Saturday, October 29, 2011

As the 'Roids Wore Off . . .

Here are the pumpkins Wynne and I carved last evening.  Wynne got the idea about the teeth from someone she found on tumbler. This is the first year I allowed Wynne to handle a knife and actually carve by herself. She's 14. I know, she's probably been capable for quite some time, but she is my very last baby. Anyway, it seemed right, and it was -- she was very careful and did a good job, uninjured.

Wynne was prescribed a short course of prednisone so she can breathe and eat past her gargantuan tonsils as the mono runs its course. I tried to give her the first dose of two pills two days ago, but after swallowing the first one she kicked up such a fuss about the flavor of the pill that I couldn't persuade her to take the other one. Since these "symptom" drugs are not mandatory, I didn't push the issue. Luckily, Wynne's half-dose of steroids afforded her over 24 hours of happy, chatterbox well-being! Some folks get 'roid-rage, Wynne got 'roid-joy.  I was almost able to imagine her healing. Wynne's quarantined birthday, the day after taking the prednisone, was happy thanks to that awful-tasting pill, but towards the end of the day I could see her energy level lagging and her overall joie de vivre sagging as the illness again took center stage. So I brought out the pumpkins, knives, glue gun and plastics from the craft box.

I carved the large pumpkin on the left and the one with the green teeth, and Wynne did the other three. My pumpkins don't represent anyone in real life. Wynne's little on on the left is Harry Potter, and the one with the black teeth is Frank Iero from "My Chemical Romance" I asked her who the large one on the right is and she said it's just some rocker, so I decided it is Peter Criss from "Kiss". I love how Wynne didn't even remove the pumpkin seeds from his mouth, or even open the pumpkin up for a candle. she just pushed the cut pieces she couldn't pry loose back inside the pumpkin. Wynne doesn't mess around. This is art. She gets it done, she moves on. Here are my pumpkin seeds:

I stirred some olive oil and dried thyme into them, and then sprinkled them with Chipotle Chili powder (smoky! yum!). Into a 300 degree oven they went for 30 minutes. They get soggy in the fridge, so keep 'em out on the counter. They will only be there a day or so. They are addictive.

While I was photographing the pumpkins, I got this one -- bad for the pumpkins, but pretty good of my favorite tree. I think it's a sugar maple. Every autumn I am happy seeing the tree's glow, seemingly from within. As pretty as it looks in the photo, I wish you could see it in person -- It would knock your socks off!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today, on my Wynne's 14th birthday, a bright spot: wonderful neighbor-friends donated an electric guitar (yay! recycling!) which Wynne wanted but was not expecting. What a way to brighten an otherwise glum birthday. Thanks Sean and Jackie!

Wynne is still on quarantine for her mono, but is feeling much better. She will likely only be contagious for another week or so. Today, when she needs a break from rocking out, I'll keep the birthday fun going with some pumpkin projects. 14 year old girls are cool because they are basically little grown-ups who still enjoy things like pumpkin projects. Happy Birthday Wynne! 

Thursday, October 27, 2011


I'm veering way out of bounds here from the "middle-aged-chick-finds-a-veggie-life" blog project I started with. Please stop reading now if you are looking for a vegan food post today. You, my dear readers and fellow-bloggers have become an extended family of sorts. I admire your work and I love keeping up with your ideas and the enlightenment you experience. It's that enlightenment I seek today.

Wynne has been home from school and on antibiotics since Monday for strep throat. I've been on them since Tuesday, and feel much better now. Wynne is not getting better. I brought her back to the GP this morning where we discovered she also has mono. She is highly contagious for at least another week, so she will miss another week of school, if not more. She will also miss singing at a Fall festival this weekend and will miss doing anything fun tomorrow on her 14th birthday or on Halloween."Watch the tonsils," they told us. As soon as they seem back to normal and she can swallow, if she feels like it she can go back to school. She will likely feel exhausted for months, however. Since I caught strep from Wynne, I was told to watch my tonsils too.

Hans has had a migraine for seven days now. Yesterday, day six of this migraine, I gently encouraged him to take some meds and at least try to make it to school for a class or two. He's a senior in high school, and five college applications have already been submitted. Hans pulled it together yesterday to go to school around lunchtime, but was still a little nauseous and didn't want to eat. I asked him if anything at all appealed to him. McDonald's did (sorry vegans!) so I suggested he pick some up and eat it at school since he would be arriving during his lunch period anyway. As he got out of the car with his food, the Assistant Principle spotted him and told him he was caught driving off campus for lunch. He did not believe Hans when he told him he had not yet checked in and had been ill at home. Hans got so upset at the notion he would have a discipline hit on his record that his migraine came back in force and he didn't even walk in to school. He just drove back home and he hasn't been back to school since. I'm wondering what kind of pep talk will now encourage him to give school with a migraine another try.

I am able to put these things into perspective. We will work with the Assistant Principle to clear Hans' record (I had called his illness in to the attendance office that morning) Wynne's illness is not so bad in the grand scheme of things. Still, does all this seem a bit much to you? I have a creepy feeling the universe is trying to tell me something.

Yo, Universe! You got my attention.  . . . WHAT?

Oh, enlightened ones, any wisdom you could convey would be most appreciated. Thanks for bearing with me.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Strep Throat!

My daughter, Wynne, has a very high tolerance for pain, and for discomfort and discontent in general. As such, when she woke in time for school yesterday telling me, in a gravelly voice, that she had a sore throat, I took her seriously. Rather than sending her to school, or rushing her to the 8:30 a.m. walk-in deadline at our GP's office, I told her to go back to sleep and hoped I could get her an appointment later in the day.

Luckily I was able to get her in right after lunch, which worked out beautifully with her sick-sleep schedule. By the time Wynne got to see the doctor, she was running a fever and was very lethargic. When he inspected her throat, he recoiled in alarm, and then summoned me to see for myself. It was indeed shocking. The tonsils had totally eclipsed the opening and were covered in white sores. Sorry, hope you weren't eating as you read that. Noone was surprised that the strep test came back positive. Two shots were quickly administered -- steroids for the swelling and a big dose of antibiotics to give her a head start. A full 10 day course of antibiotics was also prescribed, albeit in liquid form so it could slide past the gauntlet of her tonsils.

Amazed that our health crisis was so expeditiously addressed (I'm not accustomed to a swift and efficient solution to our health problems because of the year-long migraine battle with my son) I walked Wynne back out to the car to settle her in at home with some soup or ice cream or otherwise inoffensive sustenance. As I fastened my seat belt, I noticed a little tickle in the back of my throat.

"It's psychosomatic," I said to only myself as I remembered my daughter's horrific tonsils. I shook it off with a physical shake of my head and then focused upon my little one for the rest of the evening. Yes, I was more tired than usual. Yes, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. and slept through to 6:45 a.m. Yes, when I woke I knew that I, too, was sick.

"But it's not strep," I thought to myself.

Nevertheless, feeling a bit alarmist and apologetic for "jumping the gun" I walked in to the GP's office this morning. I explained I was not nearly as sick as Wynne had been yesterday, but was nervous about everyone coming down with the contagious virus, yada, yada, yada. Throat swab -- positive.

So now I am on my back, listening to what my body wants. It is so specific in its cravings during illness. Today it was whole grains and miso. I dissolved a teaspoon of miso in warm, filtered water, then added leftover brown and wild rice, and topped the whole thing off with some arugula and sprouted peas, aduki beans and lentils. Perfect.

I'm pretty positive this combo would not have occurred to me otherwise, but I have recently been reading about macrobiotics, so that influence must have lodged in my sub-conscious until needed.

That's enough for today. Time to go back to my soup-eating, lysol-spraying existence.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Odds-n-Ends, Early Autumn

It's an odd season right now, with temperatures swinging drastically from 80 degrees to the 40's and back again.  This is still in my garden:

Yes, my wonderful gardenia bush that was on its last leg last year is back to robust health, thanks to my tender loving care (it needed an acidic food -- the pH was off). This wonderful plant began blooming in the spring and is still producing these amazing blossoms. The heady, intoxicating fragrance is like nothing else and it always effectively transports me back to Greece in my mind.

So, we have summertime in the yard even amidst drastic cold snaps when I need this:

Mmmm . . . homemade split pea soup! I made a huge vat of it in the slow cooker and put half of it in the freezer for future enjoyment. I used the recipe on the back of the pea bag, except instead of the pound of ham, I used a teaspoon of liquid smoke. It did the trick. I also added my favorite bonus: kale torn into little pieces. All major vegan food groups are represented here, kids. A bowlful is so nourishing and filling, and addictive in flavor. I usually want another bowlful a couple of hours after I have it, and there's no guilt! Yippee! This goes wonderfully with a pair of fuzzy slippers and a blankie.

So, now that you know about the dramatic temperature fluctuations in the deep south this time of the year, in my typically random fashion for "odds-n-ends", I'll share this:

This is just a pile of the peelings from the veggies I ate tonight. As I was cleaning up and chopping the vegetables, I was struck by how pretty vegan garbage is, so I had to take a picture of it.

And here's the finished product! These veggies got a vote of approval from the meat-eater! These really were especially delectable. As per usual, I didn't measure, but I don't really think it matters too much with food like this. It's just a large couple of handfuls of collard greens without their stems, a large handful of sliced cabbage, about half a cup of purple onion, slivered, and half a leek, carefully washed and cut into pieces. I cooked them all quickly on medium high heat in olive oil and a little bit of earth balance, onions and leeks on the bottom of the pan with the greens on top for a minute or so, then I stirred and tossed the veggies like crazy for another minute, then took the whole thing off the heat and set it aside, covered, while I prepped the other food. It was perfectly cooked -- tender but still bright and fresh.

The other food, in this case, was chicken for the man, and vegan mashed potatoes for all of us. I just boiled and drained four peeled potatoes, and mashed them with vegan butter, sour cream and cream cheese, about a tablespoon of each. Diet food, this ain't. I loved this dinner. I got my protein at lunch with the pea soup. Happy early autumn to you! 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Creepy! Garden Mysteries . . .

Can you see him? I didn't notice him until I got him home and situated him upon the front stoop. I've zoomed in too close for you to see him very well. At a distance one can see him straining to get out. This reminds me of the time I stood in line at my daughter's school's athletic field after dark to look through a high-powered telescope at Saturn (amazing!) and the moon. I was disappointed to see that, when you really see the moon up close there is no "man in the moon" at all. I need a healthy dose of mythology in my life. Anyway, I won't be carving this pumpkin, as I'm afraid of what may come bursting through the rind.

There's been no sign of Buster lately. These lovely specimens would not be proliferating so if he were still around. Where is he? Did he finally get tired of the solar powered sonic device I'd installed? Doubtful. It's more likely the few dips in temperature have signaled him that it's time to hibernate.

The Autumn garden is odd. Some vines are vibrantly alive and productive, others are dead as doornails, but . . . they are still producing tomatoes!! The living dead!

The bok choy was not happy in this pot.

Likewise the kale, but the butternut squash, still in it's wrapping from the store, weeks later, is happy as a clam. I had only placed these winter varieties in the pots temporarily while I waited for the tomatoes to die. I don't have the heart to rip out the tomato vines yet, prolific as they are, even the living dead ones!

Other happy campers in my Halloween garden: the eggplants (aubergines). These are Hansel eggplants, and these are Gretel:

The cooler nights have turned the skins a lemon yellow instead of the summertime creamy white. Has anyone noticed the ghostly varieties of veggies tend to be more tough and fibrous? I remember an otherwise lovely frittata I had in Madrid, Spain, that was filled with white asparagus that were reedy in texture. I'm sure I could dig up some appropriate preparation suggestions for these tougher veggies, and if I do I will share. In the meanwhile I'll just enjoy how spooky they look in my garden.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Maple Vanilla Almond Porridge

I love waking before everyone else to bask in the quiet. This morning, bright and autumn-crisp, I pulled out my tin of Irish Oats. The name of this porridge sounds so much more involved than it actually was to make. I just poured some oats in a pan with vanilla almond milk and water. I brought it to a boil, then lowered the heat to low for about 20 minutes, stirring a couple of times to prevent burning. I love the oats to be a bit firm and chewy. Otherwise, it's only oatmeal. The al dente oats are more like a proper porridge to my mind. Once the oats were done cooking, I drizzled a bit of maple syrup over the top -- the good stuff! That'll stick to your ribs.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

You Brighten My Day!

unknown.pngIn this, my season of sporadic posting, a couple of you lovelies are good sports. Colleen at "Waking Up Vegan" ( and "Vegantummy" ( each graced A Midlife Vegan+ with the Liebster Award. "Liebster" in German means "beloved" and that's just what I needed! Right back at both of you. I encourage everyone to check out these two blogs if you haven't already. I get so much out of both of them.

The reason for this award is to draw attention to bloggers with fewer than 200 followers. After the award is bestowed, the honoree should:

  1. Show thanks to the blogger who bestowed the award by linking back to her.
  2. Reveal your top 5 picks for the next award and alert them by leaving a comment on their blogs.
  3. Post the award on your blog.

When thinking about who my top five picks would be, my mind went back to the "Stylish Blogger Award" which I was honored to receive and pay forward several months back. The rules and qualifications for that one were different, but the process was similar. I'm inspired by and enjoy reading so many blogs, and a couple of these I've mentioned before, but I'll feature them again mostly because it is what I am currently reading and they are, indeed, "beloved". My picks:

  1. God's Dreams For Me In My Vegan Playground  -- Jeri positively inspires! Her love for her family and honest assessment of challenges and blessings are like tonic to my spirit. She is beautiful and an awesome photographer to boot!
  2. Of the Kitten Kind -- Sally Kitten is such a joy! Besides being a wealth of practical information, her blog affords me the opportunity to live vicariously through her artist/deejay/nurse/vegan/single-girl-group-house-living life. Sally's joie de vivre is infectious and inspiring. Reading a post of hers is as good as one of my bi-weekly B12 injections Whew! I want to be you when I grow up, girl!
  3. Busy Vegan Mama -- Reading Sara's blog blasts me right back to one of the most fulfilling and trying times of my life -- when I was a young mom of gorgeous, precious little ones. Reading her words, I remember exactly how it felt to live in that magical, exhausting moment that is over all too quickly. Sara is a great mom and an adventurous and talented cook, not a lazy vegan like me! When all is said and done, a trip to her blog is worth it just to see those amazing babies' cheeks!
  4. Sneaky Vegan -- I really enjoy a secret. Sneaky Vegan's secret reminds me of Jessica Seinfeld's Deceptively Delicious. What they don't know won't hurt 'em! I also appreciate how candid the Sneaky Vegan is about her vegan (or not) status.I believe her honesty will take the edge off the decision to give it a go for those potential vegans "on the fence" You may recall my own admission of shellfish-eating during my B12 deficiency which has stabilized with the injections, by the way, so the cravings have gone. I've been there, and I'll say that mostly vegan is soooo much better than not vegan. Check out the Sneaky Vegan -- her recipes and photos are amazing.
  5. The Vegan Stoner -- Simple, adorable, different. LOVE the art! Stay tuned for a cookbook. This last blog is so very simple I don't actually know how many followers it has, but I've no proof that it is over the limit, so I want you to check it out. You won't be sorry.
Thanks again Colleen and Vegantummy! I am grateful to both of you and to all my other blogging inspirations, too many to list, who add brightness to my life daily.

P.S. -- Right after I posted this, I found that another lovely blogger had also bestowed the Liebster upon me! Please check out Carrot Top Vegan I'd not seen Farrah's blog before, and am so happy to have found it. Keep up the good work Farrah, and thanks for the award!

Friday, October 7, 2011


Ahhh! So that's what it feels like! I don't know how long it has been, probably not as long as it seems, but feeling happy like I do today is like a distant memory. It's amazing how we can somehow cope, and frame our challenges in a way that we can just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's not that I have been unhappy, just more like a nervous wreck. Living with stress is a life sentence for mothers, but we need to understand that managing it is imperative to our health and well-being.

I'm not the best at stress-management, so the recent stress has, indeed, taken a toll. Long-time MLV readers might remember that, 18 months vegan, I had my first MRI ever which showed no additional MS plaques on my brain in two years! I really can only thank the vegan diet for this result, since nothing else had changed during the timeframe. But with the recent stress, I lost the use of my left hand for one morning -- something that has never happened before. The hand has come back, but is tingly most of the time.

Knowing how crucial stress-management is to my health, I do take certain steps which I believe have helped. Here they are:
  • Go to bed as early as possible.
  • Exercise almost every day.
  • Eat greens every day - more than once if possible.
  • Keep the "spa" channel playing on the stereo all day long (this helps the mood of all the others around here too, which further lowers my stress).
  • Keep the Kindle charged and filled not only with"self-help" books, but also vegan and macrobiotic books, and most surprisingly, "escape" fiction (not trashy romance novels - I never liked those - just good fiction. It's such a relief to get lost in someone else's life. I just recently enjoyed "How to Be Good" by Nick Hornby) You may wonder, if I'm so stressed, where do I find the time to read? The answer -- in the middle of the night as I'm not sleeping because of my racing mind.
  • Meditate -- so much easier said than done, and I'm not as regular with it as I should be, but everything is always better on days when it happens. Some days I don't know where to start, so a guided meditation is appreciated. My favorites are from "The Life Program" I put them on one of my hand-me-down ipods I got from the kids as they upgraded.
When I am stressed I have no appetite, so creativity in the kitchen goes away. Some days I am reduced to standing at the kitchen island, in front of a bag of dill-pickle flavored potato chips for sustenance. Those days are rough. Instead, if I can pull it together enough to feed body and soul, like I did last weekend, I can come up with something wonderful like the early autumn stew in the photo above. I simply cleaned out the crisper. I boiled a piece of kombu in filtered water and added five chopped cloves of garlic, a yellow onion, a sweet potato, four small organic carrots, a couple of organic celery stalks, a big handful of shredded kale, a can of garbanzo beans and about half a cup of dry orzo. I found a few grape tomatoes in my garden and threw those in too, and added a little organic veggie broth as the orzo swelled and made the mixture thick. Finally, once everything looked cooked, I turned off the heat, added some sherry and a couple of scallions. I squeezed a little lemon over each bowlful, which made it taste like sunshine, and we ate it in front of a crackling fire outdoors. Happy!

Today I can only be grateful for this happy feeling. Everything is not perfect, it never is, right? But it is fine, I am fine . . . no . . . blessed! I'm going out now to smile at everyone I see so I can spread the happy around. I hope you have a happy day too!