Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Fat Tuesday & Cajun Roux: Shrimp, Chicken & Sausage Gumbo

Gumbo and a Little New Orleans Flair.

Lent is a time of fasting, a time of reflection and reconnecting with the person we might have lost along the good-intentioned-paved road of gluttony and greed we've walked throughout the previous liturgical year. There are no flowers in church, dull songs during mass, accompanied by, most notably, the absence of choirs and instruments and a microphone-boosted, resoundingly off-key and otherwise instrumentally-masked priest voice that is better left to the most pious of imaginations.

But when I think of Lent I think a seafood feast: Fish & Chips, copious amounts of Shrimp, Salmon,
Scallops, in place of my otherwise beloved veal, pork, chicken and lamb. Sadly, most years I look forward to it not as an opportunity to cleanse the slate of my impure soul, but as a culinary challenge. I love to cook seafood but rarely have a good reason to go out of my way to visit the monger of fish and get myself a nice, fresh bit of whatever smells like the ocean. Lent provides, nay, mandates that every Friday I do just that.

But before Lent there is Mardi Gras, the Tuesday that is Fat. :) And having been prefaced with my Lenten fish obsession, it should be relatively obvious to you that when I think of Mardi Gras, the las
t Tuesday before lent, images of beads, Bourbon street, pancakes, and feathery masks and boas are secondary to my long-time love for the infamous Cajun soup we all know and dare not cook: Gumbo.

Never mind that I almost died from going into a severe allergic reaction and anaphylactic shock from eating Gumbo in New Orleans once. "Why dare we not cook it?" you might ask. There are
several reasons for that, and here they are in list form. :)

* * *

Gumbo: Top 4 Reasons I Dared Not Cook It
until now
(Hey, it's Mardi Gras - let's throw caution to the wind!)

4. The Spices.
Despite having grown up in relative proximity to Louisiana, and having visited it on several occasions, I will freely admit that I knew little to nothing about Cajun food and its roots. For that reason alone, I find concocting any kind of semi-legitimate Cajun style seasoning for food extremely intimidating. Frankly, I have a small bottle of Tabasco sauce I keep on hand and some shrimp-boil spice mix, but other than that, as far as I could tell my bodega did not boast anything even close to legitimate Cajun spices.

After some quick reading, I found I was dead wrong about Cajun complexity. Cajun flavors are actually relatively common and simple - it's the combination that makes them distinctive.

All you need for good and authentic Cajun food is: bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, cayenne pepper, onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, salt, parsley and filé (or Sassafras).

3. The Sausage.
When I was a kid I used to watch cooking shows a lot. I did not think that was odd because my dad was a chef and I'd always had a natural interest in cooking. But I think I finally had a sense that I was a litt-le "different" when I found myself choosing to watch Justin Wilson, THE New Orleans Cajun, over cartoons.

"I dont like that some, none atallll any!"

As Mr. Wilson explains in this amazing flash-to-the-past-piece-of-culinary-heritage video, there is a special kind of sausage used in Cajun cooking, and it's called Andouille. Andouille is "the gumbo sausage," according to Mr. Wilson, because it is the only kind of sausage any self-respecting Cajun would ever grace the gumbo pot with. Originally brought over by the French it is a smokey, pork sausage used in many Cajun dishes including Jambalaya and Etouffee.

Well, I never have Andouille sausage on hand, and I have convinced myself for years that using any other sausage was a little too close to blasphemy for this Roman Catholic, until yesterday when I proudly plunked a bunch of British Cumberland sausages into the mix and lived to tell the tale. :)

2. The Okra.
When I decided to finally cook gumbo, I was convinced that it would definitely be missing one of my favorite southern ingredients: okra*.

Having been raised on the wonderful cafeteria lunches of Texas public schools, I was well-versed in the ways of okra. My favorite lunch consisted of chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes (white gravy on both), buttered corn, and fried okra, with a side of jello and a chocolate milk. (Yeah, yeah heart-attack on a plate, yadda's the south, ok?) And to me, gumbo is not gumbo without okra in it. I have NEVER seen okra in a UK supermarket. In fact, they'd probably laugh at me if I asked whether they had it or not. But yesterday, the universe was smiling down on me.

Roman and I ventured out of the cave to buy some green beans (the sad substitution) when I had a nagging feeling I should peek my head into the local Halal Grocer and see if maybe they had okra. Miraculously, right there in the very center of their veg display was a giant pile of fresh, delicious okra. Needless to say, I dove in head first and ran out raving like a mad woman, my gumbo-making having been legitimized.

*Notes on Okra: Some consider the addition of okra to gumbo to be a specifically Creole thing. Others say Okra should only be used in gumbo that includes seafood or is to be consumed in the summer. Others still say that when using okra, the roux should be cooked to a medium color rather than the darkest, making it a less over-powering flavor and allowing the okra to be better showcased.

1. The Roux.
Everyone knows what a roux is. Ok, Matt didn't know, but, I mean, everyone who's into food knows what a roux is. It's that dark mysterious stuff made in secret white wooden shacks deep in the Louisiana bayou...the real stuff is hard to come by, and even harder to make. The combination of fat (butter, oil) and flour seems simple enough - but when you throw in menacing threats of burning, constant stirring, miniscule differences in coloration making "all the difference," it really starts to mess with your head.

I had myself convinced there must be something so utterly complex and unique about making roux that there was no way in hell I could do it at home, much less in the UK, where the H.E.B. Cajun section is not around the corner to save me in case I mess it up.

Happily (again), I was wrong about Roux being complex. It's about as simple as can be to make -it just take a whole lot of time and patience. You have to cook it for, minimum, half an hour to get a decent color - and the real purists cook it for even longer than that, to a black, dark, chocolatey color. It is the base and the basis for all the flavor in gumbo, and the darker the deeper and more delicious it is. Much like hand-whipped cream, or zabaglione, Roux is a true labor of love, and while you can buy it at a store these days, I highly recommend you take the bull by the horns and make it yourself. You'll never doubt your ability to make gumbo again.

* * *

Brenda's Mighty Fine Gumbo
based on this recipe
Serves 4-6

Roux-y, Pepper-y Might-y Fine Gumbo

I made this gumbo on a whim to celebrate Mardi Gras. I cooked my roux for 30 minutes exactly (Roman would not suffer me being at the stove much longer than that at one time) and it came out a darkish color - maybe slightly darker than milk chocolate. I found the flavor to be to my taste, and almost a little bit overpowering, actually. So if you don't like really intense gumbo, keep it under 30 minutes for roux-cooking time.

I added chicken, shrimp and sausage to my gumbo and used okra as an additional thickening agent as opposed to the traditional use of in the winter filé. I also did not have Cayenne pepper on hand, so I used reguarly crushed red pepper and jalapenos combined with copious amounts of black pepper, with I think is the most Cajun tasting.

Oh, and don't forget to pull out the Mardi Gras masks for dinner - we did and it made it taste all the more authentic. :)

* * *

1/2 cup vegetable or olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 medium white onion, chopped finely (about 1 cup)
1 small green bell pepper, chopped finely (about 1 cup)
2-3 stalks celery, chopped finely (about 1 cup)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 jalapenos, minced, seeds in
1 quart (~1 liter) chicken stock or low-sodium broth
3 bay leaves
2 medium skinless chicken breasts, diced
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 pound andouille sausage or 4 Cumberland sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1/2 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp crushed red pepper or 1 tsp ground cayenne pepper
1 tbsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsps dried thyme
4 cups cooked white rice, made with copious amounts of ground black pepper cooked in

1. Make the roux by heating the oil in a large pot and then adding the flour. Stir with a whisk on low heat (the roux should be bubbling) until it is the desired color (at least 20 minutes, ideally about 30) and has an intense, nutty scent. Do NOT allow it to burn!

2. Add the holy trinity (onion, celery and bell pepper), the garlic, the jalapenos and the red pepper and cook in the hot roux on medium heat until the vegetables are soft. Then slowly whisk in the stock a little bit at a time. It will look like the roux is not mixing with it, but don't worry that's normal.

3. Raise heat to bring the broth to a simmer, then add bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, okra, chicken and sausage and allow to thicken. Lower heat and allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

4. Finally, add the salt and adjust the spiciness adding more or less red pepper and black pepper as desired.

5. Five minutes or so before serving, add the shrimp with the heat off and lid on. Allow it to cook through residual heat checking it is completely opaque before serving. If you add the shrimp any earlier it will overcook. Don't recommend it.

Laissez les bon temps rouler
with a little rice in each bowl and the gumbo served over it, some crackers on the side and a Sazerac to toast!

* * *

Oh we brought out the masks alright!

PS: Shout out to my friend and once-partner-in-crime Simin who is, as we speak, in the Big Easy and hopefully nursing a painful New Orleans-style hangover with copious amounts of Absolut Pepa', Sazeracs and a Muffaletta, like a good girl. Party on Wayne!
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Monday, February 15, 2010

Little Lovely #5: A Grown-Up Night Out.

image credit

Happy One-Day-Late-Valentine's Day!

These days spare time and alone time are both equally scarce and precious. I take whatever I can get and love to indulge in a nice nap on the couch below our mini olive tree, a quick read of 10 pages or so of the latest novel I'm getting through sentence by sentence in between Roman's demands, or writing snippets of future blog posts when midget-beast isn't looking.

But real-deal grown-up alone time, where midget is nowhere to be found and I get a short and much-needed respite from growing multiple arms, eyes and ears to be omniscient in my house, is all but non-existent for two ex-pats such as Matt and me. With no family nearby, babysitters are a serious issue that we have not fully ventured into for fear and knowledge of the unknown and Jean Benet Ramsey.

Luckily, in the flat downstairs we have a very sweet Malaysian neighbor with a quick wit, a penchant for delicious southeast Asian food, and a love for my manly child, things all of which I appreciate and share (maybe except the first in the latter regard).

Our neighbor has agreed to babysit Roman and tonight Matt and I will be going on our second alone-date since Roman was born. A lovely little French / English restaurant called Emile's

If that isn't a small miracle to be thankful for, then I don't know what is.

PS: Happy Year of the Tiger!

This post is brought to you by an almost nauseatingly French song called "Je Cherche Un Homme" by Eartha Kitt. I may not be searching anymore, but I love it anyway. :)
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Little Lovely #4: My Favorite British Commercials Part III

It's about time I did another "Favorite British Commercials" entry. There is so much food, or fodder, for fun-making out there on British television that I can't believe I've been able to hold back this long, frankly.

If you're really bored or in a fight on Valentine's Day, just whip these out and I guarantee one of you will eventually crack a smile. If you don't, save yourself some money and skip the counseling - you have no hope.

* * *

Top Five Lovely Little British Commercials of Late
mostly in the "absurd-hilarity" category

Heart FM Commercial
Utterly nauseating, utterly danceable, utterly...British.

Heart is my favorite London radio station. Mostly because for the first year I lived here I thought the station was called "Hot FM" due to a lack of understanding regarding British pronunciation, therefore also misleading me to think Heart had the best tagline EVER: "This is HOT."

Whether you agree or not - you gotta love the blue t-shirt girl's dance moves. :)

PS: I heart Xanadu.

4. Berocca Commercial

Keep your eye on the balding fatty in the suit. Now just think: that's him on a "really good day." Maybe life is fair after all? *hums to self: "I'm so small, I'm so small..."*

What exactly about dancing on treadmills in the middle of a city sidewalk says "
multivitamin and mineral supplement containing essential nutrients that work in synergy to help those with hectic lifestyles be at their best"? I'm still not sure. Just another one of those "I'm kinda glad it did, but honestly, how the hell did this get past the brainstorming table?" ads. :)

3. Lynx bullet (Axe) commercial - "Can't Seem to Make you Mine"

Awesomeness in the form of a skinny, douchey little guy who uses Eurotrash deodorant spray.

2. Corsodyl Mouthwash Commercial
BOOM! Bet you weren't expecting that!

The hazy Sting-fields-of-goldesque ambiance sets us all up for a nasty fall from grace.
Go on, I used mouthwash for the first time in years after I watched it too.

1.Seat Biker Cupid Commercial
In honor of Valentine's and this week of little loveliness, here's a commercial that says and does what many a man or woman has wanted to say (or do) in order to rope the "one-that-got-away-but-shouldn't-have" into being their Valentine / encapsulate their appeal in two simple verb-implied phrases.

Love the biker, btw.

* * *

Honourable Mentions (with a "u")

1. Barclays Card Commercial w/ Rollercoaster
I guess they decided the theme worked the first time and ran with it. Yeah, it's a cop out on Barclays' part (but hey, what isn't?), but I kinda enjoy it. Still think the waterslide would be WAY cooler though.

2. ACT F.A.S.T. Stroke Prevention Commercial

*Disclaimer Thing*

The inclusion of the following commercial is admittedly in questionable taste and is in no way belittling the seriousness of the issue at hand. However, the powers that be cannot help if they tend to laugh (with attempts at stifling every time for the sake of propriety) at every single face this dear lady makes. The powers that be also wonder what filming this commercial was really like and whether people at the studio weren't also stifling laughter.

Now that's out of the way and evil-Brenda can come back, just one comment on this one:


* * *

Random Tangential Sidenote:
I originally started this post before Christmas with the intention to make it a holiday-themed banter on ridiculous and materialistic Christmas commercials, but there weren't enough good ones to include. Winningly, I did find this hilarious article. It is an actual Brit's take on "awful Holiday advertising." I especially enjoy his post-modernist intro and later reference to Richard Hammond as a "straggle-haired midget."
Enjoy it as a 2-month-late Christmas gift from moi :)

* * *

This post was originally brought to you by The Pogues utterly classic Christmas Song:
Fairytale in New York. Because if this freakish Irish-Christmas video / song don't so absolutely reek of "Holiday Surprise" - or should I say madness? - that they make you rethink your labeling your family "weird," then nothing will.

But now that this blog is no longer Christmas-themed, we're going to have to go with something more lovey-dovey and I think Glenn Medeiros freakin' MASTERPIECE absolutely does the trick. :)

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Monday, February 8, 2010

Little Lovely #3: Teacakes

When I say that "teacakes" are little lovely #3 you probably suspect that I'm going to wax poetic on the beauties and virtues of little perfect patisserie creations found only in the most elegant of high tea settings and eaten only with the whitest of gloves, the finest of teas and the bubbliest of champagnes. Well, you'd be wrong.

* * *

Little Lovely #3: Tunnock's Teacakes

why they're lovely; in trifectal, anecdotal form

The First "1st"

Last weekend we took Roman to his first "1st Birthday Party." It was a surreal experience in many ways, some involving premature empty-nest syndrome, abundant comments on Roman being bigger than all the other kids despite being one of the youngest, and some involving an attention-seeking, jealous 4-year-old throwing plastic balls repeatedly at Roman's head.

Despite that, there were also lots of wonderful surreal things: a lovely little half-Colombian, half-Turkish girl dressed as a ladybug, copious amounts of wine, and these odd little ladybug shaped snacks that were essentially chocolate covered marshmallows with jam in the center.
The latter are of greatest interest for the purpose of this post, because despite having had chocolate covered mashmallowy-thingies before, this was when my friend Stacey said, "Oh, these are like teacakes."

teacakes, I thought...what are those?

Duly noted. Attention piqued. Appetite whetted.

* * *

Afternoon Tea & Cake

I embarked on a separate chocolate-covered voyage later in the week when I decided to do a practice run for Matt's birthday cake after last year's semi-fiasco. (Sorry Matt, guess now you know.)

Matt is the world's biggest fan of Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars. He eats part of one every single night and makes me buy them everytime I go to the grocery store. Much like me with eggs or shrimp, Cadbury Fruit & Nut bars are the food Matt will and can never get sick of, as he has professed on many occassions, chocolate, fruit and nuts hanging out of his mouth.

For this reason I decided to try to make him a chocolate fruit & nut cake - to kind of recreate his daily foodgasm in birthday cake form. In the meantime, I also invited a few of my friends and their wee
ones over to help me eat said cake before Matt discovered my ingenious plan. (Again, sorry Matt.)

Anyway, the cake turned out mediocre (big surprise there) - despite my friends' protests to the contrary. It was too dry, not almondy enough, and the raisins did not taste of rum despite being soaked in it for five days. And yet, there was a light at the end of my cake party: Stacey brought a pack of Tunnock's teacakes for me to try!

* * *

Tunnock's Teacakes: A Chocolate-Marshmallowy-British-Revelation
If you'd asked me a few days ago after describing a Tunnock's teacake to me whether I thought it would instantly become my new sweet addiction, I would have said "absolutely impossible."

Marshmallows get on my nerves. They are only good when combined with something else - on their own they are too sweet, kind of annoyingly chewy, and often just downright gross. I can have them in smores, hot chocolate, ambrosia...but I'm not a huge fan.

Then I met a Tunnock's teacake. The sweet, dense milk chocolate covering. The melt-in-your-mouth borderline-peanuty shortbread. The soft, pliable, almost-creamy marshmallow filling! Oh the beauty! The exquisite British sweet deliciousness of it all! They may be odd looking, impossibly British, and seem a wrong fit for teatime, but I swear I almost had a religious experience when I finally ate one a day after the tea & cake party.

*dramatic pause*

Tunnock's teacakes - buy these little lovelies for your Valentine. But get an extra pack (or two) for yourself. :)

tiny, tempting and tantalizingly lovely

This little lovely is brought to you by Moi Je Joue a lighthearted French song by Brigitte Bardot that screams nothing if not "go eat something decadently sweet and lovely!" That's my story and I'm sticking to it. :)
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Little Lovely #2: The Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack

Ah, the English moors....

It's not easy to think of things that can conjure up synesthetic emotions of love's first enchanting and often hysterical breath. It's not even easy to think of things that will simply make the sig other happy enough to not feel jipped out of a romantic Valentine's sometimes, so let's not delude ourselves and delve a little deeper into the well of possibilities that is Brenda's semi-focused "little lovely" blog feature, and maybe come up with some decent choices, shall we? :)

* * *

Little Lovely #2: The Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack

Bombastic introduction aside, I don't really pretend to know much about what will make you or the rest of the world happy, at all, much less as much as it does me, but Little Lovely #2 is something that makes me extremely happy, in a quiet, warm, lasting way. And it was also incidentally a gift I received from the good old husband one Christmas, which makes it more romantic somehow.

It's the Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack (yes, from the new-ish movie with Keira Knightley). For thos
e of you loyal to the BBC, I hear and feel ya. But I can't get past Mr. Darcy in this version. And let's face it - it is good. REAL good. Put your judgmental doubts aside - I can smell them all the way from London, dude, - and read my list of reasons why it's lovely enough to consider getting and listening to this CD this Valentine's Day.

Top 4 Reasons the Pride & Prejudice Soundtrack is Lovely
said in that uniquely British accent-y kind of way

4. Mr. Darcy
*bubbly heart spouting*
Two words: Matthew Macfadyen. I don't care who you are and where you're from - if this music doesn't conjure up impossibly romantic and dreamy scenes of Matthew "hunka-hunka-burnin'-love" Macfadyen walking in the foggy (steamy?!) moors for you, there's something very wrong.

And if you're not a Macfadyen fan, then, well, two more words: Colin Firth. (Or should I say "Mark Darcy?" :) )

3. Soundtracks are Underrated
CDs are so passee. Or so the world of cybernerds and mp3 hoarding college students would have you think.

On a scale of 1 (stupidly confident) to 10 (super ridiculous), how lame would you feel going into a music store (wait do those still exist?) and buying this CD for your Valentine?

If you're a girl, I'd say you'd be in the lower part of the spectrum because girls tend to be stupidly confident about any and all amorous gifts, no matter how wrong and unmanly they might be.

If you're a guy, I'd say you SHOULD be a 1 or 2 (if your Valentine is the kind of girl I'd be friends with, anyway), but will probably be feeling at around a 9 or 10. Sweat it out. This gift is worth it. Especially if given with a combination home-cooked meal and some awesome flowers. :D

2. Piano: the Musical Voice of Love
As cheesey and lame as that sounds, I truly believe it is a fact. I can imagine no more soul-stirring type of music than a piano solo, or particularly clear, slow and beautiful piano melody. Both things are copiously and generously taken advantage of in the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack. Not only do they make the perfect accompaniment to the film, but to life itself, and that, to me, is the mark of true musical genius.

There has been many a day that I've found myself humming these enchanting melodies inside my head, rain, shine, love or fight. Sheer, absolute and delectable madness, I know. But if Jean-Yves Thibaudet's savant-esque piano playing be the food of love, then play on...

1. Classical Music Never Dies... YOUR LOVE! (get it? get it?) *shameless grin*

But in all seriousness, there is a timeless quality to this soundtrack that is rarely found in, well, any music, these days.

With Jive Records shoving the likes of "Crossroads" down our throats, even the non-classical music loving have to admit that Dario Marinelli's Pride & Prejudice is a masterpiece.

Despite having been composed by a modern composer (an inherent flaw, IMHO), this music lacks the predictably off-key, plucking-obsessed, minor-chord-driven- David Diamond-esque attempt at originality which makes only the most desperately "post-modern" ear "sing." Instead, it is actually original in that Marianelli uses time-tested methods (major chords, pleaseant refrains, subtle and evocative dynamics) to create a truly time-surpassing combination of melodies which draw you into the story even further than Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy already do.

Further proof that it is, after all, true what they say: "A thing of beauty is a joy forever..."
(Thanks, Keats.)

* * *

Other aesthetically pleasing shots of the English Moors.

This little lovely is brought to you by...itself. Check out my favorite piano solo on the Pride & Prejudice soundtrack here or below.

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Monday, February 1, 2010

Little Lovely #1: Hallelujah Already - He's 9 Months Old!

It doesn't take much for lovely to happen.

In the words of a wise man (aka Tom Jones), "Love is in the air!" And like last year, it is time for me to pay homage to Valentine's Day by providing the blogosphere with a brief and random list of things I consider rather lovely.

This year's theme is "little lovelies" as I have a far less expansive amount of time to consider and deal with these posts. But the quality won't suffer - after all, good things come in small packages. Like me. :)
* * *

Little Lovely #1: Roman, the 9-month Old

I love the first day of the month. It starts off a new and clean slate, full of possibilities and potential happiness and excitement. It is also now a harbinger of Roman's next coming-of-age. He turns another month old on the first of each month, which makes it both convenient and pleasant for us.

Nine months, apart from sounding really old in baby-terms, has really done it for me for a couple of reasons, all of which you will find - no doubt - as significant and thrilling as I did. :)

* * *

Top 5 Reasons "9 Months" is Lovely.
little as it may be

5. Little Green Giant...or should I say Hulk?
Roman is freaking strong. But never has it been more apparent than in the last week or so, with his abilities to cruise, move things, and lift himself in surprising ways. His crawling has really blossomed into a full-on method of transportation now. It takes far less than a remote control to motivate him to sprint across the room and fling himself at whatever piques his interest. And once he has it in is kung-fu grip, good luck getting whatever it is away, especially if it's a blackberry, which he is particularly fond of chewing and sucking.

Yesterday morning he impressed his dad by doing a near pull-up on the bathroom counter. He can JUST reach it while on tippy-toes, and I just know he'll end up falling and hitting his head if he continues down this route, but he's determined to reach the mouthwash, and who am I to take that away from my little muscle-midge? :)

4. Time for REAL Food.
Apart from the fact that special baby food items are ridiculously expensive, and generally not that delicious, with Roman they were actually somewhat unnecessary from the start. Given the way he liked to eat, he was probably babbling "where's my damn roast dinner?" in baby talk when he was 3 months old for all I know. Yes, he did indeed love to eat from day one, and in fact the only times he's ever refused food are when he's been obviously teething or really sick. He's not finicky about texture, quantity, sweet or savoury. He rocks out on the broccoli as much as his fromage frais or beef stew.

I started giving him table food a little before Christmas. In that time he ate ham sandwiches, tried menudo, had cake, brownies, mole de olla, shrimp and even the tiniest sip of champers. :) Now that he's 9 months old, I see no point in holding back anymore. He's on full oatmeal, toast and fruit for breakfast (with the odd scrambled egg thrown in), he eats pb&j with Matt and me on the weekends for lunch, and the other night even indulged in the wok-fried bok choy with garlic and Matt's chicken Lo Mein at our local Chinese takeout. (That's ma' boy!) Let the games begin.

3. "I Don't Know Why You Say Goodbye. I Say Hello."
In the words of The Beatles, Roman has learned to wave. And it's a silly, lovely fat-baby-handed wave that I could never get sick of. He did it, really did it (there had been some questionable halfish attempts for the past month) this morning as Daaaa (as he calls Matt) was saying goodbye before leaving for work.

It's amazing when babies do something for the first time because it's like a magical tinkerbell goes off somewhere unidentifiable in the universe (a kitten is born, an angel gets its wings, someone eats an excellent brownie, etc. etc.). You think, "wait? did he--?" and then you realize that every time you ask yourself that question the answer is yes. Yes, he did wave! Yes, our baby can "say" hello and goodbye now!

2. Hemingway, here we come!
I think it'll still be a while before I'm reading Hemingway to Roman, or he's reading it on his own, but I have been reading to him a lot lately. And whereas before he would just look around or stare blankly at the pages, now, he turns the pages, touches the pictures, plays with the flaps or textures or whatever doodad is in the book, and actually gets excited.

I'd found his books scattered around his toy area a couple of times over the past weeks but thought nothing of it until yesterday I caught Roman flipping through his Pat the Bunny book. Pat the Bunny is a book that involves texture, smelling, mirrors, peek-a-boo and holes. He was going through each page and doing the activities, one after the other, with a focus on the peek-a-boo. It is his favorite, after all. I couldn't help but stop, hold my breath and think: When did that happen? Where did the time go?

1. Was it Ferber? Or was it just ABOUT FREAKIN' TIME?
Four days ago I embarked on what I considered to be the most epic of epics: the attempt to get Roman to sleep through the night, without feeds, without rocking and soothing, without my bed. The psychological toll it was having on me just knowing that I had literally not slept an ENTIRE night without waking in almost 9 months was more than I could bear any longer.

A friend recommended "ferberizing" - that sounds a lot more clinical than it actually is. It simply involves putting the baby down for bed and letting him cry for small periods of time with you checking in on him (but not picking him up) at regular intervals until he falls asleep on his own.
I was dead-set against this for the first nine months of his life. And then fatigue REALLY hit. Crazy-this-is-no-longer-doable-cuz-I'm-turning-into-a-monster kind of fatigue. The kind I can only imagine a Mom feels. And so Matt and I tried it out.

Only four days later, on his 9-month birthday Roman slept through the night in his own crib, not waking up once, and crying a total of 20 seconds, for the first time in his life. Seriously, I could kill myself wondering how much sooner I could have done this and how much sleep deprivation I would have saved myself, but the truth is, I just wasn't ready until now...and apparently neither was he.

So, was it Ferber or was it just about freakin' time? I don't care.


* * *

Stealing Hopi's Bed.

Mama and her guard dog: little, lovely and ferocious.

This little lovely was brought to you today by one of my favorite songs to kitchen-sing-and-dance to with Roman: Michael Jackson's (RIP) unforgettable, eternally danceable P.Y.T.

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