Monday, January 23, 2012

Zooey and Emily


So, I think I am related to the Deschanels.  You've probably heard me say this before (and you might hear me say it again).  It isn't about looks, although I will admit to having a serious set of Zooey style bangs in my early 20's. 

And er ... I guess I still have them ... maybe now they are more Emily style.

But it really is not about the looks.  Or the bangs.  It is more because every time I read something about these fabulous women, it reminds me of my family, or me.  So I can picture myself as their slightly older sister, cousin or aunt.   Not THAT much older, OK?  Just a little older.

Just for fun, let's review a few Deschanel facts.  (And in case you don't know who I am talking about, Zooey Deschanel is an actress who is currently starring in the comedy New Girl, and Emily Deschanel is her sister, an actress starring in the series Bones.)

Zooey fact: She collects oversized sunglasses and vintage coats (I collect vintage sunglasses, close enough and let's not talk about how many coats are in my closet).

Zooey also says things like this:  "I want to go on a coffee vacation. It's a vacation where you drink MORE coffee than usual and no one gets weird or judgy about it."  and  "Coffee, you really are the best!"   Really, I didn't think anyone else in the WORLD talked about coffee as much as I do, but apparently I was wrong.  And have I told you all the story about my friend's mom who pulled her aside to check if I was secretly taking drugs because I had sooo much coffee one night that I was bouncing like a superball?  Coffee really is the best.

I can't neglect Emily - how about this quote:  "Buying used clothes is cheaper. And going to a farmers’ market is a lot cheaper than going to a pricier health-food market."    Have I not been saying this same thing for years??  And my girl is talking about getting things cheaper?  Sweet.

Now for the food issues.  Emily Deschanel is a vegan.  I am not vegan at this point in my life, but used to be close to it and I still try to make responsible food choices.  I found her reasoning to be very similar to mine.  " It turns out it makes a very big impact on the environment to eat fewer animal products, which cause more greenhouse gases than all of transportation combined."  On my fridge??  This little beauty, to remind me to always try to keep the animal products to a minimum:

It says, "Guess what?  A mere 10% reduction in meat consumption by Americans would free up enough land to grow 12 million tons of grain - enough to save the 20 million people who starve to death on our planet each year."  It is old so the numbers are probably not up to date, but I like the reminder.

And finally, the reason I decided to talk about the Deschanels today, this article that mentions that Zooey is sensitve to wheat, dairy and eggs.  So I'm guessing she is on the GF/CF diet herself. 

Hey girls, if you want to come over sometime, I'll take you to the farm, we can do a little thrift shopping, have some coffee and then I'll whip you up a nice vegan dinner and some magic donuts.  GF/CF of course.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Toddlers and Tiaras?

Ok, first things first, I have never watched the show Toddlers and Tiaras.  I have heard about it, read about it in People Magazine and saw the CSI Miami episode based on the show.  But I haven't watched it.  I don't know exactly why - lack of interest combined with the fear that I'd end up enraged at the end?  Maybe.

As my girl is leaving her baby years behind, we have been experimenting with different activities.  So far she loves dance, some gymnastics, the cooking channel and a LOT of good, brainy fun.  Trips to the museum, workbooks, educational games on the computer, she loves all of that.  Since I'm playing catch up from last year, I'll mention that she was THE cutest cupcake in her dance recital last June.  

So, as I acknowlege the fact that she is yummy and adorable, I am also thinking that I don't want her identity to be wrapped up in cuteness.   Brains, talent, personality - she's got all of that going on.   And yeah, she is cute.   As a mom, though, I have to remember to talk up the OTHER qualities.  Because she will be getting enough of that "looks are everything" message from the media, and that is dumb.

Which leads me to the question - how in the world did I end up at a casting call for an event with Toddlewood?  And what am I going to do with a girl who keeps asking to go back and do it again?

The answer to the second question is "I have no idea."

The answer to the first question - how did I end up at a casting call for Toddlewood?  I heard about it from a friend.  A casting call for kids to come in and try for a spot in a photo shoot.  The photo shoot will be kids dressed up like stars from the Golden Globes.  Dress up sounds fun, and I love photography, and the casting call was in New York City and we had a free day.  I had a "why not?" moment and sent in a picture.  And she got picked!  Out of 400+ kids, she made the top 125 and we were invited in for the casting call.

I checked out the website, and let me tell you, the photographer, Tricia  Messeroux is awesome.  She does something so fun and crazy with her photography and I love it.  My girl loved watching the videos on the website and got to the point where she would ask me to pull up the site so she could watch.  Instead of and the Nick Jr. page.  It was kind of like when she started watching the cooking shows on Food Network - totally bizarre and shocking to me.

So, the day arrives, we have a lovely ride on the train, just us girls.  Lunch in the city, just us girls.

We walk to the casting call a little early (yay me!) and the studio is spilling over with girls.  And boys. And some beauty queens.   If you click here you can see a video of the mayhem.  One mom sat next to me and told me how one little girl kicked her daughter and the mean girl's mom just acted like nothing happened.  So yes, there were some of THOSE kinds of kids moms there.  But most of the children were just regular kids who happened to work a little on the side, or some (like us) who had never done a casting call in their lives.  My girl got down to business and made some friends and commenced to coloring on the floor.

Eventually she got called in for her turn to meet Tricia.  My girl acted like she was going to meet Dora The Explorer (or whoever most 4 year olds want to meet.)  She stood in line without me, chattering away with the girl standing next to her, went into that room without me, smiled for the camera and came out SQUEALING, "I met Tricia, I met Tricia."  And when I told her it was time to go, she did not want to leave.

To make a long story short (is that even possible at this point?) ~ we didn't get called back for the photo shoot, but we know a few of the cute girls who did and we are so excited for them.  And it turns out that one of our friends from dance class was at the casting call too.  Chatting with her mom at dance, she asked me if I wanted to forward my girl's photo to the agent she uses for her daughter. 

And THAT is the new question in my mind.  What do I want to do next?  On the one hand, I have this idea in my mind that I don't want to be THAT mom.  I don't want to be the mom who drags her kid around to audition and puts a premium on looks.  And we are busy.  Do we have time for this kind of thing?  Maybe once in a while?  What will this turn into?   On the other hand, I have my girl who asks me every day, "WHEN are we going back?  Tomorrow?  Day after tomorrow?"   She loved it.   I did not encourage her to love it, she just LOVED it.  And I met some of THOSE moms and lots of them were just like me. 

Yes, there is a part of me that is super flattered whenever someone says my kid is cute, when they say that she stands out a little from the crowd.  So now I have to decide how much further to go with this, how much I would I be doing this for her, how much would I be doing this for me and how in the world could I keep my child balanced if we go forward?   We shall see.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Why Bother?

Some days, all this dietary stuff is hard.  I just want to get drive through for dinner.  I don't want to spend 20 minutes grinding up pills and spraying weird stuff into my kids mouth.  I don't want to think about all the detox and viral issues and yeast and bacteria in the gut.   I want to have the kid who takes a Flintstone vitamin every morning with his orange juice.  That would definitely be easier. 

But then I get an email like the one below and I remember why we are doing this and suddenly it is not so hard.  This is from Mr. O's teacher.  I have to say, we could not do this without fantastic teachers and therapists, and this year we hit the jackpot again with a teacher that Mr. O loves.  He wakes up in the morning and the first thing out of his mouth is "Zebra today?"  Yep, he calls his teacher Zebra.   For the record, if you are ever special enough to get a nickname from Mr. O, you will know you have a place in his heart.

OK, back to the email, here it is:

"So yesterday O  goes to his lollipops and pulls one out.  He walks up to me and says that’s a pomegranate -  that’s a good one.  He then asks me to open it.  So I do and hand it back to him.  He then hands it back to me and says no that’s for you Mr. D you did a good job. I thought you might like that story."

Yes I did like that story, thank you very much Zebra.   Grinding up those pills will be a little easier today.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Easy box mix cupcakes - fast and GF/CF/SF

Some days there is just no time to bake from scratch.   Here's something yummy and quick and also free of most common allergens - No gluten, casein, soy or corn, yay. 

Make the cupcakes according to package directions - we use Earth Balance soy free spread instead of butter.  Then make the toffee frosting according to package directions.  Same deal with the buttery spread.  Finally, I melt about half a cup of chocolate chips and add it to the frosting - kids seem to like it better with a little chocolate in it - isn't everything better with chocolate?  

Finger lickin' good!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Life on the Farm

"Agriculture is our wisest pursuit, because it will in the end contribute most to real wealth, good morals, and happiness."  - Letter from Thomas Jefferson to George Washington (1787)

So last year we joined a farm.  Yes, it was LAST year.  Old news.  I know.  But now that "The Lost Year" is over (that's what we're calling 2011 around here) I want to talk about some things we actually did, to remind myself that my lost year wasn't entirely worthless.  I promise to throw in some current events too, maybe tomorrow.

Calling this post Life on the Farm is a bit of a stretch, since we didn't actually LIVE on the farm.  Some weeks it felt like we did, some weeks I wished that we did, but no, we lived right here in our suburban box of a house instead.  And joined a CSA.  

What is a CSA farm?   CSA stands for "community supported agriculture."  These farms are a way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics: a farmer offers a certain number of "shares" to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. 

  The farm we joined uses organic farming practices and offered so many great veggies - a LOT more than a box full most weeks - AND they had "pick your own" crops that included strawberries, green beans, herbs and flowers!   It cost us a little over $20 a week and in return we got POUNDS of produce, a day trip to visit the pigs, chickens and butterflies, and gorgeous photo opportunities.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce, potatoes, kale, collard greens, peppers, delicata squash, cilantro, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, beets, blackberries .... and more!  Different every week, lots of variety and so yummy!  And flowers!  Fresh flowers for the table every week.  Pictures of bees and butterflies.  Not to mention the opportunity to check out all the bugs and frogs we could find.

  Since we are continually trying to live a healthier lifestyle, this was a fairly inexpensive way to try new things and eat more organic produce.  New favorite for me?  Kale.  My girl surprised me with her love of butternut squash.  And the boys ... well, I don't know if they love any of the new veggies, but they are eating them so I can't ask for more.

If you'd like to find a CSA in your area, check out Local Harvest.  Now is a good time to join since most farms fill up quickly and many have waiting lists.  We had to wait a year to get in at "our" farm, but it was worth it! 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tea Collection sale!

I am a big fan of comfort.  Also a big fan of  Frida Kahlo.   Yes, this is all going to tie together.  All season I was dreaming about the Tea brand Mexico collection that was inspired by Frida Kahlo ~ but I was just too cheap and couldn't bring myself to pay full price.  

I got an email today that they have an additional 25% off all sale items with the code 25OFFSALE - I got some great deals!  They still have enough available to make outfits, and shipping is automatically  free if you spend $150.  Look at these great sets that are still available in lots of sizes:

Dresses start at $14.50 before the 25% off!

Just thought I'd let you all know about the sale before everything sells out - if you click on my link below, I'll get some credit, but you will also get a 20% coupon to use - not sure if it will work with the 25% off code, but you can save that  for later - and trust me, you'll want to use it because Tea makes the comfiest stuff in the world.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Marshmellows! GF/CF/SF and Corn Free!

Phew.  It has been awhile.  I'm not even going to try to explain.  (OK, I am going to try to explain, but not right this second.)  For now I am just going to post this recipe because I NEVER thought it was going to work and it did.   And I think this is something I need to share with the world. 

It started with a camping trip.  We were invited to join some friends to camp and I knew I had to come up with something for roasting over the fire.  We've done hot dogs before, but we all know that marshmellows (marshmallows?)  are THE thing to have when you are camping.  And S'mores.  So I started looking for something that would work for my crew.  I was looking for GF/CF plus no soy and no corn - and I was kind of hoping to avoid refined sugar.  Go ahead, start laughing now. 

I found this  recipe at the begining of my search and it ended up being my starting point with some tweaks along the way.  Here's a picture of the finished product to start you off, recipe after the photo.

Here's what you need to start with:

2 packets unflavored gelatine
1/2 cup cool water
2 cups Sucanat (a less refined sugar)
3/4 cup water
2 tbsp honey
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup organic powdered sugar
(I used Trader Joe's brand as it does not have corn starch)

In a small bowl, stir together tapioca starch and powdered sugar.  Prepare a pan - Oil a large casserole or rimmed cookie sheet and spoon in some powdered sugar mixture to coat pan evenly.

In a mixing bowl (if you have a stand mixer, perfect), combine 1/2 cup cool water and gelatine.  Set aside.

In a heavy saucepan, combine water, sucanat, honey and salt.  Bring to a rolling boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until candy thermometer registers 238-240, firm ball stage.  (I will admit that I didn't have a thermometer and I just let it hit boiling and waited 15 minutes, but shhhh, don't tell.)

Turn on mixer (where you have the gelatine waiting) at low speed.  Slowly pour hot syrup into the bowl with the gelatine - carefully, it is HOT!  Mix until thoroughly combined, and then turn the mixer to high.  Beat until very thick, fluffy and lukewarm, about 12-15 minutes with a stand mixer.  Add vanilla extract near the end of mixing.  Here's how it looked:

Spread evenly into prepared pan and let cool at least 3-4 hours before slicing.  (I used one of my square stoneware bakers from Pampered Chef, and  let them  sit overnight) - as noted in the original recipe, the tops are VERY sticky so if you have pets or dust or anything floating around, you might want to cover them up.

To slice, remove the entire sheet of marshmellows onto a cutting board.  It will be tacky to the touch but not melted & sticky.  Mine did not pop out of the pan, I had to kind of pull the entire square out - it stretched but didn't break and the kids loved seeing it happen.   Grease a very sharp knife and cut into desired size.

I made ours fairly big because I knew we would be roasting them on the fire.  And yes, they are kind of a tan color because of the sucanat - if that really bothers you and you don't care about refined sugar, you can use regular white sugar instead.

Toss with remaining powdered sugar mixture until all sides are evenly coated and no longer sticky.  These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for about 2-3 weeks.

They came out very much like "real" marshmellows, but with a slightly maple kind of flavor.  If you tell everyone they are special gourmet marshmellows, they will never know the difference.  I tested these out on a lot of people and I was surprised that everyone liked them.  I got comments about the color, but not one "this tastes kinda weird" or "...interesting ..."  and as you can see, my kids liked them too.  They even worked in S'mores. 

 Oh, and p.s.  I hurt my back last spring and it has taken me this long to catch up and feel normal again.  So hopefully that means more blogging.  Maybe I'll post about that whole mess another day.