29 July 2009

Language Time

Cupcake's words are coming fast and furious now. I've noticed her repeating many of the words that I am saying to her like bib, spoon, etc. Last night we listened in amazement as she attempted "Oscar". She already seems to have a word for Lulu but Oscar is a bit trickier. It came out kind of like "Doscktor" but it was still discernibly his name. I am also a bit blown away that she can tell the two dogs apart. Obviously to me there are very clear differences, male/female, you know those kinds of things. But even my mother- in-law can't tell them apart, maybe because she is the antithesis of a dog lover. If I am sitting on the couch with Lulu next to me and I tell Cupcake to give Oscar a kiss she will walk over to where he is sitting and make her little fish lips face. Sometimes she runs around with her lips permanently fixed into that position passing out kisses to Mama, Dada and the two dogs. Although lets be clear here it is not like she is frenching the dogs it is more air kissing and occasionally whoever is feeling extra loving might give her a little lick back.

26 July 2009

Mistaken Identities

I received a phone call from a colleague/good friend that I absolutely had to take. Cupcake, however had just climbed into her stroller and was insisting that we go "day, day". I figured I would wheel her down to the shops while I talked. We had just come to a halt in front of our local convenience store as I was deep in conversation. Suddenly I heard a little voice call out "Dada! Dada!" I looked down to see Cupcake excitedly pointing at a man walking towards us. "Dada! Dada!" she cried. This guy looked a bit worse for the wear- tracksuit, gold rings, bottle of lucozade under one arm, paper under the other. He was probably shaking off his midweek hangover when my darling daughter started screaming her heart out mistaking him for her Daddy. "No sweetheart, that is not your Dada." As soon as I got home I phoned himself at work and told him the news, "Somebody has a new Dada!"

Then last night we rented Duplicity with Clive Owen and Julia Roberts. As we walked home from the movie rental place, Cupcake opened the cover of the dvd. "Mama? Mama?" she was pointing to a picture of Julia Roberts. Oh sweetheart, you know how to flatter your mother.

24 July 2009

Helping Hands

I was in the kitchen preparing some lunch for friends that are coming over this afternoon. Cupcake was talking about 'Dora' (Dora is her new word and this morning she said Lulu! Or something that means Lulu) and taking all the magnets off the fridge. I was deep in concentration chopping some peaches for a peach salsa when somebody hands me the salt. 'Thanks' I say, and then I stop and realise that somebody is standing next to me on the stool. At the counter. Are you kidding me? Now I am going to have to child proof the counters. Where will this madness end?

23 July 2009

How Do I Know I Am Doing This Right?

This past weekend I called my mother in tears. "I am a terrible parent!" I cried. "How come 'Daddy Cool' makes it looks so effortless? I have absolutely no patience for anything!" We ran through the list of everything I was doing 'wrong' to which my mother pointed out that I was not actually doing these things right or wrong, I was just learning how to deal with them. I think at times it can be so difficult being this far away from my mother. I want to be able to have her observe Cupcake and assess my parenting skills or suggest different solutions to what I perceive as my 'problems'. Parenting doesn't come with a guidebook, so how in the hell am I supposed to know how to handle different situations? I do not think that just because I am a woman that automatically means I know how to nurture, or multitask. There isn't some biological switch inside me that clicks into 'parent mode' and magically helps me cope.

This probably won't be the last of these type of hysterical phone calls I make to my mother.

20 July 2009

The Soup that Keeps on Giving

For the past couple days I have been eating a homemade soup. For some reason when I am sick - just confirmed by the doctor, no not swine flu but a throat infection - I stuff myself with homemade soup, tea, and cinnamon toast (toast with butter, cinnamon and sugar- a PBA family recipe). I used to drink hot flavoured gelatin, a cure suggested by my grandmother which probably came into being during the depression days but that no longer makes the list.

My soup, when I was healthy started off as a search for turkey albondigas (note the previous post was spelled incorrectly for all you Spanish sticklers out there...). As I googled I came across hundreds of recipes claiming to have the moist-est meatballs. This appears to be a common problem with turkey mince. My solution when I make my meatloaf is usually to mix in some yummy spicy sausage. One recipe I came across suggested bread crumbs soaked in milk. What the hell I thought, let's give it a go. In went the turkey, milk soaked bread, onions, garlic, a lightly beaten egg, a splash of olive oil and some various spices including my new smoked paprika I purchased en Espana. Next I fried them up in a little olive oil. Note I am totally against frying - it just seems so pointless when things can be baked, grilled, broiled, boiled, stir fried, you get the picture. But I think meatballs are probably the one food on earth that really require frying. I didn't cook them all the way through, rather just browned the outside. I then added them to a pot of boiling broth (stock cube, onion, carrots and chopped spinach). After vigourously simmering for quite some time I added some tiny farafellini pasta. Okay so the meatballs weren't super moist but the unexpected bonus was this lovely really meaty stock. I have been making stock for years but never NEVER have I had something like this. Usually I throw in a whole chicken carcass with some good thigh meat but it has never turned out so flavoursome. For the past couple of days I have been replenishing the broth with water and the stock is still lip smacking. I am hoping that I will be cured by the time this soup runs out, although I still have at least a day or two left in it.

18 July 2009


Last night I met an American acquaintance of a friend at a leaving party. I was struck by the extremely contentious nature of her comments. Por ejemplo... She made some comment about something that I cannot entirely remember and I said that I thought she was stereotyping people. She then proceeded to argue that a stereotype had to contain some element of truth otherwise why would they reflect characteristics of a certain person - i.e. race, class, gender, sexuality, etc. I argued that stereotypes did not reflect elements of truth, rather they could be seen as the way in which cultural hegemonic discourses oppress marginalised people. It was possibly the most frustrating conversation I have had all week. That is aside from telling my daughter repeated why it is only possible to wear one pair of shoes at a time, but as she is a 17 month old I am generally a bit more patient. To add to my frustration (last night) another acquaintance turned to me and said "Yeah I am not really into feminism, it is too political for me." I replied, "Oh you don't think women and men should have equal rights?" Of course the response was "Sure I do." "There you go, that is feminism" I said through gritted teeth.

17 July 2009

Tribute to Nonnie Garbuio

I have decided today to write a tribute to my great-aunt, Genevieve E Worthington (nee Garbuio). She passed away on Tuesday after being in hospice care for the last two weeks. Nonnie as she was known by our family was the youngest of six children. She was born in 1924 in Eastland Texas. She was married twice and never had any children. In her later years Nonnie was semi-recluse and suffered from diabetes and breast cancer. When I was in college went to visit her a couple times and she gave me tons of beautiful brushes and paints. Other than that I am not really sure what to say about her except she was a fiery Italian-American who was occasionally dramatic and prone to bouts of depression. You might ask why am I writing this tribute if I don't have much to say about her. When I received the email forwarded on from my mother, my dad's cousin indicated that Nonnie wanted there to be no funeral or memorial service. To this end there wasn't even an obituary published. This struck me as incredibly sad. My grandmother and her youngest sister often had a turbulent relationship. They could go long periods of time without communicating, sometimes event two to three years. But despite their scuffles, they were family and they loved each other. They always came back to one another in the end. If my grandmother were alive today she would be devastated at Nonnie's passing. Personally I think that we need to memorialise the lives of friends and families. It helps people to grieve and depending on what you might or might not believe I think it sends good karma off into the universe. 

Nonnie, I am dedicating this Sylvia Plath poem to you:

Words (1963)

After whose stroke the wood rings,
And the echoes!
Echoes traveling
Off from the center like horses.

The sap
Wells like tears, like the 
Water striving 
To re-establish its mirror
Over the rock

That drops and turns,
A white skull,
Eaten by weedy greens.
Years later I 
Encounter them on the road-

Words dry and riderless,
The indefatigable hoof-taps.
From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars
Govern a life.

15 July 2009

Our Spanish Getaway

You may have been wondering where I have disappeared to. Alicante to be exact! We arrived home yesterday evening totally exhausted. But let's not rush the retelling of the trip...

My in-laws have an apartamento in Rojales, a little village about 25 minutes away from Alicante. We arrived in on Friday evening to the exuberant welcome of two cousins, a Nana we haven't seen for three weeks, an anxious sister-in-law who wanted to hold cupcake the instant we arrived and a nice brother-in-law who happened to swing by the airport on his way down from Valencia to collect us.  We dumped our things and then went downstairs for some well deserved beers. The weather did absolutely nothing to diminish our thirst as it was easily still 33*C or about 90 degrees F.  Thanks to our pseudo-Spanish relations we also enjoyed many different tapas.

Day 2 we ventured to the pool located up in Quesada in a little village complex. To our complete surprise, Cupcake was very unimpressed. Later that afternoon, about 4 we headed out to the beach and again it was not a big hit. Later that evening after a well deserved siesta, I grilled up some spatchcock chickens and some mini chorizo sausages. I also made up a huge plate of grilled veg and a salad with donut peaches, serrano ham, feta cheese and dry rosted almonds. I was most excited to see the donut peaches there as they are probably one of my most anticipated fruits that I have whenever I return home to San Francisco. Their season is incredibly short - just about 4-5 weeks so it is best to fill up while one can. In Spain they are called paraguay - like the country. We asked at the local fruit market why that was the case but our question was just met with a shrug of the shoulders. I must have eaten about 20 of them when we were over there. We got 1 kilo for 1.50 euro!

Day 3 we went to the local market where I attempted to haggle for a very cool South American sweater for Cupcake. I think it is from Peru - it has llamas and a sun and a rain cloud with big blue drops falling out of it. We made the mistake of sleeping too late and then arriving at the market in the mid day sun. It was probably about 100*F and cupcake was miserable. After having a long over-due siesta we ventured to the caves which are traditional domiciles in certain parts of Spain. My in-laws hang out at one that has been turned into a little bar. The owner, Carlos is a sculptor who has a workshop in the cave below. He makes these really interesting welded sculptures that are a little Dali-esque or Surrealist.  Cupcake and the cousins spent a lot of time scrambling around on the carved benches and stone stairs.

Day 4 we headed for the pool and beach again. Cupcake hated the pool leading me to comment how could it be possible that my child was such a wuss. To fully understand my annoyance you need to know that I used to swim competitively for about 7 years and played water polo. Surely that screaming child could not be the product of my buoyant womb! We went to Bar Avenida for menu del dia - a large lunch that is served in several Spanish cafes. For the first course I enjoyed abendigas, turkey meatballs in a chicken broth. My second course was TO DIE FOR grilled lamb and my dessert was a lethal whiskey cake and un cortado. After a little sleep we arrived at the beach this time with a fully awake little girl. We eased her into the water, first by playing in the sand and building a giant hole for her to splash in. Next we sat along the water's edge and let the surf come up just to our legs. She enjoyed throwing handfuls of wet sand into the water as it retreated from us. A breakthrough!

Day 5 was really just packing and buying tons of chorizo and ham to take home. We enjoyed another menu del dia - this time I had grilled swordfish. Cupcake polished off her 3rd ice cream of the trip (was I really the anti-sugar mom?). Then came the trip to the airport. She cried the WHOLE way. I think she is teething, loads of drool had drenched both of us by the time we checked in for our flight. Then came the plane. 2 1/2 hours of screaming. Nothing absolutely nothing could calm her down. It was the flight that every parent dreads. I had a migraine by the time we touched down and I never EVER wanted to see any of those people again I was so mortified. I don't think that the later Spanish hours we maintained helped matters. She was well and truly exhausted, the poor dear.

I am not looking forward to my 12 hour flight to San Fran in August!

07 July 2009

Imelda Marcos II

We have a new word. "Sheesh" which in cupcake speak means shoe. Little did I know that the appearance of this word would herald in her obsession with shoes. It all started when I realised that these darling little navy leather shoes we inherited from her two older cousins barely fit her growing little tootsies. I became fixated with finding a pair of shoes that would provide adequate support for her ankles. I combed pages and pages of shoes on Zappos searching for this Pablosky brand. We are heading to Spain on Friday, and I am hoping to pick up a pair over there. Meanwhile, something needed to be done, the poor darling had obviously experienced some sort of growth spurt. I started by buying a pair at Penneys. Just a cheap 4 euro pair to hold us over. Then I realised I actually needed to buy a pair of mini mary janes because the Penneys shoes were just too loose despite being the right size. I went into Next and found these adorable pink tennis shoe mary janes and another pair of purple and pink polka dots with bows. Seriously - they didn't cost that much. But I had forgotten about two pairs of shoes that I bought her last year on sale at Old Navy. Now I really don't blame the poor girl for getting a little bit confused. I keep trying to separate the shoes that she no longer wears but everytime I do I forget about something and when I turn back she is holding them in her hands. She is constantly saying "sheesh". While laying in bed we are assaulted with our runners being handed to us, even once being (mistakenly) bashed over the head. She now knows the downfalls of a free market economy... too much choice.

03 July 2009


I am feeling slightly under the weather after the long day that I had yesterday. It was good to see old friends who I haven't been in contact with recently. I didn't arrive in last night until 3.30am which is very late for me these days. Of course I paid for it this morning, Cupcake was full of life. I probably would have been more productive if I wasn't so tired. So I decided to bake some muffins. You have probably realised by now that I am somewhat obsessed with banana muffins. Today I decided to experiment with bananas, nectarines, blueberries and pecans. It did turn out yummy, except that I think I maybe didn't add enough baking powder, or maybe it was baking soda. Truthfully I am so lazy with measurements that I have just been 'eyeing' everything with a coffee cup. Cupcake didn't seem as interested in the muffins, although she did enjoy smashing them into the ground. Gee thanks honey! 

Fellow blogger mom Jen at Jen's Rantings has awarded me the lovely blog award. In particular she mentioned she enjoys my posts about food. So Jen I am raising bowl of warm, gooey rice pudding with lemon zest to you! Thanks! 

01 July 2009


Tomorrow I am attending the funeral of someone I used to work with. Tragically this person felt that there was no way out of depression and so ended their life. I am of course shocked and saddened. I can't but help feeling for the family, the mother and father and child this person leaves behind. As a parent it has just really hit me hard and I am trying to understand how the mother must be coping with this tragic, senseless loss. I remember feeling totally helpless when Cupcake was born. It was a combination of of an overwhelming rush of love and this realisation that no matter what I do as a parent I would not be able to shelter my child from all of the hurt, the pain, the anger and the loss that comes in life. I wanted to put her in a bubble where nothing bad would ever come into contact with her. To preserve her innocence. It makes me so sad to think that somewhere this mother is dying inside thinking perhaps there was something more she could have done for her child. All I can hope is that I can teach my daughter the life skills necessary to pick herself up and the resilience to keep going when life gets tough.