Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Freakin (Easter) Weekend

Easter weekend! I never feel more adult and surreal as I when I have to do the holiday thing for Van. For so  many years Easter was pretty much a roll out of bed, get ready and go to some kind of family BBQ or something type of holiday. Now it entails the full on Easter stuff - - filling an Easter basket, dying eggs.

Van didn't really have any idea of what was going on. We didn't mention anything about Easter or candy or bunnies bringing him anything until about the day before. I had mentioned making Easter eggs all day Saturday, which confused Van because when it came time to actually make them Van ran in the kitchen asking if he could crack the eggs and stir them in a bowl. I definitely should have been more clear about what Easter eggs actually are. He was interested in dying them for about 5 minutes before ditching us at the table to watch Feist sing 1,2,3,4 to the monsters on Sesame Street.

On Sunday we all woke up around 11. I told Van that there were some treats for him on the coffee table from the bunny and that all the eggs we dyed were gone. He was pretty stoked to get his little basket of treats (a Beatles book, organic lollipops, a learning game and a bubble gun) and see that the eggs were missing from the carton. With some pretty heavy hinting from Tony and I he was able to find all 12.

After getting ready we headed out to my Aunt Lora's to eat and hang out with my extended family. We had a nice ravioli lunch and the kids ran around collecting plastic eggs in the backyard.

My sister made these hilarious eggs with our pictures on them. They were pretty much the highlight of Easter. She printed the pics on tissue paper and decoupage'd them onto the eggs. Freaking hilarious.

Once home we had a three hour family nap and some lettuce wraps. Holidays are exhausting.
I'll close this out with some gratuitous pics of Van and his homegirl Minnie. She came over for a bit on Saturday. They are so freaking cute.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Delicious Thing I Make Sometimes: Chicken with Spanish Chorizo and Potatoes

This meal is so freaking good. The prep could not be simpler, it dirties few dishes and comes out pretty perfect every time.

I first saw this Nigella recipe on a web site somewhere. I pretty much do what the recipe calls for, but for some reason the version that is so posted and popular makes WAY more food than your typical family can eat at one sitting. It's more than my family of big eaters could eat over the course of a few dinners. It also makes things sound a little more involved than they really are. I don't like recipes that call for lots of measuring and instruction following. I use terms like "glug" when referring to olive oil amounts.

Here's how I make it:

What you'll need
  • Little potatoes, or big ones cut into chunks so they're like little potatoes
  • Chicken thighs WITH SKIN (for the love of God, make sure there is skin on there. If you're not into crispy chicken skin then just forget about this recipe. The crispy skin is the most glorious part of this whole meal.)
  • Spanish Chorizo, sliced up into bite sized pieces. Make sure it's SPANISH chorizo.
  • Red onion (cut it however you like it. I kinda slice mine - it's more in there for flavor, but they do soften and taste pretty good in the mix)
  • Dried oregano
  • Orange zest (from one orange)
  • Olive oil
  • S/P

Mix up your potatoes (how every many you want - I make sure I have a handful of little potatoes per person), onion and chorizo. Toss with a bit of olive oil and dump it all in an oven dish of sorts. Like one you'd use to make lasagna.

Place your chicken thighs (however many your family eats...4, 6, whatever) skin side up on top of the potato, chorizo and onion mixture. Maybe drizzle a bit of olive oil on the top of your chicken.

Grab a cheese grater and grate the zest of the orange all over the chicken, potatoes, chorizo and onion. Don't be stingy. And don't squeeze any of the orange on top. This is not the place for orange juice. Just the zest.

Sprinkle a bit of salt, pepper and dried oregano over everything (not too much salt - chorizo is salty) before placing it into a pre-heated oven at 425 degrees for one hour.

Halfway through cooking I like to pull it out for a second, toss the potatoes around a bit and kinda baste everything with the orangey, oregano-ey grease that's collected on the bottom.

My sister makes this without the orange zest ( which I would never do - the subtle orange flavor is really, really good) and will sometimes sub kielbasa for chorizo or try other kinds of dried herbs in lieu of oregano. It's a really easily adaptable dish. I make it all the time. There's nothing not to like here. Pretty bomb.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Gapped Tooth Club

The other day I found myself thinking about teeth and how it seems that increasingly people are opting for braces or veneers to get perfect smiles. You hardly ever see anyone on TV or in the movies without perfectly white, straight and even teeth. I think it's something that people prioritize more these days.

I've had gaps my whole life (they were much more prominent when I was a kid) and honestly have never been really bothered by them. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to have a super straight Hollywood looking smile, but I've never been so curious to actually consider braces or shaving down my healthy teeth only to attach some porcelain veneers. Talk about panic attack - - I can't even imagine the horror.

So I got to Google-ing last night, as I always do when I should be sleeping, and found some pretty interesting stuff on this minority that I forget that I belong to.


TONS of hotties have gaps. Such as Lauren Hutton (one of the most major babes to ever exist), Georgia Mae Jagger, Brigette Bardot and David Letterman (haha).


Gapped toothed women in folklore were often regarded as having insatiable lust! Okay.

Women in regions of Africa with gapped teeth are regarded as more beautiful than those without and are paid a higher dowry when marrying. Gapped toothed African men are also thought to be more attractive than men without spaces in their teeth.

Asians are the least likely to have gaps.

The French call gapped teeth "lucky teeth".

In 1987 Les Bank created a short documentary on women with gapped teeth called Gap-Toothed Women. I really wish I could find the whole thing online.

Filmmaker Cassi Glisper's 2008 documentary Next Tooth One Mile profiles "gappers" from all over the world.

In watching what was available online from both of these movies I was unexpectedly sad when I listened to people with gaps express embarrassment over their smiles due to their gapped teeth. So weird to think that in our culture something as silly as teeth, which we have no control over (you could get braces or whatever, but you had no control over how they grow in your mouth) can inhibit people from organically expressing joy. Teeth are weird in that way.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Van's Playlist

My little Van is a human jukebox. It's really incredible. You probably need to see it to believe it. He's got an insane ear for language and music. He can hardly throw a ball without it getting accidentally tossed behind him and he has a pretty non-existent attention span when it comes to cartoons or movies, but he can strum and sing along with whole albums when the mood strikes him. Which happens pretty often. And by pretty often I mean all freaking day long. Everyday.

Here are some of his favorites as of now (in no particular order):

Kodachrome, by Paul Simon
Van has been grooving to this one, and other Paul Simon hits, for months and months. He picked a greatest hits album from a stack of records last summer and we've been listening to that and his self titled record pretty regularly. Like, daily.

Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, Paul Simon

Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover, Paul Simon
He calls this one "Bus Gus." As in, "hop on the bus, Gus." He's been singing this for a really long time now. My favorite part is hearing his little voice sing, "and get yo-self freeee." Too funny.

Duncan, Paul Simon
Van really turned me on to this one. I wasn't so familiar until Van had me listening to Paul Simon's Paul Simon record so frequently. Van doesn't sing this one as much as he requests it. He named this song "Girl in the Parking Lot" because of the "Young girl in the parking lot was preaching to a crowd/ singing sacred songs and reading from the Bible." He enjoys this one quite a bit and sings "do-do-do-do-do do do-do-do-do-do" along with the woodwinds between the verses.

I Do it for Your Love, Paul Simon
This is another I didn't hear much of pre-Van's obsession with it. He sings this BEAUTIFULLY but I haven't been able to capture it yet. When Van wants to hear this one he requests "Orange Juice" because of the line "All that winter we shared a cold/ drank all the orange juice that we could hold." Orange Juice - ha!

Sugaree, The Grateful Dead
This is one of the first tunes Van was really into and has been singing it since he was about 15 months or so. He calls it "Shake It." He asks to hear this one a lot and likes to look it up on YouTube and watch live performances of it. I have a 30 second video of my friends' band covering this one at the Torch Club that Van asks to watch every once in a while as well. He loves anything Jerry, but Sugaree was his first favorite Dead tune.

Bertha, The Grateful Dead
Bertha is a relatively new favorite of his. A few months ago he was singing something in the car that I didn't quite understand while we were waiting for Tony to deposit his check at an ATM machine. He was singing and singing and I still couldn't name that tune. I asked him what he was singing and he says, " Berssa! I singing Berssa!" He does it pretty clearly now. :)

Deal, The Grateful Dead
Tony's band covers this one, and it's a go-to for Van when he has his ukulele in hand. This is another one that he's been singing for almost a year.

The Wheel, Loser, Bird Song,  I Know You Rider, Going Down the Road Feeling Bad and Mama Tried, all by the Dead
I can't wait until he's old enough to harmonize with me on I Know You Rider. :)

Honeydew, The Mother Hips
This is my favorite Hips song, which I passed down to Van. He called it "Bring You Down" ("this is the sound/ let us bring you down") but now he just calls it Honeydew.

Later Days, The Mother Hips
The Mother Hips are a local-ish band so most of our friends and family aren't familiar with their stuff. I guess if that's the case then you just need to take my word for it - Van fucking nails this song. He's been singing it in pieces since last year, but only recently has been able to put all the verses and choruses together as they should be. He's loved this tune for a long time - so much, in fact, that he would inadvertently say "bye mama! see you later days!" when I would leave for work each morning.

Last month our friends played with the Hips at the Fox in Oakland. We actually got to show this video to Tim Bluhm, the writer of this song, and he was pretty impressed.

Esmeralda, The Mother Hips
Now when I tell Van "see you later days", he responds with "see you Esmeralda days." Esmerelda is the track that follows Later Days on his iPod, and he sings the guitar intro before singing the words.

October Teen, The Mother Hips
...or as Van calls this one, "Good steps in the heart." It took me foreverrrrrr to realize that this was a song he was often requesting because "good steps in the heart" are never referred to in this song. "Footsteps in the hall" are, though. We got into many a fight over this one due to me not understanding what the hell he was asking for.

Whisker River, Willie Nelson
...but only the live version.

Kiko and the Lavendar Moon, Los Lobos
The most popular bed time song, probably. He doesn't sing it too accurately, but hums and "doo doo doo's" along with the accordion.

Saint Behind the Glass, Los Lobos
This one is a weird choice, but he loves it. When he hears it he runs to grab his lap harp so he can play along with the intro. He calls this song "Hammer and a nail".

The Bends, Radiohead
Baby literally has the bends.

Fake Plastic Trees, Radiohead
He listens to Radiohead with his Dad before naps.

Poisonheart, The Ramones
Van LOVES the Ramones, who he calls "Ree-mones." He has two Ramones shirts that he asks to wear pretty much every day and thinks any kind of logo or graphic presented in a circle with text is the Ramones. He found a Starbucks gift card in my purse and told me I had a Ramones card. Circular logos on top of bottle caps are also Ramones bottle caps. He sings the chorus to this song all the time.

Blitzkreig Bop, The Ramones
The Ramones tunes are all newer loves. He listens to them in the garage with Tony and they sing and play drums and guitars.

I Wanna Be Sedated, The Ramones

Hey Jude, The Beatles
This is another one he's been singing for almost a year. He just does the chorus and the na-na-na's at the end. I was so happy I was able to take Van to Outside Lands last year to hear this one live. Just so he can say he went, you know?

Yellow Submarine, The Beatles
This one is a new favorite. I think he learned it from my parents after my boss gifted him a Yellow Submarine lunch box. He only sings the "we all live in a yellow submarine, yellow submarine" part. Which is cool. This song isn't my favorite.

I Am the Walrus, The Beatles
Van calls this one "Walrus Song"! It was one of his first favorites last year. We'd been listening to it on the iPod here and there when I received the Magical Mystery Tour vinyl in an old stack of records that was handed down to us. Van was MAYBE 16 months or so when he yelled out "Walrus Song!!" within literally 2 seconds of the song starting. Blew me away.

Down By The Bay, Raffi
Because I don't want him to be a total little weirdo genius with nothing in common with small children. And Raffi is a G, and writes and performs his own material. Sometimes Van sings "Down by the Bank" on accident. It's pretty funny.

Baby Beluga, Raffi

Apples and Bananas, Raffi

Refugee, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
"Don't have-a live like a refugee (don't have-a live like a rah-fu-jay hey)"...freaking hilarious. He sings along with the video which he makes me find for him on YouTube at least weekly.

The Weight, The Band
This one is...wait for it..."Take a load off, Vanny." Duh, right?!

Can't Hardly Wait, The Replacements
So good.

California Stars, Wilco

I feel  thankful every day that I have a kid that's as stoked as I am to hear cool songs and sing and play along with records. I'd take my kid keeping us up late singing and practicing his drums to one wanting to watch SpongeBob or Caillou or some bullshit like that. You have good taste, Vanny. I'm one grateful mama.