Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Mean People Suck

Do you know anyone who is completely unable to deal with the majority of people, doesn't work well with others, is constantly suspicious of others, thinks he/she is the only one who can do anything right, doesn't ever take responsibility for their actions, rude and passive aggressive, but in such a way as it is difficult to call them out on it? I'm so sorry if you do because it sucks. It especially sucks when they have unlimited money and time on their hands.

Breathe, exhale, breathe.

West Indian Pumpkin w/Jerk-Spiced Tempeh

Rob made this the other night. The recipe is from The New Vegan Cookbook by Lorna Sass. My mom really liked this cookbook and would make several things from it regularly, but for some reason it is not one I grab very often. I do really like the Roasted Sweet Potato and Corn Chowder recipe and Wholegrain Waffles recipe. The pictures in the cookbook are also nice. Anyway, the West Indian Pumpkin w/Jerk-Spiced Tempeh turned out well. I pureed the kids' servings because Rob made it pretty chunky and we had been out all day at the local Sweetcorn Festival so the kids were in a mood. You are supposed to put the tempeh on top, but the kids' had theirs on the side with steamed broccoli and Parker's favorite grapes (he has shunned other grapes recently) organic champagne grapes. They are cute and sweet and on sale at our local health food store. As usual, all the ingredients are organic. The marinade for the tempeh was very nice and I would use this recipe for jerk tempeh even without the pumpkin curry.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Nesting and Siblings

As the time for our new baby to be born is quickly approaching, I'm getting into "nesting" mode. Thank goodness it is much cooler the last few days so I can organize things and clean without dripping in sweat.

We have all of these projects we are working on around the house and I feel like none of them will get done before the baby arrives, but I'm trying not to stress about it. The only thing that really has to be done, in my opinion is blowing up the birthing pool (which the guys are working on right now) and having some space for the birth. Dema was born in our other house and we had the spare bedroom all set up. Now we have most of my inventory for my business in the spare room so I won't birth in there. I don't want to take up the boys' room in case it is a long labor or happens while they are sleeping so I'm down to our bedroom which is smaller and has a king size bed taking up most of the room. I'm sure it will all come together.

Note on the birthing pool, after the guys showed their strength and determination to inflate the birthing pool with only bike pumps, we bought a pump at a local camping supply store which did the rest of the job in seconds. Best $10 we've spent this week.

Parker and Dema both want to be around for the birth and they both want to cut the umbilical cord (Parker cut Dema's). We'll see how it goes. Maybe they can do it together. They both kind of fight over the baby already and it isn't even here yet. I'm sure they will figure it out once the little one arrives. They really work together well. Sure, they have their little disagreements and bug each other, but they are so incredibly close too. It is nice to see that in siblings who are four years apart. They help each other out and are usually fiercely loyal to each other. Dema, especially, would get in a bar fight for Parker. Parker is always looking after Dema and making sure he is safe. I worry a little about adding a third into the mix. I've never thought it was a good idea to have an uneven number of get the middle child syndrome and someone is left out. We'll see. I usually try to assume it will all work out instead of creating an issue by worrying. I think children tend to live up to expectations so if we expect there to be fighting we will probably get fighting and vice versa.

Dema has asked to see pictures of his birth a lot lately. I unfortunately don't have pictures of Parker's because we had a regular 35 mm film camera then and the film was accidentally exposed (heartbreaking for me). Rob took some great pictures at Dema's birth and they can be viewed here. Dema loves to talk about how he was born in a pool, but it can be confusing to people who don't know his birth story. Parker is extremely interested in the whole birth process. He tries to explain it to Dema and anyone else who will listen. I wonder if he might have interest in being a midwife later in life. Parker has been learning about the sun lately and he came up to me the other day and said, "If your belly was the sun, the Earth would be the size of a sperm." Hmm. I don't know if the math works out, but it sounds about right. I like how he combines sex ed and astronomy. The wonders of homeschooling.

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Power of Food

As parents, you hear all the time about "picky eaters". You actually hear things like, my kid won't eat anything but chicken nuggets and French fries or input your own food you don't want your kid living off of. I always think, really? How does that work exactly? The kid is cooking chicken nuggets or driving out to the fast food place for them and paying? Then I think of my childhood.

Don't get me wrong, my mother made lots of healthy meals and we really didn't eat out much. I ate meat as a kid. I was a super picky eater. I would pick the meat out of chili and not eat any of the vegetables. Not that I was a huge meat fan either. I would only eat hamburgers my mother made and never with anything, but ketchup on it. I was grossed out by chicken on the bone because of the veins. I only liked carrots raw, never cooked. I would never eat a raw tomato. I would never pick up a fruit (like an apple) and eat it, my mother would have to cut it up. I hated spinach and many other vegetables. My parents would give me a pea on my plate for every year I was old to get me to eat them (which I swallowed whole so I wouldn't have to taste them). I don't know how old I was when the great pea incident happened, but I remember it...I put all the peas in my mouth and I just couldn't swallow so I ran to my bedroom and spit them out in the trash and then hid under my bed. Doesn't sound so bad now, but I remember the feeling of doom and trouble, but I just couldn't gag them down.

My mother was a saint. Being a mother myself now I feel tremendous guilt for the amount of pain and suffering I must have caused her on the food front. I hope I told her I was sorry before she died, but if not...I am so sorry mom. My mother was a great cook. People always wanted her recipes and even at her funeral remarks were made about her being in heaven feeding everyone. She would have someone over for dinner once and remember what they commented they liked or what they ate the most of and if they ever came over again it would be matter what. "Mom, we already have baked potatoes." "Yes, I know, but your friend Susie really likes mashed." So there would be mashed potatoes for Susie. And probably separate mashed potatoes for me since I was a freak and only liked the mashed potatoes from a box (less lumps). From a box! Ew! Is that even food? My son oldest son was a little over 2 when my mother died and still the other day he was eating something and said "This reminds me of what your mother used to make...she was such a good cook." I'm pretty sure we've never said this in front of him. I asked him what Grandma used to make and he came up with stuff she made him in the short time they had together. The power of food.

My mother was an enabler. I'm sure she was tired. I am the youngest of three and I came seven and half years after my closest sibling. "Bonus baby", "accident"...all depends on how you look at life. Anyway, I'm sure my brother and sister did not have the same experience I did, but they probably weren't as picky as I was either. Anyway, she eventually stopped fighting my pickiness and just fed me foods I would eat. A blessing or a curse.

My husband and I like to play the "What disgusting food did you eat as a kid? Game" It is usually a food we *enjoyed* as a kid, but would never bring ourselves to eat now. Rob grew up in the south so he almost always wins.

Some favorites from my list:

Saltine crackers with marshmallow stuff (or was it called fluff?) on it (while watching TV).
*There actually is a vegan equivClick to enlargealent to marshmallow stuff now, but I don't eat many crackers (no nutrients) and can't remember the last time I had a Saltine. Of course, we don't own a TV.

Jelly and butter (I guess it was margarine) on white bread. I'm not talking like toast with butter and jelly, but chunks of butter with jelly between two slices of bread. Okay, what was my mother thinking? It was always grape jelly (can't really stand grape now) and I remember introducing this snack to my next door neighbor/best friend. I'm sure her mom was super happy about that.

I had a friend in Junior High who ate potato chips and dipped them in ketchup. I guess it is similar to French fries, but it still is pretty disgusting to me now.

Favorite from Rob's list:

A double decker PB and J and bologna, mustard and cheese. We are talking a piece of bread, jelly, peanut butter, another piece of bread, mustard, bologna, cheese, and another slice of bread. Ugh!

In the end, it all worked out. I eventually, stopped eating mammals first and this opened up my food choices. I know that sounds funny, but the farther I went into vegetarianism and then veganism the more foods I ate. I love vegetables now and don't eat much of anything from a box. I enjoy a wide range of foods and so do my kids and looking back I have my mother to thank. We did have a wide variety of foods growing up, even if I wouldn't touch the kiwi or eggplant or whathaveyou, it still paved the way for me to recognize and love the foods later in life. I hope she recognized that and although I know she never stopped worrying about me and food (as a mom, I'm guessing you just never stop worrying period), I would like to think she was pretty happy how healthy I became. She would ask me for nutritional and food advice after I became and adult.

Rob thinks I enable our own kids a bit. We have this ongoing "food fight". I don't "allow" chips in the house. When Rob and I first got together we both worked a lot and sometimes he would come home and eat chips and salsa for dinner (doesn't matter to me that they were both organic and the chips are the Bearito brand which is baked and made from whole ingredients). So when we had children, I decided no chips. They fill you up, don't have any nutrients (I'm big on the wasted calories thing...although I suppose the salsa has some vitamin A). I don't have a problem with the having real fruit popsicles (they love the mango ones which again have vitamin A), sorbet (usually mango...vitamin A), and occasionally soy or rice cream (no nutrient, but it is cold and have I mentioned we don't have A/C?) and they usually top it with fruit. So, even though Rob is the one who introduced me to rice and soy creams and loved to eat them pre-kids, he doesn't think I should buy them. I don't know if it is a tit-for-tat type thing because I'm such a bitch about the chips, but there you go.Dema Picture

The most ironic thing about this ongoing food fight is that the kids are actually incredibly good and self-control and don't eat any "junk" foods to excess. They can see the soy or rice cream in the freezer and not eat it...Rob and I are not that good. The kids can eat a bite or two of a dessert and leave the rest. Rob and I have a hard time with that. To be perfectly honest, most of the time we don't have junk food around and the kids eat frozen or fresh fruits as dessert. They have never dipped fresh strawberries in sugar (both Rob and I grew up thinking fresh strawberries had to be dipped in sugar to be edible) and they enjoy a very wide range of whole foods. For Dema's second birthday, I made a blueberry coffee cake which was very low in sugar. He loved it. We didn't have a cake for Parker's seventh birthday party. He just wanted a fruit salad for the party and stuffed grape leaves for his birthday dinner.

People are always noticing what the kids eat and asking how we do it. While, I think a lot of it is luck and I'm waiting for the "payback" kid to haunt me since I deserve it for putting my mother through food hell, there are some tips.

1. Don't write a food off. Your child (or spouse) doesn't like something the first or fifth time you serve it? Don't give up, serve it another way. Chances are, eventually they will come around. Be open to the possibility they will never like it and they may have good allergy or food sensitivity. That is okay too. There are so many different foods out there and nature didn't make one food the only way to get a nutrient. Variety is the key. We are incredibly lucky to have access to so many foods all year round in this country. Of course, I am a big supporter of eating organic, locally, and in season, but we do enjoy our mangoes and avocados too.

Vegan Food Pyramid

2. Don't cut vegetables too big for little mouths. This is something I always say to Rob because he likes big chunks of veggies or is too lazy to cut them smaller. It is hard to get a big thing of cauliflower or broccoli into a little mouth...heck even with my big mouth I prefer smaller bites. If y our kids are adverse completely to a vegetable, go ahead and puree it into a sauce or something. This is a great sneaky way to get more nutrients, but go ahead and still keep introducing the food in recognizable form because part of the goal is for a child to pick these foods to eat when they are older.

3. Eat the foods yourself. Nothing beats modeling good nutrition. I think this is what finally helped me. My parents both loved vegetables and although no one would accuse my father of being a vegetarian, he would eat anything put down in front of him and to my knowledge never met a vegetable he didn't like. This also means trying new foods yourself. Parker, my seven year old, is fond of saying "It never hurts to try something new." He may not always take to a food, but he is usually up to trying something.

4. Get rid of the foods you feel are unhealthy. Don't have them in the house. Don't want your child living on french fries? Don't buy them. They can't eat what they don't have access to and they will have more room for the yummy whole foods you have in the house.

5. Have healthy quick snacks available. Kids like to pl ay and play and some children forget to eat or get so involved in what they are doing until they are starving. Then they need something right away. We don't have any allergies so I like keeping different nuts, seeds, and dried fruit on hand for a quick pick me up until I have time to cook something. Apples or carrots w/nut butters are also quick and the kids love it.

6. Cook with your children. This is so helpful. They feel like they are part of the process and are more likely to eat something they helped with...from shopping at the store or farmer's market or better yet picking produce from the garden to chopping up vegetables or stirring the food in on the stove, it is easy to get even little ones involved.

7. Talk about nutrition or the reasons for eating what you do. Being vegan in a non-vegan world, we probably talk about food more than the average family, but food is important to all of us. We eat at least three times and day and food is so much a part of our culture. Food is literally everywhere. We obviously talk to our children about how "food animals" are treated and why we don't believe in eating them and why some people do. Mostly, we talk about what foods we do eat and why they are good for us. They are both interested in vitamins and minerals and how the body works. We discuss things we avoid or don't want to eat too much of like sugar and fried foods and why. I think it really helps with young children to understand what is in the food they eat and what the body needs to feel health and grow strong.

8. Listen to your body and help your child listen to their body too. Babies are easy. They listen to their bodies and eat when they are hungry and sleep when they are tired (the key to enlightenment, our yoga instructor in Maryland used to say). It is amazing how much we don't do these two simple things in our culture. Try to get in tune with your body and listen to what makes you feel healthy and happy. Parker ate some chocolate one day and ended up feeling pretty bad. We know a lot of people with allergies and so he decided he was allergic to chocolate. I told him I didn't think he was, but then I let him go because he was just expressing how he felt and he avoided chocolate for a long while afterwards. He still doesn't eat much chocolate, although now he understands the difference between really being allergic and maybe over-doing a food (especially sugar). We try to encourage the kids to listen to their internal cues of when they are hungry or not and what makes them feel bad and what makes them feel good. This is why I'm not a big fan of the way Rob was brought up (we call it the "clean plate club"). But, I'm not so sure my mom's way was any better so it can be a struggle to have a balance for us.

9. I'll leave you with this one. Enjoy eating and enjoy eating together as a family. I know mealtime can be crazy and sometimes frustrating with children, but try to put as much joy into mealtime as possible. Slow down and cook with love and eat with appreciation. It makes life so much more fun.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Tomatoes and Popcorn

Okay, so that doesn't sound too appetizing. Usually, I don't think of tomatoes and popcorn together, but desperate times call for desperate food. It is HOT (it isn't the heat, it is the humidity...seriously it sucks) here in Illinois and we have no A/C (I'm sure I've whined about this before) which wouldn't be too terrible except we still can't open more than one window on our first floor (where the kitchen is). It is actually cooler on the second floor.

So...what does this have to do with food, Linda? Well, for one the family went shopping together just to get cooler (and because we needed some things, but we *hate* shopping at places like Target so it ended up being a less than pleasurable experience with one bright side) and we finally found an air popcorn popper since ours died a while back. We made popcorn as soon as we got home. My favorite popcorn:

olive oil (enough to lightly coat)
sea salt (little)
nutritional yeast (lots)
red pepper flakes (just a little)

Put all this in a brown paper bag and close tightly and shake vigorously. Yum!

A coworker/friend of Rob's sweetly sent home some fresh tomatoes from his garden today. I suppressed the urge to just eat them as tomato sandwiches (especially since we are out of bread) and instead made the Cappellini in Fresh Tomato Cream Sauce from VeganYumYum. I bought some Tofutti non-hydrogenated Better Than Cream Cheese on a whim the other day since I found it on sale. We haven't eaten the Better Than Cream Cheese in years, but now that it is non-hydrogenated and I had LoLo's recipe in the back of my mind, I bought some. Everyone (all my favorite vegan bloggers) was right and it was yummy (everyone in my family liked it..I waited to tell Rob about the Better Than Cream Cheese), but I would definitely add broccoli and carrots to it next time since it was pretty rich. I doubled the recipe and used my immersion blender instead of a regular blender/food processor (was a little messy, but it worked). I also coated the cappellini with flax seed oil (don't tell Rob) because I just have to add flax seed oil to pasta (I didn't add the pasta to the sauce and cook it like the recipe called for, but just put flax seed oil on the pasta and added the sauce after). I think the sauce would be great in a lasagna or topping pizza too. I will have to play with it. The best thing is it takes so little time to make so I wasn't slaving in the hot kitchen all night and it was just right with some mixed berries on the side for a hot, hot night when you don't feel like eating a ton.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Brunch and Peaches

Rob made brunch for us today and I wish I'd taken pictures because it was the best tofu scramble I think he has made. I like to indulge in the Amy's Kitchen frozen Tofu Scramble from time to time and I think this was as good or better. Here is the "recipe" (he kind of just threw it together):

1 package White Wave firm tofu (pressed to get the water out and cubed)
4 large carrots (chopped)
3 handfulls fresh spinach (tear into bite sized pieces)
1 onion (diced)
1 red pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
nutritional yeast to taste (this is a key ingredient in my opinion so I suggested he add it)

Cook the veggies with the spices. Add the tofu near the end after the veggies have had time to cook a bit and then the nutritional yeast.

He also made hashbrowns in our new Swiss Diamond skillet which we bought in Colorado. We haven't had a non-stick skillet for many years and I'm not sure what I think about the diamond coating, but it does work really well. Thus, he didn't need to use any oil. Parker was watching him cook and suggested we add black beans to the hashbrowns. Parker opened the can of beans and I suggested we add some salsa to the beans while we heated them up so we had Muir Glen mild salsa with black beans on the hashbrowns which turned out to taste quite good. The boys ate the fresh strawberries before brunch so they had some frozen ones with brunch and Dema had to dip his tofu scramble in unsweetened ketchup.

My sweet thoughtful friend, Jenny, picked up some local peaches the other day and we've enjoyed eating them as they ripened. Dema didn't even wait for them to ripen before eating a few. Today I found so many ripe that I knew they would go to waste if I didn't do something with them. The kids have been begging for the peach upside-down cake from Fat Free Vegan (the kids are addicted to vegan food blogs) so I thought today would be a good day. I used the tips for cutting up the peaches from VeganYumYum. Unfortunately, I didn't use enough peaches (my pan was a little bigger than the recipe called for and I didn't add extra peaches), but otherwise it was very yummy. I would make it again and it is really easy. There are so many better pictures out there for this cake so don't let my picture keep you from trying it. The recipe uses quite a bit of sugar and I would maybe cut that down next time and maybe add some cinnamon (I love cinnamon and was reading recently about the positive effects of cinnamon on blood sugar levels). The cake disappeared right away and Parker said he'll have to create a similar recipe for the restaurant he wants to open (not sure if that goes against child labor laws since he is just seven).

Thanks Jenny! I should have brought you some cake.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

They Died for Us

When I first heard about the trapped miners in Utah, I thought, "Why doesn't the media talk about alternatives to coal when things like this happen?". Of course, some argue people need jobs and the miners would rather be working the mine than be unemployed. I refuse to think these are our only options. A friend of mine is an iron worker (tough, dangerous work in its own right) and he is currently working on a windmill farm. Cutting down on coal mining doesn't mean we can't put people to work doing other projects which maybe aren't as dangerous and certainly won't kill their families off as well with the air pollution.

Now rescuers have died and most certainly the original miners are dead now too. All I can think is they died for us. They died to bring us cheap power. I could go into the others who have died, are dying, will die for power (like wars fought over the control of oil, etc.), but right now I want to focus on the miners. A few days ago I was listening to NPR and one of the miners they interviewed mentioned that he says a prayer ever time he goes down in the mine. It made me think that we all should say a prayer (or a thank you if you prefer) every time we turn on our lights, cook up some tofu, check out our favorite blog...thanking the people who go down into the Earth and risk their lives daily in hellish, terrifying conditions to provide us with power.

Thank you and I'm sorry.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Crazy Squirrels and Airing Dirty Laundry

I adore living in an older neighborhood with the established trees. It is so nice to have real shade and just looking at trees relaxes me. I love that most of the trees in our yard and in the neighborhood park are older than my parents and possibly my grandparents. One of the reasons I fell in love with Maryland was all the trees and it is so nice to have an area with trees in Illinois. I've read the studies about trees and how by just living near them can increase health and lower blood pressure. Until...the *squirrels*.

Now, I love squirrels just as much as the next gal. Who can resist their cute bushy tails and their little faces....those little faces which eat nuts on my porch and leave a mess in their wake (the pictures don't do them justice and this is after cleaning up). Those bushy tails which help them leap from branches to the roof and destroy our home. Grrrr. It is funny because the only reason squirrels have a better reputation than rats is the darn tail. Humans are suckers for a cute tail. I have turned into the crazy lady talking to the wildlife, shooing the squirrels (who don't seem to understand English, who knew?) off her property. I tried being nice and talking in the voice my kids use with squirrels, other animals, and younger children. You know the voice, "Please, squirrels, we enjoy you, but please don't eat on our porch or damage our property." It didn't work. I've tried stomping and yelling. It didn't work, but I did get some interesting looks from neighbors. I'm finding nuts hidden behind the pillows on our porch furniture and they really seem to like to sit at the porch table and leave the walnut casings behind. I really can't have them destroying the roof and getting into the attic. I've seen the destruction they can leave in their wake. I'm happy they find us so friendly, but they have to go. Internet search on discouraging squirrels.

Now I'm thinking of buying an owl or a hawk. In our old neighborhood (sans trees) we had rabbits. Rabbits were everywhere and ate anything you grew. We soon had a hawk move in close by and although it was tough explaining to the children about the hawk swooping down to "talk" to the rabbit and leaving nothing, but patches of fur behind. Yes, the hawk ate the rabbit, no we don't like to eat living beings, but it works for the hawk. There are so many rabbits it helps their population. Yes, I know the rabbits are individuals and that one with only fur left is probably not happy about giving up its life for the rest of rabbitkind. No the hawk is not bad, it has to eat to survive and isn't a vegetarian animal. Hey, look...over there....isn't that Bob the Builder?

Anyhoo, back to the squirrels (and by the way, we have our share of rabbits here to, but we haven't started a garden so you'll have to wait for that rant next spring). I need to find a way to co-exist without loosing my mind. I really hate cleaning up after them every morning and I really can't have them destroying things. If anyone has any humane ideas, let me know.

I went out to my backyard this morning to hang up laundry and after getting a slight concussion from the walnut being dropped on my head by my favorite squirrel buddy, I realized I haven't blogged about one of my favorite aspects of living in our neighborhood. Drying laundry outdoors. When we first moved in, we brought our washer (GE frontload, high capacity, gentle on the environment and our favorite appliance in the house), but left the dryer because it was gas and we didn't have gas hookup in the kitchen (which is were the washer hookup is to Rob's dismay, but we will get into building a laundry room another day). We were happy to cut one more thing out of our lives which is bad for the environment, but I didn't have an outdoor line to hang clothes and it does get cold in Illinois in winter so I used the attic. It worked fine and I love my attic, but as spring came we didn't want the extra humidity in the house from drying clothes. My wonderful father designed the most elaborate plans for a clothes line I've ever seen (yes, he is a retired engineer and used to design dams so he is your man for extensive plans no matter what the project). My dad and Rob worked on the clothes line and although it is really not finished (especially in my dad's eyes), it is totally functional and I am able to hang two *large* loads or three normal sized loads of laundry at a time. Hanging the laundry has become a meditation time for me and I really like it. Once in a while, we've had a drying emergency when the weather has been to rainy or humid and used our neighbor's dryer, but for the most part I can't imagine ever needing one again. We have a privacy fence so no one has to look at us airing our dirty laundry (oh wait, it is actually clean, but no one needs to see our underwear unless they want to). In our old neighborhood the HOA (home owners association) did not allow for drying laundry outside. Hmphf! I was going to ban with another neighbor to try change the rule, but we moved instead. Anyway, I almost look forward to doing laundry now.

It is the little things in life which make me happy.

Oh, as a post script for those who really wanted to read something "dirty". I found out about this in my DailyGrist email (which I recommend for environmental news with a little humor) and couldn't help pass it along. Now you can recycle your used vibrators (yes, I know) and receive a discount on a new one. Only in Ameri...wait, it is in the UK. Still, it is a sign that going green is easier and easier. Ew!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Fun in the Rockies

We took an last minute trip to Colorado last week (then came back from beautiful weather to crazy heat and humidity here in Illinois...sigh). We drove to Colorado with my sister (who suggested the trip because a friend of the family has a house in Estes Park, Colorado which they were unable to use this summer). It was great to have a nice house to stay at and you really can't beat free. It was also fun to have no computer and we don't have a TV at home so not having a TV at the house was a bonus. The kids and Rob got a TV fix and some swimming in the hotels on the way out and back. I have to say if you are looking for a hotel after midnight to send in the pregnant woman. We spent an hour looking for a hotel until I went into Heritage Inn (2185 U. Ave. Williamsburg, IA) and then the non-smoking room with two queen sized beds was there. I'm sure just a coincidence, but still. We thought about camping, but I'm a little close to my due date to feel like sleeping on the ground...I'm a wimp.

I did some quick searching for vegan places to eat on the way out and in Colorado. We stopped in Omaha, Nebraska first. McFoster's Natural Kind Cafe a very "hippy" place (they advertise over night parking is approved in their cool) and we liked the food, but were not blown away. It could have been the service. We received pretty bad service everywhere we went. I was impressed that we were able to find this place in Nebraska though. We started out with a Date Shake (see pic) without honey (excellent) and a Very Berry Smoothie (good). Dema had the Rasta Pasta (see pic) and didn't like it. It was not as good as everything else and we were disappointed in our waitress because of the cheese (it may have been vegan, but we didn't try it) on the garlic bread although we had talked about dairy and vegan dishes several times with her. I had the Tempeh Reuben without cheese and Dema ate most of it. Very yummy! Parker had the Red Bean Burrito which was good. Karen had red beans and rice. The best, in my opinion was Rob's Artichoke Mornay with Organic Tempeh. The Celestial Bananas for dessert was nice.

The kids had a great time climbing rocks and I'm pretty sure Dema could throw stones in water for a week if we would let him. We had to drag him away. I realized on this trip that although my kids are growing up in flat Illinois that they've seen mountains all their lives so they don't have the awe for them like I did. I remember being totally amazed the first time I went to the mountains, but Parker and Dema see mountains a couple times a year. It was nice to see some renewed interest from Rob in rock climbing. We used to climb when we lived in Maryland and Rob has fond memories of climbing out west with his guy friends. Since having children, Rob hasn't been into climbing (we do live in flat Illinois), but our trip to Colorado may have sparked something.

We were in Estes Park so we had to do the touristy thing at least one day and the kids loved it. We foolishly told them we have miniature golf and all this other stuff in Illinois so we should take advantage of what Colorado has and Illinois doesn't. Wait, but that means they will be begging to go to this type of place all the time. Then we decided we'd rather miniature golf and Bumper Boats, etc. be a vacation thing and let go. There were warnings about pregnant women on most of the rides so I took pictures instead. Parker didn't want bump anyone or anyone to bump him in the Bumper Boats. Although Dema was most excited about the race cars, they both said the miniature golf was their favorite.

While we were hiking, I kept having strangers ask if the baby was okay (meaning the one still inside me and not the 3 year old on my back). It made me laugh. The baby had it easy! I am so huge now that Parker is even making comments about my shirt not fitting and the baby being as big as Dema (please no!). I did feel the altitude much more on this trip than I did when we were in Colorado last (before the kids were born) so I wonder if this is due to being pregnant. It would have been fun to have the baby in Colorado. I've read beautiful stories of unassisted births in the mountains, but it was not meant to be. It was really nice to see so many children in baby carriers. I saw a couple other Ergos (the carrier in the picture) on our trip. I'm a big babywearing advocate and sell baby carriers so I tend to notice them. I saw ring slings, Hotslings, and Baby Bjorns (ugh!), but no wraps this trip. It was nice to do some real hiking instead of the flat stuff we have in Illinois. The views were great and the kids liked the waterfalls.

I was impressed with Dema and how well he hiked. He has those small little legs and it must have been quite the workout. Parker is so completely protective of Dema and was constantly trying to keep him from falling into water falls or getting hurt. Parker only complained of being tired of hiking a couple times and he wanted to go in the Ergo too, but we just distracted him and he was fine. I wasn't up to carrying a seven year old on my back this trip.

It was convenient having a kitchen on the trip. This cut down on our need to find restaurants (although I couldn't help, but want to try out some of the veg-friendly ones on my list). Rob and Parker made rice and beans one night and it was yummy. I couldn't resist taking a picture of Parker cutting up the turnips for the rice and beans. He talks about starting his own restaurant quite a bit (with our help). I hope he never looses his interest in cooking. I love seeing Rob and Parker work together in the kitchen. Rob makes the best rice and beans (one of the few things he will cook without following a recipe). This time he used: 2 turnips (cubed and lightly pan fried), 1 onion, 1 red pepper (diced), 2 tomotios (diced) and covered it all with water and cooked until everything was a little soft then added a jar of pinto beans, a jar of black beans, and 28oz. can of diced tomatoes, with chile powder (about 1 Tablespoon), black pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste. Usually, we add spinach and carrots, but this time we just served it with a spinach salad with chopped carrots and made our own dressing from Vegenaise, ketchup, relish, and mustard. Dema enjoyed the salad as much as the beans and rice. The rice and beans were even better the next day and the dressing was supper yummy on avocado sandwiches with spinach and carrots for lunch.

Rob and I had fond memories of Boulder from our last trip to Colorado. We had fun hanging out and trying some restaurants two days. It was nice to see all the cyclists and we really wanted our bikes with us. Our first restaurant was the Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant at 2010 16th St. and the sign was so understated that we almost missed the place. For a completely vegetarian restaurant they were kind of funny about the vegan thing too. I think we had a new server because someone came to her rescue and seemed much more informed about the food. Another vegan couple came Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant in and the server we didn't have gave them a run down of all the vegan options where our server just remained clueless. Rob asked me not to take pictures which is too bad because the food was very good and great presentation. We ordered the three hummus plate first and were a little worried because it was so tiny (the black bean hummus was the best), but the entrees were plenty. Rob and I shared a Seaweed Salad. Rob had a yummy Artichoke Po Boy sandwich, Karen had the Falafel in Pita sandwich, I had Jamaican Jerk Tempeh with forbidden black rice which was excellent, Dema had a scrumptious sweet and sour tofu dish with tempura tofu with coconut in the batter, and Parker had a great Seitan Reuben. We were all stuffed and poor, but I had to see what the desserts were like and the kids decided they wanted the vegan chocolate cake and the blueberry/peach pie. The pie was the best. The kids thoroughly enjoyed the downtown shopping area for the things to see and play on and their favorite was "Bob the street performer". I liked the walkability of the area and the frequent, clean restrooms. I know, I sound like a old mom.

In Estes Park we had a surprisingly good restaurant find. I noticed in the restaurant guide that Poppy's Pizza and Grill advertised vegetarian and vegan options! When we first asked our server about the vegan options he was a little nervous, but soon brought out a manager who gave us the low down on everything vegan on the menu. He was very helpful. We ended up getting two pizzas, one for the kids and one for Rob and me. Our pizza had hummus for a "sauce" and was topped with sun-dried tomatoes, Kalamata olives (our favorite!), and spinach. The boys' pizza had olive oil and garlic for a sauce and we added corn, vegetarian pepperoni, Kalamata olives, and zucchini. Both were great! We should have gone back. I won't even describe the horrible dining experience we had at Casa Grande on our way out of town. I blame this experience on Rob since he was craving chips and Mexican and I was against it. He said it was the worst Mexican he's ever tasted, but it really was the entire experience. Trust us and stay away.

After Poppy's, it started to rain so we went to a local bookstore close by named Macdonald. We found potato chip vacation books for Rob, some parenting books for me (Diaper Free and Disease-Proof Your idea of fun vacation reading), and some local books for the kids; What's Up with Altitude (we had fun discussions earlier in the trip about the food bar wrappers expanding and the toothpaste shooting out of its lid and this book explained it all in a very understandable and fun way), Whose Tracks are These?, My Water Comes from the Mountain (I love books about water and connectivity), and A Log's Life (which went well with Dema's question about the logs we saw on the trails). We also checked out one of the may mountain gear stores and Parker tried out the climbing wall. Dema was so sad he was too little to climb there.

We also tried out the Boulder veg-friendly fast food scene on our next day there. We tried Mustard's Last Stand for Tofu Reuben for me (it was a big reuben vacation), Soy Veggie Dog for Rob, and the Veggie Tempeh Burgers for the kids. It was fast food, but not bad. I think we should have gone to V.G. Burgers instead. For dinner we tried "Boulder County's Best Thai Restaurant", Khow Thai. We are a little spoiled with Thai at home because we have come to know the owner of the restaurant and she makes the food just way we like it so it took a while to warm up to the food and again we had the dopey server. Parker and I had the yellow curry which was a little sweet for our tastes, Dema had Khow Pad Supparod w/no egg (stir fried rice with cashews and raisins) which was good, and it was great to have steamed vegetables on the side (I love to add more veggies) and the entrees were already pretty heavy on the vegetables which can be rare in restaurants.

Speaking of Thai, on the way home we stopped in Lincoln, Nebraska at the Thai Garden (245 North 13th) and they a large vegetarian section which is so nice, especially for a Thai restaurant. Parker ordered his Yellow Curry, but the server said it was spicy and looked at us with a scowl. We assured her that he was okay and he's eaten Thai food for years and never had an issue with the spices. Rob and Dema shared the Pad Thai with tofu and no egg, but it was not very good so Dema ate some of Karen and Parker's Yellow Curry. I had the Vegetarian Pepper Steak which was good and Dema ate some as well. Overall, I would say it was just okay. I only took pictures of the kids eating the Vegetarian Chicken Nugget and the Thai Spring Roll appetizers. They had a koi pond in the restaurant and Dema had a nice time talking to the fish.

To end our trip, we stopped by the New Pioneer Food Co-op in Iowa City. We were going to eat across the street at the Red Avocado, but it was closed for remodeling (the theme of our trip since many of the places we stopped either were out of business, just closed a week ago, or closed for remodeling). I would pay a lot of money to have a co-op in Champaign-Urbana like New Pioneer. They have a great selection of groceries, nice hours, yummy deli with vegan items well marked, etc. We had the following sandwiches; Tofooled Ya!, Cashew on a Hot Tin Roof, Rock & Roll Avocado Tofuwich, and Garden Cheeseburger (no cheese). Parker had some black bean soup too.

The kids were a little disappointed when we told them we weren't going to the beach this year, but they ended up really liking Colorado and want to go back. I hope next time we get to enjoy some camping, more hiking, and maybe some real climbing.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

I Heart Dennis!

As in Kucinich (which rhymes with spinach which I also love). Since I'm on the vegan love theme today, I just had to blog about my secret heart throb and presidential candidate (wow, never thought those two would go together).

I was reading this interview on the Daily Grist "Kucinich on the Record" and drooling. I have been a fan since his last presidential bid and still have the bumper sticker on my car to prove it. This is no fly by night love, but something lasting. I mean how could anyone not adore the "former boy mayor of Cleveland" (how do you ever get rid of that baggage?) who is a peace loving vegan?

In all seriousness, he is a visionary and an amazing speaker. He came to the U of I to speak during the last campaign and I was impressed...not easy to do my friends. He is the only environmental candidate, in my opinion. Although Rob thinks he is unelectable (he is sooo negative!), I will vote for him any day of the week and twice in Chicago.

Do me a favor and at least check him out. He has some interesting ideas and a lot of balls (did I really type that?) to come out and put it all on the line. I won't tell you who to vote for (there might be a dozen vegan cookies in it for you), but it doesn't hurt to read a little of what he has to say.

The Secret Sex Life of Vegans

Okay, I want to let this one go, but I just can't. I read The New Zealand Herald article "Vegans left feeling hungry...for love" and shouldn't give it the time of day, but now we have our own sexual label apparently so maybe this is a step for vegans. I don't know if it is in the right direction...

Anyhoo...people who choose to not be sexually intimate with non-vegans are now "vegansexuals". Someone actually went to the effort (sniff) to survey vegans and found they prefer partners who are *gasp* vegan. How odd? This is shocking and in the article it cuts down on the number of potential dates. (Maybe the answer to world overpopulation???? See previous post.) I am sincerely touched that someone cares enough about the vegans to worry if we are getting enough sex or not. (I'm guessing the author is a meat-eater who didn't get past first base with a vegan.)

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a vegan husband so I'm not out there dating so much anymore. In fact, we have been known to replay the scene in "When Harry Met Sally" (come on, you know you've seen it) where the two characters look at each other in bed after getting off the phone with Harry and Sally and say "tell me I will never have to be out there again". Or something tot this effect. This is how we feel. Married life might be tough and no bed of organic roses (and btw, I have rose bushes now and they have thorns and are a big pain in the rear so who came up with this term?), but it sure beats trying to get out there again and find another available vegan.

I just want to know what is going on or not going on in New Zealand for an article like this to be published. Is the crime rate so low? Are there no natural disasters? I'm moving to New Zealand...but, I'm going to keep a firm grip on my husband.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Procreating in an Overpopulated World

It seems like everyone is going environmental these days and I love it! Green isn't just for the "left" anymore and people are talking about the issues and it seems to my optimistic side that people are putting the words into action. Of course, it can get dirty going green and sometimes things getOverpopulated World downright ugly. I was reading this article today by Andrew Chung in The Star about overpopulation and thinking, I really need to blog about this...yes, I know.

In my eight years as a "procreator" (or should it be "procreater" or "breeder" as some say) I've struggled with the idea of bringing more people into the world. Not just for environmental reasons, but because the world is pretty crazy place to live and on my pessimistic days it seems pretty violent and bleak for the humans and other sentient beings living here. I was sure when we conceived our first child that we would stick with one child. We had a second and that was definitely where we would stop. Now I'm close to giving birth to my third child. Throughout my pregnancy with my third I've felt the need to apologize and to add "This is our last." with a "I promise" tone in my voice. I was going through the routine with a sweet acquaintance of ours at our local health food store and he stopped me mid-apology. He said bringing a child into the world was a beautiful thing and I shouldn't be ashamed and I was a wonderful mother with two great boys who should be completely proud of having more children. He went on and on and it made me think.

I have two siblings and they are both older than me and will almost certainly not have children of their own. I sometimes see their lack of children as a credit for me to have my children. Am I just trying to justify my actions? The truth is, I am conflicted. Is having children selfish or selfless? Neither, both? With all the children in the world who need a home, why did we not adopt? We didn't. We have almost three "biologically ours" children who are very much wanted and loved.

One of the reasons I care so much about the future is because I have children who are left to deal with these issues after I'm gone. Of course, I cared about the environment before having kids that is one of the reasons I contemplated not having my own biological children, but it is different now. That is not a justification, just an observation. I've heard the arguments that eco-families are better for the planet than singles or couples who drive Hummers and live in McMansions. Yeah, yeah. I've had friends tell me that we're exactly the kind of people (vegan, recycling, composting, cycling, etc.) who should have and raise children. Maybe. It doesn't put my mind at ease.

We have several friends with four+ children and they are lovely parents with great kids. It doesn't bother me how many children they is their decision. Just as we don't judge our childless friends or friends who stopped having children after one. This is completely a personal torture. But this is where it gets ugly. People talk about putting a cap on how many children people can have, who can have children, etc. It is such a personal thing, but it does have effects beyond ourselves. The image “” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.The argument gets into religion, the bedroom, the pocket book, and all sorts of places where we'd like unwanted others to stay away.

Am I just selfish? I really enjoy being pregnant and giving birth and most days I really enjoy being a mother. Some days I feel like I must find discomfort because I'm so g-damn lucky and it isn't fair when people all over the world are suffering and scared and dying. I remember vividly driving to the hospital every day for a month with my then two year old son while my mother was dying five years ago and thinking "how in the world can everyone just go about their days when an amazing woman is suffering on her deathbed?". I hated everyone who was living when the woman who had spent her life working for others (and giving birth and mothering three children) was hurting and dying. Suffering is everywhere and yet life goes on.

My husband and many friends say I think too much. I'm lucky to have the time and the life situation to have a choice in the matter at all. I don't think I've thought about this long enough because I still have no answers boys and girls...just guilt wrapped in joy.