Tuesday, September 28, 2010

recipe : cider & five spice braised pork shoulder

If you've known me for a while, you'll no doubt remember that one of my favorite things to cook (and eat) is Shanghai Pork Shoulder (recipe here). Well, our household was pretty sad to discover a soy allergy that now prevents us from partaking in this wonderful, bold dish. A few weeks ago, I set out to reinvent the recipe, and I am pleased to tell you that the results are amazing! If you're looking for an Asian-style recipe that is super-easy, bursts with flavor, and works well for both pork and chicken, here's your girl:

Cider & Five Spice Braised Pork Shoulder

4 pound bone-in pork shoulder
2c apple cider
1t Chinese Five-Spice Powder
5 star anise
1/3c oyster sauce
1T salt
1/2c sugar
3 cloves garlic
2 slices fresh garlic

Bring a large stock pot of water to boil, and blanch the pork shoulder for 3-5 minutes - until the outside of the meat is whitened and sealed. Drain and rinse in cold water.

In a medium stock pot, combine all ingredients. Add pork shoulder and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, turning meat every 30-45 minutes. Cook for 2-3 hours - until meat is completely tender and falling off bone.

Uncover, increase heat to bring liquid to boil, and cook until the sauce reduces to approx 1-2 cups or until sauce caramelizes, basting top of pork with the sauce throughout reduction time.

I find this best served with stick white jasmine rice and lightly steamed vegetables. Use the extra sauce (skim fat after it cools) on scrambled eggs, or to toss with noodles.

I hope you'll let me know if you try it - we used the same recipe this week to make chicken in the crock pot, and it was great. If you have a soy allergy, be sure to read the ingredients on the oyster sauce - some brands do contain soy.

Bon appetit, or as the say in China - gan bei!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

ask and you shall receive

I like to say "yes" as much as I can. There are so many limitations Max and Shoghi encounter all day long, that when they ask for something that's not going to do any harm, I try to give them what they want. So this afternoon, when they asked for ice cream, I decided to oblige.

Here is a very happy Shoghi, with Max in the background, talking with me about it:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the one where she laughs at herself

Remember yesterday? When I posted that I wanted to take the kid's clothes week challenge?



That didn't work out so well. I pretty much sleep-walked through the day, keeping up with the boys, who were also over tired from being up last night. It was also my second night in a row of getting less than 4 hours of sleep. So, the sewing machine didn't make it out today.

However, I will say that I have a plan, and I will also say that maybe I can just celebrate Day 1 with the gift of handmade clothes for my children - because they have brand new pajamas made by their great-grandma.

shoghi-wan kenobi

I think that counts, right?

gaining clarity

illustration by Jen Lemen, Mondo Beyondo

Have you ever felt like there was a time when you really struggled to do something, and it was failing miserably for no apparent reason? Who hasn't, right?

For the past 3 weeks, I have been on a relentless search for a new babysitter, and in that time, my life (our life) has devolved into complete and utter chaos as my need for a nanny has gone on unfulfilled.

At first, my preference was to find a day care center, but it became clear after about, oh, thirty phone calls that this wasn't going to happen. With long waiting lists and minimum age requirements of 2.5 for centers I felt good about, there just was just not any availability. I was surprised to learn how many daycares use television - up to two hours a day. Definitely not cool with me.

So, I changed my search to looking for a nanny. I wrote to friends, talked with former babysitters (who are fortunately now our dear friends), and put the word out into our community. I wrote an ad and posted it on craigslist and on urbanmamas. I emailed about 50 people, heard back from about 15. I interviewed. I called. They rescheduled. It just hasn't been working.

Last night, in the long, long hours when I couldn't sleep, I wondered about this, and realized it's something I've experienced before - I try and try and try for something I feel I need and want, and just end up pouring energy and emotion into one dead end after another.

So I thought to myself:

OK, what if the thing you are saying you want is at odds with what your heart really wants? What is it, if not a simple babysitter, that our family needs? It's time to really pay attention to your heart, rather than your head.

To be honest, I don't have a choice about needing childcare, so the question isn't "do you really want to find childcare for your kids."

I guess the thing I realized last night is that what our family needs isn't a nanny. While the primary job description may read "take care of twin toddlers for 25 hours a week," what our family needs is more like a doula, a grandma, a loving figure who cares about the themes we are playing out, who cares to take the time to be objective about what the present needs are. This may sound burdensome and too large of a job description, but I have friends who are like this who work under the "nanny" job title. We as a family are being birthed into a new phase of our life together - a new phase that will land me either employed outside the home or back to grad school (please, let it be the latter!), will transform Laurie's time and open the space for her to direct energy back into her career as an illustrator, and finally, this change will impact how my sons are socialized, the day-to-day experiences they will have, and the amount of time they spend away from their parents.

In the ad I originally placed online, I wrote that we needed an "adventurous nanny," when in fact, we simply need a nurturer.

I feel a calmness now; I have identified the dissonance that might have been blocking us from finding that person who no doubt would love to nurture our family in this way. Because really, in the end, that's what I believe family is about, and it's the role I believe can be so powerful as a care giver - someone to love us for who we are, where we are, and someone for us to love back.

stitchin' for minhas criancas

So, today kicked off elsie marley's kid's clothes week challenge which of course I forgot about. One hour a day, making clothes for the boys? Sounds good to me. I can't wait to begin!

Instead, I'm sitting up with that dreadful combination of insomnia with a side of nighttime wakings. I dosed myself up with some warm milk and a xanax about a half hour ago, so back upstairs I go now. Looks like another 3 hour sleep night for mama. This month has completely kicked my ass in the sleep department, with my average being 4.5 hours.

Monday, September 20, 2010

little convos

Months ago, we were listening to Max chit chat with his toy animals - he especially liked "ssshhhh, sweepy-time." Now Shoghi is starting little conversations with his toys, and man, it's just re-melting my heart. I really am loving this age - so much is opening up in their little brains!

Friday, September 10, 2010

{this moment}

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see here or at soulemama.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


another set of crazy weeks, complete with household economic disaster, sick children and adults, lack of babysitters, and encounters with state agencies i never imagined as a part of my life. oh, and my camera is malfunctioning again, or it might just be the batteries are not charging properly... whatever the case, i haven't had the energy to get to the bottom of it. funny, but without a camera, it's harder to stop on by this old spot.

the boys are changing before my very eyes. even more than when they were tiny babies, now they are two (seriously, how did this happen?!?), and they are just exploding with change. i can assume that pretty soon they will be talking in ways i find more comprehensible, and we will only have as memories words like "baba-zur-zur" (bulldozer), "mo-cicle" (popcicle), and "beeping" (sleeping). they string together these amazing little sentences now: "i climbed up seat!" "i see a red motorcycle!" "no car. go a playground now." and i sense their babyhood falling away.

that's not to say i don't celebrate and relish their changes - i feel like i could dive into each one of them and float in my joy at their little personal triumphs. "i did it myself!" is a new favorite sentence this week, and i have to say, i feel their sense of accomplishment and feel wells of adoration. these little people learn and experience so much in such a precious short time! shoghi suddenly holds his fork, spoon, pens and paintbrush "properly," while max did pee-pee in a potty for the first time... shoghi has had such a fast leap in language skills since july - he's gone from single words all the way to 5 and 6 word sentences, while max has mastered the art of marching, jumping off furniture, and sings along with his favorite (barney, blech!) songs... it's really so incredible that suddenly our home is filled with this child energy.

but still... really for the first time, i have the sense of this major first chapter in their lives coming to a close. the baby years... i can barely type it... they are coming to an end. it's likely that they are going to be my only children, and while i am so happy and content (and overwhelmed, and stressed out) to have both of them, there is a little twinge of sadness along with it that i won't have the opportunity to have babies anymore.

let's be real, too... i think part of it is something that you might only understand if you have multiples, or if you are very close to someone who does... i think part of it is that there really is a loss as a mother/child unit, that i didn't get to have that quiet moment of time with each of my sons as babies. that time when there is just the one baby to focus on, even if there are other siblings already in the family. there's quite a shift that has to happen when mothering twins (or more) - your intentions for how you will attend to your child have to yield to the reality of caring for two children of the same age. there is definitely loss there for me. things i wish i had been able to do differently for each of my boys.

and while i'm talking about leaving these baby years, let me also say that suddenly i am also thinking - or at least feeling (because really, when do i have time to actually think these days) - the strange gulf that occurred for me (and for each of them?) during those long four weeks they spent in the NICU. it's still so hard for me to accept that this hospital was not set up to allow parents to stay there 24 hours a day... the fact that my fragile little babies were there without me - without anyone except the NICU staff - for hours each day.... ugh, i get a pit in my stomach just thinking about it. it's one thing that i actually do have regret about - that i wasn't there for all of it. that i didn't somehow find a way to be with them every moment of their first breaths, their cries, their certain bewilderment at how it felt to be removed from the warmth of my womb and placed on those hard beds, with masks on, air on their exposed skin, the billi-lights... ugh. it's horrible, and i desperately wish i had done differently, even though i did the best i could do at the time...

so anyway, here we are. summer is falling away into blessed autumn. the rains are returning, and the air is cooler. my life is about to change as i find a job, as the boys transition into 20 or more hours a week of day care. and my babies... my strong, fast, persistent, funny, cheeky, introspective, determined, lovely boys are stepping into themselves.