Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I Just Had to Make it to the End of July

Right around March each year, I start to panic. Afterall, in March, summer is only about three months away and I'm getting a little nervous. I love summer--the unscheduled-ness of it all, not waking up to an alarm, no real requirements (except hockey--why does there always seem to be hockey regardless of the time of year?!), lots of stay-up-late movie nights. However, I'm not big on the summer heat, which fortunately only lasts for six weeks or so out here. Anyway, I like the concept of summer.

The March Panic arises from the fact that I realize that in three months, the boys will be home full-time. It's not that I don't want them to be at home with me, but it does complicate matters as far as work goes. I lose most of my working time during the day AND they go to bed later.

So when summer is coming, the kids are all like, "YAY! SUMMER!!!!!!" And I'm more like, "oh yay, it's summer." Note the lack of exclamation points and capital letters in my "exclamation."

But I don't want their summer to be all about me working, so I just sort of fumble along during the summer. "Fortunately," Eamonn is still unemployed so that has dramatically helped this year.

At any rate, when school was letting out, I was thinking, "How am I going to make it to the end of July when we go to Ohio?" It seemed like a long space of time to fill and a lot of work had to take place in that time. I had to do my normal weekly work, a few extra jobs for one client, and complete a magazine for another. I was sort of overwhelmed by the thought of it all.

And now, suddenly, it's here. I made it. I kept up with my weekly work, I finished the extra projects, and over the weekend, I turned in the magazine--several days ahead of schedule, pardon me while I pat myself on the back. And breathe a sigh of relief.

Tomorrow we drive to Denver to spend the day and have Finn's bloodwork done before the boys and I fly to Ohio on Thursday.

I admit, I'm excited to see everyone. Yesterday, I talked to my Grandpa on the phone and he sounded so incredibly good. I can't wait to spend time with him. That man always has a story. I'll tell you a funny story about Grandpa. Late this winter, he had a heart attack. OK, that's not the funny part. I'm getting to the funny part. Anyway, after the heart attack, Grandpa went through some type of physical therapy/rehabilitation. One day he was at rehab and someone called up to the exercise room, or wherever he was, and asked if there was a typo because was there really someone in cardiac rehab who was 96? Did they mean he was really 69? The people looking at the paperwork couldn't believe it.

And now he's 97. Madness.

The boys are really excited for Ohio as well. The other day, did I already write about this???, they had some elaborate Lego game set up involving buildings and all of their characters, who were eating at Donato's and Graeter's, our favorite pizza and ice cream haunts in Ohio. Some children look forward to siteseeing, my children look forward to eating. Just like their mother.

Eamonn is remaining behind, all of you Internet stalkers, so don't get any crazy ideas about burgling our house. And remember, he's unemployed so he has all the time in the world to sit here and guard the house with his shotgun.

Stay tuned for pictures of us eating pizza and ice cream until we're sick.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Look How Rustic and Outdoorsy My Kids Are!

No, not cooking over an open fire. Eating pizza in the wilds of Vail Mountain. We are such a hardy breed of people.

And now, please admire my photographic skills at Eamonn's bike race tonight:

Boggles the mind, doesn't it?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tough Day at the Office

Yesterday, I had the extraordinarily difficult assignment of driving to Aspen for a client.

The view from my car office on the way:

This is Mt. Sopris. When you are leaving Glenwood Springs and driving south on Highway 82 towards Aspen, you come around a corner and this is what you see. In the winter, it's obviously covered with snow, but regardless of the time of year, every time I round that bend and see Mt. Sopris, it takes my breath away a little bit. It's not even one of Colorado's 55 "14ers," (peaks with an elevation of 14,000 feet or higher) but I love it just the same.

Maybe I am finally a mountain girl :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Small Town Fourth of July

My Dad was here visiting over the Fourth of July. While we go up valley for the big fireworks one night, I love our town's small town celebration on the actual Fourth of July.

It starts wtih a bike parade:

I strategically position myself to photograph my family. Declan (on red bike) buzzes by without even a wave.

Finn concentrating very hard.

The parade ends at the town park where there are sack races:

A balloon toss:

Finn and Eamonn were a little overzealous and were out in the first toss.

And of course, the pie eating contest. Recall that last year Finn and Eamonn won their respective categories. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to defend their positions this year. Perhaps they shouldn't have eaten donuts before the contest. But fun was had by all.

See? Doesn't Eamonn look like he's having fun?

The best part is when the fire truck comes and sprays everyone down. The kids were happy. They didn't have to take showers after the pie eating.

Other activities with Grandpa. He watched Declan play hockey (yes, he's already back on the ice, getting ready for next season).

We had a picnic in Vail after hockey, walked to a park, got caught in a huge rainstorm.

This is pre-rainstorm.

Grandpa hiked with Finn (while Declan was at hockey).

We all went on a hike. Please note--we rode the chairlift UP the mountain and hiked back down. I was surprisingly sore from hiking down. Clearly I am getting old.

That's the Gore Range in the background.

Heading down. We walked about 100 yards and stopped for lunch. We're tough like that.

We had a wildlife encounter (that's a mule deer).

Reaping the fruits of their labor at the bottom.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Crazy Veganism

First, before I talk about my latest foray into gluten free veganism, I want to reassure you that the bear in the previous post is NOT a grizzly. It's a black bear, which also, confusingly, can be brown. We don't have grizzlies around here, which is good, because the mountain lions are scary enough. Anyway, the black bear is a herbivore, unless he/she gets in your trash, and poses little threat to humans.

Just wanted to put your mind at ease.

But that was a big bear.

So, back to veganism.

Remember back in April when I did my little gluten free/vegan experiment? No? You're not monitoring my every dietary step? How shocking.

Anyway, for many years now I've been curious about different types of food and how they work for/against our bodies. We've made a lot of changes to our diet, some of which I've written about on CaringBridge or here. Basically, we are mostly organic, especially with the Dirty Dozen foods that contain the most pesticides (you can print off a card to take with you to the grocery store here: http://www.foodnews.org/). Of course, our driving motivation to be organic was Finn's leukemia, but I also have read so much about how pesticides are present in kids' urine (eeek, I just said URINE in a blog post), but after just a few days of organic eating, the pesticides disappear. That speaks to me.

There are lots of other things I've wondered about and gluten was one of them. After my two week gluten free/vegan experiment in April, I never went back to eating gluten. I noticed that big a difference. And now when I eat it, I notice a big difference--in a gastrointentinal way. I'll spare you the details.

After the experiment, I also never really went back to cheese (that was a hard one) and most other dairy. It was just astonishing how much better I felt. I did add back in meat and eggs.

But the results of that first challenge were undeniable--I felt better and I lost weight. So on July 5th, I started another gluten free/vegan challenge through a fitness forum I go to each day.

This time I'm going gluten free/vegan for the month of July (I cook vegan stuff that Eamonn and the boys eat, but I also make them a cooked protein to go with their meals). I'm finding it much easier this time. I was already gluten free, so that was no big deal. I just dropped out the meat again and am off and running.

The people who saw on Facebook that I was doing this challenge wondered what the heck I was eating. I had to get some vegan books out of the library, and even modify those a little because a lot of those recipes contained wheat/gluten. It takes more planning, but again, I'm always curious to try new stuff and I do like the results.

For the curious, I've been eating:
Breakfasts: A meal replacement shake called Shakeology (by far the best protein/meal replacement shake EVER--I get the DTs when I skip a day, I think because it contains a plant from the Amazon Rainforest called camu camu. It gives you a natural buzz.); almond milk and granola, fruit, oatmeal, gluten free waffles or pancakes.

Lunches: I make a seed bread in my dehydrator and I load it with all sorts of veggies, sprouts, etc. I also eat Udi's gluten free bread. The kids like it and don't even know it's gluten free. I did discover Udi's has egg whites in it, so I have to steer clear of it for the challenge, but it works well for us on a daily basis otherwise. I love soup, so I eat a lot of soup. Beans, lentils, salads.

Dinners: Again, lots of beans, grains (note--when I first tried to type "grains" I typed "brains," which wouldn't be very vegan), and veggies. The cookbooks I got from the library really helped. I made a delish quinoa tabbouleh the other night that I nearly made myself sick on because I pigged out on it. I'll put the recipe at the bottom. Tonight I'm experimenting and making homemade pizza on a gluten free premade crust. I'll make my own sauce and I'm going to top it with spinach and other veggies, and almond cheese. Very curious about the almond cheese! I eat quinoa pasta with marinara sauces.

Basically, you can find just about anything in vegan form, if you look. I am staying away from tofu on this challenge. Although I like it, I read recently that people with a history of thyroid issues should not tofu. Let's see, what else? Salads with edamame--love that stuff. Pesto. Fruit salads with an orange juice and coconut milk dressing. Tacos--made with white beans and greens and served on corn tortillas. My favorite tortilla chips are inbounds on this challege--happy day--as is popcorn. I did do a challenge where I wasn't allowed to eat popcorn. That didn't go well.

I'll keep you updated. So far I'm down 1.2 pounds this week. It's not as hard as I thought it would be. It's just a different way of doing things! Do I intend to remove meat from my diet forever? I don't think so, but I do find I miss it even less this time. I'm realizing though that when I cook and eat in this way, I need to make sure I prepare a main dish that is vegan so that I'm not just eating a series of side dishes--it's more mentally satisfying that way.

Make this and see what you think:

Quinoa Tabbouleh

1 cup (175 g) quinoa
2 1/2 cups (590 ml) water or stock (I used vegetable stock)
4 scallions, finely chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced (peeling optional)
2 large tomatoes, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1/2 cup (30 g) finely chopped flat leaf parsley
1/4 cup (25 g) finely chopped fresh mint
1/3 (80 ml) fresh lemon juice (or to taste)
1 tsp. (6 g) salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper

Rinse quinoa using small strainer to remove a natural substance called saponin which protects the plant from birds and tends to have a bitter taste. It is easily rinsed off before cooking. (Some brands are pre-rinsed)

In a medium-size pot, add quinoa to water (or stock) and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer 10 – 15 minutes. When all water is absorbed, quinoa is done. Simmer for a few more minutes, if necessary. If excess water remains, turn off heat and let water soak into the grain. If you still have excess water after that, drain off. Let cool.

In large mixing bowl, combine scallions, cucumber, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, mint, lemon juice, salt, and olive oil. Once quinoa cools, add to the bowl, mixing well and tweaking salt, lemon juice, and oil to get right consistency and desired taste.

Yield: 4 – 6 servings

Serving suggestions and variations:
Add any or all of these vegetables: finely chopped celery, green or red bell peppers, or chopped olives. Also try adding 1 cup (240 g) cooked chickpeas or a pinch of cinnamon. Serve as a salad or side dish with pita bread or crackers.

Note: I added chickpeas and kalamata olives.

Nutrition per serving:
212 calories; 11 g fat; 5 g protein; 26 g carbohydrate; 3 g dietary fiber; 0 mg cholesterol; 372 mg sodium.

A note about quinoa:
Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a super grain. A complete protein, it contains 11 grams of protein per 1/2 cup (95 g), offers more iron than other grains, and contains high levels of potassium and riboflavin, as well as B6, niacin, and thiamin.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Please Don't Feed the Bears

When you live in the mountains, this is why you, in theory, are required to own bear-proof trash containers. Tara's neighbors apparently aren't following the rules. . .

Monday, July 5, 2010

The Reports of My Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

Last week, I wrote on Facebook about a boy in our valley, Andrew, who had been battling cancer. I was Facebooking about Andrew because we have two local newspapers, both of which are crap by any journalistic standards, by the way, but one of them is far worse than the other. Stories always contain typos, their content is mostly advertising, their writing doesn't even remotely stick to any sort of Associated Press style. It annoys me, but whatever.

Anyway, last week this annoying newspaper reported on its front page that Andrew had died. But he hadn't. And I totally lost it. I was so angry. Can you imagine what that would be like for his family? I sent the editor an angry e-mail. How do you make that mistake? One visit to Andrew's CarePage would have told them that while he was not doing at all well, he was still alive.

I didn't get a reply. Surprise.

The next day, also on the front page, the newspaper ran a correction. The headline read: Andrew Claymon is not dead. I'm totally serious. Not: Andrew Claymon is still bravely fighting. Or anything with a more positive spin--or as positive as you can be when a child is close to death.

I about lost it. I wrote another e-mail telling them to fire whoever wrote that headline AND whoever approved it. In their second "story," the editor wrote about how they printed that Andrew had died because their heard it from a source "close to the family that they thought was reliable." How very National Enquirer of them.

The NEXT day, they ran a mea culpa letter about how awful they felt and how many times that had rewritten that "Andrew is not dead" headline. The fact that they rewrote it and yet STILL printed it is particularly hideous. Tact? Class? Apparently not something they considered.

They are such a crap paper that I suggested they just fold or maybe start following standard journalistic practics which call for sources to be triple checked. I must be so old fashioned.

At any rate, the sad ending is that 18 months after his diagnosis, brave Andrew passed away today of a rare and aggressive form of cancer.

I'm hoping the newspaper handles his actual passing with some sort of grace. I wonder if that's too much to ask for his family.