Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fashion Dysmorphic Disorder

I'll get to that Christmas post shortly, but I just can't pass up the opportunity to share with you a gem I just unearthed when organizing my office.

At the end of the summer, Sidamo attended a week-long day camp for Ethiopian adoptees. There were very few highlights from the week, but this was one. Actually, it's probably the one. There was a table set up with people shapes, as well as fabric, paper, yarn, etc., so the kids could make replicas of their unique families. In the time it took others to create their entire (often very large) families, Sidamo created this. His image of himself.

Someday this boy will shop for his own clothing. Some parents might fear such a day, but I just can't help but be excited by all the blogging opportunities it will present.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Eve

All wrapped up in their mama-made jammies, full of a lovely dinner (eaten on our fancy plates, by candlelight), the kids wrote their note to Santa and stole downstairs for one more very close inspection of the tree.

They went to bed whispering and wondering about whether Santa would come through on their only two requests: a sparkly car (for Nora) and a sparkly Mater tow-truck (for Damo). I can still remember that feeling—holed up with my sister Caity in her bedroom, filled with anticipation, convincing each other and ourselves that we heard hoofbeats on the roof, begging for the hours to pass and sleep to come. This was the first year I've felt that vicarious joy and anticipation from our two. Moreso from Sidamo, of course, but Nora too seems to get it in a way that Sidamo didn't at her age. The precocious nature of younger siblings, I suppose.

I'll do another post with some gift reviews. There were some big hits and some spectacular duds (note: before you quadruple a recipe, try it out first), but really none of it mattered. It was a beautiful couple of days, filled with lots of warmth, family time, creativity, and kindness. Oh, and 60-degree weather. (Sorry east-coasters.) Really, that's just about as perfect a holiday as anyone could ask for. Despite what the photo below tells you.


I took the kids skating last week for their first time, and they surprised the ice out of me by pushing off my supporting (hovering) hands and skating independently. I guess nothing should surprise me with these two competent little souls.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dino Damo's 5th birthday


Happy number 5 to my budding explorer. Here's to many more years of curiosity, passion, and discovery.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Why should a not-yet-5-year-old wear my super-sexy leather boots better than I do? This kid is destined for stardom, as you can see.

Monday, December 6, 2010


We went to the art museum with the fam yesterday, and the kids spent most of their time dressing up as Egyptian royalty. Clearly they were born in the wrong era; elaborate headdress and jewel-laden collars just don't go over like they used to.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Handmade holidays

When I first suggested to Greg that we exchange only handmade holiday gifts this year, he asked, "Do you really think you have the electronic skills necessary to make me a Blu-Ray player?" He was a little skeptical about the idea, and I figured I was probably in it alone. When I suggested he make Sidamo a solar system mobile, he nearly stalled out on the specifics—wondering how he'd fashion a sun that's exactly 277 times the size of Mercury, for example. (Greg is, to put it mildly, a perfectionist. He sometimes has trouble starting a project if he can't see the path to a perfect end result.) But today he turned his agonizing into action and began the creation of what will surely be the coolest model solar system this side of the asteroid belt.

Meanwhile, I finally finished knitting Socktopus for Nora. Whew. I started this about a year and a half ago and got stuck at the heel of the first leg. After watching a few tutorials on how to wrap and turn, I cobbled together some cute—if imperfect—feet. I'm glad Socktopus isn't actually relying on my knitting skills to keep his feet warm in the cold seas, because I definitely didn't get it quite right. Still, it's a sweet little toy, and I am beyond relieved to be done with it. 

The little guy below is not exactly a holiday gift, in that Sidamo requested it today and we made it together. He wanted an elf to live in the little elfin forest he created yesterday at a local Waldorf holiday festival. It's far less menacing than it looks here, and I'll probably knit a little hat to sweeten it up a bit. What I liked about this project was that it was totally free-form and gave Sidamo an opportunity to practice sewing. And poking himself with needles. He's getting very proficient in at least one of those two skills, but I won't say which.

Also on the list for this year (some are for Sidamo's birthday; some are for Christmas):
  • A paleontologist toolkit for Sidamo, with a Dino Damo's Field Guide, a head lamp, some dino bones, info cards on dinosaurs, and a few other odds and ends. He's enthralled with dinosaurs right now, so I think this one will be a hit. 
  • Bubble bath, using recipes based on these.
  • Knitted hats, probably, though I already gave Nora the one I made for her. Plus, boring.
  • Random art supplies. 
  • A few books (not homemade), which I'll try to list in another post. 
I have almost exactly no ideas for Nora, so if you have any, pass them along. Sidamo has such intense interests that it's easy to come up with fun ideas for him. Nora, on the other hand, would be content with a Costco-sized box of Cheerios. Hmm, I might have just decided what's going in her stocking.

Friday, November 26, 2010


For two amazing children, who at least pretend to sleep.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Why haven't I thought of this sooner? For the low, low price of my old iPod, Laurie Berkner has been silenced—at least to my ears.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Applications filed this week so far:
  1. Golden Retriever rescue.
  2. Backyard chicken permit.
If I don't get my estrogen levels in check soon, I just might start filling out another adoption application.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Menu: Bean/Pumpkin Soup, Baked Eggs, Ethiopian Food, Vegetarian Bolognese,

I just can't seem to talk about anything but food these days—which is kinda funny, since with this lingering cold I haven't really been able to taste anything for about a week. Still, we need to eat, which means I need to plan. Here's what's on the docket:
  • Black bean pumpkin soup. Needless to say we'll skip the ham, and we'll use dried black beans from the garden, leftover Halloween pumpkins, and garden tomatoes (we still have a bunch of them pinking up in a box in the pantry—awesome). 
  • Ethiopian food (yellow peas, spicy lentils, shiro, and greens with injera from the merkato a few blocks from here. Have I mentioned that I love our new neighborhood?)
  • Eggs in Purgatory with Artichoke Hearts, Potatoes and Capers. Mostly because I like the name. I might swap out the artichoke hearts since a) I don't have any on hand and b) the kids aren't huge fans. Any ideas of what would be good in there?
  • Spanish White Beans With Spinach tossed with pasta.  
  • Pasta with Vegetarian Bolognese Sauce. I don't have a recipe for this one but can write it up if there's interest. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Recipe review: Pasta with tender greens

I made this Pasta With Tender Greens recipe (thanks, Lauren!), and it was delish. In fact, I'm counting down the minutes until lunchtime so I can put a dent in the leftovers. Yum.

I used beet greens from the garden and followed the recipe pretty closely but used pureed oven-roasted tomatoes in place of the tomato paste. Here's my gripe with tomato paste: Recipes usually call for one or two tablespoons, but the smallest cans contain much more than that and so I end up with almost-full cans of the stuff spoiling in my fridge every time I use it. When I lived in Italy the tomato paste came in toothpaste-like tubes that kept it fresh longer. Those probably exist here too, don't they?

Bet you regret asking me to explain my gripe with tomato paste, don't you?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cauliflower & White Bean Soup

We all have colds, so this soup was the perfect thing for dinner tonight. The only modification I made was to roast the cauliflower before starting. I love the flavor of roasted cauliflower, and I figured it would deepen the flavor of the soup. And, big surprise, I was right.

Everyone except Nora gobbled it up, but she's been more or less boycotting dinner ever since she stopped napping. Actually, boycott has a sort of "silent protest" connotation, so that's not the right word. More accurately, she's been staging violent, screaming mutiny when asked to behave like a civilized human being anytime after 4 p.m. So she didn't eat it so much as fling it around the room while her head spun and she spoke in tongues.

Also, don't let the truffle oil scare you off. If you don't happen to have any in your pantry (what kind of barbarian are you?), you'll be fine without it.

Monday, November 1, 2010


We're scraping bottom again, so it's time to plan. Here's what I'm thinking of doing this week:
  • White Bean and Cauliflower Soup with Truffle Oil
  • Pasta with Tender Greens (using beet greens and chard from the garden)
  • Fried Rice with Tofu and Veggies (don't have a recipe, but I can concoct one if there's interest)
  • Leftover Lentil Tacos
  • More Pizza (in case I haven't mentioned it before, I should make it known that I make the best pizza between the coasts. If you live between the coasts, you know that's not saying much.) 
While we're on the topic of yummy family food, be sure to check out my friend Lauren's new blog: Cookbook Recipe Mom. It's the source of the Pasta recipe above, and so far all the recipes I've seen there look like ones that would go over very well in this house. The blog, in Lauren's words, "is about seeking, testing, and reviewing healthy, easy recipes that my whole family likes—and, yes, we've got some picky eaters in the mix."

Tiger vs. Goldfish

This is fun!

This is a little less fun.

This is officially un-fun.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe reviews

Thus far, we've made three of this week's recipes.

Reviews, as promised:
  • Chard and Swiss Cheese Strata
    • Changes: Subbed chard for the spinach, used Swiss instead of Gruyere, added in tomatoes, skimped on eggs a bit (we only had seven—I need chickens!!), and used a mix of (many) day-old bread. 
    • Comments: Everyone liked it well enough to eat it, but it wasn't magical. Also, needed to cook for a long time, but that's probably because the liquid-to-egg quotient was higher than in the original recipe.
    • Overall rating: 3 out of 5
  •  Pasta with Butternut Squash and Parmesan Sauce
    • Changes: I wouldn't roast the butternut squash; instead I'd just peel it, chop it, steam it like I usually do. The roasting was a PITA and didn't add anything. I'd sub balsamic for the lemon juice. Truthfully, I think I'd just pass on the recipe.
    • Comments: Nora more or less refused this dish. She even spat out a few bites, and she's not a dainty eater. I thought it was bleh, Greg thought it was "pretty good for squash," and Sidamo ate it with a moderate degree of enthusiasm.
    • Overall rating: 2 out of 5
  • Vegetarian Pot Pie
    • Changes: Upped the carrots, potatoes, and shrooms, but not the fennel. Chopped everything pretty finely (including the shrooms, excluding the potatoes) to make it more kid-friendly. Seasoned with thyme. After sauteing everything, added a bit of Marsala and cooked it down. Skipped the vinegar. Used this pie crust recipe instead of the puff pastry (skipped the sugar and subbed in some whole-wheat flour).
    • Comments: Huge hit. I doubled it and gave half to a friend who had a baby an embarrassingly long time ago (I swear, I meant to bring a meal two months ago!), so we'll have to see if she concurs, but in this household it was loved and devoured.
    • Overall rating: 4 out of 5
I'm hoping for good things from the gigantes (which will actually be Great Northern beans, since apparently gigantes exist only on the coasts) and sweet potatoes. Oh, and if you have any suggestions on what to do with the remaining 15/16ths of a can of chipotles in adobo sauce, please pass them along.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Menu planning

I'm living dangerously these days. My gas light went on two days ago, and I haven't filled up (granted, I've driven approximately 3 miles since then, but still). And my fridge is just about barren, save for a dozen eggs, a bunch of scallions, and half a stick of butter. The snack drawer has nothing in it but popping corn. The pantry has about half a million jars of canned goods, but I can't bring myself to break into them yet. The garden is still providing a couple of things (butternut squash, chard, and beets), and I have many pounds of green tomatoes ripening in boxes around the house. All good foods, but hard to eek a dinner out of them.

I hate to do it, but I think I'm actually going to have to go grocery shopping. And so I'm menu-planning. Here's what's on the lineup, and I'll try to post reviews after it's all been made:

Okay, so that's not a full week's worth, but it's a start!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thank you

Thanks to everyone for the support and kind words (and to one someone in particular for the cookies). It means the world.

Sidamo is doing great. We've been spending a lot of time indoors to prevent further head injury, and that has led to a rediscovery of train tracks. We've also done some more painting (really, why do I bother giving Nora paper?), reading, and a bit of driving each other crazy, just for good measure.

The weather is absolutely gorgeous, and he'd much rather be outside tackling his friends and doing other unsafe things than staying cooped up in the house. Which, I presume, is what led him and his friend to SNEAK OUT OF THE BACKYARD and go to the neighbor's house to ride scooters yesterday. He got seriously mad at me when I had to physically remove him from the scooter and, of course, lecture him about not leaving the house or yard without notifying an adult. I (and the whole neighborhood) heard an awful lot about what a "not nice mommy" I am, which, to be honest, made it a little difficult to stick to my "be a nice mommy" resolution from the other day.

Here's hoping that the weather holds through Thursday, which is when he's allowed to get back to his normal activities. And here's hoping our patience with each other holds through then as well.

Thanks again for all the love!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010


If: Your employer (or, in this case, your husband's employer) switches from pretty awesome health coverage to a plan with a multi-thousand dollar deductible

Then: You will, two weeks later, ride in an ambulance for the very first time in your life.

If: You have your only can't-miss meeting of the month, coinciding with your husband's only meeting of the day

Then: Your child's school will be trying desperately to get in touch with you to tell you that he needs his parents.

If: One evening, you tell your husband you wish you could have a single minute of quiet from your very, very talkative kiddo

Then: You will, the very next day, spend six hours in the emergency room begging that child to say something—anything—to let you know he's okay.

Sidamo suffered a pretty severe concussion at school today. He and another boy were running and chasing the same ball. Sidamo dove for it and hit a brick wall with his forehead. His teacher (who is incredible—she came to the emergency room, in tears, to check on him) said she heard the most horrible sound and turned to see Sidamo on the ground. He got up, cried, asked for ice, and seemed coherent for a while. Still, she took him up to the office for attention, and for a call to mommy and daddy (neither of whom answered; see above). While he was there, he went from being a bit dazed to being completely unresponsive. When he started vomiting, they called the ambulance.

I got off my conference call and saw I had missed four calls—including one from Grandpa, who is one of our emergency contacts. I listened to the voicemail and heard "Sidamo … head injury" and raced out of the house as fast as I could. Luckily we live less than a mile from school, because I was able to hop into the ambulance before it took off.

Poor Sidamo was completely out of it when I got to him. He was in a neck brace, strapped to a stretcher. He could barely keep his eyes open, and he was slurring his very limited speech. He looked awful, and I was terrified. The paramedic told me his concern level was only a 4 out of 10, and that was why they weren't turning on the sirens and lights. About 5 minutes into the ride, Sidamo started vomiting again—and profusely. The concern level rose; sirens went on, and we blazed to the hospital.

Greg met us there. Sidamo had a CT scan, and we sat and waited. And waited. And watched. Sidamo remained unresponsive, sleepy, and miserable. He vomited some more. In my gut I felt like he'd be okay, but then I had these terrible thoughts about long-term brain damage. He was just so not himself. If you know Sidamo, you know his smile, his verve, his light. None of that was there. He was a shell. For six hours. And I worried, at least for a little while, that he mightn't come back.

Praise Jesus, Allah, the universe, or whomever: The light returned. By late afternoon, we had the scan results and everything looked good. I left to get Nora, and Greg waited by Sidamo's bedside. While I was gone, Damo perked up, drank two Gatorades, took a little walk, and watched SpongeBob. By the time I got back to the hospital, he was demanding food, making jokes, and negotiating for screen time for the coming week (which he'll spend under very close supervision, and, probably, helmeted).

Any parent who has ever been through a scare with a child knows that it shakes you to your core. It's exhausting and terrifying and awful in ways I certainly couldn't have imagined before having kids. But it also was a huge reminder to celebrate the beautiful children we've been blessed with. They are such fantastic, lovely, vibrant individuals, and we GET to be their parents. How freaking lucky are we? So yes, they talk. A lot. And yes, sometimes I long for a single minute of peace. But after being confronted with a silenced Damo for a frighteningly long time today, I'm making a commitment to enjoy and celebrate the vibrant (and noisy, and inquisitive, and mildly demanding) light that he is.

God, I love this kid.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Rainy day

It's so rare that we have a rainy day here that it took some effort to dig out raingear for everyone—and there was some relief to discover that we actually do own raincoats for both kids (hooray for hand-me-downs).

Nora looked at her raincoat as a total novelty and asked repeatedly, "What's this thing called, Mommy?" She asked the same thing about her tights: "These are like socks? But they also are like pants?"

Every so often I think I'd like to move to a lusher climate (usually when I'm experiencing garden or ocean envy). But it just takes one gloomy day like this to remind me how much I love our 300+ days of sunshine a year.

Unfortunately it looks like this rain might bring with it the season's first frost, so I'm frantically scouring garden websites to determine what needs to be pulled from the vine today and what can stay. The tomatoes and peppers are coming in, but I'm not sure about the beans, which I've been leaving on to dry. Feel free to weigh in.

Damoisms, version 4.8

First his words, followed by his definitions of them (yes, these are direct quotes):

Shookalax = Making bad choices

Shaboodles = Another way of saying shookalax. It's just a figure of speech.

Channering = Eating (editor's note: this applies specifically to computer games, though he's now claiming he sometimes channers his dinner, too.)

Trucking = That means just hanging out. 

Pumice = You'll have to ask Julian; he knows. (So does the editor: It means to pummel. Not knowing what it means didn't stop Sidamo from saying it approximately 534 times yesterday.)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Favorite Tomato Sauce

Since Christina's request a few weeks ago, I've been thinking I'd document the making of my favorite tomato sauce. Unfortunately, I've come to grips with the fact that no camera is safe in a kitchen where the cook is already hanging on by a thread. So while pictures of the process would likely make you drool into your keyboard (or shriek in horror at the calamity in my kitchen), I'll instead have to offer a text-only version if I ever hope to fulfill Christina's dreams. This is a very simple, versatile, light sauce. Just the way I like it.


Olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes or the equivalent of fresh, peeled, seeded tomatoes (Note: It's very important to use the best tomatoes you can get—the fancy, expensive Italian brands are worth every penny. And as a subnote, if you've ever grown and canned tomatoes, you'll realize the good ones are actually worth about five times what we grudgingly pay for them.)
1 can or 2 cups veggie broth
2 bay leaves
Salt to taste
Fresh basil, chopped

  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. In an oven-proof pot that has a lid, saute onions in olive until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a minute or two more.
  3. Add tomatoes, broth, and bay leaves and bring to a low boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced by about a third, stirring occasionally.
  4. Cover the pot and bake for 30–45 minutes, or until the sauce is chunky and delicious and begging to coat your pasta. That's not a euphemism.
  5. Salt to taste and stir in chopped basil.
As you can see in the photo above, I've canned this sauce (with the addition of citric acid). I think it's OK since it's not such a huge variation from canning expert–approved sauce recipes, but if it gives you botulism please don't sue me.

Very Hungry Caterpillar

Our neighbors recently brought over a box of handed-down books, and in the stack were two tattered copies of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, bringing the total TVHC population in our house to three. In the past couple of weeks, these three books (among the approximately 1,875,323 books we own) have become Nora's constant companions. She brings at least two of them with her just about everywhere. When we finish reading one, she says, "Umm … This book next," and hands us another copy.

It's almost like she's a little obsessed or something.

Here's a video of her reading the book. Apologies for the unfortunate camera angle. I was trying to be sly, since she clams up when she knows she's being recorded, and I didn't consider the whole squatting-in-a-dress factor.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Anatomy lessons from a 2-year-old

Recently overheard:

"I don't have testicles. Octopuses have testicles."

"Boys have a penis. Girls have a lunchbox."

Monday, September 27, 2010


Seven years ago today, I made some crazy vows to this guy. Honestly, I don't even remember what they were, but I think there was something about baking him fresh bread weekly and not protesting 50-inch televisions. Boy have those come back to haunt me.

But in return, I've gotten a few perks. A really funny, really hunky husband, for instance. And one who's an incredible dad to our kids.

Evidenced by the fact that I couldn't find a single picture of him without a child attached to him.

There's also been the unwavering support, the love, the adventure, the forgiveness, the good grammar, the clean laundry (yes, ladies, he does laundry), and, of course the 50-inch television.

And I'd say that's worth more than all the fresh loaves of bread in the world.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stop what you're doing

And go make this tastissimo chickpea, greens, and tomato dish. Modifications:
  • Didn't de-crust the bread (blasphemy). I used the heel of my favorite new whole-wheat sandwich loaf, and it was yum.
  • Mixed in a good 1/2 tsp. or so of smoked paprika at the end instead of just sprinkling a bit on top. 
  • Added a bit of cinnamon.
  • Used beet greens instead of spinach.
  • Cooked down some fresh garden tomatoes (seeds, skins, and all) and used those in place of jarred tomato sauce. 
  • Served over couscous. 
Have I mentioned that it's crazy tasty? Go ahead. Cook now, thank later.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Public opinion poll

Where do you draw the line with clothing (or lack of clothing) with pictures of your kids? I'm talking little kids here. Is it no shirt, no shoes, no posting? Or do you allow a little more skin?

As you can see from this blog, I keep the kids' nekked pictures to myself, but that's not because a) they don't exist, or b) they're not abso-flipping-lutely adorable. Both my kids love to be in their most natural state, but I tend to err on the side of safety with photo posting in consideration of a) pervos and b) future embarrassment for the children.

What has me asking this question? It's the fact that I'm sooooooo tempted to share all the rest of the photos in this series:

But I'll probably tuck them away in a safe place. Like the PowerPoint I'm putting together for her high school graduation party.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Filed under: Phrases I never imagined I'd utter

"When you find trash on the floor, will you please put it in the trash and not your sister's mouth?"

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day

Aptly named. Today I made two quiches, two loaves of bread, two homemade pizzas, seven cups of yogurt, and our first batch of tomato sauce from the garden. This after Saturday's great canning-fest, during which my friend and I preserved 41 jars (!!!) of strawberry jam.

I'd say I labored sufficiently.

We also had a lovely bike ride today—our first family ride with Sidamo pulling his own weight. He lost his training wheels a couple of weeks ago, and today was his first street ride. It was wonderful—Nora had the bike trailer to herself, which meant far less pinching, hitting, pulling, screaming, and threats of time-outs. It was so peaceful, in fact, that Nora stretched out and took a nap as the rest of us burned calories.

Sidamo is amazing on his bike. It took no time at all for him to learn how to ride without training wheels, and since then he's been riding every day—with very few falls, and much bravery on the rare occasions he funds himself under his bike instead of on it. We're very proud of him, and one of these days I'll relax enough to stop clutching my chest at every bump in the road and instead take some pictures of our little road warrior.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Happy first birthday, lil' cuz

The littlest cousin turns 1 this week, and we joined him for a lovely birthday celebration today.

For the record, he used to be this tiny just a blink ago.

Happy birthday, little guy!