Saturday, November 29, 2008

Do I Get a Lollipop with That?

I haven't trimmed Munch's hair for a long time now- we've been trying to grow it out. About 2 Halloweens ago I gave her a short pixie-ish cut-

it was fairly easy because I was mostly just giving some shape to her baby hair which was finally starting to grow, but had a bit of wave and a cute little flip. My method (which made my stylist laugh...and cringe) was to cut away "anything that didn't look like it belonged there!"
Her hair grew quite quickly actually, like mine does. So here's the before:

I knew I wanted to give her a layered cut with sideswept angled bangs, so I found an interesting technique where you cut with the head turned upside down. Turns out her bangs still aren't long enough to really layer into the cut(we're working on growing those out), but I think it turned out pretty cute and it's still long enough to pull into a ponytail. It also works well enough with her funny hair- it grows totally straight on one side (1st pic), and really wavy on the other (2nd pic).
After:


Thursday, November 27, 2008

Feeling crabby?

It just doesn't feel right if I haven't had my first taste (for the season) of Dungeness by Thanksgiving week. While we were at 99 Ranch a few days ago with the grandparents, I picked up a couple of crabs for Munch and I to enjoy this week. Needless to say, my adventuresome little eater enjoyed them immensely. I think she also liked chatting up her dinner before we dunked them in the pot.

Happy Turkey Day!

Whew! After yesterday's baking extravaganza, we spent Thanksgiving day making the rounds to all the branches of our families. It was a great day with great food, which is my very favorite part! We did a quick pumpkin bread drop off to one set of grandparents before heading off to visit AudioDad's family for a late morning brunch.


A picture with the cousins (minus one run-off). I'd also have a photo of Aunt Lara's fabulous cinnamon rolls if AudioDad hadn't eaten half the batch first!

At my parents', Munch quickly got to playing with cousin A. while we worked on getting the meal to the table.



The star of the show.


The pecan pie Munch and I made for Grandpa.


I couldn't resist getting a funny pic of the cranberry sauce in the midst of all the beautiful food!


One hungry girl after all that play time!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Family Game Nights


Now that Munch is older (can you believe she'll be three in a couple of months???) I thought it might be fun to break open the games that her Auntie Lara gave her last year. She has so much more patience now, and is more interested in following directions. Also, her counting is a lot more reliable! We loved Candyland (haven't played it since I was a kid!) and thought the Five Little Monkeys game (in the photo above) was fun, too. Chutes and Ladders pushed my patience a bit, just because with Munch entering her "why?" phase, all the actions and consequences took a lot of explaining. My favorite of the bunch though, is Hi-Ho Cherry-O- it's simple, there's no extended explanation necessary, picking up the tiny fruit is great for those fine-motor skills, and the game is done super quick!

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Cuteness

I don't know what has gotten into the Munchkin lately. She has been such an angel these last couple of months. AudioDad's been hard at work all weekend applying sealer to our fence. So last night Munch & I whipped up a lasagna and cake for him. After dinner, we ate our cake- Munch is the type that, if there's a yummy snack or treat, she's got one in each hand is already calling dibs on her next piece. So usually, she'd be gobbling her cake & eyeing her daddy's (he'll give her bites of his and she knows it). But last night, he offered her a bite of his cake. And as sweet as could be, she said, "No thank you. It's Daddy's. We made it 'cause we love Daddy." Be still my heart!
And speaking of cute and sweet, if you haven't made it over to Speaking of the Sweetest Things yet, you've got to. Her blog is just adorable!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

I'm Waiting for...Something

Came across this site in researching for an upcoming post (the first ever, Can I Taste It Now gift guide!). I just couldn't resist- the whole premise and concept has me so curious! Go to The Something Store and for $10 (that's inclusive of shipping & handling!), they'll send you "SOMETHING"! I'll let you know what my something is when it arrives!

The Gift Guide

Oprah's got one. So does amazon.com. They're all over the web and in most of this month's magazines. You don't have to look far to find a list of gift ideas for this season. So I figured, why not come up with my own? Here are some of my picks for fun gifts I'm giving (can't let the cat out of the bag too soon!)...or would love to receive! Have a great find? Let me know! (I'll be posting more direct links to the merchants below ASAP- they've got a lot of unique gift ideas)

Lotus Blossom Tea Light Holders- $34.95/set of 3
I gave a pair of these in cream to a friend last summer. They're simple and beautiful.


Playful Word Earrings-$40
You'll usually spot me wearing these at school on the last day before a vacation break.


Savannah Bee Company Honey Flute-$23
Try a drizzle of this with a little cheese and bread- You will never go back to those honey bears after tasting this. They also have a sampler set so you can compare varietals.


Matryoshka Measuring Cups-$28
How adorable are these? I WANT, WANT, WANT these!


Red Coupe Dinnerware-from $8.95-10.95
Remember the "Red Plate" post? Well here's your chance to start the tradition with your family!


Italian Panettone-$39.95
You cannot go wrong with this fragrant, delectable holiday bread from Williams-Sonoma. It's delicious plain, toasted, or if you really want to gild the lily, (oh my!) french toast!


Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup-$29 for two jars
Blossoms unfurling in your pot of tea? Cranberries or pomegranate bobbing in your sparkler? Been there, done that. Drop this little beauty in your bubbly this season instead!


Home Decor items by Tord Boontje-price varies
I purchased the midsummer light (pictured below, $78) for Munch's room- everything he designs is airy, girly, and fanciful.



I'm Made in America canvas bags-contact for pricing
Ok, full disclosure here. This is my parents' new company. But they're on to something. It's good that people are becoming more eco-conscious, but these bags are made here in the USA. So while you're being green, you can support the red, white & blue, too!


Mr. Men Giant Snakes and Ladders-$29
Gotta love those Mr. Men and Little Misses! Here's their version of Chutes and Ladders- jumbo sized!


Jellycat Bellissima Bird-$25
A quirky little soft pal (also available in black/white.)


Dinos on the Go-$19.99
These little guys even come with a bin that zips open into a playmat!


Some favorite sites:
Uncommon Goods
The Conran Shop
Viva Terra

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Awwww...

We're pulling into the parking lot at the bagel place after gymnastics class and lunch with Grandma & Grandpa. From the back seat, Munch announces, "I'm happy." I turn to ask her, "What are you happy about?" "I'm with my mommy," she says. I love that girl!

When Life Gives You Lemons

I've been on a lemon kick lately. It started with the buttermilk lemon scones at the coffee place around the corner from school. Then came the batches of lemon bars that would appear when various teachers had kitchen duty (yes, we rotate cleaning the kitchen...and our holiday party is potluck- keep that in mind this season when people are bemoaning company cutbacks to the party budget!) Anywho, back to lemons, I thought it was time to share my favorite lemon bar recipe. The biggest difference is in the crust- this one uses powdered sugar instead of regular to create a very tender shortbread base. It also calls for a lot more lemon than other recipes I've tried (I prefer my lemon bars more tart than sweet). Unfortunately, I killed my lemon trees (extreme neglect) so I'm not enjoying fresh lemons from my own trees this winter.
The recipe is from The Bake Sale Cookbook.



Crust:
1 c. flour
1/2 c. powdered sugar
pinch salt
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Filling:
2 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 tbsp. flour
1/4 tsp. salt
zest from 1 lemon
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Place the flour, powdered sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to combine. Turn the food processor on and add the butter a little at a time until it is all mixed in and the dough is starting to clump together. Press the dough into the prepared pan and bake until light golden, about 18 to 20 minutes. Set aside while the filling is prepared:
Combine the eggs, sugar, and flour and mix well. Add the salt, lemon zest, and lemon juice and mix to combine. Pour filling over the crust and bake about 15 to 18 minutes until the filling is just set and a light golden brown. Watch it closely and do not overcook. Cool on a rack to room temperature and then refrigerate at least an hour (I just store them in the refrigerator and pull them out a little before serving so the filling is firmer). Cut into bars and sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What's On Your Plate?

I was watching an episode of Oprah recently that's stayed on my brain. She had a woman on the show roasting a chicken and talking about the numerous things that you could make from the shredded meat. Viewers were cooking along with her in their kitchens via Skype. What's lingered with me since watching that episode was the tone of amazement from Oprah & some other women that sticking a chicken in the oven was a major deal. And then to make chicken pot pie or enchiladas from it? You'd think we were in Martha Stewart territory here! (Speaking of, have you checked out the show, Whatever, Martha? It's a hoot!)

I've really never considered myself anything more than competent in the kitchen. I know I can feed my family nutritiously and fairly inexpensively. But I certainly have my comfort zone. I stick to the basics- meatloaf, pot pie, roasted chicken (my all-time favorite!), and every so often, a pasta dish (the carbs make my BG levels skyrocket). For the most part, I leave the complicated stuff to the real chefs (for example- REAL story, back in my Williams-Sonoma days, I was mulling over what to make for dinner towards the end of my shift. A co-worker, in all seriousness, suggested ravioli- to be made fresh from hand-made, rolled out sheets of pasta. I think he recommended filling them with crabmeat, which I would also need to cook, clean, and crack. Needless to say, it's a meal I did not prepare.) I cannot stand when a meal takes considerably more hands-on prep time than it does to eat, although Munch's slowness at the table may result in expanding my repertoire. And, other than the occasional REALLY delicious entree from the Trader Joe's freezer, we don't do much prepared food. Fast food? Only when we're on the road on vacation.

But come on, do people really NOT cook anymore? Are the masses really doing the heat & eat, pulling up to the drive-thru thing most nights? It wouldn't seem so from the number of food related blogs & sites on the web. I know I'm one who loves seeing what dishes other people are bold enough to tackle- just see my blogroll! Now, I know these aren't usually your everyday home cooks. So, I'm curious, what are YOU all putting on the table at night? (You ARE sitting down together as a family, aren't you?) Maybe it's time to do a series of posts of basic family favorites...here's what was on our plates tonight-nothing fancy, but certainly simple and satisfying.



Quick Beef Stroganoff-
1 lb. ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 oz. mushrooms, chopped (I buy the package of pre-sliced, then just run my knife through it a couple of times)
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. pepper
garlic salt, to taste
1 can beef broth
1/4 c. milk
1/4 c. white wine
1 c. sour cream
1 pkg. egg noodles, cooked according to package directions

Brown the ground beef in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crumbly and the pink is cooked away. Drain the meat if needed, leaving just a tablespoon or so of fat in the pan. (I use a fairly lean ground beef, and don't need to drain out the fat.) Add the chopped onion and garlic to the pan and cook until onion is translucent. Add the chopped mushrooms and cook, stirring every so often, a few more minutes until mushrooms begin to soften and release their juices. Sprinkle the meat mixture with the flour, pepper, and garlic salt. Stir to coat the meat and cook a couple of minutes. Pour in the broth, milk, and wine. Combine well and cook until the liquid thickens, about 5-8 minutes. Mix in the sour cream and heat through. Add the cooked egg noodles, toss gently to combine, and serve.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

What's For Dinner?

My new favorite meal comes from Real Simple (how, I love that magazine!) It has everything my family loves (kinda reminds me of the Peters family in one of my favorite children's' books, The Seven Silly Eaters) so everybody's happy: gnocchi for AudioDad, green beans and pesto for Munch (I told you she adores green food!), and ricotta cheese for me. Now my dish doesn't look nearly as pretty as the one on RS's site because I like to add more ricotta (about 3/4 c.), give it a gentle toss, and heat it briefly so I don't have cold clumps of ricotta in my pasta. Instead, here's some pics of my very adorable sous chef. Her job was to snap all the green beans-



then she helped wash the dishes-



Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Roller Coaster (of Love)


There are few things more glorious than a beautiful November day in California. It was clear skies, warm sun, and temps in the 80's. So off we went to Six Flags, since Daddy hasn't been with us yet this year (and he can take Munch on all those slow-moving, spinning rides that make me so nauseous).

We started off petting the humongous snake that was at the entrance-


and a quick cuddle with the holiday bear-


Next we headed to the rides (starting with the Daffy Duck sub because of Munch's adoration of the Beatles' song, Yellow Submarine) and the butterfly house-

Unfortunately, my camera batteries went dead as we were checking out the dolphins. These outgoing, personable dolphins would come right up to Munch and nip and nuzzle against the glass. She was delighted!

Before we left, we made sure to catch a Shouka show. I wanted Munch to be able to see the animals up close, but she sure was surprised when she got a huge splash! Nothing a little shaved ice couldn't fix!


I think she preferred the elephant show, though. It was a lot more low-key, quiet, and dry! One last trip to the carousel, and we were all ready to call it a day!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Gymnastics Class



Munch has been asking since Thursday where we're headed next. A typical conversation:
Munch: Where are we going now?
Me: To daycare.
Munch: How about after that?
Me: After that, home.
Munch: Then after home?
Me: Bed.

This goes on (and on and on, you know how 2-year olds are) until she has the agenda for the next couple of days, and I FINALLY tell her, "After that, we go to gymnastics."

She loves gymnastics. And I finally got the guts to bring the camera out (I haven't seen a parent with one yet!) so here's a peek:



We usually start on the floor with warm-ups and stretching. After that, it's off to the trampoline track- I love this thing. It looks like so much fun!



Next up is a little obstacle course with mats and beams for the kids to crawl and tumble over-





At the end of the session, we have parachute and mat play, with bubbles and stamps-



Friday, November 14, 2008

Another girls' day out

How much do I adore my little Munch? She is easy-going, always up for a little shopping, and is an open-minded eater, so it's just great fun taking her out exploring with me. We met up with my sister and nephew at the Pacific East Mall-



they've never been, and I was crossing my fingers that traffic both on the freeway and in the mall would be light since it was Veterans' Day. Since we arrived before them (and we were ready for a snack), we popped into the Hong Kong Snack House for a green pandan coconut egg puff (just like the one we had last time-I've had them on the brain ever since). They also make plain, chocolate, and strawberry egg puffs, but Munch's favorite color IS green, and so she always chooses green food. (Yes, when I first made it for her, Munch turned her nose up at my buttery bread-crumb topped REAL mac & cheese casserole- too fancy, she said, before happily gobbling up her broccoli instead)


This is Munch trying to chew and smile at the same time.

Once cousin A. showed up, we started wandering around. First stop was a shop filled with dried and preserved fruit. We also popped into a shop overflowing with Hello Kitty knick-knacks. I'd occasionally forget myself, and pick up an interesting item (wondering what it was) to read the label, then realize the mish-mash of Chinese or Japanese characters were not helping me a bit. It took my sister and I quite a bit of discussion and studying to determine that this one cute miniature car was indeed, a pencil sharpener. (We still can't figure where the shavings come out!) The kids zeroed in on these adorable lollipops, so they each got to pick one out.



Next stop was Ten Ren, where we picked up some bubble teas- I ordered a black milk tea, Munch got the strawberry at the recommendation of the grandfatherly man at the counter (it was more sweet than I was expecting, but still good- with bits of crushed strawberries), and cousin A. had the honeydew. He'd never had bubble tea before-



and in the end the large tapioca pearls disturbed him so much, we poured them out.

Next stop was the take-out dim sum counter inside the 99 Ranch market. I know, there ARE restaurants in this shopping center, but this is a real quick and easy option when I'm running around with a toddler. Munch polished off an order and a half of har gow in no time. She immediately finished off the remainder after her nap later that afternoon. I managed to sneak a shrimp dumpling from her, and also ordered some chive dumplings, and a sticky rice dumpling stuffed with pork.

Before heading home, we made two more stops- first to the Sheng Kee bakery where I picked up some delicious black sesame cookies that I've been enjoying every day with some lychee-flavored black tea (another purchase from 99 Ranch).



and as I waited in line to purchase them, I was thrilled to see a man ahead of me with a basket full of egg custard tarts. I had searched for them on our previous visit with no luck- turns out, they were on the counter (I never would have noticed them otherwise!) and I grabbed the last few. Next to them were also Portuguese-style custard tarts, so I got one for comparison- it's the more caramelized one on the right-



I can't remember when I was in San Francisco last, so I'm glad to have a closer source for these. The egg custard tarts were tasty, but the crust was definitely not as flaky as you'd find in other Chinese bakeries or dim sum restaurants. I did enjoy the Portuguese-style tart, mostly because the creamier, more vanilla-flavored custard filling was a lot like creme brulee.

Last stop was the Candy Box, where a really nice woman kept the samples coming. She seemed to have some favorites and was eager to share them. Munch loved her, especially as she gave us another heaping handful of samples as we headed out the door. We purchased these grape and lychee flavored chews-


and these adorable chocolate biscuits (they're tiny-about the size of my thumb to my knuckle)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Yay!

Even though I've got a post I'm working on, I've only got these words for today: TOP CHEF season premiere!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

I'm not a blogger, but I play one on TV...

I've spent too many hours to admit checking out other blogs today and adding more features to my own blog. When Munch starts hollering, "Mommy, TURN OFF the COMPUTER!!!" I'll know it's time to give it a rest (thank goodness she's still napping).

I came across a great site, The One Minute Writer- check it out- I'll bet you've got a writer in you too! (Yes, I'm talking to you, Gina!)
Another one that made me laugh, 'cause the kids at school really do say, write, and draw the funniest things: Always Check Your Child's Homework on Barely Keeping It All Together.
Those links and more are in the sidebar.

I'm loving my new FeedJit Traffic map- it's fun seeing where all the hits are coming from! And, are we surprised that "chocolate" is what I've been posting about most frequently (in the label cloud)? Also, don't forget to add yourself to the "Followers" section! And, if leaving a comment is REALLY that cumbersome, just click a "Reaction" after the post.

Just for fun...

We just love our OnDemand! Munch usually gets to watch TV at home only when she's sick, and it's so nice to have programs she likes at the ready. We recently found this little video- she had a great time dancing along to it. And who doesn't love ice cream (and guacamole)? Enjoy!



PS- New for the holidays- Coldstone has GINGERBREAD ice cream!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Hanging out at home



It's felt like such a lazy weekend, even though we had plenty to keep us busy. AudioDad's had laryngitis, Munch has the occasional sniffle & sneeze (and I'm drinking my DanActive like crazy to boost my immune system). It's really chilly and windy out, and all of us wanted to just stay in our jammies. After our warm bowls of brown-sugary oatmeal, Munch and I started the tackling the massive piles of catalogs that are arriving daily. She loves to sit and read magazines and catalogs with me-I think I have a budding online shopper. It was a shame to interrupt that mood to head out to gymnastics. (No photos of that yet- I tried my camera phone, but those pics turned out horribly. And I haven't seen another camera-wielding parent in our group yet...I'm not sure I want to be the first, but maybe for the sake of the blog...)
Dinner was yummy and simple- chicken, corn & black bean enchiladas.



I finally got Munch to eat a salad (the texture of lettuce by itself was always strange to her) and we shared a pomegranate for dessert.


Munch's dinner- i just love these cute little compartmented dishes!

I experimented with a new recipe this morning- streusel-topped eggnog muffins! I figure if I can get them a little moister, I can make little eggnog quick bread loaves for the holidays!



I didn't get much help from Munch this morning. She more quiet than usual, so when I checked in on her, this is what I found:



She's spent most of the day in her room, reading books, only coming out for meals. Can you tell she's our kid?



Taking a big bite...while Cricket stands by for any falling crumbs!
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