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Friday, November 30, 2007


NaBloPoMo happy dance

Freakazoids, robots, please report to the dance floor.

I did it! I posted every day this month, thereby successfully completing National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). I did it! Go me.

I'm going to take the weekend off. You're probably just as happy about this idea as I am. I'm sick of this daily posting business, and the Tsao family is pretty busy this weekend. We've got tree shopping, tae kwon do class, hair cuts, and my annual mothers club holiday tea planned. And that's just tomorrow.

Tomorrow night Mike and I are hitting San Francisco dressed like sluts. Woot! What started out as one invite to a big birthday bash at 330 Ritch (my friend and a bunch of her friends rented an entire nightclub to celebrate their birthdays) has turned into three invitations for parties scattered throughout The City. Lookout world, oldies on the loose!

On Sunday we're all aboard the Polar Express train ride at the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. That should be fun. We also need to squeeze in some tree decorating before I meet a group of women writer friends for coffee and dessert.

A busy, busy holiday weekend filled with family and friends. I'm excited already.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


Manic magic

If I hadn't lived it myself, I wouldn't believe how insane a day of holiday decorating could be. It's crazy! First, you open the closet containing the boxes of holiday decor. You think pulling down the boxes and distributing the gold and red wealth around the house will be easy. Then everything you shoved in the closet the past year falls on your head and you realize that in order to get to the Christmas stuff buried deep in the back, you first have to organize the closet. Which leads to headache and hassle and piles of stuff destined for either the garbage can or the Goodwill store. Finally, sometime around noon (you started bright and early at 8:00), you can't even remember what your original goal was for the day. All you know is that every room of the house has piles of stuff in it, you've already done three loads of laundry, and your morning cup of coffee is sitting cold on the counter.

You know those decorating shows on TV? They lie! Decorating is hard work, a dirty business, I tell ya!

But I realize now, in the glow of soft lighting, that I did get a bunch of stuff done today and our house is almost holiday-ready. We're getting our tree on Saturday and will probably decorate it on Sunday. Today I put a small, fake tree in the kids's bedroom and Emily asked me if it meant Santa would leave them presents in their room, too. And you know what? That's exactly why I turn into manic Mary during this time of the year. A pre-decorated tree I just pulled from a box in the closet has the potential to equal magic to my kids. With Emily four years old and Thomas three years old, I think this will be our best Christmas yet.


A quick recap of yesterday: I haven't blogged about it, but I've been doing some writing-type work for PickPackGo, a vacation rental company started by some friends of mine. My official job title is City Host. The lovely Julie is a city host, too.

Yesterday I drove into The City to visit PickPackGo. It was neat spending some time in an office, especially since I didn't actually have to sit at a desk and work or anything. I just got to play dress up and go to a meeting, after which I returned to my regularly scheduled life. It was a brief--yet fun--diversion. If you're interested, here's something I wrote for PickPackGo about kid-friendly adventures in San Francisco.

Visiting PickPackGo
Visiting PickPackGo

After the meeting, I returned home to pick up the kids from preschool. Then the three of us returned to San Francisco for--guess what--a kid-friendly adventure. First we did some kid clothes shopping at the H&M in the Westfield Mall, then we saw Enchanted, checked out the kittens and puppies in the window at Macy's, and visited the big Christmas tree in Union Square. Emily loved Enchanted, except she thought the prince's stepmother was "not a very nice girl." I agree, but since she was played by Susan Sarandon I had to love her despite her evil ways. Thomas's favorite part of the movie was the peanut M&Ms I bought him. Which was why I had to pry the half-empty bag from his hands after he threw a sugar-induced tantrum in front of Macy's.

Oh, that holiday magic. Pictures of our fieldtrip are on Flickr.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Goodness me, when will this hell called NaBloPoMo be over

Emily's second gold star
Originally uploaded by marytsao
"If it wasn't for the focus and determination I learned in karate, I would still be in karate right now."
[The Onion: Karate Lessons Give Child Self-Confidence To Quit Karate]

I had a long, fun-filled day, which I will blog about tomorrow. Right now I am tired and want to vegetate in front of the boob tube.

You understand.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


For the love of lentils

One of Mike's signature dishes is a yummy little something called Savory Lentils with Goat Cheese. He discovered it in The Soy Zone cookbook. This dish is so good that you will find yourself shoveling spoonfuls of it into your mouth long after you've finished dinner; you will eat it until there's nothing left and then you will lick the bowl. The night you eat it you will dream about lentils, and the next day you will consider making it again. For breakfast.

This dish is that good.

I served it last night as a side dish to a roast chicken. We had blackberries with a squirt of whipped cream for dessert. Yum. God Bless Barry Sears.

Savory Lentils with Goat Cheese
1 cup lentils, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups water
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 1/3 teaspoons olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
4 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
2 radicchio leaves for garnish

  1. In a medium saucepan, place lentils, 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 20 minutes or until lentils are tender, but still have texture. Remove from heat and drain.

  2. In a medium-size bowl, mix lentils, garlic, cilantro, and chives together. Add olive oil and lime juice. Toss gently.

  3. Before serving, fold in goat cheese. Season with remaining salt and pepper. Arrange radicchio leaves on plate. Spoon salad onto radicchio and serve.

Serves 2 as a hearty side dish

P.S. My mouth watered as I typed the recipe. Now that's love.

Monday, November 26, 2007


It's beginning to look a little bit like Christmas

NaNoWriMo is over!! That calls for two exclamation points, people. I had no problem reaching the magical word count of 50,000 yesterday, and this is what I got for my trouble:

Woot! This makes me happy.

I am declaring today to be the official start of winter and thus the start of the season formerly known as Christmas and now known as holiday. I'm putting away the throw pillows and candles colored plum and pulling out the decorating accessories colored cranberry, red, and gold. Bring on the red plaid, baby! I picked up our Christmas wreaths today at Trader Joe's ($12 -- what a bargain!), and there's a pot of red and white cyclamen on our back patio. The bath towels adorned with Christmas trees are hanging in the bathroom, and the Advent calendars are awaiting Saturday morning and the official countdown to Christmas.

Oh, and people? I haven't even taken the official holiday boxes out of the closet yet. Look out.

In other sweet news, our holiday cards have been printed and are on their way to us. Doods, the joy of the season is upon me in a big way. I am feeling the love.

I'm also sending out the love to a couple of family members who might need good thoughts sent their way. My cousin recently had her second baby in a year. That's right: two babies less than twelve months apart. That automatically makes her a saint as far as I'm concerned. I wish I lived closer to her so that I could cook her a meal; luckily she's got a strong support network of family members who live close by. I'm also thinking about my aunt who went in for surgery today. Fingers crossed that all goes well with that.

By the way, has anybody on the planet ever run into Michael's craft store for one small thing--in my case, gold spray paint--and come out with a shopping cart full of projects, picture frames, cookie tins, washable markers, pine cones scented like cinnamon, and wired ribbon? Oh good, so I'm not alone.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


0 to 20 in 50,000 words

New Mexico vacation
Originally uploaded by marytsao
I'm going to finish NaNoWriMo today. I'm at 47,551 words, and there's nothing that's going to get in the way of me writing the remaining 2,449 by day's end. Mike and the kids just left for a fieldtrip involving a train ride so I know the house will be empty for at least a couple of hours. The quiet is beautiful.

Finishing NaNoWriMo for the third year in a row is going to feel good. Heck, it already feels good. More than good, it feels like a habit. And from the advice I've read, the key to writing is to make it a habit.

That's not to say that I won't be grateful when NaNoWriMo is over and I can kick this habit and begin to think about preparing for Thomas's birthday, whether or not Baskin-Robbins can make an ice cream cake with a pirate motif, decorating the house for Christmas, which cookies I want to bake this year, what craft projects would make good gifts for relatives who are under obligation to like them, how to get through the holiday season without gaining ten pounds, and other very important things. Anything other than the minutiae of my life and the chronological order in which these precious moments occurred.

At this point, my memoir could be titled "All plod, no plot." I'm just trying to get down as much as I can remember without embellishment or thematic leanings. And that means that after writing 50,000 words--roughly 85 single spaced pages--I will end up about 3 months shy of my 20th birthday. In other words, not done. In fact, only about halfway done since I now am almost 40.

But I will be done for this year's NaNoWriMo, and happy to have gotten down on paper as much as I did. Because really, who knows what child rearing-induced brain damage will occur between now and the next time I want to think about how I once got an F in a college sociology class because the night before the final exam I went to a Grateful Dead concert and didn't make it home until 4:00 A.M.? Ah, good times, and a true spiritual journey filled with hard knocks of the mostly self-inflicted variety.

Until it's Monday, Happy Sunday.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Flight of faith

First Family Flight
Originally uploaded by marytsao
In honor of Mike getting his pilot's license, yesterday we went on--and survived!--our first family flight. Mike was our pilot and we flew from San Carlos to Half Moon Bay and back. Our original plan was to land at Half Moon Bay then walk to get ice cream, but some turbulence meant it would have been a bumpy landing. Mike decided to spare us the teeth-clenching excitement on our very first flight with our newly-licensed pilot. Instead, we turned around and flew back to San Carlos. And then we drove our car to get ice cream.

The flight was relatively uneventful--in a good way--except for the wind that came off the coastal mountain range as we flew into and around Half Moon Bay. Bouncing around in a tiny plane over the Pacific Ocean, one can't help but think about the watery deaths of guys like John Denver and John F. Kenney, Jr.. Rest in peace, dudes.

I'll admit it: I was scared.

But what is a life without fright? A sorry one, that's for sure. Besides, "your chances of being involved in an aircraft accident are about 1 in 11 million. On the other hand, your chances of being killed in an automobile accident are 1 in 5000. Statistically, you are at far greater risk driving to the airport than getting on an airplane."

So there. Just keep repeating that statistic to yourself the whole time you're up in the air and you'll be fine.

And of course, when we weren't bouncing around like a Jack-in-the-box and my stomach wasn't lodged in my throat, the experience was really cool. Yesterday the skies were blue and it was warm and clear. It was fun to fly over all of the cars of people driving like maniacs to get to the shopping malls for Black Friday deals. I'm so proud of Mike for having the tenacity to stick with his flight training and get his license.

Pictures on Flickr. Happy day after Black Friday!

Friday, November 23, 2007


Thanksgivings past

As you know, I am using this year's NaNoWriMo as an excuse to write my memoir. This activity has forced me to think about how handy it would be if I documented more of my life as it was happening, rather than waiting thirty years and having to use my feeble, aging brain to remember things.

Therefore, here is a rundown of all of the Thanksgivings I have spent with my husband. Try not to fall asleep, okay?

Thanksgiving 2002: I was pregnant with Emily. Mike and I were newly married. We went to Santa Cruz to spend Thanksgiving with Mike's mother Jewel and sister Jennie.

No picture available. This was BK (before kids) and before we took pictures of every life event, no matter how large or how small.

Thanksgiving 2003: Emily was 4 months old. We went to San Francisco to spend Thanksgiving with Jennie and her boyfriend Nick, Mike's dad Denis, and family friend Daisy.

Thanksgiving 2003
Witness the world's cutest baby at her first Thanksgiving celebration.

Thanksgiving 2004: Emily was a year old. I was pregnant with Thomas and weeks away from giving birth. We hosted Thanksgiving and invited Jennie and (now) brother-in-law Nick, Nick's sister and boyfriend, and Denis.

Thanksgiving 2004
This photo is from another day right around that time. Surprisingly--or not--I took no photos that holiday.

Thanksgiving 2005: Emily was two years old. Thomas was almost one year old. We hosted Thanksgiving. Jennie and Nick came over and were kind enough to help us take that year's Christmas photo.

Thanksgiving 2005
Food made by our good friends at Whole Foods.

Thanksgiving 2006: Emily was three years old. Thomas was almost two years old. We hosted Thanksgiving. Jennie and Nick came over with their new baby Alex. Jewel and Denis were here, too.

2006 was the first year I documented Thanksgiving in a blog post.

Thanksgiving 2007: Emily is four years old. Thomas is almost three years old. We drove less than two miles from our house to spend Thanksgiving with our good friends Dave and Miriam. Their daughter Sarah was born less than two weeks before Emily, and they'll be starting kindergarten together next fall.

Thanksgiving 2007
The kid table rocks, and I am thankful.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Gobble, gobble, gobble

Thanksgiving 2007
Originally uploaded by marytsao
It's hard to believe that I'll ever be hungry again. Our friends Dave and Miriam put together the usual spread: turkey, homemade cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, rolls, salad, green beans. Am I missing something? Dessert consisted of pumpkin pie, cheesecake, brownies, and apple tarts. Whipped cream on everything. The company was amazing, and the conversation flowed like wine. The kids entertained themselves, and it was just a nice day all around.

Before we ate, we went around the table and said what we were thankful for. I said that I was thankful for a healthy appetite and for good friends.

Other things for which I am thankful on this fine November day:

  • I made it through the day without drinking, and you know, it's not easy to do that sometimes. Especially when the wine is flowing and memories of Thanksgivings past remind me of how fun it is to wash down turkey with a whole lot of vino. But I refrained and now I'm awake to write this blog post instead of passed out in front of the television. Yay, me.

  • Mike got his private pilot's license! This is the big secret I've hinted about in the past, although for the love of me I can't find the specific blog post in which I did my hinting. A series of unfortunate events delayed him taking his test until today. Yes, that's right, Mike missed Thanksgiving with us and our friends because he was taking this exam. We didn't know he would have to miss the party until today. When we found out, I was happy for Mike that he was finally going to get his chance to take the exam but also a little sorry for myself that I had to go to the party without him. But the feeling passed after I was with my friends, and everything is better now that Mike's passed this freakin' test. He even made it to Thanksgiving dinner in time to enjoy the second round of desserts.

  • My NaNoWriMo word count is up to 42,000. I'd doing it, people. I even wrote 2,000 words today after we got home from our Thanksgiving party. It feels good to know that I've got only 8,000 more words to write and I'll be done. Done!
  • Wednesday, November 21, 2007



    Thomas is thankful
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    Today I had the joy of going to a Thanksgiving feast at Thomas's preschool. It was so sweet. The teacher lined up all of the kids and had them sing a song: THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH, FOR MOMS AND DADS AND FRIENDS AND SUCH...* Then each child presented his or her parent with a laminated picture that also contained a special Thanksgiving message that the child had dictated to the teacher. The picture Thomas made for me read, "I am thankful for my daddy and my mommy make me happy." Somebody hand me a tissue! After some discreet wiping away of tears, everybody feasted on a potluck buffet that included corn dogs, pizza, pretzels, brownies, and homemade mac-n-cheese. I made turkey and cheese sandwiches, but Thomas liked the cupcakes with sprinkles the best. Naturally.

    Emily's school had a feast, too, and Emily realized that she does like pumpkin pie. There was some question earlier today about whether or not she liked pumpkin pie, and it turns out that she does. Oh, happy day. Her school collected food that will go to a local agency for families who need some help this year. They put together four large baskets of food.

    We've done our shopping and we're all set for tomorrow's celebration. Our friends Dave and Miriam have been kind enough to take on the cooking and cleaning duties. We'll show up at their house tomorrow with our mascarpone and cranberry cheese spread, creamy green beans, and Costco cheesecake and appreciate their hospitality very much. Thank you, thank you indeed!

    Because there's no reason for me to scurry around cleaning my house, I'm taking the kids to the park. Happy Thanksgiving!

    *Yes, I got it on video.

    Tuesday, November 20, 2007


    Gold star girl

    I'm feeling swamped with a big 'ol to do list. Here's a short and sweet post about Emily, our gold star girl. Conversation snippet courtesy of Mike.

    Emily: Dad, why did you get us a mouse?

    Dad: Because I want both of you to learn how to use a computer. When you go to school and the teacher says it's time to learn how to use computers, you can raise your hand and say "Teacher, I already know how to use a computer!"

    Emily: But Dad, at school we're learning about turkeys and books.

    Monday, November 19, 2007


    Girl, you know it's true

    Happy Monday. We had a crazy thing happen over here on Saturday. It was so crazy that I had to take several deep breaths into a brown paper sack. It was so crazy that I had to remind myself over and over again in my outside voice, "You are only human! You are doing the best that you can!"

    On Saturday the crazy thing that happened was that we received our first holiday card of the season. Yes, that's right; this year we received our first holiday card on November 17. I didn't even have our holiday photo taken and we were already receiving cards. Well, card. But still! The season has officially begun! The pressure is on! Succeed, mothers of the suburban universe, succeed!

    (I'm not sure why, but I have an irrational fear that I'll forget to do my holiday cards on time. It's kind of like that anxiety dream where you forget to wear your clothes to school. I'll have to bring it up with my therapist and see what she thinks.)

    Understanding what a lunatic I am about this holiday card business, you will be happy to know that yesterday Mike set up the tripod and camera and we got a GREAT shot of the family by using our new mantra: "A skittle for a smile!" This year our holiday photo features four people who are all looking at the camera and smiling, a first for the Tsao family. Except for the obvious fact that Mike and I are aging rapidly, the shot was so great we wasted not a second and ordered our holiday photo cards. The cards will be delivered in plenty of time for me to address the envelopes and drop them into a stuffed mailbox. That will be a happy day for sure.

    I keep telling Mike that we should be very proud of ourselves for pulling together and getting this done as a team, but he doesn't understand the taking of a family photo as a reason to feel good. I guess he saves that prideful feeling for things like graduating law school or doing really well in a poker tournament. Whatever. *Holds up fingers in shape of a W* I'm proud of us. This is the fifth year that we've managed to keep up with the tradition of the holiday photo card, and I think they should hand out awards for that kind of thing, yes, I do.

    What about you? Do you do a holiday card? With a photo? With a photo of the whole family or just the kids and the dog? Just wondering.

    Sunday, November 18, 2007


    House of change

    There are big changes going on here at the Casa de Tsao.

    We've decided to go bunk bed.

    Yesterday we went to the place where dreams can be bought inexpensively, IKEA, and got a bunk bed. It's being delivered today. Last night was Thomas's last night in the crib, and tonight both he and Emily will begin what is known in family circles as "sharing a room."

    I was against this idea originally, but in a moment of NaNoWriMo-inspired weakness I relented and agreed to Mike's plan. Emily and Thomas will share Thomas's room; my crafty decorating skills will bring it to life as an all gender-encompassing wonderland. The playroom, which lacks heat and insulation in half of it thereby making it unsuitable for a small child's bedroom, will remain the playroom. Emily's big closet turned tiny bedroom will become home to the crib and may one day also host a small, wailing thing, if our scheme to procreate becomes a reality. My office remains the office/guest bedroom. Mike's office remains his office. Oh, and our bedroom remains our bedroom. All other rooms remain as is.

    Whew. Welcome to my world.

    In other family news, today is the day that we will dress up in our color-coordinated outfits chosen with care by yours truly and attempt to take a photo special enough to grace the cover of our holiday card. Unfortunately, our photographer had to cancel at the last minute due to a death in her family and so we are relying on ye olde tripod and timer method to get our perfect shot. Bwahahahahahaha! Insert maniacal laughter here.

    It's only 10:00 AM and already it feels like midnight.

    Saturday, November 17, 2007


    Goodbye to the best houseguest ever

    Flat Stanley at Dolores ParkFlat Stanley doesn't live here anymore. Today I folded him up, put him in an envelope, and sent him back to the 5th grade classroom from whence he came. Included in the envelope was a 12-page book I wrote telling his friends all about Flat Stanley's adventures in Northern California. The book included pictures and is much nicer than anything I've ever put together for Emily or Thomas.

    While visiting us, Stanley:

    • Danced with Matt Harding in Alamo Square Park.

    • Visited San Francisco's oldest building, the Mission Dolores (built in 1776), and had a picnic lunch at Dolores Park.

    • Drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and had his picture taken standing next to it.

    • Went to a pumpkin patch, bounced in a bouncy house, and picked out pumpkins to take home.

    • Checked out the art cars at the Art Car Festival and had his picture taken next to the art car that he liked the best.

    • Went to all kinds of children's museums, including the Exploratorium, the best children's museum in San Francisco.

    • Ate dinner every night with the family and discussed his day and his feelings.

    • Went on an airplane ride in a 1972 Cessna.

    • Visited Google Headquarters in Mountain View, checked out what computer programmers do for a living, and saw a replica of SpaceShipOne.

    Stanley was seriously the best houseguest we've ever had; I almost forgot that he needed to go home. We were sad to see him go.

    I hope we'll be able to teach his 5th grade friends some things about the geography and life in the Bay Area. Bye, Flat Stanley! We'll miss you!

    Friday, November 16, 2007


    Haiku Friday: Five Yearssssss

    Cuddle snakes
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    A slew of haikus in honor of our fifth wedding anniversary:

    I knew you from work
    We met up at Burning Man
    You said you loved me

    At the one year mark
    Emily was five months old
    Work and life a blur

    Thomas in the womb
    The year was 2004
    Home is where we are

    Two kids, one nanny
    Mommy does NaNoWriMo
    Life's a rich reward

    Four years and counting
    The adventure continues
    Time seems to fly by

    Year five was a gift
    With a certificate of

    Summary, Courtesy of Erasure
    Come to me, c'mon
    And hold me, together we'll
    Break these chains of love

    Thursday, November 15, 2007


    Seven songs

    Glennia of The Silent "I" tagged me for a music meme. I list seven songs that I'm into right now, then tag seven people to do the same.

    Hello and welcome to NaBloPoMo day 15.

    I guess this is the part where I admit that I only listen to music when I'm in the car, and that lately I have been listening almost exclusively to XM Radio Channel 44, Fred: From the early days to the new wave. Ground-breaking alternative music from the late '70s through the early '90s.

    Hello and welcome to my life as a thirty nine-year old suburban housewife.

    Seven songs I'm (re)liking right now

    "Blasphemous Rumours" by Depeche Mode

    "I Started Something" by The Smiths

    "The Promise" by When in Rome

    "Chains of Love" by Erasure

    "I Wanna Be Sedated" by the Ramones

    "Everything's Gone Green" by New Order

    "Lucretia My Reflection" by Sisters of Mercy

    And a bonus song because I've got to list something by The Cure

    "Jumping Someone Else's Train" by The Cure

    Seven people who can thank me for giving them something to blog about during this month-long pain known as NaBloPoMo

    Oh, you know who you are.

    Wednesday, November 14, 2007


    Any post will do

    It's day fourteen of NaBloPoMo. Today I will reach the halfway mark with my NaNoWriMo novel-turned-memoir (25,000 words).

    You? Are thrilled.

    As seen on Geeky Mom, the Shakespeare Quote Generator:

    William Shakespeare

    The tempter or the Mary Tsao, who sins most?

    Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

    Get your own quotes:

    Tuesday, November 13, 2007


    Looking like him, cleaning like me, reading like the best of us

    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    Emily has amazed me lately with her cleaning abilities. Yesterday I asked her to clean her room, and--get this--she did! She got everything up off her floor and onto her bookshelf, and she even organized the things on her bookshelf. Books went with books. Hair ties went with hair ties. Doll clothes went with doll clothes. I was shocked and also ecstatic. Knowing how to clean a room is a life skill that eludes many adults. Emily rocks.

    Another example of her helpfulness was when I asked her to put a cracker box in the recycling pile on the counter. She did so, and later I realized that she also had broken down the box, flattening it so that it could go straight into a bag for recycling. Wow! At four years old, she has figured out something that most guys in their early thirties still don't know.

    What the hell, as long as I'm bragging, I'll just come out and say that she's started learning how to read. She kept bugging Mike to teach her words when he read to her at night, so he started creating simple sentence worksheets that they go over daily. Now all I hear is, "Mommy, what does k-e-t-c-h-u-p spell?" and "Mommy, I just saw the! The is on that sign!" She's on her way to becoming a reader, which means I no longer can spell out words like c-a-n-d-y when I don't want her to know what I'm talking about.

    Exciting times. Sometimes I'm afraid to blink.

    Monday, November 12, 2007


    Not a first, but maybe a second or a third

    Emily and the Maneki Neko
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    This past weekend we did something as a family that we rarely do; we ate every meal at home.


    Of course the weekend doesn't include Friday night, when we had dinner at California Pizza Kitchen, but we usually go out to eat at least once and sometimes twice over Saturday and Sunday. This weekend we didn't do that, opting instead to eat the following "prepared at home" meals:

    Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with cheese, served with tortillas and salsa
    Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup with canned mandarin oranges for dessert
    Dinner: Rice with dal makhani and paneer tikka masala (Indian heat-n-serve food); the kids had buttered noodles

    Breakfast: Whole grain waffles (frozen, from Trader Joe's) with turkey sausages and bananas
    Lunch: Samosas (frozen, from Namaste Indian Market in Belmont), Zataran's jambalaya mix with added chicken, turkey, and garlic sausage
    Dinner: Japanese-style curry with added carrots and onion over Trader Joe's chicken nuggets and rice (I should post the recipe for this -- it's easy and tastes a lot like chicken katsu), green salad

    So there you have it, an accurate picture of what we typically eat. We definitely rely on food that's easy to put together and get to the table in under thirty minutes, usually under fifteen minutes. My favorite dish was the paneer tikka masala and the kids enjoyed the grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup the most. I must have had that same meal at east once a week when I was a kid so I understand its attraction!


    To commemorate today's Veterans Day holiday, the kids and I went on a fieldtrip to San Francisco's Japantown. I was particularly interested in seeing the Peace Pagoda and the eternal flame.

    The weather was beautiful and the kids had a good time running around the Peace Plaza before scarfing down their Bullet Train bento lunch at Mifune restaurant. They also enjoyed eating my chicken and egg soba noodles.

    But here's the best part: As she was leaving, a nice Japanese auntie leaned over to pat me on the shoulder and tell me that my children were very well behaved. High praise! A good day, indeed.

    Sunday, November 11, 2007


    By the light of the Duraflame log

    Happy kids
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    It rained last night but today the sun is shining and the world outside is clean and new. As Thomas says, "It's a morning day." Inside, I've started a fire in the living room fireplace and after enjoying a breakfast of waffles and sausages, I'm settling in to write the 4,000 words it will take to get me to the 20,000 word mark.

    But before I begin, I must ponder such questions as: Why do we have so many magazines? When was the last time I got my hair cut? and Is taking two preschoolers to San Francisco's Chinatown by myself a good idea or a bad one?

    Well, I've spent enough time pondering life's questions; now I'm off to write, write, write. Hope your Sunday is cozy and warm and filled with the light of a 1000 Duraflame logs.

    Saturday, November 10, 2007


    Honk if you heart spinach

    While driving home from San Francisco yesterday, I saw a pick-up truck with "Honk if you heart spinach" written across the back.

    I honked.

    Family lore has it that when pregnant with me and my sister, my mother's favorite snack food was spinach. I don't know how she ate this leafy veggie, whether it was fresh in a salad or as a side dish to a bowl of ice cream, but I imagine that it was straight from the can and warmed up on the stove, since that's the only way I can remember spinach being served when I was a small child.

    Now you have to remember that my mother gave birth to twins, two seven pound babies, a feat the details of which she has permanently removed from her memory banks because it was so horrible. Two seven pound babies in one tiny uterus is quite an accomplishment; clearly the spinach had something to do with it.

    Here's an easy recipe and a good way to get an entire day's worth of vegetable servings in one sitting. I dedicate this recipe to my mother, who did her best to instill in me a love of spinach before I was even born.

    Scrambled spinach with eggs

    Olive oil spray (or butter)
    One bag pre-washed baby spinach
    3 eggs
    cheese (optional)
    seasoning salt
    garlic powder

    * Spray large skillet with olive oil spray. Warm over medium heat.

    * Empty entire bag of spinach into skillet, stir to coat with spray and sprinkle with a little bit of garlic powder. Leave alone.

    * Meanwhile, scramble three eggs. Add cheese if desired and a sprinkling of seasoning salt and pepper.

    * Return to spinach, stirring until all is wilted and has become a mound of green goodness. This process takes only 3-5 minutes total.

    * Add egg mixture to skillet with spinach, and stir to scramble. Take pan off heat when eggs have reached desired hardness.

    * Serve with buttered toast or a warm tortilla. Especially good with salsa!

    * Serves two.

    Friday, November 09, 2007


    Bee plus

    It's Haiku Friday:

    Bee Movie is out
    I took the kids to see it
    Is honey funny?

    Do you have the most wonderful weekend in the world planned? I hope so! The two littlest Tsaobugs will be going to Tae Kwon Do class (more about that later); Emily and I are going to see a local production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat; and I am going to a party with some of the wonderful ladies from the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.

    I'll also be working on my NaNoWriMo project. I'm at the 13,500 word mark and would like to be at the 20,000 word mark by Sunday night. Good luck to me because frankly, I need it!


    Thursday, November 08, 2007


    Take note, you weak, whiney whisps and loose, lazy lumps

    Mike sent me a link to a post by Dave of Iowahawk about a 1942 pamphlet titled My Book to Help America. This book for children was written shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor by author Munro Leaf. Dave scanned the book and posted it in its entirety.

    Leaf wrote the book for kids about how they could help with the war effort of the time, but I like some of the advice for today's youth, too. For example: "Let's obey cheerfully, do it with a smile and not be a gloomy sour-face."

    You hear that, Emily and Thomas?!

    It's good advice for kids of any age. In fact, I think I'll take it myself.

    Wednesday, November 07, 2007


    Annoying little thing called NaNoWriMo

    Almost one week into NaNoWriMo and I am experiencing the pain. Physically, my wrists hurt if I attempt more than 2000 words in one day. Mentally, there's always this nagging little voice in my inner ear, reminding me that I HAVE SOMETHING TO DO. That something, of course, is making my daily word count.

    But here's the interesting thing: I have been amazingly productive this month. This isn't so surprising because many times procrastination comes disguised as productivity. Wait, did I just schedule our holiday photo shoot, buy all of the supplies for Thomas's birthday party in December, find a babysitting situation for our wedding anniversary night out, vacuum the entire house, clean two toilets with an old toothbrush, and do a yoga DVD while waiting for my hair dye to work? I must have a novel to write!

    Speaking of which...

    Tuesday, November 06, 2007


    Four confessions for a Tuesday

    Confession: After seeing that kid eat Cheetos at the symphony, I have been craving Cheetos. Yesterday I bought some semi-not so bad for you Cheeto-alikes at Trader Joe's, and goodness if those things weren't delicious. No wonder that kid felt compelled to eat them during the performance.

    Confession: Once upon a time, I considered over-the-top birthday parties to be a frivolous waste of money and the kind of thing that parents who don't actually love their children do for them in a desperate attempt to appease their own guilt. As a parent who very much loves her children and who hired a rock band for her daughter's fourth birthday, I now understand that parents plan elaborate birthday parties to heal wounds leftover from their own childhood.

    Confession: Yesterday I realized that our house phone message machine had over 40 unheard messages on it, going back to early June. While I went through all of them I cursed my husband for his silent declaration that the house phone (and the answering of it) falls outside of his jurisdiction. I also cursed myself for not having the guts to hit "erase all."

    Confession: Sometimes I feel like Julie from The Love Boat. Do all moms/wives feel like they are the cruise director for their family or is it just me?

    Monday, November 05, 2007


    Assuring my posthumous longevity

    Mother daughter close-up
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    I've decided to cheat at this year's NaNoWriMo. I still am going to pound out 50,000 words or more during the month of November. I still am going to isolate myself in my home office for hours on end while the children wreak havoc on the rest of the house. I still am going to end up with a tale that has a beginning, a middle, and something of an ending.

    But this year, instead of writing a novel starring characters that probably bear strong resemblance to family members, I am doing something different. I am writing my memoir, the autobiographical account of my life from birth to the age I am now, thirty nine glorious years old.

    I'm writing my life story for a number of reasons. One, I think my story is interesting, just like I think your story is interesting. Two, I feel compelled to make a record of the things only I know, things I may one day forget as age and time take me to a different place in history. Three, I hope my children will one day find my story interesting, too.

    To support point number three, I recently came across an article in the October issue of Travel and Leisure: Golf magazine. Written by Jack and John Garrity, it is explained in the preface to the piece that Jack Garrity is John Garrity's dad and that he passed away in 1990. Among the things he left behind was "a typed manuscript of two hundred pages." In his case, "a golfer's memoir." Son John turned an excerpt from the memoir into an article, inserting his own comments in various places. Even though I'm not passionate about golf, I was fascinated by the story behind the piece. What a wonderful legacy for a father to pass to a son.

    That's what I'm doing for this year's NaNoWriMo, and to give you an idea of how it's going, I'm at the 8,000 word mark and I've just started elementary school. I don't think I'm going to have any problem getting to 50,000 words.

    Sunday, November 04, 2007


    The wrestling and the struggling with the music

    Thomas's backside
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    The four of us went to see the San Francisco Symphony yesterday, courtesy of Mike's mom, who got us tickets for a present. The concert was part of a Music for Families series and was titled "Wrestling with Love, Struggling with Demons: Two Russian Masterpieces." It featured Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet, Fantasy-Overture and Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 2. James Gaffigan conducted, and Lise de la Salle was the pianist for the Rachmaninoff piece.

    The concert was spectacular. Our seats were 5th row, center, and it was a treat to be that close to the musicians and to be able to see them as they worked their magic. Lise de la Salle was amazing, performing the entire 35-minute Rachmaninoff concerto from memory. She's young, too, not even twenty. An amazing talent--I was so impressed.

    The good seats were crucial to holding the kids's interest. Admittedly, they didn't do quite as well at this show as they did at Disney on Ice. Tchaikovsky's piece is well-known because it was used as the music to many old Looney Tunes cartoons, but it's not quite as hyperactively mesmerizing as the pop music of High School Musical. During the Rachmaninoff concerto, Mike had to pacify a restless Thomas by pulling the metaphorical rabbit out of the hat and whipping out his mp3 player that also plays videos. The Simpsons to the rescue! I thought that was a pretty smooth move.

    Even though my kids got a tad bit restless towards the end, they definitely weren't the worst behaved in the audience. In fact, the most obnoxious audience member, in my opinion, was the woman sitting directly behind us who felt it necessary to whisper very important things about who knows what to her children during the entire concert. And I almost couldn't believe my eyes and ears when her son started loudly eating Cheetos. Eating Cheetos! At the symphony! The kid was at least eight years old; he should have known better, even if his mom was clueless. Mike said the dad looked "checked out," had obviously realized he had made a horrible mistake marrying this woman, and was just hanging out, waiting for death to put him out of his domestic misery.

    That Mike! What a jokester.

    But hey, when you go to a family friendly concert, you have to put up with some families and all of the whining, whispering, fidgeting, and Cheeto eating that goes along with them. All I know is that I'm happy that my husband is still checked in and that he remembered his portable video player. Not to mention the fact that the music was wonderful. Going to see the San Francisco Symphony was very much a treat and a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Thanks, Jewel.

    Saturday, November 03, 2007


    The embarrassment of Emily, Part I: The Preschool Years

    The more seasoned and experienced moms among us, those with children in the tween and teen categories, know that there eventually comes the day when our small children--the ones who now cover us in kisses and "I wuv you"s--will grow distant. No longer will they want our affection; no longer will they eagerly grab our hand during a walk. Instead they will begin the long and painful exercise of detaching themselves from us, one embarrassed moment at a time.

    Yesterday I got my first taste of that bittersweet pull when Emily, after getting out of the car, slipped her small hand in mine and confronted me outside of her preschool classroom. "Mommy?" "Yes, sweetie?" I replied, my mind filled with thoughts about my Friday morning walk and whether or not we were late for circle time. I looked down at her sweet face and tiny, perfect body.

    "Mommy, I don't want them to see your hair."

    The night before I had showered and braided my hair when it was wet. In the morning I had let loose the braids and unveiled my temporary hair-do to Emily, who promptly declared it a hair-don't. I thought I looked a little bit like Jessica Lange in Tootsie, and for someone with hair as straight as mine, the effect was--in my opinion--rather charming, perhaps even a little sexy. Emily's wide eyes and hesitant giggling didn't convince me that I should pull a wet comb through my new 'do. Instead, I opted for my biggest sunglasses and told myself that I looked positively chic, in a retro kind of way.

    But in front of her school, Emily told me the truth as she had never experienced it before. She was--in a word--embarrassed. Why was I choosing that moment, the one with her in it, to challenge the status quo? Emily is not a child of the 80s and so doesn't understand the condition known as the Oglivy Home Perm. It used to be perfectly normal for moms--kids, even!--to suddenly sport ringlets, waves, and curls so tight a hair pick couldn't get through them. I told her that mommies sometimes change their hair and that nobody would notice, even though I was a tad bit unsure of the truth in this statement. I rehearsed my story for the inquisitive: Oh, I braided my hair last night and this is what happened! Thank God the days of home perms are over, huh?!

    Being too young to attend school unaccompanied, Emily was forced to swallow her embarrassment and let me walk her into the classroom. She certainly pulled away from me quickly, though, leaving me alone at the sign-in sheet wondering if I just had a tiny taste of what every day of my life will be like in a few short years. I think both of us were relieved when nobody noticed that I had transformed into Cher from the days when she was wishin' she could turn back time.

    Later in the car I couldn't help but sneak a peek in my rear view mirror. Was my wavy hair really that horrendous? I still didn't think so. In fact, I thought it looked mighty cute and I knew I wouldn't be changing it for school pick-up, even though I also knew I would be causing my daughter yet another spasm of embarrassment. Hey, if I have to mentally prepare myself for the pain the tween years will bring, she can, too.

    Friday, November 02, 2007


    Of teddy bears and sour grapes

    Two years ago I took Emily to Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco. It was a sweet afternoon of mother-daughter bonding, and I vowed to make it an annual tradition.

    Last year I lamented the fact that I called too late to get reservations at the Ritz. We had our holiday tea at the Fairmont, which was nice but not as fun as the holiday tea extravaganza at the Ritz. I vowed that I would make reservations in November this year.

    Apparently, November 1 is still too late to make reservations for Teddy Bear Tea at the Ritz Carlton in SF. I called yesterday and there are no available spots. I called the Ritz Carlton in Half Moon Bay, too. Booked. Solid.

    Insert long string of child-unfriendly curses here!

    I suppose this year we could go back to the Fairmont, or we could try the Palace Hotel or the King George Hotel, both in San Francisco. Or I could take her to a local tea room and present her with a teddy bear that I've bought and wrapped in a pretty box. I realize that an afternoon of mother-daughter bonding could take place at McDonald's, but I enjoy going to a fancy afternoon tea, too. I will now put on my thinking cap and come up with a splendid and creative alternative that blows doors on that stuffy, old Ritz Carlton and their faded chintz settees and real piano playing. Harumph! I'll take my tea with sour grapes, please.

    The making of this particular tradition is going to be more difficult than I thought.

    Thursday, November 01, 2007


    Head, heart, stomach, and feet

    French toast for breakfast
    Originally uploaded by marytsao
    It's the first day of November and the start of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo), and Post a Daily Photo of Your Shoes Month (NoBloShoeMo). Later this month we'll be celebrating what I imagine is every foodie's favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. Two days off work and the stuffing of one's face -- what could be better than that?

    I'm definitely doing NaNoWriMo, and I just signed up for NaBloPoMo, but I'm going to pass on NoBloShoeMo; I just can't find the inspiration. But I'm already very inspired about Thanksgiving because this year I'm not hosting. Woo hoo! No working like a dog and slaving over a hot stove for this aspiring novelist. Oh, no. Instead, we're going to a friend's house and I'm bringing a manageable number of dishes with us, namely an appetizer, a side dish, and a dessert. Easy!

    [I better make this post short and sweet since every blog post I write this month is a page or two of my novel that I'm not writing. Procrastination, thy name is mommyblogger.]

    Oh, but here's the description I put on my Ning account for NaBloPoMo: Sober feminist housewife and mother. All praise group therapy! I'm thinking of making this my new tag line as soon as I get off my behind and get a new banner made. I realize that a woman holding a full glass of red wine is no longer representative of my sober self. For now let's just pretend it's cranberry juice in a pretty glass, m'kay?

    Off to pound out the first two thousand words of this year's masterpiece. Happy first day of November to you. If you're starting NaNoWriMo, too, then good luck!