Tuesday, January 29, 2008

off-topic post: the hokey pokey baby

After 18 hours of labor, Griffin danced his way into the world on Saturday, January 26, 2008, at 3:47 pm. The doctor said he was doing the hokey pokey in the birth canal--"you put your head out, you put your head in, you put your head out and you shake it all about." Fortunately, he eventually tired of dancing and decided to finish being born. (P.S.--this explains a lot of the kicking the last nine months--practice!)

As we had noticed in his 20 week ultrasound, Griffin does indeed have the pointy little Duex family chin. He weighed in at 7 lbs 12.5 oz and 20 inches long with light brown hair and plenty of it; we can't decide if his eyes are dark blue or grey.

As for personality, well, he's like most babies. Cries, sleeps, eats, looks cute. He likes flying--going through the air in his daddy's arms--and bouncing. He also has perfected the art of roaring while simultaneously making the baby bird sucking face. He wants his food and he wants it five minutes ago.

That's what told us his name. While "Griffin" had been on our short list, any kid that can be part lion and part bird at the same time clearly deserves the name of a such a magical creature (gryphon). Add in his 'claws' (sharp fingernails) and his powerful neck (can already move his head around on his own, even if he can't hold it up long), and he's definitely got us enchanted.

He's home with us now--he and "Maman" are doing well. We love him. And that's what it's all about.


Tuesday, January 22, 2008

surviving the winter

Winter is not my favorite time of year. I believe that people should hibernate; who are we kidding that we can function normally when the days are short and the temperatures icy? Now that we are planning to move to Ottawa, I think I really have to learn how to survive winter.

It seems that Canadians have really learned how to embrace the winter. The five dollar bill, after all, includes images of ice hockey, sledding, and ice skating. These images say some good things about Canada's national priorities, but if winter is a dominant part of the money-scape I fear that winter in our new home will be endless.

And how can a winter-hater survive in a land of seemingly endless winter?

Since meeting Will, I have learned to accept winter just a little bit more by ramping up my winter sports activities. Before Will, I would occasionally go snowshoeing. I liked it well enough, but it was a poor replacement for summer hiking. I would only go out on bluebird days when there wasn't a cloud in the sky. Now I have two pairs of skis and I go out almost every weekend. It makes a difference; this winter, even with loads of snow, I feel pretty content.

The other trick for winter survival, of course, is comfort food. Hot creamy tea, melty chocolate chip cookies, mashed potatoes. And perhaps the ultimate savory comfort food: shepherd's pie.

My winter has been a quest for ways to prepare the stacks of lamb in my freezer. I'm not sure why it took me so long to do the obvious. What else should you make in the middle of the winter if you have a supply of lamb and the hope to forget that it is 20 degrees outside and that you are moving to Canada where you fear it will be 20 degrees below zero?

I made the Gourmet version of shepherd's pie, which was a little fussy with its pearl onions and leeks but totally worth the time. The mashed potatoes on the top were divine and it's a miracle I didn't eat them all while waiting for the stew to braise. I made a mess in the oven because my cast-iron pan wasn't quite big enough, but again--completely worth it. Shepherd's pie and a Guinness? More winter, I say.

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Monday, January 07, 2008

happy new year, southern style

When I was a kid, my mom had this cookbook full of heritage-style recipes: sally lunn, muffuletta, hoppin' john. It must have been a gift because my mom wasn't much of a cook and she never made anything from the cookbook--much to my childhood frustration. I loved browsing through that cookbook, reading the stories behind the recipes and imagining what the food would taste like.

Lately, I've found myself slowly remembering all of those foods and finding recipes so I can try them out. Muffuletta last summer for a picnic. And this New Year's, hoppin' john.

Hoppin' John is basically rice and black-eyed peas, cooked with ham and onion. Completely simple but so, so good. It's a traditional New Year's dish in the south--so logical: leftover christmas ham=hoppin' john. I took the ham hock home from my family's Christmas dinner and luckily Gourmet's January issue had all sorts of southern recipes, including hoppin' john. Another good version of the rice and black-eyed peas combo is to get rid of the ham and add coconut milk and a little thyme--no cool name here, just rice and peas. I learned how to make that one from my friend Carmen.

The think I like most about the hoppin' john is that it represents an approach to food, cultural knowledge, that we've lost--the ability to transform one food in multiple ways, to create bridges from one meal to another.

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