Archive for January, 2009

Telling Baby #1 About Baby #2

We finally told Noah that he’s going to have a little brother or sister.  We’d been holding off on telling him because, well let’s face it, a three-year-old just doesn’t have that great of a grasp on the whole concept of time and the thought of having to answer “Where’s my baby brother/sister?” every day for nine months made me want to keep it a secret from him until I actually popped the baby out.  But with my belly going from the ‘permanent beer belly’ stage to the ‘I’m pretty sure something’s growing in there’ stage, we figured it was time.  So, armed with a 2009 calendar with the due date circled on it and all of the ultrasound pictures we could find, we sat him down and told him that we were getting him either a baby brother or a baby sister and that he would be a big brother soon.

The thought of Noah being a big brother actually made me go “Awwwwww” for a while.  Our little Noah — as someone’s big brother!  It seems like such a responsibility and all of a sudden he seems that much older and more mature to me.  I know he’s up for the task though.  He’s been asking for a baby sister for months now and one of his friends has a baby sister and he always asks if he can take the baby home with him.  Not to mention that a lot of his pretend play in the last few months has involved a pretend baby (albeit, an imaginary two-inch baby) and him pretending to rock it to sleep, feeding it and shushing it when it pretends to cry.  Our main concern really was setting his expectations in case he ended up with a baby brother instead of the baby sister he wants.

Noah took the news well — excited but not overly excited that he demanded results at once.  I don’t know if he understood what the ultrasound pictures were — he didn’t really care much for those.  Thankfully, there weren’t any questions of how the baby got in mommy’s tummy or why did mommy eat the baby.  He’s taken to referring to his future brother or sister as “my baby” and has been excitedly telling us all the things he’s going to do with him/her.  Like, “Mommy, can I teach my baby how to sleep?” and “Mommy, can I share my dinosaurs with my baby?”  And as an added bonus, the baby news has reignited his passion for pooping in the potty again.  He’s determined to teach “my baby” how to poop in the toilet and the one time I asked him if he needed a diaper he responded with “Diapers are for babies.  I’m a big boy now.”  So far he hasn’t needed a diaper since we told him the news three days ago.

So yeah.  Good news and cuteness all around.  Noah’s already such a sweet, lovable little guy as it is and I know he’s going to be a great big brother.  His reaction has made the thought of having another baby around that much sweeter.


January 30, 2009 at 4:04 pm 5 comments

For My Sister on Her 30th Birthday

My little sister is celebrating her 30th birthday today.  Well, I guess “celebrating” isn’t quite correct — dreading is probably more accurate.  Personally I looked forward to turning 30 so I can’t say I really understand where her angst is coming from.  After all this is a girl who is still young, beautiful, intelligent, funny, caring, giving and is engaged to a man who she is madly in love with.  But I would be remiss if I neglected my big-sisterly duties and didn’t try to dole out some unsolicited advice anyway.  And being a one year veteran of my thirties it’s not like I don’t have any experience.  So without further ado, I humbly present to you…

Cathy’s Keys To Happiness in Your Thirties *

*disclaimer: since I’m only 31, these rules are still in beta testing

Don’t use anyone else’s life as a benchmark to measure your life and your accomplishments against.  Just remember that nobody’s life is perfect and what they choose to let you see never tells the full story.  They have their issues too — I guarantee it.  Ignore what everyone else has done, forge your own path and do what’s right for you.

Thirty is not the end of the world.  It’s the perfect time to apply all the things you learned while you were stumbling around blindly in your twenties only now you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing.

It’s never too late to start over if that’s what you decide you want to do.  People do it all the time.  It may be a little harder, but it’s never too late.  Never feel like you have to settle.

Use a lot of butter when you cook.  Butter really does make everything better.

Drink more water and less soda.  Soda will rot your teeth out.  Seriously.  They did a study on this and found that sodas wear out your enamel (except root beer for some reason).

Find a hobby that you enjoy and that you can do alone — knit, crochet, quilt, scrapbook, build miniature ships in bottles, read, learn a new instrument, pick up a sport, whatever you’re good at.  One, it’s fun to discover new things about yourself and two, later when you’re married and have a house full of rugrats, you’re going to cherish your alone time and having something to do when you finally have time to yourself makes it more enjoyable.

Call your older sister more often!

Learn how to say no.

Don’t ever stop learning about things — whether it’s stuff you don’t know anything about or stuff you’ve always been interested in but never got a chance to study in school.


Back up the data on your computer.  Seriously.

Adopt a charity of your choice or take up an issue that you are passionate about.  Sometimes it feels good to focus your energy on something outside of yourself — especially when you’re feeling really down on yourself.

Do something selfish and completely just for yourself at least once a month — get a manicure, get a massage, hide away at a cafe for a couple hours with a good book, make other people watch the movie you’ve been dying to see no matter how chick flicky it is, take over the tv at night and hide the remote control, eat cake for breakfast.

Take lots of pictures.  You don’t have to print them, just store them on your computer if that’s easiest.  One day you’re going to look back on this age and think, “Wow, those were some good times weren’t they?” and you’re going to want some pictures to help you remember.  And make sure you’re in some of the pictures — you won’t realize until you’re older and wrinkly that you spent most of your time behind the camera and then you’ll wish you had pictures of yourself when you were younger and hotter.

Finally, this little gem is from Mark and it’s here only because he made me promise to include it: “When they tell you don’t walk towards the light, you just tell them you’re going to change the lightbulb.”  He also made me promise to tell you this, “People measure age by the days, weeks and months that pass.  But I measure age by the events in my heart and in my mind.  That’s my true age.”

And Mark’s advice leads to this last one from me: Don’t listen to boys — they talk a lot of nonsense because they want to seem relevant.  Just nod at them and then go do what you were going to do anyway.

Happy Birthday Carol!!

January 29, 2009 at 3:13 pm 8 comments

Moving Revelations

After four days, we’re pretty much unpacked and decently settled into our new place.  Being both pregnant and lazy, I managed to get out of a lot of the hard work. However I did volunteer for the job of putting away our boxes of books because I get pretty obsessive about books and organizing. I’m not so bad that I organize them Dewey Decimal style, but I like to separate fiction from non-fiction, and then organize my non-fiction by subject and then height.  Fiction is easier to organize — prettiest books at eye level and books by the same author are grouped together. That’s normal, right? It’s actually been a pretty interesting task for me. One thing I’ve always believed is that you can tell a lot about a person by the type of books on their shelves and had I not known either myself or Mark, based on our books there are a few assumptions I would’ve made about us.

First, based on the massive number of parenting books on our shelves, I would probably have deduced that Mark and I are the world’s most incompetent parents. Seriously, we have an entire row of shelves devoted solely to parenting books — the What To Expect series, Supernanny, the Baby Whisperer, everything by Harvey Karp, toilet training for dummies plus a number of books on child nutrition. Whoever said that children don’t come with instructions obviously hasn’t seen our bookshelf.

Second, you can pretty much make out the evolution of our religious thought. Next to our bible sits a couple of books on biblical criticism (the first seeds of doubt), followed by A Purpose Driven Life (a final stab at faith which coincided with Noah’s birth), which is next to God Is Not Great (full-blown skepticism) which is next to a book on eastern religions. Also interesting is how our evolution occurred in order from the tallest book to shortest. Interesting and convenient.

Third, I love how well-traveled our books make us look. I already knew we traveled a lot, but seeing our guidebooks on the shelf — from Italy to England, Hawaii to Japan, Mumbai to Australia — it’s like visual confirmation and I love looking through them and refreshing my memory on the places we’ve been.

Fourth, we are linguistically challenged. We have books and cds for learning Japanese, French, Russian, Tagalog, Mandarin and Cantonese. Guess how many languages we speak in real life? Yep. Just English.

Fifth, I love looking at the development of our culinary tastes. There’s the basic How To Cook Everything followed by several books from various Food Network chefs (Alton Brown, Giada De Laurentiis, Tyler Florence and even one by Rachael Ray — who I hate) followed by cookbooks put out by our favorite restaurants or by regional cuisine, which all eventually gives way to baby food books and books on how to cook for picky eaters.

One thing I do find a little sad is what little trace there is of who we were before we settled down and had Noah. Hardball and Bill Clinton’s biography are the remaining evidence of our past interest and involvement in politics. Gone are the books analyzing elections, bios of other presidents/political figures, tomes on political philosophy — they’ve all since been replaced by business books. And those gajillions of English classes I took in college are represented by Catch-22 and The Clockwork Orange. All of my classics — Orwell, Dostoevsky, Fitzgerald, Austen, Chaucer, Spenser, Donne — all gone (or most likely, put away in storage). Of course, the sense of sadness and nostalgia is tempered by the growth I can see on my shelves. Discovering new authors and new genres is always exciting so I can’t say it’s been a total loss. And at least I know I have some old friends to look forward to rediscovering once we get back to CA and pull our stuff out of storage…after we buy a few more bookshelves of course.

January 29, 2009 at 6:02 am Leave a comment

Christina’s Grandma’s Apple Pie…My Way

Jae recently started up a food blog and in her latest post, she posted our friend, Christina’s, grandmother’s apple pie recipe.  Usually Jae will make something and then write about how it turned out, but apple pies need baking and I’m pretty sure she either doesn’t have an oven in her new apartment or else has a really crappy one so she hasn’t made this one yet.  So I figured I would give it a try.  Christina has actually won first place in an apple pie baking contest using this recipe so you know it’s got to be good.  You can find the original recipe (and the story behind it) here.

Normally I’m a stickler for rules.  And I’m definitely not usually the type who would bastardize an award-winning recipe, but bastardize I did.  While I was copying down the recipe in my notebook I noticed one horrifying detail — there’s no butter in the crust.  Scandalous!  Plus I’ve never been a big fan of shortening so I used this pie crust recipe from smitten kitchen instead (which is also the site I got my recipe for red velvet cake from).  I mean, it’s even in the title of the post: all butter, really flaky pie crust.  Does it get much better sounding than that?

My other bastardization was an accidental one.  The filling recipe calls for 1/4 cup of orange juice which I thought I had but I forgot (until the second I needed it) that I had finished off our orange juice earlier.  So I used what I had on hand instead — cranberry blueberry juice.  And as an added acidity measure I squeezed half a lemon over it just in case.

For the apples, Christina suggests using a mix of red and yellow apples which I was eager to try since I’ve only ever used granny smith apples for apple pie.  I ended up using Jonah Golds, Golden Delicious, Pink Ladies, and Granny Smiths in mine.  A friend of ours had given us an apple peeler a few months ago and if you ever need to peel eight apples, it definitely comes in handy:

I accidentally sliced my finger on it toward the end but I didn’t mind too much. A little finger skin was a small price to pay considering I had all those apples peeled and sliced in 10 minutes. Here are the apples mixed in with the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and my cranberry-blueberry improvisation (and hopefully sans finger skin):

On a whim I decided that a lattice top might be fun to try (stupid, stupid, time-consuming whim!) and considering I’ve never done a lattice top before I don’t think it came out too bad:

If you’re going to make this, don’t forget to line the bottom of your oven with some foil to catch the juices that spill over. Because, man, is this pie juicy! And believe me, it will spill over.

As for the pie crust, without tooting my horn too loudly, seriously, this was the best pie crust I’ve ever had — all flaky, buttery goodness.  I would’ve probably been happy with just a slab of crust and a glass of milk. And it was a cinch to make. So if you don’t have any shortening around (ahem — Jae) I would definitely suggest giving this one a shot.

January 28, 2009 at 11:10 pm 6 comments

Fancy Cold Weather Soup

It’s Chinese New Year’s and because we’re still in the process of  trying to settle into our new apartment, we didn’t bother going all out and celebrating. We had originally tossed around the idea of having dinner along Victoria Harbour to watch the fireworks, but with Mark miserable with a cold and both of us worn out from a weekend of unpacking and organizing, we decided to just stay in for the night. Of course staying in also meant I got the chance to break in the new kitchen — hooray! — and since it’s been cold and overcast I thought it would be perfect weather my crab and crimini bisque.

I first saw this recipe in an old Bon Appetit magazine years and years ago. In fact, I remember the first time I ever made it — Mark was still living in his apartment in the Castro in SF which means we’d been dating for only a few months. Which means I was still trying to wow and impress him. Which should probably tell you this is a fancy soup. Despite the fanciness, it’s pretty easy and does double duty for me as both a standard dish and a special occasion meal for when guests come over. I have to warn anyone who wants to make this though — don’t make this if you’re on a diet. Seriously. Look at all the wonderful, wonderful butter that it calls for:

And that’s just for cooking the mushroom stems in:

This batch:

is for the mushroom caps:

Your mouth is totally watering right now, right? (…unless you happen to be one of my freaky friends who hates mushrooms. Crazies.) Anyway, served up with some toasted garlic bread on a cold day, it’s a perfect meal.


Crab and Crimini Bisque (from Bon Appetit)
(makes about 4 main-course servings)

1 lb. crimini mushrooms
6 Tbs. butter
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 garlic clove, minced
2 Tbs. all purpose flour
2 14 1/2-ounce cans low-salt chicken broth
1/3 c. dry Sherry
1/2 c. whipping cream
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 lb. fresh lump crabmeat, picked over
3 Tbs. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Cut off mushroom stems and chop finely. Slice mushroom caps and set aside. Melt 3 tablespoons butter in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add chopped mushroom stems, onion and garlic; sauté until mushrooms release their liquid and liquid evaporates, about 10 minutes. Add flour and stir 2 minutes. Mix in broth and Sherry and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover partially and simmer 25 minutes. Strain into heavy large saucepan; discard solids.

Melt remaining 3 tablespoons butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add sliced mushroom caps; sauté until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Mix sliced mushroom caps into soup. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly, then chill uncovered until cold. Cover; chill.)

Simmer soup 3 minutes. Whisk cream, yolks and lemon juice in small bowl to blend. Stir crab, then cream mixture into soup. Cook over low heat until soup thickens slightly, stirring constantly (do not boil). Season to taste with salt and pepper. Mix in parsley and serve.


My cooking notes: For the crab, personally I think Dungeness crab is the best kind to use.  One good-sized Dungeness crab will yield enough meat for this recipe plus extra to pick on and eat while you’re cooking.  However, I’ve also made this successfully with snow crab and blue swimmer crabs — just be sure to adjust your seasoning accordingly since certain species are saltier than others.  And if you can’t find criminis, white button mushrooms work fine as well.  Honestly, when you cook something in that much butter, it’s practically guaranteed to taste really good.  Finally, for the step where you add the whipping cream/egg yolk mixture into the soup, because I’m paranoid I usually temper the egg mixture — adding small amounts of the soup to the eggs to bring them up to the same temperature and prevent curdling — but I’ve also just tossed the egg mixture straight into the soup and stirred like crazy and it’s turned out fine.  Tempering is definitely a step you can skip if you just don’t feel like it.

January 27, 2009 at 1:57 am 4 comments

Moving Day…Or Moving is a Cinch When Other People Do It For You

It’s finally moving day!  There was a time when everything seemed to be moving in double speed — we found a place, signed the lease, bought a ton of new furniture, sold some old stuff, hired movers — but apparently being efficient early on means a lot of down time and waiting when it actually comes to move in day.  Despite being relatively prepared for the move, I didn’t quite feel up to the task of actually packing up our stuff.  Mark had promised me early on that I wouldn’t need to pack since I’m pregnant (and also because I think he knows I’m really lazy) and that he and Clarita would take care of most of it.  But with Mark gone on a business trip for the last two weeks, scheduled to return the day before we move, I thought the odds of me actually having to box stuff up was pretty high.

Naturally I procrastinated on actually buying packing tape to put the boxes together.  The moving company had dropped off 50(!!!) boxes at the beginning of January and they sat, nicely folded up and out of the way, for three weeks before I finally decided that we definitely needed packing tape.  So with a reluctant heart, I bought a couple of rolls on Wednesday and later that evening, set it out near the boxes to motivate myself into packing.  Imagine my surprise then on Thursday morning when I woke up to find that Clarita had taped up a few boxes and had already started packing.  Awesome.  I left to run an errand and when I came back there were even more boxes all packed up and empty drawers all over the house.  I felt a little bit like the shoemaker in that fairy tale, The Elves and the Shoemaker — I never actually saw the work being done, but it was magically happening anyway.  Here are some boxes that I definitely did not pack:

On Friday, the same thing happened, with the exception that Mark was now here to witness the miracle first hand as well. We had to go to the new apartment for a couple of hours because some of our new furniture was being delivered there and by the time we got back, the majority of the packing had been done. The only thing left to do was order Indian food and eat it off of our makeshift table made out of boxes:

Here is Noah enjoying one last bath at our old apartment:

The next day, Saturday, the movers came early in the morning and got started loading all of our stuff. Mark and I decided that the best way for Noah and I to help out was by staying out of everyone’s way so I took him down to Starbucks where we had a second breakfast of muffins, donuts, a latte and juice:

Afterward we walked to the new apartment to wait for the moving van to come with all of our stuff:

It turns out Mark and I underestimated the amount of junk we had accumulated over the course of two years. We had assumed that loading our stuff in the van would take about an hour, but in reality it took close to four hours and two trips with the van. It was well after lunch when they finally started loading our stuff into the new apartment. Luckily for us, Noah had passed out completely so everyone was able to help out and work in peace:

I’m still torn on what’s worse — packing or unpacking. But after six straight hours of unpacking, we have what is beginning to resemble a proper living space. Here is Noah showing off his new bedroom:

Our living room is also starting to take shape as well:

Clarita — being the godsend that she is — took care of the kitchen (although I’ll probably do some rearranging in there over the next couple of days) and the place is already spotless and dust-free because of her constant cleaning. Of course, this still leaves us with three more bedrooms to unpack, but with rooms already cleaned up and livable, the remaining tasks seem that much less daunting.

January 25, 2009 at 12:55 am 5 comments

Flower Market Redux

I’m not a big fan of plants and flowers.  Of course, they’re pretty to look at and lend your house a certain warmth, but ultimately I just don’t have room for all those vases and I generally find them too high maintenance (who has time to recut flower stems under running water every day?).  To me, flowers are only really useful for inducing jealousy amongst your co-workers that your husband or boyfriend is thoughtful and loves you enough to send you a bouquet at work (implying of course that theirs isn’t), but since I don’t work anymore I haven’t really seen a pressing need to buy any.

Nevertheless, one time of the year that I get really excited for lately is Chinese New Year.  And mostly it’s because they open up the CNY flower market at Victoria Park in Causeway Bay for the week leading up to CNY.  It amazes me that I like the flower market so much.  One, as previously mentioned, I don’t really buy flowers; and two, I hate crowds and this gets to be one of the busiest, most crowded markets around since it’s a once-a-year thing.  But I love the crazy carnival-like atmosphere, being surrounded by the different plants and flowers, the vibrant colors and the aroma of traditional Chinese street food being cooked.

The flower market opened on Tuesday at noon.  Last year we went an hour after they first opened and it was d-e-a-d.  I heard that the market is liveliest in the evenings so we waited until 6 pm and left our apartment for the market.  It was definitely lively — and the later it got, the more packed it became. I didn’t have enough cash with me to buy anything so we were really just there to check it out, enjoy the festive atmosphere and pick up a toy for Noah.  Unfortunately evening isn’t the best time to take pictures — especially if you insist on never using your flash — so all my pictures from that first day are kind of crap.  But here is one of Noah examining the pinwheel I got for him:


January 23, 2009 at 1:30 am 4 comments

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