Monday, August 31, 2009

The grass is greener

As we prepared to leave our beloved Brooklyn for our new home in Toronto, E and I often talked about how great it was going to be to have lots of open space for Cassius and Indio to run and play.


In Brooklyn, we spent many hours in Fort Greene Park, just steps from our apartment. We used to walk Cassius in the park a few times a day, I would meet up with my mommy group, and E still runs his Boot Camp classes there. It was a great place to meet friends for a picnic or a walk. I even went running there...once.

Our only complaint was that it was crowded. Being the only large-ish green space in our 'hood, we weren't the only ones who wanted to take advantage of it, especially when the weather was nice.

Now that we are in Toronto, we live close to a large park where we take Cassius for his daily walks. It's not technically an off-leash park, so we are very mindful of the other patrons in the park, though compared to Brooklyn, there are only a handful of people out at any given time. This weekend while at my parents house in the 'burbs, I took Cassius out to play in the school park nearby. It was kind of eery because I was the only person out in this vast open space in the middle of a beautiful August day. No one else was around! All I could think of was, "These people don't know what a jewel they have in their neighbourhood: a clean, safe, well-maintained park with 2 playgrounds, a soccer field, 2 baseball diamonds and enough blacktop to enjoy a game of 3-on-3, handball, or hopscotch."

Wonder what they would think if they lived in NYC where we used to clamour over everyone else for a patch of grass.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

The Good Stuff: MJM Books

I have recently become infatuated with all things personalized, especially since I can't just go out and buy an *Indio* magnet or sippy cup or keychain or anything for that matter because his name is not common at all. Combine this with my need to read to Indio and my ongoing search for great books for kids, I have stumbled across many personalized books.

There is a much larger market out there than I anticipated, but one company that stood out from the pack was MJM Books, a company made up of three brothers, Mike, Jeff, and Matt. I really liked the story in their book, If I Were Big and since I was looking for an original birthday gift for two separate adorable people in my life, I gave MJM a try.

Though the characters from book to book look the same, MJM allows you to specify skin tone and hair colour for the child and each parent. When I wanted a more complex combination due to the multicultural family of one of the recipients, Jeff at MJM was quick to reply to my email, ensuring me that he would make the necessary amendments.

I was not disappointed! The title page includes the child's name and a message from the book-giver.
They are extremely reasonably priced and the books are great! They are soft cover, so they may not last as long as a hardcover book, especially in little hands [and mouths], but they are wonderful nonetheless! The drawings are simple and cute and the story is sure to become a bedtime favorite!




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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bringing back the classics

Photobooths seem to be a quickly disappearing species. I remember taking countless pictures in the little boxes with the orange and blue curtains, especially at the Eaton Centre back in the days of hanging out at malls. Before they go the way of the Polaroid, let's see how many I can find.

Taken at Yorkdale Mall, Toronto [They have 2 booths.] with my good friend, Sophia right before we saw Julie & Julia [Great flick!].
If anyone of you know of any photobooths in and around Toronto, please let me know!

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Counting sheep

If you've followed this blog at all you may have read about my adventures in sleep training. I wrote about it quite a bit in the beginning, such as here, here, here, here and here. [Wow, I didn't realize I wrote about it that much!] Anyway, even though Indy has been sleeping through the night since about 6 months, we have never had a night or a nap where he doesn't cry before falling asleep. It could be for 5 minutes or 25 minutes, but there was always some crying.

Until now. For the past week or so our routine has been changed up a bit when I realized how much Indio loves to hear me sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, especially at bedtime. [The fact that he likes my singing in itself is pretty amazing!] No matter how much squawking he was doing, it only took a few notes to calm him down. And then it happened. I was singing and swaying with my little boy in my arms and I attempted to put him in his crib like every other night, prepared for the onslaught of protests I am so used to. Only this time it was silent [except for the last off-key verse of Twinkle Twinkle]. Indio was in his crib, awake, staring back at me with those big brown eyes, just watching. No crying. No screaming. Nothing.

I slowly backed out of the room, still singing, and shut the door, convinced the screeching would begin. But no, it was still quiet. By the time I got downstairs to turn on our video monitor, he was asleep.

After months of wondering if he would ever go to sleep happy, I think we may have finally crossed that bridge. Two days of no crying so far, so I'm not holding my breath just yet, but it's a good start.

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Morning giggle

Our local park hosts many festivals during the summer, including the one advertised here. [St Clair CORN Fest] Who's more immature, the person who switched the C and the P or the person who posted it on her blog?

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Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Well Fed: Pho Rang Dong

In an effort to explore our neighbourhood more and to avoid the kitchen on the few hot days of summer we've had so far, E and I decided to try Pho Rang Dong on St Clair Ave W last week. We were crunched for time and it never seems to take long to whip up some pho [noodle soup] or bun [rice vermicelli noodles] whenever we've gone out to a Vietnamese restaurant in the past so this seemed like the perfect solution for our hunger pangs.

I was right! The lone waitress brought us our food shortly after we ordered. I had my usual pho tai and E had grilled pork over vermicelli. Both dishes were quite large and very tasty, albeit not anything special from any other pho place we've tried. [In my experience, Vietnamese cuisine seems to be one that is rarely *bad*.]

Of course, Indio wanted to touch everything but his toys, so in an effort to distract him, I gave him a few strands of vermicelli from E's dish and a piece of beef from my pho. He wasn't so into the vermicelli, finding it too sticky for his liking. He spent more time trying to get the noodles off his fingers than eating them, but he seemed to like the soft, tasty beef.

I would definitely go back to Pho Rang Dong when my next pho craving strikes. The food was good, the service was great, and the restaurant was baby-friendly too, even if the the highchair could've used a good scrubbing.

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Good Stuff: Hush

My good friend Sophia is visiting from NYC this weekend and while getting ready this evening I finally had the chance to try her eye shadow that I've been coveting for as long as I've known her. Whether she is going to work or going out, Soph always has a little something on her eyes; very subtle in the day, a little more daring at night. Back in Brooklyn when we worked together, she wore this colour that was a bit shimmery, but almost exactly her skin tone. It was perfect for day and I wanted to find something like that for myself; however, Sophia is much paler than I am [read: white] so of course I didn't think her colour would suit me even though she kept telling me it would.

Skip forward about 6 years to Toronto, this weekend. I finally tried a bit of Sophia's MAC cream colour shadow in Hush and just like she promised, it was perfect! Somehow it looked just a little shimmery but almost exactly my skin tone. We're going to the nearest MAC counter tomorrow to get me some!

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Doesn't anyone proofread anymore?


Another one to add to my growing list of bad signage. This one was at Furama Bakery on Spadina Ave in Toronto's Chinatown. It made me giggle though.

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Scrumptious squash


Now that we have a real-size kitchen I've had the occasional urge to cook, or better yet, bake. For those that know me well know that I'm not the biggest fan of the kitchen, but before living in Brooklyn with my tinier-than-tiny kitchens, I did indulge in baking fairly often.

While visiting E's uncle and aunt for dinner the other night we were presented with a monstrous squash, aka home-grown zucchini. What was I supposed to do with a vegetable the size of my 8-month old son? Luckily, I came across a *guaranteed to be tasty* zucchini bread recipe by Betty Crocker which I decided to try. And tasty it was! Between my parents and E and I it lasted about a day and a half. Unfortunately, the recipe only required half of the gourd and I have no idea of what to do with the rest.

Here's the recipe for those of you that are interested. If you have any suggestions for what I can do with the other 1/2, let me know.

Zucchini Bread

3 cups shredded zucchini [or 1/2 of the gigantor one I had]
1 2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup veg oil
2 tsp vanilla
4 large eggs
3 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves [forgot the cloves...oops!]
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts [I used walnuts]
1/2 cup raisins [optional...I used Sultana raisins because that's what I had on hand.]

  1. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in centre of oven. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease bottoms only of 2 (8x4-inch) loaf pans or 1 (9x5-inch) loaf pan with shortening or cooking spray.
  2. In large bowl, stir zucchini, sugar, oil, vanilla and eggs until well mixed. Stir in remaining ingredients except nuts and raisins. Stir in nuts and raisins. Divide batter evenly between 8-inch pans or pour into 9-inch pan.
  3. Bake 8-inch loaves 50 to 60 minutes, 9-inch loaf 1 hour 10 minutes to 1 hour 20 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in centre comes out clean. Cool in pans on cooling rack 10 minutes.
  4. Loosen sides of loaves from pans; remove from pans and place top side up on cooling rack. Cool completely, about 2 hours, before slicing. Wrap tightly and store at room temperature up to 4 days, or refrigerate up to 10 days.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Happily Ever After: Year 3

Today we celebrate our third wedding anniversary. Is it weird that I can't recall a time when E wasn't part of me because it feels like he's always been here, yet I can vividly remember our wedding day like it was yesterday? [Oh, how wonderful that day was!] Now, I'm not one for clich├ęs and cheesy stories of fate, but I do believe that people are drawn to each other for special reasons. E and I are two parts of a whole, two parts who were floating haphazardly through the universe until we collided. Our lives just seemed to entwine and mesh together as if they were one. Kismet.

Rainy July 4th, 2008

2nd Anniversary in Jamaica

Our first *date* as new parents

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The Good Stuff: Salt-Water Sandals

This summer has been anything but dry. We've been inundated with what feels like a daily thunderstorm or two and today was no different. Luckily, I had just unpacked my trusty Salt-Water sandals because we had planned to take Indy to the wading pool near us. Instead, we got caught in the downpour! My sandals held up to their claim of being "specifically designed and manufactured to stand up to the sand and salt water that is associated with a typical trip to the beach." Ok, so it was no beach, just busy construction-laden city street, but I felt some sand underfoot.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

Offering to the Gods

While paying for my way overdue, much needed pedicure last Saturday at Michelle Le Nails I noticed a small shrine in the entrance to the shop. This isn't unusual, especially at an East Asian establishment [Michelle is Vietnamese], but what caught my eye were the offerings to the Gods in the shrine: Tim Hortons coffee and a glazed donut! These Gods must be Canadian!

Tim Hortons is as much a part of the Canadian landscape as a moose or a beaver [heehee!], though of course as soon as we left Brooklyn, TWO locations opened up in our old neighbourhood: one on Court St and one on Fulton! There are 11 locations in total in NYC. I don't even love TH that much, I just love that it's Canadian. It would have been nice to have a little piece of *home* while living in Brooklyn.

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The Good Stuff: Skill Doll

Now that we are finally getting a bit more settled in our new abode, I have begun to think about decorating. Sure, all our stuff is still in boxes, but hey, we only received everything just over a week ago and have had house guests for the last two weekends so, really, there hasn't been anytime to unpack. Anyway, back to the decorating. Because we know this place isn't our *forever* home I'm really only thinking of acquiring items that I would take with me to our forever home, things that speak to my overall aesthetic-sense, and the one room that I'm eager to make special is Indio's nursery.

Back in Brooklyn, he slept in his co-sleeper in our room and had a change table in the *other* room that really was a glorified closet. Now that he has his own space, I want to make it special. I didn't think I wanted to do traditional *boy blue* but I keep coming back to it. [E says blue is my go-to colour and that I need to branch out more.]

Blue or not, I knew that I didn't want a matchy-matchy nursery, but more along the lines of something *coordinated*, original, and fun.

My very close friend, Rebecca is a fantastic illustrator and I have always dreamed of asking her to draw something for Indio's room. I just didn't know what. Lucky for me, she has finally decided to showcase her work to the world on Etsy [seller: skilldoll] and I found the perfect piece! The drawing is of the sweetest blue bird gingerly holding an egg. It reminds me of my pregnancy with Indio, a time that was filled with both joy and anxiety.

Careful

The drawing is even more special to me because Rebecca was there throughout my pregnancy, whether it was to hold my hand while I was getting a routine procedure early on because E was unable to make it, or to make sure I was staying properly hydrated during the sweltering NYC heat we all suffered through last summer. And of course, she was right there with us during those first 6 months of Indio's life, visiting, baking goodies because she knew I wasn't eating, walking Cassius when I was busy bouncing on the exercise ball in attempts to get Indio to sleep, and watching him so that E and I could go on a much needed date every once in awhile.

I miss seeing Becky almost everyday, but now with this beautiful drawing up in Indy's room I will be reminded of her every time I change a poopy diaper.
Rebecca's drawing that reminds me of her and her kitty, Pike [though Becky doesn't wear glasses and rarely wears pants].

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Well Fed: Casa Victoria

Since E and I love trying new restaurants, I've added a new component to the blog today: Well Fed. This will be my take on my faves and not-so-fave eateries. Feel free to add your own reviews to mine!

A couple of years ago I introduced E to dim sum, one of my favourite dining experiences. Dim sum is essentially an old Chinese tradition of eating a light meal with tea. I first started enjoying this Chinese midday meal when I was about 8 or 9 years old. My cousin used to take me to Pink Pearl, which is now Pearl Harbourfront, in Toronto. When I was a bit older my good friend, Jenn used to invite me to her family gatherings at the now defunct New World restaurant. I learned most of the dim sum words I know through Jenn.

Once I moved to New York I yearned for dim sum and searched for the best in the city. The closest I came to finding *Toronto-tasty* dim sum was at Golden Unicorn in Manhattan's Chinatown, which quickly became a regular Sunday treat for me and E. We would walk to Chinatown across the Manhattan Bridge, have lunch at Golden Unicorn, and then head over to Tai Pan Bakery to get some bubble tea for our walk back home. We shared our love for dim sum with our friends and all our out of town guests. We haven't had a complaint yet!

Today, Jenn and Bill introduced us to a new dim sum restaurant: Casa Victoria [website is in Chinese, but this link will take you to their address and map]. In their words, this was *fancy, upscale* dim sum. Well, fancy it was! The waitresses were wearing black and white French maid outfits, the tables were immpecably set, the waiters attended to our every need, sometimes before we even called them over!
Jenn teaching Indio the finer points of dim sum

But the best part was the food! Everything was delicious! We had pork ribs in some sort of orgasmic honey-sesame marinade, haam sui gok [I just learned the word for my favourite football-shaped deep-fried meat dumplings], paai gwat [spareribs in black bean sauce], vegetable dumplings, sticky rice, spicy scallop cheong fun, sticky rice, and fried donut-rice noodle rolls. I can't believe how much I ate. I'm still feeling painfully full from lunch...it was worth it!

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Monday, August 3, 2009

Watch Out, Dust Bunnies!

Indio is on the move and scooping up any dust bunnies he finds along the way!


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Why I don't use public fountains

As witnessed in our park this morning: Fido getting a sip of water.

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Sunday, August 2, 2009

Sand between our toes

In our efforts to show E's dad and baby sis a little bit of Toronto during their short stay with us, we drove to the Beaches today with Indio and Cassius in tow. We walked to the boardwalk and the leash-free park along the Lake's edge. Indy was absolutely mesmerized by the sound of waves lapping up the shore. He watched the children running in the water, oblivious to its un-summery temperature while Cassius made new friends in the dog park [more to steal their tennis balls than to be social].

We could not divert Indio's attention from the water until eventually he fell asleep in the Ergo. Hmmm, maybe a solution to our restless afternoons when he refuses to nap?

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Nani's Roti

It's the first day of August and what better way to kick off the month than with a new food for Indy? We were at my folks' place for dinner with E's dad and baby sis. The spread included butter chicken, okra, and [dry, not saucy] curried cauliflower. Of course, my mom made the rotis fresh as we sat down to eat. She made a baby one for Indio, which I fed him in little pieces. He loved it! [You should've seen my mom's smile!]

It was a great addition to Indy's food repertoire since it was full of nutritious, unprocessed ingredients and love.

Eight months ago, I didn't really think about baby food too much because I assumed when the time came for *solids* we would be feeding our child ready-made foods, for the most part. Of course, I had planned on researching the *best* ready-made foods on the market, willing to go organic even!

At my baby shower, I received 2 books on making your own baby food as well as a food mill, which got me thinking about how easy [or difficult for someone like me who appears to have an aversion to the kitchen] it would be to prepare my own baby food. So I started reading and researching, which led me to go against my original thought by making my own food. That led to reading about baby-led weaning [I wrote about it here], which is where we are now.

To date, the only store-bought food we've given Indy has been Baby Mum Mums, a snack he first received at one of our Mother Goose class sessions. We haven't made solids a huge priority in our house, but more of a *play-and-explore* time, and Indio has a great time whenever we do give him something to chow down on.

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