Monday, April 28, 2008

Baby Showers

Today, when I went to give Caleb a bath, he ran to the front bathroom instead, stood at the shower door and said, "pease, pease" (his version of please).

I don't know why he is suddenly interested in taking showers other than he has been mimicking EVERYTHING Josh does lately. If Daddy coughs, Caleb coughs. If Daddy has coins jingling in his pocket, Caleb wants to have coins jingling in his pocket. If Daddy eats his vegetables, Caleb eats his vegetables (might as well make it work to our advantage, right!?). . . I guess it finally dawned on Caleb that Daddy doesn't take baths, Daddy takes showers. And, since Daddy takes showers, that means Caleb wants to take showers, too.

As we are discovering, a toddler is a very telling mirror for all our habits, good or bad!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Spicy Lettuce Wraps with Even Spicier Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce

Okay, this recipe is a little more involved that the last recipe I posted, but it is well worth the work. It looks like a lot of ingredients, but several of them are repeated, so it isn't as bad as it seems. I promise your taste buds will be tap dancing with glee.

Spicy Lettuce Wraps with Even Spicier Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce

Meat Mixture
1 lb ground pork
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbs spicy sesame oil (if you can't find this at the store, you can mix regular sesame oil with chili oil)

Stir Fry Sauce
1/4 c water
1 tsp cornstarch
1/3 c soy sauce
1/4 c vinegar
1/2 Tbs oil
1/2 Tbs spicy sesame oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ceyenne pepper
1-2 tsps chili sauce (we like SinSin Extra Hot Chili Sauce)
1/2 tsp ginger (I just use ground ginger, but I'm sure fresh minced is even tastier)

Garlic Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/4 c water
3/4 tsp cornstarch
1/3 c sugar
1/3 c vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp spicy sesame oil
1-2 cloves minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2-3 green onions, chopped
1 head iceburg lettuce

  1. Start with the dipping sauce, so it has time to cool. Mix together the water and cornstarch. Add mixture and all other ingredients to a large frying pan or wok. While stirring, heat over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into a small serving bowl and set aside to cool to room temp.
  2. In the same pan, prepare the meat mixture. Heat the oil and then add all other ingredients. Cook over med-high heat until meat is browned. Transfer to a serving bowl and set aside.
  3. In the same pan, prepare stir-fry sauce by mixing together all ingredients (first dissolve cornstarch in water as for dipping sauce). Stir over med heat until slightly thickened.
  4. Turn up the heat on stir-fry sauce and add meat mixture. Fry meat in sauce for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Transfer back into serving dish and add green onions. Stir.
  5. To serve, spoon a small portion of meat onto a chilled lettuce leaf. Wrap leaf around meat and dip in sauce.
This dish is great accompanied by fresh pineapple! The spicy and sweet complement each other very well.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Spicy Tomato Soup

As promised in a recent post, here is the first of several of our spicy favorites. I debated about whether or not to even post this "recipe" because it is soooo simple, however since Josh and I eat this soup at least once a week, I decided it really did qualify as a favorite. Thankfully, simplicity and deliciousity aren't mutually exclusive =)

Rebecca's Spicy Tomato Soup

In a small saucepan, stir together 1 can of Campbell's Tomato Soup with 1/2 can water and 1/2 can of milk. Add several dashes of Lawry's Garlic Salt (Lawry's is the only brand I like), an 1/8 tsp of black pepper, and a scant 1/4 tsp Ceyenne pepper (start with small, dream big). Heat over low heat until steaming. Spoon into bowls and garnish with a little dried basil (or fresh is you're trying to pass this off as gourmet).
Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches and a salad.

All I can say about this meal is "YUM! YUM!" Skeptical??? Try it and let me know what you think.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Mother's Sick Day

I remember when I worked for the City and had oodles of sick days accrued to my account. Back then, a sick day meant crawling under the covers and sleeping for five or six hours. It meant waking in the afternoon to a steaming bowl of chicken soup and a long hot bath. It meant taking Asprin or Nyquill. It meant watching a favorite movie and finishing the book on the nightstand. It meant all housework ceased and the laundry waited.

A Mother's sick day has a much different meaning. It means wiping a snotty nose that's not your own. It means waking up to soothe a coughing, feverish boy five times in one night, even though your body is achy and sluggish. It means toughing it out without any medicine to protect the little baby growing inside. It means making Jello and crushing ice to be sure that your sick toddler gets enough fluid. It means washing a favorite blanket and mopping up spilled apple juice from the kitchen floor. It means learning how to consider others better than yourself, when "yourself" is all you feel like considering (Phil 2:3).

Caleb and I came down with a nasty cold flu several days ago. This morning, after a fitful night's sleep, I found him crashed on the couch after breakfast.

Sleep, my little one. Mommy is nearby.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baby Stars

Discovery News published an article just a few days ago that caught my attention. In case you don't want to read the article, here's a quick summary: A recent ultra-violet image of M83 (a well-studied, nearby galaxy) has scientists in a quandary. Newborn stars, if current theories are correct, are the result of intense compression of complex gases at the center of the galaxy, which spontaneously explode to form new stars. But the latest data reveals that M83 is teeming with baby stars out in the remotest parts of the galaxy, far, far from the place where they should be.

In truth, those stars are exactly where they should be. Each little star was placed precisely where it is by the hand of God himself. Isn't it amazing to think that the same God who is in charge of all the millions of stars, millions of light years from here, not only knows every detail of our lives but cares?

Psalm 8:3-4
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

A Reader's Dozen

I am convinced that board books are one of the best inventions known to mothers of toddlers. In addition to all the wonderful benefits of reading together, Caleb can keep himself busy for hours (literally!)a day "reading" his board books. We keep a basket full of board books in the living room and the bottom two shelves of the book shelf are full of board books. He loves to run to the bookshelf, hunt for a favorite book and the bring it out to the carpet to "read". I love that I don't have to worry about whether or not he is destroying the books, since board books are virtually indestructible. (They are not, however, immune from being thrown away by well-meaning toddlers who are trying to "help". . . we recently lost a favorite, My Truck is Stuck!, this way.)

Here is a list of a dozen of the most popular board books in our house:
  1. Barnyard Dance! by Sandra Boyton: This book is pure fun. I usually sing-song the words and Caleb dances. The only thing I hear at the end of this book is "MORE!"
  2. Chugga Chugga Choo Choo by Kevin Lewis: This is a very rhythmic book that is perfect for reading aloud. Caleb loves saying the "whooo whooo" every time we get to that part. The pictures are great, too-- perfect for pointing out familiar items.
  3. Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell: This lift-the-flap book is adorable. Caleb makes all the animal noises, my favorite being the spitting camel. This book is worth owning, if for no other reason than seeing your little one impersonate a camel!
  4. Find the Puppy by Felicity Brooks: This book is part of a series called Usborne Find-Its. This is the only one we own, but I'm sure we'd love all of them. If you're looking for intense plot, this isn't the book for you. The words and drawings are simple, but Caleb loves pointing out the puppy on each page. The simplicity is what makes the book work.
  5. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: Okay, this book is famous and it's everyone's favorite, but there is a good reason. . . this book is the perfect quiet-down-get-sleepy book. I don't know what makes this book so magical, it just is. Take my word (and everyone else's) for it!
  6. My Big Animal Book by Roger Priddy: It's not the words (take 'em or leave 'em. . . we usually leave 'em) that make this book a favorite; it is the big, colorful pictures. Caleb absolutely loves to sit with this book and stare at all the different animals. This book is one of the better ones for learning animal names and sounds because it uses real photographs. This is a great chair-time book.
  7. My Little People Farm Book by Doris Tomaselli: This lift-the-flap book makes it onto the list because it's a perfect choice when you don't actually want to read. Caleb often crawls up into my lap to read when I'm trying to do something else (like read a "big-people" book or pay bills or check email). I don't like to turn him down, but it isn't always convenient or possible to drop what I'm doing. That's where this book comes in. Each page is loaded with tiny little flaps that keep those little hands enthralled. I can usually provide enough sound effects and object names to make him feel like I'm engaged, without having to completely drop what I'm doing.
  8. One Bear, One Dog by Paul Stickland: We love this book. The pictures are great and the surprise ending (not so surprising to anyone who can rhyme worth beans) gets Caleb every time. The last character to make an appearance (warning: spoiler alert!!) is "ME!" (a little mirror on the last page). I don't know when or how it started, but Caleb loves to give himself a kiss in the mirror each time we get to the last page. This book has been Caleb's favorite since he was about 4 months old and he shows no sign of losing interest. Like all kids, I think he tends to be a bit narcissistic =)
  9. Pat the Bunny by Dorothy Kunhardt: I know we're not the first to list this book as a favorite, but it is still a favorite nonetheless. My two complaints with this book are that the traditional comb binding tends to fall apart and "Judy's Book" is way too easy for little boys (and girls, too, I'm sure) to tear out when their Mommy isn't looking. I did see that this is available in a board book, which I think I would prefer. But, despite the drawbacks, this simple activity/skill book is great. When we first started reading this book, I had to take Caleb's hand and help him with all the activities. It has been fun to watch his skills grow over the last 18-months. Now he does all the activities on his own, usually before I can even finish reading the page.
  10. That's Not My Train by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells: This touchy-feely book is great for little fingers to explore. Caleb also enjoys finding the tiny mouse on each page. Whoever came up with this idea (Fiona and Rachel, presumably) hit on a winner. There is a whole series of these books and each of the ones I've seen are great.
  11. That's Not My Truck by Fiona Watt and Rachel Wells: Ditto the previous book's review
  12. Who Says Quack? by Jerry Smith: This little book is the perfect size for throwing in the diaper bag and pulling out when needed (on the bus, in the doctor's waiting room, etc). Caleb loves the real pictures and his animal imitations crack me up, especially the donkey. I love the pictures, too, because the baby animals are very cute. . . almost as cute as the kid to whom I read =)

Of course, there are many, many other favorites around here, but I limited myself to 12. Whenever possible, I buy the board book binding. . . it's usually cheaper (believe it or not) and it allows Caleb to enjoy his books without his paranoid mother hovering nearby to make sure he doesn't rip the pages. We do read a lot of "regular" books, as well, and I am teaching him how treat books properly, but it'll be a long while before that skill is totally mastered. Until then, board books are a great way to encourage him to "read" on his own.

Spicy Food Contest

While waiting in the doctor's office for hours on end last week (three appointments in one day: ultrasound appointment with specialist, prenatal appointment with OB, and Caleb's 18-month check-up with pediatrician!) I read an article about "Chili Heads". . . people who travel the world over to chase down the next hottest chili. Josh and I aren't Chili Heads (yet) but we're definitely addicted to spicy food. If I had to give up all other spices (besides salt and garlic because you have to have salt and garlic to even stay alive, right?) and was able to keep only one spice in my cupboard, it would definitely be Ceyenne pepper (Watkins, of course, right Grandma?)

In the next few days (as I have time) I am going to be posting a few of my recent spicy creations, recipes I've invented or tweaked to satisfy our spicy cravings.

Here's where the contest comes in: If you have a blog, I'm calling on you to post your favorite spicy recipe (let me know so I can link them back here and enter you in the contest). If you don't have a blog, but still want to participate, just leave the recipe as a comment on this post. The spicier the better!!

Since it would be totally subjective to choose the *best* recipe, all participants will be entered into a drawing for a sampling of some of the spicy food (soup mixes, etc) found here in Singapore. One winner will be chosen at random by a highly scientific method known only to me and a handful of world-renowned statisticians. Contest ends the 1st of May, so hurry!

Bon appétit épicé!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

New Profile Picture

South Beach
Freemantle, Australia