Tuesday, December 30, 2008

I take on the Parker House Roll

It got the best of me at Christmas. I think I overcooked them, as they were beautiful, but dry and hard. Parker House rolls should be soft and sweet. And I love them. I even looked at the Parker House (where they, and Boston cream pie, were invented) as a wedding venue. It's a wonderful old hotel, and they are the ultimate rolls. So, as an informal resolution, I'm going to practice these until I get them right! It may take pounds of flour and butter, but I think I can do it with enough practice.

24 Weeks

Today is the start of week 24. That means I have at most (assuming baby is 2 weeks late - 18 weeks to go)! Thank goodness. Did you know that elephants are pregnant for approximately 22 months? I don't think I could take it!
That said, I have a few things to do over the next four months.
1. Find a pediatrician
2. Find a part time babysitter to help out during the week
3. Car seat and stroller
4. Nursery furniture and crib bedding
5. Take baby CPR
6. Find a baby journal that can be personalized before baby is born
7. Buy a first aid kit for babies
8. Find the right wind up swing.
And that's just the tip of the iceberg. Let alone figuring out maternity leave, how to feed baby, how to bathe baby, and how to cook and do everything with a baby hanging off me. Maybe I should wish for an elephant length pregnancy to be prepared?

Monday, December 29, 2008

Stroller Derby

To anyone out there who may read this, what are your ideas on strollers? I got a really nice jogger from my mother in law for Christmas, so I'm looking for an every day/sturdy enough for walks and errands, but still light enough for me to fold up if I have to put it in the trunk.

Although I live in LA, I live in a walking friendly neighborhood, with lots of stores/cafes/etc. in walking distance. So, my concerns may be similar to NYC or SF mamas who do a lot of walking. I've heard raves about the Bugaboo Bee as a good compromise that is small enough to maneuvre through stores and restaurants, but is still tough enough to handle a lot of use. This will be my primary set of "wheels" for the first few months, so I'm willing to spend.

What do you think of the Bee?

Good Things

I'm not making New Year's resolutions per se, but I'm trying to come up with good resolutions for parenting. There was an interesting article on the Huffington Post about how to keep resolutions: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gretchen-rubin/12-ways-to-stick-to-your_b_150885.html

I really liked how the article suggested making some fun resolutions, like trying different restaurants, entertaining more, or seeing more movies. So, in that spirit, here are some fun things that I want to incorporate into Baby W's arrival next spring:

1. Going for walks outside with Baby - I like getting out, and I can't believe that sitting inside a stuffy house on a nice LA day could be good for her either.

2. Having one (bite/meal/whatever I have time for) delicious food per day. I know I'll be crazy and stressed, but I am pretty sure that I'm entitled to an excellent latte every day!

3. Find a babysitter to allow for my husband and I to go out to dinner at least once a month. I think I'm going to have to work on this one, but it will be worth it!

4. Even if I get lazy about all my upkeep, wearing lipstick. I will also try to brush (if not wash) my hair every day!

5. Accept that some friendships may not survive Baby's arrival - I mean it's a big change for me, and I'm sure there are some friends out there who just aren't at the same place in life, so I need to accept that and make sure to find new mum friends.

6. Keep my sense of humor at least some of the time!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Pretty and Practical

I found all of these and thought they were lovely, and perfect for those of us whose balance is going a little south these days! I especially love the silver jeweled ones with the maryjane strap. Now, I just need a pedicure this week.

Christmas Recap

(Photos to follow), but I'm just sleepy and lazy right now. It was a cold and rainy Christmas here in LA, but wonderful nonetheless. On Wednesday night we went to dinner with family friends and watched the Christmas truck and carolers go by. Everyone was able to have a lovely time, because I drove. I'm building up lots of designated driver karma!

Thursday, I woke up at 6:30 to wrap presents, and have some quiet time with the cats up by the tree before our guests woke up. Then, we had a delicious breakfast of waffles and leftover tamales. Who knew they went so well together? I also had a DELICIOUS cup of coffee (I'm not drinking it that often now, so every cup tastes so good!). Then, I started working on some of the dinner projects, and snuck out for a walk during a break in the rain. It poured off and on all afternoon.

As for the verdict on the dinner - I still have work to do. The duck recipe from Barefoot Countessa didn't work as well as my old standby from Julia Child, but the potatoes, ratatouille and salad were all delicious. As were the molten chocolate cakes for dessert. They could save ANY dinner! After dinner, we all sat and ate dessert while watching Benjamin Button. I dozed off and on through the movie, but it seemed ok. A little too long, but sort of a nice story. (Kind of like this post!)

I'm off to work tomorrow and Tuesday, before having the rest of the week off. Thank goodness!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Getting Older

As I'm planning out the Christmas menu, I'm also taking notes about what dish cooks at what temperature (and what can be in the oven together) and which baking dish/casserole for everything. I may be getting older, but I am certainly becoming my mother. :) Funny how it just sneaks up on you!

Nice Scents

It's cold and gloomy in LA, and I'm snuggled up on the couch dreaming of warmer days. Here are some things that make me feel sunny and warm, even if it's freezing outside.
1. Votivo Red Currant Candle - soooo good. It's my go to housewarming present. I've never met anyone who didn't like it!
2. Basq stretch mark oil - I have no idea if this works. I can only tell you that it smells delicious enough for me to use it every day, and it really moisturizes for the entire day. I'd use it even if I weren't pregnant.
3. Fresh Sugar Lychee - any permutation of this is wonderful. It's tangy and not too sweet, so perfect for your morning shower. The lotion is also great and very light - more for summer than winter.
4. Ole Henriksen On the Go Cleanser - it smells like Tang. It's not too drying on my pregnant skin, and it gets your face so soft and clean.
5. Hiris by Hermes - the most delicious perfume ever. I've been wearing it since I discovered it in Paris in 1999. It's not too sweet or heavy, it's just the most delicious shadow of iris ever. Being that they are my favorite flower, I love that their root smells so good. Plus, I love the pretty blue bottle.
Any other summery, happy pampering products that I should know about? I have some vacation time coming up and could use some at home pampering!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Just Because

Cats are such good company. They love snuggling and sitting on the couch. So, in the holiday spirit of cozy snuggling and being lazy at home, here are a couple pictures. (Please note, the cat in the chair was shooed away immediately after that photo and DID not eat dinner. That was also not his place setting!) I love my pets, but they do not eat their meals on the good china!

More Sweets

This was a pretty good weekend. We got our tree and lights up (we have sort of a Charlie Brown tree, but it's tall and we bought it from the Boy Scouts, so it was worth it to help them). And, we had a whirlwind time at Toys R Us buying toys for Toys for Tots. It's so fun to pick out toys...apologies if the ones we picked are too noisy, but there are so many nice ones out there. Since it's such a bleak year, we thought it was important to make sure a few more kids have presents this year.

I also got the rest of the curtains hung, though it looks like Smith and Noble has let us down again and we are missing a panel. But, the guest room has lovely black and white damask curtains, and we have a really nice cream linen one in the living room.

But, that's not the point of this post. I wanted to share a new and delicious recipe that I discovered this weekend. I have always loved gingerbread cookies around the holidays. They are the perfect combination of sweet and spicy. Plus, I think they have enough flavor and kick to stand up to a cup of tea or coffee. But, I didn't feel like making roll-out cookies because I think the roll-out gingerbread men get a little tough from all the re-rolling and flour. I was browsing through the big, yellow Gourmet cookbook and stumbled upon this recipe. Please, make time out of your holiday schedule to try these. They are easy to make and so delicious. I made one modification (I never keep shortening in the house) so feel free to use shortening instead of butter.

Molasses Spice Cookies (Gourmet Cookbook)

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon (I was generous with this)
1 tsp ground ginger (I was generous with this too)
1/2 tsp ground cloves (I substituted allspice and a little nutmeg)
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter (or shortening if you want to follow the recipe)
1 cup packed light brown sugar (I only had dark brown, and liked it)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup molasses
Granulated sugar (like Sugar in the Raw) for dipping the cookies

1. Sift together flour, soda, spices and salt. Set aside. In bowl of stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. (The recipe says 1 minute, but I think it took about 5). Stir in molasses and lightly beaten egg to sugar and butter until just combined. Add flour in 2-3 batches, mixing well. Now, pop the dough in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

2. Grease two large cookie sheets and preheat oven to 375 with rack in middle of oven. The recipe says to roll level TABLESPOONS into balls and dip in sugar. I rolled mounded teaspoons into balls because I like smaller cookies. Make sure to place the cookies (sugar side up) about 3 inches apart on the baking sheet, because they do spread during cooking.

3. Bake 8-10 minutes or until the tops are cracked. I let cool on the cookie sheet for about 2-3 minutes before cooling further on racks. They stay nice and soft, and I think they will keep in a Ziploc baggie for a week or so.

I'm enjoying them with a cup of tea in front of my beautiful tree and twinkling lights. I hope you can enjoy them too!

Friday, December 19, 2008

More Maternity Clothing...

So, I'm very impressed with Isabella Oliver - I ordered on and my shipment arrived today. Apologies for the bad photos - this is the nursery aka the junk room during our recent renovations, and I need to spend this weekend cleaning it out for our houseguests next week (and for Baby this spring).
I'm in love with the wrap sweater - it's so big and cushy, but not too baggy, so you still have a little shape. The red dress I love too - the material is fantastic, but I think I'm going to return for a larger size. This fits me perfectly right now, and I want to make sure I get more than a month out of it! That's the problem with maternity - when stuff fits too well, you get worried that it won't fit for very long! But, I'm really pleased with the quality and the speed of shipment. Plus, inside my package was a nice little card stating that they are doing a non-maternity line - my eyes will be peeled (I can't believe a time will come without maternity clothing!).
And, I just wanted to recommend this wrap dress from GAP. It is a wool jersey, so it's really soft and comfy, but there is such a nice amount of fabric in the wrap that I think I can go pretty far along in it.
Now, I have to put on about fifteen layers of clothing for an outside Christmas party tonight. Stay warm and happy weekend!

Sweets for the Sweet

These are some of the most delicious sugar cookies - and the recipe is so simple. It was in this month's Gourmet, and Orangette posted it on her blog. I baked them last Friday to bring to a party, and the few that I kept here are still delicious, a week later in a ziploc. Plus, they are easy to make!

Danish Butter Cookies (Gourmet and Orangette)

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 pound (four sticks!!!!) unsalted butter (best quality you can find) left at room temperature for an hour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg (beaten for egg wash)
colored sugar for decoration

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line baking sheets with parchment.

2. Whisk flour and baking soda together and set aside. (I would be inclined to add a little bit of salt next time, but they were pretty darn good without it...it's your preference).

3. Beat butter (this would be really hard without a machine - the Kitchenaide is much stronger than I am!) until fluffy (use paddle attachment). Then, add sugar and flour mixture, beating until just combined.
4. Divide dough in half and shape each half by rolling between two pieces of plastic wrap until 15"x10" rectangle. Chill on tray until firm - about 30 minutes. I didn't roll out first before chilling, and I DEFINITELY recommend doing that next time, as I had to let the dough soften after resting in the fridge. Cut out into whatever shapes you like (I love stars) and place on baking sheets. If you like, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.

5. Bake cookies for about 15 minutes, until golden brown. Then, may I suggest whipping up a cup of very bittersweet hot chocolate and enjoying a few of these by the fire? They smell delicious, and are really pretty. They are a little delicate, so I'm not sure that I would ship them, but even the broken ones are good eats.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Gougeres (or Cheez Its for Grown Ups)

I love Ina Garten! She really does such a great job of writing clear and precise recipes. Everything that I try from her books just WORKS! And, these little puffs are no exception. They are easy to make, and even better, they taste delicious after they are baked and cooled, then frozen and reheated. What could be better for a snack with wine?

So, here's her recipe. Please try them; they are so easy and delicious. I bet you could mix up the different kinds of cheeses, or add some different spices to kick them up. The recipe is from "Barefoot in Paris" which is so great.


1 cup milk (I don't think the fat content matters much, so I just use 1%)

1/4 lb (1 stick) unsalted butter

1 tsp kosher salt

1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Pinch nutmeg (I like nutmeg, so I use probably a bit more than a pinch)

1 cup all purpose flour

4 extra large eggs

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese (plus extra for sprinkling)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated)

1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water, for egg wash

1. Preheat oven to 425. Prepare baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.

2. In saucepan, on medium heat milk, butter, nutmeg, salt and pepper until milk is scalded. (Scalded seems to mean just below boiling.) Add the flour all at once, reduce heat to LOW, and stir vigorously for about 2 minutes, until the mixture comes together in sort of a smooth mass.

3. (This is the best part). Take the mixture and dump in the food processer fitted with a steel blade. Immediately dump in eggs and cheese and pulse to incorporate until dough is smooth and thick. I bet you could do this by hand as well, but it would definitely be aerobic cooking, as the dough is on the thicker side.

4. (Ina uses a pastry bag, but I don't have one, and I think they turn out just fine) Scoop teaspoonfuls of the dough onto the prepared parchment paper (leave some space between them because they will spread). Cover with egg wash and sprinkle with reserved Gruyere.

5. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

6. If you make them in advance, cool them thoroughly on racks, before freezing. You can then reheat them on trays in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes.

(If you are reading this and are NOT pregnant, these are so delicious with all kinds of wine...and my favorite - Champagne). They are ok with water or non-alcoholic beverages, but are DELICIOUS with wine. Have a glass for me!

(P.S. The photo above is one I found on wikipedia - mine are more "homeade" looking, but still chic and delicious!)

Baby, It's Cold Outside

I went for a walk around the neighborhood this evening and basked in the legitimately COLD (and not just weenie California cold) weather. It is in the 40's tonight. Baby and I stayed bundled up with a cashmere sweater, scarf and three layers. Lululemon should think about doing a fleece pant for this sort of weather! It was so nice to get out, even though it was pitch dark.

Now that I'm home, I just unpacked a box of Christmas goodies from Crate and Barrel. All we need is the tree, and some little hooks that won't totally destroy the paint over the fireplace, and I can display my goodies! I also got some adorable little glass beaded snowflake ornaments.
Plus, I'm a huge nerd, but I love coming home to LOTS of old fashioned mail. And, the Christmas cards have started arriving! They are all displayed on the fridge, and I'm so excited to track all the kids and babies, not to mention, see all the pretty cards everyone chose.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Recent Purchases

Per my previous post, I did buy some things at Isabella Oliver - the wrap sweater and dress. Thoughts on them? I'd love to hear about their sizing, as I'm 22 weeks, and wonder how much more wear I can get out of them.
The top dress I bought at Baby Style (on Montana in Santa Monica, but they also sell it on the website. It's a lovely heavy knit that stays wrinkle free. It's super comfy. It is a little on the big side now, so it looks better with a sweater over it as a little jacket, but I think it may have enough room to go pretty far into the spring.

Having Fun Is Hard Work

I owe a real post with photos and details (I always prefer the photo posts). But, here's what we did this past weekend:

1. Baked for fabulous party in Hermosa Beach. Every year my friend prepares a feast to watch the fireworks, and it was my job to bake. So, I made homeade sugar cookies (the ones on Orangette's blog from last week) and chocolate chip cookies - try the recipe on the back of the Guittard chips bag if you live in CA and like a crispy/chewy cookie.

2. Figured out (essentially) the menu for our Christmas. Here's my thoughts so far:
Duck (DH loves duck, and I think it's rich enough to be saved for special events)
Potatoes au gratin (per the easy gratin in Nigella Lawson's "Nigella Eats."
Ratatouille (per the recipe from my French mama - it is the BEST).
Green beans with shallots and butter
Cheese/Spinach lasagne (my SIL is a vegetarian and I want her to have something delicious)
Rolls (lord bless La Brea Bakery)

For appetizers

I made gougeres tonight from Ina Garten's "Barefoot in Paris" and they freeze and reheat perfectly.
I picked up a brie in pastry from Trader Joe'
Cheese (truffle cheese at some point) and crackers
crudite and hummus
sparkling beverages (mine will be sparkling water and pomegranate juice)

For dessert

Nigella's molten chocolate baby cakes from "How to Be a Domestic Goddess" with vanilla ice cream
Gingerbread cookies
Coffee - and a comfy place to take a nap!

BTW, it is freezing in LA, and I'm starting not to fit into my sweaters. Does anyone out there have suggestions for maternity sweaters that are entirely natural fiber (i.e. wool/cashmere) and not acrylic? I ordered one from Isabella Oliver (along with a red wrap dress) - any thoughts on that brand quality/sizing?

3. Instead of buying the tree, we took a very long nap on Saturday afternoon. Must do that this weekend. And, must also make more holiday cookies and find great waffle recipe for Christmas morning.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice

(Clothing for baby girl, as I'm doing so fantastically well with the pregnancy weight gain that I can take a break from sweets for the next month - insert sarcasm...I hate being weighed every month. I know it is for a good cause, but I HATE it. I leave the doctor's office feeling fat and dumpy.) Being pregnant in a city of thin, beautiful people is depressing! I have to remind myself that baby girl is doing splendidly and my doctor isn't worried about my weight - I would gain 100 pounds to ensure she arrives safely!
That said, why do pregnant people feel like baking all the time? I don't understand it!

That aside, aren't the above some of the cutest ever? They are all Lilly. I'm waiting to receive from my mum a box of my little outfits (some of which weren't even worn). That's what happens when you have two older girl cousins on one side whose Nana loved to shop, and throw in my super indulgent grandparents on my father's side. And blessings to my mother, who saved them for all these years.

Thoughts on Central Park Toile?

Does anyone have this bedding? (If you are out there, how soft is it, and how well does it stand up to repeated washing?) Thanks so much!

The nursery is shaping up to be a light yellow wall, black and white damask curtains and I'm really into black and white toile crib linens. I want some pink accents, but not a whole lot of pink on big pieces. What do you think?
Also, I think a moses basket sounds very useful since our condo has lots of stairs, and I want baby to be able to be comfy when she is upstairs with me (and I'm thinking I won't let her out of my sight).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

My Holiday Favorites

It is starting to feel a lot like Christmas here in Los Angeles. It's going to be in the 50's and rainy this weekend, my XM radio is pumping the Christmas music, and I've been spending money like it is going out of style. Since I haven't made my blog public to friends and family yet, I can share with you, random internet readers, what I've gotten so far:

1. For my SIL and BIL and spouse/girlfriend - a set of cool, insulated glass tumblers and some delicious French Breakfast tea from Mariage Freres. Check out http://www.theculturedcup.com/ which is a great tea/coffee supply store based out of Dallas!

2. For my husband: scotch (please no jokes about me driving him to drink :). But, I think I caused a bit of a stir at the wine store. I'm still in the phase when I can appear ambiguously pregnant, and I was wearing a loose blouse over trousers...so the bump was cocooned). The nice man helping me looked at me with curiosity, but he was very polite and didn't ask me...but I think he was relieved when I told him the scotch was for my husband and that I don't like it! I also got him cute little single malt glasses to drink it...I can join him with a single malt glass of juice.

3. For my mother and stepfather: it's a New England tradition, and I love them. The GURGLING COD! I have one, and it's such a great conversation piece. You can order them for your next Boston bride at http://www.shrevecrumpandlow.com/
4. For my baby brother - a check. Because that's what he really needs. :)

Holiday To Do

I am so proud. I have addressed and mailed the VAST majority of my Christmas cards. The stragglers are the ones where I had to ask my mum for addresses, or the ones where friends flaked on the emails.

I ordered from Lemontree Paperie and I was really impressed. They were very quick (and accurate) in preparing the proof and then getting the actual invitations. Plus, their prices were reasonable, and the final cards were adorable. Not to mention, getting your return address printed on the envelope flap is always a good idea!
Now, the remaining items for this week are as follows:
1. Cookies for holiday part on Sunday. I love watching the Manhattan Beach fireworks every year, and need some good cookies to go with. I'm thinking of trying the Danish butter cookies from Orangette's blog, and my mum's gingerbread men. I may even make some icing! (And a HUGE mess).
2. We need to get our tree! We also string white lights on our interior staircases.
3. Polish the silver. With houseguests (my SIL and her husband), I don't want to be worrying about this at Christmas.
4. Iron the good linens. Again, I hate leaving this to the last minute.
5. Find a decent non-alcoholic sparkling beverage. Any suggestions?
6. When I have a minute, start wrapping the presents!