Monday, February 28, 2005

How Much Milk?

I am beat today. We think Celeste is needing more milk than she's getting at each feeding now: That would explain why she's feeding every two hours or so (plus, I think, as I always do, that she might be in a growth spurt). Hopefully Evelin's body is kicking up the milk production and we'll level off with less frequent feedings pretty soon. Tomorrow, when I'm giving her bottles and Evelin's pumping maybe we'll get an idea (in terms of ounces) of what Celeste needs and Evelin's making.

Last night, she was up very frequently, but after Evelin brought her to our bed after the 2:00 a.m. feeding, she managed to stay asleep (with one big pacification effort around 4:00 a.m.) until 5:45 a.m. Evelin was very happy to have about three hours of solid sleep; I was up more than that, but I'm glad to feel useful (especially since those first few wake-ups each night Celeste is not happy to see me).

I was dragging at work today, which is no good since it is a very busy time, but I think I'm headed to bed as soon as I finish typing this ...

Of course the one thing that could complicate my morning (besides not having enough sleep) is that it's finally snowing for real. Today was one of those "weather events" where the local newscasters practically scream that al-Qa’ida has snow-making guns pointed at us and are intent to disrupt the morning rush hour ... with 3 to 6 inches of snow that may or may not turn to rain at some point in the afternoon.

Instead we got zero precipitation until after the morning rush, and what did come down floated between snow and drizzle and sleet, but never getting too bad. But right now it is actually snowing and it's sticking, so, if nothing else, I'll have to clean off the car in the middle of the night. (And do it quietly so as not to wake any babies whose bedrooms overlook the street.)

Since Evelin knew I was tired (and since Celeste was pretty good for her today, despite not napping much), she made dinner tonight: broccoli, olives and pasta (a recipe culled from an old Cook's Illustrated the other weekend).

We've really fallen into a habit where I'm the cook and Evelin's the baker. She makes fantastic desserts and baked dishes, but, more often than not, if it involves the cooktop, I'm the one making the meal. I'm not complaining; I love cooking — it relaxes me and I enjoy the creativity of playing with different flavors and ingredients (not mention poking around in small ethnic grocery stores) — but it was really nice to not cook tonight. And Evelin is a really good cook, too (on top of being a fantastic baker) ...

Okay, I have to go read the same paragraph about three times before giving up and falling asleep. (I'm currently reading A History of Australian Baseball; it's pretty interesting, even if the Red Sox-related content is very thin, but I know I'm not going to get further than a page or two tonight ...)

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Babies and Brunch

No fair! R--- not only sleeps through the night, but he can take a pretty good nap in the midst of a bunch of people talking. But Celeste is steadier holding herself up, so that's something.

Brunch went well, it's been a few months since we last saw N---, S--- and R---, and it was neat to compare how R--- and Celeste were doing vs. each other vs. the mythical babies that populate the various books (you know, the ones that are crawling and talking and scoring 1600 on the (old style) SATs by six months). There seemed to a be a little recognition that there was another baby in the room, but, except for one point when R--- was trying to chat Celeste up, Celeste and R--- pretty much ignored each other.

The galettes turned out quite nice. We made a double batch of the dough last night and left it in a bag in the fridge overnight, which kept the yeast in check a bit. This morning, I sliced and seeded the butternuts, stuffed the cavities with garlic, and roasted them for an hour or so. The garlic and flesh were scooped out into a big bowl and mashed with an onion (chopped and sautéed with some sage). Then I rolled out half the dough and made the two tomato, rosemary, and olive galettes (sliced tomato, chopped olives, and a bunch of sprinkled on rosemary), baking them for about 45 minutes. After a quick run to pick up some avocados and spinach for a salad, I went back to the squash galettes, rolling out the dough, spreading some of the squash mixture on them and baking for about 40 minutes.

Both turned out really nice. N--- is off dairy because R--- has a milk protein allergy at the moment, so one of each of the galettes was made in a with-parmesan and without-parmesan version. The tomato ones were equally good with or without the cheese, but the squash ones, while good without, were improved by having some parmesan mixed into the filling.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Too Much Work; Too Little Sleep

Has it really been since Tuesday that I blogged? I can only blame two things: 過労 and Celeste is having some rough nights. Actually, she is acting like two different little girls: During the day, she is so happy, smiling at everything, giggling, having lots of fun (and even going down for a half-hour nap every now and then with out too much fuss); at night, however, she is wailing and waking every two hours (or worse), and she seems totally inconsolable. (Evelin describes it as: "Sunny disposition v. Screaming hellion.")

We're sure it's a wonder week developmental leap and maybe a physical growth spurt, too, but whatever it is, there have been some rough nights this week.

Adding to it all is it's that time of year at work — and it will probably stay rough until the post trade show issues are out of here in May. Some people think I'm joking when I say that I don't have time to think about some new projects or anything until June ... but I'm not.

But enough complaining ...

Tuesday ended up a decent afternoon. Celeste and I had some fun and she actually went down at 6:30 p.m. and only woke up twice overnight for feedings. We figured that aiming for a 6:00 p.m. bathtime and then in bed soon there after might help, so I ended up missing Celeste Wednesday evening. She was already in bed by the time I got home at 6:45 p.m. However, when she started fussing at 8:00-something, we decided that it'd be less distracting if Evelin went to take care of her (both because she likes Evelin more than me at night and because it might be stimulating for her to see me since I'd been away all day).

That night she was up a lot, eating, crying, eating, crying. When Evelin brought her to our bed around midnight, Celeste did get all excited to see me, stroking my beard and twisting my nose, which made sleep a little difficult for all of us. I left for work around 3:00 a.m., and the rest of the night, she was still waking up on and off.

On my way to work there were a few snowflakes that became what qualifies in D.C. as a relatively major snow event (the Federal government and a lot of employers, including Evelin's, dismissed workers around 3:00 p.m.). I cut out a half-hour earlier than I normally would, just to make sure I'd be home in time for Evelin to get to work (if only for 90 minutes or so).

Celeste and I had some quiet play — she really seemed to enjoy looking out the windows at the snow — until Evelin got home, and then we both spent time alternating between working and playing with her.

That night, Celeste had an hour-long crying jag. She was inconsolable; nothing seemed to work. When she finally did get back to sleep, she would wake up again in an hour or two, often demanding to be fed. It was pretty ugly.

Friday was a little calmer. The nighttime crying lasted only about 20 minutes before she finally fell asleep in my arms. Overnight she still woke three times, <touchwood>but it seemed a little easier</touchwood>. She actually slept a bit later than we expected this morning, so hopefully she's transitioning out of the really bad bits.

Evelin thinks Celeste seems to have the worst of it during the first few and last few days of a wonder weeks period; if that's true we could still be in for some sullen times and difficult nights for a few more weeks (this leap is a fairly long one) before we have another few days/nights of meltdowns followed by a sunny period.

In the meantime, Celeste is really enjoying playing with a big heart-shaped balloon that her grandmother bought her while I was in California. She tugs on the string to make it dance and, if it's lowered down to her level, she will grab the balloon and try to bite it. She'd even managed a couple of times to pass the string from one hand to the next to pull the balloon down a little bit.

The other funny thing is that Celeste seems to have forgotten how to roll over. She was doing it so well for about a week, but now she gets her arms into the wrong position, and it frustrates her terribly. She also has found her knees and worked down as far as her shins, but still no sign of finding her feet.

Tomorrow, we have some friends who have a baby the same age as Celeste coming over for brunch. We're planning to make two galettes: one butternut squash and garlic, the other tomato and rosemary. Hopefully Celeste will be in a cheery enough mood ...

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Google Takes You Unexpected Places

First off, Celeste is fine. (It's always a good sign when I have to start an entry like that, innit?)

She was fighting tummy time but having some trouble rolling over, and when she finally did flip, she came down with a little thump and started bawling. Naturally, I thought she'd twisted her arm and dislocated her shoulder. (Overreact? Moi?) So after calming her and checking her over and starting a bottle for her, I googled infant dislocated shoulder and got a good deal of reassurance that she was just cranky about tummy time and a little bit hungry.

The site where I found the dislocated shoulder info, ParentCenter had a link to win free books, which is always a good way to trick me into clicking on a link. The books up for winning are Where Willy Went, B¡ng: Go Picnic, and Farm Tales (all from Random House).

B¡ng: Go Picnic and Farm Tales seem like pretty normal books, but Where Willy Went, well, I'll let the online synopsis explain:
Meet Willy, a little sperm who lives inside Mr. Browne with 300 million friends. Every day Willy practices for the Great Swimming Race. And when the day arrives, he swims faster than his 300 million friends to win the prize — a marvelous egg . Then something wonderful happens, and eventually Mr. and Mrs. Browne have a baby girl who has the same winning smile as Willy and who grows up to be a great swimmer.
I am laughing, I am crying, I am scared. Willy wears swim goggles; I'm not sure if that constitutes abnormal morphology or if it improves mobility.

Other Stuff

Baby Sign: We're almost certain Celeste knows the signs for MILK and EAT (especially EAT); she can't or won't make them back to us yet, but she will smile and, if she's laying down, will do full-body thumping if she's hungry and gets the EAT sign. We're also trying BATH and SLEEP/NAP, along with BEAR, MONKEY, and BUNNY for some of her toys, but those all get less of a reaction. She will giggle at the snoring soundeffects I include with SLEEP/NAP, but it still doesn't seem to be one of her favorite signs ...)

Sleep: Thinking of SLEEP/NAP, Celeste seems to want to keep throwing us curve balls. Some times during the day she will decide to play quietly in her crib and maybe sleep for a half hour or three, but only once or, at the most twice, during the day. At night, she'll be practically falling over she's so tired, but the moment her back hits the mattress, she's waving arms, kicking legs, and screaming about how awake she is.

We're still trying to figure out what she needs/wants when, but it seems to be more difficult than not right now. Evelin said that one of the books says that nap-sleep and night-sleep are different, which might be why she fights going to bed at night more than she does naps.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

It's Not Food ...

So Evelin is going through about five years worth of old magazines, mostly Martha Stewart Living, ripping out the recipes and projects that look worthwhile and creating a giant pile of paper for recycling with the rest of the issues.

She just saw one of those "only in MSL" articles: new uses for old chamber pots, and it really looked like Martha was using an old chamber pot as a salad bowl or something. As Evelin noted, no matter how clean it is, you really don't want to eat out of that. Then she read the caption: It's not a salad bowl; it's a pot for storing scrapings destined for the compost heap.

This is why some people hate Martha Stewart: She makes a compost heap look better than some of the food we eat ...

Bad Husband ...

I must be being a better father these days, because Celeste is super smiley. She is in a really sunny "wonder week" period or something because she is giggling tons, smiling all the time, and not even fussing too much when it's time to go to bed. The 4:30 a.m. talking and wanting to hang out, well the smiles make up for that.

But I am being a terrible husband because I did not blog about the wonderful meal Evelin made for me on Friday night. I've had phở on the brain and have been way too focused on that, so I totally neglected (although I enjoyed immensely) the stuffed shells Evelin made. I'd been wanting something with tomato and pasta lately, and we had some ricotta leftover from the fantastic gnocchi she made a week or two ago, so the idea of manicotti or stuffed shells came up.

And Evelin came through in a big way. Very tasty and totally undeserved; especially since I called on my way home Friday to say that I could make the phở that night if she wanted.

Plus, Evelin was pretty clever in using a pastry bag to stuff the shells; she said it made things much quicker and less messy ...

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Faux Phở Follow-Up

And the verdict is ... somewhere between decent and not a disaster. The phở itself was a bit too spicy; the star anise was a bit overwhelming of a flavor in it, and the nước mắm chay was a bit pepperier than I cared for. But the noodles-in-broth went over very well with Evelin and the napa cabbage was a hit too. In the whirlwind of trying to put everything together and eat it in the short window of time we had before Celeste was ready for her bath and bedtime (I thought she'd want to stay up later tonight after the awesome nap she had this afternoon), I forgot to get the lime and scallions together for the garnish plate, but other than that, it came together okay.

So here's what I did:
  • 1 small red onion

  • 1 2-inch segment of ginger root, peeled

  • 28 oz can of soup nǎn chay clear vegetarian stock

  • 4 oz water

  • 1 tablespoon nước mắm chay pha sẵn special sauce for vegetarians

  • 112 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed

  • 1 3-inch stick of cinnamon

  • 2 pods star anise

  • 2 large bay leaves

  • 1 pod black cardamom, cracked
Start by charring the onion and ginger. (I fired up the grill and let them blacken on it for a while; the goal is to cook them slightly and to get a bit of char.) When charred, peel/scrape away the blackened bits, smash the ginger and quarter the onion.

Add the onion and ginger to the rest of the ingredients and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 25 minutes.

While the stock simmers, prepare the garnish.
  • Thai basil, julienned

  • napa cabbage, julienned

  • spearmint

  • scallions, sliced

  • lime wedges

  • hosin sauce/tương ăn phở

  • mung bean sprouts, parboiled
The mung beans can be parboiled in the water prepared for the noodles; just drop them in for a minute or so.

When the phở is ready, prepare the bhàn phở noodles (the 上海類麵 wheat noodles we used turned out really nice, too) according to the package directions — probably they'll need to be boiled for four or five minutes. In the meantime, strain solids out of the stock.

Put the noodles in serving bowls, ladle stock over the noodles, and let everyone garnish to suit their individual tastes.

If we try this recipe again, I will definitely only use one or maybe only a half pod of star anise, maybe just soy sauce (cutting out or at least cutting back the nước mắm chay pha sẵn), and I'm not sure of the cinnamon. At this point we're beyond faux phở and are just in the soup with noodles category, but that's not a bad thing. And those 上海類麵 wheat noodles were quite good ...

To give credit where credit is due, I found phở variations at: Viet World Kitchen, Simmer Stock, Soupsong, Vegetarian Journal, Appétit, Food Network/Gourmet, and Trang nhà Thiên-Lý Bửu-Tòa.

FMLA Threatened

Although I do sometimes have a lot of complaints about my workplace, and there are quite a few things that are worth complaining about, but they have been very supportive in letting me find a way to make things work after Celeste was born. True, I only took two weeks off after she was born instead of a month (and I did some work from home during that time), and for rest of the year my plan to burn off more sick/vacation/FMLA-allowed days by working only four-day weeks never came to fruition, but both of those were my choice/feeling overwhelmed and not making it work.

My time-shifted workdays on Tuesday/Thursday have been working out very well, at least for me, Evelin and Celeste, and I'm glad that plan was accepted fairly easily by management.

So, why am I mentioning this? Because the Bush administration is purportedly looking to rollback the already skimpy rights the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) gives workers to take time off for the birth or adoption of a child or to care for a sick family member. The National Partnership for Women & Families has the details, but the gist of the matter is that the Department of Labor is being urged to limit the conditions/situations covered by FMLA and to change how the accounting methods used for tracking days/hours taken under FMLA. (For an example of lobbying effort underway, see the so-called FMLA Technical Corrections Coalition.)

I can understand how some employers may have trouble with a law that forces them to hold someone's job when they need to take up to twelve weeks off to care for a newborn or ailing loved one, but those same employers would probably prefer to do away with the 40-hour work week, and the weekend, and just about anything else that would keep employees away from their desk.

Again, I've been lucky, but Russ at The Daily Yak a pretty horrifying tale of having to assert his FMLA rights against the wishes of his employer. Elizabeth at Half Changed World has a rundown of what people can do to make them opinions heard to help protect FMLA.

(via Daddytypes)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Thanks A Lot ...

So on the Friday morning I flew out to Anaheim, I was running around trying to pick up a few last-minute things I needed for the trip — small tube of toothpaste, thumbdrive, this, that, etc. — and I decided I needed a new dop kit. My old one is bigger than I generally need (it works well when both of us are traveling, but for me by myself, it just takes up too much room in the suitcase. Plus I wanted one of those hanging ones that might collapse to a smaller footprint. I found one at Target, not much like I wanted, but it was smaller and would collapse a bit better.

Well, today, I get home to a big envelope from CVS/pharmacy that includes, the exact sort of dop kit I wanted. It's a gift from Garnier Fructis for buying some shampoo back in November. If only their promotional calendar had been a week earlier ... sigh.


I never got a post-nap entry in yesterday, but Celeste did great. We had a nice afternoon together, playing with her balloon and folding laundry. She is doing a lot of vocalizing ... loud vocalizing. It doesn't seem like she's upset, she's just shouting while playing. I try telling her to use her inside voice and she looks at me like I'm crazy. Other than that, there were lots of giggles and smiles.

The other thing is that she has a little bit of a rash. Evelin noticed it while I was away, and thinks it might be food-related (she'd just introduced butternut squash that day or the day before), so Celeste is off solids for a week to see if that'll clear things up. I guess we could have fallen back to the applesauce and cereal, knocking out only the acorn and butternut squashes, but we didn't.

The biggest effect this seems to have had is that she watches us like a hawk if she happens to be up when we're having dinner. Not that we're trying to encourage begging for table scraps, but her furry cousin M--- (a Labrador retriever) would be impressed ...

Vietnam in Northern Virginia

I made a trip to Eden Center during lunch — a little bit of Vietnam in Seven Corners, Virginia — and came back with some noodles (上海類麵 wheat noodles, instead of proper bhàn phở because Evelin's not so keen on rice noodles), nước mắm chay pha sẵn "special sauce for vegetarians," some purple basil and tương ăn phở/hoisin sauce for garnish, and a package of phở spices — star anise, cinnamon sticks, peppercorns, and green and black cardamom pods (at least I think it's package of phở spices, it says "giá vị nấu phở dăc biẹt" on the label). I don't imagine I'll be using all of those: I don't think I saw nutmeg in any of the phở recipes I dug up (Now that I look more closely at the pack, it's a fairly big black cardamom pod, not nutmeg). I also picked up some soup ǎn chay vegetable broth, just in case I don't figure out a broth option before we want to eat.

The broth's label promises: "From the selection of raw materials to remain original deliciousness of flavors, sterilized under hygienic food processing technology, it gives a good taste and can be easy to used at all the time."

Evelin was going to the grocery and was going to pick up onions and scallions for me, but I still need some ginger, as well as mung bean sprouts and napa cabbage for garnish, so I'll probably make a stop at one of the nearby Chinese groceries on the way home ...

While poking around the Eden Supermarket, I ran across a display of Asian vegetable seeds. We're still trying to figure out what we'll plant this year, but I picked up some Pai Tsai bok choy seeds. It looks like they grow pretty quickly (14–21 days to harvest, according to the package ... that seems GMO quick, maybe it's 14–21 days from germination?), so I figured they might be fun to experiment with.

Music Meme

(via And Baby Makes Seven and Running*Cooking*Writing)

What is the total amount of music files on your computer?
536 files, over 1.5 GB of music, but most of it dates from back when was live and giving me access to independent and new artists. I don't have an iPod or use iTunes or anything at this point, and generally the computer only plays music when I have it streaming Moray Firth Radio or some other station.

The last CD you bought?
They Might Be Giants' Bed, Bed, Bed and No! Yes, TMBG has children's albums ... (and, according to Daddy Types, a third one is on its way.)

What is the song you listened to last before reading this message?
Johnny Cash's "Remember the Alamo" off Johnny Cash at Madison Square Garden. Yesterday, when I first saw this game on Running*Cooking*Writing, I was listening to Massilia Sound System's Aïollywood album, but I didn't get around to joining the meme until now.

What are 5 songs that you listen to often or mean a lot to you?
Billy Bragg, "A New England"
The Neville Brothers, "They All Asked for You"
The Replacements, "Can't Hardly Wait"
IIIrd Tyme Out, "John and Mary"
David Sylvian and Ryuichi Sakamoto, "Forbidden Colours"

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Don’t Jinx It ...

So far, it's been a pretty good day.

Celeste was nice and happy to see me this afternoon — big smiles and all-around-happy looks — and she even gave me a few good laughs. She spent a little time showing off her new stomach-to-back rolling-over trick, and I tried to put some toys just out of reach to encourage some back-to-stomach rolls, but I have the feeling we're going to be working on that one for a little while.

She then went down painlessly for a short nap, followed by a bottle, a walk in her new Combi Savvy Soho stroller that I put together today. (She actually got that from K--- and T---, who brought it down the when they were visiting the weekend that ended up being her birth, but we've kept it in the basement until she seemed ready to have a sit-up stroller.) She did pretty good on the walk. The straps have to be cinched fairly high (she must be on the small side for using it), but she seemed to enjoy herself. We came back and played a rip-roaring bout of peek-a-boo before the need for another (hopefully longer) nap reared its ugly head.

And that’s where we are now ...

Faux Phở

I don't know why, but I have been hankering a vegetarian version of phở bò lately. There's a phở place across the street from work and the soup looks good, but there's no vegetarian option, so I haven't been able to try it, so I've downloaded a bunch of recipes and now need to figure out what would make a good faux phở.

The biggest problem is that phở bò is built around a carefully constructed beef broth; getting something vegetarian that will replace effectively is going to be a pain. I’m thinking some sort of roasted vegetable broth, but I don't want the veggies to overwhelm things. For my French onion soup, I use mushroom broth, but that definitely changes the taste of things (in a way that I like, but not in a way I want to emulate for phở).

A lesser problem is the nước mắm; I think I've seen a vegetarian version of fish sauce (nước mắm chay) at one of the Asian groceries near work, and if not I can use soy sauce — it's not the same, but it'll work.

I did find a recipe for Phở Bắc Chay, which should be vegetarian, but it's in Vietnamese and my Vietnamese-English/English-Vietnamese dictionary is old and apparently missing quite a few words.... Working with ⓥ, it looks like it does use straw mushrooms (nấm rơm tươi), but Evelin really dislikes their texture, so I think I'll try something else.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

It Is Good ...

Thanks, Enjanerd, the Starbucks Vanilla Crème is a pretty good chocolate-free analogue to hot chocolate ...

I'm Back ...

... and a bit tired, but I made it back last night after a long day of flying. Things started off looking bad when the SuperShuttle driver kept driving back and forth between the Hilton (when I stayed) and the Marriott across the street. We visited each hotel at least twice before heading off to a Best Western that was a little ways away (although he made a wrong turn on the way there and we had to doubleback past the Hilton) ... and then we stopped at the Hilton one last time before heading to the airport.

Despite that ... and the really long security lines ... and the people who seemed utterly incapable of figuring out the Easy CheckIn terminals ... I had enough time before my flight to look over the "In the Cal" exhibition of California League minor league baseball teams and history.

I like it when airports give you something other than WHSmith and Starbucks to pass the time during a layover. McCarran International (LAS) has a nice little museum of aviation history associated with Las Vegas and Nevada; unfortunately, it's outside of the security screening area, so if you're worried about making a flight and if the TSA line is as bad as it always is then there's little time to explore.

The "In the Cal" exhibit at John Wayne International (SNA) was especially nice because pitchers and catchers for a lot of teams were reporting yesterday. (The Red Sox pitchers and catchers report today and start working out tomorrow.) I'd finished reading a history of the Homestead Grays (Beyond the Shadow of the Senators) on the flight out there, and I was wearing my "Pigs Do Fly" T-shirt, so I was in the mood for baseball, and the exhibit sated my thirst at least for a few hours.

Still in a baseball vein, I only saw one sign opposing the change of the name of the Angels to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim ... and it pointed to a not-yet-live website, To be fair, however, I didn't really get away from the convention center much.

Celeste was asleep when I got home, but need a little pacifying about an hour after I got home. Of course, I did a bad thing and woke her up a little bit, but Evelin got her back to sleep in an hour of so. We did a little playing this morning and she showed off her rolling from stomach to back. It was really cute how she finally got that together. I have yet to hear her blowing raspberries, however ... maybe tonight or tomorrow afternoon.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Rolling and Travel Realization

I don't know if it's that I'm stupid right now or that travel does something to my brain, but when trying to figure out what time it is back in Maryland, I find myself having to count backwards: "If it's 3:23 p.m. here, then it's 4:23 in Denver, 5:23 in New Orleans and 6:23 at home, which means ... it's bathtime for Celeste."

Oh, and tonight bathtime means rolling over (stomach to back) twice by herself even though she was only a little bit mad. And I missed it. *sniffle, sniffle*

P.S. Happy Valentine's Day ...

(Time adjusted to PST)

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Late Night Thought ...

Last night, after the opening session for the convention, I found myself looking at the Starbucks in the hotel lobby. I didn't want coffee, but a hot chocolate sounded good. Of course, that was out since I've given up chocolate for Lent. At times like this, the mind begins to wander ... why doesn't any place sell hot vanilla?

Saturday, February 12, 2005

From an Outpost of the VRWC ...

The convetion I am working at right now is definately a ... conservative bunch. So I find a little perverse pleasure in blogging from here that Howard Dean is now chair of the DNC! Last year, I wore my Howard Dean for President button to this same show, and while I took some ribbing for it, the vibe here is more conservative for 2005 and I think I might have been asked to remove the pin were I to wear it now. Still, with Dean officially in charge of building the party, I am joining in with Kos' call to show those who are concered about Dean's election that he is not only the right person for the job, but that those of up who supported his primary run and who supported Kerry in the general election are still here, ready to build the party up from the roots. As Dean says on the DNC site:
Our success depends on every single one of us taking responsibility for our Party's future. We have to commit to an active role in the political process. And we have to grow the Democratic Party in every single state so we can protect the values that bring our Party — and the vast majority of Americans — together.
To that end, here is a form for making a donation to the DNC via ActBlue; it's not blegging, it's part of a blogosphere wide call to organize.
Contribution amount: $

Hotel Life

I admit it; I complain about traveling for work. A lot. I'd rather be at home with Evelin and Celeste, but I guess this is a necessary evil. Of course, while I'm on the road, I guess I could try to have fun (as Evelin suggests) or I could do what I usually do, which is throw myself into my work and grouse about things until on my way back home.

With that caveat in place: One thing that's always a pain with living in a hotel is being away from the familiar — and not just a familiar pillow and bed, but familiar toiletries. This morning, I had a moment of panic when I put about a third of the little hotel sample bottle of conditioner in my hair. Based on the consistency and smell I thought (a moment too late) that it might be hand lotion.

I tend to prefer unscented things when it comes to soap, etc., so I tend to find hotel toiletries fairly strong and stinky (none worse than the shampoo they used to have at Circus Circus in Las Vegas that smelled like cotton candy). Also, all those little bottle are the same shape and size and if you're partially asleep/jetlagged/not paying attention, bad things can happen.

This time it was conditioner, but there was at least one trip where it was hand lotion. That was gross.

(Time adjusted to PST — even if my body and mind haven't ...)

Friday, February 11, 2005

I Thought It Never Rained in Southern California

Well, it's raining now ... I just got in and apparently it's been raining all day. The flight from Chicago was delayed, but otherwise it was a fairly smooth trip, although it sucks being away from Evelin and Celeste. At least M--- E---, Evelin's mother, was able to come down for a visit while I am gone ...

Quick observation and then it's off to bed: This is the first time I've been in L.A. (or at least outside of LAX) and it's kind of neat to see all the signs off the I-5 and I-405 (I think that was the road from John Wayne International Airport) for places that I've heard of or read about ... of course I won't be going to any of them since I'm here for work and pretty much tied down to the Anaheim Convention Center, but that's a different story ...

(Time below is adjusted to PST)

Thursday, February 10, 2005

It Had to Happen Sooner or Later

First off, I timed the second bottle perfectly. We walked up to the grocery to get some parsnips, leeks, and potatoes for dinner, and afterwards it had been 212 hours since she ate, so I put Celeste down on her playmat and started warming up the bottle. As soon as it was up to temperature, I asked her if she wanted MILK and she gave a quizzical look, but then I showed her the bottle and got a big smile and excited body wiggles.

She didn't take longer than a five-minute nap after the bottle, however. So she got another cooking show as I cleaned and chopped the root vegetables I was planning to roast for dinner. It was about 6:00 p.m. when I finished getting things into the oven, which meant bathtime.

The water was running, the clothes were laid out, the supplies were all at hand, but when I go to pick Celeste up from her bouncy chair I discover — the dreaded poopy blowout.

I've generally refrained from diaper talk on my blog, but this one was massive, soiling one whole side of Celeste from the sock to the middle of her lower back. After some quick one-handed rearranging of her bath setup, I essentially hosed her off, dropped the clothes in a plastic bag, and we continued with the regularly scheduled bathtime.

Evelin (who has had to deal with more of these moments than I have) got a good laugh about it all when she got home.

For those who are wondering, tonight it is a little Copper Fox, a Virginia craft whisky "naturally flavoured and coloured with toasted apple wood and oak wood." It's not aged by any measure (just four months in the barrel) and thus is a bit hot and assertive. It has an interesting taste; there's a hint of vanilla and spice, along with some fruitiness, but the flavor fades quickly. It has some potential, but is a bit too harsh to drink straight at this age; maybe if, as the distillery ages, they start releasing some 8-year or older product, that might be nice.

Actually, I just tried it with a splash of water, and that opened up some other flavors: a few floral notes, a touch of wood, some hints of rye. It still could use some longer time in the barrel, I think, but it's decent. In general, however, I'd rather have a nice Speyside or Campbelltown single malt.

I Need Better Signs ...

Since infants are born with a mind ready to grow and develop facility with language, why does it have to take so long before they can do anything about it? Sure five months or so is too early to expect much facility with even a stripped down sign language much less English, German, Vietnamese, or Kĩkũyũ, but it sure would make things easier if Celeste could give unambiguous answers to "Are you hungry?" "Are you tired?" "Do you want to play?" "Are you sure you're ready to wake up?"

She might not tell me the truth (especially to the tired and wake up questions), but at least we'd have a discussion going.

Evelin put Celeste down for a nap around noon, but as she was headed out the door about 40 minutes later, Celeste cried out. I figured it'd be a quick pacification routine and she'd continue to sleep for another 80 minutes or so. No such luck. She saw me and broke into a huge grin and started the full-body thump/lurch thing. So, obviously, she wanted to get up to play with me.

We had a little bit of fun time — some applesauce and acorn squash, a bit of the try to roll over game — but she was obviously tired. Come 2:30 p.m. it's also time for some food. I always seem to end up trying to feed an overtired baby.

She's waking up again now (I asked her to give me five minutes to finish typing this, but she can't tell time yet — even though she has a digital display on the clock in her room) ...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Lamba Fights the Lonelies

No, it's not a new manga, it's just a story about Celeste. Before she was born, my old neighbors from Louisiana gave us a baby present with a nice, soft lamb/rattle tied to the package. Since she first came home, that lamb has been in Celeste's crib and I always move it so that she can see it when she's lying down. Very early on, when she woke up crying, I started telling Celeste that there was no need to cry when she woke up because Lamba was there, and Lamba helps fight the lonelies.

In general, this is one of those things that I don't think she believes, and I know Evelin doesn't because she will switch the end of the bed Celeste's head is oriented toward without moving Lamba. I always correct this situation as soon as I notice it.

Around 5:00 p.m., as I was finishing things up at the office, I got a call from Evelin. She'd put Celeste down for a nap and she was fussing a bit. Evelin went in to repacify* her and at the same time moved Lamba to be by Celeste's head. Pretty much as soon as Celeste saw Lamba, she gave two more little cries of protest and fell asleep.

Lamba, indeed, helps fight the lonelies.

*Not that we talk about dealing with Celeste in military terms, but we've come to call the sneaking in to stick a pacifier back into her mouth before she wakes up too much a "pacification campaign" and we tend to have to go and repacify her a couple of times during that first hour or so of sleep.

Lent and Happy New Year!

This year, I am not giving up Diet Coke or caffeine. I just can't do it. I am an addict, I get grumpy by 10:00 a.m. if I don't have my morning fix, and the headaches start after a day or two of abstinence. With the baby, with my crazy schedule, with a West Coast tradeshow this weekend, with everything else, I need my drug of choice to make it through the day.

Normally, I like the forced detoxing that Lent gives me, but this year I can't do it. Instead, I'm giving up chocolate, and maybe cookies, well, at least cookies with chocolate in them. Maybe I'll give up some other stuff too, but I haven't had any chocolate today (or cookies or broccoli for that matter, but I'm not giving up broccoli), so that one is still valid.

The other event of the day is that the lunar new year started at 5:32 p.m. yesterday evening in D.C., so — 新年好! 恭喜發財! Chúc mừng năm mới! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! สวัสดีปีใหม!

It's the Year of the Green Wooden Rooster (and as a Rooster, I have to feel good about that), and Myth*ingLinks has a lot of links to what that means ...

Other Stuff

Baby Audio: I don't know if I'll put up any more audio of Celeste, well maybe when she actually starts to form words ..., but I just got a new digital voice recorder (an Olympus DS330) for the aforementioned tradeshow, and decided to experiment with it some.

One cool thing about the DS330 is I can transfer the audio files to the PC for editing; the DSS software that came with it includes some editing features and can convert DSS format recordings to WAV files, which I then changed to MP3s with the shareware program MP3 WAV Converter 3.05.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

If She's This Devious When She's a Teenager ...

... we're in real trouble. Okay, "devious" is not the right word. "Hard to read" maybe?

We had a good start of the day. Celeste was sleeping when I got home and didn't wake until 2:30 p.m. (nearly a three-hour nap!) and after a bottle we went for a nice hour-long walk. Celeste really seemed to dig the school buses, UPS van (for some reason she didn't notice the FedEx van), and other big vehicles. She also really liked walking past a schoolyard with a bunch of elementary kids running around, playing ball, and generally making lots of noise.

We got home and she had a bit of acorn squash. I made the sign for APPLE and she got really excited; when she got squash she looked at me like I'd screwed up, but she ate it all very quickly with very little ending up on the bib. [Kay, I tried giving her a spoon of her own and, as I thought she might, she kept fencing with me, trying to get both into her mouth at once.]

After that, we played on the exercise mat some and it seemed like it was time for a nap. There weren't any yawns, but she was slowing down, fussing a little, and was quick to take a pacifier. So I tried putting her down for a little while. She started making some protestations, but lately — so long as she's just eh-eh-eh-ing and not crying — we've been letting her make some noise and try to soothe herself to sleep.

Well, it went on for about 10 minutes and wasn't seeming like sleep was forthcoming, so I decided to try and record her protestations [MP3 (3.5 MB)]. After about three minutes of recording, I started playing it back to her and she stopped, looked at me, and started laughing. So I quickly tried to catch the laughs, but no luck. I was trying to get her to laugh while being quiet, and she would smile but I needed to make some noise to get a laugh [MP3 (0.6 MB)] ...

Obviously, a nap was not going to happen, so we went back to playing some games and having a little tummy time.

By now, she's definitely tired and getting hungry (a bad combination). At about 5:30 p.m., the meltdown started. To make matters worse, I didn't notice the bottle Evelin'd prepared and left in the fridge, so I was trying to defrost a frozen bottle while comforting Celeste. By the time the bottle was ready, she was in full wail mode and could only take a few drags at a time. Eventually, we had to give up the bottle in favor of trying to start a bath.

Seeing the bath preparations calmed her down enough to finish the bottle, and then she was ready to get her hands in the water. Evelin got home toward the end of the bath and is upstairs trying to soothe her to sleep now.

I'm typing this up and having a bit of Knappogue Castle 1993 Very Special Reserve Single Malt Irish Whiskey. It's not scotch, but it's not bad. A little on the light/thin side, a little bit of corn to the taste; the initial sensation is heat from the alcohol but it mellows quickly in the mouth to some nice barley and light caramel flavors.

Believe It Or Not, It's Mardi Gras

It seems way too early to be the end of Carnival, but today is, in fact, Mardi Gras. And I have pretty much nothing to show for it. Except for a mess of red beans that I made a few weekends ago and the Mardi Gras music that was in the CD changer that day, this Carnival season has passed with nary any notice.

Tonight, the Krewe of Louisiana rolls in Clarendon, Virginia, which might be fun to see except that with a parade start time of 8:00 p.m., there's no way we'd get there and spend any time without messing up Celeste's sleep something fierce. (Not to mention my and Evelin's sleep, considering that Celeste had a nice long wake-and-wail session — "Somebody play with MEEEEEEEEE!" — from one-something 'til two-something this morning.)

Sigh, maybe next year we'll have it a bit more together to do something. Or maybe the year after that ...

The one bit of pre-Lenten excess that I did indulge in today was finally ordering Evelin a new laptop. She's been using an old reliable Gateway Solo (running Windows 98SE) she bought as surplus from the university for a while now, but with the working from home part of the time she really needs something faster and more up-to-date; plus Dell had select models on sale with free shipping that ends on Ash Wednesday.

Now I just need to figure out about setting us up for DSL. And getting a more modern desktop for myself. And then setting up a wireless network. And. And. And.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Squash and Scotch

The delicata turned out nice — a little different from what we expected, but nice. I don't know if it was the variety of delicata (I think it was var. Sweet Dumpling) or what, but it didn't turn out as sweet as I'd thought it might. It also was a bit drier than I expected; Evelin and I thought the stuffing might have drawn some moisture out of the squash or something. In either case, the stuffing itself was pretty good: the portobella, onion, sage, and cranberry was a nice combination. There is some room for personalization, however; bread cubes or at least not as crumbed bread crumbs would have been nice, and I think it could have been moister going into the squash.

Karen suggested in the comments that I try delicata plain instead of in a recipe; if they have them at the market next week, maybe we will ...

After cooking dinner, I opened up and had the last dram or so of a 10-year-old Edradour "un-chillfiltered" scotch (bottle number 292 of 902, from cask number 743; distilled on 14 July 1992; bottled on 20 September 2002). It was a bittersweet drink, being the last of the bottle that Evelin and I bought at the distillery during our trip through the Highlands in October 2002. It was very nice, a bit peppery with a smooth finish. A splash of water would bring up vanilla and some spice and, because it wasn't chillfiltered, ice would cause it to cloud up.

I actually lost my wedding ring for a day because of that bottle of whisky. We'd left the bottle in my suitcase in the car overnight and it had gotten below freezing. While hanging out in the parking lot at Castle Urquhart waiting for the site to open when I decided to check the bottle to see if the overnight chill had caused the whisky to cloud.* It had, so I made a note to try to find out if this was just a cosmetic change or it if affected the taste, too.

Back in the car, Evelin and I were talking when I suddenly noticed my ring was gone. I wasn't sure where I'd last had it, so I started rummaging through the car, my suitcase, the trunk of the car (which was pretty small considering we were driving a Daewoo Matiz), the parking lot, ... — all to no avail. We then went back to the B&B we'd stayed in the night before (Urquhart Villa in Drumnadrochit, which was nice), and asked the owner to look through the room — again, no luck. We also stopped back by the TIC where we'd paused before heading to the castle — nada.

Long story short: It had slipped off my ring finger into my suitcase. I found it that night in Edinburgh while repacking things in preparation for the next morning's train ride back to London and the flight back to the States.

*Most whiskies have oils and substances in them that cause the whisky to haze or cloud when chilled to near or below 0°C. chillfiltering helps fine out those substances. Many believe it also strips out some taste; others argue it helps ensure consistency. I've had both chillfiltered and unchillfiltered whiskies and will have both again in the future.

It's just cosmetic.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Before 10:00 a.m. ...

This was the sort of day that I like. At a bit after 10:00 Evelin and I are sitting down and she says, "Hurm, we've already done a lot today." Celeste was up around 7:30 a.m. so as soon as she was fed, changed, and dressed, we bundled her up and headed to the zoo to see the cheetah cubs. They were quite cute, although they were staying towards the back of their enclosure, and only one was really zipping around.

It was the first time I'd been to the zoo in a while (since November, I think), so I wanted to wander around a bit so see how everyone was doing and how construction on the Asia Trail was going. Mei and Tian were outside and dead asleep with their faces away from the six of us who'd come to see them. I did see B---, one of the panda keepers, but she was busy so I didn't get a chance to say hello. The giraffes were being pretty cute, engaging in a little play wrestling — I've never seen giraffes do that before, but they're both juvenile males, so it's not surprising; for the most part they were pushing shoulders against each other and trying to snake their necks around each other, jockeying for position. We also saw the seals getting fed.

Celeste was inside my jacket in the BabyBjörn and actually stayed awake for the entire trip. Usually her morning consists of a couple of short naps, but this morning she had a long wake period, which seemed to mess up her routine a bit. Still she's had a good day otherwise.

The other thing we did before 10:00 was make waffles — the cornmeal waffle recipe from Fannie Farmer. Cornmeal waffles with blueberry jam is a very good thing.

The rest of the day was a mish-mash of things: farmers market, grocery store, laundry, napping, some playtime, applesauce, ...

At the farmers market I picked up some delicata and acorn squash. Acorn squash is one of the next solids on the list for Celeste to try, and the delicata looked worth trying. (Truth in blogging: I know I haven't had delicata squash before, and I'm pretty sure I've never had acorn squash before ...) I did a little googling and I'm going to stuff the squash with mushrooms and cranberries; we'll see how it turns out.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Excited About Cantaloupe

So according to the books, one of the signs that a baby is ready eat something more than breastmilk is interest in what her parents are eating. Today, Evelin was eating some cantaloupe (a.k.a. muskmelon) and she wanted Celeste to smell it. So she held the fork out to her, and Celeste (with surprising speed) knocked the piece of melon into her lap. When we were finished laughing about it, we tried again and she was more deliberate with her movement and got to lick the cantaloupe. We then checked the list — we're supposed to wait until 12 months to introduce cantaloupe, so no Celeste has to wait until she gets that again ...

The Benefit of a Power Failure

So this morning I had to come in to the office. (It's that time of year again, when we’re gearing up for the big tradeshows for the industry and an daily newspaper for the same, so I have to have most of the editorial staff in at least some of each weekend of February.) However, there was a power failure yesterday afternoon. Although Evelin reset the clocks, she didn't do anything with the alarm.

I woke up to the alarm just as Evelin was coming back to bed from feeding Celeste. I was so psyched! Celeste had slept all the way until 5:30 a.m.! I mean, my alarm was set for 5:30, and here was Evelin coming back from a feeding, and I hadn't been awoken by any earlier feedings, so she must have slept through the night!

As I'm saying this, Evelin is looking at me like I'm crazy. "It's midnight," she said. It look a little while for that to sink into my head. "No, it can't be, the alarm is set for five-something." "No. I didn't reset the alarm." "What?"

So the alarm was going off at midnight, which matched up with the usual eleven-something feeding.

But that's not the benefit of the power failure. The benefit is that I no longer have to run down to the basement every night at about 7:10 p.m. We have an old TV down there that at some point a while ago I set the alarm on so that it would turn on automatically for an hour or two each night. And when it turns on automatically, it's tuned to Telefutura. For those who don't follow the Telefutura programming lineup, 7:10 or so is when "Cien Mexicanos Dijeron" airs. (It's a version of "Family Feud" from Mexico.)

For some reason, I couldn't disable the alarm clock. I don't know if the remote is wearing out (the time and alarm can only be set/adjusted with the remote) or what, but it just would not stop going off. Last night, while preparing dinner, I got the feeling something was wrong. I hadn't heard any noises from the basement and I hadn't run down to turn off the TV. The power failure stopped the clock on the TV and thus the alarm isn't going off. I'm not sure I want to check whether or not resetting the clock will turn the alarm back on or not ...

The other benefit is that the new windows are living up to their promise to cut down outside noise. Evelin said the neighbor's generator was a lot quieter yesterday thanks to the new windows, even in Celeste's room, which overlooks the driveway where the generator sits.

Friday, February 04, 2005

No Respect.

So last night Evelin tells me she was headed back to her office around 5:00 p.m. after a meeting and gets a sudden feeling that something's wrong. The problem? I'd only called once with concerns/questions/worries/anxieties-that-would-put-Woody-Allen-to-shame.

Actually, I'd called three times. First time, I didn't leave a message. The second time, Evelin answered and told me where she'd hid the baby spoons.* The third time, I just left a message (which she didn't see that until after checking her voicemail after the meeting).

*Since we got them, the spoons had been in the utensil drawer with the big-people spoons. But yesterday they were no where to be found. And Celeste knew applesauce was on the way, she was sitting in the highchair, I was warming things up a little, but no spoons! I checked in the cabinet where the bottles are, nope. I checked all the other cabinets and drawers, nope. Turns out they were on the windowsill next to Celeste’s bath toys (we still bathe her in the kitchen sink). Evelin was kind, allowing that she'd just moved them that morning, instead of pointing out that they were hiding out in the open ...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

If I Blog It, ...

... then it'll be an aberration rather than the start of something good. Let's just say that we were able to make groceries and have a little bit of play between the post-nap bottle and when Evelin got home. And it was a fairly quick trip to the grocery store. What a good little girl!

One thing about stopping alcohol for so long during our IVF attempt up through Celeste's amnio is that the wine cellar got a bit neglected. I have a bunch of bottles down there that I'd been collecting for a wine tasting party that is now not even on the horizon (and none of those wines are real keepers), and there are a number of other mid to good bottles that don't need to lay down for too long before they're past their prime.

We opened up a 2002 Farfelu Fou de Rouge, which I remember as being a light, fruity wine. It's got some character and the flavor is nice, but there's an unpleasant fizziness to it now. I'd guess the wine was one that should have been drunk last winter at the latest — or maybe it's just in a low period and will be a richer, nicer wine in 2008 or so — but for right now, I'm still enjoying it while Evelin only took a few sips. (I am letting my glass breathe a long time and doing some aggressive swirling, however; that seems to break up the fizz to leave some nice berries and a hint of oak, along with a very pleasant dryness that could linger a bit longer.)

Applely Goodness

I just fed Celeste some applesauce for the first time. Evelin gave her some on yesterday and said she seemed to like it. Actually, she compared the applesauce feeding to a cereal feeding: the cereal feeding a lot doesn't seem to get swallowed; with the applesauce whatever went in stayed in.

Breastmilk remains — and will remain for a while yet, unless she has plans we don't know about — Celeste's prime source of nutrition, but we're still exposing her to solids at least a couple of times a week. It's an unusual experience for her, something a little different to digest, and a skill she's going to have to learn at some point.

[ASIDE: Actually, it's odd how many different things need to be learned, like splashing in the bath. Celeste still isn't really into that (and I'm sure once she starts splashing we're going to wish she'd stop ...]

The applesauce was the second baby-food recipe Evelin's tried. She made some butternut squash and froze it for Celeste a few weeks ago. I tried to find some good apples at the farmer's market, but the ones that were still around were the more assertive apples. (Evelin thought about using some pink ladys, but I thought they'd be too acidic.) So we grabbed some organic golden delicious at the supermarket. They made a nice bland applesauce that's a bit sweet — but not sugary sweet — which is probably why Celeste likes it so much.

Based on Evelin's description of yesterday's experiment, she has a better technique than I do. For me Celeste did swallow a lot, but she kept trying to feed herself, grabbing the spoon and shoving it into her mouth (the hand as well as the spoon). She also seemed to grab the bowl of the spoon a lot more than the handle, which meant she was making it difficult for her to get the applesauce.

The other question is how much of the chewing the spoon is enjoying/working at the feeding and how much is somesort of either ⒜ age-appropriate chewyness or ⒝ pre-teething chewing?

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Easier With a Camera Phone?

So on our walk yesterday, I brought along the camera because you never know if you'll see something interesting. Well, we didn't really see anything interesting, but it was hard to see whether or not Celeste had fallen asleep while we were walking ... Thinking back to a gag that seems to have popped up on the comics page lately (namely using a camera phone to check one's teeth for food; cf., Out of the Gene Pool ) but lacking a camera phone, I used the regular digital camera.

Awake or Not?

Turns out she was awake ... at least at that point during the walk.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Maybe She Is Starting to Like Me ...

Over the past month, as I've been doing my afternoons with Celeste, she's liked for me to sit in her room while she falls asleep (or at least she hasn't minded). I'd mentioned that to Evelin, and she said that she has to leave the room when Celeste is going down for a nap because otherwise she's too big of a distraction for Celeste.

Well, today I was the distraction. If I tried to sit and read while she was in her crib, she just kept working to get my attention (or, when she was overtired late in the afternoon, she would cry). She also gave me lots of silly smiles and giggles for no particular reason. I guess the real test will be when both Evelin and I are around: will she continue to ignore me in favor of her mumma or have we made a breakthrough of sorts?

Except for the napping, she was pretty good today. We took a nice walk along the Northwest Branch and she napped for a half hour or so of that, but the rest of the time she was looking around and gave at least one admirering stranger a big smile. We got a few doubletakes as she was in the BabyBjörn, but zipped up into my coat, which made me look like a really fat guy with a baby's head poking out of my chest.

Once we got home, there was some quiet play and an attempt or two to nap, but no luck. Finally she had a crankypants meltdown, and I set her up in her crib and started to walk away. She was asleep before I got to the door. Now the question is does she think she's down for the night, or will she want to play for an hour or two (along with have a bath) when Evelin gets home?