Monday, December 31, 2007

Sixth Day of Christmas, Chipotle Garlic Risotto, Creamy Tomato Soup

On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Six geese a-laying ("adopted" at the animal sanctuary, of course)
Five containers of organic orange juice
Four Kucinich years (as president)
Three alternative heating options (multi-fuel stove, pellet insert, solar)
Two cast iron pans (one a skillet, one a muffin pan) and
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie

The other day we had chipotles in adobo sauce left over from the Stormy Black Bean Soup and two containers of Tofutti Cream Cheese (non-hydrogenated, of course) so I found two recipes to use them up. I bought the vegan cream cheese twice when it was on sale at our local health food store thinking I would use it for Cappellini in Fresh Tomato Cream Sauce from VeganYumYum. However, as I've mentioned before, Rob does not like Tofutti Cream Cheese (hydrogenated or not) anymore (I do remember he would spread it on his bagels when we lived in Maryland, but people change). Thus, the containers sat unused.

So, I made Creamy Tomato Soup from Have Cake Will Travel. I used an onion since we'd run out of shallots and vegetable broth (didn't have tomato juice) and fire roasted canned tomatoes. It was really good. Tomato soup is one of my favorite foods to eat when I'm sick or when it is cold out. I found Chilpotle Garlic Risotto in my newish cookbook Alternative Vegan by Dino Sarma so I had Rob make the risotto (he is the risotto king now). We kept trying looking for when the chipotles were to be added and unless we read wrong, they are just cut up and put on top. This is what we did. I loved it, but the chipotle will over-power the taste of the risotto if you get too much in one bite. The kids ate it without the topping. For left-overs, I put some of the risotto (sans chipotles) into the tomato soup and that was super good. Rob even suggested we use the risotto next time before we immersion blend the soup to make it creamy, but I liked the rice the way it was. I do like the two dishes together and the next time we make the risotto, we'll try some other toppings she suggests (sauteed mushrooms, olives, nuts, etc.). I can't believe in the twelve years we've been together we never made risotto and now we make it all the time.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fifth Day of Christmas and Reindeer Games

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Five containers of organic orange juice*
Four Kucinich years (as president)
Three alternative heating options (multi-fuel stove, pellet insert, solar)
Two cast iron pans (one a skillet, one a muffin pan) and
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie.

*Rob started teasing me years before we had kids (read when we had two incomes, lived in the DC area and could afford it), about my organic orange juice. I'm an organic freak and would sometimes not buy any produce if I couldn't find organic (I admitted a long time later that Rob was right and eating conventional produce was better than not eating any). Back to the juice, I am not known for paying attention to food prices and he informed me that buying this organic juice at $7/half gallon was pretty much like buying gold. I still love my organic (calcium-fortified) orange juice, as with all juices, we don't buy it often.

We spent all night last night playing games; Harvest Time and Sand Castles are co-operative games which the boys received from me for Christmas. Parker is naturally a co-operative game person and Dema does better, especially when playing with older kids, if the game is not competitive. Rob, on the other hand, is a lost cause. He played the games (over and over), but would make comments which clearly were not co-operative and blatantly competitive. Rob was just trying (and succeeding) to push my buttons. To be fair, he really enjoys Sand Castles and as I started doing other things around the house and the guys all played together there was lots of co-operation. Rudolf would certainly be included in our games.

Here is Broccoli Soba with Peanut-Pumpkin Sauce from Vegan Family Favorites from a few days ago, but I used whole-wheat spaghetti instead of soba. Also from VFF is Sesame Tofu (but you really don't need a recipe...think Bragg's Amino Acids, sesame seeds, and time I'll add nutritional yeast). Parker loved the tofu, but Dema prefers his "white" with no sauce right out of the package. I toasted the whole-wheat bread with a little Earth Balance and some nutritional yeast.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fourth Day of Christmas

On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Four Kucinich years (as president)
Three alternative heating options (multi-fuel stove, pellet insert, solar)
Two cast iron pans (one a skillet, one a muffin pan) and
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie.

Christmas 2007 Take Two:

With Rob and Dema home, we had our "official" Christmas. We made popcorn with olive oil, sea salt, and nutritional yeast for Santa (who came a second time, but don't tell anyone since it is very rare for him to do this). Santa brought two sleds (they didn't fit in the stockings) which made everyone wish we still had snow on the ground.

Rob received North Face gloves for his daily commute to work on his bike, measuring cups, and measuring spoons (the thin type which fit inside spice jars...don't know why we waited so long to buy these). The boys received fair-trade dried mangoes, tree ornaments from 10,000 Villages, and some Brio track. They also have a shovel which is more their size.

After we opened our stockings, my dad, sister (Karen), and her boyfriend (Stuart) came over. Notice the difference before they came and after as to the amount of presents. I thought we weren't going overboard this year...Karen! Oh well, I guess that is what aunts are for. My dad brought over some recycled plastic bottles (since we never have any) to help Parker with some of his weather experiments. Parker can't wait to use them.

Josie received her second present, an organic cotton cat. She had great fun watching all the chaos. She loves to have people all around doing interesting things. Parker made it his task to show her everything and explain it all to her. "This is organic fair-trade vegan chocolate Santa gave us. Doesn't it look good? When you get teeth, you can eat some."

Parker and Dema went outside with Karen and Stuart to try out Parker's new scooter. They seemed to enjoy it a lot. I was looking for foot lockers so they could have some space to themselves and put things they didn't want others to get into, but I couldn't find them anywhere so Karen bought them wooden toy boxes and locks. Dad and Rob spent some time putting these together.

There was definitely a lot of chaos. Parker said after our little mini-Christmas that he didn't need more presents, but he missed having everyone over. He just likes to have people here.

For lunch I decided to go with an old standby which I haven't made in over a year. Creamy Curried Potatoes and Peas from Healthy Cooking for Kids by Shelly Null. I've had this cookbook for almost 8 years and I've given it as a present to many people. There are so many vegan cookbooks out there now, that many of my old loves have dust on them. This recipe is so easy (takes a little while to cook down, but you don't have to do much) and excellent taste. I don't fry the potatoes (less oil and still tastes great) and I don't use a mini food processor for the ginger, garlic, water mixture (I put it all together in the pot with the tomatoes and spices and then use the immersion blender). I also used a bag of organic peas and carrots and a bag of organic corn, peas, carrots, and green beans. The more veggies the just calls for peas. I always double it and we made brown basmati rice to go with the curry. For years this was Parker's favorite way to eat potatoes. Dema in his famous fashion, ate the brown basmati rice at lunch, but ate a ton of the curry later.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What to Do with Your Fat Bank (Which I Know You Are Just Sitting On)

I know you are all sitting around wondering what to do with all that left over cash which is always burning a hole in your pocket at the end of the year. You think to yourselves, hey, I should really do something with all this dough which would give me a warm feeling inside as well as a nice tax break. So here you are checking out my blog to see if I have any ideas on what to do with your fat bank.

Well friends, I won't let you sir, no m'am, here is VeganLinda's top 10 organizations to give money to at the last no particular order so give them all a try. I have worked in some capacity with most of these organizations so I know the money will be well used.

Here is Dema waiting breathlessly to see which worthy organization you will choose.

1. The Center for Women in Transition
2. WEFT 90.1FM
3. Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary
4. U-C Independent Media Center
5. Organic Consumers Association
6. Farm Animal Reform Movement
7. Vegan Outreach
8. Compassion Over Killing
9. Homestead Corporation
10. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
10a. EarthSave
10b. Illinois Stewardship Alliance
11. (not a 501c3) Anti-War, Anti-Racism Effort

Happy Giving!

More Music, but Not for Me

Speaking of music, I so want to go to this, but can't so go for me will you? It may seem out of character for some of you and very in character (depending on how long you've known me), but before and for some time during my pregnancy with Josie I rekindled my love for going to watch live bands and hanging out at local bars (sans drinking while I was pregnant, of course).

If you can't make it either, check them out online:
Temple of Low Men
Lorenzo Goetz
Darling Disarm

I am super happy to have a wonderful baby! I do miss being able to call up my girls and go to Cowboy Monkey. Or even better to hang with my hubby and drink a blueberry ale, but that is rare with three of us usually has to stay home

There's Money in the Ghetto

One of the fun things I did while Rob and Dema were in North Carolina was open some of the boxes which have been sitting in the attic from our move into this house a year ago Thanksgiving. A couple boxes had toys in them so the kids are playing with toys they haven't played with for over a year...this is a much cheaper, more environmentally-friendly way to do Christmas and I might just start packing up stuff now and storing it away for next year.

One of the great finds from unpacking was Dema's Haba donkey bank (it isn't a piggy bank since it is in the shape of a donkey). Dema was so happy to carry it around and put loose change in it. Then today I realized he has been with Rob too much lately when he was walking around with this adorable bank saying to himself, "I'm sitting on a fat bank! There's money in the ghetto!" in his little rapper voice.

*For those of you not as into rap music as Dema, the song is by Too $hort and here are the lyrics.

Third Day of Christmas and Stormy Black Bean Soup

Couldn't help it, no reason for this picture except I thought she looked all cute and warm sleeping there.

We had this soup several days and I just finished it up yesterday so I thought I should probably blog about it. Stormy Black Bean Soup from Fat Free Vegan. I love black bean soup and this had a great flavor. We doubled the recipe and added a red bell pepper since we had one red and one green. I also used the immersion blender on it so it was creamier. It was really yummy with Tofutti non-hydrogenated sour cream and avocado on top.

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me...
Three alternative heating options (multi-fuel stove, pellet insert, solar)
Two cast iron pans (one a skillet, one a muffin pan) and
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Second Day of Christmas

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
Two cast iron pans (one a skillet, one a muffin pan) and
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie.

I actually did receive a present today!
I have music back in my life thanks to my wonderful husband. A Bose radio arrived today and I've been listening to a CD (I believe Karen's boyfriend Stuart gave it to us last Christmas), You are My Sunshine by Elizabeth Mitchell, and singing and dancing with the kids. Dema asked during "Skip to My Lou", hey mom, do I have a lou? How do I skip to it? During "Crawdad" he informed me that we don't fish because that would be cruel. Then soon after he asked if we could listen to "Ridin' Dirty".

It is so nice to have music again. I'm looking for my Elsinore CD now (Stuart gave this to us for sure). Oh joy!

The Story of Stuff

A friend sent this to a parenting group I belong to and I thought it was very timely.

The Story of Stuff

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First Day of Christmas

Josie with her 1st Christmas present, the musical turtle. I'm guessing she's trying to figure out a way to put it in her mouth. She chews on her hand all the time now and will put other people's hands in her mouth as well. She doesn't like chewing on toys so much yet, but she'll try them out and then get a funny look on her face and go back to her hand.
Dema couldn't resist emptying his stocking (scissors and tape...very much appreciated since he could spend hours cutting paper and making things) and opening one gift. He now has his "own" syrup dispenser. We've gone from making pancakes once a year to having them more often than I like to admit. He did share it with all of us this morning as we had pancakes (yes, again and I helped the boys very little...they are getting very good at flipping pancakes...I expect breakfast in bed this coming Mother's Day). Rob decided to fry apples to put on top. Great idea!

Dinner tonight was Rob's Risotto which he likes to make a little different each time. This time he used some left over red wine with the shallots. He also used crushed tomatoes instead of chopped. This made it a much darker red than usual. It smelled great while it was cooking and tasted wonderful. The steamed broccoli was Dema's favorite and whole wheat seeded sourdough this time. We had Date and Almond Butter Smooties from The Joy of Vegan Baking for dessert. Yum! I always love date smoothies at restaurants, but this one tastes a little sweeter than the ones I'm used to, not in a bad way.

I decided to make a list of presents I would like if we had unlimited time/money:
On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me...
A Bakfiet to easily carry Parker, Dema, and Josie.

Of course, I love my Xtracycle, but I have to admit these things look pretty darn fun for the kids (even ones to young to sit up) and you can add a cover for inclement weather.

I actually wouldn't mind a pear tree either.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas Morning

Parker woke up bright and early this morning and promptly peeked downstairs to see if the treats he left for Santa were gone. He was a little worried Santa had absconded with our vegan plate and mug, but I assured him that Santa probably rinsed them and put them in the sink. What a swell guy Santa is.

Parker showed Josie the stockings (this being her first Christmas and all, he is taking it upon himself to show her the ropes). We read the note from Santa and Parker emptied out his stocking (measuring spoons, modeling clay, sticks for crafts). I was going to have Parker open up one present, but he opened up a couple. He looks so cute in his new organic cotton bath robe. He was ready to read his new book, "It's So Amazing! A Book about Eggs, Sperm, Birth, Babies, and Families" by Robie H. Harris. Parker loves everything to do with birth and babies. He was especially happy with the Real Science Made Easy Weather experiment kit. He also received a couple notebooks to write and draw in. He draws almost every day and lately we've been working on stories and illustrating them. He also received new colored pencils (he goes through his very quickly).

Parker asked for pancakes for breakfast. I decided to try the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking instead of our usual pancake recipe. I like the lack of sugar (she suggests several "liquid sweeteners" and we chose calcium-fortified orange juice), no egg replacer, and less oil than some recipes I've seen. It was also nice to have some whole wheat flour (1/2 of the flour it called for) and still have them turn out light and fluffy. They were very good with just a hint of orange flavor. This will be our usual pancake recipe from now on. Parker had his with flax oil, maple syrup, and organic wild blueberries we had in the freezer. It was strange not doubling the recipe. It made me miss Dema even more. It was nice not having Rob tease me about them not being done. The boys like them barely brown and anything more is "burnt" and Rob really likes them very "done". They kind of had an orange tint which is pretty.

My dad stopped by and we offered him breakfast, but he's so popular that he already had breakfast with my ex-brother-in-law's family and was having dinner with a neighbor so he didn't need any food. Dad and Parker had fun going through the experiments in Parker's new weather kit. It was kind of nice with Dema gone, Parker had my dad to himself and they didn't need to worry about Dema breaking anything.

I couldn't resist buying Josie a little musical turtle. It plays "You are My Sunshine" which I sing to her quite a bit. I remember singing it to my mom when she was in intensive care the day we found out she had cancer. I can't help but think of my mom when I hear the song and now with Josie it has a bittersweet feel to it. So I picked it up and she seems to really like it. I wish my mom had lived long enough to meet Dema and Josie. Something about having a baby girl now which makes me miss my mom and think of her even more.

It was actually a nice, peaceful Christmas so far and I'm glad Rob and Dema will be home tonight. Peace is what I wish for all of you. Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 24, 2007

Skipping Christmas or What Would Jesus Buy

I am trying sooo hard to get into the holiday spirit for Parker's sake (Josie doesn't really care at this point, but even for her since it is her first Christmas). But, my husband and my little Dema are not here and I miss them. I hate not all being together for Christmas and I am getting bitter. I made some sugar cookies with Parker and set them out with some Russian Tea Cakes and some Silk enhanced soy milk with Chocolate Nutiva® HempShake™ for Santa. (Santa has apparently acquired a taste for Chocolate Nutiva® HempShake™ .) I wrapped some gifts (I know, very environmentally unfriendly, but I did some in hemp wrapping paper) and watched Oliver! with Parker after reading Fireside Stories, The Miracle of the First Poinsettia, and Babushka. Parker was so sweet about going to be early and setting food out for Santa. He wanted to leave one of each shape of cookie. Santa ate the treats Parker left out after drinking a beer with a friend who came by to pick up some stuff he bought from Tribal Life so Santa is very full and in a slightly better mood about the whole Christmas thing, but only slightly.

I'm not super keen on the whole Santa deal anyway, but the kids want to believe in Santa now so why not. I also can't take all the consumerism this time of year so I'm thinking next year that we might skip Christmas and go on a vacation to a beautiful island with a vegan resort. Ah, the warm sand, ocean breeze, no stockings to stuff...sounds really nice right now.

Maybe I'm just being a big scrooge and the years I worked in retail and then as a manager of a video store (a lifetime ago in my teens) have tainted me to the entire secular part of the holiday. You would not believe the shopping craziness when I sold women's clothes. The guys would come in not knowing what size (not even close) to get and would just buy anything I suggested (that was back when I could sell anything to anyone and didn't feel bad about it, I would win every sales contest, I was the youngest assistant manager in the history of the I have an issue taking money from customers for items I really love and believe in). What would Jesus buy? At the video store, this time of year people would come in and rent 10 movies at a time. They didn't want to run out over the holiday. I always thought, don't they talk to their families? Who has time over Christmas to watch that many movies? Crazy. We always spent the day talking and playing games, I don't remember the TV even being turned on during Christmas as a kid (even when we had one, there was a time when we didn't have one and the wonderful memories of time without a TV is a big reason why we don't own one today).

Parker and I talked about how people used to get fruit in their stocking and he asked for raspberries or peaches...I couldn't find either. I guess I'll use the frozen ones we have and make a smoothie for him in the morning. Rob bought the most amazing Breville blender a couple weeks ago which has put us in smoothie heaven. The blender and our new dryer count as my Christmas presents this year. I want a new radio, but that may have to wait. I'm content with being able to blend things and dry diapers in the winter.

Most holidays, I have my sister, her significant other, and our dad over (sometimes my brother and his significant other if they don't have plans with her family), but with Rob and Dema gone, we'll wait until the weekend to get together. I miss my mom all the time, but it is pretty bad right now. I think I'll go snuggle with my kids. That is what life is really all about heck with the rest of it.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Heat is On

I heard this on my public radio station yesterday and found it very interesting. I will definitely be checking out the DNA Files more. I thought they did a good job combining humor and scientific information about a serious topic and still coming across pretty optimistic. It is was refreshing to find this type of program on climate change.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Goodbye My Sweet, Sweet, Best, Great MaMa

Rob's grandmother Joyce Blinson (MaMa to everyone in the family) died today. We will miss her very much. When I broke the news to Dema, he said, "Oh, my sweet, sweet, best, great MaMa. I miss her so."

This picture was taken when Dema was very little. She loved to have the boys sit on her lap and they happily sat. This is Joyce a couple of years ago at her 92nd birthday celebration. Most of the pictures we have of her are in her kitchen. She always had food for us to eat and I have fond memories of sitting at her table, talking with her as she made sure everyone was fed. Parker will probably miss her food and playing in her garden the most.

Rob and Dema are off to North Carolina for the funeral. Josie just isn't up for the trip since they have to make it there very quickly and Parker is getting over an ear infection. We are sad we will miss it, but so glad we were able to see her at Thanksgiving.

Green Soups

When Parker was two or three years old, we would eat broccoli soup quite a bit and he would ask for "green soup". He is a big soup kid and even now at almost eight years old, some of his favorite soups are green.

The other day, Rob made Parker's Favorite Turnip and Kale Soup and I made Broccoli Potato Soup from Healthy Eating for Life for Children (I really like this book, the whole series really, but hadn't made this recipe before). Parker still ate his favorite, but he did like the broccoli soup as well. Dema preferred the broccoli soup which is no big surprise. Soup for Dema is a way to eat more bread and the broccoli soup is great for dipping bread into (in this case, a yummy seeded sourdough bread from Strawberry Fields). I love both soups and love the heartiness of the kale soup and the creaminess of the broccoli soup.

It will be a long cold winter here in the Midwest so I foresee many soups in our future.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Man With No Sense to Come in From the Cold

First, it must be a man since he has no better sense than to stand out there in the freezing cold...of the season. Thanks to my sister who enjoys getting cold with her nephews while I nurse Josie in comfort and warmth.This is a side view and yes it was Karen's idea to use a banana as a nose.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


I like to call them Russian Tea Cakes since I've been to Russia and not to Mexico, but they are also called Mexican Wedding Cakes, Snowballs (which is appropriate with all the snow on the ground), and many other names. It is funny a cookie is called so many different things, but people all over seem to love them. The first time I remember eating one is out our local natural food store which was the only place for a long time where one could buy vegan cookies in this town. Unfortunately, the novelty of being able to buy a cookie meant that most of the visits to this store (sometimes twice a week) would result in buying a cookie. They usually had several different types of vegan cookies, but this one is Dema's favorite.

So, when I saw the picture and recipe in my new cookbook, The Joy of Vegan Baking, I knew this was the first recipe I needed to try. I mistakenly thought the cookies might have some nutritional value when we bought them at Strawberry Fields because they included nuts in the ingredients. One look at the recipe and I realized why people bake these for special occasions...they are a nutritionist's nightmare. I used the equivalent of a year's worth of Earth Balance, sugar, vanilla, and walnuts (I didn't have pecans on hand) and then more sugar. I couldn't find my nut chopper so I chopped them with a knife (much more time consuming).

These are so easy to make. The key is to not let them cook too long and I was not working in my own kitchen so I let the first batch go a little too long since I wasn't used to the oven. The second batch was much better, but the kids liked them both. The nice thing about cookies that are so rich is you can't really sit there and eat a whole lot of them. (Unless you are Dema.)

We are trying to create our own family traditions for the holidays since we are always trying to cut down on the consumerism which seems to go hand-in-hand with this time of year. We thought we would start making some special foods which we only cook this time of year. The kids love to cook and this could be more of the focus than presents. We'll see. We are still feeling it all out.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Square Meals and Pizza Stuffed Pasta Shells

We made Square Meals from Simply Heavenly!: The Monastery Vegetarian Cookbook by Abbot George Burke. When I cook out of this book, I think of our friends Marty and Laura who gave it too us and my mom who loved to cook things for Parker from this cookbook. She especially liked to make Square Meals for him. We have several pictures of him eating square meals. I don't make them as often as I should. They are great to have around, especially for our little three year old grazer. They are also nice to take on trips. They keep well in an airtight container, you can freeze them, and they taste better the day after you make them so they are the perfect snack food.

We decided to make the Dal Filling and the Pizza Filling since those are two of my favorites. I wanted to make the Broccoli and Cheez Filling (Parker's favorite) too, but we ran out of time. Rob is great at making pizza dough so I had him make the dough and I made the filling and put them together (with some help from all the kids so they aren't so "square", but we don't care what they look like). Next time we will make up our own fillings and the dough turned out stickier than usual. Here is the dal right before we put them in the dough. This dal is pretty basic with red lentils, vegetable broth, potatoes, mustard seeds, garlic, ginger, tumeric, cumin, sea salt, canola oil (a lot of the recipes call for corn oil, but canola oil works fine), coriander, and cayenne pepper. I use any leftovers with rice.

Mom's Square Meals always looked perfect, even when she had Parker's help, but mine come out funky looking some times. This was one of those times, but I guess with all three kids involved in some way, I'm lucky they came out edible so. They were devoured quickly so all is well.

I don't have a picture of the pizza filling cooking, but I used up most of the dough with the dal so we only have a few Square Meals with pizza filing. We intended to make more dough, but Rob was done at this point. I highly recommend making these on a weekend when you can make several batches. The pizza filling is actually Tomato Sauce 2 recipe and Notzarella Cheez recipe with onion, mushrooms, garlic, bell pepper, olive oild, and hot pepper flakes added in. So, we were left with some Tomato Sauce 2 (a basic tomato sauce with molasses as the surprise ingredient), Notzarella Cheez (nutritional yeast and rolled oats based), and some combined with the extra ingredients to make Pizza Filling. (This is the way the cookbook is organized and how they are able to have 1,400 vegan recipes in one cookbook. It is also the reason I didn't cook much from it until my mother fell in love with it because I hate having to flip back and force between recipes. It the cookbook you could be stranded on a desert island with and never go hungry.) I bought some pasta shells a while back intending to make Sweet Potato Stuffed Shells with Coconut Curry Sauce again, but I hadn't gotten around to it and the shells were just sitting in the cupboard waiting. I thought, why not make Pizza Stuffed Pasta Shells? I cooked the shells and then used three casserole dishes so they could be cooked for lunches easier (we don't own a microwave so heating up left-overs takes some advance thought). One dish I stuffed the shells with the Pizza Filling and covered with the Tomato Sauce 2 drizzled with a little extra Notzarella Cheez. Another dish I stuffed the shells with the Notzrella Cheez and covered with Tomato Sauce 2 for sort of a manicotti feel. The third dish was a mix of the two. They were all so yummy, I might just make the sauce for shells sometime.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Unsolicited Advice

When you become a parent, you open yourself up to unsolicited advice in a way you probably have not experienced before. Actually, it happens when you start showing with your first pregnancy and doesn't end, apparently, no matter how many children you have. It is a odd phenomena that just by procreating total strangers will now feel like they have every right, no not just the right, but the obligation to give you "words of wisdom". Many times these strangers may not even have children of their own, but everyone is an expert.

Lately, it hasn't been the complete strangers, but the pseudo-grandmothers in our lives. I've mentioned before that our children have no grandmothers (one great-grandmother) and we are lucky to have various friends/neighbors who like to take on a bit of this role. One of these people is the owner of a Thai restaurant we frequent. It is a small restaurant and the owner and her husband cook all the food. She takes care of us and makes sure everything is free from animal products. She notices what the kids like and has created a dish just for them. She added more vegetables to the dish after watching them eat some of mine. She remembers what everyone orders and how spicy they like their food. She starts cooking the food for the boys as soon as we walk in. She is very sweet and well-meaning and my friend Jenny says it is a compliment that she gives me advice, but some days I'd rather not be so deserving of maternal wisdom.

While I'm pregnant with Josie:

Owner: How is the pregnancy going?
Me: Great, I love being pregnant. (Truthfully, I felt great.)
Owner: You look tired, you should get more rest.
Me: I'm fine, I don't feel tired, I guess I did stay up a bit last night, but...(I trail off as she looks at me and nods this "knowing" nod which seems to say I am clearly not telling the truth and I am lacking sleep and the pregnancy is tough on me)

Owner: You are getting soo big! When is the baby coming?
Me: Not for a couple more months. I have gained a little more weight than I did with Parker, but not as much as I did with Dema. Every pregnancy is different.
Owner: Maybe you shouldn't eat so much.
Me: Well, I guess it wouldn't hurt to take this home (putting down my fork).

Owner: The baby will be here soon?
Me: Yes, any time now! We'll bring her in after she's born.
Owner: (her voice in almost a whisper as she sits down closer to me) This is a bad time of year to bring a baby out. Do not take the baby out. One of my children was born this time of year and I took him out...he got is too windy this time of year. Keep the baby inside until Spring.
Me: Okay. (Thinking...Spring? Are you crazy? I can't stay inside until Spring! I took Josie to her first meeting before she was a week old...Spring...please!)

Josie was born and although we felt like going for Thai, I was a little worried about taking her to the restaurant for fear I'd get a lecture.

Owner: Oh, what a beautiful baby! You shouldn't have her out. How was the birth.
Me: It was wonderful, she was born at home. (Ignoring the comment that I shouldn't have her out.)
Owner: No hospital? (Shaking head, walking away.)

Owner: Don't you think she should have more clothes on, it is cold outside.
Me: I put her inside my coat, like this (showing her my babywearing coat). She doesn't need to be so bundled up. (Isn't babywearing a tradition in Thailand just like most countries?)
Owner: It is very cold. (Clearly not approving of my coat arrangement.) Too cold for babies.

Owner: She has such big cheeks!
Me: Yes, she is growing big (I'm not a bigger is better type person, but most people are so I decide to play this one up) and healthy!
Owner: Do you think you are feeding her too much? (Not so much a question as a statement.)
Me: No, I don't think I could...she just nurses, I don't give her solid foods yet...I can't over-feed her breast milk. (Thinking to myself, how could she eat too much, she is less than 3 months old!)

We went to the restaurant the other day after we were all sick (except Josie!) and Dema (who is her favorite) chatted with her for a while. She went off with Dema (as she usually does and she finds him special treats like mangoes, bananas, soy milk, juice boxes, etc.) and came back holding a container of something and Dema smelled like medicine. She explained that Dema was stuffed up and that putting a few drops of this liquid on his clothes would help him breathe. She had already put some on his shirt and here was some for me to take home. She added that it was all okay to use and wouldn't cause any allergies. There is no English writing on the container so I have no idea what is in it. But, she gave it to me with such love and concern I felt this intense urge too hug her. Sure, I feel like she questions my parenting at every turn, but it truly is out of love and caring for me and my family.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Monday Movie Review

Monday Movie Review:

The Lives of Others
I saw this back when it was in the theaters with my friend Christie and found it very moving and the performances to be incredible. Unfortunately, Rob didn't get to see it then, but we rented it this weekend. We both enjoy foreign films quite a lot and this one did not disappoint. It was hard for me to watch this time knowing that the man who played Gerd Wiesler died of cancer after the film's release. He did an amazing job, in my opinion. There are so many political and human nature lessons to be learned from this movie. In the current political climate in this country, it is more timely than one might think. If you haven't seen it yet, rent it. If you have seen it, watch it again. It is worth a second look. There are subtle things I noticed the second time around which I missed during the first viewing.

The Incredible Human Body
For the kids, we are hooked on National Geographic movies. They found this one fascinating. The brain surgery was a little tough for Parker to stomach. He is very empathetic and even after to watching it a couple times, still wanted to be assured that everything turned out okay. I have to say that it was a little hard for me to watch, but it was also too interesting to miss. I just can't imagine being awake for brain surgery. Both the boys learned a lot and Rob and I found it quite interesting as well.

Animal Holiday
To go along with our National Geographic kick, but with a holiday flavor, we rented this cute, entertaining, and educational little movie. We talk about the four different types of penguins at the breakfast table and how different animals survive the cold temperatures. Ever since watching "March of the Penguins" I've decided that even though I'm "anti-zoo" (for animal rights reasons which I will get into sometime), I think penguins might actually be better off in a zoo. This short film brought up questions like why are reindeer called "rein"deer and had them wanting to read more about polar bears. Both boys enjoyed it and I found it fun too.

Friday, December 7, 2007

3 Months Old and Working Man

Josie is 3 months today!! She smiles so much now, but we've only heard her laugh one big laugh and that was in her sleep (one of the many benefits of sleeping with your child). She is pretty happy to be held by anyone, but her favorite people to hold her are mom and Parker. Dad runs a distant 3rd right now. Dema is a source of entertainment and she loves to watch him play. Both boys sing to her and she loves it. She still seems to be a pretty serious, introspective person, but she has lots to say and can't wait for the day when we can understand her. ECing has its good days and not so productive days. She will pee in the potty 99.9% of the time if I set her on it, but I'm not so great about giving her the potty option when I get busy. She hangs out in a shirt, diaper and babylegs most days. I have to say, I love the babylegs. They are so much more convenient than taking off pants or tights ever time I potty her or change her diaper. The boys love the babylegs too and wear them under pants to keep warm.

We had quite a bit of snow today and Parker was so excited to go outside. I was not. I am a watch the snow while sitting by the fire type person. The getting all bundled up to get wet and cold is not worth it to me, but I need to get over it for my kids. Parker can get all bundled up by himself and that is so incredibly helpful so he was outside long before I was able to get Dema dressed, then undressed to go to the bathroom again, then bundled again, and then dress Josie, put her in a carrier, then took her out of the carrier to change her diaper, then put her in the carrier, put the babywearing coat on, put my boots on, etc.

When we came outside, Parker was shoveling our neighbor's walk and she was outside. She explained to me that she had seen Parker shoveling the sidewalk at the park from her window and had decided to ask him to shovel her two walks (she owns two houses side by side now). Parker was doing a great job and looked very happy to help out. She kept saying he had done a good enough job, but he obviously did not get his shoveling genes from me (I am Miss Half-A** shoveler and think one little line through the snow is sufficient) and was insistent to get the entire walk clear of all snow which he carried over to the street instead of just dumping it on her yard. I see a city job in his future. Anyway, as I chatted with the neighbor she said she was going to pay Parker $10 for shoveling. I said, "no, he is only seven and doesn't need $10 and he should shovel the walk for fun and the feeling of helping out not for money". She insisted and even gave Dema $2 for cleaning off her cars. Parker told me later that he tried to talk her out of paying and he was a little embarrassed at getting paid, but it was his first paid job so he did feel pretty proud of that fact. He sells his artwork, but so far only to my sister so it doesn't really count.

Dema thought the snow would be a perfect place to ride his Like-A-Bike. Actually, it wasn't too bad since it is a balance bike and has no pedals. He was able to maneuver better than Parker on his "real" bike. He had a great time "off-roading" on his Like-A-Bike in the snow drifts.

Parker did our walks after the neighbor's for free and was happy to do it. He must get this from my dad since he still does all the neighbors' snow removal at 71 years of age. We came inside and had vegan hot cocoa with vegan marshmallows in our favorite vegan mugs to warm us up. I added some Nutriva Chocolate Hemp Shake to the hot cocoa and it dissolved better when warmed and tasted pretty good and added some nutrients.

Parker is a working man now and so grown up!.