What if I didn’t get the boys anything for Christmas?

What if I didn’t get the boys anything for Christmas? What if what I got them and gave them was my time?

What if I taught Myles how to use the little old Nikon that we have, instead of buying him a new camera?

What if I repaired the broken trains and worked on building a permanent train table, instead of buying more trains?

What if we read one of our existing books each night until we ran out and finally read them all?

What if we put up the tree for real this year, together, instead of me being too tired to ever bother decorating it?

What if we made cookies and cards and decorated them together to give away and bring people joy?

What if we made decorations and ornaments together?

What if the money that we did spend was on experiences instead of things – a train ride, an amazing lights display, a real tree cut at a farm?

What if I gave them the gifts of putting down the phone, closing Facebook, looking at them instead of looking at them through the camera, listening, and being there for them?

What if I took the time and money to take care of myself in healthy ways, to be able to give back to them?

What if I sat with them with their tablets, for all of us to learn more about how to use them and what games and features we’re not using, before we buy any more?

What if the gifts that I gave this year were, only (and yet everything), being present, being kind, being gentle, taking care of them, and taking care of myself?

Vegan Scalloped White/Sweet Potatoes with Sage and Cashew Cream Sauce

This recipes owes its greatness to the cheese sauce from Detoxinista’s Mac & Cheese – original version here: http://detoxinista.com/2011/01/move-over-kraft/. The sauce is SO good. Try it on spaghetti squash! For the scalloped potatoes (amounts altered from original recipe):

1 cup raw cashews
2 T. fresh lemon juice
1 cup water
1 tsp. sea salt
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp. chili powder
1/2 clove garlic
pinch of turmeric
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard (dijon or yellow)

Soak the cashews overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, then add to a blender with remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth and set aside.

Then, to assemble, you’ll need:
3-5 red potatoes, washed, bad spots removed, skin on
2-3 sweet potatoes, washed, bad spots removed, skin on
2-3 T fresh chopped sage
paprika to sprinkle

Grease an 11″ x 7″ pan. Begin thinly slicing potatoes and laying them into the pan, slightly overlapping. Mix up the sweet and white potatoes however you feel like. When the bottom of the pan is covered, spread 1/3 of the sauce over the potatoes, then sprinkle with paprika and 1/3 of the sage. Repeat with 2 more layers, ending with sauce, sage and paprika. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake until the potatoes have softened in the middle and the sauce is slightly bubbly on the edges, 45-60 minutes. Uncover and broil a minute or two for a bit of a browned, crispy top.

If you are hesitant to buy a bag of raw cashews and a bag of nutritional yeast, this is my other favorite thing to do with them: http://www.veggieful.com/2012/08/vegan-parmesan-cheese-recipe.html – start with 1/2 the salt and add to taste, but aside for that minor adjustment (depends on what kind of salt you use), this is YUMMY on pasta and keeps forever in the fridge.

Paying for My Weekend Sins

After spending a wonderful, slightly-sinful weekend with my sister Katie and her family, I started this Monday morning wanting to atone for my sins. This weekend I drank, I ate all sorts of junk food, I smoked half of Katie’s pack of cigarettes, I drank tons of caffeine and almost no water. Vegetables? Not so much. Good thing I don’t celebrate Lent! All that I gave up this weekend was common sense.

(I needed a break from Real Life and I have no regrets. However, my scale lives in Real Life so it is time to turn the car around and head back to that clean, green sunny town.)

The boys and I got up late this morning, after pulling in after 10PM last night. I started to bail on packing my own lunch, but then realized that the sun was indeed shining down outside on Real Life and with a fridge full of fresh food, I could certainly come up with *something*. A quick dig through the produce drawer and pantry came up with the following:

1 sweet potato
1 stick of monterey jack cheese
2 eggs

Take all of them to work as is, with a microwave-safe bowl. Poke some holes in the potato and microwave on high until soft. Peel, then mash in the bowl. Crack the eggs on top of the potatoes and microwave for a minute with a paper towel to cover (protects the office microwave from exploding egg yolks). Slice the cheese in half lengthwise, then each piece lengthwise again. Place over the eggs and potatoes; microwave another minute with the paper towel. Check to see if all of the whites are cooked through and cheese is melted; add additional time if needed.

Spring greens
Cherry tomatoes
Petite carrots
1/4 cup shredded cheese
1/2 cup leftover pasta

1/4 cup apple juice
1 T cider vinegar
1 T olive oil
1 T honey mustard
1 T dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Throw all of the salad greens, veggies and cheese into a large container. In a small mason jar, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Cap and shake well. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Dress the salad just before eating.

Gala apple
1/4 cup walnuts

The total calorie count for this day, prior to dinner time, is around 1100-1200. It includes 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables, depending on how you put together your salad. Not bad for less than 10 minutes of thinking and prep in the kitchen at home before a long Monday at work!

From Blood, Bones & Butter

I missed my expressive, volatile New York tribe— not because I like conflict and aggression, but because it is abundantly clear where you stand with the guy who leaps onto the hood of your car and calls you a stupid bitch.

Thoughts on Breakfast Sausage on the George Foreman Grill

Starting recipe:


– needs more moisture – try adding grated onion and apple (applesauce cooks off too quickly)

– needs SOME spice – eliminating all spice made it bland

– dash of cinnamon was a nice tough

– maybe add chilled butter or coconut oil for some solid fat (needs more moisture and fat due to grilling)

– only put a single row across – the lower rows don’t brown because of moisture dripping down

– pre-ground turkey has a mealy, processed texture

– let the grill come back to temp and carefully scrape a little of the black off between batches – makes for best browning

Burn It All Down

Ruins of the Chicago fire of 1871

Ruins of the Chicago fire of 1871

A dream from last night. Stopping at someone’s beautiful, restored historic house on the side of the road – yellow with white trim – staring at two gigantic old houses – hotels? – behind it, on the bayou, burning. Smoldering from the inside, smoke pouring out of empty windows and doors, staining old, intricate trim on the outside. No one was racing to save them; no one seemed to notice them much at all.

I watched, with the boys, then got into our blue car and drove away.

In Balance

leafToday’s Daily Compass reads:

The equinox marks the moment of the year when light and dark are in balance. Whether you are in the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere, the day and the night are of the same length. Of course, knowing you are tipping toward winter or toward spring makes a difference in what the equinox means to you, but perhaps for just this moment it is possible to live quietly in the shared balance.

What do you treasure about this particular moment you are in?

I had to pause to think about that for a moment, and then pause again to think about why I was pausing. I have been so frustrated by my life recently – my unstable and constantly changing role at work, my small and difficult apartment, daycare and discipline struggles, constant and unending money issues – that I have slowed on gratitude, appreciation and being. I have been neglecting a personal motto, a quote from Lao Tzu, that has always struck me as being unfailingly true:

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.

The fact of the matter is: right now, I treasure that we’re fine. Everything is fine. We’re healthy. Nothing is falling apart. We are blessed, and fed, and happy. I have to take a deep breath and a deep thought to accept that this is true, but those beautiful boys and I are, today, and probably tomorrow, fine.