Sunday, December 26, 2010

A quiet Christmas, just the three of us

We found out days before Christmas that it was just going to be the three of us this year. Yes, again. I prefer company but it is much easier if we didn't have any company. Jean-Louis certainly likes no company.

We all slept in after 8:00AM. It was great! We had a late breakfast and then when cleanup was done, we took some pictures and then Tristan opened his presents. He got right to it too and didn't even wait for me to grab my camera. Why would he wait? The presents have been under the tree for almost two weeks now!

Tristan got lots of toys including fire trucks in both Lego and Plan Toys, Thomas the Train Megablock set, books, puzzles, Playmobil digger, and clothes. He played in between the gift unwrapping. He didn't act super excited but I think he was happy :)

Throughout the day, Tristan and Jean-Louis played toys together. I cooked on and off. Even though it would just be the three of us, I still wanted to cook a proper Christmas meal and that also meant a BIG meal. Some dishes were new and some were old favorites. All the food turned out good, especially the two dishes I was most looking forward to, which were the turkey and maple pecan pie. I brined the turkey overnight this time and it was a brilliant move :) The turkey was so juicy and full of flavor, we didn't even need to eat it with gravy or any kind of sauce. Jean-Louis loved it too and he is typically not a fan of turkey at all. In fact, he tried many times to talk me out of cooking the poor turkeys this year! It was just a small turkey. In fact it was the smallest turkey I have ever cooked in the past 20 years!


  • Garlic sausage with honey/mustard dip
  • Turkey & gravy
  • Classic stuffing with cranberries/raisins, apple
  • Potato/yam casserole
  • Wild mushroom risotto
  • Ginger carrot sticks

Christmas sugar cookies for gifting

When sugar cookies are so pretty, I just want to share them or give them away. They make great gifts because they show that you have put in time and hard work. At least that is my hope. It was my fifth time making sugar cookies and I think it shows. Not only did I make and decorate them in record time, I think they turned out nicer than all the previous attempts. I packed most of them and gave them away to my family. I kept the not-so-great ones for us to eat over the next few days :)

I'm happy with the way they turned out but yes, there is still room for improvement. I love how no matter how many times you do something, there is always something to learn! This time I learned that if you leave icing out to long and it runs out near the end, the color and icing separate and you end up squeezing mostly liquid. I almost ruined my cookies but I corrected them by sprinkling on some color sprinkles in that area. You can see this in the trees below. It actually made the trees look more interesting :)

Hope everyone had fun baking during Christmas. I sure did!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Decorating Santa on a sugar cookie

It was my fifth time making sugar cookies and my second time decorating Santa. Santa has got to be one of the worst designs to decorate. At least that is so for the Santa that is cut with a Wilton Santa Grippy cutter. He is carrying his sac and he is so oddly shaped, I had to research beforehand in order to have a decent go at decorating him.

Here is the cutter along side the template I traced and colored, which I had also posted in my earlier cookie-making post.
My second attempt was so much better, I thought I would share it in case others also bought this particular Santa cutter. I made sure to use thicker icing and the trick was to leave each color to dry before adding a new color. I also added extra white icing on some areas on top of the bottom layer white to give it more of an effect such as for the beard. Overall, I'm pleased with how it turned out. There is still room for improvement but it's sort of getting ridiculous when you spend way too much time perfecting a small cookie that will be eaten in less than a minute. Honestly! :)

You may be wondering why I even bought such a cookie cutter when I knew it would be hard to decorate. Well, I bought my cutters the weekend before Christmas and Santa was one of the few cutters that were left. I wonder why! Even though I was suspicious, I bought it anyway because I'm nuts :)

Here was the 1st attempt cookie. Recognizable but so awful!
Here is the result of the second attempt. Much improvement, yes?

Have a Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours, we want to wish you a Merry Christmas :) May this holiday season bring you joy, love, and laughter! Cheers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Tristan's first dentist trip

This week I tried out a different dentist in my neighborhood. It worked out well for me so I made an appointment for Tristan. As of three days ago, he is 25 months old now. It was time.

Tristan's first visit to the dentist today was awesome. He wasn't scared one bit and was cooperative and curious the whole time. Normally, one parent would hold the child and the dentist would have a look. Tristan sat in the big chair all by himself. I sat at the end of his chair observing him. I some times held his hand, in case he needed some comforting. He was just fine :)

The dentist kept asking me if this was his first trip to the dentist since he was so cooperative. He said that a lot of the small children cry. He was really impressed that Tristan was so quiet and well-behaved. That made me pleased :)

The examination lasted about ten minutes. The dentist looked inside Tristan's mouth and using a new toothbrush, he counted all of his teeth. An assistant on a nearby computer documented what the dentist was describing. Tristan has eight teeth on the top and eight teeth on the bottom. He is expected to get four more teeth so that there will be ten at the top and ten at the bottom. Yup, four more molar are expected! After that, somewhere between ages 6-12 all of his teeth will fall out and he will get his adult teeth.

The dentist was very gentle with Tristan because he didn't want to scare him. He turned on the polisher and using water, he polished four of his top teeth. He just wanted Tristan to get used to the noise and feel of the tool in his mouth. Like they keep telling me, "small steps!" He also turned on the air tool and blew air at Tristan's face. He got Tristan to touch all of these things so he wouldn't be afraid. Then at the end, Tristan got to select a toy. When he couldn't decide, the dentist took a tooth container toy and handed it to him and said "to remember me by."

We spoke about using fluoride. The dentist doesn't believe that much fluoride should be used. A pea-size toothpaste for a day is sufficient. If we brush twice a day, half a pea-size each time. We currently use a pea-side in the morning and then at night as well. Now I'm going to use training toothpaste in the morning and then Tristan's fluoride toothpaste at night. It's funny because the Fraser health guys told me that fluoride should be used right away when the first tooth appears. They told me that unless you ingest tubes full of fluoride toothpaste, it won't harm you. The dentist tells me it does. You won't be able to tell until your child gets their adult teeth. The teeth will come out with white freckles (??). Apparently, fluoride exists in food sources like milk and juice.

The best part about this trip was when the dentist remarked that Tristan had nice teeth and that he looked like he had just come from a dental cleaning. It was so clean, white, and he didn't even have any plaque. I was so pleased again! When I told Jean-Louis this, he was shocked. He thought for sure we would get lectured on not cleaning his teeth properly. The truth is, Tristan doesn't like to brush his teeth much. We have to bribe him and force him some times. He always brushes first and then we brush him after. We started this process very early and we do try to stress the importance of it every time. I guess what I am hearing today is that all that effort has paid off :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Learning all the hows-to of making sugar cookies

I'm not a big cookie person. In fact, I see myself more of a cook than a baker. I tasted sugar cookies a few times before and they were just okay. I do like shortbread and butter cookies though and when I found a sugar cookie recipe that tasted a lot like those, I have been a fan. To be honest, I am more of a fan of making sugar cookies than eating them. The challenge of decorating them is appealing to me. It's all about the presentation and presentation is something I don't focus a lot on in my cooking. Now, I get to work on that a bit. I'm learning a lot in the process too.

I made my first batch of sugar cookies during Thanksgiving. I had one piping tool, which I didn't use correctly and a cookie press that did not work. I manually cut out pumpkins with my knife on the dough. I bought icing but the only orange they had was cake icing, which ended up looking thick and horrible on the cookie. It took forever and even though they tasted great, it was overall a bad first experience:(

My second attempt at sugar cookies was during Halloween. All the other Mommys were baking for their kids so I thought I would too. Like everything I do though, I set out with overly optimistic goals for myself. I learned from my first experience and this time I made sure I had all my cookie cutters. No more of this manual nonsense! :) I cut our pumpkins, cats, and round cookies. I made my own royal icing so I could create whatever colors I would need. I tried mixing liquid food colors to get orange and black but failed miserably. Orange looked like pink and black was a muddy gray. My piping tool was too big so I couldn't add the fine details on the cat. It just looked like a blob. My spiderweb looked cool on the round cookies but the spider was another blob. I didn't have enough piping bags for all the colors so I made my own out of plastic bags. I just cut a whole in one corner. I was still using the piping tool all wrong and icing would ooze out of everywhere. It was a huge mess:( On top of that I ended up throwing away one of the decorating tips in the trash! It must have been hidden in the icing and I didn't see it:(

My third attempt was much easier but I didn't have very optimistic goals for decorating. The cookies had colored dough and messages on them. They were birthday cookies for Tristan. The decorations were minimal. Since I kept getting my piping tool wrong, I researched on youtube beforehand on how to prepare a piping bag for icing. It turns out I had to unscrew the couplers before attaching the tip in between. I didn't even know that part unscrewed. Duh. What a cookie noob I am!

My fourth and most recent attempt was good. I can only get better at each attempt, right? This time I made sure I researched everything I needed. This attempt was going to be gifts for the daycare staff and I didn't want to look like a fool. I went out and bought more supplies such as disposable piping bags, couplers, a replacement tip for the one I accidentally threw away, gel colors, and Christmas themed cookie cutters. I even researched the designs I would do instead of free-styling it. There was one design in particular that I was worried about. I had a Santa cutter and it looked difficult. I made sure I drew this one out properly so I would have the right template. I traced it a few times and colored it with Tristan's crayon markers. I had a bad feeling it was going to be a big fail. Fine details on such a small cookie? But knowing me, I did it anyway. The result was a fail but not a huge fail. I tested out my foodsafe pens beforehand but when I went to color on the cookie, it wouldn't color right. Go figure. I had to improvise and my Santa turned out recognizable. That is about all I can say. The Christmas trees were the nicest. The snowflakes had potential. The cookies were give-able! Yay.

Every time I make sugar cookies, I learn something new. Next time, I need to get a few more finer decorating tips. I know some people use a paintbrush to decorate and I thought I would need one too but it turns out I can use a tiny spoon to spread the icing and for the smaller areas, a toothpick works just fine. I wouldn't have known if I didn't try :) Piping the edges and then flooding the cookie is too painful to do so I'm glad this shortcut works. I also have to be more patient and wait for icing to fully dry before applying more icing or color. Liquid food color doesn't work well for drawing eyes. Next time I will need to use gel colors or just thicker icing. I have to be careful not to make my icing too runny as well. This was definitely the case for my Santas!

So there you have it. I have been obsessing about decorating sugar cookies lately since it's Christmas and all. I plan to give away lots for gifts. Since I took so many pictures, I thought I would document it here so that other sugar cookie newbies can learn from my experience. It's new, it's challenging, it's fun, and it actually tastes good :) Good luck!

Daycare gets chocolates & homemade cookies for Christmas

Friday, December 17, 2010

Santa visits daycare

Today, we visited daycare for about an hour to go see Santa. Santa was coming and he had gifts for all the children. Even though we are not big on the whole Santa thing, I wanted Tristan to be a part of this because all the other kids were. I also wanted to bring him there to play a bit. Daycare sure beats the StrongStart at the school.

We arrived a bit late and ended up being the second to last kid to receive a gift from Santa. Oops. He received a Christmas story book. All the kids got some sort of Christmas story book. It was nice. It didn't last long. Each child was called out and came to collect their present from Santa. Then a picture was taken and it was the next child's turn.

I was the only parent at daycare today. I kind of thought I would be. It's bad that I don't carry out a full time job but it's good that I'm able to take part in these things while I am still free from work. I got to observe Tristan play with the other kids at daycare. He didn't really stick by any one kid in particular. There is this really loud boy who tends to bang toys and makes a lot of racket. Tristan followed and copied him every now and then. That's bad but he didn't bang toys. He was just copying what the other boy was saying. I discovered that this other boy is the "5 more minutes" boy. Lately, Tristan has been telling us "5 more minutes" or "2 more minutes" and we would just laugh. Now, I know who he is copying that from!

There are a couple of boys Tristan enjoys playing with. One of them is his best buddy, at least that is what the staff claims. I watched them. They did play together a bit and I couldn't resist taking a few pictures of them. It was so cute! Imagine having a best friend at the age of 2.

While I was observing and watching after Tristan, other kids would approach me and talk to me. I couldn't understand most of them. They sort of talk like Tristan and is only learning how to speak properly. If anyone, only their parents would fully understand them. One little boy got me to put on his shoes. A little girl wouldn't stop talking to me. She was a chatterbox and she got me to watch and hold her Christmas book while she played in the ball room. Sure, why not? Tristan was fine alone so I spent some time talking with one of the staff members. I could see that Tristan was well behaved. When all the other kids were painting the table instead of their snowflake or grabbing the table cloth, Tristan was just looking at them or quietly painting his own snowflake. In fact, he was so tidy, he painted mainly the center of the snowflake and didn't get any paint on the table around him. The staff member I spoke to says that he is so mellow and easy going. He did fight over a toy a couple of times so I had to intervene. Then the staff member said that he is great at sharing toys. She must be referring to most of the time because it's not all the time!

Tristan had fun on our daycare visit. He didn't even know I was there some times. When we left, he didn't get upset either so it was all good. Daycare has been good to him and to us. When we picked him up on Wednesday, we found a nice gift bag for us in his cubby. It was addressed from Tristan to Mom and Dad. There were bakes, jam, bathroom treats, an ornament for the tree, and a card. I had a feeling they were giving us something but I didn't know it was going to be that much! There was also a Christmas card to Tristan from his French teacher. I love sweet surprises :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My name is "Tristan." I am "2."

Tristan has been talking for awhile now but he never could or would say his own name. He would say other people's names but not his. We thought maybe his name was hard to pronounce but then he has cousins with uncommon names and he could say them. I was beginning to think he just didn't like his name since he would rather call himself "Dune." A couple of months ago, he would refer to himself as Dune or Doon. He points to himself and says "Doon do it." He still does that by the way. We have no idea where Doon came from.

In the past week, we have been trying to teach him how to say his full name. I have heard him say his first name from time to time, usually when he is copying me. He just doesn't refer to himself as that. He obviously knows his name since everyone calls him Tristan. A few days ago, he was saying his first and last name but he added a few extra syllables to his last name. Yesterday was the first time he pronounced his full name clearly. Well, as clear as toddler language gets :) It's actually very cute to hear. We were so excited, we recorded him saying it several times. Yeah, we're those kind of parents.

When we ask him "what is your name," he responds correctly. We then ask him how old he is and he says "2." We started to teach him his age when he turned 2. We're not convinced he knows what 2 is because he says "2" every time we ask him "how many." How many grapes would you like? 2. How many fingers am I holding up? 2. Everything is 2 whether it's right or wrong! Research studies also suggest that children under the age of 3 1/2 do not understand numbers the way we do. They live in a logarithmic world. For instance we see 1 and 2 as being the same distance as 8 and 9. They are both 1 apart. Toddlers see a huge gap between 1 and 2 and little gap between 8 and 9. Why? Because going from 1 to 2 is essentially doubling. When children turn 3 1/2, they finally understand numbers as discrete units. 5 is now 1 more than 4. Now, the child can learn mathematics! I'm a math geek so I can't wait to do math with Tristan. I found the number podcast on Radiolab very interesting. Jean-Louis introduced me to Radiolab awhile ago and the talks are so interesting, I now have a subscription to them in iTunes.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Toddler has strep :(

First time for everything, right? I imagine he contracted strep somewhere between Monday and Thursday of last week. Apparently, he got it 1-4 days before his symptoms showed up. He was feeling very tired around 3PM on Friday. We thought it was just the flu. Since we only went to the store for a short trip on Thursday and he stayed home with me the rest of the time, there is a good chance his strep is from being at daycare :(

Yesterday, we went out for a bit but mostly for the drive. Tristan got to nap in the car most of the time. We hadn't been out really for 2 days so I thought the fresh air would be good for him. He was quiet most of the time and didn't have much of an appetite. I also noticed tiny bloody dots under his chin. It was unusual but I figured it was related to his dry skin from the cold weather. This morning it looked worst and he complained that his teeth hurt a bit so as a precaution, Jean-Louis took him into the walk-in-clinic. We almost didn't either because I know the doctors here and unless it is really, REALLY bad, they won't treat it and would just send you home. It's cold season after all and he was acting sick. It turns out, we did the right thing. Jean-Louis arrived 30 minutes after the clinic opened and had to wait 2 hours to see the doctor for 5 minutes. It's the usual story with the walk-in-clinics here but luckily (and unluckily for us), the doctor didn't just tell him to relax and go home. Tristan was diagnosed with strep right away, even without doing a strep test. He had all the symptoms already and the doctors prescribed him antibiotics. His lymph nodes were swollen, he was still feverish, he had a rash on his chin, as well as inside his mouth, on his tongue and throat, and he just wasn't interested in eating or drinking because they hurt him.

On top of strep, his bacterial infection, he may also have a viral infection. He's sick. He vomited three times today and barely ate anything. He hasn't vomited in a long time. The viral infection could be from Jean-Louis since Jean-Louis was sick last week. It could also be from daycare since I noticed one of the staff there was coughing and sneezing. It's funny how we're always trying to figure out how all this happened. It's not like he can avoid home or daycare. Well, sickness is bound to happen sooner or later and it is better now than during Christmas, I suppose.

Poor Tristan. Strep must be very cruel because he has been crying from pain on and off all day and he normally doesn't cry much. It has also been a long time since I blogged about Tristan being sick. Hopefully this winter won't be as bad as last winter. I hear that daycare kids don't get sick as much in their second year. Last year we got the H1N1 and seasonal flu shots. We still got sick a lot. This year we're going to skip the shots.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Getting into the spirit of Christmas

Shortly after Tristan's birthday, all the birthday decorations came down and the Christmas decorations went up. I figured the sooner we did this, the sooner we get to enjoy our dressed-up house and the longer we get to enjoy it :)

I have never assembled a Christmas tree before. I remember a couple of times when I was very young, my parents decorated the house for Christmas. Then they just stopped doing it and only the tree went up. In fact, I think they still have that same tree from the 80s :)

Since I was such a newbie, I had to read the instructions when I assembled our artificial tree. It took awhile too because I wanted it to be perfect and I was videotaping the moment. So many things were new out of the box. The tree, each ornament, and other decorations we put up in our house were brand new. We were doing this for Tristan. Last year, he was too young to notice or care much. He is also more teachable now so he has learned to be gentle with the tree and glass ornaments. So far so good :)

Putting up the decorations were fun. I am getting more into the Christmas spirit because of it. The house looks more festive and I am looking forward to creating a tradition out of the holidays so that Tristan will remember it fondly. This year I will be baking Christmas cookies. I'm starting to get the hang of decorating with royal icing so I'm really excited to do it again and give cookies out as gifts.

Just like for Halloween and autumn, we are also getting out more and trying to participate in more holiday events. The past weekend, we went downtown to look at the Woodwards Window Display. They were all spaced out around downtown and it was a bit disappointing :( We went into the Hyatt hotel on Burrard and they had their gingerbread house contest up so that was nice. We walk into that hotel every year to see it! We were hoping to see the window displays at the Hudson Bay but they weren't up this year. That was weird. We accidentally went down during the Santa Claus parade so it was very busy. We don't like crowds so we tried to avoid it most of the day. We did get a glimpse of Santa and his sleigh at the end though :)

In the past years, we didn't celebrate Christmas much. There would be a couple of decorations and we would bake turkey and eat a traditional meal, many times alone at home. It already feels so much more Christmasy this year because we have a Christmas tree and we will actually be wrapping up gifts for Tristan. We didn't do that last year. We buy things for Tristan all the time and he didn't care much about opening up anything. Jean-Louis and I have stopped buying each other gifts, shortly after we got married. He is very Scrooge-like and over the years, it didn't feel like a big deal to me either. I just wanted my Christmas meal :) But then on boxing day or during the sales period, we would shop and treat ourselves to pretty much anything we really wanted.

This year, I'm sort of buying us gifts. It's no surprise so I guess that doesn't count. In fact, I was going to get it anyway, Christmas or not. They are photo books I have already assembled but have not purchased yet. When I told Jean-Louis, he wasn't too enthusiastic. I also bought us some Purdy's hedgehogs so that counts as a gift too! I could wrap all these things and put them under the tree too but since no one cares, I probably won't :) I know, it's lame. Christmas is for the children really. As long as Tristan is excited and happy, then so are we!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tristan misses his daddy A LOT

Tristan is a daddy's boy. Ever since he was able to laugh and play, he had become a huge fan of his dad. After all, his dad is much like a kid himself and a big goof :)

Tristan spends more time with me than his dad. With me, a lot of the time is spent getting things done like feeding, cleaning up, getting dressed, and getting ready for daycare. We spend some fun times together and play but I'm usually quite exhausted to go on for too long. We also do not-so-fun things together like teeth brushing, nail cutting (used to be a nightmare but he seems fine with it now), nose aspirating, and soon hair cutting. Sometimes, I think he sees me as the evil parent. I have to be the evil parent because if Jean-Louis did these things, he would be the dangerous parent.

Tristan spends a lot of time with his dad. His dad gives him a bath and puts him to sleep at night. They play together while I get dinner ready every night. They don't see each other as much so they get to miss each other more. He miss his dad so much that it has become an inquiry about where his dad is when he sees me first. He doesn't always but he has been doing this a lot lately. For instance, I would go pick him up from daycare and he would ask where daddy is. Yeah, that is pretty much my greeting these days. Jean-Louis used to come pick Tristan up with me at daycare but now he is biking at home after work for his workout. When Tristan knows that Jean-Louis is home or if he has recently spent a lot of time with Jean-Louis, he would say "daddy do" because he prefers daddy to do it instead of me. I think he knows daddy will leave soon and he wants to get as much daddy time as possible.

Sometimes it's sad to see Tristan so sad because he misses his daddy. In the morning, he would get upset that I enter the room to get him. He would whimper and cry out for his daddy. This happens quite often even though I go get him five days a week. One day, I showed Tristan some video clips of us putting up the Christmas tree and Jean-Louis was in the video in the background playing an interactive game with him. There was music, laughter, and he could see himself and daddy in there together. After a few minutes of this, he had a sad face and started crying out daddy in the saddest voice. Watching the clips was making him realize that daddy wasn't home and made him miss daddy even more. I gave him a hug and I had to stop playing the clips. He's a sensitive boy.

On the weekend it can get bad too. He spends more time with daddy on the weekend than with me. This is because I sleep in in the morning, we go out shopping and it's mostly me shopping and Jean-Louis who watches Tristan in the mall, and I often cook on the weekend as well. Tristan loves being with his daddy but all the toddler clingyness becomes too much for Jean-Louis. By Sunday, Jean-Louis is often yelling at him and can't wait to get back to work on Monday morning. It's funny because Jean-Louis goes from being happy on Friday evening to feeling crappy and exhausted by as early as Saturday night. He is just not used to being around Tristan that much and he doesn't have as much patience as me. Because of all this, the weekend frustrations really stress me out too.

Sometimes I think Jean-Louis is too hard on Tristan. Sometimes I think he yells at him too much. But despite all this, Tristan still clings onto his dad and will cry out to him at night. He loves his daddy and his daddy is crazy about him too. It's wonderful to see, even though I'm the one he usually brushes off in favor of his dad :) In fact, he clings to us both but I have seen an increased preference towards his dad in the past couple of months. I used to hear other moms call the father of their child, "their kid's hero" but I never really understood what they meant. Now I do.
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