Gong Hei Fa Choi!

Or Happy New Year to all my friends who are celebrating it now!

Tonight we celebrated with our friends the Carlssons. For once it was Ben who introduced us. Usually a parent’s friend group closely resembles the friend group of the first born, not second.

Asian Salmon, Fried Rice, Dumplings and Egg Rolls were for dinner.

Asian Salmon, Fried Rice, Dumplings and Egg Rolls for dinner.

They have 3 kids. Which means, like us, no matter what, they are always outnumbered.

And they have kids in the same age range. Which means we have all gotten to a point where we let them run wild in rooms we are not in and hope that nothing too terrible happens.

Luckily tonight there was a minimum of crying and fighting so the adults were actually free to enjoy adult conversation and beverages.

Is it Halloween or the New Year?

Is it Halloween or the New Year?

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Happy Anniversary

Adam and I are celebrating our 8th anniversary today.

We are not the highest honored on this day in my family, though. That honor belongs to my sister, whose 20 year anniversary is also today.

You see, when Adam and I were planning our wedding, it went a little something like this…

(After my first experience of seeing a couple take a trolley to their wedding), Adam, “When people get married in Chicago they take trolleys, not limos. When we get married we’ll take one too.”

Nikki, “Uhm, I’m not sure who you are planning on marrying but I’m not getting married in Chicago.”

Adam, “Oh? Where are you getting married?”

Nikki, “I don’t know, but it’s going to be a destination wedding.”

After that little life changing conversation, we began our quest and ended up settling on the West Coast of Florida. It was close enough to my family for me to feel like it was home, but not too close so it wasn’t considered a destination. And the beaches were beautiful.

Next we tried to narrow down a date. Obviously, winter in Florida, but when? We didn’t want to disrupt anyone’s New Year, Christmas or Valentine’s traditions.

Finally we realized that Chinese New Year would be a perfect time, since all my friends from Asia could use the extra time off to travel there.

We looked up Chinese New Year to find the best Sunday (Jews don’t marry on Saturday) and my eyes almost popped out of skull when I saw that date was also my sister’s wedding anniversary.

My beloved sister, who advice on all things important means the world to me, would share this most important date with me. What could be more meaningful or symbolic?

Later my Dad quipped it would be easier to remember the dates for him as well.

And so, in front of 200 or so people from 22 different countries and 18 different states, we wed at sunset on the beach. My good friend Jessica, a professional cantor, sung us into heavenly matrimony.wedding

For our 8th anniversary we checked out some new places that we probably wouldn’t have made the effort for on a normal date night. We started at The Aviary, famous chef Grant Achatz‘s “4 star restaurant approach” to cocktails.


I had a whiskey that had been decanted with cigar smoke. It also had a hint of chocolate to it. Amazing. Adam got a beer!

Then we headed over to The Girl and The Goat, whose chef Stephanie Izard won the 4th season of Top Chef.

It was a lovely evening. I can’t believe how much we’ve accomplished in a short 8 years. Cheers to many more, Adam!

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Parental Rewards

The longer I’ve been signed up for this parenting gig, the more I realize just how hard you have to work to get the big rewards.

Don’t get me wrong. There are rewards. There are lots of small rewards every day. Like watching the twins run and jump on Adam when he gets home from work. Or today when Jack turned some music on and we had an impromptu dance party. Or the snuggles. Ah, the snuggles.

Some rewards come easy, but a lot of them take longer to orchestrate.

Today was one of those days with Ben. Ben has affectionately been labelled by a family member of mine as “the cutest little kid you ever wanted to strangle.”

He’s very strong-willed, and unfortunately this quality comes out at the worst times, not when he’s trying to achieve or learn on his own, but when it’s time to follow instructions or react normally in a group setting.

This afternoon Ben accidentally knocked over a lego bin. It was an accident, but at that moment I happen to reach my limit on lego clean up. I have spent day after day crawling around on my hands and knees picking up those pieces, only to find myself stepping painfully on more spilled pieces a few minutes later.

I asked him to clean it up before we went to the supermarket. Instead he ignored me like he normally does. After threatening to take away the donut I promised him at the supermarket he made a half hearted attempt, picking up two of what was probably 100 pieces on the floor. When he was younger I would let it go, but he’s 4 and 1/2 now. He can pick up legos!

In the end he lost his donut, and his dessert too if he didn’t clean them up when we got back.

He kicked and screamed and threw off his shoes in protest and we had to yank him out of the car to go grocery shopping but he took his punishment. We didn’t give in. We didn’t hide or flaunt the other donut eating kids in front of him either.

After the store we reminded him a few times to clean up. He did what he normally does when we ask things of him, completely ignore us and instead does exactly what he feels like doing. Adam wanted to keep nagging him but I told him we had already made our point and to stop driving it home. He is also old enough to remember simple instructions!

He ate a good dinner and asked if he could get his dessert back.  It’s so hard to stick to your guns with your kids. You want them to like you so badly! And you want to make them happy all the time and not experience any hardships in life. I could have just given in and made him happy. And some days I do that. But today I saw the bigger picture.

I answered, “Yes, as soon as you clean up.”

In the end he finally went back and did a very good job cleaning up, counting the legos as he went (Adam’s idea.)

Afterwards he was so proud of himself! He ran around wanted to show everyone his newly cleaned floor. He felt a sense of accomplishment and pride in himself, an opportunity I would have denied him by giving him back dessert for a dinner eaten well.

And Adam and I had a long, hard won parental reward.


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Fresh Picks (Jan 15)


This week carrots, parsnips, cucumber, cabbage, fingerling potatoes, onion, and parsley.

DSC_0867Carrots, parsnip, cabbage and some of the parsley were used for a hearty winter vegetable soup. I also added butternut squash, leeks, celery, tinned tomatoes, cauliflower and some seasonings. I like to make a big pot of healthy vegetable soup in the fridge in the winter. I can eat it every day, it’s super healthy and filling and keeps me from grabbing something that is easy and quick to make but not as nutritious.

Cucumbers went into home made sushi rolls.

DSC_0864I meant to put the potatoes in the soup but forgot so I made them into a side dish, diced and roasted with garlic and rosemary. When I cut them open they were a gorgeous speckled purple. They tasted the same as regular potatoes, though.

Along with the potatoes I used the rest of the parsley turkey burgers which were grilled up on a snow covered grill one night.

Onions always get used up as a base to many dishes but I think I used these two for a sloppy joe night and a gorgeous, spicy chana masala.

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How to Make Sushi

One of Jack’s favorite meals is sushi.

It’s great to introduce expensive food to your kids when you have one. You are so proud of their diverse tastes that spending $8 dollars to watch them basically crush a california roll and sprinkle it onto the floor at a Japanese restaurant seems worth it.

But when you have four kids, it stops looking like money well spent for the sake of an exposed palate and starts looking like you are throwing money down the drain.

Still, I want my kids to be adventurous eaters, especially in my favorite area of foray – asian food.

So lately I’ve been making sushi at home. It’s actually pretty easy. I’m going to show you how right now…

Tonight I made California rolls. For those, you will need:

1. Rice. Brown or White. I use sushi rice but if you can’t find it Arborio rice works great too. I used that tonight.

2. Rice wine vinegar.

3. Sesame seed. The black ones look really great mixed with the yellow ones, but I could only find yellow so I used that. You could skip these all together if you wanted to.

4. Avocado.

5. Cucumber.

6. Crab Sticks. I just buy the imitation ones from the supermarket.

7. Nori. This is the seaweed paper.

8. Bamboo roller and plastic wrap.

Cook the rice according to the instructions. I have a rice cooker because I’m a good Chinese daughter. In my world it’s right up there on the level of toaster oven and microwave. Definitely not an optional appliance.

When the rice is done put a couple of sprinkles of rice wine vinegar. I made rice out of 2 cups of uncooked stuff, and added about 1/4 cup of rice wine vinegar.

Then, since everyone seems to be rolling the sushi inside out (with the rice on the outside), I cut the nori in half and put it, shiny side down, on a bamboo roller that was wrapped in plastic wrap.

Next put enough rice on the nori to cover the whole thing.


Then wet your fingers with water and spread rice out evenly on the nori.


Please do not get grossed out by my black finger nail. I slammed it in the bathroom door on one of my more “over tired mom days” a few weeks ago. Twice. It’s slowly turning completely black and half of it has come off already. I heard it may never grow back. Which makes me glad I’m already married off because I’m sure ten fingers and nine nails would be a deal breaker for some.

Next sprinkle with sesame seeds.


Now flip it over. Fill the other side with avocado slices, crabmeat, and cucumber. (I peeled the cucumber, deseeded it, sliced it into long strips.)


You can see my nori ripped. It doesn’t matter, it did not effect the rolls at all.

Next use the bamboo roller to roll it all together.


DSC_0852Finally, using a sharp knife, cut the roll into bite size pieces.

DSC_0856There are a lot of ends, uneven bits of sushi wrap that still taste delicious. Sometimes I can make a whole meal out of them! The rice made about 8 logs. It was enough for dinner for everyone (it was served with some other things) and some leftovers for Jack’s lunchbox tomorrow.

I know it was a good meal because when I snapped this photo there was absolute silence at the table…

California rolls, Edamame, and Pot Stickers.

California rolls, Edamame, and Pot Stickers.

I probably should make a comment about Jack dressed at the Ultimate Spiderman, Ben the Hulk and Aaron’s favorite way to wear his shirt, with one arm in and one arm out. Let’s just say I’m just happy they are all actually wearing some sort of clothing for this picture. And that no one is crying or complaining about the menu for once.

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Crepes by Olivier

Tradition is a wonderful thing.

Once you start having traditions with a person, it is a sure sign you are truly good friends.

One of the traditions that has stuck over the last few years is the just after new year “Crepes by Olivier.”

DSC_0836Normally held at the Cameron house, the Pasquiers dazzle us gorgeous home made crepes.

We all pitch in with different dishes and the kids run around doing who knows what downstairs. It’s a play date for both adults AND kids!

It’s a wonderful tradition that I hope last for many, many years to come.

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Explore and Much More, Again

Everything old is new again!

Today I registered my other two kids at Explore and Much More. It’s always been one of my favorite pay-to-play spaces in the city. And even though it has two floors, it is still manageable to watch three kids here.IMG_5706

In fact, it’s more like three floors with the loft upstairs. The ingenious loft creates many more play spaces for the kids and keeps it a lot more interesting.

Upstairs in the loft they have legos, gears, and foam blocks.

Upstairs in the loft they have legos, gears, and foam blocks.

Under the loft, a kitchen area.

Under the loft, a kitchen area.

I’ve decided to revisit some of the old indoor playgrounds I used to haunt, only to find most of them have shut down. I guess it’s hard to make a buck in this sort of business.

Today the space was not crowded at all. I was pleased, but also worried. I don’t want it to close like all the other spaces I used to frequent!

On Wednesdays they have a singer at 10:30.

With the singer, Sharon.

With the singer, Sharon.

Again Ben surprised me by being the only kids who remembered the singer’s name and sitting nicely and participating on his own will. The twins participated too, but I think their 4:45am wake up time made them a bit glassy eyed by the time we got to singing.

Afterwards we went to Lulu Belle’s Pancake House for lunch. They are now owned by the same person. Any day of the week you eat there and go to Explore and Much More, you get a 15% discount. AND if you go on Tuesdays, kids eat free (one kid meal per one adult meal.)

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Fresh Picks (Dec 30)

My New Year’s goody bag included Red Cabbage, Celeriac, Sunchokes, Sweet Potato, Red Onions, Carrots and Watercress.DSC_0602

The red cabbage was used for Za’atar Spice Roasted Red Cabbage Steaks.DSC_0819

I really enjoyed this dish, a great find and something I would do again!

The sunchokes made another side dish. Sliced thin and roasted in the oven with simply olive oil, salt and pepper. They were okay, but since they looked like potatoes but didn’t taste as creamy or starchy that was kind of hard to get my head around.

I added the celeriac and carrots to a minestrone that I ate all week. Paired with some crusty bread is a meal I never tire of.DSC_0658

Sweet Potato always gets eaten in our house. This time we decided to have another thanksgiving night, sometimes one thanksgiving turkey dinner is not enough! Why should we only spoil ourselves with marshmallow topped sweet potatoes once a year?

Red onions were used in an egg salad and also in a “everything left in your crisper” salad along with the Watercress.DSC_0662

People always ask what salad dressing I use when they try my salads. Here is my secret: dijon mustard, any vinegar, and olive oil. So simple! This salad I used a special bottle of olive oil my friend Hedy brought me. Yum!

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Kid’s Island

This morning we skipped our normal gym routine and went to check out a new play space that just opened, Kid’s Island.

Since I’ve started caring for 3 kids in the morning, I’ve been nervous about visiting new play spaces. If they are too big I won’t be able to comfortably watch all of them at the same time. IMG_5639

I’m pleased to say that this place was just the right size. They also did a lot of clever things I had not seen at other place spaces, or not always seen them.

You can see from the picture above, on the back wall behind Ben and Aaron there are bins and bins of toys, correctly labelled with all the parts in the boxes.

No matter how big the space, they all stick together anyway!

No matter how big the space, they all stick together anyway!

Also there were also helpful staff members called “play pals” circulating the room, interacting with the kids. They say in the website that parents can work on their computers carefree while the staff helps. It was the first time I visited a space and asked if I could run to the bathroom without dragging three kids with me. It seems like a small thing, but sometimes a small courtesy like that can make a huge difference to an overwhelmed mom.

My kids played with a lot of toys they had at home but never give a second glance to! Made me realize that organizing them in bins may not be the best way to utilize them. I should really pull different ones out every few days if I want to be great mom. Well, we’ll see. I’ll put it on the list of things I should be doing OVER AND ABOVE the things I’m already doing. Unfortunately, that list is already too long and includes things much more basic like brushing my hair or throwing away any stray goldfish I find on the floor instead of eating it.

The most unusual thing about this place is the huge sand box.


On the wall you can’t see there are shelves of buckets, shovels and more. Even though this meant another room, it was not closed off and I could peer over the shelves and see everyone at once. If I only had one kid I could have saddled up to the bar with a coffee and relaxed even more…


Midmorning one of the play pals had story time followed by an activity relating to the story. I was surprised to see Ben jumped at the chance to hear the story. In his pre-school class IMG_5658they could never get him to sit down for a book. I’m not sure, but I think the fact that it was optional and he CHOSE to do it was the reason.

The story today was the “The Three Little Pigs” and afterwards Ben made a brick house that he was very proud of.

And they serve food! You can eat it to the side of the main playroom. That means you can order and you’re kids can play while they wait, or play between bites! It was another nice luxury. They didn’t really have any adult meals but it’s probably for the best as I normally eat my entire meal AND all the kids leftovers anyway.


Finally, they had an option to drop your kids at a 50 minute class while you got a spa treatment from next door, Wellness Nail Spa. They have a close circuit TV so you can watch them at all times. My friend Pam and I always talked about this as being a great concept. Now that her three kids are all in school there is finally a place that does it!

The price for one child is $12 for 2 hours, but they don’t enforce it unless it’s really busy. Each additional sibling is $10.

Because the space was so small I was able to chat easily with some other moms. I got some tips as to where the more manageable pay-to-pay spaces are in the city nowadays. Hopefully you’ll be seeing them here soon!

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