Monday, January 31, 2011

HAPPY 2nd BIRTHDAY, Monkey Baby!

My girl. She's 2.

Last year we threw a party for her, but not really. We threw it for us. We wanted to celebrate her before she really had the capacity to celebrate herself. It was great - our friends came, we ate cake, E loved playing with her gifts, and I've almost blocked out the sugar-induced tantrum at bedtime.

This year I can honestly say that this one's for her. Last year I was obsessed with what food to serve and if there would be enough chairs and getting all of the decorations in place. But all I could think about last night was her face when she woke up this morning. Would she know already? Would I have to remind her? Would she ask to open presents or eat cupcakes first? I haven't really spent much time on putting together a fancy do, because I know that she could care less about that. She wants cupcakes and balloons. She wants to share her cupcakes with her friends. She wants to open the presents that she's been moving around the apartment all week. And she's going to get all of that.

I did some cleaning, I did quite a bit of cupcake-making, and a little wrapping. But mostly I spent my time working myself into a birthday tizzy alongside my little monkeypants. And today I'm just enjoying. It's a full day, with Anabelle to look after, a playdate to take up our morning, yoga in the afternoon and a party tonight, but I'm going to go about it with one agenda: fun. Because that, my friends, is what it's all about.

Happy, Happy Birthday to my precious girl. Life is sweeter with you in it. And not just because I have frosting on my fingers.


An early morning wake-up from Da-da before he left for work:

Birthday kisses from Ralph:

Some pre-breakfast present opening:


Birthday playdate!

Don't go, Gramma!

We found out a few days ago that Gramma Leslie was coming into town for work. Just in time for E's birthday! When the buzzer rang, she stood patiently in the living room, waiting for Gramma to get upstairs. She was very quiet, but I could see the anticipation bursting from the ends of her newly-coiffed hair. When she made it upstairs, E yelled "Welcome to E's house, Gramma!" and gave her one of her trademark running hugs. We had a delicious dinner from a new place we've been meaning to try, some really great wine that we got for a steal, and when it was time for bed, Elle had only one request. Gramma, don't go!

100 Blocks

E is super excited for her birthday, which is - strictly speaking - not for another 32 hours and 4 minutes, but which will begin in earnest somewhere around 6:50 tomorrow morning when she opens her sleepy eyes and realizes that the moment she's been waiting for for weeks has finally come. Time to open presents!!!

Today I caught her staring out the window saying "100 blocks away! It's 100 blocks away!" When I asked her what was 100 blocks away, she responded "E's birthday!"

100 blocks seems like an awfully long way, much longer than 1 sleep.

"It's 14 blocks away! It's 6 blocks away!"

Of course, the way she counts, I should probably get a move on with these cupcakes.

E's first haircut!

We wanted it to be special. Partly because we're sentimental people and we like to make a big deal out of things when we can. And partly because we're cheap and this kind of thing isn't going to happen on a regular basis. We managed to go 1 year and 363 days without taking our daughter to a hair salon, and what better time to do it than for her birthday? Every girl wants to be pampered and look smashing on her birthday, right?

The last time mom went to get her hair cut, we made a big deal about how much fun it was, hinting to E that she might get to do it too someday. She remembered. Weeks later she was still saying "Nice hair, mama!" She's very thoughtful that way.

So when we told her that she was getting her hair done for her birthday, at the same place where she goes for her beloved Jitterbugs class...well, she was enthusiastic.

She tossed back the last of her raisins and posed for a quick pre-cut photo with mom.

Then she greeted her hairdresser with a somewhat subdued "Hi Margret!" She's always a little shy with newbies at first, but once Margret pulled out the Elmo DVD, the fishy smock and the Sesame Street remote control, E was smitten.

Toss in a clippy, a balloon and a lollipop (way to go hard to the hoop there, Margret) and it was just about the most fun experience ever.

And what do you do with your new and improved adorable toddler to celebrate a successful first salon visit? Why, you go to lunch! In our case, we went to our usual spot for family breakfast, and soaked up loads of attention from anyone who happened to look in our direction.

Man, I love this kid.

Super indeed.

This is, without question, the best bread that J or I have ever tasted. Ever. Sorry mom - I do love your homemade bread. Sorry Paris - your baguettes are mouth watering. But this little plastic wrapped miracle out of New Jersey just takes things to a whole new level. It's impossibly moist, wonderfully nutty, and just a little bit sweet. Why, it's the best thing since...oh, forget it. It's too easy.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Birthday Countdown

In 5 days my little girl will be 2. That means that 2 years ago I was sitting at home in Toronto, halfway through my official 10-day countdown, making half-hearted plans to watch the Superbowl that I would ultimately miss in favour of doing something just about as noisy but far more painful...depending on who you were cheering for, I suppose.

She totally gets it this year. Last year she appreciated it, she enjoyed it, but she didn't really get it. This year she has been asking about her birthday for weeks, since I first brought it up. She keeps asking where her birthday cake is, and if she would settle on a flavour it would really make my life a lot easier. We've gone from strawberry to chocolate to vanilla, and tonight it was back to chocolate, with the stipulation that Dada (whose birthday is later in the month) has a strawberry cake. How's that for covering your bases? She knows that it's different from Christmas in that she will be the only one to get presents. She knows that right now she is 1, but in 5 days (or 5 minutes, when she's feeling impatient) she will be 2. Sometimes she'll try to trick you by claiming she will be 4, or even 5, but upon further questioning she will issue a loud guffaw and say Noooooooo! in that tone of voice that says "Geez, and you guys are supposed to be the smart ones."

And she knows what this is:

It's a gift from Gramma Barby and Papa Ger, and for some reason when it arrived I decided to plunk it on the living room floor instead of hiding it in the darkest recesses of the closet. I'll be honest. I did it purely to torture her. I wanted to see what her reaction would be knowing that there was a gift for her that she couldn't open until her birthday. Cruel? Maybe. But isn't that one of the perks of parenthood? Or did I read the wrong manual again? At any rate, she has been surprisingly mature about the whole thing, unlike her mother. She wants it, but she hasn't once gotten even mildly upset about having to wait. Although my heart skipped a beat when I turned around this morning and saw this:

They sure are making awfully realistic-looking toys these days.

Once the felt knife failed her, she called on her limited jiu-jitsu skills...

But they proved no match for cardboard and tape. Guess she's just going to have to wait this one out.

Maybe I should buy a shovel.

Wow. I'm not sure that NYC has ever seen this much snow.

The girl and I were out enjoying another snow day this morning, building snowmen and taking pictures.

My absolute favourite part about snow days in Brooklyn is the neighbourliness. First of all, it is shocking to me how quickly everyone gets out and shovels their patch of sidewalk. Sure, it may be purely done out of fear of being fined, but still, it gets done and it sure is nice. The other thing I notice is that our entire street turns into one big water cooler. People stop to chat as they take breaks from shovelling, or as they trudge, lackadaisically and without much purpose, to the subway to make an appearance at work. No one is in a hurry, very few are in a bad mood, and people stand in the middle of what was just yesterday a busy intersection to discuss anything that comes to mind.

I also love the excuse to go in and grab another cup of hot chocolate.

Oh, and I have a good suspicion that we're not getting any of this today:

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

How to Give a Toddler a Needle

After the world's most surreal, and ultimately successful, experience at the blood lab today, I feel compelled to share my newly minted expertise with all of you. Anyone have a toddler? Need to stick them with a needle any time soon? Read on...

1. Have one parent enroll in medical school, preferably before the child is born.

2. Purchase a doctor kit for the child, preferably several months in advance of the appointment.

3. Show child how fun it is to be a doctor and have him or her routinely examine stuffed animals, using a stethoscope to listen to their hearts and administering needles to their behinds.

4. Announce the "field trip" to your toddler as soon as he or she wakes up, making sure to mention the ice cream that will follow.

5. Have a fun way to get to the doctor's office on the morning of the appointment, such as a subway ride.

6. Run laps around the waiting room and play a few rousing games of ring around the rosy while you wait.

7. Have onlookers encourage your toddler's cheerful mood by commenting repeatedly on her cuteness.

**The success of the following steps is critically dependent on successful completion of Steps 1-3. If you have not completed these steps in sequence, cancel the appointment, return to Step 1 and start over.

8. As he or she sits on your lap before the dreaded stick, show your fascinated toddler the vials and the needle and tubing and explain that the blood is going to be tested to make sure it's healthy.

9. Mention, just before sticking, that it will hurt going in, but not a lot, and it will only hurt for a second. At this point, remind him or her that there is ice cream in his or her immediate future.

10. Hold on tight and pray to whomever you feel would be most helpful to you at this point.

11. Watch in utter amazement as your toddler observes the proceedings with inexplicable calm and attentiveness.

12. Leave sleeve rolled up following bandage application to allow your toddler to run rampant through the hospital, showing you and strangers alike how lucky she is to have just received this amazing accessory from a very nice doctor.

13. Eat ice cream.

You're welcome.

Now, you can learn from my mistakes and take the experience one step further by documenting the whole thing with a camera. You will just have to take my word for it, but believe me, you'll have a much easier time convincing people that it happened if you have the pictures to prove it.


E and I went over to Clare's house yesterday for a playdate. Madeleine came too. Three little toddler girls running rampant while three attentive caregivers looked on left me wondering why I haven't tried to do this more often.
Apart from her tight little circle consisting of AB and GG, E doesn't really hang with many other kids. She has her regular buddies in each of her classes that she enjoys every week, but until yesterday we hadn't made the leap to playdate-land with any of them. To be honest, it's all my fault.

I have an inferiority complex. It makes me shy away from reaching out and making friends on account of the fact that I'm pretty sure I'm not cool enough to be friends with any of the people we meet. It's lame, I know. But there it is.

Anyhoo, fortunately for me, not everyone is quite as lame as I am, and Clare's dad went ahead and got the ball rolling. And it was super. Lots of fun. We're going to do it again next week. I mean, tell me this isn't something you would want to be looking at on a regular basis:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Playing by the Rules

It's all about rules these days. Sure, we've got lots of them that we're trying to get E to follow, like no whining, saying please and thank you, staying in bed until get the idea. But far more important, at least in the eyes of one toddler and two parents trying desperately to keep her happy, are the rules that E is establishing for our household. She is forging swiftly and bravely into that stage of toddlerhood where things must happen in very specific and reliable ways, and if they don't, well, there are as yet no limits to the depths of her - shall we politely say - discontent?

Case in point: Breakfast.

9 mornings out of 10 it consists of blueberries and yogurt. Somtimes we substitute with strawberries, occasionally we break out of the routine with cereal or pancakes, and as of late she has, unsuccessfully, been trying to bend the rules to include snacks like raisins and granola bars. It's not so much the regularity of the menu that matters, but how that menu is served.

This is what I hear every, every morning as I'm preparing her breakfast:

"Blueberries and yogurt please, mama. First bite blueberries. I help mama with first bite of blueberries. Then - yogurt time!!!" (double fist pump)

If I screw up the order and try to give her yogurt first or - gasp - mix the blueberries into the yogurt before she gets that first bite of pure, unadulterated can't imagine. And people, sometimes I'm doing this before my first cup of coffee. I'm not at my best. She's got me on eggshells, this one. Also, we must both be touching the spoon for that first bite. After that, she can feed herself or I can feed her, no big deal, but that first bite is key. JUST blueberries, mama AND E holding the spoon.

Now...who wants to babysit???

Monday, January 24, 2011


E is a talker. It's her thing. I haven't the foggiest idea where she gets it from...

Every time we go to the doctor for a check-up, the doctor asks how many words she's saying and asks for examples. Every time I give an estimate of how many words I think she says, he looks at me sideways, makes a comment along the lines of "Well, if that were true she would be Einstein" and smirks that little smirk of doctors who listen to mothers who think their babies are geniuses all day.

What he fails to understand, of course, is that my daughter is a genius.

Now the whole thing would be much easier if she would play along and deliver an episode of The E Show for the skeptics in the audience. But she never does. She just sits there, doe-eyed, making all kinds of inward observations that she'll no doubt share with me once we are three steps out of the office. And for some reason, I can never come up with good examples of her conversational abilities outside of the generic "I love you" and "Milk please, mama". I go blank. I crumble under his critical glare.

Not this time. I have a feeling that she is at the stage now where she's going to chat her way through the appointment. But just in case she clams up, I'm compiling a list of several of her recent witticisms, for your reading pleasure, for my memory keeping, and for my Doubting Thomas of a doctor who had better get that pen poised and ready. This stuff is pure gold.

"You wanna raisin mama? You want E feed you a raisin? Is it delicious mama? You love it?"

"What we have, mama? We have grapes? How convenient!"

"I wear stethoscope like dada! See you later mama! I go be doctor like dada. I go to work. Actually, I go to interview."

"Ralph! Ralph! What doin' Ralph? You eating dinner, Ralph? You want wet food too? You need wet food Ralph? Oh, buddy. Good boy, buddy."

"You putting on makeup mama? You need some help?"

"All done sleeping mama! E wake up! E wake up five minutes ago, actually."

"These are E's thumbs. E has tiny thumbs. Mama has giant thumbs!"

"What that song about? I like it. I like that song, mama."

"Can we go to gym mama? E go to Childwatch and mama exercise, if you want. We can go Trader Joe's also."

I could go on all day. But the girl is asleep now and I think I'll just enjoy the few hours of peace and quiet before the next episode begins around 7am.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Welcome Home Dada! For now...

Dada came home last night from yet another multi-day excursion across the country. He crept in just after midnight and snuck a quick hug and kiss from his sleepy wife before diving into bed himself. When E woke up this morning, I expected the same look of surprise and glee that she usually gets when she sees Dada sleeping in the spot that's been empty for the past couple of days. But, alas, I think she's getting used to this arrangement. In fact, this morning when I brought her into bed and plunked her between us, the only evidence I had that she noticed him as she crawled over him to get to the floor was when she said "In my way, Dada." Ah, to be taken for granted. These days that doesn't sound so bad. I'll gladly take some taken for granted over the emotional abuse I've suffered at the hands of this fiery little toddler this week. It has been a banner week, but not in a good way. There have been so many tears that I have to put cream on her dry cheeks at night. No joke. Okay, it might also have to do with the fact that it's very cold outside, but I'm sure the tears are the main culprit. If only there was a cream for my nerves for they, my friends, are frayed. But I digress. We were talking about Dada.

He's home, and we're in the midst of a lovely weekend. E had two items on her To Do list today: 1. Make a snowman. 2. Go swimming. Done and done. I had one item: 1. Mom time. Done. I didn't bother to ask J about his To Do list (that would just be another item on my list), but he seems to be doing something productive right now as we sit on the couch together, tapping our respective keyboards. We had family breakfast, we played in the park, Dada and E swam while Mama worked out, we went to Trader Joe's and ate free dip, and we're about to crawl into bed with a movie. Tomorrow we will go into Manhattan and frolic in a giant playspace, followed by an afternoon football/playdate with E's best friend and her parents.

Then, early Monday morning, my husband will get back on a plane and so will begin another episode of the single mom show. I shouldn't say that, as there are lots of single moms out there who don't get relieved, ever, but it sure makes me appreciate my husband when he comes home.

Friday, January 21, 2011

This is how every Sunday morning should start.

Apple almond sticky buns.
Inspired by The Barefoot Contessa.
Makes 12, serves 3.

When I Grow Up

I had no idea as a kid that my life would be like this. I have a very clear memory of an assigment we were given in Grade 6 by Mrs. Goulagh. We had to write about where we planned to be in 1 year, 5 years, 10 years and 20 years. She was a brilliant woman, and just about the best teacher there ever has been. I remember that I took the assignment very seriously and spent quite some time planning out my life. Here's what it looked like:

Get married to Kirk Cameron at the age of 19 (hey, stop's important to have goals). Have 5-6 kids, first baby (boy) at age 20 followed by twin girls at 22. I figured I'd play it by ear with the rest. I was going to be a cashier, then a teacher. We were going to live in an old stone house on a hill on Bath Road in the town where I grew up, right across the road from the lake. There would be a tree house and a swing. I believe several pets were involved.

It was pretty detailed. Of course it changed over the years, first Kirk and I grew apart and I went through a serious of musician husbands, most notably Rick Savage and Jordan Knight. Then I decided that six kids was really just ludicrous and so the number gradually dwindled, although I hung on to the idea of twins with an older brother daughter was born. I went from being a school teacher to a dance teacher to a wildlife conservationist. And I batted around the idea of living in various other cities, including Sheffield, England and Boston, Mass (see husbands).

The bottom line is that I pictured a very cookie cutter life. One husband (hopefully I'm still on track with that one), some kids (just one doesn't seem so bad most days), a job (I 'm sure I had one around here somewhere) and a house (a whole house, not an apartment, and just ONE). I guess that's no surprise, because that's what a whole lot of people have, and I figured I'd be just like a whole lot of people.

But if there's one thing I've learned in the last few years, it's that you really never know where life is going to take you. And there really isn't any point where you can say that you're "there" - grown up, settled, done. Life is just a whole bunch of days where anything can happen. And there's no guarantee that life today will be anything like life tomorrow. People that count on that are going to be disappointed, and I know a lot of people who count on that for their very happiness. The idea of moving or changing jobs or having another baby is devastating to them. Sometimes I feel that way too, but more and more I'm learning that I really am on an adventure, and it really is best just to embrace it.

Where will we live next year? In a big city with lots of excitement? A small town where we'll go on day hikes in the mountains? Will we live in tropical heat or biting mid-western cold? Will we be going back to everything that is familiar or discovering brand new territory? It won't be too long now before we know, but I'm starting to put less and less stock in the answer. No matter where we live next year and the year after that, it will most likely not be where we live forever, and I'm willing to bet that it won't be anything like I expect it to be either. We'll be starting on another adventure, and in the 34 years I've been adventuring I have yet to take a wrong turn.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Cleanse this.

You can rationalize it any way you like, and goodness knows I came up with lots of ways while I premeditated this spectacular swan dive from the wagon, but when it comes down to it, life's too short and I just sat down to a bowl of chocolate chip cookie dough, followed by three of the cookies that made it as far as the oven, with absolutely no regrets.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Miss E

Oooh, that girl. She really knows how to grind my gears. Especially when it's freezing rain/snow/sleeting outside and there is no escape from the apartment. And have I mentioned that it's day two of this god-forsaken cleanse? I need some cleansing breaths, I tell you what.

She's going through a really charming phase right now where she flatly refuses to do what I ask...please come over here so I can change your diaper/put on your coat/take off your boots, please stop kicking me/hitting me/rolling over and crawling around while I change your diaper, please stop grabbing Ralph's tail/paws/ get the idea. And following her staunch refusal, she proceeds to sound the screeching alarm as soon as there are any consequences to her actions. "I will take it away." I think that's pretty clear. "You will get a time out." I'm not asking her to read my mind here. But as soon as I follow through you would think that I snuck up behind her in a dark alley and took away her favourite blanket while crashing cymbals in her ears.

I'm not up for a fight today. I'm weak, I'm hungry, I'm tired. Grumble, grumble.

At one point this morning I called her Miss E, which she took an immediate liking to. She kept pointing to herself and saying "That's Miss E! Miss E reading a book! Miss E playing with eggs!" It was when she said "Miss E pooped!" about two minutes after I tried to get her to sit on the toilet (to no avail) that I had an idea. What if Miss E is the one who does good stuff, and she only gets to be Miss E when she behaves well?

I'm going to try it. I'll let you know how it goes. Now I'm going to go lie down and enjoy a little peace and quiet before Miss E wakes up from her nap. At least I hope that's who I'll find...

Monday, January 17, 2011

He may know about diets, but his math ain't so good.

I'm doing a cleanse. Ugh.

Why, you ask? Well, isn't the notion of purging your body of the crap you routinely hurl into it an attractive one? Doesn't everyone wish they could have a clean slate now and then, whether at your job, in your relationship, or heck, in your colon? I know I wish I could take back that bottle and a half of wine I drank on Friday night, and the Big Mac I needed to soak up the hangover. I might keep the short rib hash I had for brunch yesterday morning, and that last piece of lemon cream pie I stealthily demolished before my husband got home from the gym. But really, there is just so much abuse you can put your intestines through before you just have to feel a little guilty.

I feel a lot guilty.

Plus, I've gained five pounds.

So I'm taking my eating habits by the horns. Four days of "detox" - okay, it may be a crock but I sure ate a whackload of greens today, and that can't be bad, can it? - followed by a series of four day "modules" to make me lean and mean and my colon clean. I just made that up. And I'm serious. I just drank a tablespoon of psyllium powder in watered-down milk. I dare you, in a blind taste test to differentiate it from wet sand.

My goal is primarily to get myself thinking about what I'm putting into my body again. I've been gradually sliding down that slippery slope of motherhood for some time now, forgoing "real" meals for the dregs on my daughter's plate, supplemented with generous portions of chocolate and coffee. It's not pretty. And it's starting to show. I intend to follow this 4-Day Diet for the full 28 days (isn't that how long you assume a 4-day diet is supposed to last???), at which point I hope to carry on consuming ludicrous amounts of vegetables while finding the balance that will allow my daily doses of chocolate without hitching up the saddlebags.

In case you find this all very inspiring and want to do it too, here are a couple of words of advice before you get started:

1. Don't get all excited and start before you actually have any of the food you can eat in your house. It will be a long day.

2. Make sure your loved one who is smarter than you and is therefore not following you down the path to a clean colon has his or her own, normal, food to eat. It's also helpful if he has not thrown his back out, forcing you to prepare his meals and bring his salty, chocolaty snacks to his bedside.

3. Please, for the love of everything intestinally-related, do NOT start off with a whole tablespoon of psyllium powder. That is the maximum recommended daily dosage and, for a digestive system not well schooled in the effects of this uber-laxative, it's not wise.

Now...if you'll excuse me...

Sleep, Glorious Sleep!

I've been pretty quiet, but life around here has not. Once again this family has found themselves in the midst of a flurry of activity, with all sorts of things that could be worth a post or two. The most noteworthy, though, is...drumroll please...


And that, my friends, is deserving of a post all its own.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Let's talk about food

I have somehow, mysteriously, ended up with a subscription to Real Simple magazine, which would be just delightful if it didn't come with an invoice. Sure, it's only $23 for a one-year subscription, and I quite enjoy the magazine, but I have a moral objection to being forced to pay for something I didn't order. Sadly, I don't have an accompanying lack of moral objection to keeping something without paying for it. So I'll probably write a check and grumble for a few minutes until the next glossy issue arrives in my mailbox and I am wooed into complacency once more.

And may I say, they sure know how to put together a New Year's issue. I guess if you know you're popping these magazines by the hundreds? thousands? into the hands of people who did not request them along with a cheeky little invoice, it had better be good. This issue has hit on two of my favourite topics: food and de-cluttering. Sold.

There's a great article about the 30 healthiest foods, compiled by all sorts of *experts*, and I always enjoy scanning these kinds of lists to see where I stand. What's better is a set of recipes at the end of the article that manages to use almost all of them. And they all sound delicious.

I'm happy to report that of the 30 foods listed, here's how the Cowfam fares:

Foods that we eat at least every week - 16

Foods that we eat about once a month - 5

Foods that we eat occasionally - 5

Foods that we never eat - 4

Well, that's pretty good, I think. There's room for improvement, which shouldn't be too difficult considering that there wasn't a single item on the list that I could claim to dislike.

And, being the list-maker that I am, I love the idea of popping the ready-made list of 30 foods in my bag and heading to the grocery store to explore new territory. I'm pretty sure I've never before purchased a sardine. And I wonder how easy it will be to find bulgur.

I recommend checking out the article at or even picking up a copy of the magazine. Environmentalists be damned, sometimes I just like to flip through the old fashioned way.

Now, if they put out an article about the 30 unhealthiest foods, well, I'm willing to guess that the numbers would be about the same. But hey, at least we're well rounded, right? I wonder if I should make it a two-year subscription...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

More Snow??!

Apparently so.

T minus 3 hours or so before the show starts. After the storm a couple of weeks ago, everyone here is bracing for this one like it's Armageddon. I had no less than four people tell me today that I had better get everything I needed for the week today while I'm out. Come on, kids. Yes, it's a storm. But it seems like the general population has failed to remember a few key points:

1. It's winter.

2. We live in the Northeastern US.

3. Shovels and snowplows are readily available.

4. Some people live even farther north *gasp* and manage to subsist for entire seasons with snow on the ground.

Alright, alright. Maybe some of you have jobs and places to be. It's not my fault you didn't have the foresight to quit your job and have a baby.

Here's to another snow day!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hooray for green beans!

There is very little in this world that is quite as satisfying as watching your toddler eat her vegetables. At least for me. And when it happens without any coercion or sleight of hand, without any effort at all, well, that my friends is what it feels like to win the jackpot.

Tonight we had lime ginger salmon with steamed wontons and green beans. It's a regular-ish meal for us, and generally E has one or two bites of salmon and devours the wontons while I try to sneak a chunk of bean in with each bite. It's not that she doesn't like the green beans, but what would you choose if they were both sitting there on the plate? Tonight was a completely different story. She has recently expanded her palate to enjoy salmon more (or, as she calls it, hamon), so that was a hit. And just when I was about as happy as I could be that she was taking two bites of green beans between wontons, dada got in on the action.

Her plate was clean, and she claimed to be all done. So J grabbed some green beans and showed her how to make a fish face and suck the green beans in like a vacuum. That was good for at least a dozen beans. And when that didn't do the trick, she just grabbed a handful of them and crammed them in. One or two fell out, but a whole lot more went down. At this point, they were eating with their fingers out of the tupperware container I had put the leftovers in, and then E decided to eschew propriety altogether by grabbing the big slab of salmon and eating it like a sandwich. I don't think I've ever been so proud.

I feel like I've gotten away with shoplifting. Like at any minute I'll hear a voice from the crib: "Wait a second! MAMA!!!! What did you do??!!!" But it's too late now. Weeeeee! My daughter has met her weekly quota for greens and it's only Monday. Supermom and Superdad, at your service.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Welcome 2011!

I love a New Year. Just like I love a new school year, or a new week, or a new organizer. I'm a planner. And when you're a planner, a fresh start is the holy grail. Real or symbolic, a new year just has so much potential. Do I always make the most of this potential? Of course not. I'm human, and no amount of planning can take the lazy out of me. Does all of this build-up lead to an inevitable crash of disappointment and self-flagellation? Generally, yes. But who's to say I wouldn't end up there anyway? And I sure do enjoy the build-up. It's just nice to take stock once in a while, to look at the way you're living your life and compare it to your version of the ideal life, in an effort to get you that much closer to where you want to be. I enjoy thinking about what I want to do differently, about new things I want to try and about goals I want to set. Some people don't, and by all means, I don't think everyone should make New Year's Resolutions or party like it's 1999 if they don't feel that way inclined. But I do. I have resolutions, I've made a list of things I want to do this fact I'm still working on it because I just love doing it so darn much. But that's me.

My husband doesn't make New Year's resolutions. He rejects the whole idea as a waste of time and energy. That's cool. He pretty much does what he wants to do and doesn't do what he doesn't want to do anyway. He's uncomplicated that way, and I like that about him. Sometimes I wish he were a little more willing of a partner to get all giddy at the prospect of a clean slate with all sorts of possibilities to add to it, but then we would probably just whip each other into a frenzy of anticipation and burn out by January 2nd.

One thing we both agree on is celebrating things whenever possible. He may not have any resolutions, and I may have a whole whack that I won't keep, but we both wanted to do something special with our daughter today. So we went into the city to an arts and crafts cafe (they have everything in New York) called Moomah Cafe and got all artsy and craftsy. They have a bunch of DIT (Do-It-Together) art projects that you can pick from, and after almost no deliberation E chose the paint-your-own-doghouse. We smocked her up, I picked out the most stellar paint combination, and she spent all of five minutes painting before making the transition to foreman, and ordering us around while she ate a pizza bagel. J and I happily worked away at painting the perfect doghouse until she had had her fill of bagel, and then we explored the "funky forest" in the back where light projections of bats flew on the wall and rivers danced across the floor. Pretty cool.

Like I said, I have lots of resolutions and I'm sure I'll make more, but if every single day of 2011 is like this one, full of fun and family and laughs and unsolicited hugs and kisses, there will be no disappointing crash in my future. What there will be is a more streamlined list of resolutions for 2012: Do what I did in 2011.

Happy New Year!

The Big Finish

2010 may be gone, but I can still smell the simmering duck fat...the mark of a successful year, or at least a successful NYE celebration, in my book.

As is becoming the habit these days, we opted out of a big to-do for New Year's Eve and decided to spend it coccooned in our apartment with our little family unit. I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to make cassoulet - a French meat and bean stew that has been bouncing around in my head for a few years now - and in a grand romantic gesture my husband suggested that we celebrate the end of 2010 by cooking together. Sigh. I love that guy.

Cassoulet is no 30-minute meal. In fact, I went for the "Easy Cassoulet" recipe in my Gourmet cookbook instead of the two-day standard ordeal, and "Easy" in this case pared the active time down to a mere four hours. E's new affinity for independent play sure came in handy, as there aren't a lot of tasks in cassoulet-making that are toddler friendly, apart from tying together a bouqet garni. No, there's far too much slicing of meats and spattering of duck fat for little bodies...or for anyone tending towards the vegetarian lifestyle for that matter.

The whole affair went off without a hitch, with more than a few kisses, some energy-building chocolate, quite a bit of sweating and no trace of blood or tears. It was an absolutely exquisite way to spend New Year's Eve, if you ask me, and J even suggested that we make cooking together on NYE an annual tradition. Double sigh. Hands off, ladies.

Lucky for you, we took some photos so you can follow along. Just have a napkin handy for the drool...

The sous chef

At one point E informed us that she was taking her frogs and going to the park. If those boots hadn't been so tricky, we might have had a problem.

Beans simmering with duck bones. Quack.

Many knives were dirtied in the quest for the perfect sausage slicer.