Monday, June 29, 2009

Mama Mia!

(Or Isaac's first big people table food)

I made a big pot of spaghetti sauce with fresh vegetables and sausage on Sunday- none of this sauce in a jar stuff. As I cleaned up the kitchen, I put the big wooden sauce spoon in the dishwasher and turned to wipe counters. It was then that I heard happy baby noises. Uh oh. Isaac took the spoon from the dishwasher and was happily slurping away. He had sauce all over his face and hands. He proceeded to lick that spoon clean and was looking for more!

We sat down for dinner and Jonathan gave Isaac a noodle to keep him occupied until a small bowl of sauce cooled. Isaac eagerly downed the cooled sauce and begged for more. So Jon fed him more sauce and noodles.

The boy loves to eat! Matthew and Melissa were such picky young eaters (Melissa still is for that matter), that it warms my heart to have a kid who truly appreciates good food.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


  • pThe kids found a way to fight over clearing the dinner table. Solution: Melissa is now the sole table clearer; Matthew gets the new job of dishwasher-unloader.
  • Apparently you can grow mangos in Texas. So much better than the nasty inedible picked-and-shipped ones you found in Utah.
  • Another sign I'm getting old: Rachel's cousin Laura is getting married. She was barely a teenager when I met her. (Congratulations, Laura!)
  • Isaac had quite a morning. First Matthew left a crayon on the floor and I got to rinse crayon crumbs off his hands and mouth. Then Melissa left four crayons on the floor. Then we all went outside and Isaac had a snack of sidewalk chalk. I think this counted as a Very Good Baby Morning.
  • Rachel and I spent half an hour watching Remy videos. My favorites were "Arlington" and "Extra cheese."
  • Cooked lemon grass chicken for company last week. It was excellent. I'm glad Rachel made the cross-town trip to an Asian market to get the lemon grass.
  • Matthew left his door open one morning and Isaac made it in before I caught him. As I approached, he looked back and saw me coming. He deliberately reached out and swing the door closed. "Maybe Daddy will forget I'm in here."
  • My dad modeled many good qualities for his sons but talking about emotion and affection wasn't really one of them. So when Rachel encouraged me to hand-write a few hundred words for a father's day card (not a hallmark fill-in-the-blank), I was reluctant. Finally she offered to change a poopy diaper for me if I wrote the card. I did. That's the kind of thoughtful son I am.
  • Inflatable Wonderland: $10/kid as long as you want to play all day. And wi-fi. I think I know where to go when Rachel goes to Washington in August and leaves the older two with me.
  • Matthew is fascinated with Mr. Game & Watch on SSBB. I showed him some pictures and explained that it was almost 30 years old (from 1980). "Whoa." In fact, it's older than Aunt Christine. "Whoa!"
  • The kids sang a father's day song at church. Melissa didn't know the words or the tune very well, but I caught her voice singing out happily "I love my daddy!"
  • Got Rachel a Nokia E75. Out of the box it will bulk-upload photos to flickr, something I could never do on the iphone despite trying a zillion apps. (Apple doesn't like competition with their crappy built-in photo manager.) Meanwhile my new phone isn't in stock yet. First they predicted the 23rd, then the 26th, now the 30th. Grr.
  • Melissa: "Knock, knock." Who's there? "Tinkerbell!" Tinkerbell who? "Happy Tinkerbell!"
  • The older kids are sleeping in now that I don't have to wake Matthew up for school. Isaac is not. So for an hour in the morning it's like when Matthew was an only child: just me and my boy. (His favorite game: climb on Daddy and try to steal his glasses. First, though, you must brave The Perilous Tickle Spiders.)
  • Matthew: "Were you a conductor today?" Huh? "Did you get a lot done?" Yes: I was productive.
  • Melissa put two weeks of allowance into one of the Claw Prize machines at Inflatable Wonderland. I warned her that it would take her dollars and not give her anything back, but she wanted to learn the hard way. She did, and tears ensued.
  • Melissa: "My nickname is Sweet Bee." Yes. "You don't have a nickname." No, I don't. "I know Mommy's nickname!" You do? "Mommy's nickname is 'Boss!'" Smart girl!
  • Got "Pajama Sam" for the Wii. It's kind of a My First Adventure Game. Matthew really liked it; too bad it only lasted three or four hours. I can't wait until he's old enough for Grim Fandango.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

More Kitchen Concoctions

Jonathan and I both love Thai food. I decided to try my hand at a red curry dish tonight. Tried to make masaman curry about a month ago with poor results, so Jonathan was hesitant. When he saw me dicing some sweet potatoes in the kitchen, he sceptically went hunting for Doritos. Fortunately, as he later admitted, he was unable to find them and had plenty of room for dinner. I was rather pleased with how it turned out. It was moderately spicy with sweet, tangy, and creamy undertones. A good curry indeed! I found a fairly easy recipe, which I substantially altered to suit what I had on hand, and our particular tastes. Here is my take on red curry with beef.

Red Curry with Beef
(Serves about 6)

1 small can of bamboo shoots
16 oz can of coconut milk
1 c water
2 tbls + 1 or 2 tsp red curry paste
1/2 onion, chopped
1 lb cubed stew meat
1 small sweet potato chopped in medium chunks
1 red pepper, chopped
1 small zucchini, chopped
2 tbls fish sauce
2 tbls lime juice
2 tsp soft brown sugar
several stalks of basil leaves (according to taste)

Start your rice cooker now so the rice will be ready when the curry is done.

In a wok combine the coconut milk, water, and curry paste. Bring to a boil and stir occasionally.

In a separate frying pan, cook stew beef in a tablespoon of cooking oil until no longer pink. Add a dash of salt.

While beef is cooking add the sweet potatoes and cook over medium heat until the sweet potatoes are nearly cooked.

Add the red pepper, zucchini, and beef and simmer for another five minutes. Add 1/2 cup water if the sauce gets too thick.

Lastly add the bamboo shoots, fish sauce, lime juice, sugar, and the basil leaves. Stir well and serve on rice.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Experimenting in the kitchen

Jonathan likes to try out new Asian recipes whenever we have company over. After spending two years in the Philippines, he's developed a taste for all kinds of Asian dishes. Last week he made a very tasty Thai beef salad, after trying it from a local restaurant. San Antonio has a surprising number of fantastic Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. It's not all tex-mex here. Sadly there are not any great places to get Filipino food, just one place that is only OK. This Sunday he tried his hand at lemon grass chicken, which was a huge hit. Delicious!

The recipe comes from "New Asian Cooking" bought from Borders on clearance.

Stir-Fried Chicken with Lemon Grass, Ginger and Chili

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Total cooking time: 15-20 minutes
Serves 4

2 tablespoons oil
2 brown onions, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 in piece of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 stems lemon grass, very finely sliced (you can use frozen chopped lemon grass instead of fresh we found, but do not use dried out lemon grass stems)
2-3 teaspoons chopped green chilies
1 lb chicken thigh fillets, thinly sliced (chicken breast works ok too)
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon fish sauce

extra green chilies, fresh cilantro, and Vietnamese mint leaves (we didn't have mint leaves and it worked fine)

1. Heat the oil in a wok and add onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass, chilies. Stir for 3-5 minutes over medium heat, until the mixture is lightly golden. Take care not to burn the mixture or it will taste bitter.

2. Increase the heat, add the chicken slices and toss well. Be sure to cook this stir fry quickly in a very hot wok, or the chicken will stew in its own juices. Sprinkle the sugar over the chicken and cook for approximately 5 minutes, tossing regularly until just cooked.

3. Add the fish sauce, cook for another 2 minutes and serve garnished with sliced green chilies, fresh cilantro, and mint. Serve with steamed rice.

Speaking of rice, I dropped the lid to our old rice cooker a week ago and just shattered it. Jonathan has had this cooker for 9? 10? years and it's worked well, so I felt a little bad about it. Jon's old roommate and best friend from college, Ellis, bought it for him because Jonathan kept scorching the rice when he used a pot. Jon would start the rice, get distracted, and before you know it the rice was burning. If you've ever burned rice you know how terrible that smell is! Ellis, tired of smelling scorched rice, gave him the rice cooker.

Anyway after I broke the lid, Jonathan said not to worry, he could just use the pot method. Well, just like his college days, he burned it. So I immediately ordered him a new one. I bought a low end Zojirushi after reading the reviews, and we put it to the test yesterday. So far, so good.

Our kids are much less adventurous when it comes to food, so for them we made chicken skewers. My hat's off to my friend Kim for this easy, kid friendly recipe. Thanks Kim!

Chicken Skewers

3 chicken breasts
1 cup soy sauce
2 cups brown sugar

Soak your wooden skewers in water ahead of time for a few hours so they don't burn in the broiler. Combine the soy sauce and brown sugar. Cut the chicken into long strips, about 1/4 inch thick. Put them in the soy sauce mixture for a couple of hours. Thread the chicken on the skewers and place in the broiler for about 10 minutes.

Easy, easy, and the kids loved them.

Matthew, Melissa, and I went to an Asian grocery store Saturday night to collect the harder to find items like lemon grass. Unfortunately there isn't one nearby, so it was a good half hour drive. The one we found had a pretty good selection though and we walked away with more than we had on our list! Matthew spotted the pearl tapioca and just had to have it. I also found lumpia wrappers, various rice noodles, curry pastes, fat straws (for the pearl tea- which can be made as a fruit drink or a tea), cans of coconut milk, seasame oil, and more.

Today Matthew begged me to make bubble tea (minus the tea). We first tried it at a place called Pearlberry here in San Antonio and it's really a fun drink. At the bottom of a clear glass are large pearls of tapioca, and the drink is made of a milk based fruit smoothie. You use a large straw and the tapioca comes up through the straw, which you chew. The pearls are kind of like a soft gummy candy. Sounds weird, but it's very tasty.

Matthew decided to call it "bubble fruit" since we don't use tea.

Bubble Fruit

Cook tapioca according to directions and make the syrup. I found a good site here at Bubble Tea Supply with good directions.

Sugar syrup:

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups water

1. Mix sugar and water in a pot.
2. Cook on high heat
3. Once the mixture starts to boil remove from heat

After you've cooked the tapioca and the syrup, cover the tapioca with the syrup, reserving some for the drink. Let sit for a few minutes while you make the drink.

Strawberry/Mango Fruit drink (Rachel's concotion)

2 cups ice
2 fresh mangos (or frozen)
1-2 cups frozen strawberries
1 tbsp powdered milk
1/4- 1/2 cup sugar syrup
milk to cover the mixture in the blender

blend until smooth

Now put it all together!

Use four clear glasses. With a slotted spoon scoop out the tapioca pearls and place roughly 1/4 cup in each glass. Pour the strawberry mango drink on top and place an extra wide straw in each glass. Enjoy!

It's really a beautiful drink and I wished I'd remembered to take pictures. Oh well, next time.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


  • "I'm just a little child. Jesus would tell me come sit on his knee!"
  • "If you were a giant, you wouldn't fit in your house!"
  • At the movie theater, to the woman on her right: "Where's you kids?" "My daughter's right here," the woman said, indicating to the teenager next to her. "Oh. You kid's big!" "Yes," the woman agreed. "She grew and grew!" "Yes," said the woman, "but she'll always be my little girl."

Keepin' Busy Day 3

Matthew looking philosophical:

Went to the zoo yesterday. We left early in the morning to avoid the heat, but it was still a hot, muggy day. It really is the humidity. Didn't seem to deter the crowds though. We left the zoo around noon and braved the swarm of humanity heading towards the zoo. We played it smart; got there early and went to the back of the zoo first, effectively beating the worst of the heat and the crowds. Matthew and Melisa had a good time. Isaac got bored before the end so I had to push the stroller with one hand and hold the Isaac with the other. He's heavy!

Feeding the parrots:

Isaac petting the goat:

After the zoo we all took a break for a while. Matthew spent much of the afternoon drawing. We left for the airport to pickup Daddy late that afternoon and then stopped by the body shop to pick up my car which was in the shop all week. About a month ago I was rear ended at a light by a teen driver. She didn't stop to exchange information, but fortunately I got the license plate before she sped off. Thankfully she was insured and they covered the cost of repair and a rental. Took care of another ding at the same time which of course we paid for. They did a fantastic job, and it looks great! I am a happy woman! Our old Ford Taurus had a largish dent in it (that I didn't put there) for nearly the entire four years we owned it. Bugged me every time I drove it. So I'm very happy that our minivan looks great.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Keepin' Busy Day 2

It's late and my Pumpkin hasn't turned into a pumpkin yet...

Took the crew swimming. Matthew wants to learn how to swim and Melissa wants to learn anything Matthew does. Tomorrow I hunt around for swimming lessons.

It was kind of a laid back day today. Matthew, Melissa, and Isaac were all super easy.

Per Matthew's request we had quiche for dinner. "It's my favorite Mom! You cook the best foods ever, even better than restaurant food!" That's right butter me up, works like a charm. He's learning you catch more Mommies and Daddies with honey- something his sister picked up on much earlier than he. Per Melissa's request chocolate pudding (with whipped cream!) for dessert.

So far we have no set plans for tomorrow. Need to come up with something interesting to do. Maybe a trip to the zoo...

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Keepin' Busy Day 1

Jonathan is out of town on business so I took the kids to the McNay Art Museum to keep the darlins' busy and not climbing the walls. Before we set off for the museum we went over the cardinal rules. 1. Speak in an indoor voice. 2. Look, ask questions, say what you think, but don't touch!!!

I left with only moderate expectations from the art museum.

I was impressed.

They had a number of works by Picasso, Renoir, Rousseau, Toulouse-Lautrec, and a gorgeous, large Monet painting of water lilies. There were a many other famous and semi-famous artists on display as well. The McNay also boasted of a large Edward Gorey collection with an area set aside for children to make their own "Gorey" scenes with backgrounds and cut out characters. I'm a bit oblivious to the art world and had never heard of him. His work is filled with odd, amusing characters, ridiculous circumstances and a fair bit of black humor. In some respects his work reminds me just a bit of Gary Larson, albeit with much more artistic ability. A word of caution, the tales for children are not really for children, and are a touch too macabre for the elementary age set.

The museum also contains artifacts dating back to the 1500s, quite a bit of modern art and sculpture, a section of religious alter art, and a portion we didn't even explore. The curators were quite helpful, and some of them loved explaining details and hidden pictures and meanings to the kids. According to Matthew and Melissa, the highlight of the trip were the scuplture and pond gardens. To their credit, Matthew and Melissa behaved very well in the museum. I let them blow off some steam outside and race along the beautiful grounds. Apparently many couples use the grounds as a backdrop to wedding and engagement pictures, and I can see why.

So it was successful first trip to an art museum (I took Matthew once to the Springville Art Museum, but he was a baby, so I don't count it). Next time I go though, I leave the kids and make it a date. Then Jonathan and I can lesuirely enjoy the works.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Big Rygg

Isaac is wearing some of the clothes Matthew wore at 2.

This was Matthew's favorite pair of pajamas. They fit him for over a year and he wanted to wear them all the time. He even remembered them when I pulled them out of the box. Matthew is about 2 1/2 in the picture. Isaac is 10 months.

The Third Child

1st baby: No sugary treats before a year of age and even then only a small taste every once in a while.

2nd baby: Occasional treat before first birthday on special holidays.

3rd baby: Baby pilfers his own treat from the opened pantry in the span of 1 minute. It was in a closed box on a shelf. Mom doesn't have the heart to take away his ill gotten goods. Baby happily demolishes it into a soggy, sticky mess. Happy baby.

Yes that is a green ice cream cone, and yes I let him finish it. He enjoyed it thoroughly.

Monday, June 08, 2009


  • I met a Frenchman from another division of Rackspace. He spent 18 months on Tahiti and said I'm the first person he's met in the USA who's been there. I was pleased that he didn't need to revert to English for our conversation. It would be cool to live somewhere I could practice another language.
  • Wii fit announced that I have lost 30 pound in the six months since I last stepped on it. Rachel suggests that this is due more to the carpet in our new living room than amazing changes to my physique. Killjoy.
  • Matthew: "Can I have bacon for breakfast?" Me: "Sure, if you eat it with something else." Matthew: "How about bacon with milk?"
  • Last Friday we went on our first date since Isaac was born. When we got home, Isaac was yelling his unhappiness at the sitter. He can't talk, of course, but he sure made it clear how glad he was to see us: he kept crawling from one of us to the other, making happy noises, until he fell asleep.
  • Last Sunday I cooked Thai beef salad for dinner. Rachel feared the worst after I carbonized the first two pieces of meat, but the next four were perfect. Tasty salad.
  • Matthew was elated to discover that you can buy a *real* cell phone at walmart for $20. Then crushed to discover that it would cost $10/m to actually be able to use it (the price to add another line to our family plan). Some things are just out of reach when your allowance is $2/week.
  • Our lawnmower died. Rachel had it repaired; the mechanic said Ethanol additives had killed it. Hurrah for biofuels.
  • Matthew volunteered to dust to earn money for a nerf gun. He was given strict instructions to only dust the furniture, but he sprayed everything within reach. Casualties included wedding pictures, imperfectly protected by their frames.
  • At about 7 AM, Melissa called down: "Matthew doesn't want to wake up! You wake him up, Daddy!" Needless to say I was quick to explain when you wake up your brother during summer vacation: you don't.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Lazy Saturday

Just some pictures I snapped yesterday:

"Isaac pinned me! Take a picture mom!" They were "wrestling." Matthew loves having a brother.

Some Melissa art for your viewing pleasure. Daddy is to the left with all of the facial hair. Wearing a pink dress no less. FYI, Jonathan is not a cross dresser nor does he sport a full beard. Little artistic license going. Melissa is in the middle and I am to the right. She drew a baby in my tummy. Just to clarify, we are NOT expecting another one! The two smiley heads towards the top are our "dogs" she explained.

Isaac falls asleep in the oddest positions. His choice.

A view from our bedroom window.

Dear little girl,

Gave Melissa some cute pink scrubs with a lab jacket and working stethoscope for her birthday. She loves to dress up and we're trying to steer her away from the whole "princess" thing. It's tougher than one would think. Walk down any toy isle devoted to girls and you're instantly assaulted by Disney princesses, barbie princesses, glittery shoes, tiaras, tutus, ballgowns, faux makeup... ad nasuem. And it's all PINK! PINK! PINK! (with a smattering purple thrown in for good measure). Bleh. Even though we don't watch television, she's bought into the princess mentality.

Little girl, there's a great big world beyond the tiara!

She's pretty cute as "Dr. Melissa," I think...

Little one, grow up to be a doctor, nurse, engineer, artist, businesswomen, professor, mechanic, architect, chemist, speech therapist, novelist, or any other honorable profession. But please, please, not a princess! The world does not need any more drama queens or damsels in distress.

Become a strong women.

Isaac: "Hmm. Knew I shouldn't have picked the HMO plan!"

Friday, June 05, 2009

Last Day of Kinder*

Matthew had a great year in his class. His teacher sent me an email saying "Matthew has been such a joy to have. I have never met such a wonderful little boy in all my years. You have truly mastered great parenting in my eyes."

Wow. Little does she know. Matthew is a good kid- but great parents? Hah! Good thing she doesn't read the Savage Peanut! Fortunately Matthew seems to be doing well despite his amateur parents.

Matthew with his teacher on the last day of kinder.

At the awards ceremony on Tuesday Matthew received the "good citizenship" award. 12 kids out of 6 kindergarten classes received one.

Matthew informed us that on the last day they were just going to do "fun things." We teased him and said, "How boring not to learn anything. How about you stay home? You can learn at home." He was horrified at the prospect. Miss the last day of school? Never!

I'm glad that he had a good year despite changing schools 3 times, a brother in the hospital and then home under stressful circumstances, moving cross country, and everything else that has occurred in this nutty year.

*Kindergarten is called "kinder" here.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009


About 10 days ago, I forgot my iPhone was on my leg when I stood up in the dining room, dropping it onto the tile floor. I've dropped it on the tile before once or twice and escaped unscathed, but this time it struck Just Right and shattered the glass touch panel. Other than that, it still worked. I put scotch tape over the broken area to prevent getting glass shards in my fingers and continued to use it.

The glass panel is a $40 part but Apple charges $200 to do the repair. I decided to gamble and do it myself. When the part arrived, I had a brief moment of sanity: "Rachel, could you fix my phone for me?" She replied that I knew as much as she did, but if I insisted, she would give it a try.

I should have insisted.

The place that sold the glass panel has an instruction video on youtube showing how to do the repair. It was the "pry open the case" part that tripped me up. There are two places you can pry open an ipod. The obvious one, to my eye, is the slight groove between the chrome band and the black plastic base. This is the wrong one. The right one is actually the border between the glass panel and the chrome border. If you force the wrong one open stubbornly enough, you will break your iphone permanently.

I was stubborn enough.

My mother in law and my dad agree where I went wrong: "You should have let your wife fix it."

Aftermath: the rumor sites all agree that Apple is on the verge of releasing the next-gen iphone, so I didn't get a replacement 3G model. I tried to get a used 1G, actually, since it was cheaper and I'm mostly around wifi anyway, but it didn't work with my sim card and I didn't feel like gambling anymore. So for now I am using a $20 gophone from wal-mart with my iphone sim. It is pretty low-end, lacking even dedicated volume controls, but I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it actually does have a usable speakerphone.