Saturday, December 10, 2011

K is for Keeping Up with the...

I have been searching for tips on how to handle two little monkeys, and one of the sites had a very good piece of advice:  Don't compare yourself to other moms.  This is SOOOO hard to do, but such good advice.  I'm lucky to be surrounded by such amazing moms, many of whom now have two kiddoes.  They all seem to be handling it so well, they keep their cool, they find time to do all these things while I haven't bathed in a week.  All things being equal, it's great to learn from and look up to your peers, but things are not equal.

First of all, not all parents are the same.  Maybe some moms can handle lots of loud noise/big messes/etc with just a sigh, but not all of us can.  Loud noises bother my husband much more than me, so I see it in my own home where I am able to keep my cool much longer with noisy play than he does.  It's not that he's more short-tempered than I am, it's that he's more sensitive to noises.  Each parent has their own stuff that pushes our buttons, and each kid makes their own kind of mischeif.  Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn't.

Second, not all kids are the same.  I was in denial for the first two years that Violet is a "spirited" child, but now I realize that she is more energetic, kinesthetic, and needy than many children.  When other moms watch her they return her to me with wide eyes and ask how I do it...  So the fact that I can get through the day is pretty good, right?

Third, unless you are going to actually ask for advice on how to improve your own parenting, making comparisons based on what you see doesn't really help you, it just makes you feel bad about yourself.

Finally, it's important to remember that what you see of other people's parenting is usually them at their best, and  yet we usually compare that to ourselves at our worst.

I've been really struggling this week, feeling like PPD is swallowing me up, and feeling lost and alone.  I just keep reminding myself that this too shall pass, and nothing needs to be perfect, it needs to be the best I can do.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

J is for Jackfruit: Fruit Made Savory

The first time I heard about this jackfruit thing was when I was watching the second season of The Great Food Truck Race because I heard there was a vegan food truck participating.  The Seabirds truck was known for it's "jackfruit tacos" and they kept talking about them.

I looked up recipes and found two basic ideas:

1. Jackfruit "pulled pork" made by slow cooking jackfruit in BBQ sauce.
2.  Jackfruit "carnitas" made by cooking jackfruit with onion, garlic, and spices.

I went right out and got three cans of jackfruit.  As soon as I got home, I looked at the recipes closer, and saw that I needed GREEN jackfruit, not the ripe jackfruit I had purchased.  Of course.  I went back to the store and there was no green jackfruit, just the ripe kind.  The store I was at is largely Asian goods, so I was worried I wouldn't find it anywhere.  Everything I read said to look in Asian groceries though, so I tried another shop and found some.  I got two cans to try each method.

First I made the "pulled pork."  I sautteed the jackfruit with some garlic and got it a bit browned, then put it in the crock pot with a generous covering of my favorite BBQ sauce.  Straight out of the can, the jackfruit has a mild flavor that reminds me of a lychee, but not nearly as sweet.  The floral flavor still reads as sweet though, and I felt like with my sweet BBQ sauce it was just not right.  The texture was good though.  With the right sauce, it would probably be good.

Next, I made the "carnitas."  I had a "carne asada" spice pack that I had been wanting to use.  It was a late night snack, because my hubs wanted some nachos.  He heated up some black beans and cheddar daiya, while I made the jackfruit.  I rinsed the jackfruit and sauteed it with some oil and garlic.  Once it started to get browned, I mashed it up with a potato masher.  It's almost unsettling how the texture looks like shredded meat.  I then added the spices and continued to cook it until it got nice browned bits, and is mostly crispy.  I put these crispy, spicy, tender bits on top of the nacho dip and it added great texture and flavor.  The sweetness didn't come through for me, so it was perfect.  No, it's not meat, and frankly I don't really want something too much like meat anymore.

I liked it so much that I sent my darling husband to get some more jackfruit for me... A lot more.  The thing is, with two little ones, it's impossible to go into a small Asian grocery store.  So I texted Gordon while he was out running errands and said, "Could you get 10 or more cans of jackfruit?"

Apparently, a white guy buying 10 cans of jackfruit in a tiny Asian grocery store isn't odd enough to even warrant asking what he was using it for or why he liked it so much.  I wish I could read the cashier's mind and know what she thought of this purchase.

Sorry I don't have pictures, but I will try to update with some next time I make this.

For specialty stuff like this, Amazon is great!  Here's my affiliate link for the brand I buy.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I is for Imagination

Now that Violet is talking, the things that go on in her imagination are becoming more apparent to me, and it's so exciting getting this window into her creativity.

We got Violet this great little play stove at the Salvation Army.  It's so adorable, and even better now that daddy added a "sink" to it.  He cut a hole and inserted a metal bowl then added a faucent attachment so it looks like a sink.  Super cute, and knobs to turn.  She already had some play pots and pans, plus we got some plastic bowls while we were at the SA anyway, and she has her tea set.  All "cooking" toys now live within Violet's kitchedn, and she likes to play with it.

The great thing about this toy, for me, is listening to what she "makes."  Sometimes she makes what I'm making.  So I make her toast and give it to her, and she takes it over to her kitchen and "cooks" the toast and breaks it into pieces to put in her bowls and serve.  Other times she just cooks on her own though.  The other day she was cooking and bringing me plates.  I asked her what it was.
"Mmm...  Butter?  Is the butter on anything?"
"Butter and tofu, okay, that sounds good."
Then she brought me a cup and said it was soup.
"Butter and tofu soup?"

She also plays with her baby dolls, and mimics things I do with her little brother, but also does her own things.  Last night my husband went in to check on her after bedtime when we heard noises.  She has recently learned to turn her light on and was playing by herself very contently in her lit up bedroom.  She had one baby doll sitting on the potty, and she was "feeding" another from her straw sippy cup of water before laying it down on an unfolded changing mat.

And finally, the cutest conversation as of late.  I had never talked to her before about what she wants to be when she grows up or what that even means.  I decided to give it a try without explanation and see how it went.
"Violet, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Ummm... grow up...  AIRPLANES!"
"You want to fly airplanes when you grow up?"
I thought that was so cute that I called for my husband and asked her agian.
"Violet, what do you want to be when you grow up?"
"Ummm... grow up... MOMMY."
"You can be a mommy when you grow up."
"Yeah.  Mommy."

What a fun and exciting age 2 is!  I'm really loving this stage.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

H is for Happy

Joy is something we really wanted to give our children, and I have to say that in that respect we have been great parents.  Violet is a HAPPY child.  She smiles, laughs, and has fun all the time.  One of my favorite things she says right now is, "HAPPY!"

Twinkle, twinkle, little star... 
"It's flying Mommy!"

Monday, November 14, 2011

G is foe Gym: Taking Time to Recharge My Own Batteries

Anyone who has ever flown knows the rule, and yet ever mom forgets it (and probably most dads do too).

"Secure your own oxygen mask before helping others."  That even goes for children, infants, and those who are otherwise impaired.  You must secure your own first, or you are no good to anyone else.

So, I joined a gym.  I guess I should mention that I'm very overweight (obese is the term that I'm trying not to use there, but it's the medical term for how overweight I am...) and part of being a good mom means being a healthy mom.   This isn't to say that I put much stock in the BMI, but it is a reality that after two kids in two years, I've let my muscle tone lapse.  I'm actually a few pounds lighter than I was when I got pregnant with my first baby, but I'm not feeling as healthy as I did then.  I am exhausted, first of all, and then I have noticed that I get tired from activities easier than I would like.

Also, to be honest, the idea of being able to do anything, even work out, unencumbered by children, sounded a little too good to be true.  So I joined a gym with child care.  My son is only 7 weeks old, which is horrific to the same mommy who didn't leave her daughter with a sitter (or anyone for that matter) until she was over a year old.  I just had to face reality though, and the reality is that I needed some time just for me.  I wanted to take a yoga class here and there, get strong, get leaner...

Of course, since a gym is there to make money, they signed me up for an intensive 6 weeks with a personal trainer working out twice a week with her and then having a homework day of workout and taking all manner of measurements and weighing me.  Ugh.  I was just trying to RELAX!

That said, after only one week I am already sleeping better, feeling good about myself and remembering what it was like to be strong.

When I was in high school, sophomore PE was co-ed and we would do warm-ups each day.  Part of those warm-ups included doing push-ups.  I remember while many of my fellow females were doing "girl push-ups," I took pride in my strength and did the standard version.  One day, the teacher was getting exasperated with the lack of effort put forth by many of the boys, and she said, "Guys, just look how Erin is doing her push-ups!  THAT'S what I want to see!"  I also enjoyed running in high school, which was another daily task with a weekly mile and a half.  I loved mile and a half days.  In college, I tried to keep running, but without the daily practice, the longer runs left me sore and with shin splints.  I did finally work up to a nice running routine, but then started dating someone and I just couldn't find the time.  There was never time to say, "this is for me."

Well, now I have an extremely amazing and supportive husband, whose oxygen mask has enabled him to reach over and help me, and he's supporting me in this effort to help myself.  I have 5 more weeks, and then the training wheels come off and we see if I can stick to my routine, and not let life get in the way.  This IS life.  This IS my health.  No matter how much I may dislike those pesky BMI numbers, I admit that I'd love to just be "overweight" instead of obese.  I'd like to see my waist again.

Wish me luck and happy health.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

F is for Freezer

My sweet husband got me a beautiful freezer for the garage as a "You Gave Birth Again" present.

Now, this isn't like when a husband buys his wife a new stove or vacuum, this was something I specifically requested.  You see, with two little ones, dinner time is hard.  Really hard.  I have a two year old who keeps me out of the house most of the day, and an infant who needs nursing as soon as we get home.  So, the solution for me is to have easy meals that are prepped and can be thrown in the oven if we'll be home for a while or in the crock pot if we are going to be out all day.

Use the crock pot for more time for this.

Now I got the Vegan Slow Cooker recipe book so that I could do the slow cooker recipes, and the freezer so I could pre-make things like casseroles.  Well, some genius of course came up with a way to utilize both for perfection!

Cook a pre-frozen casserole and have more time for this.

I found this on Pinterest, and while I can't use her recipes, I love her idea.  Basically, you do everything you would before you put stuff in the crock pot (except you make multiples), and then you put it in freezer bags instead of the crock pot.  Then you just pull out a freezer bag and throw it in the crock before heading off for your fun-filled day.   I'm thinking sledding :)

Another trick that I came up with was inspired by another new cookbook I got called Vegan Family Meals.  She has a recipe for lasagna that calls for rolling up the noodles and filling instead of laying them out flat.  If you want to try the recipe, but don't want to buy the book, I found it posted here.  I thought that would be a great way to keep them in single servings.  So I froze them in a cupcake pan, without the sauce, then just pull out a few rolls and toss them in the crock pot with some sauce and they are ready by dinner time.  The last time I did this I also chopped up kale and eggplant to cook in my sauce while the lasagna was cooking.  It turned out great and was a complete meal.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

E is for Elimination Communication

I talked about using EC with Violet in this post when she was about 7 months old.  Since then, we have had a long road, and we have had very few poopy diapers.  In fact, even when Violet got a horrible stomach flu (this has happened twice now) and had really bad diarrhea, she still didn't poop in diapers.  That is control.  The peeing... well, that's another story.

So Violet has been almost exclusively pooping in the toilet since she was 3 months old, and peeing in the toilet as long too- just not exclusively.  At 26 months, she still pees in her diapers.  We are working on it, but don't feel a huge urge to pressure her.  We do a lot of naked time at home (mostly because she doesn't want to wear clothes, not because of some structured naked time).  We got her cute panties that are not for peeing in, but accidents still happen in them (although she is more prone to tell us she has to pee if she's wearing panties).  We try not to make a big deal of accidents, and we try to stay positive.  Anyway, that's where we're at with her.

If nothing else, we've giving her a comfort with the toilet, which many children her age don't have.  Many parents I know face the issue of a child afraid of or confused by the potty.  By offering the option without pressure early on, you solidify that connection between our bodily waste and the toilet.

At 6 weeks, my new baby Desmond is making leaps and bounds.  He's gone pee over the toilet about 5-6 times now, and pooped about 3 times.  I'm using the same method I used with Violet; I just hold him over the toilet during his diaper change.  I've also taken him in just after a feeding and had good luck that way too.  Unlike Violet, who screamed if you held her over the toilet (which is why we gave up until 3 months when she was more comfortable with it), Desmond is content to be held over the toilet, and looks up at me happily while we wait for nature to take its course.  We will see how he progresses, but so far I'm optimistic.

For more inforamation about EC, check out Diaper Free Baby or just do a search and see what appeals to you.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

D is for Detox: Savory Sweets and a Little Macrobiotics

Ugh, the day after Halloween.  What a nightmare on the tummy.  Lucky for us, some trick-or-treaters liberated all our candy when we put the bowl out last night.  We had intended to pass out candy, but by the time we got home we only had a few little monster who braved the blizzard (only a slight exaggeration).  While I was nursing and Violet was getting her bath from daddy, I put the bowl of candy on the front porch and it was gone within a half hour.  Well, as my husband reminded me, the BOWL wasn't gone, just all the candy.  

So we are not in a sugar overload in our house.  Sorry folks.  But I feel for those who are. I do, however, end up in an over-sugared state often enough due to my baking addiction that I have some tips that hopefully the whole family will enjoy.

My first suggestion would be to make the dill waffles with beet compote featured in VegNews this month (November/December issue).  They are SOOOO devine.  The best part is, you make breakfast and it looks like you've made a pillowy waffle with strawberry topping and a dollop of whipped cream, then you bite in and even though the taste isn't at all what you expectred, it's such a wonderful surprise it doesn't matter.  We had these on Sunday for our "Sunday waffles" and they are now my favorite and topping the charts for Violet too.  She wasn't as interested in the compote, but gobbled up dill pancakes with Tofutti sour cream.  No, I'm not posting the recipe.  Go out and support this vegan publication that has bounced back after the photo scandal of 2011 and needs our support.

My second suggestion in from the world of macrobiotics.  I've read a bit of The Hip Chick's Guide to Macrobiotics and The Kind Diet, both of which encourage a macrobiotic plant-based diet.  Now, I'm no expert or even novice at the world of macrobiotics, but I have gleened a bit of advice that really makes sense.  

Brown rice just makes you feel good.  It's healthy, nutty, and filling.  It can be a vehicle for whatever you are wanting, and it's a great alternative of a heavy pasta when your body is already feeling weighed down by pillowcases full of candy.  If your kids are like mine, brown rice isn't too hard of a sell, especially with a yummy sauce they like.  I make microwave "rice pudding" the next day with leftover rice and soy milk with a little maple syrup and cinnamon and it's V's favorite.  Rice goes great under a stir-fry, but it also works in less typical ways, like tossed with pesto or with a "cheesey" sauce.  It's wonderful in soup as well.

Miso soup can be more than that thin savory bowl of deliciousness you get at the sushi bar.  I buy my own miso paste, wakame seaweed (you buy it dried at Asian groceries or maybe in the ethnic foods aisle of your regular grocery store.  While you are there, check out hijiki and arame, other delicious seaweeds.  Then buy some dried kombu to cook with your beans and help the "digestive" properties).  There are a few different kinds of miso paste, and I buy different ones.  I particularly like red miso because the flavor is the strongest, but in many vegan "cheese" alternative recipes they call for the mild flavor of white miso.  Try out different ones and see what you like.  When I was recovering from a stomach bug, miso soup with brown rice and flax oil was what sustained my unborn baby and I and kept us nourished.  It's very "healing" based on most readings.  Miso is fermented, and good for the body.  Even those who avoid soy often say that miso is a healthy way to get soy. 

Beyond the typical miso broth with wakame seaweed, you can add mushrooms, bok choy, and any other vegetables you like to make it more of a hearty stew.  The wind and snow are making me prefer that idea over a simple broth.  The broth alone is great for recovering from tummy troubles, or just warming up after being out in the cold too long though.  For kids, it's salty and umami in a way that they like, plus it's got protein to boot.  Pefect snack to refuel before heading back into the cold, and a nice alternative to the cup of hot chocolate standby (although I believe moderation is key, since I brought a thermos of cocoa to our snowy park playdate this morning- however she didn't have any candy yesterday).  

Monday, October 31, 2011

C is for Candy (sorry Cookie Monster)

Happy Halloween!

While I'm not keen on taking my 2 year old trick-or-treating, I do enjoy passing out candy to other little kids for their parents to deal with at 10pm while they still run in circles from a sugar high...  But I digress.  My kid eats candy on occasion, and specifically will eat candy tonight.  She also eats enough fruit leather to constitute candy- that stuff is SUGAR.  Again, I digress.

Last month we went to an event held here in Anchorage called Trick or Treat in the Heat.  It's for Alaska kids to get a chance to go trick or treating before it snows (cue snow yesterday morning- bummer).  They can wear their costumes without the snow suits, and it's fun.  Basically an entire subdivision pretends it's Halloween.  They decorate their houses, pass out candy, and there's music and fun.  You buy tickets ahead of time and the proceeds all go to children's charities, and it's done in honor of a boy who lived on the street  years ago.  I can't go into more detail without sobbing, so here's the link if you want to learn more:

Anyway, when we went to this event, we needed to know which candies were vegan friendly, and which are not.  I found two handy lists from PeTA kids and Veg News.  I just kept both lists pulled up on my phone, and we would help our daughter pick the vegan option if there was one.  Otherwise, she had one of those plastic pumpkin buckets, and since she's a little young to discuss not having certain candies, we would steal her chocolates while she wasn't looking and trade them with her friends for hard candies and taffys.  It worked suprisingly well, and I'm impressed with my husband's stealth.  If we ever fall on hard times, he may have a future as a pick pocket.

Since we founds these lists, I've been happily enjoying chick-o-sticks like crazy.  If you haven't had them, they are like a Butterfinger without the chocolate.  They would be easy to dip in chocolate for your own vegan Bart Simpson experience.  I've also recently discovered that my local health food store is carrying Go Max Go candy bars, and that has changed my waistline for the worse.  I won't lie.  We were also lucky to find a combo pack of Swedish Fish and Sour Patch Kids for passing out to the little goblins that come to our door.

From PeTA Kids :
Airheads taffy
Brach's Cinnamon Hard Candy
Brach's Root Beer Barrels
Brach's Star Brites
Chocolove Dark Chocolate bar
Chocolove Cherries and Almonds Dark Chocolate Bar
Chocolove Crystallized Ginger Dark Chocolate Bar
Chocolove Orange Peel Dark Chocolate Bar
Chocolove Raspberry Dark Chocolate bar
Cry Babies
Hubba Bubba bubblegum
Jolly Ranchers (lollipops and hard candy)
Laffy Taffy (some varieties)
Mary Janes (regular and peanut butter kisses) 
Mike and Ike
Now and Later
Panda Licorice
Smarties (U.S. Brand)
Sour Patch Kids
Super Bubble
Swedish Fish
Sweet Tarts

From VegNews:

  • Airheads Taffy (website)
  • Allison's Gourmet vegan caramels (website)
  • Annie's Organic Bunny Fruit Snacks (website)
  • Azure Chocolat Beauty Bark (website)
  • Biona Organic Wine Gums (link)
  • BoomChocoBoom! Ricemilk Bar (website)
  • Brachs Fruit Slices (website)
  • Charms Blow Pops (website)
  • Charms Pumpkin Flat Pops (website)
  • Chick-o-Sticks (website)
  • Chuao Chocolatier Spicy Maya (website)
  • Clif Kid Organic Twisted Fruit (website)
  • Crispy Cat Candy Bars (website)
  • Crows (website)
  • Cracker Jack (website)
  • Cry Baby Candy (website)
  • Diivies Super Stars (website)
  • Dots (website)
  • Dum-Dums (website)
  • Endangered Species dark chocolate (website)
  • Endangered Species Dark Chocolate Halloween Bug Bites (website)
  • Ginger People Ginger Chews (website)
  • Go Max Go candy bars (website)
  • Goody Good Stuff Sours (website)
  • Hot Tamales (website)
  • The Humphrey Company Original Popcorn Balls (website)
  • Jolly Ranchers hard candy (website)
  • Let's Do Organic Gummy Bears (website)
  • Mamba Sour Fruit Chews (link)
  • Mary Janes, regular and peanut butter kisses (website)
  • Newman's Own Licorice Twists (website)
  • Now and Later (website)
  • NuGo Organic Chocolate Bar (website)
  • Panda Soft Licorice (website)
  • Peanut Chews, Original Dark (website)
  • Pez (website)
  • Q.Bel Double Dark Wafer Bars (website)
  • Saf-T-Pops (website)
  • Seitenbacher Gummy Candies (website)
  • Sjaak's Organic Chocolates (website)
  • Smarties (website)
  • Sour Patch Kids (original variety) (website)
  • Stockley's Cinder Toffee Candy (link)
  • Super Bubble (website)
  • Surf Sweets Fruity Bears, Gummy Swirls, Sour Worms, and Super Sour Bears (website)
  • Swedish Fish (website)
  • Sweet & Sara Marshmallow ghosts and bats (website)
  • VerMints (website)
  • Whizzers Chocolate Beans (website)
  • YummyEarth lollipops (website)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

B is for Beans: A Sweet Surprise

Beans Two Ways

Here I go again trying making the Vitamix recipe for black bean brownies.  The first time I followed the recipe and overblended my dough into something so gross and glutenous that it was inedible.  This time I only mixed my wet ingredients in the blender and then added them to the dry ingredients in a bowl.  I think they would be better with a little oil and more sugar.  Either way, I really think the Vitamix recipe just isn't great.
There are lots of black bean brownie recipes out there though, so if you have a tried and true one that works, post it in the comments.

What is great, and easy, is that I had made a huge crock pot of black beans and stored them in 2 cup servings in Ziplock bags and froze them.   This has worked so well and is so cheap!  What a great way to save money and have beans on hand.  I freeze them flat too, and that enables you to defrost quickly and easily.  On Thursday we had to take Violet to gymnastics in the evening, so I was able to throw a frozen block of beans, some water, taco seasoning, frozen corn, and frozen roasted peppers in the crock pot before we left for easy burritos when we got home.  I love my frozen beans!

From found via Pinterest

I also had leftover garbanzo beans this morning and made what my husband and I are calling "Desert Hummus," but is called "Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Dip."  I made this this morning for breakfast for my daughter, and she loved it.  I didn't even tell her it was supposed to be cookie dough, but as soon as she tasted it she said, "Cookie!"  I left out the chocolate chips and it was yummy breakfast.  Violet oddly wanted to pour a little milk over her bowl of it and ate it with a spoon.  She thought she was eating a treat, I thought she was getting a great amount of protein from both the garbanzos and almond butter.  Win win with beans.

So those are our beany sweets today.  Strange but true.  I think I'll dip my black bean brownies in my garbanzo dip and feel weird but healthy...  Really weird.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A is for Alphabet

Since I have a degree in English Education, and the emphasis of my degree was on how people learn language, I thought I would write about how I'm teaching Violet her letters.  I don't claim to have the best way,  but I can offer my method and reasoning.

First of all, it's been child-lead.  We have the alphabet strung up in her room in the form of cute flash cards and a giant stuffed catapillar with the alphabet on it.  Of course, we also read with her lots and have since before she was born.  We got her a foam alphabet for the bath when she was about 18 months old, and she has wooden flash cards that she has played with on and off.  The point is, her environment is "text-rich." The idea is to pique her interest in reading and writting without explicitly teaching it.

I introduced letters with what they spelled.  So A was "A for apple" and B is "B for baby."  We began this when she got her foam letters just playing in the bathtub.  She would pick up a letter and we'd tell her what it was for, or we'd ask her to find that letter.  She learned about half her letters that way, but only as what they stood for.  As we read alphabet-themed books, we'd say introduce the idea that A is for apple, but the book also has an airplane, because A is for airplane too.  This took a while to really sink in, and is still mulling around in her mind.  She asks us to write her favorite words out for her.  She'll say a word and then we write it and she loves that.

When her textual literacy increased, I noticed a marked increase in her image literacy as well.  She began pointing to airplanes in a book and saying airplane, etc.  She was "reading" the pictures, which in my mind is just as valid and important of a step.  She even has a Curious George book that combines pictures with the text to tell the story.

Once she was recognizing letters, she started trying to sing the alphabet song more.  So now we sing the alphabet fairly often, and she calls it "ABC."  As she's taken more interest in the song, we've noticed that she notices "ABC" out in the world.  We went to Bed, Bath, and Beyond yesterday and she kept saying, "ABC ABC ABC, up there!"  She was pointing to the B,B, and B sign.  She also points to the words in her books with only a few words and more pictures and specifically wants to know what they say.  Other times, we just look through and name the things we see in the pictures.  I got her a book that is like I Spy that has a key on one side of the things to look for  and then the big picture.  She can "read" that herself, and it gives her confidence.

I've always felt that the key to success in school is risk-taking, which stems from confidence.  The most important tool we can give our children is the confidence to ask questions, try new things, and explore their world.  Then it's just a matter of presenting opportunity as often as possible.

My goal at some point is to make a book in a binder or something with each letter and then for that page have pictures to reflect the words that begin with that letter.  Some day.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Trying to Get Blogging Again: The Alphabet

The alphabet is big in my house right now.  My two year old is trying so hard to learn the song, and she's learning her letters, and I thought it's a cute way to keep me blogging and give me topics to write on.

For 26 days (or 26 posts if I lag and can't keep up every day), I'll focus a post around the next letter in the alphabet.  If you have ideas for something you'd like me to write about on a certain day, feel free to put those ideas in the comments here (X is for???).

I'll try to post later today with the letter A.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

He's Here! Another Vegan Born

Well any concerns from family and friends (and strangers) about the health of my vegan pregnancy can vanish.  On September 23rd I gave birth to a NINE POUND two ounce little boy who is healthy as can be.

This birth was definitely different from the last.  With Violet's birth, we spent a long time in early labor and a long time in active labor.  We were probably in the tub for 6-8 hours with Violet, and I was fully dilated when I got in the tub...   It had also been over 12 hours since I had realized I was in labor when we got in the tub.  Now this may sound horrific to some, but in many ways we really enjoyed our slow labor.  Even in the final stages, Gordon and I were sleeping in between contractions and things moved slowly and easily.  This was a drawback too, though, because by the end of it I was exhausted and depleted.  I passed out the first time I went to the bathroom after giving birth to Violet, but I was so tired I honestly thought I had just fallen asleep on the toilet.

Anyway, this time was not the slow and mild process of last time.  On Thursday evening, Gordon and Violet took the dogs the lake by our house for a walk.  I stayed home to rest.  I went to the bathroom and while I had been passing bits and pieces of my mucus plug for weeks, what came out that night was the largest "chunk" yet.  I texted Gordon and said that I must love him because I opted not to save or photograph the mucus plug.  I was having semi-strong contractions here and there, but I had been for weeks.  We had had so many false starts, I tried not to let this big signal give me too much false hope that Dez would be here soon.Thursday night I felt crampy, and woke several times in discomfort.  At 3am I had to really focus on my breathing and relaxation in order to get back to sleep.  I was excited the next morning to find pink-tinged mucus when I went to the bathroom.  I told Gordon that it wasn't an exact rule, but that I had had my "bloody/birth show" and I thought I would be having the baby that day.

Unfortunately, because of the several false starts we'd had, this wasn't the first time I had said this, and we both took it with a grain of salt.

We went to Arctic Playgroundz so Violet could run off some energy, and I noticed that the surges were stronger.  I didn't try to time them at this point because I didn't think they were coming regularly, and again I didn't want to falsely get my hopes up.  A woman at the playground asked how far along I was, and I told her 40 weeks and 2 days.  She and the woman next to her looked shocked, and she exclaimed, "And they aren't inducing you?!"  As if treating my healthy pregnancy as such was cruel and unusual torture...  I just smiled and said, "Well, I think I'm having him today, so it's not really an issue."  They both looked at me like I was crazy for thinking a full-term baby was normal and for crawling around on the floor with my toddler on the day I was going to have a baby.  Oh well.  I was still smiling.

When we got home, Violet went right down for a nap and I made a big hearty lunch.  I made kobocha squash soup from scratch and tempeh BLT's with avocado.  I had a feeling it might be my last meal for a while, and I wanted to fill up.  My labor with Violet was so long that I didn't eat or drink for far too long, and I ended up passing out after labor.  I really didn't want that to happen again.  

I started timing my surges, and from around 1:30-2:30 they were between 7-4 minutes apart.  I decided the best thing to do would be to take a bath and see if they stopped.  With my false starts, changing my activity had stopped what I thougth was labor.  I got in the tub and continued to track it.  The surges continued at about 4.5 minutes apart.  I had a scheduled appointment at the birth center for 3:30, so I called at 3 and asked if I could skip it as I felt I was in labor.  My midwife called me back and said she would come by and set up, and if I felt like I needed more time, she could leave for dinner or something.  I was still trying not to get my hopes up, but that sounded like a good plan.

My midwife and her two apprentices got here around 4, and we were just getting done setting up the birth tub.  At that point I was pacing, swaying, sitting, or otherwise working through strong surges.  They were coming frequently enough that I wasn't able to help much and needed to focus on my breathing and visualization.  We put my HypnoBirthing affirmations on in the background, and that helped me focus.  My friend Natalie came to entertain Violet, and that made it so much easier.  They went in Violet's room to read, and I continued to pace as things picked up speed.  I realized then that this was the real deal, and that things were happening much quicker than Violet's birth.  I started to wonder if I was going to get a break.  I felt the urge to get in the tub, and it was finally full around 5pm.  

The tub soothed a lot of the discomfort of the surges, but they were still very strong.  I felt a lot of pressure, and this time I noticed a radiating warmth like when you hold a stretch for an extended period.  I knew my uterus was doing it's job as a strong muscle, and I knew my baby was getting closer.  Unlike Violet's birth, I really felt my uterus pushing downward and moving my baby.  About this time, Gordon finished cooking dinner for Violet and he got in the tub with me.

I used my surge breathing, a long breath in followed by a quick breath out, and low groans through each surge.  At some point, my body felt different, and I felt the need to breath OUT and DOWN.  I couldn't imagine that I could already be in the "pushing" phase, but my body was telling me to breath that baby down, and I could feel my natural expulsive reflex moving Dez down.  My groaning became an all out woman warrior scream at points.  I tried to keep my vocals low and always focused on keeping my mouth open as a reflection of my cervix and vagina.  At this point, I had a funny sensation.  I felt unbearably tired, like I just COULDN'T stay awake for another minute.  I wanted to tell my midwife that I just needed to get out of the tub and take a nap really quickly, then I could finish this later.  I knew how ridiculous that was, and I didn't say anything, but the urge was incredible at the time.   

As my vocals and surges got louder and more intense, I couldn't really respond to anyone around me.  Gordon suggested I lean over the edge of the tub, and I liked the sound of that.  I had just been thinking the same thing.  This position felt productive, and as Desmond moved down strongly, my bowls took the pressure and released.  That's what the fish net is for.  Natalie had put Violet to bed, and was standing in the hallway keeping watch.  I couldn't believe that Violet was sleeping through all the noise I was making!

I reached down and felt what was in fact the head, but I couldn't believe he was that close already.  When the midwife asked if I felt the head I said I didn't think so.  Of course, when that same head crowned just minutes later, it was obvious that it was in fact his head.  I crowned three times, the final time getting so close that the midwives seemed a bit startled that it went back in.  Gordon said, "No, it went back," and I knew he was remembering the hour (at least) that we spent with Violet's head emerging and retracting.  On the fourth surge though, it came out completely, and my yell that time was as much of shock as the sensation of stretching.  "Is his hair red?"  No, he's a brunette, but we love him just the same.  We quickly yelled to Natalie to get Violet, we wanted her there.  So Violet got in the tub with us, and after 3 minutes the final surge arrived and Desmond made his full entrance.  Gordon's hands were on him and he was put right on my chest at 7:30pm.

Violet kissed his head and patted him right away, and Gordon and I just basked in our children.  I believe I said something like, "He's here!" and I know Gordon understood how much that simple statement meant.  Violet was so excited that she started jumping in the tub and trying to swim in between petting her new brother.  After she submerged a few times, we asked Natalie to take her out of the tub, and she went right back to sleep without protest.  We bonded in the tub for probably close to an hour, and then the midwives offered to let me birth the placenta in my bed so I could lay down.  That sounded perfect, so we made the somewhat awkward trek down the hall to the bed.  Eventually, I was assisted in birthing the placenta and I felt a surge of relief and the remaining soreness and cramping I was feeling subsided.  I said that I didn't think I was torn, but was checked anyway.  There was a slight tearing not worth a single stitch.  I lost very little blood this time, and have continued to lose very little blood.  

Desmond had his first medical check-up right on our bed, and shocked us with his weight and length.  He's a big boy!  He's also "fully cooked" and just wonderfully developed.  Those extra days and weeks beyond when we thought he would come really paid off.   He's already proven to be very calm, but with a strong set of lungs when he has something to say.  He's an equinox baby and full of balance.  He not only has a good latch, but a great strong suck as well. 

We couldn't be happier with another fabulous homebirth, and the wonderful support from friends and care providers.  We are so lucky and grateful.  

Friday, September 16, 2011

I May Have Gotten Distracted

Well, the third trimester of this pregnancy threw me for a LOOP and a half!  I got food poisoning/a stomach flu at 35 weeks and all the puking started causing contractions...  I had to be put on bed rest, my mom flew up to help, and it's been pretty crazy since then.  Once I hit 37 weeks, I was given the okay to resume normal activities, and I kind of expected baby Dez to come soon after.  He had been trying to come so much over the previous two weeks, and it seemed he was destined to be early.

Family Portrait on lovely hike.
Of course, in true Murphy's Law form, as soon as it was okay to have the baby, the contractions mostly stopped, or at least got irregular.  I went for a walk the other day and ended up having contractions every 2 minutes on the dot for an hour, but then as soon as I got home they stopped completely.  It's just been a lot of start and go.

As for going, I've been doing what I can to get things moving:  hiking, rowing, and biking at 38 weeks.  I'm 39 weeks now and sticking mostly to walking, especially after the incident with the biking.  It turns out, when you ride a bike while pregnant, the relaxin in your joints and ligaments can enable your pelvic bone to actually shift out of alignment.  That doesn't feel great, but luckily I have an amazing chiropractor and I realized I needed to call her.  I thought it was just the pelvic pain of the third trimester... No, that is not normal.

I finally realized that there was something I had been forgetting, like any teacher has experienced.  The thing that I impress upon my HypnoBirthing students is one of the most essential aspects of the program I let slip to the wayside.  I forgot to do a fear release.  So today I had my husband guide me through it, and I was surprised by how it went.  In visualizing myself and my true inner being, I actually saw myself at Violet's age, running through the surf on the beach in Hawaii.  There is a picture of me like this that I drew from, but then as I was asked to go deeper, I found that the image of Violet and I had become interchangeable, and that who I am at my core is made up of who she is as well.  My mother was also there, when I was told to tap into my inner wisdom about birthing, my "birthrite."

Another surprise was that when I had to face my fears, the first thing that really loomed for me was an image of my friend's birth who just had a baby.  While she and the baby are fine now, there was some time just after the birth where the baby required oxygen, despite being concious.  When my friend told me the birth story, I didn't realize that I had internalized that outcome, but clearly it was right there in my mind once I allowed myself to face my fears.  I'm so glad I did that and am feeling much better about the birth and anticipate it any day/moment now :)

For you viewing enjoyment, here are some videos of what my little munchkin has been up to:

Here's Violet demonstrating just how effective the Tuffo Muddy Buddy Rain Suit really is.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Violet's Vegan Cupcakes: Pretending to be a Work at Home Mom

Some of my best tasting work, but not my best decor.  I was given less than 24 hour notice on this order though, and Violet was up until midnight, so I will cut myself some slack if you will too.

Sometimes, just for fun, I pretend to work.  People email me (honestly, I'm not even sure where they get my email half the time), and they ask me to make vegan cupcakes or cake for them.  Then I usually do and they pay me.

It's all very glamorous being a WAHM, instead of my day job, SAHM (which is of course a misnomer since I can't remember the last day I spent at home... but I digress).  I also get this sense of accomplishement when I am teaching my HypnoBirthing classes and need to prepare materials, review information, etc.

For a few hours, I marvel at what it must be like to ACTUALLY work from home on a regular basis.  Kudos to those who do it.  I don't know how they do.  I have a million and one business plans rolling around in my head, and I'd love to bring them all to fruition, but as it is, I'm afraid to advertise my baking because I couldn't deal with the fallout.

As it stands, I'm the only vegan baker in town that takes orders.  There are a few cafes that will on occasion have a vegan option available, but there is nothing for the special occasions of vegans in this town.  Nothing but me.  By association, I'm the only game in town for those with dairy or egg allergies.  I should probably advertise, build a better website, etc.  I just don't feel ready to work that much, and I'm okay with that.

I made $35 this week, though my profit was significantly less (fun fact, if you are going to sell your baked goods as vegan, you need to use organic sugar to make sure you don't have something processed with bone char).  It all adds up, especially when I use fine ingredients and lots of care.  Not to mention driving around town to get a cake box the right size, for crying out loud...

Teaching my classes ends up being a similar issue with timing and supplies and scheduling and ugh...

My job as mom, especially for the two weeks of the month that I am a single mom, is really consuming.  Being the sole provider for a toddler 24/7 as I enter my 3rd trimester is taking it's toll on me.  I'm getting tired, irritable, and I'm experiencing a super-fun shortness of breath lately as my big boy grows and stretches within me.  I know women have come before me and done this and women will do this after me, and quite frankly it's the norm to have a toddler when you are pregnant with your second, but I still need a quick gripe fest.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Child-Lead Potty Learning

When my daughter weaned, it was mostly a mutual choice, but not the child-lead situation I had anticipated.  At 18 months she was pulling on my shirt, throwing fits if I made her wait, and still wanting to nurse 5-10 times a day.  It wasn't a healthy relationship for either of us, and it had to come to a stop.  So I cut her back to 3 times a day, somehow, and after that I would only nurse her if she asked.  The more I kept her distracted, the less often she asked to nurse.  Eventually, we were just done, and after a week I refused when she asked again.  Of course, four months later she's trying to nurse every now and then, but I'm comfortable denying her now and she understands.

Still, part of me feels like we missed out on something that would empower her and make me feel like I wasn't pushing her.  Luckily, potty training has filled that void for me.  Of all the things that I have chosen to let her figure out on her own, I will admit that I didn't anticipate potty training being one of them.

Here's what we've been doing, and how it's been going:

0-3 months:  We began trying to look for "cues" that she had to go to the bathroom almost at birth.  We read about Elimination Communication, and found ourselves feeling frustrated and like failures.

3 months:  As much as we looked for cues and patterns, we finally found one- she started peeing every time we took off a dirty diaper.  So, we started holding her over the toilet at each diaper change.  Hazzah!  Success!  She still had wet diapers often, but she went in the potty each time as well, and seemed to save up her poops for when we took her to pee.

3-5 months:  We had less than a handful of poopy diapers during this time.  She began giving us a look when she had to poop, and seemed to really enjoy not sitting in her own waste.  Pees still happened both in the diaper and in the toilet.

5-21 months:  As she became mobile, letting us know she had to poop became less and less important.  We had a few poopy diapers here and there, but it was still less than once a week or even every two weeks.  Around 10 months she began pointing to her diaper when she needed to poop, and that helped.  Now that she is vocal, she will say, "poop."  We introduced a potty chair, which was okay, but she was still more comfortable with the toilet and a seat on it.  During this period of time, she peed on the floor approximately 1 billion times (it's laminate), but learned to get a towel and clean it up herself.

22 months:  She has begun taking off her own pants and diaper at times, so that she can sit on her potty chair and do her business.  She brings the little insert, and seems to enjoy the independence and privacy of using her potty chair by herself.  We went camping a few days ago and we learned that she would be potty trained if we lived exclusively outdoors (she would also probably be inconsolably happy if we lived exclusively outdoors, but until we find jobs in Hawaii this is not an option).  We were on a hike and didn't bring extra diapers, so we just took off her wet one and hoped for the best.  She watched me pull my pants down and squat to pee once and she was HOOKED.  She kept squatting down and and peeing and not getting any on her pants.  Then one time she walked off the trail a ways, and I found her squatting and pooping!  That's right, just like a dog does, she instinctively knew not to just poop in the middle of the trail!  We wiped with a leaf and moved on to more pees.  It was a great hike.  As soon as we were back in our cabin she immediately peed her pants.  You win some, you pee on some.

At this point, she's really impressed me with they way she has guided this change.  Yes, we support it and give positive feedback, but it seems her biggest factor in change is intrinsic motivation.

Who knows how much longer we have in diapers, or what will be the deciding factor to her making the crossover, but for now we're happy that we aren't forcing it and it's still happening easily and fluidly (like pee running down your leg).  We got You Can Go to the Potty by Dr. Sears and it really reinforces what we've already been doing without pressure or a timeline.  We have been reading that some and she seems to like it.  I feel like this is something that we've all found our way on together, without following any one program, and that's what I like best about Violet's potty learning, it's not something that some book or website had to teach us about, and not something that we had to teach her, it's something that has happened naturally by doing what we all feel makes sense and makes us each comfortable.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"Vegan Meatballs" Lie on Children's Menu: My Expose

There's nothing better than a great local restaurant that serves up delicious vegan fare.  For a place like that, I give good ratings on Urban Spoon, Yelp, and Happy Cow.  A place like that I tell my friends about.  I tell the people who ask me about going vegan and tasteless food, and "how do you go out to eat" to go to that restaurant so they can see for themselves.

In Anchorage, we don't have any all-vegan restaurants (at the time of publishing this post I have not yet opened up my own vegan cafe, sadly).  We do, however, have a few that are "vegan-friendly" and even more that are turning that way.  The local brewpub, Bear Tooth Theatrepub and Grill, now has an entire section of their menu dedicated to vegan items, though they have denied my offer to share recipes or even come in part time so that they could have some awesome vegan deserts to add to the fun.  The busiest breakfast diner, where Drew Barrymore ate quite often when she was shooting a movie in town, Snow City Cafe, now has an icon on their menu indicating which items can "easily be made vegan" and instead of just leaving things out and charging you the same price, they even let me sub avocado for the eggs they are leaving off.   Middle Way Cafe, a personal favorite of mine, almost always has a vegan baked good in addition to both savory and sweet vegan breakfast items and the most amazing avocado melt you can imagine for lunch.  Although I'm not usually the type to order a salad as an entree, I have been known to literally drink their lemon tahini dressing because it is so amazing.  There are many more that I really should take the time to list, but instead I will launch into the madness.

In Anchorage, there is one restaurant that is known for catering to vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians looking for free range buffalo burgers, organic lamb gyros, and wild Alaskan halibut wraps.  That place is Organic Oasis.  Oddly, while this particular restaurant is known for it's extra enlightened menu, the waitstaff is not always as well-informed as I would like.  They often don't know what they are serving, but have always been polite and quick to ask the chef about any of my questions.  In addition, the chef has always been great about altering a dish to meet my needs.  Unfortunately, it is neither the waitstaff or the chef writing the menu.

Rather than rehash the scenario and then post my letter, I will just post the email I sent to the owner after a very unpleasant circumstance.  I know there are typos, but I want to be honest about what I said and honest about my response, so I posting it as is:

The first time I went to Organic Oasis was about three years ago, when we were new to Anchorage.  At that time we were omnivores, but both my husband and I are allergic to dairy.  We were so pleased to see vegan carrot cake on the menu, and even mentioned that part of our excitement was because of our dairy allergy.  To our confusion and surprise, our cake was served to us with a scoop of Humboldt Creamery ice cream, which according to the menu is not included and actually costs extra.  We are pushovers and instead of raising a fuss, we just at what wasn't touching the ice cream, tipped our server despite this poor service, and figured there were no other options for us in Anchorage, so we might as well grin and bear it.
As the years have passed, we have enjoyed the food at Organic Oasis greatly, although again and again we were faced with servers who were very polite, but often didn't know what had dairy (or in several cases what "dairy" meant.  In answer to my question, "does the chocolate you use to make the mochas have milk in it?"  The reply I got was, "We can make it with rice milk."  When I reiterated that I meant the actual chocolate used to make the mocha, not whatever milk or milk substitute was use, I got a blank stare and the words "It's organic."  
In spite of these disappointments, the food is always tasty, and again, the service has always been friendly, if poorly informed about what they are serving.  I have my CSA box delivered there, and so at least once a week I eat lunch there with my daughter and we always have a good time.  We are now vegan, and there are so few options for us in Anchorage that we have put aside these mishaps in favor of being able to order food that we can trust to be vegan.
Last week, my husband, daughter, and I came in for lunch and we were thrilled to see spaghetti and vegan meatballs on the Children's Menu.  Eager to try the newest vegan item, we ordered it for our daughter, who has been vegan since birth (as such, we would have no idea if she is allergic to dairy or eggs, but when ordering vegan items that shouldn't be an issue).  What she didn't finish, I ate the next morning.  The vegan meatballs had a texture that I thought was really interesting, so I looked at the menu online and found that they were made from "myco-protein."  After a quick search, the only sources of myco-protein I could find were Quorn products, which any vegan knows contain egg whites.  Even the wikipedia definition of basic myco-protein says that it contains egg whites.  I held out hope and posted on your facebook page and attempted to call 3 or 4 times without ever getting through.  Today I went in and asked the waitress if the "vegan" meatballs had egg whites.  I was standing at the counter, so I saw her ask the chef, who pulled out a bag of Quorn meatballs and read the label.  "Yeah, there are egg whites in these," he said.  The waitress relayed the information with no apology or explanation other than, "they were just added to the menu." 
The waitstaff without an understanding of what vegan means is one thing, but it is inexcusable to put children at risk for potentially dangerous reactions to a fairly common allergen- eggs.  It's also in excusable to try to dupe vegans with a product whose packaging clearly states that it has eggs and does not in any way claim to be vegan.  As many claims as Organic Oasis makes about it's products, "free range" "organic" "grass fed" "corn syrup free" etc, and you can't read a simple list of ingredients?  I find it hard to believe that any of the statements you make about your food has any credibility at this point, and this has finally been the tipping point to turn away this customer.
I am also a member of the Alaska Veg Meetup, with about 150 members, and I have shared my concerns with them, as well as several local mothers I know with severely allergic children.  At least two of those mothers were previously very loyal customers, but I doubt they will be any longer.  
I truly hope you find a way to fix these inconsistancies, to reassure the local vegan and vegetarian communities, and to let parents know that you are not trying to put their children in harms way with your Children's Menu items.
Doesn't say vegan here.

This was the response I got:
I am sorry for your poor experience and for believing we are reckless & duping our customers with our offerings. I think you are a bit harsh here. We are on the frontier of food service. We ask for and expect a little latitude. We will take the vegan icon off the meatball dish. I have had so much headache trying to help special diet people. I owned & operated a vegan juice bar and cafe in this town for 8 years. That was 19897 to 1995. Special diet food is always a hard sell because the number of people is so small. There are hundreds of people who come through Organic Oasis each day. About 5% are special diet people. I try to facilitate them from a space of compassion. If we make a mistake out here on the food frontier, please try to be gentle with us. We try and sometimes we succeed, This is how a movement is grown. 

People who come to work for me have little experience in this "special" menu world called Organic Oasis. It is difficult for these servers to retain information. It is endemic across the industry. I fish from a shallow pond when I advertise for help. It is the biggest tragedy at Organic Oasis. Most servers have two jobs or are going to college making it difficult to conduct meaningful training sessions. You expect too much from people who make 8 dollars an hour. I come from a different  work ethic where we would claim ownership of our jobs. It just is not that way now days. Sure you can find good servers, but about 80% of them are deficient in basic skills and have cavalier attitudes. It is sad. Most people have no idea how difficult it is to offer on a daily basis all of these foods made from scratch. 
I am grateful for you taking the time to give honest feedback. But threatening to not come in anymore, you only hurt your options for dining out. Supporting places that pay attention to GMO, corn syrup, preservatives, etc, only helps the movement grow. I am sorry we will not see you anymore and even sorrier that I let you down. I take this seriously and will undoubtedly spring forward with action due to your feed back. Again, thank you for taking the time to care.

Quorn has the decency to warn consumers with allergies that this product contains eggs, as should any resaler.

I would first like to note that he has in no way addressed the issue of why a prepackaged item with a bold face warning below the ingredients list indicating that this product contains egg whites was put on the menu as "vegan meatballs."

The second thing I would point out is that while he indicates that of the "hundreds of customers" that come through the restaurant a day, only 5% are those with special diets, the menu is designed to cater almost exclusively to special diets of one sort or another.  It seems highly unlikely that of those hundreds, more than 5% don't eat a special diet of "mostly organic" foods, or a special diet that includes the avoidance of farmed fish/meat/GMO foods.  Wheatgrass shots a big seller at this restaurant, but I don't see the general population consuming a lot of wheatgrass.

Finally, I would like to point out that making a claim that something is vegan for no apparent reason other than to appeal to a broader audience calls into question all the other claims they make about their menu.  Are things labeled "organic" really organic, or was that just an error on the menu as well?  What does GMO-free mean if the menu author can't even read the ingredients on a package of Quorn meatless balls?  How carefully are they regulating their promises to their customers and the claims about what they are selling?  For me, it calls into the question the integrity of the entire establishment.

Where do I go from here?  That's the question.  I have been advised by more than one friend to write a letter to the editor of our local paper, especially because they were serving and incorrectly labeled item that contained a common allergen- and on the CHILDREN'S menu no less.  I'm not sure how far I want to take this, but I do feel that more should be done.  For now, I will publish this little rant and move on for a bit.

**UPDATE**  Well, last week, about two weeks after my initial email, a friend went into the restaurant and it was STILL on the menu.  Not only that, but when he said something to the waitress she had no idea, so it hasn't even been mentioned to the staff (only about 10 people work there).  To me, that means the owner is DELIBERATELY misleading customers and putting children at risk for a bad egg reaction.  It would cost nothing to put a sticky note next to the register or next to the schedule in back that says that the vegan meatballs aren't vegan, just let customers know.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Taco Thursday!

I saw this video on Tuesday, and I really liked it.

I love that it shows how people really do go about transitioning to a meatless lifestyle.  It often takes lots of different sources of different information, and it starts as simple as one meal.

I really wanted tacos right away after seeing it, but I had leftovers then, so I decided to wait for Thursday so I could be catchy.  I had some Gardein Beefless Tips in the freezer that I had no idea what to do with, and luckily the Gardein website had this great taco recipe.

Dinner on the porch.  Such a beautiful night. 

It's a little confusing in the format, but made sense once I read it.  The ingredients other than the tortillas up to the words "avocado salsa" are the marinade ingredients.  This meal comes together VERY quickly and easily and tastes so fresh and delicious.  I used slightly less green salsa than in called for in my avocado salsa, and I still thought it was too much, personally.  I also used a little more corn and will double the corn next time.  For defrosting, I defrosted the beefless tips in the microwave by cutting open the bag and cooking them for 1 minute, the corn I put in for about 40 seconds in a microwave safe bowl (because I used frozen corn).  For my cheese, I used just a touch of cheddar daiya.
Oddly, this is her "smile" of approval.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I Just Want a Cupcake

When I first read that Natalie Portman stopped being vegan during her pregnancy because she was craving cakes and cookies, I scoffed.  I mean, she's Natalie-FREAKIN'-Portman.  She doesn't live/work near a vegan bakery?  She can't hire a personal chef to lavish her with amazing vegan baked goods?

Is there a movie out this year that she's NOT in?  Seriously?!

So it was annoying, and frustrating, and saddening because she became a vegan after reading the same book that changed my life to veganism, Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer.  The worst part for me is that she's looking to buy these products from regular bakeries, which I have a feeling aren't getting their eggs from more humane farmers.  The same goes for butter/milk in those products.  So she's going from omitting these ingredients completely based on her ethics to purchasing products from likely the worst of the worst (see: lowest bidder).  I can understand making hard choices for your baby's health, but laughing about her choice really makes me wonder if we read the same book.  This article discusses the choice she and other vegans have made to give up veganism through pregnancy and the needlessness in most cases for indulging those cravings.

As a young girl, I looked up to Drew Barrymore for a million reasons and one, so she was my first vegetarian role model.  I remember as a teen being devastated when I read an article that she had started eating meat again so she could lose weight for Charlie's Angels.  What a beautiful woman, who felt she had to lose THIRTY POUNDS to look good enough.  She was gorgeous before, and now I just see a thin girl who doesn't know who she is anymore.  When she filmed a movie in my town this summer, one of the local articles said that she was reading a copy of Eating Animals in between takes, which gives me some hope.  But maybe it just doesn't have the same effect on others as it does on me.  Maybe reading it in the wake of a beautiful birth made me more receptive.  Who knows?

It's not like I don't remember just over a year ago when I was buying products and eating food without any regard for their origins or who was hurt along the way, so I understand the people out there still eating meat and choosing their battles.  It's a common excuse we tell ourselves that they, "just don't know," because the truth is that many people don't care about the suffering of animals.

But all that aside, the point of this post is that I want a cupcake.  There is nowhere in Anchorage for me to get a vegan cupcake, unless I spin the wheel of fate and one of two cafes that have once in a blue moon had vegan cupcakes just happen to have them on a day when I can get into a cafe.  I can make my own though, and that's my only choice.  The thing is, I'm over halfway pregnant, I'm cranky, my cravings are so strong I just ate 4 Tofutti Cuties, and I still want a cupcake.  But I'm not going to surrender my ethics because of that.  I'm not going to go down to the grocery store and get the gross bakery cupcakes.  I'm not going to say, "Oh, well I'm pregnant, so this doesn't count."

I'm not better or stronger or anything else than Natalie Portman, I'm just making a different choice.  I don't want to prove that I can do something she can't, I just want to point out that I can, and I do, and in the end it's not that big of a deal.  Like I said, I can make my own.  My cupcakes are better than most I've had store-baught anyway, thanks to my PPK girls and their Bible/cupcake cookbook Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.  

So for any preggies out there: here's the recipe for a delicious chocolate cupcake.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mother's Day: A Short Diary

Sunday May 8th, 2011 (Mother's Day)
2am-ish:  Violet woke up crying in a way that said she was scared of something.  Both my husband and I tried to take her back to bed, but were met with more fear.  So, we brought her back to our bed.  She snuggled in with me in my awesome pregnancy pillow and we fell asleep.

7am: I woke up in the most perfect picture of motherhood.  I had my right arm around my beautiful todder, and our foreheads were touching.  My left hand was on my belly, over my unborn child who shifted with us as we all woke up together.  I wish I had a photo of this, but the image is so clear in my mind.  I said to my husband, "This is what it is to be a mom."

Wednesday May 11th, 2011
2am:  We hear crying from Violet's room, so my husband goes in to check on her.  I hear him say, "Oh no!" and take her to the bathroom.  Then he calls to me and asks that I change her sheets.  She had thrown up in her sleep.  She threw up again in the bathroom (on her daddy of course, not in the toilet or sink).  When we brought her back to her room, she just wanted me to hold her.  The massage I had gotten the day before as a Mother's Day present faded away as I sat in the position most comfortable to her and least comfortable to me.   She threw up on me, then after I had to change my shirt I put a towel over my chest and got in the rocking chair with her.  It was clear she was not interested in getting back in her bed or leaving me for a second.  I spent the rest of the night in the rocking chair with my darling on my chest sleeping, but waking every half hour or so to moan and then throw up.  Luckily, it was in that order and I was able to catch it/shield myself in time.

Noon-ish:  The doctor has told us not to give fluids until she stops vomitting and she is begging for fluids.  She refuses to be not touching me, specifically enjoying being on my chest.  As a result, I can't drink or eat anything except if I sneak away for a minute to hide in the bathroom.  She is exhausted and is getting no calories, so she sleeps in tiny cat naps on me and throws up periodically.
This is what motherhood really looks like.

Thursday May 12th, 2011
10am:  We finally go to the doctor's office because it's been over 24 hours and she can't even keep small sips of water/tea/coconut water down.  When we were getting ready, I set her on my bed so she could still see me since she refuses to let me out of her sight.  She slept in her own bed last night, but as soon as she woke up it was back to the lap.  While I have my back turned to get clothes out of my dresser, I hear, "wa wa!"  I turn around to see she is chugging out of the water bottle I keep next to my bed.  She throws up on herself on the way to the office.  The doctor suggests a popsicle, which Violet has never had before, and she loves it.  The puke on the car ride over turns out to be her last.

8pm:  She's asleep.  We have been giving her 5ccs of Pedialyte at a time through a syringe (by mouth) and she isn't throwing up at all.  She nibbles a bit at some food.

Friday May 13th, 2011
8am:  I drop my husband off at the airport for his two weeks at work thinking that we are out of the woods and she will start eating and feel fine now.  She ate a lot of oatmeal this morning, as well as some of Daddy's cereal.  She's fine, finally.

10am:  She falls asleep for a very early nap, but of course she's tired.

11am:  She wouldn't stay asleep for more than a few minutes, so I get in her toddler bed with her.  She wakes up at 11 and starts moaning.  I think she is going to puke on me, so I grab a towel.  Instead, I hear an erruption in her pants.  I change her diaper and it's horrific and totally liquid.  The virus has moved south.

8pm:  She spent the rest of the day in good spirits, but with explosive diarrhea.  After that first diaper incident, she tells me first and goes in the toilet.  She is drinking a lot of water, but she's losing a LOT of water.  It's unbelievable that someone so small can poop so much.  She's not very interested in eating.

Saturday and Sunday
A blur of trips to the bathroom.  On Sunday she still wasn't eating much, but she was drinking soy milk and at least getting some nutrients with her fluids.  I try again and again to mix acidophilous with yogurt or apple sauce and she turns it down.  Finally she began eating some yogurt, then I started making her her usual morning drink which is a container of yogurt and about a cup of soy milk mixed together in a straw cup.  It's like a smoothie but without all the fruit.

Monday May 16th, 2011
11:30pm: I put her down for a nap but she cried, so I checked on her.  She said she had to poop and I prepared sadly for more explosions.  Instead, she pooped a solid turd.  Never have I been so happy to see a turd!  She was eating and drinking well today, and I had given her soy yogurt mixed with soy milk to help the cultures in her gut replenish.