Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday Movie Review

Monday Movie Review:

The Girl in the Cafe
I watched this a couple weeks ago and didn't find time to blog about it. It was, in my humble opinion, a very worth-while film. Possibly too preachy for some, it makes some wonderful points about poverty and other world issues and how easily they are just turned into another political talking point when the reality is that lives are at stake. I think Bill Nighly and Kelly Macdonald are perfect in the lead roles. There is just enough comedy to make this film fun to see. I'm amazed how well they took weighty issues, educated the viewer, but still kept things entertaining. I highly recommend renting this one.

Gosford Park
Speaking of Kelly Macdonald, Rob's co-worker sent him home with this film. I hesitate to recommend this movie because the setting is a "shooting party". There is a scene where they shoot birds and thus not vegan friendly, but I'm hoping they didn't actually hurt any animals in the making of the film. They also have a vegetarian character (crazy American!) who won't hunt, but eats fish so...score one and take away one for that misrepresentation of what a vegetarian is...tough for a vegan to recommend. It does deal with class issues in an intelligent and witty way. I like a fun murder mystery and this fit the bill. The cast and acting were spot on. I won't give it a thumb up due to violence against animals, but if someone loans it to you, I would go ahead and watch it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Almond-Quinoa Muffins

A friend just had a baby (congratulations Leigh!) and I asked what she needed in the way of food. She said protein and no sugar. I thought of quick easy recipes, since I was short on time, like Black Bean and Vegetable Soup, Snobby Joes, mixed greens salad...fine, but what for dessert/snack since nursing a new baby with three other children in the house often means grabbing food on the go? I flipped through Vegamonicon and the Almond-Quinoa Muffins had their hand raised yelling "Me, Me, call on ME!" so I had to make them. The protein punch of almond flour (not to mention calcium, magnesium, vitamin E , etc.), and quinoa (more calcium, magnesium, iron, etc.). Add the the low Glycemic index of agave nectar, the main sweetener in the recipe. Throw in currants (vitamin C, but higher glycemic index, but only 1/4 cup of the little critters for a whole batch so I thought it would be okay), whole wheat pastry flour, and some ground flax seeds to make them stick together with omega 3's. I only made one batch because, well, with so much good for you stuff, how would they taste? I let the boys each have one after they licked the bowl clean. They loved them. I had to make two more batches in the next 24 hours and they are all gone so I probably will make more in the near future. They were a hit at my house and I hope they did okay at Leigh's. The spices remind me a little of chai tea and they are just the right sweetness (Rob doesn't like things that are too sweet...except for me, of course). I think these little muffins will be a regular at our house. Too bad they aren't more photogenic.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Earth Hour and Friday Book Review

Shut of your lights for the 8pm hour tomorrow...Earth Hour. I'm not sure about the impact of such things, but I'm game. Here is a picture from my phone of my little "tree hugger" loving on his "favorite" tree at "our park". He wants to climb it so much, but I keep telling him it is not strong enough and he might hurt the tree. This makes him sad for the tree and prompted the hugging, but the urge to climb is very strong.

Friday Book Review (Gardening edition part 1):

With Spring Fever going on in the house and my grandiose plans to start a garden this year (you can tell the years I am pregnant because the garden suffers and then the years the kids are about two they don't do so well because of the "help" I receive). We are assured the soil doesn't have lead so we are a go for the garden at our new house this year and hope to share a community garden plot with our friends Kit and Emily. We'll see how it all goes, but to get into the mood, we are reading our favorite gardening books.

Children's Books:

How Groundhog's Garden Grew by Lynne Cherry
No garden library would be complete without this classic from Lynne Cherry. Great illustrations and descriptions of how to save seeds, plant, transplant, etc. all with kid friendly text which in entertaining, but doesn't talk down to the reader. One of our favorites for years and we enjoy several of Cherry's other books (The Great Kapok Tree was our first). Check her out!

In Our Backyard Garden by Eileen Spinelli
While this book is much more about family than actually gardening, it is a favorite and when I asked Parker to give me a list of his favorite garden books this was on it. I love the generations of family and how much of the important things happen in their backyard garden. The tree planting for each birth is very sweet and reminds me that we have some trees to plant at our new house. We planted a tree for Parker's birth at our old house and now we need to plant a new one for all three kids. We buried Josie's placenta where we will have our garden and we still have Dema's placenta in our freezer. We need to put this on our gardening list to do this spring.

Two Little Gardeners by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a sweet little book which is on Dema's list of favorite gardening books. I like how it shows a girl and boy working together on their garden. It is also great to see the end them enjoy the food they grew, one of the great themes with most children's gardening books.

The Gardener by Sarah Stewart
Okay, I can't describe how much I love our Sarah Stewart books with illustrations by David Small. The Gardener is one of Parker's all time favorite books, but both boys love all of them. There is something about the illustrations that makes me want to just look at the books over and over and the text is always wonderful. This particular book is about a little girl who is able to find and grow beauty in even the most difficult situations. She even brings a little softness to her city uncle's life when she goes to live with him when her family falls on hard times.

Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
Classic, classic. Not about gardening, but a wonderful story about a mother and daughter picking blueberries and a mother bear and her cub eating blueberries on the same hill. In the end the humans go home and can the blueberries and it is just sweet.

Who is in the Garden? by Vera Rosenberry
Okay, I know I say this all the time, but how could you not love Vera Rosenberry? We have several of her books and love the text and illustrations. We love how the characters in her books are usually (if not always) multi-racial. Rob and I were reading a book she illustrated, Savitri by Aaron Shepard so often to Parker when I was pregnant with Dema that he probably would have been named Savitri if he had been a you know our name for a second girl (if we were to ever think about having a fourth and that fourth happened to be a girl). Anyway, this book is about a boy looking around the garden to see all the different insects and animals who live there.

Sunflower House by Eve Bunting
Eve Bunting is another favorite author and we have many of her books. This particular favorite of Parker's reminds me of the stick house he built with the neighbor friends. In this story the boy plants sunflowers in a circle and all summer he and his friends play in the "sunflower house". It is sad when the house starts to wilt and die, but then they decide to pick up some of the seeds and save them for next year!

Older Children/Adult Books:

Roots, Shoots, Buckets, and Boots by Sharon Lovejoy
This is a w
onderful book for gardening with children. She has great ways to incorporate littles hands into the work. I love her garden designs to make things interesting for children. I love to look through it for inspiration before we all go out there and get dirty!

Gardening for the Future of the Earth by Howard-Yana Shapiro
Great book for people into organic gardening. It also has a lot of information on composting and gardening with respect for the Earth. I bought this from Seeds of Change years ago and it may be harder to find now. I'm sure there are more books on organic ga
rdening now than you can shake a stick at, but I really like this one.

Carrots Love Tomatoes by Louise Riotte
This i
s a nice book about companion planting and if I was more organized I'm sure it would work better. It is a nice place to start and when I have used the information, I believe it helped my garden. I plan on paying much more attention to companion planting this year to be more efficient in my vegetable garden.

Native Plants in the Home Landscape by Keith Gerard Nowakowski
r you those of you living in Illinois this book is nice to help make your yard a better habitat for native flora and fauna.

Go Native! by Carolyn Harstad
Gardening with native plants and wildflowers in the lower midwest. I use this book and the previous one before I shop at our annual Grand Prairie Friends of Illinois plant sale. Both have pictures (which are really helpful) and ideas on how to incorporate native plants into the landscape.

What are your favorite gardening books?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The First Noble Truth or Hug Someone You Love Day

Warning: I have no idea where I am going with this post and I may get into some religious stuff (as the title implies) which I tend to shy away from on this blog. I am musing and not proselytizing and I am have no intention of offending anyone, but read at your own risk.

I am trying very hard, which may be why I am not succeeding, to be more "centered" as of late. The noise of life gets very loud and it is easy to be distracted. Sometimes we can get so distracted from what is important that we lose hours, days, years, life-times to things which are inconsequential. Life is so incredibly short. A childhood friend of my brother's was buried and an amazing WWII veteran and local peace activist died this week. Both deaths have me thinking and mourning and wondering why there has to be so much suffering in this life. It also makes me think, as I often do, that our lives are so fleeting and it makes me want to love as much as I can in the time I have left.

This is tough. It really shouldn't be, but things get in the way. Chores need to be done, things need to be tended to, blogs need to be updated. Even in this week when I am remembering Bob "Grandpa" Wahlfeldt, someone who was an wonderful example of living in the moment, loving, and learning all the time. He seemed to find a connection with everyone and find beauty and peace in every day. I met him through AWARE, a local anti-war, anti-racism activist group. He would always have a smile and more often than not a vegan recipe he had found somewhere. He wasn't vegan, but he thought of me when he saw a recipe I could eat and took the time to share it with me. He always had a story to tell and love to give to the children. Rob went to visit him for lunch at the nursing home he was living at and he was not surprised to see Bob knew everyone there and remembered their families and things about their lives. He connected with Rob as a Navy guy and they would swap "sea" stories. Bob was possibly the most thoughtful person I think I've ever had the pleasure to meet. The world is not as bright a place with Bob gone and everyone who knew him will miss his presence. He lived his life as one who knows how precious life is and used every minute. He told me a story once about how he had been healed years ago when the doctors all thought he would die. It was one of those awesome stories that leaves you believing in amazing things, but also make you wonder if an "old man" could be making some of this up or embellishing things just a bit. It always left me with a feeling that Bob felt the time he was living was "bonus time". I admired that very much, but in reality every second is bonus time.

Still, knowing this, I don't hug enough, love enough, and seize the day enough. Days come and days go and I let them go by without really living. Why is that so difficult? I know life is beautiful, but I also see so much suffering, even in my safe part of the world. I've never seen a war, never seen a shooting, never really feared for my life, never wanted for food, never worried about shelter, but still I see loved ones suffer with cancer or other hideous diseases, I've been depressed and angry, worried, confused, and I've felt despair. I guess this is part of the reason I've chosen to live a vegan cut down on the amount of suffering I personally cause. It is something very small in the grand scheme of things, but it feels better to me. I just wish I could be more compassionate in other aspects of my life. Living compassion while working for peace is what I believe Bob did. I will miss him, but I am lucky to have witnessed this small glimpse of his life. That is what makes life worth living, for me...touching others and being touched by them in this brief time we have.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Happy Spring and Easter Looks a lot Like Christmas

Today is better, but yesterday as the kids were running around the park collecting Easter eggs (our neighbor sweetly hid more than 500 eggs with money in them around the park and asked the boys to join her teen-aged children/guests in finding them) they were getting snowed on. Not anything that stuck to the ground, but snow flurries nonetheless. Karen was outside with the guys so I didn't even realize the hunt was going on until it was almost over. Parker told me he helped hide a few, but it wouldn't be fair if he picked those up so he was leaving those for other people. This is so Parker. He has a strong sense of ethics. He also gave Dema several of the eggs he found. The boys had a marvelous time and I need to organize a block wide egg hunt next year. I wanted to do something this year, but I've been way to busy and barely was able to do easter baskets for the kids (thanks to my sister, Karen, for helping me shop with Josie while she should have been grading papers).

The Easter baskets were hanging baskets for flowers which they can hang up on the porch. They both received seeds and they are sharing the potting soil. They also have pots and paint to decorate the pots. I gave Parker a stepping stone kit and so did Karen so he made one with her yesterday and it is still drying. I gave Dema a kit where he can plant vegetable seeds and see the roots grow. Great fun! They each got a book and a co-operative game as well. Walk in the Woods for Parker and Bambino Dino for Dema. They had a great time playing the games and today we've been reading the books. "Shakespeare's Storybook" for Parker and "Listen, Listen" for Dema.

My friend, Christie's youngest has moved up a size in bikes so I bought the old one for Dema (he has always loved Matthew's "tiger" bike). Dema usually goes around on the Like-a-Bike, but now he can pedal and keep up with the big kids. He kept saying while we were outside riding that now he can meet new friends. I guess he sees his new wheels as a way to see the world and meet new, interesting people. You'd have thought I'd bought him a trip to Europe or something. He's never had a bike with brakes before and kept braking as hard as he could which doesn't do great things if you want to stay upright, but he had fun wearing his new helmet Rob bought the other day and riding the bike.

My mother's cousin Nancy (you might remember her from Parker's birth story) came from the Peoria area, my maternal grandfather (Clifford) came with my uncle (Frank) from Jacksonville, IL. My uncle is actually still from Seattle, but in the process of moving to Illinois. My dad, sister, and Stuart (Karen's boyfriend) were also here. The kids received little gifts from everyone so it was even more like Christmas. Parker was very disappointed my brother, Jim, didn't come. He kept saying maybe Jim would show up at the last minute because "sometimes Uncle Jim does that", but he didn't. Parker also wanted to invite all his friends and I had to convince him that they all had their own families to be with, but I should have let him since we had plenty of food. Parker is all about the big parties and including everyone. His friend Leo came over and I'm guessing he wanted to play, but saw the guests and just asked if he could play in the "stick house". He was gone before I could ask him if he wanted to come in. Nancy had the grandmother touch with Josie and put her right to sleep after lunch. It was so sweet. It was also sweet how Dema just sat right down with Clifford and asked him what his favorite food was and all sorts of other things. The boys get so excited when Clifford comes and he is one of their favorite people. Even Frank, who isn't known for his love of children, spent some time outside chatting with Parker while he decorated his stepping stone.

Now for the food! The menu: Creamy Tomato Soup, Black Bean and Vegetable Soup, Quinoa Mango and Black Bean Salad, Country Fried Tofu, garlicy kale, mashed potatoes, gravy, Rob's Risotto, rosemary olive bread, fruit salad, mixed greens salad with walnuts and raisins, Coconut Lemon Bundt Cake, Fudgy Wudgy Blueberry Brownies. All of the capitalized items (except for the Country Fried Tofu and Rob's Risotto) were recipes from Veganomicon. I hadn't made any of them before, that is what having people over is for.

The Quinoa, Mango, and Black Bean Salad was so easy and light. Good tasting and good for you, but the most of all it was beautiful! I loved looking at it. I used thawed frozen mangoes, just one bag, and I should have used two bags, but it was fine the way it was. I adore quinoa. I'm guessing Frank, Clifford, and Nancy haven't had quinoa before, but they didn't say anything. They were all so sweet to try new things. Frank was especially taken with the fried tofu. It is a pretty omnivore pleasing dish. I planned the menu with Frank and Nancy in mind. I knew the rest of the family would be happy with anything. Not that they are hard to please, but I wanted them to be satisfied.

Parker loved the soups and was very upset when Rob took the rest of the Black Bean and Vegeatable Soup to work with him. I promised I'd make more since we soaked some black beans and cooked them over the weekend. I didn't get a picture of the soups since Rob kept telling me to stop taking pictures of the food and keep cooking. He made the kale and was in charge of the tofu. We enjoy cooking together and really love to entertain, but for some reason we also have to get into one argument or it isn't a holiday. My beloved immersion blender died while making the tomato soup (it had been dropped one too many times) so I had to do the traditional blender method. I must buy a new immersion blender soon!

Nancy brought some pretty flowers, potatoes, and some strawberries which in my opinion made the desserts even better...perfect in fact. It was Parker's idea to put the blueberries and strawberries on the brownies and bundt cake and he did a beautiful job of it. Everyone loved the desserts and I have to say they turned out so well, they are worth the price of the book. My oven and I have a love hate relationship (I love to bake, but my oven hates me) so I never know how something is going to turn out once I stick it in our finicky oven. I have never made a bundt cake before, vegan or otherwise, and I felt so 70's baking this one. I even called my dad to borrow my mom's cake pan since I didn't have one. I am telling you right now, if you have not made either of these recipes yet, do it now...I don't care that it is midnight, just do it! You won't regret it. My mother had a lemon poppyseed cake which everyone asked her to bring to events because they loved it. I think this bundt cake from Veganomicon will be my lemon poppyseed cake. We had vanilla soy ice cream for the brownies, but they were so decadent and the strawberries and blueberries were better with them than the ice cram. These are my favorite brownies now.

It was so nice to get together with everyone and Rob and I have a tradition of visiting and leaving all the dishes until after the guest have gone. I still have dishes to do, but it is so worth it. As we are going up to bed last night Parker said, "My tooth came loose on Easter so it was a special day for me, just like it was a special day for Jesus." Loose teeth (not even a first loose tooth), rising from the dead...pretty much in the same league to an eight year old mind.

We have some flowers poking up out of the ground through the leaves we never raked so it must be Spring!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Lanyard

I was listening yesterday to one of my favorite local Saturday radio shows, "From Bard to Verse" hosted by my friend Carl and his sidekick, Mindy. One of the poems read was Billy Collins' "Lanyard" and I laughed and smiled for hours after. It kind of goes along with my thoughts turning to my mother lately so I thought I would share it with all of you before Dema wakes up and Easter/Spring celebration begins. Enjoy!

Brownie Buzz

Just a quick post to say I can't sleep because I licked the spoon. I knew I shouldn't ingest any chocolate at midnight because caffeine affects me in strange ways, but I just had to lick the spoon and now here I am...wide awake when we're having company over for lunch tomorrow and I should be cleaning if I'm not sleeping, but Josie is nursing so here you go. Note to self: don't bake brownies late at night and for goodness sake girl don't taste it!

Here is what I hurriedly made this evening in between a bundt cake and black bean soup (for tomorrow). Lachesis' Amazing Alfredo Sauce from Don't Get Mad Get Vegan. It was yummy and easy, but I'm not a huge fan of onion and garlic powder so I think I'll try this next time with real onion and garlic. I haven't eaten "real" alfredo in maybe fifteen or so years so what do I know, but this is really yummy. I added broccoli to whole wheat linguine and sprinkled Garlic Bread Topping on top (where else would one put topping). I suggest lots of fresh ground pepper too. The boys liked the sauce to my surprise (crazy vegan-since- birth kids don't have the taste for white sauces like we do). Of course, Dema picked out the broccoli right away and ate it leaving most of his pasta. Rob liked it too, but it is pretty rich so I doubt we'll have it often.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

It All Works Out

Dema: "Mom, I'm in love with you." (Big blue eyes looking up at me and he climbs onto my lap all cuddly.) "I want to marry you."

Me: "I'm in love with you too, but what would we do with Rob?"

Dema: He thinks for a moment and says, "Parker can marry Rob."

Me: "What about Josie?"

Dema: "You can marry Josie. See, it all works out!" (Hugs me and climbs down with a very satisfied smile on his face.)

The sun is shining today and all is right with the world.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


I'm having a hard time of late. I have been thinking so much about my mother and living quite a bit in the past. It hit me this evening that she died almost exactly six years ago. It is odd how even without thinking about this anniversary, I feel it every year. I feel it so deeply that sometimes I'm not even aware of what is wrong. Not that I don't think of my mother all year round. I do, but this time of year when my thoughts should be of rebirth, I can't get her untimely death and the heart-breaking time of her illness out of my mind. I miss her so. I look at my children and wish they knew her. Parker remembers little things about her, but he was two when she died and I know his memory is fading. Rob's mother died years before we met, of cancer too, way too young. Children should grow up with grandmothers.

I feel selfish about my longing to have my mother with us. People all over the world have such hardships and we have been so lucky in our lives, but I resent the doctors who failed to see the signs of cancer until it was too late. I despise the medical system which failed to make her last weeks more comfortable. I know after six years, I should be at peace with it all, but at time I am not. I want her back. I want her to be here loving my children and spoiling them as only a grandmother can. I want to talk with her daily and share my life with her.

I know it is selfish, but she was my best-friend, I miss her, and I wish she was still with us.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Our Weekend

I purposely have been avoiding any superfluous computer usage over the past week...can you tell? I was pretty good and actually caught up on some business paperwork and spent a ton of time outside with the kids so it was all good. Here are some photos from the weekend.

Rob unloading the Xtracycle from our weekly grocery shopping (I don't know if I've blogged about our attempt to do one big shopping trip a week, usually done by Rob, supplemented by one or two produce runs when we run out of fresh fruits/veggies). Dema went with him (riding on the snap deck in front of the toilet paper), but was too quick to jump off and show me his new helmet so he isn't in the pic. They went to Strawberry Fields and World Harvest before hitting the bike shop.

Parker and his neighborhood pals worked all day Sunday (they took a break to have lunch at our house with my dad, sister, and her boyfriend) on a pretty impressive stick house. This is how it looked when they took the break. It looked even better later...good enough to sleep in if it wasn't so cold out at night. I love the projects they get into in the park. It is so much fun having my eight year old come in and ask if he can use a shovel, hammer, and nails. I said no, but it is fun hearing what they come up with and I think they did a grand job without any potentially dangerous tools.

Our friend Susan gave Parker a cool light experiment kit for a belated birthday present and here are the guys working on the projects. They are learning all sorts of stuff about color theory which I am happy to hand off to Rob so I don't have to wrap my mind around it right now. Parker loves stuff like this.

I've been cooking a lot, but not taking pictures so I wouldn't be tempted to spend time blogging. Most of it has been repeats of things I've blogged about before and we are making lots and lots of smoothies. I know I mentioned that our new blender broke while I was making hummus from Veganomicon. Breville was wonderful and sent us new and improved blender which is working beautifully, the new design is easier to get apart and clean, and it holds up great to being used a couple times a day. Last night we entered the dark world of Harry Potter thanks to Dema and Rob going to the movie store unsupervised so we had to drink mango smoothies (frozen mangoes, hemp milk, bananas) and eat nooch popcorn (air-popped popcorn, nutritional yeast, sea salt, olive oil, and hot sauce for some of us) while we watched. Today Rob realized why I always said no to HP in the past. I don't know why he doesn't just listen to me.
I'll leave you with Parker carrying Josie in my new organic cotton Ergo. One of this year's projects is to get rid of that wallpaper. Parker loves to carry her around, but she is getting heavy and squirmy so the Ergo is just the ticket.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


My first tag, aww! Thanks Day to Day Vegan. This is when I wish I had six toes (on one foot) or a third nipple or something fun like that to reveal. Hmm...guess I'll have to think of something.

1. I can move the top part of my big toe without moving my other toes. It is like the top part of my toe waving and I used to do it all the time as sort of a tick or something. It would make a little clicking noise which would drive my sister crazy.

2. I was engaged fives times (different men and not at the same time), but only followed through with it my hubby Rob. Awww! I had a wedding dress bought for one of the engagements and used it in my actual wedding several years later. I kept one of the engagement rings and it was made into a pendant and now it is my favorite necklace. I heard a Katherine Hepburn quote once about why she never married it was something like "I didn't realize the last one who asked would be the last."

3. I gave up a six figure income in the metro-DC area to live in the Midwest and stay home and have children. Crazy? It is probably the best decision I've ever made. I do miss Maryland, but it is worth it to be able to be home with my kids.

4. I have a thing for Donny Osmond in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I should probably leave it at that, but I'll try to explain. My sister was an Osmond fan (she had a purple lunch box with the family on it which she handed down to me), but I'm too young for that and didn't care much about the Osmonds except I really wanted to go by my middle name Marie and so I liked Marie Osmond just on principle. I have to admit seeing the movie when Parker was little and developing a little crush on Donny. I'm over it now...really!

5. I was in a T. J. Maxx commercial as a teen. I was a model and didn't say anything.

I'll tag Mel, Carrie, Soy is the New Black, Love Like a Vegan, and Billy.

Link to your tagger and post these rules.
Share 5 facts about yourself.
Tag 5 people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them).
Let them know they've been tagged by leaving a comment at their blogs.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Not Funny

I am the youngest of three and my closest sibling is seven and half years older than me (same age difference between my oldest and youngest so it is on my mind a lot). Growing up I was always behind in the family. I excelled at things for sure, but I would still be a step (or more) behind my sister and brother. This was especially true for sports type things because I was just a lot littler, I wasn't at peace with it as I believe I am now so I had a hard time with it. My siblings would try to be supportive and give me encouragement, but it always back-fired. For as long as I can remember, as soon as someone gives me a compliment ("Nice throw!") I freeze up and get worse ("Now the ball is stuck on the roof and we can't play anymore, nice job."). I've noticed this a little in my adult life, but usually only when Rob is doing the complimenting. I'm not in the mood for psychoanalyzing that one for the moment. It is what is it is.

The Point, Linda, The Point! Yes, yes, well, I had quite a few people tell me over emails or to my face that they really enjoyed my blog and would sometimes laugh out loud (if you are new to the blog you might have to go back to older posts). It was the nail in my funny coffin. After enough people said this, I no longer felt funny...not in the least. I had absolutely nothing funny to say.

I have writers block, I'm in a slump and it is bad. I feel like I'm both the author and the Will Ferrell character in Stranger Than Fiction.

It doesn't help that I'm obsessively disturbed by the state of the environment and I have put off some extremely important business stuff which is not in the least helpful to my mood or my business. Also, even without a TV I am addicted to Lost (thanks a lot Raj!) and I watch it online usually two episodes at a time every couple weeks since I don't watch it until everyone is in bed and the last two episodes were exceptionally depressing to me. Top it off with the fact that I think I may be suffering from sticky key syndrome (my keyboard has had stuff spilled on it from time to time) so I look like a complete idiot since things are misspelled all the time and I swear it isn't me, but the keyboard. Then I might also be suffering from babybrain because I will think words and type completely unrelated words so the amazing prose which you could be reading is actually stuck somewhere between my brain and my fingertips.

Really, I can also blame it on the weather and the need for Spring and so many other things, but in the end it just adds up to something which is not funny.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Lovely Lunch

We had my dad, sister, and her boyfriend over for lunch today. It is always nice eating, chatting, and playing with them. The boys usually talk Karen into going upstairs and playing while the rest of us sit around talking about everything from politics to physics to chemistry to get the picture. Stuart and my dad are both intelligent, fascinating people so it makes me happy to have adult conversation which makes me think. Rob and I have these conversations just the two of us, but it is nice to have different perspectives. I wish Karen would stay with the adults longer, but the kids don't make that easy. They love to have her all to themselves.

I lounged around with the fam so long this morning, I had to make something simple and quick so lunch was Thick and Hearty Split Pea Soup from Fatfree Vegan. I made it in the pressure cooker and it turned out great. I've been eying the Chickpea Quinoa Pilaf in Veganomicon for a while and finally made it. The recipe says if you make quinoa once a week you are a "level seven vegan". I've been making it at least once a week lately so I guess I should be receiving my level upgrade any time now. Seriously, it makes a great side dish. We also had mixed greens salad and raspberry smoothies (Parker's recipe...1/2 cup ice, 1 bag frozen raspberries, 3 tablespoons soy yogurt, 2 cups soy milk, 1 banana). The raspberry smoothie was pretty, but gone before I could take a picture.

I was listening to PRI's To the Best of Our Knowledge this evening and heard a short interview with Matt Hern regarding "De-schooling". Very interesting! Reminds me of John Holt and A. S. Neill. I guess if Illinois goes the way of California in the area of home schooling then we'll just move to B. C. Canada.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Josie's First GNO and More Pasta

Josie went to her first Girl's Night Out for a local natural parenting group I've been a part of for over seven years. It was supposed to be cards at a friend's house, but we never played cards. We had fun chatting about everything you can imagine and some things you probably shouldn't imagine until after 2am. My little party girl slept through a lot of it, but I hope she finds a great group of supportive women when she is a mom. It is nice to be able to be friends with a people who have some similar parenting philosophies, but all sorts of different ways of going about making them work for their own families. I learn so much from each person in the group even when we adamantly disagree or maybe especially when we disagree.

Since I had a long day yesterday and then had my third night in a row with something to do after dinner, I quickly made one of Rob's favorite meals. Pasta with Emse Sauce, peas, and garlic bread topping. This picture is of a dinner we had weeks ago, but it looked pretty similar except for a different type of whole wheat pasta. I wanted to make broccoli with the past the first time, but didn't have any, but the peas were so good with it I can't imagine having anything else. Everyone totally enjoys this.

This evening I was rushed for time again and Parker's friend Kaila was over and Rob was going out with friends so I made bean burgers on whole wheat buns, tomato soup with garlic bread crumbles, and fresh mango. No pictures because I thought it was going to bomb, but everyone seemed to like it, even Kaila. Now I wish I could remember how I made the burgers. It was something like this: 2 cans of black beans, 1 can of pinto beans, 1 cup rolled oats, 1/2 to 1 cup of vital wheat gluten, 1/2 to 1 cup of bread crumbs, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp or more of chili powder (just dumped it in), and sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. When it was the right consistency I made it into patties and fried them in olive oil. The kids had mustard and kalamata olives on theirs (they put olives on almost anything). We didn't have pickles and avocado which they requested, but they ate it all up anyway.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Field Trips and Six Months Old

The funny thing about home schooling is every day is a field trip because we rarely just stay home, but today we had two "official" home schooling field trips. Art class was at Krannert Art Museum and we had lots of fun checking out the exhibits before settling in to draw. Dema really connected with the Blown Away art which is no surprise. Parker sketched one of the sculptures while I took Dema around to look at more paintings. Parker just loves to go to any museum and I promised we would go just the two of us soon (or the two of us with Josie) so he can take all the time he wants to see the exhibits and do some sketching on his own.

For the second field trip, we picked up my dad to join the fun. We went to the Illinois State Geological Survey Open House. This is right up Dad's alley since he worked many years as a "dam engineer" (that is what my mom always called him) for the Soil Conservation Service. The kids said they want granddad to come on all our field trips from now on. They really enjoyed it, but Dema had a very long day by the end and needed to take a nap or go run in a park...funny how either one would work. Parker said his favorite part was "everything!", but I think Dema liked the fun with gas (more explosions...that was the theme for today). Parker told Rob all about carbon dioxide, liquid nitrogen, earthquakes, and fossils over dinner. He has been asking me recently why mammoths went extinct and that came up in one of the presentations. Dema was so excited to have his own piece of coal and fluorite. At the end of the day, the boys dug for fossils and were able to take them home. Dema and I went through the makeshift cave and talked about stalactites and stalagmites (I explained the way my mom told me to remember which is which...stalactites are coming down from the roof of the cave and have to hold on tight). He loved the fake bat and fake big bugs. I've decided to take more advantage of local places of interest instead of always waiting to go to Chicago or other places. We have plenty of fun and educational things to do right here in town.

Josie is six months old today. I feel like I'm not spending enough time enjoying her babyhood. I decided to serve again on a local non-profit's board of directors and I've extremely torn about it. I care about the group and think I have something to offer and lots of work to continue, but I also am very busy with home schooling, my business, and other things so I hate to have one more distraction from my main focus which is my family. My mother was extremely involved in the community and many of my early memories of her involve being with her at one meeting or another. I really enjoyed joining her in all or her volunteer work, but the organization I am working with is not very child-friendly. I take Josie to almost all the meetings (I made the mistake of leaving her home last night and I won't do it again), but it will get tougher and tougher the older she gets. She is a joy and very easy going. I love getting to know her more and more each day.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pasta Times Two

I was craving pasta today and I was very busy with the business, etc. so I had to cook between customers and before a meeting so pasta was a good choice. Lunch was Seitan O' Greatness sandwich in a whole wheat pita with spinach and mustard or Vegenaise (or both for me) and I finally made Pasta Della California from Veganomicon. I used whole wheat fettucini instead of linguine and I didn't have a lime so I used a couple drops of lemon extract instead of lime zest (don't laugh it tasted great). I used bottled lime juice and the rest of our spinach instead of arugula. The boys loved it and I can see this will be a warm weather favorite. We each had a banana too which actually went well with the rest of it. Josie couldn't get enough of the broccoli and spinach.

Dinner was last minute so I just improvised a recipe loosely based on Broccoli Soba with Peanut-Pumpkin Sauce from Vegan Family Favorites which I've blogged about before, but it ended up different enough that I'll give you the recipe. I'm lucky there isn't a camera in my kitchen because you would all see the crazy nursing and juggling that is cooking in my house. I had to nurse Josie with one arm and try to measure ingredients with the other hand, but she sees this and gets distracted and tries to eat everything I am working with (like hot pepper sesame oil) and gets very vocal when I don't let her so I have to give her frozen peas to calm her down so she can then decide she really would like to nurse and it starts over again. Be warned I didn't really pay much attention to amounts so your mileage may vary, but it was good for a quick meal basically out of a can/bag. The kids had frozen mango with their dinner.

Coconut Pumpkin Udon

1 lb. udon noodles
Veggies of your choice (I used two bags of frozen peas and carrots)

1/2 can coconut milk (I used organic, of course, and it was regular not low fat)
1/2 can pumpkin puree (not the pumpkin pie mix, just the pumpkin)
1 cup peanut butter (almond butter would work, but I'm out)
2 Tablespoons Bragg's Liquid Amino Acids
2 teaspoons favorite hot sauce
1 teaspoon hot pepper sesame oil

Mix everything for the sauce together in sauce pan over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook udon noodles according to package instructions and a couple minutes before they are done add frozen veggies (or better yet, some fresh ones). Use some water from the pasta/veggies if sauce needs to be thinned. Drain pasta/veggies when done and serve with sauce poured over.I'll leave you with a picture of Parker and Josie at the local children's museum because I was so lame today with cooking.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Basic Breakfast, Baked Tofuwich, Brown Casserole

Snowy day today so Parker spent a good while shoveling and then both boys worked at making a snow person, but I don't think they actually finished one. Rob is completely over snow and was a bit upset with the weather. I had fun discussing the difference between freezing rain and hail with Parker and then watching the snow.

Basic Breakfast:
I thought I should show a sample breakfast the kids eat each morning. Today it was a Weetabix biscuit with peanut butter and strawberry jam (some days it is Sunbutter or almond butter and different jams), soy yogurt with blueberries (we buy the big containers of vanilla soy yogurt and the kids add their favorite organic fruit, Parker adds more as he eats the yogurt so some mornings he eats an entire 10 oz. package of frozen berries), and oatmeal with ground flax seeds, molasses, dried apples and frozen raspberries on top (the kids like to add a variety of frozen berries to their oatmeal to cool it off).

Baked Tofu Sandwich:
I was going to post about the incredible Esme Sauce a couple of weeks ago, but the pictures are stuck on my good camera because I can't find the charger. I love this sauce for so many things, but this time I baked tofu with some of it (I make the sauce with 1/2 cup amounts so I can make pasta, bake tofu, and still have some left over). This sandwich has fresh spinach, Vegenaise, baked tofu on spouted whole wheat bread, but the boys had avocado on theirs as well (no Vegenaise for Parker...crazy health nut doesn't like it). Apples and crunchy almond butter for dipping.

Lentil and Brown Rice Casserole from Vegan Mania:
This is my first time making the casserole and I liked it, but forgot to add the optional crumbled tofu (or vegan cheese) so I'd like to try it with. I think I'll play with the recipe some since it was good, but missing something. And yet another mixed green salad (this time plain..I used to hate salad dressing so some days I still crave naked salad). I wanted to make kale or broccoli, but made cookies instead since the oven was already heated to the right temp for the casserole. I made the Chewy Oatmeal Raisin cookies from Veganomicon. I used whole wheat pastry flour and date sugar. They were perfect for my guys (especially Rob)...not too sweet and full of goodness. They dipped them in rice milk and ate half of them before calling it quits. I should try brown sugar next time. I love date sugar, but these tasted a tad too healthy for me (I still ate quite a few).

Monday, March 3, 2008

SO'G Salad, Creamy-Spicy Seitan with Coconut Quinoa, Manic Monday

It was one of those days where you can tell it has high potential for a "bad mommy day". I couldn't sleep last night (no fault of the kids) so I started out the day in the negative. Dema was pushing my buttons like crazy and I really wanted to be patient, but I was also was trying to get bills paid (not something that puts me in a good mood anyway...note to self: stop putting off paying bills until Mondays!) and also get everyone out the door to the library. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary, just tougher due to lack of sleep and attitudes. We finally get in the car (which also put me in a bad mood since I had planned on taking the bus, but I gave up) and I am trying to do the silent pep talk to myself about changing the day around and I turn on the radio. I usually listen to NPR and local talk radio in the car, but as luck would have it the radio was tuned to WEFT. The Monday Morning Jazz Jam was in full swing and it was just like an antidote to my train wreck of a day. It seriously turned my morning completely around. You can check out our lovely community radio station via the web or via 90.1 FM radio if you are local. If you like what you hear (who knows maybe it will turn your day around), think about giving (sorry folks, we just had our pledge drive so I couldn't help but add this).

We had a refreshing lunch of Seitan O' Greatness Salad, quickly thrown together by Rob this weekend (intended for his lunches, but we snagged some), stuffed inside a whole wheat pita. A pear and almonds and raisins on the side. SO'G Salad: a little over half a SO'G log chopped into bite sized chunks, one celery stalk chopped, heaping tablespoon of Vegenaise, handful of fresh spinach torn into smaller pieces, 1 tsp Dijon mustard, fresh ground pepper, 1/2 tsp dried dill, celery salt to taste all mixed together. It hit the spot!

Dinner was Vegan Dad's Creamy-Spicy Seitan with Coconut Quinoa (now if the name alone doesn't get you cooking, let me tell there were no leftovers...make it soon!). Vegan Dad has a much better picture. I think it was perfect with quinoa, but you could also serve it over brown rice or your grain of choice. We had a mixed greens salad with walnuts and Drew's Kalamata Olive and Caper Dressing (I didn't do the raisins on the salad since there were raisins in the dish). I usually am not a big salad person until the local farmer's market starts, but I am hoping eating salads will get Spring here quicker.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Veggeroni Pizza and Sign of Spring

Rob made some seitan this weekend. We decided to try Fat Free Vegan's Veggeroni recipe as well as the old standby Seitan O' Greatness so we could make all things seitany this week.

Today was one of those beautiful spring days which nature throws in around February or March to keep all of us from killing ourselves. It was absolutely gorgeous and very muddy and messy since all the remaining snow melted. We spent as much time as possible outside since we know this is just a taste of spring and the weather is fleeting and fickle in the Midwest. Thus, lunch was something quick and filling and then we were back out.

Veggeroni Pizza with carrots, kalamata olives, spinach, and avocado on organic corn meal crust.

Dema also had a slice or two of Seitan O' Greatness with apple slices for a snack. I never would have put those two things together, but he assured me it was a taste sensation.We had our friend Oliver over for a little while in the morning which was so much fun and then we had a marvelous Indian feast at his house this evening. I wish I had a picture of the food because it was so great. Parker said on the way home that he would love to eat there again. Dema was fast asleep before we'd walked down the block.

Sign of Spring: Dema loosing his shoe in the mud. Silly me should have let him go without shoes since he spent a good portion of his time after this walking around in the squidgy mud...ah the feeling of mud between little toes!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

His Eyes Were Green as Leeks

I realized recently, when a book club I try to attend read "A Midsummer Night's Dream", that not everyone enjoys it like I do. This in turn made me realize that some of you may not get the titles for my blogs at times. If you read something and think "what is she on?" check "A Midsummer Night's Dream" and chances are something has reminded me of a line from it. Tonight's late lunch/early dinner was no exception. Lindy Loo posted about Quinoa Soup and talks about her love for leeks and it instantly made me want to make the soup and I couldn't get the line from "A Midsummer Night's Dream" out of my head. Parker fell in love with the movie when he was little and as a result we named our second son Demetrius (Dema). It has become part of our family and now our food. It is always fun to cook to Shakespeare.

The soup was good and I will definitely make it again. Rob and I both added hot sauce because we only put half a pepper in (didn't want to get too spicy for the kids). I highly suggest adding the optional sweet red pepper and spinach. The soup is really beautiful (the picture doesn't do it justice...I mentioned to Rob more than once while I was cooking how lovely it looked), yummy, and good for you. What more could you ask for? We had a mixed greens salad with raisins, walnuts, and Drew's Kalamata Olive and Caper Dressing and some whole wheat seeded sourdough bread from our local health food store. Catch the leek love and try out this soup.