Thursday, July 28, 2011

Book Review #1: Edition what was supposed to be on The Forgotten Garden is actually on Moo, Baa, La La La

I just read a whole book.

This may seem like a small achievement to most, but barely having tucked my first year of motherhood in my belt, this is an accomplishment indeed.

Usually I am an avid reader.  It is probably the reason I became a teacher.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are gleaning new titles from book shop owners after running out of books to read at my own house and school library (wow - nerd alert!).  And now, for the first time in my life, I am finding that I have stacks of un-read books on my bedside table.

To be fair, I have read some of all of them.  That is except for The Dawkins Delusion - shocking, I know.  Apparently I go for young adult (YA) fiction over academia.  Now we see why I'm not getting my PhD too though most of you didn't need evidence.
For fun, I snapped a photo of Taylor's bedtime reading.  He loves to be reading a million books at once, so it has one thing in common with my side.

Further evidence of why he is getting his PhD and not me.
(The one  YA novel is purely due to my influence - we are reading it aloud together and are on about page 5. because I can't tear him away from his 5th reading of The Lord of the Rings.)

I am pleased to find that after passing the year mark, I'm finding time to read something longer than a blog post here and there (though I am super thankful for the invention of the blog so that my reading material goes beyond Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See and Goodnight Moon - not that I don't love reading with Seth; it is one of my favorite things to do!)  Recently, after an animated lesson on "Books: A Survey on Your Feelings about Reading" for the conversational English class I teach, some Chinese students asked me when I first started reading to Seth.  I had learned from our conversation that it isn't common in China to read aloud in families.  When I told them I had started reading to Seth immediately after he was born, they were amazed.

Seth is the baby on the left and cousin Caroline is on the right.

Seth's love for reading makes this former lit teacher's heart so happy.  He would rather look at books than play with toys!  He has recently started interrupting my housework by holding out a book to me with a look of such earnestness that of course I comply.  I mean seriously housework or reading to this guy?  Easy choice.

And I get this face if I don't comply immediately.

He has actually paused the writing of this post about twenty times so that I can read Things That Move or Peepo.  We actually read Peepo so many times in the past 48 hours that he now has part of it memorized.

His favorite book though is Moo, Baa, La La La and I have to commend his choice as it may be the only book that I can actually get through the sentence on the page before he is turning to the next one.  That Sandra Boynton is a genius!  He has also memorized sections of this book too.  My favorite part is when he starts wagging his finger while adamantly saying, "No, no!'  when we get to the page where the pigs are said to say "oink" instead of "la la la." Can you guess what Little Man hears a lot these days?

Pause my music before clicking play on the video if you want to see Seth "read."

So this was going to be a book review on Kate Morton's The Forgotten Garden, but I think I will save it for it's very own post tomorrow.

Read to your kids (no matter what age)!!

American readers, go and visit Elizabeth's blog to enter her giveaway - it closes July 31st!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Separation Anxiety

My mom warned me that around 7 months, Seth may develop a bit of separation anxiety.  At that point he would basically go to anybody and didn't even look back when I dropped him off at our church creche (nursery).  The creche volunteers always gushed with compliments about how content and happy Seth was when I would come to pick him up.

I was pleased that he was so sociable and that I was able to attend church and not worry about him being upset, but a small part of me wished that he missed me a little wee bit.  I would mention this to my friends on occasion, and they would exhort me to be thankful that he was so easy going.

At 11 months, he even went easily to the nursery of my parents church back in Houston when we came to visit though I'm sure having Liddy in his class helped.  When I went to pick him up, he was leaning against the nursery workers knee as she rocked another baby boy who had been crying since his mom dropped him off.  Seth wasn't even joining in with a sympathy cry.  He just kept on happily eating the cheerios she was feeding him.  I thought surely we had missed the separation anxiety phase altogether. Haha. Hahahah. Hahahahahahaa.

Once he hit 12 months, the proverbial switch was flipped.   We had started moving him from the bottle to the sippy cup, and bam - he wouldn't for the life of him stay in the creche any longer without getting totally upset.  At first I chalked it up to missing the bottle and needing the extra comfort of mom to cope with his rapidly changing world of whole milk and sippy cups, but it's now been a month and a half, Seth has successfully moved to the sippy cup, but still will not stay in the creche without Taylor or me.  And maybe we created this monster a bit ourselves because besides going to the creche, we typically used only one sitter for Seth, the lovely Edinburgh Uni graduate Heather, and unfortunately she moved back to the States July 6th.

This month we have a really big conference for work, and so, a sitter is necessary for Seth on occasion.  My mom had planned on coming for 3 weeks in July, so I didn't really worry about leaving Seth because I knew he'd do well with her.   Due to the unfortunate merger between United Airlines and Continental,  her flight got cancelled about 4 days before she was to arrive.   Bummer on multiple levels.

This has majorly limited my involvement with our team for the conference, but I try to tote Seth along as much as possible and go to the night stuff while Taylor is home and able to watch Seth.  But we had one conflict that merited a babysitter.  I was to teach a seminar for the conference that overlapped with Taylor's duty as team leader.  We had to find a sitter.  My gracious friend, Zoha, offered to watch him for us, and I felt so relieved that the Lord provided someone so quickly.  My seminar was on a Monday and the Sunday before at creche, Seth cried inconsolably until one of us went back in there with him.  I didn't want to subject Zoha to the inevitable misery that would most likely happen the next day when I left.  I started wracking my brain for alternatives.  We realized that Taylor didn't have to actually stay for my seminar, so we would only need help for an hour.  Immediately, my friend Sarah came to mind.  She has watched Seth in the past for me (before the separation anxiety started), and since she lives in our family housing complex, Seth sees her on a very regular basis, and he LOVES playing with her kids and husband.  I knew he'd be distracted by them and hoped he wouldn't be upset that I wasn't there too.  Sarah heartily agreed to watch him for us.

An hour before my seminar was to start, I dropped him off with a bag full of tricks: his favorite toys, books, sippy cup of milk, craisins, and not one paci, but two (he's quirky like that).   Sarah's husband, Andrej, met me at the door and Seth immediately lunged for him.  Off to a great start.  Andrej happily took him off my hands, and I told Sarah what was in the bag.  The second Seth saw 3 year old Hannah down the hall, he wiggled out of Andrej's arms and toddled down the hall as fast as his short little legs could carry him - without even a glance in my direction I should add!  The second he reached the threshold of the kids' room, he thrust both arms up in air pointing towards the sky like he was thanking the Lord he was there and then joined the fray.  Sarah smiled at me and assured me he'd be OK.  I took that opportunity to sneak out before Seth realized I wasn't staying too.


My seminar went off without a hitch, and by the end of it, I had no urgent texts or missed phone calls from Sarah.  Praise the Lord!

Now, I did come to find out that after Jason left (he is another of our neighbors that Seth loves), Seth burst into tears until Taylor picked him up, but Sarah is such a champ, she didn't even complain about it. I am so thankful for faithful friends like Zoha and Sarah!

And I have to report that thanks to the perseverance of our pastor's wife, Sally, who was on creche duty yesterday, Seth managed to stay in there the whole time with minimal tears.  Progess!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Huevos Rancheros

Friday night we invited our good friends and downstairs neighbors, Julio and Ligia (the "g" is pronounced as an "h"), to a Saturday brunch at our flat and boy was it well-timed. Seth decided to wake up at 5 am and cried for about 30 minutes straight.  This is not typical as we usually put him in bed with us if this happens so we can get more sleep, but Taylor thought it was time for us to stop rescuing him.  Instead, he made sure Seth had both pacis (extremely important detail for sleep inducement), and stood over his crib rubbing his back while Seth cried about the inhumanity of not being able to get up at 5 am. I cringed as I prayed he wouldn't wake up the whole building and fought not to disobey my husband and whisk Seth out of bed. I consoled myself with the fact that at least we could try to make up to Julio and Ligia with brunch.

Taylor volunteered to be in charge of breakfast, and I happily handed over the reigns of the kitchen.  He is a great cook but doesn't often have the time to make a full-fledged meal (I must say he helps me out a lot while I cook and always cleans up after me!)  Since this brunch was a little impromptu and I am sort of a planner (I'm not being ironic here - organized, I am not) when it comes to cooking for people, he knew this would be the best course of action in keeping a stress-free Saturday.  I just can't throw something together without at least one trip to the grocery store ahead of time.

Not because our kitchen is spare, but because I would probably be missing one really really important ingredient.  Like eggs.  Or butter.

OK, I'm not giving myself enough credit, because after Taylor asked (maybe this is the wrong word) me, "we probably don't have eggs..." as he started heating up the frying pan for HUEVOS Rancheros (for you non-Spanish speakers out there, huevos means eggs), I was able to point him to our fridge stocked with eggs. Ha!  Pretty good for the end of the week if I do say so myself.

Anyway, I decided I'd help him out since he got up with Seth and did the whole breakfast routine so I could sleep 30 minutes longer.  My contribution was salsa - our stash was majorly diminished due to it being the end of the week.  I even realized to my shock and delight that I had all of the ingredients to make Elizabeth's Cinnamon Buttermilk Muffins.  Uh, score!  Too bad I can't follow directions before drinking all of my coffee because I totally combined the butter and sugar for the topping because, well, I prefer my light and fluffy buttermilk muffins to be overpowered by a thick, chewy cinnamon sugar coating (irony has returned).

All in all I had enough butter and sugar left to re-do the topping, the huevos were perfect, and Julio and Ligia promised they didn't hear a peep from our flat this morning, so I think it was a success.

Taylor's Huevos Rancheros

Butter or cooking spray
Eggs - 2 per person
A bag of grated cheddar cheese
Tex-Mex Salsa
A package of tortillas

**Are you noticing the difference in how Taylor and I do recipes?  Totally different cooking styles indeed!

1. Warm tortillas in oven.
2. On medium heat, place frying pan on burner and melt butter.
3. Fry eggs over easy (yeah, I cannot fry an egg to save my life which is actually kind of sad because this is the only way I will eat them. I won't touch them if the yolk isn't runny.)
4. Place 2 eggs on top of warm tortilla, top with cheddar, top with salsa, dig in.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Homage to Hummus

Seth is a full contact eater.  I LOVE watching him eat.  Cleaning him up afterwards is a different story.

During meal times, we have been working on baby sign language inspired by my sis-in-law who did this with her girls and put in to practice thanks to Andrej and Sarah who loaned us some how-to DVDs. Seth loves "Signing Time with Alex and Leah" and has become a pro at:

"All done"



And by pro I mean, Taylor and I and sometimes Sarah understand him.

We are currently working on please and thank you, but he can basically say please already so he just says it (sometimes) instead. "Pees!"

My one beef so far with American sign language is "all done."  Food caked hands encouraged to go near clean hair = bad idea jeans.

Seth's new favorite food is hummus.  Encouraged by my friend, Kara, to give it to him in a bowl so that he can practice using a spoon, I gathered up my courage and tried it yesterday.  Finally.  (She told me about this back in April.) I had been wrestling through it because:

A) I didn't want to "spoon feed" Seth too long so I knew it needed to be tried soon, but...

B) I didn't want to clean up a huge mess

I don't know about the rest of you moms out there, but isn't this a central struggle in child-rearing -  doing what's easy over what's best?  Now,  I realize that letting Seth practice using a spoon is hardly a big character building exercise for him, but I was surprised to find that it was for me.  I like control.  I like things my way.  I like to avoid doing things that I don't like to do (ie cleaning the already clean kitchen floor, again.) But the Lord has gently been teaching me to let go (read Susannah's amazing post on letting go here)  and not be afraid of the mess.

So as I contemplated handing over the literal and proverbial spoon (and bowl - the major source of potential mess making), I realized that the decision was about choosing what is easier in the short run for me or what is better in the long run for Seth.  I mean, I can't send him to school one day without being able to use utensils, right? I'm so thankful to the Lord that He helps us with the letting go of control in little ways so that when I have to really let go 17 years from now when he heads off to college, I've had some {heart} practice.  I want to be a good mom and being a good mom doesn't mean doing everything for him his whole life especially when it's done out of avoiding a potential (or even probable) mess for me.  And right now, it's time for him to learn to use a spoon.  He was happy to oblige and to my surprise and delight, he was pretty good at it.  That is until he realized that he was much more efficient at shoveling the hummus in in larger more satisfying quantities by using his hands instead.

Rome wasn't built in a day, eh?

Here is his progress and a really yummy hummus recipe:

Spoon is discarded before I even have time to snap a photo

What Mom?  This is waaay easier.

Don't I look cute with hummus all over my face?

You know you think so

Look! I'm using an oat cake as my spoon!

You gotta try this stuff Mom.  It's delish!
I may also be excited about the monkey I just found at the bottom of my bowl.
So thanks to Pottery Barn Kids, a mess was avoided because even though the bowl ended up on the floor 3 times, all hummus stayed affixed to the bottom of the bottom heavy bowl that landed upright. Oh the wonders of modern baby paraphernalia.

Michael's Hummus
*This recipe comes via Susannah slightly adapted (by me) from the Mom-a-Licious cookbook by Domenica Catelli. Did you follow that? This cookbook gives great healthy eating recipes for kids - I love every recipe I've tried! Her kale recipe is to die for (spoken from a picky vegetable eater) and it's fast and easy!  Commercial over - no I was not paid for hyping this book.

Serves 6 (or 2 if Seth and I are involved)

1 can chickpeas, drained
1/4 c lemon juice
1 T tahini
2 cloves garlic
1/2 t cumin
1/3-1/2 c extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 t salt

Place ingredients in food processor or blender.  Pour EVOO thru top of food processor/blender while it's on high. Stop processing when it reaches desired consistency.

In the words of Seth, "Mmmmmmmmm!"

I thought I'd change it up a bit and show you that we do actually let him out of his high chair since many of my photos lately don't depict that crucial fact. And, how cute are those shoes?!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Limoncello Trifle

To illustrate yesterday's post on pudding confusion, one real life example of this happened with our dear friends Jared and Jane.  They are a native Scottish couple who have "adopted" us.  I work closely with women at the church Jared pastors.  We have been so blessed by  our relationship with their personal and church family.

At their son Ian's Cricket match

Go Ian!

How cute are they by the way?  I could just eat them up with a spoon!

Coolest school clubhouse ever

Seth is sopping wet from crawling around in the puddles

Jane and Jared have the love language of gift giving, and we have been  grateful benefactors of their generosity.  From stuffed animals and clothing for Seth, to cell phones and coffee grinders for us, possibly our favorite gift from them has been a "pudding" recipe.

We had been trying to get together for weeks but were having difficulty in aligning our schedules.  Jared suggested they just stop by our house after Seth had gone to bed and if we'd provide the tea and coffee, they'd bring the pudding.  We'd lived long enough in Scotland that weren't expecting jello pudding, but we weren't quite sure as to what they would bring.  

And oh were we glad when we tasted what they brought.  Jane had made us a Limoncello Trifle, and we were sold the minute we tasted it.  Its citrus-y flavor was my kind of dessert, and Taylor loves anything custard-y so Limoncello Trifle was a hit!  They graciously offered to pass on the recipe.  Now, I feel I can make proper "pudding."  And you can too if you're interested.  It's pretty, looks and tastes like you spent hours in the kitchen, but it's easy to make.  That is if you can find all of the ingredients and have a conversion chart :)

Limoncello Trifle

3 oranges
75 ml limoncello
100g sponge fingers
250g mascarpone
2 heaping Tbsp icing sugar (powdered sugar)
100 ml semi-skimmed milk (2%)
1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
A punnet of raspberries (a plastic container of raspberries)
1-100g bar of dark chocolate, shaved

1. Juice oranges into serving dish.  

I used a pie dish to give you an idea of about how big it should be.

2. Stir in limoncello.

I don't have a photo of me stirring it in because, well, I forgot it completely until I was further along in the process.  So if you're scatterbrained like me, it's apparently not a problem if you add it after step 3 because that is when I did.  Details, details.
3. Cover base of dish with sponge fingers.

(3 1/2. Add limoncello if you forgot to earlier)

4. In a separate bowl, mix cheese, sugar, and milk.  

5. Add finely grated lemon zest and juice from half of the lemon.  (Then give the other half to your one year old who is obsessed with lemon and doesn't even flinch while eagerly devouring it rind and all.)

5. (You see how I forgot the limoncello??)
6. Whisk in vanilla.

7. Spread mixture over fingers (the sponge fingers not your own).

8. Place raspberries on top and add grated chocolate.

No chocolate on this one - thought it was too pretty without it.

9. Chill in fridge.


Monday, July 11, 2011

Pudding Confusion

As I have mentioned before, we are learning English in our new country.  Here are some food related words that can potentially cause a considerable amount of trouble for the uninformed:


I know, right?  How can you possibly get into trouble with these words? I am glad you asked.

Disclaimer: the following scenarios are not based on real people we know and are purely made up and hypothetical.

Scenario #1: Tea


You are asked to tea by a Scottish family.  

"How British!" you think delightedly to yourself.  You eagerly accept as jumping right into the incessantly tea drinking culture is part of the reason you're here is it not?

"What time should I come?" you ask.

{Insert Scottish accent here}"How about half 6 (equals "half past 6" to the un-anglicised)," Angus and Shona reply.

Thinking how this will interfere with your rigidly scheduled dinner time for your own family, you hesitantly accept deciding you will just have to eat a little earlier tonight.  Tea and biscuits will be a very nice end to your meal.  You even forgo making dessert, your favorite course.

You and your family show up to the MacKay's house well fed and ready for some tea and biscuits when Shona shows you to the dining room where the table is spread for a full Scottish meal of steak pie, roasted carrots, and boiled potatoes.  There are even soft cheese covered oat cakes topped with smoke salmon for an appetizer.  You look over at your spouse with a weak smile and say a quick prayer to the Lord thanking him that your son's vocabulary is limited to "mama," "dada, "dog," "hi," and "no" not, "Moooom, we just ate dinner.  I'm too stuffed to eat again!"   

So you do the polite thing and eat the delicious if second meal with your new friends, and note to self: "Tea =dinner if scheduled during dinner time. Check."

Scenario #2: Pudding


You've just finished your "tea" at aforementioned friends' home and they offer you pudding.  Relieved that it isn't a tempting dessert because you're stuffed to the gills, you politely decline.  Thinking to yourself, "Shona sure looks like she has it all together; I'm glad I'm not the only one who looks to J.E.L.L.O. when life gets too busy. It's great to know that it's acceptable to do that for guests and not just family here in Scotland.  I'm really beginning to like this place!  It's so laid back."

Shona returns from the kitchen with the most delicious looking dessert.  Your mouth waters at the sight of it and wonder when the pudding is coming out and wait to be asked for a piece of that cake she just proffered.  The invitation is never extended.  You watch forlornly as the MacKay's youngest child, Finlay, asks for a second helping of the "sticky toffee pudding" and Shona scrapes up the last of the gooey cake and puts it on his plate. Trying to console yourself, you remember the fact that you ate dinner twice and can't afford pudding on top of that.

{Sticky Toffee Pudding via}

You look around the table as everyone, including your delighted one year old, is enjoying the last morsels of pudding and note to self: "don't decline pudding. Ever."

Scenario #3: Jelly


After the secret second dinner and pudding enjoyed by most, your family is so tired and full and is invited to stay the night to avoid having to wake up the sleeping baby who went down after pudding.  Waking him up to ride the bus back to your own flat seems like a terrible idea, so you accept.

The next morning you wake up and are offered tea or coffee and toast to go along with breakfast.  You agree to coffee and toast.  You are American after all.  You managed your tea quota after "tea" the night before.

When asked what you would like on your toast, you reply, "jelly would be lovely thank you."  You are pleased with yourself that you threw in a "lovely", and wait for your toast.  Your coffee is delivered to you.  It's not quite as black as you would have made it, but coffee made by someone else is fine by you.  You sip it and wonder what kind of jelly will be offered.  Angus brings in a nifty little toast holder that holds the toast triangles upright and places it in the middle of the table. As you reminisce back to elementary school when you envied the kid sitting next to you with his triangled PB and J, you help yourself to a piece, butter it, and then notice no jelly.  You wait a little longer, stomach growling a bit, but not wanting to be rude, you wait.  You wait a little longer.  

Then it dawns on you that maybe you were misunderstood, so you begin to eat your toast.  Angus gives you a sidelong glance, but when you catch his gaze, he just smiles at you.  You start to wonder what happened to Shona, and just as you finish the last bite of your third buttered piece of toast, she brings out some Jello - we're talking the jiggly kind.


"So sorry it took me so long to whip this up.  It must be an American tradition to eat jelly on toast.  We prefer jam.  Maybe because it spreads a little easier," Shona smiles.

You try to decide if you should just eat the jello or break it to her that Americans don't eat jelly on toast as you note to self: "jelly equals jello not jam."

Now to be fair the Scots are actually way more schooled in the use of American English and none of these scenarios have actually happened to us, but we have been confused in conversations about tea and so forth and surprised by the wonderful desserts brought out after being told that pudding was the next course.

Tomorrow, I'll fill you in on a real life story of pudding confusion complete with a recipe!