Monday, December 21, 2015

Frozen Vegan Pizza - American Flatbread Vegan Harvest

With school out for the holidays, we have a friend hanging out with us today and tomorrow while her father is at work. I was at her birth and it makes me feel a little old now that a decade has passed. She's obviously known us for a while, but just recently she's been asking a lot of questions about veganism. She is very concerned about the environment and she loves animals so veganism is going to be something that strikes a cord with her. Today for lunch, I was busy getting ready for our family solstice celebration so I grabbed a couple American Flatbread Vegan Harvest pizzas from the freezer.

Our guest loved the pizza and said it was so much better than dairy cheese pizza, which makes her feel bad after eating it. She ate almost an entire pizza on her own. Then I realized I have never blogged about these pizzas so hear you go. They are our go-to pizza for to-go lunches because they don't have toppings to fall off and they taste just as good cold as hot. Just the right amount of Daiya cheese and spices and the pizza sauce is more zesty than sweet. I don't think they sell them locally, but I buy a case when they are on sale from our buying club. Great convenience food to have in the freezer when things get hectic. They aren't a vegan company, but I appreciate that they offer a vegan option.

Miscellaneous Ramblings:

I expected acting to teach the kids confidence, public speaking skills, and increase the amount of time they are able to use their imagination since we so quickly want children to live in the "real world" these days. Acting has taught them so many more things than I even counted on and many of them are helpful life skills. As much as I love what acting teaches the kids, sometimes it comes back to bite me.

Dema learned to whistle for his role of Louis in The King and I. Due to his OCD tics, whistling is pretty much non-stop in our house now. Loud whistling. At least it is usually a happy tune.

Josie learned to flick a bic for Grace's World. Not a bad skill to have, but since we only have old fashioned matches or the long neck lighters in the house and rarely use them, she never learned to use a bic type lighter before. Now she wants to light candles all the time with her new skill.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Daiya Has Done It Again

Josie enjoying her Daiya blueberry Greek yogurt.
Since Whole Soy closed down earlier this year, we have been pretty much yogurt-less. Even with yogurt being a once in a while treat in our house, the hole left by Whole Soy was felt. When one door closes, a new vegan product opens a window. Enter Daiya yogurt. Darn it if Daiya hasn't done it again. They make a great mac and cheese option, their shredded vegan cheese can't be beat, and now their Greek yogurt is better than any other yogurt we've tried. The texture is divine, thick and creamy. Some yogurts can feel watery, but not this one. It is decadent without being ultra sweet. All three of my kids love the blueberry and strawberry (we add ground flax seeds and more fruit). We haven't found these locally (we had to order them through our buying club) so we have only tried the two flavors, but I trust the peach and black cherry are equally delicious.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grace's World

Josie was in a short film recently. The boys have both been in short films and Josie was an extra with the rest of us in a full length film, The Garden of Chloe, and she's been in a promo for our local public telecommunications network, but this is her first short film. She had the best time ever. I mean she never wanted it to end. She loved everyone involved in the project and Parker even got to help out a bit behind the scenes. If they could just work on films full-time, they would be in heaven.
Josie at our personal wrap party. We went to the co-op for vegan pizza and a muffin. She was pretty sad it was over.

The adult actors, the director, and the crew were all so incredibly sweet and patient with Josie. They always had great things to say about her and they were so respectful and thoughtful. I really can't express enough how fortunate we are to live in a community with so many adults who are eager to teach our kids so many fun and exciting things.

For people who don't have experience with film, it takes forever. Even the shortest scenes are done over and over for all sorts of reasons. Different camera angles, audio issues, lighting, trying different expressions, etc. It is so interesting, but it also takes a ton of patience and dedication. It is hard work for everyone. Every TV show or movie has taken on a whole new complexity for me. I think of how many times they had to shoot the scene of the person walking away, why they decided on that music instead of dialog, I think of how scenes are hardly ever shot in order and how actors have to show deep emotions with people they might have just met that day, and I notice the small little inconsistencies more than I ever did before. As a mom of child actors, it means being flexible, remembering every detail of the props we loan and costumes, and patience. Did I mention it takes time? I love it too because the kids seem to enjoy films more than any other kind of acting and it is so much fun for me to see the work behind the scenes

Behind the scenes shots:
Josie being hit by a car.
I didn't stay for the hospital scene since Parker was happy to be Josie on site adult and help with lighting when needed. It was shot at the same hospital where my mom died of cancer over 13 years ago, but it still is erie seeing Josie in a hospital bed there. The hospital and staff would so accommodating and I really do appreciate them letting us shoot in an actual hospital setting.
The rough cut.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Justin Spring Invitational 2015

Last year was Dema's first year as a competitive gymnast and this year Josie joined him. They both competed in the JSI meet which is hosted at our local college campus and our gym organizes the event. This means full family participation because most of the work is done by parent volunteers. I love the home meet because of the gym (historic old building) and the ease of getting to and from the meets, but also the kids have a lot of freedom when they aren't competing to hang out together and the lack of entrance fees means it is easy to watch as much gymnastics as one wants to watch.
Josie talking with one of her coaches after her belly flop on the vault.
We joined CGA (their gymnastics gym) because it was walkable from our house. We were still car-free back then and it seemed like a good exercise for the kids. They also had homeschool classes during the day for a wide range of ages for the kids could participate together. The gym is a pretty nice place to hang out and I didn't mind spending quite a few hours there. Fast forward a couple years and Josie spends six hours a week (three days), Dema is there nine hours a week (three days), and Parker is there an hour a week. I drop and run now and rarely stay. The coaches keep us coming back. There have been times when I didn't agree with certain things, but overall they care deeply about the kids and their safety. Winning is not their top priority and this is a plus for us. I am still quite conflicted about competitive sports and I could not stomach a high pressure gym.
Josie on the 2nd place podium for bars. 
Josie showing off her medals. She medaled in everything, except vault.
This might have been Dema's worst meet in many ways. Josie competed on Saturday late morning and Dema competed first thing Sunday morning. Our neighbors had a little birthday get together Saturday evening and none of us were in bed before midnight. Lack of sleep combined with the challenging aspects of the level 5 routines made for some of his lowest scores ever, but it isn't all about the scores.  Dema stuck his back handspring on his floor routine, something that had him worried all week. He also is improving on the pommel horse and mushroom. His rings were his strength last year and while they still look good, his high beam is looking like it might be his new high point.
Dema with his vault medal looking like a gymnast.
I prefer watching male gymnastics to female...shh! don't tell Josie. The boys have six events to the girls' four events and it is almost like they are completely different sports from the way they are scored to the emphasis on strength for the boys and the overwhelming emphasis on sparkle for the girls. I love not having to deal with Dema's hair and the male uniforms look so much more functional and comfortable. So far, I think gymnastics has been a very positive part of all three of our kids' lives. Parker uses gymnastics as a weekly workout and Josie would spend every day in the gym if she could, where Dema has a more balanced view. Their vegan lifestyle does come up from time to time with the coaches or the other gymnasts, but clearly being vegan athletes comes pretty naturally to them and they are comfortable with that role.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Our Town As You Like It

A few weeks ago Parker was Sam Craig in Our Town. This is his second play with this group of homeschoolers and this particular director (one of the moms). The first was As You Like It and Parker played Jacques, complete with a solo song. It might be my favorite role of his to date.
Parker in character as the melancholy Jacques with two of his favorite homeschool friends and fellow actors.
Both productions were amazingly professional for a teen aged cast. All the kids put in a lot of hard work and they have fun while taking theater seriously. The director knows just the right balance of trust in the the kids as people and actors while giving them direction and rules. For Our Town, Parker was able to also work on the lighting crew. He loves to learn the behind the scenes ropes and he likes the added responsibility.
I don't have pictures from the play, but here is a picture of Parker and his friend, Connor, after their last performance. They have done several park district plays together too. Acting is always more fun with friends.

The performances are free, donations are encouraged, and there is no real cost for participating. I am so incredibly thankful for the World Stage Homeschool Theater Company. So many fabulous fun opportunities for the kids.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Downtown Farmers' Market

We have a new farmers' market in our town. There is pretty much a market once a day in some local location, but this one is my favorite right now. We aren't in any CSA's this year and we can't make it to the crazy big and busy Saturday market near our food co-op so Tuesdays from 4-7 downtown is the day for us.
Josie, Dema, and Parker enjoying different flavored teas from Boneyard Coffee and Tea at the downtown farmers' market.
 The farmers' market happens to be right outside the office building where Rob works now. He has worked from home for years, but now he is working for a start-up company out of California and they decided to rent some space downtown. Rob walks to work most days and on Tuesdays he comes down to join us for a bit at the market.
Josie has her Aristocats shirt on from a play she was in and one of Parker's friends is painting her face to look like a cat.
A couple of Parker's homeschooling friends face paint, at the market, for a donation. Josie gets her face painting every chance she gets and pays them with her own money. We also buy veggies and the last week we bought bread and apple butter. Dema loves finding vegan baked goods at any place so he respectfully questions all the vendors and always finds something.
Sunbutter and farmer's market apple butter on farmer's market sourdough bread, hummus and greens on sun dried tomato wrap, a square of fair trade organic vegan chocolate, organic red grapes, baked tofu squares, whole wheat tortilla quesadilla with leftover black bean soup and Daiya cheese.

Monday, September 21, 2015

(Vegan) Hot Dog Day

At Dema's school, there is an age old annual tradition called Hot Dog Day. Ugh! It is fun in a lot of ways, but not a blast for a vegan kiddo. The first two years, I sent a vegan hot dog in his lunch and called it a day, but this year his school band played for the families as they ate their hot dogs and chips so I decided to join in the fun...in our own way.
I made Dema a vegan hot dog lunch with Vegenaise, mustard, and ketchup (he really likes sauerkraut, but the last time I added it in his lunch, it made the bread soggy) on whole wheat hot dog buns, organic red grapes, siracha popcorn, and tuscan herb veggie pop chips.
Josie and I ran errands and barely got home in time for her to pack a lunch for herself and walk to Dema's school.
This is the lunch Josie packed since she is not a fan of hot dogs (vegan or not). Organic red grapes and dried cranberries, toasted vegan cheese on whole wheat bread, an apple cinnamon fig bar to share with her brother and a square piece of vegan chocolate.
 Dema is getting ready to play his clarinet. I talked to a few of the moms with food allergies and they suggested I ask for vegan hot dogs next year. This year they did provide gluten free and dairy free buns so they might be open to vegan hot dogs. We'll see. I'm happy to provide my own and it was fun to hang out with Dema and his school friends for a beautiful afternoon.
 A local health food store, Strawberry Fields, went out of business a while back and a local entrepreneur and store owner decided to revamp the place and bring it back. It used to be a great place to find vegan sweets, but started to offer store made vegan cupcakes again. I bought one for Dema and one for Josie for after school. Dema's is banana cream with chocolate chips.
Josie's cupcake was strawberry, but the other day I had a hibiscus blueberry cupcake and it was really great. The cake part is pretty dense and I'm not a big baker so I don't know what to tell them to improve the texture, but the taste is good and the icing is spot on. The old Strawberry Fields used to pile on the icing (ick!) and it was just so so. Now there is just the right amount of icing and the taste is very flavorful, not too vegan buttery or bland. I think the icing might be the best vegan icing I've had the pleasure to eat.