Archives for December 2013

Merry.

Misc_Christmas-4

Little B won’t remember her first Christmas, but, someday, I’ll tell her about the way her eyes lit up at her first glimpse of Christmas tree lights. And, the way she hyperventilated when Chester put her on Santa’s lap. And, the way her nose crinkled and she made her first real giggle, when my mom and I let her sniff a Hershey’s kiss while we baked cookies.

It’s true when people say that the magic of the holidays comes back when you have a child. The weeks leading up to the holiday have been hectic as usual, but this year I’ve been less absorbed in the actual preparations for the day and more interested in watching Little B as she takes it all in.

It’s been wonderful.

It’s crazy to think that on Christmas Eve last year, I was drinking wine and eating raw oysters, oblivious to the fact that I was pregnant. So much has changed in a year, but I feel so blessed that I get to wake up each morning to the best gift ever.

I’m looking forward to two days of hanging out with the people I love most in the world and hope you are planning to do the same. I wish you peace, love, joy (and, of course, delicious food), this Christmas. Merry, Merry!

Restaurant Review: Paradiso

One of the reasons I enjoy this time of the year so much is that there are so many occasions to celebrate, and, hence plenty of excuses to indulge in delicious food. For me, the prime eating season is a two month affair. It kicks off with my birthday in November and winds down on New Year’s Day. By that time, pretty much can’t stand the sight of food and vow to drink only water and eat only yogurt for the entire month of January (a commitment that never seems to last more than two days).

Chester’s birthday falls right in the middle of all of the festivities, so we celebrated with a day out. Since we are officially old, we caught an afternoon showing of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (So good. They have done an amazing job adapting the books for the big screen so far. I can’t remember the last time that two and a half hours flew by so quickly!). After that, we headed to dinner at Paradiso.

passyunk

In front of the Christmas tree on East Passyunk Avenue

Paradiso opened back in 2008, helping to kick of East Passyunk Avenue’s development into a prime dining destination. In a neighborhood that had long been home to restaurants offering the “red gravy” variety of Italian food, Paradiso changed things up quite a bit with it more eclectic dishes. If you have picky eaters in your group, they might be put off by mentions of tripe, chicken livers and wild boar.

Chester opted to start with one of the evening’s specials, escargot. The snails were perfectly prepared, out of their shells, and served in a rich tomato sauce. The sauce was excellent—a little thinner than a traditional marinara, but thicker than a broth–making it the perfect consistency to sop up with bread or the accompanying parmesan crostini. Meanwhile, I chose the octopus salad, with beans and potatoes. I liked that the salad was served warm, with a creamy arugula puree instead of traditional greens. But, it had too much salt and pepper (This may just be a matter of personal preference, however. Since we don’t use a lot of these ingredients when we cook at home, I seem to be hypersensitive to them when we go out).

Our server explained that all of the pastas are homemade and could be ordered as entrees or appetizers. So, we opted to share another one of the evening’s specials, squid ink bucatini, as a pasta course. It was a bit disappointing. Some strands were al dente, while others were almost totally uncooked. And, like the salad, was a just a bit too peppery for my taste. The shrimp that accompanied the dish fared much better. They were fresh and cooked just right—a bit chewy, without being tough—and well-seasoned.

I can rarely pass up risotto when I see it on a menu, so it didn’t take me long to decide on that for an entree. By this point, it was evident that the preparation of the seafood items on the menu is one of Paradiso’s strongest suits. The two large scallops that topped the dish were perfectly caramelized and tender. The risotto itself was creamy and included a generous helping of wild mushrooms and parmesan cheese. It was pretty much perfect. Of course, I also sampled a bit of the pork chop that Chester ordered and it was simply seasoned and tender.

If I hadn’t been so stuffed from the hearty risotto, I would have ordered the pumpkin cheesecake for dessert, as it looked delicious. I was content to finish the meal with a strong cappuccino and biscotti.

Although the staff could not have been nicer, service was a bit bumpy at times. We had three different people ask us what kind of water we wanted when we were first seated and our server gave me the wrong wine. The pacing of the courses was a bit uneven as well. Appetizers arrived rather quickly and the main courses taking forever to come out of the kitchen, which resulted in Chester’s entree being slightly cold by the time it got to us.

I attribute these stumbles (and, perhaps, the previously mentioned lack of attention given to cooking the pasta and seasoning certain dishes) to the fact that the restaurant was hosting two large parties that evening—one in the private room on the second floor, and another, unfortunately, in main dining area.

Now, I can deal with crowded restaurants. In fact, I pretty much expect this to be the case in South Philly (especially on a Saturday night), since most places are very small. But, a group of 20 people who are loud, obnoxious and generally acting like they are the only people in a place, really puts a damper on things for everyone else. Chester and I had trouble hearing each other across the table (and now I sound really old) and I heard several other patrons complain to the server about the noise level as well. I understand that the restaurant wants to maximize its bottom line, but a group of that size really needs its own space.

On the whole, though, we enjoyed the food and think that some of the shortcomings are probably not as evident on nights when the restaurant isn’t catering to large groups. Our waitress noted that Sunday nights are generally more low key, and as a bonus, the restaurant is BYOB on that day.

Little B: Three Months

3_Month-5-1

Little B is now three months old!

She becomes more active and aware of her her environment and the people around her with each passing day. I realized today that we should really start thinking about childproofing our house because it won’t be long until she is trying to get into the kitchen cabinets and lift up the toilet seat.

Now that she has pretty good control of her head and neck, she is able to do a lot more.  She can roll over onto her back when we place her on her stomach. When she is lying on her back, she rolls up onto her side or lifts up her head, like she is doing a sit-up. We started using her Bumbo seat a couple of weeks ago, and, she really likes sitting in it and watching everything that is going on around her.

Bumbo

One of her favorite discoveries during the last month has been her hands. She grabs for her toys and bats at the ones that are suspended from her playmat and car seat. In the middle of the night, I sometimes am woken up by an ungodly slurping sound that I assume is the dog, but is actually Little B sucking on her hands. She has also figured out how to bring her toys and the collars of her shirts up to her mouth so she can suck on those too. So, basically, everything is a big, slobbery mess.

hand sucking

I’m pretty excited that she really seems to enjoy music. If she is fussy, I make up a goofy song and it seems to calm her down. We have gone to the Lara and Joe Show a couple of times and she watches the guitar and drum playing pretty intently. One of her favorite toys at the moment is the Fisher-Price Kick and Play Piano. If it’s on the auto-play mode, she will stare at it for a good 15 minutes as it lights up and plays the same three songs (that are now permanently stuck in my head) over and over again. She has started to make her own music by pounding on the keys with her hands and kicking at them with her feet when we put it on the floor. Maybe, she’ll be inspired to take up the real thing someday and will make use of my old piano, which currently lives at my mom’s house.

kick and play

Over the last month, I’ve also started to experience the more rewarding parts of being a parent.  Although she still is at the stage where she will smile at total strangers (particularly if they tell her she is pretty), I can tell that there are special expressions and sounds that she reserves for the people she likes best.  It melts my heart when she flashes me her big toothless grin or shrieks at me when I tell her that I love her.

hey guys

One of the best parts of the last month has been celebrating her first holidays. Although she won’t remember anything, we’ll enjoy telling her how much she hated her bumblebee costume on Halloween and how much she enjoyed watching the brightly colored balloons in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Given her love of anything that lights up, I can’t wait to see how she reacts when we put the Christmas tree up in the living room later this week.

Halloween-38

“Um, seriously, mom and dad?”

22

She isn’t eating solids yet, but she enjoyed sitting at the table with all of the adults and smelling all the food at Thanksgiving dinner.

The only bittersweet part of her three month birthday is that it has also coincided with my return to work. Yesterday was my first day back, in fact. I have so many mixed feelings this transition.

I’ll be honest and say that I had quite an internal debate over what I would do once my maternity leave was over. On one hand, I wanted to stay home with her so that I wouldn’t miss a thing during this early part of her life. On the other hand, I enjoy the work that I’m doing and have put quite a bit of effort into developing my career so far. I didn’t want to give that up, either. Plus, there were definitely times during the last three months where I missed interacting with adults.

In the end, I decided to go back. I kept thinking that I would feel like something was missing if I chose to stay at home. I worried that this feeling would end up negatively affecting my relationship with Little B and that perhaps continuing to work would in fact make me a better mother.

Which isn’t to say that I don’t still feel conflicted. Sometimes, I feel  guilty for choosing to go back over taking care of Little B full time. But, I’ve also been trying to look at it as quality over quantity. Although our time together will be a bit more limited going forward, I feel like that will help me to make the most of the hours that we do have together.

I tried to focus on the more positive view as I got ready for work  yesterday, but still, it was hard to walk out the door this morning, even though I was able to leave her in the capable hands of my mother. I missed her all day and got a bit teary at times. It helped to scroll through the photos that I have collected on my iPhone over the last few months.

I managed to hold it together until I came home tonight, when, instead of being her happy, smiley self as I expected her to be, Little B went into full on meltdown mode when I picked her up. It made me think that she had forgotten about me already.

I know that I’m probably just being overly sensitive and that this is just a transitional time, just like after she was born and I felt all out of sorts. Still, I can’t help feeling a little bit sad that we won’t be together 24/7 anymore.

Everyone tells me it gets easier. Here’s hoping they are right.