Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Weigh-in Wednesday

Image use courtesy of Cathy Zielske

The scale is an instrument of torture, created by forces of evil, sent here to torment me all the rest of my days.

We have a window at the top of our staircase, and I fantasized about pitching the scale through it with all my might this morning. But then I thought about our neighbors, and realized one of them could be walking down their driveway at that exact moment, which is just below and would have been the scale landing pad. And what a horrible way to go that would be -- Raging Woman Takes Neighbor Out with Scale from Hell. So the scale is still sitting on our bathroom floor. For now.

I didn't lose an ounce this week. I may have actually gained an ounce or two. I don't really know because I don't usually pay attention to the ounces, since my breathing alone seems to make them fluctuate. But, I know they're there. Taunting me.

I sound distraught about this, but really, I'm just kind of . . . meh. I can't change what happened last week, right? And, in keeping with the Theme of the Week, I'm trying to focus on how I can, calmly, forge ahead. I need a new plan.

Is it going to be calorie counting that's required? I guess I've been a bit naive in thinking that I could eat vegan and the pounds would start melting off? I understand that it's possible to eat unhealthily and still follow a vegan eating plan. But, I've really increased fruits and veggies lately. I haven't had chips in days! I swear!

Maybe what's going on is the same thing that happened to me years ago in my second Weight Watchers membership. I had been a vegetarian for a couple of years, and I didn't understand why I wasn't losing weight. After I joined WW, I realized that one of my favorite meals equaled close to 1/2 of the points (WW's correlation to calories) I was allotted each day. Who knew there were so many calories in an entire can of vegetarian baked beans? I mean, they're beans! And don't act like you haven't done it before, mmmmmkay?

So maybe it's that. Maybe I'm banking loads of calories in vegan croutons on my salads. Maybe the vegan granola that I so completely adore isn't the wisest weight-loss choice for breakfast. Oh, boy, I need a new approach.

Here's where I'm heading at the moment: Calorie counting a couple of days each week. I don't want to go all hardcore with it because I know myself, and it will make me neurotic and crazy. More neurotic and crazier than I already am. I think just a couple/few times per week will let me see the range I'm working in and start tweaking from there.

The cool thing is that I feel so much better. I am noticeably less tired. And I mean that literally. Paul noticed, and commented, on my increased energy level just last night. It was nice to hear, you know? Someone seeing that you've got a little more spunk.

Now I just need to really attack the junk in the trunk.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

What I'm thinking about

True, it's a lovely sentiment for any time of year, but I'm thinking we should probably swap out the welcome mat finally. I can't really roll my eyes at the neighbor's icicle lights still hanging from their front porch until we do, right?

I'm guessing it might be easier to crack a safe than to open a new package of toilet paper. WHY on earth is toilet paper, of all things, wrapped up tighter than Fort Knox? Walk through the grocery store, and there are the baguettes, just hanging out, not even fully covered in some flimsy paper, and that goes in my mouth. But if you want to spend less than 10 minutes struggling, tugging, and cursing at a package of TP, you better keep a machete in your loo.

On a related topic, I'm so used to going to the bathroom with the door open, I'm terrified I'll do it in someone else's home or in a public place. "Oh, hello, Pastor John. That was a moving sermon you gave today. I'm glad to see you, actually . . . since you're standing right there, could you help me open this new package of toilet paper?"

Pre-washed lettuce. Why is its freshness, regardless of the date on the container, a total crap shoot? (No more potty references. I promise.)

Something that's actually making life a little simpler -- a dish drying mat. If you're like me, you constantly have a pile of plastic stuff that didn't dry in the dishwasher. This is super absorbent and easy to store away. Thanks for discovering it, Mom!

Heard at the park this morning:
Me: Eloise, it's time to get going, hon.
Eloise (playing ice cream shoppe with some other kids): No, Mami, I can't go.
Me: Yes, we need to get home to have lunch.
Eloise: No, not yet. Just two more.
Me: Two more what?
Eloise: Two more ice creams.

Keep calm and carry on!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Window dressing

Eloise, July 2008

It seems like this post should be about pretty things in a window, doesn't it?

Well, it actually is about windows. The windows on my house. And dressing. Salad dressing, that is.
But I thought "window dressing" sounded like a spiffier title.

We live in a 113-year old home, which still has the ancient-style storm windows. The kind that have to be taken down every spring so the screens can be put in place. They're big, very heavy, and look downright dangerous to work with. It's kind of a rite of passage every spring and every fall -- when the storm windows get put up, I know Christmas is right around the corner. It's time to bake more, get out the warm and woolly throw blankets, and think about creative ways to entertain toddlers for the next five months. Then spring rolls around, and the thick storm windows come down. Screens go up, and we're headed towards fresh air, sunshine, and lots of trips to the park.

It's supposed to be downright summery around here this week. So, how happy am I that our windows guy can come early to help us spring ahead?! (We clearly don't get much excitement around here.)

Now, for the dressing part of the equation.

I thought I'd share with you my favorite vegan salad dressing recipe (at least, I hope it's vegan. Will someone let me know if it's not? I mean, I thought I had a pretty good handle on this stuff, and then I read something recently about vegan wine? Are there seriously non-vegan wines out there? What am I missing, vegan gurus? Someone walk me through this one?)

Anyway, this possibly-vegan-but-we'll-find-out-soon-if-it-really-is dressing makes enough to last you through many salads, and, even better, it's a cinch to throw together. I store mine in one of those Rubbermaid shake & pour containers.

The World's Best Salad Dressing
8.5 oz. Balsamic vinegar
3T Dijon mustard
1T Tabasco
2T garlic powder
24 oz. canola oil

Combine ingredients in a blender and mix until emulsified.

Enjoy on some spring greens and put a little spring in your step!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Theme of the week

Did you know this poster was created by the British government in 1939? It was meant to bolster public steadfastness during WWII. Over the past couple years, I've seen it on t-shirts, walls, mugs, you name it. I think it may be one of those things that has become so trendy, it's now decidedly un-trendy. But, I still love it. It says so much in those five short words. In fact, I'm so enamored of it, I'm trying to think of a spot where it would look good in my house (in a frame like the one pictured above, especially). Maybe next to the Nagel prints or the poster of Monet's Waterlilies.

No, seriously, I do feel that this little motto is helpful. Especially in a week like this one -- we're facing a potentially stressful medical issue with Posey, and of course, I'm trying not to worry, but that's easier said than done. It's the kind of stuff that, in times past, would have sent me straight to the Ben & Jerry's. And, I'll admit, even after my talk earlier this week about pumping up the fruits and veg in my diet, I was thisclose to buying a bag of my favorite chips today. I had one hand on them. It was almost a caress. I definitely lingered. Definitely stared lustily. But I eventually walked away. I'm going to need more resolution like that this week. Stiff upper lip, ol' chap.

In other SAB news, I know you've been on the edge of your seats about the final decision on the canisters. The unanimous result (not terribly hard to achieve with two votes) was to order the ceramic and stainless steel canisters. I'm so excited! The environment (way fewer Ziplocs now!) and I thank you.

And, finally, is it a bit premature to celebrate a blog milestone? Yes, probably, but I'm going to anyway.
Happy 1-week birthday,
songs about beets!

It's like being pregnant. You want to recognize and revel in every little change. Especially early on, when you're so full of anticipation about what's to come. Is this blog going to give me insomnia? Heartburn is a distinct possibility. Hmmmmm.

May some made-up (or real!) celebrations brighten your days this week, too.

Keep calm and carry on!

Friday, March 26, 2010

What a girl wants

I've got some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket. (Thanks, mom! Thanks, Abe and Diana!) And, I've had my eye on some little lovelies at Williams-Sonoma for awhile now. Then, what do you know, I get this email from WS this week:

Take 15% off all Homekeeping items* with your $99 online Homekeeping purchase. At checkout, enter promotional code: WSMARSHLV15.

It just so happens that everything I've been lusting after is in the Homekeeping section. Coincidence? I prefer to believe it's the Birthday Money God's way of telling me that I should spend freely and without guilt on whatever ma lil' ol' heart desires. Granted, it's not lingerie, but these are still things that I'll get more happiness from than anyone else. Wait. That wasn't a good example. I am not the giddy one when it comes to lingerie. But you know what I mean. It's not always easy for moms to spend without hesitation on themselves.

First up, from the Essential Oils Collection, the Persian Lime soap, lotion, and dishsoap. They'll look nice on the counter, and the fragrance sounds yummy (I haven't actually smelled it, so let's hope the online reviewers have good noses.) I stocked our kitchen and powder room with similar stuff over the holidays (the Spiced Chestnut and Winter Forest -- they are absolutely deeee-vine scents), so I feel pretty confident that I'll be happy with any of the fragrances WS cooks up. Except the Lemongrass Ginger. I must be in the minority when it comes to ginger, huh?

Next, it's about canisters. The lack of them in my kitchen. Since I'm on the verge of being mistaken for Martha Stewart, I think I need a better arrangement for my pantry staples than gallon-sized Ziplocs. Ideally, this would mean actually having a pantry, but that's neither here nor there. Let's just look at the canister selections, shall we?

For your consideration, in no particular order, which set do we like best?

Ceramic and SS:


Decisions, decisions.
Let me know what you get if you take advantage of the discount to stock up on your Homekeeping necessities, too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Eleven years ago today . . .

I was nervous as heck about a first date.

And that first date led to a second date the next night, and I blinked, and eleven years have gone by?! I still get butterflies when I think back to that first smooch (on the second date, thankyouverymuch).

Oh, those were the days, Bean. Dinners out, sleeping in, passionate kisses . . . it's nice to cozy up with happy memories on a day when, if you weren't thousands of miles away, dipping your toes in the Pacific, I'd be plopping two kids into your arms the moment you walked in the door. Instead, you'll just have to listen to me whine to you about all the whining here. I think Eloise was so out of sorts about her bath because she was disappointed to hear that Papi wouldn't be the one overseeing it. I rarely make her laugh enough to forget about how much she hates getting her hair washed. Not like you can.

She loves that about you just like me. Eleven years ago, before you even picked me up for our date, I already knew I loved how you could get me to smile.

We're lucky girls, Eloise, Posey, and me.
Thank goodness Papi finally asked me out.

Test drive: Flax oil

We've all heard the wonderful things about flax seeds, flax meal, and flax oil by now, right? I was using flax meal on my oatmeal, but I don't eat oatmeal that frequently. So when my sister told me she believed taking flax oil capsules was helping her dry skin, I decided to jump on the bandwagon officially.

I have these capsules, and the directions tell you to take two of them, three times/day. There are a little more than two weeks worth of capsules in the bottle, so I'll be monitoring my skin for the return of some moisture (winter and frequent hand washing have left my cuticles a real mess), and maybe additional unexpected benefits. I'll be sure to report the results.

Anyone have flax oil miracles to share?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vegan beauty

There's a new Painted House in da house!

My blog crush, Angela, has relaunched her blog and it's bigger and better than ever. Check out her fabulous taste, and fabulous tasting food, here.

Weigh-in Wednesday

According to the scale this morning, I lost one pound last week. Well, I'm calling it one pound. I made the mistake of stepping off, and then stepping back on, the scale three times. Obviously, I have trust issues. But the scale read -2, -1, and -.8. So I'm settling on the middle-of-the-road -1.

I have to say, I expected a little more than that. But I can see why it wasn't more. Ever since that clever vixen known as the Bad Ass Bread Machine (or Babs, as I like to call her) entered our lives, I've been carbo-loading on fresh bread for at least 2 meals each day. I think it's time to revisit one of my basic goals for this vegan trial-run, which is: Eat more fruits and veggies!

In true chunky girl fashion, I've been gravitating toward old familiars lately. Oh, they're vegan, but they're not exactly holding up the base of any food pyramids out there, you know? Sour cherries, anyone? Wine. Bread with Earth Balance (vegan, buttery-like spread). Chips.

So, I'm not going to abandon Babs, but maybe I should consider limiting the bread to one meal per day? That sounds reasonable, no?

We'll find out next week.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Slumber party!

Aunt Stefanie came by for a slumber party yesterday. She's known as Tita around here (that's "Tee-tah." This was Eloise's version of "tia," the Spanish word for aunt. And it stuck, and no one has ever seemed to want to change it.)

Tita came bearing gifts. Eloise got a set of Dora dishes that she was over the moon about, and I got some sa-weet birthday prezzies. Including this new cookbook that I am ridiculously excited about. I can just smell the cookies baking, can't you?!

We sure had fun. Thank you for slumbering, and playing, and being silly with us, Tita. I can say with certainty that Eloise misses you already . . .

Me: Wave bye-bye to Tita, honey.
Eloise: I can't do this, mama.
Me: What do you mean? Do you miss Tita?
Eloise: Yeah, mama. I can't do this.
Me: But she's going to be back in just a couple of weeks.
Eloise: No, it's too long. I can't do this, mama.

I have no idea where that child got her flair for the dramatic!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Happy birthday to me!

My very first day to post in my shiny new blog about eating vegan, and, um, I didn't. Eat entirely vegan, that is. Most of it was, and I'm pretty proud of that, since it was my birthday after all. Jeesh! Next year, just wait. I'm already planning my sugar rush from vegan cupcakes.

Meanwhile, I think we may be eating the black bean soup I made yesterday for the next 365 days since it's just a 2.5-year old (who isn't exactly impressed with my soup), an 8-month old (I keep hearing that line from Mr. Mom, "Are you crazy? You don't feed a baby chili!"), and me around here this week. Good thing I love this soup.

So, no, today wasn't perfect, but it did mark 2 full weeks of eating vegan for me. Two weeks completed in the 4-month trial run I've promised myself. Or a fortnight as the English would say. I like that better. It sounds longer than 2 weeks. I've been vegan for an entire fortnight!!

Birthday breakfast
Nutella and strawberry stuffed french toast
coffee with cream and sugar
fresh OJ

grande soy cinnamon dolce latte

black bean soup from Veganomicon
light rye bread from the bread machine with Earth Balance

Recipe from Veganomicon
Black Bean-Vegetable Soup
Serves 6 to 8

Time 1 hour 45 minutes (not including soaking beans)

Like that little black dress, a good black bean soup can really take you places and fit any occasion. To make sure that the beans' deep, purple-black color stays true, we first completely cook the beans solo and then add the accompanying sauteed veggies afterward for a long, final simmer.

1 pound dried black beans, rinsed, soaked for 6 to 8 hours or overnight
6 cups water
2 bay leaves
Pinch of baking soda

3 tbs. olive oil
2 medium-size onions, diced finely
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced finely
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced (I left this out)
1 stalk celery, diced finely
1 carrot, peeled and diced finely
1 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
2 tsp. salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3-4 cups vegetable stock

For garnishing each serving:
lime wedges, chopped avocado, minced fresh cilantro

Prepare the beans: Drain the soaked beans, rinse again, and place the beans in a very large stockpot. Pour in the 6 cups of water and add the bay leaves and baking soda. Cover and bring to a boil, boil for about 3 minutes, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Allow to simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours, until the beans are very tender and their skins are soft. Remove the bay leaves.

During the last 30 minutes of the beans' cooking, prepare the vegetables: Preheat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Saute the garlic in the oil until the garlic begins to sizzle, stir for 30 seconds, and add the onions and bell pepper. Stir and cook for 12 to 15 minutes, until the onions and peppers are very soft, then add the jalapeno, celery, and carrot. Cook for another 10 minutes, until the carrot has begun to soften, then remove from the heat.

When the beans are completely tender, stir in the sauteed vegetables and any remaining oil, plus the cumin, oregano, thyme, and vegetable stock. Cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pot, and simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until the carrot and celery are tender.

Remove from the heat, allow to cool 10 minutes, add the vinegar, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Like most soups, this soup will be richer and more flavorful the next day.

We've added enough total liquid to create plenty of broth in this recipe; if you like your black bean soup more stewlike, add only two or three cups of veggie broth toward the end. [Two cups is perfect for us.]

For a creamy-textured black bean soup, remove one or two cups of cooled soup and puree in a blender. Stir back into the soup and simmer for another 15 minutes. If you have leftover soup a few days down the road, try pureeing the whole thing and simmering until very hot. Season with a little more vinegar.