Monday, December 21, 2015

Frozen Vegan Pizza - American Flatbread Vegan Harvest

With school out for the holidays, we have a friend hanging out with us today and tomorrow while her father is at work. I was at her birth and it makes me feel a little old now that a decade has passed. She's obviously known us for a while, but just recently she's been asking a lot of questions about veganism. She is very concerned about the environment and she loves animals so veganism is going to be something that strikes a cord with her. Today for lunch, I was busy getting ready for our family solstice celebration so I grabbed a couple American Flatbread Vegan Harvest pizzas from the freezer.

Our guest loved the pizza and said it was so much better than dairy cheese pizza, which makes her feel bad after eating it. She ate almost an entire pizza on her own. Then I realized I have never blogged about these pizzas so hear you go. They are our go-to pizza for to-go lunches because they don't have toppings to fall off and they taste just as good cold as hot. Just the right amount of Daiya cheese and spices and the pizza sauce is more zesty than sweet. I don't think they sell them locally, but I buy a case when they are on sale from our buying club. Great convenience food to have in the freezer when things get hectic. They aren't a vegan company, but I appreciate that they offer a vegan option.

Miscellaneous Ramblings:

I expected acting to teach the kids confidence, public speaking skills, and increase the amount of time they are able to use their imagination since we so quickly want children to live in the "real world" these days. Acting has taught them so many more things than I even counted on and many of them are helpful life skills. As much as I love what acting teaches the kids, sometimes it comes back to bite me.

Dema learned to whistle for his role of Louis in The King and I. Due to his OCD tics, whistling is pretty much non-stop in our house now. Loud whistling. At least it is usually a happy tune.

Josie learned to flick a bic for Grace's World. Not a bad skill to have, but since we only have old fashioned matches or the long neck lighters in the house and rarely use them, she never learned to use a bic type lighter before. Now she wants to light candles all the time with her new skill.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Daiya Has Done It Again

Josie enjoying her Daiya blueberry Greek yogurt.
Since Whole Soy closed down earlier this year, we have been pretty much yogurt-less. Even with yogurt being a once in a while treat in our house, the hole left by Whole Soy was felt. When one door closes, a new vegan product opens a window. Enter Daiya yogurt. Darn it if Daiya hasn't done it again. They make a great mac and cheese option, their shredded vegan cheese can't be beat, and now their Greek yogurt is better than any other yogurt we've tried. The texture is divine, thick and creamy. Some yogurts can feel watery, but not this one. It is decadent without being ultra sweet. All three of my kids love the blueberry and strawberry (we add ground flax seeds and more fruit). We haven't found these locally (we had to order them through our buying club) so we have only tried the two flavors, but I trust the peach and black cherry are equally delicious.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Grace's World

Josie was in a short film recently. The boys have both been in short films and Josie was an extra with the rest of us in a full length film, The Garden of Chloe, and she's been in a promo for our local public telecommunications network, but this is her first short film. She had the best time ever. I mean she never wanted it to end. She loved everyone involved in the project and Parker even got to help out a bit behind the scenes. If they could just work on films full-time, they would be in heaven.
Josie at our personal wrap party. We went to the co-op for vegan pizza and a muffin. She was pretty sad it was over.

The adult actors, the director, and the crew were all so incredibly sweet and patient with Josie. They always had great things to say about her and they were so respectful and thoughtful. I really can't express enough how fortunate we are to live in a community with so many adults who are eager to teach our kids so many fun and exciting things.

For people who don't have experience with film, it takes forever. Even the shortest scenes are done over and over for all sorts of reasons. Different camera angles, audio issues, lighting, trying different expressions, etc. It is so interesting, but it also takes a ton of patience and dedication. It is hard work for everyone. Every TV show or movie has taken on a whole new complexity for me. I think of how many times they had to shoot the scene of the person walking away, why they decided on that music instead of dialog, I think of how scenes are hardly ever shot in order and how actors have to show deep emotions with people they might have just met that day, and I notice the small little inconsistencies more than I ever did before. As a mom of child actors, it means being flexible, remembering every detail of the props we loan and costumes, and patience. Did I mention it takes time? I love it too because the kids seem to enjoy films more than any other kind of acting and it is so much fun for me to see the work behind the scenes

Behind the scenes shots:
Josie being hit by a car.
I didn't stay for the hospital scene since Parker was happy to be Josie on site adult and help with lighting when needed. It was shot at the same hospital where my mom died of cancer over 13 years ago, but it still is erie seeing Josie in a hospital bed there. The hospital and staff would so accommodating and I really do appreciate them letting us shoot in an actual hospital setting.
The rough cut.

Update: Grace's World made it into our local annual Feminist Film Festival. Josie and I attended, her first feminist film festival, but not her last. It was great to see all the films and her first time to see herself act on a big screen. She loved seeing her director and crew again too.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Justin Spring Invitational 2015

Last year was Dema's first year as a competitive gymnast and this year Josie joined him. They both competed in the JSI meet which is hosted at our local college campus and our gym organizes the event. This means full family participation because most of the work is done by parent volunteers. I love the home meet because of the gym (historic old building) and the ease of getting to and from the meets, but also the kids have a lot of freedom when they aren't competing to hang out together and the lack of entrance fees means it is easy to watch as much gymnastics as one wants to watch.
Josie talking with one of her coaches after her belly flop on the vault.
We joined CGA (their gymnastics gym) because it was walkable from our house. We were still car-free back then and it seemed like a good exercise for the kids. They also had homeschool classes during the day for a wide range of ages for the kids could participate together. The gym is a pretty nice place to hang out and I didn't mind spending quite a few hours there. Fast forward a couple years and Josie spends six hours a week (three days), Dema is there nine hours a week (three days), and Parker is there an hour a week. I drop and run now and rarely stay. The coaches keep us coming back. There have been times when I didn't agree with certain things, but overall they care deeply about the kids and their safety. Winning is not their top priority and this is a plus for us. I am still quite conflicted about competitive sports and I could not stomach a high pressure gym.
Josie on the 2nd place podium for bars. 
Josie showing off her medals. She medaled in everything, except vault.
This might have been Dema's worst meet in many ways. Josie competed on Saturday late morning and Dema competed first thing Sunday morning. Our neighbors had a little birthday get together Saturday evening and none of us were in bed before midnight. Lack of sleep combined with the challenging aspects of the level 5 routines made for some of his lowest scores ever, but it isn't all about the scores.  Dema stuck his back handspring on his floor routine, something that had him worried all week. He also is improving on the pommel horse and mushroom. His rings were his strength last year and while they still look good, his high beam is looking like it might be his new high point.
Dema with his vault medal looking like a gymnast.
I prefer watching male gymnastics to female...shh! don't tell Josie. The boys have six events to the girls' four events and it is almost like they are completely different sports from the way they are scored to the emphasis on strength for the boys and the overwhelming emphasis on sparkle for the girls. I love not having to deal with Dema's hair and the male uniforms look so much more functional and comfortable. So far, I think gymnastics has been a very positive part of all three of our kids' lives. Parker uses gymnastics as a weekly workout and Josie would spend every day in the gym if she could, where Dema has a more balanced view. Their vegan lifestyle does come up from time to time with the coaches or the other gymnasts, but clearly being vegan athletes comes pretty naturally to them and they are comfortable with that role.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Our Town As You Like It

A few weeks ago Parker was Sam Craig in Our Town. This is his second play with this group of homeschoolers and this particular director (one of the moms). The first was As You Like It and Parker played Jacques, complete with a solo song. It might be my favorite role of his to date.
Parker in character as the melancholy Jacques with two of his favorite homeschool friends and fellow actors.
Both productions were amazingly professional for a teen aged cast. All the kids put in a lot of hard work and they have fun while taking theater seriously. The director knows just the right balance of trust in the the kids as people and actors while giving them direction and rules. For Our Town, Parker was able to also work on the lighting crew. He loves to learn the behind the scenes ropes and he likes the added responsibility.
I don't have pictures from the play, but here is a picture of Parker and his friend, Connor, after their last performance. They have done several park district plays together too. Acting is always more fun with friends.

The performances are free, donations are encouraged, and there is no real cost for participating. I am so incredibly thankful for the World Stage Homeschool Theater Company. So many fabulous fun opportunities for the kids.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Downtown Farmers' Market

We have a new farmers' market in our town. There is pretty much a market once a day in some local location, but this one is my favorite right now. We aren't in any CSA's this year and we can't make it to the crazy big and busy Saturday market near our food co-op so Tuesdays from 4-7 downtown is the day for us.
Josie, Dema, and Parker enjoying different flavored teas from Boneyard Coffee and Tea at the downtown farmers' market.
 The farmers' market happens to be right outside the office building where Rob works now. He has worked from home for years, but now he is working for a start-up company out of California and they decided to rent some space downtown. Rob walks to work most days and on Tuesdays he comes down to join us for a bit at the market.
Josie has her Aristocats shirt on from a play she was in and one of Parker's friends is painting her face to look like a cat.
A couple of Parker's homeschooling friends face paint, at the market, for a donation. Josie gets her face painting every chance she gets and pays them with her own money. We also buy veggies and the last week we bought bread and apple butter. Dema loves finding vegan baked goods at any place so he respectfully questions all the vendors and always finds something.
Sunbutter and farmer's market apple butter on farmer's market sourdough bread, hummus and greens on sun dried tomato wrap, a square of fair trade organic vegan chocolate, organic red grapes, baked tofu squares, whole wheat tortilla quesadilla with leftover black bean soup and Daiya cheese.

Monday, September 21, 2015

(Vegan) Hot Dog Day

At Dema's school, there is an age old annual tradition called Hot Dog Day. Ugh! It is fun in a lot of ways, but not a blast for a vegan kiddo. The first two years, I sent a vegan hot dog in his lunch and called it a day, but this year his school band played for the families as they ate their hot dogs and chips so I decided to join in the our own way.
I made Dema a vegan hot dog lunch with Vegenaise, mustard, and ketchup (he really likes sauerkraut, but the last time I added it in his lunch, it made the bread soggy) on whole wheat hot dog buns, organic red grapes, siracha popcorn, and tuscan herb veggie pop chips.
Josie and I ran errands and barely got home in time for her to pack a lunch for herself and walk to Dema's school.
This is the lunch Josie packed since she is not a fan of hot dogs (vegan or not). Organic red grapes and dried cranberries, toasted vegan cheese on whole wheat bread, an apple cinnamon fig bar to share with her brother and a square piece of vegan chocolate.
 Dema is getting ready to play his clarinet. I talked to a few of the moms with food allergies and they suggested I ask for vegan hot dogs next year. This year they did provide gluten free and dairy free buns so they might be open to vegan hot dogs. We'll see. I'm happy to provide my own and it was fun to hang out with Dema and his school friends for a beautiful afternoon.
 A local health food store, Strawberry Fields, went out of business a while back and a local entrepreneur and store owner decided to revamp the place and bring it back. It used to be a great place to find vegan sweets, but started to offer store made vegan cupcakes again. I bought one for Dema and one for Josie for after school. Dema's is banana cream with chocolate chips.
Josie's cupcake was strawberry, but the other day I had a hibiscus blueberry cupcake and it was really great. The cake part is pretty dense and I'm not a big baker so I don't know what to tell them to improve the texture, but the taste is good and the icing is spot on. The old Strawberry Fields used to pile on the icing (ick!) and it was just so so. Now there is just the right amount of icing and the taste is very flavorful, not too vegan buttery or bland. I think the icing might be the best vegan icing I've had the pleasure to eat.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rain and Window Seats - Misc. Musing

Do you ever have days when the sun is shining and it beautiful outside, but you would prefer rain? Dema has some sort of cough. He doesn't feel awful, but it is keeping him up at night and he's run down and he sounds like a seal. He stayed home from school today to catch up on sleep and he looked at me from the couch and said, "I wish it would rain."

I totally get those days when my insides don't match with the outside weather. I really like rain.

Not the first time I've posted this song to the blog. Hmmmm.

I somewhat recently had a health scare of sorts and sadly it motivates me in a way. I've always worked better on a deadline, really stressful times tend to be times when I live up to my potential...unhealthy.

I'm really trying to be inspired by positives. Motivated by joy. Working without a deadline. Living in the moment.

The only time I feel like I lived my life even close to this philosophy is when Parker was born and before Dema (four years and even then, definitely not every minute of that time).

You can kind of get the feeling of my inside from my house. I have at least twelve projects going on at a time and I can't bring myself to finish any of them. I've sort of finished one and it is being used. A small victory.

This built in window seat had a fake leather cushion stuck to the top for years. I'm sure it looked nice when they bought it, but by the time we moved in, it was hideous. It collected dirt and looked awful. This area gets a lot of sun and the material had melted over the years and suck to the wood. One day, several years ago, I just tore it of like a bad band aid, but it left this awful sticky mess. As we had people work on different parts of the house, I asked what I could do to refinish the bench. They all looked at me like it would be a lot of work and harmful chemicals. I ignored it since it wasn't space we needed. Then I talked to my neighbor, Vicky, DIY extraordinaire that she is and she suggested the soy based paint stripper we had used to get the paint off all the beautiful wood in the house. I didn't think the sticky mess was paint, but as she looked at the mess, she thought it was worth a try. It worked. Yes it took days and I lost count how many times I scraped the gunk off and reapplied the stripper, but it really wasn't that hard. Things are harder in my head, which leads to my lifelong friend, procrastination.
Now it is one of Josie's favorite places in the house. I'm still playing with the space on how to use it best. I have curtains in front of it and have used several different pillow combos, but I love changing this once eye-sore and dirt trap into a functional happy space for my family.
Now if it would only rain so I could curl up there and read a book. Yes, that is what I need. A rainy day. I'll put everything off until then.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Parker the Potter

Parker has taken pottery class off and on for years. Recently, he got back into taking a class through the park district. We needed some bowls since we are down to just a couple store bought bowls after breaking the rest over the years. Parker agreed to use some of his time in class to make some new bowls for us. He has been so fortunate to have some zany, inspirational teachers and some serious teachers who focus more on technique than the artist side. Both have really helped Parker's pottery grow and have kept his interest. Our neighbor, Anthony, found a potter's wheel in his basement when he moved in so he gave it to us, but we don't have the space set up and the materials yet, but it is coming along. I love functional art!
One of the first bowls Parker made for food use. This brown and red bowl went well with chili.

This is one of my favorite bowls he made. There are blues and dark brows mixed together and just the right size for a serving of Earth Balance vegan mac and cheese

We don't eat boxed mac and cheese often, but with new ones coming out, we had to try them. I make some additions to the sauce and always add some veggies. This one is Josie's favorite boxed mac and cheese.
The same bowl with Daiya Deluxe White Cheddar Style veggie mac and cheese. This one comes with my favorite additions of peas and carrots right there in the box, but I add more anyway. This one is Parker's choice for mac and cheese. 
The brown bowl on the left is huge compared to the others.
This bad boy can hold four cups of food. In this picture it is roasted red and sweet potatoes.
These bowls are more Josie sized. She likes small bowls, small utensils, but she still manages to eat a lot.
This bowl is one of the reasons I love his male pottery instructor. His female (more serious) instructor told him he could start over, but his male instructor (zany) said to go ahead and paint it and send it to the kiln. This makes me happy every time I look at it and is perfect to hold my used tea bags. The colors just completely speak to me.

After taking pictures of some of Parker's newest pots, I decided to take pictures of some old favorites which are being used all around the house. This is just a fraction of the pottery we have around. Dema and Josie also took a class or two and I didn't even get into their work for this post.
Key bowl.
Colored pens and scissor bowl.
Paint brush and colored pencil bowl.
Tea bowl.
Paint brush bowl on the left and one of my favorite bowls on the right. I love the metallic look to this bowl and need something different to store in it. Right now it has a pencil sharpener and Nerf bullets.
This one is another piece he could have junked because it was off center, but I'm glad he saved it. Perfect for writing utensils.
Our neighbor, Margie, brings cut flowers to the kids after an acting performance. For Josie's role in Cinderella, Margie brought her a flower that would last longer.
The white cup with the blue stripe is cappuccino sized and my finger doesn't fit in the handle, but it was a great attempt. The blue one holds my phone charger.
This one is red, brown, with some blue undertones. I can't wait to figure out how to use it in our home. 
Luckily, Parker doesn't mind what uses I decide for his work.
We used to loose the guitar pics, but now they all have a place.
Parker made these when he was about Josie's age and I love them, but we don't need paper weights. I use them as coasters for our glasses. We don't own a dishwasher and with a family of five using more than one glass a day gets pretty wasteful. I dug up these coasters so we have a place to put our cup or glass all day and it really cut down on our dishes!
This was Parker's first attempt at a mug. I love the big handle, but the mug itself is too small for me so I use it to hold paperclips.
Toothbrush holder that is easy to clean. 
Penny pot.
Parker does some special Magic the Gathering cards with beads for counters (I don't completely understand it) and these older pots of is are perfect to hold the different beads.

One of his classes years ago had him making tiles and they decorate his room.
He was still in his paint everything red period at this point.  He has really come a long way from this work.
This was just a sample of the pottery Parker's made and he would like to pursue his hobby more seriously and possibly make items to sell in the future. I'm just glad he has a creative outlet that he enjoys and adults who entertain and inspire him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Is Raising Children to Be Vegan...

Safe, healthy, fair? So many ways I've seen that question go and I try to really contemplate and question myself anew each time I hear or read it. So far, my answer has always been "yes".

I was interviewed last year for an article that ended up being published here on One Green Planet. It made me realize how much veganism has grown over the last two decades and how the there is still a bit of reluctance to embrace veganism for children.

This is one of the reasons I started to blog again. We are a really normal American family. I try to balance what seems like endless interests for my kids (South Indian dance, aikido, gymnastics, voice, acting, piano, role playing games, Magic the Gathering, swim, climbing, etc.) with homeschooling and private school. I try to support my husband's latest obsessions (right now it is sailing) and attempt to take care of our 100 year old house and our rescued greyhound.

We have our ups and downs. Our struggles and triumphs. Sometimes we argue and often we snuggle. I'm not the perfect parent and we may not be the perfect poster family for veganism, but we're real. We do it and you can too.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Beach Memories and Farewells

Most years we travel to Topsail Beach, NC for the week of Josie's birthday. Her birthday just happens to coincide with the start of off-season on Topsail Island. As Josie's 8th birthday fast approaches and we sadly will not be heading south for her birthday, I am remembering last year's beach trip. 

For the last three years, we have vacationed with our friends Seth and Gita and their twin girls. There girls are Josie's constant companions, they are our neighbors and friends, and they are moving this month to Colorado. While I am so happy for their new adventure and I understand their need for mountains, I can't help but feel sad too. We will miss them, to be sure, but this is an end of a certain type of childhood for Josie. She's been able to walk over to her best friends' house, dance with them, fight with them, bike with them, climb trees with them, practice aikido with them, get to know horses with them, share secrets, cry tears, laugh and laugh.

We hope to continue our yearly trek to the ocean together, but I know the extra distance will make this hard and their relationship is definitely going to change. We have loads of great memories though and last year we didn't just share the beach with their family, but also my sister and her husband, and our neighbors; Vicky and Greg. Rob's family even managed to come by for a night or two so the kids were able to see their only cousin, Lillian.
My crew as we set out for beach trip 2014.
Josie lost a tooth while we were shopping for groceries at a Whole Foods in North Carolina.
Greg and Vicky shared a huge beach house with us while Seth and Gita's family shared a smaller house across the street with my sister, Karen, and brother-in-law Stuart. We usually ate at our house where there was room for everyone.
We all shared in the cooking and cleaning tasks. Gita and Seth made their famous vegan sushi. A perfect beach food! 
Sand and boogie boards for Josie.
The island is known for its sea turtle rescue and last year we checked the new out the new facility. 
The line was long, but kids found ways to pass the time.

A sea turtle made out of trash found on the beach. An artful reminder to be think before disposing of plastic. 

Each turtle has his/her own story. It is amazing work they do and you can tell everyone from paid staff to volunteers is filled with love for these beautiful amazing creatures.
Our time there was educational and sobering at times.
Josie on the beach with her new sea turtle necklace. 
Parker loves to walk along the beach and explore. 
The boogie boards get quite the workout.

One of the many dinners together at our big beach house.

 Our neighbor Seth, Rob, and Marc (Rob's brother) relaxing.

Cousins kayaking together on the sound side. Vicky and Greg think of everything and they brought a trailer full of bikes and kayaks and all sorts of things. We rode down with them and it was fun to travel together.

 Dema in peaceful solitude.

Uncle Stuart and Parker exploring and taking pictures.

Parker on the secluded part of the island. Gita and Seth really wanted to rent a place at the end of the island in 2014. It was  a great choice. It is so quite and peaceful and lots to explore. In past years we would just go down to this section for the day, but it was nice to be right there the entire week.

We usually take a group picture at the end of the trip, but I think we must have missed in 2014 so here is my little family.
2014 was a great beach trip and Josie said her 7th birthday was her best, but seven is her special number so I think it will always be one of her favorite birthdays. We had vegan banana splits to celebrate her special day since we were driving 15 or so hours on her actual birthday. It was so fun to have our neighbors and part of my family and Rob's family come spend time with us at a place that will always be special to us.