Monday, March 17, 2014

St. Patrick's Day Craft!

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I am lucky enough to have my in-laws visiting, and my mother in law (who was an elementary school teacher for years and years) did the cutest craft with Will and Andrew!

She took green construction paper, drew a shamrock, and had them glue pieces of dried flowers and acorns she'd scavenged from the front yard.

It was quick, it was fun, it was super cute, and they loved it start to finish!

Make them a green smoothie and their day will be complete!

Friday, February 14, 2014

I Love You More Than Bacon: Why We're Vegan And I Love It

Happy Valentine's Day!

In our kitchen window sits a little black sign with white lettering that reads "I LOVE YOU MORE THAN BACON."
I bought the sign after Greg and I saw it in a little shop on Cape Cod.  At the time, there was very little I loved more than bacon.  I loved bacon so much I had started frying up two pieces of it each morning to eat with an egg and toast, even on week days.  I bought the best, most expensive, antibiotic free, nitrate free, hopefully slightly humane bacon that money could buy, and I loved it.
More and more though, I started to notice that when I ate lots of sugary or greasy foods, I didn't run as well.  I ran slower, it was harder, I enjoyed it less.
Then one of my friends recommended a book to me, Superfood Smoothies by Julie Morris.  She told me that her kids drank the chocolate kale smoothie like it was a milkshake.  I bought it, and my bacon and egg breakfasts started to be replaced by whole foods smoothies, with protein and omega-3 rich chia seeds, leafy greens and spicy ginger, mango or pineapple for sweetness, and a creamy texture from frozen bananas that dairy can't compete with.  I felt better.  I had more energy.
When I started using twitter to connect with other runners, I began to read tweets from some vegan runners, like @forkstofeet and @chinarunner.  Brandon's blog, Forks to Feet, credited the documentary Forks Over Knives with improving his life and his running.
I stalled.  I put roasts in the oven and served them with two sides.  I waffled.
Greg went out with friends one night last October.
I opened a bottle of red wine.
I watched Forks Over Knives.
I watched Vegucated.
I will never eat meat again.
There are three main reasons I've given up eating any animal products.
1. Health.  After watching Forks Over Knives I now understand that it's not necessary or healthy to eat animal products, and that by doing so I was putting our family at higher risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, and osteoporosis... at least.
2. Environment. Eating less meat is critical to our environment.  The UN has asked us to eat less meat in order to help reduce global warming - google it for articles in 2008, 2010, and 2013.   My favorite cookbook author, Mark Bittman, did a TED talk titled "What's wrong with what we eat" where he makes a compelling argument for reducing our meat consumption to help the environment.  Both Forks Over Knives and Vegucated address the environmental piece.  Don't take my word for it... look for yourself.  I no longer believe that grass fed is enough.
3.  Cruelty to animals.  The conditions of inexpensively raised livestock are horrific.  The slaughter of free-range, humanely raised animals is still slaughter.  When I watched the section of Vegucated where they showed how cows are artifically inseminated so they'll get pregnant and produce milk, and then their babies are dragged away to become veal, I vowed never to consume another dairy product again.  I nursed both my children.  How was it that I could have been so inattentive that I never thought about what it would be like for another sentient creature to be forced to produce gallons and gallons of milk, not even for their own offspring?  My working friends were so relieved when they weaned their children and didn't have to sit at a breast-pump anymore.  How can I make cows live a life of giving milk for another species, one who is less healthy for drinking it?  I didn't know until I watched Vegucated that male chicks are often thrown away in trash bags because they won't lay eggs and there are too many roosters.  I won't eat eggs anymore, either.  It's not just the cholesterol.  It's not just the earth.  I can't know what I know and WANT to eat those things.

I still keep that sign up in our kitchen.

It's message means so much more, now.

It means Dear Earth, I love you more than Bacon.  Dear sentient pig, I love you more than Bacon.  Dear body, and health of my family, I love you more than Bacon.  Dear moral compass, I love you more than Bacon.  
I feel like I took the Red Pill in the Matrix, and I've broken out of some ignorant illusion to which I can never, ever go back.
I thought I would miss it, but I can't look at animal products and feel an appetite anymore.  Not knowing what they do to my health, what they do to the environment, and what animals suffer through to bring them to us.
I love coconut milk, almond milk, and soy milk.  
When I drink wine, I crave olives with a rustic loaf of bread.  I have not found a texture or craving that could not be filled by plants.  Eating whole foods, minimally processed foods and avoiding refined sugars and oils as much as possible has been an important part of my new-found energy as well, thanks to what I learned from Forks Over Knives.
I'm grateful to know what I know, and I will never go back.
We're vegan, and I love it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Who do you love more than bacon?

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Involving Young Children in Decorating for the Holidays

The more I try to incorporate Montessori ideas into my home, the more impressed I am with how much my children are capable of learning and doing, and how happy it makes them to have the power and ability to do things for themselves.

Things take more time, but if I plan for it, I usually have plenty of time.  I would rather do fewer things and let my children participate more fully in each of those things, and that realization has shaped the way we're decorating for Christmas.  We're decorating a little at a time, and enjoying the process even more than the results.

As we decorate for Christmas I try to regularly ask myself, what can my toddler and preschooler help with?

Maybe help is the wrong word, because "help" implies that, well, it's going to be helpful.  Since my children are so young, a better question might be "how can my children participate?"  How can I get them involved, help them feel ownership, give them the pleasure of participating in our holiday traditions?

When I think of it that way, it reminds me that they're not here to help me decorate, I'm here to help them participate.  It's my job as a parent to find ways for them to feel helpful and included.  I'm sowing the seeds for children who will be legitimately helpful, independent, and capable later on.  More importantly, I'm helping them have enormous fun and make beautiful Christmas memories NOW!

Greg and I love doing things with Will and Andrew as a family, and that means finding as many things as we can that little hands can do.  Greg is a natural at this... I often have to think about it.  I'm really happy when I do :)

Luckily, there's a lot!  Here are some examples.  Happy decorating!

What can your little one's hands do?

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tip: Use a Coat Rack to Help Young Children Decorate Holiday Wreaths

Not how I would have spaced the ornaments,
but it'll make me smile every time I come home :)
It's December, and since we celebrate the Christmas tradition, that means it's time to decorate!  I love having the kids help, because they have so much fun being involved.

Greg ordered a wreath from the boy scouts, and it recently arrived ready for us to decorate! 

I used a low hanging hook on our coat rack as a stable place to hang the wreath where Will and Andrew could reach it.

I pulled out a small number of decorations, kept it simple, and was sure to supervise while they hung the breakable ornaments on the branches.  They would hook them where they wanted them, and then I made sure each one was secure.

Afterwards, Will eagerly helped to vacuum up all the pine needles while I hung the wreath on the front door.

If you're feeling less brave, or don't have time to clean up a potential mess, you could always use less breakable decorations.  Outgrown mittens on strings make adorable wreath decorations!

I figured that while I had time to supervise them, it would be good to give them the chance to handle delicate decorations.  If one fell and broke, we could talk about how some things are breakable, and what to do if something breaks.  (Stay really still until a grown-up can pick you up so you don't cut your hand or foot, put shoes on before you vacuum, etc.)  I didn't have to have that conversation because they were so careful, but I knew I had time to deal with the mess if it happened, and it's always good to teach kids how to handle breakable things.

Wreaths are such a great thing for kids to decorate, because they're smaller projects than a tree, and with the help of a coat rack they can reach the whole thing! 

He loves helping SO MUCH!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Two good kitchen tasks for preschoolers

Preparing food is easier when I can do prep tasks ahead of time and include the boys so they're content while I'm working - today for lunch they eagerly took turns brushing dirt off mushrooms, and washing the brussel sprouts.

I was amazed to find that even my 21 month old was able to effectively get dirt off the mushrooms with the brush, then set the mushroom on my cutting board for me and let his brother have a turn.  Color me impressed!

Washing fruits and vegetables is a no-brainer task to let kids do - but I particularly liked brussel sprouts because there were so many individual, sturdy items to wash.

I wish I could tell you they then ate both foods... But that didn't happen.  It was more likely than if they hadn't been involved!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My kitchen aid dough hook finally has a purpose!

I've always been a fan of kneading my own yeast breads - I enjoy it too much to automate the process.  No bread machine, no dough hook; just old fashioned bread making in our house.

But it's hard to let a one and three year old knead bread.  They need really clean hands, and they lose interest long before the job is done, reducing the "we did it" feeling to a "we helped" feeling.  Still good, but when I use a dough hook, they can add every ingredient to the bowl if I measure them first, turn on the mixer, watch it knead the dough (they watched an entire five minutes... mesmerized!) and even oil the bowl for it to rise in.

Inspired by Will's Montessori preschool, I try hard to let the kids do as much for themselves as possible.  In the day to day rush, it can be hard, and I don't always do as well as I like.

Making bread or cooking with the boys is an exercise for me to work on letting them do everything they can, helping as little as possible.  They carry the ingredients to the counter, wash and dry their own hands, dump everything into the bowl, and help clean up.

It takes A LONG TIME.  That means that for a good hour, they're not making a mess or fighting with each other anywhere else :)

Note: the brandy in the photo was for a fig log I made - not to help me get through the supervision process, I promise :)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Guest Post: Will's Halloween

Hi.  It's Will.  Mom's pretty busy so I'll be doing some guest posting.

Yesterday was Halloween.  I like Halloween.

This is my little brother Andrew.  He is not big.
You can carve pumpkins to look like faces.  You will need a grownup to help with the knife.  I made a scary face and Mom tried to carve it on a pumpkin for me.  She did all right.  I probably could have done it myself, though, because I am 3.

Dad did Andrew's pumpkin.  He is sticking his tongue out.

I got the pumpkin seeds all ready to go in the oven for roasting.  You need to get them out of the pumpkins, wash them, then pat them dry.  Then you mix them with salt and a little olive oil and put them in the oven at 350 for 20 minutes or so.  A grown up can stir them sometimes while they are cooking because they are VERY HOT.

Mom tried to help me dry the pumpkin seeds, but I could do it all by myself.

Mix the salt and olive oil on really well.  Wash your hands first.
Then you need to wash your hands again.  They will be sticky.

When people ring your door bell, you can open your door and hold out the bowl of candy and they will take some.  They wear costumes.  Sometimes they smile at you.  If they ask you how many they can have you say "one".  Otherwise you don't even have to say anything.  When you open the door and hold out the bowl they know to take the candy.  When they are done taking the candy you can shut the door.  It is nice to say "Happy Halloween".

Then after dinner you can go to other people's houses.  They will have candy.  You say "trick or treat" or "Happy Halloween" and then you can take some candy and put it in your purple pumpkin and eat it later.

Try to eat as much as you can right after you get home, because after Halloween is over you will only get one piece a day at snack time and that is not a lot.  Two would be better.  Or five.

Did you have a good Halloween, too?