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Read all about the adventures of the Tsao Family during the summer of 2012

Friday, December 29, 2006

 

The Five Cats Out of the Bag Meme

All of the cool kids are doing the 5 Things You Don't Know About Me meme, and I have always wanted to be cool.

Hence, therefore, and without further ado:


  1. You know that guy who wrote that article that suggested men shouldn't marry career women? I dated him. It was a brief fling in 1999 that didn't last more than a couple of mixed drinks. Thank God.

  2. Despite what I wrote in this post, I actually am contemplating trying for a third child. But not today. Or tomorrow. But maybe before I'm 40, which is in 2 years.

  3. I have decided to make 2007 a dry year. That means no booze for the whole year. I actually started this resolution on December 26, after my champagne and cold medicine-induced hangover kept me glued to the couch for half of the day. I'm sick of drinking; like dating asshats, it's so 1999.

  4. I am re-thinking my work-life balance priorities for the upcoming year. I want to spend less time struggling to meet deadlines in an effort to prove I'm still an interesting person who hasn't exchanged her brain for a sippy cup. I'm discarding work commitments right and left, and instead I'm signing up for two classes through park and rec: mommy & me gym and a mommy & me music class.

  5. Last night I farted in bed and it was so bad it woke Mike up and I had to go spend the night on the couch.


Now it's your turn!

Monday, December 25, 2006

 

Merry Christmas 2006

Family_2006
Merry Christmas, Internet!*


I hope you're having a wonderful day filled with family, food, and fun. Oh, and champagne. And presents.

Did I mention champagne?

*This is our wonderful holiday photo taken by my friend from bad mom's coffee, Barak Yedidia.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

 

Bake yourself a Mary little Christmas


Let the baking begin
Originally uploaded by marytsao.
Continuing the tradition I started last year, I present to you The Five Cookies of Christmas 2006:

* Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars

* Toasty 3-seed Crescents (Recipe from December issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine)

* Raspberry Thumbrint Cookies (Recipe from The Spirit of Christmas Cookbook, which my mom gave me last year.)

* Almond Butter Blossoms (Recipe from December issue of Better Homes and Gardens magazine)

* Mom's Ginger Snaps

The kids and I went to three stores today to get all of the ingredients. Let the baking begin. If you don't hear from me, it's because I'm up to my arse in flour and cream of tartar.

Evidence of online shopping
Also, online shopping rules.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

 

DJ Juice and The Girl Who Didn't Want to Go Home

For the first time in our life together as a family, we--Mike, Emily, Thomas, and I--went to back-to-back parties.

My children are party animals. Aww yeah. P.S. They got that from me.

After the first party, Emily noted, "Daddy, that was a good party."

When it was time to leave the second party, Emily simply cried. We had to tell her that we were going to a third party--at "Club 2032"--to get her to agree to leave. Of course, "Club 2032" is our house, which she realized when we pulled into the driveway.

We then had to put on some house music and serve her a post-party dinner/breakfast of eggs and juice before she was satisfied.

All in all, it was a good night. Plus I got a compliment on my new sweater, which totally justified its purchase price, and the phone number of a caterer whom I think I could really work well with. Excellent. A pampered suburban housewife's dream come true.

Party on, people. As a symbol of my love, I give you what Tracey calls "the goat."

IMG_3490


Uh oh. Mike just put on Shakira. I gotta go.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

 

Love is a meme about me. Oh, and holiday traditions. And you.

It's Love Thursday, a tradition I will carry on when the mood hits me even though Karen of Chookooloonks has decided to end her blogging days. I will very much miss her words; they often were a bright spot in my day. Thank goodness I still have her beautiful photography to inspire me.

What I love today is the fact that I am smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, a time when family and friends are uppermost in my mind. Whether I'm shopping, writing out cards, making cookies, having tea, decorating the tree, or going to parties, I'm realizing how lucky I am to have such a large and supportive network of friends and family.

Here's a meme I picked up over at Suburban Misfit, who got it from Jenorama.

1. Egg nog or hot chocolate? Hot chocolate. Although I do like a nice cup of the nog.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Both. For the kids, we put together the big things and leave them unwrapped.

3. Colored lights or white lights on tree/house? White. I'm a purist. No blinking, either.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? I have in the past although I did not this year.

5. When do you put up your decorations? The first weekend in December.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)? Is there a food other than dessert? Okay, I'm going to have to say tamales, which we are going to have at least twice this holiday season.

7. Favorite childhood holiday memory. Christmas day at my Auntie Patty's house.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Oh, I was probably five. My mom took me and my sister to Dispensa's Castle of Toys and told us to pick out our presents for Christmas. That was a big clue.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? Yes.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? Lights first, starting at the top, then the bows and the ornaments.

11. Snow: love it or dread it? Love it since I don't live with it!

12. Can you ice skate? Yes. I think I learned at the Houston Galleria ice skating rink in either 3rd or 4th grade.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? One of the most memorable Christmas's in my life was the year my family had 96 presents under the tree. I think I was three. I don't remember any one gift in particular, but I will never forget the excitement of that Christmas morning. It was wild.

14. What's the most important thing to you about the holidays? The opportunity to celebrate the friends and family in my life.

15. What is your favorite holiday dessert? All of the above. I never met a dessert I didn't like.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? Tea with Emily. We went last year and this year.

17. What tops your tree? Nothing! I'm still waiting to find that perfect tree topper.

18. Which do you prefer: giving or receiving gifts? I like giving, but receiving isn't bad, either.

19. What is your favorite Christmas song? I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas.

***
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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

 

A Life, Offline

Lots of life events going on around here. Let's see...

Thomas had his two-year check-up today. Dr. B pronounced him "healthy and happy," and said that I am "lucky" and "doing a great job." Because Thomas is in the 75th percentile for height and slightly less than 50th for weight, Dr. B once again declared him "long and lean," a title anybody would be happy to get. And when I write anybody, I mean me.

I am reading Twyla Tharp's book The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life. It's an interesting book about the process behind discovering and using one's creative abilities. I'll write about it more in the future. Has anybody read it? What did you think?

We have lots of holiday parties coming up -- five in the next week. I've bought hostess gifts for all five. Thank you again for your suggestions. For some, I bought CDs -- Il Divo, Diana Krall, Chris Botti. For one family, I bought a Polish glass ornament from Bloomingdales (worth it for the box alone), and for a couple of others I got fancy popcorn in tins and fancy cookies. Oops, that's more than five presents. Well, I'm pretty sure a couple more social events will sneak up on me, and dammit, I'll be prepared!

For each of Emily's two preschool teachers, I got a tall mug with hot cocoa mix and chocolate-dipped marshmallows. I'm also making them personalized thank you notes with pictures and drawings by a certain, special little girl.

At tea


The only person I'm not done shopping for is Mike. He is such the guy who has everything. I did come up with a couple of great ideas, but when I casually mentioned them to him (to get his casual feedback), he went ahead and bought the items before I could! That man is impossible.

I've put off holiday cookie baking until next week, but I'll get it done. Lethargy and indecisiveness will not drag me down!

Oh, and Emily and I went to our annual holiday tea today. Unfortunately, I blew it and didn't call the Ritz Carlton in time to get a reservation for Teddy Bear Tea. Instead, we went to The Fairmont on Nob Hill for Nutcracker Tea. It was nice--good tea, food, and champagne--but not as festive as the Teddy Bear Tea and there were no other kids there; instead of a teddy bear, Emily got a nutcracker tree ornament. Next year I have to remember to call the Ritz Carlton in November to get a reservation.

But regardless of the venue, the fact we spent the afternoon together as a mother-daughter team was really great. With two kids, I don't often get a chance to spend time with just one. I'd like to do that more often.

The girl and I
The Girl and I


***
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Monday, December 11, 2006

 

Holiday remembrances

Thank you for all of your hostess gift suggestions. Wonderful! I love all of your comments, especially Squid's idea that a hip flask would make a great gift for a stressed out hostess. I also got a kick out of my sister Barb's comment that one thing she gave up in her divorce that she will not miss is 1/2 of her christmas card list. Half-full or half-empty: it all depends on how you look at it.

I spent most of yesterday curled up in front of the fire addressing envelopes. Emily sat by my side for most of that time and "addressed" the dozen or so old notecards that I gave her for play. She was a great companion. It was raining so being indoors with the Christmas tree lights on and the fire burning seemed like the most perfect way to spend our day.

I realized yesterday what I enjoy so much about sending out holiday cards. It's simply the perfect opportunity to reconnect mentally with every person that means something to me. With every name I wrote, I conjured up an image of that person or family. I visualized their faces and remembered the last time I had seen them. If I hadn't seen them in the last year, I sometimes wrote a note on the card expressing either my desire to get together or my hope that they'll end up in our neck of the woods this year.

I imagined family members in other states or countries opening the card and expressing disbelief at how much our kids have grown. I imagined new friends happy to get a reminder of our friendship, even if they live only two miles away and I see them every week.

And of course, it was with a heavy heart that I realized I wouldn't be sending my grandmother a card this year; she passed away this past January. I badly need to re-do my mailing list, which is a hodge podge of handwritten addresses and scribbled notes, but I don't know if I can bear to create a new list that leaves off my grandma or other family members that have died. I don't want to miss these opportunities to reconnect.

Although I'd like to think that even without the aid of a holiday photo, my grandma knows how much my kids have grown.

Emily, her favorite outfit, and her backpacks
best holiday helper ever


***
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Saturday, December 09, 2006

 

What to give the hostess with the mostess?

I was just sitting here thinking about how great it was going to be to have nothing to do tomorrow since we have no social obligations planned; I have all day to sign and address my holiday cards. Cool. Then I remembered that I sign and address 110 holiday cards, and I thought to myself, What is wrong with you that signing and addressing 110 holiday cards equates to having nothing to do?

Even though it sounds insane, I'm looking forward to my big day of holiday card making. Do you know how good I'm going to feel when I push those babies into the big blue box on the corner? Good, real good. I am housewife, hear me roar.

Ah, holidays. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. That's my motto for this time of year.

Tonight we had the family over for Thomas's big birthday bash. I made beef stroganoff, potatoes au gratin, and salad; my father-in-law brought a honey baked ham from the HoneyBaked Ham Store. The ham was freakin' amazing. I (oops!) accidentally forgot to give out leftovers to our guests. Not! I'll be eating that ham all day tomorrow. I need pork-based sustenance while churning out my signature 110 times, ya know.

Pork-based sustenance. heh.

Unfortunately, the stroganoff sucked. I'm allowed to write that because I made it. Have you ever made a dish for a dinner party that you've never made before, then sat down at the table to eat it (with your guests) and realized it was horrible? Ya, that was the stroganoff. It should have been wonderful, but it wasn't. Oh well. The potatoes were okay, but I have a feeling they'll be better tomorrow fried up and served with a side of eggs over medium, a slab of ham, and toast.

At least the table looked pretty:

Birthday Dinner for T


My mom helped a lot by watching the kids while I cooked, setting the table, and making placecards. She also bought really cute gifts for each of the guests that matched the table setting. Good work, mom! Tomorrow, she and my stepdad leave to go home to Illinois and the kids are really going to miss them.

Enough rambling...here's a question for my awesome readers. What do you give for hostess gifts? We've got three parties next weekend alone and I want to bring something for the women who I know will be working their behinds off for days before the guests arrive. I'm going to bake Christmas cookies this week, but I was thinking something more personal, maybe bath salts or lotion? What do you think? I'm really trying to think of something that says, "Girlfriend, I know how hard you worked to make this party happen. You rock." My mother-in-law brought me champagne and flowers, which I love, but what if the hostess isn't a lush like I am? Ideas?

***
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Friday, December 08, 2006

 

Hark the Herald Dishwasher Sings

I came home tonight to the sound of the dishwasher humming; that's music to my ears, baby! I rejoice whenever the dishes are done and I'm not the one who did them. Thanks, Mike!

I was out late searching TJ Maxx and Ross Dress for Less* for pots. Yes, pots. I realized tonight that I don't have a 5-quart dutch oven and I need one to make the beef stroganoff for Thomas's birthday party dinner tomorrow.

Here's a question that will keep me up late tonight: Why didn't I buy that Le Creuset dutch oven when I saw it at TJ Maxx two months ago?!?! Of course it and everything like it was long gone when I visited the store tonight. Dang! I did find a 5-quart dutch oven at Ross Dress for Less, but when I got home I realized it was dented. Double Dang! Oh well, it will do for tomorrow, and what do I expect for $10? I need to add this baby to my Christmas wish list. Let me know if you need my shipping address.

I'm off to bed, but take it from me: When you see something at TJ Maxx, Ross Dress for Less, or Marshalls that you like, buy it immediately! At the very least, put it in your cart and contemplate its purchase as you wander up and down the aisles. If you leave thinking you'll return later to rescue it from its retail hell, it won't be there.

The end.

*I call it "Ross Dress for Less" to piss off Mike, who insists it should be referred to simply as "Ross."

Off topic: The grandparents are in town and Christmas has come early to our house. I got a cookbook and the necklace that I'm wearing in this picture.

***
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Wednesday, December 06, 2006

 

I, Thomas

Dear Thomas,

Today you turned two years old. It seems like only yesterday that I pushed you into this world despite my horrible heartburn from eating Carl's Jr. fried potato hash browns for breakfast when I was in labor.



You are an amazing two year old. Tonight you blew out the candle on your cake without coaching or prompting. I am taking this as a sign that there are many, many more birthdays, candles, and cakes in your future. You have only just begun.

Job well done


Last week you said a sentence so long I wrote it down on a piece of paper and counted the words using the fingers of two hands. We were showing you some pictures of your new baby cousin and you said, "I wanna see again the baby Alex." That's a seven word sentence, my boy, and one that impressed me because of its length, its clarity, and its sensitivity.

You are a wonderful little boy. You are friendly, nice, sweet, easy going, a loving little brother, and a kid with a gift for music. Your favorite video features animated robots who play music and you call it "dancing robots." I love that.

Everybody who meets you likes you; you're just a great kid. Recently you started saying your name and now when I ask you, "What's your name?" you reply, "I Thomas!"

Birthday breakfast


Indeed.

Happy 2nd birthday.

Love, Mama

***
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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

 

A tart and a torte

I remember once in high school my boyfriend's mother grilling me in her kitchen. I was hanging out, waiting for her son to finish eating dinner or something. "Can you cook?" She asked, while giving me a look. "I can follow a recipe," I told her. "That isn't what I asked," she said, "I asked you if you can cook."

Of course the answer to her question was no. No, I could not cook. I was only fourteen and hadn't much opportunity, need, or desire to prepare a meal fancier than mac-n-cheese or top ramen. I clearly had failed her test, and with one roll of her eyes and shrug of her shoulders she deemed me unfit and unable to adequately care for her deadbeat son.

I shudder to think what would have become of me if she had liked me.

It has taken me many years of cooking for myself and others to come to a point where I can answer that question in the affirmative. Yes, I can cook. Most nights I create two or three-dish meals out of whatever is in the refrigerator and cupboard. It's fun to turn two chicken breasts, a zucchini, half a bag of pasta, a can of tomatoes, a bag of frozen corn, and an onion into a meal even that cold-hearted old woman would have liked.

Yes, I can cook. Thanks for asking.

***

Tonight I deserted my husband and kids to attend a passion party. Passion parties (and yes, I've been to more than one) are always a little awkward at first. But the hostess quickly dropped the V word, the C word, the P word, and the D word, and before I knew it everybody was laughing and talking about lube like they were old friends.

I spent $157, but that's not my point. My point is that before I went to the passion party, I made a fantastic zucchini torte. I did follow a recipe to make it, but I also strayed from the recipe, which I never would have done when I was fourteen. Or even twenty four.

Attends passion parties. Makes a mean tort. I may not have been a catch at fourteen, but dammit, I sure am one now.

***

Zucchini Torte
Based on recipe from The Art of Mexican Cooking

Serve with a green salad, french bread with butter, and passion.

1/4 pound unsalted butter, plus 1 tablespoon for baking dish
4 medium zucchini, trimmed and grated
1 cup flour
2/3 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup creme fraiche, beaten and seasoned with salt and pepper to taste (optional)


  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in top part of oven. Butter a 1-quart baking or souffle dish.

  2. Squeeze the grated zucchini dry in paper towels and set aside.

  3. Sift the flour with the baking power and salt and set aside.

  4. Beat the butter until creamy, then beat in the eggs one by one.

  5. Beat in the flour mixture, then stir in the zucchini and sugar.

  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake until the torte is firm and springy to the touch and golden on top, about 45 to 50 minutes.

  7. Serve from the dish, smothered with the creme fraiche, if desired.


Serves 4-6.

***
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Monday, December 04, 2006

 

If a mommyblogger falls in the forest

I'm having a one-woman pity party over here. I think it might somehow be tied to the stress of the holiday season (shopping and decorating and cooking, oh my!) or to the fact it's dark by 5:30 or to the conversation I had the other night.

The conversation itself wasn't that heavy or memorable. I was talking to a woman whom I hadn't seen in years, since before I got married and had kids. And became a housewife. I found myself struggling to explain what my life was like. Her questions weren't particularly probing or judgemental, but they all led to the same general query: "What do you do all day?"

Trying to explain to somebody without kids what I do all day left me feeling odd. She wondered about my social life; did I hang out with other moms and kids? Perhaps she found it difficult to imagine having a social life once procreation has occurred. Telling her I was the newsletter editor for my mothers club sounded lame even to me. She was surprised at the fact our club has hundreds of members. Maybe she couldn't imagine that many women with children existed?

I didn't even bother trying to explain to her about mommyblogging. I just didn't have it in me.

I'm annoyed that I'm letting the conversation I had with this woman bother me. I wish that I had told her how great it is to have a morning like the one I'm having right now. It's 10:00 and I'm listening to NPR and writing. I am about to make a second cup of coffee, a mocha this time. My two kids--one of whom looks like my husband and one of whom kind of looks like me--are over at the kitchen table playing with crayons and Play-Doh. To my left is The Art of Mexican Cooking. I'm going to make torta de calabacita (zucchini torte) for dinner. I have absolutely nothing on the calendar; the day is mine to make of it what I will.

Maybe I didn't tell her all of this because it's just not in me to brag. But it's also true that I don't often enough consider how fortunate I am to live the life I'm living. Sure, some days are hard, right now my left thumb smells just a little bit like diaper, and the pay isn't all that great, but take a look at my boss:

The sweetness
I work hard for this honey.


For her sake, I hope that woman one day gets to do what I do all day.

***
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Sunday, December 03, 2006

 

Yesterday's mascara, today's eyeliner

The Google holiday party was a lot of fun. We ate, drank, and danced until the stroke of midnight, when our chariot turned back into a pumpkin and we were forced to make haste to our castle made of sippy cups. While Mike drove our babysitter home, I curled up on the couch and ate a bunch of expensive chocolate. I only know this because of the empty wrappers I found scattered about on Saturday morning. I woke up to the candy wrappers, a throbbing head, and a face full of make-up that didn't look too bad. At least, this is what I told myself when I realized I wasn't going to get a chance to wash it off.

But hey, like my good friend Mary says, "It isn't yesterday's mascara, it's today's eyeliner!"

It wasn't that I didn't want to take a shower, but we woke up late and after getting breakfast at the local greasy spoon and shopping for our Christmas tree and wreaths, it was time for me to take the kids to our first birthday party of the day. Our friend Ian turned three and his celebration was at a jump tent birthday party place. It was a little bit insane, but also a lot of fun.

After a quick stop at home, we headed to our second birthday party, this one for thirty-five-year old Mary. She had her birthday party at a bowling alley with a game room, thereby confirming my suspicion that there's not much difference between turning three and turning thirty five as long as you have a youthful attitude towards life.

Whatever that means. Apparently my coffee hasn't yet kicked in. Here's a picture of me in my finery:

All dressed up with somewhere to go
More silly pictures are up on Flickr.


Today we're turning the house into a holiday wonderland, picking my parents up from the airport, and preparing for Thomas's 2nd birthday on the 6th. I've also got to squeeze grocery shopping in there somewhere since right now I'm drinking my coffee without milk and that just ain't right.