Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Days in Dallas

Miss me? I decided to abandon the gray, rainy Seattle skies and spend a little time in Dallas with my cousin Heather, her husband Corky and their beautiful new baby Yarah.

Is she not the cutest??
It was a really low key visit. A lot of family time, baby holding, home meals. I love my cousin to pieces and only see her about every three years or so.
Yes, my head is twice as big as hers.
It was great to see what fantastic parents Heather and Corky have turned out to be.
Most attractive family ever? Maybe.

You don't say!
I could babble on and on about how great they are and how Yarah is cuter than any baby in the world that didn't come out of my uterus, but I really think that goes without saying, doesn't it?

But I know what you are really wanting to know, and I am happy to answer:
  1. I did not ride any cowboys (le sigh), although I did get quite a few great pickup lines like, "hey, wanna come get your drink on with us? It's a Saturday (at 9am)" or "if your intuition tells you to call me, you should listen."
  2. I did find food to eat that wasn't cow based.
I was thinking I might lose a few pounds in Dallas due to my inability to find anything to eat that didn't have meat or dairy, but alas - Dallas is quite vegan friendly. And even if it wasn't, my fabulous hosts were kind enough to feed me well. Corky made us a delicious cauliflower chickpea curry with jasmine rice.

And I kept within my budget by making my own breakfasts which nobody wanted to share.
Banana, spinach, pineapple, blueberry, mandarin orange, almond milk smoothie anyone?

They also invited some friends over and there were fantastic vegetable fajitas with rice and beans. Do I have pictures? No. Why? Because, even though I was in mixed company, I couldn't resist the urge to shove all the food in my mouth with my hands while screaming "mine!" as bits of rice fell off my chin. Needless to say, there was no time for pictures.

I did a little vegan restaurant exploring in Dallas too. First stop was Jason's Deli.
 This wasn't a vegan restaurant, but I ordered this giant veggie sandwich thing without cheese and it was fantabulous. It was so big (and it was only a half order!) that even my pig self had to make two meals out of it. It had roasted peppers, eggplant, onions, tomato and a great tapanade spread.

My second stop was Veggie Garden.
It's pretty much a Korean kimchi buffet that is billed as a vegan restaurant. I'd love to give it high marks, since I LOVE Korean food, but it was really Korean food for gringos. They obviously decided to take out all the spice to make it more universally palatable, but all that left you with is kinda musty tasting veggies. Maybe I'm spoiled working in the International District in Seattle where fantastic, make-your-eyes-bleed-spice, Korean food is available everywhere.

I also stopped at my first raw restaurant - Bliss Raw Cafe. The cafe was lovely.
And the food was lovelier.
Even more delicious than they look
Coconut Kale Enchiladas, anyone? They were so tasty, I ate them in about 5 minutes (don't judge me!). I don't think my stomach was happy with how quickly I downed them, but I still have no regrets. Does anyone else have problems with eating raw food too quickly? Or are you all good with "self-control". Those are air-quotes, btw.

And we all had an absolutely fantastic meal at Medina.The menu was pretty simple, but they had a few vegan options.
You know I'm all over the hummus
Heather (who is half Jordanian and regularly travels to the Middle East) says that the hummus is as good as what she'd get in Amman.

And the entrees were divine in their simplicity.
I got vegetable couscous and olive-lemon phyllos, Heather got chicken with apricots and Corky got some seafood-phyllo thing. Everyone was incredibly happy with the dishes. We all stopped talking for a while and just slowly savored the great food and wine. It was a wonderful evening.

My last day I struck out on my own and did a little sightseeing. Perhaps sightseeing isn't the right word. I got lost a lot. That's pretty much all I did. I drove around Dallas' endless interconnecting highways and swore at the GPS on my phone.

I did manage to stumble apon this great little village while I was looking for a souvenir store.
Farmers Branch is a historical park with some fantastic old homes and buildings. Almost everything is original. I spent quite a lot of time snapping pics. All the buildings were closed, so I was constantly peering thru windows to get pictures of the interiors while hoping the groundskeeper wouldn't catch me.
I have about two thousand more pictures, but this post is already crazy long isn't it? If you find yourself in Dallas, I do recommend checking out Farmer's Branch - and that's not just because it's the only place I was able to find in 6 hours of driving around the city.

But I did finally find a souvenir store! I got a cowboy hat.
I know it doesn't quite fit, but as we've established, my head is unnaturally large.
As you can tell by the bra shot, I was going for class in this picture. Did this immediately become my facebook profile pic? Of course!

I picked up some presents for the kids an a coworker who was kind enough to put out my fires watch over my accounts while I was gone. Nothing says "hey, thanks for doubling your workload for me for a week" like a Dallas coffee mug, right?

Well that's about all I have on my trip to Dallas folks. What? I promised you a recipe you say? I know, I know, but I'm tired, and I wanted to talk about Dallas first. Next time. If I feel like it. I DO WHAT I WANT!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Making Time For Wellness - part 2

We talk about how we can do more for ourselves - more exercise, more veggies, more friends, more money. My life is filled with more (except for the more money part). Anyone who knows me knows that my schedule is packed and I'm always adding more.  In the mornings I'm yelling at the kids in my best whisper voice at 6am to get their pants on and stop throwing toys down the stairs or the neighbors will eat them while trying to throw together a nutritious lunch and calculating when we have to leave so I can be only so late that my boss won't yell at me. My days are filled with trying to cram as much work as possible into an 8 hour day (which usually turns into a 10 hour day) not because anyone asked me to, but because I'm sure that when they do my E! True Hollywood Story one day, they will be interviewing former bosses who knew me when and I want to make sure great things are said. My evenings are spent cooking dinner, doing dishes, reading with the boys, folding laundry and yelling, "If you keep jumping up and down the neighbors are going to eat you!" Once the boys are asleep (after I reassure them that I was just joking and the neighbors don't really eat people) I try to read for a few minutes (or write this blog) but I usually fall asleep with a book on my face before I get through five pages.

More can be awesome, more is how people become successful.More is how I raise my kids and do my job and cook my food and everything else. It's how I keep in touch with my friends and family and get out on the town. It's also how I occasionally end up crying at home convinced I'm: a) dying, b) 100 times more fat than I am, c) a horrible parent because I don't have the patience to play Candyland more than 2 times in a row, d) going to never ever get my love life on the right track (or any track, for that matter). When I get like this I'm completely inconsolable for about 6 hours, and then I feel hungover, like after that time in high school when I drank 6 margaritas and got so sick that I knocked myself out when I banged my head against the toilet while puking.

This last Friday was one of those nights. I was surrounded by friends and everyone was having a great time and my brain just broke. I have been working so much lately and training for my first 5k and trying to increase quality kid time - and Friday night my body and mind just were not going to let me laugh at one more joke or dance to one more song or smile at one more person. I made it home and had my little fit (after checking my work email - because I'm crazy) and finally fell asleep at 2am.

When this happens to me, when I've had too much "more", I have to disconnect and get back to the simple things. Small interactions, small pleasures. I need a few days of "less" - less facebook, less friends, less errands, less shopping, less work.

I woke at 6am and shortly after, my brother called. This is my brother Aham.
He is an ass- but he's smart, funny and knows me better than anyone in the world. I'm closer to him than anybody else. When I've gone insane, he's the only one who can talk me down, because he's insane too in the same way, only louder - because he's an attention whore. He cheered me up enough that I was able to breathe. I made the drive to Seattle and took him and his daughters to breakfast.
It was a really nice morning for spring in Seattle. We made our way to the Wayward Vegan Cafe.
Aham is obviously excited for vegan food.
I love the Wayward Vegan, the food is great - homestyle breakfasts that probably have a million calories and taste divine. 

The atmosphere is... well - have you guys seen that show Portlandia? That is what vegan restaurants in Seattle look like. 
I was thinking about the show right as my brother said, "Oh, what a surprise. They're playing reggae." and then the best comment of the week, "Portland is the vegan restaurant of Seattle." That's a great joke by the way, in case you didn't know.

 But when the food arrived, all sarcasm was gone.
Aham took one bite of his hashbrowns and said, "Very well done!"  His biscuits and gravy were eaten in record time. His only complaint was that he wished the biscuits weren't so dense (I agree there). 
I had biscuits topped with "sausage" gravy and scrambled tofu, with kale on the side. It was delicious, I only wish they had cut the kale before serving it. You know I love kale, but giant leaves are hard to cut thru with a butter knife. But it was delicious and I ate almost all of it.
The girls took their pancakes very seriously. We were all full and my spirits were better.

The only other plan I had for the day was some quality laundry time with my best friend Marie.
We go together like Tina Turner and Cleopatra
Quality laundry time,. you ask? You see, my washer and dryer are those tiny economy sized things at the top of my stairs. And I have these kids:
and the one on the left still poops on things. So I end up doing a lot of very frustratingly tiny loads of laundry. Marie, on the other hand, has the Cadillac of washers and dryers. So I bagged up half of my embarrassingly large pile of laundry and headed over to her house like a college student showing up at his mom's house with a duffel bag of herb-scented t-shirts.
The ride was lovely:
I'm not being sarcastic here. This is officially a lovely day in Seattle. We spent the day drinking wine and sloppily folding clothes while we giggled and gossiped. It was so very lovely. Then her husband made a lovely vegan-friendly dinner that we all enjoyed. It was a great day.

Today I was determined to continue to keep it simple. I made a simple breakfast, then I went out for a nice long walk on the Burke-Gilman trail.

I'd like to say that I take the time in my walks to reflect on life and let my troubles go; to commune with nature and shit like that. But what I really do is listen to dance music and imagine magically becoming the most amazing dancer around and showing up at the club all hot and like, "Whazzzup bitches?!"  It was both relaxing and rejuvenating.

I even felt well enough to do a tiny bit of shopping.
As you can tell, this was also a weekend for less makeup
Yes, I really am that excited about my immersion blender. I had one for years but it ended up in the ex's stuff and I've really missed it (the blender, not the ex). I also bought smoothie supplies, because now that I have a nifty blender, everything is going to be blended for a while. Don't judge.

I also came up with a delicious new (blended) recipe for spiced potatoes. In the spirit of doing less, I will wait until the next post to share with you all. I'm tired of typing.

So that's it, that's my weekend of less. It's important for all of us (especially for those of us who are health-work-kid-obsessed) to take a break every once in a while. To have a day or two where we aren't yelling, "Don't poop on that!" It's good for the spirit. I feel ready to take it all on again tomorrow, and maybe apologize to the neighbors for the way that Marcus runs in the house in fear whenever they come out to walk their dog.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Mommy Me

People who know the Grownup me see me as a relatively well-groomed, professional, calm person. I do very well at work, I'm eloquent yet concise in meetings. At parties I'm witty and social.

But then there's the Mommy me. The Mommy me runs around with half her hair sticking straight out from the side of her head, teeth unbrushed, with a lollipop stuck to her ass. This is what parenthood does to you.

It takes about a half hour from when I get home for the transition from Grownup me to Mommy me to be complete. The main reason for the transition to crazy mommy town is this guy:
As you can see, he has my hair.
While Malcolm has turned into a relatively calm 9-year-old, Marcus is an exceedingly charming, funny, demanding and exhausting 3-year-old.

Last night it was just Marcus and I, as Malcolm was working on a school project with his dad. I decided to take Marcus out for dinner because  I didn't want to do dishes thought it would be a nice treat for the two of us. When Marcus' big brother isn't there to entertain him, all pressure is on me to keep him happy while also stopping him from getting tortilla chips stuck in his throat (which he did the last time we went out to dinner and I had to stick my finger down his throat in front of a room of horrified diners).

We get to our seat, I set down my stuff and slide Marcus to the inside of the booth. I tell him I'll be right back and I go use the restroom. I get back and apparently Marcus has already ordered. "He was yelling, 'I want beans!'" the hostess explains as she puts down a large bowl of beans along with tortilla chips. Marcus immediately divvies up the chips:
and goes to town, shoving giant handfuls of chips and beans in his mouth, while I'm frantically pleading "chew first, chew first!" in the hopes that I won't have to stick my finger down his throat again.

Then Marcus notices the music coming from the bar. He nods his head to the beat a bit and then says, "Mommy, can we dance?" Marcus loves dancing.
Marcus, the great dancing blur.

Me: "Um...sure?"
So we're dancing and I'm trying to relax and be a fun mom. Then I notice that people are looking at me funny - and not funny 'ha ha'. I don't look like I fun mom. Nobody can see Marcus because he is so tiny and in the inside of the booth. I look like a crazy lady dancing in her seat in a restaurant to a Spanish version of "My Heart Will Go On".

Our food arrives and I try to avoid eye contact with my waiter. I'm trying to be composed, eating my delicious veggie enchilada while saying "chew first, chew first." but more quietly now, because I'm aware that most people can't see Marcus and I'm now a lady telling herself how to masticate.

In between bites Marcus is yelling, "keep dancing!" so now I'm trying not to choke on tortilla chips while I dance to the Spanish version of "I Love Rock & Roll."

The waiter looks like Justin Beiber and keeps calling me "Ma'am." Every time he does, I want to yell, "I'm only 30!" but I'm still dancing and I realize that he's probably calling me ma'am because it's more polite than "crazy lady." I try to compose myself and seem pretty cool, but as I'm trying to close out my bill with my waiter, I have to keep yelling, "Do NOT wipe beans on your shirt!"

But the waiter just smiles and flicks his Beiber hair and says, "that's cool Ma'am. I still do that." and all I can picture is Justin Beiber's mom yelling, "Stop that!" And that's when I realize that he knows I'm a mom, and 30 is old.

Then I get the sudden urge to cut this kids hair back to an acceptable length and I realize that I'm probably always Mommy me. Even when I'm dressed up for work, there's usually a toy car in my purse and I often find candy stuck in the arm of my jacket. I've been working stories about my kids into work presentations. My teammates have daily updates on the status of Marcus' pottytraining and Malcolm's school projects. I ceased to be cool back in 2001 when Malcolm was born. So while I pretend to be Grownup me, I'm really only fooling myself here. I'm now Mommy me: messy, shrieking, frazzled, dancing and a bit more fun.

Keep dancing!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making Time For Wellness - part 1

Whenever I talk about my diet, I'm more likely to hear "I wish I had time to prepare healthy meals" as a response. I hear you. I used to say that all the time. I'd watch these documentaries on weight loss and say, "sure, they can eat healthy - they can afford a cook!"

But we all know the truth. The truth is, you have time. We all have time. I'm a working single mom with two of the most hyperactive little boys on the planet and I have time.

So I can whine and moan about how busy I am. I can stomp my feet and yell "I DO WHAT I WANT!" which I do, but that's usually related to my fashion choices (totally justified).

What I don't have time for is to be sick, tired, slow and uninspired.
This is how I feel when I'm not eating right.
Everybody has their own time management system, but here are a few rules that I try to keep:

  1. Cook. You don't have to be a gourmet chef, but cooking at least a few meals a week will save you time and money - I promise! Invest in some great time-conscious vegan cookbooks like, Vegan With A Vengeance, Appetite for Reduction, and Vegan on the Cheap. Figure out a few go-to meals for busy weeknights.
  2. Cook big on weekends. Fancy? No. There is no fancy anything in my house. The closest I get to fancy is when I ask Malcolm to shove the crap on the table to the far end. What I'm saying is, just cook a lot of whatever you are making. Cook with leftovers in mind. If you are going to take the time to dirty up your pots and pans and countertops - you might as well get a few lunches out of it! I like to make big sides that pack well, like kaleslaw:
    And seitan for quick sandwiches:

  3. Keep lots of fruit handy.
    I bring at least 2 pieces of fruit with me to work every day. Why? Because I have a sweet tooth that makes the chubby kid in Willy Wonka look like the king of self-control. I know that when treats are being passed around at cubicle land, I better have something sweet and healthy within arms reach. And you can't beat fruit for a good dose of fiber and hydration.
  4. Keep healthy quick-starters around the house. What are these, you ask?
    Healthy fiber-filled breads
    You know I love me some Dave's Killer Bread
    Canned Beans
    Just toss these in soups, salads, just about anything to up the protein and fiber content in your meals. Be sure to rinse them first - it definitely helps clean the flavor and reduce some of the gassiness.
    Healthy, low-fat soups and veggie broth:

    Oh kale, how I love thee
    I know I've spoken of my love of kale before, but you really must keep some in your crisper at all times. It's so easy to add to any meal for a lovely dose of calcium, iron and so much more! In fact, if you take the three items above, toss in a little curry powder, cinnamon and hot pepper, you have a super-quick satisfying soup.
    That even the kids will love

  5. Eat your leftovers for lunch. Cooking big (rule 2) and adding a healthy side like a kale salad (rule 4) will mean that you will always have lunches that require no more prep than tossing some food in a tupperware. You will also save money to buy more fancy ruffled scarves.
These above steps help make sure that I always have healthy meal options around. They also help minimize the amount of time I spend cooking on weeknights, so I have more time to facebook play with my kids.