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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Happy New Year! (GMT) 

Considering that neither Evelin nor I are feeling capable of staying up to ring in the New Year at midnight EST this year, and adding in the fact that Celeste — while she did have a wild wakeup around midnight last night/this morning) — is not a stay-up-late-to-party girl, we decided to call together a few neighborhood friends who also have kids to mark midnight Greenwich Mean Time (GMT).

We're planning to have some fondue (cheese and chocolate), champagne (for those imbibing), sparking lemonade (for those not), and other assorted nosh. Last night, Evelin made some breadsticks, and right now she is making an angel food cake and cutting up pineapple and other foods for dipping.

We'll probably stream Virgin Radio or the Moray Firth Radio's Hogmanay Cèilidh and have a nice, early evening ...

Adding to the fun for marking the GMT New Year is that at 23:59:59 UTC±0:00, the clock won't flip immediately to 00:00:00; instead we get a leap second at 23:59:60 UTC±0:00. (Leap seconds are inserted worldwide at the same moment, so it will be marked in Eastern Standard Time at 6:59:60 p.m.) Of course, some people want to abolish leap seconds, but I think they're pretty cool and worth keeping. (Not that I have a vote at the ITU or anything, but ...)

UPDATE: 8:11 p.m. EST and everyone's left and we're about 85% cleaned up — not bad for a New Year's Eve party ... I'm quite full of cheese and a bit of champagne (Schramsberg Mirabelle Brut Méthode Champenoise, multivintage from California) at the moment. Evelin wasn't as in to the cèilidh as I was and the Virgin Radio music was a bit bland, so we mostly played some old jazz and swing as background music and flipped on the Virgin stream at 6:58 p.m. EST in time to hear the bells ringing in the New Year in London. Sadly, we missed noting the leap second. Oh well, next time ...

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Make It Stop 

With only hours to go in 2005 and the year's Atlantic Hurricane Season over for nearly a month ... we now have Tropical Storm Zeta churning near the Azores. From 11:00 a.m. (EST) this morning:
SATELLITE IMAGERY INDICATES THAT AN AREA OF LOW PRESSURE IN THE EASTERN ATLANTIC HAS DEVELOPED INTO A TROPICAL STORM ABOUT 1000 MILES SOUTH-SOUTHWEST OF THE AZORES.
Zeta is forecasted to burnout in the early hours of 2006, but still ...

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

End of an Era 

Well, today marked the end of one year of my time-shifted work schedule. To fulfill my responsibilities as a quasi-part-time stay-at-home dad, I've been at my desk by 4:00 a.m. twice a week so that I leave by noon for the two afternoons Evelin goes in to her office. (She has cut back to part-time, half of which she works from home.)

Overall, I think I've done a pretty decent job. I like the early mornings and get a fair amount of work done when there aren't others around to raise distractions or problems or, even worse, call a meeting. And while there has been the occasional afternoon when I've really encouraged Celeste to take a nap so that I can grab 40 winks, too, I have had some great times with the little girl.

However, I think the varying wake times have taken a bit of a toll on me. So, starting in January, I'm shifting my work schedule again so that I can set the alarm clock to one time and then just leave it there. I'll be working three long days (10 hours) and two short days (6 hours) each week. I often work those sorts of hours, so I'm not concerned about the 10-hour day (11 hours when lunch is counted in), but I'll bet there will be some days that will seem even longer.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Pony Speaks 

A while ago, Evelin found a Rockin Pony (apparently, they're currently being sold as the TekNēk Rock 'N Ride Pony) at the thrift shop. It's a cute little plush hobby horse, and while Celeste doesn't ride it too often, she does enjoy pretending to feed it. Whoever dropped it off at the thrift shop forgot to take the old batteries out of it, leaving them to corrode to the point where I couldn't clean the battery compartment. This didn't seem like such a bad thing — the horse is supposed to make noise, and having a silent toy instead seemed like a good idea.

Not willing to leave well enough alone, however, I found a replacement battery compartment and fixed the toy last night. Big mistake. With power, the mouth on the horse moves and it sings a pretty scary song. It also talks and makes running and whinnying sounds. The worst bit is that the old battery compartment had an on/off switch ... my version doesn't, which means the horse starts making the running sound at odd times when we walk past it or are sitting around talking or blogging or something.

But I can't disconnect things: Celeste loves the new talking version of her toy. The first time she heard it, it cracked her up (despite how creepy that song is). She really likes to hold her hand at the horse's mouth while it talks or sings.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Christmastime Is Here 

Technically, Christmas 2004 was Celesete's first Christmas, but considering she wasn't quite four months old at the time, the 2005 iteration of the holiday definitely had a greater impact on her. Although, there were some similarities — last year, she spent a lot of time watching her cousins A--- and L--- opening gifts and running around; this year, she watched her cousin K--- open gifts and run around. However, she was much more into some of the presents (both hers and her cousin's ... especially her cousin's bus puzzle.

Actually Celeste's biggest event of the day was her first-ever sledding run. Perhaps I should back up for a moment. We spent the holiday with my in-laws in New England; although it wasn't too cold while we were there, some three-week-old snow remained on the ground, so M---, K---'s father, was keen to break out the snow tube to see what the girls would think.

This is when I got pretty dumb. Backing up even further: Celeste's cousin K--- has always been a fan of riding in a backpack. When Evelin and I were packing, we decided to bring along the Piggyback thinking that on the off chance K--- went for a ride, Celeste would want to too. When we all went outside for the sledding, K--- and Celeste started off in their respective backpacks. I actually thought we were going for a walk, but soon discovered otherwise. At first Celeste didn't want out of the backpack, but she did want to try riding on the snow tube. I tried to oblige and, well, let's just say it was a dumb idea. No one was hurt, but Celeste and I both got a bit of a scare. (Okay, to clarify, yes, I did try to go down the run on my stomach with Celeste in the backpack — it didn't work, it was dumb, again, no one was hurt.)

After that, Celeste was skittish of the sledding, but after watching K--- take a few runs with various people — and especially after seeing K--- ride down the hill with Evelin — Celeste was ready to give the tube a try. She loved it.

Celeste and Evelin at the bottom of the hill

The problem was when we got back to the top of the hill and it was K---'s turn again: Celeste didn't want to share. We're talking her first real break-down-crying, snot-bubble-blowing, screaming tantrum. Once K---'s run was finished, Celeste got another run and loved it ... until she reached the bottom of the hill and realized it would soon be K---'s turn again. We went through about six of the tantrum/sledding events before K--- got bored and wandered off to look at a tree, giving Celeste more time to sled, including a solo run or two down the bottom half of the hill.

Celeste: Solo Run

The rest of the trip was relatively sedate. Christmas Eve was the big family party, and Celeste did really well with the large crowd. Boxing Day was a trip to visit friends in Easthampton. Tuesday was the drive home — with a detour to visit friends in southeastern Massachusetts.
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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas! 

Celeste Says: Have a Rockin' Christmas!

I've always been bad at Christmas cards. I think I did them twice before Evelin and I were married in 1998 and since then we've maybe done them ... another two or three times. But this year, with Celeste's cuteness to inflict upon friends and family, we did the photo card thing. Of course we underordered, so not everyone I would have liked to have sent one to got one. Next year we'll have a better idea of what we're doing ... I hope.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

Rebuild New Orleans! 

I spent a little time playing with the blog last night. While I support the goals of the Make Poverty History white band campaign, the "Send Tony Blair a Card" band that had been running didn't see as appropriate for a U.S.-based blog, so I decided to remove the black ribbon I'd put in the sidebar (linked to the American Red Cross fund and to HurricaneHousing.org) after Katrina hit and to replace the MPH band in the upper righthand corner of the screen with a "Rebuild New Orleans!" ribbon modeled after the Make Poverty History band.

Working with the code New Links posted for a "Get Firefox Ribbon," I noodled up a New Orleans ribbon in Mardi Gras colors à la the magnetic ribbon my uncle was passing out at Thanksgiving. It's linked to the Renew New Orleans Foundation, a new 501(c)3 that is working to raise money for local New Orleans charities. From the Renew New Orleans Foundation FAQ:
100% of the profits from the Foundation’s fundraising activities will go to local New Orleans charities. We believe local New Orleans charities will be best suited to assist in the long-term rebuilding of the city, so we plan on donating to a variety of charities in the future depending on the needs required at that time. The areas we want to focus on are: 1) Health, 2) Education and 3) the Arts. Specific emphasis will be given to finding charities that support children and at-risk youths.
If others want to use this, it's pretty simple to do: Just add the following code to the body section of your web page or blog template. I do ask that you copy the banner to your own server and then edit the http://home.comcast.net/~tcr25/uploads/rbno.gif URL to wherever you've placed your copy of the image. Oh, and if the code is sloppy or buggy, please let me know and I'll try to fix/tweak.

<!-- Rebuild New Orleans ribbon -->
<style type="text/css">
.rbnofloatlink
{
right:0px;
top:0px;
position:absolute;
z-index:10000;
margin:0px;
padding:0px;
background-color:transparent;
}
.rbnofloatimage
{
border:0px none;
}
</style>
<a class="rbnofloatlink"href="http://www.renewnola.org/"><img class="rbnofloatimage" alt="Rebuild New Orleans!" title="Rebuild New Orleans!" src="http://home.comcast.net/~tcr25/uploads/rbno.gif" /></a></div>


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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I Got Kicked! 

This morning at 5:07 a.m., Celeste let out a short cry. Nothing unusual: it might be a bad dream, it might be a sudden waking, it's probably nothing. Our usual MO is to listen and see if it reoccurs or progresses or if she just goes back to sleep. This morning, it was just a one-off cry followed by more sleep.

But Evelin said she could feel the baby swimming laps. I put my hand on her belly, expecting to feel nothing — as with Celeste, this one seems to get real quiet whenever I try to feel any movement — and did. Evelin said to push a little more firmly, pressing her hand down over mine. Suddenly *wham* — there's a punch or kick from the inside that I could feel! That's so cool.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

Celeste: Not Convinced 

Bush's latest charm offensive in the wake of revelations of his making up rationales for authorization of illegal wiretaps hasn't convinced Celeste much. We received in the mail today a postcard from NARAL Pro Choice America about Samuel Alito, "The Radical Right's Supreme Court Pick."

She pointed to W. and said "Bad Man."

I may have used that term and pointed to both Alito and Bush, but Celeste focused in on W. when she said it.

(Getting to the part of the post that won't bother my parents as much ...) Celeste actually has been saying a lot more; some of it just parroting back when we say something, but other times she's showing full understanding of context.

For example, last week during her bath, I put my face in the water to blow bubbles for her. She will put her face to the water, but doesn't quite manage to blow bubbles herself; however, she will say "bubbles" and sign PLEASE and today at storytime at the library, when the librarian cranked up the bubble machine, Celeste bent down like she was going to blow bubbles in her bath.

Also, tonight while we were putting on her pyjamas, Celeste spied her dump truck book and said "dump truck." She refused to say it again, but insisted she could say it.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Adventuresome Eater 

I remain impressed by Celeste's cosmopolitan eating habits. We set out this evening for an early dinner out: Evelin was thinking Indian food, but the place we were headed, Tiffin, wasn't open for dinner yet. (We were about 20 minutes ahead of their opening time.) We thought about circling back around to try Udupi Palace, but traffic was terrible and instead we headed toward College Park.

The Indian place we used to frequent there has since changed over to Tex-Mex, so we started rethinking things. We thought there might be another South Asian place in the same strip mall, but if there wasn't we thought we could head over to Seven Seas for some Chinese food. Instead, we ended up trying a new Japanese place, Hanami (花見), which was near where the Indian place used to be.

Overall, Evelin isn't that keen on Japanese food. I think in the 14 years or so that I've known her, we've eaten at Japanese places together twice or thrice at the most. Part of it is that she doesn't like seaweed, which pretty much rules out sushi (although not sashimi), and part is that the typical Japanese seasonings tend toward the bitter too much for her taste.

Still, she was game to try Hanami and Celeste was ready to get out of the T.R.U.C.K.

It turned out pretty good. Evelin had a shrimp hibachi dish; I had a vegetable teriyaki dish, along with a cucumber roll. Celeste, however, tried it all (except the shrimp). She was really good, having a bit of miso soup, egg from Eveln's fried rice, vegetables from both of our dishes, and bits of both of our salads. She even had two bites of cucumber roll — the nori was a bit too much for her to chew, so she ended up getting the rice and cucumber out of the roll and spat back out the seaweed.

She was also just really good in the restaurant, watching everything going on at the tables around us and just having a good time. I think the only downside for her was that since we didn't go to Tiffin, she didn't get the mango lassi I'd promised her ...

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Food From Home 

This evening, Celeste got her first taste of what will be a regular meal throughout her life — red beans and rice. I don't make red beans too often, a few times a year, in part because it's an all day process and also because they only really taste right when I have Camellia red kidney beans, which I have to get either my mom to send up from Louisiana or I have to order from somewhere like CajunGrocer.

It wasn't the best pot of beans I've ever made; I should have brought them to a boil before leaving them to soak overnight. Some of the beans turned out nice and creamy, but others were a little on the hard side. However, Celeste liked them, eating a little bowl sans rice. I only cooked a pound, so there're leftovers for her to enjoy tomorrow, too.

Naturally, while cooking the beans, I got to wondering about Camellia and how it fared Katrina. According to The Advocate in Baton Rouge, Camellia survived the storm, but, like many businesses in New Orleans, was suffering from a lack of staff.

I've also been wondering about the other food from back home that I have to find ways to get every now and then. We can find Zatarain's creole mustard in small jars up here, but those run empty in no time at all, so I have to get the big jars. On the McCormick website, there are some letters to employees, saying that they were hoping to get back to manufacturing in early October.

While it's good to see these businesses bouncing back, it is worrying how Congress and the Administration are moving so slowly in getting plans together to rebuild New Orleans. Bush is pledging $1.5 billion to rebuild levees and flood walls, but Bush has pledged plenty of money before and not come through, such as with his promises of aid to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa.

And, while thinking about Katrina and New Orleans, check out Steve Conn's song "New Orleans, New Orleans (Katrina Christmas)" [ MP3 lyrics ]. The song's a bit blunt in places — "All I want for Christmas is to see Michael Brown / Hanging by his thumbs from a tree Uptown" — but Conn is right that "In Washington they wag their heads and say it's such a pity / But do you think they'd ask if we should rebuild New York City?" (via Street Knowledge)

Another Food Story

In a totally unrelated food story, Celeste has started feeding her Rockin' Pony. She'll take a bowl and hold it up to the hobby horse's mouth; sometimes she brings over Cheerios and other things to it, too. If you ask if she thinks her pony might be hungry, she'll pause and then nod and go get the bowl to feed the pony. It's really cute.
Celeste Feeds Her Rockin' Pony

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Cell Phone Migration 

So, as I mentioned the other day, I've given up on my Virgin Mobile paygo mobile service. It's not that I have a problem with the paygo model — I actually like it more than an XXX minutes for $YY.99 per month plan — but Working Assets offered me a free camera phone (an LG PM225) and I've been wanting one of those for a while. Plus, I was using the Virgin phone at a rate that was equal to what the Working Assets plan cost. Now, the trick for me is to not tap the Internet features (including picture messaging) at a rate that makes the Working Assets plan cost more than I was spending with Virgin.

All this means we have a spare Audiovox CDM8500 phone laying around ... which makes Celeste very happy. She always has enjoyed playing with phones — cell phones, landlines, remote controls (she holds them up to her ear as if they were telephones) — so now she has her own phone to play with. She's already figured out how to turn it on, and this afternoon I heard a voice coming from the phone ... Celeste had accessed a menu that was prompting her to record voice dialing cues.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bedtime Rituals 

I didn't note the exact date, but Celeste weaned herself from breastmilk a little bit before Thanksgiving. Evelin's not sure if it is because of the pregnancy or just her body, but she didn't think there was much milk there to be had and it was just more effort than Celeste was willing to put up with. We'd been asking her after her bath if she wanted a book or milk and she would usually say MILK, but the nursing sessions were getting shorter and shorter. Finally she started thinking more about having a book, so Evelin would tell her good night and Celeste and I would settle down to read something.

Of course it wasn't that simple. Celeste would pick a book and want to read about two pages before demanding a different book. The first few times, we went though about five or ten books before I would tell her last book, she'd look at too pages and ask for a different one, and then I'd put her in her crib.

After about three times of that routine, we shifted to just getting her into her pyjamas, making sure she had Blankie and a pacifier, and then popping her into bed. Most nights, that worked, although there usually would be a few protest cries.

The current routine is bath, followed by pyjamas. Evelin tells her goodnight and I let Celeste turn off the light. I then talk to her about the things she'd seen or done during the day, and then put her in the crib. Last week, she started waking up about an hour after than routine, crying, and we'd find her standing in the crib in need of serious soothing, so I added an additional step: Instead of just holding her next to the crib to talk about her day, I'm now sitting down with her for about five minutes. Depending upon how active she is, I might talk about her day or sing a song or just rock her gently. She hasn't fallen asleep in my arms, but she's definitely on her way when I move her to the crib.

It's a nice little routine, but I'm sure she'll change it up somehow in another week or two ...

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Backpack 

On Sunday, while I was at the office (long story; all part of the same long story as to why I have yet to finish my Thanksgiving posts or blog much this month), Evelin called to let Celeste tell me her new word "back-pack." That's right word, as in spoken word, not sign. She kept walking over to the Piggyback, patting it, and saying "back-pack."

It's not her first word, but it is definately her longest. (She's also saying Mumma, Daddy, up, hot, and a few other things regularly, and there's been the stray bath, cat, and other words/vocalizations. Once it sounded like she said playground, but we must have misheard her.)

So, as soon as I got home, Celeste hopped up into the backpack and she and I hiked up to the grocery store to pick up a few things for dinner.
Celeste in Backpack.jpg
(I only look like a freak in that shot because it was taken with a cameraphone* ... at least I hope that's the reason.)

Anyway, this afternoon, Celeste wedged herself into the corner where we keep the Piggyback and started tugging at it, saying "backpack" and signing PLEASE. I offered to take her out, if she'd put on her snowsuit, but the thought of getting back into that set her off crying, so we compromised.

Sometimes, Celeste likes to be carried around the house by Evelin in the sling; with me, apparently, she like to be carried around the house in the backpack. We spent about 20 minutes mostly walking around the livingroom and diningroom (although she did give me a few moments to sit down and start this entry, too).

* Which I guess brings up another thing to blog: I've shifted away from Paygoism. Evelin remains a paygoist for now, and Celeste enjoys playing with my old phone, but I'm now with Working Assets Wireless.

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

Celeste Goes Postal 

This afternoon, Celeste surprised me a bit. First off, she didn't sleep very late, which wasn't a great surprise (for the past few of my afternoons, she's been taking a long nap, giving me about 90 minutes after I get home to have lunch, tie up some loose ends from the office, etc. — today she woke about five minutes after Evelin left ...), but she was pretty game for spending much of the afternoon out.

Evelin'd warned me that this morning Celeste had been pretty grumpy and didn't want to go to playgroup or outside at all, which really isn't like her. She did, however, have a 30 minute tea party, so it wasn't much of a surprise when she toddled straight from her nap to the table and started signing PLEASE while pointing at her tea service.

I wasn't ready for a tea party, so I distracted her with some books and made her lunch. We then started talking about the rest of the afternoon and she seemed game for going out.

I gave her two options: ride a train or go to a museum. She seemed to waffle a bit, but as we got closer to the Metro station, she signed TRAIN more definitely. Because I didn't know how long she'd enjoy the trip and to keep us more above ground than not, we headed from West Hyattsville toward the end of the line in Greenbelt. She spent the entire time standing on the seat staring out the window (or when we were underground at her reflection in the window). There were a few excited squeals, including one when she saw the airplanes at the College Park Airport, so as we got closer to West Hyattsville on the return, I asked her if she wanted to keep riding the train or to get off ... she said TRAIN.

So we went to the National Postal Museum, which isn't quite the non sequitor it might seem to be. We changed from the Green Line to the Red at Fort Totten and headed in to Union Station, which is next door to the museum. I figured the Postal Museum would be a quiet, small, easy-to-get-to museum with several different things to look at, and Celeste was amazed by the airplanes at first and the stagecoach/horses, but I think the thing she liked best was just walking around. She also liked petting the statue of Owney; rubbing his nose is supposed to be good luck, according to the docent at the front desk of the museum.

Afterwards, we walked back to Union Station to see the Norwegian Christmas trains and tree and Celeste had a little snack before we hopped back on the train to head home. Luckily, we didn't have a long when changing trains at Fort Totten, and Celeste enjoyed the train ride home as much as the one into the city.

The trip through the Metro system also gave me the chance to point out to Celeste the importance of standing to the right and walking on the left when on an escalator.

Back home, Celeste could not be dissuaded from a tea party. We were lacking scones and clotted cream, but she was happy with a little cheese, some bits of apple, and a 100% Whole Grain Fig Newton. Actually, we both were supposed to get a Newton, but she bogarted them; as soon as I put a quarter of a Newton down on my plate and a quarter of a Newton on her plate, she dropped whatever was in her hands to grab both bits of Newton.

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

She Mocks Me 

I'm a bit under the weather today; it seems I have some remnants of the touch of Katrina Crud that Celeste picked up in Louisiana. Toward the end of our visit, Celeste's nose was running a lot and she was coughing some; when we got home she was running a slight fever. We also figured that since she's weaned off breastmilk she's relying on her own antibodies now and is probably going to get a few more colds than she has had thus far in life.

We attributed it all to a mix of construction dust and other gunk floating through the air along with teething, but it did seem to linger for a little while ... and it must have been a bit contagious. Evelin had a little cough and she's still nursing a sore throat at night that's lingered since we got back. Yesterday, my nose started running and this morning I was running at about 100°F. Plus I didn't sleep well Friday or Saturday night, coming downstairs at 2:30 a.m. and 4:30 a.m., respectively.

Since I should be trying to edit listings for a year-end directory this weekend, I instead spent much of day lazing in bed, mostly napping and, on and off, reading.

While dealing with the crud, Celeste learned how to blow her nose. We can hold up a tissue and she will sneeze into it. Since the cold made her nose a bit sore, she's often waves away the tissue these days. Still, whenever she hears me sneeze or cough, Celeste mimics the sound — holding up her hand to cover her mouth/nose, which we've been trying to teach her. At first it was cute, but now it seems she's doing it to tease me ...

[ADDENDUM: Since I tend to sneeze like a bull elephant, Evelin has joined in Celeste's game and is mocking me too.]

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Saturday, December 03, 2005

A Belgian Christmas 

After spending a while in the Piggyback helping me with raking, Celeste got a taste of a Belgian Christmas this afternoon. Originally, we thought we'd go to see Santa Claus arrive by helicopter at the College Park Airport Museum, but the big arrival happened during Celeste's nap, so we shifted gears and headed to Riversdale.

With the help of the Belgian Embassy, the Riversdale Historical Society had organized "Sint Niklaas Day: A Winter Afternoon for Children." Like the airport event, we missed the arrival — in a sleigh pulled by a big draft horse — but Celeste did get to see Sint Niklaas in his miter and cape.

When her name was called, Evelin took Celeste up to the front of the room. Celeste did not want to sit on his lap, which Sint Niklaas was okay with. He then asked her if she'd been a good girl and she shook her head no. He still gave her a little bag of goodies — a cup, some plastic animals, crayons, and a coloring book of images from the St. Nicholas Center — and she signed THANK YOU back to him ... so even if she thinks she hasn't been a good girl, at least she was polite.

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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Risotto and Olives 

(in the same entry, not the same dish) ... This afternoon, Celeste was down for her nap when I got home, so I took advantage of the break to quickly rake the front yard. Thursday is our day for the city to come along and vacuum up the leaves, and this was supposed to be the last week of pickups, which is one of the reasons we came back from Louisiana on Saturday. However, my Sunday raking was all for naught as the fronts that pushed through Tuesday pulled a bunch more leaves off the trees ... and a ton of leaves remain up there, which is why I'm glad to see that the city is extending the leaf collections into January. But I digress ... while she napped, I cleaned up the front yard and had time left over to get a head start on dinner.

When Celeste and I went to the grocery on Tuesday, I picked up some green peppers. Evelin and I had talked about having risotto this week and I thought it'd be nice to have risotto-stuffed peppers. For the risotto, I decided on a mix of wild mushrooms (I had a package of dried mushrooms, so it was an easy decision to make) and got to work. Just as I was about to start the soffritto, I thought I heard something from Celeste over the baby monitor. I paused, but no further noise, so I dove in to the cooking. That worked out okay, until I heard Lamba's rattle about 10 minutes later ... with about two minutes to go before it was time to release the pressure on the pressure cooker.

Fortunately, Celeste was entertaining herself and never started crying and I was able to finish up the risotto. In fact, she was glad: While changing her diaper, I casually mentioned that risotto was on the menu for lunch for her and she screamed with glee and almost flung herself off the changing table.

(Skipping forward to later, the peppers turned out pretty good, especially the nice crust of parmesan that I melted on top of each of them, although the risotto itself was on the weak side. I used a new vegetable stock concentrate and it was a little watery ...)

As for the olives, I've mentioned before my fondness for gin and bleu cheese-stuffed olives. Also during our Tuesday run to make groceries, Celeste and I picked up some olives. The olive cart at our regular grocery has been upended and there are only a few varieties of olives still available (and sadly none of them are stuffed with bleu cheese), so I picked up a bottle of olives. Bad, bad decision. I read the label, not the ingredients.

That evening, I wasted a bit of The Quintessential dry gin in discovering that the olives were stuffed with "imitation blue cheese." Whatever that is, it certainly isn't edible.

So, when Celeste and I made a run to Whole Foods this afternoon, I picked up a bottle of Divina blue cheese stuffed olives ... much better. The olives are little crunchier than I like, but the cheese taste is good and it goes well with the cold Quintessential ...

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