Cool - my cheese sandwich hack is up at Parent Hacks!
I don't know why that tickles me so much.
By the way, the original post was called Cheese Swanwiches because that's how Miss M. pronounces "sandwich". Swanwich. The "swan" part rhymes with "tan", or "sand".
31 January 2007
Cool - my cheese sandwich hack is up at Parent Hacks!
Last week, City Mama had a post about her four year old daughter transitioning to a new preschool, and coming home on the first day to announce that she hated the school. Because they didn’t get to play. But really because they had to do a worksheet. City Mama went on to talk about the prior “hippie” preschools that her kid had been to, with no worksheets. The comments on the post had a lot of interesting stuff about hippie preschools and worksheets and structure and play and what’s appropriate for a little one.
It got me thinking about my child’s daycare. It certainly swings towards the hippie end of things. It’s a formal daycare center, for kids from 18 months to 5 years old. It kind of transitions into preschool – the kids can stay there until they go to kindergarten. They get a lot of learning done there – but it’s all in the interstices, nothing overt. They read books, sing songs, dance, play dress-up, play with plastic bugs, feed the fish, play outside, help with snack and lunch, paint, play with clay, learn to share, to interact, to empathize and sympathize, etc. It’s a wonderful, warm and caring environment, and I feel very lucky that we found it.
One of the people who commented on City Mama’s post, Twizzle at Baboon of Magnesia, included a link to a great article called The Worksheet Dilemma: Benefits of Play-Based Curricula. The subhead kind of says it all. The gist of the article is that kids, up to about age 6 (i.e. kindergarten), need to work with concrete things rather than abstract symbols – they’re just not ready to sit down with a worksheet. Kids need to play.
30 January 2007
- Limit :: LESS
- Voice :: OF AMERICA
- Change :: FOR A $20
- Expression :: OF GLEE
- Tailor :: MADE
- Lemonade :: HOT (Craving hot lemonade right now)
- Thought :: POLICE
- Phoebe :: WHAT MY FATHER IN LAW CALLS MY MOTHER IN LAW SOMETIMES (it's not her name)
- Impression :: IST = MONET
- Sister :: SARAH
29 January 2007
My kid brought a book home from school the other day: Naugty Little Monkeys by Jim Aylesworth. It makes me crazy. It's an alphabet book, where each letter equals a monkey. The first stanza refers to "all naughty twenty-six". BUT THERE ARE ONLY 25 MONKEYS. Because letter Z isn't a monkey, but is the ZOO where the 25 bad little monkeys go at the end of the book. Besides, the poetry is terrible and most of the stanzas don't scan right.
28 January 2007
Michael Pollan has another great piece in today's New York Times Magazine, essentially a diatribe against processed food. At the end, he has a 9 point list of how to eat - "simple principles of healthy eating". His 9 points are elaborated upon, but here are the main points:
1. Eat food.
2. Avoid even those food products that come bearing health claims.
3. Especially avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronounceable c) more than five in number — or that contain high-fructose corn syrup.
4. Get out of the supermarket whenever possible.
5. Pay more, eat less.
6. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves.
7. Eat more like the French.
8. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden…So you might want to think about putting down this article now and picking up a spatula or hoe.
9. Eat like an omnivore.
I laughed when I got to item #8 - yesterday, I made 4 quarts of chili, 2 1/2 quarts of barley soup, a batch of granola, a loaf of whole wheat bread with cinnamon/sugar/butter swirled up inside, and a batch of the no-knead bread (which is still rising). I think I did my share of spatula-lifting yesterday.
27 January 2007
26 January 2007
I’ve just finished reading Michael Pollan’s book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma”. [Check that link - you can download a pdf of the introduction and first chapter there.] The book is a fascinating tour through eating in America, and what one’s choices in food mean in a larger context than a personal one.
Here are the kind of things that took my breath away, in a bad way:
p. 98 – in a chapter on how corn is in just about every processed food there is:
“Natural raspberry flavor” doesn’t mean the flavor came from a raspberry; it may well have been derived from corn, just not from something synthetic.p. 117 – in a chapter about eating a fast food meal at McDonald’s, and running a duplicate of said meal through a mess spectrometer to calculate how much of the carbon in the meal came from corn:
In order of diminishing corniness, this is how the laboratory measured our meal: soda (100% corn), milk shake (78%), salad dressing (65%), chicken nuggets (56%), cheeseburger (52%), and French fries (23%).p. 183 – in a chapter about Big Organic:
The food industry burns nearly a fifth of all the petroleum consumed in the United States (about as much as automobiles do).And elsewhere there is a description of battery egg layers that is shocking.
On the happier side though, Pollan's description on p. 219 of the complex organism that is Polyface Farm almost makes me want to move to Charlottesville, VA:
Salatin reached down deep where his pigs were happily rooting and brought a handful of fresh compost right up to my nose. What had been cow manure and woodchips just a few weeks before now smelled as sweet and warm as the forest floor in summertime, a miracle of transubstantiation. As soon as the pigs complete their alchemy, Joel will spread the compost on his pastures. There it will feed the grasses, so the grasses might again feed the cows, the cows the chickens, and so on until the snow falls, in one long, beautiful, and utterly convincing proof that in a world where grass can eat sunlight and food animals can eat grass, there is indeed a free lunch.In a lot of ways, Pollan’s book overlaps with Marion Nestle’s What To Eat (which I read last spring) and Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation (which I read when it came out). But I think the third was the charm.
The short story – I will change the way we eat. I’ve signed up for a CSA program for next summer at Roxbury Farm. We’ll get a box of organic vegetables every week. We're making a much more concerted effort to get locally raised meat. I'm lucky in that my office is very close to the Union Square Greenmarket, so I have access to local produce (including eggs and meat). I tend not to buy a lot of processed foods anyway, but we'll do better on that front. It's my new year's resolution, even though the year is nearly 1/12th over.
25 January 2007
Mir, on Want Not yesterday, had a link to a questionnaire/survey called Why Do You Blog?.
It's a good question. Out of nowhere one day last summer, I started this here blog. And now it feels like it's in some kind of perpetual motion...one thing leads to another and all of a sudden there's a whole pile of draft posts. And lists of other ideas for posts. And posts drifting around in my head. The stuff just wants to come out. And the stuff is all over the place - hence "magpie" "musing".
I am really doing this for me, but it pleases me when it pleases others too.
24 January 2007
Thanks to Megnut, I read today about an organization helping African babies by shipping expressed breast milk to them. I never had enough breast milk for my own baby, and had to supplement, but the idea of pumping and donating is a selfless one with tremendous payback. Good karma.
I love biscuits, and I find that they amplify and complete a simple meal, like the "porky pea soup" I pulled out of the freezer last night. [Yes, that's how W. labeled it when he put it away, and it was indeed porky.] But most biscuit recipes make far too many for our little family of two adults and one unpredictable child, and since they're best right out of the oven, I don't like to have leftovers. So, I've finally perfected a recipe to make biscuits for two (or three). It uses only one cup of flour, and makes about six biscuits. I've given a couple of options - one for the leavening, one for the liquid. I've had a can of Bakewell Cream in the cupboard for awhile, along with a can of buttermilk powder in the fridge. If you have either, use - otherwise, don't. The somewhat unorthodox baking method works beautifully and comes from the back of the Bakewell Cream can.
Hot Little Biscuits, for two or three people
1 cup flour
1 t. Bakewell Cream*
1/2 t. baking soda
OR 1 1/2 t. baking powder in place of the Bakewell Cream and baking soda
1/4 t. salt
2 T. butter
3/8 cup milk
OR 3/8 cup water + 1 1/2 T. buttermilk powder in place of the milk
- Preheat oven to 475° F.
- Mix all dry ingredients together (this includes the buttermilk powder if you're using it).
- Cut butter into smallish pieces, about 1/2" chunks, and add to the dry ingredients. Using your fingers, toss the butter to coat with flour, and quickly squish the butter pieces to flatten. Work quickly so the butter doesn't melt from the heat of your fingers, and keep squishing until all the butter is in nice little pieces.
- Quickly add the liquid (water or milk). Stir with a butter knife until it comes together. Using the knife, carve out five or six lumps of dough and place on a non-stick pan. Pat them if they're too unruly looking. They should be about 3/4" thick.
- Bake for five minutes at 475° F. When the timer goes off, turn off the oven and leave the biscuits in the oven for another 10 minutes, until golden brown.
23 January 2007
What possessed me to try and make a hat out of "fur" yarn? Argh. I cast on and started knitting, decided that the cast on was too tight and spent about 20 minutes unraveling it. The fur ties itself in knots. Argh. Once I got going, it was okay - but if there are any errors, I'm not fixing them!
22 January 2007
When I was a small person, my mother used to take me to the ballet. Not only did she take me to performances, she took me out of school to attend open rehearsals and the like.
In 1973, I wrote a letter to George Balanchine, suggesting an idea for a ballet:
Little did I know that Jerome Robbins had already made that ballet - in 1953. He called it Fanfare.
I never got a response to my letter.
21 January 2007
I made two more hats! The one on the left used a mess of little scraps of yarn, and was knit flat and sewn up. I'm sending it to the local NICU. The one on the right was my first attempt at using a circular needle (and switching to double-points for the decrease at the top). I think it's charming and I'm going to give it to a friend who's about to have a baby.
I bought more yarn today.
20 January 2007
I've been reading Michael Pollan's book, An Omnivore's Dilemma, and scratching my head at his use of "beeve". I could figure out what he means from the context, but it's peculiar enough (to me anyway) that I finally looked it up.
In addition to being the meat from a cow/steer/bull, a beef IS a cow/steer/bull. The plural of a beef is beeves. Granted, it's archaic. But odd, no? Especially because Pollan uses the singular back-formation "beeve" to refer to a single cow/steer/bull.
And just in case you were wondering, the meat of a pig is called pork, but "the pork" is not an archaic equivalent to "the pig". The pork is something that gets doled out in Washington and Albany.
19 January 2007
Apple Clafouti is the other Julia Child recipe from last month's Christmas Meme. This is also from Mastering the Art of French cooking, but it's the one from Volume 2. She has clafoutis in both volumes.
It seems that the original French name was "clafoutis" - singular, but with an "s" at the end. John Thorne, in Outlaw Cook, has a nice chapter on clafouti - specifically, on making/eating them for breakfast. Here is his description:
Clafoutis (more and more spelled "clafouti" these days - perhaps because the "s" makes the word look plural to American eyes) is usually considered a dessert. From the Limousin region of France, it is traditionally made by filling the bottom of a buttered baking dish with stemmed but unpitted black cherries, covering these with a batter, and baking this in an oven. The result is a custardy, slightly puffed, lightly browned confection, dotted with pieces of the soft, fresh fruit. It is eaten warm or cool, dusted with powdered sugar."
This is a wonderful, simple dessert. It's rich but not cloying, and leftovers are perfect for breakfast - all that egg, you know.
Here's Julia's recipe:
1/2 cup currants
1/4 cup dark rum
1 stick of butter, melted
1/2 cup sugar
6-7 apples, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup flour
enough light cream added to the remaining rum to make ½ cup
1/4 t. cinnamon
- Mix currants and rum and let stand.
- Spread half the butter and half the sugar in a jelly roll pan. Add the sliced apples. Cover with the rest of the butter and sugar. Bake 25 minutes at 375°. Scrape into a glass baking dish (i.e. 10” Pyrex pie plate). [This part can be done ahead of time.]
- Drain the currants (reserving the rum) and pour half the rum over the apples.
- Beat eggs and sugar until thick and yellow. Add flour, rum/cream and cinnamon. Add currants. Pour over apples and bake at 375° for 25 minutes.
18 January 2007
Sometimes the best reads in the Times are the little AP stories that run under the heading “National Briefing”. By best, I mean the kind that cry out to be read aloud or otherwise shared. Here’s one from today:
Who’s Your Daddy?This begged a few questions for me. Did anyone know she was pregnant? Do chimps have the same propensity towards genetic abnormalities in the babies born to older moms that humans do? Did she have any prenatal testing (amnio, CVS) given that she's of advanced maternal age? Or is that not advanced maternal age for a chimp? And if they did do genetic testing, and did find an abnormality (is there a chimp equivalent of a trisomy?), would they have done anything about it? The mind reels.
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: January 18, 2007
A female chimpanzee at a sanctuary has given birth, despite the fact that the facility’s entire male chimp population has had vasectomies. Now managers at the sanctuary, Chimp Haven, are planning a paternity test for the seven males who lived in a group with the female, Teresa, a chimpanzee in her late 40s who had a baby girl last week. Once they identify the father, it is back to the operating room for him...
17 January 2007
16 January 2007
Ah joy. Miss M. is mostly potty trained. I've retired the jar of treats (said jar which may be one of the queerest things I've ever done). We bought the last enormous box of diapers on the 29th of October, and there are still plenty left for overnights. She transitioned into undiepants all the time on the 30th of October. She hasn't had an accident at school in quite awhile, and only one at home in recent memory. (Have I cursed our run of luck by even saying that?)
We started potty training in earnest about 2 months before she turned 3. Right around then, she moved up a level at her daycare, from the toddler room to the 3s. Different set of teachers, some new kids, a new rhythm to the day. At the end of the first month, one of the toddler room teachers spent a week with the 3s, filling in for an absence. I think that that week with a known face from the past during the day really helped to get the whole concept across.
Next step is overnight - she's close to being ready, but I'm not quite ready to let the diapers go at night - especially because she doesn't yet know how to open her bedroom door. And if she does learn how to open the bedroom door, I might have to try cooking spray.
15 January 2007
Months ago, I cleaned out a dresser at my mother's house, and found a trove of diaries and journals and notes from junior high school. Notes meaning: little tiny scraps of paper in handmade envelopes, all from one friend of mine, named Ann. We passed these back and forth with great regularity, discussing friends, boys, teachers. Last night, I sat in front of the fireplace, reading them whilst drinking wine, and burning as I went. I saved some of the best of them, and there's one journal that I didn't get to.
Here are some choice bits from a diary, from the spring of 1974, when I was 13:
Today I learned how to convert from F° to C°.The oh-so-scintillating inner life of a 13 year old.
I didn’t write the past two days because I was busy but Friday I did relatively nothing and Saturday I went to Gigi’s*. We went to the park to have Gigi’s picture taken. Some dumb lady thought I was her kid. She’s 63 and I’m 13. God, some weird lady.
Saturday night, Mom and Pop had a party. Boring.
Nothing, literally, happened on Tuesday!
* Gigi was my grandmother. She lived nearby, close enough that we could bicycle over to her house for root beer floats and the cookies that were always in the pantry.
13 January 2007
I bring my daughter to work periodically. I brought her in in December, so she could be at our office Christmas party. We went in a little late, so she didn't have to be there ALL day. I brought DVDs and other entertainment, we went out to lunch together (ah, macaroni and cheese), she did errands for me (took checks down the hall to be countersigned, and even brought them back), we Xeroxed her hand - you know, all those kid-in-the-office things.
She's been coming to the office since she was tiny. I started back to work (that is, back to work IN THE OFFICE*) one day a week when she was two months old, and brought her in on those days. Then it was three days a week, and she came two of them. Then, at about four months, I was back in the office full time, and she came every day, and we had a babysitter who worked half time out of the office. Every morning, I'd strap her into the Bjorn, and take her to work on the subway. I'd arrive at the office at 10, hand Miss M. over to Norma, and Norma returned with her at 2. Sometimes they went out, sometimes they stayed in the building. From 2 to 6, Miss M. was with me, or sleeping, or being passed around the staff. I had a pack 'n play and a stroller and a bouncy seat and an exersaucer and other assorted baby needs parked in an unused area of the office.
When she was 8 1/2 months old, we moved to the suburbs and I couldn't keep bringing her to work. Besides, she'd started crawling and it became untenable.
The point is that everyone in the office knows her pretty well. The day after the Christmas party, my boss was talking about her - her personality, charm, smarts - in short, about how great a kid she is. She is a great kid, and I'm often amazed at how outgoing she is. I don't think of myself as outgoing at all, though I'm certainly better than I used to be. So I rolled my eyes like "where'd she come from?" And he says "Plant a potato, get a potato". At first I thought: he's calling me a potato? But then I realized that it was an odd little compliment to me - my smart and charming daughter is that way because I am. Or because he thinks I am. Or whatever. It was actually a really sweet thing. "Plant a potato, get a potato."
Where did the phrase come from?
* There was not one day of my maternity "leave" that didn't include a call from my boss or someone else in the office, and every week, they messengered a package of mail and checks and other things to look at and/or do. I'm not complaining - I was on full salary the whole time, and it kept me in the loop so coming back wasn't too hard.
P.S. That picture? Miss M. asleep on the floor in the corridor outside of my cubicle, about 7 months old. She'd crashed there, and people had to step over her.
12 January 2007
11 January 2007
For today's installment of Thursday Thirteen, here are the top rotation DVDs in my 3 year old's collection (in alphabetical order):
- Lady & the Tramp
- Looney Tunes - 28 of them on 2 discs
- Mary Poppins
- Milo and Otis
- My Neighbor Totoro
- Olive, the Other Reindeer
- The Nutcracker (New York City Ballet)
- Wallace & Gromit - 3 Amazing Adventures
- Wallace & Gromit - The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
- The Wizard of Oz
#9 and #10 are put away until next Christmas. Much as I love the Nutcracker, it was viewed, oh, 20 times between about December 18 and January 4. And Olive had never gotten put away LAST Christmas, so we were having Christmas in July.
10 January 2007
09 January 2007
Today's Times had both an editorial and an obituary of Momofuku Ando, the guy that invented ramen noodles. Although I've eaten them on occasion, they were never a staple for me (but I'm almost tempted to go get some for lunch). The editorial was wonderful. Here's a lovely snip, lovely even as it focuses on the noodle's flaws:
There are some imperfections. The fragile cellophane around the ramen brick tends to open in a rush, spilling broken noodle bits around. The silver seasoning packet does not always tear open evenly, and bits of sodium essence can be trapped in the foil hollows, leaving you always to wonder whether the broth, rich and salty as it is, is as rich and salty as it could have been. The aggressively kinked noodles form an aesthetically pleasing nest in cup or bowl, but when slurped, their sharp bends spray droplets of broth that settle uncomfortably about the lips and leave dots on your computer screen.
08 January 2007
I'm on a roll:
27 December 2006
Crate and Barrel
1250 Techny Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
Dear Mr. Segal.
Earlier this month, I placed an internet order for some flatware as a gift for my recently married brother. I ordered 12 place settings on behalf of my mother, and the completer set for myself to give, and had everything shipped to my mother’s house.
We were appalled to find out how much you charged for shipping – frankly, it’s price gouging.
The package, according to the UPS tag, weighed 14 pounds. Using the calculator on the UPS website, that package should cost $9.96 sent ground from 60540 to 11050. Yet, you charged us $59.84 – a sixfold markup! Gouging. Sorry, no other word for it.
I think you should be ashamed of yourself.
My mother was sputtering – as she put it, she could have taken a cab and back to the Manhasset store for quite a lot less than that (she is unable to drive as a result of a medical condition). I thought I was doing us both a favor by having the flatware delivered to her house – but in fact, I caused her and myself a great deal of unnecessary unhappiness at the state of the universe as a result of having placed the order on-line.
I would appreciate a refund of $50 – the approximate difference between the actual shipping cost and the price that you charged me. I look forward to hearing from you soon.
Enclosure: packing slip
On Thursday, 4 January, I came home to find a voice message from Crate & Barrel customer service explaining their shipping rates, and crediting my account for the $50 I requested. The woman said that shipping of orders over $200 was charged at 10% of the order, but that customer service would take circumstances into account. In other words, complaining may well get you a reduction on the shipping. She didn't apologize, but I did get my money back.
06 January 2007
17 November 2006
H&M Hennes & Mauritz LP
47 West 34th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, N.Y. 10001
To Whom It May Concern:
My small daughter received the enclosed scepter (and a tiara) last weekend for her birthday. Within hours of receipt, one of the rhinestones had fallen off and the head had broken off the stem. It was not being bashed around at all. She is enormously disappointed – could you send us a new one?
Result - new scepter AND tiara by mail.
Okay, you probably know panache as "flair" or "je ne sais quoi" - you know, he had that certain something.
But here are the definitions from Wordnet:
- (n) dash, elan, flair, panache, style (distinctive and stylish elegance) "he wooed her with the confident dash of a cavalry officer"
- (n) panache (a feathered plume on a helmet)
05 January 2007
Last month, in the Christmas Meme, I referenced two favorite recipes from Julia Child.
Here's the Garlic Mashed Potatoes, a/k/a Puree de Pommes de Terre a L’Ail:
2 heads (30 cloves) of garlic
1 stick of butter (4T + 4T)
2 T flour
1 cup boiling milk
2-1/2 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and quartered
3-4 T whipping cream [you can get away with whole milk]
4 T minced parsley
- Separate the garlic cloves. Drop garlic into boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and peel. [Mostly, this step is to make the garlic easier to peel. But it also gets the cooking going a bit for the next step.]
- In a small heavy-bottomed saucepan with a lid: cook garlic slowly in 4 T. butter - covered - for about 20 minutes until soft but not browned.
- Add flour and stir over low heat for 2 minute. Off heat, stir in milk, and salt, and pepper to taste. Return to heat and simmer for 1 minute, stirring. [Julia then has you put this white sauce through a sieve or puree it in the blender – I never bother.] Set aside.
- Boil the potatoes in salted water until soft. Drain and mash them. Return to pan and stir over low heat for a few minutes to evaporate some of the excess moisture. As soon as the potato puree begins to form a film on the bottom of the pan remove from heat and beat in the other 4 T. butter one tablespoon at a time. Add salt and pepper to taste. Beat in the garlic sauce and enough cream to reach the desired consistency. Beat in the minced parsley and serve.
It's from Mastering The Art of French Cooking (volume 1) by Simone Beck, Louisette Bertholle, and Julia Child. It's a staple at our family holiday meals - goes with beef, lamb, turkey, goose. It's even good cold, if there's any left.
The Apple Clafouti will follow another day.
04 January 2007
The graphic design firm that does the work for my office sends out eccentric holiday "cards" each year. This year's was a little bound book, "The Alphabet: A Critical Assessment". Its contents were originally on a blog called Speak Up - here is an excerpt for your reading pleasure:
Speaking of my name, check these out. now those are 2 sweet letterforms. Is it any wonder that a line of “m”s denotes “yummy”? Mmmmm. The cap is unique and strong; balanced, and open in a way that doesn’t interfere with other letterforms. The lower case echoes the sturdiness of the cap, with all feet firmly on the ground, but with those 2 nice curves. I’m so glad my name begins with M!
Thank you Marian Bantjes! I like M too!
03 January 2007
Awhile ago I read, on Parent Hacks, of a suggestion as to where to send outgrown toys and such. Asha revisited this today, and included a link to an Army Corps of Engineers story about the distribution of the toys.
Over the weekend, I drifted through the house collecting spare stuffed animals (how they accumulate!) and boxed them up. They went in the mail today. It seems so little, but I hope that some children in Iraq will be pleased with their gift.
If you too want the mailing address, here it is:
USACE - GRS
APO AE 09331
02 January 2007
What is going to happen to the bums and panhandlers (and buskers for that matter) when cash disappears? I walked by a guy soliciting pennies for the homeless today, with not a cent in my pocket. Granted, I was on the way to the bank to deposit a check and withdraw some cash from the ATM, but still - not a cent. And we move more and more towards a plastic cashless society. So what becomes of the panhandlers?
01 January 2007
Following the completion of the hat, I figured that I'd better use up the lovely screaming Orlon yarn, so I embarked on an afghan "square" (it's really a 7" x 9" rectangle) for Warm Up America. By making those wacky polka-dots, I got to practice changing and carrying yarn colors. And I cast on, and off, all by myself. It too is going in the mail tomorrow. I think I need a real project now, with real yarn, and a real goal.
I got a hankering to knit something recently. A long time ago, I'd made a sweater, which came out completely strangely. Misshapen and unwearable. So I'd put it aside and didn't think of knitting until a couple of months ago. After kicking it around in my head, I poked around on the web and got inspired to participate in Save The Children's Caps to the Capital. I dug up some old yarn at my mother's house, found my old knitting needles, asked someone in my building to teach me how to cast on again (I remembered knit and purl, but not casting on or off), and made this here hat for a little baby. It borders on hideous, and is far from perfect, but I'm enormously pleased with myself. It's going in the mail tomorrow.