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Monday, August 29, 2011

Thanks, Irene...

We're all safe- thank you everyone for your emails, text messages, and calls. We've been in the Boston area for the past 3 days and now caught in the wide bands of Irene's path. We had plans to visit Cape Cod today and tomorrow but that isn't going to happen by a long shot. We're staying put in our hotel in Westborough (about 45 mins outside of the city) until later this afternoon when there might be a pocket for relief from the wind and rain, and then make it out to Boston itself. Things are nasty, of course, but actually a little better here away from the coast than forecast.

Let's hope the airport won't be too insane on Tuesday.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You can't curry love

The new-found social and political symbolism of the dish aside, I embraced Singapore's National Curry Day yesterday as an opportunity to recreate one of my favorite things from home. My mom makes the best curry I know and nothing I've made has ever come close to her hallowed version. I guess it doesn't help that in the years we've been here, I've only ever relied on pre-mixes. But this time, I promised Jude that I was going to do it old-school, from scratch as much as possible.

I used this Violet Oon recipe as a starting point: first point of order, a whole chicken from Whole Foods properly chopped up (they're one of the few places in Ann Arbor where you can request to have your chicken chopped up into fairly small pieces as opposed to the typical 8 portions). Next, the aromatics:

Shallots, ginger, galangal, garlic, and chillies
Shallots, ginger, galangal, garlic, and chillies- all ready to be ground

I didn't take a picture of how they look like ground (sort of a speckled indistinguishable pulp) or of the curry paste I made by mixing curry powder my parents had brought from Singapore and some water. The next step was to marinate the chicken, which I think was key to the flavorful meat and robust richness of the curry:

Chicken marinating with curry paste and ground aromatics
Chicken marinating with curry paste and ground aromatics

The house really started to smell like my mom's kitchen when I then fried up the remaining curry paste and some bruised lemongrass. Adding the marinated chicken and coconut milk only heightened that to a whole other level. When people talk about sense memory, this is what they mean- when a smell can literally transport you to another place, and with that a whole host of associated memories- home, love, warmth, comfort...

Frying the curry paste with bruised lemongrass
Frying curry paste

In goes the marinated chicken
In goes the marinated chicken

With 3 cups of coconut milk
With 3 cups of coconut milk

In the end, it still wasn't quite my mom's curry, but it was about as close as I have ever gotten it- really flavorful, palate-coatingly rich, pungent, and deeply satisfying. Unlike the anaemic pre-mixed curry pastes we've used in the past, this curry had soul... Maybe it was just the fresh aromatics, or maybe because I was thinking of home a lot when cooking, but it was a definite Like Water for Chocolate moment when cooking and eating became jumbled up with a whole bunch of other emotions.

Dinner :)
Mom, you should be so proud of me :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Do you know the muffin Mama?

Nothing like a warm homemade muffin for breakfast

I've lamented before about how difficult it is for any of us to have a proper breakfast on weekdays (well, except for Sophie, who gets a nice breakfast at daycare every morning...)- cold cereal, toast, or some fruit is about as substantial as it gets for us on most days. On the weekends though, I try to do something special and today, it was vegan banana chocolate chip muffin. After baking Sophie her moist chocolate vegan birthday cake and sampling the various vegan baked goods we occasionally treat Sophie with (zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookie, etc), I'm now totally sold on how good they can taste when done right. And all the vegan recipes I've encountered so far have been so unfussy, easily put together with things we already have in our pantry, and with none of that sometimes anxiety-inducing creaming, folding, and beating that come with conventional baking recipes.

And so Friday night, armed with this well-reviewed recipe, I mixed up the batter for the muffins-- which literally took me 10 minutes (including mashing the bananas)-- and threw the muffins in the oven for 30 minutes. By 11.00pm, the whole house smelled like it was 7.00 in the morning at a bed & breakfast- warm, comforting, all banana-y and chocolatey, thanks to the delicious "I-swear-you-can't-tell-it's-vegan" dairy- and nut-free chocolate chips we got from Plum Market :) I let the dozen muffins cool overnight and it was just the most perfect thing for breakfast this morning (after lightly warming it up in the oven again).

And how much did Sophie enjoy the little surprise for breakfast? This much...

Muffin glee!

Oh, and after the one she had for breakfast, she clamored for another when she woke up from her nap for afternoon snack too :) "Chocolate cheeeeeeeeeeep!"

Do you need some Vitamin D today?

Here you go...


 And, you're welcome :)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Why you shouldn't take medical advice from a two-year-old

In an overzealous effort to kill a fly this evening, Jude snubbed his toe against our dining table. Badly. As he hobbled around the house in pain, our daughter dispensed this sound medical advice :

Jude: Dada has a boo-boo, Sophie.
Sophie: Maybe I give ice-pack?
Jude: Thank you, Sophie. But I think Dada's toe might be broken.
Sophie: I fix it. With the tape.
Me: No, Sophie. Dada is really hurt. He probably needs to go see a doctor.
Sophie: Then the doctor give you a lollipop, Dada.

Why shouldn't all medical emergencies be treated with duct tape and candy? :)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Things that make me ache for home

Missing out on moments like this.

A bowl of bak chor mee.

Long bus-rides around the island- going nowhere, seeing everything.


Friends who knew me when I had braces, permed hair, and/or bangs...

My inexplicable enthusiasm for Cook-a-Curry Day this Sunday, even if we are participating from afar.

Parkway Parade.


‎"The landscape you grow up in speaks to you in a way that nowhere else does." -Molly Parker

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

"I itchy, Mama..."

Afternoon tea party with Mama, Madeline, and Dolly

This is pretty much the scene at our house most evenings these days- Sophie holding a tea party with whichever toy and/or parent who happens to be closest by. It's all very elaborate, involving her brewing the tea/coffee, adding milk and sugar, stirring it with the teaspoon, standing in front of the fan so it'll be cool enough to drink, and then there's all the food- sausage, salami, cheese, crackers, carrots, a chicken leg (don't ask...).

This increased interest in food has actually been a really good opportunity for us to start talking to Sophie about her allergies and teaching her about the things she can and cannot eat. Especially now that she's actively asking for specific things to eat-- both from us and at school-- she needs to learn that there are some things that she can't have. In particular, she's been quite taken with a toy carton of milk from her Melissa & Doug toy food set. She knows it's "cow's milk" because there's a picture of a cow on it, and we've been teaching her that she can't have cow's milk.
Me: Sophie, can you drink cow's milk?
Sophie: No.
Me: What happens when Sophie drinks cow's milk?
Sophie: I get itchy.
Me: So what kind of milk does Sophie drink?
Sophie: Soy milk. I can drink the soy milk.

We got the results back from her last allergy test and it's not good news- both her milk and egg allergy indices have actually gone up and a particularly bad reaction to soy cheese-- I found out the hard way that even though it says it's soy cheese, there's often some kind of dairy by-product in these cheeses that Sophie clearly reacts against-- means that she's nowhere near outgrowing her sensitivity to dairy. We're teaching her to also not ask for egg or cheese which we think she knows; but what's harder are things that have egg/milk/cheese in them that she can't see. Like Goldfish crackers. Or certain baked goods. Her daycare is really good about keeping these foods away from her but it doesn't mean that accidents don't happen- more than once, she's touched the cream cheese on her friends' bagels just out of curiosity...

These days, I read food labels like a hawk and have learned to be sensitive to words like whey, casein, and any additive that starts with lact- which all suggest the presence of milk; when we eat out, my first instinct is to see how many items on the menu are vegan or dairy/egg-free; and when we cook at home, we try to avoid those foods altogether so that there's no need to make something separate for Sophie. Having a child with allergies is not stress-free by any means, but with some planning, and a lot of care, it thankfully hasn't been that stressful either...

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Shopping list

I go to the supermarket, Mama.
Yes, we did.

I buy some vegetables.
Yes, we did.

I buy some broccolis.
No, we didn't.

I buy some carrots, Mama.
Yes, we did.

I buy some fish.
Yes, we did.

I buy some bread.
Yes, we did.

I buy some strawberries.
No, we didn't.

I buy some salads.
No, we didn't.

I buy some Mama!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Happy 2nd Birthday, sweet girl!

Until I gather my wits about me after throwing a birthday party for a now two-year-old, whittling 218 photos to a manageable 55, and playing temporary single-mom as Jude attends a workshop in Colorado, a proper party recap post is going to have to wait. Till then, here's a series of my favorite photos from Sophie's party. It took her a while to realize that the cake was hers for real and that she was actually going to be blowing out proper (instead of imaginary) candles. Once she did though, you could not find a happier child anywhere in Ann Arbor... :)

Cake 1

Cake 2

Cake 3

cake 4

Cake 6

Cake 5

Friday, August 05, 2011

"Join us for a cherry picnic?"

Sunglasses from Grandma

How do you say No? :)

Monday, August 01, 2011

Another memory to bottle and remember for always

It took Sophie 45 minutes from the time I put her down in her crib to her actually falling asleep. It was like she had so much to tell me about her weekend as if I hadn't been around for any it...

Sophie: We went to the bookstore, Mama.
Me: Yes, we did, Sophie.
Sophie: The bookstore is open. We took the escalator. Like Courduroy.
Me: Yup, the bookstore was open. And we read many books.
Sophie: Shall we go to the bookstore, Mama? To see pigeon? (We had read Pigeon Wants a Puppy this morning when we were at Borders.)
Me: Would you like to go to the bookstore again tomorrow, Sophie?
Sophie: Yes. Maybe the bookstore open.
Me: I'm quite sure the bookstore will be open tomorrow.
Sophie: Sophie will be happy!

[Just as I thought she had fallen asleep...]
Sophie: Where is our car, Mama?
Me: It's in the parking lot, Sophie.
Sophie: Where is Sophie's carseat, Mama?
Me: It's in the car.
Sophie: Our car clean. We car wash.
Me: Yes, we took it to the car wash yesterday. Remember, we gave it a vacuum and a shampoo?
Sophie: Yah. It's not dirty anymore, Mama.
Me: No, it's not. It's...?
Sophie: It's clean. It's so clean. That's good, Mama.

I vaguely remember her saying something else about playing in the sandbox but by that time, I was starting to drift off to sleep. I think when she realized I wasn't responding anymore, she just turned around and went to sleep herself. I probably should just pretend I was sleeping right from the get go just so she would go to bed, but I was actually really enjoying our little tête-à-tête in the dark- the two of us lying on our backs- she in her crib, and I on the futon next to it, chit-chatting about everything, but really, nothing, like girlfriends having a mini pajama party :)

[Sophie rocking her fedora on our way out the house this morning.]