We have lately entered the phase that I assume is a rite of passage for all parents, where at least part of our dinner a couple times a week is “whatever our toddler didn’t eat.” (This is especially because one of his favorite new phrases is “No-no,” which he uses often and with delight.) All things considered, it’s actually a fortunate turn of events for us, given that the things we feed B3–like, say, actual fresh veggies–tend to be way healthier than what we usually put in our bellies, and more often than not, happen to be pretty tasty, too. If you’re wondering if I ate more of Luke’s food than he did last weekend, I admit nothing.
As it turns out, one of the happier features of law school and, now, law firm life is the dependable occurrence of free lunches at least once a week–whether for a talk, or a deposition, or just inexplicably placed in a breakroom and abandoned for three hours (that’s okay, I’ll still eat it). As someone who will happily consume anything that’s offered to me for free, I am a big fan of this, and I have hardly met a catered work lunch that I did not like. (Which is a good thing, since I’ve been seeing a little bit more of work lately than I have for awhile!) That said, it makes for an extra delightful surprise when, in the vast landscape of half-sandwich platters, there manages to appear something new that I like so much that, free of the confines of fluorescent lights and conference rooms, I’d still happily search out on my own dime.
The calendar tells me that it has been more than one month since I was last here, which feels both much shorter and much longer than the reality (as always seems to be the case). The biggest event of the last month for us, though, is definitely this: We are now officially the proud parents of a bona fide, honest-to-goodness toddling toddler. Our little man can walk! A few weekends ago, B3 graduated from his half-lunging, half-toppling three-step walk to teetering halfway across the room on his own, and in the last few days he’s been making his way around the entire apartment–usually with both fists up, his belly stuck out, eyes opened as wide as they will go, and mouth open in a grin like a manic puppy. It is the craziest thing. If someone could bottle up the giddiness you get from looking up to see your previously quadripedaling baby suddenly wobbling towards you on his two feet, no one would ever have a bad day again.
We are now solidly into the magical stretch between Thanksgiving and Christmas, that no-holds-barred span of weeks that I typically use to indulge all of my wildest cookie and hot cocoa and cinnamon roll whims, and yet, much to my dismay, I’ve spent most of it so far thinking about, not chocolate or candy canes or marshmallows, but vegetables. In particular, these leafy greens. I am as surprised as you are.
Judging from the calendar, we are in the thick of picnic season, or for me, toss-everything-with-mayonnaise-and-maybe-eat-it-at-a-picnic-but-probably-just-straight-from-the-fridge season. My last post notwithstanding, I almost didn’t realize it; after years in New York, where I spent the first third-to-half of each year in an intense and unceasing scrutiny of the weather for any sign of warmth, California has lulled me into a kind of constant seasonal befuddlement, where I never know what season it is but I just know that it is giddily, euphorically not cold.
Last weekend we took our first big trip with B3 in tow, up to Berkeley for my brother’s graduation. It wasn’t until we were on our way back, winding our way through the mountains on the last stretch of the I-5, that I realized how much Los Angeles has started to feel like home. This little ham can probably take most of the credit for that (isn’t that how the saying goes? “Home is where the diaper pail is”?) but whatever the reason, sometime over the past year this sprawling city has stopped feeling foreign and unusual, with its bleached asphalt and vast robin’s-egg skies, and started feeling familiar. That said, after
5 ½ 7 hours of driving on the two lanes of the I-5 amidst weaving cars and semi-trucks that I swear are bigger here than elsewhere (and, by turn, feeding a 6-month-old in Jack-in-the-Box parking lots along the way), I suspect conquering that real-life edition of Toad’s Turnpike will make any destination feel a little more like home.
Our Christmas tree is up! It’s the first real, live, non-plastic tree to make an appearance in our household. We chose it in about five seconds flat last Saturday with babe in tow, in the signature haste of panicky new parents who are still not very good at this “taking the baby out into the world” thing. (Luke, meanwhile, was just passed out the whole time and didn’t wake up until thirty minutes after we got home. But he could have.) So it’s a fat little four-foot munchkin of a tree that is cheerfully lopsided and very strategically placed in the corner of our living room to display the side with the least lop. But I think that’s what you call “character.”
A few years ago I came across an Alton Brown diatribe against one-use kitchen gadgets (or “unitaskers,” I think he calls them) and thought it would be a good rule not to buy them for our New York kitchen. This more or less worked (mostly thanks to B2 putting his foot down on random Amazon purchases and the fact that we just had no room, lest we start storing kitchen appliances in our bathroom) but I also pretty much immediately found ways to bend the rule, i.e. the SPAM slicer is okay because it can also slice tofu, and the potato ricer can also make excellent pumpkin puree — clearly bi-taskers!
And then, in a fit of indulgence a few months ago, I bought our very first waffle iron. This is arguably the largest unitasker to grace our kitchen. But I calculate that a waffle iron is actually at least a penta-tasker (quintup … tasker?): (1) waffle pizza! (2) waffle grilled cheese! (3) waffle-ninis! (4) all kinds of actual waffles! And, now, (5) stuffing waffles!
The thing is, if I used the waffle iron to make only stuffing waffles, I’m pretty sure it would still be worth it. After seeing them crop up in all sorts of places online, I’ve been waiting to make these for all the years that our kitchen was too cramped to fit a waffle iron, and they lived up to every expectation: All the intensely savory, buttery, carb-tastic goodness of my very favorite Thanksgiving side dish is stuffed into a sizzling iron and made delightfully crispy on the outside, but fluffy and almost creamy inside, ready to tuck all the other Thanksgiving leftovers, from mashed potatoes to turkey to cranberry sauce, into its perfectly square divots. (And I added maple syrup, because why not.) I can think of no better way to reheat stuffing the next day — and in fact, it’s good enough that I’d be happy to make stuffing just to waffle.
After a tumultuous couple of weeks, wishing you all a safe, happy Thanksgiving. Thank you so much for being here, and for reading!
Two days after we moved to LA, we promptly left again on what would previously have been practically impossible (or at least, incredibly not enjoyable) from our former home, the quickest weekend trip back to B2’s home in Hawaii. We went for a wedding and for Halmunee-to-be’s first encounter with her grandbaby (whom she likes to call “her baby”). In 48 hours there, we ate our weight in homemade Korean food, I was shut down on every attempt to help around the house (okay, so I didn’t try that hard), and we did a lot of marveling at how gleeful it is to fly to Hawaii from the West Coast and to say goodbye to red-eye flights of East Coasts past. And we saw boars at the wedding! (They were not part of the procession.)
In the week or so since then, most of my time in LA so far has been something like this: learning about this thing called June gloom, adjusting euphorically to having an office with an actual window and actual sunlight in the afternoons after said June gloom, trying to buy out every single supermarket’s abundance of produce even though our Airbnb has very little in the way of kitchens, spending much more time on Google looking at traffic, and, most of all, gaping at the open, open spaces, and the endless expanse of blue sky overhead, which is as bright and all-encompassing and wrapped around you like a sunny blanket as the one in New York felt narrow and distant and shielded from you by high buildings. Of course, there’s plenty to miss about the home we left behind in New York, but I think it’s safe to say we really like it here so far. I get the sense we’ll like it even more when we move into our actual apartment (we found one! yippee!) this Saturday. It’s a happy relief.
Every once in a blue moon, usually when we’re just about to fall asleep, B2 likes to come up with ideas for things I should cook next. I use “ideas” loosely, because it’s mostly a sleepy, intentionally goofy dialogue that consists of “what about …” followed by a long pause and things like “… homemade hot pockets!” (to be fair, that would be delicious) or “something with cheese” or “pumpkin toast.” (When I asked what pumpkin toast would be, like toasted pumpkin bread or toast with pumpkin on it or toasted pumpkin or what, his answer was, “You know. Pumpkin. Toast. Pumpkin toast.” And then he fell asleep. Two weeks later, I showed him this and he said, with glee, “See? It was a good idea!”)