Friday, February 26, 2010

a chocolate what-ka?

so the other day, i pulled out a recipe i'd been wanting to try for a while. i'd ripped it out of my december issue of cooking light magazine, and the original plan was to make it for valentine's day breakfast. but when the teen ended up at her dad's that weekend, i scrapped it.

anyway, i'd never heard of a chocolate babka before. as i tweeted about making it, several folks responded with a seinfeld reference - but since i never got into that show and really can't stand jerry seinfeld, it didn't help to enlighten me. all i knew was, sweet bread dough + chocolate + cinnamon = tasty.

i mixed up the bread dough, using my trusty packets of "rapid rise" yeast (because i'm an impatient mofo), rolled it out and spread the filling on top.



following the instructions, i worked it like a jelly roll and then did my best to pinch the seams closed. after adding the extra flour called for in the recipe, though, it was a little dry and didn't want to stick together.



i twisted it and stuffed it into my loaf pan, let it rise for about an hour (it didn't rise much - i wonder if my liquids weren't the right temperature despite checking it with my candy thermometer), and tossed it in the oven. about 40 minutes later, it was done.



i waited till the next morning to slice into it, so it wouldn't be super duper gooey and the chocolate filling had a chance to solidify. i obviously didn't twist the dough nearly enough, or maybe i should've rolled it out a little more so that the filling would have made prettier swirls, but it still looks good, huh?



all in all, it was a good recipe. the teen seemed to like it, and it does make for a lovely breakfast. looks like the wan house likes the babka!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

products to ponder

tuesday night saw me driving out to arcadia for a junior league general membership meeting. i was digging the shortened drive - it was about halfway between home and our headquarters in pasadena. too bad it's not always here, heh.


i'd looked at a map of the hospital campus online, but still managed to get utterly confused once i got parked and followed the signs towards the main entrance. luckily, they had an information desk right inside the door, where i was handed a map and given directions to the meeting location.

as i strolled down the cavernous hallways, really hoping i was headed in the right direction, i slowed down to glance at the mini-museum of nursing that adorned the walls. there were old uniforms, vintage photos of nursing classes from way-back-when, and other interesting paraphernalia.



and then i saw this, which was a relief. looks like i was headed in the right direction after all.



of course, it's me. i still managed to make a wrong turn and sashayed down another mazelike corridor before realizing it was deserted and obviously not right. i made a quick u-turn, walked a little bit further, out the door, and finally found myself in the right place.



after signing in and plastering my name tag on my jacket, i went inside to check out the jewelry trunk sale. i'd read that there was going to be a fundraiser that night, with profits from pieces from the stella & dot line being donated to the league. i was a little apprehensive, since i'm low on funds (it's right before payday, what can i say?), but always manage to find myself suckered into something.

i think i've mentioned it before, but i'll say it again: i really suck at accessorizing. i'm lucky to get out the door with an outfit that doesn't clash horribly, let alone adding some pizazz to my look. i typically have on the same old pair of silver hoops or diamond studs, a silver necklace with some sort of heart charm on it, and my rings. ho-hum. but that by no means indicates a lack of interest. oh, no. it just means i'm, well, lazy.

i was drawn to a lot of the pieces on display, and was surprised at how affordable most of them were. of course, i had to exercise some major restraint, and for the most part, i think i was pretty successful.



but i'm so predictable. i took one look at the redlined prices on this sample sale tray and snatched up the first necklace on the left. i liked the simplicity of it, and think it'll go well with a good handful of items in my wardrobe.



and then i let myself get suckered into this big ass ring. it's totally not me, but it'll be fun to wear now and then. i'm also thinking the teen will like it, and since i'm constantly raiding her closet it'll be nice to have something in mine that she'll want to borrow for once.



i took a "look book" that had photos of everything currently available in the stella & dot line along with pricing, and perused it as i munched on a light dinner.



the room was all set up for league business, with the projector all hooked up and an array of pamphlets and informational sheets placed on each chair.



our agenda looked pretty jam-packed, and it was. since we hadn't had a GMM since october, there was a lot to go over and plenty of dates to mark on the calendar for upcoming events.



the speaker for the evening was really great - she's heavily involved with support groups for those who are suffering from postpartum depression. she shared her own personal story, which included a teenage pregnancy that resulted in giving up the baby for adoption and her own slow recovery. it was really eye-opening and left me with all sorts of thoughts running through my head that i'll be sharing in an upcoming post.

and something else i took from that meeting was an interest in possibly joining the stella & dot's roster of "stylists." i've done stuff like that in the past though, like avon and arbonne and amway, and you can see how successful i've been with those. psh. maybe it was because they all started with "a." ha!

i'm also not in love with the idea of subjecting my friends and family to those "trunk shows," because i'm not all about shoving shit down their throats and making them feel obligated to buy shit. that's likely why i've never really made anything of myself with anything MLM-based. but i've traded e-mails and tweets with other current s&d stylists and they've all assured me that success doesn't depend on people i already know.

hmmmm. it does have a low start-up cost, marketing materials are free, and i do already dig the merchandise. as a stylist, i'd get a pretty sweet discount on my purchases, whether they're for myself, to give as gifts, or to use as display items. there's no quotas to meet, and what if i end up really loving it?

what do you think? go for it, or pass?

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

poor little bean

i got a call yesterday mid-morning from MIL, who wanted to let me know that the bean was listless and running a low-grade fever. sadness. we've been really lucky with her - she's rarely sick and still manages to stay cheerful on those rare occasions when she is under the weather.

and sure enough, when i arrived home, i could hear her chatting and laughing as i walked up the stairs. she'd gotten a dose of ibuprofen, was eating lunch, and was mostly her merry self. see?

but as the afternoon wore on, the meds wore off and she got cranky and drowsy. i managed to get her to fall asleep for a little while, and we went about our usual routine.

it was a restless night, though. she couldn't get comfortable and tossed and turned and cried through most of it, and it was tough. i just wanted to take it all away, but there was nothing i could do but hold her and murmur that everything would be okay. i was so sad to leave for work this morning with her still feeling like crap.

let's just say that i'm starting my day off with a big ass iced drink from starbucks.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

bribery gets me everywhere

i was pleasantly surprised yesterday to find a package waiting for me at our mailbox. the return address told me that it was my buddy venn, and after racking my brain on the way home, i realized it must be a present for the bean. she'd mentioned in passing that she had something for her, and it's sadly been ages and ages since i've seen her.

but when i got home, the bean (who'd been asleep for about 20 minutes in our room) came scampering through the door, hello kitty blanket in tow, with a big grin on her face and ready to play. oy. she typically takes a 2-hour afternoon nap, and if it gets cut short, the rest of the day is a little wonky.

it took a while, but when i finally thought to bribe her with a "surprise" when she woke up from taking that nap, she settled down in my arms and dropped off to dreamland. yes, i'm totally fine with using bribery to get what i need. heh.

and when she did wake up, the teen joined us on the couch and ripped open the box. it's really fun to watch them open presents, and i grabbed the camera to see if i could catch some fun shots.

inside the box, underneath the bubble wrap, we found a card and several prettily wrapped packages:



the bean was still really groggy, but excited to see what her surprise was. hmm, i guess this shot doesn't exactly capture any excitement, but whatever.



btw, don't ask me what was up with her hair. MIL had done it up in a couple of braids and clips, but she'd obviously slept on it and did a little rolling around and stuff. anyway, inside the first package we found an adorable handmade headband in brown with a pink flower. you'll see it modeled by the teen in a bit.



as the bean got to work on the next present,



the teen was super duper excited to rip open a different one to find a fun pack of jonas brothers stickers for her. i thought it was really sweet of venn to send a little something for her, too, so she wouldn't feel left out. luckily, the teen is pretty mature and is always happy to help the bean open presents, but it's always nice to know that she's thought of, too. oh - and isn't the headband adorable?



together, they tackled the last package:



the bean sat back and let her sister do all the work while she clutched the box of toddler-sized crayons she'd opened previously.



but she did help tear off a little corner of the blue wrapping paper.



i'm not sure if the sun was in her eyes or if she was just being coy here, but she lit up like a christmas tree when the paper finally fell away to reveal three awesome new coloring and activity books, adorned with a big wan household favorite character:



it was cute to watch them both pick up a book and start flipping through the pages.



well, and you knew yours truly would have to get in on the action, too. i loves me some hello kitty.



i see a lot of fun coloring and new fridge wallpaper in our near future, thanks to venn.

Monday, February 22, 2010

here, fishy fishy fishy

the bean visited a new dentist over the weekend, so we could get a second opinion on the treatment for her little teef. and this time, we went with a referral from a very trustworthy source - MommyBelle. her two kidlets go to this dentist and they all love him, and that was enough for me.

like the first office, this one was bright and cheerful and full of fun, kid-friendly stuff. the bean was drawn to the waterfall in the corner like a moth to a flame.




but that 2-year-old attention span kicked in, and she moved on to a new toy she found in a corner.




when we were called in to an exam room, she was delighted to find that there was a tv mounted on the ceiling that was playing the movie she was halfheartedly watching out in the waiting room. i hoped this meant that she'd be somewhat relaxed when it was actually time for the dentist to do his thing.

but i should've known better - and dr. eddie sure did. he spoke to her soothingly and worked quickly and efficiently in checking out her teeth, even though she was bawling loudly and doing the kind of crying where she's so angry, she's red and shaking like a leaf.

so, she does indeed need some major work done - those two little teeth on either side of her top front ones have huge cavities in them and are going to need baby root canals (!) and crowns (!!!!). yikes. and at her age, the only way to do it is to knock her little ass out. quadritriple yikes. he explained that only 5% of dentists in the state of california are trained and licensed to do the anesthesia, and during the process, there's always a second doctor present to constantly monitor the patient. he gave us some brochures and stuff to take home and read, including one with all of the contact info for the doctor he calls in for his "sedation days."

as the bean calmed down and we dried her tears, she was excited to pick a toy out of the treasure chest and a balloon from the bunch that was taped to a wall. like at the other appointment, she happily accepted a sticker and a swag bag with another new toothbrush and other oral care paraphernalia.


we left the office and couldn't stop talking about the difference between the two appointments. dr. eddie was so much more trustworthy and came across as much more knowledgeable and, well, non-shady. not to mention, his fees? less than HALF. amazing.

later, we hopped on the freeway again - this time, heading south towards the beach to meet up with my parents for dinner at
captain kidd's in redondo beach. this place is an old favorite, and i have fond memories of going with a big group of family, spreading newspapers out onto the tables and banging away happily at fresh crab.



i walked around the familiar layout of the fish market, reminiscing and snapping away.




like i always do, i picked up a cup of smoked fish salad and bay shrimp cocktail.




my mom stepped out of the box (she and my stepdad always go with the tried-and-true fish & chips, and he didn't stray) and ordered one of the daily specials, a whole pompano served with fries and steamed veggies. i'm not gonna lie, he looked a little creepy on the plate (and pretty damn pissed off, too). and sadly, mom wasn't pleased with her choice as she pronounced it bland and really tasteless. bummer.




the bean ate some of her chicken strips and fries, but was content to stretch out between the benches and babble about everything she saw: "fish! scary. chicken. i. am. full. ice cream?"




having skipped the steamed crab this time around (my nails were pretty long, and i really didn't want to have to deal with digging around for my dinner that night), i chose a simple skewer of grilled shrimp with fries and green salad. the hub's grilled swordfish looked quite tasty too, and i think his was the winner of the night.




on our way out, the hub and the bean stopped to check out the live lobsters and crab in the big glass cases.



the next morning, i woke up to the bean holding me by both cheeks: "mama! (for some unknown reason, i'm "mama" lately instead of plain ol' "mommy") wake up! choc-wit miwk! choc-wit miwk, pweeese?" i was super groggy and really just wanted to go back to sleep, but she was relentless. and because it was so stinking funny and cute, i couldn't be grumpy about it, either. so i dragged my ass outta bed and got her a cup of milk, and that's how my day started.

she ended up falling asleep on the way to church, and after some debate, we decided to let her sleep and skipped the service altogether. heh. we took a long, slow route home which included a stop at a little hole-in-the-wall for a breakfast burrito. well, for me, anyway. the hub is back on his low-cal, almost no-carbs kick and he just smirked at me as i dug in.

dudes, this thing weighed about six pounds, was about 8 inches long, and was stuffed with three eggs, cheese, potatoes, and...pastrami.



that evening, we met up with brother wan and his girlfriend along with the ILs for a quickie family dinner at the yard house. we wanted to hear all about the new gig - he just started working with the company that provides all of the food/catering for the NASCAR circuit and we're all so excited for him. he's been stuck at a dead-end job managing a restaurant out in BFE since he graduated from the le cordon bleu program a couple of years ago, and he was stoked to get back to doing actual cooking with fellow professional chefs. he looked tired, but happy.

after perusing the kids' menu with the bean, she settled on a plate of buttered noodles. she colored and danced around and talked to everyone and entertained us all until the food was served.

and then she continued to provide amusement for the table as we watched her dig into those noodles with the grown-up fork.



my crunchy ahi salad should've been really good, but it was sprinkled liberally with finely chopped cilantro. i hate cilantro. the merest hint of that awful flavor just kills a whole dish for me, and after suffering through half a dozen mouthfuls of it, i gave up and just ate the tuna with a side of jasmine rice.



and that was my weekend. how was yours?
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