Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy 2010! May it be a wonderful year for everyone. :)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Another Step

We took another step in our journey towards vegetarianism today. We were planning to gradually eat the meat we had in our freezer from "BEFORE", but we found we just didn't want it. I finally gave it all away this afternoon and I was happy to do it. We needed the room in the freezer for all of our new goodies- more peirogies, (a family favorite), assorted items from both Amy's and Health is Wealth, frozen fruit and veggies, waffles, and so forth. I also cleared out the chicken broth and a few cans of salmon that escaped my earlier pantry purge. It feels so good to have all of that stuff OUT of our house! :)

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Quiet Family Christmas

How was your Christmas? Ours was lovely. The kids opened their presents in the morning then DH and I cooked and cleaned up the rest of the day. In the evening we shared a wonderful meal with family and friends followed by some lively conversation. In between kitchen duties DH managed to play a little, some on the new Wii with the kids and some on his guitar with the new amp Santa brought him. Unfortunately he didn't play with his new camera quite as much so I don't have pictures to share. :( I got several new books from my Amazon wish list- yeah! I'm currently reading a book on my (old) Kindle so I haven't cracked open the new books yet, but I will. One is the Alicia Silverstone book The Kind Diet; it's a New York Times bestseller so I'm sure it's going to be great. My mom sent me a Cricut machine which should be a lot of fun to play with too.

My dad and my brother joined us along with our family friend and her mom so there were 9 of us for dinner. My grandmother would have pulled out her fine china and crystal glasses but I settled for paper plates; no one seemed to mind. Dinner turned out well; here's what we had:

Butternut Squash Bisque Soup from the Whole Foods Market Cookbook
Turkey (humanely raised, purchased from Whole Foods)
Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casserole (following the Cooking Light recipe instead of my grandmother's traditional, high fat recipe)
Steamed Green Beans
Cranberry Sauce (from a can; everyone likes it as well as the homemade)
Crescent Rolls
Iced Tea

My brother contributed:
coffee beans from Starbucks (I even have a coffee bean grinder, bought on a whim a few weeks ago, so we were able to brew some coffee to go with dessert)

Key Lime Pie
Nut Balls (a raw, vegan dessert)
My dad brought a Panettone

The post dinner conversation was fun; we had 3 Spanish speakers in the bunch (my brother, who's mom is from Cuba), my friend, (who is from Columbia), and her mom, who speaks very little English, but we all communicated quite well, I think. We talked about the little ones and food and language and traveling and all sorts of things. My friend's mom said she would come and make Arepas for us one day- whoo, boy, we're looking forward to that! The evening ended too soon, but I was so tired! The Middle Child and I are fighting colds so I crashed as soon as everyone left. I just hope I didn't get anyone sick; I'd feel terrible if I did because this is an awful cold. At least it wasn't as bad yesterday as today; I'm so grateful I don't have any obligations to deal with today and I've been able to indulge myself by laying around all day reading Wives and Daughters. You just need recovery days like that every now and again.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Vegan Marshmallows

I made a brief mention of some vegan marshmallows I found on-line and ordered a while ago from Sweet & Sara. Well, they recently arrived and we put them to the test with a backyard campfire. I am exceedingly happy to report that they are GREAT!! They taste delicious before they are toasted and they toast well, getting that perfect lightly browned crust on the outside while going all gooey and yummy on the inside. (Some people like them burnt and charred; I am in the lightly toasted camp so I can't say how they taste when burnt.) They did seem to take a little longer to toast than the regular marshmallows but I didn't time them or anything; it may have been my impatience to try them that made it seem longer!!

The one big issue I can foresee is that I won't be able to order these over the warmer months. (And where I live, they are just about ALL warm months.) They sell ice packs and an insulated box to ship them in but even with that the ice packs were dead and everything was warm when we opened it up. It wasn't warm enough to damage the marshmallows at all, but any hotter and we would have had a problem. That nixes summer months for delivery unless we can get the local Whole Foods to carry them, and I'm going to try!

Disclaimer: I purchased these marshmallows at full price. No one asked me to write a review, I just liked the product and wanted to share the info.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Free Tickets to Disney

Along the same lines of my last post, Disney is offering a free day at one of their parks in exchange for a verified day of service. The offer starts as of January 1 and lasts until they run out of tickets or December 15th, whichever comes first. They are working with an organization called the Hands on Network to provide the opportunities to volunteer. It doesn't look like Girl Scouts is on the list, but many other organizations are! What's more, the whole family can participate. Children as young as 6 can get a ticket if they volunteer. Now talk about meaningful! How great would it be for a kid to know they EARNED a day at Walt Disney World?? That's got to feel good.

My Christmas List

If you are overwhelmed with material... blessings... as my family is, (and if you watch Hoarders or Neat or Clean House you know those blessings can actually be quite a curse if they are weighing down your life) then consider a charitable donation this holiday season. You can be like a couple I was told about recently. For their wedding, the second for both of them, they asked for guests to make donations to their favorite charity in lieu of gifts. Or you can be like my dear friend's Girl Scout troop. Her girls decided to buy toys for Toys for Tots instead of getting each other gifts for their holiday party. Warms my heart to think about it.

You could also consider making an investment that will do good for others. DH and I donated a small sum of money to Kiva a while back. Kiva makes micro-loans to entrepreneurs in third world countries enabling them to start or expand small businesses. Sometimes a bunch of neighbors will get together and form a community group that takes out the loan as one, then holds regular repayment meetings where they network and strengthen each other. The repayment rate is tremendously high. Once a loan is repaid you can take the money back out or reinvest, which is what we chose to do. Kiva also needs flat out donations to keep going as an organization, but they don't ask for much. You can read more about Kiva and how the loans are working in the Dominican Republic and Haiti, including benefiting the children in the communities where loans are being made. Turns out the entrepreneurs are often a civic minded bunch and start educational programs for the local kids.

Another favorite charitable cause is getting toys to kids for the holidays. The Eldest and I worked for the Salvation Army Angel Tree, but Toys for Tots is also a good organization. There are also other organizations that help children the world over and all year round. I've been donating to Child Fund International since I was in college.

Can't afford to donate money? Well, there are a lot of groups out there that could use your time. When I went to training to work the Angel Tree, for instance, they said they needed help not only at the trees but after all the toys are collected in their distribution center. They need drivers to pick up the toys from the trees, too, although the trees are all done for the year. (But there's always next year!) I'm sure there are many, many organizations in every community who need a helping hand over the holidays.

So what do I really want for Christmas? For everyone to help someone else in whatever way they can, peace on earth, and goodwill to all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


My Darling Husband and I were busy getting married 21 years ago today. He was late to the wedding and someone asked me if I was worried. Well, yeah, about a car wreck or something. Worried he wouldn't show? No, I knew better. And now here we are, over 2 decades and 3 kids later with a pretty great life. I wouldn't trade what we have for anything.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

What's a Motto With You?

I was at a meeting last night with a wonderful group of women and a discussion of mottoes came up. A couple of the women told us they shared a motto, "it is what it is", but changed it when someone else was saying the same thing all the time. One of the other women said what I was thinking, "what's a motto with you", a quote from The Lion King. (A relevant movie quote is always good for a chuckle). Anyway, the discussion moved on, but it got me thinking about mottoes. I don't have a motto although I do have sayings, some of them passed down from my grandmother, that you'll hear me mutter from time to time. "It's not going to do itself" is one of them, when I don't want to do something but it needs to get done anyway.

Then there are quotes, which are kind of like expanded mottoes. I was never much of a quote person until recently, when I started noticing particular statements that resonate with me for one reason or another. At the moment, a particular favorite is this one: "...but what does it mean to lead an examined life? It means to be curious and ask questions. The reason you ask those questions is because you want to do the right thing, not only for yourself, but for the people around you as well." - Yvon Chouinard, founder, Patagonia, as quoted in Mother Earth News magazine. (I posted this on Facebook, too.)

Sometimes I don't know the right questions to ask, but I keep at it. I think of where I was at 21 when I met DH and where I am now at 46. I'm so much more aware; I've awakened to politics and people and our planet. I think the seeds were there when I was 21 but they needed time to grow. DH has helped with that growth because he is so curious and passionate about his beliefs. He was aware at 21 while I was still asleep, but I recognized that about him; it's one of the reasons I fell in love with him. He sets the example of reading the paper and watching the news and he debates and discusses things with me (and anyone else who will engage with him) and that has helped me figure out my own views. (Which are pretty much in line with his, but not completely.) Then I learned about spin, thanks to John Stossel. I didn't understand about spin when I was younger and I didn't know John Stossel's political leanings, but he was making an argument for something and I remember thinking whoa, this guy sounds so reasonable but I can see all sorts of flaws in his logic. He's not mentioning this, or this other thing, and that doesn't make sense at all. But if you didn't know about this or the other thing, he would sound perfectly reasonable and you would buy it. That's spin; making crazy and bad sound like logical and good.

Another incident comes to mind. It was in 2000 when Gore was running against Bush. For some reason, I was discussing politics with a bag boy at the grocery who was getting ready to vote for the first time. (Why, I don't know; maybe I had a Gore button on or something.) He said he wouldn't vote for Gore because he was too smart. Huh what? I commented "um, shouldn't we want somebody smart to be President?". That was just crazy! It still irks me when a good trait, like being smart or intellectual, is taken and twisted around and made out to be something bad. It's branded "elitism" with a sneer and made out to be something we don't want in the leader of the free world. Sheese; wake up, people!! It's spin!

DH woke me up politically but now we're both examining our lives and waking up about the vegetarian thing. This is due to the influence of friends. I've always admired my vegetarian friends through the years but I met them when they were already committed to that way of eating. Now I'm friends with someone who is going through the switch during the time I've known her, and we've had the opportunity to talk about it. She shared with me what influenced her, beginning with Food, Inc., and we've had discussions about the transition. She is the friend who invited me to a vegan Raw Foods un-cooking class which opened up a world of ideas for what to eat as a vegetarian. (We're not raw foodists, but the food they eat is really good and a lot more varied than salads and smoothies. Definitely worth eating for a few meals a week.) She also invited me to the book club where we read Eating Animals then had a fantastic meeting discussing it and enjoying the vegan foods our hostess prepared.

There's also a vegan-leaning-towards-raw mom in our homeschooling group and she's been influential as well. She also held an un-cooking class that The Middle Child and I attended about how to make ice cream with frozen bananas. (Peel and slice, freeze, let them thaw out just a few minutes so they don't break your food processor, then throw them in and blend away. She also threw a few other ingredients in there, but you can make it with just bananas. Yummy!) When the homeschooling group went to the library the moms were all checking out raw food and vegetarian cookbooks, too. I don't know that they are all vegetarian, but they are also apparently incorporating those types of meals into their diets. It's a growing trend, I'm finding.

It all comes from examining our lives, though. Asking questions and figuring out what makes sense to us based on what we are learning from a wide variety of sources, tying that in with what we know from past experience, and following the positive examples set by friends and loved ones. That's why the quote from the founder of Patagonia made such an impact at this point in my life. We are going through a process of examination which found our previous choices unsatisfactory. They didn't measure up. Eating meat on a regular, almost daily basis didn't meet the litmus test of doing "the right thing, not only for yourself, but for the people around you as well".

So that's a long, rambly philosophical post for you! Congrats if you made it all the way to the end. ;)

Saturday, December 12, 2009


These are the nights every parent dreads. (Well, dreads is a bit strong, but it's on the right track.) The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, woke up at 5:00 am with a sick tummy followed shortly thereafter by some tossed cookies. :( He didn't have much of a fever but he felt really bad so I settled him on the couch with some crackers, ginger ale, and a wet rag to wipe his face. It's a sectional sofa so I got my pillow and settled in on the other side. Not much sleeping for me, though; I roused up with every snort and snuffle he made after he finally drifted off. He woke up for a second round a few hours later then back to sleep, then again, without the tossed cookies part, for the third time. I finally called DH at that point; I was so tired I didn't know what to do for my sweet boy. He needed some Tylenol but I didn't want him to just throw it back up. DH said "liquid Tylenol", but with the arthritis in my hands (they are really stiff in the morning) and my old eyeballs I could neither open the bottle nor see to read the proper dosage, so DH had to get up to administer the meds.

After that we all drifted off again for an hour or so but then DH and the girls had to get up for their piano recital.(The Youngest isn't in music lessons yet; he's still too wild for structured lessons right now. Soon, soon.) I was so disappointed not to be able to go to the recital but someone had to stay home with The Youngest. DH offered to let me go and he would stay home but I was a wreck from the interrupted sleep. He called me when the Middle Child performed and put it on speaker phone so I could hear her live but he thought the call disconnected halfway through so he didn't call for The Eldest. (It didn't; I heard her all the way through.) He taped it though so I got to see the video after they got home. It's not the same as being there but it's still good to see them perform. My girls are so lovely and accomplished; DH and I are very proud of them both.

The Youngest seems to be a little better today. He's eating soup and hasn't thrown up so we're optimistic that this was just a 24 hour thing. Maybe he ate something that didn't agree with him; we've been eating out a lot lately. Regardless, I'm hoping the worst is over.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Transition

Things are going well with the Big Switch to a non-meat diet. A little too well, actually- I've gained 5 pounds!! We are enjoying a lot of new yummy food and I have a ton of recipes from various sources that we can't wait to try, but I'm going to have to focus on... healthier fare, shall we say. We ate out last night, for instance, and I ordered a veggie stir fry which SOUNDS healthy. Not so much when it's loaded with fat, however. (I hate it when I can FEEL the fat as I eat; that's when you know it's really too much.) The six large chunks of fried tofu were delicious and that's saying something because I'm not a big tofu fan, but the fat! Oh, the fat! It just kills me. I didn't eat all six pieces, of course, but there was still too much fat on the dish as a whole.

Now I'm all set to research vegetarian weight loss plans. Thank goodness for Amazon! I checked in a bookstore and couldn't find anything but Amazon had a few books for me. I've put the following cookbooks in my cart and will probably order them later today:
20 Minutes to Dinner: Quick, Low-Fat, Low-Calorie Vegetarian Meals
1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recips: Delicious, Easy-to-Make, Healthy Meals for Everyone
Vegetarian Times Low-Fat & Fast: 150 Easy Meatless Recipes

I have to really watch what I eat or I gain so easily and I do NOT want to go back to where I was before I lost weight. :( I feel so much better now and I know I'm healthier. My triglycerides are at normal levels, for instance, and they were super high when I was heavy. I met the criteria for metabolic syndrome big time and was at major risk for heart disease as well and that's all under control now. I like my life; I want to live it and be healthy for a good long time. It's not about looks, it's about my health and quality of life which is so much more important than how I look. Carrying that weight for so many years was a self destructive behavior, the result of putting my needs on a back burner, and I'm not going back to that place anymore. No one asked me to put myself last, mind you, I did that on my own in reaction to the stress in my life when I gained the weight in the first place. Even when the stress lifted a bit it took me over a decade to get my head together again and lose the weight, but after a point my weight stabilized and I didn't continue to gain when I know I easily could have, so that was something!

But now we're making this major change to our way of eating so there's a learning curve for me to master. I'll get it together! :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Vegetarian Update

Things are going fairly well as to not eating meat. We still have meat in the freezer from before The Change and we are using it up slowly so DH made his regular spaghetti sauce with meat on Thursday. Other than that we've been meat free since just after Thanksgiving. We haven't starved, and in fact, if you remember my theory about being able to eat more? Umm, no. I've gained 4 pounds!!! Yikes! I've got to get that back under control. (Eating 5 pieces of Ghirardelli chocolate yesterday didn't help; I can't blame it on going vegetarian.) (But the peppermint bark is REALLY good and it was only a sample, and the other 4 pieces- they were all just sample sizes too so that totally shouldn't count, right?)

We're staying veg while eating out, too, although that backfired yesterday. The Eldest and I went to an awesome art show and ate at a Mediterranean food restaurant (somewhat spicy) then we all ate Thai food for dinner (very spicy) and that's not such a good idea with a sensitive stomach, I'm afraid. My tummy hurt! We did manage to find tasty vegetarian dishes to eat at both places, though. We had to ask at the Thai restaurant and the waitress was very helpful by giving us some options for items not listed on the menu. The Mediterranean restaurant had a ton of vegetarian options clearly marked as such on the menu, which was GREAT. There are some exclusively vegetarian restaurants in the area and we've checked out a couple of them, too. It's fun to explore new places and new cuisines, although the younger two children aren't so happy about it. There's been a lot of pouting lately! The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, was happy to eat chicken fingers at the Thai restaurant, though. I've told him he can, it's his choice when we go out. Just because we're vegetarian at home doesn't mean he can't eat meat on occasion when we eat somewhere else. The rest of us are sticking with it, though. The Middle Child decided she wasn't going to have chicken anymore when I told her about the fecal soup thing, as in chicken swims in it after slaughter. Which is true! You can research it if you don't believe me. (And that link is only one of many on google, so if you don't believe that source there are many, many, many others.) The manufacturers are allowed to let the chicken absorb water, which makes it heavier which means they can charge more for it, but the water they are absorbing typically has fecal matter in it. Yuck.

So that's how things are going up to this point. I found a link for a Vegetarian Starter Kit which is now in my "Links I Like" section. I haven't gone through all of it yet but I'm planning to. There is a Vegetarian Food Guide Pyramid thingy, only it's not a pyramid, on the site which looks like a good reference. There's still a lot of learning to do and a lot of new things to discover! There are resources everywhere so the information is readily accessible, which makes learning about vegetarian nutrition and recipes a lot of fun.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Magic Moments

The two pupa (pupas? not sure of the plural) that we put in our Bugville Treehouse on Tuesday resulted in two Monarch butterflies today! When we have pupas (?) in there my habit is to check on them first thing in the morning... err, afternoon... as soon as I get up. According to the Monarch Watch website they usually hatch early in the day and sure enough, there they both were. They were pretty still to start out with, letting their wings dry I suppose, but then started fluttering around more later on. I decided on a 4:15 release time as that would allow us to invite some other kids from the neighborhood to see them go, plus it's right after The Middle Child's piano lesson. (The lovely and talented piano teacher also came out to see the release, btw.) This also gave them a good long time in the safety of the habitat to let their wings dry, which is an important consideration. I've seen pictures of butterflies with wing damage due to drying incorrectly and it is a sad thing, let me tell you. I was a little worried it would rain since it was a bit overcast (the website tells you not to release them in the rain) but the weather held. We let them go in the front yard since we have more flowers there but the flowers didn't seem to interest them. One landed on The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, for a brief moment before they took off. They flew up and off into the sky; they were lost to our sight in only a few moments. I think they were reveling in their ability to fly, personally! I mean, they are caterpillars before they go into their chrysalises (OK, I caved and looked it up- the plural of chrysalis is either chrysalises or chrysalides; the plural of pupa is pupae or pupas) then all of a sudden they emerge, and wa-la, they can FLY! I'd revel in it, wouldn't you?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Proud Parents of a Bouncing Baby... Butterfly!

Our monarch butterfly emerged today! We kept it caged for a few hours then let it go during The Middle Child's Brownie meeting, which was unbelievably good timing. (I should play the lottery now, see if the luck holds.) When it was still in the Bugville Treehouse we were able to watch as it dried its wings by slowly opening and closing them; the colors were so crisp and lovely. The girls were enthralled with the release which happened far too quickly. It was there, then it was gone. DH tried to get pictures but all he got was a blur. Not to worry, however, as we rounded up two more chrysalises and installed them safely in the Treehouse. (It keeps them safe from predators like spiders, who can penetrate the pupa and kill the butterfly before it even has a chance to form,or at least I think they can. We saw a spider on a chrysalis several weeks ago and it had us very worried. I found the directions for moving them on the Monarch Watch website.)