Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Sewing, Curry, and Islam

Life Skills:

Sewing is one of those very helpful life skills, especially for parents of theater kids, that my mom could have taught me, but she hated to sew herself so she never did. I've tried to learn a couple other times from friends, while they taught Parker, and it always frustrated me. I did some sewing in Girl Scouts when I was about Josie's age and ended up being a disaster. I was one of those kids who likes to be good at something immediately and without much effort. Getting good grades was that way for me and so was playing the clarinet, but sewing wasn't something I could just sit down and excel. Rob sews a bit and Parker remembers how to sew from when he was little. Recently, our sweet and patient neighbor offered to teach us all so I quickly took her up on it!
Vicky watching Josie work on her stitches.
Dema wasn't at all interested, but since the rest of us were going, he thought he'd go to Vicky's and pet her cat. He ended up loving sewing. He's got a lot of gangly self-conscious pre-teen energy so he wasn't the most graceful, but he really is eager to learn more!
Vicky showing Dema how to deal with thread issues.
Food:
I bought some green curry paste the other day from our local store, World Harvest, and now I can't stop making different green curry based meals. This one has brown rice, tofu, sweet peas, and broccoli rabe. Parker and I could eat curry every day, but Josie grows tired of curries and prefers beans and rice so I've been making quite of lot of burrito/bean bowl type meals too.

Activist Snippet: The year Parker was born, 2000, I read a lot. I was fortunate enough to be able to stay home with my kids for the last 17 years, but it took some getting used to since I'd had at least one full-time job and often three part-time jobs since I was 15 years old. It was weird to be home and this was before smart phones so I read a lot of books. I would nurse my newborn or lay down with him for naps and be "stuck" for hours so I had books handy everywhere around the house. It reminded me of my childhood, always having a huge stack of books bedside, reading several at a time. It was glorious! One of the authors I read in those early days of parenting, was Karen Armstrong. I have always loved to learn about religions and I find her books fascinating. It hit me today as I walked past my bookshelf that I've kept all of Karen's books even with the massive purging of books/things in our lives to get down to a more minimalistic lifestyle. It also stuck me that my 12 year old, Dema, who is currently interested in the Ottoman Empire and religion, would/should read her book Islam: A Short History. I think we might start reading it together since I last read it so many years ago. It is important to me for my kids to grow up understanding different beliefs. They had Muslim friends in their homeschooling group, Joy in Learning, and they learned about Islam a bit, but in this world of fear and misinformation, it is important to delve deeper.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Know Your Drugs, Know Your Doses Part II

Food:
It is probably pretty clear by now that I love to throw things together. I really like "clean out the pantry" meals. I had some red wine in the refrigerator and didn't feel like making risotto so I sautéed a red onion that was on sale and needed to be used immediately or composted, minced garlic, cubed a few leftover sad potatoes, and boiled them in the wine until the alcohol cooked off and the potatoes were soft. I added turmeric, black pepper, green curry paste, a bunch of kale, cubed tofu, some vegetable broth, ramen noodles, and some coconut milk. I added a bit of siracha and za'atar to mine. It was a yummy hearty meal and food didn't go to waste.

Health:

I posted five years ago about my doctor's visit and I went to the doctor for a check-up recently and decided to compare how my numbers look in my mid-40's to just turning 40. I also wanted to talk about vitamin D.

My Numbers (2 days before turning 40):
  • Blood Pressure - 102/68
  • Pulse - 72
  • Total Cholesterol - 167
  • HDL - 48
  • TC/HDL Ratio - 3.5:1 
  • LDL -110
  • Triglycerides - 43
  • Glucose -82
  • B12 -852 
My numbers now (45):
  • Blood Pressure - 108/68
  • Pulse - 67
  • Total Cholesterol - 163
  • HDL - 54
  • LDL - 90
  • Triglycerides - 93
  • Glucose - 85
  • B12 - 1183
  • D - 8.8!!!!*
*Way lower than it should be and I don't know how long it has been low because past doctors haven't wanted to check since I wasn't showing symptoms, even when I asked for it. Ugh!





I started taking vitamin D (low dose, I think it was around 600 in spray form) in winter months a couple years ago, but I never really took it religiously. I was super relaxed about it. Never again! Vitamin D is now a daily part of our routine.

Activist Snippet:

The kids, especially my 12 year old, Dema, have To Kill a Mockingbird on CD and they are listening to it over and over these days. It is on in the background as they work on math equations, it is on as they draw, it is on while they play with Legos. I realize there are some issues with this classic and it deals with racism with the white man being the "hero" of the story, but it has sparked a lot of great discussion.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Parker's 17th Birthday

Parker, my eldest, turned 17 on Sunday. It doesn't even seem possible. He and four of his friends went to a local "escape room" and had a great time then came back to our house for board games and some snacks. 
Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar Kitchen Sink Chocolate Biscotti with dried cherries and pecans.
Parker is not a huge sweets fan so he asked for biscotti instead of cake or another dessert.
Focaccia bread and samosas with mint and cilantro chutney.
 Parker loves samosas and they are easy to eat while playing games.
Clementines, chips, salsa, and guacamole.
 Parker wanted fishless tacos for the get together, but since he's the only vegan in the group and everyone was stuffed from the snacks, I made the tacos tonight.
Vegan fishless tacos.
I made the sauce out of cilantro, vegan sour cream, water, garlic, cumin, cayenne, jalapeno peppers,  lime juice, a bit of sugar, and a pinch of iodized salt. I used Gardein fishes filets, but next time I'll try tofu. Parker really loved them and I could eat anything with the sauce so I'll definitely make them again.

Parker's birth story is here. If you have little ones, hug them often. It really does fly by!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Black Bean and Kale Quesadillas, The Great Cover Up, and Reading as Rebellion

Food:

Josie was super hungry last night after gymnastics and craving burritos, but we decided on warming up some tomato soup (with focassia bread we bought that day from our local bakery), kale and black bean quesadillas on tomato basil tortillas, and bananas with peanut butter and barberries. Super quick and easy, Josie helped saute the red onions, black beans, and kale which made her forget how hungry she was until the food was ready. Everyone enjoyed it and she had time to play xbox soccer with Rob before we settled in to read more chapters of The Girl Who Drank the Moon*.

Art:

Being true to my resolution to get out and see more local bands, Rob and I made it to our towns annual "Great Cover Up" which features local bands covering famous bands often in extraordinary ways. It is a favorite event for us and it usually last two weekends so we go once to see a band we know, but this year we were there for the first night and the closing night. It was nice to go out just the two of us and great to see bands we knew and others we are getting to know.

We finally got a change to see John Isberg (the director for Listen, a short film Dema was in over the summer, and several music videos the kids have been in) and his band, Tigerbeat, play. They covered The Church. I can't wait to check them out sometime soon playing their own songs.
Ryan Groff and Kayla Brown hilariously covering Flight of the Conchords.
This year Ryan from Elsinore didn't have his band, but joined up with his friend and amazing local female singer, Kayla Brown. It was the laugh out loud fun that I needed.
Here is Ryan and Elsinore covering Whitney Houston two years ago. It will always be one of my favorites:



And three years ago as Nirvana:




We didn't weren't at the Cover Up this year, but here is Ryan as Buddy Holly:


Okay, I got a little carried away there.

Activist Snippets:

*While Rob was in California last week, I decided to revive a favorite family time. All three kids shared a room for a while and even after they split up, I used to read to them. I read the entire Harry Potter series and many other books. It can be hard to find something that appeals to a seven and a half year age range, but some of my best childhood memories are of my dad reading to me and my sister and we are seven and half years apart. I  know 17 is less than a week away for my eldest, but he humored me and my 12 and 9 year old actually asked for more reading time and we started earlier each night. My sister had just given the kids bags of books and I picked The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill at random to read aloud. It ends up being a pretty good book for our current situation in the United States. It has a government lying to their people to keep the elite in place and in power. Sometimes the best thing we can do to "resist" is bring our family closer and read together.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Gymnastics Meet with Biscotti, a Short Film with Blood, and an Activist Snippet

So much going on in our part of the world right now with the new regime installed in the US government, it is hard to think about everyday things, but life goes one between protests and calling elected officials.

Sports:

Josie attended a gymnastics meet in Indianapolis on Friday. Yes, meets sometimes start on Fridays to get everyone in. This means taking a day off school for many. We homeschool so not as much of issue for us. The boys stayed home and took care of the dogs and did the various activities they have on Fridays. Rob was traveling back from California so he couldn't come, but my sister was free and she even drove us since our car needs new tires. Not only did Karen drive, but she also made us some delicious vegan "Kitchen Sink" biscotti from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.
Josie at "her tree" in the park next to our house. She was trying to calm her nerves.
Josie was not happy to attend Circle of Stars gymnastics meet this year. Last year it was her "worst meet". It was the only meet she didn't medal, it is one biggest meet she's ever attended, she doesn't like the floor routine setup (it is a long strip instead of a square), and with the hour time difference and travel time it takes longer. She doesn't have to go to every meet so we were going to skip this one, but after talking to her, we all decided it was better to face her fears.
Josie and Karen with their cheeks full of biscotti trying to smile for me.
It was so nice having Aunt Karen there. It took Josie's mind off her worries and I liked spending some quality time with my sister. I think this is the first meet Karen has been able to attend. The biscotti were full of nuts and dried fruit, but not too heavy or sweet so the perfect pre-competition treat! I think we'll have to make these for all our meets. Josie takes clementines, carrot and celery sticks, popcorn, and sometimes energy bars in her gym bag. She doesn't eat much before a meet because of nerves and this one didn't start until 5pm so that is a long day of eating small things like vegan yogurt and fruit. The meet (including awards) didn't end until 10pm Indy time so we didn't get to eat Ethiopian like we planned, but we did find a Taco Bell. Josie has only eaten from Taco Bell maybe once or twice in her life so it is kind of a treat. They are pretty vegan friendly. Rob and I used to have to stop their on trips 20 or so years ago because we didn't have as many vegan options as we have now. My sister is also vegan and she had never ordered vegan at Taco Bell so I showed her how. It wasn't the best dinner ever, but it allowed us to get on the road and Josie needed something savory. Next time I'll bake up some tofu or something in case the meet goes long.
Josie is on the far beam in the orange and blue leo.
Josie gets off music when she gets nervous, but she made it through and that was the goal.
Usually, vault is an easy 9. something for Josie, but she stayed in the 8's for this meet. All 8.5 and above which is what her personal goal was, but definitely not her best meet if you just look at the scores.


My favorite event for Josie right now is the bars. She excels in strength, but doesn't have the control and pretty details down during competition. It is mainly mental and she'll get there. I am a competitive sports convert after years of being skeptical. I was all about cooperative games when Parker was little and tried that with the other two, but Josie was born competitive (she might get that from her father). It worried me for a long time, but after seeing her (and Dema) in gymnastics (and swim and soccer, but especially gymnastics), I realize there are so many things it teaches. My kids have learned to get back up and try again and again, making goals and achieving them, how awesome it feels to be physically fit, how to support teammates, and how to face their fears. All life skills that will stick with them long after they are done with gymnastics.

Art:

Here is a short film Parker was an extra in November. It was the first time he was able to experience blood make-up for a film. I took a picture of his "gun shot wound", but the film was released recently so I was able finally able to see it. He had a lot of fun, but it is pretty gory/graphic. ***Not suitable for all audiences.***


Activist Snippets:

(Re)Watching West Wing on Netflix got me through the GW Bush era and listening to the Hunger Games trilogy on audio book is my theme for the Trump days.
Parker's friend, Josie, Parker, and Dema at our local Women's March
Coming together with others in our community to have our voices heard, is also getting me through these dark days. What gets you through?
Our little local airport overflowing with cars and people with signs denouncing the immigration ban.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Activist Snippets - Where Do We Go From Here?

Okay, here we go.

Those of us in the United States, this is a wake-up call. We can make this into a positive. Often we grow complacent when someone is in office who seems to care about the environment/health/rights of all.

Now we know where we stand. We can not expect the government to take care of things like climate change for us. We never could, but now it is heartbreakingly clear.

What can we do in our every day lives to work toward a better life for all? 

If you are reading this, you might already be doing something. You might be vegan or converting to veganism. Awesome first step!

A local friend of mine is doing a year of not buying anything new (food excluded, of course) or used. Nothing. She's done a year before. I've been thinking about that, it is a great goal.

We went years without a car, but in the past couple years we've gotten lazy. We are definitely working on walking/biking/bussing more this year.

Another goal for me personally is getting more involved in my community. I've stepped away from community in the last few years and I think community-building is more important than ever.

Art is extremely dear to me and I found out that I've been totally naive when it comes to supporting local or not well known musicians. I thought watching their videos on YouTube or listening on Spotify was support, but it turns out that doesn't actually make much of a different to the specific artists. I will support them through attending more concerts, buying their songs/merchandise through sites like Band Camp, and telling others about them. I used to be on the board and have my own show on a local radio station. I haven't supported local stations lately and need to get back to it. Art looks like it is going to take a big hit the next four years.

What are you doing? I'd love to hear how you all are getting through the next four years and beyond. How are you making a difference in your daily life? I need inspiration!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Instant Pot Adventures - New England Glam Chowder

I knew I wanted to make a soup last night. There is a lot of illness going around and Dema hasn't been feeling great. Soup is always a comfort food, but also for healing, in my mind. We've also had no sun and lots of fog, rain, drizzle, which makes everyone a bit off. Soup to the rescue!

I haven't looked through a cookbook in a while so I turned to Isa Does It! for inspiration. I found her New England Glam Chowder recipe. I'd never made it before and I could see right away how I could use the Instant Pot.

I didn't really follow the recipe, but I used it as a rough guide. I sautéed red onion and minced garlic in a bit of leftover red wine in the Instant Pot. Once the wine cooked off, I added cubed white potatoes, two large carrots chopped, and one cup of vegetable broth. I didn't see a lot of herbs in Isa's recipe and I always add turmeric if I can so I added a bit of iodized salt, turmeric, black pepper, and oregano. Red lentils are a soup staple for me. I add them as much as possible since they give everything an easy nutrient boost.

After I threw in the lentils, I added three more cups of water and a better than bouillon cube. The recipe called for soaked cashews and I never soak my cashews. I was also too lazy to use the Vitamin so I added the cashews, as is (raw pieces), to the Instant Pot. I stirred it all together and pressure cooked it for ten minutes. After the Instant Pot was done, I knew I was going to puree everything that had just cooked, but I didn't want the entire soup to be smooth.
Mushrooms and veggies being added to the pureed soup base.
While the base for the soup was cooking, I put the mushrooms in my cast iron pan to cook them with more turmeric, black pepper, and za'atar. When the mushrooms were almost done, I added two diced carrots (Josie hates mushy carrots so I wanted some carrots to have some crunch left), two diced celery stalks, one diced red pepper, and one bunch of kale chopped. When the Instant Pot was finished, I pureed the ingredients with some chickpea flour, nutritional yeast, tomato paste, and lemon juice added. Then I dumped the mushrooms and veggies into the Instant Pot to mix them in and keep the soup warm. At the end, I tore up a nori sheet and added that to the soup.
New England Glam Chowder with chipotle seitan crumbles and a slice of Pain de Julia bread from our local bakery.
I also warmed up some chipotle seitan crumbles for an optional topping on the soup. It came together very quickly, was warming and filling, and Rob (the only person in the family to ever try real clam chowder) said it was pretty clam chowder tasting. I would skip the nori next time because I really can't stand fishy taste or I wold have it optional since the rest of the family seemed to like it. The kids prefer smooth soups and Rob prefers chunky so this was a perfect compromise and I'll definitely make it again. It was fun to modify a recipe to incorporate the Instant Pot. I feel like I'm getting more familiar with ways to use the IP. I love it for keeping soup warm because I could never just leave a soup this tick on my stove burner set at low without a lot of babysitting. I could have cooked the base for less time, but I wanted to make sure the lentils were done, the potatoes were soft, and the cashews could be pureed easily. I also wasn't in a hurry.

Going back to my How Not to Die app, I will just count everything even if when eating a bowl of soup you might not get an entire serving. This meal has a "serving" of greens, all your your "other veggies", nuts, spices, and a "serving" of beans. I had a big spinach salad for lunch with three kinds of beans, dried cranberries, quinoa, broccoli, sunflower seeds, etc. so I was already pretty well set as far as HNtD and this soup got me over the hump. Most days I'm in the 70% without even thinking about it, but I don't always get everything in daily. I love days when I reach 100% on the app!