Thursday, November 29, 2007

Maiden Voyage or Why People Drive Minivans

I think I mentioned before that while Josie is too young to go on the bike seat or in the bike trailer that I was going to start walking more so Rob ordered stroller wheels for our Chariot bike trailer (something we haven't used much because of the Xtracycle and the fact that the kids prefer not to be in the trailer and like riding on the Xtracycle instead). The idea was that as the weather gets colder the kids could stay warm, but we still wouldn't have to use the car as much. Since the bus isn't the most efficient way to get around town time-wise, I didn't think I'd loose much walking and I'd get some much needed exercise. When visiting Chicago and New York City we walk for miles and miles and don't think much of it, how bad could it be walking around my little college town?

The wheels arrived right before we set off for North Carolina so I was eager to try them out when we arrived back in Illinois. At first I waited for Rob to put the wheels on since he is great at all things mechanical and then I realized it really couldn't be easier. I popped them on and I was ready to go.

The kids were super excited and couldn't wait. Josie was tucked in the mei tai baby carrier under my Suse's Kindercoat snug as a little baby snuggled next to her mama (of course nursing the majority of the way there and home). I had several packages to mail at the post office and Parker wanted to walk for a while so I buckled Dema in and put the packages next to him (they took up more room than he did). We set off.

First stop, post office which would sort of be in the general direction of our next stop, my friend Christie's house to see the latest amazing remodeling she has done (most of it herself!) to her house. I called to tell her we were on our way and it should be about an hour since I had to stop at the post office first.

Parker walked the 1.5 miles to the post office instead of riding in the Chariot (since at this point there was no room for him and he wanted to walk anyway) which meant that 1.5 miles took us as hour....yes, that is right, an hour...well give or take 10 or 15 minutes since I looked at the time after I mailed my packages and there was a line and I had to fill out a customs form, yadda, yadda, yadda. I called my friend and said it would be another 45 minutes probably (I was thinking she was maybe 2 miles from where we were and I was still working on estimating walking time while carrying a 14 lb baby and pushing a large bike trailer with 90 or so lbs. of children and diaper bag in it).

We arrived at my friends house fine (later than estimated) and it was a great walk, but after we stayed for a little while it was already dark and Rob wanted to go to the gym together after work. I decided that was not going to happen for me since I had no idea how long it would be to get home. But, we were all getting hungry and the spelt pretzels I put in the pocket of the Chariot was not going to cut it. I left thinking I could book it home and maybe even stop and pick up something for dinner on the way. Then I remember I didn't have the key to the bike lock and it was dark and the Chariot does not fit easily into buildings so I scratched that idea. Thank goodness because I probably would have spent the night at the restaurant. Rob sweetly agreed to pick up burritos on his way home from work.

By the time I made it home (I figured out the mileage on the computer map site and it was 9 miles round trip, not the 6 miles I was thinking), I realized this should not have been our maiden voyage and I had bitten off more than I should have on that particular day. I feel like I could have become a sort of a Midwestern reality show version of Into the Wild..."Out of shape housewife takes her life and the lives of her 3 children into her own hands braving the elements without food and very little water. Her motivation? Environmental footprint guilt and health (ironic in the end)."

The mistakes I made:

1. I didn't eat more than a couple bites of food before embarking on our journey. I fed the kids oatmeal, but I had a customer coming over and other work things to do so I may have eaten a bite or two that they left in their bowls, I don't think I even did that. My customer was here for a while so by that time she left the kids were hungry again and I fed them quick sandwiches (I didn't feel like a sandwich, but I ate a bite or two of Parker's 3rd sandwich).
2. I didn't factor in the nursing most of the way with all of our water needs. I may have gotten dehydrated. I only took an 18 oz. Klean Kanteen with me (I usually take a 40 oz.) and all of that went to the pretzel eating kids on the way from the post office to my friends house.
3. I love my Suse's Kinder babywearing coat, but I was a little overdressed underneath so I was sweating quite a bit with my little heater next to me. I had to keep the coat zipped up most of the time because of the wind.
4. I under-estimated the mileage and over-estimated my lazy haven't gotten off my butt since the baby was born body. I mean I walked only nine miles and it took me almost 3 1/2 hours!! Pitiful! Of course, I was carrying 14 extra pounds on my front attached to my breast most of the time and pushing a large trailer with children in it...I know I mentioned this before and yes I am making up excuses.

I was fine when I got home, but I was a little sore and hungry. Thanks to Rob for picking up supper on the way home from work on his bike.

Things I thought about:

1. I think about this often, but I am always struck with how much detail we miss out on when we drive our cars or even to a lesser degree ride our bikes. To get into life we must walk (check out the book Planetwalker by John of my all time favorite books autobiographies and a reason I am embarrassed that I even complain in jest about a nine mile stroll).
2. Why aren't there beat cops anymore? I am guessing there aren't because I never see them. In my neighborhood and other older neighborhoods around our town, the postpeople (mailmen, except ours is a women so I'm not sure what the right word is right now) walk. They do have their truck, but they park it a walk a couple blocks and come up to our door so I know them and they know me. Our police or peace officers (I think this might be the new term) should get out of their cars and walk the neighborhoods again. Yes, I walked past the police station on my way home.
3. I was lonely walking with three other people. I couldn't talk to the boys because with the wind and the plastic covering keeping the sprinkles off (I didn't mention it started to rain) of them. This is why I've always disliked is hard to communicate with the people in the stroller. I didn't want to talk to Josie because if she was awake she was happily nursing and I didn't want to distract her with the reality outside of her little pouch like life inside my coat.
4. I thought walking would be probably the least efficient way of getting around town (with 3 children in tow at least), but possibly the safest. Not true, not true. I was hit (pun intended) more than ever with the fact that we live in a car world. On my way home, since it was dark, I decided to take the most direct and well lit sidewalks which also coincide with the busiest streets. I did not matter that I waited for the crosswalk sign or that I was pushing a huge yellow reflective object in front of me, more than once a car had to break shocked that someone was actually walking in the crosswalk...the nerve! I would have been better off on campus since there are more peds there and safety in numbers, but I was big with the Chariot and didn't want to get in the way and that would have been a short part of the adventure anyway.

I now understand the lure of the minivan.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Southern Hospitality

We always seem to travel on long car trips when our children are only a couple months old. On top of this, all of our children have gone through a pretty long period of hating their car seat. We are insane. This picture is one of the few times Josie was in her car seat and not extremely unhappy about it. We drove to North Carolina to see Rob's family, especially his grandmother (she is 95 years old and has cancer...more on her in another post). Usually, we like to spend Thanksgiving at home and my family comes over for a big vegan feast. Thanksgiving is one of those holidays which is pretty vegan unfriendly so it is nice to have it on our turf. Before my mother died, she would do a wonderful vegan friendly Thanksgivings at her house, but other than this exception it was just easier to host Thanksgiving at our place wherever we lived. This year, it was more important for us to be at his grandmother's house with all the relatives. It was one of our most pleasurable trips down south.

When we travel to Charlotte, NC (where Rob's father, brother, sister-in-law, niece live) we try to time our stop so we can eat in Asheville, NC or even spent the night there. We like Asheville. It is easy to get a good vegan meal, shopping or just window shopping is nice (we have a couple toy stores we like to go to with nice wooden toys and two outside gear stores plus all the interesting shops downtown), there is an Earth Fare if we need to buy organic produce, soy milk, snacks, etc.

Per usual we stopped and ate at the Laughing Seed for brunch on Sunday. Rob and I had the Eggless Benedict (could have been called something else, but I didn't write it down). I've never had Eggs Benedict so I can't compare it to that, but it was very yummy. The boys had pancakes and a breakfast burrito. It was way too much food, but we had our to-go containers and we ate all the leftovers eventually.

We were hit both times we were in Asheville this trip how friendly everyone was. We had a two separate woman at the Laughing Seed come up and chat for quite a while about Josie and the boys. It was nice, but Rob feels like Asheville is too "artsy" now. He was little down on Boulder hen we ere there a couple months ago. I think he is getting old and crumudgeony.

Rob's brother, Marc, and his family kept us for three days. It was so nice to stay in one place for a little while and not have to drive anywhere. Marc made sure we had some food in the refrigerator and Stephanie (his wife) had gifts for all of us. The kids were so happy to play with their cousin Lillian and their new toys. I loved the clothes for Josie (some of them organic cotton, yeah!) and a gift card for a bookstore so that gave us a great reason to head out to one of our favorite bookstores near their house. They boys had a great time swimming with Lillian at the YMCA. They have a very nice facility with indoor pools (even in North Carolina it would have been too cold to swim outside). Rob swam with the three kids while Stephanie, Mike (Rob's dad), Josie, and I watched.

Marc and Stephanie met in the restaurant business so we never worry about food when we go visit with them. Marc made some vegan chili one night (Parker te two bowls), Rob and Marc made a stir fry one night, and Stephanie made grits for breakfast. The also took us out to Thai one night so no one would have to do dishes. Staying with them is always nice and feels like home. Rob never gets enough sleep because he stays up watching movies with his brother and Parker took full advantage of the TV in our room (it is a treat for him since we don't have one at home...he did learn some stuff from the history channel). I can't believe how big our niece Lillian is getting. She seems so grown up!

We drove a few hours to Clayton to have lunch with Rob's grandmother on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It is always nice to have a few hours with her before everyone is there. It was hard to see MaMa (that is what everyone calls her). I have to take a second to explain this because people always ask and it is confusing. Dema (who has only seen MaMa a few times) was very confused this visit and kept asking if MaMa was his "real" mom and I kept explaining that I really am his "real" mom and yes, he came out of my uterus. MaMa is really Rob's grandmother. Dema has never known any other grandmother since both Rob's and my mother died before Dema was born. Anyway, it is not pronounced "mama", but "MaMa". I can't even do it justice. It seems to come naturally to the family so it may be a southern accent thing (Rob doesn't really have an accent, but it does come out a bit when he talks about or to his grandmother). So when Rob's cousins talk about their mother and their grandmother it is hard to tell the difference to my Midwestern ear, but I figure it out from the context. Whew, now that is over, I will just call her Joyce.

Joyce is a fiercely independent, strong woman and the picture of her is from a previous visit. You hear people say things like "They don't make them like her anymore." and it is true. She is a hard worker, strong in her religious conviction, and loves being surrounded by family (although they better stay out of her way, especially in her kitchen). She is 95, I believe, and a year ago she was as strong as ever, living on her own (her husband died when Parker was young), "putting up" (canning to you city folk) bushels of whatever she grew her self, taking care of others, cooking, running things, etc. My understanding is that they found skin cancer and it had already forward to this year and she has most of one arm gone, she was sitting in a chair napping with oxygen, she is not eating much, and she has become hard to understand when she talks. They have hospice care coming in daily now and someone from the family (usually Rob's uncle and sometimes his aunts) has to stay with her round the clock. She is still an amazingly strong person, but it was sort of a shock just to see her sitting down during the day sleeping. I am so glad we were all able to see her.

Dwight, Rob's uncle, cooked us lunch and his cousin Casey and her beautiful daughters were there to visit with us. The boys had a great time playing with her girls and it really makes me wish we lived closer to cousins for them. Dwight made a bunch of vegetables, just like Joyce would have. Parker loves eating at MaMa's. It is so funny because it is usually just a bunch of vegetables; corn, turnips, butter beans, black eyed peas, green beens, sweet potatoes, etc., but you would think it was a gourmet meal the way he eats a plate full and then a second plate full. Maybe it is because most of it is grown right and "put up" right there on her land or maybe he just likes the whole experience. It does remind me that children like simplicity at times and sometimes it is best to just heat up some vegetables and beans and let them at it. This is what we ate the next day there for Thanksgiving (just sub in some collards for the turnips...yum, collards!) and it was just as good and the boys were just as happy to eat it all. I thought we might cook something special for them to take, but we just bought a vegan pumpkin pie and vegan carrot cake in Charlotte Earth Fare before we left and they were super happy to eat all the veggies and then have the special dessert. Dema, as usual, put more emphasis on dessert than Parker, but it was a very nice Thanksgiving.

The best part of Thanksgiving was staying Wednesday night at Rob's cousin Camille's house with her four beautiful children. She has three girls (one a month older than Josie) and one boy (he is a twin and was pretty happy to have other boys to play with for a change). It was so nice to visit with them in their brand new house (just moved in a couple weeks before). Casey and Camille are sisters (Rob's youngest aunt's daughters) and Rob didn't know them quite as well growing up because they are so much younger (my age and a little younger, thank you very much) and it is so nice getting to know them better. On Thanksgiving day almost all the relatives were at MaMa's and it was great fun for the boys to play in the field with the other kids. Dwight gave the kids a tractor ride both days and it just doesn't get better than that for my boys.

Thursday and Friday night we were back at Marc and Stephanie's in Charlotte. Friday night we went out to eat at Shanghai in Charlotte with Rob's family and a couple who've been friends of the family since Rob was little. It was a very nice dinner and almost anything on the menu could be made vegan. I didn't get a picture of it, but the best thing we ordered was the General Tso's. The picture is of Vegetarian Duck Shanghai Style and the Vegetarian Chicken with Vegetables. The food took a while, but we did have a ten people. The owner was very personable and funny.

We were eager to get home and had a long drive ahead of us, but sad to leave everyone. The weather was beautiful and I was not in a big hurry to get back to Illinois for that reason alone. We stopped in Asheville again at the Laughing Seed on Saturday. I had the Indian Thali (without the yogurt sauce) and Parker ate some of mine. It was good and healthier than the Indian we ate Sunday in Indianapolis at Udupi. The boys shared the Hempburger with fries and it was very good. Rob had the old standby the Harmony Bowl which I didn't take a picture of. A woman asked me as we were leaving the restaurant what the boys ate because she felt the Indian Thali was too spicy. I said they shared some of mine and had the hemp burger and she was surprised by what they ate and chatted for a while. It is very friendly in Asheville. I wish the Laughing Seed was closer.

Overall, it was a very nice trip and although it is sad because we may never see Rob's grandmother or possibly even visit the farm again, it was nice to see her and all of his relatives.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Run, Turkey, Run...

far away from most Thanksgiving books.

I was with Parker at the library this weekend to quickly pick something up while Rob, Josie, and Dema were waiting outside. We were in the children's section of our favorite library and I said under my breath while walking past the Thanksgiving book display (which happened to be across from the librarians' desk) "There are no good Thanksgiving books" (shaking head sadly). Well, two or our friendly librarians were not going to let me get away with that comment, even if it wasn't directed at them.

Librarian 1 (friend of Parker and Dema's...they love to chat even when we run into her outside of the library): What type of book are you looking for. (very cheery, let me help you tone)
Me: Well, we're vegan see and so most Thanksgiving books are, well, not for us.
Librarian 1: Oh, yeah, right. (muttering under her voice and typing on her computer)
She mentioned a couple books and since I was trying to be nice, I asked her to write them down and I thought we could still get out of there. Then she asks Librarian 2 about vegetarian themed Thanksgiving books.
Librarian 2: I'm vegetarian so I'm sure I can find something. (She had the cheerful tone now since it was all gone from Librarian 1's voice.)
A long time went by and both librarians were working hard for us so I had to take the books. I didn't even get into the political/historical reasons I don't like most Thanksgiving books...I'll save that for next year.

Here is what we walked out with:

Run, Turkey, Run by Diane Mayr
I've seen this one in book stores and I wasn't super impressed. The boys like the presumably vegetarian daughter who wants the turkey to get away, but being vegan they weren't happy with the cheese sandwiches the farmer's family ended up eating for Thanksgiving. I really think they could have done better with this one.

Thanks & Giving All Year Long by Marlo Thomas and friends
There are some vegan friendly stories in this one and some not. Overall, the kids really enjoyed it and it was fun for me to read what the celebs had to contribute. Point of View by Shel Silverstein is always a good one. I also liked What Nana Told Her by Deepak Chopra and others. There were some stories/poems I didn't like and although Rob and I laughed at the end of Teeny Meany by David Slavin, I can understand some parents not wanting to read this one to their kids. Overall, I'm glad we checked this book out. The royalties from this book are donated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The Ugly Pumpkin by Dave Horowitz
We've checked this book out before and the kids liked it. It is an ugly duckling story with vegetables. I don't understand why they had to use a skeleton on one page, I guess for Halloween, but some of the illustrations are a little scary and I had to explain things to Dema. I never know what Dema is going to be sensitive about and he didn't like the trees throwing apples at the "ugly pumpkin". I have issues with the illustration at the end where the squash is sitting down to eat and there is turkey on the table. This ending kind of ruins the story for me.

Giving Thanks A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp
A book about giving thanks for everything around us which gives us life. At the end of the book the words are given in the Mohawk language. Parker reminded me when we returned home from the library that we already own this book. We also own the next book which is nice because I liked both of them.

Giving Thanks by Jonathan London
Similar to the book by Chief Jake Swamp. A father and son walk through the day giving thanks for everything around them. I like books about giving thanks which aren't necessarily about Thanksgiving the holiday.

Of course, we've had our old standby for years...

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving by Dav Pilkey
This is my favorite vegan-friendly Thanksgiving picture book. Obviouisly, there aren't a lot to choose from though. We've had this book since Parker was very little and it is still a favorite. I like the message and the illustrations. I've given this book many times as a gift. Although Parker still enjoys any book, even picture books, I need to spend time looking for Thanksgiving books which are aimed at an older audience.

We are striving to be more mindful of what we are thankful for throughout the year. I am extremely thankful for my family.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Back on Track

Last night it was a rainy mess so I picked up Rob instead of him riding his bike home as usual. To make the car trip worthwhile I suggested we go workout at the gym. I am embarrassed to admit this was my first trip to the gym since Josie was born. Yes, I've been to a bar or two, but not the gym...priorities. It feels good to get back to it.

Josie enjoyed the workout (she was asleep in the mei tai the entire time). I received a few looks from others at the gym, but I've worked out (in different gyms) with all my kids and the gym I belong to now if very big on starting good fitness habits early (maybe not at 2 1/2 months). It brought bag memories of Parker in the Baby Bjorn (I don't recommend these carriers) when he was little and I was on the treadmill. Parker loved working out at the gym as he got older so maybe it worked! He would walk the track (at a gym we used to have basically in our backyard at our old house) with my sister and me while Dema rode on my back in the Ergo.

Of course, I prefer to get exercise outside, but the gym is nice when it gets rainy and/or cold out. We ordered the stroller attachments to our Chariot bike trailer so I can walk for longer distances with the kids. We walked to the park today (1.5 miles away) with the boys on their bikes and Josie in a mei tai. It was nerve wracking because Dema stops right at the edge of where I feel comfortable when he gets to the streets. I plan on putting the boys in the Chariot and wearing Josie.We rarely ever used a stroller since as babies the kids didn't like them (who would want to be in a stroller when they can be right next to mom?!). Right before we sold the jogging stroller we'd been generously been given when he was born, Parker wanted a ride in it so here is Parker in the stroller with Dema on my back a couple years ago.

I hope to get back into an exercise schedule since I told you all about it, maybe that will be incentive.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Monday Movie Review

Monday Movie Review

I didn't actually watch this movie over the weekend. We rented it a while ago, but for some reason I was the only one who watched it. I would love to watch it again with Rob. I really liked this movie and I decided to review it since we are getting ready to go to North Carolina to visit Rob's grandmother (more about this amazing woman in a future blog entry). Most of the movie is set in North Carolina and all of the characters were interesting to me and complex. I've mentioned before that I prefer movies where no one is "good" and "bad", but human. This is such a movie. I remember liking this one so much, I watched it with the commentary on a second time long after I should have fallen asleep. I really like the women in this movie and the commentary was the two female leads which was well worth listening to. This is not a "family movie" due to sexual content, I wouldn't watch it with my children. It is a family movie in the sense that it is very much about family, family dynamics, family dysfunction, etc.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Two Bean Orange Hummus

I had the best of intentions. I have been reading through Dreena Burton's new cookbook Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan (which is the best vegan cookbook title ever!). I couldn't decide what recipe to start with and then I decided since it has a whole section devoted to hummus and I am a devoted hummus eater that I would start with the first hummus recipe listed and go through them one by delicious one.
Eat, Drink & Be Vegan: Everyday Vegan Recipes Worth Celebrating
The first recipe is Black Bean and Orange Hummus. Well, I didn't take the time to see if I had all the ingredients before I jumped in with both feet and started putting things in the food processor. I am like this, it is a sickness. I asked Rob how many cups he thought were in a can of black beans and he said "maybe two...why?" with that voice which means he doesn't quite approve of the fact that I am obviously deviating from a new recipe on the first ingredient. Well, the recipe called for more than 2 cups, but not four cups so my math genius husband told me how to decrease each ingredient to make it come out and I waved the annoying buzzing sound (Rob's voice) in my ear away and went forward with no real plan while he left the kitchen shaking his head. I was thinking, "How can you really mess up hummus?"

I went through with more ingredients. The second important ingredient you can guess from the title of the recipe is orange...fresh squeaked oranges to be exact. I didn't have any oranges (Dema begged me to buy some a the store the other day, but they didn't look good...not such a great time of year for oranges I am guessing, even in the country which has every food available all year round). I decided calcium-fortified orange juice was just going to have to do (even though I saw "orange zest" later on in the recipe...I really could not be bothered by details).

Fresh parsley was on the list and I was sure we had dried parsley, but no. You get the picture. I processed it all and I was bummed it was so liquidy. Rob was not surprised and asked if I cut down on the liquid ingredients and I had, some, but not enough obviously. I searched for another can of black beans and Rob searched the freezer for some. No luck. I did have chickpeas so I through another can in and voila. It actually tasted really good.

So, if you have Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan, please make Dreena's hummus recipe. If you don't have Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan, go out and purchase it NOW, but if you order it online so you will wait a couple days for the cookbook and want to try what I made first I've included the recipe since it no longer really resembles hers. Then you can make her recipe once you receive her book and then kick me in the shin for even suggesting this lowly version. You will realize why she writes vegan cookbooks and I just own a couple hundred vegan cookbooks and still refuse to follow even the simplest recipe in any of them.

Two Bean Orange Hummus

1 can black beans
1 can chickpeas
1/4 cup orange juice (calcium fortified)
3 Tablespoons almond butter (any nut butter should be fine)
1 clove of garlic
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt (iodized)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 dash of orange extract

Put everything in a food processor until smooth and eat it all up with veggies, pita bread, your favorite whole grain vegan bread, a all works.

Saturday, November 10, 2007


My mother used to ask these thought-provoking questions when people in the family had birthdays. It was a looking over the past year and looking forward to the next some people may do at New Year's.

After watching an older neighbor of ours move out of her childhood home on my birthday, I have renewed my vow (or birthday resolution if you will) to declutter my life. I would like to cut down on the physical/material clutter first then maybe tackle that mental clutter, but my guess is the two are linked.

Here is a picture of my guys with part of the neighborhood gang watching in awe as things were shoveled out of the attic window of our neighbor's house onto the roof then swept into one of trucks waiting to haul it away.

Friday, November 9, 2007

It's My Birthday and I'll Blog if I Want To

You would blog to if it happened to you. :-)

So far, my birthday is wonderful. Woke up earlier and chatted with my sweet husband. Hung out in bed with the kids and it is beautiful day out. I am one lucky person.

Here is one of my favorite pictures now of Josie taken yesterday at our neighborhood park by Dema on my phone's camera. Josie is in a Mei Tai Baby (work at home mom in NC and I would love to stock her baby carriers some day if she ever goes that direction with her business) with my Peekaru vest over. She was nice and cozy for over three hours while I played with the kids and chatted with the neighbors.

I love my life!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Sweet Inconsistencies

I'm currently reading two books regarding veganism.

The Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets (Second Edition)
A Dietitian's Guide to Vegetarian Diets: Issues and Applications

I love learning about nutrition so this book was worth the price for me. It is not written with "laypeople" in mind, but I'm a nutrition geek so I love this book and read it often. It has up-to-date information and lots of references.

The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Joy of Vegan Baking: The Compassionate Cooks' Traditional Treats and Sinful Sweets

This weekend will be spent baking from this cookbook. The boys have already picked out the recipes they want me to start with. Should make for some good blog entries if I can take pictures before the results are devoured.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Sweet Tomato Risotto and Vegetable Jalfrezi

Rob's Risotto
This time he added cooking Sherry and green peppers to his risotto for a sweeter taste. Yummy as always! Steamed broccoli and crusty bread from Strawberry Fields.

I went out to dinner with my friends Alicia and Christie to a local Indian restaurant recently. The owner really likes Rob so he always does something special (they are great about leaving out the ghee and other dairy for us), even if Rob isn't with me. This time, he brought us a dosa with coconut chutney. It reminded me that we haven't cooked Indian at home in a while. I especially miss Rob's dosas. Still in the mood for Indian food when shopping this week, I picked up Seeds of Change Jalfrezi Indian Simmer Sauce on a whim. I thought it might come in Jalfrezihandy for a quick dinner. A few days later I wanted to use up some leftovers so I threw in brown rice, broccoli, chickpeas, and some tofu and the simmer sauce. Since the leftovers were cold, I added some soy milk and water to the sauce so it wouldn't stick. I took a picture as a last minute thought with my phone so it isn't the best photo. The result was nice, but a little too "watered down" spice wise for Rob and me. It wasn't bad for the kids and it was quick and easy. Nothing beats making Indian from scratch though. We'll have to get out the Indian cookbooks this weekend and invite Alicia over since she really enjoyed coconut chutney.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Brotherly Love and Parker's Product Review

Last night Parker said to us, "I think I might marry Josie when I grow up." and we couldn't help but smile. It was really cute and I find it interesting that Josie is the first girl younger than Parker to get on the list. Karen (my sister) is the oldest on the list so he spans four decades. He only has two girls on the list who aren't family. I tell him he doesn't need to worry about getting married. He says he isn't worried, just he loves her so much. You and me both, buddy.

Dema, has his own worries. He is really bummed he doesn't have a uterus. He has talked about this ever since he saw Josie's birth, but he also watched National Geographic In the Womb of Animals DVD. I think it is a great DVD, but it seems to make Dema want a to give birth even more. I'm glad he's into the whole birth thing, but hopefully he'll get over the uterus envy.

Parker's Product Pick:

Rising Moon Spinach Florentine Ravioli

We used to be able to get vegan ravioli from Putney Pasta back when Parker was little, then it wasn't available anymore so I tried a Rising Moon ravioli and we hated it. I don't know if they changed the recipe since then or if it has been years since we had the Putney Pasta version so we are more open. Whatever the reason, this is a winner now. Rob and I really like the butternut squash flavor too, but the kids find it too sweet. I am too lazy to make my own ravioli so it is nice to cook one of these up when we crave ravioli.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Monday Movie Review

Purely "potato chip" movies this Monday. Sorry, nothing I think you should run out and rent. Oh and for the record, we rented these locally at That's Rentertainment.

You Kill Me
You Kill Me
I really like Ben Kingsley. The first film I saw him in was Gandhi when I was a kid and I've liked him ever since. He was in the first movie Rob and I saw together, Species, and Rob kept apologizing the entire film. It was awful, but I still like Ben. On the spectrum of Ben Kingsley movies, I would rate You Kill Me toward the Species end and not the Gandhi end. I never grew to like any of the characters. Yes, Ben is a drunk hit man and his love interest ends up being Tea Leoni. I'm not a big Tea fan so maybe this is why the film didn't do much for me. It supposed to be a dry comedy, but I just found it dry.

Knocked Up
Knocked Up
Okay, I didn't pick this one out and I wasn't even going to review it because I'm embarrassed I even watched it, but there were some slightly redeeming qualities to this film. Basically, it is about a pretty woman who gets drunk and sleeps with this immature, unattractive, unemployed guy (I would go on about how he's pretty much a jerk and his roommates are disgusting, but I won't) and gets pregnant, decides to keep the baby and try to have some sort of relationship with the "one night stand guy". First, a warning, I wouldn't put this in the family film list so it might be best to watch after everyone is in bed (if you even want to rent it). Second, most of what I liked about the movie had to do with the supporting characters and not the main ones...possibly because I'm married with children.
Redemption (reasons I'm even bothering to blog about it):
Scene in the beginning in the parents' bedroom in the morning and the two daughters sleep in their room (I'm a advocate for "sleep sharing" or "co-sleeping").
The married couple has highs and lows which are amplified, but somewhat realistic.
There is point where the husband says something to the effect that his wife loves him so much that she wants to spend time with him and this is what he has been complaining me, I saw this as a moment of understand that he has really been running away from that which he wanted in the first place (love, acceptance, companionship). I think many times in long-term relationships people are trying to get their own time in and get to do what they want to do and in the end they both just want to be together.
The bubble scene where the two men discuss how children can get great enjoyment out of simple things like bubbles.
It pokes fun at the shallowness of the entertainment industry.
The labor and birth is somewhat more realistic than most movies.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Parker's Favorite Turnip and Kale Soup and On the Fly Stir Fry

Parker's Favorite Turnip and Kale Soup


2 Tablespoons Earth Balance
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
6 cups vegetable stock
1/2 cup barley (or rice, arborio if you have it)
salt and pepper
Garnish: minced parsley
1 bunch kale cleaned and cut (optional, but it is much yummier
with it)

Melt the Earth Balance and oil in a large saucepan and
bring to a froth. Toss in the turnips and saute til
brown, about 5 or so minutes. Pour in the broth (and
kale if using), bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook,
covered, for about 10 minutes. Stir in the barley (or rice) and
cook, covered, over medium heat for about 15 minutes.
When ready to serve, stir in salt and pepper to taste,
then parsley. Ladle into bowls.

Play with the amount of Earth Balance/oil because you don't usually need that much. This is Parker's favorite homemade soup. He said the other day while eating it, "I'm so glad I like greens." He took the picture.

On the Fly Stir Fry

Ingredients: tofu, fresh broccoli, tamari, minced garlic all stir fried in a cast iron wok and served over brown rice.

This was so simple and Parker couldn't get enough. It just shows that you don't need to make something fancy to eat something healthy and yummy.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Sweet Potato Curry and Broccoli Soba with Peanut-Pumpkin Sauce

We had a busy weekend last weekend with birthday parties, harvest parties, and neighborhood parties. It was so busy, we didn't get a chance to attend everything and we had to split up to attend what we did. It was all fun though!

Here is what Rob made and took our neighborhood party with lots of compliments...

Sweet Potato Curry from Vegan Family Favorites
Ingredients: curry paste, coconut milk, peanut butter, lemon juice, oil, garlic, ginger, sweet potatoes, cilantro, brown rice

There wasn't much left, but it is so much fun eating it out of our new vegan bowls. These bowls are the perfect size for a snack, leftovers, etc. They are the bowl of choice for the boys for anything they want to eat.

I made a double batch of this recipe as a quick dinner since Rob has been working weird hours lately and we never know when he'll be home to eat. I would suggest not doubling it if you can't eat that much because soba noodles are best eaten when they are cooked and don't refrigerate well. Everyone liked this and I added shredded carrots this time. In the past I've used peas and carrots in addition or instead of broccoli (depending on what I have on hand). I've also used other nut butters instead of peanut.

Broccoli Soba with Peanut-Pumpkin Sauce from Vegan Family FavoritesIngredients: soba noodles, broccoli, water, peanut butter, canned pumpkin, Bragg's Liquid Aminos, hot pepper sesame oil (I've used toasted sesame oil and my favorite hot sauce when I didn't have hot pepper sesame oil on hand)

Friday, November 2, 2007

8 Weeks Old

Josie is 8 weeks old today. How does this happen? I swear the more children you have the quicker time flies. She is adorable and such a joy. I really don't know how I lived my life without her.

I will be short today since yesterday's post was so long.

Here are some more pictures of Josie taken by our talented friend, Stacey last Saturday.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

El Dia de Los Muertos and World Vegan Day

Happy World Vegan Day!

If you do nothing else, find a vegan and kiss them. Wait, no, that isn't the point. Find a vegan and don't eat them...then ask them for a recipe or have dinner with them or steal one of their cookbooks.

Seriously, check out veganism and see what all the hubbub is about. It is know you want to...come on just try it for one day, it is free. It is so cool...everyone else is doing it. (That is my lame attempt at a vegan drug dealer.)

Happy Day of the Dead!

Sounds funny to talk about happiness and dead at the same time, but from my understanding it really should be "happy celebration of lives of people who have come before us and are now not with us (at least in the traditional living sense depending on your individual beliefs)", but you would need a very large greeting card for that.

This year we just spent time reminiscing about our relative who have passed. It was very nice and I hope to do more with this holiday in the future. It makes so much sense here in the Midwest to celebrate life and death at this time of year. The bounty of the harvest, the beauty of the trees, but at the same time everything is "dying" (in reality and figuratively).

Here are some of the random thoughts and memories about our loved ones on this beautiful day to celebrate their lives...

*Deloris (my mother):

Wonderful hands, large (for a woman), soft and beautiful. I especially loved her thumbs. I don't know why, but for as long as I can remember I've loved them. I wonder if my children will have a favorite body part of mine and what it might be.

She loved to eat and cook. She was a very good cook and she introduced us to Thai food. Pad Thai was one of her favorite foods and she would eat at The Y Eatery quite often. The owner liked and respected mom very much and always asks about the family when we go there to eat. The owner is great about making at least one dish vegan every day (partly due to her relationship with my mom). When we visited mom's grave, we took some Tofu Pad Thai from "Y Thai" and roses from our yard.

Mom often said babies loved her because she was so soft. It was true for Parker, she could just put him on her shoulder and rock a little back and forth to put him to sleep (he usually wouldn't go to sleep without nursing or being walked to sleep in a carrier).

She went to a lot of meetings and when I not in school, I went with her. Some of my best memories are riding in the car (front seat back then before you had to stay in a car seat until you are 20) going to some other town and having long talks about life or just joking around.

Mom listened to talk radio or old songs on our little portable radio while she cleaned the house.

Mom loved Connie Francis, musicals (Porgy and Bess, West Side Story and The Sound of Music come to mind), The Uppity Blues Women, Amasong, Christmas music...she really loved music. She would always be the one people asked to get a song going. She was never afraid (or if she was she didn't let it get in her way) to sing in public.

Mom enjoyed helping people. The Center for Women in Transition, Girl Scouts, Project Goodstart, Homestead Corp., Children's Home and Aid Society of Illinois, Illinois Stewardship Alliance, she gave blood often (she would get pins and awards for giving blood), all sorts of church related activities, and so many other organizations I can't think or list them all.

She always had time to play a game with me and I have many memories of playing cards with her for hours when no doubt she had a lot of other things she "should" have been doing. I'm thankful she took that time to play.

I remember her having a lot of stress and being very busy, but always taking time to talk with people or listen to them and smile even when she was in a lot of pain. Josie's face reminds me of my mother so much. Josie is a very serious baby and does smile, but most of the time looks deep in thought.

Mom would include Parker when she washed dishes (ending up with them both being pretty soaked), she would built endless block towers for him to knock down, she would sing to him, and she made all his favorite foods. Even with only 2 years with Parker she loved being a grandmother.

She was very shy, but overcame her shyness to become a very active person in her community.

She was my best friend and I will miss her for the rest of my life.

*Opal (my maternal grandmother):

I don't remember her since I was less than 1 years old when she died. I was told the story that she loved to hold me and called me "bubble trouble"...we won't go into why. I would ask my mother what she was like. Mom would always get happy and cry when we talked about her mother. I would apologize for making her sad, but she would quickly tell me "no" that she loved to talk about her mother. I would lament about not having memories of her and knowing what she was like. Mom would say, "You know her because I am just like her."

*Sylvia (my paternal grandmother):

Grandma's eyes (those amazing eyes that told you so much...from the twinkle of happiness to the glint or anger, all emotions came through), her Amway motivational tapes which I loved to listen to as a kid, learning the word "gorgeous" from her, her singing around the house, playing hymns on the piano, muttering about Grandpa under her breath as she looked out the window and washed the dishes (bless his heart), the excitement and giddiness every time we visited, watering the pants, drawing her pictures, making cookies, listening to her gossip (bless their hearts too), watching her work so hard (and she didn't live on the farm most of my life), wishing the men in her life (her husband, her children, and grandchildren) wouldn't get so upset with her and would treat her better.

Lastly, I will always remember how fragile she looked and seemed (she probably weighed less than 100 lbs most of her life), but in reality she was one of the strongest women I have ever met.

*John (paternal grandfather)

He was a very hard worker. Most of the time I knew him, he worked two or three jobs. He was generous...would literally give someone the shirt off his back. He liked to drink sweetened tea from canning jars. He slept in the basement (it was possibly a passive aggressive dig to my grandmother for moving him into "town" from the farm). He gave the three of us rabbits on Easter one year (I think I was 4 or 5) without asking our parents. He was a volunteer fireman and I loved the visits to the fire station. He had an interesting relationship with animals and seemed to really love his dog. He didn't take care of himself (which is sadly a theme in the family).

I look forward to learning more bout this holiday and making it part of our own family tradition.

PS. It is interesting that World Vegan Day and the Day of the Dead on the same day. We did take some time to think about the dead non-human animals we have known and about how we try not to add to that count by our lifestyle choice. I think I'll do more with that idea next year as well.