Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Seasons of Change

I've been staring at this computer screen all morning.  As a pseudo-writer, I try to make what I write clever, interesting, and maybe just a bit funny. 

But sometimes I just can't muster up my mojo, like today. Well, all summer, actually.

There's a lot going down with the Bs.  As we speak, Mr. B is sitting through the first day of new teacher orientation. He has gone to part-time at the church to take a full time position as Choral Director at our high school.  I am so incredibly happy for him. Music really is his gift, and the more he can share it with, the merrier. 

I, too, am headed back to school on Monday, but not to my first grade classroom. I will be leaving the traditional classroom for a position in the library as a Media Specialist.  This is both exciting and bittersweet for me.  Although the job is a dream for me, it is not at the same building as Little B.  I won't be there to kiss her every day before lunch or make sure Mr. B made her comb her hair before school.  I won't be there for her first day of school. I've already cried about it, more times than I care to admit.

As if the vocational changes weren't enough, there's always our diets.

When we returned from visiting family in early July, I decided to do Kathy Freston's Quantum Wellness Cleanse.  I felt terrible after all the dinners out and late night desserts. I just wanted to get my body back on track. The cleanse included abstaining from animal products, dairy, and alcohol, which I already do, plus sugar, caffeine, and gluten. 

After the caffeine/sugar headache for the first couple of days, I felt really good. Better in fact, than I had felt in a really long time.  All of my vacation pimples cleared, my dark circles faded, and the fatigue that still plagues me when I over do it, did not rear its ugly head. 

Until the dinner debacle. 

I had fixed a simple meal of rice spaghetti and salad. At the end of the meal, I was overcome with sharp stabbing pains, so severe, I needed to lie down.  The next day, the fatigue hit, my scalp got itchy, my face broke out. 

I combed through the ingredients in each of the items I used.  Something made me feel this way, I was sure of it.  The only thing was that wasn't a whole food was the salad dressing, which had gluten. 

I mentioned it to Mr. B, but figured this surely had to be some coincidence.  I am a teacher, not an MD, so I really don't need to go around jumping to conclusions or self-diagnosis. I do have a BA in psychology, so been there, done that.

So eventually the symptoms abated and I returned to the conclusion of my fast.  Maybe a little paranoid (par for the course for me), but none worse for the wear.

Until I went off the cleanse. Ugh.

Returning to my morning cup of coffee was easy, and didn't even give me the jitters. It was less than I had been drinking at my sister's house. My mom had brought her Keurig and it ended up like Kentucky Starbucks.  It was a complete wonder that I didn't need hospitalization coming off caffeine after that week, but I digress...

I tried to keep away from straight up sugar, because it really has no nutritional value anyway. And no comments here about coffee - studies have shown a link to reduced chances of Alzheimer's. 

The crash came after muffins for breakfast.  By noon, I was in pain. I pushed my thoughts aside.  I ate a wrap for lunch. More pain, along with a brain fog.  I so wanted to lie down, but I kept at it all afternoon long.  Then the mood swung in a less-than-positive direction.  I fixed Lentil Joes in buns for dinner with onion rings.  Finally, I ended the day with some homemade chocolate chip cookies. 

Boy did I pay for that.

I can no longer think that the reintroduction of gluten did not affect me adversely.  I am afraid to try it again.  I even tried my hand at gluten-free pizza dough (meh) and chocolate chip cookies (amazing).

I've done a lot of reading over the last week, trying to find out more about gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, and wheat allergy.   What I have learned is both daunting and enlightening.  There are simply too many commonalities between my own health experiences and typical celiac symptoms for me to exclude it as a possibility. It is linked to unexplained infertility, chronic fatigue - two things I wish were not written in my medical file.  I fear that I will struggle to find a doctor to explore this possibility with me.  I worry for Little B, who still exhibits so many symptoms and still has to rely on medication to prevent intestinal duress. 

It takes the average American 11 years to be diagnosed with celiac disease.  Eleven YEARS.

This is a change I am not sure I am ready to bear, if it is even a change I need to make at all.  But after my two little experiments, I am both anxious and afraid to try it again. 

And to be honest, I feel a little crazy.  I am not normally a girl who doesn't know how to proceed, or least press onward. But for the first time in my life, I am almost frozen with uncertainty.

And I don't like it. Not one bit.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Girl, Interrupted: Black Eyed Peapers

What are blackberries, fresh mint, canned black eyed peas, and bittersweet chocolate?

A gauntlet, my friends. 

As is getting on the internet at a technology conference, but that's a post for another day.

A recipe contest, put on by The Post Punk Kitchen's Isa Chandra Moskowitz, was to challenge vegans everywhere to come up with a recipe utilizing those ingredients a la Food Network's CHOPPED.  

Since I have scads of homework, VBS, and packing to do and needed a solid reason to procrastinate, I have come up with a crazy ridiculous recipe in a lame attempt to win the following...

~Fame, respect and the Chopped Vegan title
~A $50 Vegan Essentials Gift Certificate
~A signed copy of any of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s cookbooks
~A Post Punk Kitchen Apron
~Possible publication on the PPK blog and Isa's next cookbook

First, let me say that Isa Chandra Moskowitz is my kitchen hero.  When we were in Omaha for Little B's birthday, I was looking intently up at all the apartment buildings and houses we passed, hoping to see to her learning out a window sipping tea, petting her cat, and letting cruelty-free cookies rain down on the streets like it was vegan jubilation.  I don't think I saw her, but I was distracted by a dude who  I think was taking a leak on the side of a building.  Forgive me, please.

Back to the contest...So my first thought was brownies, but that's because I am obsessed with nailing down the best brownie recipe EVA.  Then I thought salsa, but BORING. Of course, there's salad, but GAH! No more vegan salads, thank you very much.

The combo of chocolate and beans made me think chili,  but who wants chili on a 98* Kansas day? Not this girl, I ASSURE YOU.  The blackberries made me think of a delicious dip I make inspired by So Long Saloon in Aggieville, but processed vegan cream cheese is out. Now I am sure some will take the sneaky way out and make a meal with a drink.  I say - PUT IT ALL TOGETHER! I may secretly be a liberal vegan ninja, but I still grew up in in the midwest: casseroles are the only way.

Not exactly a casserole, but this is my (hopefully) winning concoction...

  • 1 cup veggie broth or water
  • 1 cup amaranth
  • 1 T. olive oil
  • 1 clove chopped garlic
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup black eyed peas, drained & rinsed
  • 1/4 cup blackberries
  • 1 small tomato, diced
  • 1/2 t. jalapeno diced
  • 2 t. shaved bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight
  • 4oz firm tofu, drained
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 2 T. nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 cup(s) fresh mint, chopped
  • 4 large peppers (red, orange, green, purple and/or yellow) whatever floats your boat!

  • Cook couscous in broth or water according to package directions. 

    Preheat the ol' oven to 350.*

    Saute garlic and onion in olive oil.  Add black eyed peas and raspberries. Break the blackberries up a little, but don't try to make jelly. Add the diced tomato. Add the mint, jalepeno (And it's pronounced "juh-LAP-uh-no" for this particular recipe) and the chocolate. Turn heat to low while you prep the cashews.

    Now, I have to stop here only for a moment to let you know what happened between me prepping the filling and make the next step. 

    I have been leading the music at our church's vacation bible school this week.  After I was finished with the opening, I ran to the store, picked up what I needed and ran home to make my winning recipe.  Well, I sort of got distracted, and bought a purse on the way home, which cut my cooking time a bit short.  I had just finished the filling when I realized it was eight o'clock and needed to get back to church.

    Backstory - The kids have been raising money for a radio ministry in Soweto, Africa.  It's a boys vs. girls thing, and the winning group gets to throw a pie in the face of whomever they wish on Sunday morning.

    I know you think you know where this is going, but you're wrong. This girl will be in San Diego at the 2012 ISTE conference, no pie for me! HA!

    So I get back, everyone's all excited to hear the final total collected.  Our children's pastor, Enola, said that each group gets to pick a victim for Sunday.  Two people are chosen. Now, I really felt bad about this but I stood up on a chair and yelled, "WHO WANTS TO PIE PASTOR ENOLA?" And after the screaming cheers dies down, and because I am beyond immature, I got all the kiddos chanting her name. She accepts her fate with a smile.  I feel bad. I shouldn't.

    Then, lo and behold, she says, "Now I have a surprise! Someone's going to get a pie in the face TONIGHT!"

    You know where this is going NOW.

    "She's been helping us out a lot this week...Miss Jennifer!"

    After the cheering quiets she says, "It's even a vegan pie!"

    Pastor Enola is money when is comes to details.
    Because I am a good sport AND and an idiot, I run up cheering, giving kids high-fives and basically act like a drunk frat boy.  I put on Little B's purple baseball hat, refuse the garbage bag to cover my clothes and open my mouth wide.     

    An hour and a shower later, I got back to my recipe. 
    In a food processor or whatever you've got, blend the cashews, tofu, salt, nooch, and the other half of the mint until smooth and creamy. Set aside.
    Cut the tops off of your pepper and clean out the seeds. Use a knife to trim the bottom as necessary so they sit flat in an 8x8 sprayed with canola.
    Fill each pepper as follows: Bean mixture, cashew cheese, Bean mixture...and a little dollop on top if you like. 
    Bake for 25-30 minutes or until peppers, I mean PEAPERS, are soft-ish. Serve with guacamole, salsa, chips, or whatever you like!

    Pretty delicious. Even with pie up my nose.  

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    The 'S' Word

    Ah, the 'S' word.  What's the first 'S' word you think of, sailor?

    Trust me, if you are over the age of seven, you do not know what 'S' word I'm talking about. 

    I'm going to type it now so, feel free to close your browser if you think your morality will be compromised.


    Like most households with young children, stupid is a dirty word in our house.  It's right up there with 'SHUT UP,' 'HATE,' and 'LIKE' (we are literary device bigots: METAPHORS only!). 

    If you've ever been a primary teacher, you are no stranger to this either.  Undoubtedly, a child rushes up to you at recess and yells,

     "He said the 'S" word!"

    At which point you crouch down, look into their sweet little face and say,

    "Oh, no! The 'S' word? I need you to tell me exactly what he said."

    The child's eyes widen, his little head begins to shake. Although you will randomly get a kid to whisper it into your ear, most of the time, he's not going to say it.  You have asked this poor child to  do what he fears the most. And you will probably call his mother. 

    At this point the kid is a little sweaty, so you take it down a notch by saying,

    "Okay, honey, I need you to spell it for me."

    A sigh of relief escapes his lips and he starts out slowly...

    "S...(VERY pregnant pause).

    This is truly your only moment of uncertainty.  Once the 'T' is out, you know what you're dealing with.  Occasionally, the dreaded 'H' comes out.  There is potential for disaster in this scenario, although 90% of the time, your third letter is 'U.'

    Then you smile at your little recess-language nazi and remind them,

    "Kind kids use kind words!"

    Kind moms, however, don't always use kind words. 

    (Wow. How's that for an introduction. Geez. I should be a preacher.  Took me long enough!)

    Poor Little B has been subjected to the 'S' word flying out of my mouth multiple times a day for the last few weeks.  Mostly followed by the word 'DOG.'


    The conversation goes something like this:

    ME: Where's Bella?

    LITTLE B: I don't know. Outside? (peering out the window) I think she's eating something.

    ME: (rushing to window) That stupid dog is eating poop!
    (now banging on window) STOP EATING POOP, YOU STUPID DOG!
    (charging out back door) You stupid dog, what are you eating? Stop it! Stop it! Stop it! Get in here, you stupid dog!
    (me back inside) Now don't even think for one second, I'm giving you a treat, you stupid dog.

    LITTLE B: You know, Mommy, you really shouldn't call her stupid. That is a bad word and it probably hurts her feelings. 

    ME: (using all self-control I have to speak without sarcasm and condescension) If you eat poop, you're stupid. OUR. DOG. IS. STUPID.

    LITTLE B: Maybe if you called her 'Smart,' she'd stop eating poop and you wouldn't call her that bad word anymore.

    ME: You're right, honey. That's a great idea. I shouldn't use that word anyway.
    (walking into the living room) AHHHH! THAT STUPID DOG THREW UP POOP ON MY COUCH!

    LITTLE B: Mommy, that SMART dog threw up poop on your couch.

    And so on and so forth almost every single day of summer vacation so far. Let me clarify that she is eating rabbit poop and not her own poop.  It's practically Watership Down in our backyard, so there's no shortage of bunny poop to go around. 

    Now, I didn't waste the last 90 seconds of your time to get to a story about a barfing dog with a weak allusion to literature. 

    I did it for brownies.

    Stupid brownies. 

    See, back in the day, when I was a carnivorous hound, I was a decent cook, but could never master the steak.  No matter what I did, no matter what type of meat I purchased, I butchered it. No pun intended. 

    So, when I set off into vegan bliss, I laughed haughtily as I skipped away from days of meat consumptions and the dastardly gauntlet of t-bones and fillets. 

    Alas, there is a new challenge before me: the STUPID BROWNIE.

    See, I came back to it.  Everything's coming together.

    Except for my STUPID BROWNIES!

    I just can't get it right! I've tried and tried. I've googled vegan brownie more times than 5th grader googles 'Justin Beiber' and I can't get it right! Every cookbook lets me down and the egg replacer refuses to adequately replace!

    Well, after countless cups of cocoa have been wasted, I think I am getting closer.

    Now this would be a great place for me to present you with an amazing brownie that will blow your mind, but it's just not ready yet. 

    This Saturday, I am headed out of town to the ISTE conference in San Diego.  I plan on taking brownies with  me for the ride to the airport.  I will bake stupid brownies every day until I get it right. 

    Friends, watch for the post that will change my brownie luck.  I ought to start with the recipe title...

    SMART Brownies, maybe?

    Thursday, June 14, 2012

    Mile Marker 9

    Life is a journey.

    It took me a while to figure that out. For so long, it was all about getting to the end, the goal, the destination.  Go to school. Get a job. Get married. Have kids. Buy a nice house. Retire.

    At what point do you figure out there's more? And that a journey is better when you share it?

    I don't know when I did, but what I have discovered has everything to do with this man. 

    I knew pretty early on that this guy was the one, and I like to think that felt the same way about me.

    What I didn't know was that he'd turn out to be such an amazing husband, the best father, and the most loyal and reliable friend.

    There are so many moments I could share, so many memories, the mere recollection of one brings the flood of dozens more.

    We definitely aren't where we thought we'd be when we set out on this journey nine years ago, but I wouldn't want it any differently, and most assuredly I wouldn't want it with anyone else. 

    So as we come up to this mile marker on our little trek through life, I just have to say that I'm up for any journey, as long as it's with you. Sweaty hands and all.

    Happy Anniversary, Mr. B.

    Sunday, April 22, 2012

    Bits of Randomness & FUD

    Wow. Who hasn't blogged since January?


    I feel like I've let my family down a little, since they sort of keep up with us this way. (And when I say 'family,' I just mean my mom.)

    During January and February, I was busy directing a little comedy, AN EVENING OF CULTURE: FAITH COUNTY 2 for our little theater. 

    Then there were parent-teacher conferences, an Easter production at church, and about one thousand young adult novels to read. 

    Busy girl.
    Because I am not quite busy enough, I have decided to plant a garden this year.  Let me start by saying I know NOTHING about gardening.  NOTHING.  I really can't stress this enough. When I called our local extension agent, I explained that I am a total sub-novice and if there is a term indicating even less ability than that, that is the term to apply to me. 

    So today, while nursing a nasty cold, I tromped out to the backyard to attempt to kill the grass in a non-poisonous way.  I had read that vinegar will kill grass/weeds/anything living, but is obviously poison-free.  So I found the only vinegar in the house - apple cider.

    See, here's the problem with me.  I am not a great planner and do not typically follow directions to the tee. So I am a huge fan of improvising. HUGE. 

    Needless to say, I doused a small 8x16 area of our backyard in apple cider vinegar.  As of 4pm this afternoon there was no change in the very green grass of our backyard.  After finding out that even Round-Up can take several days to kill weeds, I suppose I need to be a bit more patient with my homeopathic remedy. 

    I am still busy now, procrastinating, of course.  There are lesson plans to write, food to cook, and a child to rear.

    Speaking of my child. SHE IS HUGE. They shouldn't be allowed to grow up so fast. 
    Have you ever seen a child approach macaroni & cheese with such trepidation?

    Me neither. 

    Have you ever read a blog with  worse transitions?

    That's a rhetorical question, friends.

    The above picture was taken at FUD, a vegan restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri.  We've eaten there several times and Little B is OBSESSED with it.  She promises that their mac & cheese isn't as good as mine, but I must admit, it is incredibly tasty.

    Mr. B and I prefer the nachos. 

    Frickin delish.

    They are quite well know for the amazing dishes they create with green jack fruit. I'm not sure what it is and I'm too lazy to google it right now.  All I know is that it is the closest replica to meat I've had since going vegan almost two years ago. 

    This would be a great place for me to go off on a tangent, but I'll spare you...this time.

    How about a picture of their cuban sandwich instead?

    Also delicious, in case you were wondering.

    Now I'm off to take an online ADD diagnostic test. While I'm doing that, you can check out FUD here...

    Happy Earth Day!

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    Easy Bake Oven Coup

    Back in the day, I had a pretty colorful vocabulary. More like mind blowing.

    There are certain things that dredge up my colorful past.
    I've replaced my bent towards those expletives with such words as...




    and it's close relative, "FARGH!"



    Poking dutifully into my sailor background was this:
    The Fargh-ing Easy Bake Oven.

    See how useful those words can be?

    The EBO (Evil Baking Organism Easy Bake Oven) is only slightly more palatable when it is pictured with something extraordinarily cute.

    I'd managed to contact Santa to let him know that Little B didn't really need an EBO. Luckily, Mimi was still here to protect Little B from all kinds of colorful vocabulary by stepping in to man the oven. 

    Mimi carefully sawed through the Red Velvet Cake cardboard so she & Papa could have a snack and validate my daughter's desire to be an astronomer/gymnast/chef when she grows up.  
    Like stubbing my toe, directing a play, and cleaning dog vomit off the couch, the EBO breaks through the prison in which I've incarcerated my old swearing self, and arouses in me the desire to use some very, very, bad, bad words (see above).

    How is this possible, you ask? Wasn't Mimi holding down the cheap plastic fort?

    Yes, friends, you are correct, but you must understand that the crap in these mixes borders on poison. Not to mention that they cost as much as a new pair of TOMS. (And I'd rather have the shoes.) 
    I actually spent two hours trying to concoct a vegan recipe that Little B could use and eat.

    Notice the nifty stack of cards under the brownie one? None of them came close.

    Maybe that's because I was using these...
    Please note that the 'dash' measuring spoon is the approximate size of Barbie's pinky fingernail. 

    I even got out my good vegan cookbooks and tried little versions of REAL recipes. Still sloppy mini-blobs of unbaked batter emerged. 

    After the sweat ceased to bead upon my brow after the 15th batch of mini brownies, my child turned to me and said...

    Little B: Mama, this isn't fun.

    Me: No, honey. No, it is not.

    Little B: You can't even see inside. Can we take this back?

    Me: (recovering from my fall off the kitchen stool) Yes, we can. We can take it back and buy you a real toaster oven that you can see inside and you'll have an extra $20 to spend.

    Little B: Seriously, I think I'd just rather use the real oven. 

    I would add more of the conversation, but I think I had already gone out to the garage, grabbed the box and shoved all of the plastic junk back inside and found the receipt in my purse. I may have even been buckled up in the car pulling out of the drive way. 

    Strangely enough, Little B hasn't made a single request to bake anything since the day of the coup. 

    Good riddance, EBO. Good riddance.