Sunday, November 30, 2008

Toiky Day

Here Joss is hanging out in the backyard on Thanksgiving morning. He liked rolling around in the leaves better than the great and terrible meal. He was feeling most put out that he didn't get to eat much (we've been taking the whole allergy thing more seriously since he Rob gave him a biscuit and he subsequently had a big red rash on his cheeks). This was the first year that we put on Thanksgiving entirely by ourselves and we learned a lot (a 'building year' you could call it) about menu and timing.
Sharing a toast in the midst of their cheers of "T-O-K-I! Toki! Toki!" Maddie, Will and Sebi celebrate the joy of the season: Martinelli's apple juice. As happens too often, Sebi is too young/small/short of arm to make either the picture or the toast. Rob did an upside down turkey with sage. We had mashed potatoes and gravy, but I slashed the yams from the menu for the anti-mush vote. We had an artichoke/parmesan/sourdough stuffing from Sunset and spicy kale with green beans from O magazine. There was also a fantastic spinach and persimmon salad from Sunset and Maddie made cranberry relish from Joy of Cooking (those two are both keepers for sure).
In the evening we had pie with Rob's sisters and family. They had gone to Mimi's Cafe for dinner, which not only sounded like a lot less work, but turned out to be a bargain too! I think our family could have eaten there (or gotten takeout) for about half the price of our dinner. I'm telling myself that it was still a good learning experience. The dessert menu: apple, mince, banana cream, and pumpkin pies with a sweet potato cheesecake in the middle. Uncle Ron made the famous banana cream pie from his family's secret recipe which only he, his mother, and his grandmother are allowed to make. He nearly skinned his grandmother alive when she put it in the ward cookbook. Then she had to break it to him that it was from Betty Crocker. Having now tweaked it a little so that it really is a secret family recipe, his sense of self is pretty much restored.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

An Open Letter on Produce

Dear Fellow Americans, and in particular, grocery store cashiers and produce stockpeople:

With the holiday this week, it is time to talk about our food. Specifically I want to discuss food that does not come in a wrapper. We're starting to forget what those foods are and what they look like, and I'm concerned that we're actually afraid of food that doesn't come in a box, can, or plastic shrink wrap.
A few weeks ago I bought a butternut squash. This, below, is a butternut squash. I bake them filled with sausage and apples, or with butter, brown sugar, or maple syrup. My friend Liberty calls them 'nature's candy' and it's an apt name. However, when checking out, my friendly cashier held up said butternut squash and said "This is a yam, right?"
Um, wrong. This is a yam. Completely different. It's a tuber, so it grows underground and is what my brother calls one of the 'humble vegetables'. It figures prominently in your Thanksgiving meals as one of the mooshy side dishes that The Professor has vilified so roundly. Often confused with a sweet potato -- but with a butternut squash? Not so much.
Today I had to go to my second grocery store for the Thanksgiving dinner, to get more exotic produce to keep The Professor happy with crunchy and bouncy side dishes. The persimmons were pathetic, but at least present. They were trying to pass sweet potatoes off as yams. There were brussel sprouts that looked good, which weren't on my turkey day menu. I can almost never find brussel sprouts here, so I decided we were having some tonight and I bought a pound.
Cheerful checkout chick rang them up as tomatillos. I ask you, do you see the difference here? I will grant that they are both green and round . . .
but that is where the similarities end. The former is related to cabbage and your cruciferous veggies. The latter is used for salsa verde.
It is time to meet our produce! Take a stand and learn to recognize the difference between chard and kale, scallions and shallots, and napa cabbage vs. bok choy! You'll be so happy when you don't confuse cilantro with flat leaf parsley. Especially when you are working in the produce section. My friend Linda was visiting Texas and when she picked up some ginger root, the produce guy asked her what she used it for. AUGH! Ginger root is essential! Let's start with Indian food and your curries, and then move on to Thai, Vietnamese, Laotian, and that peanut butter/lime dip that gets kids to eat their crudites.
It's making me worry, people. I can't sleep because of the vegetable ignorance in this town. But I feel much better having gotten this off my chest.
-Yours, MA

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Will's Great Eighth Birthday

On Wednesday our man Will-O turned eight! Impossible to believe he's so old when we still think of him as a chubby, jolly baby. But here he is showing his Pokeball to Fluffy, who was having a grand time with the cast-off paper. Christmas will be lots of fun.
Will chose to have meatloaf with mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots and broccoli for dinner. He really wanted the buffalo meatloaf, but we can't buy it here any more, so Mama made homemade Meatloaf for the first time and the Joy of Cooking came through for us. He got chocolate cake for the family party, and lemon for his friends.

We ended up giving him an old-school Atari game complete with "Pong" and "Asteroids." We are such lame parents that even if we actually do give in and buy video games, they MUST be lame ones. We are forcing reverse nostalgia on our kids so that we all can sit around in 2040 and say "remember the sounds those Space Invaders made back in our childhood?" How economical--that's both our own childhood and our chidrens' childhood that we will be talking about. mrrr MRRR mrrr MRRR mrr MRRR Bzoink! Bzoink!
What do you get when you put eight eight-year olds into a room and pump them up with sugar, fat and carbs? Ribald songs, inappropriate noises, appalling jokes, repulsive stories, and all of this happens at decibles that would drown out a jet engine. Rob's folklore professor would have had a field day with all the versions of Joy to the World with new lyrics about principals, dynamite and toilets (or BBQ and beheading). We also had them popping balloons on the trampoline, which made this into an extreme birthday party. Will ripped through the presents, then we drove up to the movie theatre and watched Madagascar 2. Rob stuck no fewer than 8 theater-sized boxes of candy into his pants and put on a blazer. Never overestimate the IQ of pimply, underpaid theater staff. Rob's Junior Mints shimmy was definitely the high point for MA, though a close second was learning that Sugar Babies and Milk Duds are not as good as Junior Mints, but they are all outshone by Whoppers. Who knew anyone liked malted candy?

After the movie, and about fourteen more versions of the "I gotcha where I wantcha, and now I'm gonna eatcha!" joke, we dropped off Evan, Will W, Austin, Ethan, Mark, Johnny, and Jacob. Will-O received excellent gifts, including Legos to build, card games to play, Star-Wars figurines to launch through the air and YuGiYo cards to hustle.
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Monday, November 17, 2008

From Rob: Surrender the Pink! Scrooge Concedes Concert Battle

Dear M.A. and Blogging Regulars:

M.A.'s Reign of Pink Terror can end now.  I have purchased tickets to two holiday concerts. One of them features Berlioz, and will be more Oct 31 than Dec 25.  The other one, though, promises to be a true holiday concert complete with "Dee-Dee-Dee Doot Doot Doodledoo" Sleigh ride music where they use the little slapping boards at the following point in the song:

"There's a birthday party at the home of FARRRR- (WHAP) -mer Grey
It'll be the perfect ending of a PURRRRR- (WHAP) -ect Day"

They will also make lots of clippity-clop noises and the obligatory trumpet whinny, and shake Sleigh bells during the part that goes:

"Just hear those Sleigh Bells ringaling, Jing-ting-Tingaling too.."

Jing-Ting-Tingeling?  Oy Gevalt.  If I must sit through "Sleigh Ride" cheery x-mas music concerts to please my zaftig little jungle plum (And to de-pink her blog) then consider it my throwing myself on the grenade for the betterment of the Bloggernacle.  I just think it is the symphonic equivalent of some boy band singing "all I want for Christmas--is Yooooooo!" with lots of hair products that are almost audible. 

Now, if it were a Palestrina Motet, or Eartha Kitt singing "Santa Baby" in her little slutty voice, or some dark, Hoffmann-esque freaky tale of decapitated mouse kings and cross-dressing ginger cookies, I could get behind holiday music this season.

But, then again, I am the person who, in the last few years, has spoken out forcefully against the fascist domination of Thanksgiving by the "Mushy" food group.  Every !@*&&$##!* dish at the Thanksgiving table has the consistency of Gerber Strained Bananas.  Our dear half-year-old Fluffy will be in his element--there is no side dish on turkey day that cannot be gummed to death.  Think about it--Sweet potatoes (The crunchiest thing is the soggy pecans), Mashed spuds and gravy, that fakackta grey-green mess of beans,/mushroom gloop /soggy onion rings--thinking about it reminds me of my Grandma's Alzheimers lock-down unit where every dish could be slurped through a Jamba-Juice Straw.  

Enough Scrooginess.  At least all your Blogspot Christmases may be white instead of pink.

you can thank me by sending me some crunchy, browned, melt-in-your mouth sweet potato fries finished with rosemary and kosher salt.  

Cheers,  Rob

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saturday Afternoon

This boy deserved to do something besides work on the house yesterday. So we packed up and drove up the canyon to mess around in the beautiful light. It was high Christmas-card-photo-shootin' season and there were all kinds of groups in all kinds of attire taking pictures.

So we took some too. This year we just have to try, try, try.

Maddie is showing off the hat that I knit from the Harry Potter Knits book that I checked out of the library. We've been having too much fun with it. I guess that this is modeled after a hat Ron is wearing when they eat magic animal crackers in the fourth? movie.

And here is the payment the kids demand for giving us smiles. They want to take crazy pictures, and lots of them. But crazy or no, those blue eyes and pink cheeks cry out for the camera.

And I had to post this one just for the pudge. He was so happy even with an ear infection. I'm going to have to keep a close watch on this one lest he turn out not hearing for months on end like Sebastian.
It was much better than spending the day indoors. At night, we went on another laterne umzug around the neighborhood, singing all of the appalling lyrics to songs that school-aged children know (the ones about blowing up the school, attacking the teachers, and scatological references). We did the real thing when we were in Berlin, but I didn't know then what it was for. It is for St. Martin's day. He was a frenchman, and when they called him to be bishop, he hid in a haystack. The townsfolk went out with lanterns to find him in the dark, and the geese gave away his hiding place. Rob says "Here is a saint I can really get behind!" Now they celebrate November 11 by having a goose dinner and then walking in the dark with lanterns singing about St. Martin.

Happy Half-Birthday

This week, Joss turned six months. It has been a big milestone. Before he even got there, he got his two front teeth, one on either side of his cousin's birth: Emmeline Rose, born November 9th and 7 lbs 14 oz. Absolutely perfect!
This makes Joss our latest teether of all four kids. If I'm remembering right, Maddie got her first tooth around five months, Will's was earlier than that, and Sebi's was earlier still. Joss is having a good time discovering what they're for -- Cheerios, and Papa's finger during sacrament meeting.
Joss has reconciled himself somewhat to his [admittedly pimped-out] ride. I think it shows signs of maturity, don't you?
He is really big on his evening bath in the new jetted tub. He grooves on the purple baby bath that we use on him -- he loves to chase the bottle around in the tub.
This was his half birthday cake. It left a lot to be desired in its engineering, but who could argue with the sentiment? The kids are happy to celebrate his birthday every month since they get to eat his cake.
His feeder reports that his favorite foods are probably strained pear and strained bananas, though they come in a distant second to chocolate (not that he's ever had chocolate!).
He is still wobbly when sitting up on his own, not having as much ballast as his brothers, but in the last 48 hours he has discovered Rolling for Fun and Profit. This means that he can no longer be put up anywhere unattended (which I discovered to my dismay and his on Friday night) even for a moment. It also means that he rolls as far as he can in one direction. Then he wails there because he is stuck against the heater vent/chair leg/playmat and it's unfair.
I hope his auntie Kiecoo doesn't see this picture. She would be disturbed by his apparel. She claims that I'm dangerously unhip and here's the proof. He should be in either all dinosaurs or all dump trucks (it reminds her of a line from Ocean's 11), but not both. I just thought he was cold.
His heroes are definitely his siblings and his dad, and he absolutely beams like a searchlight whenever they're within hearing.
His sleeping still has room for improvement, but we're withholding judgment because today he got diagnosed with his first ear infection (yep, definitely ours) and is taking his first round of amoxicillin.
And he's in one of my favorite stages of babyhood: the full body smile, the full body scream, the full body snuggle and the full body laugh. With the possible exception of the cat, we all adore him!

The Music Party

Last Friday the kids had another violin performance. This one was with seven kids playing violin and piano, and was nice because they got to show off their hard work for their peers. This is Maddie playing a duet with friend and neighbor C called Bunny Hop, Hop, Hop. I still can't get her part out of my head, complete with the painful slide to a G sharp. At the tune up, Maddie's string broke, so she's using her teacher's violin here.
And I didn't get a picture of Will performing, but he had the best two pieces. One had fake rock distortion and if you asked him, he would do a rock concert dance to it while he played. The other one was in five eighths and seven eighths time and his Uncle Jeff would have grooved on that.
Just yesterday, Maddie brought up her violin and played it for her grandparents over the webcam and it sounded great! Sometimes I need to take a break from the practice for a short while so that I can see the progress they're really making.
Today Will had his baptismal interview with the bishop. When asked what his talents were, he didn't hesitate: "I play violin!" he said. Then he added "And I make noises with my body that my brother and sister can't."

My Holiday Snark

Yesterday, I suggested to my DH (Dear Husband for those of you who don't make acronyms out of every living thing) that he purchase more discount tickets for events on campus. I said "how about some holiday concerts?"
He said "Oh? Do you have a hankering to hear the clip-clopping of coconut shell horse hooves? You want to hear the faux whinny of a trumpet, do you?"
I told him that just because he likes his entertainment edgy doesn't mean that we can't find some way to celebrate the season. "Perhaps they'll put on 'The Night Before Christmas' as beat poetry." I told him. Or it could be an absurdist Christmas Carol. Possibly they'll bring Mark Morris's The Hard Nut to campus. Could be a twelve-tone Messiah. It could happen . . .
But in the meantime, I have no problem celebrating the season of coconut shells.
So I've retaliated by making the blog pink. I think I'll keep it that way until he takes me out, whether or not we hear Sleigh Ride . . .