jen's bourbon balls

Well friend Jen is over on Design*Sponge again with another amazing looking recipe, this time for Gold-dusted Orange-scented Boubon Balls. YUM! And, as always, her photographs make me want to climb into the computer and nosh. Luckily, Stella and I are heading to Jen's house this afternoon for a cookie-making party so I won't have to wait too long for one of Jen's sweet treats. Yay for foodie friends!

[photo: Jen Martine]


oh to be there...

So I've been battling a nasty sinus infection for almost two weeks. I'm really ready to not be blowing my nose every 5 minutes because a.) it's annoying and b.) the delicate skin under my nose is chaffed and raw and cracking. After multiple nights of enduring congestion so intense that my teeth were in pain, I cranked up our humidifier last night and snorted some homeopathic nasal spray. Being sick is not fun.

Also, it's cold in Oakland. Bone-chilling cold.

It's no wonder I've started daydreaming about being someplace hot and relaxing. This place is looking pretty dreamy right about now...

Am I right, or am I right?

[image via Tablet]


christoph waltz on fresh air

Did you listen to Terry Gross' Fresh Air interview with Christoph Waltz that aired yesterday? I was totally entertained. In Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds, Waltz played SS officer Hans Landa (conversant in German, French and English) with exacting and frightening aplomb. What a performance. I'm looking forward to seeing Tarantino's next, Django Unchained in which Waltz plays a German bounty hunter. No doubt his performance will be just as electrifying.

[image: The Weinstein Company]


"our walking hearts"

From Jessica Valenti's post for The Nation:
When President Obama gave his speech at the vigil in Newtown last night, I was glad that he repeated the saying likening parenthood to having your heart walking around outside of your body. It’s a quote I’ve thought of often since having my daughter - an especially apt sentiment when thinking about the incredible lack of control we have over what will happen to our children.
But if it’s fear that drives us to end this culture of violence and death, so be it. We should all be afraid, every day. Because until all kids are safe, none are. Until all children in all neighborhoods are protected - not just from mass shootings, but from all gun violence - we should not feel at peace.
As President Obama said last night, “we come to realize that we bear a responsibility for every child because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours.” We feel comfortable sending out children out into the world because the social contract tells us others will step in when we can’t. That’s what the teachers at Sandy Hook did. Maybe we’re afraid because we’re not holding up our end of the bargain.
If it’s fear that’s our initial motivator, though, let it be love that gives us the strength to put a stop to all of this. Because while fear is fleeting, love is not. And if we keep the love of our children at the front of our minds, maybe then we can remember that other children are just as fiercely-loved - that they’re all our responsibility, our walking hearts, exposed and in need of protection.
A poem from Adrienne Maree Brown, love letter to the babies/they are all ours, has been playing over in my mind recently, this section in particular:
and then you came. from other wombs and other stories, but i knew you were also mine. i held you in my arms for the first time, felt your weight upon my chest, the shape of your whole fluttering life becoming solid in my hands. and i realized my ideas and theories would never come to life soon enough. to love a child is to know the limitations of time, and the horror of being in a particular moment of time, a hollowed out age where babies are collateral damage for borders and egos, among other things.
everyday the world reminds me that i cannot protect you. i don’t know if protecting children has been possible yet on this earth. i just believe that what we do, or allow to possibly be done, to our babies, in this world, at this time – that is the measure of our humanity.
It’s natural that we want to protect our own children. But it’s imperative that we seek to protect all of them. Only then will we have nothing to fear.


surviving sandy

Check out the beautiful and elegiac video HEIST (Jordan's production company) shot for Friends of the Earth a few weeks ago right after Hurricane Sandy for the Climate Stories series. Pretty moving stuff...


the event of a thread, ann hamilton

I love everything Ann Hamilton creates. This installation, the event of a thread, at the Park Ave Armory is no exception. If you're in New York, go swing. You have until Jan. 6th...

[via Melissa de la Fuente]


stella turns 2!

Stella taking a little nap
Newborn Stella

1-year-old Stella in Buenos Aires

This little person is almost 2-years-old.
Stella, a few days before turning 2
This is the result of "smile for the camera" which makes me infinitely happy...
Stella's "smile for the camera" face

No doubt I will be saying this until the day I die, but time really does move so very, very fast. The past two years have, indeed, flown by. Every single day I feel so lucky and grateful to be raising our girl, to be sharing her firsts and witnessing the leaps and changes as she becomes more and more a toddler.

At two, Stella loves to question. "What's that Mommy?" and "What's that sound Mommy?" punctuate my day. Most times she isn't satisfied with my answer. "That's a book, Stella." What's that Mommy?" I look closer at the book where she's pointing, "That's a word on the cover of the book." "What's that Mommy?" she'll say, pointing again. "Those are letters and letters make words and those words are on the cover of the book." When she asks again I give up and go back to "that's a book." On a walk through our neighborhood the other day she heard a helicopter and said, of course, "what's that sound Mommy?" "A helicopter,"  I told her. "What's that sound, Mommy?" "A helicopter in the sky, Stella," I said. "What's that sound Mommy?" I turned the stroller around and pointed up at the sky, "You see the helicopter in the sky? It looks like a plane but it's smaller? That's making the sound you're hearing with your ears." But she wasn't satisfied, "what's that sound, Mommy?" "A helicopter," I said, walking on.

I've learned that I have to pick my battles every day. She must let me brush her teeth, crying fits be damned, but I will wait an extra few minutes as I put her in the car so she can buckle the car seat herself. After discovering that she doesn't like having her hair washed, Stella went on a no-bath strike for two weeks around Thanksgiving. I finally convinced her to take a bath by getting in it myself. Though I have yet to wash her hair...and it has been more than two weeks since her hair was last washed. Ah well...

Stella is starting to master imagination play. She acts out scenarios with her trains, with her tiger, with the animals that live in her red wooden play barn, and with random inanimate objects. She's currently obsessed with putting her things to bed. The question: "What are your trains doing all lined up like that?" gets the response: "They're going sleepytime." Sometimes she'll announce "Tiger's going to sleep on my shoulder. I'm going to sing him a song." I laugh when she cradles my cell phone in her arms and says earnestly, "telephone is sleeping."

Her pronunciation of Stella sounds like Stedda. Stedda is very good at giving commands and referring to herself in the third person. "Mommy, tickle Stedda," she'll say as she gleefully prepares herself for a tickle onslaught. "Stedda was crying," she'll tell me after a teary tantrum. "Carry Stedda down the stairs, Mommy." You get the picture.

Stella now goes to sleep in her toddler bed. I am slowly trying to wean her which hasn't been so easy. I still nurse her a few times during the day but I'm actively trying to divert her attention away from "boobie." At this point she doesn't nurse for nutrition, just for comfort and closeness. At night she isn't waking up to nurse anymore which means she is finally sleeping almost through the night, from about 7pm until 6:30 am. She usually wakes up once and we bring her into bed with us and she falls back asleep until around 5am when I will nurse her so that I can get another hour of sleep. The silly thing is I still love nursing Stella, I love the little interactions that can only happen with her so still and so close. And we truly love having her in our bed. We inevitably smile at each other over her snoozing form and lean-in to inhale her heavenly baby scent. But it's time for change. She's getting older and bigger and we need more space. It's a process.

One thing Stella loves to say is "I do it myself." She says this when she wants to put on her own socks, when she wants to climb into the car unassisted, and whenever she feels the urge to assert her independence. The other day at the park I was standing about 5 feet away from the play structure watching Stella prepare herself to go down the slide when another child's grandmother took Stella's hand to guide her down. Stella looked a little confused at first but took the lady's hand and slid. She rounded the play structure, climbed the stairs and got into position at the top of the slide. The nice lady was standing there waiting to help Stella down the slide once more when Stella looked at her and said, "I do it myself." Then, unassisted, she slid.

Some things Stella loves right now:
Train and carousel rides
Max & Ruby (especially when baby bunny Huffington is involved)
Jingle Bells
Any food smothered in cheese
Outings with her Aunt Olivia
Her ladybug rain boots
Running laps around the dining room table
I'm a little tea pot
Getting a stamp on her hand after story-time every week
Dancing, always dancing
Going through tunnels and announcing "I'm going through a tunnel!"
Destroying my block towers
Her Daddy

Happy birthday to our Stellagirl.


cities calendar

Rifle Paper Co. nails it every time. This Cities Calendar is going on my want list.

chopped salad

Seriously tasty chopped salad

The pizza place in our neighborhood makes a really good chopped salad. It's so crunchy and clean tasting I often crave it throughout the week.

So this week I decided to create my own chopped salad. And I am hooked.

Chopped Salad

6 butter lettuce leaves, chopped
3 radicchio leaves , chopped
3 radishes, chopped
1/2 a red bell pepper, chopped
1/2 a cucumber, chopped
5 baby tomatoes, chopped
Small handful of crumbled feta
Small handful of parsley, chopped
2 strands of chives, chopped
A dollop of grainy mustard
A drizzle of olive oil
A splash of champagne vinegar
Salt & Pepper to taste

It's seriously so good. I can't wait to experiment with other variations.


oh blog...

Oh blog, you are so neglected.

I'm struggling these days to find the motivation to write here. More often than not I use the few minutes of time to myself to curl up and read instead of spend time on the computer. Maybe it's the gray, rainy weather. Maybe it's that feeling that you put something like a blog post out into the world and it just sits there. Sometimes a little satisfaction comes with an acknowledgement from a friend "I loved that post" or "I bought that because I saw it on your blog!" Other times I feel like a neglectful parent, ignoring the blog and feeling the wonder of my family and friends: "why isn't she posting?"

I was thinking about all this today as I was driving home from an outing. I was thinking about what to post next but also pondering the New York Times' 100 Notable Books of 2012 list. Of the 100 books listed I've read all of half of 1 book. Half of 1 book out of 100. And I call myself a reader?! Yikes. How many have you read?

These days I am gravitating more towards mysteries than literary fiction. The fast-paced action moves me through a book at a quicker clip than plodding emotionalism, experimental plot devices, and over-done descriptions. Years ago, when I only read literary fiction, my friend Melissa would expound on the greatness of a well-written police procedural. I didn't understand at the time. But I do now.

This is all to say that I hope to be a better blogger and a faster reader (so many books so little time, right?).  Because, really, this nightstand book situation is getting a little out of control:

This nightstand book situation is getting a little out of control.



The Family Pants
Getting our fix at Happy Coffee
Well hello there! Did you have a nice week? We spent Thanksgiving and this past weekend in Denver with Jordan's family. It was lovely to get away, catch up, eat good food, see friends, and explore the city.


new cookbooks

I'm so excited to test out the three cookbooks I got for my birthday.

From my Mom & Dad:

Because I love the blog... The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.
Because my friend Andie made me a dish from this that was super delish.

And from Melissa:
Because Melissa is my canning guru, and apparently Marisa McClellan is her canning guru. 
Any cookbooks you are loving at the moment? Please share! I'm always looking for new inspiration in the kitchen.

maps of the 2012 US presidential election results

This is fascinating...
Most of us are, by now, familiar with the maps the TV channels and web sites use to show the results of presidential elections. Here is a typical map of the results of the 2012 election:

The states are colored red or blue to indicate whether a majority of their voters voted for the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, or the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama, respectively. Looking at this map it gives the impression that the Republican won the election handily, since there is rather more red on the map than there is blue. In fact, however, the reverse is true – it was the Democrats who won the election. The explanation for this apparent paradox, as pointed out by many people, is that the map fails to take account of the population distribution. It fails to allow for the fact that the population of the red states is on average significantly lower than that of the blue ones. The blue may be small in area, but they represent a large number of voters, which is what matters in an election.
We can correct for this by making use of a cartogram, a map in which the sizes of states are rescaled according to their population. That is, states are drawn with size proportional not to their acreage but to the number of their inhabitants, states with more people appearing larger than states with fewer, regardless of their actual area on the ground. On such a map, for example, the state of Rhode Island, with its 1.1 million inhabitants, would appear about twice the size of Wyoming, which has half a million, even though Wyoming has 60 times the acreage of Rhode Island.
Here are the 2012 presidential election results on a population cartogram of this type:
As you can see, the states have been stretched and squashed, some of them substantially, to give them the appropriate sizes, though it's done in such a way as to preserve the general appearance of the map, so far as that's possible. On this map there is now clearly more blue than red.
The presidential election, however, is not actually decided on the basis of the number of people who vote for each candidate but on the basis of the electoral college. Under the US electoral system, each state in the union contributes a certain number of electors to the electoral college, who vote according to the majority in their state. (Exceptions are the states of Maine and Nebraska, which use a different formula that allows them to split their electoral votes between candidates.) The candidate receiving a majority of the votes in the electoral college wins the election. The electors are apportioned among the states roughly according to population, as measured by the census, but with a small but deliberate bias in favor of less populous states.
We can represent the effects of the electoral college by scaling the sizes of states to be proportional to their number of electoral votes, which gives a map that looks like this:

[Mark Newman, Department of Physics and Center for the Study of Complex Systems, University of Michigan]

Read more and see more maps here...


a very merry birthday weekend

I took a brief post-election (yay!), pre-birthday blog hiatus last week. It was a nice, much needed reprieve. My Mom arrived midweek. We went fabric shopping (I'm going to make Stella a Christmas stocking), she accompanied us to Stella's music class, she made us amazing dinners... what a treat! On Saturday night my parents took Stella so that J and I could celebrate my birthday together in the city. We booked ourselves into Hotel Vitale and ate a late dinner at Slanted Door (always a favorite). On Sunday, my parents and Stella met us for coffee and book browsing and brunch at the Ferry Building before venturing over to the California Academy of Sciences. Here's to being 34...
Happy early birthday present to me!
Happy birthday to ME! I treated myself to this Skinny laMinx bag.
Good morning 34! #birthday
Good morning San Francisco
Butterfly gazing
Butterfly gazing
Looking at fishes
Fish gazing
 Did you have a good weekend?



on raising a prodigy

This article in the NYT by Andrew Solomon called "How Do You Raise A Prodigy?" struck a chord (sorry, the pun came too easy). 

I started playing the cello when I was 4 1/2. I wasn't a bad musician, but I was far from a prodigy. A little musical ability and no desire to practice long hours everyday didn't get me very far, but I continued taking lessons through high school, attended a highly regarded youth orchestra every week, went to cello and chamber music summer camps (nerd alert), and won a little scholarship in college so that I could continue taking lessons. 

But back to this idea of raising a prodigy... There was a girl prodigy (if not a prodigy then uber talented) who studied cello with my teacher. She started a few years after me, and was two years younger. By the time she was eight she was playing, beautifully, Saint-Saëns' Cello Concerto No. 1 (here's Jackie duPre playing it), a piece I didn't play until my last year in high school. It was always with awe and a little fear that would watch her play in recitals. In high school, she sat first chair in our orchestra and performed the Elgar Cello Concerto (here's Yo-Yo Ma playing it with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in '97) in a solo concert backed by our orchestra. She played Haydn flawlessly for Yo-Yo Ma in a masterclass and after she was finished he said, "so, what are you doing tonight?" A joke, of course, that she could take his place in the concert he was playing that evening. I know this because the exchange was written up in the Los Angeles Times. She was that good. 

But she also practiced 5+ hours a day. She woke up early so that she could get two solid hours in before school, and then came home to a few more. Her mother would bribe her to practice with the promise of new clothes. If she won a competition she would get a new car, etc. I don't know if she still plays the cello. We lost touch when I went off to college. The last I heard she's quit playing, she'd burned-out.

I don't know if there's a good or right way to raise a prodigy. But I can't help but nod with Andrew Solomon when he finishes the article with this:
"Half the prodigies I studied seemed to be under pressure to be even more astonishing than they naturally were, and the other half, to be more ordinary than their talents. Studying their families, I gradually recognized that all parenting is guesswork, and that difference of any kind, positive or negative, makes the guessing harder. That insight has largely shaped me as a father. I don’t think I would love my children more if they could play Rachmaninoff’s Third, and I hope I wouldn’t love them less for having that consuming skill, any more than I would if they were affected with a chronic illness. But I am frankly relieved that so far, they show no such uncanny aptitude."
[Photo illustration by Peter Yang for The New York Times]


lisa congdon for hygge & west

Although we went the dark gray route on our living room walls (and absolutely LOVE it), I still pine after beautiful wallpaper, especially designs with gold accents like the wallpaper Lisa Congdon designed for Hygge & West. Gorgeous!

[via Design*Sponge]


sea ranch

We spent a relaxing weekend with our friends Devon and Simon and their son Ari up the coast of California at Sea Ranch. We cooked some great meals, read lots of stories, took walks down to the beach and to the tide pools, feasted on homemade apple galette and pumpkin pie, explored a driftwood beach fort, watched the Giants take the World Series, played Bananagrams, went to the pool, took the babes for rides in the wagon, and had way too much fun together. 
Sea Ranch weekend
Beach fort
Fort plaque
Devon + Ari
Baby toss