19 April 2015

Stinging Nettle

"Stinging Nettle" - such an "Eye of Newt" kind of name

This is stinging nettle. It's a wild edible, I suppose, although you can't eat when you find it in the wild. I didn't actually find it in the wild myself - I found it at the Eat Local and Organic Expo. It was my farmers who found it growing wild on their farm. I bought it out of curiosity.

It's stings your skin when you touch it (hence the name) but it's safe to eat if you cook it first. ("Really?" I asked the farmer. "Really?" Sergio asked me when I told him. "Really?" You might be asking yourself.) Really it is.

I followed this recipe which instructs you to steam it for 20 mins, which I did and which takes away the sting. This site also says that nettle puts kale and spinach to shame. ("Really?" I wondered, having long since been convinced that kale is the "valedictorian of vegetables.")

Low and behold it is rich in antioxidants. I wonder, are all those nutrients cancelled out if I cram my stinging nettle into a hot mess of eggs and cheese? (Even if it's local/organic/free-range eggs and cheese? Maybe. Maybe not. But it tasted good. The recipe worked almost perfectly apart from the fact that I don't know how to make an omelette; any shortcomings of this dish were due entirely to my ineptitude. The stinging nettle was great. Spinachy-tasting in the omelette, though it gave off the most complex minty-potato-ish kind of smell while it steamed.

I wondered why it is I've made it this far in life and haven't learned how to make an omelette. I guess it's because I don't like them all that well.

But I liked this one for sure.

Looking forward to the leftovers tomorrow.

Stinging Nettle Omelete (or Omelette?) 

03 December 2013

Thanksgiving in Nashville (a photo essay)

So glad that one of us actually had our iPhone on hand to capture the great memories from Thanksgiving in Nashville. 

Caramel apples!
Like kids in a candy store. 

Our family + downtown Nashville


Grocery shopping with cousin Ainsley!

Quality time with Grandma Joyce.

Quality time with (Great) Grandma Sarah.
Happy 90th Birthday!

Cousin shenanigans.


How I Went Without My iPhone for Six Whole Days and Lived To Tell About It

Love these faces. 
The day before Thanksgiving we were scheduled to fly out in the early afternoon. We had two hurried stops to make on the way to the airport: first was Costco to pick up pictures to share with family; the second stop was the coffee shop nearby to get a cup of coffee to shore us up for the long day ahead.

When I scurried into Costco, I had my phone and wallet in hand. I got the pictures, hopped back in the car, jumped out at the coffee shop, and - standing in line for coffee - noticed my phone was no where on my person. I assumed I'd left it in the car, but when I got back with the coffees we couldn't find it. Sergio called it and we heard nothing. I assumed I'd left it at Costco so we sped back. It wasn't at the photo counter; it wasn't at lost and found. Costco was so busy that day; I just assumed someone had snatched it up for themselves.

By this point we had to go to the airport or risk missing the flight (for a phone? No way!) so I bucked up, endured that fiery twinge that you feel when you realize something is lost FOREVER, and called AT&T to report my phone stolen.

I couldn't stop wondering about my phone. Finally, about half way through the flight, a very plausible theory dawned on me: perhaps the phone had been in my lap when we pulled up at the coffee shop and had dropped out of my lap when I got out of the car. I could just picture it: me sitting inside the car while Sergio calls my phone and my phone sitting in the grass just a few feet away from me on the other side of the car door, ringing and ringing, but me unable to hear it.

As soon as we landed, I called the coffee shop and sure enough, someone had turned in a light blue iPhone: "it has a lot of missed calls from someone named Sergio," said the barista. "Yep," I told him. "That's mine." He kindly offered to keep it there until I got back from vacation...

…in SIX days. *sigh* How was I going to survive for six whole says without my iPhone in my pocket like it always is?

Well now those six days have transpired and I'm pleased to report that I have retrieved and restored my phone, that I survived just fine, and that I may even be better off for having lost it in the first place. Here are...

The Top Six Things I Learned on a Six-Day Holiday Vacation Without My iPhone. 

1. I spend a lot of mental energy worrying about my phone. It wasn't until I did without my phone that I realized how much time I spend thinking about it. Where's my phone? Did I leave it somewhere? Will it fall out of my back pocket and into the bathtub when I'm bathing my kids? Did I leave it in the car? Did I leave it at my desk? Will the phone run out of battery power before I can get back to a charger? I went six whole days without having to ask myself any of those questions. That was liberating.

2. I don't read enough. Maybe you use your smart phone to read really long and interesting articles about contemporary social issues or short stories by prominent authors. Or maybe you use your smart phone to like people's pictures on Instagram. Probably we all do a little bit of both. But not having my phone made me snap out of it and pick up a magazine. I have been so addicted to this little device and its connectivity; I am embarrassed that losing my phone is what it took to pull me out of the click-click, scroll-scroll vortex of my smart phone. Why I couldn't I pull myself out with plain old will power?

3. A lot of people are on their phones. A lot. Long before my phone ever went missing, we instituted a "No Phones at the Table" policy for meal times in our family, in the hopes that we could focus on each other without distraction and set a good example for our kids. Since we adopted this policy and then have dined with other people, I have been surprised to see everyone else on their phones during meals. You've seen it before, haven't you? The folks at the table next to you, all not talking to one another because they're on their phones. Well, let me tell you - if you haven't noticed that before, the way to discover it is to leave your phone at home while you go out of town for 6 days. This video - called "I Forgot My Phone" - does a great job of describing this phenomenon.

4. I don't need to photograph something to truly enjoy it; but I do like taking pictures. For most of the trip I borrowed Sergio's phone to snap some pictures of the girls when "necessary," and I am grateful for that and for the ability to capture funny little scenes, poignant moments, etc. But one afternoon, several of us went on a hike while Sergio stayed in the car with Clara, who was asleep. No Sergio meant no phone which meant no camera. The hike was beautiful - the tall barren trees, the sunlight at just the right angle, the green moss, the brown leaves, the red blazes on the tree trunks, and of course Julia with an eager face, her red puffer coat, and her bright aqua gloves. It was picturesque. I wanted so badly to photograph it. But do you know what I did instead? I just enjoyed it. And it was good.

5. Social media can wait. Since I wasn't checking my phone (my Facebook, my Instagram, etc.) every hour or every half hour, I missed out on a lot of social media. But … I wouldn't exactly say I "missed" it, if you know what I mean. When an opportunity arose to catch up using Sergio's phone, I would log on to my email or Facebook or what not and look for something important that I might have missed. There wasn't that much. One friend's announcement; another set of great pictures; a clever post here or a funny comment there. You know what? It can all wait. I caught up later and spent the rest of the day doing something else. Like going on a hike.

6. I like being connected. Here's another video, a portion of which echoes the "I Forgot My Phone" video by asking "Is it easier to connect? Or harder to stay close?" and contrasts images of loved ones video-chatting or texting with one another from far far away with an image of a family of five at dinner, each absorbed in their own electronic device, oblivious to each other. I have felt precisely those feelings. Every time Julia chats with her grandparents on one of our iPhones, I love them. Every time someone I'm trying to talk to won't stop looking at their phone, I hate smart phones. And when it was Thanksgiving and I didn't have my phone with me to write to my family or post a message of gratitude to friends, I was a little bit sad. I used Sergio's phone to text my family so it's not like I was completely disconnected. But I did feel a little bit out of touch and I didn't like that.

Tonight when Julia saw my phone for the first time (after I picked it up at the coffee shop this morning), she exclaimed very excitedly, "Mommy! Your phone! Are you happy?" Okay, if even a 3-year-old knows how connected (addicted?) you are to your iPhone, then maybe you really are hooked.

I am tired of being mired down by the worst of my smart phone, but I think now I can appreciate the best aspects of this technology. I can already feel some New Years resolutions coming on.

Addendum 1: I have just learned a new word - "nomophobia" which is short for "no-mobile-phone-phobia." I didn't know that word existed before, but I definitely think I had that phobia and conquered it head on when I lost my phone. I'm glad to know I can survive without it.

Addendum 2: Here's a new ad by Apple that makes the case for technological immersion. It is sentimental and beautiful and represents some of the best that a smart phone has to offer. An interesting consideration in my continuing examination of how we use our phones. Apple ad

04 November 2013

Our 10th Annual ThanksVegan (TV10)

Well, to be honest, many years ago, when we realized that our ThanksVegan tradition was going to be around for a while, I sort of assumed that we'd be really well off by the time we reached our TENTH ANNUAL ThanksVegan (which seemed so far away). I figured we'd be wealthy enough to fly off to Vegas or Chicago or, come on, at least Fort Worth and have a Destination ThanksVegan like we've always talked about doing, where we gratefully enjoy fine vegan dining in a top notch restaurant prepared by stellar chefs and served to us with little or no effort on our parts.

Instead, we celebrated TV10 with these little rascals on board. And you know what? It was perfect.

Dylan, age 11 months - Clara age 14 months

Rascally Julia was around too, but she is increasingly hard to photograph as she hardly ever sits still. This was now her fourth ThanksVegan (really? No… well… yeah, I guess it is!) and with the addition of the babies, we now amount to a pretty intrusive entourage in the grocery store, and grocery shopping as a group IS an important part of the tradition. That's 7 people shopping for vegan groceries. Oh, and did I mention that Jon was in a wheel chair because he'd just had knee surgery? That's one stroller, one wheel chair, one kids' car shopping cart, and 3 very distracted adults with grocery lists. Fun for us. Perhaps less so for the other shoppers trying to scoot past us. 

the entourage
At home, while the children napped (there were about 5 minutes when I think all 3 kids were asleep at the same time) we reminisced on past ThanksVegan meals (the "tofurkey" at TV1 - never again; our all-breakfast ThanksVegan at TV9 - our most untraditional) and tried to remember what it was like to have so much time to cook and no babies to chase around. Can hardly remember!

The meal

The truth is that we are old hands at this ThanksVegan meal now and those long hours in the kitchen fly by with ease. Jon, hopping across the kitchen on one leg (Hoppin' Jon!), determined to do his part, did most of chopping while the rest of us took turns cooking, setting the table, or wrangling babies. We did outsource our main course and the gravy. Since we are just minutes away from the beloved Eden Alley, we made arrangements to get our very own Spinach and Mushroom Loaf and Mushroom Gravy; it was a perfect main dish. 

I still can't believe it's been 10 years. And yet - in some ways - I can. We have very happily come a long way since then. And I, for one, am grateful. 


The Meal
- Eden Alley's Spinach and Mushroom Loaf
- Eden Alley's Mushroom Gravy
- Mashed Potatoes
- Roasted, Spiced Sweet Potatoes (Smitten Kitchen)
- Sauteed Kale
- Asian Green Beans (a la Erin)
- Butternut Squash Soup (Teany - from this book)
- Jellied Cranberry Sauce and Whole Cranberry Sauce … yes, from a can. Don't judge!
- Fennel Raisin Bread from The New Traditionalist baker who just happened to write to me the morning of ThanksVegan and say, "Can I bring you some bread today?" Um, yes! Perfect!
- Peanut Butter Chocolate Vegan pie for dessert

01 November 2013

"Hayoween" (Halloween 2013)

Ghost entourage: we hung these in our car for Trunk or Treat
and in our house for Halloween night.
Julia helped me decide what kinds of faces to give them.

Our second Halloween in this house and I am still marveling at how fun this neighborhood is on this holiday. The picturesque blanket of fall leaves, the funny little costumes, the steady stream of revelers.

Having children + living in this neighborhood
= a love of Halloween I never imagined. 
On my door step I greeted all kinds - kids who were too shy to say "trick or treat" and kids who were too distracted to say "thank you" and kids who were too old to be kids and too cool to have costumes but who wanted candy anyway. 

Not to mention my own children who have taught me that it hardly even matters what costume a kid wears; when that kid is yours and she puts on a costume and smiles at you, you will think she is - without any shadow of a doubt - The Cutest Thing Ever. And you will be right. 


Clara soaked up the whole experience happily. And mostly kept her bear hat on. Julia loved being a dinosaur (even if she didn't love wearing her full costume completely all the time). She did a good job and made a lovely little roar when prompted.

Oh, and I just remembered my favorite trick or treater last night - a little girl who got her candy, said thank you, turned away down my steps, stopped, picked up a bright red leaf from among the thousands of leaves on my lawn, and turned around to come back and give me the leaf ... as if it were the most important thing in the world.

And for that split second, it was.

30 August 2013

Tibicos (or Water Kefir)

This is our new favorite drink. There are lots of names for it; most people call it Water Kefir, but we call it Tibicos. And the cutest thing ever is Julia asking for "teebeecosh!" It's a probiotic beverage made with kefir grains. Which sounds so weird when I explain it. So I've started just saying that it's like home made soda but it's good for you instead of bad for you.

It's good for you the way that yogurt or milk kefir are good for you - because of the good bacteria that grows. You start out with kefir grains (not real "grains" - they actually look like giant salt crystals). You feed them sugar (and a few other things). They grow and grow during the first ferment; then you flavor the tibicos in the second ferment, after you've removed the grains. And in just a matter of days you have some lovely and delicious "soda" (so to speak).

Our favorite flavors are peach or apricot (flavored with tea), lemon juice, or ginger. (Oh and we made a black currant one once that tasted just like a Clearly Canadian!)

See below for the "recipe" we received from our friend who got us started in the world of water kefir. We have (miraculously!) kept our grains going for a couple of months now and while we did have to slow down production, we have kept a steady cycle going. And when we've gone on tibicos hiatus in order to leave town, I have missed it so much.

Julia likes it pretty well, too. Clara is still deciding. But I'm glad to have some probiotics to give them to balance out the antibiotics we had to give them a few weeks ago. Gotta keep that balance.

We will have extra grains up for grabs periodically. Happy to spread the Tibicos gospel and the grains!

Water Kefir

Basic ratio:
1 Tbsp grains
1 Tbsp sugar
1 cup water

First Ferment:
In a jar, add sugar (ideally sucanat/rapidura/turbinado; organic raw cane sugar works), some raisins (about 10), a splash of lemon juice, a tiny pinch of baking soda, and water. Stir to somewhat dissolve sugar. Add grains. Can be left covered lightly with a cloth or a lid. Let sit in room temperature - not in sun - for 48 hours or until brew no longer tastes like sugar water. You're aiming for the sweet spot between sugar water and vinegar. you can drink the water kefir now or do a second ferment to add flavor and carbonation.

Second Ferment:
Strain out grains and raisins. Discard raisins (or eat them!). Set aside grains. Pour water kefir into bottle with swing-lock top or mason jar with metal lid. Add flavoring. Close bottle/jar, let sit for 48 hours. "Burp" to safely let out a bit of carbonation once or twice a day. Grains can be used again to start a first ferment, as above.

After 48 hours, serve over ice or refrigerated and enjoy!

For more info: http://www.culturesforhealth.com/water-kefir-frequently-asked-questions-faq

25 August 2013

The Week of the Sibling Discount

This was Clara's first week at Julia's daycare/school. But it was also Julia's last week there before starting a new school on Monday. So I celebrated the one week of them attending the same school (and the one week of the sibling discount!) by dressing them in matching clothes each day this week.

I use the term "matching" very loosely because I'm really limited in this regard. For one thing, I don't buy them matching clothes (because I shop a lot of thrift stores and consignment sales). Another challenge is that Julia is a toddler and has very firm opinions on what she wants to wear. Fortunately she likes to match with Clara.

Monday: "chomper" shirts (that is, shirts with aggressive,
teeth-baring animals) and polka dot pants.

Tuesday: a true match! Frog shirts with button fireflies,
a gift from Honey.
Wednesday: tie-dye shirts from Honey (that don't match
but are both tie dye shirts and are both gifts from Honey.)

Thursday: Another true match!
Beats for Beckham shirts in support
of their sweet cousin Beckham.

Friday: another stretch - it was the end of the week, but I
found shirts and pants that were all stripes!
Never mind the mismatched colors. 

06 August 2013

Watermelon Popsicles - a very short "recipe"

Watermelon Popsicles
Watermelon Popsicles - a very short "recipe"

sugar (optional)
basil, chopped (optional)

1. Chop the watermelon; remove the seeds.
2. Blend in the Vita-mix (or blender).
3. Add sugar and/or basil if desired.
4. Pour watermelon water into some sort of popsicle maker thingy. If you are a nursing mom, consider utilizing the empty breast milk storage containers that are collecting in your cabinet. They hold 2.5 ounces and are skinny.
5. Add appropriate popsicle sticks if you have them. Or, if you are nursing mom who didn't plan this ahead very well but who hoards, you can rummage through your catch-all drawer and unearth some plastic wear from previous take-out orders. If you can find 6 plastic forks or spoons, make 6 popsicles.
6. Place onto a plate and into the freezer.
7. Wait until a super hot day or a day when your toddler needs a distraction or - ideally - both! To remove popsicles from breast milk storage containers, dip them in a glass of hot water.
8. Have camera ready.

Note to self. Buy popsicle sticks so you don't have to use forks which become kind of hazardous as the popsicle melts. Duh. 

Another note to self: take children outside and strip them naked before giving them a popsicle. Or be prepared to clean. A lot. 

Julia takes the first bite. 
Sharing with her sister. 
Neither of them capable of waiting their turn, they opt to share simultaneously.