Monday, December 26, 2016

A Very Vegan Christmas 2016

This year we celebrated Christmas and not solstice. We were going to do some Hanukkah too since they were so close, but we were lame. I don't wrap presents. I think it is wasteful and not fun. I like to reuse bags and tissue paper.
Christmas Eve 2016
I love wrapping and they are fun to "open". The fifth nail got lost so I only hung up the rest of the family's stockings. That way I didn't have to give myself anything, but I did buy some bamboo pajamas before Christmas as my present.
Stockings 2016
Parker found this recipe online a few days before Christmas, then he asked me to buy bananas for pb and j sandwiches with banana (since the recipe called for bananas and we didn't have any in the house), then he woke up before everyone else on Christmas morning and didn't even wake up the dogs, but he whipped up a triple batch of Vegan Banana Pancakes! I came into the kitchen ready to cook while the rest of the family opened their stockings, but he already had a plate of pancakes warming in the oven. I love my teen so much!!
Parker making his surprise pancakes.
The pancakes were delicious and even Rob ate some (he's not a pancake fan). Most of the sweetness was from the bananas and it reminded me of the walnut or pecan banana pancakes I used to make. So good! We warmed up the maple syrup and ate breakfast as a family before opening any gifts. This was my favorite gift of the entire year!
Vegan Banana Pancakes
His siblings were pretty happy too!
Josie and Dema patiently waiting to eat while I took quick pics.
Josie begged for me to go last minute shopping the day before Christmas because she wanted "holiday" pajamas. I used to buy Hanna Andersson organic cotton pajamas for the kids every year, but they last forever so I always had ones to hand down the the younger kids so I got out of the habit. We finally ran out of ones in Josie's size and she has a short film coming up where she needs to wear winter pjs in a scene so she asked for new ones. I reluctantly went with her to Target on my least favorite day to shop and after a disappointing search, we finally found two pairs of organic cotton pjs on sale on a rack hidden away from the normal character pjs. Score!
Josie and Dema with their stockings.
Parker's stocking had socks, faux leather texting driving gloves (something I knew he would never buy himself, but this way he doesn't have to take off his gloves to text), and some vegan treats.
Parker and his stocking.
One of Parker's treats was a Buddha Bar from our local store, Art Coop. We have a mix of religions in our family, Buddhist, Catholic, agnostic, undecided, leaning toward Jewish, etc. which is one of the reasons we celebrate different holidays each year. Parker is Buddhist at this point in his life and so I thought this vegan bar would be fun.
Buddha Bar for my young Buddha.
All three kids were happy to get gift certificates for our local food co-op. They like to buy treats like vegan baked goods or vegan pizza sometimes when we are shopping. In order to cut down on the "mom, can I have..." I made a rule a while ago that if they want to buy something not on my list, they need to bring their own money and buy it themselves. Now they can use these gift certificates and when the money is out, they have to pay for items with their own money.
Common Ground Co-op GCs.
Romeo, one of our guest canines over the holidays, loves to help the kids open their presents. He finds the whole thing very exciting.
Romeo and Parker.
Rob and I don't usually get each other much over the holidays, but this year Rob needed a few things. He's wearing his new warm vegan hat from our newish local store, Rumours Hat Shoppe. I love supporting local businesses and the these hats are also made locally too. I bought him a new webbing belt for every day use that could help while sailing. The belt has loops for attaching things like a knife (good on a sailboat in case you need to quickly cut a rope) and you can also use the belt to be lifted out of the water. He's gone on several Atlantic Ocean sailing trips and hopes to buy a boat soon on the coast so this belt will come in handy. I also love the Klean Kanteen food containers and our local food co-op had some in stock. This is an easy way to take leftovers to work and keep them warm. Everyone got a Ocho Coconut Bar from our local co-op too.
Rob trying to figure out his new belt.
One of Dema's favorite gifts were the warm Star Wars slippers. They are so soft! We have an old house so wearing socks or slippers in the winter is pretty much a must.
Dema showing off his new slippers.
Josie is super into drawing lately so Rob and I bought her a adult coloring book from our local store, Art Mart and a blank drawing book from Art Coop. We didn't know Dema had bought her a set of colored pencils. It was so perfect and she's been using all of her art supplies non-stop.
Josie showing off her coloring book.
Rob has experienced some neck and back pain recently. When we were traveling, his pain seemed to go away. We decided he might need a new flatter pillow. I found a bamboo pillow with adjustable thickness. It seemed to work well last night so I'm hoping this does the trick on his pain.
Rob with his new bamboo pillow.
One of the items Dema asked for was a vegan cookbook. He went with Rob several months ago to Nebraska and they checked out Modern Love and Dema loved it. I decided the perfect cookbook would be one of Isa's (the owner of Modern Love and excellent cookbook author). He loves holiday cooking too so we'll have super fun with this one!
Dema showing off Isa's new Superfun Vegan Holiday Cookbook.
Josie is always with me when I shop because she loves to find gifts for people. This made it hard to buy any surprises for her. When we were at a local vintage clothing store, Dandelion, we bought Parker a couple band t-shirts and Josie found this red hat she'd been eyeing. They had a buy three get one free sale so we bought another item for Parker and she got this red hat free. I put it in her stocking, but she knew about it. We also were looking at a local music store, Upper Bout, to price a bass guitar for Parker. We decided not to invest in the bass, but Josie was looking at the ukuleles. I went back later while she was at gymnastics, but they only had a grey one left or some higher end ones. Since she's never played a ukulele I decided to go with a pretty one, they special ordered this pinkish red one for us and it came in before Christmas. She can't wait to learn to play!
Josie in her new organic cotton pjs, new to her free hat, and new pretty ukulele.
The kids have been in a few locally produced/directed music videos and Parker has worn vintage band t-shirts in a couple. Parker is not a guy to "collect" things, but now band t-shirts are something I know he'll love. I found a couple at the vintage clothing store for bands he already enjoys.
Parker and his new to him Queen t-shirt.
A TED video that combines Queen and ukulele. Just for fun!

Nine Inch Nails isn't a band he was super into before getting this shirt, but he quickly found several NIN songs to add to his play list.
Parker and his vintage NIN concert shirt.
We've been fans of the local band, Elsinore, before the lead singer, Ryan, was our neighbor and before Parker was Ryan's babysitter and then Mark's, the keyboardist, babysitter and pet sitter. All three kids have taken different music lessons from Ryan and Parker is currently learning bass guitar. We own most of their CDs, but this is his first Elsinore t-shirt.
Parker's new Elsinore t-shirt.
I used the holiday as an excuse to buy some fun secondhand clothes Parker had thought about buying for himself. He had been looking for a sweater vest and red is his favorite color so I found this at a local consignment shop.
You have to have at least one Christmas looking sweater.
Parker is a Dungeon Master for a couple D and D groups in town so I bought him a Dungeon Master Screen, wrapped in a secondhand flannel (something else he's into) shirt, from Titan Games.
Parker's D and D screen.
Josie showing off her new to her free hat.
Dema gifted me this cute little hugs and kisses pillow.
Josie gave me some earrings.
Parker has been in several Shakespeare plays over the years and he loves The Bard so I thought he'd have fun with the "secular saint" Shakespeare candle.

Dema told me when we were out shopping for someone else that he's always wanted a North Face coat. I've never known him to care about brands before, but I scored this barely used one at a consignment shop.
Deme loves his new to him coat.
Our only full-time vegan restaurant, Dancing Dog, was offering vegan chocolate covered caramels for the holidays so I knew I had to buy some for my vegan caramel obsessed middle child. Parker asked that I not get him many sweets so I had them add a t-shirt to the gift basket. Dema also asked for a coffee mug so I had them add a Dancing Dog mug.
Parker, Josie, and Dema with their Dancing Dog gift basket.
They shared the caramels, but Dema got the most. Truth be told, Josie was a little sad that she didn't get many surprises, but that is what happens when you ask to go shopping with me every time I head out. She admitted she really didn't need anything or even want anything more, but I will work on some surprises for next year.
Parker assembles everything for me so he put together Dema's new desk chair. Dema squirms a lot when he is on his computer and it scratches up the floor so I found a great durable comfy desk chair on Amazon.
Our guest, Romeo, supervised the assembly of Dema's chair.
Our dog, Gracie, was to tuckered out to help.
Dancing Dog vegan chocolate covered caramels. So decadent!
One of the things I love about hanging around for the holidays is taking care of other people's animals. Our friend, Emily, is moving to DC soon so this is probably our last time taking care of her cool cat, Simon.
Simon loves to hang out on Parker's shoulder. Parker sporting his new to him secondhand winter vest.
Rob make country fried tofu, garlicky greens, mashed potatoes, and gravy for dinner.
The closest we come to a traditional Christmas meal for us.
Josie had a great time trying to teach new tricks to Romeo while Dema played a new X Box game.

This morning I made what I intended to make Christmas morning. Biscuits with baked tofu, vegan cheese, and I was able to add leftover garlicky kale since I made them this morning.

Parker made a double decker baked tofu and garlicky kale biscuit and wore his new to him Queen t-shirt.
Another guest dog, Lulu the greyhound. She looks so much like our greyhound, Gracie!
I hope you all are having a great end to your year and have loved ones around you to go into the next year with positivity and strength.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


Warmth was on my mind this week. All of the sudden we are experiencing unseasonable warmth that makes me strangely thankful and depressed. It makes me think even more about global climate change and the dark ages we are about to enter into in the United States due to our new climate destroying "leadership". Living in an old house, the warm weather in December is pleasant. Sigh.

Rob and Wade (our sailboat co-owner and neighbor) took advantage of the Midwestern thaw to go check on the sailboat. They waited too long to get the boat off the little lake we moor the boat on and it was frozen in. Josie wore her new Rumours' hat to help with the boat. We were at Rumours (a newish hat shop downtown) buying a new winter hat for Rob and the owner gifted the hat below to Josie. It was so sweet. The owner is just starting out in this business and we've been going there since she opened. I love sending people her way because she is awesome, the store is one of a kind in this area, I love the old building she has the shop in, and buy local! I hated to take something free, but she insisted and Josie hasn't taken the hat off since, even to sleep.
Josie with her new Rumours hat and a poster from The Search for Pizza short film on the wall in the background.
One of the families who immediately made us feel welcome when we moved into our old house a little over a decade ago, is the Smiths. They have been like relatives to our kids since day one, they attend most of their many performances, they are so incredibly generous and fun, and they bring warmth to our lives though their neighborly ways. I can't express how awesome they are and all we do in return is take care of their cat. Pippin's affection also warms our hearts so we even get the better end of that deal.
Our neighbor cat, Pippin, enjoying Dema's affection.
Josie wanted vegan whipped cream in a can for the holidays. I was going to put it in her stocking, but it needs to be refrigerated and she didn't want to wait to try some. This is rice milk based and she likes to make fun designs on her hot chocolate. Talk about warmth!
Vegan hot cocoa with Soyatoo rice whipped cream in Parker's homemade mug.
Many holidays are warmed by this little bundle of joy! We've been caring for Romeo so long, it feels like he is part of our family. We love him so much and his human family is completely awesome too!
Josie with our house guest, Romeo.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Creamy Potato Leek Soup in the Instant Pot, Bass Practice, and More Help Ethan

Parker recently started taking bass lessons from our neighborhood musical guide, Ryan. The kids have taken singing lessons, guitar lessons, piano, etc. and Ryan is fabulous with them. He is also patient that my kids are super busy and have lots of different interests so sometimes they put music to the side for a bit. I think the bass may be Parker's instrument though. He loves practicing and I love to hear him play downstairs as soon as he gets up in the morning.
Parker and his loaner bass.
We used to have people over all the time. We'd have big parties with a couple hundred people, big and small dinner gatherings, impromptu get togethers, etc. Lately, we've been very anti-social, but we  invited our friends/neighbors who own the sailboat with us over for a simple dinner last night. It was kind of last minute. Parker found a recipe for Creamy Potato Leek Soup and he helped Rob prepare it for the Instant Pot. Rob hasn't used the IP before so Parker showed him the ropes. It was easy, tasty (we added more spices, doubled the recipe, and added yellow sprinkles and hot sauce), warm comfort food for rainy winter evening. It was great to eat, listen to the kids play, drink wine, and talk about politics, sex, and religion until late into the evening.
Creamy Potato Leek Soup in one of Parker's homemade bowls.
Episode 5 of the Help Ethan series Parker and many of our friends were involved with over the summer. You can follow the link to watch past episodes. This one starts to deal with some series issues.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Instant Pot Adventures - Coconut Almond Risotto - Parker Cooks

We can't have cats in the house because of our greyhound rescue, Gracie, and several of the other dogs we care for on a temp basis. So, Josie, and all the kids, love to take care of our neighbor's cat when they are gone. Even when they are home, the kids like to go over and visit. It is hard to believe when we first started taking care of Pippin years ago, he would barely come out from hiding and we could go several visits without seeing him. Now he is a super cuddly friend!

 Parker made this quick and east Coconut Almond Risotto in the Instant Pot yesterday. Dema was saying he wanted to bake something sweet and while he was busy looking through the cookbooks, Parker found this recipe online and started making it. Josie helped chop the almonds and it all came together quickly and easily. The dish is almost like a coconut oatmeal, but with the mouth feel of risotto. It was sweet, but didn't cause a sugar crash like most desserts I eat. Parker added four tablespoons of ground flaxseeds pot after it was done cooking. I sprinkled on some of our dark cocoa powder/cinnamon mixture I always keep handy. We all used the suggested garnishes of chopped almonds and coconut shreds and the kids all added some frozen blueberries to theirs. It was quite good, we usually have all the ingredients handy, and it was easy so I can see us making it from time to time. It was a great way to get Parker used to the Instant Pot.
Instant Pot Coconut Almond Risotto
Some years we celebrate solstice, sometimes Hanukkah, and sometimes Christmas. Some years we celebrate all three. This year I wasn't even going to put out any decorations. The days had just gotten away and it seemed to late to do anything much, but Josie really wanted a tree. Yesterday, Parker and I brought up a secondhand tree our sweet neighbors gave us one year and Josie had fun decorating it while I cleaned and occasionally helped reach up higher. It ended up being easy and fun with no stress at all. We are all enjoying it more than we expected. Dema and Josie bought some presents for the family and friends through a holiday shop that benefits a local non-profit called Crisis Nursery. This was their first year shopping at the holiday shops, but in past years Dema shopped for the family at a similar setup at his private school so I thought since he was homeschool this year and missed out on the shop at school we should check out the one for Crisis Nursery. The presents they bought there are already under the tree, but I have yet to wrap the presents I've bought...they may just get gift bags since I don't like the waste of wrapping paper.
Christmas Tree 2016