Archives for January 2014

What I Read: January

One of my new year’s resolutions was to read more and I set a goal of reading at least one book a month. This month, I actually got through two. I’m on a roll already!

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First up was Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy. I was so looking forward to catching up with Bridget after 15 years. In many ways, she is still the same—obsessing about men, weight and cigarettes and generally behaving in a completely awkward manner.  But, now Mark Darcy has died a tragic death (I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I say this. It’s been mentioned in all of the reviews I’ve read and in interviews I’ve seen with Helen Fielding) and she has two small children in tow as she navigates the dating scene and tries to establish her career as a screenwriter. She meets a much younger man via Twitter, and much of the novel focuses on her relationship with him.

Although there are some bits of humor scattered throughout the book, I was generally disappointed. For me, the best part of the series was the relationship between Bridget and Mark. Bridget by herself gets a bit tiresome.  The lengthy Twitter exchanges between Bridget and the boy were absurd and I found myself getting annoyed that she just could not pull herself together for her kids. The author spent way too much time with pointless plot points in the beginning of the story and then the ending felt completely rushed. I guess even she wanted to get away from Bridget.

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Next up was Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling. I liked Mindy as Kelly Kapoor on The Office, but ever since starting to watch The Mindy Project I’ve really wanted to be her BFF. I like her brand of self-deprecating humor and could hear her voice in my head as she talked about her lack of athletic prowess as a child, how she got her start in comedy, what it was like to write for The Office, and her observations about the rights and responsibilities of a best friend. She is totally relatable (she goes on for a bit about how Mark Darcy makes her cry. Obviously, she would feel the same way as I do about the aforementioned Bridget Jones book). and the book is a quick, light and funny read. And, the chapters were short enough that I could at least make it through a couple in between baby naps.

I just downloaded The Goldfinch onto my Nook, and I’m hoping to start it over the weekend. I’ve never read any of Donna Tartt’s books before, but I have heard so many good things about this one and am looking forward to checking it out. This one might take me awhile, though, as it’s more than 700 pages!

What have you been reading lately?

Restaurant Review: Rosa Blanca (Closed)

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Earlier this year, Jose Garces closed Chifa, and reopened it as Rosa Blanca, a Cuban diner. Although I was a fan of Chifa, I know that others thought that the Peruvian-Chinese concept was a bit off the wall. Rosa Blanca will appeal to those who prefer the more traditional Latin flavors and dishes that are characteristic of Garces’ other restaurants throughout the city.

Chester and I were eager to try the new spot, so we snagged a Friday night reservation during Restaurant Week. The place was already packed when we arrived, which made us feel a bit less lame about going out to dinner at 6 p.m.

The decor of the restaurant is quite eclectic. The front of the space has been redecorated in shades of bright pink, aqua, orange and silver, in the style of a 1950s diner. All of the classic accents are there–the lunch counter overlooking the grill, a take-out pastry case and a chalkboard menu. The rest of the restaurant has a more romantic feel, with the lower lighting and the dark wood that I remembered from the Chifa days. The booths on the first floor are large enough to fit groups of 6 to 8 people, but the downstairs dining room, where we were seated, was a bit more intimate. It had its own bar and a half-dozen tables for two.

With extensive menu of Cuban comfort foods, Rosa Blanca is nearly a 24 hour operation, as it opens for breakfast at 8 a.m. and doesn’t close until midnight. I was glad to see that the Restaurant Week menu featured so many of the dishes that are on the regular dinner menu. There is an lengthy beverage list, with more than 70 wines, rums, cocktails and soft drinks. My first mojito in a very long time did not disappoint.

Due to a food runner’s mistake, we actually got extra appetizers with our meal. He dropped off a bowl of guacamole and an empanada that we didn’t order and when we checked with our server and it turned out that the dishes were intended for the table next to us, but he let us keep them anyway. I’ve never met a guacamole that I didn’t like, and Rosa Blanca’s version with smoked pineapple and thin slices of plantain and yucca for dipping was quite unique. The empanada was tasty–you can’t go wrong with ricotta and mozzarella filling–but basic. The wrapper was not at all greasy, but it could have benefited from some seasoning or a dipping sauce of some sort.

The appetizers that we actually ordered arrived next. The creamy coconut and conch chowder, packed full of vegetables and sweet chunks of conch, was the perfect dish for a chilly evening. Chester had the tuna ceviche, which lacked strong acidic flavor that is traditionally associated with that dish. The texture and flavor reminded me more of a tuna tartare, which I happen to love. But, those who would prefer a true ceviche flavor might be disappointed.

Both of our entree selections were excellent. The ropa vieja was made with braised short rib instead of flank steak, which made it incredibly tender. Both the meat and the accompanying beans and rice were perfectly seasoned with a variety of spices, including smoky paprika, garlic and cilantro. Chester chose the masitas de puerco, which featured chunks of tender, fried pork served with cornmeal and sweet sautéed onions. Once again, the seasonings in the dish were well balanced.

Both of the offerings on the menu were fruit based. I preferred the creamy coconut custard with tangy mango sorbet to the pineapple upside down cake, the flavor of which was overpowered by the accompanying guava sauce. On the whole though, both desserts were just so-so. It would have been nice to have something chocolatey to end the meal.

The only drawback to the experience was that the meal went by way too fast–we were in and out in 47 minutes! This is to be expected during Restaurant Week, as kitchens typically prepare some of the dishes in advance, in order to expedite the service and turn over the tables quickly. Still, now that we are only getting out for date nights about once a month, we would have preferred a more leisurely pace.

In spite of this, I am definitely looking forward to another visit to Rosa Blanca in the near future. The breakfast and milkshake menus sound particularly amazing. With the range of items on the menu and the nearly all-day service that the restaurant offers, it would be perfect for a variety of occasions, from a date night to a family-friendly lunch.

Hello, 2014.

New Year

I know it’s already more than a week into the new year, but I just got myself organized enough to draw up my list of goals for 2014. I spent a lot of time thinking about them this year, since I wanted to come up with things that were realistic, in light of the limited time I feel like I have lately.

My number one priority is to be a good mom to Little B and to work with Chester on making a nice life for our little family of four (yes, I count the dog. She was our first baby, after all). For the most part, the rest of my goals are pretty much aligned with that theme, with a couple of selfish things thrown in.

I realize that I can’t always be my number one priority anymore, and I’m totally fine with that. But, I need to do a few things to keep myself healthy and sane if I’m going to be able to take care of the more important things in my life. And, hopefully writing them down here will be a way to hold myself accountable.

So, this year, I plan to:

Stop losing my shit when things are less than perfect.

A few weeks after Little B was born, I mentioned that one of my greatest challenges in becoming a parent was reconciling my need for control and perfection with the chaos that a baby brings.

Four months later, I’m still coming to terms with the fact that my house will always be slightly (or more than slightly) messy for the foreseeable future. I still beat myself up when when Little B is crying or has food and/or drool all over her face and shirt, because I assume this must mean that I’m a terrible mother. I still expect that I’ll be able to check everything off my to-do list, every single day, in spite of the fact that I have a lot more on said list now than I have ever had in my life.

Hopefully, by the end of the end of the year, I’ll have an easier time just letting things go.

Be Present.

This goal is somewhat related to the first one, in that my tendency towards perfectionism sometimes keep me from just living in the moment.

I know that Little B isn’t going to be a baby forever and I want to make sure that I’m not so busy worrying about what happened in the past, what is going to happen in the future and how I can get a million things done all at once that I miss out on all of the amazing things that are happening right now.

I hope to be able to do this, not just by taming all the noise in my own head, but by minimizing the distraction that comes along with technology. Even if I decide to sit on the couch and do nothing after Little B goes to bed, chances are I’ve got my phone in my hand to check Facebook or Google stuff that I just have to know the answer to right at that moment. I need to get used to just being, and not always doing.

Take care of myself.

I have been so focused on taking care of Little B that I haven’t quite worked out how to do what I need to do take care of myself, too. I need to figure out how to get back into a gym routine, get enough sleep and eat more sensibly so that I can be on top of my game for her. I need to keep reminding myself that coffee is not a meal replacement, that it will be okay if I take a little bit of time away from Little B to go to the gym and that there is nothing that can’t wait until tomorrow if I decide that I want to go to bed at 8 p.m. because I am just really, really tired.

Come up with a five-year plan for my career.

I was lucky enough to fall into a field that I love, almost immediately after graduating from college ten years ago (Yikes). Along the way, I was also lucky enough that the right opportunities always seemed to materialize at the right time. I’ve never really had to have a plan, because as I went down the path I never doubted that I was exactly where I needed to be at the time.

This year, I really want to make a conscious effort to plan for the next phase of my career. Like all of the other changes in my life, part of this renewed focus on my work has to do with Little B. If I’m going to spend a huge chunk of the day away from her, I want to spend that time doing something that is meaningful, satisfying and allows for a balance between work and the rest of my life.

This doesn’t mean that I want to stop doing the kind of work that I’m doing–I love what I do. But, I want to figure out how to leverage the skills and experiences that I’ve gained over the last decade so that I can keep progressing. Are there other areas of my field that I would like to explore? Do I want to go back to school, in order to open up a whole new set of opportunities? I don’t know. Either way, I think it’s time to really think about what I want to do when I grow up.

Invest time in this blog.

I’ve said it before, but maintaining this little corner of the Internet is one of my favorite things to do. I have a list of things to write about collecting dust on my computer, so I would like to try to turn those ideas into actual posts. In addition, I hope to work on my photography skills and hopefully even learn a bit about design so that I can make a few improvements around here.

Read more.

I used to read a book a week before Little B came along. Now, even if I have time, I’m usually to exhausted to concentrate on anything and opt for mindless activities, like checking to make sure that the Internet is still there and watching crap TV. I miss escaping with a book and want to try to at least get through one book a month this year.

So, that’s what I have on my plate for the year. How about you? Any advice for meeting my goals?

Little B: Four Months

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For Christmas, Chester and I got Little B a few new books for her library, including On the Night That You Were Born. I started to read it to her as a bedtime story the other night, and the tears started flowing before I even got through the first paragraph, which reads:

“On the night that you were born, the moon shone with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.’ Because there had never been anyone like you…ever in the world.”

Luckily, Chester was able to finish it for us while I pulled myself together. I stroked her head and tried to keep my tears from dripping on her, thinking how lucky I am to be her mom. She is gorgeous, fun and smart and already has done so many things that have made me so proud of her. Sometimes–particularly when she looks at me and smiles–I love her so much that I feel like my heart might explode.

This past month has been busy, especially with all of the excitement associated with the holidays. In addition to the many firsts that I previously mentioned, Little B enjoyed two days of Christmas celebrations with family and friends and was spoiled with all kinds of presents (Side note to children’s toy manufacturers: Please stop making the boxes that toys come in so awkwardly shaped. They are a bitch to wrap. Also, please limit the use of zip ties, string, etc. to keep them secure in the boxes. All of that stuff is also a bitch to deal with).

If we are friends on Facebook, you have probably seen all of these pictures already, but I can’t resist sharing them again. I cannot get over how adorable she looked in her little dresses!

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With Daddy on Christmas Eve

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Celebrating with Granny and Auntie Bridget

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Excited over one of her new gifts, although she enjoyed the wrapping paper and bows more!

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Christmas is exhausting. Sneaking in a nap before unwrapping more gifts at Granny’s. Also of note is the fact that her head is so large that we had to get her a toddler-sized headband!

On the day after Christmas, we embarked on another transition, as we started crib training. Ever since the second night she was home, she had slept in a Rock-and-Play sleeper next to our bed. But, when we noticed that her feet were starting to stick out of it and she seemed pretty uncomfortable, we knew that it was time to move her into the crib in her own room.

I was pretty apprehensive about starting the process, because the few times that I tried to get her to nap in her crib had been a disaster. Granted, she is not the best napper in the world (unless she is being lulled to sleep by a car ride or walk in her stroller), but she would rarely get more than 30 minutes of sleep in her crib.

I read up on the various methods of getting your little one to sleep in a crib–cry it out, no-cry, pick-up, put-down–and in the end I just decided to do what I always do: make it up as I go along. I know that I couldn’t deal with letting her cry it out, so I guess what we have been doing most closely resembles the no-cry method. We go into her room to comfort her when she needs it. I don’t pick her up (okay, I have picked her up a few times when things get really bad) but I find that rubbing her legs and talking to her helps to calm her down.

We have been at it a week now, and each night is getting a bit better (although daytime naps are still terrible). She cries off and on for about an hour before she settles down. When she finally does drift off, she often rolls over in her sleep and jolts herself awake. It is so hard to hear her get so upset and to top it off, she seems most comfortable sleeping on her side (with her face pointed away from the video monitor so I can’t see her, of course) which makes me a nervous wreck.

I know they say that once a baby can roll, you can’t really do anything to keep her on their backs while they sleep and just have to trust that they would be able to get themselves into another position if they were in danger. Easier said than done. If there were carpeting in our hallway, I would have already worn a groove in it from the number of trips I make from our bedroom to hers every night, just to check that all is well.

Other than this (hopefully temporary) bump in the road, everything else has been pretty smooth sailing.

Little B continues to love the sound of her own voice. In addition to her sweet little coos, she has figured out to make high-pitched shrieks when she gets particularly excited about or annoyed by something. Lately, she is really enjoying blowing raspberries and bubbles and she has been imitating us when we make sounds at her. She seems to really like Bs and Ms (I’m hoping that the latter will mean that her first word will be “Mama”).

As I mentioned previously, she giggled for the first time just a couple of weeks back. At the beginning of the month, she started to reward my attempts at humor with a little “heh-heh”. But, the incident with the Hershey kiss was a full on rolling giggle, as though she had heard the funniest joke in the entire world. She has been doing it pretty often ever since and it is absolutely my favorite sound in the world.

I’m thrilled that she seems to love being read to. She stares intently at brightly colored pictures and can even turn the pages in some of her board-style books. I’m enjoying sharing some of the classics from my childhood, such as Curious George, with her and have even discovered some new favorites. For example, we read “What Snowmen Do at Night” and “Snowmen at Christmas” a lot during the last month and I fell in love with the stories and illustrations. I was so excited that she got the other two books in the series–“Snowmen at Work” and “Snowmen All Year”–for Christmas. I highly recommend them if you have little ones in your life.

Little B’s motor skills and hand-eye coordination are continuing to improve. Just a few weeks ago, we were still shaking her toys in front of her face while she just looked at them, and now she can manipulate some of them herself (and get them into her mouth). Lately, she is really into anything that rattles and rustles, as well as loveys/small stuffed animals that she can clutch. She discovered her feet this month and I love watching her grab them and try and get them into her mouth.

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Her Exersaucer is her new favorite thing

As we embark on this new year, I have to say that I was a little sad to see 2013 go. It was one of the best years that I have had in awhile, for obvious reasons. However, I know that there are plenty of good days ahead as we continue to watch Little B grow and change during the next 365 days. I hope you have exciting plans in store for 2014 as well!