Friday, August 29, 2008

Perfect pairing for breakfast

Ooh yum. I've been eating nonfat plain yogurt for breakfast for about a couple months now. You may cringe and say, "Ew, isn't that really sour?" Yes, it's pretty tangy, but I had been supplementing it with a tablespoon of Bonne Maman jam. My favorites have been the Wild Blueberry (absolute favorite), along with Fig, Strawberry, and Damsonplum (I sure miss the Mirabelle plum flavor which is not available in the U.S.). After I got tired of jam, I started trying honey. It's nice, but it just doesn't compare to the MAPLE SYRUP! It is SO sweet it creates the perfect counterbalance to the yogurt's sourness. It's also so sweet that you don't need to use a lot of it. Less than a tablespoon to a cup of yogurt. It's quite delightful -- like eating dessert in the morning.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Homemade toy for Maylin


Paper toys for Maylin
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
Made the boy and girl paper dolls and their home (modeled after our French apt.) while we were in France, and added Mommy and Daddy and the baby twins in June. Making toys is always fun. Photos of other toys to come!

I just want to eat him up!


Huh?
Originally uploaded by Caroline in Paris.
I took this picture of Stefan at the end of June at a friend's house. He is unbelievably pretty! I love, love, LOVE him!

Gym freak again?

I joined the gym finally! The last week and a half I have been religiously walking from our North Berkeley hills home through the Cal campus to Downtown Berkeley with the kids in tow in an effort to get back into shape. Coming back up the hill is good cardio, but I didn't feel like it was enough for me to make a significant improvement in my fitness, so I decided to join a gym. Fortunately, it has great classes (I haven't tried them all, but so far, I prefer my ol' neighborhood gym in France) and I might be able to attend up to five a week if I have enough energy and John's able to watch the kids on the weekends (a little more complicated during the college football season). More realistically, I'll probably be able to take 2-3 classes a week, but that's fine with me. Plus, Maylin can take swim lessons there, and they have baby classes, too!

I tried a hip hop class which I thought was great but may be beyond my skill level (I'm a beginner who accidentally attended more of an intermediate class). It was full of well-seasoned regulars who knew the choreography cold and hardly ever made mistakes. Yikes. I'm going to try the beginning class in a couple of days to see if I can at least start building a repertoire of hip hop moves (and move in a more hip hoppy way, instead of bouncing around like a cheerleader or Richard Simmons).

Maylin starts school tomorrow as a first grader and we're going to walk there (Maylin's choice over the bus)! I'm giving us 40 minutes though I think it would take me 20 minutes. Stefan will ride along in the jogging stroller. Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stefan, wunderkind

Stefan has been a dream baby. Goes to bed easily around 8:30 pm every night, sleeps through the night (although now that he's got an eighth tooth coming in, he'll wake up occasionally starting around 5 am), eats just about anything (and a lot of it, oftentimes, more than Maylin at a meal -- Maylin's more of a grazer), loves books (makes this cute monotone sound as he flips the pages, like singing), loves his sister (still laughs when he sees her in the morning), and is a good athlete (he is a natural when it comes to balls -- a great toss every time).

He's also a musician. Last night, Stefan and I had a monotone singing session together! He has a beautiful voice. He would hold out these long tones, which sounded like an A-440. I echoed him with my face close to his. I thought it was the most beautiful music ever. Like Maylin was, Stefan is a high chair percussionist. Loves banging on that tray with both of his hands. He loves music and being sung to. Maylin didn't really care much for it when she was a baby.

Oops, gotta go. Kids crying.

A summer of living and creating

It definitely wasn't a summer of blogging (sorry, loyal readers), but it was definitely a summer of living and creating. Yes, I had to take care of both of my children the entire summer without much of a break for myself (Maylin only had one week of camp and a few short classes), but I really had a fantastic summer. Fortunately, Maylin and I have similar interests. We drew a lot together, visited the library many times, read a lot (me to her and her to me), had friends over (Maylin's mostly), visited Grandma and Grandpa and swam in their pool (oops, not me this summer), walked to the Cal campus to picnic on the lawn and say hello to the dinosaur bones in the Life Sciences building, made new friends at the park, made new reptile friends at the East Bay Vivarium in Berkeley (with the option to touch them, which we didn't -- but we were amazed by the beautiful patterns on the snakes, the variety of lizards [frilled dragons, monitors of all sizes], and the liveliness of some turtles (Stefan liked one particularly active snake and the store owner's dogs the best).

Our house has been home to many different craft projects this summer. Maylin and I are in the process of making a doll out of wooden balls (photos to come!) that we found from the inspiring store, Castle in the Air, on the Fourth Street in Berkeley. Previously, we made plaster farm animals from a kit. The molds are really great -- I'm looking forward to finding more plaster powder to make even more darling animals. Maylin's taken card stock and made toys for herself (beds for dolls, shelving for a doghouse...really cute). She's made at least a half-dozen books, and I made one for a friend complete with drawings, a poem, and favorite dessert recipes. Oh yes -- I've also carved out MANY rubber stamps and, when I have a big chunk of time to myself, will print out some cards to sell on etsy.com for fun. I offered to make a rubber stamp for Maylin, so she drew, of course, a very complicated design which I carved out with such intense concentration I ended up with very tense shoulders and neck, something I haven't experienced since taking finals at Cal way back from before '96.

Besides carving stamps, I've gotten into food in a big way. I read Animal, Vegetable, Mineral by Barbara Kingsolver, and am following that up with The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I have been inspired to eat local and organic whenever possible, and I have done so pretty well this summer. I haven't taken a trip to Safeway in months and am quite proud of myself! I head over to Berkeley's Monterey Market once a week where they have a lot of local produce direct from the farmers at great prices. Their dairy section is great, too, though I wish they had more of a cheese selection (I'll have to visit the Cheeseboard soon -- which is actually walking distance from my home!). We don't eat much meat these days, but what we do eat is mostly from Magnani's, near the Monterey Market. They carry free-range chickens and Niman Ranch beef and more. I was most impressed by the Sonoma Farms free-range chicken. Actually, if you want to know the difference among all the chickens that are out there, do a boiling test. Boil your chicken (and eat it, of course), but save the broth and put it in the fridge until the fat coagulates on the surface. I've only boiled a couple chickens lately, but I'll tell you my observations.

Coleman Organic (from Costco) versus Sonoma Farms Free-Range

The Coleman Organic produced a lot of saturated fat, probably comparable to a Foster Farms. The flavor of the chicken wasn't significantly better than your run-of-the-mill chicken, and the size of the breast was quite large. The fat coming out of the Sonoma Farms Free-Range chicken looked totally different! First of all, there wasn't much of it, and second of all, there was very little of your typical saturated chicken fat (you know, that thick, pasty whitish stuff). Instead, the fat was very light in texture and mostly transparent! That's probably as healthy as fat can get (if you intend on eating it). And the flavor? More of it! Very chicken-y, in a good way. The way chicken should be. What a wonderful aroma! And the size of the breast was reminiscent of an A- or B-cup, instead of a D- or E-cup. More realistic. To be sure, I will continue purchasing this beautiful bird, which was only a couple dollars more than the Coleman Organic. Definitely worth the extra bucks.

First-time sushi-making

I made cucumber rolls (kappamaki) for the first time for Maylin's marine biology class party (food from the sea only, and I wasn't about to bring processed stuff from the store that contained agar or carageenan). They were fun and easy to make, beautiful, and the kids loved them! I just looked up a recipe for the rice on the internet, whipped out the rice cooker/steamer and my bamboo mat for rolling, and I was ready to go!

I got the recipe for the sushi rice from about.com (http://japanesefood.about.com/od/sushiforbeginner/r/sushirice.htm) but I didn't follow the directions exactly. I cooked 2 1/2 cups of Japanese rice, instead of 3, and used almost the entire recipe of sushi vinegar (sushi-zu), which is as follows:

* 1/3 cup rice vinegar
* 3 Tbsp sugar
* 1 tsp salt

You combine it in a saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Gently fold it into cooked rice with paddle. Let the rice cool a little, otherwise you'll have soggy nori (roasted seaweed). Then take a sheet of nori and cut it in half so you'll have maki-sized sushi rolls. Cut and peel a cucumber (I prefer English), de-seed if you prefer, and then cut long strips, about the length of your nori (which you've placed edge to edge on your bamboo mat). With your rice paddle, make a thin layer of rice from one edge of the nori to almost the other end. Place a piece of cucumber down the middle of your blanket of rice and then carefully roll your sushi with the mat, gently squeezing and shaping, rolling several times until the form has set. Then slice your roll with a serrated knife (about 3/4 inch pieces?). Arrange beautifully on a platter.

With my success, I decided to continue my sushi adventure by attempting to make spicy tuna rolls. Most online recipes required raw tuna, which I didn't have on hand that evening. Instead, I used a can of tuna and threw in a little of this and that. "This and that" included rice vinegar, sugar, salt, and some of Trader Joe's jalapeno pepper sauce. Used the same technique as for the cucumber rolls, but substituted a thin layer of tuna down the middle of the rice. I have to say it tasted pretty good, but unfortunately, I can't tell you the exact amounts because I don't remember what I threw in!

Friday, August 15, 2008

New photos!

I put some new photos on flickr a week or so ago. Isn't Maylin a sweetie? There's also Stefan photos and a Jou family photo (unfortunately, John isn't in that one).

Last days of summer

Maylin and I have been having a really good time the last couple weeks, ever since I started her on a more timely bedtime schedule. Going to bed at 11 pm results in temper tantrums the next day. I wonder why???

Yesterday, we walked to the Cal campus for a picnic snack on Memorial Glade, went to see the dinosaur bones (and buy some gummy worms), and then went off to the library for some computer time and to pick up the second installment of Captain Underpants. We had a picnic semi-lunch on a lawn on campus and then busted our butts climbing back up the hill (with Stefan in tow in his jogging stroller).

Maylin finished her marine bio class at the Berkeley Marina last week and made a few friends. Maylin said that this class was the best time she's had all summer -- topping clay class and Fairyland camp. They collected plankton, explored the bay through binoculars (her favorite part), printed t-shirts with REAL fish, and found microscopic creatures in the mud. Oh yes, they also did belly biology on the docks which I hope she'll show me how to do later.

I was going crazy not doing any creative things, but I finally made some rubber stamps after being inspired by some handprinting books at the MOMA bookstore. If I can disciplined (somebody kick my butt!), I'll photograph my work for you.

More later. Can't wait to tell you about Stefan.