Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Thai Green Curry, Passions, and Starmites

Parker, my 17 year old, is always looking for food he can prepare for himself when he's on his own. This Amy's Thai Green Curry has been a favorite for him when he needs a quick meal between play rehearsals or if no one else is home. They are sold as "Meals for Two", but in reality it is a meal for one hungry teen or two normal people. I'm not a big fan of processed foods, but this one is pretty veggie heavy and he adds another bag of mixed frozen veggies to it while it cooks. Sometimes he'll add cashews too. It is definitely higher in sodium than how I cook so it is once in a while convenience food. It definitely has a nice Thai flavor without being spicy. I've only been able to find the Thai Green Curry at our local co-op, although our local Target carries several non-vegan varieties of Amy's Meals for Two. It isn't the cheapest convenience food out there, but it is quick and if you do feed two people, it is much cheaper than Thai at a restaurant in our area.
One serving of Amy's Thai Green Curry with 10 oz. of organic veggies added.
I used to stay up late at night reading with a flashlight under my covers, but Josie stays up late drawing. If she isn't doing math to relax, she's drawing. I can't decide if I should put her in a class or not. It is clearly more than a hobby and she is always striving to "get better", but sometimes classes can take the fun out of art or it can open up a whole new level of fun.
Josie and one of her passions, art.
 Parker was asked to be part of a local private Catholic high school's musical. He doesn't attend the school, but he was in their fall play, Hamlet Thrill-ma-geddon, and had a great time. The kids were so welcoming and he made several friends. So when they asked him to be Shak Graa in Starmites, he was more than happy to make time in his schedule. I have no idea how he was able to memorize his lines/songs for Starmites while he was also memorizing his lines for Taming of the Shrew and a monologue for his acting class at our local community college, but he makes it look easy. I never hear him rehearsing at home and he never asks for any of us to run lines with him. Memorizing comes so much easier for him than it ever did for me. It was such a fun show and Shak Graa is an evil out of this world type character that Parker had the best time playing. It was his first time wearing lipstick and nail polish in a play and he even got to use some of his hip hop moves.
Dema and Josie came to two performances of Starmites to support their big brother. 
Josie was so sick the second night with a crazy cold, but she still wanted to come and watch Parker in Starmites. Dema had a great time catching up with friends. He's homeschooling again this year, but the three previous years he spent at a private Catholic school that sort of feeds into this high school. Parker got to know the kids at the school even more this production and he's been hanging out with several of them over spring break. Theater kids are the best! If you haven't heard of Starmites, you should definitely check it out.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Spring Break: Dog House, Taco Tuesday, General Tso's Tofu

We are finishing up spring break in our part of the world. This doesn't mean vacations for us, it means dogs! We had five dogs this week (counting our lovely old greyhound, Gracie) and two cats at a neighbor's house to care for. I love action time for others because it equates to a full canine house for me. We'll take our vacations later. We're pretty flexible since we homeschool. The weather here has been an even crazier than normal for Midwestern US so below freezing to almost 80 in just a couple days. The weather was fine for walking the dogs though. Most days with the five dogs were 6-7 mile days. Nothing makes a pack of dogs happier than lots of walks together.
Full grown beagle mix puppy, Zoe, on Rob's feet and big youngish greyhound pretty new rescue from the track, Wish Bone.
 I was so happy with all the dogs and how well they got along. I believe working with dogs is similar to working with kids. Things go best when you get to know the dogs and set them up for success. I always introduce new dogs to each other on long walks, while I keep a close eye on their body language. I don't let dogs, like greyhounds, out in the yard to run with smaller dogs. I don't want the prey drive to kick in with sight hounds. I try to keep our house as similar to home with the same rules so there is no confusion. Two of the dogs were first time boarding with us, Zoe and Wish Bone, and they were an unlikely playmates with the huge difference in size, but they loved each other. When their families picked them up, we found out they are friends (small town) so they might be able to set up regular playdates. So fun!
This is how my husband, Rob, multitasks. Zoe is a total snuggle dog and if there is a lap to be had, she was in it.
Zoe was just adopted a few days before she came to stay with us for break, but she was so eager to make new friends (human and non-human) that the transition was easy for her. She is still getting used to being house trained so I made sure we were outside a lot and she had long walks to get some of her puppy energy out.
My amaryllis is finally blooming, which always make me happy.
 When we weren't walking dogs, feeding dogs, grooming dogs, or petting dogs, we were sleeping. No, just kidding, we did have a bit of time to get started on some spring cleaning and I optimistically put some harder plants outside.
Josie working hard on Khan Academy.
No rest for homeschoolers. Josie loves to work on math via Khan Academy so she doesn't mind doing bit of homework during "spring break".
Example of the kids' daily smoothie with our reusable glass straws.
When you get a new kitchen gadget, like the Instant Pot, it is easy to forget about your old standbys. My Vitamix wasn't feeling the love, but about a month ago I started making morning smoothies for the kids again. I used to add veggies in every smoothie, but lately I've been concentrating on the fruit. I noticed my eldest, Parker, was great about getting vegetables in his daily diet, but fruit wasn't as big a priority for him. He prefers savory over sweet so when he does eat fruit it is apples or bananas with peanut butter. I start out with soy milk (something else the kids don't really eat/drink on a regular basis if I don't cook with it or put it in smoothies), dried barberries, ground flax seeds or hemp seeds, some type of nuts (usually cashews or pecans), and then different fruits. This day it was whole kiwi (I leave the skin on after I was them), frozen strawberries and acai smoothie packs I found in the freezer. I don't drink the smoothies because I don't need the calories, but the kids love to start their day with one. I came down with a pretty bad cold and even with tech week for a production, which means late nights, Parker was fine. I like to think it was partly to do with a healthy dose of anti-oxidants in his morning smoothie.
Pinto bean and chorizo seitan vegan tacos.
I think we had our first taco Tuesday ever and now the kids want this to be a regular thing. Usually, we eat burritos at least once a week, but Josie asked for taco shells on a whim. I made them on a Tuesday because party took pity on my cold and cooked us dinner on Monday. I started with diced red onion sauteing in the cast iron skillet, then added Uptons Natural Chorizo Seitan, pinto beans, turmeric, black pepper, nutritional yeast, red pepper flakes, diced jalapeƱo peppers, and taco seasoning. Rob made guacamole and I cut up some lettuce and the kids added Daiya pepper jack shreds. I made a soft taco with a whole wheat tortilla, but the rest of the family when for the taco shells.
Parker's General Tso's Tofu.
I mentioned Parker made supper Monday evening. His schedule has been much lighter during spring break and Rob and I were feeling particularly run down from this cold Monday evening, so Parker came to us and asked if he could make dinner. He said he felt bad about not doing more around the house lately and asked if we wanted him to make a mock duck curry. Well, none of us have made that at home before so I suggested he look up a vegan recipe for General Tso's. It turned out a bit salty so I won't link to the recipe, but now he has an idea on how to make it so he'll tweak it to match our tastes. Served over brown rice, it really hit the spot.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Neighbor Salad, Real Life Meals, and Fur Friends

I haven't talked as much about our wonderful neighbors lately because I'm trying to let go. We are contemplating a move and I've had to say so many goodbyes to so many wonderful friends here over the years, it is somewhat heartbreaking to think of saying more. Some days our neighbors just get us and I have to share. Vicky and Greg, quite often, make huge salads and text me asking if we want some too. It is so incredibly thoughtful, sweet, and appreciated. Want some? Of course, we do!
"Want some?"
Also, our neighbors, Abigail and Aaron loaned us two desk lamps the other evening no questions asked. Two local directors were shooting a promo at our house with Parker and we don't have any desk lamps. I knew one of our neighbors would come through. Deborah and Scott loaned Parker their Roomba for the short film he was in for the 48 Hour Film Project. No questions asked. We have sweet, awesome neighbors.

Josie has 12 hours of gymnastics per week, all three kids have 2 hours of swim conditioning a week, Parker has an hour of advanced hip hop and an hour of Zumba a week, Parker has rehearsals for two shows (one musical at a local private high school Monday - Friday and homeschool Shakespeare group once a week), Parker has bass lessons, Dema has Class Act rehearsal once a week, Parker has three weekly Dungeon's and Dragons groups (one that he hosts and DM's at our house and Dema also participates in this group), Parker takes classes twice a week at our local community college, and they do homeschooling lessons, hang out with friends and family, sleep. With all of this going on in our lives, I've given myself a break on making everything from scratch, but we can't skimp on nutrition so I still pile on the veggies and we always have lots of fresh and dried fruit around for a quick snack. How can one keep the veggies, grain, legumes from getting boring? Sauces. The kids can tell a bottled sauce a mile away, but I've found a couple that aren't completely disappointing for them. I found a package of Beyond Chicken in the back of the freezer (the kids are not huge fans of Beyond Meat products, but the "chicken" one is not too bad), peas, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, brown rice, served with a General Tso's sauce and I have an almost instant meal.

Dog House:
When we have canine boarders for a more than a couple days, they start to feel like part of the family. We've taken care of Bodie for a couple weeks at a time twice now and he settles in so well and loves the kids. He is also one of the few dogs we care for who really missed Rob when he's gone. It is really sweet!
Bodie and Josie