Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Too Many Interests...Too Little Time

Squeezing out a little bit of time to update this dusty corner of ye olde interwebs, in between weighing in on, among other things: Jian Ghomeshi, the municipal election here in Toronto, and Cyrus Beene's hair situation on Scandal.  I wish I had more time to spend here, because I HAVE ALL THE THOUGHTS AND ALL THE FEELINGS.  I haven't even had a chance to record for posterity how I feel about the whole, "Hello Kitty is not a cat" Sanrio bombshell.  WHAT HAS MY LIFE BECOME?!

Guys, I am STRETCHED.  I wake up at 5:30am so I can put a proper breakfast out for my goon squad and have a proper dinner to come home to.  I want to knit, and see movies, and catch-up on the news, and have time to read, and work on crafts, and think about FREAKIN' XMAS (which I hate with the fieriness of a million suns), and make quilts, and keep a clean house, and figure out all the stupid renovation stuff, and see my friends, and make sure the Big Yam sees HIS friends, and make sure that the babies see enough of my face full-on (as in, I'm looking at them and they're not just getting the weird side-angle of my face with the computer screen/my phone casting its pall on my complexion), that they don't imprint on our caregiver or, the cats.  I fall asleep at 10pm and it is the exhausted sleep of the damned, filled with mundane dreams where I "escape" to such flights of subconscious as, "my family is coming over for dinner and my brother brings nothing to contribute" or "the basement underpin has started and the shared driveway has a giant pile of dirt in it" (real, actual dreams I've had lately.  I'm the worst).  This basically says to me that I'm not nurturing my interior life enough.

First things first: the whole Jian thing.  I am SHOCKED at how many defenders he has/had!  In the grand tradition of me being right about stuff without knowing anything detailed about them and going only on my superficial assumptions (which I could teach a graduate-level course in, quite frankly), I WAS SO RIGHT ABOUT JIAN.  I've thought he was so gross from even BEFORE Dr. Rei hipped me to the XO Jane "blind" item.  Then, while on maternity leave and driving the babies around to their various medical appointments, I actually heard his show.  HE'S NOT THAT GOOD, GUYS.  After an event of particular cultural import, he would always do these little op-ed monologue "essays" over washy, synth pads and his thoughts were SO BANAL.  SO TRITE.  Like, more banal than Stuart McLean (aka Garrison Keillor for all my American readers).  Did you ever think such a thing was possible?  To my mind, Jian became famous because of the Billy Bob Thornton thing, and really, that's basically becoming famous and well-known because you were on the receiving end of a notable jerk being a notable jerk.  La-di-dah.

Anyway, there's nothing about Jian that doesn't scream "I'm a gross pig."  The hair!  The look!  The general douchebaggy way he presents himself (I totally feel like Jian is a douchebag, which refutes the contention of this widely-circulated article, that "douchebag" always refers to a white person.  Tiger Woods?  Total douchebag).   Even if, as the Dotytron contends, I consider "Eeks. Totes diff vibes from yest" an indictable offense and would support locking someone behind bars for that alone, I think the way he's handled this whole thing shows that painting him with broad "disgusting pig-dog" strokes wasn't off base in the least.  Let's also talk about the PR firm he hired, Navigator.  They took him as a client, they must have signed off on that sad, pathetic, and TMI Facebook post Jian wrote, and then, when more and more women started coming forward, they dropped him.  Way to do your due diligence, you idiots.  I should charge them as a consultant to sit in a room when they're entertaining new clients so they don't have to be in the position of taking on and then subsequently dropping sick f**kwads.  HOW DID YOU NOT KNOW, NAVIGATOR?!?

I sometimes wish I could just apply for jobs with a CV that states all the times I was right about stuff ahead of the curve.  Granted, most of the times it has to do with pop culture, but still!  That's got to count for something, somewhere, right?

We need a palate cleanser after the unpleasantness of talking about Jian.  This photo has been making my heart sing, lately:

I love everyone's face in this photo - from the Big Yam's cheesy smile to Lenny's wide-faced muppet-mouthed grin.  

The above photo was taken on a Don Valley nature walk we did to take in the fall colours.  It was one of those perfect Sundays that happens about twice a year for us - a leisurely, laid back Sunday where we had an attainable amount of household chores on the docket, but we got to go out and do something outside that was enjoyable for all members of the family, and still had enough time left that I got to lie on the couch under a blanket and read for a good chunk of the afternoon and tuck into a giant bowl of spaghetti and meatballs for dinner.  Like seriously, could you imagine a more perfect fall Sunday?  I need more of those in my life, to center me and make me a reasonable person again.

This past weekend was the antithesis of that halcyon one.  Here's something no one tells you about Halloween before you become a parent: IT IS THE LONGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE.  I always take Halloween off from work to mitigate how much of a frenzied dash it is when kids are knocking on your door and you're trying to get the pumpkin carved/lit/out and finishing up dinner and bundling up your kids (because inevitably, Halloween is on the rainiest, coldest day in a week otherwise filled with temperate, sun-filled fall days) for the trek.  

It's always worth it, in the end.  For this:

and this:


This year everyone asked me what I did about limiting the Big Yam's candy consumption and if I had ever heard about the "Switch Witch" which is yet another new newfangled parenting thing n00b parents do because they can't tell their kids no?  The Switch Witch comes and takes all your Halloween candy in the night and leaves a book or something instead.  I've found we don't have to do anything that requires me to go out and get ANOTHER thing in addition to all the regular Halloween crap.  I made him sort his candy (what you see above) and then because he's 4, I told him he could have 4 pieces of his choosing.  He was fine with that.  He's basically forgotten all about it and I've just been using the Halloween candy as an incentive for him to do his "homework" after school.  I am very, very luck though, that the Big Yam is such a sweet, agreeable little guy.  He's so amenable.  I was able to do drop-off on Friday and ran into another parent who told me that the Big Yam sat with her when she chaperoned the field trip and she wanted to tell me what a good, smart, sweet little boy he is.  Apparently he spent the entire bus ride talking and telling them all kinds of facts and describing/explaining stuff and she kept reiterating how intelligent and well behaved and pleasant he was to be around.  

That kind of unsolicited feedback is the stuff of dreams.  I told the Dotytron and we both teared up.  I felt so proud of the Big Yam for representing himself so well and making us look good.  I don't know what role, if any, we played in how he's developed.  I know we set high expectations and we're very strict, but who knows if that works?  I can tell you that already, Lenny and the Quincess are completely different in their general approach to life.  Lenny is an Evil Knievel, daredevil, classic baby type of baby.  He climbs things, he gets into stuff, he puts food in his mouth.  He's like your textbook baby.  The Quincess is a sweet-faced, observant, cerebral, very funny baby.  I always say that Lenny is baby-funny, but the Quincess is legit, regular person funny.  He has a very wry sense of humour, and I'm continually flabbergasted by the fact that I can ascertain that and he is ONLY SIXTEEN MONTHS OLD.  

The babies have a lot of words right now, relative to their age (based on the feedback I got from their neo-natal follow up appointment).  To date, this is their tally:

- ball (their first word)
- baba
- book
- this
- that
- mama
- dung-dung (Cantonese for light)
- hot
- "moo"
- "woof"
- "down"
- "naai naai" (Cantonese for milk, but Lenny uses it generally for food)
- nana (banana)
- bot (robot)
- "poh poh" (Cantonese for "pick me up")
- elephant sound
- monkey sound
- lion sound
- "brown bear" (we're pretty sure Quincess says it, and he also reads "Brown Bear" to himself with this funny little cadence that I have to make a point of catching on video
- more/please (sign language)
- all done (sign language)

The rest of the weekend was a blur of social engagements.  We had a neighbour Halloween party on Saturday, then saw Dr. Rei and Hanbo and Big Al for dinner that night, then on Sunday we had Friendsgiving.  This all took place under the wider of umbrella of me stressing to the point of a huge eczema flare up (on my face!  OF COURSE!) about the underpinning, which is supposed to start imminently, at which point, our family of 5 will be without laundry for the duration.

Enough of my whinging on that front!  Let's see some basement renovation/finishing mood boards, shall we?  

The colour palette is light neutrals.  White, brass, grey, with blue and orange accents.  Because it's a basement, and doesn't get a lot (any) natural light, I want it to feel as airy as possible.  


Definitely some kind of light to medium-toned, possibly variegated laminate flooring.  A graphic, patterend rug, definitely the George Nelson bubble lamp and some brass sconces like this:

This Ikea sectional:

I found a company online that does special legs for Ikea furniture, which is a brilliant idea.  They're called Prettypegs.  We will probably need a round coffee table to offset the blocky, rectangular proportions of the main room.  I love the Ikea fauxdenza hack I've seen everywhere, and we will likely do that as a TV/entertainment centre:

We want to nest our speakers inside the credenza, so I think we'd try to get two cabinet doors with a glass inset, and then replace the glass with aluminum decorative radiator grills, spray-painted white, to allow the sound through, but still protect the speakers from Lenny's tweeter-poking fingers.  There are also plans afoot to upgrade to a king sized bed, since it's a tight fit at the moment when everyone is piled in.  

My top secret crafting project is finally out of the bag.  I made Big Al a quilt:

The back is flannel with a Bay stripe offset down the length because as is the trend when I quilt, the technical aspects of the math almost broke me, and I didn't calculate the right length/width of the batting.  I based the design off something I saw online.  The stripes are made up of 2.5" blocks made up of alternating horizontal and vertical strips of fabric.  Again, the math almost killed me and all the blue blocks and the yellow blocks were about 1/2" too small, so I had to cut a million little 1/2" pieces and sew them on when I thought I was onto the piecing stage.  I love the striped border of the binding (not my idea, again ripped off of the one I saw online) and this is my biggest quilt to date.  I did a big chunk of it when we were at my ED's cottage this summer.  It was overall a very pleasurable experience making it and I can't wait for Big Al to be big enough so that I can tell him about it, or that I can read him stories with it tucked up around our legs.  

Here's what our dinners have been like, lately:

Teriyaki salmon, with steamed brown rice and breaded zucchini "fries" I made using this recipe as a base (pretty standard, flour, egg wash, panko/parmesan crust, baked on a rack in the oven.  My notes: DON'T FORGET TO SPRAY/OIL THE RACK!  Otherwise, you end up with the crust sticking to the rack and not in your belly.  Sadface).  I feel like teriyaki salmon is SUCH a mom dish, in the "Good Housekeeping" sense of the word mom.  

Salted caramel swirl pumpkin cheesecake bars.  I based these on this recipe, but made quite a few changes (recipe below).  The best part of these bars was the crust, which was all chewy and caramely from the brown sugar.

The aforementioned spaghetti and meatballs

I made a lentil soup but followed Serious Eats' suggestion and added some gremolata, which elevated the dish considerably.  We had this with cheddar-apple melted toasts on Tiller's bread.

I can (and did) eat an ungodly amount of this shepherd's pie that night.  Alongside roasted cauliflower - cauliflower, cut into thick steaks, tossed with oil and za'atar and salt and pepper and roasted at high heat until it's covered in crisp edges.

Kale and kimchi fried rice topped with fried eggs.  Eaten at 8pm, while I was frantically making salted browned butter rice krispie ghosts to take to the Big Yam's classroom Halloween party.  I also made (assembled) a dip for the drop-in centre Halloween party and honestly guys, next year, tell me to save myself the trouble.  NO ONE CARES.  NO ONE.  

Last week I hung out with Dr. Rei and we went to The Federal.  It's a cute, cozy, tiny little brunch spot.  I had a breakfast sandwich there that immediately consumed me.  It featured: scrambled eggs, bacon, mayo, cheddar cheese, and the kicker, sliced pickle, on an English muffin. It's like a breakfast Big Mac.  Amazing.  I recreated it on the weekend, and made a roasted garlic mayo and it was divine.

New chocolate babka rolled out!  I used Smitten's revamped recipe and did find it relatively easy to execute and more restrained, without any diminished flavour/indulgence returns.  Y'all know I loves me some chocolate babka.  I'm going to make more this weekend.  The only tweak I did was to add some chopped chocolate to the melted chocolate smear.  Mine might actually be *too* chocolatey, but honestly, I haven't been mad at it when I eat my obligatory slice in front of the TV before bed.

Last night's dinner was arroz con pollo with a wackload of steamed green beans.


Salted Caramel Swirl Pumpkin Cheesecake Bars
makes 12 bars

1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
2 c. graham cracker crumbs
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 T cornstarch
pinch salt
2  egg
12 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1/2 c. granulated sugar
1 c. pumpkin puree
2 1/2 t. pumpkin pie spice (I just do my own version with 3 parts cinnamon to 2 parts ginger and 1 part clove, allspice, nutmeg)
2 T. flour
1/4 c. salted caramel sauce
- mix all the crust ingredients together and press onto the bottom of a 9" square baking pan (bottom lined with parchment, helps)
- bake in a preheated 350F oven for about 10 minutes.  Take the pan out and leave the oven on.
- beat all the filling ingredients together (minus the salted caramel sauce) until smooth.  Pour into the pan and drop the salted caramel sauce on top of the filling and swirl with a knife.  Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until the filling is set with just a slight wobbliness in the very middle.  A knife inserted into the centre should come out dry and not wet and streaky.  Let cool in the fridge, slice into bars and serve.

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