Monday, June 27, 2011

photo challenge: whimsical

the challenge for i heart faces this week is "whimsical".  i instantly thought of this picture we took at tweetsie railroad.  i don't think this picture would be quite as playful and amusing if it weren't for holly's expression. 

photo challenge: favorite from june

paper mama's photo challenge for this week is "a favorite from june."  i haven't taken many photos this month.  it's been a busy month.  however, i do have a favorite, but technically i didn't take it.  nathaniel took it (i edited it).  and, this one won't win any special awards.  not only was it taken with our crappy camera, it was also taken in the hospital, where the light is horrible. (thank God for PSE!) 

it is what this picture represents that makes it my favorite for this month.  it represents, first, a successful ear tube surgery.  which also means that (so far so good anyway), no more repeated ear infections - thus no more antibiotics constantly messing up her system.  her stomach is finally healing.  her diaper rash is finally healing after 8 months of on-and off- bumps.

it also that she's also my baby.  look how she needed (and let) me hold her!  (forget the fact she was doped up.)  it also represents the end of her baby-hood, though technically i know it is long gone. but, she's been holding on to those pacifiers for way too long.  2 days after this, she gave them up.  it took a little bit of encouragement, but she really did it on her own.  she was ready.  she says "my big" (i'm big).

oh, holly, why did you have to grow so fast?  you know, she's 2-1/2 now.  and, big girl panties are her new thing.  diapers are next.  i will always look at this picture at her last real "baby" picture.

The Paper Mama

Saturday, June 25, 2011

VEGAN cherry ice cream (made with coconut milk)

made up this recipe.  i'm sure it could be tinkered with.

bought a pint container of the plain coconut milk creamer from whole foods.  i've also seen it at target in the grocery section, so it isn't a "specialty" from WF.  i also bought a jar of dye-free maraschino cherries (maybe an 8 oz jar?).  i had on hand organic cane sugar, vanilla, and ener-g egg replacer (it is a powder you can find in the baking section.  it replaces the egg for baking purposes but not nutritionally.)

i started by trying to find a "normal" ice cream recipe.  the recipe in joy of cooking was for 1 qt, used both cream and whole milk, and egg whites.  so, i made up my own from that.

heat up a small sauce pan on the smallest burner you have over med-low heat.  pour about 1/3 the container of creamer in the pan and let it warm.  stir in a skant 1/4 cup of sugar and let it boil, stirring often if not constantly, for a while.  not sure how long, just a while - i'm gonna guess about 10 minutes total low boil/simmer time.  i removed it from the burner for about 15 minutes.

in a blender (i did this while the milk was warming in the pan), pour the remaining creamer in add the stemmed cherries - i left out about 5 from the jar i had.  i also poured in about 2 Tbs of the juice/syrup.  i put the lid on and let it get smooth as it would get.

when the hot milk cooled that 15 minutes, i added it to the cool liquid and turned the blender on again.  i added about 1/2 tsp vanilla and 1 heaping tsp of ener-g egg replacer (with the idea that it would thicken it, and i didn't add extra water since there is water in the creamer already).  i tasted to make sure it was sweet enough - and it was, but you may have to tweak yours.    if it needs more sugar/sweet, add syrup.  supposedly when it freezes, it will taste less sweet.

so, i put it in a large glass measuring cup and covered it with plastic wrap and put it in the fridge overnight.  we have one of those personal-size ice cream makers, so i put the top of that into the freezer also so it would be ready in the morning to make ice cream.

in the morning, i assembled my ice cream maker and poured in the liquid.  in about 20 minutes, it was as hard as it was gonna get.  i put it in a plastic tub and put it in the freezer.  it is wonderful.  tastes like real ice cream (which it is, just not cream-o-cow).

so, let me know if you try it. it worked out great for me. i'm taking it to mom's tomorrow to let everyone try it.  in all, it made a little over 2 cups.  i suppose that isn't a lot for some, but in my house that is plenty.  it was the perfect amount for our personal ice cream maker.

Monday, June 20, 2011

say NO to fracking in NC!

OK, so the picture is a little sensationalized, but I live in North Carolina and am a supporter of Environmental Working Group Action Fund. HB 242 and SB 709 provide for studies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing -- a controversial process that is currently illegal in North Carolina. Energy companies may try to use this technique to tap natural gas trapped in shale formations underneath as many as 14 counties including Anson, Chatham, Davie, Durham, Lee, Granville, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Richmond, Rockingham, Stokes, Yadkin and Wake. But first, they must change the law.

Used in more than 90 percent of natural gas and oil wells, hydraulic fracturing involves injecting a mix of water, sand and chemicals into a well under high pressure in order to fracture underground rock formations and unlock trapped gas and oil. In shale gas wells, like the ones that may be drilled in North Carolina, drillers can use up to eight million gallons of fluid per well. They also combine fracking, as it is called, with horizontal drilling in which the companies bore straight down into the earth and then steer the drill bit horizontally through the length of the shale.

Hydraulic fracturing has been associated with water contamination and property damage from Pennsylvania to Wyoming, so it is important that we carefully study the process before allowing it in our state. Both the Senate and House bills fail to provide for the necessary study because neither bill requires scientifically rigorous testing of water supplies near hydraulic fracturing operations. Nor do the bills require that state researchers review such testing conducted by others.

The lack of such testing was a major shortcoming in EPA's 2004 study of hydraulic fracturing of coalbed methane natural gas wells that was criticized by an internal whistleblower. This absence of data is perhaps the most significant gap in our understanding of fracking.

In addition, House bill 242 contains grossly inadequate provisions for ensuring that companies -- and not taxpayers -- cover the costs of any damage that drilling companies might cause. The bill requires companies to post a bond to cover potential damages of $5,000 per well plus $1 for each foot to be drilled. In North Carolina, these bonds could easily be in the range of $10,000 per well. In contrast, a natural gas company recently drilled several shale gas wells in Dimock, Pennsylvania, and polluted drinking water wells for 19 families.  The state estimated that it would cost nearly $12 million to route public water to their homes.

House Bill 242 and Senate Bill 709 do not require the type of scientific study of hydraulic fracturing that North Carolinians deserve and may leave property owners and taxpayers exposed to significant damage costs.

Considering our legislature is already eliminating rules governing wells, our public health is at risk.  I just wrote MY Governor Beverly Perdue to urge her to VETO House Bill 242 and Senate Bill 709.  I urge you to do the same.

The content of this blog entry was taken from the EWG form letter I sent to the Governor.  Feel free to also cut and paste/copy it into a letter to her also.  Or, just click the link above and it will form feed it and make an email to her also.  You can write your own email by clicking here and going to the governor's office email.

REMEMBER if you live in Anson, Chatham, Davie, Durham, Lee, Granville, Montgomery, Moore, Orange, Richmond, Rockingham, Stokes, Yadkin and Wake, the quality of your water depends on her veto!!!

message in a capsule

yesterday we went to kendal and holly's twin cousins' 3rd  birthday party.  the kids had a blast so much that they hardly made it the car before they zonked out (holly was already laying her head on my shoulder after eating cake).  mom shannon had a neat idea (which she mentioned that she re-used from another party) which was having a box where you could put a note for the girls that they will open on their 16th birthday.

i did not put a message in either box.  i could not think of a thing to say.  nothing. 

but, i've thought about it non stop since then and i've come up with a few things that any 16 year old should know - something that i did NOT know when i was 16 but i know now.  things like...

1.  your parents will be a lot cooler once you have a college degree.
2.  no matter how much you think you want your shoes back, let your sister have them.  holding a grudge about it for months isn't worth it. 
3.  learn to cook even though you know you think you don't need to.  same goes for laundry.  spend time on how to get out stains.  and ironing.  even though your mom does them for you, make the effort to help her.  you need to learn.
4.  always treat your sister with kindness, honor, and respect because just because she is your sister does not entitle you to be her friendship.  after you leave home (and are all grown up), she makes that choice because she wants to, not because she has to.
5. it is better to be classy than trendy.
6. BE YOURSELF and don't follow the herd. 
7. drugs aren't cool.  neither is smoking (smoking  may be obsolete in 13 years). 
8.  what you do today causes and/or prevents cancer when  you are older, so treat yourself right. 
9.  stay away from tanning beds.  wear sunblock. 
10.  eat healthy.  it is easier to not gain weight than to loose it...

can  you add to my list?  i think i may use this idea for kendal and holly too.  it was a really great one.  i'm sure, at age 16, they will roll their eyes at it.  i know i would have.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

sesame crunch

i've been buying this sesame crunch candy stuff off and on from REI for ages.  and not long ago, i saw it in the bulk section at whole foods.  it is REALLY expensive, but for what it costs to buy sesame seeds, i figured that it was cheaper to buy it than to make it.

on friday, one of my coworkers (who is from china) and i took a lunch trip to the grand asia market in cary.  there, i bought a large bag of sesame seeds for $3.99 plus a small bag of black sesame seeds for $1.59.  i found this recipe online and i tried it.  her recipe is perfect, but i'm going to repost my abridged version for my own use.  i'm also going to post her picture because it is pretty.  mine didn't turn out as pretty (i.e. when i rolled it out, they weren't as flat, even though i did use a rolling pin, and only the ones in the middle were square - the edge pieces were all crazy shaped.  but, since it'll just be me and holly eating it, well, i don't really care.  mine is alittle darker than hers but i used dark brown sugar since it is what i had so that is a little different too.  i also used little more black sesame seeds because i think they look REALLY cool. but, hers are really pretty and her picture is why i chose her recipe to make, so - here is her picture!)

sesame candy crunch

2 cups sesame seeds
2 heaping Tbs black sesame seeds

in a large pot over med-high heat, roast the seeds - i roasted them in two batches.  this was quicker than i expected. i was using margarine to grease a large, flat sheet pan and they quickly started to pop and smell very sesame-like and i was stirring and shaking the pot.  no butter or oil or anything (and no lid).  it was a lot like popping popcorn, time wise (maybe quicker).  when they were really aromatic and starting to turn brown, i poured them into a separate pan (i had a large metal bowl) that i had on standby to remove them from the heat.

i removed the pot from the burner and let it cool off a bit, and turned the burner off.  i got out my next set of ingredients.

1/2 cups honey
1/2 cup organic dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cse sea salt

turned the burner back onto medium and added the above ingredients.  they also quickly started to boil, and i set the timer for 2 minutes and stirred constantly.  when the 2 minutes was up, i removed it from the heat and added the roasted seeds.  they made a large mass, and then i scooped them up with the spatula and put them on the greased pan.  i put a piece of parchment paper over them, which in hindsight i wish i had also sprayed or greased because it stuck a little, and then mashed it flat on the pan.  then i used the rolling pin to make it uniformly flat and thin.

i moved the pan several times around the kitchen so it would cook quickly. everywhere it was left a hot spot on the counter.  within 20 minutes, it was fairly cool (easily touchable).  i used a pizza cutter to score it.  then i used a knife - long butcher knife - to cut and separate it.  i had to use a metal spatula to get some of them (the middle ones) unstuck from the pan.

holly loves them. she ate most of the edge ones (as did i).  mine are chewy, not crispy at all.  i don't know if they will harden any more.  i made them 2 hours ago so i think they'd harden by now.  but, they are good chewy like this.  i LOVE them and will make this again and again.  the printed version of this recipe is going into my recipe container.  i like and even love a lot of recipes, but not many make it that far.  :)

MAKE these cookies.  you will be impressed, even at how easy they are!  sorta like rice krispy treats except healthier.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

interviews about daddy

in honor of fathers day, i thought i'd start a tradition of interviewing the kids about their opinion about their daddy. you'll see what i mean.

kendal's interview was last night, in bed.  it was about 9:15pm.

1.  how tall is daddy?  short.
2.  how old is daddy?  big.
3.  what is daddy's favorite food?  (he then yelled for daddy, but i wouldn't let nathaniel answer the question.  i asked this question over and over, but kendal never answered it.  he had an answer for me and holly and himself, but not nathaniel.  this morning, he asked his daddy what his favorite food was.  it was really funny!)
4.  what is daddy's job?  i don't know.
5.  (trying to restate the question...) what does daddy do at work?  look at a 'puter.
6.  what color hair does daddy have?  brown.
7.  what color eyes does daddy have?  white.
8.  what is daddy's favorite color?  brown.
9.  what does daddy like to do for fun?  play ball.
10.  what does daddy do after kendal goes to bed?  he takes a shower.
11.  what does daddy like to do outside?  cut the grass.
12.  who does daddy love the most:  mommy, holly, or kendal?  kendal.

i asked the same/similar questions to holly this morning at 9:45.  here are her responses:
1.  how tall is daddy?  big.
2.  how old is daddy?  7th.
3.  what is daddy's favorite food?  no answer. 
3a. What is daddy's favorite food to eat?  plate.
4.  what is daddy's job?  [baby gibber, which i interpreted as she didn't understand the question.]
5.  what does daddy do at work?  [more gibber.]
6.  what color hair does daddy have?  haircut.
7.  what color eyes does daddy have?  2.
8.  what is daddy's favorite color?  orange.
9.  what does daddy like to do for fun?  don't know.
10.  what does daddy do after kendal goes to bed?  awake.
11.  what does daddy like to do outside?  playground.
12.  who does daddy love the most:  mommy, holly, or kendal?  kendal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

celtuce stir fry

well, i'm all about trying something new.  this morning, one of my coworkers brought me these two huge plants he cut that morning from his garden and said "you can eat the leaves in a salad" and then proceeded to tell me how i could peel and stir fry the stalk.

it looked a lot like tobacco plants that i've seen growing in the mountains.  i asked him "what is it?"  he said with hesitation "chinese lettuce."

i looked it up online and it is chinese lettuce (he would know... he is from china.  he also introduced me to mulberries earlier this year, growing on a tree just around the block from our office.  i think they are like the country tree or something in china.  whatever they are, they are common there and he knew a lot about them - well, that you could eat them.)

SO anyway, this was how he said to cook it and i did exactly what he said.  it was AMAZING!

i peeled and coarsly chopped a ginger root - like, one that was medium sized. 
i peeled and coarsly chopped 3 garlic cloves.
i peeled and chopped into 1" pieces the stalk/stem of the celtuce.  this was not easy.  i'm glad he brought me 4 plants because a lot of it was wasted.  it took at least 3 for me to get the hang of peeling it.  the skin of the stalk is very tough, and it seemed dangererous to peel.  but, i finally figured out a trick, of which i cannot explain in words.  i just say, if you ever go to a asian market and buy it - and peel it - buy extra and be patient and careful. 
i also chopped up 3 or 4 green onions into 1" pieces.
i halved 6 cherry tomatoes.  these were big ones so that is why only 6.  if they had been little, then i would have done more.
i got out the red pepper flakes and EVOO and salt.

put the frying pan on the stove on med-high heat and put some EVOO in the pan.  when it was hot, i put the ginger and garlic in there and tossed them about some.  when they started to brown, i put in the celtuce and turned the heat down to med because the garlic seemed to be burning. i sprinkled red pepper flakes on it and kept stirring/shaking the pan.  i added the green onions after a few minutes and a few minutes later added the tomatoes.  i sprinkled with salt and turned i down to med low and when the tomatoes got warm, i served it over noodles that i had pre-warmed (they were leftover from last night).

it was so amazing.  the tomatoes seemed to absorb a lot of the heat from the pepper.  it was a little too hot for me - my mouth was burning a lot.  the garlic and ginger was my favorite part, but the celtuce was also really good.  it just absorbed the garlic and ginger flavor and had a texture much like water chestnuts.  i suppose if i cooked them longer they would be less crispy. 

anyway, 5 stars for the celtuce and the recipe provided by their grower.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Greek Lentil Salad

 i wish i had taken a picture of this.  not only is it pretty, it tastes wonderful.  holly also liked it.
this recipe is adapted from the  of Vegetarian Times - either the may or june 2011 issue. 

1 cup french [green] lentils - keep in mind that one bag of lentils is 2 cups. i can honestly say that this recipe doubles good because the first time we cooked it we made the whole bag, thus i had to double the remaining ingredients...
1/4 small onion
nathaniel did this part for me in advance.  to cook the lentils, place them, with the onion, in a lot of water (maybe 4 or 5 cups), in a large saucepan; bring to a boil. reduce heat to medium-low, and cook 25 to 30 minutes or until lentils are tender. drain in a strainer, remove onion, and cool (or rinse with cold water to cool quickly if you don't have time to make them in advance).

add to the cold lentils:
1 large shallot, finely chopped (1/4 cup)
2 Tbs. lemon juice (i used fresh, but i'm sure the squirt lemon juice is probably ok too)
1 or 2 small cucumbers, diced (1 cup) - i scooped the seeds out before i diced them. 
about 1 cup of quartered cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup fresh mint (picked right out of the yard!)
1 Tbs. olive oil
[i left this out because i was going for a vegan dish, but the recipe called for 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese and i'm sure it would have been wonderful in it] 

just stir it all together and you can eat it as a side dish, or in a pita.  i ate it for lunch several days.  it is SOOOO tasty.  holly liked the "juice" (she loves lemons).

Saturday, June 11, 2011

vegan chocolate chip cookies

VEGAN Chocolate Chip Cookies
modified from the Joy of Cooking

photo courtesy of Nathaniel's mad skillz

Preheat the oven to 375. Grease or line 2 cookie sheets.  or, bake on a baking stone.  Mine were baked on a Pampered Chef round baking stone.

I used a stand mixer.  My children put the following ingredients in the bowl in no particular order:
1 cup plus 2 Tbs all-purpose organic, unbleached flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup (1 stick) soy margarine (that was presoftened because it had been out on the counter for about 2 hours)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup packed organic dark brown brown sugar
1-1/2 tsp egg substutute (i used ener-g powder, it's in the baking section at whole foods)
4 Tbs water (you may need more if it is too dry)
heaping 1/4 tsp salt (you may need more if it tastes flat)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

I put the bowl on our stand mixer with the hook and let it mix.  when it was pasted to the side of the bowl (not really the best way to make cookies), i mixed it by hand (which is why there is 4 tbs of water rather than 2 - the egg substitute calls for 2 tbs of water but that wasn't enough, so i added more.)

then, kendal was done with it.  holly was still involved, so she and i added a half-bag (1 cup) of vegan chocolate chips (from whole foods, though i am not sure what the difference is between regular and vegan chocolate chips but they cost the same so i got the one with the "special label").

She tried to use a spoon to drop onto the baking stone and i was using my fingers to regulate what she was plopping down (some were big, some were 1 chocolate chip and a dab of dough).  Like normal, they were about 2 inches apart and not really big to start with.  We baked them, 1 sheet at a time, until the cookies are just slightly colored on top which took longer than normal - like 12 or 15 minutes. Since i used dark brown sugar, they always looked golden, so it was more of a olfactor way of telling when they were done - when they smelled done and lost their shine, well, they were done.  i let them sit on the pan for about 5 minutes to cool (they were still soft) and then i used a metal spatula to move to a rack.

they were absolutely perfect.  crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  these are absolutely the best chocolate chip cookies i've ever eaten.

no more monkeys jumping in her head

early on when holly had an ear infection, she would never lets us know.  the only way we WOULD know is because she'd have a fever for 2 or 3 days and then i'd take her to the doctor and it'd be [usually a double ear infection].  even though i'd ask her if they hurt, she would never say they did.  at jeffers artman and mann - our pediatricians office in wake forest - holly has a favorite doctor.  he always says to her that he is going to look for monkeys in her ear, and then for the bananas in the other ear.   so by the 4th or 5th ear infection, i'd just ask holly (when she'd start the fever) if she had a monkey in her ear and if she said yes, then i would take her right on to the doctor.  if i asked her if they hurt, she would still say no.  the whole monkey/banana thing worked for her.  the doctor there (dr. libissio or something like that) is so great.  she just loves him.  first doctor she has EVER interacted with (that doesn't include screaming).


after MUCH consideration, holly got ear tubes on tuesday.  any time your child has surgery, it is stressful.  i think kendal's surgeries ruined my nerves for them.  on his last one (which was a long time ago and i was pregnant), i was so upset in the pre-op area that the nurse told me it would be best if i left [him with just his daddy].  so, nathaniel took holly on tuesday.  all by himself- she had to be there at 6am (i never understand why so early).  holly slept with me the night before and i was really ok when they left.  i cried for only a minute when they left but i got a grip on myself and i got in the shower and got ready to go.  i headed over to mom and dad's house (kendal spent the night there) and dad met me in the yard.  we drove over to the surgery center and i was there a little after 7. her surgery was scheduled for 7:30. i SAW THE DOCTOR arrive, so still, i don't understand why she had to get there so early.

anyway, nathaniel came out of pre-op at right at 7:30.  he said she climbed all over him the whole time and they also read the i-spy book.  the nurses gave her lots of stickers to the point that she'd find an empty spot on her shirt and seek out a nurse to give her another one.  she also got to play with her mask (the anesthesia is administered by mask only).  pre-op is aparently a fun place.  he said she did not notice she was hungry or thirsty, thankfully.





within 5 to 8 minutes of nathaniel being in the waiting room, dr.clarkson was out to tell us holly was fine.  we didn't even have to do ear drops.  thankfully (i guess), she was just finishing up 2 weeks worth (2 rounds of) antibiotics for an ear infection so her ears were clear.  hopefully that was her last one for a LONG time.

in about 15 minutes, they came from the recovery area for us to get her.  she was drowsy but quiet.  she was sucking HARD on her paci.  i knew there was a reason we'd been waiting to kick the habit.  this was it. 


within 10 minutes, head still bobbing, eyes still rolling, we loaded her in the car and were on the way home.  8 am sharp, we were driving on the beltline. about halfway home, she woke up better.  we started reading the i-spy book.  the nurse in recovery said that holly would probably want a nap when we got home.  kendal, after his surgeries, always slept.  so, i really expected that from holly.  she had other plans.  she was wide awake and WILD!  she would run into the walls, the couch - you name it - and LAUGH!  belly laugh, too.  it was hilarious.  no bruises. she enjoyed standing on her head.  we also cooked meatless meatballs and made homemade pimento cheese... she liked it too!  we had lots of gentle snacks ( i was afraid to give her anything too heavy). about 1pm, she crashed and slept until 5:30 when i woke her up.  at 8pm sharp, bedtime was welcomed.  the next day, it was daycare as usual and she hasn't missed a beat (or bite)!

if you ask her now if she has monkeys in her ears, she'll say "all gone" and puts her hands over her ears.  if you ask her, also, if he has any bananas in her ears, she says "noooo" in her most southern accent.  i guess that means her ears are all better, which is a relief to this mama who hates feeding her small little body all those antibiotics over, and over, and over, and over.


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