Wednesday, November 21, 2012

November 12-18, 2012 (My Birthday Week!)

We have become more and more an unschooling family as the year has progressed. We still get inspiration from our Oak Meadow book, but a lot of the time, I look at the week to come and the activities are things that we have already done!

We go down to the school room, do our morning verse and exercises, they each select a medium for creating with, and they go off on their own artistic adventures- rarely without any assistance from me. A lot of the time, their creations are abstract and undefined. I love abstract. 

Other times, they go about their creations with purpose. Rainbow Girl especially thrives on letting her mind be the guide. She may start by drawing a person. Then that person needs clothes, so she will add clothes on the person, or draw many articles of clothing on the same page. Why not name the person, and write his or her name on the page? Then she may want to turn that drawing into a paper doll or a puppet. Of course that person needs a house as well. She will either build the creation a home out of blocks, or create one with another medium of art. A lot of the time, she enjoys cutting and pasting shapes out to create a roof, doors, windows, the house, bushes, trees, clouds, the sun, birds, bees...the list goes on. Let's count the windows and the English and Spanish. Oh, and now the creation needs a mom and a dad- and maybe a baby brother too. 

There we have it. Storytelling, writing, life skills, science, math, motor skills, social studies, Spanish, and art. All with little or no direction what so ever from me- and so enjoyed.

Doing our Morning Verse and exercises.

This year, I set the goal to celebrate many of the wonderful festivals that are celebrated in Waldorf Schools. We celebrated Michaelmas in September, and this month, briefly celebrated Martinmas. St. Martin was said to have drawn his sword and cut his cloak in half and giving half to a beggar to save his life in the cold. Children make paper lanterns to symbolize the little light they can shine in a dark world. It is a holiday of compassion. 

We made some beautiful watercolor paintings to turn into lanterns next week. (Martinmas was officially November 11th. Better late than never.)

Sugar Bear loves painting. We use to paint with tempra paint, but this fall switched to primarily using water color paint. Water color paining, especially wet on wet painting, is so much more calming. Watching the colors slowly bleed together, the translucence of the paint- it's all very organic. Sugar Bear enjoys painting on paper, but prefers to paint on his body. Hey, why not? Art is art. ^_^

And now the time has come to make pom pom snowmen!

Visual color mixing is super fun.

Remember that sweet boy that I witnessed the birth of? He's a week old already!

My sweet Daisy at her meeting. 

The Daisy's have been learning about the different parts of the Girl Scout Law and what they mean by talking about each line, one by one, and then doing an activity to help them remember.

I will do my best to be

honest and fair,
friendly and helpful,
considerate and caring,
courageous and strong, and
responsible for what I say and do,
and to
respect myself and others,
respect authority,
use resources wisely,
make the world a better place, and
be a sister to every Girl Scout.

This past week, they worked on "Respect Myself and Others". The girls went through old magazines and cut out images that represented the line. Some examples were: pictures of exercising, healthy foods, toothpaste and even laundry soap. This week, the girls went on stage in front of the entire troop to present their poster. 

This is the moment that I realized that Rainbow Girl has stage fright.

She has always wanted to go up on that stage, and the moment she got up there, I saw her face drop. The leader was wonderful about not pressuring anyone to speak if they did not want to. Most of the girls (even the very shy ones) did speak. Rainbow Girl was a deer in headlights. She stayed up for most of the presentation, until she looked right at me (I was standing right in front of the stage) and mouthed silently "I need to get down." She turned around, and calmly walked off the stage. 

I am proud of her for the amount of time that she was on stage, and for having the self control to calmly walk away from a situation that made her uncomfortable. 

The next day was my birthday! My mom, Sugar Bear and I went to my favorite winery to celebrate. Fridays, Rainbow Girl is in Spanish class. So that we did not have to rush back, my dear friend, and mommy to one of Rainbow Girl's classmates, offered to take RG home with her after class for lunch and play. Mucho thanks to her! <3 

My mom, Sugar Bear and I had a fabulous time. It was just us in the tasting room, and our favorite pourer was working. We had a lovely tasting and bought a bottle to drink while we had a picnic! They have a small playground area there, so Sugar Bear also had a wonderful time. 

After picking up Rainbow Girl, we all went to my mom's house to have dinner. While waiting for dinner, Rainbow Girl found a long box and decided to make a see saw out of it. That goal transformed into making a balance. She placed different toys and objects on either side and tried to balance it out. 

When my mom was in labor with me, she made a special chocolate cake. Many of my birthdays, she has made me the very same cake to celebrate. This year, because of my recent transition to being vegan, the recipe had to change if I wanted the special birthday cake. My mom replaced the sour cream and butter with vegan alternatives, the egg with banana, and the milk with almond milk. It did not taste the same, but it was very good!

Fancy Tea Party Time!

Rainbow Girl went to my sewing area, got a handful of polyfill, and brought it back to the tea party. It was fun to fill up the pot and cups with "bits of fluff" and pretend it was "fluffy tea".

On Sunday, Rainbow Girl was in a Christmas parade with her Girl Scout troop. Once the parade started, she put on a frown and would not wave to anyone. After the parade, when I asked her what was wrong, she said "I was shy because I did not know anyone and did not want to wave at strangers, but I had fun!!"

Sugar Bear and my mom met us at the end of the parade route. I am told that he had a great time watching the parade go by- until a clown tried to talk to him. Once the clown was gone, he was having a fun once again. :)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Becoming a Vegetarian/Vegan

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet."
-Albert Einstein

In the recent weeks, I have had a few requests for information about how to get started with a Vegetarian diet.

I have been officially vegetarian for almost six months, but for the year before that, did not eat much meat. I always felt so much better after eating a plant based meal, so I decided to completely eliminate meat from my diet.

Since the end of May, I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian. That means that I ate no meat (including fish) but that I did eat eggs and milk. Another fun term is pescetarian. A pescetarian abstains from all meat except for fish.

Just recently, I have adapted a vegan diet. Veganism is the practice of abstaining from all animal products in all aspects of life. This includes dairy, eggs, honey, leather, gelatin and anything that comes from an animal. To be completely specific, I suppose you could call me almost vegan. I still use beeswax for finishing my wooden items, beeswax candles, beeswax crayons and molding beeswax.

Gelatin? Geletin is not vegan? No. Not at all. Wikipedia defines gelatin as "...a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed horn, hoof and bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, horses, and pigs."Yea....yuck. Geletin is found in Jello, marshmallows, ice cream and yogurts to name just a few things!

The key to any healthy diet is to eat a variety of good foods in moderation. This food pyramid from is useful for vegans and vegatarians alike.

If you are not cutting out dairy and eggs, the Vegetarian Food Pyramid from the Seventh Day Adventist Dietetic Association is helpful.

Vegetables and Fruit
Obviously, a major factor in being a vegetarian is eating a lot of vegetables and fruit! Many times, I will go through the grocery store and randomly select interesting veggies and find a recipe later. My favorite weekly must haves are:
  • Kale
  • Spinnach
  • Onions (variety)
  • Tomatoes
  • Yellow Squash
  • Zucchini
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Avocado
  • Grapes
  • Apples
  • Banana
Some of the veggies that aren't always regulars, but that I still love are:
  • Acorn Squash
  • Butternut Squash
  • Curly Parsley
  • Arugula

As with everything, it's best to make them yourself- from dried beans, but for convenience sake, canned beans are fine too. Try to look for organic options with few additives. I like to keep my pantry stocked with two or three of all of the following.
  • Garbanzo Beans
  • Black Beans
  • White Beans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Hummus (Fabulous snack, dip or spread made from garbanzo beans)

Grains and Pasta
  • Quinoa (also a protein, must have!)
  • Brown Rice
  • Couscous
  • Oatmeal
  • Whole Grain Pastas of different varieties (they make quinoa pasta now!)

Ideally raw nuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Pecans
  • Walnuts

Snacks and Other Pantry Items
  • Craisins
  • Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter Blend
  • Veggie Straws
  • Hemp Seeds
  • Crackers (Check the ingredients if you're going vegan!)

Cooking Essentials
  • Vegetable broth (canned or powdered)
  • Olive oil 
  • Sesame oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Rice vinegar
  • Peanut butter and/or other nut butters
  • Nutritional yeast
  • Soy sauce
  • Miso
  • Tahini
  • Vegetable or Soy margarine (if abstaining from dairy)
  • Soy, almond or other alternative milk (if abstaining from dairy)
  • Vegan Butter (If abstaining from dairy. My absolute favorite is Earth Balance.)

Everyone should have a well stocked spice selection. Personally, I like experimenting with different spice combinations. My favorite are:
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Garlic powder
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Cinnamon
  • Ginger powder
  • Onion powder
  • Black Pepper
  • Salt

Getting Started
Ok, so I've told you most of my personal favorite must haves, but how do you get started you ask? Start by finding recipes! Google things that you know you like and find something that sounds fabulous! As an example, I love sweet potatoes. Google "sweet potato vegetarian recipe". It's easy- and fun! Find a few recipes that you like, buy the ingredients and go to town! As with everything, they will not all be winners, but experimentation is super fun!

If you aren't one to seek out recipes on your own, PETA has some excellent recipes, as well as a two week sample vegan menuVegWeb is also a beautiful website filled with fantastic recipes.

My Current Favorite Recipes
Black Bean and Corn Chili
This recipe calls for turkey. I obviously omit that part, although sometimes I will make a separate pot with turkey included for my husband.
This, truly an honestly, has got to be my favorite chili recipe ever. The spice combination is fantastic. It also calls for Pace Salsa. I do not care for that brand of salsa, so I substitute it with my favorite salsa (Sweet Onion Salsa).

Garlicky Kale
This is a fantastic side. It is just spectacular.

This is also my go to recipe for kale chips. If you have never had kale chips, please give them a try. You are missing out!!! Personally, I have a dehydrator. I put the Garlicky Kale in at 135 degrees for a few hours (testing out the chips every so often ^_^). If you do not have a dehydrator, no worries! Just put your kale on a pan and throw it in the oven at 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes or until crisp. Keep an eye on them!! Obviously, the dehydration option is the healthier option because the low heat kills less vitamins and nutrients.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Banana Bread
OOOOOOOH my goodness.
This is an amazing banana bread. It is dense, sweet, delicious and filling.

Sweet Potato Burritos
Delicious!! Hubs doesn't like sweet potatoes, so to make this work for him, I omit the sweet potatoes and add turkey to the bean mixture.

Sweet Potato Bean Burger
I have made several different veggie burgers, this is by far my favorite. Super wicked tasty.

Zucchini & Butternut Squash Bake
This has sweet potatoes in it as well. Can you tell I am a fan?
This recipe smells and tastes like autumn! I love it!

I made this with golden beets and half quinoa and half rice where it called for rice. It was to.die.for. I can not wait to make it again! I will try it next with red beets.

Steamed Sweet Potatoes and Walnuts On a Bed of Greens
Simple. Simple. Simple. 
I steamed a serving of peeled, diced sweet potatoes (and white sweet potatoes) and then tossed them with a bit of brown sugar and a bit of earth balance spread (vegan) and crushed walnuts on top. I put that over a bed of kale, arugula, and parsley. No salad dressing necessary.

Veggie Pizza!
Naan flatbread makes excellent crusts for veggie pizzas. In this particular picture, I used a flatbread from a local bakery.
Topped first with hummus, then thinly sliced tomatoes, kale, onions, avocado, and parsley. Then I broil it for 5-10 minutes in my toaster oven.
You can put anything on a veggie pizza!

Apple Cinnamon Walnut Oatmeal
Self explanatory! Plain oatmeal, diced apples, cinnamon, brown sugar and walnuts!

Simple Veggie Wrap
Summer classic. This one has hummus, lettuce, cucumbers, radishes, tomatoes, avocado, sugar snap peas, onions and corn.

On Being Vegan in a House of Omnivores

My husband is fine with my choice to "only eat rabbit food" if I continue to make him meat. At the beginning of my journey, that did not seem like a big deal. As time goes on, this is becoming more and more difficult as preparing meat makes me completely loose my appetite.

The majority of the time, I make the him and the kids one meal, and myself another meal. Occasionally, they will eat part of my meal as their sides, but most of the time, none of them are interested. All three of them would prefer to only have broccoli every night as their veggie. (Rainbow Girl thankfully enjoys salads as well.)

I am trying to increase list of meals that we can all eat together, but the list is pretty slim currently with my husband's (and children's) picky taste. Sometimes, I will add meat to a vegan meal to make it more appealing to hubs. I am hoping that as time goes on, we find more meals that we can eat together and that the animal products in our home decrease exponentially.

Super Factoids and Inspirational Quotes From Vegan and Vegetarian Books

What Do Vegans Eat? Fast And Simple Guide To Veganism
by Andy Reece

"Animals tend to store toxins in their cells and fatty tissues, so when you eat meat, you’re actually consuming the accumulated pesticides that the animal has consumed over the course of its lifetime."

"It takes sixteen pounds of grain and 2500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of beef."

The New Becoming Vegetarian: The Essential Guide to a Healthy Vegetarian Diet
by Vesanto Melina, Brenda Davis

"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated. -Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)"

"Non-violence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages. -Thomas Edison (1847-1931)"

I just adore parsley lately.
Please let me know if I left something out, or you have a particular question!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 5-11, 2012

What an exciting week! We all had colds at the beginning of the week and took it easy for the most part, doing little crafts and resting a lot.

On November 8th, I was given the honor to witness the birth of a beautiful baby boy. This is the same mama that I held a Mother Blessing for a few weeks ago. It was a beautiful, perfect birth. After I have had time to let it all soak in and have had the opportunity to talk to the mama about it, I may write about the experience.

Quite frequently, Rainbow Girl surprises me with fantastic ideas. 

On Friday, she made a paper apple tree in art class. After nap that day, she said to me completly out of the blue, "Mama, I would like to write a book about my apple tree."

Sure sweet Rainbow Girl. Let's write a book!

I habe a laminator machine that also doubles as a book binder. The machine came with several empty bindings that I have never had a reason to use. Hello reason! I began by cutting a few pieces of construction paper down to the size of the book.

Rainbow Girl began by pasting her apple tree on the first page.

She wrote the whole story completely on her own, I only helped with spelling.
"The little apple tree was alone.
Then, her Mama and Dada came.
Her Grandma came too.
Little Apple Tree was happy."

Binding the book

Hello election day! After going to the Obama Rally, Rainbow Girl has been quite interested in the election. She wanted to know about the issues and the differences between Obama and Romney. I tried to explain the best I could in ways she would understand.

When we walked into the polling location, Rainbow Girl said, in a loud enough voice for those around us to hear, "Where is Obama?" Everyone had a good giggle, and I explained to Rainbow Girl where he likely was, waiting for the results in his hometown. 

I let her push my voting choices and both kids pushed the big "VOTE" button together. We all were given "I Voted" stickers.

Rainbow Girl and I had a rough time getting to sleep that night, not knowing the results. In the morning, when I told her who had won the election, she was ecstatic. My little Obama supporter. <3


To celebrate my birthday this year, I decided to have a vegan potluck and bonfire in our yard. We had many of my fantastic friends over and had a great time hanging out and celebrating. The weather was perfect.

Rainbow Girl and her Best Friend

My brother and his girlfriend are vegan as well and she made me a fantastic cake!