Saturday, January 30, 2010

New Look for the Blog

In honor of strawberry season, not that I've had a chance to go picking yet, I've changed my blog background. It's nice to have a change now and then!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Gorgeous Day with our Homeschooling Group

The younger kids, DH and I met up with our homeschooling support group at a local park for "WHEELS DAY" today. Everyone brought things on wheels like scooters, skateboards, and so forth; we had our bikes. We hung out with the homeschoolers for a while then when they left (we got there really late so they left well before we were ready to go) we took off and biked around the park enjoying the glorious weather. This particular park has a huge man-made hill in the middle of it, which we went up. (And I probably shouldn't have since my fibro has been acting up lately, but I walked most of the way and took my time.) The going up is a challenge but it's worth it both for the panoramic view and for the going DOWN- WHEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

Here's a picture DH took from the top of the hill at the park.

We had a new bike with us today. The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, had a very sad discount store bike that has been through some rough times. We kept the kids' bikes out in the backyard so they could ride around the patio, but bikes don't do well when they are left outside for extended periods of time. It was getting a little small for him anyway, plus it didn't have gears and couldn't peddle backwards, both very important assets for a seven year old's bike to have. The seat was the clincher. Some of the stuffing came out of the seat (or so he told me, I couldn't see any evidence of it) and from one day to the next he refused to ride his old bike because "it hurts". Oh, the drama!

Well, DH and I talked about it, and we are a biking family, so I decided it really was time for him to have a good bike. (DH felt he could make do with the old one a while longer; you see who won.) ;) We went to our friend's bike store but he didn't have a bike in stock for The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, so he had to order it. Do you know what it's like to have an impatient 7 year old waiting for a new bike in your house? You haven't lived until you've experienced it, let me tell you. For the entire week he had to wait, it was all bikes, all the time. Then he knew it was ready yesterday and it didn't look like we would be able to go get it. (That fibro flare up was getting to me and DH wasn't able to take him while I was in class in the morning.) He was BESIDE himself! I knew he wanted it especially for today, and I wanted it for him for today, I had to go out anyway to take The Eldest to class, so, since the bike store would still be open after dropping her off, I sucked it up and we went over there. (It's not exactly in our neighborhood, about 20 minutes or so away. Not too bad normally but when the fibro is flaring it's uncomfortable for me to drive any distance at all.) The bike was ready and it is a beaut, I must say.

And now he is the proud owner of a brand new Trek bike, just like the rest of the family, that has gears and can peddle backwards. (And which now lives in the garage instead of the backyard when not in use.) He was zooming all over today at the park. I didn't start biking right away since I hung out with the other moms before they left, but I'd see a helmeted blur go by now and again. He was joyful. :)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

So Much to Blog, So Little Time...

I can't believe it's been almost a week since my last post. Darn Facebook is getting all the attention; it's so easy to jump on there and dash off a quick note instead of a long post. There are things I want to blog about though that are of vital, VITAL I tell you, importance! I've learned a few new things about car safety this week that I want to share. (Well, one thing I knew but it needs to be said again and again.) The first was sent to me in a forward, one of those that circulates around the internet. If you haven't seen it, there are two bits of information having to do with driving in wet conditions. The first is to wear sunglasses when it rains to improve your visibility, which is kind of counter-intuitive but I've done it and it really works. The e-mail doesn't go into why it works, but for me my sunglasses reduce the glare from the rain. (Polarized sunglasses would probably be better for this purpose.) I realized this years ago and I keep a pair of lightly colored sunglasses in my car for that very reason. The second bit of info is DO NOT USE your cruise control in the rain or when the road is wet. While I haven't checked Snopes, it makes sense. Here's the explanation from the e-mail, which gives the example of a woman who crashed and her conversation with the police officer afterward:

"...The highway patrolman told her that if the cruise control is on when your car begins to hydro-plane and your tires lose contact with the pavement, your car will accelerate to a higher rate of speed making you take off like an airplane. She told the patrolman that was exactly what had occurred."

Finally, Oprah did a show on texting while driving. I recorded it but haven't watched it yet, but she was talking about it in a later episode and summed up what the show was about. Terrible, tragic accidents caused by people on the phone or texting while driving. Basically driving distracted or impaired for ANY reason. She's right- when we are behind the wheel we can cause others to die if we screw up. So don't screw up- sign the pledge on Oprah's website and make YOUR car a "No Phone Zone", then pass the message on to others. In addition to the pledge, you can watch the show, and more importantly make any teens in your life watch it with you, on Oprah's website. This is especially important if we have kids in our lives- we have to set a positive example for them since they will be driving before you know it.

It's so easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when we drive; 99% of the time driving is simple and monotonous, but then that one thing happens, and if we are alert and paying attention, there's a chance we can get through unscathed. If we are distracted, however, we could kill somebody. That somebody could be ourselves, our children, someone else's child, someone else's mom or dad or sister or brother or best friend. If I managed to survive, I couldn't live with myself if I caused someone else's death through my own carelessness.

So if you try to reach me on my cell while I'm in the car, leave a voice mail since my phone will be OFF. I'll check in when I get where I'm going.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Veg vs. Flex

DH and I were discussing our culinary future yesterday. He is actually more committed to vegetarianism than I am, which surprises me. (It's good to be married to someone who surprises you from time to time; keeps things spicy!) During our discussion I said I think it's OK to eat meat a few times a year which would make us flexitarians instead of vegetarians, although we are veg on a day to day basis. (No meat in 2010 so far!) He countered and said if you buy into the reasons for becoming vegetarian in the first place then it should be all or nothing. Eating meat now would be like cheating at Sudoku; it would make it all pointless. I countered with remember the Sardinians! I read about them in The Blue Zones. They are among the longest lived people on the planet, along with the Okinawans in Japan, the 7th Day Adventists in Loma Linda, California, and a group of people in Costa Rica. They routinely live healthy, vibrant lives well past the age of 100. Many of these people eat a largely plant based diet, and the 7th Day Adventists are vegetarians exclusively, but the Sardinians will eat meat a few times each year for special celebrations. That feels right to me- only a few times a year for celebrations.

So what are my reasons for going veg, anyway? I know I’ve written about a lot of the issues, but it boils down to two things that I can’t get past. One, the factory farming system absolutely disgusts me; there is NOTHING good about it except it keeps prices at the checkout artificially low for people on fixed incomes. Secondly, there’s the environmental impact. Prices may be low at the checkout but the price is high for the planet and that bill will come due. It already is due for the poor in third world countries; the food that goes to cattle and other farm animals is taken directly out of their mouths. The amount of water it takes to produce a pound of meat is also extraordinarily high, which my children and their children and their children will be paying for in the future.

There are other issues, of course. Animal cruelty (part of the factory farming system) is a big deterrent to continuing to eat meat. The health issues are big, too- as The Blue Zones points out, it is far healthier to eat a plant based diet. Plus now we’re finding out we just like it. DH and I are both surprised that we really don’t miss meat all that much. We may even decide, when it comes time for those special celebratory meals, that we don’t want meat. (Although The Youngest, aka The Wild Child, would be devastated. He loves his dead animals!)

Which brings up the kids. The girls are both adjusting well. The Eldest and The Middle Child are both OK with going veg at home. The Eldest still craves shrimp when we go out to eat at certain restaurants and I told her I think it’s perfectly OK for her to have that once in a while. (She’ll eat veg exclusively at places that don’t have good shrimp, though.) The Middle Child is content to give up meat entirely and doesn’t seem to miss it at all, like DH and I. She never orders meat/seafood when we go out like the other two. It’s hardest on The Youngest. He orders chicken tenders every time he possibly can and begs me to make meat at home again. I keep reminding him that he can order meat as much as he wants when we go out to eat (and we take them out at least once a week) but I’m not going to buy meat at the grocery anymore except for special occasions. His birthday will count as a special occasion- he’s already making up his menu plan! Luckily he likes Yves brand veggie dogs; he eats those quite a bit. Unfortunately he hates beans. I LOVE beans so bean dishes are making a regular appearance on our dinner table, much to his chagrin. I’m not sure what he eats when we run out of hotdogs; I just don’t look. He’s not losing weight or anything so I guess he’s getting enough. (We always have things around he can prepare himself- cereal, oatmeal, the aforementioned veggie dogs, PB&J sandwiches, fruit, and so forth.)

So are we vegetarian or flexitarian? I guess only time will tell.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dinner and a Cookbook Review

I'm continuing my search for new vegan/vegetarian recipes and I'm excited about a new cookbook I've checked out of the library, The 30 Minute Vegan. I've been thumbing through it checking out the recipes and a lot of them look really good. There is nice variety in that most of the recipes are cooked in a traditional manner but there are some raw recipes as well. We tried "Live Macadamia Nut-Ricotta Veggie Towers" tonight and they were tasty! The faux ricotta cheese made out of macadamia nuts was surprisingly delish, although The Middle Child said it was too gritty for her. (She was the only one of the kids to try it; she's our Resident Foodie and all around Adventurous Eater, but only when she's in the mood to try new things.) We rounded out the meal with baked sweet potatoes and a green salad with assorted mini heirloom tomatoes I found at the local gourmet store this afternoon. I used Earth Balance on the potato so it was a vegan meal- no animal products whatsoever. Wait, rats. I used honey instead of agave in the veggie towers recipe. (I've found I really do NOT like agave; it has a strange after taste.) OK, well, almost vegan.

As for the veggie towers, they were made up of a big, thick slice of juicy tomato topped with the fake cheese and some marinated zucchini slices. The zucchini was marinated in a mixture of soy sauce (the recipe called for Nama Shoyu, which is raw soy sauce, but I'm into my pasteurization, thanks), lemon juice, agave, (which is where I used the honey instead), some fresh herbs, (I used basil), and apple cider vinegar. The Middle Child declared the zucchini slices the best part- she said the marinade made them taste like cucumber. (She loves cucumber; she'll get one out of the refrigerator and walk around eating it like an apple.)

I'm going to pick up the cookbook as soon as I can find it (or I may just pay the shipping and get it on Amazon). I have to try a few more recipes before I can fully recommend it, but it's worth checking out. I think this is going to be one of those cookbooks that veggies and meat eaters alike will enjoy; it certainly has enough variety.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010


The reports about the earthquake in Haiti are heart rending. Having lived through a natural disaster myself, albeit on the fringes, I have an inkling of what it can be like. They have it far worse, however since they didn't have a good infrastructure to begin with. The White House blog discusses the US response and suggests making a donation to the Red Cross if you want to help. If you have your cell phone on you you can text "HAITI" to 90999 and a $10.00 donation will be charged to your bill. Makes it quick and easy- you don't have to go hunting for a credit card or anything.


I start my Government class in a couple of weeks. In order to get a jump on things I've started reading the first chapter and I'm assigning myself the task of getting up to speed on current events. I went on the Supreme Court website and printed out a list of the current justices (can you name them all?) to study. I'm familiar with the names but it would take me a while to come up with all of them off the top of my head. I don't know too much about them except for the more recent appointees- Thomas, Roberts, Sotomayor. I didn't even know there WAS a supreme court website but yep, there certainly is.

They have their cases on there, too. I found one listed that I heard about on NPR the other day about carp and water and the Great Lakes. It seems the system of locks that provide shipping industries with access to Chicago could also allow access to the Great Lakes for an invasive species of fish, the Asian Carp. Concerns are that the fish could wipe out native species and take the industries that rely on those fish with them. There are competing business interests, however, that want to keep the locks open. Chicago kind of needs the goods that the ships bring in so that's a big factor.

In the mean time, what to do? Eat carp, of course. There's a chef in Louisiana that was asked to come up with recipes for the fish and he's done it. He claims they are quite tasty. The hope is that if there is a demand for them as a food source then they will get fished out of the water. Sounds like a yummy solution to me!

Sunday, January 10, 2010


You'd think my teenager, The Eldest, would be anxious to get her driver's license like most teens ON THE PLANET, but NOOOOO, she has to be all unique and different and in no hurry to drive at all. Which means I have chauffeur duty in order to get her to her classes, tutors, and various activities. I took her to take the test for her learner's permit but she bombed. I keep bugging her to study and I'll take her in again but she won't do it. I finally laid down the law a couple of days ago and told her Mom's taxi service is out of business, for her anyway, when she turns 18. (Which isn't that far away.)

I'm of two minds about it, however, since car accidents are such a huge cause of teen fatalities. On the one hand it would make my life a lot easier if she could drive, but on the other hand it is a dangerous thing for her to do and I would be constantly worried. (I'm a huge worrier at the best of times.) I keep nudging her but I don't want to push too hard; if she's not ready, she's not ready.

I got her today, though. She's been jonesing for a burrito from a little Mexican place that's not too far away but it's not exactly in our neighborhood or on my regular driving routes. I pointed out that if she were driving, she could go get her own darn burrito. I think she's tempted. ;)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Our Day

The weather has been a frequent topic of conversation lately. Mainly- it's cold. We had a nice break today though with temperatures in the 70's and gorgeous blue skies to go with it. I took the younger two to a park to meet with our homeschooling support group and we were there for hours. DH brought The Eldest over later on and she walked to a nearby bookstore with a couple of the older girls, soaking up the sunshine and warmth on the way.

After we picked up The Eldest we went out to a raw foods cafe for lunch. This is a little hole in the wall place that a friend told me about. They don't advertise (that I know of) and bring in business by word of mouth. There was a good crowd there today for the size of the place and it is absolutely amazing what they can make without ovens. We had split pea soup, manicotti florentine, smoothies, and strawberry ice cream for dessert. The soup was piping hot- it still counts as raw though since they don't heat it over a certain temperature. The theory is that higher heat ruins the enzymes in the food, or something like that, but it can get hot up to 112 degrees, or 118, or somewhere in that vicinity. (I've seen different numbers from different sources.) The manicotti was actually zucchini cut into thin strips and rolled around a mixture of almond "cheese" and spinach with a raw marinara topping. It was really delicious; DH had one complaint though- not enough!

Every time we eat raw I am amazed at what a blender and a bunch of produce and nuts can turn into. Raw foodists also use dehydrators quite a bit; we ate hummus sandwiches the last time we ate at the cafe on "bread" (more like a cracker, really) made in a dehydrator. Did you know you can make all sorts of things like crackers, cookies, and pizza dough with dehydrators? It's true, you really can! I don't have any plans to purchase a dehydrator any time soon, but I'll sure enjoy the food when we eat at the raw food restaurant!*

With tummies full of good food, the kids and I ran some errands and headed home where I still had just enough time to squeeze in a walk before dark. I was a little worried I would be out when the cold front came in but DH checked the weather for me and said it's not due until the wee hours. Some days my walk is a chore and it's really hard to get out there but today was not one of those days; it was pure pleasure after so many days of shivering. Short lived, though; that cold front is supposed to bring near freezing temperatures. I just hope my strawberries are OK!

*Check out Homemade for some tasty raw recipes!!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back to School and Some Weighty Issues

The Eldest started her second class today- English 101. It's a composition class so she should have no troubles as long as she works hard. I have to take a class as well in order to maintain my teaching certificate so I signed up for Government. The college is working on a staggered schedule for some crazy reason so I won't start for a few more weeks, but I'm looking forward to it. I purchased the book today- $142.00!! Yipes! Text books are pricey. If I like the class I'll bug The Eldest to take it next semester so we'll get two for one out of the text, which helps a little. I enjoy the classes I have to take- it's kind of like the story of Br'er Rabbit and the Briar Patch. "Don't throw me in the briar patch, Br'er Fox, oh no, not that!!" Don't make me take classes, anything but that! ;) I keep saying I should take classes even when I'm not trying to renew my certificate, but I never feel like I can spare the time. I've already volunteered to take on more with Girl Scouts again when my classes are over... sigh. I enjoy that too though so I shouldn't really complain either way. I will go back for my master's degree one of these days, I just haven't made my final decision as to what I want to study. I'm currently leaning toward nutrition, especially after my experiences with weight loss. I started working on my master's once before but then I took a semester off to focus on work, wound up pregnant with The Eldest, and haven't gone back. I wanted to go into counseling. I think working in nutrition will still be counseling of a sort, only on specific issues. Over eating is so frequently based on emotional issues that combining the two disciplines can only be a good thing!

Speaking of weight, while I was waiting for The Eldest to finish her class I checked out a bunch of cookbooks from the library. (The college has a campus on the second floor of our local library building, which is super convenient.) I picked up one by Dr. Dean Ornish that's both diet and vegetarian recipes, kind of what I need right now, and started reading the introduction. Did you know that only 3% of dieters are able to maintain their weight loss for 5 years? Wow, that's horrible!!! I've maintained MOST of my weight loss for over 2 years now so I'm already defying the odds a little, but I'm currently 6 pounds over my goal weight. I'm fighting to get it back down, though. I'm slipping some with my exercise in that I'm walking 5 or 6 days a week instead of 6 or 7, but I think that's still pretty good. I'm also continuing with my daily weigh ins; that's a set habit that I am determined to maintain. I'm working on Wii Fit a few days a week too, and I ride my bike whenever I get a chance. (I don't get out to ride as often as I would like since the days are shorter now; I only ride when there's daylight.) I want to be a part of making that 3% a MUCH bigger number so I am constantly re-committing to healthy weight loss/maintenance, learning as much as I can about healthy eating, and continuing the healthy habits that helped me lose in the first place.

Won't you join me? :)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

What I'm Wasting Time On

Hi, my name is Kim and I'm an addict. I'm addicted to computer games. I like the quick ones like Freecell and Sudoku, unlike The Eldest and DH who are into the multi-player role playing games. My current favorite is Guess the Colors on the Games for the Brain website (which is the top link in my links I like list). I failed miserably on my first few stabs at it; DH looked over my shoulder and gave me a few hints and we managed to solve the puzzle, though. (He's naturally good at that kind of thing.) I knew this was something I could master, however, so I kept at it. I'm getting pretty good now, I have to say. I still get stumped but I've figured out how to figure it out and I can usually solve them in 4 to 6 moves. I knew there had to be a strategy but I didn't know what it was to begin with. I stuck with it and it clicked- I know what I'm looking for now. I love it when that happens! I also stop by Jigzone a few times a day and solve an 87 piece crazy cut puzzle in around 5 minutes flat. That's also something that took me a while to master; when I first started working on that cut (and there are a bunch of different cuts, that happens to be my favorite) I was TERRIBLE, often taking longer than the average time. Now I can frequently solve it in a half to a third of the average time, although I'll NEVER come close to the fastest times.

It's just fun to master something I'm initially bad at. It was the same with Sudoku- I couldn't get anywhere with those puzzles in the beginning, then I started to solve some easy ones, then I stuck with it and now I can solve... medium hard ones. (I don't even tackle the really hard ones- they hurt me.) It's part of my morning routine to solve a quick and easy Sudoku for speed, sometimes a harder Sudoku, one Jigzone puzzle, and one Guess the Colors. I call them my brain exercises, as in "don't bother me, Child X, I'm in the middle of my brain exercises". But they're really just big time wasters when I should be doing more productive things! ;)

Monday, January 4, 2010


I took myself to see Avatar tonight. DH and The Eldest saw it when it first came out while I took the little ones to see Planet 51 so tonight was the first chance I had to see it. It was GREAT!! There's been talk about a lack of plot but I didn't find that to be the case. James Cameron took a classic theme and applied it to a whole new fantasy world. Like The Lord of the Rings, he created a world and drew the viewer in to fall in love with it, then he brought in the bad guys to destroy it. The story follows the hero as he fights to save the world from the military and corporate types who find the indigenous peoples to be a bit of a bother since their holy place happens to be on top of a huge deposit of an ore they want to mine. It's a classic story- DH found a site on-line that points out the similarity to Disney's Pocahontas movie and I can see similarities to The Lord of the Rings. Fine by me- the story line was familiar but it was told so beautifully and with such amazingly original characters that I didn't mind a bit. So it was a remake- a remake that's about a bazillion times better than the original! (If you're comparing it to Pocahontas; it's maybe a close second to TLTR trilogy, possibly a tie but I'd have to think about it.) West Side Story was a remake of Romeo and Juliet; doesn't take away from West Side Story. Ten Things I Hate About You was a remake of The Taming of the Shrew; doesn't take away from Ten Things. (I liked that movie, too.) Other remakes- The Shop Around the Corner remade into You've Got Mail, Emma remade into Clueless, Rear Window and Vertigo remade into Body Double, and so forth. Why the critics are squawking about it now is beyond me.

Then there were the visuals. WOW! I had to keep reminding myself it was animation! It was just incredible. There were a few spots, when I really looked for it, where I could say, oh, yeah, I can see that it's animated, but they were few and far between. James Cameron (who shares my birthday, only he's 9 years older than I am) has transported movies to a whole new level. I doubt fantasy movies will ever be made the old way again after this.

My recommendation? If you haven't seen this movie yet, go see it. It's worth the three hours and the price of a ticket.

PS: Planet 51 was pretty good, too. The kids loved that one.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A Vegetarian Holiday

We had our first holiday veg meal today and it was GREAT!!! Here's the menu:

Fried green tomatoes
Fresh tomato slices (just because we had a really good tomato on hand)
Corn bread sticks
Joggin' John from a Robin Robertson recipe (vegetarian sausage, rice, black eyed peas)
Citrus Collards with Raisins (Which we all liked better than we thought we would! They were delish.)
Fresh Squeezed OJ (The Middle Child's contribution)

We are all STUFFED now; I don't miss our ham of years past at all. DH and I worked together to get the meal on the table which I always enjoy. We're usually too busy to make the time for both of us to be cooking at once so it's a treat when we are in the kitchen together.

Now we're off to FINALLY take the kids to see The Princess and the Frog. We've taken a stab at catching it before but it never panned out. It's getting pretty good reviews so I think we'll have a good time.