Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Weekend Part 1

We've been watching the Nutcracker for three months. No signs of waning interest. Invariably the tutus are donned and then discarded and the rest of the clothes follow -- it gets very Sally Mann around here at night.

C dances along and narrates the scenes: THE PARTY! THE RATS! THE SNOW-FAKES! THE BATS! THE SECOND PARTY!

Blocks with Josie.

Josie and I are both struggling with the bang grow out process.

Luke went to a concert that night to see Gavin James whose video for the cover "Book of Love" he admires. Because he was the opener, Gavin was at the merch table and Luke ended up talking to him and showing the RiverWalk to him and his manager. 

Clutching a balloon and watching a movie.

The Pearl egg hunt on Saturday was a bust -- about a 3:1 kid:egg ratio and over in 15 seconds.

Burgerfi for lunch or as C calls it breathlessly, BurgerfiwherewesawMrsCampbelltheyhaveaslidenoswings - no swings!

Picking up milk and other staples at the adjacent HEB. They adore The Little Mermaid right now. "Singing like Ariel" refresher if you, oh, haven't seen it thirty times in the past six weeks. Josie cracks me up.

Luke left for a gig soon after and arrived home at 12:30 am - the next morning he left early for a midday Houston show, returning that night.The man works really hard, folks.

What's Making Me Happy This Week

// Five minutes of Michael Kors' best zingers on Project Runway. Let's view them as wordsmithy little wonders instead of barbed insults and lauuuugh, shall we?


// An Insta friend put me on to a new Chinese place and we're going on Friday.

// Speaking of plans, I made a massage appointment and that's making me very happy.

// Speaking of Instagram, this brief interview with the co-founder is interesting (as is the rest of the podcast - I'm loving the New Yorker Radio Hour).

// Speaking of plans and podcasts, this segment of Good Food featured three friends who based their half marathon training runs around restaurants they wanted to try. This is a running plan I'd be interested in!

// Ok one more podcast: the thought-provoking segment on On the Media: Is This Food Racist? Why is the most famous chef of Mexican cuisine in the US a white dude from Oklahoma (Rick Bayless)? At the end of the episode Dan Pashman says he thinks even a superficial understanding of another culture through food is better than no understanding at all. I thought about my last cab ride home from the airport when I asked the driver where he was from: Ethiopia. I've never been to Ethiopia, don't know anyone from Ethiopia, don't know anything about its history, but I did have dinner in an Ethiopian place ages ago and I brought this up: the flat sourdough-y pancake that was so delicious. "The injera!" he said and we had a fascinating conversation about Ethiopian food culture and coffee culture and how he opened and closed a restaurant here in San Antonio. All because I mentioned one long-ago dining experience.

[Part of a multipart series on the podcast The Sporkful, Other People's Food.]

// We watched a few episodes of Last Week Tonight and it's uproariously funny and incisive. I about died laughing when John Oliver described himself as looking like "a near-sighted parrot who works at a bank."

Wednesday, March 30, 2016


Putting stickers everywhere.


DON'T WANT A PICTURE! [whips around]    I SAY CHEESE!

'Reading' Brown Bear.

Friday, March 25, 2016

What's Making Me Happy This Week

// Barrie Hardymon, my favorite PCHH guest, recommended Outlander so I had to watch it. I've finished the first half of the first season. Historical romance isn't usually my genre and I'm enjoying the break from my usual antihero dramas (House of Cards, Mad Men, Breaking Bad) -- the costumes and sets are incredible -- the schexxxxxxiness is a nice antidote to the puritanical audiobook I've been listening to -- as my sister pointed out, "the knitwear is amazing." (I understand some shocking events await in upcoming episodes - dreading).

Then I discovered the showrunner's podcast last night and my enjoyment is increased tenfold! So far it's Ronald D. Moore drinking scotch, smoking cigarettes, and going through the pilot episode scene by scene discussing set design, plot choices, editing --- all the fascinating aspects of stagecraft (showcraft?)

Our Favorite Kilty Pleasure Is Back!


Another happy moment was recognizing Gary Lewis as a Scottish lord. He is responsible for my all-time favorite cinematic moment, the last two minutes of Billy Elliot. The look on his face - only a split second - gives me ALL THE FEELS.

// Humble House Foods tomato asiago almond pesto. I picked this up at the farmer's market this weekend and it's sooooo delicious. Amazingly, Clementine said, "It smells like throw up" which is right on -- it does!

// Luke called me this morning to tell me this story:

Luke enters C's room to wake her up. She peers behind the door and says:

C: Where's the man?
L: What man?
C: The man standing there.
L: How big was he? A big man, a tiny man?
C: A big man.
L: What was he doing?
C picks up one leg. C: Like this. Like a flamingo.
L: How long did he stand there?
C: An hour.

This story is creepy and hilarious. Mostly creepy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Favorite Kitchen Gadgets

My cooking is pretty simple these days - roasting meat and veggies, scrambling eggs, cutting up fruit, and some baking. Despite its simplicity I'm preparing more food more often and have a list of go-to gadgets and tools. Kitchen gadgets are a weakness of mine and I have lots - but here's what gets used week after week.

Thermapen // Game-changer, favorite, most useful. You can't spend $79 better in a more useful way. This was recommended by America's Test Kitchen and I finally bought it and my only regret is not purchasing it earlier. I used to fret about overcooking pricey steaks due to my old slow and inaccurate dial thermometer. Now everything turns out - HUMBLEBRAG - perfect.

Salad container // Handy for lunches al desko. I put greens in one compartment and goat cheese/salami/olives/sweet peppers/dried cherries/etc in the other and Tessemae's balsamic in the dressing container.

Cast iron skillet // I committed to getting rid of my nonstick pans after reading this terrifying NYT article on the evil and ubiquitous chemical PFOA and the coincident publication of an ATK cookbook Cook It In Cast Iron (ATK cookbooks are another weakness). I embarked on a multiday reseasoning process to restore mine to working order - a scrub, a stint in the auto clean cycle in the oven, and a warm/oil/bake cycle. Now I'm using it frequently to achieve a nonstick finish.

Vollrath baking sheets // Another ATK recommendation. These don't buckle in a hot oven and clean easily. I've used these at least 2-3 times a week for two years and they're still in great condition.

Frother // Jackie recommended this little gadget and we use it daily for bulletproof coffee (coffee + butter + oil, blended). A blender creates a better emulsion but this does a fine job (and quieter, if you creep around the house in the morning like I do).

Planet Boxes // I never use wasteful plastic baggies in the girls' lunches which feels awesome! These clean easily and dry quickly.

Garlic peeler // When I was cooking from recipes (RIP pasta), I used this a bunch. I never mastered the 'smash the clove with a chef's knife' technique because that sounds like a urgent care chief complaint if I've ever heard one.

All-Clad pots and pans // ATK recommendation. I gradually will replace my dark Calphalon cookware. These look great and clean easily (cleaning easily is a theme or maybe the sole criterion?) I like the light color which makes it easy to decide when the butter is browned, etc. Made in the USA!

What are your faves?

Low Carb

We've been eating a low carb diet for three months since Luke read Why We Get Fat after I read about it in Gretchen Rubin's Better Than Before. We wanted to lose some weight (like everyone else) and reduce our sugar consumption. Luke has gone on calorie deprivation diets before that made him (aaaaand those around him) grouchy and irritable. I was particularly interested as I'm cruising toward diabetes if I don't take serious measures - my A1c is elevated, I came close to failing glucose tolerance tests during my pregnancies, and I have a strong family history. Yikes.

First to go were pasta and bread. Buttered noodles and sandwiches were lunch and dinner staples and they were out. I started stocking the fridge with meals of meat + veggies or eggs + veggies. That eggs reheat well was a happy discovery. Breakfast is usually a bulletproof coffee or chilled coffee + a glug glug of chocolate milk (unbelievably delicious but has too much sugar).

In order to keep up with two (or more) meals for two adults a day, I've found I have to do a little bit of cooking everyday. To paraphrase Glengarry Glen Ross, ALWAYS BE ROASTING.

Glengarry Glen Ross quotes

I'll oven bake bacon and then roast veggies because it's tasty and less clean-up.

these are too crowded -- they'll steam not roast

Bratwurst and green beans, pork tenderloin and green beans, sirloin with vegetable kebabs.

Some favorite meals:

Broiled pork tenderloin - only clean up is the cutting board (recipe here if you're a member)
Bacon and eggs and veggies
Sausage cut into coins for easing of eating al desko
Sausage, acorn squash, onions
Flank steak
Veggies that hold up well in the microwave: green beans and brussels sprouts
Chicken is best eaten that day -- neither of us like it that much, particularly as leftovers, so I've given up on make-ahead chicken to decrease waste (exception: chicken salad)
Salads of spring mix, salami, olives, goat cheese. Umami!


Luke has lost weight, I haven't. Boo. He is also much more conscientious about the diet which unfortunately isn't a diet with an expiration date but the way we plan on eating forever. The science backs it up. My meals are low carb but the treats remain... even so, I'm eating far fewer carbohydrates (50-100 grams per day - I track everything in MyFitnessPal) and less sugar.

Because of his strictness, Luke can perceive a difference in his mood and energy level when eschewing carbohydrates (stable) versus a high carb day (erratic). Even if some of it is a placebo effect, it's still powerful and motivating.

The girls eat fewer carbs too although they often manage to get two bananas a day apiece which is 28 grams of sugar! We feed them meat which they like, veggies (which C refuses), fresh fruit, hummus, cottage cheese. No more yogurt. Pasta is infrequent and usually reserved for those Friday nights when everyone is exhausted MACARONI TAKE THE WHEEL.

Meal prep has made me a much happier person. Dinner was always a stressful scramble - either trying to make something when I got home from work, reheating lasagna or enchiladas or some other 9x13 meal, or getting takeout. Now everything is already in the fridge. Oh - that's something else. If your family balks at leftovers this won't work. Neither of us mind reheated food so it works swimmingly for us.

The food is rich and satisfying. Who doesn't want to eat bratwurst? Incorporation of more chicken and fish is the next hurdle.

What's missing from the diet is CRUNCH. (Funnily enough, Quealy Watson just mentioned the extreme palatability of crunch in the ATK podcast I listened to recently). Luke and Josie love pork rinds (zero carb).

It's expensive. Responsibly sourced meat and eggs are expensive but worth it.

It's a little bit of work everyday to stay ahead.

Sauces are important - guacamole and sour cream are favorites. Store-bought sauces, especially barbecue sauce, are sugar bombs. I've been a diligent label-reader for years yet the insane amount of sugar in innocuous products has taken me by surprise. (My nutritionist set a maximum sugar goal of 38 grams per day; the WHO recommends no more than 25 grams. Guess how much sugar is in one Cadbury egg - 20 grams! One banana - 14 grams!)

Grocery shopping has become much, much easier. 1) I have some go-to items: pork tenderloin, chicken breasts + jar of salsa verde for the slow cooker, veggies, HEB ready-made jalapeƱo poppers and guacamole, lots of eggs. 2) I'm no longer zooming around looking for a can of this, a bottle of that. I shop the perimeter of the store.

Bulletproof coffee for breakfast is a breakthrough. Gretchen Rubin's book discusses how we have a finite amount of self control each day and the more decisions we can automate, the more we well up those reserves. Deciding to have the same thing for breakfast everyday is another decision I don't have to make. Forgoing the cinnamon roll* is easy because "I have bulletproof coffee for breakfast." It keeps me full and energized for three to three and a half hours until I'm suddenly STARVING. Then I'll have a mini meal of bacon and eggs and perhaps another mini meal at 2 or 3 (salad or meat/veg). When I arrive home I'm not ravenous. [This is an ideal day - most days are degrees of imperfect and sometimes it's birthday cake for lunch. Whoops.)

*I love to bake and still do but give everything away or freeze it. Like I said, the treats remain.

Carb-rich foods are better and luxurious now, perhaps because we hold out for delicious pizza or really great tacos or housemade pasta at a restaurant.


This is our new low carb lifestyle! I have a long way to go in terms of cravings, better adherence, preparation of chicken and fish and leafy greens, and modeling healthy eating for the kids but I am encouraged by the strides we've made so far.


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

First Days of Spring

Without checking the weather on Saturday morning (why, it's going to be hot?) we dressed the girls in their swimsuits in preparation for the water table at Morgan's Wonderland. Stepped outside --> windy and 58 degrees. Onward! (Minus water table).

First time on a carousel.

Yours truly in the random accoutrement I keep strewn on the floor of the backseat just for chilly occasions like this.

Josie fell asleep on the way to Pho Bistro, a restaurant I've been wanting to try for a while.

Then she woke up and ate both of my summer rolls.

After naps we went to HEB with the promise of the race cart and cake pops (Clem knows exactly where the cake pops are and would never forget such a promise). As we steered to the bakery she said to the woman who was between us and the cake pop display in a VERY loud voice full of equal parts urgency and entitlement, "'SCUSE US!" with a simultaneous wide sweep of her arm. Luke and I dissolved in laughter.

That night we watched movies and I made meals for the week to get us back on track.

Pearl farmer's market on Sunday. Still chilly so they wore the coats I found on steep clearance in Seattle.

Brunch at Ming's Thing.

Steamed bun with pulled pork and egg.

Egg + pork belly.

Cast iron cooking continues. Nachos with local beef and farmer's market onions.

Drizzle of tamarind sauce that I want to put on everything.

I really enjoy doing projects with C - the last time we made cupcakes she had a difficult time with the liners. This time, one liner per cup, quickly.

Pwincess dress "like Ariel."