Saturday, February 25, 2012

Jasper's Tower




Jasper raided the kitchen drawers and commandeered these chopsticks to build a tower.  His home is at the top (of course), but he wanted to double check with me, first, to ensure I'd live there, too.  Here, he's pointing to the office on the ground level where Daddy's office will be.  Dad will enjoy that convenience.  This seemingly simple activity is what my kid will do when I turn off the TV and computer, iPad, iPhone and Wii and then ignore him for awhile.  Big deal, right?  While it may not look so brilliant to the untrained eye, I'll tell you why it is fabulous.

I didn't search the parenting blogs for craft ideas.  Nor did I drive around to pick up any "common household items" which I never seem to have in my common household.  There was no child enrichment activities on the schedule for this morning.  He didn't need a special creative corner with child sized table (although we do have one - the table that is) and shelves of neatly organized arranged materials.  I didn't stay up all night reading about what activities are most conducive to enhancing cognition during his stage of development.  None of the materials were ordered from a childhood learning catalog.

To encourage this hour long activity, I stepped out of his way.  I didn't manage him - I didn't direct.  I never asked, "what should we do today?"  There were no barrage of questions.  When he was rummaging through the kitchen drawers, I didn't freak out (at least, not this time).  When he noticed me noticing him, I smiled and let him tell me everything.  And he did, without coercion.  I was especially touched that I get to live in the penthouse with him.  Although, if/when he builds this tower someday, I hope he'll be living in the penthouse with a partner who loves him as much as I do, and he'll be happy to let me have a small apartment near the pool deck and he'll come by to watch the Oscars with me.
 
No matter what I seem to do, or don't do, my kids seem to grow themselves.  Even with child number two, this never ceases to amaze me. 

PS:  I love the kids craft blogs, and home designs that include inspiring child-sized creative spaces.  I especially admire the art room in the Crown Family Play Lab at the Field museum with their shelves of art supplies - I've always fantasized about a room like that for me the kids.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Strawberry Ice "Cream"

Maybe because it's gloomy, drizzly and slushy today, Jasper begged to have me make strawberry ice cream.  I was happy to oblige. 



He and I share the same doom (or gift as I'm beginning to discover), we are both lactose intolerant, something that I didn't take seriously for myself until he was born.  Life began for him as a preemie and very fussy boy.  I began to experiment with my diet and soon enough found diary to contribute to much of his discomfort.  What I had been unable to do for myself, giving up dairy was a synch when my baby's comfort (and my sanity) was dependent on it.  Now that I've been reading The China Study, and have learned how harmful casein can be, I've been working to reduce the amount of dairy for the whole family.

This (not) ice cream treat is such a good substitute that I've never feel deprived, and it only takes about 5 minutes to make.  I've altered the recipe from the Vita Mix book that came with the blender.

  1. Toss in a bag of frozen strawberries, 16oz (or any other favorite fruit).  
  2. Pour in 1 cup of almond milk, or soy (not for me), or rice (not as rich), or hemp (nutty).
  3. Add 1/2 cup sugar (I've been using Sugar in the Raw, not that it matters much.  I'm going to experiment with Stevia next on the QT - don't let the kids know).
  4. Add about 1 tsp vanilla.  I don't really measure this part.
  5. Blend on low.  It's rough going at first so use a tamper to gently work the frozen strawberries down.  When you can hear the motor loosen up, switch to high speed and blend until there are four mounds.  I couldn't get a photo while it's in motion, so this one will have to do.  They (the mounds) relaxed a little when the motor stopped.
 



Serve.


Eat, quickly (but not too fast or you'll get brain freeze).



Have a good and healthy weekend, friends.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Favorite Raw Stop

This has been a chaotic week.  Jasper has just begun school, daily, part-time.  I thought it would free up a ton of time for me.  Yet here I am, Thursday evening, exhausted.  Every muscle hurts, especially the ones in my neck and shoulders that scream when I spend too much time on the computer (I wasn't kidding when I said I got lost when putting together some photos for Jasper).  To get us all together on time, I've got to wake up earlier to beat the kids.  I've dreaded this day for years, when I have to live by an alarm clock.  Not like I'm punching a clock again, but almost.  I really liked my hippie home schooling lifestyle, even if it was for only a year.  Now my mornings are a huge rush.  Get dressed.  Get the kids up and dressed.  Deal with at least two temper tantrums without losing my grip.  "I give up" is Jasper's cry of anguish before he marches back upstairs.  I will desperately try to find a way to keep him from making that climb, because if he does, then I will need to do it.  And some days, most days, the knees, the hips, the feet, just cry out with anguish, "I give up, too."

Once everyone's in the car, I'm cool.  Permission slips signed, lunches packed, extra pants, instruments, chap stick, hair bands, hair clips, water bottle, workout clothes - yep, somehow I've managed to keep my stuff on the list of everyone else's stuff I've got to track.  I exhale as we pull out of the garage, we did it.

Drop off kid one, then kid two and I've got a few hours to myself.  I thought this would be huge.  But with my new commitment to workout daily, it barely covers it.  I made it to day four and had to give it a rest when I realized that I haven't had a moment to open mail, return calls, or pay bills.  The promised energy boost from my new exercise routine has not kicked in.  I'm exhausted.
 Today I had a fridge full of beautiful, dark leafy greens, bright red peppers, juicy tomatoes, etc., but I just couldn't pull myself together to make anything satisfying.  Instead, I stopped at raw, in the French Market.  This place is a huge treat for me.  Tucked away towards the back of the market, taking up just a bit of counter space, is the most delicious, healthy food.  Each time I go there I feel refreshed with the kindness of these women.  With the customary small talk, I am pulled into a lively conversation.  It's as if all the belief I have in eating healthy, whole foods will transform my life has come alive in this place.  So inspiring. 

I am certain that food is much more delicious when served up by kind, wholehearted people.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Happy Birthday Jasper

My baby turned four last week.  I was searching through my photos from the last four years to select a few for this post and then I became lost.
It seems only minutes ago that he was pulled out of my womb. 



He would have liked to stay in longer, and at 7lbs, he was the biggest preemie in the NICU.  Every time he forgot to breath, he earned himself few more days.



Those first two weeks were all about racing to the hospital to feed him, then pump to leave the nurses with a few extra bottles, and then race home to grab some sleep, or drop Chloe off at school, or pick her up, or try to eat, and race back before the nurses give him a bottle.  I'd arrive, wash my hands, sit down as the nurses unhooked whatever he was hooked up to that day.  Sigh, relax, latch on, let down.  Look at that soft, downy face. It made it all worth it.



He is adored by his big sister from the very beginning.  He returns her adoration completely.


Look at those amazing cheeks.



And those curls.


At first Chloe was a teensie bit disappointed that he wasn't a girl, till she realized it was just as much fun dressing up a little brother.


That look.  He must be up to something.

 



Jasper is almost always on the move.  Do you remember when the last time you had this much fun stomping in a puddle?

He keeps asking why we can't have a trampoline in our house.  (Um, because I don't think the Chicago Park District will let us keep it on their lawn.)

He's lost the curls.  Once cut, they never grew back.


He hasn't lost his smile.


Or his curiosity.  Look at that tongue, always out when he's concentrating.


Happy birthday, my big baby boy.  Mama loves you.


Thursday, February 09, 2012

Post Yoga Green Goop


After sweating it out in hot yoga today, I needed something tart to refresh my palate.  Just happened to have some rhubarb in the freezer to do the trick.

Spinach
Rhubarb
Apples
1/2 lemon (juice)
Water

Blend.  Drink.  Rejuvenate.

Death Awaits.

When I have with me a little kid in tow, I tend to look down more frequently.  Look what Jasper and I found on the side walk yesterday.



Jasper found this particularly fascinating because he believed it was a dead snake.  Oh, that would have been exciting, a snake dead from a Pepto-Bismol overdose.

As it is, I find it curious that the author chose to express her morbid thought sugared up with bright pink bubble gum and a cute heart.  Is that the grim reaper popping his gum under his shroud?  So annoying.


Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Why Raw?

My family eats out or orders in a lot.  It was a habit formed from my former hatred of the kitchen.  I am known for setting the smoke detectors off frequently, boiling pots dry, and even when standing directly over a pot of rice, I can have a conversation with someone and just not notice the pot of rice boil over and flood the stove until it runs over the ledge onto my feet. 

It has happened, that thing with the rice, in front of the veterinarian (who does house calls) as we talked about our kids' schooling.  She talks a lot, which is usually great for me, because sometimes, frequently, there are days when I don't get a chance to talk to adults.  But also, talking for me is distracting.  I'm a one thing at a time kind of gal.  I don't talk and drive at the same time, even when the audio's coming over the sound system.  And just as I was impressing her (surely) with the merits of homeschooling, the pot boiled over, I kept on talking, and then I burnt my toes - because, you know, homeschoolers don't wear shoes. 

I am almost certain this is why my husband will never consent to living in the suburbs.  He's afraid with limited delivery options, I might just burn down the house while trying to make a simple meal.

Perhaps that's why raw is so appealing to me.

PS:  I had that yummy Mediterranean Kale salad for dinner tonight.  So good.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Mommy Guilt


In spite of being super productive today, I've been feeling a little down.  Jasper is my youngest.  There are many days that I wish there are more kids to come; however, age, infertility, and perimenopause are all working against me.  So when Jasper really, really didn't want to go to his little neighborhood preschool this morning, I was conflicted.  About two thirds of the way to school, he abruptly turned around and high-tailed it across the park towards home.  I caught up with him at the cross walk - he waited to hold my hand before crossing the street.  Yoga was the biggest thing on my schedule today.  Giving it up for some Mommy-Jasper time wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.  Yet, I remember having this discussion with a teacher a few months ago, if I give in, it will be harder the next time he doesn't want to go, and the next time, until he is empowered knowing that he can call the shots.

But there is another side to this.  Why do we (conflicted mommies everywhere) feel so compelled to let go of our children at such a young age?  The research to support early childhood education seems as conflicted as my feelings this morning.  I am on the fence on this one.  While I still have one foot in the homeschooling community, I am scheduled to attend an open house for a school that seems interesting.  School for him means more time to write, photograph, workout, prepare meals, garden, blog... maybe get a job.  No school means more time with him.  Time moves so fast I'm afraid he'll be gone in a blink.  Oh, I love this boy.

Leaving him at school crying was devastating.  Yet, when I called fifteen minutes later, he was fine.  Quiet.  But fine.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Pico de Gallo

When I began including significantly more Raw foods into my diet, I began to look at restaurant menus in a whole new way.  Mexican restaurants are my favorite, because if they have nothing else, I can always enjoy an ample dish of pico de gallo along with some fresh guacamole.  I like a little spicy, but not too much, so I was motivated to start making my own.  I crave this always.  Once started, this has become one of my weekly staples, and a favorite to share for potluck gatherings.


Good tomatoes aren't always easy to come by in the wintry Midwest.  I pick the best I can, but have had to make do with some not-so-great tomatoes.  With the mix of peppers, lime, and cilantro, this recipe can be a little forgiving of those sorry, weary traveled nightshades.  But when summer comes, boy, those tomatoes will steal the show.


Seed and dice the tomatoes.  For this batch to have some and share some, I used ten Roma tomatoes.  This can be a big job, especially if you are me and get a little lost in the threads during the slicing and dicing.  When I just want to get it done, I throw them in the food processor and using the s-blade, pulse them a bit.  This batch above was for a party, so I wanted them pretty.  With Pandora's family folk station on some hip swinging, toe tapping tunes, I made quick work of those babies without loosing a digit.


Rinse the cilantro and pulse in the processor.  You can also chop them to bits, but time... that's the advantage of owning one of these machines.  I don't bother separating the leaves from the stems.  Once I learned the stems are about as savory as the leaves, I wondered why I had been wasting my time for all those years.


Put a half of red onion (or my usual preference, a bunch of green onions), two jalapenos, and two cloves of garlic into the processor and pulse.


All in it looks something like this.  Add the juice of one lime (fresh, please), about a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of salt, and grind some pepper over the top.  Mix.  Taste.  Then start adjusting.  Here the onion was too strong so I kept adding tomatoes until it found balance.  Then the lime started to disappear so I added two more.  Yum.   A little more salt and a few more grinds of pepper later and it was perfect.  This is why you won't find too many quantities in my recipes.  Once I think I've got it perfect, I'll record it, make it again, and it won't be the same.

Taste, adjust, mix and repeat.



And clean up.


Share to a room full of football fans and feel the love.  (Didn't Madonna look great, last night?)


Pico de Gallo
Roma Tomatoes
Cilantro
Jalapeno Peppers
Red Onion (or bunch of green)
Garlic
Lime Juice
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper





Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sunday Morning Slice of Life

Not everything I prepare is Raw vegan, much to my children's great relief.  At least one day a week I will make them banana pancakes.  They are not my favorite to cook because I can never seem to get the pancakes out of the pan without some major stick.  I prefer a waffle iron with its perfectly non-stick surface and a clean exit every time.  However, there is a soft spot in my heart for that yummy banana goodness as I fondly remember my Nana making them especially for me when I was a kid. 


Chloe was amusing Jasper with snap circuits while I was cooking.  She is all to familiar with the burnt byproducts of my short little span of attention.


Jasper decided to help with the cleanup...


using quite a lot of bubbles.


I'll be making some fresh pico de gallo for the Super Bowl party we're attending soon.  Come back again this week to see the recipe.


Cheers.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Saturday Smoothie

The majority of my smoothie concoctions are inspired by what is already in my refrigerator - what needs to be used now before it becomes waste.  As long as I've got a little green, some fruit and a finger of ginger, I can whip up something delicious and nutritious.  When most of my produce has been used up, I almost always have these basics.


Celery
Apple
Cucumber
Ginger
Lime
Water
Blend
Drink
Share
Be Happy

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mediterranean Kale



My first taste of this delicious recipe was from my friend, and Raw food mentor, Imani.  She makes a variation of this by mixing in fresh pesto.  Yum, so delicious.

The original recipe is from Raw Food Made Easy by Jennifer Cornbleet.  Once I discovered this book, it has quickly become my food bible.  All the dishes are quick and simple and enough for a meal and leftovers.  If you're beginning this journey and haven't built up your kitchen with a bunch of small appliances, the recipes have the added benefit of seldom needing any special equipment aside from a good cutting board and sharp knives.





Start with a bunch of Kale, remove the stems and wash.  I prefer Lacinato Kale, but any variety works well.

PS:  The avocado didn't make the final cut.  I could eat avocado's with just about everything, but with the pine nuts and olives, I left it out for another day.

 

Those kale stems need something important to do.  I've got to get my worm farm set up.  Otherwise, I've known people who will juice these. 



Chop the kale.  Or pile up the leaves, roll 'em like a cigar, and thinly slice to make lovely ribbons.

Mix equal parts olive oil to fresh lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar w/mother.  Pour over the chopped kale and add salt. You can get all fancy, schmantzy and use Himalayan Pink Crystals or Celtic Sea Salt.  Or not and use Mortons.  I keep it light and add more salt to taste when serving.  Massage the dressing and salt into the kale.



Dice the pepper.  Slice the olives.  Throw it all together with the kale and add pine nuts.   

To dress, mix equal parts olive oil to fresh lemon juice and/or apple cider vinegar w/mother and toss.  Grind a little pepper over it, sit by a lovely window and eat.




Here's the recipe:

Mediterranean Kale

Bunch of Kale
Olive Oil
Lemon Juice
Salt
Red Bell Pepper
Pine Nuts
Black Olives
Fresh Ground Black Pepper



Eat well.