Archive for December 2007

Glass Half-Full

There are a couple ways to go when you find yourself at 7pm on a Sunday evening not reading bedtime stories to your freshly bathed children but, instead, sitting in the ER with the whole family, your husband repeating insurance information to the triage nurse, the 5 year-old sitting next to you, taking it all in stride, his nose buried in a cookbook, and the 2 year-old on your lap, wrapped in a blanket, his nose and mouth obscured by the wad of paper towels and tissue that you’re pressing against his face to stop the bleeding.

So, I decided to count my blessings.

  1. The hospital is a 5-minute drive from our house.
  2. We didn’t get into an accident on our 3-minute drive to the hospital.
  3. We were in the ER on New Year’s Eve eve, not New Year’s Eve.
  4. No lost or broken teeth, no broken nose, no injury to his eyes or head, and the bookshelf he collided with didn’t fall on top of him.
  5. An ER doctor who’s the mother of 4 herself, and could explain, from personal experience, the varying, sometimes a little upsetting, reactions children have to the sedative they wanted to administer to Eli, and how it feels for a mother to witness them.
  6. A sedative and pain killer in one dose, rather than two different drugs.
  7. So few children in the hospital over Christmas that the ER had a stash of picture books, one of which a nurse gave to Eli.
  8. A waiting room television playing The Sound of Music.
  9. A friend who could come on no notice to hang at our house with Ben, so that Tony could take him home and then return to hold Eli’s (and my) hand through his stitches.
  10. The distracting power of a silly book, useful for mama (concentrating hard on keeping her voice steady) and son.
  11. A hospital big enough to have pediatric plastic surgeons available on Sunday night.
  12. No scary reactions to the sedative. Instead, as he came out of it, Eli happily hallucinated that he was on the train going to the zoo: hissing oxygen mask = steam; pulse-ox light = headlight; heart and blood pressure monitor cords = bell and whistle cords.

And now, 12 stitches from lip to nose, healing nicely, and a pretty good story to tell.

Pay It Forward Book Exchange

OK, it’s been so long since I’ve done this that I’m giving away three (three!) books this month. And I’ll probably do another give-away before the end of the month. I’m just in a giving kind of mood.

The books I’m letting go of this month are Elizabeth Irvine’s Healthy Mother, Healthy Child: Creating Balance In Everyday Life; Simon Winchester’s The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary; and a signed copy of Santa Montefiore’s The Gypsy Madonna. A get-your-year-started-healthy how-to, a fascinating history, and a curl up by the fire novel.

Here are the rules, as created by Overwhelmed with Joy:

Once a month (or so) I’ll pick a book to give away to one lucky reader (you don’t have to have a blog to enter). It may be a book that I’ve purchased new or used, or it may be a book that someone has shared with me that I really like. It’ll probably be a paperback, just to make things easier, but no guarantees.

2) Details on how you can enter to win will be listed below.

3) If you’re the lucky winner of the book giveaway I ask that you, in turn, host a drawing to give that book away for free to one of your readers, after you’ve had a chance to read it (let’s say, within a month after you’ve received the book), or donate it to your local library or shelter. If you mail the book out using the media/book rate that the post office offers it’s pretty inexpensive.

4) If you’re really motivated and want to host your own “Pay It Forward” giveaway at any time, feel free to grab the button above to use on your own blog. Just let her know so she can publish a post plugging your giveaway and directing readers your way!

So there you have it, the Pay It Forward Book Exchange, designed to encourage people to read, to share good books, to possibly get you out of your reading comfort zone, and to get fun stuff in the mail instead of just bills!”

Leave me a comment saying you want to enter by the end of the day Wednesday, January 2nd and I’ll announce a winner on Thursday.

Celery Root & Potato Gratin

OK, I know this might not sound like the most delicious thing (and I’m certainly moving a long way from marshmallows and the other sweets I’ve been posting about) but this was one of the big successes of my holiday cooking last week. My parents spent the week with us, and I always use their visits to try out new recipes. Gracious guinea pigs that they are, they do not turn up their noses at new flavors like some small people I know and love. But although the boys rejected this one, the rest of us gobbled it up. The celery root is delicate and sweet, the potatoes rich and creamy — it’s a delicious wintery dish.

1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 t butter
1 celery root, about a pound
1 pound potatoes, preferably Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn
1/2 c cream
2 t dijon mustard
1 c grated Gruyere
1 t fresh thyme
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375. Rub a gratin dish with the garlic, and then with the butter.

Peel the celery root, quarter, and then slice it 1/4″ thick. Steam for 8-10 minutes, until tender. Remove to a large bowl.

While the celery root slices are steaming, peel and slice the potatoes 1/4″ thick also. Then, once the celery root is out of the steamer, steam potato slices until tender, 5-8 minutes. Add them to the celery root in the bowl.

Mix the cream and mustard together, then pour over the vegetables and toss well. Season with the thyme and salt and pepper to taste. Pour mixture into gratin dish, smooth it out, and cover with the grated cheese.

Bake, covered, for 30 minutes; then uncover and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until bubbling and nicely browned on top.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Toasted Coconut Marshmallows

OK, these are just too easy not to make. And we’re having a party next week, and these keep a long time, so why not feed the people marshmallows?! The only change I’d make to the recipe is to not toast the coconut for 7 minutes unless you like it burned. That’s all.

This picture is of the giant marshmallow before I cut it into dozens of marshmallow babies. I’m tempted now to make a multi-layered marshmallow birthday cake someday; wouldn’t it be beautiful? You could dye the layers different colors with food coloring, cut them into whatever shapes you like. . . Sweet, fun, and so jiggly, too!

Miracle on 11th Avenue

First, go read my latest column at Literary Mama, on Miracle on 34th Street. Come on back when you’re done.


OK, so here’s the postscript:

I was in the kitchen baking some cookies yesterday (as I’ve been the last several days…) when the doorbell rang, and Tony answered it for a postal service volunteer. She’d read Ben’s letter to Santa and brought him a pogo stick! She left too quickly for us to really thank her properly, or send her off with a plate of cookies. The pure generosity of this just knocks me out, and the thought of kids who really might not get a Christmas present without such volunteers makes me tear up (Tony looked up the Toys for Tots website and made a quick donation).

Ben and I hadn’t talked about his pogo stick request since the day he mailed his letter to Santa, and I didn’t act on it; I didn’t really take it seriously. If you have read this blog, or know my boy, you know that Ben is not really a pogo stick kind of guy. But last night Ben made a careful plate of cookies, carrots (for the reindeer) and wrote a note for Santa: “Dear Santa, I hope your trip goes great tonight! PS, Did you bring my pogo stick? Signed, Benjamin James Grant.”

Of course, he was delighted with the gifts we gave him (his own set of measuring spoons; a compass; about a thousand Lego pieces) but his face when he recognized the big package under the tree this morning was pure joy, and he has not stopped marveling that Santa responded to his letter.

(Image from the book that started this all, Marla Frazee’s Santa Claus the World’s Number One Toy Expert)

It’s beginning to look a bit like Christmas…

We’re cooking, and decorating, and generally filling the house with good smells and pretty things… More to come!

Oh, Christmas Tree

This tree, a scrawny little primrose, is making me very happy. We’re fostering it for Friends of the Urban Forest, which will reclaim it after the holidays and plant it on a street somewhere in San Francisco (I’m hoping we can get the address, so that we’ll be able to visit it). Tony and the boys deemed it too small and skinny to bring inside and decorate, so we have a more traditional Christmas tree in the living room, and this one is hanging out by the front door, adorned with a flock of origami cranes.

Meanwhile, in other Christmas preparations, I’ve made (with Ben’s participation) candied orange peel, Elevator Lady Spice Cookies, pumpkin rocks, cranberry bars, and cranberry-pistachio ice box cookies. We still need to make hickory puffs and bourbon balls, some biscotti, and probably some wasps’ nests (a recipe I’ll post so that I can help Fertile Ground use up her egg whites!). Plus, there’s nothing chocolate yet, and that’s just wrong. Finally, I’m considering — for the first time — buche de noel for Christmas dessert, which is perhaps a little nutty. Tune in Wednesday to find out!

Salted Chocolate-Pecan Toffee

This was a fine way to end a busy week, or start a busy weekend. Ben and Eli both helped, Ben marveling at how much sugar the recipe called for, and both boys loving the sight of me wearing heavy-duty work gloves when it was time to stir the vanilla into the boiling sugar (somehow we don’t have oven mitts). When I asked Tony if he wanted a taste (we’ll give most of it away) he said, “Are you kidding? I saw everyone in my family throw a stick of butter into the pot. Yeah, I want a taste.” I’ve never made candy before, but it turns out to be a lot less work than an equal amount of cookies, and needless to say, it’s plenty delicious. We might be trying out some more recipes during this holiday baking season. Stay tuned.

Presenting… Mama, PhD!

And did I mention yet that this is available for pre-order? It’s never too soon to start your 2008 Christmas shopping!

Oh, and no, the book is not 27 pages. More like 288. We’ll get that fixed.

Pre-Order…. MY BOOK!

Woo-hoo! Mama, PhD has its very own ISBN number and its very own Amazon page (though not yet a cover image that I can share).
I’m a very proud mama, PhD, indeed.

You can learn more about the book, my co-editor, Elrena Evans, and all our incredible contributors at our website. Then click on over to Amazon. It’s never too early to get your order in!