January 2011

Tim and I were making a list of the things that have been most useful to us in our travels with Miles thus far, and with a few of our friends with baby showers coming up, we’d like to share our vast wisdom of a few months (12!) experience.

  1. Phil & Ted’s Travel Cot
  2. Ergo baby carrier
  3. Carter’s Pouch Set
  4. Inglesina High Chair
  5. Flaphappy Sunhat

And a few more things we’re glad we didn’t have to live without…

  1. BOB
  2. Moby Wrap
  3. Arm’s Reach Co-sleeper
  4. Cooshie Foam Changer
  5. Sleep Sheep
  6. Boppy Nursing Pillow
  7. GroBaby Cloth Diapers
  8. Nest and Stack Cups
  9. Straw Cup

Miles’ first birthday party was full of friends, swimming, eating (constantly, I am surprised we got any pictures of him without a full mouth), crying (its my party and…), sampling cake for the first time and getting it everywhere, and was followed up by the requisite sugar rush.  Great time was had by all.

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Hard to believe this little guy has been with us only a year, I can’t imagine life without him.

Here’s what Miles is up to at the 1.0 mark:

  • Walking! Miles started walking the day before his 11 mo birthday, and the last month has seen him go from drunken-zombie-stumbler to full on walking around.  It’s his preferred method of travel; I haven’t seen him crawl for weeks!
  • Talking! (kind of…)  After months of signing “more”, “thirsty” and “water” to Miles, he finally got it.  His signing vocabulary is about 12 words (including the all important elephant and ceiling fan), and it seems to have significantly reduced the frustrated pointing and screaming.  Miles also added yes and no (breathy yeah’s and nah’s) to his spoken words, and I may have heard a “nana” for banana yesterday.  Most oft spoken “word” is “dddttthhhiiiieeettt!!”, which seems to mean, “Oh wow! Look!”
  • Handed-ness. Miles is starting to show preference for one hand over the other.  He mostly uses the left as his pincher-picker-upper and Tim refers to the right as his “crush hand”, whatever goes in there gets pulverized and forgotten about, to be licked off at the end of the meal.  So, southpaw?
  • Eating. After dutifully and eagerly opening wide for anything on a spoon, Miles palate has developed to prefer anything that is on my plate.  We can get all the healthy purees down by camoflouging the porridge under a tiny cube of papaya or the lentils under a sliver of crackers and cheese, but I don’t expect this trickery to last long.  I suppose as soon as I use up the frozen cubes of puree and ground rice-bean porridge mix, Miles will be ready to just eat what we eat.  Still nursing 3x/day, but has taken to clamping down and leaving teeth marks the last few days, which will lead to some pretty quick weaning if it continues.
  • Teeth count: 4.  Guess what Miles got for Christmas?  His 2 front teeth.
  • Sleep. Ahhhh, finally.
  • Other. Lots of kisses and now hugs coming our way…Miles got sick for the first time – roseola, I think…he likes to pretend eat the banana in the stuffed monkey’s hand and the oranges in the counting book… loves reading and will bring book after book after book…started swim lessons and next week music class…

It’s birthday week here at the Stelzer house, and you know what that means: cake.  And if the cake is for someone under 10, it also means sprinkles, baking after said birthday boy is asleep, and spelling out words in the frosting of cupcakes.  If the cake is for someone turning one, who has never ever before experienced the joys of sugar, chocolate, butter, eggs and flour in these extreme proportions all in one place before, it means a very tiny two-tiered cake with his initials in sprinkles on top just for him alone to smash all over his face to try and get to the tiny quarter of a grape I will promise him in a whisper as we blow out the candle is in the center of all that nonsense.

Really, I hope he looovvveees it.

I remember being intimidated by baking a cake from scratch, after all Duncan Heinz Devil’s Food does produce a tasty multi-tiered.  I think it wasn’t until I was 20 that I actually did so, with increasingly more consistent results as time went on.  It’s actually pretty easy, although maybe not worth it (my mom’s friend makes wedding cakes for a living using the 99 cent packaged mix), there’s a certain level of satisfaction that comes along with it.  Not to mention the many interesting varieties you can make.

This birthday week, I am settling on three cakes.  First, a no-holds-barred chocolate from Alice Waters smash cake and cupcakes for Miles’ party.  Then, for the same party, a healthier version (less sugar, WW flour) of a favorite pumpkin spice cake with pumpkin cream cheese icing for those guests who don’t want to walk away with a toothache.  (That’s supposed to be a M1 in the cake, I thought I was being clever, Tim didn’t get it.  We’ll call the healthy cake ugly-cake)

We’ll subsist on leftovers from those two until Thursday, when I’ll bring to room temperature the olive oil apple cake which had been aged in the fridge 3 days, made with exactly 360g of chopped apple, and frost it with maple cream cheese muscovado sugar icing.  Ottolenghi, it better be good.

May the eating begin.

You might be wondering how it came to be that I made Asian style noodles at home, when within 5 minutes of our apartment there are 50 stalls all selling noodles.  Well, I don’t have a good answer for you, but I can pass on a recipe that rivals any street hawker’s fare in taste, is guaranteed to not give you Delhi belly, and, if you are not in the Pearl of the Orient, will give you a taste of what goes on around here.  The hawker stall noodles here come under all different names: Prawn Mee, Curry Mee, Hokkien Mee, Wan Tan Mee… (can you guess what word means “noodle”) but all share a common theme: seemingly dozens of ingredients and a depth of flavor you wouldn’t expect from noodle soup.

This recipe achieves that depth through layering: noodles, beansprouts, soup, meat, herbs, sauce, and finally lime.  And a lot of ingredients.  Use it as a jumping off point – it can be infinitely modified to your taste.  Change the type of noodles, up the spice, omit coconut milk, use different veg, and on.  This makes a lot of soup, so freeze some in individual portions to thaw and serve later when its cold out (or 90 with 100% humidity as it were).   Made as below, I achieved a level of spice (3/10) that even Miles could handle (he LOVED this), but feel free to add some birds-eye chili to your soy floater to really kick it up.




Penang Hawker Mee

  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 3 cloves garlilc, chopped
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, sliced thickly into coins
  • 3/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 stalks lemon grass, kept whole but scored 3/4 the way through in 1/2″ intervals
  • 4 cups corn, fresh off 2 cobs or frozen
  • 6 cups stock, chicken or veg
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • zest from 2 limes
  • one package rice noodles
  • bean sprouts
  • poached chicken pieces, cooked shrimp and/or fried tofu cubes
  • fresh Thai basil, cilantro and/or mint
  • soy sauce
  • fish sauce
  • lime wedges
  1. In a big soup pot, saute onion, celery, garlic, ginger, coriander seeds, salt, and red pepper flakes for 5-8 minutes, until onions are softened.
  2. Add lemongrass, corn, stock and coconut milk and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat and cook for 15 minutes.
  3. Use tongs to remove lemongrass and ginger and discard them.  Puree three quarters of the soup in a blender and return it to the pot over medium heat.
  4. Add red bell pepper and lime zest and cook 5 more minutes, until pepper has softened, but is still a bit crunchy.
  5. Boil a kettle of water.  Place rice noodles and beansprouts in a big bowl, cover with boiling water and allow to sit for 5 minutes.  Drain.
  6. Build your soup in a big bowl: top your noodles and bean sprouts with soup, chicken/shrimp/tofu, a pile of fresh herbs, a few drops of soy and fish sauce, and a squeeze of lime.  Enjoy.

Penang has four unofficial languages: Bahasa Malaysia (national language), Hokkien (Fujian dialect of Chinese), Tamil (for Indians) and English (for everyone).  Within the expat community, I also regularly hear Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, German and Turkish.  And then there’s Miles babblings which are starting to make more sense.  No wonder my English is deteriorating.  I won’t be the only one with less than fluent skills.  I’ve had it explained to me that for Malaysians, language is strictly for getting the point across, not necessarily making it pretty.  Most Penangites speak at least 3, and up to 5 or 6 languages.  The result is a proficiency in many, but master of no language.  Tim brings up the instance of a resume which listed five languages with 1-10 ratings.  Nothing topped out at 10, even the candidate’s mother tongue.

Almost without a choice in the matter, we are all working on our foreign language skills.
Tim is looking to take up Mandarin study again, and go for the HSK certification.
I recently completed an introduction course for Malay, or Bahasa Malaysia as it is technically called (Bahasa means language in BM).  I haven’t been too open with trying it out, but I did complete a negotiation for a bottle of honey earlier today (How much? 30. 20? 25. 20, OK-la? OK-la.)  I still need lots of practice.  I also look for old Chinese to practice my Mandarin with, and soon the young ones can join in.  After years of English being the desired second (or 3rd, or 4th) language to learn, Mandarin Chinese has surpassed it in popularity for parents sending kids off to private school.  If that’s not an indication for where the modern world is going, I don’t know what is.  Strangely, I am also picking up a bit of Turkish, as our neighbor and constant playdate is originally from Turkey and speaks it to her daughter exclusively while dad (a Malay) teaches her English (its assumed she will learn BM in school).  I’ll call my level of Turkish “baby Turkish” – no, come here, gentle, flower, good bye.
That leaves Miles, who is bombarded from all angles with more new words than he can point a finger at.  While his spoken vocabulary is still limited to “dada”, the occasional “mama” (only in deep desperation), and recently a breathy “yeah”, in the past week his signing vocab has taken off!  Six months of signing to him consistently and it finally clicked: bye-bye, ceiling fan, more, hungry, water, milk, along with the persistent point and he can pretty much get his point across.  Our signing “conversation” when I got Miles from the crib this morning: *hungry. chair (points). milk. you, momma (points).*  Well, that got the point across.  It’s pretty cool to know what’s on his mind, specifically what all the crying is about.

Yesterday I cooked the first meal of the new year that was more involved than defrosting leftovers or cutting up fresh fruit.  I cut vegetables this time and grilled some seafood for about 3 minutes.  Baby steps, baby steps.  I’ll be back on the cake baking wagon soon enough – 2 birthdays this month, one of which requires a very tiny cake.

This salad comes from my new passion, which I have mentioned before.  It has a winning combination of zingy onions, crisp fennel, fresh herbs, citrusy lime juice, spicy chili, chargrilled seafood, and sweet pomegranate seeds.  With that combination, your tastebuds will be so intrigued, you’ll be in love too.  The original recipe called for squid, but they only had octopus at the market yesterday, so I just went with it.  A $2 mandolin slicer from the Japanese restaurant supply made the cutting in this recipe super easy.

Grilled Seafood Salad (adapted from Ottolenghi)

  • one 8-legged Octopus, or a couple squid, cleaned and cut into bitesized pieces
  • 12 prawns, deheaded, peeled and sliced in half
  • olive oil
  • 2 small bulbs fennel, sliced very thin, tops reserved
  • 1/2 onion, sliced very thin
  • juice and grated zest of one lime
  • 1 mild red chili, seeded and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and diced fine
  • chopped fennel tops, mint, parsley, and cilantro
  • sea salt & black pepper
  • seeds from 1/2 pomegranate
  1. Heat a grill pan to very hot on the stove.  Toss seafood with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill in small batches for 1-3 minutes per side, or until browned and cooked but not rubbery.  The octo and squid cook super fast, it will curl and become opaque.  Err on the side of under-done, you can always cut it to check and throw it back on.
  2. Combine the remaining ingredients (except pom seeds) in a bowl and toss.  Add seafood.
  3. Plate and top with pomegranate seeds.  Makes 4 dinner portions or 8 starters.

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