Friday, August 29, 2008

Community Garden and Family Reunion

We don't have a community garden plot, although we have friends who offered to share theirs (thanks Kit and Emily!), but this year was definitely not our best gardening year. However, we have been so lucky with a community of friends who are happily willing to share the fruits of their labor with us. We've enjoyed fresh greens all year from our neighbor's Scott and Deborah's garden, black raspberries and more recently pears from our neighbor's Vicky and Greg, and several friends who don't live close by have also contributed to our table. This picture is off dinner made from tomatoes and an onion from Kris and zucchini and summer squash from Rob's coworker's garden. I guess I did add some basil from our "garden". VeganYumYum's Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta (Again! I can't seem to stop making this.) with whole wheat linguini and a little variation. I bought some Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese from Common Ground Food Coop on their last day in the old location (they had a sale on all produce, frozen, and refrigerated items so they wouldn't have to move them which meant I stocked up on processed foods I wouldn't normally buy...not such a great idea health-wise, but I was helping the cause, right?) and added it to the sauce while in the food processor (reminiscent of this recipe). I made more FatFree Vegan's Sunny Summer Squash Soup (I am in a delicious rut of quick summer foods) and the tofu is Cashew-Ginger Tofu from Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan which I made for our family reunion on Sunday.
The reunion was for my dad's side of the family and I love seeing them, but I know they find our food "strange" and usually don't even try it so this year I was thinking of just making sandwiches or something for us and not taking anything to share...we don't eat anyone else's food usually (lots of friend chicken). I was just tired from our busy Saturday, but Rob made it clear that my plans were not going to cut it. I didn't have much time (or so I thought...I thought it started at noon, but it was really 1pm) since we had to drive to a tiny, tiny little town about 45 minutes away so I whipped up some Mac Daddy (with peas) from Veganomicon for the first time and the Cashew-Ginger Tofu. The Mac Daddy went over fine at the reunion, although Parker and I agree that we prefer Vegan Dad's Creamy Mac and Cheeze. No one would even try the tofu except my family and my dad, sister, and her boyfriend. Their loss. One of the relatives came up and asked if the Mac Daddy had tumeric in it (it does) and she went on about how she had read recently about the health benefits. I think it is sweet that she was trying to connect with our "crazy food". It is hard for this family of farmers to understand why one would not eat any animals matter how many years I have been veg. My sister always comes through and she brought vegan mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes, lentil salad, and purple cabbage salad. We were actually stuffed by the end of the reunion. Here are some leftovers the next day. Cashew-Ginger Tofu as a sandwich with avocado, my sister's mashed potatoes (yummy, yum, yum!), and Mac Daddy with peas. Here is Josie playing around in the community center where we have our reunion every year. It is sort of sad that my family is the youngest people who come. I am trying to think of something that might get my cousins back for the reunion. Everyone is pretty spread out now and this is really the only time we see each other. When I was a child we had the reunions at a big park in Decatur, IL, but as people aged they decided it was best to have the climate controlled community center in Hammond, IL. Although it was my dad's family, it always makes me miss my mom even more. My mom was the one who reminded me of everyone's names and talked recipes, gardening, or farming with this family I hardly knew. I was reading Chicken and Cheese's entry about her dad the other day and she expresses much of what I feel about the loss of my mom. Even after six and half years, it is still hard. Events like the reunion just bring it all more to the surface. The kids had a fun time and that helps. They love seeing everyone and talking to all the adults. It is also one of the only times we get to see my brother and his girlfriend. They live a couple miles away from us, but they have only seen Josie in passing. They are very busy and work all the time. I see my brother when he is working on redoing a house, storefront, or bar in town. He has his own business and I understand how that can totally take over all one's time. My Uncle Bob and Aunt Bessie brought tons of apples and pears from their backyard which we've been eating all week. It was nice to get together and I am reminded again and again how lucky we are to have our community of family and friends.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back in the Bike Saddle

First I will apologize that all the pictures were taken with my iPhone so the quality is not great, but it was too crazy of a day to find our real camera.
We started out this morning biking to the hardware store to finally get bolts for the Peapod bike seat on my Xtracycle. I pulled Josie and Parker in Chariot trailer on my bike and Dema sat on the snap deck of Rob's Xtracycle. Josie was not happy about her helmet so I decided to keep her in the Chariot instead of moving her to the Peapod once we'd put the bolts on. She was happy as a clam as soon as she settled in next to Parker without her helmet. Next we went Urbana for the Market at the Square. The market was crazy busy and we ran into a lot of people we know, but the boys were most excited about chatting with the paramedics in the ambulance and the firefighters in the firetruck. Don't worry, no one was hurt, they were just there for the children. Dema talked to the paramedics for a long time telling them about his stitches and about the nice doctor (he remember his name) who stitched him up. Dema would love to be paramedic or so he thinks today. I learned a lot about how many calls they get a day and their coverage area and how long (actually very quickly) it would take them to get to our house.Next we went shopping at Common Ground Food Co-op's new location (conveniently right inside the mall from the market). Parker had his plastic firefighter hat on thanks to the firefighters we had three hats to carry on the bikes all day. Common Ground is so nice and I look forward to shopping there when it isn't opening day and crazy packed. I am very impressed. Go yourself and check it out!We had lunch at a Chrystal Lake Park, which is also in Urbana, with Rob's co-workers at the company picnic. His company had food (some of it vegan and very good), inflatable games, and a magician. Dema wanted to go boating with our friend Maulik, but he went in Rob's boat instead. Maulik is Dema's buddy and he adores him.After the picnic was Sammy and Izzy's birthday party where we were all so happy to get wet since we were all pretty sweaty and the kids had a marvelous time going down the water slide. Parker was surprisingly good at the donut on the string game (you have to eat the donut hanging from a string without using hands). Catharine and Ricky were so sweet and thoughtful to use vegan Mexican wedding cookies for our kids instead of the donuts. We hung out after the party, chatted, played with the new toys, ate all the snacks, and eventually we all went to the Sweetcorn Festival. Parker loves festivals so we couldn't possibly miss it. Parker, Dema, Sammy, and Izzy played on all the blowup slides, etc. (not free like they were at the picnic) and Parker even rode the mechanical bull. Since we we rode our bikes to the festival, we received free tickets for sweetcorn (which was apparently from Illinois this year, not shipped in from other states!) which was nice since all the fun stuff is unbelievably expensive.I couldn't help but think of last year's Sweetcorn Festival and how it was hot and tiring and busy then we went to a wooded area to have my pregnancy pictures taken by our friend, Stacey. I was all swollen, hot, and the mosquitoes were horrible. The kids were hot and tired and done, but it was worth it to get pictures of my last baby before she was born. I highly recommend maternity pictures, but try not to do it outside on an extremely hot day after your kids have already spent the entire day at a festival. I love being pregnant, but I don't miss being huge in the heat of late summer.We had to rush home from the festival this year to beat the darkness since we forgot to put our lights on our bikes. Luckily for me, Rob ended up with the little ones in the Chariot and Parker on the snap deck so all I had to do is ride. I should have taken a picture of him right next to the bus so you could see how long he was. All in all it was a lovely, fun, busy day!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Black Books

Half Pint Pixie has unknowingly hooked me on Black Books. I have an extremely busy day tomorrow, yet, I can't help watching another episode (this why we don't own a TV, kids!). When Parker was little we were hooked on watching Coupling. We survived and got over it so I know we'll be okay, but right now if I look tired, you know why.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eat a Peach for Peace

This particular peach is a Calhoun County peach from the Market at the Square. Calhoun County has the best peaches and I am biased because it reminds me of my mom. My mother's aunt Emily and uncle Albert lived in Calhoun County. I have wonderful memories from my childhood visiting them on their farm with all the cousins. When I bite into a Calhoun County peach it tastes even better thinking of all the fun and the wonderful people and of course I get a little sad thinking of my mom, but all that mixed in is hard to resist. A peach is much more than a peach for me these days.
Our neighbor, Margie, gave us a bunch o' peaches a couple evenings ago and I was psyching myself up to make FatfreeVegan's Peach Upside-down Cake. I love the recipe and it is good, but I burned the %*(#^! out of my wrist last year making this and although the scar is barely noticeable, I obviously have not completely healed. The hardest part of the burn was how completely stupid I was, thus I didn't mention it in my blog post at the time. I was taking the heavy pan out of the oven and with my left hand (my weak hand) and it was, well, heavy and hot, but I didn't want the whole thing to fall in a hot, bubbly, peachy mess into the oven and on the floor so I caught the other side of the pan with my right wrist. Ow! I didn't have a hot pad in my right hand so all I could do was continue to burn my wrist as I set it on the stove top. Then to add insult to injury, my family was upstairs and didn't know I was in pain...for some reason the fact that my skin was blistering and painful without anyone in the world knowing made it worse (I realize I have some issues here, but I don't have time for analyzing my childhood at this moment). Once I stood with my wrist under cold water for about a year and then wrapped it in cold, wet cloth (man, it really hurt, I couldn't even stand the air touching it....I will remind you I have given birth without the help of drugs three times so I'm not a big 'ole wuss...not that you are a wuss if you don't have a natural childbirth, but you know what I'm sayin'), I went searching for empathy. Well, I love my husband more than I can explain. He is my best friend and soul mate, etc., but he is not the most empathic person in the world so I am still a bit bitter. Where the heck was I? Ah yes, I made the cake.
Well, Parker and I made the cake. We cut up most of the peaches and I got out my 15-inch cast iron pan instead of the smaller cast iron pan (probably 10-inch in retrospect...just what the recipe calls for) because the amount of peaches we cut up looked to be the amount that would fit in a 15-inch cast iron pan. Well, the ban is freaking huge, my friends and takes up a couple burners, but I didn't let that stop me. I used date sugar in the recipe because I adore using date sugar (which is really just cut up dates) and so I used date sugar in the syrup part, but it just burned right away (partly because the biggest burner on my stove is the one that is as hot as hel- the sun) so I ended up cleaning the pan out and starting over with maple sugar which is the only other sugar I had in the house at 11pm. It worked fine. I was right about the amount of peaches because they fit so perfectly in the 15-inch pan, but I doubled the recipe at the last minute and my helpful husband was quick to point out that a 15-inch skillet is actually more than double a 10-inch skillet (which reminded me of a story of my friend told me about the birth of her first child and dilating, but that isn't my story to tell). It was the world's biggest peach upside-down cake and I didn't have anything to turn it over onto so Rob make a aluminum foil plate for me. Anyway, it tasted fine, if not the easiest thing to flip over...which created quite the interesting discussion this morning at the breakfast table about which side is the "up" side for a peach upside-down cake.

Buy or grow a bunch of peaches, eat some, and make the rest into this cake.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Out of the Can

I always feel terribly guilty eating anything out of a can, mostly because of BPA. I look for foods which are sold in jars over cans, but once in a while I buy cans for convenience or if there isn't a jarred version (like coconut milk). If I buy canned beans or other products, I try to buy Eden Foods since they are supposed to have BPA-free cans. On top of the BPA issue, canned food (or jarred for that matter) is never as good as making it yourself, but once in a while I submit to my lamer evil side for lunch. To accompany their almond butter and jelly on whole wheat bread sandwiches, I opened some Jyoti Punjabi Chhole, added some rice milk and another can of chickpeas while it was heating up. I would have added peas and/or carrots, but I didn't. I served it over quinoa because I adore quinoa and to add some nutrition. The kids loved it. The next day I added cashews and raisins to the leftovers and they ate it for breakfast. I wouldn't suggest this everyday, but it fine for a quick grab and go food once in a while.

Dema-isms Today or Out of the Mouth of a Four Year Old:

Thud and shrieking cries, as I assessed the situation to see that Dema wasn't seriously hurt (no ER visit type stuff)...
Me: (as empathetically as possible) I told you to stop and you didn't stop (doing a "cannonball" off the bottom bunk of his bed onto some pillows), sweetie. (I know, too much "I told you so." which I hate, but I did tell him at least twenty times to stop.)
Dema: (Upset, through the tears.) Well, you are not a traffic light, mom!
Lots of hugs and then off to jump off the bed again.

Me: Do you want to bring your peanut butter pretzels out (to the park where we were the only people there) and eat them?
Dema: (He stops playing with a worried look on his face.) Mom! Someone might have a peanut allergy! The peanut products stay inside.

As we are driving away from the co-op today, we saw a cop pull someone over. Dema quickly rolls down his window and shouts while waving, "Hi, police officer!" I have one headlight out so I didn't exactly need Dema calling attention to my car.

Dema also officially learned to swim today at our neighbor, Vicky's pool. Yeah!

What Josie is up to:

She hates her car seat so much that she has recently started sticking her hand down her throat while in the car until she gags and spits up. What in the world? She doesn't do it at any other time. I guess this girl really wants us to go car-free.

Parker's Job:

Parker waters our neighbor's plants and she gives him Legos after a certain number of waterings. He came in to put the Legos together and said, "I really love the Legos, but I am going to tell, Margie, that I want to rake her leaves this fall, but only if she stops giving me things. I just want to be a good neighbor."

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Reasonable Life...Surfwise?

While on vacation, I reread "A Reasonable Life" by Ferenc Mate. I read it years ago, but felt like I needed to hear what the book had to say again. Of course, I now feel like moving to Tuscany, but that shouldn't be the point. The point is that most of us in American society have lost sight of what is important and reasonable as far material possessions, how we spend our time, how/why we make a "living" and what we do with that money, etc. Vacation seemed to be a perfect time to think about our lives and do some reevaluation.

Rob has a long-term dream of us living on a boat. I really don't know what that dream would look like since I did not grow up around boats. I'm not scared of boats, but let's say I am a tad afraid of sinking - drowning. Rob knows how to sail. I've never been on a sail boat in my life. I'm guessing in our younger (read: prekids) days, I probably would have gone along with the sailboat fantasy and probably even liked it, as I went along with a lot of what Rob liked to do (rock climbing) and then found that I enjoyed it. We have three children now and I just don't know if I have what it takes to raise them, school them, feed them on a sailboat. I believe in order to warm me up to the whole idea, Rob rented Surfwise recently. The movie was good and I suggest watching it, but about halfway through (not to give anything away), I noticed Rob's face fell a bit. It was obvious that some of the negatives of shunning mainstream American life were coming out in the movie and that life in a small RV with nine children wasn't always the bed of roses one would expect. It made for some good conversations. We don't have nine children (nor do we plan to ever have nine children...started way too late for that and I have internal conflicts about over-poplulation) and we wouldn't do things the way the family in the documentary did things, but it was still good to see Surfwise.

Our friends just moved to their land (with no house yet) about 30-45 minutes away and have been living without running water for a couple weeks. We have other friends who lived in a yurt with one child and no indoor toilet and everything they own in the equivalent of big tent. My dad grew up on a farm in Illinois and didn't have electricity until he was in highschool and some winters were so cold they would burn anything they could find. We have role models we can learn from and ideas in our heads on how to live more simply, live lighter on the Earth, and have time for what is truly important in our lives. Yet, we don't feel like we've found the life that really works for us. Maybe we are just too cowardly to really take that leap and make a change. Maybe we are forever in search of a balance and perhaps shunning all of what is mainstream is not healthy for our family. Maybe we are meant to always be changing and searching and creating and reading and watching and changing and searching and doing, etc.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Backyard Lunch and Going Places

We don't have a garden anymore. The entire yard (front, back, side) has become a jungle which would probably engulf the house if we didn't do the bare minimum once in a while and cut this or that back. It is awful, but we will work on the yard next year. We do still have some herbs and tomatoes hidden in the overgrowth. I ventured out, machete in hand, to my backyard to find ingredients for lunch. I was able to get enough tomatoes and basil to make VeganYumYum's Super Quick Tomato Basil Cream Pasta and it was super easy, super quick, and super good. I used udon noodles instead of whole wheat since I was out of any spaghettish pasta. I garnished it with the basil leaves she suggested and some kalamata olives (because really what dish isn't better with kalamata olives?). It was different, but just as good as her Cappellini in Fresh Tomato Cream Sauce which I loved to make last year about this time when fresh tomatoes were abundant.

It was a beautiful day today and I am sorely disappointed that I missed the Market at the Square. Things just didn't fall together this morning as I had hoped. Rob was supposed to be in Chicago with the boys while I stayed home to get things done (read - have a relaxing weekend organizing, socializing, and enjoying time with just Josie), but Parker came down with the 24 - 48 hour bug Dema had earlier this week. I needed to get out of the house this morning with Josie, but didn't get going until it was a little too late for me to feel like going to the farmers' market so I walked downtown with Josie in the Ergo to mail a package for Tribal Life (read - escape from the fussy males in my house). While downtown, I strolled around enjoying the Festival of Arts, feeling more than slightly guilty that Parker was not with me. He was looking forward to the Festival of Arts and really enjoys it, but he was not feeling up to going this year even though he was in town. I indulged in an iced soy decaf latte with mint (something I've been enjoying way too often lately thanks to my husband who seem determined to try share his addiction to coffee with me) from Aroma and enjoyed the beautiful weather, art, music, and my little girl.

On the walk home, I stopped at Westside Park to let her get out of the carrier and play, but it was awful. There was trash everywhere so I pushed her in the swings for a bit and left. The park was so littered that I will be contacting the park district. It is sad, but I decided not to let the park ruin my mood. It was a lovely time.

Josie has four teeth as of today and we have decided she is officially walking. She walked across our living room tonight and was very proud of herself. She still will crawl, but choses to use walking as a means of transport more and more. It is all going by much too quickly. My last baby is now a toddler.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Back to Homeschool

It is that time of year again. The time of year when our little college town is taken over by students, children are anxiously getting ready to go to school, and I can feel the stress level of the town go up a notch or two. One of the things I love about homeschooling is not going back to school. Our life is about learning all the time. We don't just learn from 8am until 2pm during the school year. Obviously, no one else does either...traditionally schooled, private schooled, or homeschooled...we are all learning something all the time.

While we were at the beach, Dema asked our friend, Marty, from Wilmington if she was homeschooled (I wish I could remember why he brought it up, but I think it was because she was talking about working from home). Marty said something to the effect that no she was too old to go to school. I cringed. No one is too old to learn and I know Marty didn't mean it that way. We don't stop learning just because we aren't in formal school anymore so as adults we are all homeschooled and my sister is a perfect example that you are never to old to go to school.

The other day I was sitting our neighbor's hot tub chatting with a couple neighbor boys (did I ever mention we live in a cool neighborhood?). One of them said, " of my friends said they wished they were homeschooled." He looks at me sideways. "But I told him that it is no different that being at school. I mean, he thought you could eat anytime you want and not raise your hand and stuff..." He looks at me with questioning eyes. I said, "Well, everyone I know who homeschools does something a little differently. I don't know anyone who makes their kids raise their hands and at our house we eat when we are hungry. The kids don't sit at desks all day unless they want to. We learn while we are waiting for the bus, while we are at the park, from books, from doing things, from going places..." The boy's eyes got very big. "Wow, really? They can eat whenever they want to and go to the bathroom and talk?" I'm always amazed at what people think homeschooling is about and it is interesting to talk to kids in school and find out what they would or wouldn't change about school.

I unwisely went to Staples today not thinking about the "back to school scene". I just needed some recycled paper for our printer. It was insane. I chatted with one of the workers about it and she said it is the same thing every year. She looked like she needed a vacation. Most of you know of my dislike of all things plastic, but I just couldn't pass up the Desk Apprentice Rotating Desk Organizer. It is already packed to the gills (Parker loves to organize things) and it will keep everything up high away from tornado Josie (at least for a little while..she is a big climber so nothing is really safe). We'll see how it holds up, but I like it already.

So now we are ready. Ready to do what we do all year long...keep on living and learning.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dolphin-friendly? Turtle-friendly? Tuna-friendly?

I ran across this article about Dolphin-friendly label "misleading" consumers while checking out my Daily Grist. Apparently, turtle and other animals are harmed even when tuna fisheries are trying to "save the dolphins" from being hurt. Dolphin-friendly is a pet peeve of ours (even more Rob's than mine) and has been for a while. It seems absurd that people worry about the dolphins, but feel no sympathy for the tuna. It reminds me of one of my favorite t-shirts where there are three pictures one a dolphin under the title "friend" and next to it a tuna under the title "food", then a dog and a pig, and something else. Anyway, the point is obvious...what makes one animal a friend worth saving and another animal food? The line seems so arbitrary.

****Subliminal Recipe****

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Curative Comfort Food

We took it easy on Dema's stomach today with Sunbutter and pomegranate jelly on English muffins for breakfast and a little sorbet for lunch. We thought we were out of the vomiting woods until this late afternoon when he proceeded to throw up the healthiest pleasure in the universe in front of some friends. I thought our guests took it quite well with just a few ews and "man, is he done?" before they went back to playing trains. The actual puking was fairly quick and painless for Dema and he just continued to watch them all play from his bunkbed. I hope he did not pass it on to anyone (I am apologizing in advance, Cynthia!). Dema was very impressed with Blizza's Pomegranate Sorbet so don't let the fact that he didn't actually digest it keep you from trying it. It is very yummy stuff. The healthiest pleasure in the universe? I'm not so sure (I mean there are so many pleasurable things which are also husband brings home articles about how good sex is for you all the time), but Blizza's Pomegranate Sorbet is good nonetheless.This evening, I decided to go with pureed food to help Dema keep it all down and we had some summer squash from the Market at the Square and I saw FatFreeVegan's recipe for Sunny Summer Squash Soup and knew this was fate. I can never leave well enough alone so here are the changes I made to her already tasty recipe (not to distract you from following hers to a T):
I used more yellow squash...probably 3 lbs (whatever we had around).
I was lame and just used fresh group black pepper.
I used 2 cups of water and 2 cups of vegetable broth instead of 4 cups veg broth.
I used fresh ground red pepper flakes instead of a hot pepper.
I threw in about 1/4 cup of pine nuts for no other reason than when I opened the refrigerator door they seemed to whisper "use me, use me" and so I did. I'm sure I bought them for some other recipe, but what it was escapes me and now they are gone.
I added about twice as much salt, pepper, and oregano.
I don't like using non-stick pans so I used a little olive oil (or EVOO - I just learned that from watching a cooking show at my sister's house...I know I am so behind the times and since it was organic I guess it should be OEVOO) for the onions.
I garnished with roasted red peppers we made this weekend.
I had no problem using my immersion blender so that saved a few steps.
I highly recommend the optional ingredients.
Rob put hot sauce on his, but the kids and I liked ours just the way it was...sort of reminded me of Mulligatawny or a Mediterranean lentil soup, but it has no lentils.
It is a great meal for little ones.
Now, go ahead and make it! Simple, yummy, summery, what more do you want?

I used up some green beans from the farmers' market which Rob steamed the other night at the kids' request, fresh tomato slices from the farmers' market, and some leftover hummus from Sunday's brunch. The drink is Pina Colada Smoothie using canned pineapple instead of fresh since that is what I had on hand. The chard from the market had red and yellow stems so the flecks of green, red, and yellow were much more interesting this time. Too bad it does not photograph well. Actually, I just have awful lighting in my house and rarely cook dinner before dark in the summertime so no natural light.

Hopefully, all this good nutritious food will stay inside Dema, make him feel better, and keep the rest of us healthy!

So Long Basmati

A local Indian restaurant, Basmati, has closed its doors. I have mixed feelings. Over the years, we have gotten to know the owner, Vincent, and the staff. When Parker was little they had a sweet woman who would bring out plain saag (spinach or greens) without any ghee/dairy for him to eat while the guys who worked there would try to buy his smiles with lollipops. Back then, the spinach won out. As Dema came along, they learned he really liked papadums so we always had a basket waiting for us as we sat down. They always seemed amazed when our little ones would eat spicy foods and were always happy to accommodate our vegan way of eating (bringing out alternative dishes for the ones with dairy on the buffet). Yet, with all this thoughtfulness, we haven't been going there as often as we once did. The food was not as reliable in recent visits and one night it was almost inedible. I am sad to see Basmati go and wish Vincent good luck!

According to the sign on the door, it will stay an Indian restaurant and maybe be another location for Bombay Indian Grill.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What is My Stomach Doing to Me?

Dema: "What is my stomach doing to me?" (I think he may have thrown up once before in his four and a half years of life, but if he has he doesn't remember.)
Me: "Honey, it is actually trying to make you feel better."
Dema: "Then it should stop making me fold over."

The poor little guy couldn't keep anything down for most of the day, even water. He was so hungry, I gave him some crackers, a banana, and plain wholewheat pasta over the course of the day. He would be so happy for a while counting the things he was able to eat. "Mom, I can eat four things; water, pasta, crackers, and bananas!" Then he would throw up something which looked like a banana just slightly mushier and immediately after say, "Mom, now I can eat three things; water, pasta, crackers." He decided to spend most of the day naked since he was making more laundry for me by throwing up on his clothes, forever thoughtful my little one. I told him not to worry about it (the mound of laundry is so wide and so high that a couple shorts and shirts is not going to make a difference among on the bedding and towels on which puke has staked it's claim), but I think he felt better naked anyway.

I thought I might be able to get some cleaning done today since we were stuck indoors (Parker was able to trek out to the park and to his neighbor friends' houses), but Dema needed me to hold him most of the time. He requested my lap "without Josie", but that is rare and hard to come by so they both snuggled into me resented the other's presence while at the same time loving and comforting each other. I'm hoping this won't seal Josie's fate to be afflicted with the same ailment. So far, so good. Everyone is sleeping soundly and I'm holding my breath, and a bucket to throw up in, that we are through the worst of it.

Dreadful Day

Yesterday sucked. It sucked in sooo many ways, I won't bore you with the details. Just imagine broken glass, bad decisions with good intentions, broken feelings, more bad decisions no matter how good intentioned, and broken hearts to crescendo into a four year old throwing up all night. Well, folks, my bad Monday is now leaking into my Tuesday. I seriously just want to crawl into a hole and not come out for a couple months as a gift to all who know me. If I was still childless and living in a metro area, I could so do the hole thing (at least figuratively) without a thought, but I live in a very small town (way too small sometimes) with three of them throwing up in bucket we used at the beach.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Busy Brunch

Yesterday we had our friends Ricky and Katherine (and their boys) over for brunch. We always have such a good time chatting with them that brunch turns into mid-afternoon lunch as well. I wasn't sure how we were going to get food on the table since the house was a disaster and we stayed at a birthday party from around 2pm until about 9:30pm Saturday night. It ended up being fine and we had Tofu Florentine (from Veganonicon with chard instead of spinach this time served over whole wheat English muffins), grits, tempeh (boiled for 20 minutes then marinated in Bragg's Amino Acids, minced garlic, liquid smoke, and maple syrup then cooked in a cast iron skillet until hot), Breakfast Casserole (basically mashed potatoes, tofu, onions, and spices from Cooking with PETA), hummus with kalamata olives, rosemary olive bread, fresh fruit, and peach smoothie (fresh chard, fresh peaches, frozen mangoes, light coconut milk, vanilla soy yogurt). Next time I would put the tempeh in the casserole (in the picture the tempeh is on top of the grits) because the casserole is a little bland, but filling. We put hot sauce or ketchup on the casserole and it was fine, it would just be better with tempeh. Commercial break:
I'll interrupt this post for a product review. I usually buy unsweetened ketchup which everyone in the family likes, but I saw a new product before we went to the beach and decided to check it out. The product is Organicville Ketchup sweetened with agave nectar. We've used agave nectar for over a decade, but it is interesting to see it become so mainstream now. I guess the low glycemic index and more and more people avoiding high fructose corn syrup has made agave popular. Personally, I think the ketchup is a little too sweet, but I think it would be a wonderful alternative for people who are used to sweet ketchup. The kids don't seem to mind the new ketchup, but they were happy with the unsweetened ketchup so I think we'll go back to our normal ketchup. I just wish our usual ketchup was organic. Next year, I hope to grow enough tomatoes to just make our own ketchup.

Back to brunch, as we were chatting on the porch enjoying the beautiful weather and the kids played at the park, more friends stopped by (two children and an adult). Later on after everyone else had left, another friend stopped by, then my dad, and yet another friend brought over their son for us to watch for the evening. It was busy, but just the way I like my summer days to be....lot of friends stopping in, good food, and lovely weather.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Market at the Square

In our humble little twin towns, we have farmers' markets almost daily if you really take time to look, but our favorite is the Market at the Square. Going to the market is what we look forward to all week and this week was no exception. Some Saturdays it is hard to get there early enough for Rob (he is always worried the best produce will be gone), but this time of year when there is an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, there is no bad time to get to the market.

We love stopping by the community group tables and saying "hello" to our friends, neighbors, and family who are working the booths. It is so nice to stroll down the aisles finding just the right produce (today we spent around $100 so it was all good) and imagining all the wonderful things we'll make when we get home. The kids love to eat at the market so we found some raspberries and black berries today which made them happy and more than a little messy. Josie had on her yellow "Growing Organically" t-shirt and within minutes it was stained blueish purple with black berry appropriate! They ate a pint of berries in what looked like one gulp so we had to go back and buy another pint before we left.Our bounty included: chard, sweet peppers, sweet corn, summer squash, green beans, tomatoes, basil, peaches, and the berries. (I'm sure I'm missing several things.)

Today's special find worth noting was from a local restaurant vendor. Papa George (I've blogged about the restaurant before) has a booth and today they had a sign for "vegan stuff tomatoes". I couldn't pass that up so we bought one (huge and made with tomatoes from one of the farmers' market vendors...local, woot!) and I asked Parker if he wanted some hummus or dolmades (stuff grape leaves). He, of course, went for the dolmades and the woman working the booth said it was so nice to see kids clamoring to eat nutritious food. We sat down and ate our feast with some pomegranate lemonade. I applaud Papa George for labeling their vegan foods as "vegan" (makes it so much easier and is what caught my eye), supporting local farmers, friendliness, and above all having delicious food. After we ate, Rob went back to the booth to tell them how wonderful it all was. Next time we'll have to get 10 pieces of dolmades though since the kids were fighting over them.

My stomach is growling now, off to eat some peaches.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Blushing Breakfast and Pina Colada Smoothies

We had a very red breakfast this morning with organic produce from the co-op. Red grapes, pink lady apples, and pluots (Dapple Dandy to be specific, yes it looks a lot like an apple) with almond butter on the side for dipping. Big boost of bioflavonoids. Parker also had leftover nooch tofu as a sandwich with avocado and Dema had leftover rice and beans in a tortilla with avocado to go with their fruit. I may have mentioned in the past that I try to ensure the kids (us too, of course) get at least 10 different fruits and veggies daily (the whole 5 a day thing is to low, but "they" didn't want to make it higher because it is actually a stretch for many Americans to get five servings). I don't stress about it, but it is in the back of my mind just like getting some omega 3 fatty acids in there and making sure at least one of the vegetables daily is a leafy green, some legumes daily, B12, etc. Anyway, I love days when we've already had four or five different fruits/vegetables by breakfast.
I just take this as a given, but I had someone ask me the other day why we eat Sunbutter and almond butter instead of peanut butter. We obviously do eat some peanut butter, but I feel variety is key to a healthy diet (but we all get into our food jags where we eat a favorite for a while so I look at things daily, but also weekly/monthly to see how we are doing). Also, almond butter is higher in some nutrients like calcium. A variety of whole foods keeps things interesting and healthy.

I made the mango smoothie from yesterday with some changes and it was a big hit. It tasted very pina colada-ish (without the rum, of course). The amounts are estimates so play with it.

Pina Colada Smoothie:
1 bag organic frozen mangos (fresh is great, but add ice)
2 or 3 slices fresh organic pineapple (that is all we had left)
1/3 to 1/2 bunch organic chard
1/2 cup raw organic cashews
1 can organic coconut milk (you could use light, I didn't)
1/2 cup organic Orange Mango Carrot juice
1 ripe banana (or better yet, frozen ripe banana...just peel, cut up in slices and freeze)
Couple big spoonfuls of vanilla soy yogurt (optional)

I was going to take a picture, but the kids drank it too quickly (Parker had 2 and half glasses and Dema had 2) and I was guessing it wouldn't photograph well. It is a great yellowish color with green flecks from the chard. Yum!

We swam at our neighbor's pool and at Sholem (first time going there this year) today for a total of five hours swimming. The kids are turning into fish. Cold fish since the weather is beautiful this week, but maybe not the best for swimming. The ocean water in NC might have been warmer than the public pool today. No wonder they ate a bunch today...gotta keep up with the calories being burned.

Oh and for you locals looking for something to do August 15th and 16th, check out the Nature's Table Reunion.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

11 Months Old and We Still Don't Have an SSN

Josie is 11 months old today and that is so close to 1 year. I just don't know where the time is going. On top of feeling like my baby is growing so fast that I'm missing it all, we found out that Public Heath did not apply for a SSN when we went in for her birth certificate. For Dema, all it took was going in to Public Health, applying for a birth cert., checking the box which said something about wanting a social security number and a few weeks/months later we received the SSN card in the mail. This has been a pain in the butt from the beginning with Josie and it is getting worse. After Rob spent a couple days talking to various people at Public Heath, the end result is that they don't have to file the part of the form where it asks for a SSN so they didn't send the request to the social security office and they don't have to so they won't do it now. The social security people need more than a birth certificate to issue a SSN (unless it is requested by Public Heath) so we have to have a certified record from the hospital. Well, as you know we are in this mess because we had Josie at home (still worth it and getting more worth it by the minute) so we don't have hospital records, thus we are hoping the time she's been to the ped. will suffice as evidence that she is a person ("a person is a person no matter how small", but only if they are born in a hospital according to the US government apparently). We can't seem to get a straight answer from the pediatrician's office on what they need from us to get a certified copy of her records...sigh. Wish us luck that at some point, "they" will see fit to grant Josie a social security number. I am done caring if we can get a break on our taxes, I just want her to be able to some day have a bank account, get a job, those types of things. We have quite a few friends who've had their babies at home and none of them have experienced this problem. I guess we are just lucky like that.
On a happier note, Josie is an utter joy and too adorable for words. She is getting very good at communicating her needs and she is very sensitive to the needs of others. If the boys need a hug, she is the first to know this and give them one. She does this cute little kiss/lip smack to tell us she would like to eat food. I have pretty much given up on baby signs with her, but it doesn't seem to matter...she has her own way of communication which is the point anyway. She smiles a lot and is very curious to try new things. She still eats anything and everything. I was at our local health food store yesterday and she occupied herself with eating the fresh kale and green onions in our cart while I finished the shopping. She ate basil leaves in our garden today and she routinely will eat citrus fruits with the rind and sometime banana peels. Most of the time she will not eat something unless it is handed to her by someone in the family. I can tell she knows a lot more words. I forgot how much great this age can be. I just want to bottle every fun minute. She is still cruising instead of really walking, although she will take a step or two unassisted.Today we were at our local coop for the last time in their current location. The coop is currently in an old church building and once a week the nursery is staffed so shoppers can leave their kids while they shop. It has been a wonderful time for us to hang out with like-minded parents, meet new children, and support our local coop. I'm very sad and excited at the same time that the coop will be moving to a bigger space where there will no longer be an area for childcare. It is really a shame since a lot of parents new to the area were able to make connections at the coop and feel part of the community quicker. Alas, things do change. Anyway, Josie climbed up on one of the chairs today and sat for a long time happily watching her big brothers and the other children play. I almost thought she was going to fall asleep there, but she got down eventually and joined in the fun.
The boys asked today what we are going to do for Josie's birthday (I really am in denial that it is only a month away!). I usually do a very small family thing for the first birthdays, but Josie loves a party so I may have to do something bigger this year. She loves music and dances all the time. Our friend Stef sent a CD for the kids before we went on vacation because she is so sweet and thoughtful like that and Josie and Dema especially are enjoying it.

Tonight we were all in the kitchen making diner and listening to music. Josie was in my arms rocking out to Nickelback. I don't think I have any video of Josie and I must take some of her dancing. Diner was black beans with onion, kale, and carrots over brown rice, nooch tofu (lightly fried tofu with a little Bragg's amino acids and nutritional yeast), and a mango smoothie (frozen mangoes, rice milk (I would use coconut milk next time), cashews, orange/mango/carrot juice, fresh pineapple, banana, vanilla soy yogurt).
Oh and while we were on vacation, her third tooth finally broke through!

Laughing Seed Take Two, Zen Garden

On our drive back from the beach, we stopped in Asheville again and ate at the Laughing Seed Cafe again. Really, Asheville has plenty of other fine places to find vegan food and I promise on our next trip, we will try them out. Rosetta's Kitchen and Early Girl Eatery are on my short list of places to try. Anyway, Dema and Parker both ordered the same things they ordered on our trip south. Here is Parker's Tico Burrito from the first time since we sat inside the second visit and I didn't bother to take pictures:
Rob ordered the ole' standby, the Harmony Bowl (nutritious and delicious) and I ordered the Tempecado which I could eat every day. Here are Dema's yummy Crispy Asian Dumplings:
The next day for lunch, I searched on my iPhone for a veg place in Louisville, KY (nothing like planning a minute or two ahead) and noticed to my surprise that Louisville has more than a Whole Foods for vegans to patronize. I chose Zen Garden and we were not disappointed. The restaurant is located in a very interesting historic looking part of town which would be fun to explore when we are not in a hurry to get back home. I don't know if I would call the restaurant kid-friendly, although they were super nice about our three kids who were done, done, done traveling and were not at their quietest. It has a quiet, home atmosphere which I felt we were interfering with, but no one seemed to mind. We ordered the Pot Stickers (pan fried) to start with and I would rate them second only to The Vegetable Garden in Rockville, MD. We also had the Hot and Sour Soup which was good. Dema ordered Orange Tofu. Rob had the Pan Fried Rice Noodles. I ordered the Thin Rice Vermicelli and Grilled BBQ Curd. Parker ordered Fresh Green Beans and Mock Duck, but once it came to the table he switched with me. He loves the Mock Duck Curry at Siam Terrace (a local Thai restaurant) and was a little disappointed when he realized it wasn't spicy, but he was silly to switch because it was excellent. They made me happy with the brown rice...always a plus! Parker and Dema had fun looking at the posters which displayed how much and to what charities the restaurant donated money while we waited for our food. If you are ever in Louisville, KY, I recommend you check them out.

Little Children

A Netflix pick of Rob's which has me up at night. It is one of those movies which I think I would recommend and I'm glad I watched it, but I don't ever want to watch it again. I watched it by myself since Rob couldn't stay awake and I had to get up and turn on a bunch of lights when it was over. I won't get any sleep tonight. Little Children.

Several months ago, Rob and I watched Gone Baby Gone primarily because I found out that Casey Affleck is vegan (I know, I'm a little behind on my celeb info...I found out at the same time who Casey Affleck actually was since I'd seen him in movies, but didn't know his name...have I mentioned I'm not much into pop culture?). I texted Rob at work and told him about Casey Affleck and so he looked up his movies and found Gone Baby Gone and rented it. I was going to review it back then, but didn't. On our drive back from NC, we heard on the radio about Morgan Freeman's car accident. This made me think again about Gone Baby Gone. Somewhat similar topic as Little Children, but done much, much differently. Both are good movies about right and wrong, good and evil, human nature, parenting, relationships, and children. I found them both hard to watch. As a parent, I find more and more movies hard to watch.

Ringing endorsements, eh? Seriously, both movies are worth the time.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Old Friends, Stingrays, and Southern Hospitality

To get back in a better mood, I will finish telling you about our vacation.

Saturday we spent the entire day almost on the beach since it was our last day. Our friends from the DC area who moved to Wilmington, NC about a year ago, came over with their son who is about nine months younger than Dema. It was so good to see Marty and Laura and meet Jack. I wish we had taken pictures, but I was scared to use my camera before I was able to download the pictures. Jack is a cute, tall (he is taller than Dema), sweet boy and Dema became fast friends with him. On the drive home, Dema asked if we could see Jack again soon. We will have to be better about visiting with Marty and Laura since I think it has been maybe six years since we've seen them. Time flies! It was great to catch up and chill out in the tidal pools all afternoon.

While we were all chatting and enjoying the warm tidal pools, the kids were running around on the beach and Parker found a stingray covered by sand! It was dead, of course, but a very cool find just the same. We've seen stingrays up close at an aquarium at the Outer Banks in past years, but this was very educational to get to really look at a stingray close up. I didn't see it, but Rob and the boys said afterwards that the stingray had a bite taken out of it. The boys say the eyes were green and when Parker first found the creature, it was upside-down so they saw the mouth as well. I wanted very much to be a Marine Biologist when I was growing up (something my parents discouraged since that would mean going to college far away from the Midwest) partly due to my love of Madeline L'Engle books, I'm sure. I obviously didn't follow through with it, but I'm pretty sure it would have been a short career if I had since I have to psych myself out and forget about all the creatures living in the ocean to actually get in there and get wet. I don't want to think about stingrays as I'm dipping my laughing 10 months old into the ocean or jellyfish as I'm jumping waves with my boys or sharks as I watch my husband surf. Thus, I was interested and amazed by the stingray (and the very large jellyfish I found dead on the inlet beach a few day prior), but also happy Parker found it at the end of our last day at the beach.

Sunday morning was spent getting packed up, straightening up the beach house, and saying goodbye to the beach (without actually going onto the beach since we were trying not to get wet and sandy). We drove a few hours to Raleigh, NC and stayed with Rob's sweet cousin, Jamie and her husband John. We hadn't planned on staying with them, but Rob had some family business to take care of about 45 minutes from Raleigh on Monday morning and Jamie offered up her house. It is a beautiful house and Dema was so happy to stay with his pal Jamie (he asked if we could stay seven nights). They had just returned from the beach as well and I know they probably just wanted a little time to unpack and some time to themselves, but instead they entertained us all Sunday afternoon, made a lovely pasta dinner for us Sunday night, and stayed up chatting. The kids and I made ourselves at home all Monday morning while John and Jamie were off at work and Rob at his meeting. Usually when we see Rob's cousins, we are there for a holiday and have a few hours to eat and talk before we all have to go our separate ways. It was so nice to spend time with Rob's family all week in a way we really haven't before.

Home, Sweat, Home?

Nope, not a typo. Our house is pretty hot and humid after being shut up for a week and a half while we were living it up on the beach. It is good to be home thought, right? Well, yes and no. I hate going away with a messy house because when you come is still a mess. That is a major drag and after spending two days on the road coming home, it is not something which puts me in a good mood. Both Rob and I had things we put off or should have dealt with before our vacation or during and we were a little crabby about it all when reality sunk in as we stepped in the door. It didn't help that our yard has become even more of an unruly jungle in our absence (don't know what we thought would doesn't mow itself).

On top of all of this, my sweet little four year old son greeted one of his favorite adult neighbor friends with "My friends don't like you." I could have died on the spot. I just didn't know what to say and tried to smooth it over, as did Rob, and we both made it worse. I couldn't figure out where this came from and Dema clearly did not realize what he had done wrong. I quickly asked him to help me unload the car. He had overheard Parker telling me a story on the trip to NC and one of the many, many details (those of you who know Parker, know that my eight year old can talk and talk and talk and doesn't spare a detail) was a guess that the reason why his neighborhood gang doesn't talk to this particular adult neighbor is because they don't like her and he doesn't understand why. Well, this was just a guess on his part and we continued the discussion to say that most of the other kids don't know her and a lot of kids (unlike my children...for better or worse) don't feel comfortable around adults they don't know and they probably don't dislike her at all. I didn't even realize Dema was listening and he takes in a bit of what is said (he was very upset a couple days ago when someone said they "turned their mother into a monster"...hours later he was asking me how they turned her into a monster and if she would be turned back...he was very, very concerned...he is a very literal little guy) and there you go...a very hurt friend. I took Dema aside and explained that our friend's feelings were probably very hurt by what he said and that he didn't even know if this was true. Dema was shocked and didn't know why it hurt her and he started crying and then Parker started crying. I was upset with them both and Dema took matters into his own hands and marched down to her house and tried to make things right. I don't know if it worked. I feel terrible.

I wish I could just have a "do over" on this evening.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Jellyfish, Asian Food, and Babies

This evening Rob was surfing with his brother, Marc, and I was playing in the sand/surf with the kids enjoying high tide.  When Rob came to the shore, Dema and Parker immediately wanted to go out with him into the deeper water (during high tide, I don't let them go out in the water without him).  I was dipping Josie to get the sand off, when I heard a terrible scream from Dema.  He had a long sleeve rash shirt on and he was pulling it up and grabbing at his stomach/chest area and crying in pain.  Dema is not one to cry out in pain over nothing and I've never seen him act like this.  Rob quickly brought the boys out of the water and we guessed he was stung by a jellyfish, but we probably shouldn't have said anything because that stressed Dema out even more.  I could see that his chest down to his navel was red in almost an oval pattern.  He kept grabbing the area and we couldn't get his shirt off quick enough for him.  Stephanie and I just happened to see a bottle in the cleaning closet which was labeled "for jellyfish stings" earlier this week so Rob told me to go get it.  Rob poured the liquid (smelled like vinegar) on his chest and he screamed another ear piercing scream and said it stung.  We then hosed him off and he immediately calmed down and said he was okay.  It was the strangest thing.  We will probably never know for sure what happened.  Dema was saying later something about being brave and I said he is one of the bravest people I have ever met and he said "no, because I wasn't brave about the jellyfish sting".  I told him that even the bravest people cry out in pain once in a while.  Poor little guy!

We went out for dinner tonight in neighboring Surf City, NC.  I wasn't expecting much since restaurants in tourist towns are hit or miss on the vegan fare, especially when one is at the beach.  We were pleasantly surprised by Nikki's Fresh Gourmet (124 N. New River Dr. Surf City, NC 910-328-1121).  The vegetarian sushi was good, the entrees were good, the portions were big, and they even serve brown rice for a little extra (big plus in my book!).  Thumbs up from us vegans and from Marc's family and Rob's dad too.  I would definitely go back.  I wish I had pictures, but my camera is not looking good...I'm still crossing my fingers that I'll be able to save the pictures from this week.

Marc and Stephanie found out today they have a new nephew!  Congratulations!