Saturday, March 31, 2007

Ginger-soy salad dressing

It's almost ridiculous how food-obsessed my blog has become these days. But anyways, I am sharing with you a great dressing that I have borrowed from the printed exterior of my friend's salad dressing bottle. It had the measurements for about six dressings! I need one of those. I can't remember what the dressing was called, but my name sums it up.

Ginger-soy salad dressing

2 tablespoons (T) soy sauce
2 T rice vinegar (seasoned might be better)
2 T honey
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 teaspoon crushed fresh ginger (zester does the job great)
4 T canola oil

Shake it up and pour it over some tender baby greens -- mixed greens or just spinach is good.

Monday, March 26, 2007

In search of the best falafel

So many websites have listed L'As du Falafel on rue des Rosiers (4th arrondissement) as the best place for falafel. Even the New York Times had their article saying it was the best in Paris. Of course, I had to check it out myself. So today I arrived a little after noon. I normally would take the sandwich to go, but I took a seat with my friend inside. The service was quick, but I think, confused. We each got the falafel special sandwich (with eggplant), but for some reason, our sandwiches had very different ingredients, and mine was missing my eggplant which I had to holler for. She had tomatoes, cucumber, and eggplant, and mine had some different cabbage slaws. The falafel itself was fine, but nothing special compared the other falafel in the area. The slaws were lacking in flavor and the eggplant skins were quite bitter compared to other restaurants'.

My expectations were maybe too high, but the falafel at L'As du Falafel is nothing exceptional. Hannah's is quite good, and one of my favorites is from Chez Marianne. My best may have been from a Lebanese restaurant on rue Montorgueil (I can't remember the name -- I was there over a year ago). I'll look for it again.

There's a new falafel place almost right across from L'As du Falafel. It had a very odd, Japanese-sounding name. There was a fifteen-foot line of patient high-schoolers waiting alongside the restaurant. Maybe that's where we should all be eating. The sandwiches from all these places are about the same price (to go), 4-4,50 euros, so they're not there because it's cheaper or anything. It's likely these kids have tried all the falafel in the Marais and had decided that this one is the best.

I'll get back to you after I do some more research.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Caroline's spinach and mushroom lasagne recipe

My experimental lasagne turned out to be a success, according to my happy, friendly guinea pigs! Here's the recipe, to the best of my recollection:

Ingredients:

about 1 pound of frozen spinach (if possible, the whole leaf-kind, not chopped up)
2 cups of cottage cheese (I found it at the Champion supermarket on rue Pierre Demours -- I have not seen it anywhere else in Paris)
almost 1 pound of grated mozarella
12 no-boil lasagna noodles
at least six cups of my mushroom tomato sauce (see recipe below)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Thaw frozen spinach and squeeze out excess liquid. In a bowl, mix spinach with cottage cheese. In a 9x13 baking dish, pour a little bit of sauce evenly on the bottom. Mentally divide sauce into thirds, as well as the spinach-cottage cheese mixture, because this is a three-layer lasagne. For the mozarella, you should probably be a little more conservative on the inner layers, saving maybe about half of it for the top.

Okay -- ready to stack? Lay down four lasagne noodles on the bottom of the pan. Top with a third of the spinach-cottage cheese mixture (even out as much as you can), add a third of the tomato sauce, and then add a quarter of the mozarella. Then, lay down another four lasagne noodles. Add a third of the spinach-cottage cheese mix, add a third of the tomato sauce, and then add a quarter of the mozarella. Blahblahblah, etc., etc. You should finish with a nice thick layer of mozarella. Mmmm.

Place on the middle rack in the oven. Cover with foil if it gets too brown, or start with the foil and remove for the last 15 minutes or so. Bake for about 40-45 minutes? I have no idea, because this is what I actually did:

I baked it for 30 minutes, spooned off the extra liquid that had collected on the edges (I can tell you how to prevent that later in my mushroom tomato sauce recipe), let it cool a bit, then shoved it in the fridge because I was going to serve it the next day. I kept it lightly covered with the foil. Next day: preheated oven to 400 degrees and put lasagne in for about 30-45 minutes until the cheese was beautifully browned and the inside was nice and bubbly. Making your lasagne ahead of time means you get to take a relaxed pace the day of your entertaining.

Mushroom tomato sauce recipe

Ingredients:
Two 28-oz. cans of tomatoes (I happened to use whole, peeled tomatoes which I later pureed in a blender)
One pound of fresh white mushrooms, carefully cleaned and thinly sliced
5-6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 cup of red wine
About 1/3-1/2 cup of fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
Olive oil
Salt (I used "fleur du sel")
Freshly ground pepper

In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil, medium-medium high heat. Add onion and garlic. Stir occasionally. Try not to let it brown -- just get it nice and soft. Then add your mushrooms. Turn up your heat to high. The water in the mushrooms will come out. If you can be more patient than me, let as much of the water come out as possible and let it evaporate! Then your lasagne won't come out so wet like mine did. Add the wine (cheap wine works fine, even according to the NY Times!) and cook that down until it has completely evaporated (some flavor still stays in the mushrooms and onions). Now add your tomatoes and bring to a boil. Bring heat down to medium-low to simmer. I cannot say how long to simmer since I was very impatient, the time being about 10:30 pm -- it might have been about twenty minutes, but I would recommend a longer time. In the last five minutes, add your basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. And do taste your sauce to make sure it's salty enough. Without enough salt, you will only taste tomato. With the salt, somehow, the other flavors come through.

Mmm...writing about lasagna makes me want some. Thank goodness I have leftovers. I'm outta here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shall I torture the neighbors?

I've been slowly getting back into my operatic singing which can get a little loud and probably a little annoying if you don't appreciate opera. But today, I thought I'd pull out the old fiddle which has been accumulating dust for a year or so. And it has only been coming out about once a year since moving here. I really expected my playing to sound like someone skinning a cat, but it wasn't half bad, to my surprise. I was playing pretty well in tune, had forced myself to relax my hands and arms (tension has always been my big problem), and had a pretty good time playing old pieces -- some diehard favorites, and some that always intimidated me.

I have to say I'm proud of myself -- that I've retained still quite a bit of my skill. I will not be attempting any Bach partitas anytime soon though, nor will I be auditioning for any orchestras.

And Maylin even seemed a little bit interested. She didn't tell me to stop -- even came around to see how the mechanics worked. I knew music would eventually interest her. I'm not going to push her -- just try to pique her curiosity once in awhile and observe her interest level. Music lessons, eventually, I hope?

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jam party, not party jam

Our little family was doing some sightseeing and gallery-hopping in Montmartre yesterday when we discovered a very bizarre phenomenon in one of the galleries on the popular rue Lepic. Bonne Maman, the well-known French manufacturer of jams and cookies, was hosting an event there. At first, I thought it was a private party, but after I greeted the man who I thought was the bouncer, he didn't hold us back. We entered and found a tasting party for adults and children alike. I have to say I've never seen happier French people (except maybe after winning a big soccer game). Free food and drink! There were delicious fresh fruit juices, plain yogurt to top with different jams (equivalent to fruit-on-the-bottom but this time it's on top), packaged cookies and cakes, and tiny jam jars filled with not jam, but bizarre, maybe overly creative concoctions -- one being a mixture of foie gras and fig. And since the venue was a real gallery, the main hall was decorated with artsy, Bonne Maman-inspired pieces: photos of jam jars, collages of jar labels, jars transformed into flower vases...

After a little online research this morning, I found that Bonne Maman had rented out most of the gallery space to hold tastings and other culinary events in the span of five weeks. Yesterday's party was especially children-friendly with a large, low table and chairs equipped with paper, markers, and scissors. For some reason, there was also a parakeet in a wooden cage to which Maylin was especially drawn. Maylin was convinced that this was a "kids' party." It sure felt like it to me, too, although the adults did outnumber the children about five to one.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Days of being locked in the bathroom are over

Poor Maylin. While some of her American school buddies were away on vacation, Maylin started hanging out with the wrong crowd. Or actually, it was just the wrong girl. I'll call her Penelope.

Penelope is in another class, but encounters on the playground during recess are inevitable. Penelope approached Maylin everyday and told her she couldn't play with anyone else. Why are kids so possessive of Maylin? This has happened many times before with other friends. Instead of treating Maylin like a nice friend, she treated her like a victim by hitting her (not too hard, I'm sure, since there were no injuries and I've seen several, always harmless, preschool swats), and by locking her in the bathroom. I don't think you can lock the bathroom from the outside, but let's just say Maylin had a hard time getting out. She would pound on the bathroom window, yelling for help -- sometimes not being discovered until it was time to line up to go back inside to class. Recently, she was rescued by a relatively new friend.

This all sounds pretty horrible, but when Maylin recounts her experiences, she's very calm and not at all traumatized. She tells her story as if it's just a normal part of play. There was a week when she didn't want to go to school, probably because of Penelope, but I think she learned to deal with it this week, or hopefully, learned to stand up for herself as I told her she should do, since she woke up easily every morning and got ready for school quite contentedly.

Yesterday, I mentioned to Maylin's teacher that there may be a problem with Penelope -- she wasn't aware of it (so, she's not watching my kid on the playground, eh?). She promised she'd keep an eye out, but today, Maylin had her bodyguards back (returned from vacation) so Penelope left her alone. But her "bodyguards" can be tough, too, since they themselves have discouraged her from playing with others. And Maylin listens to them. She listens to everyone, except Mommy sometimes. Maylin is a willing follower. Doesn't seem to mind the demands of her peers. I figure if it doesn't bother her, it doesn't bother me. She's a lot like me. We bounce back from adversity rather quickly. Handy survival skill.

Taiwanese pearl milk tea in Paris!

Yes, yes! It's here! You've had it in Taiwan, Vancouver, and in the San Francisco Bay Area (and probably other places, too). That cool, refreshing sweet tea drink with milk and chewy black tapioca pearls. At Zen Zoo (13, rue Chabanais, 2nd arrondissement), you can enjoy this Taiwanese creation in their tiny tea room/restaurant or buy it to go (4,50 euros for a "petit"). If you want the traditional version, you'll have to ask for “thé au lait,” “froid” (cold), and “maccha” flavored. If you order it to go, it comes as you remember it – in a clear, plastic cup with a specially-sealed plastic cover that you puncture with your extra-wide straw’s pointy end. And it tastes as you remember it, too. It was the perfect drink/dessert after my very salty meal at Higuma (see my restaurant review). And just a few steps away.

http://www.zen-zoo.com
(available in English, too)

Sorry, haven't tried the food yet, but they have a very limited menu which was discouraging (see menu on website). I may go on a Saturday which is the only day they serve the Taiwanese favorite, beef noodle soup (usually nice and spicy!).

Restaurant review 2: Kunitoraya

This is, by far, my favorite Japanese restaurant in Paris. Sorry, this is a noodle and rice house -- no sushi or sashimi. But if you love tempura udon like I do, you must come here. I reviewed this restaurant after my first visit (search for it in the bar above), but I've gone back four times since then. It takes three times to learn how to order it the way I like it. First mistake: ordering the "tenpura-udon" seems pretty straightforward, but we got only one fried prawn and no veggies. Second mistake: ordering the "kamaten-udon" which is described as udon in hot soup with fried prawns and veggies, but getting udon in hot water. Yes, water -- not soup. I don't understand this and never will. Your lovely fresh udon are incredibly bland. Yes, you can dip it in your tenpura sauce, but then it's a little too salty. Third mistake: ordering the "tenpura-moriowase" (plate of fried shrimp and veggies) and the "kake-udon" (udon in delicious broth) without specifying that you want them at the same time because they think you're very French and want to consider your tenpura an appetizer instead of part of your main course. How to do it my preferred way: order the "tenpura-moriawase" and "kake-udon" and specify "aux meme temps" (at the same time). Your crispy critters stay crispy on their plate, dipped in the amazing tenpura sauce (you dump in their little condiments of sesame seeds, fresh ginger puree, minced green onions and mix it around), and you can enjoy your perfectly seasoned broth and amazing udon at the same time. A little pricey, but well worth it.

Tenpura-moriawase: 10 euros
Kake-udon: 8,50 euros

39, rue Saint Anne
open everyday 11:30 am -10 pm
(try to get there on the early side of the lunch hour otherwise you may have to wait)

website in French and Japanese: http://www.kunitoraya.com

Restaurant review: Higuma

Found at 32 rue St. Anne in the first arrondissement in Paris, Higuma is a favorite Japanese noodle house of several of my friends and is raved about on the internet by many. There's often a line out the door during the lunch hour, too. So I thought I'd take a noodle-loving friend along to check it out.

I hate flourescent light, and unfortunately, that's what greeted us. The bad lighting and unenchanting decor was made up for by the open kitchen where, if you're able to sit at the counter, you can experience the energy of four Asian cooks (sorry, few of them looked Japanese), mountains of steam, and sometimes, if you're unlucky, clouds of smoke.

Once you get past the first room, the two back rooms make you feel like you're in a Chinese restaurant -- I think it's the Chinese restaurant furniture. Anyway, the menu includes noodle soups (three different broths: salt-flavored (?), soy sauce, and miso) which all have pretty much the same ingredients -- a few thin slices of tasty roasted pork, a sprinkling of chopped bean sprouts, and four sad-looking pieces of bamboo from the can. Also on the menu are gyoza (aka pot stickers), fried rice, and chow mein.

The food, which came really fast, is actually very basic. Nothing really refined about it. The gyoza were good and the lamen noodles were fresh, but the soups were very salty and didn't look too pretty (I thought Japanese were into aesthetically pleasing presentation?). We also looked over at a woman's chow mein, which was a scary shade of dark brown, signifying an overdose of soy sauce.

Good place for an inexpensive meal, I guess. A noodle soup is about 8,50 euros, and if you want to add 7 gyoza, it's only two euros more.

As for clientele, it's what you'd expect. There were no Japanese in sight. American tourists, French students, and French businessmen made up the majority.

So sorry, everybody. In my opinion, Higuma is way overrated. Let the tourists go there. Why don't you check out Hokkaido (14, Rue Chabanais) with me, which is only a block or two away, where all the Japanese go for their lamen noodle soup? The prices are roughly the same and I think the cooks work in front of you also. And there's no line out the door.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Invasion of the men in skirts

For some reason, a small troup of middle-aged, beer-bellied, kilt-wearing Scotsmen visited the neighborhood yesterday in jolly spirits -- dancing, singing, and playing the bagpipes (one bagpipe, thank goodness, is plenty). They must have been friends with the cafe-restaurant owners right below us because the entered the building and began playing some songs for them. One of them was a bagpipe standard (I have no idea of the title), but the other was that oh-familiar tune that we all know so well as another bagpipe favorite, "Jingle Bells"! My friends and I all got a good laugh. I was also amused, the music nerd that I am, when I heard the player modulate up a whole step to the next key for the verse and come back down to the original key for the refrain again. Must have been too hard to do both in the same key, but I'm not positive since I'm rather ignorant regarding bagpipe mechanics.

As they left they restaurant, they continued their jolly music-making and I witnessed one Scotsman grab a French nanny to dance with her in the street, blocking some oncoming traffic. Ah, this is something you don't see everyday.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Asian-style salad dressing

I've tried to recreate the dressing that you'll find atop the little salads at some Japanese restaurants. A little sweet, a little tangy, and full of sesame flavor.

Makes 1 cup of salad dressing

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons), or you may try rice vinegar though I like the freshness of the lemons
3 1/2 tsp sesame oil
4 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 T minced shallots (or red onions)

Place in bowl and whisk together. Keep chilled in the refrigerator. Flavors meld together after sitting in the fridge for 1-3 hours. If you can keep it overnight, it tastes even better the next day and thickens (starts out rather watery) to just the right consistency. Mix again before serving.

I think it best to keep the salad very simple. Just iceberg lettuce and grated carrot is good. The carrot soaks up the dressing well -- Maylin loved the carrot-only version. I think kids like it because it's sweet.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Great online Chinese dictionary

While we were cuddling in bed this morning before school, Maylin specifically requested that I teach her more Chinese! She asked me what "shirt" was in Chinese, and to my disappointment, I realized that I didn't know. I couldn't remember "pants" either. So after dropping off Maylin at school, I looked up online Chinese dictionaries to help me out. I quickly found a great one (a minute ago) at http://www.mdbg.net/chindict/chindict.php

Enter an English word, and you'll get a chart of various translations, including the Chinese characters (choose traditional or simplified) and the Mandarin pinyin. You can even click on the pinyin to get audio playback. VERY helpful when you can't remember which tone to use. I think I might make some flashcards or find some online. This is such a great resource!

I was so happy when Maylin continued her enthusiasm for learning on the way to school as she asked me for more translations! This is a great one. She said, "What is 'cacahouete' in Chinese?" Usually she asks me to translate an English word, but this time, she wanted me to translate the French word for peanut!

Yummy, sticky chicken wings

It came out once just perfectly for me. These are only estimations for the amounts -- will perfect later.

For about two pounds of chicken wings (segments separated, tips removed), make this marinade:

1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp garlic powder

Preheat oven to 225 degrees Celsius (about 437 degrees F). Pour marinade in large Ziploc bag. Add wings and seal bag. Gently move around wings through the bag so that every piece is evenly coated. You can cook wings immediately, or let them remain in the marinade in the fridge for as long as you like.

Place wings evenly on an aluminum foil-covered roasting pan. Bake for 15 minutes, baste with remaining marinade, then bake for another 10-15 minutes. You don't have to bother flipping them.

Enjoy!

Attempts to teach Maylin some Chinese

My Chinese is very poor, I know, but I try my best. The last couple of nights, after I've read to Maylin her chosen book (usually in English, but I'm trying to switch into French without her noticing -- she notices immediately in the beginning and protests, but later she seems to give in), and I've turned off the lights and we're cuddling together in her big double bed, I toss out some Chinese words for her to repeat. We're starting off with body parts (and body functions that are hilarious to preschoolers). She does a pretty good job imitating my sounds, not perfectly, but I'm not going to push her to perfection yet. The last thing I want her to do is develop a resistance to learning Chinese. We're just having fun at this point.

One of my friends gave me a Chinese language acquisition DVD for kids which we'll take a look at pretty soon. I also have tons of Chinese folk song and story CDs that I have to dust off, too, from our last trip to Taiwan.

When we move back to Berkeley, California, I was planning on enrolling her in Saturday Chinese school. And hopefully, I can convince my parents to speak to Maylin mainly in Mandarin.

There's a French-American school in Berkeley, but before we moved to Paris in 2004, I had heard some disappointing reviews. Maybe things have changed over there, but I don't know. The other option is to seek out French speakers through local organizations and hope to find a little French buddy for Maylin to play with regularly, or even better, a French-speaking play group (I wish).

Would it be language overkill if I tried enrolling her in a Spanish immersion primary school for her weekday educational experience? Probably not. One of our neighbors speaks about seven or eight different languages --fluently! I think just getting the sounds in a child's ear at an early age is critical.

One of my regular readers, Sarah, has taken an interest in Maylin's language acquisition since last year. She is teaching her one year-old nephew French (you can never start too early) and keeps a blog on bilingualism and children. You can check out what she wrote about Maylin here: http://babybilingual.blogspot.com/2006/09/profile-maylin-learning-english-french.html

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Stuck on writing

Remember, I was inspired by Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Secret Life of Bees, to start creative writing again? Well, I re-read her first chapter, which was originally an award-winning short story, to find out exactly why it was so great. So with a studious eye, I studied. Kidd is an expert at showing, not telling. You learn about the persons and places through action, not overt description. I got a bit downhearted because I realized how much more difficult it is this way. And then I thought, Is this the way I write anyway? Should I try to write like someone else? Should I study more about this first? Or should I just stick with my ignorance and see where it takes me?

I don't feel I can focus on writing now anyways. I want to sew a little plushie (stuffed toy), pick up the violin again, and maybe resume my voice lessons (let's see if my teacher will take me back after a year). Much of my internet time is spent googling Bay Area opera singers. Am I still dreaming about becoming an opera singer? Or am I happy to live vicariously through their resumes?

Okay, I spoil her once in awhile

On Sunday, Maylin and I went to the Jardins du Luxembourg for a fun afternoon. We left the apartment around 12:30, caught the 82 bus at Porte Maillot, and had a nice, scenic ride through unfamiliar neighborhoods and past the Eiffel Tower. Once we got to Luxembourg, I convinced Maylin to first make a stop at the snack bar so I could fill my empty belly. I got her a salami sandwich (3,70 euros) and a hot dog with cheese for me (5,50 euros!).

Maylin really wanted to go on the swings, so we went. You have to pay for these (1,40 euros) but they were all full and there was a small line. We waited five minutes, and Maylin got on. She was scared and timid in the beginning but loosened up a little. She didn't loosen up as much as everyone else who got pushed by their parents so hard that the swings looked more like a crazy carnival ride.

When our time was up, we heard a bell ringing at the little puppet theater. Yay! Just in time to get good seats for the puppet show (4,40 euros per ticket). This time, Guignol told the story of Pinocchio -- complete with an intermission and snacks for sale (fortunately, Maylin remembered she had a sandwich to work on), a big set change, and a wide range of characters (squirrel, rabbits, lion, witch, fairy, and dancing mushrooms -- my favorite). Pinocchio's puppet self allowed him to raise his head on a stick of a neck and wiggle his hot dog-like nose.

Afterwards, Maylin had one ride (1,60 euros) on the famous carousel on one of the inside horses, to avoid needing to work at getting rings onto a stick, which many of the older kids really enjoy.

It was about 4:20 already. Maylin could choose between the playground (again, pay to get in), or rent a sailboat. Sailboats, it was. We had to wait about five minutes in line, but Maylin didn't mind. And two euros for half an hour was worth it to me. We had a lot of fun chasing our boat around the pond, watching it get stuck with other boats, watching it stop moving when the wind died down, and pushing it off again with the long bamboo stick once it reached the pond's edge.

5 o'clock. We sat down on a couple of the many chairs available to visitors, and Maylin continued working on her sandwich (it was the length of about half a baguette). I enjoyed the mild weather, beautiful garden (still beautiful even though much of it was bare -- in transition), and people-watching. Then, Maylin's choice: playground or rented DVD (4 euros), Nanny McPhee? Movie!

We took the 82 bus again, and finally got home at 6 pm! Including bus fare, Maylin entertainment costs came to a total of about thirty euros. But what is the cost of a classic Parisian experience for a most precious daughter? Priceless.

Eiffel Tower souvenir hustlers

I've seen these guys before under the Eiffel Tower and on the nearby bridge, Pont d'Iena. I am not sure of their ethnic origin but they are medium dark-skinned with dark hair. They are dressed casually and will carry many Eiffel Tower keyrings and other Eiffel Tower souvenirs. Maylin and I successfully avoided them last Saturday under the tower, but as we walked to the bus stop over the bridge, I made the mistake of looking at some of the goods placed on the ground. The vendor held out three different keychains to Maylin and had her choose two. She chose one and then he asked her to choose again from the remaining two in his hand. Smart guy. I couldn't get Maylin to let go of the keychains. It was only a euro for the two, but I know how junky those things are, and sure enough, as we were crossing the street, Maylin pointed out that the chain to one of the keyrings had fallen. That was a good time to tell her about why we should never buy things from these street vendors again.

She learned her lesson well, and it was reinforced when we took the same bus the next day coming back from the Luxembourg Gardens. The bus had stopped on the same bridge at the traffic light, and we were able to witness the same souvenir hustlers give each other a signal and, in a blink of an eye, were able to gather up their wares and run away from who they thought were the police. I didn't see any police coming after them, but these guys were spooked nevertheless. We tried looking for the hustlers, but they had disappeared. Maylin thought they were probably hiding in the bushes.

We had a good discussion afterwards about how these men were not authorized to sell that junk and that we should avoid them from now on. This lesson also carried on to vending machines that she spotted with her friend at Monoprix. I thought, How evil of Monoprix to put these shiny new vending machines right by the door! How are poor moms supposed to get out without some sort of discussion or argument over why it's not worth it to pay two euros for a little plastic toy that's just going to break? Maylin, of course, wanted some Dora toy, and I reminded her of our latest lesson. No junk!

We've been making our own toys at home anyways. During Maylin's vacation, we made a big paper mache dragon together (my first paper mache project in my life, her second) and origami frogs that really jump. We also made some masks out of paper plates. I'm hoping with all this creative activity at home, she'll gradually learn that you can make just about anything yourself! I was proud of her when, completely on her own, she made a costume for herself out of a cardboard box. Maylin just asked me for some scissors help -- cutting out arm holes, and eye, nose, and mouth holes.

Monday, March 05, 2007

X-rated dog show

Our dog Leo can do some pretty embarrassing things. Fortunately, I'm beyond embarrassment as he tries to mount other male dogs or unsuccessfully pee on someone's motorcycle or hubcap (his trajectory doesn't go as high as it used to).

Yesterday, Leo did something that I haven't seen him do in about two years. This is what John and I call the "air-hump." I know, some of you are blushing right now as you realize what it is, but for those of you who are less prone to imagining such things, let me describe it to you in the most tactful way possible. A completely involuntary movement, it involves a thrusting of the hips in a sexual manner, which is repeated over and over until the dog's excitement has worn down. The dog's four legs are in contact with the ground at all times, yet it is possible to walk.

I was walking Leo on Boulevard Pereire -- we had just dropped off a video at a rental store -- when we ran into one of my girlfriends, who is very kind to watch Leo when we go out of town. I know she loves Leo, but I was not aware how much he loved her when, after our hellos, he began his desperate air-hump routine. My friend was quite puzzled by what was happening. I just felt sorry for Leo as I explained what he was experiencing. I know he wanted his thrusting to stop and tried to walk it off. The whole episode probably lasted a minute, but it felt like a lifetime, in plain view of all the drivers stopped at the traffic light.

The last time I went through a similar scenario with Leo was about two years ago in front of a neighborhood Italian restaurant in the summer. One of our friends was having dinner outside on the corner with a colleague. Our friend gave Leo quite a vigorous rub which sent him into his uncontrollable frenzy -- sending pedestrians to the other side of the street and leaving other outdoor diners in bewilderment. Eek -- why does this always happen in public?