Blog Archive

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Worst Weekend Ever

Ug. This past weekend was the worst ever.  Dave was sick with a cold when he arrived at home so I spent all day Friday and most of Saturday preparing for Eddie's party all by myself.

My family was here and they shuttled Eddie off to Fair Oaks to swim in my uncle's pool so I could get last minute things done for the party.

I had rented the picnic area at the park next to our house, and good thing I did because another family was setting up a HUGE fiesta there.  Out of nowhere, I had to use what little Spanish I remembered in order to get them to move out (and I showed them my permit, paid in full).

Eddie and crew arrived just in time for the party and from the start, Eddie was "off."  He wasn't as rambunctious as he usually is and I kept telling myself it was just that he was overwhelmed by the attention and all the kids running around (we were having a pirate themed party, complete with dress up garb and inflatable swords and a treasure hunt).  After about an hour, he started to feel really lowsy but he wanted to open presents, so we suffered through all the other kids wanting to open his gifts.  I mostly let them since he didn't seem too interested in anything.

I decided to take him home when he told me he was "feeling shy" and wanted to go home to lie down--I knew he wasn't feeling good.  So he and I ditched the party and not a moment after I laid him on the couch did he barf.  Poor baby boy.  He did it a few more times throughout the rest of the evening, between boughts of guzzling (too much) water and sleeping.

Hoping it was physcosomatic, I started to feel a little queasy, too.  Unfortunately it was real and got really awful in the middle of the night (I'll spare you the details).  When I get nauseous and/or spike a fever, my body's response to the agony seems to be fainting.  And this time was no different.  I even have a bruise on my side to prove it.  Ug. UG, I said!
Clearly, this picture is upside down, but you can see the bruising from where I fell down onto the bathroom floor. Ouch.
Sunday was spent sleeping and watching Netflix in the living room.  Dave still had a cold but Eddie seemed fine.  Why do kids bounce back so fast from illness?  I'm jealous.

Monday was a bit better, but I still felt icky and super achy/tired.  I knew my back would feel better if I walked around and stood up a lot since lying down too long makes me ache like an 80 year old.  So I cleaned the house, did laundry and dishes, tended to Eddie in order to let Dave rest more to get over his cold, and we went on a walk in the afternoon with the dogs.  Bless their souls, they didn't get much attention all weekend, other than snuggling me on the bed and couch.

Complaining on Facebook last night set me straight: a nurse family friend pointed out that I probably needed potassium (I hadn't eaten much and didn't drink anything other than coke and water).  So Dave went to the store and got me the least nasty flavor of Pedialyte he could find.  Over ice, it was barely tolerable, but I guzzled it down and within 30 minutes I was feeling sooooooooooooooooo much better.  Boy, howdy.    

Eddie and I were back on our regular routine this morning, other than having bagels and OJ at Nugget market instead of a homemade breakfast.  I still couldn't handle cooking anything this morning.  Dave stayed home to get just a touch less boogery before going back to work tonight after dinner with us.

And now I'm feeling needlessly guilty about how horrible Eddie's birthday party weekend turned out.  It was the shittiest weekend (seriously) ever.  Ug.  I hated everything about it.  I didn't get to hardly even speak to my parents between the party and sickness, Eddie didn't get to have his friends sing happy birthday to him over the cupcakes Jennifer and I spent a couple of hours making (they were treasure boxes with gold coins and jewels and everything!), he didn't get to experience the joy of opening gifts at his first "big kid" party, we were all sick the whole freaking time.  UG.  Worst. Weekend. Ever.
Edward went to a warehouse in the south bay to buy those chocolate gold coins. I ate a cupcake on Saturday evening...and given what happened that night, I'm pretty sure I'll never be able to eat another chocolate cupcake ever again.  
Rumor has it that the stomach bug is all over one of the elementary schools in town (someone at Eddie's daycare goes there).  All of the teachers at daycare got sick and enough of the kids were ill that the daycare was closed on Monday.  And of course it was no one's fault we got sick when we did but I still feel tremendous guilt and sadness about Eddie's party.  I really want a do-over party for him so he can experience it the way it was supposed to happen (minus more presents).  Dave keeps pointing out that Eddie won't remember the party or the illness anyway, but that's not good enough for me: I want to make sure I do my best for my Eddie Pie.

Okay, I'm sure you've heard enough.  Once I get pictures of the party from my friend Kelly I'll write a proper post about the good things about the party (because, yes, there were all our friends who came!).  Until then...

PS. I love my washing machine and Lysol. And Pedialyte.

PPS. I'm forever grateful that Dave didn't get the stomach flu, too.  Soooooooooo grateful.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Overworked, Underpaid

This blog has been neglected because I've been working like crazy.  I'll do a proper update later, but here's what's happened over the last couple of weeks:

1. Two weeks ago I sent Eddie up to Gualala with Dave so I could work super long hours and get DONE with my isotope experiment. While I didn't get completely done (that's happening today), I did get loads done.

2. The following weekend the dogs and I fled 105F Davis for a few days in Gualala with the boys. We stayed in a small apartment of a rental house to lower the stress level on my MIL.  It was a nice retreat.

3. I learned that organizing/packing up a child to stay in a different house for a week with his Dadda is a lot of freaking work.  And unpacking them when they get back home is also a lot of work.  Especially when there was no laundry facility at the apartment so you have to pack up TONS of clothes and then wash it all afterward. Plus, I had to plan all their meals and pack all the required food.  Like, whoa.

4. Eddie turned THREE on the 13th. WHOA.  I can't believe I have a kid.  Especially a kid who is ranked at 9th percentile for BMI and gained only 3.6 pounds since last year. He seems to have inherited his Uncle Edward's body type (which is good news!).  We were in Gualala that day, so we got to celebrate with his Grammy and Papa and we dined on wild Gualala salmon and blue cake.
I put the fish head is in my freezer to make soup later.
Enjoying his third birthday cake in the same kitchen where his daddy and uncle celebrated theirs.
5. Due poor communication between Cassie and me, I didn't have childcare for Eddie on Friday so he came to work with me.  Between his desire to color/climb up and down the stairs/play in the fountains at the CoffeeHouse/visit with my labmates instead of letting me run samples, I was only able to run 1/3 of the samples I needed to. So around noon I gave up on doing real work that day and we went home. We had a great afternoon playing with the neighbors, making lots of zucchini bread, etc.  Oh, and I gave us pedicures.

6. We went to the Yolo County Fair last night, the last night for the year. We ate crappy food and went on some lame rides. But then we bumped into some friends and some of the lameness of the fair lifted a bit.
Super slide!
8. What used to be my favorite season of the year (summer) is now my least favorite. I hate that Dave has to work more than usual, cutting down on our family time. He's so tired after logging all day that we often don't text, gchat, or talk on the phone.

9. I'm only 1/3 of the way through my stint wearing a heart monitor 24/7. I already hate it--largely because it makes me look sick and I get all these sympathetic looks when I go out. (Thankfully, no one at work looks at me or treats me any differently.)  I also dislike it because it dictates what I can wear--only pants or shorts or skirts with rigid waistbands since it clips onto the waistband like a giant pager. So I haven't been able to wear sundresses or anything fun.  Plus, it makes it hard to sleep.

8. Two of my closest grad school friends are in the midst of writing their manuscripts/chapters for their dissertations. Their stress is rubbing off on me...I've started having dreams about the awful work that writing MY dissertation will be. Weight gain, weight loss, lack of sleep, grumpy moods, no time off for family time...all of these things are in my future and I'm soooooooooooo not looking forward to it.  There are no two ways about it: graduate school is hard. Working on something so detailed, so specific, on a self-regulated timeline is hard. The worst part of grad school is realizing that YOU brought all this work on YOURSELF so there's no one to blame but YOURSELF.  Ug.  But like a really difficult backpacking trip, the view from the top can never be beat and at the end you can say "yep, I did that all on my own." And with a PhD, you also get to stay "I added to the knowledge base of the world." And that's pretty cool.

And now I'm back to work...running samples, figuring out how to cut/integrate data in R, reprocessing my isotope data with the newly-acquired correct delta value. Eddie's birthday party is coming up and I have lots of preparing to do for it--food, goodie bags, decorating the cupcakes, etc.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For the Record: Edward Can Be Domestic

Last year I posted a picture of my brother, a self-proclaimed non-helper, pushing a stroller during downtown trick-or-treating.  I really posted it for my dad, who I knew would get a kick out of seeing his youngest doing something domestic or fatherly.  

Of course, there's no kid in that stroller, but it still gets the idea across.
He was dressed up as Sherlock Holmes but ditched his coat into the bottom of the stroller because it was too hot outside.
Edward and Jennifer now live in an apartment, which has no garden or washing machine.  So they go to Livermore to use both of those suburban amenities at my parents' house...often.  Like, every couple of weeks, if not more often.  

Jennifer sent me the following picture in an email this past weekend.
Good job, Edward.
At first I chuckled at the notion of Edward doing laundry.  And then I noticed what piece of clothing he was hanging up...ahem.  No wonder he didn't mind helping!

In all seriousness, Edward does a lot of domestic chores these days.  He just prefers that someone else do them instead (who doesn't, really?).  Since he works from home, he's the one who gets dinner prepared, so it's ready when Jennifer arrives in the evening.  I have no evidence of him ever cleaning a bathroom, though, but I bet it does happen on occasion.   

Edward usually prefers to "help" in his own way:
Edward is "helping" Eddie do the dishes... sitting on the chair to stabilize it.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Produce: Eggplant and Zucchini

Eddie and Dave have been gone this week, allowing me to work much longer hours in the lab than usual.  The goal is to power through the remaining samples for my thermal-isotope method so I can move on to the next method (which incidentally, I actually started fiddling with this morning).  

I had a hankering for some veggie-full meals this week since it is hothothot outside.  Plus, I'm childless, so I am free to make what I want to eat without regard for what a little person might prefer.  I don't normally tailor our meals around Eddie's preferences, but if he had been here I would have also made some sort of grain/carbohydrate side because I know  he'd never eat a bowl full of 100% veggies.  

A few weeks ago in Livermore, my dad made a huge batch of ratatouille.  He made this a lot when we were kids and I remember not liking it until I was in middle school.  His version isn't the traditional layered style, but it is easy and so tasty.

As I was chopping up all the veggies (well, fruits, really), I realized I had maybe overestimated how much I could actually consume by myself in a week.  Especially since I didn't want to eat it three times a day.
Eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, onion, and garlic.
First I decided to make the whole batch and freeze half for later.  Then I decided to add some seasonings to half and then freeze it for later.  "Mmmm, Indian seasonings would be good.  Maybe just a dash of garam masala and some cumin seeds in with the sauteing onions?  Oh, and some fresh ginger. And maybe a splash of tomato sauce or yogurt to make it more soupy to soak into rice or naan."  Wait...that's pretty close to that one Indian Brinjal recipe I made last year from

So I finally decided to make ratatouille and brinjal.
Oh man, the kitchen smelled amazing!
Here are the recipes in case you find yourself inundated with produce and want an hour in the kitchen to yield some delicious, freezer-friendly meals.  Both are gluten and dairy free (and vegan/vegetarian).  I think in each recipe, you can use any combination of eggplant and zucchini for the combined quantities stated (for example, I had tons of zucchini in my garden and hadn't bought enough eggplant so I used a lot more zucchini in each recipe to make up for the eggplant deficit).

Daddy's Easy Ratatouille with Olives
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bell peppers, julienned or chopped
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 6 cups), prepared as below
  • 3 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 6 medium tomatoes (about 3 cups), peeled/seeded/chopped (I just chop because I'm lazy)
  • 1 can black olives, cut in half
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Good olive oil for finishing
  1. Peel and cube the eggplant. Put into a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt (be generous).  Let sit while you prepare all other ingredients.  
  2. In a deep casserole or pan over medium heat, saute onions until golden in 2 T olive oil. 
  3. Rinse eggplant under cold water.  (Optional: spread eggplant cubes on a dishtowel and roll it up to remove extra moisture).  
  4. Add garlic to pot and stir for only 30 seconds to prevent scorching.  
  5. Stir in all other vegetables. 
  6. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring on occasion.  
  7. Season with salt and pepper and drizzle with a good, flavorful olive oil  before serving (cold or warm).  
Indian Brinjal
Based on Exotic Brinjal (Spicy Eggplant) from
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 bell peppers, julienned or chopped
  • 2 medium eggplants (about 6 cups), prepared as below
  • 3 cups zucchini, chopped
  • 6 T olive oil
  • 1.5 t cumin seeds
  • 1 t fenugreek seeds, crushed
  • 1 t nigella seeds
  • 1 t sesame seeds
  • 3 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 onions, minced
  • 2 hot peppers (optional; seeds and membranes removed if you don't want it too hot)
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce (pasta sauce is fine)
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 1 t coriander powder
  • 1 t turmeric powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 cup coconut milk (or the whole can if you want it more soupy)
  • 1 T cilantro leaves for garnish (optional)
  1. Peel and cube the eggplant. Put into a colander in the sink and sprinkle with salt (be generous).  Let sit while you prepare all other ingredients.
  2. Heat the 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet, and fry eggplant pieces until golden, about 5 minutes. Remove the eggplant from the skillet and set aside; wipe out the skillet with a paper towel.
  3. Heat the 6 tablespoons oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Stir in the cumin, fenugreek, kalonji, and sesame seeds, and cook until the cumin turns golden, about 2 minutes. 
  4. Reduce the heat; stir in the ginger and garlic, and cook for a few seconds. 
  5. Stir in the onions and green chile pepper, and continue to cook and stir until the onion is golden, about 10 minutes.
  6. Stir the tomato puree, chili powder, coriander, turmeric, and salt into the onions. Cook and stir over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until the oil separates. 
  7. Rinse eggplant under cold water.  (Optional: spread eggplant cubes on a dishtowel and roll it up to remove extra moisture).  
  8. Stir in the cooked eggplant; cover and simmer until eggplant is tender, about 5 minutes. 
  9. Pour in the coconut milk; stir until blended and heated through. 
  10. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Serve with rice or naan.
I've eaten all the ratatouille so far but I hid the brinjal away in the deep freeze so Dave and I can eat it together (he loves Indian food).  I ate my ratatouille with buttered sourdough.

As an aside, I bought an Indian spice kit on Amazon last year so I could try lots of recipes without having to run to the store constantly for a small amount of some random seasoning.  I like this one because it has at least a teaspoon of each spice--enough to try a recipe once, at least, so it gives you enough to decide if you will want to buy a whole bottle of something like fenugreek or amchur powder (HECK YES).

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Quote It

You know when your child draws something and you put his name in the corner along with the date?  Well, Cassie started quoting what her students have to say about their artwork, rather than just writing their names and the date.

Dave and I LOVE this for a few reasons:

1. We get to know the story of a picture in Eddie's words.  This is major entertainment for us sometimes.
2. We will have that story forever, not just as long as one of us remembers it.
3. It requires Eddie to practice articulating his thoughts before saying them, knowing that someone is waiting with a pen to transcribe those thoughts for him (we do this at home now, too, and it is fascinating to watch a near 3 year old pause and think and then firmly state something instead of his usual blurt-out-rapid-fire style).
4. We will be able to remember what developmental stage Eddie was at on a given date without having to just calculate his age. Of course, we can partly determine this from the quality of the picture, but his motor skills aren't nearly on par with his verbal and cognitive skills.

Here's an example from a few days after returning from Gualala.

He did, in fact, get to hold a frog some other kid caught in the river.  It won't be long before he's catching his own frogs...and lizards...and snakes...and who knows what else. Wowza, kiddos grow up too fast!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Cranberry Rhubarb Mustard

For the first 28 years of my life I didn't like mustard or pickles as condiments, only as ingredients in other things (say, in salad dressings).  I don't know exactly what changed, but I now love them both in any format.  I've finally realized that life is so much more delicious and interesting with an abundance of condiments.

I've made my own pickles before and so of course mustard was next on the list.  As with most recipes, there are oddles of variations--you can make it with vinegar only or with any number of alcoholic treats splashed in (bourbon, beer, wine).  Knowing I wanted to make some soonish, I raided the bulk bins of brown and regular mustard seeds at the co-op a month ago.  I knew Jennifer would be interested in making/canning our own mustard so I brought everything with me to Livermore, where our family descended a few weekends ago.  (We also made candied hot peppers and enough plum jam to last a lifetime.)

I lurked Pinterest for some fruit mustard recipes and found some promising rhubarb and cranberry varieties.  Having both "fruits" already I decided those two combined would be worth trying (rhubarb is a vegetable but it was growing in the front yard and I had a bag of cranberries in the freezer from Thanksgiving).  We used these two recipes (here and here) as a guideline for our concoction.

So this post won't really contain a recipe, just some helpful tidbits about making fruit mustard.

First: when the recipes call for "grinding" the mustard seeds, you should take that literally.  I tried using a food processor (for like, 10 minutes straight) but the seeds are so small and smooth that they whirl around instead of making any contact with the blade.  So be smart and use a mortar and pestle or a flour grinder, which is what we ended up doing.
10 minutes like this...
...led to this: pretty much all the seeds remained whole.
So my dad brought out his handy dandy flour grinder attachment for the KitchenAid.
I've used this to grind fresh flour for making bread and it is the slowest flour grinder ever.
But for a small quantity of seeds, it was perfect.
Second: cooking mustard powder in vinegar really does reduce the "heat" of the mustard.  If it's like horseradish root, it's because there is an enzyme that is deactivated with the addition of vinegar.  We wanted our mustard hot so we didn't simmer the mustard in the vinegar for more than about 2 minutes, just long enough to thoroughly heat the fruit + ground mustard + vinegar before filling our jars.

Third: the optional splash of sweet wine really makes these fruit mustards taste amazing.  We tasted it and kept adding a bit more until there was a good balance of sweetness and "mustardness."
Ingredients: 4 cups of fruit (chopped rhubarb and cranberries), 1.5 cups yellow mustard seeds,
1 cup brown mustard seeds,  3.5 cups cider vinegar.  Not shown: 1 cup brown sugar
(it added a caramelized flavor that would have been there from fenugreek; you could use maple syrup
in place of the sugar if you want that maple flavor).
We saved 1/4 of each of the seeds before grinding so we'd have lots of whole "grains" in the final sauce.
My dad bought this cheap bottle of marsala at Trader Joe's and it was pretty tasty.
We used about 0.5 cups.
This is what it looked like just before canning.  The lovely redness did diminish a bit during the 15 minute water bath process.  But taste is more important than appearances.

We canned it outside on this janky canning stove my grandpa built years and years ago.
It runs on a 220v circuit so it gets hot fast.  
The flavor is a nice combination of spicy mustard and tangy fruit.  I can't wait to try it on a roasted pork sandwich with slaw and crunchy pickles.  Mmmmmm!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Princess Eddie

Eddie plays dress up a lot at daycare.  Last week he was really into dressing up in Leila's princess costumes.  While I was in a programming workshop, I got an email from Cassie full of pictures of Princess Eddie, dressed in a Belle costume.  Of course I immediately forwarded it to my dad, Dave, and Edward.  When I picked Eddie up from daycare that evening he was still wearing the dress...and had added heels!

Oh!  These pictures are so stinking cute.  I love this kid!
That hand on the hip totally makes the picture.
He's one content little man in that frock. But shouldn't he have the Cinderella
dress on since he's slaving away with a bucket?
And imagine the blackmail power they'll have over a 14 year old Eddie?  Muahahahaha!

He manages surprisingly well in those heels!
Since I couldn't get him out of the costume to go home, Cassie "let" us borrow it for the night, if we agreed to launder it.  I figured that was more than fair, considering Eddie and Leila were making mud soup when I arrived.
Stereotypes be damned. I love the innocence of childhood--where you preferences are real, not yet tainted by social pressures. 
The next morning he wore the clean costume to the store and then on to daycare.  No one in the store even batted an eye at a little boy wearing a dress.  Well, that's Davis for you!'s hard to ride in the bike trailer with a dress on, Waddo!