You are viewing owlfish

Hot Chocolate Day

stephanieburgis has declared today to be Hot Chocolate Day, in honor of the publication of A Most Improper Boxed Set.

So it's been a good day for me to reminisce about what is still, in my memory, my favorite hot chocolate. Back when I lived in Toronto, JS Bonbons had a Queen Street outlet. It closed long ago (as did, last I checked, JS Bonbon's other shop, where I once threw snow balls at the second-story window to try to get the attention of the class I was meant to be attending but could find no way into).

The Queen Street shop made hot chocolate using truffle ganache. The same ganache they used to fill their truffles. They had three or four varieties. One was the extremely good white-chocolate-and-thyme one. The other was the absolutely amazing dark chocolate and lavender one.

Put it this way. I used to drag visiting friends there in the sweltering heat of August to try the wonders of their hot chocolate. That's how amazing it was.

Tags:

Do your driving guidelines prescribe hot drinks and warn you of the dangers of dairy products?

Excerpts from the UK Highway Code:

From #91 Driving when tired
"the most effective ways to counter sleepiness are to drink, for example, two cups of caffeinated coffee and to take a short nap (at least 15 minutes)"

From #206 Drive slowly and carefully when
"passing parked vehicles, especially ice cream vans; children are more interested in ice cream than traffic and may run into the road unexpectedly".

From #224 Electric vehicles
"Be careful of electric vehicles such as milk floats and trams."

From #228 Driving in icy and adverse weather
"Take an emergency kit of de-icer and ice scraper, torch, warm clothing and boots, first aid kit, jump leads and a shovel, together with a warm drink* and emergency food in case you get stuck or your vehicle breaks down."

* Evidence that these guidelines are only intended for trips of limited duration....

Tags:

Answer off of the top of your head, please.

What was last weekend's Worldcon called?

LonCon3
14(22.6%)
LonCon 3
10(16.1%)
LonCON 3
0(0.0%)
LonCON3
0(0.0%)
Loncon3
11(17.7%)
Loncon 3
16(25.8%)
L3
1(1.6%)
LC3
0(0.0%)
Does it matter?
6(9.7%)
Did Worldcon happen recently?
1(1.6%)
What's a Worldcon?
3(4.8%)

Tags:

weaning-in

I encountered a new-to-me use of "weaning" this week from a neighbor.

"weaning-in" = visiting/settling in days at a nursery or pre-school, a few hours' visit in preparation for the full experience.

Tags:

The quest for Langue dot doc

We were still at Thirsty Meeples after games of Battle Sheep and Forbidden Island with H, when I checked my phone and found an urgent message from gillpolack. The boxes of her new novel had just missed their second delivery attempt to my house; where I was not.

What happened next...Collapse )

Tags:

Y is for yacht

Poll #1971311 Y is for Yacht

In an alphabet book aimed at toddlers, the following are all usually encountered

Yacht
26(26.3%)
Yak
20(20.2%)
Yarn
8(8.1%)
Yellow
25(25.3%)
Yo-yo
20(20.2%)

A yacht is...

a kind of sail boat
39(54.2%)
an expensive ship
25(34.7%)
regularly encountered by toddlers
8(11.1%)


Read more...Collapse )

Mary Wroth

Mary Wroth was the first woman to publish an English-language novel. She's also the first woman known to have written a complete sonnet sequence.

I've written a piece on her for Women's History Month, at gillpolack's blog.

Camphorated oil

Sometimes, the songs I encounter in the course of Grouting-focused events strike me as being things that I would never have encountered in the US. This verse of "Little Peter Rabbit" is currently exhibit A for this train of thought.

Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
Little Peter Rabbit had a cold upon his chest.
So he rubbed it with camphorated oil

Tags:

Fine dining with babies

High-end restaurants bring out the highest expectations and the worst of dismissive snark. Even running into that snark second-hand often puts me off discussing restaurants. (But it's annoyance with snark which inspires this post.) Because, you see, I really like to go to intensely creative, experimental, highly-recommended restaurants even if they are expensive. I don't do it all the time. It's a treat. It's a long-term hobby, if you will. It's an education. And it's a financial choice; other people are most welcome to choose to spend their money on things I don't. (I very much appreciate that I have the luxury of being able to make this choice.)

Alinea is in the news currently for its chef, Grant Achatz, insulting the crying baby who dared join its parents for dinner recently. (via aliettedb) They had a last-minute baby-sitter cancellation, and nonrefundable tickets for the currently very, very hard to get into restaurant. He reacted in horror at how a crying baby was likely disturbing all his other customers. I hope everyone else had a good evening that night, even if Achatz did not.

The good news it that not all restaurants competing in the creative, high-end league that Alinea is in, are like that. Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons makes its own fresh purées for babies with vegetables fresh from its garden. Toddler food is given equal care. It's in a hotel, it's true, but it's not alone.

We had lunch at L'Enclume the other week, taking advantage of familial childcare. It's currently rated by the Good Food Guide as the best restaurant in the UK. It was a gloriously wonderful, creative, largely seasonal, twenty-two course meal. Two other tables had each brought a young child. The parents of one, not quite an independent walker yet, handed over a supermarket ready meal for the staff to heat. The parents of the other fed their slightly older baby with food from their plates. The two high chairs the restaurant was using were very different from each other, so clearly they requisitions one from elsewhere for the reservation.

Especially having left Grouting behind, it was a delight seeing the other babies running around. When one because unhappy, one family member sacrificed the quality of their food for a happier child, taking them outside for a break. There aren't any changing facilities, but improvising changing places is an ongoing issue when out and about with a very small person.

One of the things about Alinea's food is that much of it is very time-dependent. If the mouthful isn't served with a minute or three of intention, it won't necessarily work. The hot/cold contrast will be lost. The broth-filled dumpling might be a little more underwhelming at the wrong temperature. It's a conflict between eating the food as the artist/chef intended, and caving to the realities of serving actual people. It's also a conflict over the roles of children in society, and whether or not "fine dining" should be a sphere in which young people grow up comfortable. It's also the endless conflict over parenting styles, tolerance of and reasons for a crying child.

I've eaten at Alinea, one of the very best meals of my entire life. It was years ago, before it was quiet as expensive as it is now, before the non-refundable ticketing system came into effect, valid only for quite of two or four. I called the week before and got a table for one.

Much as company is also good, one of the things that made that meal for me is that I was by myself. It just me and the food and my thoughts and people-watching. It was a meditative, as well as delicious, experience which I could take entirely at my own pace. I enjoyed eating the occasional thought-provoking, whimsical, humorous meal by myself.

Achatz may worry about saddling the baby's fellow diners with their company; but whether they want it or not, they're obliged to have company of some sort, in their multiples of two and four, quite apart from the lottery of whomever else has happened to buy tickets for that meal.

Edited to add: More concrete details on the story. The problem wasn't a baby at Alinea, but parents who weren't actively parenting.

Signing and Makaton

When Grouting became proto-verbal, we belatedly started signing with her. Belatedly because she'd been spending so much time in our arms and it takes two hands to do much communication by hand. Also, because from the start it was learn as we go.

I started thoughtlessly, with a friend's recommendation of catchy song videos with signs on YouTube. Only Baby Sign Time is an American show and, as it occurred to me only a few weeks later, I'd just signed up for a baby signing class in the UK. Grouting still signs "more" and "boat" the ASL way.

Take two. I download a fantastic British Sign Language video dictionary app, free, from the University of Bristol. It's still my default go-to reference when I want a sign to use with Grouting.

Take three. The class begins. I'd signed up for the only one locally available... and it turns out it's teaching Makaton, not BSL. Mostly there's not too much conflict; but thinking we were learning the rudiments of a language was one of the appeals of taking a class.

I am deeply ambivalent about Makaton. It's a commercial product, a language learning framework, with English (not BSL) grammar, simplified signs, standardized, and is (at least in the UK) derived from BSL. There are no free dictionaries. Everything is for sale. It's aimed at children with physical communication difficulties to surmount which have nothing to do with hearing. Down's syndrome. Babies.

Part of the appeal of this project was the idea that I'd learn a bit of another language. The other part was that we'd communicate more easily with Grouting. The communication bit is absolutely a success. Her signs are a fusion of those first few ASL ones, lots of BSL, some Makaton ones, and, occasionally, ones Grouting has figured out or made up herself (keys, fireworks). So it's not a consistent vocabulary since I never introduced it as one. I do still pick and choose signs sometimes on the basis of how easily Grouting could distinguish them from other signs.

Today in class, we were given a sign for Christmas. The North American in me rebels at using a sign based on "putting a turkey on the table" for Christmas. Especially in the same week that we celebrated an early Thanksgiving. BSL recommends a quick bit of beard stroking to achieve the same concept. One ASL version involves outlining a wreath. Either way, I prefer the options given to me by the full-fledged languages to that from the commercial language product.