Tuesday, January 27, 2009


The boys were officially introduced to Star Wars this weekend. After months of showing them snippets on You Tube, we finally put it on and let them watch it all the way through (with heavy use of the fast-forward button, of course.) We watched in two installments, due to late starts. The title of this post is what Nels said when we were about to start it up on the second night. Shaun said, "What?" and he repeated it word for word. I'm not exactly sure what it means, but I can appreciate the fervor with which it was uttered.

Like the rest of the U.S. ( if my Facebook friends are any indication), we have had some bad germs around here. I would appreciate it if both boys could come down with it at once, but that never happens. Our quarantine is always twice as long as it could be. Just one more good reason for only having two kids.

I thought it was a pretty good indication of under-the-weather-ness when Nels made a bed for himself on the kitchen floor while I was cooking dinner. Not to be left out, Willem soon joined him. They proceeded to make some very serious telephone calls. I like how, despite their ages, the blankets, and the pillows, they still manage to look like they're trading on the stock exchange floor. Well done, fellows.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fixing Breakfast In the Dark

I didn't feel up to facing the overhead fluorescent light in our kitchen this morning, so I didn't turn it on...and ended up serving my kids toast with sugar and paprika.


Tuesday, January 20, 2009


Dieting + potty training Willem = brand new eye twitch.

Monday, January 19, 2009

O Happy Day

Apparently having decided that perhaps his soul WON'T be sucked into the plumbing along with anything else he might put in the toilet, His Royal Contrariness has deigned to squeeze a tiny poop into his potty chair.

It may not sound like much, but this is major.  The last time I had Willem's diaper off and he needed to go, he screamed and writhed as though he would disintegrate if he couldn't go in his diaper.

Last night at bedtime prayers together, I prayed that God would help him want to use the potty.

This morning he brought up his Raggedy Andy doll.

"Can he use the potty?" 


Next it was Bob the Builder's turn.

"Maybe you should show them how it's done," I suggested casually, and went downstairs to use the computer.

And, sure enough, he did.

Happy, happy day.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

This Is What Happens When Your Kids Receive "The New Bible In Pictures For Little Eyes" For Christmas

Willem shows me his latest Lego project:

"I'm making a cross where God dies.  I mean, I'm making a Lego airplane.  These are the wings."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Christmas Program In January

There is at least one event which in real life far outshines its depiction on TV or in movies.  That event, my friends, is the preschool Christmas program.

Watching a kid with a bowl cut digging for gold with half his finger inside his nose goes from "predictable" to "entertaining" when it's unscripted.  One experiences true suspense when the star of Bethlehem almost loses her skirt. And I had to wonder if one little girl's parents were to be commended for their foresight in dressing her in many layers, or if they'd just gotten lucky when she lifted only the top layer of sparkly tulle over her head.

Nels has always had a very theatrical personality (insert wisecrack about his parentage here) and I've always suspected that he'd take to the stage like a fish to water.  He was so excited about the Christmas program and the prospect of being on stage.  So of course I was full of anticipation to see what the experience would be like for him.

When he first came onstage with his class, it was to sing "Feliz Navidad" (or "Feliz Nobby Dob," as he likes to say it.)  He looked around for us with no success for a good long time, puffing out his cheeks like a blowfish all the while.  We've never seen him do that before.  Finally he spotted us, and his face just lit up.

"I want to wish YOU a Merry Christmas," he sang, pointing his finger emphatically, his arm completely outstretched.  I promise you, his eyes twinkled.  The kids sang on for what seemed like forever, chorus after chorus, and each time Nels looked me in the eye and pointed and smiled.

I don't know why this affected me so, but I could feel my face getting all warm and prickly.  It was almost embarrassing to have such a strong emotional reaction.  It's like what I've always imagined when some women describe the feeling of holding their baby in their arms for the first time.  When I first held my boys, I felt no rush of positive emotion.  I felt mad (Nels) and tired (Willem.)  Of course I have always loved my kids tremendously, but it was nice to be whacked over the head with the feeling of "You are my son, and to have you in my life to love is a miracle."

Wow, did Nels love being on stage.  Once or twice he went into opera mode, his mouth open as far as it could go and his eyes rolled back.  He also made several faces, as though he were acting out a scene.

In the photo below, Nels is either starting or wrapping up a grand bow.  No, none of the children were asked to bow.  Yes, after every song he sang, Nels grabbed the hand of the friend next to him and initiated an elaborate bow from the waist to the floor.

I've said it before, and I daresay I'll say it again:

That's my boy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

New Year's Eve

I have many dearest wishes, but one of the few actually within the realm of possibility (as opposed to, say, winning an Academy Award) has been to throw a pull-out-all-the-stops dinner party.

A felicitous confluence of events allowed this to happen.  First, I had a small nest egg of birthday money set aside.  Second, our friends the Hamiltons would be staying with us on that most festive of holidays, New Year's Eve.  This was key to the dinner party's success.  Because they were already spending the night, we were able to put the kids to bed before we started dinner. Also, we could take our time with each course, since no one had to drive home.  We could have a different wine paired with each course, since no one had to drive home.  As an added bonus, these Hamiltons are great cooks and willing sous-chefs.  It was an ideal set-up.

Of course I agonized over the menu, because that is my way.  My way is also a very slow way, so I needed recipes that could be done mostly ahead of time and be finished or reheated just before serving.  I would have loved an outrageous chunk of roast beef, but I was afraid of ruining it.  I pored over magazines and cookbooks and spent many blurry-eyed hours reading recipes online. And now, without further ado, our New Year's Eve dinner:

While Shaun gave himself a last-minute haircut, we enjoyed duck liver and port mousse with cornichons and grainy mustard.  Don't worry, before we dug in we realized that we should remove the layer of gelatin on top.  We are very classy.

Also, lest these provisions seem a little spartan for New Year's Eve, I should mention that we spent all afternoon cooking and snacking on some Saint Andre triple cream cheese, marcona almonds, and spicy Calabrese sausage.  And sparkling wine, of course.

Andrew approves our plans before the serious eating begins.

It was fun to use real napkins for a change, along with my beautiful silver (thank you, Juli!)

served with a white Burgundy

My favorite description of this dish came from Amanda, who described its texture as "pillowy." It was a cream of cauliflower soup (I used half and half instead of the whipping cream it called for) with a seared scallop placed on top of a bit of blanched leeks. I couldn't find the lemon-infused grapeseed oil to drizzle on, so I made some.  It was well worth the small extra effort.  The garnish is caviar (mine is from Iceland, the only thing I could find) and snipped chives.  I plan on making this as a main course in the future, with more scallops and some bread and salad alongside.  

The most exciting thing about this dish was making it:  toasting the spices and then grinding them produced a smell that I have never encountered before. Even if something isn't my favorite, I always appreciate the experience of tasting something entirely new to me.  The meat didn't turn out as tender as I'd hoped, but it was still very good.  Next time I'd put less citrus in the root vegetables, but I thought it was an important element to help cut the richness of the lamb.  A nice thing about this dish is that we made it the night before so we could cool it and scoop the fat off.  The pot of leftovers has formed yet another dandy layer of fat.  Definitely not a low-calorie food.

Probably thanks to my overindulgence earlier in the day, I was feeling a little queasy by the time we got to the lamb.  That's when I experienced the magic of the French tradition of the trou normand.  A glass of Calvados is taken to create a trou, or hole, for the next course.  In this case, the apple brandy is poured over a dish of apple sorbet.  I had intended to serve this between the first two courses, but I am so glad that I had forgotten.  It worked like MAGIC. I felt like I was starting the entire meal over.  Which was a relief, because I was looking foward to our last course most of all.

Here's Amanda dousing her sorbet and Andrew doing his best to power on through as midnight approaches:

served with ruby port

Oh, how I loved this.  For me it was the perfect way to end the meal, like a cheese course and dessert in one.  Each bundle contained a bit of Stilton pressed with dried figs and wrapped in a small, thin slice of proscuitto.  Following the suggestions of reviewers, I cut down on the amounts of everything inside the bundle.  It was still extremely rich.  What took it from savory to sweet were the two sauces:  reduced cream with pine nuts on the plate and a ruby port-balsamic vinegar reduction drizzled on top, syrupy and delicious.  It wasn't everyone's favorite dish, but it was mine.

I wasn't responsible for the fireworks at midnight, but I thought they were a nice touch:

There is no way I could have pulled off such a fun evening without all the cooking and dishwashing help I got.  It was truly a group effort.  Here's to the love of God, family, and friends in the new year.