Wednesday, February 28, 2007

btietw: the return!

yes, it's been a long...oh my god! i didn't realize it had been that long. wow. okay. let's not waste anymore time, then.

so, but, oddly, if you read that last btietw that i just linked to there, you'll notice that i end it by asking about squash. and if you didn't read it and are too lazy to even just click on the link and skip to the last sentence, i'll tell you what i asked: how can i cook the squash so that i'll eat it? and enjoy it?

why is that odd, you ask? because the best thing i ate this week was: squash! ooo, creepy....

so apparently last week i was having the same thoughts that i was having 15 months ago when i wrote that post, which was that i need to be eating more vegetables but that the selection, in the winter months, if you're trying to eat relatively locally and therefore seasonally, is rather slim. so i just bit the bullet and got a kabocha squash and figured i'd find a way to make it palatable.

this is a kabocha squash:

it's about the size of a volleyball. (not that i ever played volleyball. well, i thought about playing volleyball, in 8th grade, when i was finally allowed to play contact sports after being sidelined for most of my childhood due to an enlarged spleen, which had finally been excavated from my abdomen the summer before 8th grade. but i went to the first volleyball meeting and asked the gym teacher/coach/drill seargent if there was going to be practice every day, since i had ballet class on thursdays, and her way of answering me was to turn to the assembled crowd of volleyball hopefuls and bark "i have just been asked if there will be practice every day and the answer is yes there will be practice every day and it will last all afternoon if you want to play volleyball for me i will need your full commitment there is no being late there is no missing practice there are no excuses!" so i walked out and never looked back, which was really the best decision, since i discovered in gym class later that semester that i am possibly the worst volleyball player in the history of the universe. i don't think wrists my size were meant to make contact with a hard leather ball.)

wait, where am i? okay, right, i bought a big ugly squash. if you're wondering, like stephen was, why i chose the kabocha (besides it's awesome name: kabocha!), it's because it was the only squash that i hadn't ever had before, so it the only one that i didn't know i didn't like. acorn, butternut, spaghetti? yuck, yuck, yuck. kobacha was a blank slate.

the first night, i just roasted it. you know, just to get to know it a bit. i got to use my big cleaver to hack it to peices, which was worth the price of the squash even if i ended up hating every bite. whack! whack! anyway, per instructions from jeremiah tower, we just ate the roasted pieces witha drizzle of white truffle oil. which was, of course......i mean, i would eat cardboard with white truffle oil on it. when i was apprentice chef-ing in the insane italian restaurant, i used to take the misto of truffle oil that we kept on the pass-through and use it like chloroseptic. yum. so, yeah, it was good with the truffle oil, but it was still too....squash-y. i needed to disguise it more. though already i could tell that i'd chosen the right squash for me: it was less sweet than the others, and it wasn't at all stringy.

next i made some squash "pizzas" on a couple of little multi-grain ciabattas. they were good, but it was almost too much disguising. wile liked them, though! and getting him to eat any vegetables is even more of a challenge than getting me to eat squash.... (though last night i made chicken and mushrooms and gave him a couple pieeces of chicken that i meticulously cleaned the mushrooms off, and what did he want? of course. he ate all of the mushrooms off stephen's plate (i'd already eaten mine).)

then, i found it. the answer. a panade! obviously!

yeah, i'd never heard of a panande before either. but if alice waters says to make it, i make it. here's the recipe i (kind of) used:

5 onions, sliced thin
olive oil or duck fat (duck fat! duck fat!)
6 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
12 sprigs thyme
1 cup red wine
3 quarts chicken stock
2 lbs squash
1 lb chanterelle mushrooms
salt + pepper
10 slices stale country-style bread
approx. 3 oz. reggiano parmesan cheese

(those are the amounts if you're making enough for 8-10 people. since i wasn't, and since i only had what i thought was about 1 lb of squash, i cut it in half.)

preheat oven to 375.

stew the onions in 1/4 cup of duck fat (seriously, it is worth taking the time and effort of browning a serious number of duck legs to end up with a pint jar of duck fat, such as the one that used to live in our fridge until i finished it off with this recipe) over medium heat, adding the garlic and herbs once they've begun to soften. cook until onions just begin to brown, about 20-30 minutes. add the red wine and reduce by half. Add the stock and simmer 30 minutes.

prepare the squash: if you have pre-roasted chunks, as i did, peel them and slice them up. if you have raw squash, cut it open (whack! whack!), peel it, seed it, and slice it into 1/8"-thick pieces. meanwhile, saute the musrooms (our farmer's market only had cremini and shitake, so that's what i used instead of chanerelles, and it was just fine) in some olive oil until brown. salt and pepper them, and add to the stock mixture. then throw some duck fat into the mushroom-browning pan and toast the slices of bread in it until light brown.

assembly: cover the bottom of a casserole dish with a layer of bread. ladle in some of the stock mixture to cover (note: alice doesn't say so, but in the future i will take the thyme stalks and bay leaves out of the stock mixture at this point, rather than picking them out of my esophogus later. lazy cookbook editing....), then throw on the squash in a single layer. top with more bread, ladle on the rest of the stock mixture, then grate on the cheese. bake it for 40 minutes covered and 40 minutes uncovered (i cooked mine for less time since my squash was pre-roasted).

the recipe then says to serve it in bowls with excess broth from the casserole dish ladled around it. i was in the middle of cooking the damn thing and reading that part of the instructions for at least the fifth time when it finally dawned on me: "am i making soup here?" according to the food network, yes, i was. but i didn't want to be! so only used 3/4 as much stock as the recipe called for. the way i made it, it came out less like a stew/soup and more like a really amazing stuffing without any of the disgusting squishy raisins and celery that keep me from eating the stuffing at every thanksgiving at my in-laws' house ew ew ew gross. ahem. so, adjust the amount of broth you use according to what you're looking for, a soup or a side dish.

and this was the best thing i ate this week not only because it was totally delicious, but because it's a new preparation for me. when i can't think of a way to pull something together from what i have in loitering in the fridge, i usually fall back on a pasta-based concoction. now i can start experimenting with this panade concept. goodbye orecchiette, hello stale bread. very exciting.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


in the past month, wile's verbal skillz have gone through the damn roof, accelerating from one-word answers to run-on sentences that seem to stretch from here to next tuesday. and i've realized in the last week or so that he's really sharpened up his pronunciation skillz, which is making me a little sad. so i'd like to have a moment of silence, if we could, for the death of the following "words" from wile's vocab:

"hippo" is no longer "fwahtuh" (yes, i realize "fwuhtuh" sounds nothing in the slightest like "hippo").

"pancakes" are no longer "pangshee".

"stroller" is no longer "zhowzha".

"backhoe" is much less frequently "bat-bo".

thankfully, "little" is still "yodi", and "elephant" is still "en-sant", "ravioli" are still "ravi-rolly", and "popsicle" is "poptwan."

and the new word that has had the most impact on our lives is "what cause?", which has led us to many conversations much like the following:

"wile hold that cream while mama put it on?"

"sure, you can hold the tube while i'm putting the cream on you."

"wile hold it?"


"what cause?"

"because, um, it's okay if you hold it."


"mama what?"

"mama hold it?"

"no, thanks."

"what cause?"

"because i thought you wanted to hold it."

"what cause?"

"because you said you wanted to hold it."

"what cause?"

"because you wanted to hold it"

"what cause?"

"i....have no idea."

Friday, February 16, 2007

off the couch....and into the fire

we have recovered.

i think when i wrote that last post, i was at the absolute low point of the sick week. i pulled myself together the next day, and by yesterday he was back to normal, tearing around the house like his normal monkey-on-crack self, eating solids, and making jokes.

today....well, i think i'd have preferred another day on the couch with bob the builder.

we woke up at 9, which is insanely late, especially considering that we had to leave for playgroup at ten and seeing as i'm the one running the damn playgroup we couldn't be late. so i jumped out of bed and into the shower, which was my fatal mistake. i should have taken him, or asked stephen to take him, downstatirs right away for breakfast, since it was an hour past when he normally eats and he was probably starving. but i didn't, and i paid the price. by the time i got him downstatirs---after getting him dressed while he screamed about wanting more of my body oil on his hands, which i wouldn't give him because his hands were already covered in it (he likes to put lotion on with me in the mornings, which is usually fun, we will never repeat the body oil again, never!)---he was at a dangerous point.

he asked for cheese and tomato jam on his toast. i checked the cheese; it was moldy. i told him no cheese. he then began a cry of "mama, want cheese and mato jam on my tooooooast!" that lasted through making our breaskfast (i put butter on his toast instead, he almost threw it on the floor), downstairs to get into his coat (he had a conniption fit when i tried to put his winter coat on him, insisted he wanted to wear his vest, so ended up in two fleeces and the damn vest), over the entire walk 8-block walk to playgroup in the stroller, and finally in the snack chair at playgroup, between bites of the butter-and-tomato-jam toast that he finally did eat. by the time he finished the toast, he was fine. i, of course, was fried.

which is how we ended up where we are now.... he is curently up in his room screaming "mama, want to nurse ba-boo!!" and i am down here trying to ignore it. see, i still nurse him down for his naps. normally he nurses for about 15 minutes, nods out, and sleeps for about 2 hours. today? 45 minutes and he was still wide awake. i just could not lie there another minute.

i'm not totally confident that he'll be able to fall asleep for a nap without nursing. i think at this point, since he has been nursing down to nap for so long, he may just stop taking naps when i stop nursing him down. which is a terrifying thought. but it has kept me from trying to wean him from the nap-nurse, because i haven't been confident that it would work.

and really, i'm still not. but i am confident that i am kind of at the end of my rope after this week, and this morning, and i need a break.

i told him that we were going to do this just like bedtime: i was going to go downstairs, and he was going to lie in bed till he fell asleep, and if he didn't fall asleep right away, he could lie there quietly. well, it's been 20 minutes, and "quietly" is not the word i'd use to decsribe how he's been handling it. i think he's started to kick the wall.

could it be that he's not tired because he slept so late this morning? maybe. or that he wants to nurse so much more because he's still not quite over the sick? maybe. but if i don't get some time without him during the day, i'll be nothing but crabby and mean the rest of the day. so, what's the better alternative? give in and resent him, or let him cry some?

i'm not going up there yet. i can't. i may sit here and cry along with him, but at least i'm sitting by myself.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

sick of it

so, we're in day of what i thought was going to be another 24-hour stomach bug. yeah, not so much. we're on hour 89. knock on every available surface and cross all digits, stephen and i haven't been hit. yet. i'm feeling a little bit squiffy right now, but that could just be from lack of sleep and power of suggestion.

a recap of the past four days:

> another illness, another sleeping-in-odd-spot photo op:

> i think i can now recite line-for-line the four episodes of bob the builder that we have on the dvr. on the other hand, though, it's made me thankful all over again that this is the show that wile is obsessed with. it's sweet, simple, has cute otters and badgers.... it could be so so much worse. at stephen's aunt's christmas eve party, all the kids ended up upstairs, and one of the dads turned on a dora the explorer video to "entertain" them. dear sweet baby jesus. it was hands down the most awful piece of dreck i've ever seen. i mean, i understand that it's "educational", but....oy. that shit would feel condescending to a 2-week old. physically painful. thankfully, wile was completely uninterested. smart man.

> i've decided that i much prefer barf to the alternative. you know....the other end? the majority of the barf has made it into a pot or other acceptable receptacle. it's there, it's gone, it doesn't smell too bad. the diaper barf (as i've started to call it), on the other hand, smells worse than anything i can imagine, and necessitates a trip into the tub for some hosing down. not. fun.

> last night we hit the low point of the sick. bath went fine, going to bed went fine, stephen and i watched keifer fuck some shit up, then, around midnight, we got the call through the monitor... we both ended up in wile's bed, where he proceeded to lie on his back and screech "eeeeennnnhhhh! wile's tummy huuuuuurt!" for at least 40 minutes. while screeching, he wanted to have his stuffed animals balanced on his tummy, and every time one of them fell, he would have a leg-kicking, fist-pounding, hissy fit. and if stephen or i tried to help with the animals, or suggest lying a different way or drinking some tea, he punished us by trying to pierce our eardrums. by the time he calmed down, i was in tears. it was like chinese water torture: screech!....silence, silence, but you know another one is coming.....screech!! and on and on....

> did i mention that he also didn't nap yesterday? no nap! we hung out on his bed for an hour or so, but no sleeping. so i didn't get to sleep or get time by myself. result? my patience levels drop to negative infinity.

> stephen just emailed me that his head is swimmy and his stomach is funny. now i really need a nap....

Saturday, February 10, 2007

would you like me to gift-wrap that for you?

the freecycle hilarity continues....

i put up a post back in december offering up the crib that wile never slept in, a universal stroller that wile never rode in, and a copy of what to expect the first year. the stroller went right away, but i never got any replies about the crib or the book. i wasn't that surprised that the crib didn't get any takers—it's a 3rd generation hand-me-down, at least 15 years old, and i think people are picky about cribs meeting these safety standards that i've heard tell about.... i thought somebody would bite at the book, but after a week or so with no replies, i completely forgot about it.

then, a couple of days ago, i got this email:

Is the baby book still available ? I would be interested in reading

it, except it will be difficult for me to pick it up in this
weather, with my baby. Is there any way you could post it or drop it
off ? Thanks.

post? drop off? exsqueeze me? freecycle is the cyber equivilent of putting stuff out on your stoop for the passersby to loot. it doesn't include delivery.

so i had to ask where this crazy lady was located, since i had clearly put my neighborhood in my post, and i had to see just how nutball her request for me to "drop it off" was.... answer: "Coney Island Avenue and Avenue J, right next to Rite Aid."

oooohhhhhh! right next to the rite aid! of course! the rite aid on coney island avenue and avenue j! which is about as far from my house as, say, new jersey?

i wrote back and told that she could send me $5 and i'd drop it in the mail for her. no reply. shocking.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

who's on first?

"go upstairs, wile, we'll take your shoes off up there."


"up in the room where we have music class."




"in the room where we have music class."

"where room we have music class?"



Monday, February 05, 2007


"i would never have kids here! i could never carry the stroller up and down the subway stairs, that looks like hell! i feel so sorry for those poor women! it looks like a nightmare! like hell! oh my god! and if they're not in the stroller you have to carry them, because everyone's knocking in to you.... oh my god. i couldn't. plus, you know, it seems like the kids here are, i don't know, so oversaturated. like, too much stimulus, too much culture.... "

that's nice, dear. now go back to iowa.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

licensed to ill

like many new yorkers, i don't have a license.

now, when you say it like that, it sounds so normal and acceptable, right? i live in an urban center with arguably the best public transportation system on the planet, who needs a license! but. i didn't grow up here. i grew up in the burbs, and went to college in the sticks, and definitely could/should have gotten a license somewhere along the way. it's not like i've never driven a car. i had a succession of learner's permits from age 16 to 22, but never got any further. i also managed to rack up a good number of speeding tickets while i had my permit, including one in maine, driving a rented van to a phish show, that i'm pretty sure i never paid.... anyway, there were reasons that i never took the plunge.

in high school, the first time my dad took me out on the road, out of the parking lot, i hit and killed a racoon. not good for the psyche. i had to take a break from the lessons for a little while. also, i knew that i wasn't getting a car---my parents didn't have the money to buy me one, and the majority of the money i made at my weekend job was forcibly put into a college savings account. so it didn't make much sense to me to get a license if i wasn't really going to have much of an opportunity to put it to use. go through all of the studying and practicing and the freakin test and blah blah blah so that i my stepmom's car on the weekend sometimes, maybe, if she feels like lending it to me, and only before 9? uh, not.

in college, still no car. so still no burning drive (heh) to get legal.

the year after college, too stoned.

the year after that, i moved here. the idea of getting a license just fell completely off my radar.

the year after that i moved from manhattan to brooklyn and shacked up with stephen and his car, and concievably should have gotten back on the license train. but stephen loves to drive, and generally prefers that if he is in a car, he is the one driving it. so, again, no motivation....

but lately i've been feeling like i should get around to it, already. mostly becasue of wile. it just seems a little silly not to be able to drive, in case of some kind of emergency. and for other less dramatic reasons: i could take a turn driving when our mom-and-kid posse heads out to the beach in the summer. we could go out to shea for a day game without having to deal with that horrendous g-to-7 transfer. we could go shopping at fairway. i would join the co-op.

so i'm pretty much decided that i'm going to do this thing. but here's the latest thing standing in my way: right now we have a toyota previa. not a new previa, ew. no, we have an o.g. previa. which stephen loves so much that if i were the jealous type i would have possibly already taken a baseball bat to its windows or something. clipped its brake cables? yeah, that's how little about cars, i can't even come up with a good car sabotage scenario.... anyway, stephen inherited this car from his dad, and though it really is in good shape for a 15-year old car, it's still a 15-year old car. with an assload of miles on it. my feeling used to be that we wouldn't get a new car until this one spontaneously combusted, but stephen has been making some noises lately about maybe thinking about getting a new one, possibly. i'm thinking it will happen sometime in the next year or two.

my feeling is that i don't want to learn to drive while we still have the old car. stephen thinks it would be better for me to learn to drive in the old car. here are our closing arguments:

stephen: as a new driver, i will be more prone to getting into a fender-bender or two. and wouldn't it be better to mess up the old car than the new one?

me: as a new driver and someone who is completely ignorant of car stuff (though of course i'd learn), i'd rather drive something that is less likely to crap out on me. especially with wile in the car.

so, jury of my peers, what do you think?