29 December 2010

We're playing the waiting game

Guest Post by Jill Pratt

As you might have noticed by now, my friend Amy has quite a way with words. Me? Not so much. But in an attempt to be the best birth-support-friend of all time, I've agreed to guest post.

On Christmas day, Mark, Sadie and I arrived in Seattle so that I can be present at Grover's birth. I'm feeling like the luckiest friend in the world to be included in this amazing life-altering event and also, I'm reciprocating. Four and a half years ago Amy came down to the Bay Area to be at Sadie's birth (my daughter). Sadie was pretty happy on the inside, so we had a fantastic week of shopping, organizing, walking, eating out and just having a few last Amy & Jill days before adding a new little person to the Pratt family. I don't get much child-free time now, but my husband Mark has generously agreed to some solo parenting this week so that we can recreate this experience for Amy. One last fine dining experience is key -- my "last supper" was at Chez Panisse -- Amy's was at Lola. We walked me into labor in Berkeley and today we were trying to do the same for Amy at Green Lake (we nearly froze to death on our 2 hour walk around it today!).  Unfortunately, it looks like I will end up heading home before the little guy makes an appearance, but I plan on hopping on the first plane when I hear some news.

It's pretty amazing to think that Amy and I are going into our 28th year of friendship, crazy I know. We've been through a lot together and now we get to welcome Amy and Byron's baby into the world.


Oh, I'm also very jealous every time Amy posts about her walks around Green Lake with her camera . . . so today I brought mine! Here are some pics from our epic walk . . . hopefully our next walk will be with Amy's new Bob stroller . . . and Grover.


 


















27 December 2010

The waiting has officially commenced

We are now officially waiting for Grover to arrive.  His room is ready.  His clothes are clean. We're done with Christmas.  We've cleaned the house.  Our good friends Mark, Jill, and Sadie have arrived from California.  And Jill has come all this way to hang out with me for the week -- and wait.

Today she accompanied me for another ultrasound, just to check on Grover's size and current status.  All is well, albeit large.  According to the radiologist, he now has a bit bigger head and weighs 9 lbs. 10 ounces today.  Of course, ultrasound calculations famously over estimate.  But even if we assume the measurements are at least 20 percent high, there's no way he's going to be a small child.  You can see from today's ultrasound snapshot, his face is looking a bit more smashed and chubby -- and pretty cute.


I'm eating spicy food, doing yoga, walking as much as I can, and I have started negotiations with him.  I'm trying to convince him to start his arrival on Wednesday.  We'll see if he agrees.

24 December 2010

Light and Simple Christmas Eve


Tonight is Christmas Eve -- the part of Christmas I like most.  It's a time when Christmas has begun, but the anticipation is not over.  Christmas day and the opening of stockings and My Grandmother's Coffee Cake are still to look forward to. In our home, this night heralds the beginning of good eating, Oggy gets his Christmas bow (whether he likes it or not), and the we have the opening of the presents.  (We compromise around here.  Presents on Christmas Eve.  Stockings on Christmas Day.)


This year, we decided to keep it all pretty simple and enjoyed a quiet evening with my sister and Byron's dad.  Then, after dinner, dessert, and presents were over and the others had left, Byron and I took a walk in our neighborhood to try out a new camera lens that Byron had given me.  It's a 20mm f1.7 lense, which is perfect for capturing the insane Christmas light spectacle that our neighborhood has become this month.

I promised photos of the lights, so here they are.  We had to dodge lots of cars that were driving through the 'hood v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w-l-y.  It seems that a significant number of people in Seattle have a Christmas Eve tradition of coming to our neighborhood to gawk. At one intersection there was basically a traffic jam.

Whatever your personal feeling about holiday lights, it's undeniable that there is something cheery about so many lights at the very darkest time of year.

Here's hoping your holiday season is filled with light and joy -- and maybe some gawdy holiday lights, too.






22 December 2010

A Winter Solstice Dinner

Last night, our friends Alex and Sarah hosted a lovely winter solstice dinner to which we were invited.  Their house was decorated for the season and the warmth of the lights, candles, and the company -- not to mention the delicious food -- made the longest night of the year quite enjoyable.



The meal began with creamy potato soup topped with a drizzle of truffle oil.



A beautiful evening complete with good conversation, candlelight, and poetry.

We enjoyed a variety of salads followed by a main course of salmon baked with celariac and leeks garnished with a celariac-cream foam.
The cheese course included cheeses brought by their guests . . .
and a delicious homemade ricotta accompanied by pears, oranges, and pomegranates.
Apple-pear cake for dessert accompanied by coffee made with beans roasted by our hosts.

 

They asked us to bring a palate-cleansing course for after the salmon and before the cheese, so I opted for meyer lemon sorbet, which, not coincidentally, gave me the chance to eat and cook with yet another kind of citrus.

This sorbet is easy as can be to make, thoroughly palate cleansing, and pretty tasty.  And if, like me, you especially like the tart yet subtly sweet flavor of meyer lemons, which seem to be in season for only a short time, this sorbet is a great way to showcase them.


Meyer Lemon Sorbet

2 cups filtered water
2 cups superfine white cane sugar
2 cups freshly squeezed meyer lemon juice (requires about 10 or 11 lemons)
5 tsp. fine meyer lemon zest

Make a simple syrup with the water and sugar.  Stir together in a medium saucepan over medium heat until the sugar completely melts.  Remove from heat and cool.  While it cools, thoroughly wash the lemons and zest about three of them.  Then juice the lemons.  Filter the juice through a sieve to remove any tiny seeds and pulp.


Add the lemon juice and zest to the simple syrup.  Stir it well and chill thoroughly.

Once chilled, freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker.
 
Makes about 5 cups.

Citrus

Let me just say that I won't be getting scurvy.  I've been on a citrus kick lately.

Maybe I I'm hooked because the bright flavor of citrus compensates for all the darkness this time of year.  Whatever the reason, I seem to be eating a lot of it.  Grapefruit for breakfast along with bergamot orange rooibos tea.  Clementines and satsumas for snacks.  Navel oranges in the dinner salad.  I've even started baking with it.  And last night, I made a citrus sorbet for some friends' winter solstice dinner (more on that to come).

I had never made madeleines before I tried my hand at making lemon ones last Sunday.  I found the recipe on a food blog I often read, which you can check out here.  I tweaked the recipe a little by substituting lemon for the bergamot orange because I didn't have bergamot oranges nor did I have a clue where to get them around here.  I liked the result.  The madeleines were subtle and light, and the edges had a little tartness where they crisped up.

Madeleines bake quickly.  And I'm convinced it's the best use of about eight minutes you can come up with.  I definitely recommend chilling the batter in pastry bags.  It worked beautifully to pipe them into the molds.  Hot from the oven, these little cookie/cakes are amazing.






21 December 2010

Solstice Lunar Eclipse over Seattle

As you may know, the sun, moon, and earth were in perfect alignment last night, resulting in a total lunar eclipse.  The first to occur on the winter solstice since 1638. 

You may have seen it more clearly from your vantage point in the world.  Here at our house, we had a few clouds that kept getting in the way.  But before they slipped in front of the moon and stayed, we snapped a few shots -- several were 30-second exposures -- that show the moon just before it was fully eclipsed.   It was amazing how reddish the moon became.  I hope you got to see it too.