Obama Mama

Filed under: — Aprille @ 12:36 pm
Edited for Collette:  The many phases of Obama love.


I am socially awkward.

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:42 pm

At what distance are you supposed to do the “acquaintance smile”?  I’m talking about when you’re walking in a public place, and someone you kind of know but not really is approaching.  It would be polite to smile or say hi or acknowledge the person somehow, but when do you do it?

That happened to me the other day.  I saw this guy, friend-of-a-friend, we’ve been at the same parties but never really had any one-on-one conversations or anything.  I noticed him from probably half a block away, and I planned to acknowledge him pleasantly at a distance of around 10 feet.  I looked around at other stuff until I got to the 10-foot mark, at which point I looked up.  However, at that point he was looking around at other stuff.

Did I miss the moment?  Was he looking at me, ready to be pleasant, at 15 feet, then assumed I either didn’t see him or was too stuck-up to say anything because I was looking at other stuff?  Or is HE the one who’s stuck up and he totally dissed me?

This sort of thing happens to me a lot, and I think maybe I just wait too long for the contact.  It’s weird if you do it too soon, though, because then you’re walking toward each other for so long, looking at each other, and there’s too much build-up for such a small interaction.

There really needs to be some kind of rule book for this sort of thing.

Key limes and quail

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:32 am

I got a bug up my butt to cook a fancy dinner last night.  It turned out pretty well, except that it’s hard to nibble the flesh off tiny quail with a grumpy baby in the high chair.  Don’t ask me why he wasn’t satisfied with mushed-up peas and Teddy Poofs.

Here’s the recipe, adapted from Gourmet (and epicurious.com). I didn’t take any pictures of this because it was my first time making it and I wasn’t confident about the beauty aspect.  I did, however, make a key lime pie for dessert, so the photo you see is evidence of that process.

QUAIL WITH ONIONS AND RED GRAPES (serves 2, can be doubled)

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoons honey
  • 2 teaspoons dried bouquet garni blend (could also use fresh thyme)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion (I like Peru Sweets), cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 4 whole quail (5 to 6 ounces each), cleaned and necks and feet removed  if necessary
  • 1.5 cups red seedless grapes
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 475°F.In a small saucepan boil vinegar, honey, and bouquet garni over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until reduced to about 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes. Pour glaze through a fine sieve into a small bowl, discarding herb solids, and reserve. In another small bowl stir together 1 tablespoons reserved glaze and 1 tablespoon melted butter.

Heat a flameproof roasting pan (I used my cast iron) in oven 10 minutes. In heated pan toss onions with remaining tablespoon butter, remaining teaspoon bouquet garni, and salt and pepper to taste and roast in upper third of oven, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes.

While onions are roasting, prepare quail. Rinse quail and pat dry. Season inside and out with salt and pepper. Brush quail inside and out with about one third glaze-butter mixture and tie legs together with kitchen string (I didn’t do this and I wish I had, because they looked a little pointy).

Add grapes to pan and toss with onions. Arrange quail, breast sides down, over onions and grapes and roast 15 minutes. Turn quail over and baste with about half of remaining glaze-butter mixture. Roast quail, basting with remaining glaze-butter mixture, 10 minutes more, or until juices run clear when fleshy part of a thigh is pierced (I suggest checking them a little sooner, as mine came out a bit dry).

Discard string from quail and transfer to a platter. Arrange grapes and onions around quail using a slotted spoon and keep warm.

You can use the remaining glaze to drizzle around the plate; I also used some to make a little vinaigrette salad dressing.


Tomatoes and their squishy sauce

Filed under: — Aprille @ 8:41 am

It has been a downright crappy year for tomatoes.  We had those pesky floods, then the rest of the summer was cool.  We also got our plants in late, which didn’t help (don’t blame Denny; every time he headed out to do yard work/gardening I said, “No, stay and help me with the baby!”).  We got lots of green tomatoes, but I was afraid we were going to get to fall with no red fruit.

This saddened me deeply.  It seems like tomatoes are a popular food to dislike; tomatoes often show up on people’s most-hated foods lists.  Why?  Why?  They’re like sunshine in your g.d. mouth.  They’re the basis for our two national condiments, salsa and ketchup (and can I mention how delighted I am that tomatoes are contributing to our changing demographics?).

Fortunately, a mild fall with some nice warm days yielded a small but pretty tomato crop.  Last night Denny and I had panini with tomatoes, garden basil, fresh mozzarella, and bacon.  I also scrounged up enough to make one big pot of tomato sauce.  Making tomato sauce is one of my favorite early-fall rituals.  I’m not brave enough to try canning it; the sauce spends the rest of the year in our chest freezer, and I get it out now and then to make pasta sauces, tomato soup, chili, or whatever else seems like it would benefit.

The “recipe” isn’t much of one, and it’s very simple—just big chunks of onion sauteed in some olive oil, garlic, lots of tomatoes (skin, seeds, and all), basil, and a little sugar and salt.  I blend it into oblivion with my handy stick blender:  the skins get pulverized to nothingness, and I’m not offended by some seeds in my sauce.  If you want to go to the trouble of blanching and de-seeding your tomatoes, be my guest, but I find it’s not worth the effort.  When I make soup, I strain it; if I’m going for a chunky sauce, I might throw in a can of Muir Glen diced tomatoes; if I’m making pizza sauce, I’ll reduce it way down.  Obviously additional seasonings go in on a dish-by-dish basis as well.

I’m so glad I got to make sauce this year, even just one smallish batch.  It would have been like summer didn’t count otherwise.  Now, what to do with all that remaining basil?  Pesto party!


Monthly Miles Memo #9

Filed under: — Aprille @ 1:08 pm

Nine months.  Wow.

Nine months is the fictional length of a pregnancy (because 40 weeks is really closer to ten months, and you were born early anyway, so it doesn’t really apply to you).  We can officially say that you’ve existed on the outside longer than on the inside.  Is it nice to be free from prison, Miles?  Is the food better?  The air more gaseous?  You are certainly taking advantage of your freedom these days.  While you can’t quite crawl, you’re awfully close; you get up on all fours and rock and scootch, and you can roll just about anywhere you want to go.  You also love—love—to walk while holding on to someone’s hands.  When you do it, I can just feel the glee emanating from you.  It’s like you’re thinking, “I knew I was a biped all along.”

Right now you’re lying on the floor of your play room with one red sock in your hand and zero socks on your feet.  I don’t know where the other sock went.  This is the way it goes.  We’re going to have to get some socks that are harder to get loose now that the cold weather is coming, though you really don’t ever seem to get very chilly.  I credit your fat layers.  Your thighs go on for consecutive hours.

This has presented a bit of a problem for your dad and me.  For those people who regularly read this blog, we’ve gone back to (mostly) co-sleeping.  You’re not nearly as much of a flaily ukulele as you used to be, and we’ve found it’s just the best way for us all to get good sleep.  Typically we put you to bed in your crib, then when you wake up in the night, I haul you into our bed and we all hang out together until morning.  This is mostly good; you do kind of crowd me over to the edge, but your dad is nice about pulling you over to him now and then.  The problem I referred to above is one of temperature.  We’ve had some cool nights, but you refuse to sleep with any kind of blanket or sheet on top of you, even if you’re not wearing pants or socks.  What I need to do is invent a V-shaped comforter so your dad and I could both be covered up while you chill out in the middle.  You’ve gotten so snuggly lately, which is probably how you keep warm with no blanket.

One of your best new tricks this month involves recognizing people and getting excited to see them.  When I hear your dad’s bus go by, I hold you up to the window.  It’s obvious the moment you catch a glimpse of him, because you start wiggling like a trout on a hook.  When he gets up close to the house, he taps the window, and you give him a huge grin.  Something similar happened this morning.  You had a doctor’s appointment, so your dad stayed home to go to it with us.  You and I were in your room where I was changing your diaper and clothes, and you heard a sound in the bathroom.  You jumped and started wiggling, so I took you over to where you could see your dad getting ready.  The thrill you got out of seeing him at that unexpected time was adorable.

A couple of weeks ago, your dad had to go out of town, so we went to stay with Mubby and Skittergramps.  Your dad’s flight got in late, after you and I were already in bed, but you woke up when he came in.  It took you a couple of minutes to figure out what was going on, but even in the dark I could feel it dawning on you.  “What’s going on here?  This is unusual.  Who’s that?  Wait, could it be?  Is it?  Omigod omigod omigod it’s DADDY.”  You squealed and wiggled and bounced, and it took us another hour to get you back to sleep.  I think it was worth it, though.  Your dad told me later that he counts that among the most heartwarming moments of his life.

You’re like that—you just get so excited about things.  Sometimes, seemingly out of nowhere, you just give a shriek of delight, like you remembered something wonderful, or all your little excitement neurons got together and blasted at once.

You’re also so curious.  Everything grabbable ends up in your hands, and sometimes in your mouth.  You have four teeth that are good at chomping, and I think more are on the way soon, given your recent fussiness and increased desire to chew (toys, books, zippers, table edges, human chins).  You enjoyed visiting Uncle Tyler in Nebraska, and you were even quite well-behaved on the long drive, thanks largely to Mubby’s entertainment efforts.

Most of the time I end these notes with some kind of weepy note about how I can’t believe you’re so big and I want you to be my baby forever, and that’s still true, but right now I’m getting really excited about your advancements.  You are turning into such a little person, with your own interests and likes and dislikes (the noise and face you made when I put some sweet potatoes into your mouth were pretty outrageous).  You love to videoconference via iChat AV, play with balloons, and bounce in your command station:  bouncing triggers the music, and we have a game in which I dance for you when the music is going and freeze when it stops, and then you bounce again to start me dancing.  I always get tired before you do.

The look in your eyes is sometimes so knowing that I feel like any minute now you’re going to open your mouth and give me your opinion.  I’m betting it’s going to be something like, “Mother, I do appreciate the switch you made to the apple-cinnamon Teddy Poofs.  They really have a more elaborate flavor profile than the original variety.”  I would also accept “mama.”  Either way.

Oh, gross.  You just licked the bottom of my bedroom slipper.

That’s okay.  I still think you’re a genius.




Baby exploitation

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:23 pm

Denny joined Miles and me for Book Babies at the library on Friday.  It was lots of fun.  We sang songs and listened to the leader read books and danced.  There were some super-cute kids there.  One thing caught my attention, though.  There was one really adorable little girl who I think would have been more adorable if she didn’t have pierced ears.

Piercing an infant’s ears is such a bizarre thing to do.  For one thing, it hurts.  I remember getting mine done at the mall when I was 9 or 10, at a place called Jewelry Hut (I swear).  After I got the first ear done, I wasn’t so sure I wanted the second one.  And I remember the aftermath being a giant pain.  My earring holes got all crusty and painful and gross, and my mom had to swab them with alcohol every night.  I hear that if you get it done by an actual piercing specialist with a needle, it’s not as traumatic to the tissues as with an earring gun, but it was guns all around at Jewelry Hut.

I was a pretty responsible kid, even.  I don’t know how you would keep a baby from grabbing at her earrings and getting them all infected, or how the parent would effectively keep them clean.  It’s all I can do to keep Miles’s fingernails under an inch long, he’s so wiggly; it must be a hundred times worse when the kid is wiggling away because the process is actually painful.

It just creeps me out to perform a painful cosmetic procedure on a baby for no reason other the parents’ entertainment.  It’s different when the kid is old enough to grasp the concept and request it—I’m not casting any aspersions on people in that situation, and it was fun having pierced ears in the 80’s when I got to amass a giant earring collection (both giant in terms of numbers and in item size; after all, the earrings had to be proportionate to the bangs).  I don’t know if it’s a gender identity thing or what.  Are parents so worried that people will think their little girl is a little boy that they have to stab through her flesh to prove her femininity to strangers?  People think Miles is a girl all the time.  Just today he was wearing a blue shirt with brown trim and a lion on it, and a person in a restaurant called him she.  It doesn’t really concern me.

I shouldn’t be too critical, though.  I did, in fact, order a Halloween costume for Miles that he will probably not like wearing.  But I don’t think it will cause him any physical tissue damage, unless he looks so cute that I actually munch him.

Pictures forthcoming, of course, so that he may be exploited by all of you as well.


Individual apple crisps

Filed under: — Aprille @ 6:38 pm

I love making food that I neither planned for nor shopped for; I just got in the mood for it and I happened to have the ingredients.  It’s like Antiques Roadshow for me:  I had these treasures all along, and I just had to arrange them into something wonderful.

Case in point:  quick and easy individual apple crisps.  These are good for so many reasons.  First, anything served in an individual dish is better than the analogous thing served out of a big pot.  When you dig into an individual ramekin of something, it feels like someone cared enough to make it just for you.  Also, they cook faster that way.  It’s prime apple season, fall is just beginning to hint around about its chilly presence, and there’s just enough vanilla ice cream in the freezer to top two servings.

This sort of confluence of events thrills me.  Also, the VP debates are tonight.  What better way to celebrate being an American (and let’s remember that patriotism doesn’t have a political party; you can be proud of your country and anxious to improve it even if you lean toward the blue side) than with something apple pie-esque.

Individual Apple Crisps

Serves 2, but can easily be doubled or tripled or whatever.  In fact, the topping made more than I needed.

1 apple, peeled and cut into smallish pieces (I actually used 1.5 apples because gluttony is a family value)
.25 cup AP flour
.25 cup quick-cooking oats
.5 cup brown sugar
some cinnamon and/or nutmeg and/or apple pie spice and/or cloves, maybe 1/2 tsp total
a pinch of salt
a small handful of coarsely-chopped nuts if you like them.  I used pecans.
about 1/3 stick of butter

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put the apples into 2 ramekins or other single-serve oven-safe vessel.  Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter.  Sprinkle generously on top of the apples. Bake for 30 minutes or so.  Top with ice cream.

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