A serious return to blogging

I want to avoid any bold proclamations here, in case I totally find that I don't want to be blogging again after all, but I will go so far as to say: I'm back! I missed relaunching by my blog's birthday (11 years!) on May 2 but this is pretty close. The site's been moved to a new host, a new design's been applied, and I feel like it's a fresh start. That's what I've needed. At least, that's what I've told myself. We'll see if that was really the case.

Also there are some new posts below that you won't have seen because I was kind of secretly blogging there for a while as I got the site fixed up and moved. So yeah. Don't wanna get too meta so that's it for now.


34 Months

It's getting hard to keep up with my monthiversary pictures and write-ups about the kids over at Flickr. It was kind of manageable with Ollie but now the dates sneak up on me before I realize it and by the time I get a photo (if I manage to snap one on the proper day) and write about it, the next month is upon me!

Also now I can compare Minna's progress to Ollie's at the same age, which has led to me getting concerned that Minna's not as advanced as Ollie because she's not trying to crawl and move about in nearly the same way he did. Of course she claps and sings to music in a way I don't recall him doing at that age. So I guess I need to chill out and remember that each kid progresses at her own rate. Not only should I refrain from comparing my child to someone else's, I shouldn't compare my children to each other too much!

Losing the joy of childhood too soon

After being so sure I wanted to bring up our kids in New York City, I'm now wondering whether it's such a good idea. I don't think my concerns are the usual ones that drive people to the 'burbs when they have a family, and I certainly can't bear the thought of moving to some suburbs. It's just lately I've seen a lot of kids around, kids 7, 8 or 9 years old, and they appear so jaded. They're so stylish, girls especially, and they seem to have a very distinct look on their face. A very adult look. And when I've seen them my heart breaks to think that could be Minna in seven years, over it all already, childlike joy beneath her.

Moving away of course is not the answer. There's no guarantee children are more joyful and less jaded elsewhere. I know I've read lots of things about tweens being all grown up already, cultural pressures, TVs influence, etc. etc. etc. If there's any solution -- and there may not be -- it's in the parenting I hope. In our ability to keep the experiences special and meaningful, to steer clear of brands and designer clothes and pressure to buy the next thing, and to focus on time outside the city as a family. Nights collecting fireflies in Vermont and learning the constellations. Hiking in the White Mountains and spending the nights bunked in a hut. Skiing at Mad River with friends and family. And finding great experiences to share right here in Manhattan as well.

I want to say that as long as I show enthusiasm for things, my children will join me. But sadly, I can almost hear them already, saying dismissively, "Mom, that's so lame." Hopefully that won't be until 2020 at least.

Baby food cooking inspiration

100_baby_pureesI got this book, Top 100 Baby Purees: 100 Quick and Easy Meals for a Healthy and Happy Baby, when Ollie was little and used it a ton. Now with Minna I think I'm using it even more. Partially because she seems more open to eating everything earlier than Ollie was, but also because with two kids I'm busier and stupider than I was with one. It's nice to have a freezer full of healthy stuff that Minna can eat at a moment's notice.

It's pretty easy to make your own baby food but what's great about this book is it just gives me a couple different ideas for flavor combinations I wouldn't have come up with on my own. Funny as I was writing this I had a feeling I already posted about this book, so I poked into the archives. I don't seem to have mentioned it, but I stumbled across this post about The Everpresent Kids' Menu from 2007, before Ollie was born. The comments (and original New York Times article) are much more interesting now that I actually have kids and have dealt with the kids' menu. Makes me think I'm due for an update post about kids' menus!

Out of the Loop in New York City

A pretty long article in today's New York Times, Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley, looks at the dearth of women in tech, both in leadership roles at large companies and as entrepreneurs with their own start-ups. There's no new information about why women aren't present in any significant amounts, or about why less women study comp sci or engineering in college. And after various interviews and mentions of "women like jobs with more interaction with people", it closes on this optimistic note:

Silicon Valley shows signs of changing, albeit slowly. New organizations are sprouting up for young women in tech, like Girls in Tech and Women 2.0. One-quarter of the partners at Kleiner Perkins, the venture capital firm, are women, and some of the hottest start-ups -- including Gilt, Hunch, Ning, Eventbrite and Meebo -- were founded or co-founded by women.

They could change things for the next generation of girls aspiring to engineering careers and women already entering the field, Ms. Fleming hopes. "If their success becomes visible, so girls can identify with it, they will think, 'Oh yeah, anyone can do this,'" she says.

But why would this be true? Three of the most successful start-ups from Web 1.0, Blogger, Flickr, and Six Apart (and I define successful as millions of users, transformed how people do things on the Web, two acquired for large sums of money by the biggest companies in the Valley) were co-founded by women. Not one of these companies or women was mentioned in the article, though all companies have existed for nearly a decade or more.

If an article asks "In the wide-open world of tech, why so few women?" and can't even acknowledge some of the early female leaders, how can we expect anyone else to know that there are women entrepreneurs. In the quote above, a woman says "if their success becomes visible." Key word here apparently is if.

Cooking for Minna

I've been really getting into cooking again, which is a good thing for Minna because it means I've been making lots of yummy things for her to eat. As I type a big batch of Chicken, Sweet Potatoes and Apple is bubbling on the stove. This was one of my favorites for Ollie because it just tasted so yummy! I've also made roasted sweet potatoes and broccoli -- just puree them together with butter and a little milk.

But I think the best I've made yet is my "New England Special" as I call it: baked squash and apples. I cut an acorn squash in half and put on a baking sheet. I took an apple, cored it, and filled the hole with raisins, cinnamon, and butter. Roasted both in oven until soft and tender, then ran through food mill. Very tasty!

At dinner she usually eats some of what we're having, but these foods, frozen in little cubes, are handy for lunch when she's out and about, or if we're not eating an easy dinner for sharing.

Sex and the Sneakers

Strawberry_sneaker Here's a weird thing I'm struggling with: the "sexing" of shoes and getting Ollie to pick ones that are for boys. Nearly since he's been old enough to wander around the local shoe store, he's gravitated towards some sparkly Mary Janes. They seem to be coated in glitter or something, and he really likes the brown ones. Today he even tried one on (he fit the floor model), but I told him we couldn't get them.

Which got me thinking about kinda how unfair it is for kids, especially boys, that somehow lots of fun stuff's been associated with girls, even though there's no reason it should be. Why are brown sparkles more "girly"? Why don't they make a non-Mary Jane in brown sparkles? I can see why Ollie would want sparkles on his shoes, it's fun, they SPARKLE and SHIMMER. That's neat for a 2.5 year old, boy or girl. Instead he's supposed to wear some plain old navy blue things with streaks of silver.

We gave up at the shoe store and I set about looking online at Zappos for him where I spied sneakers with strawberries. I thought, "Ollie loves strawberries!" but then realized, no, these too were for girls. Somehow girls get strawberries, as if a fruit belongs more to one sex or another. What fruit could go on a boy's sneaker? Banana?

This isn't the first time I've struggled with clothing options for Ollie, nor will it be the last. It seems boys, at least in the US, are supposed to dress like mini-men instead of kids. Whoever designs their clothes and shoes seems to have lost touch with what was fun and neat when they were little: bright colors and shiny things and shapes and objects recognized from "real life". No one even seems to make sneakers with little dump trucks or fire engines on them. Surely that's something "right" for a boy.

Making crab cookies

Ollie making his very own crab cookiesOllie and I have been making cookies a lot lately, ever since I got the awesome Williams-Sonoma Message-In-A-Cookie Cutters. The other day at the supermarket we got a small rolling pin, just the right size for him. So while I rolled out the dough to make "Happy Bday Phoebe" cookies for a birthday party we're headed to, Ollie rolled out his own dough and used his little crab cookie cutter to make his very own orange crabs! I couldn't believe he did it, even going so far as using the spatula to lift the cookies off the counter and place them on the cookie sheet.

Pretty soon look for us to open "Kottke's Kitchen" in the Village, a fancy cookie store where you can get decorated bright-colored cookies for $5 a pop!

Dinner plan for this evening is a recommendation from Adriana: Capellini with Fresh Ricotta. Looks easy and sounds delicious. I only wish Ollie and I had time to make the fresh ricotta ourselves. I really want to make cheese with him, seems like it would be a fun cooking project. I guess if we like the recipe we'll plan to do that next time.

No favorite food for a toddler

Our pediatrician's advice about feeding kids is pretty simple: give them whatever you're having, puree it if necessary. If they eat it, great, if they don't, that's it until the next meal. So this is what we've done with Ollie and it's worked fairly well. It means I don't cook anything special for him, or feed him a second meal if he doesn't eat the first, or alter what we give him based on what we think he likes. When Ollie was younger, he loved broccoli. Then he pretty much stopped eating it whenever it was on his plate. These days he consistently eats avocado and sweet potato.

So the other night I made short ribs for dinner with sides of baked sweet potatoes and steamed broccoli. I threw some avocado on his plate because we had a bit leftover. I expected Ollie to eat his two favorites, ignore the broccoli, and try a bit of short rib. Instead Ollie ate all his broccoli and didn't touch anything else!

Now I see how important it is to not develop any ideas about a kid's "favorite" food, and to continue to expose them to everything. This was so eye-opening for me, even if he doesn't touch broccoli for another six months!

Ollie skis at Mad River Glen

It's kind of insane how well he can ski, I'm totally amazed. A little over 2.5 years and less than 20 days total on skis. I can't wait for next year when he'll be all over the mountain!

The importance of first aid

red_cross.gifA little over half an hour ago, I was walking home down Seventh Avenue after doing some errands. As I neared the supermarket, I saw a small crowd gathered around what appeared to be a person lying face down on the sidewalk in a pool of blood. I stopped and asked if I could help out. Someone was on the phone to 911, another told me the elderly woman had just tripped on the sidewalk and fallen face first down to the ground. I told her I was certified in first aid and asked if I could assist her. I sent someone into the supermarket for a first aid kid. I asked her name, her age, her address. She didn't want help, she said, she wanted to walk home. She said she was fine.

But she wasn't. Emily was 81 and she was alone. She was bleeding all over the place, but from where? A cut on her head? Her nose? I asked her to stay with me and we talked about her routine of getting groceries, about what she'd bought. Anytime she realized we were waiting for the ambulance, she tried to get up and said she just wanted to go home. So I asked her to sit with me and tell me about her weekend, and how she was managing in the hot weather. People brought out ice packs from the gym, water and paper towels from the market. I'd put on the gloves from the first aid kit, and cleaned her up a bit, but mostly I just talked to her and held her hand.

Two doctors happened by which made her nervous again. They tried to check her out a bit and we got her sitting up and then moved to a bench, only because she kept trying to stand on her own. We really wanted her to stay where she was. Finally after ten minutes the ambulance arrived (outrageous really, as St. Vincent's is only two blocks north!) and I was able to talk to the EMTs and they took over. I picked up my bags and walked home, hoping that Emily would accept their help, wondering if I should have stayed to take her home.

It's kind of crazy, I was certified in first aid and CPR for years back in the eighties and early nineties and never used it once. I got re-certified a little over a month ago and it sounds weird to say, but I'm happy I was able to use it. I'm happy I was able to arrive in the crowd and know what to do. Walking home, I realized being certified isn't necessarily about providing the aid. I didn't stop the bleeding, though it subsided on its own. I didn't try to examine her. This was in part because she refused my help initially but also because I knew the ambulance would be along soon. Mostly it was about providing comfort to someone in a difficult situation, helping them feel ok, and letting them know they weren't alone. The certification gave me the confidence to do that: to kneel on the sidewalk, holding an old woman's hand, and to help make those scary few minutes hopefully just a little bit better.

If you're not certified in first aid, I can't recommend it strongly enough. It takes four hours of your time at your local Red Cross and with what you'll learn, maybe you'll be able to assist someone like Emily one day.

Ollie loves mussels


Though I posted this to Flickr, I can't resist adding it here because to me this is the MOST AMAZING THING Ollie's ever eaten. In general he's a really good eater, and he's always liked fish from about when he was weaned. But mussels? The past two times I've had moules frites while we've been out, he's asked to try the mussels and I've given him one or two. He seemed to like them. So last night I bought 2 lbs and steamed them for us and he went to town!

He plucked each meaty mussel from its shell and jammed it in his mouth. No kidding, he must have had twenty, if not more! Funniest part was that they weren't even that good. I was pretty so-so about them. Imagine when he gets a good batch?!

I'm so proud of him.

It's strawberry time again

Three years later, strawberries are going strong and we're headed up for some picking, eating, and jamming. Ollie can't wait, and neither can I!

Exploring the real world Busy Town

Out and aboutOne of the most unanticipated effects of having Ollie's been the change in my relationship with our neighborhood and the city's streets. Ollie's big enough that he walks around holding my hand, so we spend a lot of time just strolling around, looking at things. Today on the way home from our swim class, we stopped to investigate some Con Ed workers around an open manhole. One day we walked along slowly as the garbage truck collected trash on the block, making just the right time so we'd catch it at each stop, it would speed ahead, and we'd meet again at the next collection point. Ollie loves watching all this activity and narrating it.

After we saw the Con Ed men, we stopped to watch a guy getting his car battery replaced on Fifth Avenue. Then we swung by our local fire house, a huge favorite. Alas the doors were down and the truck was out, so we peered in the window identifying coats and boots and spare hoses. What's really neat is how friendly all the guys are. The firemen invite Ollie inside to sit in the truck. The Con Ed man showed Ollie the frayed and burned section of electrical cable they were replacing. The car guy narrated as he installed the new battery.

It's making me feel so connected to the city in an entirely new way. I just worry that it all seems so male, so stereotypically boyish to see and visit these things. I've realized that there aren't a lot of female jobs on the street that we come across, aside from the rare policewoman or mail carrier. We do stop and look at babies in strollers, and chat with nice grandmotherly women who say hello. But somehow it's not the same. I'm beginning to realize a lot of "nurture" happens outside the house, beyond my control.

Not quite in the saddle again

A slight little tweak to the design -- removing the foodness of the site -- and I may just be back to blogging here again. Shortly after Ollie was born in July, 2007, I kind of abruptly abandoned this site. And it took me a while to realize the reason: I wasn't so interested in writing about food. My life had expanded quite beyond food, but the site was limited to that one topic. And so everything here just stopped.

Removing the constraint of 'food', I now hope to find some time to write here again. Not as much as in the past certainly, and probably not as linky as it's been. I don't spend a whole lot of time online anymore, at least compared to the ten-plus hours a day I used to.

So what's that mean? First, don't get your hopes up, this might be one of my (many) projects that I want to do (ahem, like the violin lessons I undertook back in January) but don't really have the time for. Second, there are probably lots of things broken around here.

I really rushed this "redesign" so that I could just get writing. That was supposed to the point all along, wasn't it?

Was the change in fish consumption recommendations influenced by cash? Until recently, experts recommended women of childbearing age eat no more than 12 ounces of fish a week, and no more than 6 ounces of canned albacore tuna, because of high levels of mercury. But recently a new recommendation was released encouraging the consumption of at least 12 ounces of fish a week, the logic being that omega-3 consumption was important and outweighed the possible mercury risks. Now the New York Times is reporting that money from the seafood industry may be behind the new recommendations. Guh, and I was just about to go back to eating the nice albacore tuna too.

Attention New York City-area readers, tomorrow night at the NYPL there's "a discussion of the complex legacy of Julia Child." Julia Child in America will feature culinary historians David Kamp, Molly O'Neill and Laura Shapiro, chef Dan Barber, and journalist and former Cullman Fellow Melanie Rehak as moderator.

Are they breakfast cupcakes?

Normally I'm not one for muffins in the morning, but there's something about cranberry muffins (especially when they have a hint of orange and they don't have nuts) that I love. The other day I spied a package of them at Whole Foods on sale so I bought them. And each of the past few mornings have been delightful, until my husband said, "Muffins? Isn't that just like eating cake for breakfast?"

Now in my heart I know that's not true, but it's hard to argue with him. Muffins do seem to be really sweet whenever you buy them at a coffee shop. I have a sense they've gotten sweeter over the years, going from a bread-like treat with fruit to a cupcake-like treat without frosting. I'm trying to remember what muffins were like when I was younger. Were they sweet? Sort of sweet? And now, are muffins really as bad as having cake for breakfast? Because I'm really craving a cranberry-orange muffin!

Cupcakes and birthdays and pies

"Cupcakes have recently been marched to the front lines of the fat wars, banned from a growing number of classroom birthday parties because of their sugar, fat and 'empty calories,' a poster food of the child obesity crisis." And apparently folks aren't happy about the fact they can't send a bundle of cupcakes to school with their kids on their birthday. I actually think it's a good idea to prohibit birthday treats, but for different reasons. When I was little, my school didn't allow anyone to bring cakes or cupcakes or anything on a birthday. One, it was unfair to the children whose parents didn't have the finances or time (or both) to bake such treats. And two, the kids whose birthdays fell on weekends or over a holiday break were left out from hosting their own celebration. I appreciated that because my birthday was always over the Christmas break. Seems like that logic still holds, regardless of the fat content of cupcakes.

Also in the same article, I was saddened to read "that in the modern age, the cupcake may be more American than apple pie — 'because nobody is baking apple pies,' Professor [Marion] Nestle [of New York University] explained." Damn these cupcakes, for ruining the West Village, for making kids fat, for disrupting school activities, and for making people forget about the glories of pie! If Ollie's allowed to bring sweets to school for his birthday, and happens to go to school in July, I will send him with a pie! I think I'll also bake one this weekend because the greenmarket is filled with apples, and there's nothing like a nice apple pie in the fall. Mmmmm...

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