Spring.

 

Let me first say that when I started this post I was writing from the inside of a fort that we constructed from miscellaneous blankets and sheets, and then stuffed with pillows and more blankets. The kids were napping on either side of me. We’ve been on a fort kick recently, usually in the morning, right after breakfast, and sometimes in the evenings before bed. It’s absolutely amazing.

IMG_1159

IMG_1161

IMG_1186

Of course, I wasn’t able to finish before they woke up, so I am writing the rest of this from the outdoor tables at the Yardley Starbucks.

377342_711581258845_1725605347_n

Not a bad alternative πŸ˜‰

There isn’t much to say in the way of new and exciting news, so I thought I’d share with you just a general overview of the types of activities we’ve been enjoying over the past week or so. A little of this…

IMG_0892

Helpers! I fins that I care very little about how much laundry actually gets folded, and mostly I just enjoy watching them feel good about “helping” me. It’s magic.

IMG_0991

Possibly the greatest food ever created.

IMG_1027

IMG_1030

We made train-shaped sugar cookie sandwiches with vegan oreo creme filling. Jack just about lost his mind.

IMG_1017

Green smoothie, green tea….green life?

…and a little of that…

IMG_1046

This is one of my favorite onesies- Beatrix Potter for GAP πŸ™‚

IMG_0988

random lunch: hemp bagels with hummus, power greens, and Field Roast vegan sausage with snap peas!

IMG_1039

I ordered a few choice items for the kids for their spring wardrobe, and these sweatpants have been a favorite. They are so, so soft, and have buttons and flaps so you can roll them up or down. I have thought about getting him a second pair on a number of occasions, because they are so cozy and versatile.

IMG_1021

Favorite hemp bagels! We actually made a Wegman’s detour on our way home from TJ’s JUST to buy these, because they are amazing.

IMG_1040

Carolyn got fancy sandals from Old Navy- mostly because they were on sale at a great price. They are totally not sturdy enough for the playground or general everyday wear, but I thought it would be nice for her to have a cute pair of sandals for special days πŸ™‚

 

 

IMG_1014

TOMS and a pink Lulu devotion tee. This is probably my fanciest outfit as of late. Don’t judge.

IMG_0976

Our favorite TJ’s licorice. Ally introduced me to it- delicious, naturally flavored, and vegan. Also, 99 cents. Unbeatable.

IMG_1023

Jack is becoming an incredibly kind and patient brother, even when Carolyn’s strong will gets the best of her πŸ™‚ Also, JACK’S SWEATER! Another great find on the GAP clearance rack ($9, I think?)!

IMG_0986

GAH, groceries, the true story of my life. This is about ten days’ worth of nosh O.o

IMG_0989

BOO! Those wooden stacking/nesting blocks were an Easter gift to Carolyn. They’re very popular.

 

IMG_0992

Hist Whist!

We made a rockin’ three “cheese” vegan pizza one night, which was a hit:

IMG_0995

Homemade sauce and roasted veggies!

IMG_1002

Tofu ricotta, Daiya cheddar shreds, and sesame parmesan over six-herb dough, homemade basil sauce, spinach, and roasted peppers, onion, and broccoli.

IMG_1005

Obviously, there were no leftovers.

We madeΒ  trip into New York, and the kids got to see Eli and Abi while I met Patty. It was pretty incredible, because I was having a really challenging day, but somehow seeing Patty melted everything away and left me feeling refreshed and centered. We had a wonderful time, doing what we usually do (eating), and just being together. We got dinner at Thai Market (spring rolls, fried tofu, and pad thai), tea and macaroons at Peace Food Cafe, and then cupcakes and brownies at Babycakes. We watched the sunset from the Lower East Side, and then took the long way uptown, driving up Park Ave. through Grand Central. It was incredible, and I left feeling quite the opposite of when I had arrived.Β  That is the true power of a great friendship.

305864_710454886105_1972716535_n

IMG_1158

73929_710469337145_1991963347_n

68594_710484057645_1944694820_n

528223_710489726285_1246813827_n

72885_710489746245_1635416368_n

15263_710517236155_1258116973_n

Back at home, the weather has been so lovely, so the kids and I have been spending a lot of time outside.

IMG_1054

IMG_1055

I can’t even. JOY of joys πŸ™‚

The turtle sandbox has been the highlight of their day so far.

547415_709525443715_827288844_n

We’ve also been hitting up the playground almost daily, making new friends (both kids AND Mommy!)

IMG_1244

This is the first time that Carolyn has been able to fully enjoy the playground. She learned to walk over the winter, and it was just too cold to have them outside for extended periods of time. She is loving it, and to be honest, it’s really nice to be able to put her down and let her run around. It gives my arms a much-needed break, and she gets to explore the world! The playground we usually go to is fenced in and geared especially for toddlers, so it’s pretty much the greatest thing ever for all of us.

IMG_1237

IMG_1232

Carolyn has discovered the slide. New favorite thing!

IMG_1230

Her flowery bubble onesie was part of their spring order. It’s really soft, and it’ll keep her cool during the later summer months, but it’s totally layer-able and comfy, so it works for spring weather too.

IMG_1224

Baby’s first Keens! Jack got his first pair last year, but he’s outgrown them so we’re scoping out a pair for him this week. They will probably each get a pair every spring- they’re so versatile, and great for play.

IMG_1223

These green shorts were another great find from the GAP. They’re really well-structured and the material is very sturdy, plus the color is so fun πŸ™‚

IMG_1221

Jack is officially one of the big kids, now- he climbs the slides. It is an ongoing battle, though I know at some point the matter will be out of my hands and I’ll have to surrender to his boyish impulses. I’m not quite there yet.

Speaking of big kid activities…..

IMG_1134

IMG_1128

IMG_1138

IMG_1146

IMG_1152

IMG_1150

IMG_1153

 

There was a carnival at one of the local farms, and my Mum and I decided it would be a good idea to take the kids. It was a blast, Jack was ALL ABOUT IT, but in excess- he just wanted to go on ride after ride, and this monster obstacle course was the clear favorite. My legs were FEELING IT by the time we left, and so was my heart, because I swear I almost went into cardiac arrest going over the swinging bridges at the top. Jack, of course, was absolutely fearless and loved every minute of it.

IMG_1108

This is my new favorite shirt for Jack- chambray from GAP, it has convertible sleeves that roll up and down and button while rolled up, perfect for a busy toddler!

IMG_1092

IMG_1122

Carolyn’s safari shorts, another great find at Old Navy- super durable, comfy, and cute!

IMG_1068

IMG_1094

IMG_1157

It was some of the most fun I’ve had with them, and I am really looking forward to the Grange Fair this year. I can’t even imagine what Carolyn is going to think about all of the animals- she’s a big animal lover, and I think the cows are going to blow her away.

That about sums it up on the kids’ end- food, laundry, fun. What more could you want? We’re all approaching this summer with a new attitude. This fall marks some big changes for us. I’ll be commuting into Philly for school, and the kids will both be starting day programs at Rainbow Academy (Jack for PRE-SCHOOL, WHAT IS HAPPENING?!). I know that we’ll embrace these new changes as we do everything else- with a sense of adventure and excitement. But I’m also making sure that we pump this summer full of fun activities and lots of quality time together. I’m doing a bit of volunteering, and taking a solo trip out to L.A., but other than that I plan on spending the next three months soaking Jack and Carolyn up and having extraordinary adventures together.

This summer is special because I have a huge break from school. I plan on using the time to write and spend plenty of quality time with the people that matter most to me, but also to focus on myself a bit more. I really enjoy getting up before the kids in the morning and going for a run, or hitting the yoga studio at night after they’re in bed. I haven’t been as diligent about those thingsΒ  because with homework keeping me up until midnight or later, it’s hard to find the time/energy.

922736_711502162355_704919416_n

I am especially looking forward to getting back into a regular running routine. I’ve been running, but only a few miles because I just don’t have time. This summer is going to be all about the long weekend runs and bike rides!

Finally, a bit of news before I sign off. This semester I was the recipient of two awards for literature at my school!

934022_710716382065_1158892723_n

539695_708565267915_1531451406_n

 

I gave one reading two Wednesdays ago, to a room of 50 or so people. It was horrifying, very scary, and I thought I was going to collapse- but I had an incredible group of people there to support me. I am very, very fortunate, and I feel that more with each passing day.

It all feels very surreal, like it’s some kind of mistake or joke. I’m trying to let it just be validating, like what I’m doing is right, and I have enough of whatever it takes to be my version of successful in this wild and crazy world. I feel hopeful- these past two years have been a huge growing experience, and I suddenly feel as if I have potential. I don’t think I’ve ever felt that before- my future always seemed this distant, foggy thing that was just floating out there somewhere. Now, it feels like I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I am meant to do. I feel like a real person, a happy person.

I’ll leave you with one final thought- and it may be the most important one of all:

62638_711573030335_408069120_n

…fiddleheads. Life is so good.

Advertisements

An Easy Weeknight Dinner, and…

Life has been picking up pretty well around here- it’s beginning to feel like a struggle to fit everything in to a single day, which suits me just fine because I like a challenge. Luis recently had a change in his work schedule, requiring him to leave much earlier in the morning, but return around 4:30 or 5 in the evening. I actually prefer it that way, because it gives me the uninterrupted mornings with the kids. We go about our day, usually running an errand or two, reading books, doing puzzles, napping (them), snacking, and visiting friends.

I’ve been beginning dinner around 4, which may sound super early, but it always takes me at least an hour to get dinner made because I am usually one-handed. We actually end up eating around 5:30, after Luis has come home, which I prefer because it keeps us from eating too late at night. However, dinner has become rather a big deal in our house now that we all eat basically the same meal, with a few tweaks for taste and spice strength. I have to make sure that whatever I’m cooking is a) EASY, b) relatively quick and comes together with minimal dishes, and c) is something that everyone can eat. Sometimes we’ll plan a night and whip up some suuuuuper spicy enchiladas for the adults, in which case I’ll mix up rice/bean/avocado bowls for J & C (or, on special occasions, even some Trader Joe’s prepared soup). That being said, I thought I’d share an example of a really easy and yummy weeknight dinner that is versatile, can be thrown together with basic ingredients, and is kid- and mom-friendly. Allons-y!

One of the easiest meal “concepts” is the bowl (five years ago, that term had an entirely different but no less exciting connotation). The idea of the bowl is as follows: grain on the bottom. Top with some kind of protein, veggies, garnish, and sauce. Nom. So easy. I’ll walk you through it:

IMG_9963

This picture is from an old shopping trip, but you can see the brown rice on the top right.

We started with some TJ’s brown jasmine rice. I am totally obsessed with jasmine rice, and was buying the frozen white stuff for a while, but it’s cheaper and healthier to buy brown rice and cook it myself. One cup of rice + two cups of water, cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes (until water is absorbed). While that’s cooking…

IMG_0094

Prepare and cook some kind of vegetable. We had asparagus on hand, and the kids (and I) love it, so I coated a bunch with sunflower oil and flaked sea salt and popped them in the oven at 275 for 30 minutes. At the same time…

IMG_0091

I tossed a bag of pre-torn chard in sunflower oil, nutritional yeast, and garlic powder. These went into the oven for 40 minutes, and came out as delicious, crumbly, crunchy chard chips.

While all of that is roasting/simmering….

IMG_0111

BAM! Beans- canned beans, possibly the easiest food in all the world. I like to try to soak and cook my own beans as much as possible, but I didn’t have any on hand, and I was keeping with our lazy theme. Open, rinse, drain, set aside.

When everything has finished cooking, assemble your bowl: rice, beans, asparagus off to the side. We actually got kind-of fancy with some BBQ tempeh…

IMG_0129

IMG_0131

IMG_0139

Saucy-delicious in my beloved cast-iron pan….

We totally doubled-up on our protein, but I was just feeling the BBQ and Jack was asking for tempeh, so we went for it. I’ve been trying to up my protein intake a bit anyway to support me through my running (which has been mild but consistent, thank god for that).

Top the entire thing with some kind of raunchy sauce and garnish. I was going to pour a boatload of salsa over mine, but when I went for it in the fridge, it was gone.

IMG_0106

Avocado to the rescue! This is the first ripe one out of the bunch, and it was just ripe enough to eat, so we lucked out. We also added some scallions-

IMG_0136

The kids are actually really big on scallions. I don’t know if it has to do with their taste- I suspect not. We’ve been having a lot of fun growing our own scallions in jars, and I think they’re tickled to eat food that we grow on the window sill.

IMG_0097

This is what my dinner looked like tonight, and it came together in about 45 minutes WITH two small children to hold/chase around. It was also nutritionally balanced and totally yummy:

IMG_0140

the rice is under there, somewhere…

Served with a big bowl of chard chips to share:

IMG_0153

IMG_0155

This is definitely not how it goes down every night- sometimes the time gets away from us, or we run behind on an errand and get home late, or the kids have a meltdown, and it’s organic canned soup to the rescue. Sometimes I just don’t feel like cooking- or I do, and I go all-out and start way earlier in the day. This is just a really solid example of an easy weeknight meal that is both healthy and satisfying. If you want to make things even easier, cook the rice the day before (or make a big batch in the beginning of the week and keep it in the fridge/freezer) and skip the chard chips and the tempeh. Dump that BBQ sauce all over the bowl and call it a night- whatever! The point is to keep it simple and delicious.

Speaking of simple and delicious, while I’m here, I may as well share some tidbits with you from our week. First up, here are some random foods that I’ve been obsessed with lately (besides the jasmine rice):

IMG_0135

Cacao powder- like chocolate, only less sweet and better for you! Cacao is loaded with antioxidants, and is naturally sweet, so it works really well in baking and smoothies. It’s more expensive than cocoa, so I use it much less frequently, which generally means I bake less frequently, which is totally okay.

Sweet sesame seaweed flakes- I know most people won’t go for the seaweed thing, but it’s really nutrient-rich and makes a delicious salty snack. These flakes are like kettle corn seaweed- outrageous. Also, they’re only 99 cents per bag. I pour them on rice or sprinkle them onto miso soup.

Sunflower seed oil- better for you than vegetable oil, way high in vitamin E, and cheaper than olive oil. I almost exclusively use coconut oil for cooking, but this is great for nights like tonight when I want to make roasted veggies or sauteed tempeh- things that might not take to coconut flavor so well.

Sunflower seed butter- note: we have NOT replaced almond butter with sunbutter, because almond butter is minimally processed and raw. This is our super-special nut butter that we slather all over soynog french toast or drizzle over Coconut Bliss ice cream. It has added oils and sugars, so it’s a splurge, but it’s also ridiculously delicious.

Spelt flour- SPELT FLOUR! Spelt is a totally awesome ancient grain that is high in protein and fiber, and is also more easily digested by those with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. We are NOT gluten-free in our house (I love me some Great Harvest Flax bread!), but I have been experimenting with more nutritious options in baking, flours in particular. Spelt works really well in cakes, cookies, muffins, doughnuts, and quickbreads. Spelt for president! We love it.

Speaking of healthy ingredients…

IMG_0108

Check out all that FRUIT! I love fruit (who doesn’t?!), and now that spring is (supposedly) waiting in the wings, more and more seasonal fruit has been popping up. Whole Foods has been stocking organic fair-trade pineapples for $2.99, as well as champagne mangoes for 4/$5. Also, pears are back on the scene, along with a widening variety of apples. I’m excited for the new, warmer seasons, and very much looking forward to the start of our first season with Anchor Run CSA. Expect plenty of weekly detailed posts on that one!

IMG_0102

Also, I finally kicked my coffee habit! I hadn’t been much into brewing coffee at home on the daily, but I was hooked on Starbucks soy cappuccinos. I haven’t had any coffee in…two weeks? Three? And I feel great. Also, green tea is loaded with antioxidants, hydrates you, and has a wonderfully mild and meditative flavor. Not to mention, it’s way cheaper than espresso, especially if you’re smart and double-steep your tea bags!

I’ve been pretty swamped with school (who would’ve guessed?), but in the bit of spare time I have had (mostly at night), I’ve been reading a ton. I’ve always loved to read, and usually have at least one book in progress, but lately it’s been more like nine or ten at a time. I’m really looking forward to that vacation in June….

IMG_0174

Titles I have read recently (f) or am currently reading (ip): Chris’s book, The Boy With One Wing (f), The Dark (ip), In Dubious Battle (f), The Language Instinct (ip), Creativity (ip), Now You’re the Enemy (f), The Secret Life of Pronouns (ip), Contemporary Irish Poetry (f), The Dubliners (f), If You Catch an Adjective, Kill It (ip), Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language (ip).

I have recently (thanks to the Spring Workshop) become totally engrossed in the psychology of creativity, and more specifically, language, so a great many of these books have to do with that.

IMG_0172

Oh, you thought that was all? I told you- I’ve been READING.

Grooks (f) (an incredible book of short and incredibly meaningful poems that everyone should pick up and flip through. Just Google Piet Hein), Fire Starter (ip), The Help (ip), Ink On Snow (f), Memento Tsunami (f), Poetry as Survival (f), Late Psalm (f), Divining Divas: 100 Gay Men on Their Muses (f), The Inner Tradition of Yoga (ip), An Exaltation of Larks (INCREDIBLE) (f), and The Runner’s Literary Companion (thanks, Ally!) (f).

This is a pretty comprehensive account of everything I’ve read in the past three weeks, or am currently reading. I’m a speedy reader, and I’m hoping to knock out half of these in-progress books in the next two weeks if I don’t get slammed with homework. Yay, reading!

I have also been spending more time with a little writing workshop that I am a part of. We’ve been getting together to critique each others work, and a few of us have been attending different writing workshops in Philly and around Bucks County. It’s been such magic to connect to a community of writers- it fills a space in me that nothing else could have. Bonus that everyone in the group is a rock star on a personal level, as well as fantastically talented. I am very, very grateful to have connected with them.

IMG_0104

Aw, I can’t sign off without giving you all a rundown of what the kids have been up to! πŸ™‚ Which is not much, since it’s still pretty chilly. We have been doing a LOT of puzzles O.o Carolyn and I went to Wednesday story hour last week, and then on Friday I took both of them to the Barnes and Noble story and music hour. I really prefer the Wednesday hour at the Yardley library, but it’s for younger children, so Jack would have a hard time with so many little babies around. Barnes and Noble is great because it’s mostly older kids, and they have a train set for when Jack loses interest in the story (they read FOUR!). They also sing and toss stuffed animals around on a parachute, and that’s a lot of fun, but still, it’s very high-energy and the moms are not very friendly.

IMG_0148

He doesn’t seem too put-out πŸ™‚ Last week was my spring break, and we had a great time hanging with Uncle James and just enjoying our time together. With school and homework and activities with the kids, the days can feel a bit rushed, and it was nice to take the opportunity to slow down and relax together.

IMG_0164

Of course, we still have some days that looked like this…

IMG_0125

…but for the most part, we’re still our own happy little family.

IMG_0120

IMG_0114

IMG_0167

IMG_0123

That’s all for now. I don’t expect I’ll be too busy to check in here again sometime next week. I’m heading over to Doc Baker’s to do a full writeup this weekend, so I’ll definitely be in to tell you all about it. I’m super excited πŸ™‚ The weather’s warming up, which means park days and long walks are just around the monthly corner, not to mention our CSA. I’ll leave you with one final reminder as we head into warmer months and the start of the 2013 growing season:

IMG_0112

!