Sunday, November 30, 2008

B is for Brunch

Dema is going around trying to spell everything or asking how things are spelled. He gets insanely happy when something has one of his letters in it (you know D-E-M-A...a lot of things have these letters so he is a pretty happy little guy).

To cap off our busy long, but not long enough weekend, we had our friends Ricky and Catharine and their boys and Deborah and Scott and their boys over for brunch. (Gita and Seth, if you are reading this, we missed you and the girls!) We woke to the first real snow of the season which was both pretty and fun for the boys, but makes me a little sad. I always worry more about Rob riding his bike when there is snow or ice on the road. I'm getting wimpy in my old age and cold weather just means a cold house and snow/ice means danger. I need to let go. It was quite beautiful seeing the park and the trees all covered with snow, but I sadly didn't get a picture since I was off to the kitchen to start making brunch and clean (which never did get done, but they are sweet guests and didn't complain).
I went simple and satisfying for the brunch menu:

H is for Home-style Potatoes (peeled/cooked potatoes boiled and then lightly fried with sea salt and fresh ground pepper and I added some chopped onions - not in the picture because they were all gone by the time I took a picture)

S is for Spicy Sweet Potato Hash from Vegan Planet (I had some veggie crumbles in the freezer someone gave us so I thought it would be a good time to use them was good, but next time I'll just use some homemade seitan instead of pre-packaged crumbles)

J is for Julie Hanson Steamed Sausages (I am the last vegan on the planet to make these...they were going around the vegan blog world almost a year ago that is how incredibly behind the times I am...I've been thinking of making them forever, but this brunch was finally the excuse I needed. I used Bryanna's Homemade Vegan Chicken-Style Broth Powder instead of the seasoning she suggests because I have no idea where to buy the one she has in her recipe. I can't wait to try the different variations everyone has come up with these.)

K is for Kitchen Sink Scrambled Tofu (I just threw everything I needed to use up in the scramble - tofu, obviously, spinach, some Bryanna's Homemade Vegan Chicken-Style Broth Powder from the sausages, shredded carrots, onions, etc.)

B is for Blueberry Coffee Cake from Vegan with a Vengeance (I've made this and blogged about it many times before, but this time I realized too late I had about ten frozen blueberries left - the kids inhale them - and I'd already gone to the store for soy yogurt and raisins so I wasn't about to go back. So I cut up some frozen cherries in lieu of blueberries. I have to say, I think I will use cherries next time. I thought it was just as good or better than the blueberries.)

C is for Carrot-Raisin Muffins also from Vegan with a Vengeance (I mentioned I went to the store specifically for soy yogurt for the coffee cake and raisins for these muffins. I somehow forgot the raisins. I know, I know, I have no excuse. I did have currants around and used them instead and it was just as good. My family loves these muffins because they aren't too sweet, but still a treat and have some nutrition.)

I think brunch with friends is my favorite meal of the day. If we opened up a vegan restaurant, I would just serve brunch which start around 10 or so and last until people were done chatting around 3pm or later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Mostly Mushrooms

I don't post much about mushrooms. Rob and I love mushrooms, but the kids are not big fans. Recently they have been trying them more so I'm thinking mushrooms will be on the menu more often. You probably know all about the reason why you might want to eat mushrooms (nutritional analysis here). I knew they were good for me, but I didn't realize they were a source of Vitamin D. Yet another reason to pick up some mushrooms.I made the Scrambled Tofu from Vegan with a Vengeance for lunch Friday (breakfast can be eaten anytime around here and Rob was home from work so it was kind of a laid back day). I don't usually use a recipe per se for scramble tofu, but I've been looking at recipes in VwaV lately so I thought, why not? I served it with Tempeh Sausage Crumbles also from Vegan with a Vengeance which we've had before. Stick to your ribs vegan food and enough protein to knock the socks of any omnivore.
Although our shopping once a week was shot all to "you know where" lately, I still am trying to use up things instead of running to the store for every little ingredient. So I had some mushrooms (and shallots...what are the odds!) to use up today so I made Thai-Style Coconut Soup from Vegan Planet which I've been wanting to make forever, but never have mushrooms when I think about it. I roasted some Brussels sprouts for a late breakfast/snack so the oven was warmed up and I didn't want to waste the heat so a I baked half of the tofu with some olive oil and tamari before I added it to the soup. I also used lite coconut milk which worked fine. I didn't have limes or lemons so I just used bottled organic lime and lemon juice and instead of the lime zest I used some lemon extract. I also went the easy route on the ginger and used this jarred fresh (is that an oxymoron?) grated ginger I bought at Common Ground which I needed to use up. This stuff is great! I always have ginger root in the freezer, but I forget to grate it until the last minute and then I get annoyed at that step in the recipe for some reason. COlazyUGH. So I went very heavy on the ginger. Rob came in a smelled the soup and said he wanted me to make Tom Yum soup sometime and looked sceptical at what I was making. I decided make Sesame Soba Noodles also from Vegan Planet to go with it. I used udon instead of soba and added extra carrot and peas to make up for the lack of a red pepper and threw in the rest of the tofu. The kids enjoyed it, but the soup was a little too spicy for them to eat so they added crackers (rarity to have some in the house, but fate was with us). Rob LOVED it. He ate after us because he was helping a neighbor with a bike, but I heard him almost moaning and saying how great the soup was while I was doing the dishes. If you want to get on my husband's good side, you will make this soup for him. It is nice to have recipes like this one in case I need to convince him to do something or make up with him after a fight (no, we never fight).

I don't have any pictures, but we had dinner at our friends Neil and Hilary's. They invited us to a Vegan Mexican Fest so how could we pass that up? There was only one other vegan at the dinner so it was even cooler to have everything vegan. It was a lot of great food, great music, and fun. I think Parker ate his weight in guacamole, Josie would have stayed forever watching and listening to the music if she wasn't so tired, and Dema demanded to know when we were going back again.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Climbing Back On

Yes, I fell off the edge of the Earth. I could go into the reasons, but it is the normal stuff. I am working on climbing back on, but today I'm just sending you to my friend Ricky's new blog for something to "chew on" for those on you celebrating a holiday today in the US.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

93 Years Ago...

My maternal grandfather was born. Wow, I can't imagine all the changes my grandfather has been through. He is an amazing man and I am lucky to have him in my life. It is funny to think about now, but as a child I was sort of scared of him. He worked a lot in his garage on all sorts of wood working things and my step-grandmother (my mom's mom died when I was very young so I don't remember her and my granddad remarried a couple years later) never let me go out there while he was working. Granddad Clifford was a quite man who could do anything in my childhood mind, but he was larger than life so I felt in awe of him, but not close to him.

When my step-grandmother Mary was sick with osteoporosis and cancer, I saw my grandfather as someone with more patience than anyone I had ever met. He was tireless and tender. Most men, especially of his generation, are not good care-givers, but he seemed to fall into that role with ease. I'd seen him fix things for neighbors and people from his church and do just about anything anyone asked of him, but caring for Mary was hard and 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It didn't ever get easier, but always harder. In the end, I think her last days were the first and only time I've seen him really cry. She was not herself at the end and said some terrible mean things, but he was a rock.

After my step-grandmother died and I was still in my teens, my mother and I would visit him pretty regularly and I got to know him as a funny sweet man with lots of jokes and stories. His signature joke, "Hi, my name is Cliff, drop over sometime." always makes me smile. He was always a hard worker and I rarely heard him complain. He always seemed to take people where they were in life. He never seemed judgemental to me. He was as strong as anyone I've ever known and moved heavy furniture by himself into his basement without so much as a whimper.

My grandfather probably thinks we are crazy for being vegan. He was a farmer with livestock and then a butcher while my mom was growing up. He was an avid fisherman until after Mary died. Yet, he has always eaten our food and never once complained or acted like it was odd. He even commented at our wedding how wonderful the food (vegan) was.

While my mom was dying of cancer, Granddad came and sat all day in the hospital with her and drove a couple hours home and then would come back the next day. He was volunteer of the year several times at the hospital near him and would help "elderly" people who were often times younger than him.

Granddad is great with my kids and they adore him. They love to talk with him and sit on his lap. Sometimes I wish he wasn't so quiet. I wish I knew more of his thoughts and what he feels, but he is who he is and I love him. I am so glad I've had him here for so long and the world will not be the same place when he is gone.

Friday, November 7, 2008


My little boy has his first really short hair cut. It makes me a little sad, but he loves it. He looked in the mirror and said in a very satisfied voice, "I look like Gail." I couldn't think of who he meant and then he said, "You know, the one who gave me an apple!" Our neighbor, Gail, gave him an apple on Halloween which was a highlight of his night. He wants it shorter so he can "be completely bald".
Josie is 14 months old today. She is working on her sixth tooth...finally the girl is getting her teeth in. She is super affectionate and cuddly. She loves to kiss/hug her brothers and her dolls/stuffed animals. She is so into Rob and looks forward to playing ball with him when he gets home from work. She loves to ride on the peapod bike seat on my Xtracycle and still only signs bike (which is tapping her head to signal a helmet). She doesn't say "no" or "yes" yet, but she shakes her head negative or positive to any question asked of her. I'm glad the "nos" haven't started yet. Josie loves to take the boys by the hand and "position them" in the house where she wants them. She puts Parker next to the refrigerator in the kitchen for some reason. She loves to play hide and seak with them and throw balls. She will take me upstairs to the bedroom when she wants to go to sleep or take a nap. She will go get a new diaper when she needs one, but she has refused to pee or poop on the potty lately. She is easy going and laid back, but also strong-willed and stuborn if that is possible. She is a complex little girl and a complete joy.There was a fire in our little rockin' downtown this morning. It is sad and scary. I don't know what started the fire, but a wonderful old historical building (a block away from where Rob and I met and I worked for four years and a block away from where my father worked for 30+ years) is not completely gone. No one was hurt from what I read, but it must be a mess because Rob couldn't even bike past on the way home with all the police and crews cleaning up. A building is there one minute which I pass every day (on the same street we live on, but about a mile form us) and today it is gone. (AP Photo/News-Gazette, John Dixon)
Rob's job is laying people off after Thanksgiving. If he gets laid off this would be the second time since I've been pregnant with Josie. We moved to my hometown back when I was pregnant with Parker (he'll be 9! in February) for a computer consulting job which was for one year. It lasted several years and then they offered Rob a full time position. He didn't take it and instead took nine months off where we didn't have any income. Then he worked at a company he liked, but after about two years they closed the office here and laid off pretty much everyone. A new company came in and hired a lot of the people who were laid off and now they are laying people off. Rob is at that point in his life where he would really like to be settled in a job until retirement, but it doesn't look like that type of job exists anymore.

I was at an age, being nine and half years younger than him, that I was still wanting to take risks and didn't get too worried about layoffs. Now two days away from my 37th birthday. I am in a very reflective mood. I am officially middle aged (or worse since my mother and maternal grandmother died in their 50's). I've noticed that instead of being the youngest in my friend circles, as I as for most of my life, I am now older than most of my friends. I'm an adult. I've been on my own since I turned 17 years old, but it has hit me in the last couple weeks that I'm really an adult. Maybe it has something to do with being married to man who is the age of our next president so I feel like we are really responsible people now and not just "playing house" or something. I know, I'm a little slow on these things.

I'm happy about the election and cautiously optimistic about the future, but I also feel it may be too late...all the change we've been promised. I just hope it isn't too little too late. I have a big urge to move back to the DC area now. I don't know if it is the change in the political climate or just a point in my life. I do love our neighborhood and our life here, I just feel the allure of DC. I feel very unsettled these days.

Lots of changes.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Pumpkins, Presents, Pad Thai, Pathetic Pictures, Presidents, and Pecan Pie

The day before Halloween and the day of, Parker spent most of his time outside carving pumpkins. Our neighbor Margie had a great collection of pumpkins and she let Parker carve them. He had a great time. I was impressed with his dedication to the job. The yellow house in the background is not ours, but I mention it because it has come a long way in the last year. If you go back to this post, you will see the transformation from a house where they were shoveling out garbage out of the attic into a truck to haul it to the dump (the previous owner) to this yellow beauty which people stop and admire.
The weather was beautiful and leaves are finally colorful and falling. It was a great way to spend the day. The boys would play, Parker would carve, they would chat with Margie and other neighbors, they hung out on Margie's porch and arranged the pumpkins, Parker would carve some more, Josie would watch the guys and swing, etc.
Dema carved the little one to the left (it had a lot of "eyes" and three mouths, but mostly Dema liked poking little holes in it). Once in a while one of Parker's neighbor buddies would come out to the park and watch him carve. I think in the end Parker carved (and cleaned...that is the part I don't like) ten pumpkins. I didn't get a picture of them lit up since they weren't at our house. Margie offered for Parker to bring some of the pumpkins home, but he was happy to leave his creations at her house.This one is winking. Parker did everything freehand with the little pumpkin carving "knives" Karen brought over. He would finish a pumpkin and then make a face to me and say "this is what the next one will look like". Then he would take a picture with my iPhone when he was done. The squirrels were crazy on our porch and started eating our pumpkin as soon as Parker set it on the porch. Margie has cats so the squirrels weren't quite so bold and seemed to leave her pumpkins alone.The kids kept going back and forth about what they wanted to be for Halloween. We just started doing the costume thing last year (before that the boys were happy just to hand out vegan candy and look at all the costumes from our porch). This year some friends made it easy on us. Margie gave Dema this kangaroo costume and our friend Charity gave Parker the Boba Fett costume. Rob took all the kids out (Josie wasn't in costume, but rode in the Ergo on his back) while I stayed behind to hand out candy to the droves of trick or treaters we have come to the house (between 150 and 200 people each year since we've lived here). They had fun trick or treating with the neighbor kids for an hour. Several very thoughtful neighbors had some special organic, fair trade, vegan candy for our kids when they came trick or treating. One neighbor offered Dema an apple he was so happy! They left out all their candy, except for the special candy from the neighbors, for the Halloween Sprite and the Great Pumpkin brought them Barefoot books, wooden trains, and cooperative games from Tribal Life (my store...Parker did comment that the Great Pumpkin shopped at our house this year pretty much exclusively).We had fun the day after Halloween celebrating the Day of the Dead. It was nice to have Rob along this year since it fell on a Saturday. Last year was our first time celebrating and now we look forward to it...the kids have been talking about eating pad thai and taking some to grandma's grave for a days. We went to Thara Thai for the pad thai this year since The Y Eatery is only open during the week days. The weather was perfect so we placed the rose and pad thai on her grave and talked about her and then we all took in the day and sat in the grass and looked at the sky. It was quite nice. We were the only ones in the cemetery until we were about to leave and a woman drove up and got out of her car with a flower arrangement and walked 30 feet to a grave and replaced the old flowers with the new ones and got back in her car. No big deal and not strange except for the fact that she looked at this strange family in the grass looking up at the clouds and pushed the lock button on her keys. It just struck me as insanely funny that she locked her car in a cemetery when she was out of it for less then 120 seconds and was at the most 30 feet from her car. What did she think was going to happen to her car or the contents in a cemetery which was pretty much deserted except for a family of five? It made it even more ironic when I noticed that I knew her. She wouldn't recognize me as an adult, but she lives in my childhood neighborhood and her son (now was his grave she was visiting) was a good friend of my brother's growing up and they went to our church.

Next year I hope to do more to remember Rob's mother. I asked Rob what she really liked to eat and he said she made a shrimp curry so now I have a year to find out the recipe and veganize it for next year's celebration.

Just a comment to say, I know my pictures are more pathetic than usual, but I still am down to my iPhone for pictures with the other cameras out of commission so I'll try to rectify this situation soon.

Lastly, we went to our friends Ricky and Catharine's to watch the election results last night. It was so nice to watch with friends who also have a Kucinich bumper sticker on their car. It was also nice to be with Ricky who is from Mississippi and see his sister call from the southern state elated that Obama won. Rob was so happy to see his home state look like it might (I haven't heard the final results) have gone for Obama. Dema fell asleep on our way over (Rob got off work late) and Josie was pretty mellow and eventually fell asleep (Parker was the late night man staying awake until we left after midnight). I can't really add anything to what everyone has already is awesome to have our first African American president elect and it is about time! It gives me some hope for this country and this planet. I know politicians are mortals so I don't think Obama is the cure for everything which is ailing us, but it is a step...a small baby step in the right direction. The second highlight of the night was Ricky's pecan pie. I need the recipe. Parker was talking about it all day today and Dema was sad he slept through it. I don't think I've ever made pecan pie before so if anyone out there has a great vegan recipe, send it my way.