When is a kitchen just a kitchen? Part Two.

When it comes to toys, most usually only require the thought "could this physically or emotionally scar my child in any way?" And when that answer is a "yes," we usually go ahead and purchase it and let Pearyn make a lifetime of memories with it (or, you know, 10 minutes, usually the amount of time it takes her to get bored with a new toy).

In the event the toy is not categorized as "safe," it's usually because it's a part of the emotionally scarring variety, as in, either sexist or not vegan.

Since I covered "Sexist Kitchen 101" last night, I figured tonight I would answer all those burning questions non vegans have about toys and what makes some of them an issue for our cruelty-free family.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Oh my gosh, shut up about this already, you're just being overprotective, over analyzing things or just being plain dramatic."

Who knows, maybe I am. 

But one thing is for sure; there are several toys out there that do not exactly fit into our "animals are our friends, not our personal property or amusement" sentiment.

From farm toys, fridge magnets, books and dvds depicting a well cared for, happy go lucky cow and chickens pecking around enjoying time in the sun, it's obvious we start lying to our children at an incredibly young age. While I'm certainly not suggesting we fill a two year old in on the gruesome life farm animals live as a soon-to-be commodity, I think it's less than honest and less than good for our kids to paint a completely false picture for them. Why not skip the whole farm crap in general? Who really wants to get into the ifs ands and buts of factory farming, vegan or not. 

Which brings us to the current toy in question, Pearyn's new kitchen. 

The kitchen itself isn't anti-vegan in any way, in fact, it didn't even come with the cheap assortment of plastic junk food most offered, but instead a set of dishes, bowls, cups and silverware. Yay! But because of the lack of food accessories, we did find ourselves standing in the toy store aisle comparing the pros and cons of each plastic food accessory kit offered. 

There were some riddled with sunny side up eggs, chicken wings and "Fresh" card board milk (because you know, something that is the milk of another species and has to be dramiatically cleaned and filtered before fit for most humans' consumption seems 'fresh' to me), we ended up settling on a set pertaining mainly fruits and veggies, with a few hot dogs and a hamburger thrown in there. We decided we could always say those were our vegan mock meat counter parts anyway. 

While we know we can't shield Pearyn from everything non vegan forever (we live in a very non vegan world), I'd like to think our home is the one place where she won't ever feel like an outcast or ever have to worry about being anything other than herself. 

Whether that is a vegan or not, only time will tell. 

Until then we can only do our best to make the right choices for our little one. 

And the first choice we made regarding this kitchen, was to dress it up a little more veg-friendly style. 

I think it's pretty cute if you ask me.


When is a kitchen just a kitchen? Part One.

Sometimes, I think I worry, read and research too much for my own good.

It's incredibly smart planning on Cupid's part that my husband is the laid back, fun-loving, relaxed parent, meanwhile I'm the stressed out, planning for the apocalypse, searching for the balance between fun and too much fun parent.

Yeah, I'm the kill joy.

I recently read Peggy Orenstein's book "Cinderella Ate my Daughter." It was the perfect amount of feminist meets the modern day woman. Instead of insisting we go out and burn our bras, Orenstein makes us question the mere act of not only burning a bra, but what it means to be wearing one.

Unless you're a woman yourself or are raising a little girl, I don't think you realize how damn hard it is to be a female these days.

Sometimes, I think stay-at-home-mom and housewife era of the 1950s would have been more simple than 2011. Nowadays we're told that we can be anything, do what we want and be what we want.

But can we really?

I have a plethora of friends all who range from stay-at-home moms, work-from-home moms, part-time working moms and full-on-out-of-the-house-40-hours-a-week working moms and honestly, none of them feel 100% comfortable with their choice.

The stay-at-home moms feel as if they're not really "good enough." They feel as though many of their working mom friends look down on them because they "don't do as much" and by not juggling family life and a career life that they're not really "having it all."

And the working moms feel like they're not mother-of-the-year candidates because they're choosing to leave their babies to pursue their careers. Whether they're the bread winner of the family or just supplemental income, working mamas feel just as judged for not choosing mommyhood over a career.

Of course, there are plenty who are thriving and comfortable in their situations, but it does leave one to wonder, what about the others?

My husband and I were on a mission Sunday. We wanted to find a play kitchen for our daughter that could both stand the test of time (aka, when she gets older) and one that wasn't completely sexist.

Wait a minute, how could a toy kitchen be sexist?

Simple enough, really. There are a lot of families out there who would balk at buying their little boys a toy kitchen or a baby doll because those are traditionally seen as "female" interests. On the other end of the spectrum however, many parents of girls would jump at the chance to buy their daughters G.I. Joes instead of Barbies.

So who's right?

I'm not sure it's a matter of right or wrong, but more a balance between the two. I don't think we should segregate toys into "boy" toys and "girl" toys (despite what toy makers think), we should encourage our children to explore their own interests, no matter how unique those may be. On the same hand though, if we push our children to be completely opposed to their traditional gender roles, we might end up making boys feel embarrassed to be boys and girls ashamed to be girls.

After shuffling through pink counters, Disney princess cupboards and pastel fridges, we settled on a kitchen with red and tan colors, no girly-girl condiments and then bought a grill to accompany the toy as well and give it a more uni-sex feel.

Now that the entire ordeal is over, I can't help but wonder, when is a kitchen just a kitchen?

Tune in tomorrow for a look at "When is a kitchen just a kitchen? Part Two" where we'll explore a vegan's take on a not-so-vegan toy.


Vegan barbecue 'chicken' pizza

Normally when my husband and I make a pizza at home we usually eat enough that we feel somewhat stuffed, but still have leftovers for lunch tomorrow.

Because let's face it, pizza is always more magical the next day, that or my taste buds are just really lazy.

But we made this pizza and ate every.last.piece.

It was that good.

Or we are just that gluttonous, whichever.

BBQ "Chicken" Pizza
(Serves 4-6, depending on how gluttonous you are)
Pizza crust ingredients:
2 cups wheat flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 packet of fast rising active yeast
1 cup warm water
2 TBS olive oil
1 tsp salt

For the good part:
BBQ sauce
Your favorite "chicken" replacement, we used Morningstar strips
1 Onion chopped up
1 pack of Daiya cheddar cheese
Garlic, minced

Heat oven to 400. Combine flour, yeast and salt. Add warm water and olive oil, knead 2-3 minutes and form a ball. Place dough in a bowl on the oven with a towel on top and let sit for an 30 minutes.

While the dough is rising, cut up chicken to small pieces and cook on medium heat in an oiled skillet. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until crisped and "browned."

Roll out dough and fit to greased pizza pan. Spoon barbecue sauce (add as much as you like or don't like) and top with Daiya cheddar cheese. Add browned chicken, onion and garlic mixture on top. Bake 10-15 minutes or until crust is browned and slightly crisp on the outside.

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Fried green tomatoes (not the movie!)

It always amazes me what "regular" eaters don't realize about their food.

After explaining to people what being vegan meant (you know, the kinds of foods we don't eat and the products we don't use), I'd usually get follow-up questions regarding what we actually DID eat.

Jello? You can't eat jello? What kind of lifestyle is this anyway?

Most of the time people had no idea that the fried delciousness they enjoy is usually made up with a milk and egg batter, things like onion rings, fried pickles and you guessed it - friend green tomatoes.

I think if people realized how easy it was to make fried stuff sans eggs and milk, they'd do it more often because it certainly saves a pretty penny when your batter is water-based.

Fried green tomatoes
(Serves 4)
4 green tomatoes (SHOCKER!!)
Wheat flour
All purpose flour
Veg Oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in skillet on medium heat (enough oil to cover the tomatoes, about 1/4 inch deep).
Cut green tomatoes into thin slices.
Grab two bowls, fill one with cold water and in the other add 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup wheat flour and 1 cup all purpose flour (all mixed together)
Take thin tomato slices and dip them in water and then toss them around in the flour mixture (making sure both sides have an even coating).
Quickly dip in the water again, back in the flour (make sure both sides have an even coating) and then place on a clean plate. 
Once all your tomatoes are "battered" head over to the skillet where the oil should be ready to go.
Make sure to set aside another plate with double layers of paper towels on it to help absorb the grease.
Drop the tomatoes into the hot oil and let them cook for 2-3 minutes. 
Take out using a spatula, place on paper-toweled plate and add salt and pepper to taste. (Most prefer an unhealthy amount of salt when it comes to green tomatoes!)

Enjoy, possibly while watching "Fried Green Tomatoes."


Bacon ranch mashed potatoes

I don't even think this needs an explanation.

It's bacon, ranch and potatoes. You don't get much better than that.

It's a crazy simple recipe, but in case you've been living under a rock for the last 80 years and haven't tried this combo yet then do it.

Bacon ranch mashed potatoes
(serves 6-8)
2.5 lbs small red potatoes (that's half of a 5 lb bag)
1 tub Tofutti sour cream
1 pack of ranch seasoning 
1 shaker of vegan bacon bits, tempeh bacon or some other "bacon essence"
2 cloves garlic
4 green onions, sliced and chopped

Preheat oven to 375.
Quarter potatoes and boil them for 30 minutes.
Hand mash (because you'll need the workout after eating these bad boys and they doing things by hand means there's more love in them)
Add cut chopped green onion and garlic.
Take ranch seasoning and mix with Tofutti sour cream.
Mix "ranch" sour cream into mashed potatoes.
Place ranchy potatoes into a greased casserole dish and bake for 30 minutes. 
Top with "bacon" bits.

Enjoy. Serve with more comfort food. 


Five Fabulous Friday reasons to take a dip

I'm not sure where you are, but if it's anywhere near me you're probably suffering in the Heat Death Wave of 2011 as well. (Yippee!)

With temperatures soaring above 100 and the heat index 10 degrees past that, these last few weeks have been utterly miserable. (I'm already dreading my energy bill this month).

And while it's been slightly too-scary-hot to let Pearyn play outside for an extended period of time in this heat death, one of our favorite things to do this summer is taking a dip in the pool.

While I wasn't much of a water-obsessed child myself, Pearyn seems to have a knack for swimming already. I can hardly wait to sign her up for swim lessons. (Someone remind me, I need to get on that ASAP).

As if the ridiculously warm temps isn't enough encouragement to get you into a nice, cool pool, let these five fabulous reasons guide you.

No. 1) Have you seen how cute baby swimsuits are? Crazy adorable. From bucket hats, surferesque wet suits to frilly one pieces and shark fin hoods, you can get your fill of precious at the water park. Just try not to overdose on all that adorableness.

No. 2) ANYONE can enjoy a dip in the pool! From Pearyn's itty bitty cousin Chloe, to my three-and-a-half-year-old nephew, to my 26-year-old self, we've all had a blast at the pool this summer. This is one activity kids and parents can really enjoy together. Afraid of the water? No problem! When you're the parent of a tiny child you spend most of your time in the baby pool anyway!

No. 3) It's an activity the whole family can do together. Recently my cousin Rebecca, her almost six-month-old Chloe, my other cousin Micki who doesn't even have a child, my friend and her 16-month-old son and Pearyn and myself made a trip to the community pool. It didn't matter that my cousin didn't have a child in tote, she had so much fun splashing around with the other little ones and the mommies were able to get a two-second break every now and then while Micki soaked up the joy of looking good with a baby, but not having to fuss with one.

My favorite part? When Micki was holding little Chloe another mommy swam up and asked how old her daughter was. Micki just stared at her blankly, not quite realizing that this woman thought Chloe was actually her daughter. It probably looked a little funny when I chimed in with her age.

No. 4) It gets you off your butt and out doing something. When the summer heat sets in it's really easy and tempting to stay in the air all day parked in front of the television (don't get me wrong, when it's 110 out there you probably should soak up the ac), but it's not really good for you or your little ones. Going to the pool is an easy way to get yourself out of the house and enjoying outside with your family. Not to mention it's pretty easy to stay cool when you're chasing your little one around the water!

No. 5) While the super awesome sun-kissed glow you can rock after being out in the sun is pretty fabulous, your little one's hair is even better. I know this seems like a pretty silly reason to go swimming, but Pearyn gets the BEST beach hair ever after spending a few hours at the pool. We're talking a really sweet faux-hawk and some seriously blonde curls. She's got all the right attributes to become a surf babe in the future!


Simply raw or just plain lazy?

I'm not really one for diets. (As evidenced by my body weight and sugar consumption).

I am, however, incredibly lazy.

Honestly, I'm one of those people who could spend all day in their pajamas and not even blink an eye. I actually feel accomplished when I manage to meal plan, make dinner AND do the dishes - in the same day.

And unless it's a really complex baking project I've thrown myself into, my recipes could be right out of a "Vegan cooking for Dummies" book.

So the other night I was contemplating ways I could make meal times easier and healthier - sort of a more rush, less fuss type meal.

And it hit me. (No seriously, a tomato rolled right off the table and landed on my big toe).

I should explore the raw diet.

At first I was tempted to sign myself up for a 30-day challenge, but then I remembered my disdain for most vegetables raw and the fact that I have a 14 month old who's still honing her chewing skills and a husband who eats like a bird most of the day anyway, so he may or may not be pretty attached to an actual "hot meal" once a day.

That, and I'm a rare breed of chubby vegan, so if I really tried to restrict myself to all raw, all day, all month, I'd probably fail miserably. And then, out of sheer guilt and frustration for failing my "challenge," I'd eat the entire contents of my freezer and gain a bunch of weight.

So instead of diving right in, I've decided to tip-toe into the frigid raw waters, one meal, one day, at a time.

Long gone are my days of bean and "cheese" burritos for lunch; I'm replacing them with salads, gazpacho and nuts.

Here's to hopefully a little more health - and less time slaving over a hot oven.

This is what you call a "crisper" drawer. It's going to keep my lunch nice and "crisp" all week!


A journey of faith

I didn't really grow up religious.

Aside from picking and choosing friends to spend Sunday service with, my family and I have always parted ways when it comes to our "faith."

It's not that we don't have one, I'd like to believe that my mother, father and brother all have some sort of belief in the great unknown out there, even if they don't know they do.

When it comes to faith, I really, really want to believe in the power of it. Sometimes, I even do. But every now and then there's this sinking suspicion that I only believe in it because I want to, not because I actually, deep down do.

Which, if I were living life just for myself, maybe a sort-of faith would be acceptable.

But I'm not.

Now, I'm living it for her:

For them.

And honestly, a whole hoard of others that have a special place in my heart, from the family I grew up with, the one I married into, the one I spent college with and the future one Ryan and I will continue to make for ourselves.

So I guess it's about time to figure out what we believe. Or at the very least, it's time to start trying. 

We're not really sure where faith, religion and veganism will fall in line or if they will at all. But we're willing to start looking for the answers, because I want to have them ready when Pearyn starts asking them. And not because I want to "be right," but because I want to believe in them. 

I can't help but wonder however, what other faiths vegan or veg-friendly families follow. I've been involved in more arguments over the Bible's instructions on slaughtering animals for food and necessities than I'd like to admit, so  we're going to tread lightly and carefully on this path. We're going to explore lots of different avenues, from Buddhism to Christianity. 

And hopefully at the end of all this, we're going to find something that's right for us. And just like veganism, while it may not be right or even accepted by every one else, we're ready to find something willing to believe in - to put our faith in. 

While I certainly don't expect veganism to fit into one perfect little religious box, I'd like to find a marriage between the two ways of life if possible. 

So for now, we're going to start from the beginning. 

Once upon a time there was man and he was created by ... 

To be continued. 


Five fav reasons to hop on the meal planning train

A few years ago my husband and I were looking for a way to simplify our grocery shopping.

After talking with friends one turned us on to the idea of weekly meal plans (thank you Sharon)!

Nearly two years later and I cannot stress the impact this has had on our calendars and wallets (woo hoo!). Looking for a way to spend less time AND money at the grocery? Get your meal plan on!

No. 1) You save store time. Instead of spending hours perusing aisle after aisle for what sounds good, you've already prepared your plan of attack. Gather those items in your cart and be on your way, leaving all those ill-prepared shoppers in your dust.

No. 2) You save MONEY! No, really, you save money. While buying six boxes of Cocoa Puffs because they're on sale for $1 might seem like a money-saving trick, you're really just adding dead weight (literally) to your bill. I'm not saying to pass up every sale, but instead plan your meals around them and stick to them. If pasta and sauce is buy one get one free, find a way to utilize this sale a couple of meals a week. Say ... good old fashioned spaghetti one night, followed by pasta salad for lunch another day and maybe some pizza with a little marinara a few nights later?

No. 3) You're way more organized, but not nearly as frazzled as all those extreme couponing moms. Just spend a quick 5-10 minutes browsing your grocer's local ad and then another 10-15 minutes planning your meals and budget around those sales. This way you already know what's on sale, what you need and how to incorporate that into your breakfast, lunch and dinner!

No. 4) Save more time at home. After a long day at work the last thing you feel like fumbling with is dinner. Planning takes the guesswork out of dinner. Afraid you won't be able to appeal to a picky eater with a "plan?" No worries. you don't have to assign one meal to one day, you can pick and choose from your week of menu items. No one said you can't swap out vegan chili dog Monday for tempeh stir-fry Tuesday.

No. 5) You can plan more nutritionally sound meals. Instead of wasting hours at the store to come home and realize you left out the veggies, you can compare each meal for the week and make sure you've got all the nutritional bases covered. This has been especially important for our vegan clan. By making out a list of meals for the week I can assure there's a balance of plant-based proteins and not an over abundance of processed mock meats.

In the last two years, we've taken our grocery bill from about $100 a week to a mere $60. (And before we had the little one we were averaging $37 a week).

Not to mention the number of hours (and probably pounds I've saved) by popping in the store for my required items and resisting the cookies section!

Start meal planning: While I just ordered these handy-dandy inserts for my planner (because I'm 26 going on 105 and they were only $3.71), all you really need is a pen and paper! Pre-planner pages meal planning meant I simply folded a sheet of paper in half and titled one side "Meal Plans" and the other "Groceries." I'd add up the amount of meals I need for the week (we only plan dinners because my hubby and I both work, which means we're not around to partake in group lunches) then start listing a few that sounded good. Once you've got the number of meals you need, do a quick scan of the pantry and make a list of what items you've got to purchase.

Then, post it on the fridge, fight over what delicious meal you want to cook that night and cross it off the list once it's been devoured!

It's seriously as simple as that.

If you really want to take a walk on the wild side, get a nifty folder, label it meal plans and stick all your "completed" meal plans in it. This method comes in handy for those times when nothing sounds good.


Going vegan banana bread in the kitchen

As I've mentioned probably 18 times in my last two posts, life has changed here at the humble T abode. My new job means a whole new schedule to get used to, which isn't bad, but it's definitely still in its developmental phase.

In order to utilize more time with my family, I've decided to start cooking things in batches and freezing them for easy snacks, breakfasts or lunches later down the road.

I'm also trying to minimize waste, which meant preparing three batches of horseradish-crusted mashed potatoes for a quick side down the road and two loaves of banana bread so that I wouldn't have to throw away said potatoes and bananas.

All and all, it was an incredibly productive day.

Especially for my little helper, Pearyn, who would hardly let me prepare the banana bread due to her borderline-unhealthy obsession with bananas. I seriously think would she eat these all day everyday if I let her.

So here it is, your run-of-the-mill, use up all those vegan pantry staples, banana bread.

Going B-A-N-A-N-A-S Bread
(Makes one 8X4 loaf)
3 medium, super ripe bananas (just when you think you're going to throw them away, don't!)
1/2 cup agave syrup (you could probably use maple as well, but this is what I had on hand)
1/3 cup applesauce
1 flaxseed "egg" (1 TBS flaxseed, 3 TBS water)
2 tsp vanilla
1 TBS cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup hazelnuts (or ... whatever volume of your favorite nut)
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup all purpose flour

Preheat oven to 325.
Grease loaf pan.
Mash up three super ripe bananas.
Mix flaxseed egg, agave syrup, applesauce, vanilla, cinnamon and baking soda until well blended.
Stir in wheat and all purpose flour.
Batter should have wet sand, thick, lumpyish consistency.
Mix in nuts.
Pour into loaf pan and bake for 45 minutes to one hour (depending on loaf pan). Stick a toothpick in the middle to test level of doneness (it should come back clear!)

Cut into slices and enjoy, a whole lot. (Or even freeze it for a delicious and quick breakfast later!)

Need a little comfort? Try this vegan pot pie!

When I used to be a "regular" eater, I was incredibly big on comfort food. Mashed potatoes and gravy, meatloaf, chicken pot pie, if it had a ridiculous amount of fat and wasn't exactly good for you, I probably liked it.

A lot.

Since changing my meat-eating ways four years ago, I've been working to veganize all those long lost favorites, to much success.

This vegan pot pie is a cinch. Whether you want to go all out and make your own pie crust or would prefer to use a store-bought one, this crazy savory dinner comes together in about 20 short minutes and (perk!) was a favorite of Pearyn herself. 

Vegan Pot Pie
(Serves 8-10)
Pie crust ingredients:
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup Crisco shortening (I can feel my arteries clogging as I type this)
  • 1/2 cup water

Pot pie ingredients:
1 bag frozen veggies (I used a broccoli stir-fry blend to change it up)
2 TBS "butter" 
1/3 cup almond milk
1 1/2 cup veggie broth
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
Salt & pepper to taste

For the crust:
Combine flour, salt, water and crisco in a bowl. 
Once mixed, divide in half and form two balls with it. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least four hours.
After refrigeration, roll out on flat, floured surface and set aside.

For the pot pie:
Preheat oven to 350.
In a sauce pan on medium heat, bring the butter and almond milk to a low boil. 
Whisk in wheat flour on low boil, creating a thick "pasty" sauce. 
Whisk in veggie broth. Stir continuously on low boil until it thickens into a runny gravy mixture.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Oil a pie pan and place prepared crust into bottom.
Add frozen veggies and top with gravy mixture.
Place other pie crust on top and seal (smush) crust together. If you want it to look pretty take a fork and mash it alongside the crust area.
Add a few slits on top.
Bake for 45 minutes, cover outer crust in aluminum foil once it starts to brown and bake for an additional 30 minutes. 

Enjoy (with lots of leftovers!)


Confessions of a not-so-super mom

My name is Amanda.

Foremost, I'm a mommy to an incredibly free-spirited little girl. She keeps me on my toes in more ways than one. I'm also a wife to a super husband AND dad. I'm lucky to have a partner who goes out, earns the tempeh bacon and isn't afraid to come home and fry it up every now and then. 

I'm a daughter to two incredibly supportive parents, a sister to an over-achieving, over-generous brother, sister-in-law to a strong-willed, role model of a what a woman and mother in today's society should be.

I'm an aunt to an equally rambunctious niece and even more trouble-seeking, but oh-so-fun nephew.

I'm a cousin to other incredible women, all at different stages of their lives and a niece to aunts I get to see every weekend for coffee.

I'm the best friend to two completely different, but incredibly loyal and loving best friends.

And lastly, I'm Amanda.

Somewhere along the way I stopped identifying myself as Amanda and started using all these other definitions instead. And while I absolutely LOVE all of these other definitions, I don't want to lose the person behind them.

Between a new career, new friends, new responsibilities and new desires, when is a mom supposed to find "me" time? 

How do mothers in this society find the balance between their careers, families, friends and hobbies? Is there one? And what happens when you have more than one child? All the sudden you're not just a mother to one, but two. 

I look forward to the day we have a second child, someone for Pearyn to relate with, share her vegan outcastness with and overall disdain of her stupid, tree-hugging, grain-eating parents. 

I guess I'm just hoping that come the second little one, I'll be a lot better at juggling the pianos, bowling pins and medicine balls life is throwing at me. 

Who's kidding? I just hope I don't get smashed by this piano first.

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Playing catch up

So this week got a bit overwhelming. Between a new job, the big, bad thunderstorm that knocked out my parents' electricity (leaving our tiny household plus two adults AND three great danes) and life in general, I've been neglecting the social media world.


I think the last time I actually posted something on Facebook was like two days ago.

But alas, I haven't forgotten about my blogging duties, I'm simply trying to figure out how to juggle all these different objects on my plate. We're talking bowling balls, teeny-tiny bouncy balls and a couple giant exercise balls' worth of juggling.

Ice cream cones were eaten, flowers picked and crazy tiny sink baths taken. Feel free to let this adorable snapshot tide you over until I'm able to delve a little deeper into the T clan's last few days.


Five FAB reasons having a kind-of toddler isn't terrible (or two, yet)

The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster for me. Between spending the long holiday weekend with my family and my brother's family under one roof (and the super sadness and loneliness which came as a result of leaving them) and getting ready for my new job on Monday, I'm not sure I've really grasped all the changes enveloping my life.

(Note to self, delishness of vegan nachos with Daiya Cheese and So Delicious Coconut Ice Cream with NEVER change). 

I'm so pumped for my job, which I'm hoping is going to help me balance my desire to have a "career," but to be an involved mommy as well. A career and a child, two things I've had a hard time marrying in the past, one always seemed to invade the other.

But even with all these great changes, sometimes I get stuck thinking about how scary and possibly bad said changes could be. For instance, I spent most of this week moping around my house making sad faces at Pearyn's baby book because an ENTIRE year of my first child's life has passed in what feels like a week. How is it possible my baby isn't a "baby" anymore?

So in an effort to turn around my self-indulgent sadness and hop on the positivity train, today's Fab Five Friday will celebrate all the reasons my baby not being a "baby" anymore is awesome. 

No. 1) She can feed herself. OK, so she won't be cutting up her own vegan roast anytime soon, but I can cut a banana into slices, put it in a bowl and give it to her and at least 90% ends up in her belly. (The whereabouts of the other 10% are still unknown, but I'm willing to bet they were fed to our border collie mix, Karma). Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly adventurous, I give her peas and cubed tofu to carry around. Gasp!

No. 2) She puts herself to sleep. No, seriously, she just randomly falls asleep now. She's like a little narcoleptic. And on top of snoozing at any given time, she actually picks up her blankies, heads for her bedroom door, points and grunts until we come over and put her to bed. Now that's what you call a good sleeper.

No. 3) She gets excited over actual things, not just butterflies or the air. After discovering a Christmas card loaded with cash from Grandma T, we decided to get P a piggy bank to keep her stash in. Despite having a savings-type account already in place for our little girl, we decided having her own piggy bank will be a good way to teach her about responsibility with money later in life. At any rate, she's so excited by her bank that she wouldn't even hold still for a pic!

No. 4) She's testing her limits. Don't get me wrong - most days, I'm convinced my daughter is going to think her name is actually "No Pearyn" because I say it so frequently. It gets exhausting trying to decide what battle to pick with my little girl. Do I let her sneak behind the ottoman and play with dangerous, inappropriate objects? Is that the hill I want to die on? It seems like lately she's really testing the waters - not to mention our patience - and albeit it's a tad bit on the annoying side, it's amazing to see the way little human beings develop, 100 no's at a time.

No. 5) I can't wait to see what she'll do next. Truth be told, little babies are kind of boring anyway. Of course, when Pearyn was two months old and all she could do was cry, burp and poop, I still thought she was the most astounding creature alive. But now, being the mom to a 14 month old, I've learned how much cooler babies become. Now, instead of just crying, burping and pooping (although, she still does all of these things quite a bit), she runs, giggles, plays peek-a-boo and blows kisses. She brings me a book and sits down, waiting for me to read it. At just a little over a year old she's finally discovering ways to express love and even better, she's figuring out just how much we have for her.


Three days of Family Sunday Fundays!

This week's Family Sunday Funday is coming in a little late.

But for once, I actually have a great reason to be neglecting my blog.

The T clan packed their bags, duffel bags, diaper bags and coolers and left on a jet plane, OK, not really, we loaded up our Hamster-mobile (10 points to the first person who gets that reference) and made the six  seven-and-a-half-hour trek (it literally took us an hour to make it through the last 12 miles of Indiana because apparently some moron thought it was an awesome idea to take a major highway down to one lane for six miles whilst not doing one damn bit of work) to visit the Mizzou Stews (my brother and his family).

But boy was it worth it.

So instead of having just one good old fashioned Family Sunday Funday, this holiday weekend was more like  Family Saturday, Sunday, Monday Funday.

It literally melts my heart to watch my little girl playing with her cousins. And she is absolutely enamored by her big cousin Eli. And she's finally warming up to her twin cousin (who is a bit more on the daring, grabby side). This trip was full of tons of family fun and actually very few meltdowns. Between a trip to the pool, zoo (look for a separate blog post on this topic, which is a hotbed for debate in the vegan community), a parade and fireworks, the T clan and the Mizzou Stews made quite the memories in just three days.

We didn't get in until about 11:30 p.m. Friday night, Pearyn was cranky and didn't want to even consider sleeping in her play pin, so she crashed the bed with mommy and daddy for the first time. (I know it's a horrible habit to get into, but she's never slept in our bed with us so it was kind of cozy to have the whole family together for one night).

Pear loves to hang with her big cousin Eli. And by hang I mean follow around like his little shadow. Despite not being able to get any alone time this weekend due to his stalker Pearyn, he was in great spirits and did an amazing job with her!

Even though it literally rained on our parade, we didn't let that get in the way of our Family Monday Funday.

Waiting for the fireworks curbside with my big brother, sister-in-law, nephew and niece. Ry was kind enough to juggle taking this photo and making sure Pearyn didn't try to go home with another family.

Pear's first firework show was a success. She was captivated by the bright lights, not too crazy about the loud bangs, but overall loved seeing the display with her whole family. (Especially when that includes snuggling with daddy).


Pepper Steak to fool a carnivore

A few weeks ago I posted a phenomenal recipe to make your own vegan "pot roast." In all fairness the roast was a homemade seitan recipe, one which could be used to make your own lunch meat (just add your own blend of spices) OR is absolutely delightful in pepper steak. 

So whether you have left over pot roast or want to make a fresh batch from scratch, this simple slow-cooker seitan recipe will bring the perfect texture and flavor to any meat-bearing dish. 

If you do choose to make a fresh batch of seitan, I strongly recommend and prefer the slow-cooker method as it gives the perfect texture and infuses a lot of flavor. So make sure you allot enough time for the seitan to cook before using it in the pepper steak.

Pepper Steak ala Amanda
(Serves 6-8) 
Roast ingredients:
2 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 TB Italian seasoning
1 TB onion powder
1 TB garlic powder
2 TB ketchup
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup steak sauce
1 1/2 cups water
4 TBS minced garlic
15.5 oz can of veggie stock

Pepper steak base ingredients:
3 peppers (I used red and yellow because they're my favorite) chopped into small-medium sized pieces 
1 medium onion chopped into small-medium pieces
28 oz can of diced tomatoes (we buy the no salt added or low-sodium versions)
1 small can of tomato paste (maybe 6 or 8 oz? I don't remember off the top of my head)
1/4 cup soy sauce (we use low sodium) or to taste
1 TBS vegan Worcestershire 
2 TBS cornstarch to thicken
2 TBS black pepper (or to taste)
2 TBS garlic
3 cups water
Brown rice (we made about 2 cups dry which yielded almost 6, make however much you prefer)

Roast directions:
Turn crockpot on low
Mix together wheat gluten, nutritional yeast and seasonings.
Add soy sauce, steak sauce, ketchup, 2 TBS of garlic and water.
Mix and knead for 2 minutes. The mixture should be slightly damp.
Form a roast-like loaf and place in crockpot.

Pour vegetable stock over and let it cook on low for two hours, on high three.

Pepper steak directions:
Boil your brown rice.
Add can of diced tomatoes, water and tomato paste in large stock pot and cook on low medium heat (like a 3-4, we want to achieve a low boil).
Add soy sauce, Worcestershire, garlic and pepper.
Stir in corn starch, mix until lumps are gone (this will help thicken the pepper steak as it cooks, you won't see immediate results)
Add chopped peppers and onion. Cook for 15 minutes. 
Half your seitan and put the rest away (use for sandwiches or whatever you heart desires)
Cut the remaining seitan into small strips or chunks (whichever style you prefer for pepper steak, I'm not picky).
Add seitan to pot and cook for 30 minutes. 
Pour brown rice into a bowl and top with crazy delicious pepper steak mixture.



The Fab Five reasons cloth diapering is so worth it

The other day I was visiting one of my good friends who recently had a little baby girl. While comparing tales of motherhood (in her first week of being a mommy she's already had a much smoother transition than me) when precious Pearyn decided to take a gigantic number two in her diaper.

So what, kids poop, right?

Well, my little girl usually has a really nice schedule. Once in the morning and sometimes once in the evening. And since we're usually in our home for these little "presents" it's really no big deal, we just pop the cloth insert out of the diaper wrap and spray it off with the attachment hooked to our toilet (minimal mess, minimal fuss).

Except yesterday, at my friend's house, there was no handy dandy sprayer, just me, a really dirty diaper and a toilet.

It's times like those I question my sanity regarding cloth diapers.

But really, they're so worth it. And these Fab Five reasons are only the beginning.

No. 1) Let's face it, they're way cuter than regular diapers. From cutesty butterfly-covered covers to plain blue or pink, cloth diapers are certainly not as one-dimensional as disposable diapers. Not to mention how much cuter they look when you let your baby run around in just a diaper.

No. 2) They're good for the environment. Seriously good for the environment. In fact, Americans (JUST Americans alone) throw away enough disposable diapers every year to to stretch from the moon and back at a minimum of seven times. Couple that with the fact that they can take anywhere from 300-500 years to decompose and I'm thinking we'll be able to build an actual bridge to the moon with the amount of disposable diapers we go through.

No. 3) They're good for a baby's bum, in more ways than one. Take for example Pearyn, who unfortunately inherited my lack of "back." (Mommy most certainly does not have back, and now, baby doesn't either). This can make for a difficult time filling out all those cute bloomers and skirts. Not to mention most baby's have less diaper rash with cloth diapers. Keeping your baby's bottom rash free? Now that's a reason to cloth.

No. 4) The COST. While shelling out anywhere from $12-25 for every diaper or diaper cover may seem expensive (plus the packs of inserts if you decide to go with wraps instead of all-in-one diapers), it's really just the first, initial cost that will set you back. I lucked out and got a few great deals on Pearyn's diapers, but ultimately I've saved far more by doing cloth than by buying even the cheapest disposable. For four Thirsties diaper covers and three packs of inserts I spent around $75. (And seeing as how you need to wash the diapers every two-three days, this is all that I really need. That's the beauty of diaper covers, as long as Pearyn doesn't have an explosion, I can just swap inserts and use the same cover throughout the day).

So my one-time $75 investment has saved me a total of $480 in six months. And our water bill has only gone up $2 since starting. Sounds like a win-win for mommy.

No. 5) Did I mention how cute they are?

Just look at that cute little tooshie!