Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Breaking Stuff in Detroit

The constant gray skies and increasingly dark days are not kind to my attempts at photography. The quality of the pictures from here until March will probably be absolutely rotten. I might as well let Matthew take the pictures...

This week, Paul was sent to a conference held in Northern Detroit. Since he was the only company employee attending this conference, Matthew and I were invited to come along. When we arrived at the hotel, we suddenly realized that the chosen location of our occupancy could not have been any less desirable. The hotel itself was situated among an island of other hotels and business centers with a lone pair of golden arches glimmering in the distance (after all, Ronald McDonald has to insert himself into every picturesque city landscape in America). There was nowhere to go for dinner (unless you REALLY want a McRib - I hear they're back) much less take a stroller out for a walk. The unfortunate realization was that Matthew and I were going to be prisoners of the hotel while Paul was at the conference. At first I was not concerned. There would be plenty for us to do! The hotel had a pool and a pristine fitness area with large, colorful yoga balls and plenty of space to bounce them. Plus, Matthew could jump on the bed to his heart's delight. He would have plenty of entertainment.

Immediately upon our arrival to Detroit, we went to P.F. Chang's for dinner. They are a perfect place to take loud, obnoxious children who like to shred napkins, eat crayons, and issue high-pitch screams without a moment's notice when they are fed up with being strapped in a high chair. The Chinese seem to find this nature not only adorable, but worthy of praise, adulation, and multiple gifts in the form of fortune cookies, which Matthew ferociously squeezed between his chubby little hands until they shattered. He then gently picked through the rubble and extracted the small piece of paper bearing his fortune...and ate it. When I audaciously suggested that he taste the actual cookie portion of the fortune cookie, he shook his head furiously while squealing so loudly that one might have thought I was asking him to eat toad liver. Now that's a discriminating palate.

Overall, we enjoyed an excellent meal and Matthew behaved himself while dunking his chicken tenders in the honey-soy dipping sauce with his practice chopsticks. Paul and I made sure that we had plenty of extra food to box up and put in our fridge at the hotel. Since there were no restaurants within a reasonable distance, we wanted the leftovers to function as lunch for Matthew and I the next day.

At 6:00 AM the next morning, I was awakened by Matthew jumping on the bed next to me while chanting: "Mommy! Mommy! Hi Mommy!" Daylight savings time stinks. Naturally, Paul just pulled his pillow on top of his head and pretended as if he could not hear our chatty little munchkin. I remedied that by picking Matthew up and placing him on our bed where he promptly began, in the immortal words of Dr. Seuss, to "Hop on Pop." Thus, two extremely bedraggled parents took their extremely hyper little boy down to the hotel lobby for a marvelous breakfast buffet where he feasted on scrambled eggs, croissants, sausage, and yogurt. Our son eats like a caveman in the mornings. And I mean that in reference to both his diet and his manners.

Paul then quickly packed up and headed out for his conference, leaving me and Matthew to amuse ourselves in the hotel room. Matthew immediately gravitated towards the mini coffee pot adorning a shelf above the mini-fridge. As I have mentioned before, Matthew has an unnatural obsession with coffeemakers and a small one just his size would could probably keep him entertained for hours. I unplugged it and let him have at it. He promptly began to take it completely apart and then put it back together. Then he filled it with animal crackers. Then he picked up the (glass) carafe and began smacking it against the wall. This made me a little nervous, so I took the carafe portion away from him and hid it behind the television. He did not seem to care and went about playing with the other portion of the coffeemaker.

Since Matthew seemed fairly content, I stepped inside the bathroom for 1 minute to brush my teeth. When I turned off the water faucet, I suddenly heard the sound of glass shattering. I quickly flung open the door and saw Matthew standing on a chair that he had shoved up next to the T.V. stand holding half of the remaining coffee carafe completely surrounded by large pieces of broken glass.

He clearly knew he was in trouble. His eyes were filled with tears and his pouty bottom lip was quivering. I told him not to move and carefully took the piece he was holding from him before picking him up and placing him on the bed. I then reached for the phone to call the front desk only to find that Matthew had unplugged the phone. Marvelous. Once I made the call, management ordered us to clear out of the room so they could thoroughly clean it and ensure that all glass was removed.

The incident put Matthew in a foul mood for the rest of the day. All the activities I had planned to do with him around the hotel fell short. He did NOT want to play with the yoga balls - how stupid when you can clearly have more fun trying to mess with all the weight equipment (we quickly evacuated the exercise room...I could just imagine him dropping something heavy on his little fat foot)! He did NOT want to go for a walk. He did NOT want to eat lunch. How DARE I suggest that he nap! Finally, I just decided that like it or not...he was going for a swim. I squeezed him into his swim trunks and we slid into the swim pool. I was completely expecting him to do his normal scream-wail-flail routine, but instead he sank against me and relaxed. He actually was enjoying the water! We splashed around and had a grand old time.

So despite some shaky beginnings, we had a pretty good time. Maybe we are making some progress in breaking Matthew's fear of water. Keep your fingers crossed for us.

The recipe I wanted to share this time is a soup that I had at an Indian restaurant and absolutely adored. It has a couple interesting ingredients in it but is extremely flavorful, warming, and satisfying. It is a cinch to throw together and may be made up to 3 days in advance (or frozen for a few months). Give it a try for something different!

Mulligatawny Soup
from Entertaining Magazine

4 cloves garlic, 2 peeled and 2 minced
1 piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated to yield 1 1/2 tablespoons
1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, chopped
1 teaspoon tomato paste
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
7 cups chicken broth
2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 medium, ripe banana
Plain yogurt and chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

In a blender, puree the 2 whole cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of ginger, and the water until smooth. Set aside it aside for a bit - do not remove from the blender. You're going to need it later!

Heat the butter in a dutch oven over medium heat until foaming. Add the onion and tomato paste and cook, stirring every once in a while, until the onions are soft and beginning to brown. Stir in the coconut and cook for about 1 minute (or until fragrant). Add the minced garlic, remaining 2 1/2 teaspoons ginger, curry powder, cumin, cayenne, and flour. Stir until combined. While whisking constantly (and vigorously!!), gradually add the chicken broth.

Add the carrots, celery, and banana. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the veggies are tender (approximately 20 minutes).

Puree the soup in batches in the blender with the ginger and garlic. Be very careful to hold a towel over the top of the blender while working with the hot soup. You don't want an explosion in the kitchen (Paul may have done that while pureeing a potato soup the other day...). Return the pureed soup to the pot and season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm the soup over medium heat.

To serve, ladle the soup into individual bowls with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of cilantro. For a more substantial meal, ladle over hot Basmati rice (seriously delicious!) and serve with some fresh Naan.

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