Weekday Vegetable Soup

6CFEBF1E-9A33-483B-B058-51605A832AB8I love my instant pot.  And last night, a Tuesday, I made vegetable soup after work.  And ate it for dinner that night!  It was amazing.  Admittedly, my MIL was here, and we didn’t eat until 8:30 because the baby was sick, but I can see how in a slightly different scenario this could be a smooth part of a healthy dinner rotation.

Here’s how I did it:

Chopped half an onion and sauteed it in ghee in the instant pot while prepping the other vegetable.  I scrubbed and chopped two and a half carrots into half moons (the other half a carrot went into a microwave to be cooked and rejected by the toddler.)  I cut three stalks of celery into slices, and two small zucchini into wedges.  Most of a box of chopped tomatoes, a handful of pre-washed kale, four cups of water and four teaspoons of chicken better than bouillon got dumped in next.  And then, high pressure for ten minutes and another ten or so of natural pressure release before just letting it go.

 

And, it was amazing.  I served it with parmesan on top and happily enjoyed it two days in a row.

Poke! For when you feel Maui-sick

The following is my attempt at recreating the wasabi soy sauce poke bowl from Eskimo Candy, an awesome restaurant/fish market on Maui.  Here I am on my honeymoon, about to enjoy a poke bowl . . . not sure if this was our first or third visit.  In three days.
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Obviously, this was a dish I was going to try to re-create.  Here’s what I did: I bought some sushi-grade tuna (from a Japanese market or my local whole foods), seaweed salad (pre-made – for a gluten-free version, I have to buy it from VitalChoice), and bottled wasabi.  I also made sushi rice – I used an old bottle of rice seasoning I bought at Sunrise Mart (a great Japanese market), but I think Alton Brown’s recipe is good if you are mixing your own rice seasoning.
I made a quickie-version of wasabi aoli mixing a big squirt of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lemon juice, and half of a grated garlic clove with a little squirt of wasabi from a tube.
I diced the tuna, sliced some green onions and mixed them together with some soy sauce (tamari for gluten-free), and a little bit of fancy maui onion sea salt my parents brought me in January.  (If I didn’t have that, would have done just a little kosher salt and some chopped sweet onion.) And that was it!
I put rice in the bowl, then the tuna mixture, big dollops of the wasabi aoli, and plunked the seaweed salad in the middle.  It was amazing, and has gone into our regular rotation.  Here’s my version  – – please excuse the lousy food photography and focus on how delicious this was in person.
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where to eat in san francisco . . . if you are me.

My advice is a little bit dated (circa 2008), so there have been lots of changes on the SF dining scene – but these yelp links might keep you up to speed.  Fancy, I know.  (I learned when I lived there that you’re not supposed to call it San Fran, but perhaps part of the reason it just really wasn’t the place for me is because it still feels a little natural to call it San Fran.  Sigh.)  I was able to update this list a little bit after a family vacation in August 2014 – we rented an airbnb in Noe Valley and played at being SF (ha – that one came naturally! I guess we did a good job pretending)  parents for a week.  It was pretty great.

Woodhouse, Zuni and La Taqueria remain amazing.  My favorites and I miss them always.  No words can capture.

 

SF Ferry Building Farmer’s Market – Saturdays and a smaller group on Tuesdays (mostly mornings).  It’s a bona fideSF tourist destination, and the bounty of cool vegetables and weird SF-style among the patrons should not be missed.  The best vendors are behind the building, and the Mexican breakfast stand, Hog Island oysters (freshly-shucked!), and samples!  Lots of samples.  You can almost make an entire breakfast out of samples. Among the samples that are not-to-be-missed are the salmon candy (down near the end of the lot) and garlic quark (up near the front.)  There’s also blue bottle coffee, which people seem to love.  Inside the ferry building is lots more cool shops and food vendors – definitely worth a gander.  I particularly like the mushroom shop (and the truffle salt they sell, on popcorn – – although I think you can get it pretty much anywhere these days.)  Also check out Cowgirl Creamery for amazing cheeses and if you feel like a sit-down restaurant, Slanted Door is terrific and fancy Vietnamese food in a beautiful location.  The Shaking Beef is particularly good, and I’ve always liked the angel hair noodles with crab and lots of hot sauce.

One of my top five favorite restaurants in the world: Zuni Cafe.  Go, for lunch or for dinner.  Better if you can make a reservation, but worth any amount of wait.  You MUST MUST MUST order the roast chicken with bread salad.  Seriously, we can’t be friends if you don’t.  It’s that good.  And don’t worry about it saying there’s a wait, and it’s for two, and there being other things you want to order – just order it and whatever you don’t eat that night will make amazing leftovers straight out of your hotel fridge.  wonderful things happen to the bread overnight and cold chicken is more delicious than it has a right to be.  and once you’re in that far, eating salad with your fingers is just fun!  [Revised instruction: order the chicken and other stuff, so that you have leftovers.]  They are also well known for their caesar salad – a very good iteration if you like them.  And the oyster selection is superb. http://www.yelp.com/biz/zuni-cafe-san-francisco
For seafood (especially Dungeness crab) and delicious McDonald’s style but restaurant-made so infinitely better,Woodhouse.  It’s not a particularly special restaurant, but it’s always delicious and I would crave its Crab Louis sandwich. It’s in a fun location, in the Castro, so there are decent bars nearby.  Blackbird is a particularly good cocktail bar, and there are a few used bookstores nearby too.   http://www.yelp.com/biz/woodhouse-fish-company-san-francisco  http://www.yelp.com/biz/blackbird-san-francisco
There is also Swan Oyster depot which is quite famous, but I’ve never been because they are only open for lunch and I had an awful job while I was there.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/swan-oyster-depot-san-francisco  It’s 41/2 stars on yelp, and famous enough that they can only be open at lunch. I bet it’s amazing.   Okay, now I’ve been – we made it there on our August trip. It was . . .  disappointing.  We went right when it opened (the benefits of a baby!  We walked the whole way there from Noe and still made it when there was no line) and Stella was a dream in the tiny, cramped space.  They even stored our stroller in the kitchen.  But, they were out of all of the things we wanted to order and everything we were especially excited about that we saw on Anthony Bourdain’s show: Dungeness Crab – period; the Dungeness Crab yellow stuff served on the half-shell; sea urchin; and I think there may have even been others.  Tres disappointing.  We had oysters and some shrimp salad with louie sauce.  It was good, but it wasn’t what we were there for.  And we had some Yank Sing dim sum about two hours later because, yeah, we weren’t satisfied.
You may also be tempted by the garlic crab places down on Fisherman’s Wharf if you go down there.  The garlic crabs are good, so I would not judge the choice.  🙂  There’s also an In-n-Out down there too.  It’s the only in-SF-proper In-n-Out, which makes it worth the trip.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/in-n-out-burger-san-francisco
Burma Superstar.  Not to be missed.  It’s delicious and I still dream about the Samusa soup. The tea leaves salad is also quite good, and you can’t go wrong with anything on their menu. There will be a long wait, unless you get there right when they open, so plan to spend some time down the block at Green Apple books, a fantastic bookstore, and poking around the Asian supermarkets.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/burma-superstar-san-francisco http://www.yelp.com/biz/green-apple-books-san-francisco
For Ice-Cream – Bi-Rite Creamery, and take it to Dolores Park to eat.  Salted Caramel is loved by those who like caramel.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/bi-rite-creamery-san-francisco
Tartine Bakery – a good breakfast spot.  Delicious almost-too-rich pastries.  Always has a long line, but is worth it for a morning when you just want to sit back and eat french pastries.  http://www.yelp.com/biz/tartine-bakery-san-francisco
TACOS and BURRITOS:
My absolute favorite mexican food is at La Taqueria on Mission and 25th.  I would get the Carne Asada Taco, with everything, and that is what I strongly recommend you get.  (Sometimes I would get it without sour cream.)  It is two taco shells, lightly fried, with cheese, beans, guacamole and salsa in addition to the beef.  And it is fantastico. (The with-everything is what makes them fry it and add guacamole and other stuff.  Otherwise it’s a bit naked with just meat, beans, and salsa on the tortillas. I also highly recommend their burritos.  They are not the typical Mission Burrito, because there’s no rice.  I particularly like the Chicken in a burrito since they chicken is in a spicy, watery sauce.  (Sounds gross to write it, is good.)
For a typical Mission burrito, you have lots of options at the corners of the 24th and Mission and 16th and Mission – and one block in any direction, essentially.  Some of the better-known ones for straight-up Mission burritos are: El Farolito(mission btw 23 and 24 – closer to 24), Taqueria Cancun (Mission between 18  and 19, and Pancho Villa Taqueria(16th between Mission and Guerrero).  There’s also a popular burrito spot that’s slightly more hippie/yuppie-fied that is quite good called Papalote (24th between Valencia and Poplar (towards Guerrero)).

My one piece of wedding planning advice

Do everything – EVERYTHING – with a separate wedding-planning only email address.  It will be your login for registries, your wedding website, emails with vendors, RSVPs if you’re going paper-free, etc.  Bonus points if it’s an email address both you and your fiance can check, so he can stay fully in the loop and it won’t fall to you to forward contract drafts to him.  Learn from my mistakes, oh engaged people of the internet.  Learn from my mistakes.  I am still on the automatic listserve of the woman who used to run the rental business for water taxis.

PS – Water taxi was still totally worth it.

 

It’s Solids Time – what to feed the baby?

With my first child, we tried Baby Led Weaning – which, contrary to the American use of the word “weaning” does not have anything to do with decreasing nursing.  Rather, it means baby-led eating-of-solids.  And it was thrilling!  We got a huge kick out of watching my daughter eat chicken and broccoli and sweet potatoes as her first foods, and for several years she was an adventurous eater.  Of course, she is now an opinionated three-ager and all of our smug feelings about our daughter who loves smoked salmon, broccoli and eggs have had to face the reality of a toddler palate.  Although, she does still love broccoli, eggs, and salmon in sweet chili sauce, so hey!  Try baby-led weaning!
Our first resource, and the one we relied on most heavily to CALM THE GRANDPARENTS DOWN was, dun dun dun, Wikipedia.  It’s surprisingly informative!  Take a look.  My mother-in-law still has a hard time hiding her puzzlement about the pictures of her six-month old granddaughter eating long pieces of chicken and avocado as her first foods although, bless her heart, she tries!  The other major resource we followed was a Baby Led Weaning book that came highly rated on this obscure little site that talks about books and ships them to me quickly and magically through the air and onto my kindle.  It’s this one. [Not an affiliate link because duh, this is barely a blog and anyway, I have no idea how to do that . . . ]
The other encouragement we got for baby-led weaning were some friends who went ahead of us and various blogs I’ve read over time.  I don’t want to call any of those friends or blogs out here, but am happy to share further resources if you want to ask in the comments.  However, I do want to share this  amazing blog because the post is helpful and the comments are staggering.  The Wednesday Chef is one of my favorite food blogs to read (and clearly the author is a soul-sister who doesn’t know it, because we’re both finely attuned to the NY Times food section and, um, I really liked her book).  She has a series of posts about feeding her son that are uniformly interesting, but the comments are wonderful!  She has a number of international readers, and this post about what different cultures expect the baby’s first food will be was the written courage I needed to go ahead with feeding the baby vegetables and meat first!

Uppababy Vista vs. Bugaboo Cameleon

I’ve had both strollers, and found there was not a lot of comparison info out there, so I hope this is helpful to someone (with the patience for a very deep google – can’t imagine you’ll easily find this blog). I started with a Bugaboo Cameleon 2 (gently used) and ended up selling it and buying an Uppababy Vista pre-2015 (also gently used). I love the Vista, and that’s the one I recommend.  When I had my second child, I sold my old Vista and bought a 2015 Vista and have not regretted it.

Here’s me on Vista day – the day I bought the used vista.  Giant grin should tell you everything you need to know.  But if it doesn’t, read on . . . img_1803

N.B. to this comparison: when the Bugaboo Buffalo came out, I thought it might be the perfect solution, with Bugaboo stealing the best features of the Vista for its new, all-terrain stroller.  After a few years of observation, I don’t believe that to be true – the Buffalo is so much larger than the Cameleon, and feels huge next to a Vista, even though they are actually comparable in size, without the ability to have a second seat. For me, it doesn’t redeem Bugaboos for city living but it certainly is tempting.

Some background: I live in Manhattan and walk everywhere, so my stroller is serving as an all-day transportation option on weekdays and weekends.  A lot of this may be overkill for someone living a car lifestyle.  I’m also not focusing on cost comparisons here – – I was careful to buy strollers used (like cars, they drop in price once they’re used!) and they are as important as a car to an urban dweller, so cost per use is very, very low.  Another relevant piece of background: I believe in stroller-time being a time for conversations and interaction with your child after reading this article years before I had kids, so I use the main seat rear-facing almost exclusively and only considered strollers with rear-facing capability.

Here’s my rundown of the Pros and Cons:

Pushing: The Cameleon is a much better “pushing” experience – the wheels were really sensitive and smooth, and when my daughter was a newborn it was great to rock her side to side in the stroller. It’s also a bit narrower, which makes it a lot easier to get through doorways and tight spaces. I found with the Vista I would often snag the wide back wheel on a door frame or the edge of the elevator. Update for 2015 Vista – this got even worse as the new vista is a little bit wider and I’m constantly lifting it a bit to wedge it in sideways somewhere. Point Cameleon.

Seat height: The seat in the Cameleon is much lower than the seat in the Vista, and I like being able to be close to the baby.  In the 2015 model, if you’re using the upper seat adaptors to accommodate a second seat, it’s even higher.  I really like having the seat up high, so that’s a plus for the Vista.  Point Vista.

Storage: The Vista basket is so helpful, especially in NYC. The Cameleon basket is really hard to use under the seat, unless the seat is facing forward, and doesn’t have anything like the capacity of the vista basket. When you’re using the bassinet in the Cameleon, it’s practically inaccessible.  By contrast, the Vista made grocery shopping with the stroller a really pleasant experience.  I also like to imagine I’m just someone who could travel with a  few diapers and a small pack of wipes, but I know my babies need a change of clothes, a bib, a and various doo-dads regularly, so I’m always carting around a diaper bag.  Diaper bag storage in the basket of the vista is a lot better than hanging it on the handlebars of the Cameleon.  It’s especially tricky in the Cameleon when the seat is reclined fully for a young baby – the bottom of the seat doesn’t fold up, so it knocks the diaper bag hanging from the handlebars when they aren’t extended.  By contrast, the bottom of the Vista’s seat can bend up or down, so a bag hanging from the handlebars can be lower. Also, if you have the raincover in the Bugaboo basket, it feels even smaller.  You barely notice the raincover in the bottom of the Vista. Point Vista.

Folding/Carseat adapters: The Cameleon is a nightmare to fold. You have to remove the seat, remove the basket if you want it to lie at all flat, and if you are using carseat adapters, you have to remove those too before you can fold it. (We used the maxi-cosi adaptors, this may not be true for all adapters.) This basically made it a miserable experience to use the bugaboo for taxis or in our car, because you’d be in the middle of the street removing or attaching the adapters while someone else was putting the carseat into the car. If you were alone, it was even messier.  The Vista is easier to fold (and the 2015 is A LOT easier) and it was a game-changer for us that it could fold with carseat adapters on it. Once the seat faces forward, it can also fold with the seat attached, which is a really helpful feature. And, the Vista stands when folded.  Altogether, we can store it in the closet with relative ease – this was not true for the various pieces of a folded Cameleon Point Vista.

Brake/Handlebar: It’s a personal preference, but I found the Vista foot-brake and handlebar extender both more intuitive and easier to use than the Cameleon lever designs. Point for Vista. It is a plus for Cameleon that you can get a leather handlebar rather than foam.  It’s extra coin, natch, but it seems like a really sweet upgrade to something you hold for years.  The Cameleon handlebar is a smidge lower than the Vista handlebar at its lowest level.  As a short person, that matters because the less I have to tilt my wrists, the more ergonomically good it feels.  Point Bugaboo.

Bassinet/Infant Seating: The Cameleon bassinet is much bigger than the Vista bassinet, and, roughly, recommended for six months rather than the Vista’s three months.  This is both a pro and a con – the bassinet is so easy in the early days, but for me, the baby wanted to start looking around and I wanted to be able to interact with them better before six months passed, so I moved into the seat earlier than Bugaboo recommended.  But, I missed the ease of the bassinet.  The Vista has an infant snug-seat cushion, with removable head positioner, that helps bridge the transition for younger babies.  Both bassinets are safe for sleeping, and can fold down to some degree.  It’s a draw.

Multiple Children: The Vista can accommodate a second seat – and, it’s a great, recline-able seat in the 2015 model.  AND, you can have the bassinet and a toddler seat at once.  It’s a shame that the bassinet has to be in the lower position, because it’s hard to see the baby when you’re pushing, but it’s still a bassinet plus a toddler seat!  You’re in city select territory, and it’s a nicer and more maneuverable stroller than that one!  The Cameleon can’t do that.  A whole second seat!  Both can do a standing board, so there’s that, but a seat is a game-changer.  Point Vista.

Odds and Ends: I love the Vista parent console (although more on the older model than the newer model – it doesn’t fit well on the 2015 version in my opinion.)  Bugaboo sells a nifty little box looking storage thing, I like it.  I think the Bugaboo cupholder attachment is FAR SUPERIOR to the Vista’s – I can’t tell you how many times the Vista cupholder has spun around and dropped my drink into the middle of the street.  There’s a nifty little zipper pocket on the back of the Vista seat that would be perfect for stashing keys and a credit card or phone when the seat is forward-facing.  Bugaboo sells a zip-in, perfectly fitted stroller blanket option.  Vista pull-out sunshades and the ventilation windows on the toddler seat and bassinet are quite useful in summer and winter.  The Vista raincover is easier to use than Bugaboo’s, but it isn’t as easy as it used to be with a zip-in feature.  It’s a draw.

Customer Service/Warranty – Finally, I’ve been really impressed with Uppa Baby’s customer service – they’ve been really responsive and sent a few replacement parts quickly and without any hassle.  I don’t have any experience with Bugaboo’s customer service, beyond getting a recalled piece replaced easily through the website, but it’s hard to imagine Bugaboo would be able to exceed it. I think Bugaboo does offer a longer warranty though, and as a company are committed to quality.  It’s a draw.

If you made it to the end of this  . . . congratulations and welcome to the obsession.  If you’re just looking for the TL;DR: buy a Vista if you like carrying stuff around; buy a Cameleon if you can’t handle the width of a Vista.

Re-framing Parenthood

I also think that we’re framing parenthood, in this micro conversation—but really possibly in our greater cultural conversation right now—as something that’s primarily hard and tiring. That’s absolutely the lens I was given to look at it with, and it was terrifying. What I’ve found in the last year and a half is that for me, it’s totally the wrong lens. Like TOTALLY the wrong lens. For me, it’s this earth exploding joy machine, that yeah, makes me tired sometimes. But I’m still operating in a culture that mostly treats kids as a nuisance, not a joy. Which sucks. And isn’t universal (I learned when traveling).

This excerpt from a comment posted by Meg Keene, the Editor in Chief, in a discussion-in-the-comments about the choice to have kids really resonated for me.

I am so easily swept along by the cultural narrative, and the easy, canned responses to the typical questions: it makes conversation polite and simple, and I don’t risk an awkward situation where someone basically asked a question on autopilot not expecting a real response. I hate those moments of discordance. The risk though, is that the culturally-accepted patter starts to dominate and you miss out on the opportunity to develop real and deep connections.  But I don’t know how to answer quickly, without sounding pompous or insincere, that our life doesn’t resemble a chaotic sitcom version of young parents with a baby.

She is the most fun ever, and although it’s work, taking care of her doesn’t feel like a chore or drudgery.  Perhaps that’s because we share the labor with daycare, so each individual day we have a balance of work related to the baby and work related to commerce.  And our lovely daycare providers have a balance of work related to the baby and work related to their school, their families and whatever else they feel like doing.  So, we spread the work but even when we don’t, on weekends and vacations, it’s thrilling and enervating to guide her days.  It’s not just drudgery in exchange for a few moments of hugs and communication.  It’s joy.