Barbecued rats, pork belly, and other delicacies

I’m finally coming up for air after being thoroughly engrossed in the Song of Fire and Ice series. I just wrapped up the fourth book last night, and since I haven’t yet purchased the fifth book, I thought, “Hey! Let’s write a blog post.” (Yes, “let’s” as in “let us”. Because when you are a mommy, you suddenly become an “us”.)

Brad celebrated his birthday recently, which was exciting for a lot of reasons. One, it means I have a good excuse to shower the man I love with gifts and baked goods, and two, it means we get to go out for a foodie date night! When it’s my birthday, it’s a sure bet that we’ll end up at Wink; while I tend to stick to tried-and-true favorites, Brad loves to try new places. We had been meaning to try Uchiko for well over a year at the recommendation of our foodie friends Kim and Marco. Then my friend Lori sent a photo of one of their delectable desserts, and that sealed the deal for us: we had to go! Before we could make it there, however, I got pregnant, and wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am I didn’t want to be anywhere near meat, especially raw fish. We put our foodie dreams on hold, though the yearning for delicious Japanese food grew over the next 9 months as we watched Uchiko’s executive chef, Paul Qui, win Top Chef: Texas.

At long last, we made it out to Uchiko, and I must say – it did not disappoint! True to form, we made the decision to go at the last minute, so we ended up with a reservation for a 5:00 dinner, though truly it was for the best since we were able to have leisurely meal and still make it home before Vivi’s bedtime. Another plus of the 5:00PM dinner: we went during “sake social hour”, which has a special menu of $3 and $6 plates. I won’t bore you with all the plates we tried, but here are some of our favorites: the ham and egg roll (pork belly rolled in rice with a yolk custard sauce), the yokai berry (check out the pic below… salmon, kale, asian pear, and blueberries – oh my!), the brussel sprouts (so tangy and just the right amount of crunch), and the jar jar duck (duck with candied kumquat in a puff of rosemary smoke). The winner-takes-all dish had to be the dessert: tobacco cream, chocolate sorbet, drops of huckleberry sauce, and scotch. It was easily the best tasting dessert I’ve ever had, and let me tell you, I was skeptical about even ordering it! Uchiko, you made me a believer.

We celebrated Brad’s birthday a few other ways. We met up with friends to jump on the indoor trampolines at Jumpoline – tons of (exhausting) fun! Then this weekend, Brad’s mom made a big meal and brought it to our house. We enjoyed BBQ and cake with family and friends.

Funny story. We were setting up the house, getting ready for everyone to arrive for Brad’s party. Brad turned on the oven to get it warm for the soon-to-be-arriving food, and then he went outside to turn on the grill. He came in with a perplexed look on his face. “There is a plastic bag and some leaves in our grill,” he said. “….and baby mice!”

Of course, I had to scurry outside to check this out. Lo and behold, there was a big leafy nest under one of the heat grates of our gas grill. Sitting on top was 4 or 5 baby rodents – luckily, uncooked! After closer inspection, I declared them to be baby rats – they were already the size of field mice (and y’all know I have plenty of nature knowledge from all those episodes of Marty Stouffer’s Wild America I watched as a child).

We went back inside to debate what to do with them. Brad wanted to move them out into the side yard; I thought that something would surely eat them. I said we should put them in a box until we could come up with a solid plan. Brad made fun of me for being a big ol’ softy. He’s 100% right: they are rats, albeit baby rats. Still, I just couldn’t bring myself to (indirectly) kill baby animals by leaving them out in the yard somewhere.

Well, the whole time we were debating what to do, the mama rat was on the move. Five minutes after we first discovered them, we walked back outside to find only two little babies left in the nest. A whiskered face glared at me from behind the grill, so I left her to her business. So, somewhere in our yard is a family of rats. I’m a bit remorseful now that I didn’t let Brad ice the Ratigan clan… ah well.

In related news, the bag of birdseed that I put under our bricked cabinet on the porch has been devoured/spread all over the inside of the cabinet. I thought because the cabinet and grill are bricked in, the bag of birdseed wouldn’t attract any critters, but I forgot there’s one missing brick on the side of the grill to allow a hand in to turn on the gas line. Might be that ol’ Mrs. Ratigan thought our grill was a great place to raise her babies, what with the nice bag of birdseed and high ceiling of the grill. My bad!

Brad’s birthday is sadly coming to an end (more than a week later); today I made a couple chess pies for him. There are his absolute favorite and are so easy to make! Thus ends a tasty birthday celebration… full of cake, Japanese food, barbecue, and luckily, nothing seasoned by smoked rodent.

Getting hoopy with it… na na na na na na naaaah…

A couple of days ago, Brad and I finished a decor project for Vivian’s room. “All done,” Brad said with a sigh of relief. “Now all we have to do is wait for the baby to arrive.” Long pause… and then he looked over his shoulder with a big grin.

Cue a death stare from this momma of a 4 month old. (Okay, I laughed. But only after I gave him the death stare.)

This project was actually super easy (which is why I picked it), and I think it turned out really cute! My friend Haley and I picked out the fabrics at one of my favorite Austin fabric stores, The Stitch Lab. [Haley is a saint for dealing with my back-and-forth almost-non-existent decision making.]

Roughly two months later, I finally cut fabric squares and hot-glued them into the hoops. And maybe two weeks after that, my hubby extraordinaire put the hoops on the wall while I dictated placement. And without further ado… the hoopy name decor!

And a quick pic of hunky hubby – thanks for the help, babe!

Special Request

Please keep Senior Officer Jaime Padron and his family and friends in your thoughts and prayers today as he is laid to rest.

If you aren’t familiar with Officer Padron, he was killed in the line of duty on April 6th while responding to a call at an Austin Walmart. If you love a cop, you know this is our worst nightmare, but we can take strength in knowing and loving our heros.

Rest in peace, Officer Padron.

Photo taken at the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial in Washington D.C.

In honor of SXSW, let your hipster flag fly.

The Black Keys are all over the place these days. You can hear their latest albums, Brothers or El Camino, on the radio or catch one of their songs in a TV commercial. But before they hit the big time, they were mine.

Well, more like ours. Brad introduced me to The Black Keys in college. I remember driving around College Station the summer of 2005 (and long afterwards) jamming out to ThickFreakness and my favorite album, Rubber Factory. I remember being so jealous when Brad saw them in concert at a small venue in Austin (I was stuck at home, studying for the LSAT). Funny to think the next time I saw them, they were playing to a huge crowd at ACL Fest.

I’ve bought both of their recent albums, and there are some great songs. Their sound has definitely matured over the years, but I’ll always prefer “Grown So Ugly” and “10 AM Automatic” to “Lonely Boy” or “Tighten Up”.

Brad told me a joke tonight:

Why did the hipster burn his tongue?

. . . Because he ate his pizza before it was cool.

I may not be a true-blue hipster, but I have my moments.

Parachutes

Brad and Vivi both got in bed around 10:30 or so tonight. I stayed awake and tidied up the house, then read a magazine while pumping. I finally wrapped up around 12:30, so I crept into our bedroom (where they were both sleeping) to grab my jammies. Brad sat straight up in bed as soon as I opened the door and started wildly gesturing with his arms – the sort of motion you’d make while skiing. I heard him say something softly, but I couldn’t make it out.

I walked to his side of the bed and leaned in close. “What did you say, babe?”, I asked.

He whispered, “Did you see someone parachute in?”

Brad’s sleep-talking never ceases to entertain.