Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Good [Neighborhood] Stuff: The Grand Entryway

I love my neighborhood. I live in a humble 2-bedroom apartment, but just down the road, there are blocks and blocks of beautiful old mansions. I dreamily stroll down these streets, imagining my life in these incredible homes. I happen to know that every grad student and grad student spouse has his/her favorite mansion on St. Ronan Street. I often find myself examining my favorite houses, looking up and down, trying to memorize the details that I will incorporate in my own mansion (ha ha). I love being broke, because I can dream up some pretty fancy houses without having to pay for them.

I thought I'd bring the camera on my walk today and record some of my favorite entryways. [*note* don't expect Architectural Digest quality here. I was trying to be incognito somewhat while snapping photos, because wouldn't you think it was weird if you saw some lady taking pictures of entryways with a little boy in a stroller? probably.] Crossing the threshold of any home is significant and I admire all beautiful and varied entryways in this town. So, what makes for a cool entryway?


These entryways have the same vibe as the rest of Yale campus.

Non-tradition, too! I love people whose personalities cannot be contained within the walls of their house and overflow outside. The people in these homes seem like good folks to invite to a party. (click on the first one for the full effect)

Big, beautiful porches

Beautiful Doors


And that classic colonial style that still remains in this very, very old town:

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Field Trip: Boston Museum Marathon with a[n almost] Two Year-Old Tyke

I went on an art history study abroad when I was in college with two art history professors and their families. One thing I could never get over was the youngest daughter of one of the professors. She couldn't have been older than six or seven and spent all day with us in the museum, in the back of the group, patiently sitting on her dad's feet as her mom lectured on the different masterpieces around Europe. She was incredible. I remember thinking, "when I have a child, s/he is going to be just like that." (Isn't that just the thing someone without kids would think?) But, really, I've often wondered how she got to be that way, and I've come to realize that it was just like anything else--she grew up going to many museums, and that is how her family rolls. So, as an art historian of sorts, I'd kind of like to have a child who knows about museums, who likes being there, and feels like he belongs there. But, of course, going to the museum is not a novel idea for moms, especially those moms who live in cold climates. It's warm, it's educational, and many times, it's free. Check, check, check. So, while visiting Boston recently, we made the rounds to some incredible museums, and I learned a few new things, which may be obvious to the rest of the world, but could help me in the future:

Different Museums lend themselves more easily to tiny kids. Of course. Little hands want to touch, little voices want to shout, little bodies want to run around with wild abandon. The Science Museum, Children's Museum, and Aquarium were huge hits and we could have stayed all day at any one of these places. The Science Museum was Pete's fave. Exihibits on trains, balls, lions? This is the best!

But, I'm not going to let that stop me from going to the less 'hands-on' places-- art museums aren't hands-on at all, but they sure have a lot of pictures. For this trip, I just confined Pete to the stroller, we didn't stop very long in one place, we looked for horses and dogs, and found a big empty room for Pete to run around. Maybe not my dream trip to the art museum, but I kept reminding myself that this wasn't really all about me. I was on duty as a mom, and just tried to make it positive (and very short). And I tried to ignore the disgusted glares coming my way. "Oh my, how frightful! A CHILD?!" Please.

Get a better stroller. I'm not a fan of this target umbrella stroller. I can't say one good thing about it, except that it was cheap. So, that explains a lot. Anyway, I'm looking into a better lightweight option. Anyone have any good ideas?

Abort when things fall apart. We worked hard to get to a lot of museums in a little amount of time, but, we were on vacation. So, once I changed from neurotic Becca to go-with-the-flow Becca, life was great. I guess it's yet another "letting-go" lesson in the curriculum of motherhood.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

I love a good party: Harvest Baby Shower

Yes, it is baby shower season. Along with the ripening apples and pumpkins, it seems as though my good friends' babies are ripening up too, getting ready to come into the world! My beautiful friend Tammy is expecting in October, and I thought that an autumnal shower would help her ease into this new season filled with great things to come.

I have made so many pies, and felt like trying something else. I was really pleased with how this Apple-Cinnamon Upside-Down Cake turned out.

I also made a Pumpkin Cheesecake, which was so easy but, then again, so NOT! The actual mixing of ingredients and putting in the oven was a cinch. I was pretty smug as I put the cake in the oven, thinking "what is the big deal about cheesecake? What's all the hype about?" But, I learned as I followed the rest of the recipe, that it's not really about the baking that makes the cheesecake. It's all about the cooling of the cheesecake that makes it a labor of love. Two hours in the oven, then four on the countertop, then four in the fridge. No problem, if you make it in the morning, but I started this journey at 7:00 pm. At 9:00, when I was pulling it out of the oven, I had major crack anxiety. Not crack cocaine, but cheesecake crack. If I had put the cake in the fridge, my cake would have instantly cracked and all of my beautiful cake aspirations would be dashed in one second. I decided to leave the cheesecake out on the countertop and take my chances. No biggie, right? But, my nice husband knew about all this and woke up, out of his own concern for me, at 1:30 am, just to put the cheesecake in the fridge. Now that, my friends, is true love. I woke up to a beautiful, flawless cheesecake in the morning, and gave my husband a hundred kisses. In retrospect, maybe I should've started the cheesecake the morning before, so we wouldn't have had to tend to it like a newborn baby.
I was about to take pics of these nice cakes and then "ding dong"! My first guest arrived a full 30 minutes early! I put her right to work, helping me cut fruit.

Tammy has spent a lot of time in Italy, and she is a world-famous opera singer, so Italian food seemed to be most appropriate. My prosciutto-wrapped melon was not the most popular, but maybe my favorite thing that I served. I love prosciutto, and it was different and adventurous, and, well, in Italy we were always eating weird food combinations like this, so I liked feeling kinda sorta Italian. I got my old faithful olive salad and bocconcini from Liuzzi's Market, one of my favorite places, some Italian soda, bread and cheese, and had some friends bring a few other things to round it all out. We had quite the crowd to rally around Tammy, and plenty of adorable little baby things to help us all remember how sweet life can be when blessed with a new little one.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Good [Kids'] Stuff: Homemade Playdough

It seems as though the more I live as a mother, the more my adolescent desires for independence and originality have morphed into longings for the familiarities of my childhood. I find myself trying to recreate all the good things that my own dear mother did for me and my siblings over the years, and one mainstay in our childhood home was homemade playdough. It's not fancy or original, but there's nothing better than sitting around the table and rolling out some worms and snakes.

I found the recipe here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Good [Handmade] Stuff: Nightsewing

You know the REM song, "Nightswimming....deserves a quiet night." Well, I've done my fair share of nightswimming, but my evening activities have changed significantly in the past 10 years. I tell myself I'm still my crazy ol' self, while I cut fabric and dig around for my seam ripper. "I'm still cool, I'm still cool" I repeat in my head. But, you know, embracing this whole domestic life in all its granny-in-the-rocking-chair glory is strangely satisfying. Sewing, knitting, cooking, baking, these are the skills of my grandmas and great-grandmas, and all the greats before them. Sitting in front of my sewing machine, making a baby quilt for my dear friend while my own baby sleeps away, feels like an almost ritualistic rite of passage for me, a pretty new mama myself. When I have the time to do it, I love making these little baby quilts for friends. They are adapted from this pattern. I always use fleece for the backing, because its so cozy and soft.

I have little patience with finding fabric at Joann's, although I know I should try. It's cheap and convenient, and I'm going to keep looking for cute stuff. But, for this quilt, I got fat quarters at Purl. I love the patterns and will happily use the scraps for some Christmas stockings.

ta da! I can't wait to see a little baby snuggled up in this one!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Good Book: Gallop

The library has introduced us to some great children's books, but I can't say I've been totally into any board books in particular until now! Gallop is cool! It is a "scanimation" book, which is, I'm guessing, a word the authors invented to describe the motion that happens as you turn every page. Kind of like a flip book without having to flip.

Cool, hey? This book reminds me of the photo stills taken by Eadweard J. Muybridge in the early days of photography, when the world was seeing this captured motion for the first time.

Gallop has that same mesmerizing effect for both my little guy and me and we read it probably 20 times the day after we got it at the library. So, two thumbs up for sure.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Good Taste: Oatmeal, Lloyd Style

My oatmeal recipe comes from Joy of Cooking and this blog may just turn into me typing out recipes from Joy of Cooking, but, hey, what can I say? Really, my other cookbooks on the shelf are for show, and if I tried to use any others besides Joy, not only would this other cookbook plummet to the floor, but bring down the entire shelf of books and nice picture of Shane and I which is also precariously balanced on this same shelf. Yes, poor planning on my part, but, I'm moving in 8 months, so there is absolutely no motivation on my part to change anything about my current house configurations.

Alrighty, moving on to the Oatmeal!
My sister is very vocal about the great benefits of oatmeal, and she's got a point. If you've ever watched an episode of Oprah with her doctor consultant, Dr. Oz, I swear he says the word "oatmeal" at least 50 times in his digestive-health diatribes. Oatmeal is full of fiber and gives us a nice, substantial start to the day, so, true, we should all be getting some in consistently. But, really, it has taken me 3 years to finally find a way to include oatmeal in my life (unless you count oatmeal cookies.) I can't stand watery oats, and I've had quite the time figuring out how to make them without a massive overflow of steaming, goopy, burning oat-water all over my poor microwave turntable. But, friends, all I had to do was consult my best cooking resource and instantly, I was in oatmeal heaven! So creamy, so flavorful, and so doable! We are oatmeal people, finally!

Here's the recipe from Joy (altered to make a bit more-- 3 big bowls, rather than 2. And yes, Pete eats as much as I do. And yes, he is not yet two years old.)

Old-Fashioned Rolled Oats with Raisins and Spices:

Bring to a boil in a medium saucepan:
3 cups water
Stir in until blended:
2 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup raisins
heaping pinch of salt (I know, what's a heaping pinch....just a really, really big one)
Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 to 10 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed
Stir in until blended:
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Top each serving with:
1 to 2 (to 3, if you are me) tablespoons brown sugar or maple syrup.

And, there are a million variations on this, of course. I like to slice in a banana and half a peach, when peaches are in season. I had some incredible oatmeal at our neighborhood coffee shop, Lulus, and they made Steel Cut Oats, topped with whole milk, homemade granola, maple syrup, bananas, and peaches, and that was a treat to be sure; maybe not an everyday thing, but perfect for a lazy Saturday morning meal (meaning for those out there who don't have a little two-year-old son, yelling "MAMA!!! OATS!!!) My sister loves cooking her banana right in with her oats in the microwave, and throwing a handful of walnuts in after. Tasty, for sure.

And, just for my own future reference, I was able to sell oatmeal as a meal to my little boy Peter by way of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. In my version of telling the story, the bears ate oatmeal rather than porridge, and Pete naturally wanted to eat up the "just right" oatmeal, just like Goldilocks.