Saturday, December 31, 2011

Trash Collector

Without going into too many specifics about my daughter, who is 9, I want to talk about the trash she couldn't deal with in her room. We cleaned out 5 kitchen-size bags of trash from her room. This included cheap broken toys (knick-knacks given in goodie bags at school holiday parties); wrappers upon wrappers; lollipop sticks; bits of paper; old school papers; old school folders and notebooks; plastic accessories for Littlest Pet Shop (we considered these trash); broken hair clips and headbands; a couple books with bindings broken so they fell apart; broken cheap tea set pieces, broken pencils and bits of crayons; broken costume jewelry; used up sticker books, coloring books, and drawing pads; tissues and napkins... That is all I can think of and really, isn't that enough? It seemed she couldn't get past all this trash. It was too overwhelming. Will thought maybe she had too many toys. I kept arguing that she only has three categories of toys in her room: Barbie, American Girl and Littlest Pet Shop; and they were organized in 4 clear plastic bins. No matter how specific we were with telling her to clean, she just couldn't do it on her own.

After 4 days of her "cleaning" her room, she really hadn't gotten anywhere, so Will and I went in there and dumped out all her desk drawers and toy bins to help her reorganize everything. That's when we realized there was trash in everything. We went through the little plastic crap that comes with every toy she receives and threw out some of it. I mean, it was just spread throughout the room, in every drawer, under her bed. There was no way she needed all of it. So, in that respect, Will got what he wanted in lessening the toys. We kept a few small accessories for Barbie and all her clothes and shoes for Barbie and the same for her American Girl doll.

How did the trash build up, though? Is she a hoarder? I don't think so, but I do think she has a difficult time separating what is trash and what is not. Part of this is the junk that kids are always accumulating. I'm talking about the crap made in China or India or Indonesia that serves no real purpose other than 5 minutes of entertainment before it becomes clutter. It's the stuff made from our water bottles. Did you know that all our water bottles are sold to China and then become the plastic toys our kids want? And we buy it! The culture of crap and clutter is hurting our kids' ability to place appropriate value on objects. Either kids are way too attached to all of it, or they don't realize what has real value (a $100 doll) and what doesn't ($5 small plastic toy).

At this point, our daughter's room is clean. It's been vacuumed and all the toys she really does play with are put in their correct bins. I blame myself mostly for the state of her room prior to cleaning it. In some ways I've been a lazy parent. I haven't taught her how to clear clutter from her backpack regularly and that clutter just spread throughout her room. Hence, I haven't taught her how to clear clutter regularly from her room. I told her I wouldn't be a lazy parent any longer and she would have to expect me to be on top of her about her room. Truthfully, she was relieved to hear that. As her father said, she'd created a prison of stuff and she needed to be freed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Rest and Reading

I became sick with a cold the night before Christmas Eve. Thank goodness I had done all my cooking and baking that day, because the next day not only did I feel awful, but I was coughing and sneezing and runny-nosed. It's terrible to cook in that condition because every time you have to stop and blow your nose you have to wash or disinfect your hands and my fingers are dry and chapped enough. G has a tradition of being sick on Christmas, though last year was the only year she wasn't. She started the virus, which resulted in a doctor's visit and a negative strep test, and gave it to me and Will. S has a strong immune system and never got sick, the lucky girl. I was optimistic that I would get through with just a minor sore throat, but I got/have a full-blown sinus-focused cold. Even if other members of my family have a cold with sore throat or cough, my colds settle in my sinuses. Someone told me it must be awful to be sick for Christmas break, but I completely disagree. I'm glad it's over break rather than during a time when I need to go to work. I don't take off for colds and I hate being stuffy at work. I don't get the luxury of sitting and blowing my nose all day. I end up having a sinus pressure headache because I end up sniffling more. Six days later I'm still taking Mucinex-D around the clock and feeling weak and blah. That may be a good sign because the day before G felt all better she had a fever and felt weak and achy. This may be the final hurrah for my body to kill this virus.

I have thoroughly enjoyed my break by resting, resting, resting. I watched three seasons of Nip/Tuck (fast-forwarding through parts I didn't care for such as gore or sappy montages). I've done a load of laundry each day and kept up on dishes. I took the girls to visit my mom and sister and play a board game. I typed some hand-written recipes to put in the new binder my mom gave me for Christmas. And it's been really nice to not feel stressed or wiped out at the end of the day, which has resulted in a happier home and more quality time with my husband. The kids seem to feel the same way. I'm also getting some reading done. My sister gave me Queen Bees and Wannabes. I think it'll help me with the coming teenage years with my daughters. It's fitting because I gave S the American Girl books The Care and Keeping of You and The Care and Keeping of Your Emotions. She has already read them both and told me that when I tried to explain puberty to her it sounded scary, but now she's looking forward to it. My daughter actually wants to develop breasts and get her period. When I was a kid I wanted nothing to do with any of it. Well, I guess I was a little excited to be developing, but I was scared they'd get too big. What a waste of worrying, ha! Those who know me get that one, right? As for my period, no thank you. Who wants to think about that when you're busy playing house, climbing trees, swimming in the summer, sledding in the winter. I'm glad S is feeling happy about it though. So now she's got books to help her feel normal and give her ways to deal when she doesn't and so do I.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

December 17

Once we get to the 15th of December Christmas starts becoming very real! Our neighborhood is lit with colorful lights, I play Christmas music on the way home from school, and it's coming down to the wire for ordering online gifts. While we still need a few gifts for family members and neighbors and friends, I've done pretty well at getting things ahead of time. I'm slightly antsy about my recent Amazon order even though the site makes it easy by offering free shipping and letting you know if it'll get to you by Christmas.... the 24th as the latest delivery date is cutting it close! Probably we'll get it much earlier as they give you a large window of possible delivery dates. The kids are going to be VERY spoiled this year, as in all years really! It pays to be the only two grandkids on both sides of the family with 2 sets of grandparents and many aunts and uncles, including the adopted kind.

This year we kept it pretty minimal in decorating the house. I've been very busy at work and haven't had great energy levels, so we only got out enough to make it festive. In our living room, which is the entrance to the house and where the girls use the computer for games and movies, we put lights around the entrance to the dining room and around the banister. We decorated the top of the piano with a mini-tree; our angel tree-topper sits next to it; and beside that there is the Little People Nativity. Our four stockings hang from the top of the bookshelf and our antique elves sit up top. In the basement, where Will and I watch TV we put a table-top tree. I guess it's about 4 foot. We only got out the girl's ornaments which are plenty to decorate the small tree. A colorful star and color lights in addition to the prelit white lights of the tree make it very cheerful. I love sitting by the glow of a Christmas tree in the evening.

Santa will be visiting us at my parent's house this year. Last year S was in the Christmas pageant at our parish, but only 2nd graders are involved, so we'll be back there next year for G. Both sides of the family came to Christmas eve mass last year and had dinner at our house. This year, we'll be going to my parents, attending mass at their church, and staying the night. After the kids go to bed the adults exchange gifts. This is a tradition we started when I was a kid. After friends had left, my sister and brother and I would exchange our gifts for one another. After we had S, this tradition grew and the exchange extended to our boyfriends, now our spouses, and now my brother's girlfriend, who is the best gift-giver! With living in NC for a few years, we took turn traveling for Christmas, but when we came up to MD, we continued the Christmas eve gift exchange. Then Will's parents get us for Christmas day and dinner. It's a whirlwind of presents for everyone. The kids get Santa gifts in the morning, then gifts from grandparents and aunts and uncles, which sometimes starts Christmas eve since Christmas day will be filled with so many already. This year Santa will be leaving a couple gifts under our tree at home, too. One, because it's too large to travel, and the other to be fair. The magic is still going for G and S is dealing with knowing the truth and still keeping up the joy and magic of the holiday. She's been good about keeping the secret, but she'd like to find a classmate in the same boat as her. The problem is even if a friend does know what she knows, they've also been told never to tell any other kids, so they all just lie to each other telling each other they believe in Santa. It's pretty hilarious.

I doubt I'll blog again before Christmas, so Happy Holidays!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Playing Favorites

Ever since I heard an NPR interview with Dr. Libby I've wanted to read her book titled The Favorite Child. The part of the interview that stuck with me is when she explained why a child is a favorite and how the favorite child can change in a family. She said that a favorite child is a child that makes the parent feel good. When a child's behavior changes, so can the feeling of favoritism. I certainly can't deny that when I'm going through a difficult time with one of my children I feel more favoritism toward the one who is not giving me a difficult time. Obviously, children (and people, for that matter) change all the time. One month G is super helpful with cleaning and is great at bedtime and doing her homework and the next month she's throwing fits about homework, crying that she needs help, refuses to clean her room, and gets out of bed night after night after being tucked in. Guess what phase we're in right now. One month S has a good attitude and the next she's spitting daggers and fire out her mouth at me--not a "feel good" phase. For a while the baby (toddler/preschool years) was the one who made me feel good because she was so snugly and sweet and cute. But on the other hand, she woke me up in the middle of the night with a wet bed or a nightmare 2-3 nights a week. So, really, my feel good feelings changed, and still change, depending on the time of day or night I'm interacting with my kids. Do you know how difficult it is to hug someone with whom you're angry and frustrated? It never fails, as soon as I show my true feelings and the kids can see I'm upset, they grab me for a hug. They try to hug the anger out of me! At first it just makes me angrier, but almost as quickly I laugh inside at their innocence in their attempt to disarm me. I'm able to speak to them reasonably and more calmly, but I don't show them how mushy they've made me inside. Nothing makes my heart swell with pride than when my kids are getting along with each other and interacting in a friendly, loving manner. At that moment, they're equally my favorites.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Confessions of a Guitly Mother

Here it is: I don't like to cook/bake with my children, most of the time. Now in the summer I'm with them a whole lot more and our pace is much more relaxed, so I do include them in baking somewhat regularly. Well, by them I mean G. For whatever reason we get along easily in the kitchen. She and I are more similar, especially in our... "neatness" abilities. S's style is a more hands-on-get-your-hands-dirty style and it just doesn't jive with me. It's more than the mess that cooking with kids makes. I prefer to do it alone to BE alone. My alone time is limited and even though my family is around me, cooking/baking is something I enjoy doing by myself. The reason I feel guilty about it is I know they are interested and I do like to include them in the experience by calling them into the kitchen throughout the process to see the vegetables before, during and after cooking. I don't want the food on their plates to be a mystery to them. I want them to appreciate the work that goes into preparing a delicious meal. My girls actually play computer games where they follow recipes and bake and cook things. Shouldn't I be letting them do the real thing?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Oh, I have a blog

Yeah, blogging is an afterthought. What can I say, two weeks back at school and I'm getting up early, going to bed early... my brain needs lots of extra rest. Something new I've experienced this year is that learning new names has affected my recalling names of students I had last year in a few situations. However, the brain fatigue isn't as bad this fall as it was last fall. I felt so brain dead at the end of each day last year during the first weeks of school because I was planning so much and learning so much. This year I'm reusing most lesson plans. I only have one class that I'm making up as I go. Shhhh... don't tell them! Truthfully, I have lots of ideas and plans for them, it's just that it's the first year I'm teaching the class with all my own lesson plans and not the previous teacher's schedule. While I'm reusing plans in other classes, I'm finding I'm better at teaching them because I've learned where students get confused from past classes, so I can be more concise and more clear in my delivery of instruction.

Cheers to all the teachers out there back at it this school year. I'm extremely grateful to be working and I love teaching. I'm happy to be at the school I am, and have the students I have. My own kids are also glad to be back at school, though getting up early isn't their cup o' tea either!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

You know what I mean

Hurricane Irene has been raining down on us since late this morning. We had plenty of time to let the kids run around outside and clear off the front porch before the weather turned nasty. We've been just hanging out, watching movie, baking chocolate cookies and pizza and having a grand 'ole time because friends from the coast up north evacuated to our place. We may lose power, but it shouldn't be for an obscene amount of time as it will be in other places and we don't have a big risk of flooding. We have a sump pump in the basement, so we're all good. Except for the fact that Come on, Irene is stuck in my head! Good thing it's a pretty good song.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


 I used Arrowhead Mill's Gluten Free All-purpose Baking Mix today to make Basic Bread, Blueberry muffins and Raspberry/Blueberry Pancakes. The bread recipe came from the back of the box. I used Egg-replacer and it was a very dense small loaf of bread made in a loaf pan. It was very crumbly, so I did as the box suggested and sliced it as soon as it cooled and froze the slices to put in the toaster later. I kept some fresh to have with dinner this evening which was just a thrown-together soup of carrots, potatoes, onion and rice noodles. G actually liked the homemade bread. The blueberry muffins turned out too salty. The mix already has sea salt in it, but I still added the 1/8 tsp of salt called for in the recipe from babycakes. I won't do that, again. The muffins were also quite crumbly. I was glad I used liners in the pan. The pancakes were from Eat, Drink and Be Vegan cook book and incorporate some corn flour. I only had one pancake because it broke when I put it on the cooling rack and it was DELICIOUS with maple syrup. I froze the rest to heat up in the oven or toaster. I'm going to make waffles to freeze as well. I also have Bob's Redmill baking flour to try and then I have Amaranth and Garbanzo bean flour to mix 60/30 to use for baking. I love this experimenting. It reminds me of when I first started baking vegan... 5 years ago!

Friday, August 19, 2011

So far, so good

We did a trip to Whole Foods and got gluten free baking mixes, garbanzo bean flour, amaranth flour, quinoa pasta, rice noodles, bread and ingredients to make my own granola bars at home. The kids are aware that I'm saying "No" to dyes and not eating gluten. It's not that big of a change for them, yet. But we're home and they can have fresh fruits and vegetables and are satisfied with the snacks I've been giving them. G does not like the gluten free bread, but S does. It's very thick, almost like pound cake. I also like it, but I want to get into the habit of making our own gluten-free bread in the near future. I'm going to have to do more baking at home to make snacks that are easy to pack for school. The girls get a morning snack at school and they'll need snack for extended care after school. I also like to freeze waffles and pancakes that can be put into the toaster for breakfast. It's more work for me, but in the end it'll be enjoyable for us to have the tasty food and it'll be more cost-efficient.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Two blogs

From now on I will be posting recipes (aka Food Blogs) and discussing my own diet adventures at Drink Your Salad. I will continue blogging here about family, family food, work and other miscellaneous stuff. If you're reading one blog and are confused, maybe I mentioned something in the other blog that will clarify. I know what I'm talking about, but if you don't, just ask me in a comment! Thanks for reading!!!

Here we go again...

I'm making more changes to my family's diet. Now, nothing has been diagnosed. I'm due for a blood test this week and then it'll be 2 more weeks before I get the results and the kids are seeing our new Integrative Medicine doctor soon. I've been doing a lot of research into a gluten-free diet. I've known for a while that it was a good possibility I would make this switch for my youngest daughter, but more recently I've realized it's something my other daughter AND I need as well. I don't know why my family has these food intolerances and we're not 100% sure what they all are.

For instance, S had an allergic reaction while we were on vacation after eating sausage, eggs and pancakes. She's never had a problem with eggs or the ingredients in the pancakes, so we immediately thought it was the spices in the sausage. She came to us and said she didn't feel well in her stomach and her chest hurt. I noticed right away her cheeks were swollen, red and puffy, as were her lips. After a few minutes, her lips turned purple. There was a time a while ago when she was 5 that this happened and we thought she had croup and took her to the ER. It was too long ago to remember what she'd eaten and we didn't think it was an allergic reaction at the time, but maybe reflux. She seemed to be having reflux at the same time as this allergic reaction, so we gave her a Benadryl and a Pepcid. After 15 minutes her breathing was less labored and her swelling had gone down. She still felt shaky and nauseous for about a half hour and then threw up. After that she felt fully recovered. Let me tell you, that was scary. She's had this type of reaction (minus the severity of the throat closing) to strawberries, cinnamon and nutmeg, and crabs. We don't know if it was the crabs, but she's been fine with shrimp since then--even with Old Bay seasoning on them, which we thought might have been the cause of the reaction. The crab reaction was the longest lasting because she had swollen, puffy cheeks for 4 days (even with Benadryl), but didn't have any problems with her throat. This last reaction really scared us and Will mentioned we should have epipens in case this happens more severely. I'll be discussing all of this with our new doctor, of course.

G is obviously sensitive to artificial dyes, namely Yellow #5. All through kindergarten she had trouble not talking at times and would have to have time outs at least once a week because of it. She certainly wasn't the most ADHD kid in her class, but she definitely has the tendency to be that way. Until now, I just chalked up her climbing, moving, running, going all around the house, antsyness at the table, incessant talking, tantrums, whinyness, impulsiveness and general lack of control to her young age. Many, if not all, of those behaviors are typical for a 1-4 year old and ADHD isn't really diagnosed at such a young age. Truthfully, I do not consider her as having attention deficit. She can play with other kids in a very focused imagination-rich game for hours. She can play on the computer for hours, too. Usually what stops her is her hunger. She does have difficulty sitting still when coloring, eating, watching TV, doing homework, etc. She's hyperactive and impulsive, which in itself is a type of disorder. If she has cereal or candy with dye in it, within the hour she will talk non-stop. She makes her voice funny and she doesn't even care what she's talking or who is listening or responding. She just keeps talking. Then it ends in whining, crying and often a tantrum which involves hanging on me, hitting her sister and/or needing to be isolated from people. She seems to crave bread items and sugar, especially chocolate sweets. My goal with her is to have a G.F. vegan, sugar-free diet. And I'm going to do it for me AND S as well. Now that's going to be difficult in many situations.

No more fast food (we only visit Chik-fil-a or Arby's once a month, usually when traveling or extremely busy). No more sugary, store-bought cereals and granola bars. Fortunately G LOVES Larabars and I've found very easy granola bar recipes that S is sure to like. Anything with coconut and chocolate in it is bound to be a success in this house. Probably Will is going to chow down on them, too. Hummus and veggies are one of our favorites. We all like beans and veggies cooked in chili and soup or with G.F. grains or rice noodles. I can bake with maple syrup and agave. The biggest challenge will be in reading more labels and finding ways to have GF products without spending more on food.

Make home-made cereals, snacks and dinners that can be eaten as left overs.
Plan ahead, have menus for each week and make bulk recipes on the weekend
to freeze or have through the week.

BTW, there are an abundance of bloggers out there with great GF recipes and even some who are GF and vegan! I'll be adding their sites to my blogroll.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Your brother might have broken his neck

I was happy I'd come back from the beach a little earlier than my parents so I could get my shower and clear out of our shared bathroom. I was just finishing up my hair when my mom knocked on the door and asked if she could get in there in a minute. Sure, I replied. Then she said she had to get over to my brother at the hospital. My stomach dropped, What happened?! She responded very calmly, Oh, he might have broken his neck.

What the?!

Turns out that right after my sister and I left the beach, our brother had a bad wipe out boogie boarding and the lifeguards were alerted. He was taken by ambulance on a board to the hospital which was just behind where we were at the beach. Ahead of him at the emergency room were three other people in swimsuits with neckbraces, apparently the injury of the day. Also, there were some dehydrated kids. After x-rays, my bro was diagnosed as having strained his neck muscles. Thank God. Another soul was not as fortunate and had to be transfered to a mainland hospital for his broken neck. What a vacation.

Monday, August 8, 2011

This Is Such A Wonderful Day!

NPR exposed me and my husband to My Morning Jacket and we bought their album, Circuital recently. We haven't been able to stop listening to the album! I play it whenever I drive and it's totally appropriate to play around children. This song is so beautiful. It comes to mind thinking about G at the pool yesterday. We arrived at our beach house Saturday and went to the beach Sunday. G was not happy at the beach after she got covered in sand. We rinsed her off in the outdoor shower at the house and went to our development's pool. She was more than thrilled. She put her hands together in a prayer formation and pointed them towards the water while standing on the stairs and jumped up and down exclaiming, "This is such a wonderful day! This is such a wonderful vacation!" to no one in particular. Of course a couple hours later she was throwing a fit in the shower about washing her hair. Still, I will hold onto the memory of the glee at the pool and try to suppress the screaming banshee she so often becomes.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Have your cake and blog, too

I'm sitting here to give my youngest daughter the comfort that I am near. I should have known better than to put on the movie I did tonight. G has been having end-of-life issues and is super interested, yet scared by the concept of spirits, or ghosts. Same here! This evening's kid movie included a pirate ghost. So now that G is trying to go to sleep she sees "pictures of the ghost" in her mind. Same thing happens to me with scary movies, which is precisely why I don't watch them...anymore. Anyway, I'm sitting here eating a slice of pound cake with chocolate icing. It's not vegan friendly and it's not homemade. It is, however, very tasty.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cleaning House

We're already feeling the closeness of the coming school year. Our vacation is the second week of August, so we want to be in the mindset of being ready for school when we return. Something we've been needing to do this summer is go through the kids' toys. They've already cleaned their rooms and we've gone through the toys in the basement to decide what to keep and what to donate. We have two kitchen sized trash bags to donate. It's not that much, but enough to make a difference in the clutter. I always have the kids help with choosing things to donate, but occasionally Will and I just grab some things we know they won't miss and throw them in the bag. It's just one or two things. The girls have been donating toys forever, so they're very cooperative. Sometimes they surprise me with how willing they are to put something in the donate bag. If tears become a factor I don't push it and let them keep the item. I don't want to get rid of their favorite toys. I want them to have the things they like to play with, I just don't want things around getting broken and abused. I'd much rather something go to Goodwill intact so another kid can take it home than have to throw away broken toys. Going through toys, putting labels on bins or bags with the kids makes me feel really good about teaching them organizational skills. They are growing up in a fairly neat and organized house, so I think we're setting a good example. S tells me she loves having a clean room. Her favorite part, the only part she likes, really, is the "decorating" part when she's finished putting things away and she can arrange her desk, dresser and display shelves. She also likes hanging things on her walls like crafts she's done or magazine pictures of American Girl stuff she wants. I told her I'd like her room if I were an 8 year old girl. She does a nice job making it pretty, but not without voicing how much she hates cleaning!

G is very unpredictable when it comes to cleaning. She likes to organize and seems to have a natural ability to do so. She started putting away toys at a very young age without my asking. It's not uncommon for the second child to do things like that because they learn from watching the older child, but she seemed to LIKE putting things away. Maybe she's learned to throw fits from her older sister, because sometimes when she has to clean her room she throws one. Other times she just gets it done without an argument. She also likes having a clean room and making her bed. Her downfall is "UNDER THE BED" dun dun dun! It gets to be a MESS under there of dirty clothes, books, hair ties, and trash. How do children have so much paper trash in their rooms? Soon, we'll be lofting G's bed. She has a very tiny room. Very tiny. Lofting the bed will be a huge help in giving her space. She'll get a desk under her bed. I think she'll love having the desk to use to draw and write in her room. And she won't have anywhere to push all that clutter when she doesn't feel like picking it up.

The work done this weekend will go a long way to making our home a more pleasant space.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The battle

The scene: A seemingly peaceful three bedroom row house.
The conflict: Parents want rooms clean; Children don't.
The threat: Parents will take away toys.
The standoff: Youngest child refuses to clean, makes room even more messy (just in case parents thought that wasn't possible) and throws fits about everything. Child constantly whines about being hungry though she has been adequately fed and watered.
The Compromise: Mother sits on bed and directs cleaning.

Any of this familiar?

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I went to bed age 29 yesterday and woke up age 30. I was born at 2:54 am, so my birthday started early. We surprised my daughter, G, who got up before all of us and was at the computer. She didn't know it was her birthday! hehe Her Dad and I gave her our two presents this morning: a pink Disney princess basket and bell for her new/used red boy bike and a purple salon chair for her American Girl dolls. Six years ago on my 24th birthday I gave birth to my premature little baby and now she's a new first grader who is too rambuctious for her own good!
G wanted to make pancakes for breakfast, so we did. Over breakfast, my girls were both saying they were glad to have their birthdays when they do. G asked S why she liked having her birthday in December because you can't go outside. Well, guess what? It's too hot to go outside today! No one cares, they're too busy playing and watching Disney episodes on Netflix.
Three cheers for 30!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Food Blog: Tomato Sauce Makes It All Good

I learned this tip from one of Natalia Rose's books. It's so true! Yesterday I made a "lasagna" type dish, otherwise called a casserole. I told my kids to think of it as noodle-less lasagna. They ate it pretty well, with the help of buttered toast and the promise of Lindeman's Italian Ice afterwards.

Lauren's Cabbage Lasagna:
Precooked Chopped Head of Cabbage
2 Yellow squash
Handful of Baby Spinach
1/4 cup diced Onion
1 Jar of Tomato Sauce

Basically just layer to your heart's desire in a Pyrex baking dish. I've done this with precooked Polenta as well in place of noodles. This time I put a layer of yellow squash, onion, spinach, sauce. Then cabbage followed by more onion and sauce and then another layer of squash topped off with sauce. I used a little pepper and dry basil leaves to enhance the flavors. I quite enjoyed it!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Drink Your Salad

I started a new blog to focus on EATING (and drinking). Everyone needs to eat, so go check it out.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Food Blog Summer 2011: Mexican Lasagna

Mexican Lasagna is also called Tortilla Pie. See that goo there? It's vegan "cheese" sauce. I got the idea from It's VERY simple: a tablespoon or two of hummus, equal amount nutritional yeast and then water it down to be the consistency you like. It works well in this recipe because it helps hold the lasagna together. You can also see the shredded Daiya Pepper jack Style.
 This is an inside layer.
 Do you ever work at a crowded counter like this? Sometimes I just have to get dinner in the oven and then I can do dishes while it cooks. Plus, I have very limited counter space in this kitchen. But, even when I had a lot more counter space in my last house, I tended to clutter it up quickly. I prefer having a smaller space because it pushes us to keep it cleaner.

So here's what goes into this recipe:
 Three tortillas with the following between each layer: Refried beans, black beans and kidney beans (canned and drained or precooked), Salsa (I used both Garden and Black bean and Corn), Rotel canned Tomatoes and Green chilies, Cheese Sauce, Shredded Daiya.
On the very top I only put a light layer of refried beans and the last of the Rotel tomatoes with the liquid from the can to keep the tortillas soft while baking. I also put a little shredded cheese.

 This recipe keeps the tortilla nice and soft and it's very much like a traditional lasagna because it's so gooey. It had a nice spice to it as well without adding any extra seasonings... just what was already in the salsa and tomatoes. That makes it so easy!
Tip: If you don't have tortillas that fit perfectly into a pie dish like I did,
you can use multiple smaller tortillas for each layer.
I've done that before and I've used corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
Both work great.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh where, oh where has my summer gone?

For starters, I took a class on teaching smart kids with learning difficulties. It's for re-certification and was really informative and enjoyable--one of my favorite combinations of adjectives! Now, I have "homework" to do to complete the course. Also, I've been on my kids about getting their summer homework completed this month. What else have I been doing... I've been keeping up with my own lesson planning for my new courses I'm teaching this coming school year; and I've been going through some "new" series or just new seasons of my favorite shows through Netflix; and reading for enjoyment; and going to the gym; and playing with my kids--teaching them to ride bikes (G can ride a two wheeler!) and juicing and cooking and baking and.... yeah, keeping busy. Next up on my busy summer-to-do-list: painting some decorative wall treatments with some students at my school! I was out there today and my classroom is emptied of everything to re-wax the floors. So then there's all that work of putting it back together before the start of the school year. Still, I'm loving the weather and the sun and extra daylight hours and spending more time with my family. Really, that's what summer is for.

Thursday, June 23, 2011


Oh these burgers I had were so good! The recipe is from Crazy Sexy Diet (CSD) by Kris Carr and they have black beans and rice and sweet potatoes and were just delicious on sprouted grain bread. So, so good.

Also! I am on day two of the CSD 21 Day Cleanse. I'm not being super strict with myself. I'm avoiding gluten as much as possible and, of course, staying vegetarian. But, I'm allowing myself some homemade vegan desserts. I'm keeping a written food journal and just being aware of portions and snacking. I'm using the Cleanse outline in CSD to stay motivated and improve my wellness routine in general, which is really what the book is about. I'm also using tips from Natalia Rose's Detox for Women. Of course I want to feel great, but I am focused on losing weight. The donuts, the bagels, the late night snacking through the winter all lead to my not fitting into my spring clothes! Yeah, my boobs are a little bigger, but I want to fit into my shorts, dammit! I'll sacrifice a little boob for that.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Second Day of Summer Food Blog

Even though yesterday was officially the first day of summer, I began my summer break over a week ago, so my summer food blogs have begun. I don't have pictures today, but I have some great links. The first thing I made today was Vegan Garlic Scape Pesto! I made three small batches (I have a small food processor) and divided it into two tablespoon size servings. I put each serving into a small baggie and then put all the baggies into a gallon size freezer bag and then into the freezer. I made a bag each for my mom and my sister with four servings each. One serving is enough for at least 1/2 lb of pasta or more.

I had gotten scapes from my organic CSA and didn't know what they were called. After searching for garlic rope, garlic string, garlic onion, green garlic, I finally found GARLIC SCAPES and how to use them. I came across this post with a recipe that uses walnuts for pesto. I knew I wanted to veganize it, but searched the internet sure someone else had done it already. This great site had a wonderful recipe. Only, I didn't have any sesame seeds, so I couldn't follow it exactly. I went with my first instinct and just threw in some nutritional yeast with walnuts and 2-3 scapes per batch. I didn't measure anything, just took note of the size of my food processor. The first batch was super garlicky, so I toned it down for the next batches. Also, I used Angela Liddon's suggestion and threw in some fresh spinach (also from my CSA). SO YUMMY! And that's EASY VEGAN GARLIC SCAPE PESTO!

Next, I still had some scapes left, so I made an easy vegan bean dip. You can find recipe's galore for bean dips and I've followed some precisely, but find it easier to just throw together what I've got. I used two small scapes (BTW--I found it easy to use kitchen shears to snip the scapes into quarter-inch pieces) and a can of drained and rinsed garbonzo beans. I also added salt and pepper, fresh spinach and a little oil. Not too strong, but the garlic taste is robust! Just throw any kind of white bean, like great northern beans or chick peas, into the food processor with herbs and oil and it's EASY WHITE BEAN DIP! You don't even have to cut up garlic or have scapes on hand. Just sprinkle in some garlic powder for a super quick and easy option.

So, then I took a little rest because Will had brought me Q'doba. It was my first time having a vegetarian bowl from them, and it was good. However, I think I still rate Chipotle's veggie bowl higher. The guacamole at Chipotle is the best.

After the rest, I was ready to whip up something else. But what? S had told me earlier she had a chocolate craving, so I looked in my box and found a vegan chocolate cake recipe my mom had copied from somewhere and given me. You just whisk together 1.5 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3T cocoa powder, 1tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp salt. Then you continue to whisk in 1/4 cup +2T oil, 1tsp vanilla, 1T vinegar and 1 cup of water. Could not be any easier. I didn't have vanilla extract, so I substituted almond extract. Then you pour the batter into a greased 8x8 inch pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. So then I had the cake cooling and wanted to make a great icing for it. I started with 1/4 cup of vegan butter, 1.5 cups confectioners sugar, 1/4 cup water and blended. It was very thin. So then I got the great idea to add sunflower seed butter. I just stirred in about 1/4 cup and it was the perfect consistency for icing. At this time I haven't iced the cake yet because it's cooling.

I'm going to throw together some pesto pasta for dinner for the girls and I'll probably have some after my workout this evening.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Food Blog Summer 2011: Purple Blondies

Today is our first official day of summer vacation and I've started a new reward system with my kids. They have to keep their rooms clean and do a good job helping around the house in general Monday-Friday and then on Friday they get to choose a prize to be given sometime the following week. They get the weekend off from their rooms--a total change from the school year routine where they had to clean rooms and put away clean clothes every weekend. We started the system last week, since it was an easy last week of school. S chose a simple trip to Rita's Italian Ice, which we'll do later today, and G chose to bake something with me.

We joined a CSA this year and got our first share last Tuesday, so I had two baked PURPLE sweet potatoes in the fridge and I wanted to do some kind of dessert with them. For whatever reason, G, who normally likes orange sweet potatoes, was adverse to eating the purple variety. She even struggled to try one bite! But, when I told her about my plan for dessert she was just so excited to bake that she didn't argue. I showed her the picture at this blog and explained the difference between a brownie and a blondie and she was game. I'll have to get the book from the library this summer and write down some more recipes to try.

Here are pictures from our adventures in baking Purple Blondies:

The picture of the pan is actually before baking. The batter is pretty thick, as you can see in the mixing bowl, and and it has be be spread out in the pay. After baking it doesn't look much different, just a little dryer. I didn't have the brown sugar the recipe calls for, so I just substituted white sugar. Also, I cut down on the spices to just use 1 tsp of pumpkin pie spice. My oldest is sensitive to spices and sometimes gets a rash from cinnamon and nutmeg. But a sweet potato dessert without spice is just wrong!

After having these for snack the kids and I give them 5 stars. The best part is they are my favorite color! (That and they're vegan.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

What I love

Students ask me if I like being an art teacher. I always reply, Yes, I do! It's the truth. I love working in an art room. While there are challenges and annoying, um, behavior issues to deal with, on the whole, teaching art is very fulfilling. I like working with high school students because they can problem solve and come up with ideas that I'd not thought of prior. I like being surrounded by partially finished works of art, wondering what is coming next. I don't like to ask too many questions unless students are having a problem or seem like they've hit a wall in creativity. I just observe the process. I observe art all the time. For instance, Flying Dog beer has some extremely creative labels on their various types of beer. Check them out. The beer is good, too. One of the many reasons I wanted to work in education is that it would keep ME educating myself. I continuously research for new ideas for projects and factual information for my art history class. I know a lot, but the knowledge can keep growing. I've realized that I'm missing doing the art myself. The only art I do these days is if I need to have a physical example for my students. Often I put together power points of pictures I find online, but sometimes only a real, in-the-works, example is best. This past week I made a high relief collage as well as a stained glass paper cut out. I've put a little tissue paper in the stained glass, working along side the students, and it's nice when I get to do that, but it's rare. I really love the tissue paper stained glass project. The students have done beautiful work and have taken pride in their work. I'll be visiting the National Gallery with students soon and I plan on bringing a small sketch book to copy what I see. What will I draw? Paintings? Sculptures? People visiting the gallery? Should I bring colored pencils or just graphite? Charcoal? So many possibilities. I'm looking forward to it greatly. I need to push myself to keep working on my craft. Next year I hope to teach a drawing class. I have some very talented students who want to draw using pencil, so that should be a very fun class. I'll need some great projects that'll really push them to do great work. I would like to take a small group of students to a museum next year, so that might be the class to go. It's time I start drawing again. Do what I love and what I'm best at doing. I'll not be going to school any time soon, so I might as well give myself assignments.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Portman isn't really a single mom

Huckabee commented on Natalie Portman's "single-mom pregnancy" and said his purpose was to bring focus to the fact that most single moms are struggling. The problem with the person he chose to comment about is she's not a single mom. She's pregnant and not married, but she's engaged. Even if she weren't engaged, but just "with" the baby's father she still wouldn't be a single mom. His focus on marriage is ridiculous and feminists are rightly upset about his insinuation that women cannot support a family alone. Granted, he is right in pointing out that many single-parent families are suffering and need help, but two-parent households are suffering, too. Also, why focus on the single mothers? The question Huckabee is not asking is where are the fathers? Conservatives put the blame on women, but men are not exempt from blame. Judgement of other's life choices really bothers me. Marriage is not the only situation in which children can be healthfully raised and an unhealthy marrige is never better for kids than no marriage. Let's get real here. I'm all for marriage, but it's not the end-all-be-all conservatives make it out to be.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Tie the Knot Already

In speaking with another mom at soccer today about being "ahead" of friends in terms of marriage and kids and then seeing on Facebook that a cousin of mine who is 21 is engaged, marrying young has been on my mind. Mark Regnerus wrote this article in 2009 in defense of marrying young. Mostly, I like where he's coming from.
"Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume." Right, go on... "The age at which a person marries never actually causes a divorce. Rather, a young age at marriage can be an indicator of an underlying immaturity and impatience with marital challenges -- the kind that many of us eventually figure out how to avoid or to solve without parting." Maybe. But, more likely a young marriage can be an indicator of an underlying MATurity and the ability to know what one wants and needs. I love this next part.
"Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you're fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life. "Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth," added Tennyson to his lines about springtime and love." You know the saying about the old dog and tricks. This is exactly the point... we learn better in youth. When I was engaged a friend told me her fear was that we'd grow apart since we were still forming ourselves. My reaction was that was the most ridiculous idea, but my response was simply that we'd grow together because we'd be together. Okay, here's where Regnerus veers off.
"There is wisdom in having an age gap between spouses. For women, age is (unfortunately) a debit, decreasing fertility. For men, age can be a credit, increasing their access to resources and improving their maturity, thus making them more attractive to women. We may all dislike this scenario, but we can't will it away." Regnerus says the average age a man marries is 28. He has no problem with that. It's women who wait until 28 he has a beef with. He'd rather see a twenty year old woman get married to that 28 year old man? He doesn't like that the average age difference between spouses is now less than 2 years. Well, guess what Regnerus. It's not women who have the problem in this scenario, it's the men who want to sow their oats. Same as it's always been. Why should a young woman have to marry someone who has been with way more people than she? That's nowhere near fair. Not that I want everyone to sleep around willy nilly before tying the not. No, I think partners should have many similarities and sex lives prior to marriage should be one of them. A 20 year old woman who has had maybe a couple or more partners is not a great match for a 28 year old man who has had a dozen or more.
But then Regnerus redeems himself.
"Say what you will about the benefits of cohabitation, it's a categorically less stable arrangement, far more prone to division than marriage." It's true. It's easier to leave when you have no further paper work to worry about. But also, the planning, preparation and commitment of having a wedding strengthens the bond between two people and makes for a more safe and secure partnership.
In the end Regnerus tells about a 23 year old woman who decided to get married though her friends, who became bridesmaids, initially balked. Those are the state of things. Getting married young is socially rebellious and I can't deny that I liked that aspect of it when I married at age 20. I was ready to "prove them all wrong!" Now, though, I think the stronger reason I wanted to get married was to be happy. I loved Will and I wanted to be with him. I wanted to see who we would turn out to be together. It's not been easy and it's not been a smooth ride. What would be the fun if it were? It has been life changing and I wouldn't want to change anything.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time flies

Apparently the earth is spinning faster or will spin faster sooner than later. Will we feel this quickening of time? Time is such an interesting concept. It's a difficult, intangible thing for young children to understand. G is always trying to figure out if something is a long time or not a long time and what amount of time is longer than another amount of time. Car rides seem to be a good starting point for comparison and time spent in the car feels longer than time spent elsewhere, such as playing on the computer. We all experience time going by faster when we're busy or absorbed in doing something. I once read an article that talked about slowing down time by changing activities and habits drastically whenever life becomes routine. I've always loved routine. At the same time, though, I do like doing new things. Each year with growing children gives rise to new routines. But maybe our changes aren't enough to slow time. The time between birthdays seems much shorter now for me. I have been looking forward to my next birthday for years because I always thought that age would make me grown--REALLY grown, but now that it is less than six months away I am not thrilled to be leaving my.... twenties! That's right, I'm almost 30. Will's 30th just wasn't that big of a deal. My mom made a cake, we had dinner and sang Happy Birthday with family. And then he was 30. That was that. Probably my birthday will pass with the same simpleness and lack of bravado, but that's how I like my life. Family is most important to me and it's not all my birthday anymore, it's G's, too. She'll be 6 and I'll be 30 and we'll be another year older. Before that happens, though, there are exciting events in the coming months: We're all in our first musical together! S will have her First Eucharist. G will be in her first dance recital and S in her second. Both will finish another year of school and summer--our favorite time--will be here and that means staying up late, running barefoot in the yard catching lightening bugs with neighbors while Will and I sit on the porch drinking Natty Bo and chatting with the other parents. There are always good times to be had. I hope they are the memories that are strongest for my girls and each time-out/grounding fades. For me, that's how it is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Diary

My 8 year old daughter just started her first diary! And it's a PRIVATE diary. So private that she threatened to punch her sister in the face should she ever read it. News flash: G can't read... yet. Guess S wanted to get a jump on keeping G out of her private life. Yes, of course I commented immediately when I heard S quietly, yet severely, say this to her sister. S! I said sternly. She apologized, but reiterated that her diary would be private. Her sister accepted and agreed. Then G asked me if I had any more notebooks for her to start a diary. I looked, but I took all extra notebooks to school, so I told her I'd bring her one later this week. That didn't stop her, she got some paper and got started on her diary. G's first entry (she's 5) was a treasure map. Except her entry wasn't very private because she showed it to me as soon as she finished.

S's diary is a pretty little journal that I never used except for four pages, so I ripped those out. I've also been journaling again. As I've said I never did "Dear Diary," but instead wrote, "Dear Journal." Now I just date the pages and include the day of the week. After S started her diary she called down to ask me how to spell broccoli. So, it's that kind of diary: boring food stuff. Just kidding! I love food blogs, S knows I put my own recipes on my blog and S loves food, so of course she'd write about food!

I started my first journal at age 10. I hope S keeps it up and I hope it provides an outlet that she needs for venting her frustrations and focusing on her hopes and dreams. It beats biting her own arm, anyway. She used to do that whenever she was frustrated and recently I've noticed she has stopped. She had stopped before, but started it again. Maybe this time, though, she won't need it. She certainly uses books to escape and I'm so grateful she enjoys reading and writing.

I'm sure G will follow in her footsteps as well. From infancy both girls looked at books on their own. Up until this past year G fell asleep looking at books. Early this school year she started keeping paper and pencils in her room and playing school or simply writing before bed. Usually she'd just write letters she knew, but then through school she learned new sight words and wrote those. That was really a precursor to journaling.

S had journals in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Free writing is very good for early education and for anyone's creative thinking, really. To take the initiative to write on her own makes me very proud. I hope when/if you read this one day, S, you won't mind my sharing these details of your life and you'll see how much I love you!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teacher Conduct

A while back I found a Baltimore City teacher's blog and actually called her school because she had listed her student's first names, the name of her school and her classroom number (which was the title of her blog). I left the website address with the secretary, who didn't really understand what a blog was, and after that day the blog was not updated again.

Recent news about Natalie Munroe prompted me to go through my own blog. What I found was some pictures in posts from my first year blogging. I left a few pics of my kids taken from behind but deleted any that showed our faces. I found one post that had my children's names rather than just their first initials and I cleaned that up. I also cleaned up a couple posts that were too negative and revealing and deleted, I think, four posts completely. My goal in having this blog is to share thoughts about myself and my life without negatively or inappropriately commenting on real people in my life. I could probably go and delete a few more posts that discuss my marriage, but those posts are not disparaging to my husband's character, or my own, and show the truth about the work marriage takes and the stress of raising kids.

I'd love to be like Heather Armstrong and show pictures. But I do not want that kind of public exposure. In fact, Ms. Armstrong coined the term "dooce," also the title of her blog, which is defined as being fired from one's job for one's blog. She sort of paved the path on that one. She also learned a valuable lesson and put it out there for other people to learn from.

Apparently Munroe wasn't familiar with this or just didn't care. In fact she is still supporting her right to blog as she did. I do think she has the right to blog as she wishes, but the school also has the right to, and should, terminate her employment. It is a teacher's responsibility to keep information about students confidential.
Here's what Munroe wrote in a recent post defending herself:
"But the fact remains that every year, more and more, students are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate. These are the students I was complaining about in my blog. The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with."

I do share stories from teaching with my husband and my parents and sister, but I keep specific facts, such as names, confidential. A teacher should not share negative or divulging information about his/her school, the administration, the students, the parents or anyone else involved. If you don't take pride in your work or work place, find another work place! As Jackie says, teaching is a vocation.

Venting is something we all need to do from time to time, but vent where appropriate. The best people to vent with about work are colleagues. This is especially important for teachers. I'm sure Munroe and other teachers had discussed the things she put on her blog. It's necessary for teachers to discuss students because it helps us to serve them better. For instance, if I'm having an issue with a student that I want to resolve, I'll ask other teachers who have taught that student. They can give advice such as whether or not it's helpful to contact parents, or methods for motivating the student, or just generally comfort me that I'm not alone in having the issue(s). That's the type of support teachers give one another. Outside of that and talking with one's spouse/partner/closest best friend and family, it's inappropriate to blab about students or complain about one's school. The fact that millions of Americans come home and complain about work does not make it okay to do so on a PUBLIC blog when your job is a TEACHER!

Doctors, lawyers, therapists, social workers, counselors and teachers must keep work place information confidential. It's part of the job. I want students and parents to love my school. I don't like it when students complain or talk about the school being inferior. I think it's a great school with many teachers who love their subject and want it to be enjoyable for students. We do fun things for the students, like spirit week and field day and we have a lot of activities for students to do. It's often the "cool" thing to complain about high school when you're a high schooler. But when you're on the other side, as a teacher, you need to be professional. Optimism and positive energy are very helpful in the teaching profession/vocation and if you don't have that, then get out now because you'll only make yourself and your students feel worse.

Blue skies

Waking up to a blue sky today felt so wonderful. (I changed the background on my blog, I love it so much.) We were also able to leave the house wearing just jackets! It was too blustery to do much outside, but the girls played soccer this morning so at least they got their exercise. Now it's supposed to dip into the 20s over night and there may be snow by Tuesday morning! Well, like my principal reminded the school at the assembly Friday, it's only February and we have a long ways to go until the end of the school year. Fine with me, I'm not wanting it to end. I just like the sun and warmer temperatures!

I dream about living somewhere that is warm all year, but I'd miss the winter around Christmas. It's just that after January I'm over it. Then I think about what a warm climate has: B-U-G-S! Fire ants, flies coming in the house anytime the door is opened, (killer) bees, bigger spiders... all the creepy crawlies we experienced in North Carolina. Then I really value the respite winter gives us from these creatures.

So, bring on the snow for one, or two, last harrahs and then I will rejoice when spring arrives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Variation on Vegan Soup

Today I added a little extra to my Vegan Chard and Potato Noodle Soup. I kept everything else the same and put in a cooked and mashed sweet potato. This gave the soup a more orange color as well as a thicker and sweeter broth. This is my favorite soup because it has everything I like: sweet and savory flavors, greens, noodles and ginger--don't forget the ginger!

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Valentines

What are YOU doing for this holiday? Will and I had dinner out last Friday while my sister and brother-in-law babysat. We hadn't been out just us for a loooong time. Not that we don't get time together, it's just that our basement hangout gets a little old. I made Will a card at school. That reminds me...

Will and I met in January. I'm pretty sure Valentines was our first kiss. I do remember I made him a little Valentine's card and gave it to him in my dorm room. That was the first thing I ever made him. I've made him little things through the years. That first Valentines was a little awkward. Even though I knew he liked me and I really liked him, we hadn't professed our love for one another, nor had we verbalized dating exclusivity. I remember being nervous to give him the card. It wasn't super romantic. My roommate may have even been in the room at the time. I played it off as not being a big deal. But then, a little later, sitting on my dorm couch together, with his arm around my shoulders, he leaned in and it was the most beautiful, wonderful kiss. When it was over I responded, "I was wondering when you'd get around to doing that." He then reminded me that we HAD kissed. But I didn't count it because it was a little goodbye peck which was kind of a mistake. I was just leaning in for a hug and he went for the kiss. I don't know if I pulled back in surprise or if he only meant it to be quick. Either way, the real first kiss, the one I count on Valentine's Day 2000, was unforgettable. Fireworks. For real.

Monday, February 7, 2011

20 Questions Part 2

11. Where am I wrong?
"Your ego wants you to avoid noticing where you may have bad information or unworkable ideas."

I think this is most helpful in personal relationships, such as with a spouse. I am wrong when I think "woe-is-me, I have it so hard." I don't.

12. What potential memories am I bartering, and is the profit worth the price?
"Every time you choose social acceptance over your heart's desires, or financial gain over ethics, or your comfort zone over the adventure you were born to experience, you're making a similar deal. Don't."

This is definitely something I considered when I chose to go to Kris Carr's book signing. At first I thought I probably wouldn't go. I'd just get home, get cozy and not want to go out. But then I realized it wasn't worth missing! So I went and I'm glad I did. It's the same with going to the gym. I had the best yoga workout yesterday and I almost didn't go.

13. Am I the only one struggling not to {fart} during {yoga}?
"Substitute your greatest shame-fear: crying at work, belching in church, throwing up on the prime minister of Japan. Then know you aren't alone. Accepting this is a bold step toward mental health and a just society."

I hadn't read this question before I mentioned yoga, but I certainly thought about this last night! I actually had a great yoga instructor the first time I ever took the class and she actually said not to worry if it happens. I had a terribly embarrassing incident in middle school gym class concerning farts and sit ups. Reading this blog post reminded me, but also made me feel better about it. Of course, it's one thing to have such an incident happen as a preteen and another to have it happen as an adult. Take today, for instance. I had sweat marks on my shirt and it was more noticeable than usual, so I put a sweater on to cover it up. As I did so I chastised myself for even worrying about it, but then I told myself that if it makes me feel better to wear the sweater then I shouldn't give myself a hard time. (Do you have this much inner dialogue with yourself?) I have gotten over a LOT of stuff while growing up and am less embarrassed about faux pas now than when I was younger. Still, I obviously have some growing to do.

14. What do I love to practice?
"Some psychologists believe that no one is born with any particular talent and that all skill is gained through practice. Studies have shown that masters are simply people who've practiced a skill intensely for 10,000 hours or more. That requires loving—not liking, loving—what you do. If you really want to excel, go where you're passionate enough to practice."

My answer is obvious to those who know me: art. But why don't I do it more? And there's another question.

15. Where could I work less and achieve more?
"To maximize time spent practicing your passions, minimize everything else. These days you can find machines or human helpers to assist with almost anything. Author Timothy Ferriss "batches" job tasks into his famous "four-hour workweek." My client Cindy has an e-mail ghostwriter. Another client, Angela, hired an assistant in the Philippines who flawlessly tracks her schedule and her investments. Get creative with available resources to find more time in your life and life in your time."

I left this entire quote in because I find it kind of ridiculous. The examples are a little over-the-top compared to the life of an average person. No ghost writer for me. But then again, I don't get more emails than I can manage. I think I do a pretty good job of using my time wisely at work. I utilize my planning periods to type up handouts, worksheets and tests. I grade in the time after school before my girls are done their activities. All this makes it easy to focus on other things outside of work: exercise, dinner, my family and their activities, play practice. I don't bring much work home, if any.

16. How can I keep myself absolutely safe?
"Ask this question just to remind yourself of the answer: You can't. Life is inherently uncertain. The way to cope with that reality is not to control and avoid your way into a rigid little demi-life, but to develop courage. Doing what you long to do, despite fear, will accomplish this."

This goes along with "why worry?" I want to travel, I want to drive to new places, I want to fly in a plane. If I worry about the dangers, it won't be enjoyable.

17. Where should I break the rules?
"If everyone kept all the rules, we'd still be practicing cherished traditions like child marriage, slavery, and public hangings. The way humans become humane is by assessing from the heart, rather than the rule book, where the justice of a situation lies."

I was once asked this question in a job interview: "What would you do if you didn't understand why there was a certain rule? Would you have a problem adhering to the rule?" I responded that I'd uphold the rule, but if I was curious or didn't understand the purpose I would ask just so I would be better informed. It was easy enough to answer. "Rules are made to be broken" jumped into my head, but of course I wasn't going to joke in a job interview!

On a larger scale, there are two rules that I would like to be changed: gay marriage and legalization of marijuana. Not allowing two consenting adults to have legal rights in a civil union is against freedom. Why do I want a DRUG legalized? Because I want it regulated (i.e. not in the hands of 13 year olds) and because it is on the same level as alcohol. A student once asked me if it were to be legalized would the legal age be 18 like cigarettes. I told him that it would more likely be 21, the same as alcohol. Why? they asked. Because it's a mind altering substance! It kills brain cells! Same as alcohol. That's why children and teenagers who have developing minds and bodies should not use either substance. (BTW, I did not share my thoughts on this subject. A student just asked me the question. They must have been talking about it before class.)

18. So say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants...then what?
"We can get so obsessed with acquiring fabulous lives that we forget to live."

I can't deny I think "if only I had more $." I'm not dreaming a crazy fantasy of wealth and luxury, but seriously, what if I didn't have to worry about finances. How would that change the focus of my life. I would be less restricted and I'd probably have more crap (clothes, shoes, manicures, etc.), but would it really improve my life? Would it improve yours? My answer is "no." I have what I need and I have people I love and who love me. I really do not need any more than that.

19. Are my thoughts hurting or healing?
"Your situation may endanger your life and limbs, but only your thoughts can endanger your happiness. Telling yourself a miserable mental story about your circumstances creates suffering. Telling yourself a more positive and grateful story, studies show, increases happiness. "

I agree 100%!!! This is something I am trying to ingrain in my children, especially S, who is a victim of "stinkin' thinkin'" much of the time. A few years ago I told her we all have energy and it can be positive or negative. After exercising, I explained, I felt full of positive energy and her whining and complaining was giving me negative energy. Her response was, "I don't believe in that." Ha! She's finally getting it, though.

20. Really truly: Is this what I want to be doing?
"It's been several seconds since you asked this. Ask it again. Not to make yourself petulant or frustrated—just to see if it's possible to choose anything, and I mean any little thing, that would make your present experience more delightful. Thus continues the revolution."

Actually, it's been a few days since I first answered this question. Today was a pretty easy day, as far as my job is considered, which makes it even easier to say "Yes! Coming to work every day IS what I want to be doing!" But even on days that are less enjoyable (or even awful) I still want to be doing this job.

Let me put the focus on my life outside of work. Is going to the gym what I want to be doing? Yes. Is blogging what I want to be doing? Yes. Is watching a Disney movie with my kids what I want to be doing? No, not at first, but then I realize it can be fun. Is cooking dinner what I want to be doing? Yes. Is going to bed each night with the person I chose to spend every day of my life with what I want to be doing? Y-E-S!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Vegan Chard and Potato Noodle Soup

After sitting in a chilly high school gym for two hours this morning while my kids played soccer, I wanted something warm and comforting for lunch. I'd had a cup of coffee while at the school, but I'd also had two jars of cold green juice. The juice gives me energy and mental clarity like nothing else and I wanted to eat something that would keep me feeling light and zippy. The perfect option was a fresh, homemade soup. I looked in my fridge and cupboard, which is kind of bare since we're due for a grocery shopping trip this weekend, and from what I found I devised this soup. This isn't just a soup for today, though. It's a recipe I will certainly do again. The ingredients are items I like to have in the house and eat on a regular basis.

Without any further ado, for your cooking and eating pleasure I present to you,

Chard & Potato Noodle Soup

Will had juiced chard yesterday, but there was one bunch left. I think it's so beautiful!

In addition to the veggies, I added half this package of rice noodles.

The Recipe:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 Mediume white potato peeled and cubed
1 Medium sweet potato peeled and cubed
1 small sweet onion finely chopped
2 cups chopped swiss chard (remove stem)
8 oz rice noodles
32 oz vegetable broth + water (3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
grated ginger to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic, potatoes and onion and salt and pepper and saute until beginning to soften and brown. Pour in vegetable broth and water to cover vegetables, leaving room for chard and noodles. Cover and bring to a boil. Then simmer covered until the potatoes are cooked (20-30 min.). Turn heat to low, add swiss chard and rice noodles. Cover 5-10 minutes until noodles are soft. Grate fresh ginger into soup, stir and serve.

Ginger tip: Peel and cut the ginger into 3-4 inch pieces when you buy it. Then wrap each piece in cling wrap and put them in a baggy to keep in the freezer. The frozen ginger can easily be grated into your dish.

G gives the soup 5 STARS!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Okonomiyaki

Before leaving school yesterday I had some free time while S was at chorus practice. I read some of the blogs I follow and came across this post from Your Vegan Mom. I've never had okonomiyaki before, but Vegan Mom's pictures and description looked and sounded like something my kids and I would enjoy. The only thing I was missing was tofu. I figured a large pancake would be doable without it, so I set about making it with the ingredients I had at home. First I whisked together 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 tsp sea salt, and 2 tsp baking powder. Then I added two eggs equivalent of egg replacer and 1 3/4 cups of water. This made your average looking pancake batter. Next I put zucchini, yellow squash and kale leaves (minus the stems) through the salad shooter. It added up to 4 cups of vegetables. I added this to my batter and mixed it well.

Then I put about 3/4 cup of batter into a hot, oiled cast iron skillet and I let it cook until it was almost cooked through.

When it started looking mostly cooked I put it under the broiler until it was browned on top as well. Then I flipped it onto a plate and voila! G is asking for more pancake. They'd each already had 1/2 of the the first one.

I ate some of the second one. It was very tasty.

We dipped it in soy sauce mixed with agave and a little yellow mustard. I served it with salad, hence the fork, but here's S demonstrating how she preferred to eat her okonomiyaki.

I had a great time making and eating a new food, so thanks Vegan Mom for the recipe. My girls thank you, too!

Monday, January 31, 2011

20 Questions Part 1

My responses to this article in O Magazine:
20 Questions That Could Change Your Life
Finding the answers starts with posing the right questions—and Martha Beck has 20 to get you started.
By Martha Beck

1. What questions should I be asking myself?
" It creates an alert, thoughtful mind state, ideal for ferreting out the information you most need in every situation. Ask it frequently."

So, this question is for use in various situations. It reminds me of lesson planning. When I think about a project and the information I want my students to understand I think about what questions they will have. I think about past students and where they ran into trouble and I think about the students I currently have. Basically I ask myself questions as if I were the student.

2. Is this what I want to be doing?
" Ask yourself many times every day if you like what you're doing. If the answer is no, start noticing what you'd prefer. Thus begins the revolution."

"Doing" usually makes me, and probably others, think "job" or "career." That's not necessarily what this question means to me. What about when I'm looking in the fridge and I'm not really hungry or I'm staying online past 10 pm? Those are definitely times I should ask myself this question. Another great moment for this question is when I'm losing my temper with my kids.

3. Why worry?
" Worry rarely leads to positive action; it's just painful, useless fear about hypothetical events, which scuttles happiness rather than ensuring it."

My game is "What's the worst that can happen?" When I answer that question, I don't worry so much.

4. Why do I like {cupcakes} more than I like {people}?
Feel free to switch out the words in brackets... But forcing "virtues"—trying to like people more than cupcakes—drives us to vices that offer false freedom from oppression. Stop trying to like the things you don't like, and many vices will disappear on their own.

How's this one: Why do I like sleeping late more than being productive in the morning?
My answer: I am productive in the morning when I have to be. When I don't have to be, let myself enjoy sleeping late. Works for me!

5. How do I want the world to be different because I lived in it?
" Maybe you know you're here to create worldwide prosperity, a beautiful family, or one really excellent bagel. If your impressions are more vague, keep asking this question. Eventually you'll glimpse clearer outlines of your destiny. Live by design, not by accident."

I like the last sentence. It reminds me of my attempt at meditation last night. Meditation is about leading the mind instead of letting the mind lead you. I've always been a go with the flow gal, but I've done what I've wanted as well. I want my family tree to grow and flourish and not be ridden with disease and despair. My example to my children and that which I teach them can be passed on to their own children and so on. Disease doesn't have to plague families!

6. How do I want to be different because I lived in this world?
" What experiences do you want to have during your brief sojourn here? Make a list. Make a vision board. Make a promise. This won't control your future, but it will shape it."

I want to be involved and I want to enjoy the experiences I have. I think I'm doing that, but I can always do more and join more. Change keeps you "young" and I have had a lot of changes in my life. I plan to keep them coming.

7. Are {vegans} better people?
"Again, it doesn't have to be vegans; the brackets are for you to fill in. Substitute the virtue squad that makes you feel worst about yourself, the one you'll never have the discipline to join, whether it's ultra-marathoners or mothers who never raise their voices. Whatever group you're asking about, the answer to this question is no."

I kept this entire quote intact. The answer is no! Vegans is actually a really great fill-in-the-bracket for me because, as you know, I cook a lot of vegan food and eat vegan most of the time. BUT I'm not vegan. Nope. I eat eggs and goat cheese and sometimes salmon. I still think of myself as vegan, though, because I prepare so much vegan food for my family.

Another good one: Are older, wiser mothers better mothers? Or, the one from the quote: Are mothers who never yell or spank better people? No and no. I do the best I can and I am ALWAYS pushing myself to be better, to be more patient, to be more understanding.

8. What is my body telling me?
" The body knows better. It's a wise, capable creature. It recoils from what's bad for us, and leans into what's good. Let it."

My body used to tell me it was sick. I finally listened and continue to try to do so. It's not easy.

9. How much junk could a chic chick chuck if a chic chick could chuck junk?
"I believe this question was originally posed by Lao Tzu, who also wrote, 'To become learned, each day add something. To become enlightened, each day drop something.'"

I can ALWAYS get rid of things. I usually have a bag or box of things to donate sitting by the front door. I like knowing what I have, especially when it comes to clothes and shoes. If I don't wear it, don't like it, if it doesn't fit right, I get it out.

10. What's so funny?
"Adults tend to put this question to children in a homicidal-sounding snarl, which is probably why as you grew up, your laughter rate dropped from 400 times a day (for toddlers) to the grown-up daily average of 15. Regain your youth by laughing at every possible situation."

Ha! Truthfully, giggling and joking around is one of the most endearing and annoying things about little kids, especially in a classroom situation. I do love cracking up with my own children though. I also find teenagers thoroughly entertaining and I do chuckle a lot during my work days.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Famous anonymity

My in-laws took my girls to Baltimore Oriole's Fan Fest yesterday. They got a couple signatures on their baseballs and had a fun time. S will tell you she prefers the Orioles and over the Ravens and doesn't understand why she should support both when she really doesn't like football. Truthfully, I'm with her! Shhh. Don't tell anyone. I wear purple to church often and people assume I'm a fan and I'm showing my support. Really, I just like purple and it looks good on me.
Here's where my father-in-law is mentioned in a totally anonymous way in The Sun:
"The optimism was evident in the long line of fans that snaked around the Convention Center on a chilly morning long before the doors had opened. It was evident inside as well as one fan wore an Orioles jacket that included the years of the team's three World Series championships and a label that read, "This spot reserved for 2011."
He's the "one fan" with the "jacket." Pretty cool.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Regina Spektor - That Time Live (Bonnaroo 2010)

Remember that time when I told you I like this chic? I really, really do.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A little message to Chuck Todd

This morning's off-the-cuff comment about Robert Gibb's pastel pink tie not being allowed in your truck was inappropriate. I don't believe you meant it to be homophobic or gay-bashing. I understand that males in our society have been raised to be macho and pastel pink hasn't fit that bill for some time. But, you're on TV and maybe saying that truck=manly and pastel tie=sissy is not the message you want to send. I enjoy your work on MSNBC and I think the people that work for the network are mostly trustworthy and hard working. Also, Gibbs did have an appropriate joke in pointing out how casual jeans are. Come on, with a tie? Maybe with an oxford and a sweater next time. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Plant Blood

I've been drinking my fill of the delicious sunshine-filled blood of plants. Inspired by Kris Carr and her newest book, it's been so great to have the energy that green juice gives me. No more 3pm crashes. It's been WONDERFUL! To show support for Kris Carr and also to bask in her glow, I went to see her on her book tour stop here in Baltimore! It was very surreal to see her in person. Her vlogs are such real portrayals of her, that seeing her in person is akin to watching a vlog post. But then I got to speak to her and thank her for stopping in Baltimore and I got my book signed. Yay! She signed it Peace, Love and Veggies. I didn't bring my camera, so no pics to put on facebook, but it wasn't about that. I was so happy just to be there and excited to get my book signed that I was teary-eyed during her talk. She was so enthusiastic and a great speaker.

I've been bringing mason jars of green juice to work with me and sipping throughout the day. Here's a post about my student's reactions. Pretty funny.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

8 Questions for my 8 year old

I did this last year with both my girls and S has certainly changed. She seems a bit more jaded, really. Half way through, she interviews me.

Me: What is your favorite book of all time?

S: American Girl books.

Me: Which one?

S: I don't know, I love all of them.

Me: If you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go and who would go with you?

S: I'd go to Williamsburg again and my Grandma and Elfie would come with me. Or I might go to some of the places that some of the American Girls lived so I could check it out and see what it was like. And I hope they have scenes of, like, what it looked like back then and things.

Me: Okay. If you could live in any time period of the past, when would you like to live?

S: In the Colony times...1776, you know. Because I think it would be like really cool there, to like live there and live in that time because it was a really cool experience and I could learn what it was like back then.

Me: Do you have any ideas on careers you'd like to have when you grow up?

S: Well, I'd like to be a teacher but I haven't decided which grade to be yet.

Me: When you are a teenager, what will you look like?

S: Uh, I don't know. Cuz I can't see the future.

Me: If you were famous, what would you be famous for?

S: Singing. And dancing. And both of them would be seperate because I would have a career for singing and a career for dancing and I might be a teacher and I probably won't be famous when I grow up. And I think I want to be a, um, second grade teacher.

Me: What is your relationship like with your mother?

S: Uh, that's a very good question. I don't feel like talking about that to share with other strangers. You'd better not type that in mom.

Me: Okay.

S: It's a little embarrassing to say it on this thing whatever you're doing because it's my very own business.

Me: The people who read this, who are strangers, don't know who we are. I don't use your name on here or put pictures up.

S: But I don't thin kit's good to share our own private business with other people even if they don't know who we are. I mean, it still matters. It's our private business, they can't go snooping around trying to get it.

Me: You know Nana and Aunt L and Aunt E and Grandma sometimes read my blog.

S: Well, I don't want to share what my... they probably know what ti's liek to have children anyway, except for the people in my family who don't yet, but they probably will.

Me: Could you just share with me what your relationship is like with your mother and I won't type it?

S: (Silence.)

Me: Moving on.

S: (Laughs.) Ha.

Me: Last question. Let's make it a good one. Why are you up at 10:15 pm?

S: Okay, we shoudl probably already have the answer to that one. I can't get asleep. Now it's not because of my light on, it's because of...well, I did get up at eight-something this morning, I think. So, I'm very much not tired. Actually I feel like I could stay up and read for my whole life actually.

S: What's the capital of North Dakota.

Me: Bismark?

S: What did you think when a girl's father mistaked Uncle L for his daughter?

Me: I thought it was funny. It was reasonable because they were both little kids, the same size and the same hair cut, so from the stands when the kids played little league, they looked the same.

S: What's it like staying up for a very long time at night?

Me: It's pretty much like the day time, without sunlight or children running around. It's quiet.

S: Okay. Here's an opinion. I know that, well, nevermind, backspace it, backspace, hahahaha! (She's reading over my shoulder and laughing.)

Me: Go on, what's your opinion?

S: Well, don't think it's like... grownups have to stay up late. Well, they don't have to stay up late at night, but I dont' see why they do. I mean you rather should like go to bed because then when you get up in the morning you won't be such a crankpot and deal with crankpot kids.

Me: Alright. It really is time for us both to get to bed. 6 AM is WAY too early and will be here before we know it.

S: Well, no, not happenin' I could stay up all night and dance like a little cute puppy ballerina.

Me: And that shows just how silly you are because you're so tired. Thank you for being interviewed and thank you for interviewing me in return.

S: Please! (In a silly, sarcastic tone. I don't know what she's referring to, but she loves that word these days.)