Thursday, March 26, 2009

First flourless chocolate cake a success!

Delicious, beautiful, and pretty easy! Try this recipe from Martha Stewart.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Maylin models my t-shirt design



I am proud to say that Maylin's favorite t-shirt to wear is designed by me! This was designed in November 2008, produced in December 2008, for the Berkeley YMCA.

I almost forgot to mention that Maylin has actually been borrowing clothes from me. 3/4-length sleeves for me are full-length for her. Can you believe it? Six years-old and she's already in my wardrobe! At this rate, she'll be outgrowing my clothes by age ten!

My boy at 18 1/2 months



Stefan can occupy himself quite nicely with a box of cars or even some books. Sometimes, when it seems too quiet, I'll ask Maylin where Stefan is. She'll reply, "He's reading in my room," and there he'll be...just sitting quietly next to the bookshelf with a book in his lap, looking at the pictures and delicately turning the pages with his beautiful, tapered fingers. Though he's not speaking very much (animal sounds are the preferred utterances at this point like "moo" and "rahrr"), he seems to be building quite a vocabulary as demonstrated by his ability to point to pictures of things that we ask him to locate. It always surprises me how quickly he picks up new words. Since last month, he's shown a growing interest in letters and numbers. He'll probably start reading early.

Stefan's still very loving. We were lying on the bed next to each other, with my face next to his. His arm was around my neck -- he kept pulling my face closer to his, encouraging a kiss onto his cheek. I don't remember how many times he repeated this action, but I was very happy to give him so many kisses.

He's also still very social and giving. He will often offer perfect strangers a beloved Hot Wheels or a dump truck or a train, and will not expect it back!

Nursing is pretty funny. I think I'd like to wean him around 2 years, but I'll play it by ear. It seems his desire to nurse has been ramping up. I love how he usually shows it. He'll come up to hug me and then try to lay down in my lap. How can I say "no"?

Perfect chocolate chip cookies, at last! (edited 3/26)


It's been almost two weeks of non-stop chocolate chip cookie baking at this house, despite the lack of a real oven (I've been using a toaster oven with a convection option.) And I've got the belly to prove it!

Ever since a friend baked some excellent chocolate chip cookies for me (a nutty, cakey version), I've been on the quest to find the perfect, classic chocolate chip cookie. Everyone's got their own opinion on what's perfect and what's classic. My take on perfection for a classic chocolate chip cookie is not the Tollhouse version which is more of a crispy cookie through and through. Soft and cakey is sometimes nice (which many people like -- check out the one from the Best Recipe cookbook put out by the Cook's Illustrated magazine), but it wasn't what I was looking for this time. Chewy towards the middle, crispy towards the edges. There has to be some give when you bite into it, so not too soft unless it's right out of the oven. Also, visually, I wanted a cookie that didn't thin out towards the edges, with just the right amount of spread. Lastly, I wanted a semi-healthy cookie -- meaning a need for some whole wheat flour.

After trying four "classic" recipes, I have settled on a slightly altered version of the famous Neiman Marcus cookie. There's some urban legend that accompanies it, but I won't bore you with it here (you can google it if you like). There are several different versions online of the famous cookie recipe, but the one I used is directly from the Neiman Marcus website.

I didn't really change it too much. Just substituted 3/4 cup whole wheat flour for 3/4 cup all purpose flour and ommitted the espresso powder because I didn't have it. Be sure not to overbake. My little convection oven cut the baking time by more than half. 9 minutes instead of 20 minutes.

I believe the cookies don't overspread because they're baked at a lower temperature than in most other recipes. 300 degrees vs. 350 or 375 degrees is a big difference. It gives the cookie time to spread evenly (middle and edge at almost same rate).

Try the unaltered recipe. It's really great, too. It'd also be more convenient for those of you who don't have whole wheat flour on hand but REALLY NEED to make chocolate chip cookies RIGHT AWAY. Enjoy!

By the way, I used a one-tablespoon cookie scoop (the recipe specifies two tablespoons). Makes it really quick. Be sure to flatten them down to about a 1/3-inch high disk. I do that by hand, and touch up the rough edges with my fingers as well. These little cookies are quite cute and are great when you're concerned about portion control. If you want gorgeous, pro-sized cookies, stack three tablespoon scoops on top of each other and squash them down to a 3-inch diameter disk. Beautiful. Bake-sale or bakery-worthy.

[Addendum:
Well, the next day, the larger cookies held up better than the 1-tablespoon little guys. The small cookies came out kind of hard after storage in a cookie tin. The 2-tablespoon and 3-tablespoon cookies were nice and soft still. Just be sure to not overbake. Just when the bottom edge starts to turn brown on some of the cookies, it's time to take them out! By the way, my friend Meg recommends using whole wheat pastry flour. I will definitely give that a try. Just bought some today!]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

My little science secret

It's no longer a secret! Here are some great links to fun science projects you can do with your kids -- classroom and at home. Have a great time learning science!

http://exploratorium.edu/snacks/index.html

http://exploratorium.edu/afterschool/activities/index.php

Where does all the time go?

We are in the middle of our kitchen renovation and it seems housekeeping duties triple as a result. More dust, washing dishes by hand (wow, it takes forever! I remember I used to enjoy it the slow way), creative cooking without my range (saved by slow cooker, rice cooker, and toaster oven)...Stefan's also not making it easier. At eighteen months, he's decided that it's fun to dump his drink (and his glass afterwards) onto the floor. I scold him and he just smiles and says "sorry" in his own irresistible way -- by hugging my leg. Geesh, I can't stay mad for long.

I am loving my toaster oven (which doubles as a convection oven). I've made three or four batches of different chocolate chip cookie recipes already! After a few more recipes, I'll share with you my fool-proof favorites.

Oops, gotta go. More later.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Free online 3-D anatomical model of the human body!

One of Maylin's favorite activities to do with Mommy is to color in her anatomy coloring book (when I locate it, I'll give you the exact title -- it's actually used as a text in many educational settings). And boy, do we love the digestive system! I was looking online for a plastic anatomical model to buy if reasonably priced, but the only affordable ones were tiny! Not for little kid fingers! I mean, who wants to take out a stomach that's the size of a fingernail? Not me and not any other kid either. :)

I happened across this fabulous free resource online. Check out www.visiblebody.com. Watch the demo and you'll see how fantastic it is. You can study the all aspects of the human body in 3-D! I just started playing around with it and was able to isolate just the skeleton and digestive system. You can make organs disappear and reappear, you can rotate the figure in all directions, you can zoom in and out...it's great fun. Can't wait to show Maylin.

Be sure to download the plug-in after you activate your account and click the "launch" button otherwise, you'll see nada.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Back into the ballet slippers

Maylin's into her second session of ballet at her new dance school. She had a great time the last session, but now, she's beginning to say she doesn't want to do it anymore (she said the same for swimming and now we're taking a break until summer). She says her legs hurt during class, and I tried telling her that that means her legs are getting stronger, that it's a part of getting better at ballet. I told her that I took ballet as a little girl as well and she seemed very interested. I thought maybe I could revive her enthusiasm for this art form if I had her watch me take a ballet class. Maylin thought it was a great idea.

So two days after her complaint, she accompanied me to my class. We walked hand in hand and talked and laughed together as we approached the school. I got into my leotard, tights, skirt, and tight ballet slippers (my wide feet were not made for the slippers I had on) and entered the very full class. Maylin watched from a window in the hallway. I knew I'd probably do okay with the barre work, as long as I had someone good to follow. So, I was pretty decent on right side because the woman to the right was a regular, but I was a little embarrassing on the other side because the woman to the left was new like me (but had LOTS more ballet experience). In fact, everyone had LOTS more ballet experience. It really showed when we went to the center of the floor to do some short routines. I never mastered the pirouette before and it showed. Fortunately, I wasn't the only one having trouble with pirouettes, but I was the only one who was seeing some of these steps (rather standard, I believe) for the first time. I was feeling way out of my league.

The teacher was very kind and offered to get me caught up if I came every week, but I don't see myself doing that. Maybe if I didn't have a family that I want to spend time with...to make waffles, pancakes, muffins, or crepes for.

So let's see if Maylin complains again this week about ballet or finds that she's been inspired to continue. Let's hope it's the latter.