Toledo!

Last weekend, I got a little crazy. I packed my two small children into my car, loaded the trunk up with clothes, two pack N plays, and all 26 of my cloth diapers, and drove nine hours out to visit my brother in Toledo, Ohio. NINE HOURS in the car with two children under 2 1/2. And you know what?

It was incredible. I had tried to time it out so that we would drive during the times when the kids were more likely to sleep. My mother came with us, and we ended up leaving Newtown around 4- later than I had planned, but I skipped the kids naps so they crashed before we had even turned off of our street. The first 2 1/2 hour stretch was totally silent, and they didn’t wake up until we hit Bloomsburg.

We stopped and met James and Emily for burritos before James’ tutoring session (he got a work study job as a physics tutor at school!), and the kids were able to move around a bit and get out any residual energy. It was a really quick stopover, and we were back in the car within an hour, but not before dishing out a hunk of the traveling birthday cake:

My brothers and I all have birthdays in October, and growing up we often celebrated them together. This year we were all too far apart to get together, so this visit was a sort-of stand-in birthday celebration. I had picked up a (vegan!) chocolate fudge cake from Whole Foods, and dished some out to both James and R.S. It was so delicious, and probably the reason why my pants are still feeling a tad snug.

Somehow, we made it to Ohio without the kids falling apart, or falling asleep at the wheel- it was 4 a.m. by the time we pulled up to the cottage on the lake. Worth it, though, to wake up to this:

Gorgeous. I’ll admit, at first I was kind-of a wreck about being so close to the water with Jack, but the sliding door on the back of the house had an appropriately complicated locking system, so I was able to relax and enjoy my little vacation. Toledo was so much more than I expected- my original plan had been to come out and visit with R.S., but by Sunday I found that I really enjoyed the city itself! Mum and I did some exploring with the kids while R.S. went to the gym and class, and we ended up finding a great Middle Eastern restaurant with amazing vegan food! Aladdin’s Eatery:

Hummus and pita (so fresh!), and the Mujadara plate- seasoned rice and lentils topped with crispy caramelized onions, a cucumber/tomato salad, and a creamy tahini dressing. It was so good, we actually went back the next day and got the same thing, only stuffed in a giant pita pocket. They also had fresh squeezed juice-

carrot-apple-ginger, one of my favorites! It felt so good to get some juice in.

I also managed to track down a great little co-op in the Northern part of the city- Phoenix Earth Food Co-Op.

Fresh local produce! I wish I had snagged ore pictures of this place, because it was so darn cute (but very well stocked!), but I did end up getting some local kombucha and a container of homemade carob-goji energy bites. They also had homemade nut butters, sold by the pound, but we didn’t have time to get back before we left for home, so those will have to wait until next time.

It felt really good to go somewhere I hadn’t ever been before, and probably would never go if I didn’t have family there, and find things that made me feel at home. So many people have it in their heads that being vegan and/or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is so difficult, and near-impossible away from your home and your comfort zone. The truth is, it really isn’t. Most of the time, the resources and tools for healthy, wholesome eating are available to you wherever you go- you just have to open your eyes and look for them.

Of course, we didn’t spend all of our time wandering around by ourselves- R.S. was a wonderful host, and took us around the city and his school, The University of Toledo. The school and the area around it were breathtaking- old stone buildings and Victorian houses on tree-lined streets. It was something out of a picture, and so great to finally see where my brother lives his life.

We had a great time going out for pancakes each morning, and spending time hanging around the lake house talking and laughing. Jack was absolutely in love with his uncle- he is still talking about “Big Ron” and “Gonzo.” I can’t wait until the holidays, when both James and R.S. will be home. I think Jack will just lose it.

Carolyn was actually kind-of a crank the entire weekend (a beautiful crank, nevertheless!), and so I didn’t get very many shots of her. She spent most of the trip perched on my hip.

Toledo even treated us to a rainbow on our last night there:

What an amazing trip. I have to give a lot of credit to J & C- they were AMAZING. We actually left Toledo at 10 on Sunday. We hadn’t heard about the approaching hurricane until we arrived, and so we were eager to get home before it hit land. We drove most of the day, but made a stop in Franklin to visit my friend Kirstin, who is due with her baby boy in four weeks! We also got to view some incredible scenery during our drive:

Neither Jack nor Carolyn made any fuss until the last few hours of the trip. We made another stop in Bloomsburg on Sunday night to see James and Emily and grab dinner at La Fontana, but when we left, we hit two hours of standstill traffic on I-80. Construction coupled with a tractor-trailer accident meant we sat on the highway for hours before finally passing through. The kids fussed for about 45 minutes total, out of a 20+ hour round-trip drive.

I think they were pretty well spent from the trip, but I’d call that an incredible success. I am going to try my luck in January, and make another trip out to visit my brother. I’m hoping that this wasn’t just a fluke, and that my children are actually great road-trippers, because that opens us up to enormous possibilities in terms of vacations and excursions. I’ve heard great things about Toronto… 😉

It seems like things are falling back into place after Hurricane Sandy- most of my friends and family who were without power have had it restored, or at least have gotten some kind of estimation as to how long it’s going to take. Bucks will re-open on Monday, so I have that to look forward to. The kids and I are heading in to New York tomorrow to support a friend of mine who, although the NYC Marathon has been cancelled, has decided to run her own marathon in and around the park. We will also be meeting Patty for Vietnamese soup.

I’m looking forward to a great day with good friends and, of course, outrageous food!

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Toledo, Sandy, and Halloween.

As quiet as it has been on the blog front lately, it has been almost non-stop activity over here in the real world. I felt like I could barely keep up with things this month- school has been super-heavy on the workload front. I am LOVING my classes, and so I really enjoy my homework, but it doesn’t leave a whole lot of time for much else. I have also been traveling and spending time outside with the kids, so what little time I have at home has been dedicated to schoolwork. However, because of the hurricane that came tearing through our area, classes have been cancelled for the week, leaving me with plenty of time to share some pictures and update you on what we’ve been up to!

First and foremost, we have been fortunate enough to be spared any serious aftermath from Hurricane Sandy. There is an evergreen tree uprooted and leaning next to my window, but it parallels the house, and is part of a cluster of trees we’ve been wanting to have removed anyway, so no huge loss there. We didn’t lose power, which I am SO thankful for. Last year we did lose power during the big freak snowstorm, and were stuck in a freezing house for days.

This is a picture of me and Jack sleeping in my bed last year, because it was too cold for him to sleep without a down comforter but he was too young to sleep alone with such a big blanket. Looking at this now, I find it hard to believe that it isn’t Carolyn in the picture- they really do look like twins…

I’ll never forget sitting in the living room in the afternoon and seeing my own breath- it was miserable. I like to think we paid our dues last yeat, and were spared that hardship this time around. That being said, I know that many people are without power, and have extended invitations to my friends to come by the house for hot coffee, showers, food, or just company. I have done the power outage thing, I know how lame it is, and so we’re happy to help out anyone in need.

As far as plans and trips, we have gone in to New York a few times, and are actually planning to go in again on Sunday for the marathon! My friend Deb is running, and the kids and I are going to stop by her post-marathon party before meeting Patty for dinner and Babycakes (if they haven’t been flooded- I have to remember to call and check on that tomorrow…) Most recently, we went in for Luis’ birthday.

We all went out to breakfast at a midtown restaurant where his cousin heads up the kitchen. I was delighted to find vegan blueberry buckwheat pancakes on the menu- incredible!

Another thing I miss about New York- most restaurants sell FRESH orange juice- as in, from a juicer. We only drink fresh juice, but around here most restaurants only stock bottled stuff. I was thrilled to find that this was not the case here.

Fresh OJ: one of my favorite things ever.

After breakfast, we left, only to realize I had locked my keys in my car. Womp womp. We ended up waiting an hour for AAA to send a locksmith, which wasn’t bad at all. It was a beautiful day and we were right near the park, so it wasn’t a big deal. It took about an hour, after which I dropped Luis off at his job in Brooklyn and met Patty in Queens. More food ensued:

This soup was so outrageous- the serving was huge, but it was really light with tons of veggies, so I didn’t feel like I was over-eating. It was also c-h-e-a-p, and so delicious. Definitely on the menu for Sunday.

Of course we made it over to Babycakes, and got a bit carried away- though, in our defense, they gave us an entire box of assorted baked goods for free because it was the end of the night and they wouldn’t keep overnight, so we’re not so ridiculous.

I’m just going to put this out there: Patty is probably my favorite person to eat with, for obvious reasons. We both LOVE food, and we’re both vegan- and she’s gluten-free, so I never worry about 1) being able to find something to eat on a menu when we go out together, and 2) feeling like a pain when I ask for all kinds of crazy modifications. Grande, sugar-free, light syrup, decaf, soy, pumpkin spiced latte, anyone? Patty is my culinary soul mate. Looking forward to Sunday… 🙂

We’ve also had some gorgeous CSA pickups the past few weeks- lots of greens, carrots, and the beginning of fall veggies! This past Sunday was the last summer share, but I am signed up for 7 weeks of winter shares, so I’m really looking forward to that!

 

We also went pumpkin picking! I forgot my camera, so I don’t have very good pictures of the kids in the field, but here is a picture of our Mommy-Jack-Carolyn pumpkins:

Jack picked that lumpy pumpkin. We found a beautiful one at the farm, but Jack found this one and insisted that it was the one. So be it! The kids have been pumpkin-crazy this season, but then again, so have I, so I guess it runs in the family!

Speaking of family, we took a big trip last week just before the hurricane hit- out to Toledo to visit Big Ron! But as this post is getting rather long, I am going to cut it short here and save the Toledo recap for tomorrow. Also to come: Halloween pictures! Though I’ll tell you now, Jack was an absolute riot.

I hope you all weathered the storm and came out of it alright. We’ve been thinking about everyone who is currently challenged by the aftermath, and are willing to help any way we can. Seeing the pictures of New York broke my heart, and I am anxious to get in to see my friends on Sunday.

I am also going to make an effort to be more consistent on here. There are a number of posts I’ve been meaning to write, but haven’t yet gotten to. I am hoping this week off from school will allow me the time to get to writing them! Until tomorrow-