37 Months

37 Months

Ollie's currently in the "Little Helper" phase. I haven't seen that on the list of milestones, but it's a big one. This morning he helped make coffee, carried all the breakfast plates (with their food) to the table, brought the forks, and gave Minna her drink. He would have cracked the eggs as well but I was rushing and didn't let him. After breakfast he watered the garden and was very excited to see this rainbow in the spray. By this time next week I'm hoping he'll be preparing all the meals, washing the dishes, and doing all the yard work so I can enjoy our Nantucket vacation.

Hot day, cool ice cream

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Catching razor clams

I've dug/raked for my fair share of shellfish (oysters, steamers, littlenecks and mussels) but I'd never harvested razor clams. I've seen their shells all over the beaches, but until a few years ago never realized people ate them. Then I had them roasted with butter and garlic at St. John's in London and fell in love! While reading my new Forgotten Skills of Cooking I learned a simple way to catch razor clams: pour salt in their hole and watch them wriggle out!

That's crazy! I can't wait to try it! Also if anyone knows a good source for buying razor clams in New York City, please let me know. I want to start eating them more regularly.

My copy of Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best - Over 700 Recipes Show You Why by Darina Allen arrived today and I'm very excited to get started with it. Foraging for seaweeds and shellfish looks especially up my alley. And as I read the introduction I puffed up a bit with pride. The author complains of so many young people who don't know basic things (like butter comes from cream!) about where food comes from or what it looks like in its natural state. I realized that in his short life, Ollie's picked asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, black raspberries, rhubarb and (not ripe) blackberries. Not bad for a just 3 years old New York City native.


Yeah. I found this on my hard drive. Kind of crazy.

4 Stages of Seeing Pregnant Women

Walking around Manhattan the other day I realized there are four stages of "Woman Seeing Pregnant Women on the Streets."

Stage One: You don't see them at all. You're pre-kids and you don't even notice things like pregnant bellies, even though you're surrounded by them.

Stage Two: "Oh I wish that was me!" You pine.

Three: "Hey! You're pregnant! Me too! Her too! All of us! Gosh, she looks big! Do I look that big?" You're there! You're surrounded by your pregnant sisters everywhere you look!

Four: "O.M.G. I'm so so so so so so so so happy I'm not pregnant."

Needless to say, I am at stage four.

I made a new About page. In case somehow you've been reading this blog and have no idea who I am.

Looking for a great, easy summer soup for supper? Cucumber and Avocado Soup (you've gotta scroll down to it) is so yummy and easy to make that I'm going to make it three or four times a week this summer. Yes it's that tasty, and you wouldn't think so with how healthy is. Win win.

An easy baby shower


I threw a baby shower for a close friend over the weekend and I'm so pleased with how the recipes turned out, I thought I'd share. It was a "Ladies Tea" theme, without the tea and without much more theme than simply that. But here's what we had:

Cucumber Mint Tea Sandwiches
Chicken Salad Tea Sandwiches (the taragon made these special)
Smoked Salmon and Endive Tea Sandwiches
Goat Cheese and Watercress Tea Sandwiches
Fruit Salad with Ginger Syrup

For drinks I made a sparkling pink lemonade (frozen concentrate and seltzer, voila!) and served a sparkling rose wine. But the highlight was dessert: a Lavender Lemon Bundt Cake. This was actually suggested by my son Ollie (not the flavor, the bundt idea) because he pointed out we wouldn't need to use the mixer for frosting (though we did need it for the cake, much to his disappointment...). He sure was prescient because Sunday morning as I was scrambling to get everything prepared, I sure wouldn't have enjoyed making a layer cake and whipping buttercream. And I didn't have the time.

For flowers I used baby food jars with the labels removed and tied with some twine around the top. I filled them with dusty pink roses from the deli around the corner. They looked fancy though! All in all it was a beautiful, delicious afternoon. And when I get a chance, I'll try and share a photo.

Oh! And I almost forgot: I made half pints of strawberry jam for all the ladies to take home as presents.

Felled by the Pine Nut Mouth

I made Straw and Hay Fettuccine Tangle on Saturday night (btw Heidi's Super Natural Cooking is awesome, I love it!) for dinner. Monday for lunch I ate the leftovers, including a bunch of whole pine nuts that had fallen to the bottom of the dish. By Tuesday evening I had a weird taste in the back of my throat, so weird that when I when I woke up during the night, I couldn't get back to sleep. Was is the allergy pill I'd taken for the first time this year? The strong cheese and rind I ate for dinner? The strong wine that accompanied it?

By yesterday the strange taste hadn't abated, despite multiple teeth brushings and flossings, tongue scrapings, and mouthwash swirlings. I turned to Twitter for guidance. And almost immediately people replied asking if I'd eaten pine nuts recently. At first I ignored, but as more people mentioned, I was curious. Then someone said to Google "Chinese pine nuts" and lo a diagnosis: Pine Nut Mouth! (aka "Pine Mouth" or "Pine Nut Syndrome") Seems that there are a lot of pine nuts on the market these days imported from China and they're causing people to get a metallic taste in the back of the throat after ingesting, sometimes lasting up to two weeks!

I'm happy to report my case is resolving and I actually enjoyed my breakfast, but until today food's been so off-putting, I haven't wanted to eat. My pine nuts were from Whole Food's bulk bin, and I stored them in the fridge. They didn't taste rancid when I prepared them, so I'm not thinking it's rancidity-related. I'm going to go back and investigate where they're from to confirm China. And if I can bare to eat pine nuts again this summer, I'm splurging for Italian imports. Right now, that's a big if.

Lazy jam is a relative term

On Wednesday I began the 3-day journey that is making a Christine Ferber jam and by Friday afternoon had four pints of "Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices". On Thursday I was able to bang out 7 1/2 pints of traditional strawberry jam like I make with my grandmother. I realized that this doesn't sound very lazy, but if you know how to do something, it's not hard. And somehow I equate not hard with lazy I guess. Regardless, it was lots of fun and I'm really looking forward to making many different jams and preserves this summer, "putting up" lots of the Greenmarket's bounty for fall and winter.

A couple notes: I didn't bother with Ferber's Green Apple Jelly for pectin (I can't be bothered to make jelly to make jam), I just used half a package of pectin (since Ferber's recipe called for approximately half the berries and sugar of a Certo pectin recipe). Jam set fine so I think if I make more of Ferber's jams (which I'd like to) I'll just sub store-bought pectin instead.

I tried the "fancy" jam (as Ollie calls the Pinot and Spice) with my English muffin this morning. You know what? I like my plain old Grandma Pete's traditional better.

I also made a rhubarb compote (1 cup chopped rhubarb, 1/2 cup sugar, juice of half an orange and its zest, I think...) that I've been putting on pancakes. So good!! And a little trick on the pancakes I pulled yesterday that no one seemed to notice: I sub'd 1 cup of AP flour for whole wheat pastry flour (inspired by an awesome banana muffin recipe I've been making that I'll tell you about soon) and the pancakes were still delicious, and I like to think a tiny bit healthier.

So yeah, I've been busy. And I didn't even tell you about everything I did in the garden today!

Some lazy jam making coming up

If you've read this site for a while, you know I've got a thing about strawberries and making jam. Today Ollie and I bought four quarts of berries at the Union Square Greenmarket so we could make some jam together. Looking perhaps to break with tradition, I opened Mes Confitures: The Jams and Jellies of Christine Ferber for some different recipes. Oooh, "Rhubarb and Whole Strawberries" seemed like just the thing! Until this:

The third day, bring this mixture to a boil 5 times. Do this sequence again four times at 8-hour intervals.

What?! Am I making jam or birthing a newborn jam baby?! Rhubarb's going to be a simple compote for yogurt and ice cream, not even canned. For the strawberries I'm thinking it's either "Strawberry with Pinot Noir and Spices", adapted for my lazy one-day jam technique, or the basic Strawberry Jam I always make with my grandmother.

Paris recap

Somehow Paris got suddenly hectic and I got tired and didn't have time to write anymore about our adventures so this is a final Paris recap post, probably in not particular order, with photos.

Ollie pretty much went to a playground every day and by the end of the trip I'd overhear him trying to speak French to the kids he was playing with. The last day in a playground in the Place des Voges some girls were playing some kind of tag game. They'd say something, I don't recall what, and tag each other. Ollie observed for a bit, then ran up to one girl, tagged her and said a close approximation of whatever they'd been saying. Then he ran off while I stood there kind of stunned. A few more weeks and that kid would be speaking French!

I drink your milkshake! I drink it up!

At one snack break Minna drank her first milkshake. She was sitting in my father's lap when she suddenly reached for his shake, pulled it towards her and then put her little mouth around the straw! Who knew she could do that?!

I ate steak tartare twice after never having it before in my life. I'd always thought it was just plain ground beef, but it's not, it's seasoned with mustard and capers and onions and it was so yummy. I'm craving it again and I think I'm going to have to make it myself here at home soon. We also ate a lot of macarons. Ollie's favorite was "brown", or chocolate, and he's very keen to make them at home.

I bought confit de petales de rose, a rose petal jelly, but haven't tried it yet. There are always such interesting jellies and jams, I just had to get a new one to try.

Ollie and I went on a carousel at the Tuileries. He wasn't so keen on it at first, so I rode along behind him and my father stood next to him. But after it was done he was converted and stayed on for a second ride. Hopefully he'll remember what fun it was the next time we see one.

And then he's off

Did I mention that Ollie is a running maniac? And that he probably ran half the time we were out on the streets? The nice thing is that each curb cut in Paris had a little bumpy mat in front of it, so he knew just where to stop at every corner.

And I'm sure there's a lot I'm forgetting, like how both kids were so good when we went out to eat. And how Ollie can climb really high on all kinds of equipment at the playground. And how traveling with kids is really great because everyone gets forced from their routine and you discover, "Hey, that routine wasn't so necessary after all!" And how fast it goes once you get there, after months of anticipation and talking about the trip with Ollie, suddenly it's over and we're home and all we have are our memories and photos of France 2010.

Day Three in Paris

Highlights include the Toy boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg. And the whole Jardin itself, so beautiful today as it finally warmed up and the sun shone while we were there. We also visited the Grande Epicerie De Paris where I got some rose petal jelly and fleur de sel from Madagascar, because a girl can never have enough salt!

Ollie very much wanted an ice cream, even passing up a big macaron at the Grande Epicerie saying he'd rather wait for ice cream. And wait he did, because when we got back to the ice cream spot we'd seen on our walk, it took 10 minutes before the guy was available to scoop Ollie's vanilla cone. And only 5 minutes later, as he was rounding a corner, a girl coming by on her razor scooter collided with him. He didn't get knocked down, and he valiantly held onto his cone. Alas the impact broke the top half off and all the ice cream ended up on the sidewalk! I almost cried, but he held it together and ate the cone as we walked home.

Toy boats at the Jardin du Luxembourg

Setting the Fish Boat off on its journey

Every visit to Paris, I watched little kids play with wooden sailboats in the duck pond at the Jardin du Luxembourg. Today Ollie and I rented our own little "fish boat" and spent an hour chasing it around the pond. It crashed into another boat and got entangled near the duck house. It heeled way over on its side and soaked the deck (no scuppers!). Once someone else pushed it away from the edge before Ollie got there with his long stick to give it a nudge.

Oh and that long stick! Ollie was a danger running everywhere with it, getting it stuck in the edge of a grate and almost pole vaulting into the air. But by the end he'd learned to keep it under control and was pretty good at getting his boat turned around and back into the big sea.

I can't recommend this enough if you've got kids in Paris. 2 Euros for 30 minutes of sheer pleasure in one of the most beautiful gardens anywhere. Every day in summer. Wed, Sat & Sun rest of the year. We got there around 11 AM and there were plenty of boats to choose from. When we passed back through in the afternoon around 3 PM, all the boats were sailing.

Amazing French cotton swabs

It remains to be seen whether the best days of the French are behind them. Look at the innovations in cotton swabs underway in this country! That "Security" tip ensures you don't stick the swab deep into your child's ear. Normally I'm not worried about that but Minna has a bad habit of turning her head just as I try to clean her ear. But not with this swab, nope! You can only just get around the entrance to the ear. Frankly I'm ashamed America didn't invent this! I thought we led the world in ridiculous gear in the name of child safety, but the French have us on swabs. I'm bringing a box home, maybe more if I can fit them.

Day One in Paris

I can't decide if this picture of Ollie:

Serious Ollie

Or this one of Minna:

Argh! 'Tis yogurt I be eatin'

is a better memory of our first day in Paris. Either way, I love them both because both show the kids out and about at restaurants being really well behaved! Ollie waited so patiently for his chocolat chaud and only spilled a small amount of it over the course of many pourings of melted chocolate and steamed milk into his cup. And Minna was so hungry by the time we got to this restaurant but she gobbled her yogurt and smiled and was so pleasant. A miracle! Of course now that I've written about it we'll never have a decent meal out again. But at least we had Day One in Paris!

For those wanting to keep up from home, I've got a France 2010 Flickr set that I'll add to as our trip progresses. There are a few more from the other day, including Ollie's first swan. Though honestly, if you've seen a swan before, it's probably not that thrilling.

I've been drinking Nescafe Espresso on this trip and what I'm wondering is: how do they make that instant crema?! It's really authentic looking. Though not authentic enough to make "artte lart", which is what Ollie calls latte art. I will enjoy a proper cafe creme in Paris, but right now, being the first one up in the house and enjoying the babyless silence, this isn't too bad at all.

Our European Vacation

Ollie at the park

Our first full day in France near the Swiss border, we tried to go to CERN but it was closed so we drove to Annecy instead. I can't tell you too much about it because we ate crepes and then ran around in the park. Ollie found several treasures, including two feathers of undetermined bird origin and one pine cone. The weather has been uncooperative so far and though we've been told we're surrounded by snow covered Alps and Mont Blanc, there's been no sightings of anything more than verdant foothills. I've got more pictures to upload, including Ollie's first swan viewing and some French cows -- big hits both -- but the connection is a bit slow here. As you'd expect, cheese has been fantastic, bread excellent, and every morning we've had pain au chocolat for breakfast.

Tomorrow it's the TGV on to Paris and hopefully some warmer weather. If Ollie weren't having a blast here playing with all the new toys, I think he'd be excited for the train trip. But right now all he wants to do is play with a fork lift toy that says, "Back it up!" then beeps and reverses across the room. Oh France!

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