Thursday, November 29, 2007

Winter Baby

It's starting to get a little chilly outside (for babies . . . I'm still wearing flip flops!), so I got Sophie a hat and mittens today. She's also getting better at sitting up by herself, but we always stay nearby in case she gets too excited and topples over. :)








Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Name That Produce

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Name That Produce! Fresh out of the Berkeley Bowl we have three "lovely" contestants who would like you to guess their identities. If someone actually knows the names of all three of these, that person will be deemed "rockstar" by the author of this blog.

Contestant #1:



Contestant #2:




Contestant #3:





All of these are edible, I promise. Recently someone asked me what I've enjoyed about living in the Bay Area. My first response was how pretty it is. My next thought wasn't about the weather nor was it about living close to the ocean for the first time in my life, it was about finding amazing things at the grocery store.

I think it's time for a trip to The City.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Independence

Lately the little munchkin has been showing signs of an independent streak. She fusses when I try to help her position her hands on her sippy cup, and last night she insisted on grabbing the spoon from me when I tried to feed her.

Hmm. . . I wonder where she gets these tendencies from? :)


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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Lame Trifle Pic

I'm kicking myself for not getting a better picture of this, yet here she is, wrapped in plastic wrap and sitting the fridge. Next time I'll do her better justice.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey Day in Sac

Thanksgiving in Sacramento with Steve's family was great. We spent a lot of time with family, ate way too much, watched movies and played games. Typical Thanksgiving stuff. And since this was the first time in almost four years that all of Steve's siblings were home, we decided to do some pictures in the backyard.


Sophie thought Tito was more interesting than the camera.



Sophie & me with Steve's parents.


Thanksgiving dinner had a bit of an African twist. The George's, friends of Steve's family from Nigeria, invited us to their beautiful home to have dinner with them. Beside the traditional turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes sat rice, fried bread and bowls of yummy saucy stuff that Peju and her kids made.


Here's a pic of us with Peju. She's great.



Someone got a little sleepy after dinner, so I hid her somewhere I could keep an eye on her.



When she woke up, she had some playtime with Dad.



Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Trifling with Competition

Steve came home from school last week and excitedly told me about a dessert bake-off the school was holding on Tuesday. The winner gets a hundred bucks. I asked him what he was going to make and he looked at me like, "You're missing the point." So we brainstormed. After Steve analyzed the judging criteria and I thought about what I had experience making, we decided that the strawberry trifle might be our best chance. It's a dessert my mom makes for special occasions that we all love, which is why it was such a travesty when a brand-new, untouched one ended up splattered on the floor of the garage one Easter. (A story for another day. . .)

We got to work Monday night to put our entry together. I used real whipping cream instead of cool whip for the top and added a little half and half to the custard. Hey, this wasn't about counting calories and although some try to kid themselves, there's no denying the power of cream and sugar on the tastebuds. :)

Tuesday rolls around and I send a gorgeous trifle with him to school and wait with ants in my pants for him to return that night. Finally he walked in the door with an empty trifle bowl and a sign that read, "2nd place -- Stephen Perry, Trifle".

I'll gladly accept 2nd place and $75 for my first bake-off!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Chocolate Grasshopper Cheesecake

I found this recipe a few weeks ago in one of those little booklets sitting by the register at the grocery store, and I couldn't get it out of my head. I love chocolate and mint. I love cheesecake. How could this go wrong? Well, it didn't, except for the canyon-sized cracks in the top, which could have been prevented by sticking a pan of water in the oven. Oops, forgot.

I had to take a picture quick this morning before it disappeared. All that was left was this sad little sliver, missing it's whipped cream and Andes mint garnish that Betty Crocker so painstakingly added to their cheesecake in the photo.

Anyway, this cheesecake is GOOD. CRAZY good.



Chocolate Grasshopper Cheesecake
From Betty Crocker's Fall Baking mag

Crust:
15-20 fudge mint cookies, crushed (about a cup)

2 T butter, melted


Filling:
4 oz semisweet baking chocolate

3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, softened

1 c sugar

4 eggs

1 tsp peppermint extract

4-6 drops green food coloring


Place a small baking pan filled with 1-2 cups of water into the bottom oven rack. Heat oven to 300. Wrap foil around bottom and side of an ungreased 8 or 9-inch springform pan. In a medium bowl, mix crust ingredients with a fork until crumbly. Press in bottom and 1 inch up side of pan. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool.


Microwave chocolate on high for 2 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until melted. Set aside. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until smooth after each addition. Stir in peppermint and food coloring. Pour filling over crust.

Drop melted chocolate by tablespoons into the filling, allowing the chocolate to sink a bit. Run a knife around the filling to swirl the chocolate a bit.
Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the middle of the cheesecake jiggles only slightly when bumped. Turn oven off and open the door slightly. Leave pan in the oven until it's cool enough to remove without hot pads. Allow to cool on counter top for an hour. Refrigerate for 3 hours.

Remove sides of pan and serve. Garnish with whipped cream and Andes mints if you're feeling extra fussy.


Nat's Notes:
1. It's even better if you leave it in the fridge overnight.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Sippy Cup

Since Sophie was getting pretty good at drinking from glasses and water bottles, we thought we'd start giving her a sippy cup. (Seems a little backwards, I know.) At first she was having a trouble sucking the water out, so Steve took the valve out, which made it pour straight out of the holes.

You'll see why we put the valve back in.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

All Smiles

After a two-hour morning nap, Miss Sophie was nice and perky while I finished getting ready. I couldn't resist this one :)

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Happy Six Months!

I got a knock on my door this morning. I opened the door and a woman was standing there with a big bunch of balloons sent from my parents and my sister. Today is Sophie's sixth month birthday! I took the balloons inside and Sophie's eyes got really big. I was getting her ready to go to Enrichment, so I let her grab at them before we left.

Everyone says this, but I can't believe that she's six months already!





Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Squash

Over the last several weeks we've slowly introduced Sophie to a few different foods. She's eating rice and oatmeal cereal as well as smashed bananas and pears. I wanted to give her a veggie this week, so I cooked up some butternut squash for her. I made sure to have the camera ready because I was positive I'd get a reaction out of her. Right before Steve started filming, I had been feeding her oatmeal.

video

Not exactly what I expected.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Close Calls and Cool Finds

I was about one step away from being sent to jail yesterday.

I'm not joking.

Earlier this week a guy responded to an ad I had on Craigslist looking for someone to give his 14-year-old son piano lessons during his month's visit to the Bay Area. They guy claimed he was on vacation in South Africa and told me that his boss would be sending me a check. I was to cash the check, take out the money he agreed to pay me for his son's lessons, then wire the rest to a nanny service, who would be taking care of his son during his stay. The whole situation sounded fine until the part about the check. I was a little wary from then on, but I let things play out until I got a check in the mail yesterday. I don't know why, but when I got it, I sat on the couch and just stared at it. I couldn't stop looking at it, and the more I looked at it the worse I felt. I looked over the security info on the back and even took it to a bank to have a teller look at it. It only took her 5 seconds to look at the check and tell me it was fake.

1. The colors were off on the top.
2. The watermark on the back didn't say, "Original Document"
3. There was no watermark on the front.
4. The bank information on the check sounded hokey.
5 The check itself was printed crooked.

The guy had emailed me that morning to tell me to send him the wire transfer confirmation numbers as soon as I had sent it. When I realized he'd sent me a fake check, I called the police. An officer came over and I told him what had happened. He told me that if I had tried to cash that check, the bank would have taken it from me, called the police and I would have been put in jail until they could confirm where I got the check. (And that I didn't just create it myself...) And I would have been liable for money that the bank wired to the "nanny service", which would have been about $3000.

Scams like this are really common on Craigslist, unfortunately. I'm glad I didn't give the guy any other information besides my address, which was reasonable because he was going to be sending his kid here. And looking back, his whole story sounded weird. I tend to be too trusting and gullible sometimes. Sheesh.

On a slightly lighter note, my hard drive gave out* yesterday. Steve worked for a couple of hours last night and a few this morning recovering what I had on there. He's brilliant. I got all my files back, but I have to reinstall a lot of my programs. I almost lost all of Sophie's pictures and movies from October and November. I also had over 300 recipes filed away in OneNote that I would have had to copy and paste (and in some cases, re-type) in again. AHHHH!!! I can't remember what else I had on there, but I'm sure I probably wouldn't have wanted it gone forever.

I made cookies last night and have probably eaten over a half dozen since. It's been a stressful 24 hours.

On a MUCH lighter note, and to Craigslist's redemption, I found a few estate sales and bought a bunch of vintage 40s-50s jewelry. Some of it I plan on taking apart and making other things, but some are very cool as is. By the way, estate sales are way fun. You pretty much walk into someone's house (most likely they've died) and buy whatever you want for cheap. They had all kinds of antique furniture, books, kitchen stuff, clothes, and you name it. If any of the SF girls reading this want to go with me next time, let me know!





* "gave out" is really a euphamism for "Nat unplugged her power cable from her docking station and forgot her laptop didn't have a battery in it, so it wasn't able to finish shutting down properly."

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A Shirt's Worst Enemy

Pomegranates are pretty hot right now, so out of curiosity we picked one up at the grocery store a while ago. It was still sitting in the fruit bowl this afternoon, just asking to be cut.

The only experience I had ever had with a pomegranate was in high school with a bunch of friends. I don't remember what it tasted like or what it looked like on the inside. I just remember ruining a sweater I had splurged on at the Gap, which was a big deal because the closest one was in Jackson Hole, WY, over an hour away from where I lived. It was supposed to be mostly green, but after that day it had a maroon colored spot right on the front. I was livid.

So I picked up this pomegranate and remembered seeing instructions on a sign at the grocery store. All I could remember was cutting off the top 1/2 inch or so. The rest would be cake, right? I mean, who need instructions to open a piece of fruit?

I cut the top off when I realized I was wearing a white shirt that I've only had for a month or so. I paused, debating on whether to take it off.

"I'm an adult now, and I have grown out of spilling on myself," I thought. Ya right. The fact that the shirt cost me about $2.00 is the only reason why I didn't change. I hoped for the best.

I started to cut it up and things were going well until one of the little pod things exploded... all over my shirt. It was a pretty color, but the shirt was history. I thought maybe I could save it by squirting MORE juice on it, hoping I could somehow make it look like the shirt was intended to have spots.



OK, stupid idea.

I made a mess all over myself and the countertop, but was triumphant.





Those pod things are actually really pretty. Taste good, too (with lots of sugar)... kind of a mix of grapes, berries and grapefruit. I think I'll opt for the juice next time, though.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

6 Things of Me

Tagged by Chelsea

The rules of the game should be posted at the beginning of the post. Each player lists 6 facts/habits about themselves. At the end of the post, the player then tags 6 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

I'm afraid of Chiropractors. You know how some people have an "eye thing", where they can't stand sticking their fingers or having someone else put their fingers or drops in their eyes? Well, I have a "spine thing". The thought of having someone snap my neck or back around gives me the willies. I really need to get over this because Steve's going to be one in a few years and can't have a wife who's afraid of him. And because he's going to start clinic in the next couple of years, he will probably recruit me to practice on. Sigh...

I hate working out. Over the years I've tried to get myself on a regular exercise schedule. I've tried running, walking, step-aerobics, water aerobics, rollerblading, pilates, lifting weights, yoga, some hiking, and even played a little (VERY little) sports. Nothing seemed to keep my interest for more than 3-4 weeks (unless it was a class), and I decided that I just hate exercising. I hate being sweaty. I hate smelling. I hate having to take 2 showers a day. I hate washing my hair every day. I hate exercising in public, too. And there's no exercise so far that will get me out of bed at 6 AM. Now that I have a baby, it's even more tricky. But out of all the things I've tried, I think yoga has the best chance. My body's still sensitive to all the stretching and weight-bearing positions, but it might work out. That and taking walks with Sophie.

I secretly want to be a racecar driver. Yes, I drive a little on the fast side. And I like it. I blame my dad for that one, but at least I wear my seatbelt! I think in another life or an alternate universe I would be the Danica Patrick of society.

I like being alone. You'd think after living by myself for 18 months during Steve's deployment that I would be scared to be left alone again. Wrong! I hated it at the beginning, but over time I learned how to entertain myself, and I found that I'm not bad company. I don't prefer it over the company of good friends, though.

I like to feed people. It's probably no surprise to anyone that I like to cook. I also have an overwhelming urge to feed people. I'll give credit to my grandma for this one. I'm not always good at expressing myself verbally so good food seems to get my point across well.

I might turn into a Hippie. I tend to assimilate to my surroundings (within reason). Steve is learning a lot about nutrition in school, we've begun to recycle (it's the law here) and after making a trip to Whole Foods in Berkeley, I might be jumping on the organic/anti-processed/cloth grocery bag train. I might become a quasi-hippie, but I refuse to give up hygiene or become a birkenstock-wearing liberal.

I tag Chelsea J., Sarah J., Brynn, Jenny Penny, Andrea, and Beth.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Angel Face

Sophie was really tired last night for some reason and fell asleep after I nursed her. I love it when she falls asleep on my chest because she's usually a "face-out" baby and won't let me cuddle her like this.

Don't babies look like little cherub angels when they're sleeping? Their skin is so soft and smooth. And check out Sophie's lashes. I swear I have never seen lashes this long on a baby before.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Southwestern Chicken and Barley Soup

I've decided that fresh cilantro and lime juice are the secret weapons of Mexican/Southwestern cooking. I took a recipe, which was really good, added cilantro and lime and POW! Amazing soup. I found this in a Taste of Home email and tweaked it a bit. Just so you know, this makes a pretty big pot of soup. We'll be eating it for a couple of days :) It's also low in fat and probably calories, too. (Depending on how much sour cream and cheese you put in your bowl.) And hello, it's got BARLEY.



Southwestern Chicken and Barley Soup

1 c chopped onion
1 minced garlic clove
1 T oil
3 c water
1 15-oz can whole kernel corn, drained
1 15-oz can kidney or black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15-oz can tomato sauce (or two small ones)
1 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
1 14.5-oz can chicken broth
1/2 c pearl barley (uncooked)
1 4-oz can chopped green chilies, drained
1 T chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin
3 c shredded or cubed cooked chicken
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
juice from 1 small lime or 1/2 large lime (about 2-3 T)
sour cream
shredded cheddar cheese

In a large soup pot (4-5 qts) saute onion and garlic in oil until tender. Add the next 10 ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer for about 45 minutes.

Stir in the chicken and cook for 15 more minutes or until barley is tender. Stir in cilantro and lime just before serving.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with sour cream and shredded cheese.

Nat's Notes:
1. For the chicken, I took 2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts and thawed them. I sprinkled them with salt, pepper, and oregano, then placed them under the broiler in my oven while the soup was cooking. After they were cooked, I let them rest for 5 minutes, then shredded them into big chunks with a couple of forks.