Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Belly evolution

Crisp, fitted button down shirts used to slip right over it, tucked into sensible wool pants, fresh from the dry cleaner, awaiting the matching suit jacket.  When slim pockets started to bulge and a co-worker joked, "I didn't think you were missing any meals," wool suits were left hanging.  No hurry to get them to the dry cleaner.

To accommodate it, I worked from a dresser drawer wardrobe, pulling on the same "professional' stretchy knit pants every morning and rushing some nights to get the things washed and dried before the work day ahead.

Then the belly finally gave way to a new belly.  A tiny, fold over the top part of the "swaddling" size diapers, belly.  Which grew and grew and grew in wiggle pants and pj's to become the big round wonderful watermelon of a thing that tells all the world, I'm not yet a preschooler.  Still a toddler - a baby yet - so kiss and rub me for good luck.  I'm fleeting.

When my preschooler, Dee, was about Nar's age and I was seven months pregnant with T, we used to spend time each day, "contemplating our navels."  Thank goodness there's still room in the day for tummy time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Celebrity Crush

I'm at it again, living holiday to holiday.  This time, I'm hunting for discounted Valentine's Day decorations.   

I'm coming to believe that I live life in a series of theme parties.  It helps me to fill in the gaps between my kids' activities.  It also helps me to (temporarily) stifle that little voice in my head asking, What is the meaning of your existence?  Will you have a legacy?  And so forth.  I can't answer those questions because I'm too busy trying to find the perfect red, trimmed in bric a brac, table runner. 

While some may say this mid winter day of sweet nothings and sugar coated sentiments brought to you by you, benefits only corporate card makers and the people who make teeth crushing conversation hearts, I beg to differ. 

I legitimately like Valentine's Day and have fond memories of tapas, sushi and gnocchi dates with my kid less husband in big cities.  I also remember the thrill of receiving a carnation-gram in high school math class and the rush of excitement when each Valentine's Day of my childhood, my Dad would pick up a Russel Stover heart box of candy for my brother and me on his way home from work. 

The older I get the more tightly I hold on to one universal truth:  it feels good to be happy.  And if I can work happy into some short term theme for living, then bring it on.  First, I'm a shopper, so I derive supreme satisfaction from hunting for the dang decorations themselves.  Second, I'm raising a shopper and a crafter.  Dee will happily discuss the attributes of heart and ribbon garlands for several minutes, even with the deafening sound of her brother yelling, "I want out of here NOWWW!," upon entering any store that does not feature food or toys. 

Undeterred, Dee and I will make our selections and move on to choosing the corporate character Valentine's of her liking.  This will interest T for a nanosecond while he decides between Spiderman or Transformer cards.  Back home -and a month before the big day - Dee will start tearing the cards along their perforated lines and then go hog wild with the fill-in and sticker possibilities.  I swear, one $2 box of cards will entertain my kid for a month of Sundays.  If ONLY the Valentine season were that long!

I too, tend to my own short term obsession.  Beyond the decorations, I dream of the treats I can bake and the fancy packaging I can wrap around them.  Trust me, I've missed many plot lines in the cop shows Chris and I watch scouring cookbooks and Googling Valentine stuff.

He still loves me.  I hope he does, because I bought him a little something something Friday at Target that rhymes with "ready."  Unfortunately, Dee, in all her Valentine zeal, stumbled upon the "neddy" while digging in the shopping sack for her cards.  While my first reaction was to quickly stuff it back in the sack and pretend that the flash of pink lace she saw was merely a figment of her imagination, I was derailed when D said, "Ooooooo, pretty!  Is it for me?" 

When I said no, it's mine, she was unusually persistent in questioning me.  After I had assured her - several times - that the nightgown was most definitely mine, and directed her to put it away already, she made one last point, "BUT it's too small for you!"

Riiiiiiiight, I thought.  Something tells me Hub will overlook that fact....

This month's cruise on the Love Boat may be why I have a current fascination with the show, The Millionaire Matchmaker.  Patti Stanger, the star and matchmaker, helps rich and lonely people find love, or least helps them figure out why nobody's interested  (my favorite clients are the train wrecks - the lazy, self involved heirs to a fortune - they're impossible!)  Anyhoo, when the matchmaker first meets with a client, she asks them about their celebrity crush, presumably to see if the person has realistic expectations for love in real life. 

Before watching a mini marathon of the show last week, I'd never really thought about whether I had a "celebrity crush."  It only took about 8 seconds to confirm that I did.  For me, it's all about a look.  My pie-in the-sky-guy has eyebrows that can teach a Zumba class all on their own.  He's Samoan and he's smokin'.  Can you guess?

My real life, man, Chris, is not Samoan, but has been known to check "Pacific Islander" on forms inquiring of his ethnicity.  But most importantly, he's got the "look," and the requisite muscle-y eyebrows to melt my heart. 

I don't believe he's yet picked up a cowhide vest for me for Valentine's Day.  I hope he doesn't, because even if it fits, I'm not sure if I could overlook it.  (: 

How about you, gotta celebrity crush this Vday?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


While my kids may believe that Santa only comes in white, when dried shiitake mushrooms are re-hydrating in a bowl on the counter and we're slicing logs of pink-rimmed fish cake, the offspring are most definitely aware that we're getting our Asian ON.  Dad's traditions rule on New Year's Day and we do our best to honor the ancestors.

On Saturday, after my rousing date with Dick Clark, Chris started the process for making his grandmother's sushi (C's dad is Japanese-American) and his mother's wonton soup (C's mom is Chinese-American).  My tasks were to occupy the children and to run to the store to pick up a key ingredient for the wontons.  This ancient Chinese ingredient took me eleven years of marriage to pluck from my mother-in-law's repertoire, and it may surprise you.  The foundation for her wontons is...dunt dunt dunt da: Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage!

Heard of it?  Be thoughtful here as you plan your next Asian extravaganza.  This delicacy may require a trip to your local Asian market or extra shipping for perishables purchased over the Internet.  Also, if Chris' mom catches wind that I divulged this "marshmallow creme" of the Asian-American wonton world to you, I'll deny it.  I will.  Because I still need a few essential bits of information to make my Chinese BBQ short ribs even remotely resemble what Chris remembers from home.

On Wontonalooza (the first annual), we invited my dear friend, Amy, and her family.  Amy is mostly Irish-American and also Caucasian, like me.  Still, we like to believe that "we're Asian on the inside," and take every cooking opportunity to prove that point.

We're generally good with follow through, except that one time we got tired just reading the recipe for Vietnamese Pho and were too pissed off at Rachel Ray to try her "quick" version, principally because she called it a "Thai-inspired" soup.  Get a research team already!

Anyhoo, I let my inner Asian out at the beginning of our food fest when I sat the group down to show them how to wrap the wonton skin around the pork filling.  I placed a dollop of seasoned raw meat goodness in the middle of the wonton square, dipped my finger in water and lined the edges to create a "glue." Then I brought all the corners to the middle and sealed them together.  When all I had left was the "twist," the pièce de résistance....  Chris came over, bamboo spider strainer in hand, and casually said:

"That's not right.  Those are for fried wontons.  We're going to boil these for soup."

Well...I never. 

Some sarcastic, omnipresent higher power somewhere was calling, "GET A RESEARCH TEAM ALREADY!"

I could feel my inner Asian shrinking into a tiny grain of rice drenched in butter and milk.  Seasoned with cinnamon, of all things.  My true colors were revealed.  Like some honored religious code, in my father-in-law's world, rice and milk DO NOT MIX.  I, however, grew up in a world where milk was in everything and those wontons that came from the food court at the mall were most definitely twisty and fried.

While I swallowed my pride, I moved over a bit at the table to give Chris center stage.  He then proceeded to demonstrate the "package" technique where you glue and fold the wonton over itself in a tight little package all ready for the post office.   There was a simple elegance to it.  After all, these things were going under and they needed to be airtight.

Also, as he worked, a memory from a past visit with Chris' mother made its way to the forefront of my thick skull.  This was how Chris' mom made the things.  Now I remember.  I made a note to pay closer attention during future cooking sessions.

After all, we're trying to save an inner Asian here....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dick...it's over. Really. I want it to be.

The pristine snow remains from days ago, held in place by a static thermometer and undeterred by a bright, but cool sun.  The boulevard dazzles with multiples of ice diamonds, affixed to the tips of tree branches and smooth expanses of yet to melt snow.  We tumble into it, out of the minivan and onto the icy sidewalk.  A stream of kids and partially zipped boots, stray mittens, grocery bags and leftover coffee cups pour from the van and find their way into the house.  Mostly with some double backing by Mom and Dad.

There's anticipation in the air, at least for Chris and me.  The kids don't really get that it's a holiday.  The last opportunity for indulgence at the end of a string of holiday enablers.  But Dee and T know that kid wine is involved, a drink known to most as sparkling apple cider.  If you need another preschool motivator, offer kid wine.  They get so excited, I'd swear it was spiked.

The prize for us are the King Crab legs.  They poke out of the newspaper lined Costco bag, waiting for consumption in our new giant icebox known in other seasons as our back deck.  Soon we'll boil and crack them, swirl them in melted butter and lemon.  Then we'll eat them and maybe die.  Happy in 2011.

Before the celebrations begin, there are potatoes to bake and later load with real butter and ranch dressing.  They'll undergo a quick cook in the microwave because we returned home from our errands later than expected.  We have health insurance deadlines to meet and end of year checks to write and post before the end of the business day.  And also nap and quiet time before dinner.  Dee and T oblige, with promises of a special dinner and a kid movie, and of course, some kid wine.  I must be raising a bunch of future drunks.

The kids didn't know about the fireworks saved from this year's gloomy, 40-degree Fourth of July, when I was grumpy and not in the mood for fireworks, despite the fact that it was unnecessary then to clear off a square of snow to create a launch pad.

Six months later I'm downright giddy planning a "I voted for this guy 'cause I hate the other guy" kind of New Year's Eve party.  The thought of ringing in 2011 "with" Dick Clark depresses me.  I wanted to do more to protest than simply falling asleep on the couch.

So I created my own party.  First, I found a life partner, then I rounded out the guest list by birthing some kids with limited expectations and early bedtimes.  I worked in a fancy dinner for myself, some real wine, and voila!... seven hours later I'm asleep on the couch, with the sound of Dick and Ryan droning on in the two minute intervals between commercials.

I admit it.  I watched the ball drop, but it wasn't a highlight.  That came from the channel where I watched a crowd of people in Vegas watch the ball drop on their respective big screen.   I call it a trickle down New Year.

So...now I'm trying to get a direct line to you before the holiday weekend ends.  While my posts and comments to you came in fits and spurts, please know that I had a great time blogging with you this year!  Thanks so much for your thoughts and attention and all the best in 2011!