Blog Archive

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Baby Toa's Welcome Dinner

In honor of Kaitlin and Josh Hunt's new baby boy, I made a Samoan and Swedish dinner (mother and father's heritages, respectively).

Baby Toa was born on Friday, January 28 and he appears to be absolutely darling, just like his older siblings!

Kaitlin gave me the recipes for the Sapa Sui and Pani Popo several months ago but I'd never gotten around to making them before. Her recipe called for frozen veggies in the Sapa Sui, but our store didn't have any stir-fry mixes left (sold out because they were on sale) so I decided to use fresh mushrooms, bell pepper, and green beans. I don't really think of mushrooms as being a major part of Polynesian cooking, but they sounded good.

While cooking, I did some reading online about Polynesian food and it appears that these cultures eat a lot of canned foods (meats, vegetables), especially since World War II. Maybe next time I'll try using canned veggies for authenticity. At least I used canned meat! When I think of places like Hawaii I definitely think of stuff like Spam.

Below is the step-by-step for making Sapa Sui, a savory bean starch noodle/meat/vegetable dish served over white rice...and for a sweet coconut bread dessert. Both are really good! We will definitely be making both of these dishes again.

For the Swedish part of the meal, I decided to make meatballs, gravy, and mashed potatoes with a dollop of lignon berry preserves...just like I order at Ikea! I already had homemade meatballs in the freezer (they are super handy as a fast toddler meal), I used some beef base to make a quick milk gravy, and there was just enough lignon berry jam left in our jar. Next time we're at Ikea I need to make sure to buy another jar so we can have Swedish crepes when my parents visit (my dad's favorite breakfast).

Sapa Sui
  • 5.5oz package of bean thread (aka, glass noodles; look in the Asian food section)
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup or more frozen vegetables (or fresh or canned)
  • 1/2-3/4 cup soy sauce (to taste)
  • 1 can corned beef or 1.5 cups diced chicken cooked in oil and garlic
Boil noodles in salty water for 5 minutes. Cover and set aside for at least 20 minutes until noodles are softened. They will look like...well, glass! I'm sure these slippery noodles would be fun to use for a children's Halloween party--worm soup anyone?Saute onion in oil. If using fresh vegetables, cook at the same time. If using frozen veggies, steam or microwave them. Remove veggies from pan and set aside.

Cook meat in more oil until done (I used corned beef and it is already cooked but I diced it and browned the cubes for better flavor). Drain the noodles, return them to the pot, and use kitchen scissors to cut them into shorter lengths (just stick the scissors down in there and cut).

Add veggies, meat, and half of the soy sauce. Stir to combine. Taste and add more soy sauce if you like.

Serve over white rice.Pani Popo
  • 1 batch of dinner roll dough (canned, frozen, or from scratch--I made whole wheat dough with sugar to make them more dessert-friendly)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 9x13" pan
Prepare dough as directed. Before baking, mix milk and sugar together and pour over the rolls (it helps to have an adorable child on hand to help with the mixing). The might float because of the liquid, but don't worry because they will absorb some and a lot will cook off during baking.

Bake according to your recipe/product. My pan looks a little funky and I'm guessing I baked them too long so more of the moisture is gone, thus the line around the perimeter. No matter, they were scrumptious!Welcome to the world, Baby Toa! You came down from heaven to join a wonderful family!

Friday, January 28, 2011


I could watch these videos--especially Part II--all day, everyday.

I've always loved this stage of toddlerhood, when babies chatter on and on--no one but they know what their "words" mean. You can tell they are very sure of what they are saying. But now that my OWN toddler is a non-stop chatterbox, I'm more smitten with him than ever. And that's really saying something because I practically die every day from his adorableness.

Eddie Helps Mama Make Pani Popo Part I:

Eddie Helps Mama Make Pani Popo Part II:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A 17 Month Old's Tricks

About three weeks ago Eddie exploded with new words and actions. I didn't even see it coming--he just woke up one day able to point out huge numbers of objects and verbally identify them and, most adorably, started mimicking a lot of our actions. He can also understand most of what I say to him: "Eddie, can you get the newspaper for Mama?" and he trots off across the living room to pick up the paper.

Unfortunately, he's also recognized that the words "don't" and "no" usually mean he's in trouble and right after I say those words, he erupts into tears. Haha, poor kiddo.

I make an effort to avoid saying "Don't do that" or "No!" because I don't want him to get so used to it that he eventually ignores me. So I try to rephrase cautionary statements: "Eddie, please refrain from touching that. It is hot and you might get hurt" or "Hey buddy, why don't you go get that book for me? Let's not pet [read: hit] sister right now...I think she wants to be left alone."

Here are some of his tricks, new and old:
  • When we are eating and he sees that someone--anyone--has emptied their dish he points and says, "Mo? Mo!"
  • Whenever he sees a bowl of water (on the counter, a rain collector outside, the dog bowl) he points and says, "Waawaa!"
  • He can nearly-properly eat with a fork and spoon (but he's still a messy eater)...and he insists on using his own chop sticks (one in each hand) if we are eating with them. I think we'll get him a pair of those spring-loaded/finger-ring chop sticks before his second birthday.
  • We don't make a big deal of his many tumbles and falls, unless it is clear that he's REALLY hurt. Mostly we say things like, "Man down!" or "Crash boom!" He usually falls, springs right back up looking confused and then continues on his way. Only sometimes does he fuss and need a reassuring "you're fine..." from us. I'm continually surprised how many parents give me weird looks at the park or store when I don't fuss over him when he falls. Come on, people, he's not that far off the ground to begin with...
  • He climbs onto the toilet seat in our bathroom, gets my hairbrush out of the toiletries basket, and brushes his hair. If I am sitting down at his level he'll "brush" my hair, too. This is actually a pretty old trick of his.
  • When we ask him a question he actually stops to think about his answer before responding. It varies between "Nuh!" (no) and "Oh, yeah!" Although it is cutest when he's upset because his "nuh" and "yeah" are less enthusiastic and muddled with that shakiness your voice gets when you're about to cry. It is so, so, so cute to hear him say "yeeeee--ee--aaa--aahhh."
  • He insists on using his toothbrush whenever we are brushing our teeth, or whenever he sees his toothbrush. This past weekend we bought him a Thomas the Tank Engine power brush, hoping that it'd make brushing his molars easier for us--so far it is just entertaining to him--we still have to lay him down on the changing mat to get a good brushing session in.
  • He flushes the toilet in the hall bathroom constantly. Also, if you come to our house and use the bathroom, please note that the toilet paper is not on the holder anymore (it is in the cupboard behind the toilet) since someone has discovered how fun it is to unroll whole rolls by dragging the end around the entire house.
  • He tries to get dressed himself, although he doesn't quite understand the mechanics: he lays his pants onto his lap and wraps his shirts around his shoulder like a scarf. If you ask him to get his boots or shoes he brings them to you. The most adorable thing is when he puts on our shoes or slippers...ahhh! It makes him look so small!
  • His newest obsession is bubbles. We had bubbles this past summer, but he wasn't interested. Now that it is wintertime and harder to find bubbles at stores like Target, all he wants to do is "baaaa bulls." So far the best ones we found are the small bottles from the party favors section of Wal-Mart. Randomly throughout the day he'll exclaim, "baaaa bulls????" and run through the house collecting the four books of his that have pictures of bubbles in them, then opens them all up to the bubble-bearing page.
  • He is also slightly obsessed with kitty cats at the moment, although he's always loved kitties. It is in full swing right now. At daycare there's a gray kitty and apparently he chases her, yelling "moaw moaw!" Our neighbors have a small concrete cat statue in their front garden and, if let loose in our front yard, will run to their house to see that cat.
  • He can point to his nose and ears when prompted.
  • He can make the correct sounds for bee, cow, dog, cat, bird, bear, and crow.
  • He can almost say his friends' names: Leila and Jonah. For Leila he'll flip his tongue back and forth on his front teeth, imitating my enunciated pronunciation of her name; for Jonah he simply exclaims, "Juh!"
  • Every night when I lay him down in his crib I pull a blanket over him. We've always kept two blankets hung over the side, one for when he goes to sleep and the other one reserved to put over him later that night when I sometimes check on him before I got to bed (he plays in the crib and falls asleep scwunched up into a ball in the corner...I always fear that he's cold so I'll put the reserved blanket over him so I don't have to yank the first blanket out from under him). Recently he's begun pointing to the second blanket (dat!) and having me drape that one on him, too. Luckily he's not attached those two particular blankets--so far he has no "lovey"--I'm sure if I hung 12 blankets on the crib he'd insist that I layer all of them on top of him.
  • About two weeks ago he started telling us when he has a poopy diaper by pointing to his crotch and saying "ohhhhh, pooooo." His mouth turns into a perfect "o" shape when he says is adorable! As I discovered during his bath time, he's also able to tell me when he's about to go poo....thank goodness for Costco-sized containers of bleach....

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Eddie was a good boy during dinner, letting me eat all my food. He even ate some of his (we don't force him to eat and serve him what we are eating, unless it is overly spicy...he eats what he wants). So after he dishes were done I asked him if he wanted some animal crackers. He said "Yeah!"

I asked him to say "please" and he did...Cassie must be working on him because he's never said it for me. I gave him 4 crackers because he insists on having two for each hand. I asked him to say "thank you." He knows how to say it, in fact it was one of his first five words ("tee you").

He looked at me, then the jar. Then back at me. Then back at the jar...he was planning his next move. Then he carefully transfered all the crackers to one hand, pointed to the jar and yelled, "DAT!!!" (meaning "that").

I guess we need to work on our manners a little...

Monday, January 24, 2011

Celebratory French Dinner

To celebrate the birth of Batiste, I decided to make something French for dinner. I didn't have time to make it on Saturday night (his actual birth day) so I did it the following night.

Flipping through Julia Child's book, I settled on trying a cheese soufflé (I can't believe I've never made a souffle before!). It turned out really well, even though I totally forgot to mix in the CHEESE! I dusted the dish with cheese and sprinkled some on top before popping it into the oven so it was still a little cheesy, despite my major mistake. The dish I used was too small, even using Julia Child's guidelines...oh well. I think the whole point of a soufflé is that it puff up...and puff up it did! Next time I'll use a bigger dish and hopefully it will look a lot better.

We also made a warm Brussels sprouts salad, using a copy cat recipe from Project Foodie for Pizza Antica's delicious dish. This salad turned Dave from an adamant sprouts-loather to a sprouts lover and we both looked forward to wintertime during college when this dish was on the menu. It is so, so good. So even though this isn't by any means French, it did go well with the not-so-cheesy soufflé. We had to stop ourselves from eating the whole batch--2 full pounds of sprouts.

For dessert we had crème brûlée. Nothing fancy since I make this all the time. Mmmm, mmmm good.

Welcome to the world, Batiste!

(As a side note, since my friends seem to be birthing babies left and right these days I think I'll make this a tradition--celebrating their births by making a meal tailored to their heritage. I wish I had thought to make something Filipino when Zennie was born last year, but at the time I only made a rosemary wild rice pilaf since Rosemary is not only her middle name but is a Mediterranean herb and the Bowers are Italian). Phooey. I'll look up some Filopino dishes and see what sounds good so I can make something to celebrate her first birthday.

Our friends Brian and Sarah will welcome a baby boy mid February...she's half Chinese so I will figure out something fun to make--hopefully a new dish. My officemate will welcome a daughter at the end of February--he's Mexican and his wife was born in Hawaii. Then John and Jessica will have twins--twins!--in April; she's from Georgia and he's from New York and I'm sure I will have fun making a Yankee/Rebel meal.)

Digital Romance

Dave's random acts of romance and kindness always make me smile. It really IS the small things in life that keep me going. I love finding hidden love notes on PostIts stuck on my bedside lamp shade, a can of root beer he smuggled from his parents' soda fridge in Gualala, random "hi love, hope you're having a good day at work!" text messages, and the like.

Here's a little token of digital love:How romantic...and nerdy at the same time.

I love you Davie! Thanks for making my day, Lover.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Introducing Batiste Gaudilliere!

Dyani and Brice had heir baby boy this morning in San Francisco. His name is Batiste Dale Max and he's darling! He already looks a lot like his daddy.

I can't wait to meet this precious boy, my little "nephew."

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

1990s Middle-aged Man

All of Eddie's clothes are hand me downs from my youth pastor that served our church when I was in high school. This very generous woman has three boys. Every few months she tells me to have my mom come to her house to pick up a few bags of clothes that her youngest has out grown. Dave and I are NOT into fashion and would rather spend our time and money on fixing up he house so this constant supply of clothes has been such a blessing to us.

I don't care what Eddie wears, generally, but sometimes I just laugh at his outfits. Usually I dig through the selection to find stuff that sorta goes together--jeans and a t shirt or basketball pants and a plain shirt that doesn't clash. It should be noted that Dave simply grabs whatever is on top and throws it on--I have laughed a lot at the resulting combinations. One day I met the boys at the park on my way home from campus and Eddie was wearing stripped pants and a different color/pattern of stripped shirt. And I'm not talking about pinstripes or something subtle like that. No, no, there were the typical infant clothing style with BIG BOLD stripes so you could tell from really far away that his father dressed him. (I loooove you, Davie!)

This afternoon the sun finally came out but since it is windy and cold I put a sweater on Eddie before we headed into the yard to play after his nap. He climbed out of my lap after I swestered him and he pulled down the basket full of still-too-big shoes. There was a pair of white athletic shoes in size 6 and he wanted me to put those "shoos" on him. So I did.

...And now he looks like a middle-aged man circa 1995.

Like Ned Flanders without he mustache and glasses. Like any 35 year ol' dad at a Saturday kid soccer tournament back when I was in middle school.

It is the combination of tapered jeans, white athletic shoes, brightly colored sweater, and shortish hair. Modest, clean-shaven, and bland...that seemed to define suburban men during my childhood.

But isn't he just so cute???

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Google Maps of Our House

I sometimes check to see if the Google Maps image of our house has changed. Recently I saw the Google Maps guy riding a bike around the UCD campus taking street view pictures...and it reminded me to check out our house. While our street view image hasn't changed since the summer of 2007, the "satellite" picture has at least three times. (They aren't really satellite pictures in Google Maps, apparently they are taken by airplane by an outside company and then sold to Google.)

I'm able to date the pictures based on the season and what projects have/haven't happened yet (after checking my blog posts to find the exact dates of those projects!). You can click on the image below to see the annotations I added under each picture.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Master To Do List: Revisited

A while ago I posted a "big" to do list of major things that need to be done in my life.

Here's my progress so far:
  • Get a mortgage modification or refinance to a lower rate
  • Get a second opinion about my cardiac episode
  • Reapply for life insurance
  • Get Dave to go to the dentist
  • Find a nanny or day care for Eddie before the end of December 2009
  • Get Eddie a passport (we're going to France in April!)

  • Get Dave to go to the eye doctor
  • Formalize a hypothesis for my graduate research and come up with a formal plan for finishing said research
  • Take my qualifying exam
  • Finish graduate school by the end of winter quarter 2012
I'm starting to feel ready to start thinking about planning my quals...we'll see. My program (or any program I've heard of here at UCD) doesn't require students to do a public defense of their dissertation in order to be awarded the Ph.D. (leading people like my dad to argue that it isn't a "real" Ph.D. in that case...whatever!).

So since the oral qualifying exam is the only tortuous rite of passage for us graduate students, we all dread it. People worry themselves sick and usually end up studying WAY too much. There's a professor in my department that recommends the 6-6-6 rule for preparation: no more than 6 hours a day, 6 days a week, for 6 weeks before the exam. Any more than that and you'll start to forget everything.

My prof treats the exam as a simple technicality--he doesn't understand why students get so worked up about it. Not having taken it yet (gulp) I can't argue with him. Every time one of our labmates starts freaking out about their exam he says, "it isn't that big a deal." I'm glad to hear him say that because other professors probably think the same thing. To them it is just another meeting and commitment they have to cram into their busy schedules.

Anyway, since no one is pushing me to get it done, I'm not going to worry much about it right now. I'd rather have some data to present at my exam instead of just my proposal.

Other things I need to add to this "big" list are:
  • Shop around for a new local bank--I'm not happy with BofA for reasons that are specific to living in Davis, but we want to make sure to get the same "perks" at whatever new bank we go to (free checks and safe deposit box, to name a few). And we're hoping for a $50-100 bonus when we sign up for an account.
  • Figure out what to do about my broken wedding ring. We got quotes from the local jeweler for completely remaking the ring (reusing the stones but not the metal) or just reworking the existing ring to suit my needs better. We're not sure how much--if any--money we want to commit to this right now...but since we don't know for sure what our financial situation will be in say, 10 years, we aren't comfortable tossing the ring in the safe deposit box and doing it later. In 10 years we could have more kids and therefore more expenses--health insurance, college savings, preschool and daycare tuition, etc. really add up.
  • Find a new tenant. Arek moved out and we've had some temporary folks in there since then. I've offered to a new post doc who is coming from Brazil but he's not sure he wants to live with a family (I don't blame him!).
  • Go to the eye doctor.
  • Make a "real" budget for groceries and other consumables and STICK TO IT.
  • Become a Master Food Preserver through the UC Extension system

Monday, January 10, 2011

Wheeeeeeeeeere's Eddie?

Most of our cabinets and kitchen drawers have child locks on them...but some don't. We let Eddie play in the ones that are either empty or full of safe things (like our cloth lunch pails, pan lids, and extra drinks). Recently, he discovered the fun of emptying one particular cupboard, crawling all the way inside, and closing the door on himself. It is so so so funny to hear him giggle with delight when you prompt him by saying "Wheeeeeeeeere's Eddie? There he is!!"

Where's Eddie? Can you tell which cupboard this is? Notice all the drinks spread out on the floor.

(Giggle giggle)
*Thump thump*
There he is!
I know I shouldn't condone his curiosity of small, enclosed spaces because he could potentially crawl into a refrigerator or big ice chest, but this is just too cute.

(On a side note, I personally think those person-sized ice chests--the big, big three-foot-long ones that tail gating sports enthusiasts and hunters use--shouldn't exist at all. I've seen too many news shows about toddlers crawling inside them and suffocating because they can't open the lid.)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Feels Like a Thursday

No matter what happens during the work week, it always "feels" like a Thursday on the day Dave comes back to Davis. Sometimes he has to work on Fridays and so he comes on Friday night (as is the case this week). I keep seeing these "TGIF" posts on Facebook and I keep thinking, "Wait, isn't it only Thursday?"

Every Thursday goes by really, really slowly for me since I can't wait to see my lover at the end of the night. In that respect, I'm lucky today because my schedule has been jam-packed with meetings, instrument work, and seminar so it is actually going by pretty quickly. And it'll probably go by fast once Eddie and I are home because I want to cook up a Chinese food dinner I've had in the works for the last two nights but never had time to finish (chow mein, pork fried rice, and sweet-and-sour pineapple chicken) AND I want to clean so Dave has a nice clean house to come home to.

Back to work!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

11 Step Program for Those Thinking of Having Kids

A few of my friends have posted a link to this funny post about having kids (written by someone named Amy Lawrence). I thought I'd post it here for everyone to enjoy. I nearly chocked on my sandwich when I got to numbers 7 and 8.


Lesson 1

1. Go to the grocery store.

2. Arrange to have your salary paid directly to their head office.

3. Go home.

4. Pick up the paper.

5. Read it for the last time.

Lesson 2

Before you finally go ahead and have children, find a couple who already are parents and berate them about their...

1. Methods of discipline.

2. Lack of patience.

3. Appallingly low tolerance levels.

4. Allowing their children to run wild.

5. Suggest ways in which they might improve their child's breastfeeding, sleep habits, toilet training, table manners, and overall behavior.

Enjoy it because it will be the last time in your life you will have all the answers.

Lesson 3

A really good way to discover how the nights might feel...

1. Get home from work and immediately begin walking around the living room from 5PM to 10PM carrying a wet bag weighing approximately 8-12 pounds, with a radio turned to static (or some other obnoxious sound) playing loudly. (Eat cold food with one hand for dinner)

2. At 10PM, put the bag gently down, set the alarm for midnight, and go to sleep.

3. Get up at 12 and walk around the living room again, with the bag, until 1AM.

4. Set the alarm for 3AM.

5. As you can't get back to sleep, get up at 2AM and make a drink and watch an infomercial.

6. Go to bed at 2:45AM.

7. Get up at 3AM when the alarm goes off.

8. Sing songs quietly in the dark until 4AM.

9. Get up. Make breakfast. Get ready for work and go to work (work hard and be productive)

Repeat steps 1-9 each night. Keep this up for 3-5 years. Look cheerful and together.

Lesson 4

Can you stand the mess children make? T o find out...

1. Smear peanut butter onto the sofa and jam onto the curtains.

2. Hide a piece of raw chicken behind the stereo and leave it there all summer.

3. Stick your fingers in the flower bed.

4. Then rub them on the clean walls.

5. Take your favorite book, photo album, etc. Wreck it.

6. Spill milk on your new pillows. Cover the stains with crayons. How does that look?

Lesson 5

Dressing small children is not as easy as it seems.

1. Buy an octopus and a small bag made out of loose mesh.

2. Attempt to put the octopus into the bag so that none of the arms hang out.

Time allowed for this - all morning.

Lesson 6

Forget the BMW and buy a mini-van. And don't think that you can leave it out in the driveway spotless and shining. Family cars don't look like that.

1. Buy a chocolate ice cream cone and put it in the glove compartment.

Leave it there.

2. Get a dime. Stick it in the CD player.

3. Take a family size package of chocolate cookies. Mash them into the back seat. Sprinkle cheerios all over the floor, then smash them with your foot.

4. Run a garden rake along both sides of the car.

Lesson 7

Go to the local grocery store. Take with you the closest thing you can find to a pre-school child. (A full-grown goat is an excellent choice). If you intend to have more than one child, then definitely take more than one goat. Buy your week's groceries without letting the goats out of your sight. Pay for everything the goat eats or destroys. Until you can easily accomplish this, do not even contemplate having children.

Lesson 8

1. Hollow out a melon.

2. Make a small hole in the side.

3. Suspend it from the ceiling and swing it from side to side.

4. Now get a bowl of soggy Cheerios and attempt to spoon them into the swaying melon by pretending to be an airplane.

5. Continue until half the Cheerios are gone.

6. Tip half into your lap. The other half, just throw up in the air.

You are now ready to feed a nine- month-old baby.

Lesson 9

Learn the names of every character from Sesame Street , Barney, Disney, the Teletubbies, and Pokemon. Watch nothing else on TV but PBS, the Disney channel or Noggin for at least five years. (I know, you're thinking What's 'Noggin'?) Exactly the point.

Lesson 10

Make a recording of Fran Drescher saying 'mommy' repeatedly. (Important: no more than a four second delay between each 'mommy'; occasional crescendo to the level of a supersonic jet is required). Play this tape in your car everywhere you go for the next four years. You are now ready to take a long trip with a toddler.

Lesson 11

Start talking to an adult of your choice. Have someone else continually tug on your skirt hem, shirt- sleeve, or elbow while playing the 'mommy' tape made from Lesson 10 above. You are now ready to have a conversation with an adult while there is a child in the room.

This is all very tongue in cheek; anyone who is parent will say 'it's all worth it!' Share it with your friends, both those who do and don't have kids. I guarantee they'll get a chuckle out of it. Remember, a sense of humor is one of the most important things you'll need when you become a parent!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Christmas 2010

This year I told Dave that I wanted a simple Christmas: to stay at our house and have a Christmas meal with my family here. Of course, it didn't turn out like that at all. I ended up inviting my dad's cousin when I heard that she and her daughter would be in Sacramento on Christmas Eve (they live Reno). But a few days before, she emailed me and said she'd also be bringing her grandsons and one of their friends. Our friends, John and Jessica, were invited when I heard that they'd be staying in town for the holiday instead of flying back East to their families'. And then my in-law's decided to come. So my simple holiday turned into a huge meal for like 15 people. But it was delicious, rewarding, relaxing, and totally worthwhile. I really enjoyed having everyone here with us.

Our mamas:Both Dave and my dad took the week prior to the holiday off of work so they could replace four more windows in our house (they did one of the bathrooms several weeks ago--this time they did the three bedrooms and then my dad and I did the kitchen window). My dad and I started cooking on Christmas mom was in charge of cleaning up the kitchen after our massive cooking marathons. Dave couldn't help much since he accidentally drove a screwdriver bit through the side of his finger with the power drill during one of the window installations (Edward took him to the ER but he didn't need to have stitches and the tendon looked okay...thank goodness!).

I wanted to make entirely new dishes for our holiday meal, just to try something different. Dave was confused and upset when I told him my plan. He insisted that I bake a ham and make mashed yams with pecans. So...I did. But I made sure to throw a few new side dishes in. I made saag paneer (an Indian spinach and cheese dish), Brussels sprouts in browned butter (not nearly as good as with browned I won't be making those again), and stuffed mushroom caps. We had left over mushrooms since I bought two Costco packs so we just sauteed them up in TONS of butter (like 2 sticks) until they were super brown, and then I dumped in about 1 liter of cheap Chardonnay. We called them Oh My God Mushrooms because they were absolutely divine. I wanted to make a new dessert but settled on crème brûlée because I didn't have time to figure out anything else. My father-in-law like it so much he ate two dishes of it!

Having so many people over to the house in cold weather meant that we needed to set up the patio furniture in the living room in order so seat everyone. I think it worked out well.After everyone left that night, we did Levie-Bower gifts in the living room. I got lots of good loot, mostly books, which is perfect. Eddie got more money for his education fund, yummy treats, a bucket of plastic conduit pieces of fittings from me and Dave (more on that later), and a set of building blocks from my mom. Dave, Edward, and I have really been enjoying those blocks! I never had any when I was little but always wanted some. =) Edward and I made a chapel:We did stockings on Monday after we got the house mostly back in order. In true Jane Levie fashion, our loot was stuffed into plastic grocery sacks. My mom is usually in charge of all the stocking stuffers; I felt bad that she never gets to be surprised by the contents of her own stocking since she buys everything herself so my dad and I went to the Asian market and got lots of treats for everyone. Most of the snacks were the same for each of us (Eddie included), like nori, rice crackers, strawberry Poky sticks, etc. But we made sure to get one person-specific treat each. My mom got mochi ice cream balls, Dave got Thai tea (for making Thai iced tea here at home), Edward got tom ka soup base, my dad got a jar of pickled ginger, I got some spicy-sweet peanut crackers, and well...Eddie just got extra Poky sticks since we knew he'd like those. The only thing my mom didn't get us was a can of smoked oysters. I now that sounds weird for a stocking present but we always ALWAYS get a can of those. I actually asked her if it was a mistake...she said she just didn't do it this year. She could tell we were all disappointed (I seriously look forward to getting my can...and Dave's since he doesn't really like them). Stockings without oysters is like Christmas without a just doesn't make sense.
That morning Dave and I decided that I should just go up to Gualala with him right then, rather than driving myself up there with Eddie later in the week. So we rushed to pack all our stuff (including left over food) into the van in time for Eddie's nap so he'd sleep on the drive. It was such a nice change of pace to drive up there with Dave instead of just me and Eddie. Ever since we were dating, we've used those car trips up and down the coast to reflect on our lives, make plans for travel and projects, and generally do what couples do together: dream out loud. I've missed that over the last two years of him working up there because we don't get to do that as much.

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

Do you think I'll stick to my resolutions if I publicly announce them on my blog? It's worth a shot, right?


First, this year has been a whirlwind of excitement, travel, home improvement projects, challenges, and a lesson that life never slows down. In fact, I think each passing year speeds up.

Excitement: watching Eddie grow up before our very eyes. It is fun to see each new milestone and bewildering to discover that Dave and I have a lot to learn from our little Eddie.

Travel: Eddie and I went to so many places this year and Dave came along on many of our trips (France, Reno, Iowa, Georgia, Long Beach, I'm sure there were others that I can't remember right now). I love traveling but traveling with a child is SO MUCH WORK. I miss being able to read a book and sip my Starbucks or even sleep on a plane without having to juggle a kid and all his stuff. Even with my mom's help on all those trips it is still a lot of work. Next year I plan on going to the Soils conference alone, without Eddie. It will be in San Antonio and I can't wait.

Home improvement projects: Dave and I get so much joy from our home. And not just from watching movies in our comfy living room or cooking food in our well appointed kitchen. We love fixing, improving, and modifying our home because it allows us to spend quality time together and fix, improve, and modify ourselves and our relationship while doing it. Most projects are done together and it is often the only "us" time we get during the weekends. New to our home this year are a chicken coop (and 4 birds), garden irrigation and raised beds, some windows, indoor panel doors...and probably more.

Challenges: In the last 12 months I've had to navigate the overwhelming world of being a working and mostly-single mother. I've also had to learn to care for other people's children in order to earn extra income during the week (and how to give myself a break and let one of the kids go because it just wasn't a good fit). We've learned how to share our home with a tenant and give up a whole room of our house for the year--along with that I've learned to adjust my standards of how my house is organized and maintained. Having a housemate (a male one at that) made me relax my ideals of cleanliness, noise, etc. Above all else, Dave and I continue to deal with the challenges of living apart for work reasons. It is becoming more and more clear that this situation isn't sustainable emotionally--financially it is the only way to go right now. Hopefully something will change soon.

Life never slows down! I keep hoping it will so I can stop to smell the roses, but I know it won't. (I actually DO stop to smell the roses and I'm surprised by how few of them actually smell good. That must be a metaphor for something.)

Okay, now on to my resolutions.

1. To stop using Dave's work situation (him in Gualala, me in Davis) as an excuse to hold me back from moving forward with my degree. I don't mean this in a bad way toward Dave at all. But I think a year of moping is enough--I need to buck up or back down. I'm not much for backing down (especially after this much work) so buck up time is here. I don't think anyone (except maybe my dad and brother...) would hold it against me if I chose to quit school so I could move up with Dave. Our situation puts a lot of pressure and responsibility on me. But since I'm pursuing my Ph. D. only for myself, I'd only be letting myself down. Dave supports me in every way a husband and friend can: emotionally, physically, financially. The synergy of our marriage is intense; even when he's not here he is supporting me and my wants/desires.

We took this picture of ourselves on December 15, 2005...just over five years ago. I'm happy to report that I love him way more today than I did back then.Anyway...back on track: I had a chronological list of things I thought I needed done in order to move forward: have Dave get settled in a job "down here," then have my heart procedure, then study for and take my oral qualifying exam (I was afraid that I'd set off the heart problem again with all the anxiety of that exam), finish my experimental research, and write my dissertation while applying for post doc positions or teaching jobs. Well, the first one hasn't happened and I can't sit around waiting forever so I decided that I just need to move forward with that list. Life's all about adaptation and resourcefulness, right?

We all choose our own paths in life, and for some reason I chose to let my husband be happy by quitting his terrible/awful/shitty corporate job to do something that fulfills him (working for/with his dad in his hometown, doing work that betters his community and will ultimately benefit our entire Bower family)...and since his daily happiness truly makes me happy, then I know I have the personal capacity to do the same for myself. We are all aware that no one else can make us happy, only we can make ourselves happy. I chose the path I'm on so I'd better suck it up and make it work. And I will be happy doing it, goshdarnit.

2. I will wean myself from keeping my hair up in a ponytail all the time. There are two things I ALWAYS had with me up until about six months ago: chapstick and a hairband. Always. Meaning that if I forgot one of those things and was too far from my dorm room or house to go get it, I'd stop at a store and buy one. Eddie is obsessed with my chapstick tubes--he likes to gnaw on the rough plastic on the twist-up end--and since he was always taking them from my pockets and key chain and losing them I was forcibly weaned from using chapstick all the time.

This past week I have been forcing myself to keep my hair down and get used to the way my hair feels on my neck. I usually having a band on my wrist for dangerous situations: cooking over an open flame, dealing with chemicals in the lab, etc.

Why bother? Well, what's the point of having longish hair if I'm only going to keep it up? It looks nicer down.

3. I will make a conscious effort to have fewer "Jane" moments and more "Avis" moments. If you don't know what that means, don't worry about it.

This is my Grandma Avis: I should probably have a resolution about motherhood on here, but numbers 1 and 3 will definitely benefit Eddie for the rest of his life (assuming I follow through).

Steel Drum Band

While up in Gualala last week, Peggy pulled out all her stainless steel nesting bowls and played them like drums with Eddie. He had SUCH a good time doing it. She did, much so that she'd suggest doing it about twice a day.

Family Photo Proof Sheet

My dad emailed me the proof sheet of some of the photos he took this past weekend. He, of course, thinks they are all terrible...but despite the shadows behind my brother's head, I think the top left one could be nice to hang on the wall after a little cropping. Except that I hate the way I'm sitting in that photo (my thighs look huge) and you can tell I was having to "wrangle" Eddie to stay still in my lap.

The top right photo is pretty representative of our family: Eddie is busy concentrating on other things and my dad looks like a ghost against the dark background. (In his defense he was pretty sick that day so he wasn't really "there" fully anyway.)

Check out the bottom right photo. It is double exposed (meaning that my dad accidentally took two pictures on the same sheet of film). Eddie and I totally changed positions between the two takes...but the most striking thing is that my dad is in almost the exact same place, twice. He had to walk away from us to cock the shutter between the photos, yet he resumed the same pose, location, AND facial expression for each picture! Crazy, right? Well, not to me. There's that saying, "you can't teach an old dog new tricks..." Let's just say that applies here.

Eddie is always looking someplace other than the camera because we would quickly point to something for him to look at, or throw keys or a cell phone onto the carpet near the camera to catch his attention. My dad used an airbulb thing in his hand attached to the camera via a long tube to take the picture--so there was no person behind the camera to catch Eddie's attention for us.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Barfy Bumkin

Poor Eddie puked all over me while we were in my parents' living room doing a family photo (Edward, my parents, and us three Bowers). It isn't often that we are all in Livermore at the same time so my dad decided we should do a family photo. My dad still has a cough and wasn't feeling well but we pushed through. After about 5 or 6 frames Eddie barfed. So that wrapped up the shoot!

Poor kid...I knew he was a little 'off' today: no poop when he woke up, not interested in eating much, took a short nap, was super clingy. We were planning on staying another night in Livermore, but Dave wanted to head home so he could have a little time in his own house (poor Dave, he's hardly ever here). Luckily Eddie didn't puke in the car. While Dave was out picking up a pizza for dinner Eddie did upchuck again. I phoned Dave so he could swing by CVS for some kiddo electrolyte drink.

Eddie was SO excited to see that pizza! He ate almost a whole slice of pizza and a bunch of olives we picked off our slices for him, and drank a bunch of the electrolyte stuff.

As I was dressing him in his jammies for bed just now, I told him I am sorry he is sick, that I hope he's all better, but that if he's not it is okay and we will just take it easy tomorrow. I remember when I was little having a tummy ache and seriously thinking that I must have done something wrong to deserve it...that God was punishing me. I HATE having an upset stomach. Ug.

I'm super tired since I didn't sleep well last night ( Dave and I slept on air mattresses last night and they are only slightly better than sleeping on the floor) and I suspect I will have to get up in the middle of night to tend to my sick Eddie. Hopefully I will be able to fall asleep soon. My current book, called At Home by Bill Bryson, is so good that I tend to stay up too late reading it.

Oh, and Happy New Year...! :)