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Emily Can B Fit: Deed Develops into Habit

Last night was a rough one: between my children being waking sick and myself being blue about the journey ahead of me to get back to where I once was, I couldn’t sleep. My partner arrived home early from his nightshift and immediately set about building me a fort-nest.
The fort-nest is my way to find peace and sanctuary when a hug isn’t enough. It takes the kitchen table, several blankets (with a chair atop the whole mess for support) and every available pillow to construct – which my husband did without being asked. Crawling inside fort-nest is like crawling back into the womb. There is something quiet and calming, even within my own noisy city apartment. Of course, it is not a complete fortress of solitude and soon my peaceful retreat was pierced by the meek noises of an ill three year old, but I find fort-nest is made better by nursing, the release of oxytocin helps magnify the calming effect.
After three hours of sleep I was awoken by my another child who preferred I walk him to camp, a regular feeling of his and actually a blessing in disguise. His personal desire for my presence on the morning walk forces me to get up for a morning walk (this could be made more manageable if the other ones let me sleep – this morning he shouted “wake up mom!” while we were crossing the street, I can’t be sure that I wasn’t dozing while walking).  Deeds become habits and the same thing kept me feeling healthy while I was completing my M.ed, I walked two and a half miles to and from campus daily in the sweltering Baltimore heat.

Blue Lotus Chai

Blue Lotus Chai

Arriving home I decided to make my Super Quick Vegan Dal for breakfast and eat half of a gluten-free ginger coconut muffin. I am trying to eat fitter by eating half of what I normally do, with the knowledge that if I want more I can have.  After years of battling eating disorders I have found that my sense of satiation as well as hunger is not reliable. Half a muffin was actually enough and I finished it all off with my new favorite local made, chai tea – it’s good plain (which is what is healthiest) but it is fantastic with rock sugar and vanilla flax milk.

Next were basic chores around the apartment and making salt dough for the little tyke.  This is the children’s favorite and keeps them creatively occupied for hours.  I even took a nap.  Awaking feeling…well, rested somewhat, I made a Super Quick Vegan Mock Ham Salad and scooped it atop two pieces of my favorite local gluten-free bread, open faced. Open-faced is my trick for eating slower and visually being more full – it looks like more sandwich.

The day started to wind down as we headed to pick E up from camp and drop the little one off for a gym class. Another great chance to walk with the family.  I love living in Portland, everything is easily accessible via walking or biking – it was one of the reasons I moved here and I am finally taking advantage of this.

My nightcap? A 7 pm yoga class only 700 feet from my front door at the local health club. Looks like my fitness is on the right track!

 

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Vegan Children: World’s Best Salt Dough Recipe for Hours of Play

I have tried many dough recipes, this is the best I have ever found and was given to me by a worker at a children’s museum years ago. You can add natural food coloring and essential oils to the water before mixing to make scented and colored dough, as well as glitter. The whole thing can be made with organic ingredients too, especially in Portland where Bob’s Red Mill is readily available to visit and makes a nice trip for the kids.

1 1/2 cups hot water

Vegan Salt Dough for Play

Vegan Salt Dough for Play

3/4 cup of salt (I buy the 99cent Mortons)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
3 cups of flour

Place flour in a large bowl, I pour the salt around the outer edge and make a well in the center. In the well I pour the oil, then the water and stir with a big ole spoon. Once it has formed add about 1/2 cup of more flour gradually until you reach the less sticky consistency.

Viola! You have salt dough, it can be kept in a sealed mason jar and will retain moisture for about 4 days.

Quick Vegan Recipe: Vegan Mock Ham Salad

Vegan Mock Ham Salad

Vegan Mock Ham Salad

I call this one Mock Ham because of the pinkish tinge created by the red bell peppers and purple carrot.

It can be difficult and down right sad to be a vegan at lunchtime, there are few vegan delicatessens to frequent when you need to nosh. My mock salads have become a staple in my eating and really are versatile and quick.
I own a Ninja food processor and have no idea how to use half of the attachments, but I love the food processor part.

As always most of my ingredients come from Trader Joe’s and are organic, a few come from Whole Foods.

 

 

  • 1 can of garbanzo beans
  •  1/2 red bell pepper sliced
  •  1 purple carrot cut in rounds
  •  2 tablespoons of “vegan” mayo (or you can use silken tofu)
  • 1/3 cup of natural pickle relish
  • 1 tablespoon of Penzey’s Sweet Curry (or dijon mustard)

Here’s the quick and simple – chuck it all in the food processor and pulse a few times until it reaches a chunky but creamy consistency. Be careful, over processing results in a hummus like spread which is also good as a dip! I slather this on bread with tomato and spinach, or place a top some power greens for a salad (sometimes I lightly dress the greens with balsamic vinaigrette).

Makes 3 servings. This comes in at approximately 150 calories per serving.

Vegan Quick Recipe: Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil Dal

Red Lentil Dal

With three kids and three adults to organize life around and prepare meals for they have to be quick to prep if I want to eat.

I purchase all of my organic produce, etc. at Trader Joe’s, but anywhere you like to shop will do!

1. Dried red lentils (1/4 cup)
2. 1/2 cup water
3. 1 tablespoon (more or less for your taste) of Penzey’s Sweet Curry Powder
4.pinch of salt (to taste)

I combine the first 4 in a saucepan, cover and heat on high until boiling, then simmer. Within 7 -10 minutes the lentils are ready for part two, the water is almost completely absorbed.

5. one purple carrot sliced in rounds
6. one half of a red pepper diced
7. 1/4 cup water

I added the rest of the ingredients into the pan and cook until all liquid is absorbed and the lentils are really soft. Serve immediately, or refrigerate – you can even eat them cold.

Makes: 1 serving of lentils at approximately 130 calories.

Back to School Treats Vegan Tofu Coconut Cookies, Raisin Cookies and Tofu Sticks

America’s leading tofu purveyor since 1983, House Foods Tofu, is making the transition of back-to-school simpler with their easy to make, healthy and delectable recipes. Revealing new school lunches, after school snacks and sweet treat recipes.

I have been treated to new cookie recipes from House Foods Tofu. Their Tofu Oatmeal Coconut Cookies and Tofu Oatmeal Raisin Cookies are made by combining House Foods Organic or Premium Tofu Soft with old fashion oats with either coconut flakes or raisins. For a quick finger friendly lunch, after school snack or family dinner, whip up House Foods Crispy Tofu Sticks. Simply coat House Foods Organic or Premium Tofu Extra Firm with a mixture of crushed cornflakes and spices. These Tofu Sticks look a great deal like the wings at my family’s favorite vegan restaurant, I can’t wait to get a kitchen and give them a try!  Let me know if you try these recipes and how they work.

Tofu Oatmeal Coconut Cookiesimage001

Created by House Foods America 

INGREDIENTS:

½ pkg House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Soft
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cup old fashioned oats
¼ c brown sugar
½ c granulated sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup coconut flakes
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt 

DIRECTIONS:

Add Tofu, sugar, oil and vanilla to food processor and purée until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, salt and coconut and combine with wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly and place in refrigerator for 1 hour to firm.

Spoon approximately 2 Tbsp worth of dough onto greased baking sheet. Repeat for remaining cookie dough. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

 

Tofu Oatmeal Raisin Cookiesimage002

Created by House Foods America

INGREDIENTS:

½ pkg House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Soft
1 ½ cup all purpose flour
1 ½ cup old fashioned oats
¼ c brown sugar
½ cup granulated sugar
⅓ cup vegetable oil
½ cup raisins
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt

 

DIRECTIONS:

Add Tofu, sugar, oil and vanilla to food processor and purée until smooth. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, salt and raisins and combine with wet ingredients. Mix thoroughly and place in refrigerator for 1 hour to firm.

Spoon approximately 2 Tbsp worth of dough onto greased baking sheet. Repeat for remaining cookie dough. Bake for approximately 20 minutes at 350 degrees.

Once batter is thoroughly mixed stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into greased baking tray and bake at 350° for approximately 30 minutes.

 

image003Crispy Tofu Sticks

Created by House Foods America

 INGREDIENTS:

1 pkg House Foods Premium or Organic Tofu Extra Firm, drained and pressed
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp salt
½tsp black pepper
2 eggs, beaten (or egg replacer)
1 ½ cup cornflakes, crushed into small pieces

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice Tofu into 1 x 1 x 3 in. sticks. In a medium bowl, mix together flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper and set aside. Add beaten eggs to a small bowl, and cornflakes to a third bowl.

To coat Tofu sticks, lightly roll in seasoned flour, dip in egg, and roll in cornflakes, turning to coat all sides. Repeat for remaining Tofu sticks and place on baking sheet. Bake for approximately 15 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.

Singing Your Way Through Stress a New Parenting Tip

Puppet Show

Puppet Show

Today was the same as most days, I started off with lofty goals of no yelling, compliance with requests and at least one nap.  There were no total screaming moments on my part, but I couldn’t control what the kids did with their volume.  On a more worrying note my younger son, due to stress I believe, has begun to make sucking noises after he speaks.  The type of noise that comes from pressing the tip of the tongue to the soft palette and then sucking in breath, to punctuate his words.  Everyone in the family is growing weary of this action and its loud sound.  His other new tick is chewing on things; Legos, sheets, collar of his shirt – basically anything a five year old can stick in his mouth that may have germs on it.  These two habits join his already disturbing habit of rolling and chewing on his tongue which all add to my stress because they are signals of his stress. As my husband reminded me tonight on the phone, last time we made this awkward trip he started picking up odd idiosyncrasies, and they diminished once my husband was with us. My main concern is that with epilepsy these types of temporary self-stimulating stress relief techniques can become permanently wired pathways and truly long term habits.  This puts stress levels on high for me in a new way, a parent never wants to permanently mar their child in any way.

Our day proceeded on packed with driving and fun – and because this is a typed format I can’t tell if I mean that sarcastically. I know the first part of the day was not fun as I dealt with a teenager who is a really great guy who makes some poor choices at times.  For example, I asked him to accompany us down the elevator since I was pushing two strollers by myself and holding two cups of tea.  He instead went his own way then watched from inside the mall window as his sister spilled her tea on herself, I had to remove her from her stroller and make sure the other stroller wasn’t in the street – before getting in the elevator without us.  I thought of a way to handle this without much yelling and decided on a discussion of natural consequences that went down like so, “A natural consequence of not wanting to be a part of our family and help out means that you are on your own, so I guess you need to find a way to pay for your private lesson.” That didn’t go over well and  a more heated discussion of what had transpired ensued. The little ones and I went for a stroll before I watched his morning lesson. While I watched our skater the little ones watched Super Why next to me.  This is one of a few times when they really do share and act calm with each other, they take turns holding the phone, making sure the other one can see the screen and co-operatively determine which episode to watch – yes I know it is TV but a psychologist recently told me that the current TV viewing guidelines are unrealistic and must have been set by 60 year old psychologists who still believe in Freud and don’t have children (his words, seriously).  That being said, I do limit my children’s screen time as much as I can while preserving my sanity and I have found that less flashing shows (such as Super Why) don’t stimulate them in the same negative way as brightly, garish shows.  The best shows are realistic shows such as Chopped or Cutthroat Kitchen.  The main concern with screen time of any type is my younger son.  He really loses all self-regulating capability when given screen time outside of these parameters. I digress, on to the rest of our day…

Shuttle Bus to the Museum Campus

Shuttle Bus to the Museum Campus

After the ice rink drop off the younger kids and I headed off to the Portland Children’s Museum again.  This time we split our time between the indoor grocery area and the outdoor adventure area.  My thesis paper for my

Outdoor Adventure

Outdoor Adventure

Montessori certification delved into the levels of parental engagement and developmental purposes of different play areas, including an observational study of play areas at the Children’s Museum – my findings were that realistic play areas create better engagement and have more developmental purpose / positive interaction outcomes so I always try to get them to at least one of these areas per visit.  Of course, I should temper that motivation with knowledge of whether or not we have extra clothing.  Suffice it to say, it was a soggy and oddly dressed ride back to the car on the shuttle with both of my kids wearing oversized, recently purchased museum t-shirts.  Getting them away from the Outdoor Adventure took a great deal of parenting wit to accomplish without screaming “Let’s go” so instead I relied on singing.  I sang a song about me leaving and sure enough they moved along – I was like the parenting piped piper.  I used it all the way to the shuttle to avoid having to carry anyone. To the tune of the “Ants Go Marching” I sang “my kids go marching” and they actually marched in line to the shuttle to the bemused smiles of other parents. Win for me!

Play it Forward Piano at the Entrance

Play it Forward Piano at the Entrance

We piled into our rental car super soggy and super sleepy -viola! one goal met, both children took a nap.  They were completely exhausted and we headed back to the rink to pick up our skater.  From the rink it was a short trip back to the hotel to jump in the pool; because sure enough those naps were short lived. I can still feel the effects of our pool visit – three kids hanging on me, jumping on me and requesting to be thrown into the air has taken its toll on my back and provided me with a really strenuous water resistance workout – I may never hit the fitness center here and I am okay with that.  Our pool jaunt reaffirmed my

Plumb Tuckered Out

Plumb Tuckered Out

belief that loud areas are not conducive to small children following instructions.  I think that the cacophony of the filters, the hot tub and the echo in the pool enclosure is way too over stimulating and of course this results in a failure to comply with requests which in turn escalates the requests in my world.  My younger son decided to throw a pool towel into the pool, the older one threw it back, this went on for five minutes during which time I used positive phrasing “pool towels are for drying ourselves, you may put the towel away” etc.  None of these worked, I yelled – and I kicked them out of the pool – again it started with a calm request “you may sit on a chair” and then after my requests went unanswered I yelled for them to get out of the pool. If you are keeping track I have a pitiful winning streak by this point in the day but ever a glutton for punishment (or feeling my own inadequacies as a parent) I proffered up a trip to Washington Square Mall to visit the puppies and the Lego store.  

The pet place, Hannah, always gives me a weird vibe having participated for many years in pet rescue and having worked as a vet tech.  They claim to be a pet society of some sort and set you up on a monthly payment plan, of more than $100,

Soft Play Area

Soft Play Area

for the lifetime of your pet which includes vet and food; however as our visits have been frequent, I get the distinct feeling it is nothing more than a dressed up pet shop and far less than a pet rescue.  They always have puppies and really hard sell – which is not what rescues normally do.  Not to mention today Michael F asked “are you looking to adopt a pet” while holding a tiny bundle my daughter wanted to pet – and before my no stopped resounding he had haughtily walked off to a corner of the “store” for no other reason than to make a point that pets were for petting by people who were interested in this scam. We left without a new pet, thankfully, because we are not ready for one which is sadly a thought I had for many of the people who were easily gaining quick access to “adoption”.

Angry,Contemplative? Who knows.

Angry,Contemplative? Who knows.

Never chagrined by others, my daughter gayly ran off to the soft play area for a bit. I didn’t fare much better at the next stop. The Lego store didn’t involve any yelling but it did involve a return before we left the store and a discussion with my older one who dropped a pouty face several times.  I’d like to say that I don’t understand him some days, but its more like every other hour I call into question my understanding of the world and human behavior, as well as facial cues. Being the parent of a teenager is pretty stressful at times which is why I am sure Montessori suggested Erdkinder and the idea that teens should live on the land away from family learning life skills.

Veggie Grill and Lego Building

Veggie Grill and Lego Building

The mall is just down the road from Veggie Grill, a place I know all of the kids will eat something and I can order off of their garlic-free menu with ease. Last time we were in I was sure to grab their app which allows you to snap photos of your receipt and earn points.  So far we received a free appetizer for signing up and have 300 points good for a soup or dessert – I’m accruing them for a free entree.  As usual the kids ate “wings” and mac n cheese.  I dined on the All Hail Kale, mashed cauli-potatoes and gave the new street corn a try – it was great.  Everyone finished their meals and we decided to walk over to New Seasons to pick up detergent for hotel laundry night. If you have every been to Meijer you know how easy it is to get sucked into general merchandise purchasing, or even little bits of things you don’t really want or need – well New Seasons takes this to a whole new level because everything looks adorable, handcrafted and high-end decorative.  That we have not left with tiny gurgling fish pitcher shot glasses on our last four trips is completely a feat of ultimate will power – everyone in our family wants one.  We walked back to the car singing once again a song about how everyone was walking – this is a favorite of my youngest, she adores any song about what she is doing. 

In retrospect my day was a huge win.  There were dozens, maybe hundreds of other interactions with my children when I was able to keep my cool during bouts of crying, screaming, stomping or all three.   

 

 

Figuring Out How to Stress Less – Finding a Way on Our Second Day

Our second full day in Portland started at 6am with a private ice skating lesson for my oldest, of course without another adult this became an early morning for all three kids, an idea I realized I did not relish late last night.  The first alarm went off and I jumped out of bed and began getting everyone ready, cleaning up the piles of Legos on the floor to facilitate cleaning by housekeeping and again returning to wake everyone up.

Sound Asleep

Too Early

Not the most easy beginning to a day but definitely not stressful.  In an attempt to keep my day relaxed I preplanned some work arounds for our family’s common pitfalls including brining the anti-epilepsy medication with, including a cookie to take the medicine with, bringing drinks and strollers for both younger ones.

We arrived at the rink and the younger ones were still tired, they didn’t even stay up to play in the soft-play area.  When the lesson was over I carted everyone to Bob’s Red Mill Restaurant – probably one of the best kept vegan secrets in Oregon.  We had a breakfast feast for $21 which included 3 giant flapjacks, 2 large pieces of English Muffin Toast, Tofu Scramble, Country Potatoes, Silk Chocolate milk and Nantucket Nectar Lemonade – more than enough for leftovers and everyone was happy. My little gal loves checking out the watermill outside and my older son, who is on a mission to complete an axel, is obsessed with jumping up to touch signs – so both were elated by our breakfast spot today.

Getting some serious air

Getting some serious air

Lots to Learn

Lots to Learn

Vegan Flapjacks

Vegan Flapjacks

After breakfast we dropped our ice prince off at the rink while the three of us checked out a brownstone in NoPo.  It was nice enough, the problem is the somewhat scam-like way that rental agencies operate here.  If you find a listing, you have to file an application paying $45 per adult.  Even if you are approved, they will not let you rent because they want to show the place to as many people as possible – for several weeks, each person paying the application fee.  It doesn’t seem like much but I have been at open houses that have a line of 15 people, to be told there are two applications ahead of mine (so what was the point then?!) Today was the same, I couldn’t leave a deposit or secure a home because they had other showings for the weekend and next week and wanted to get all applications in before making a decision.  Think about it, a 3 Bedroom could have up to 7 people living there – at $45 per application of adult that is $315 per set of applicants (all adults must pay) and with about 5 showings a day for even 2 weeks that is over $15,000 to show one townhome – it really is a racket out here and only one group can actually get the place.  I probably sound mad, but this is reality and it is really inconvenient and it seems unethical. Add to this that the rent is $2500 for 1500 square feet and no A/C, and you get why I have been a bit stressed, this place was the best deal and largest for the money.  Our first day here we stopped at a new complex that had bedrooms so small you could not fit a toddler bed in them at $2495 for 950 square feet. 

After our disappointing home showing we headed back to the mall for some time at the soft-play area – it was a hit but I was tired and I finally convinced everyone to head back to the hotel after a quick stop to pick our skater up some veggie sushi at Mio Sushi.  After much distraction I was able to take a short nap.  When I awoke I made the kids quesadillas before we headed back to the mall and the ice rink.  We hung around until 9pm, everyone had Auntie Annie’s pretzels and lemonade and finally we packed up for the night.

Finding Friends

Finding Friends

I am even keeping my cool as I look at a completely sheet free bed, calmly explaining to my eldest why you want the sheets on for sanitary reasons and asking him to use a calm voice when talking to his overly hyper brother who is jumping during the bed making.

The whole day has been about stressing less – actively.  Things are not necessarily less stressful, I am just choosing not to react to them in a negative way and instead focusing on the positive.