Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Saturday, January 28, 2012


So I've kind of been a Vegan mess. I took a trip to Vegan Bummerville and hung out there for a while. It has been a combination of being tired, wanting to eat something that doesn't take 6 hours to make and tired of hearing my kids complain about this new meal plan we are on. I think some of my negativity leaked into my blog - I still plan on blogging about Week 3 and Week 4 but I had to take a break for a few days.

I belong to a club made up of Stay at Home Moms and some part time working Moms and some full time working Moms. It is a great club. I was in a club like this before we moved here and it was such a strong support system for me that I looked one up before we moved to the South Bay and joined just days after moving here.

When we moved here I was prepared to move and I knew we were going to move and I was proactive in all the right ways. We were going from being students and living on magic beans to having a resident stipend and we were going from living in a tiny tiny 580 square foot house to a house with 3 bedrooms. The house would later sprout mold and we would be forced to move quickly but the initial move here was a good thing and we are now in a snug and clean place that is mold free. I thought it would be as easy as that to move but I was wrong.

Shortly after moving to the South Bay I started to have panic attacks. Sometimes they were so severe that I couldn't leave the house. And sometimes they were so severe after I left the house that I couldn't go back to the house. The other Moms in this club used to comment that I was at almost every event on the calendar. It was my lifeline but it was also hard hiding the times I had gotten no sleep, was having panic attack after panic attack and feeling like my life was falling apart. I started to think that I was a nutcase. And then I met my therapist and my life started to come back together, little by little.

And it was also through the love and support and friendship of these Moms that I was able to make friends and enjoy life and laugh and learn to breathe deeply and relax. And last week, a friend from my Mommy group named Lauren read my blog and contacted me. She then made me a Vegan meal and dropped it off on my front door and I walked in and opened the container of Vegan chilli and homemade whole wheat bread and served dinner. And my children had seconds. And my husband took chilli to work for lunch. And we ate Chili for 2 days. And it warmed my heart and my stomach.

Thank you Lauren from the bottom of my heart and my stomach!

Thursday, January 26, 2012


I have a little one in bed, sick with a high fever today. What I am about to say next will most likely make some of you shake your heads and wonder if I've lost my marbles but I enjoy playing the role of "Mommy with a sick child" now that my little ones are not so little anymore.

I know, it sounds crazy right? It sounds like Loco-town. I have to explain. My children as babies and toddlers were so fiercely independent that I was not able to coddle them for long or spoon feed them their food or tote them around on my back or front in a strappy carrying device because at 10 months they started running and I spent the rest of the time chasing them around and because they wouldn't let me feed them anymore and because they were squirming out of my lap to go and "me do it" themselves. I remember at 7 months having to find finger foods that could sustain a small baby because she saw everyone else eating with a fork and spoon and refused to let me put anything in her mouth from that point on. I remember an 18 month old insisting she wear panties like all the big kids and letting her older sibling potty train her because in her mind she was not a baby anymore.

I have a childhood memory of being very sick with a fever and being in bed. I remember my Mom bringing a futon next to my bed and sleeping on the floor with me. I remember someone bringing me a bowl of ice chips to suck on because I couldn't keep any food down. I remember the a lamp being turned on in the middle of the night so someone could sit me up for sips of water and to take medicine. I remember feeling very pampered and loved.

My little ones are not so little anymore. They only need me for the really big bumps and bruises and even then, rush to scamper off to the next thing they need to do or fun thing to explore. Once in a while they will be so tired they dissolve into tears and then they need a hug but I don't get to do many things for them anymore. This must mean I've done a good job. But in the meantime, I crave those moments when they want to sit still on my lap and let me caress their hair or rub their swollen little bellies or hum in their ear. And when they are sick they will lay very still and be very quiet and they want their Mommy to come and sit with them and read them a long book or tell them a silly story and they will let me feed them soup and pet their hands. We get to cancel all our regular plans and stay in bed or watch a movie and get up only to go pee or get some water or find the thermometer.

And just one or two sick days will refill my Mommy batteries and then they are off running and playing and needing me only for a snack or a quick hug or help with a math problem. Some friends and family have suggested that this means I need to get a job and go back to work and some have suggested it means I need another little one to occupy my time. We will see which one wins out but for today my heart needed a little bit of one on one time with my poor sick girl.

Sunday, January 22, 2012


Week three has been tough. There was a lot of waiting in the doctor's office which is where I took these pictures. First of all there was a follow up to a mammogram that involved follow up pictures to follow up pictures until I started wondering how many ways can you really squish a woman's breasts and then I found out - there are at least 20 ways. Ladies, here is a happy thought, if you were wondering why our breasts sag after nursing children are through with them, the mammogram does nothing to help the situation. Lets take something that has no life left in it and then put it in a see through tortilla press and squish it some more.

Then there was the trip for the Vaginal Ultrasound that was only supposed to be a 20 minute appointment but they put my chart somewhere they weren't supposed to so after waiting for 40 minutes and watching everyone go into an appointment without waiting more than 5 minutes I got wise (it only took 40 minutes!) and asked the receptionist why I was still waiting. By the time my 20 minute appointment was over, it had really taken 2 hours.

Then icing on the cake really was the fasting blood draw on Saturday morning. It was the kind of thing that you have to drink a really nasty orange tang and then wait around for 2 hours and then give some more blood. It wouldn't have been quite so irritating except I was told the lab opened at 6:30am so I got up and got dressed and ignored the hot coffee and toast and headed out to get my fasting blood draw over with only to find out when I got there that the lab didn't open until 7:00am. The upside to this story is that I did get to read this really interesting book, Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson which I heartily recommend to anyone. If I hadn't had to sit there for nearly 3 hours I would never have had the chance to read a new book.

I am trying to come to terms with all the stuff the Doctors, the Nurses, the Nurse Practitioner, the Medical Assistants, the Pharmacists, the Phlebotomist and my Veterinarian have told me in the last 7 days. I'm still plugging away at the cooking and the baking and the shopping and the chopping and the stirring and the mixing and all that stuff but I am going to have to count to 100 and take several deep breaths before I can go back into the kitchen because I'm tired, very tired of the kitchen right now.

Monday, January 16, 2012


My husband and I knew this guy who was married to this really nice girl. We only met her once and at the very beginning of knowing this couple. They seemed really cute and nice and we had fun with them hanging out and then we never saw the wife again. We would mention her to this guy when we would run into him and he would tell us what she was doing, where she was working and all that kind of stuff. He didn't seem to shy away from talking about her at all but he never volunteered information about her in any way.

During the time we knew this guy we also knew he was cheating on his wife. It was really obvious in all the obvious sort of ways. My husband would still be pleasant and friendly and was able to separate the icky stuff this guy was doing from the guy and still thought highly of him even though his personal life seemed to be one gigantic lie. I, on the other hand, had a really low opinion of this guy from the minute I learned he was cheating. My opinion became lower and lower every time I would talk to him because I would go out of my way to bring up his wife and he would answer my questions about her work and what she was doing and where they went for the holidays and on and on and on and all the time I knew he was this dirty, rotten, no good, STD passing philanderer and I plotted ways to contact his wife and tip her off.

Obviously I have no idea if he had STD's but I still grossed out talking to him and watching him act charming and cordial and polite and answer my nosy questions while all the time I knew he was a liar. It sullied my opinion of him completely and my husband cannot mention his name in my presence without me making a face and wanting to spit on something.

I cheated the other day. I cheated on my vegan diet with a half chewed on ice cream bar dipped in chocolate that my youngest child had abandoned and I had saved in a small ramekin in the freezer for later consumption. So I know it isn't in the same context as the lousy STD freak who cheated on his wife but I felt terrible claiming that I'd been going strong for two weeks on a Vegan Diet when I knew I really only had made it one and a half weeks. I kind of wished that guy we knew had fessed up just once about his wife and mistress and that whole mess because it would have made me like him again. But now that I've fessed up I feel fabulous.

And the truth shall set you free.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Week Two

This week was harder than last week, harder because I was tired of cooking, shopping, prepping, chopping, mixing, basting, frying, baking, kneading, stirring and all I wanted to do was sit down and do the tasting. I will shout out here that I went out to eat on both Saturday and Sunday and I was able to go vegan both times, completely and faithfully. My friend Germaine took me to Kung BBQ which makes my mouth water by just typing it and I had a soft tofu vegetable soup which was rich and spicy. And on Sunday I went out to Margaritas and chips and salsa, all of which are vegan and had a huge plate of pan cooked vegetables with green cilantro rice and black beans. It was filling and delicious.

This week I dug into an amazing cook book, Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi, which I tried 300 times to link to but lets skip over that. First and most importantly, a cookbook should have pictures, beautiful pictures that show what the food looks like right before you put it in your mouth. Otherwise, I put the cookbook back on the shelf at the library and keep on looking. So know that and be forewarned Cookbook Writer's of All Countries. Secondly, cookbooks should not ask that I travel the globe in search of ingredients that are rare and impossible to pronouce: One small Treviso? Kekap manis? Asafoetida? Smoked Scamorza? And I'm sorry to caper lovers everywhere but nothing should ever feature capers - ever.

So back to this beautiful book - the recipes were fresh, easy and the pictures vibrant and it made me want to cook things I had never cooked before. Monday we had pizza, a delicious kale and red pepper pizza on a crunchy cornmeal crust. Tuesday we enjoyed Green cous-cous made with Israeli cous-cous, the color was vibrant and I ate leftovers the next day. Wednesday we had Soba noodles with eggplant and mango and sadly I was told "I don't mind if we never have that dish again". Tonight we had Zuchini Fritters, wild rice mixture and cucumber kimchi. And in this busy week I managed to squeeze in time for a batch of Vegan Banana bread and 4 loaves of hot and crusty Whole Wheat Oat Bread.

So ends week two of my vegan challenge - I can say that I am still rocking it - I've held steady for 2 weeks and even found some Vegan dark chocolate and ate half a bar last night. This weekend I'm going to scale it down - make some soups and focus on simple sushi rolls. And make my family some comfort foods and even maybe a grilled cheese or a bean burrito. But while they aren't looking I'll be planning next week's menu and carefully substituting the eggs with something fizzy, the butter with something olive oily, the cheese with something creamy, and the milk with something soy.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Week One

Wow, what a week. Lets just say for starters that cooking good vegan food; and I emphasize the word GOOD in my sentence, takes a lot of money, prep and work. I have been to the following grocery stores to find ingredients this week: Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, Marina Foods, Safeway, Pasha's Market and Kyo Po Market (my Korean favorite). I tend to only shop at one market per week so this week was a real trip into what the local grocery stores have to offer and at what price I'm willing to purchase it.

Drug roll please - here is what our week looked like in food:

Monday night - Mad dash to Kung BBQ so I could eat as much fish cake and greasy meaty goodness before my vegan month began. This place rocks and the soup blows my mind. The side dishes are fresh and crunchy and nothing is too salty which is saying a lot for a Korean place! The restaurant is decorated well and has a nice feel to it, and the staff are polite and responsive.

Tuesday night - We had one of my old fall backs for comfort food, good old Jamaican Stew Peas and Rice with Spinners (dumplings). It was made with vegetable broth and coconut milk and the dumplings were held together with soy milk and water instead of milk. I thought it was rich and delicious. This is also one of my husband's favorite dinners and so I enjoy making it and enjoy watching him eat it.

Wednesday Night - Soup Night is always a fun night and after smelling a pot of creamy roasted red pepper soup made by my good friend Karen Lewis on New Years Eve, I had been dreaming of roasting my own peppers so I made Savory Roasted Red Pepper Soup and yes it is vegan. I blended up some silken tofu with lemon juice and used it to make the soup creamy like Karen's (only she used cream) and it did the trick! I was really happy with this soup the only downside was the 4 hours it took to make it. OK, maybe it was only 3 and a half hours but it was definitely time consuming.

Thursday night - Vegetable Pot Pies made with homemade crust. I took several recipes and blended them into my own recipe, but the outstanding flavor of the pie was the fresh sage and thyme that I got at Trader Joe's. So outstanding was the flavor that my pickiest of picky children finished every last vegetable in her pie!

Friday night - tonight it was a recipe from the book Cook 1.0 a fresh approach to the vegetarian kitchen by Heidi Swanson. This woman is an amazing cook and I am not sure why she doesn't weight 322 lbs but in the meantime, she makes whole grains and vegetarianism and vegan-ism and getting back to the basics with food look and taste amazing. The meal I made was Citrus Tofu and Long Bean and Walnut Stir-fry and it took me less than 1 hour to get in the front door and sit down to eat. Fast, delicious, fresh, vegan and wholesome. For rice I used 2 cups of short grain Calrose rice with 2 cups of Korean mixed grains which contains oats, brown rice, black glutinous rice, buckwheat, red lentils and pearl barley. It was sticky and thick, brown and hearty and we will have plenty for tomorrow warmed up with a little Sriracha Red Rooster and leftovers.

Lucky for me I made plenty to have later and plenty to freeze because I am going to take a 2 day break now from cooking, shopping, prepping, chopping, dicing, slicing, freezing, bagging, mixing, basting, boiling, frying, stirring, baking, and just eat the items above. I think I'm becoming a vegan!

Monday, January 2, 2012


Sooooo starting tomorrow I am challenging myself to be Vegan for the month of January. I know I know it sounds a little extreme so tonight as a present to myself and my family (because lets face it, this is something they will be going through with me) we went to my favorite Korean soup place and plowed through spicy chicken, delicious rice cake soup with fishcake and my favorite of all favorites, kimchi soup with raw egg dropped in and cooked in a hot pot with silken tofu. It was heavenly.

I was really sick in December. And one of the things that I noticed was that when I was sick I was not able to eat any of the things I really love, cheese, sweets, salty things, crunchy snacks, popcorn, carbonated drinks, you know, the stuff 40 year olds aren't supposed to eat because the doctor looks at you like you are a moron when you tell her that you had Doritos and a diet coke for breakfast. (I also think I heard her call me a moron under her breath but I am not certain so she is still my doctor, although I'm going to keep a close eye on her from here on out.) I also noticed that when I got better I found I was craving greens, kales, spinach, bok choy, green pears, eggplant and salads and oatmeal, OATMEAL!!! So I thought that a good way of really cleaning out my already overloaded and stressed system was to cut out processed foods and even take it a step farther and get back to the basics. That means, no Doritos until February. I gotta be honest though, I'm not even sure I can do it for a month, I really don't know.

Here is what I do know, if you create really rigid rules on what your kids can eat versus what they can't eat, they will eat Doritos and drink Coke for breakfast at some point in their lives. It isn't just the poor kids on NPR that come from New York City or the Migrant workers kids that qualify for free breakfast at school that like soda instead of drinking water. It is the kids whose parents forced them to eat things like bulgar wheat and kale chips and packed them salt free whole wheat bread with whole wheat berries in it and mashed avocado sandwiches for school that can put away junk food like nobody's business. Those kids will gorge themselves on trash, er I mean snack foods, sugar, cookies, candy, chips and ungodly amount of unhealthy crap, trust me, I know, I spent my entire 20's sucking cheese out of a can and eating those things that Eric Cartman calls "Cheesy Poofs".

So back to the Vegan diet, I'm gonna try to clean out the old lady pipes and hopefully I won't be caught downstairs in my pajamas licking the butter dish clean at 2am and pretending to sleepwalk. If you have good Vegan recipes that will be filling and are fun for the whole family, let me know because at this point after reading what I've written I'm tempted chase that kimchi soup with some ice cream, just this one last time.