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Monday, July 30, 2007

Haircut Bonanza

Both boys had haircuts on Saturday--Number Two for the first time ever, and Number One for the first time in 14 months or so. We took a before picture of both of them from the back on Thursday, then several in process and immediately after on Saturday. We cut Number One's hair first so Number Two could see that it wasn't scary and didn't hurt, but he was still rather traumatized by the whole event (not helped by the fact that it was naptime). He didn't like the cape, he didn't like being sprayed with water, he didn't like the snippy scissors. You can see the tracks of his tears in his "after" shots. His haircut is a lot less even than would have been ideal, but I couldn't bear to put him through any more misery. Number One wanted to keep his bangs long (they actually stay out of his eyes better that way, going to the side instead of straight down--he has some weird cowlicks). Now both boys have hair shorter than mine! In the last shot, they are wearing their Costa Rican soccer uniforms, a gift from Grandpa and Grandpa.

















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Friday, July 27, 2007

Number Two Is Two

Family birthday dinner is set for Sunday evening, and first haircut (!) for tomorrow afternoon, but last night we spent some time hanging out on the bed and taking pictures of the newly-two-year-old boy.











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Saturday, July 21, 2007

What to Do in the Summer When It Rains










And I forgot to blog about a conversation I had in the waiting room at the lab when I went to do my one-hour glucose tolerance test last week.

Chatty Cathy: "So, how far along are you?"

Me: "26 weeks."

CC: "Wow, you're really big for only being that far along."

Me: "Well, it is my third." (What else could I say? Yeah, I'm a fat cow??!!)

CC: "Let me just tell you, if you get the tubal ligation, it really kills."

Me (trying to get back to Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; I think that's where I was in my pre-release re-read): "I think I'll be avoiding that."

Mr. CC, chiming in: "So he's going to get the old snip-snip?"

Oh. My. Gosh.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Seasonless deliciousness

Really, if enchiladas do have a season I can't think what it would be. Well, maybe if we lived somewhere avocados grow the season would be when they are ripe, but any more it seems we can get good California Hass avocados practically year-round.

Adriana thoughtfully typed in the recipe for these fabulous enchiladas last year (after I either typed or scanned it and sent it to her). Like Adriana, I omitted the pickled jalapeños, but unlike her I did not omit the sugar. I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, but I cooked them whole in the sauce and shredded them after cooling. I also think cheddar cheese is absolute anathema where enchiladas are concerned. Typically I would use queso blanco, but couldn't find it at my supermarket this week, so I got cotija instead. Unless you really depend on having that stretchy Americanized cheese enchilada experience, I highly recommend this substitution.

I forgot to reserve any cheese to put on top of the enchiladas before they went in the oven, or to reserve any cilantro to use as a garnish, so they didn't look as pretty as they otherwise might have, but dang they tasted just fiiiiiiine. I garnished with baby spinach, chopped tomato and avocado, a squirt of fresh lime, and a big dollop of sour cream, and served with steamed summer squash, some of it from my own garden. Observant readers/recipe try-ers will notice that there are 12 enchiladas in my pan, not 10. Well, I think a snug enchilada is a happy enchilada, and 12 fit better in my Pyrex 9x13 than 10. YMMV.



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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Please tell me . . .

I'm not the only one who wants to spell-check Shia LaBeouf's name every time it appears in print. Excuse me, sir, don't you mean LeBoeuf?

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Yay Me!

Adriana dubbed me a Rockin' Girl Blogger! I'm touched. She already tapped the other Scary Feminists, so my Girls Who Rock are Jana Riess, another jana, and, and, I don't know who else I could tag who could be trusted to read this. If you want me to tag you, speak up!

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Would a Rose by Any Other Name Smell as Sweet?

So, Janet posted a meme, in which you're supposed to grab the nearest book, turn to page 123, find the fifth sentence, and post the next four sentences. So, the nearest book (sitting right here on the desk in front of my monitor) is A Dictionary of First Names (Oxford), and the four sentences on page 123 starting at about the fifth sentences are:
Francesco (m.) Italian: originally a vocabulary word meaning 'French' or 'Frenchman' (Late Latin Franciscus; cf. Frank). This was a nickname given to St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) because of his wealthy father's business connections in France. His baptismal name was Giovanni. He had a pleasant, ordinary life as a child and young man, but after two serious illnesses, a period of military service, and a year as a prisoner of war in Perugia, he turned from the world and devoted himself to caring for the poor and the sick. He was joined by groups of disciples, calling themselves 'minor friars' (friari minores). The main features of the Franciscan rule are humility, poverty, and love for all living creatures.

Okay, that's a little more than five sentences. Forgive me. The fact that this book was the handiest shows what I've been thinking about lately. Lately meaning the last five months or so: names. In that time, I've been thinking lots about the name we'll give to our third child and first daughter, but also about names for family and friends who have had or will have babies. Not surprisingly, probably, I have very firm ideas about what makes a good name:
1. It should be recognizable as a name. There are so many wonderful names out there, I fail to see the point in making up something new.

2. It should use a standard spelling. Some names have multiple variants already; don't make up something just to be different. Tayler with an e "because she's a girl" doesn't work for me.

3. The child's gender should be at least surmisable. No, I'm not a big fan of the genderless names, from old ones like Terry and Lynn through Shannon and Kelly up to Taylor and Ryan.

4. It should "go" with the last name, at least aurally if not ethnically.

5. It should not be popular or trendy. If people ask me for advice, I strongly urge them not to pick a name in the SSA top 100. I personally would avoid anything in the top 1000. This is not as hard as it sounds. I also try to avoid names already used by family and friends or other kids in the neighborhood. Not that I'm always successful--Number One was not the only kid with his name (which entered the top 1000 for the first time in 125 years last year; the wee feller's name hasn't been in the top 1000 for 20 years, and never ranked higher than the mid-600s) on his baseball team this spring (though the other kid's was pronounced with a short initial vowel).

6. For girls, names should not be overly cutesy, and feminized male names should generally be avoided (Paula, Roberta, Thomasina, etc.).

So with all these rules, I've dabbled some in name consulting, providing lists of names for friends and family who are interested. I've never yet charged, though after reading an article about name consultants in the WSJ a few weeks ago I'm sorely tempted. Not because they're making so much money, just because they're doing such a crappy job! Giving a couple a list of names that runs to over 1000 names or 15 pages isn't doing much to help narrow the field. And who are the people who hire name consultants? Okay, mostly they sound pretty pathetic. It's kind of sad when you pay a name consultant to come up with something "original" and then you end up with a name (from the consultant's list) that's been in the top 50 for the last three years. Yeah, really original.*

So, if you're interested in what names I'd recommend for you, drop me a line. I won't even charge you, and I promise the list will all fit easily on one page. The last two lists I made had 14 names (for a girl, a fairly winnowed-down list) and 33 names (for a boy, a very rough first-draft list). And hey--if you've got serious suggestions for Ingeborg's real name (that meet all my rules above), by all means pass them along!

*The names picked by the name-consultant clients in the article: Leah Marie, Anna Irene, Ava, Nicole Josephine, Max Phillip, Ross, Natalie, Evander Jet, Sheridan, Beckett, Gabriel Rush (these last three were chosen by name consultants for their own children), Jackson Dean, and Jackson Thomas. Of these, all the girl names but Sheridan, which is not in the top 1000, were in the top 100 last year. Gabriel and Jackson are both top 50, Max 160, Ross and Beckett in the mid-700s, and Evander not in the top 1000.

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Friday, July 13, 2007

Potluck Provisions

Went to a potluck tonight. I'd been planning all week on taking the couscous salad, but then when I was out in the yard picking a few sugarsnap peas I noticed that the rhubarb is looking remarkably robust for this time of year. Typically rhubarb kind of wilts away in the summer heat, only to rebound when the fall rains and cooler temperatures arrive. But my rhubarb is planted on the east side of my apple tree, so it gets full sun in the spring before the apple tree leafs out, and then only a little morning sun in the heat of summer. So, I made the couscous salad, and also a (sorry no picture--we were late leaving for the party and it's all gone now!):
Rhubarb-Ginger Tart

Pastry:
1 1/4 C flour
1 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1/2 C unsalted butter, frozen and then thawed just enough to cut with a sharp paring knife
2-3 T ice-cold water

Filling:
about 4 C rhubarb, halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
1 C sugar
1 T cornstarch
1/4-1/3 C chopped crystallized ginger
pinch of salt

Mix the filling ingredients together and let sit, stirring occasionally, while you make the pastry. This will draw the juices out of the rhubarb and dissolve the sugar.

For the pastry, briefly blend the dry ingredients in the food processor. Scatter 1/2-inch cubes of butter over the top, and pulse until the largest pieces of butter are petite-pea-sized. Sprinkle 2 T ice-cold water and pulse a couple more times. Test dough by pinching to see if it will hold together without being too crumbly, and add more water if needed. Do not overprocess. Pour dough mixture onto floured pastry cloth or board, and press together, being careful to handle it only as much as it absolutely necessary (if it seems sticky, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for 1/2 hour).

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll pastry into a circle approximately 1/8 inch thick and 11-12 inches in diameter. Carefully transfer pastry to a 9-inch tart pan, rolling edges under where they overlap the sides. Press the sides into the pan crenellations so they are of an even thickness. Pour rhubarb mixture into pastry-lined pan, put on a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 40-50 minutes, until pastry is golden, rhubarb is tender and juices are bubbling. Let cool until just barely warm (so the juices aren't too runny) before serving with vanilla ice cream.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Can you be excommunicated for excessive eye-rolling?

Seriously.

Every month I look forward to the Relief Society newsletter, because not only does it provide a handy guide to upcoming birthdays and nice little blurbs on new women in the ward, it can be counted on to provide at least one bit that induces in me a reaction ranging from uncontrollable eye-rolling to barely suppressed howls of laughter. Last month's contained earnest warnings about the dangers of eating out of PVC (who would do this?), and of licking sanitizing gel off your hands. The girl in the latter item was reportedly tested at the ER and found to have a blood alcohol level of 85%! Someone read it on the internet, so it must be true, right?*

This month's gem was a strong reminder that we should not drink water from plastic water bottles left in our cars, because the heat causes toxins to leach out of the plastic that can cause breast cancer. In FACT, Sheryl Crow's doctor concluded that this practice had directly led to her breast cancer!

I'm trying to figure out a nice way to encourage our newsletter editor to do a little fact-checking before publishing.

*You can get alcohol poisoning from hand sanitizer, but you'd have to eat quite a bit of it (and the BA level resulting would be a few decimal places different than the one cited by the item referenced above). Hand sanitizer is a good thing, but kids should be supervised a little in its use--a small squirt, not a large one, and keep rubbing it around until it evaporates.

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Monday, July 9, 2007

It must really be summer.

I picked my first tomato today (I wrote, on Thursday; I ate it with my dinner on Sunday night)!!



I grow tomatoes in a raised bed under a hoop house covered with ventilated clear plastic. This has the dual benefit of keeping them warmer at night (otherwise anything larger than a cherry will not ripen outdoors) and un-eaten by the deer. I do mostly determinate varieties because of limited space, except that I always grow Brandywine (the tomato pictured above is a Gold Nugget--a variety I love for its compact habit and fairly heavy yield). With the weather they're predicting for this week (98 degrees tomorrow and Wednesday--before you scoff, please keep in mind that a majority of folks around here, us included, do not have A/C), I'll be picking more soon if not today, assuming I can keep things watered. I've also picked two yellow squashes, and they were delicious. Now, if the deer would just stop eating the zucchini blossoms . . . .



Other notable food last week included (for the July 4th BBQ we attended) dijon-thyme marinated pork chops with rhubarb-ginger chutney, and a couscous salad with chopped spinach, green and yellow beans, and sugar snap peas from the garden. Then, for Sunday lunch, to celebrate Number One's safe return Saturday evening, we had dutch baby pancakes with buttermilk syrup and fresh mixed berries, of which I had picked the raspberries and marionberries myself. I picked berries three times in the last two weeks, and made most of them into low-sugar (1.5 C for 4 C fruit) freezer jam. It reminded me of picking berries with the Scary Feminists when I was very pregnant with Number One (hi, gals--did you have a nice birthday, ME?). I made raspberry and golden raspberry from my first picking excursion (I'll be sure to post photos when we start eating this--the golden raspberry alone didn't look very appetizing, so I mixed a few tayberries into most of the batches, and it's beautiful!), tayberry from the second, and marionberry from the third. After nigh on 20 batches, from 5 1/2 flats of berries (only the goldens were not picked by me), I am DONE for the summer. Any further berry picking will be just for eating.
Buttermilk Syrup

2 C sugar
2 C buttermilk
1 C butter
1/4 C light Karo syrup
1 t baking soda
2 t vanilla

Put all ingredients other than vanilla in a large (at least 6 qt, and 8 qt would be even better--this stuff greatly increases in volume as it boils) pot, and bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. When it reaches a full rolling boil, set timer for 7 minutes, and keep stirring. When the timer goes off, remove from heat, stir as foaming subsides, then stir in vanilla. Serve warm over everything--waffles, pancakes, french toast, ice cream, etc. etc.

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