Sunday, August 28, 2016

What We Did Over the Summer - Film

One of favorite things about our community is the local theater/film scene. It is quite special. The kids look forward to Pens to Lens time every year. Parker has written scripts for three years, the boys have acted in the films for three years, and now Josie joined in for the acting this year. We were involved in more films this year than ever and the kids were in heaven. It is a lot of work, but truly their favorite thing to do.

Dema, Parker, and Josie at the Pens to Lens 2016 Gala.
Parker's Pens to Lens 2016:
Parker and his girlfriend, Zoey at the Pens to Lens 2016 Gala.
This year Parker's screenplay was made into a short film. Parker absolutely loves acting in the films, but having his idea and words brought to the screen was a new big thrill. The local newspaper interviewed Parker this year.

Parker with the director for The Star Prince.
Parker with one of the adult actors (and a director of a different film) in The Star Prince and The Star Prince director.
The Search for Pizza

Hello Fear

Parker with his Hello Fear "mom". She was also his 6th grade drama teacher.
Hello Fear director and screen writer with Parker.
Fast Rodney, Who Was On His Way Out
I am so proud to have four out of our five family members involved in this short film.
Fast Rodney's director with some of the cast and crew.

Dema's Pens to Lens 2016:
Dema was cast in Listen several weeks before shooting started. I was able to read the script and I knew immediately I would love this film. It is so touching and I am so proud Dema was able to be a part of this short. It is a subject close to my heart since my mother died of cancer 14 years ago. When I saw Listen on the big screen, I couldn't stop crying.
Dema with his "mom", the producer, and director of Listen.

Josie's Pens to Lens 2016:
Josie with her director and co-stars of Bumps in the Night.
Josie with the cast, crew, director, and screen writer for Bumps in the Night. Notice Josie had two dresses for the Gala. There was an afternoon block of films and an evening block. She changed between the two into her evening dress (the blue one).

The kids are called on stage after the viewing of their films. Josie was the only child in attendance for Goldfish (see below) and she was on stage for Bumps in the Night.
Parker sat with his friends and Josie sat with her Bumps in the Night director and cast. Here they are both called up to go on stage.
Dema and Josie on the red carpet for the evening block of films.
Josie was an extra (a "mean girl" at the beginning, blink and you miss her) in Goldfish and our friends were involved in acting, etc. so please check it out.

We were so fortune to work with so many gifted people from the screen writers to the directors, producers, cast (adults and kids), and all the crew who give of their time, their space, and their talents to make this annual event a success. It is such an awesome experience for everyone involved.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Inspiration - Teens in the Kitchen

Parker is cooking more and more these days. All three kids go in cooking spurts, sometimes they are super interested and eager to help or go it alone in the kitchen, other times I don't see them until they are ready to eat. It makes sense, I am that way too.

I bought Parker his first cookbook, well the first one that really belongs to him and he will take when he moves out in a couple years. I chose The Vegan Stoner Cookbook (I highly recommend checking out the blog) because the recipes are simple, easy to follow, and make the right amount of food for a college student on his own. On his own. Sixteen snuck up on me and now I can barely look at Parker without seeing him on his own.

He thinks about it a lot too and is eager to learn some life skills and take some least in the kitchen.
Ingredients: olive oil, garlic, onions, better than bouillon cube (low salt), water, parsley, thyme, turmeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, green beans, mushrooms, broccoli, bell peppers, tofu, and soy milk.
 Parker is often inspired by food he eats in restaurants. This one is a creamy vegetable soup that he ate years ago in a Thai restaurant. This soup wasn't on the menu and we frequented the restaurant and got to know the owners/chef. The chef made this vegan soup just for our kids.
Parker made this Thai red curry over brown rice that is similar to a dish I make and
a healthier version of something we get at our favorite Thai restaurant.

He is thinking about starting his own vegan cooking show on YouTube. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, May 8, 2016


As an adult, I don't remember liking my birthday. Special days are stressful and too much pressure.  I like spontaneous fun days, flowers for no reason, cards just to say "I'm thinking of you", but I cringe at days that are designated as special. 

I might have liked my first mother's day, but after my mother died, I didn't really like mother's day either. 

What I do like is looking at my kids and my family and trying to enjoy them every day of the year. I won't lie, that can be difficult at times. But each and every day, even the really tough ones, I am very thankful to have these three amazing people in my life. These people who call me mom.
Parker 16
Dema 12.
Josie 8.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Food on the Go

Parker spends a lot of his time outside of the house. He has several families he babysits for on a regular basis, a girlfriend, dance class, pottery class, and other friends. He likes to play D and D or Magic the Gathering when he has time. We have a great gaming store that is just a few miles from our house and Parker will usually take food to eat while he's there. 
This is a normal snack/meal on the go for him. It is quick, fits well in the To-Go Ware. I baked the tofu earlier in the day, Josie roasted the green beans with a bit of olive oil, black pepper, and iodized sea salt, and Parker whipped up some vegan mac and cheese with white beans. It saves Parker money from eating out and he prefers this type of food to take out.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Scrambled Vegan Eggs

Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg scrambled "eggs".
Our local food co-op had a sale on Follow Your Heart Vegan Egg so I decided it was a great time to take this intriguing product for a spin.

It comes in a box that looks a bit like an small egg carton, but inside is a powder. You add a couple tablespoons of the powder to cold water and whisk. I decided scrambled would be our first experiment with this new product. I made the equivalent of two eggs and it was very easy to make and clean up, it didn't stick to our cast iron pan.

Parker (16) and Josie (8) who have never eaten eggs in their lives, but have eaten their share of tofu scrambles over the year, ate all of the Vegan Egg so I didn't get to try them. They were a little put off by the sulfur smell while we whisked the mixture, but they both gave the finished product high praise. I added kale and kalamata olives, along with some yellow sprinkle.
Equivalent of three Vegan Eggs scrambling in cast iron.
The next day, the kids asked for more and since Dema (12) didn't get any the first time, I made a bigger batch. Parker did most of the work and he added parsley and a bit of Daiya cheddar. Dema was not a fan, I think it was texture mainly, but Parker still liked scrambled Vegan Eggs even cold. I still didn't get to try them.

I think our next experiment will be French toast.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Evolution of an Eatery or Everyone Needs a Second Chance

For a college town, we don't have a lot of vegetarian/vegan restaurant options. We only have one 100% vegan full-time restaurant in town, Dancing Dog. The other vegan restaurant, Red Herring, is student run and usually open only when classes are in session for lunch and sometimes for dinner, it depends on the semester. When Dancing Dog opened late 2014 or early 2015, we were pretty excited.  We really wanted a vegan restaurant to succeed in our area. I don't think I've ever blogged about it because initially we were less than impressed. The space is not really family or even bigger group friendly so we could tell right away it wasn't going to be our new go to place to eat. It has a great little hipster feel, which isn't bad, necessarily, and most of the new places downtown have that vibe. We cook some really good food at home so we eat out rarely these days to be healthier and save money. When we eat out at vegan restaurants in Chicago, the food is memorable so we tend to save our restaurant splurge for times when we are in bigger cities. When Dancing Dog first opened  they were serving Gardein and other pre-package vegan convenience foods at a higher price which made no sense for us. Our non-vegan friends seemed to like the place, so we kept our mouths shut. We would try back from time to time and gradually things have gotten better. 

This week was spring break for our town and Rob was working on the sailboat (a topic for a future blog post) so I decided to take the kids to Dancing Dog on a whim. Four is a much more manageable number at this eatery and Dema had some things to celebrate. We were all pleasantly surprised on how things have evolved at Dancing Dog since our first visit.
Dema with his vegan Reuben and fries.
Dema absolutely loves the vegan Reuben at Common Ground Food Co-op so I should have suggested he order something else, but he did enjoy his Dance Dog Reuben and said it was a close second. The sandwich filled him up so he barely touched his fries. I'm not sure what ketchup they use, but it always tastes a little off to us. We buy unsweetened at home so we may just have a different palate, but they don't usually mind ketchup at restaurants. Josie said the ketchup tastes like cinnamon so I wonder if they make it in house or add spices to it. The menu describes the Reuben as "Corned beef style house seitan and sauerkraut sit perfectly on grilled rye with Swiss cheeze and 1,000 Island dressing".
Parker's DD Burger and fries.
Parker thoroughly enjoyed his Dancing Dog burger and again he couldn't finish his fries (but he came closer). It appears the burger is made in house, which is always a plus to me. When we dine out, I want the food to be something I couldn't easily make at home. The menu describes the burger as "fresh avocado and chipotle aioli top our burger made from black beans, roasted sweet potatoes, corn, red bell pepper, red onion, millet, and oats with spices. All of this piled onto a whole-wheat bun with lettuce, tomato, and onion".
My Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Roasted Vegetables and Quinoa Corn Salad.
I don't usually go for grilled cheeze sandwiches, but I liked the sound of pesto, what sounded like house made cheeze, and option of adding roasted vegetables. I was not disappointed. I would definitely order this sandwich again and with the quinoa corn salad side, I was full, but not uncomfortably so and I felt like it was a pretty healthy for restaurant fare. The cheeze tasted great, but did get a little clumpy as it cooled and tried to slide out of the sandwich as I would take a bite. This made it a bit messy, but that is my only critique. The roasted veggies really added to the sandwich. I remember seeing eggplant and zucchini, but I was too busy eating to really notice much more. I love quinoa with black beans and corn so I would would add a full entree salad with this as the star, but I'll settle for having it as a side. The menu describes the Pesto Grilled Cheeze as "a blend of our signature cashew and almond cheezes, spinach pesto, 
and fresh tomato slices served on grilled seven-grain bread".
Josie's Pesto Grilled Cheeze with Avocado Slices and Creamy Coleslaw.
Josie ordered the Pesto Grilled Cheeze too, but with the optional avocado slices instead of roasted vegetables. Josie really loves the red cabbage savoy slaw from Common Ground Food Co-op so she went with the creamy coleslaw as her side. Josie raved about the grilled cheese, but the slaw was not her favorite. I ate a few bites, but it was way too sweet for my taste.

All four of us decided we need to eat at Dancing Dog Eatery & Juicery more often. They have come a long way and we look forward to trying other options on their menu and seeing what they come up with next. I feel confident now suggesting Dancing Dog to friends (vegan or not) and I really appreciate having this establishment in our community. They were hosting a clothing swap the day we were there, which is an awesome non-traditional use of their upstairs space. Several local short films have used Dancing Dog as a location and they display local art. I heard one of the employees mention that they compost. Support of culture, bringing people together, and caring about the environment go a long way to making me feel even better about giving this evolving eatery my money.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Spring Break 2016

Our sweet neighbors wanted to go out of town with us during spring break, but I needed to take care of several dogs (over this one week, I will have five extra dogs at different times), Rob's work has been crazy busy and he's about to leave for a sailing trip in Florida soon, Dema started having full blown panic attacks (more on that in another post), Parker would rather stay in town to see his friends who attend public school and are on break this week, and Josie was bummed to not travel with Vicky and Greg due to our excuses. So I let Josie tag along with Parker and his homeschool buddies at the skating rink one evening, Vicky and Greg took them to a movie one afternoon and bouldering another afternoon. Josie also was able to play in the park a lot with the neighborhood kids since the weather for the first part of the week was beautiful. It hasn't been too bad of a time after all.
Josie doing the splits in one of her favorite Magnolia trees in our park.
Josie spends a good portion of her park time in the trees.
Josie doesn't skate often, but she loves it and she was pretty good about leaving Parker and his girlfriend alone to skate together.
The teens even let Josie join in laser tag.
Josie was so happy our little friend Dory loves the window seat. She only spent one night with us, but she is loads of energy and fun.
Josie helps me brush the dogs who stay with us. Lara is waiting her turn as her play pal, Lola, enjoys some belly grooming.
The dogs all want to be together and with us, but they also like their own space. You can just see Lara in the background on the couch, Romeo likes to hang out near his cage when he isn't snuggling with us, Lola loves to spread out on the floor, while Gracie is cuddled up on her dog bed just out of the picture to the right.
Dema rocking the new bouldering gym.

You can take the kid out of the gymnastics gym, but you can't take the gymnastics out of the kid. All three of my children can't resist climbing ropes and gymnastics rings.