once golfed. Maybe with Gong-Gong in tow, Sophie might be able to muster a little more enthusiasm for this whole sledding business...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sisters pretty much rock

And so do aunts!...

Friday, December 17, 2010

And the grandparents are here!

You should have seen Sophie at the train platform- first all shy, nuzzling into my shoulder coyly smiling. But less than a minute later, she opened her arms wide and moved towards my mom, wanting to be carried :)

It's only been 3 hours, but I think Sophie's already loving having her grandparents here, showering her with all this attention. She's been in the best of moods, all smiles and giggles, running everywhere and knowing that she now has four people's arms into which she can collapse :) And she even managed to coax Grandpa into playing with stickers with her after dinner.

My sisters and brother-in-law arrive in four days. If Sophie's excited now, I don't think she has a clue just what a treat she's in for in when everyone's piled into the house on Monday!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Christmas presents 2010

With the exception of last year-- when taking care of a 4-month old and getting ready for a 22-hour flight home were our main priorities-- we've given out handmade Christmas gifts to our friends here in Ann Arbor every year since 2005 (2005- cranberry hootycreeks; 2006- peppermint hot chocolate; 2007- chocolate truffles; and 2008- kaya).

So it was time to revive the tradition this year with homemade chocolate bark. I adapted the recipe from here- instead of saltine crackers, I used graham crackers, and I also made a white chocolate-cranberry version on top of the bittersweet chocolate-nut recipe.

I'm pretty happy with the final product- it's not the prettiest of Christmas presents I've made, but I think the rustic feel of the pieces has its own charm :) Oddly, even though I'm a huge dark chocolate fan, I've been quite taken with the white chocolate-cranberry combination. I think there's something about the sweet creaminess of the white chocolate (which is precisely the thing that usually turns me off) and the tartness of the dried cranberries that comes together really well with the the buttery graham cracker base. I liked it so much-- so does Jude-- that I made sure to set some aside for ourselves, and also for my family, who btw, ARRIVES IN TWO DAYS!!!

Monday, December 13, 2010

First sledding- FAIL!

No, there was nothing wrong with our camera lens. The photo is not blurry from any equipment malfunction. This is just what happens when you try taking a photo of your husband and daughter in 9F plus windshield (-15C). The snow was not only coming down hard, the blustery winds basically blew them every which way *and* made them feel like stinging needles against your face.

Which is why we had no luck taking Sophie on what was supposed to be her first sledding adventure. We knew we were going to get at least 7 inches of snow and had the sled all ready for her. But it was not meant to be. First of all, Sophie hated being bundled in all those layers- turtleneck tee, fleece pants, sweater, snow overalls, boots, winter jacket, hat, and gloves (it was like being in Froggy Gets Dressed). Then, after bringing her outside, she couldn't walk because of all that bulk and also because she was probably too bewildered by all that wind and snow. The combination of the billowing wind and stinging snow really made Sophie quite upset-- poor baby-- and we barely walked round our building before we decided to go back in, barely 10 minutes after we had come out.

You should have seen the look of happiness on Sophie's face when we relieved her of all the winter clothing- she visibly brightened up :) In the end, it was more fun to cart snow into the house (in the sled) and have her play with it while keeping warm and dry (and bulk-free). And for all that distress we put her through, she earned herself her first hot chocolate (made with soy milk) which she slurped up with such gusto, it looked like she was going to dive into the little mug.

We'll definitely try the whole sledding thing again-- maybe when my family arrives next week!-- and this time, let's hope it'll be a clear-ish day out and our daughter won't feel like she's being attacked by maniacal flying snow needles...

1. Not a happy camper, 2. Stinging snow, 3. Indoor snow, 4. First ever hot chocolate

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Use your words

So it was like any other evening, driving home after picking Sophie up from daycare. I was singing "Wheels on the Bus" (which she's been making us sing over and over again these past few days) when I pulled into our parking lot. And then it happened.

Sophie said "home".

And when I stopped the car and opened the door to take her out, she said "light" and pointed to the light in the car as it came on. I thought they were both flukes but as we were walked towards the house, Sophie pointed to our door and said "Mama, home" and "light", now pointing to the light at our doorway. OK, so not flukes.

I started keeping a list of words that Sophie knows (and can say) and at 16-months exactly today, it's like I'm adding new words everyday. It's a conservative list-- or at least I'm trying to make sure it is so I don't inflate her vocabulary-- i.e. these are words we know for a fact she can say and have heard her repeat enough times and in the right context to show that she knows the meaning of.

dog + oo oo!
to distinguish it from...
night night
(抱抱 ("bao bao", which is "carry" or "embrace" in Chinese)
see you
(thank you)
yiyi (what she calls my sisters)
I woo oo (I love you)
pea (please)
bock (block)
pee-a-boo (peek-a-boo)
hah-lo (hello)
ah-den (all done)
pah (puff)

And these are just examples of her expressive vocabulary- I'm assuming her receptive vocabulary (words she understands but can't produce) is also growing day by day. It's such a delight hearing her talk-- both the real words and the rest of her jabbering that's just as wonderful. It's almost like communicating with a real person now- she can tell us what she wants, what she doesn't, when she wants more of something, when she's done with what she's doing, and most importantly, she's also using words (and gestures) to show emotion, like joy, love, anger.

Of course, we don't understand everything that Sophie says but we try our hardest to take the time to watch, listen, and respond to her regardless. I think it makes her feel like she's a good communicator and reinforces her self esteem by letting her know that she's worth listening and paying attention to.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Sophie phones Jude

OK, so not really. She was actually playing with the toy phone that's attached to her play-yard. We had just dropped Jude off in school after a fun morning at the farmers' market together. I guess she was missing her Daddy and so she picked up the phone and said, "Hi Dada. I woo oo. Home."


I had a great day full of friends and play
But my favorite part is always coming home to you, Daddy-O
Did so many things, where do I start
Gonna tell you everything and not leave out a single part

D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya
D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya

Riding our bikes through the park
Camping in the summertime
Walking to the waterfalls, Daddy-O
You teach me things without saying a word
The time we spend together is worth more than all the silver and gold

D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya
D-A-D-D-D-Y, oh how I love ya
Oh, how I love ya

-"Daddy-O", Frances England

Thursday, December 02, 2010

First snow, again...

February 2010

December 2010

Sophie couldn't have possibly remembered anything from earlier this year so as far as she was concerned, today was the first time she's encountered snow. We stood her by the window when she woke up and showed her the light blanket of snow outside the house- she was intrigued and kept wanting to press her face against the window. Our little parrot then tried saying "snow" but it came out more like "no" :)

When we walked outside on the way to daycare, a couple of snowflakes landed on her cheeks which sort of perplexed her a little, like what *is* this cold, stinging, pretty, fluffy thing? She also tried grabbing the snow as it floated down around her, wanting to catch it in her hand, and that was pretty funny (which may also explain why in school, she refused to keep her gloves on and just wanted to touch the snow with her bare hands- see evidence here and here).

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I woo ooo.

That's how Sophie says "I love you." :) I think she might have started saying it back to us a couple of weeks back but we didn't quite figure out that that was what she was saying till sometime this week. She says it at the most unexpected moments, like in the car on the way home from daycare or when she's in the grocery cart at the store. Or today during bath-time. There I was soaping her and rinsing the shampoo out of her hair, and the next moment, she clings on to me, snuggles into the crook of my neck and says "I woo ooo" over and over again while patting my back softly with those chubby little palms of hers. At that moment, nothing else mattered- we could be destitute, living in squalor, jobless, homeless, and inflicted with some morbid permanently debilitating disease and it wouldn't matter a whit. My daughter was telling me she loves me.
1. Our sweet Sophie, 2. Bunny ears, 3. Channeling Pebbles Flintstones, 4. Lunch laughter

I woo ooo too, our little one.