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Back To School

08.14.2013

Hello, friends!  It’s been awhile.  I’ll fill you in later, but for now?  It’s back to school time!  And for me, it’s the dawn of a new era as my oldest starts first grade and my youngest begins half-day preschool.  Two and a half hours of “Heather” time Monday through Friday — the first reprieve I’ve had from full-time parenting in SIX YEARS!

Yesterday morning was my birthday, and I decided to spend my two and a half hours on list-making and a kid-free latte at a cool coffee shop after the morning school dropoff.  Apparently my attention span has dwindled markedly since the years that I used to spend three or four hours a night studying for law school in coffee shops around Boulder, Colorado.  After forty minutes of contemplative birthday resolution-making (my annual tradition), I was antsy as hell and bolted. 

Ah well.  As many, many women have told me over the past few months (bitches!), “Two and a half hours is NOTHING.”  I think those women have forgotten what it’s like to have zero hours of free time. So far this week I’ve cleaned out my fridge (and I mean that I soaped it out AND purged like no tomorrow), assembled all of my family’s gear for a tent camping trip and cleaned the house.  And it’s just Wednesday!  Booyah!  Having said that, I fear that I will squander my time on the little unending household chores that are never really “done” and so I am formulating a plan of attack to make sure I max out this new-found free time.  I need structure — or at least an outline of what I’d like to accomplish!

Happy back-to-school season!

The Dabbler: [Mostly] Unplugged

03.13.2013

Well, I’ve done it again.  I’ve let the world get too noisy and it must stop.  No more Facebook, no more checking in with my favorite blogs!  I’m overwhelmed with clever ideas from Pinterest, design inspirations from BHG and a million other sources, recipes, vacation ideas, best ways to do this, that or the other thing, tips and tricks. 

Stick a fork in me!  I’m doooooooone!

Back to basics.  Time to take a walk — thank you, Mother Nature, for spring hath SPRUNG in Colorado!  Time to wash the windows.  Maybe set up a bird-feeder and see if we can cross some species off the list in our Colorado field guide.

Time to snap my own photos and post them on this site.  And make some family photo albums from the past two years’ worth of electronic files on my PC.  And make stuff of fabric and thread with my fancy sewing machine!

I can’t wait until the glorious phase in my life when I no longer get perturbed by what other people say online, and no longer let myself feel inadequate by what it seems “everyone else” is doing with their blogs, and so on.  In the meantime I’ll bet that curbing my exposure will be a calming yet invigorating breath of fresh air!  Happy [almost] spring!

This Is Your Brain on Crafts

02.27.2013

In a recent post, I mentioned an article that I read in Martha Stewart Living magazine that finally pushed me over the edge of contemplating maybe learning to sew.  I can’t find Lisa Borgnes-Giramonti’s article on Martha’s website, but found it reproduced here.  Here’s a sample:

Crafting something – whether a sweater, a cake, or a flower garden – is a time-proven way to get the good vibrations flowing.  Back in the 16th century, Francis Bacon deemed gardening “the purest of human pleasures.”  During World War I, soldiers were taught to knit to ease their shell shock.  And in recent years, more than one hit film has explored the soul-affirming powers of cooking.  According to psychologist Robert Reiner, who has studied the benefits of crafting, cheering up and chilling out are only the beginning.  “Crafting can decrease your heart rate and blood pressure and even improve sleep,” he says.  He compares the emotional boost to a runner’s high: “Your breathing takes on a regular pattern, which shuts down the body’s anxiety-producing fight-or-flight response.”

An added bonus: My kids are really intrigued by watching me go through the process of learning something brand-new.  They are astonished and delighted by my sewing failures!  They’re also rooting for me to be competent enough by September to make Halloween costumes from patterns and fabrics that they choose.  :)

The Moment

02.25.2013

I love this poem by Margaret Atwood.

I think I’m going to have to frame these words with a beautiful picture of hills in Scotland or something…

Happy Monday!

Sewing 101

02.22.2013

Ladies and gentlemen, I bought a sewing machine.  Then for five weeks, I was afraid to touch it because it had an instruction manual and lots of buttons.  Then one morning I brought it upstairs, set it up on my dining room table, and sewed a wretched little coat for my son’s Grinch toy.  It looked like this:

Grinch Feb 2013 - 1

My little boy was not impressed.  When his sister asked him about the (long-awaited) “Grinch coat” on our drive home from school, he said, “It’s not like the one in the movie.”  Ouch!  But… it did totally suck.  Here’s the back:

Grinch Feb 2013 - 2

A few weeks ago I got a big stack of fun sewing project books from the library.  Many projects sounded feasible, but I had no idea how to get started.  So I called in the big guns and set up a Sewing Day with my mom.  She’s been sewing since she was in 4-H club as a wee lass.  She walked me through a drawstring pouch project, then forced me to try some of my machine’s features (like sewing a buttonhole) that I was too intimidated to try on my own.

Feeling emboldened, I bought an inexpensive doll-clothes pattern figuring that the Grinch was about the same size as an American Girl doll.  Lo and behold, last night I was able to achieve an un-sucky coat for ol’ Grinchy!

Grinch Feb 2013 - 3

Grinch Feb 2013 - 4

I’m trying the coat again in a super-cute flowery fleece for my daughter’s “My Friend Jenny” doll.  And let’s face it, I only just gave her the doll a couple of weeks ago because I felt like it was CRAZY that I hadn’t given it to her yet.  Guess which one of us is more excited about Jenny’s new coat and matching fleece booties?  I’ll give you a hint — it isn’t the five-year old!

Just to recap, here’s the before and after:

Grinch Feb 2013 - 5

Before anyone thinks, “Must be rough to have time to goof around like that,” (which I know isn’t any of my near-and-dears because you know the value of a creative outlet) there was an article in a recent issue of Martha Stewart Living that pushed me over the edge as far as the cost/benefit analysis of investing time and money into a new hobby.  I have to find the article, then I’ll post a link to it, but I took it as one more affirmation from the Universe that there is much to be said about pursuing one’s desire to create, as well as learning a new skill.  Go forth and make stuff!

I Have A Bone To Pick With The Vegan Cookbook-Writing Community

01.31.2013

Dear Vegan Cookbook-Writing Community,

Why did you lie to me?  I only wanted to join your ranks seeking better health through animal-free eating.  When you named a recipe, “Fake-Out Mac ‘n Cheese” or “Smoked Cheddar Sauce” I ran out to the store and purchased one cup of whole raw cashews, one 12-ounce package of soft silken tofu, nutritional yeast and other items like light yellow miso.  I was very, very disheartened by the decidedly un-cheesy, un-fakeout-able results.*  My five-year old cried when I asked her to try a bite.  My husband dutifully choked his down, with a healthy portion  of sausages to hide the bizarre texture.  My little boy secretly used my cellphone to call my mom and beg  for help, and he’s only three and a half.

Why did I keep trying?  Thank goodness I borrowed your cookbooks from the library before committing limited shelf-space to these lies.

This goes double for recipes proclaiming faux ricotta (cashews) and faux-mozzarella sauce (cashews).  No.  Cashews just cannot taste like every kind of cheese.  They don’t even taste like one kind of cheese!  No.  It’s not happening!

Best regards,

Back to the [Organic, Grass-Fed] Beef in Boulder

Today after I emptied my fridge of the stomach-churning results of my dabbling in The Sexy Vegan Cookbook, I felt nauseated not only by the gross concoctions, but the money and time that was literally going in the trash.  I guess until my psoriasis clears up, I’m going to strictly avoid red meat and other inflammatory foods, but I’m done with experimenting and hoping to find vegan food that I really enjoy.  Food can be about pleasure in addition to nourishment!

I have a new theory about veganism that disturbs me: there may not be any delicious vegan food.  I know, I know!!  Any vegans reading this will be incensed!  Someone prove me wrong – please post recipes!  If we’re Pinterest pals, share the “best of” recipes on your board!  I’m convinced these vegan cookbook writers are all charlatans.  I don’t want to give up, but I can’t stand another heartbreak!

On the other hand, is it possible that vegans are just not biologically disposed to enjoying the types of food that thrill the palates of mainstreamers?**  I mean this genuinely.  Just as there are some people who hate beer or cruciferous vegetables or sushi, is there a biological component of vegan eating that I lack?  Keep in mind that I’ve been happily dairy-free and gluten-free for a long time now, but this month-long experiment in veganism has pushed me over the edge.  I’m not complaining about vegan cuisine because I’m used to eating a cheese-soaked Fatburger every night.

One thing I can say about 28 days of vegan eating: I lost 2 more of the “last five pounds of baby weight” that I’ve been looking to shed since my second wee babe was born in 2009.  I just plain lost my appetite.

WHERE ARE THE GOOD VEGAN RECIPES?!

*If you see “nutritional yeast” in a recipe that claims to result in anything “cheez” like, you’re in for heartbreak, my cheese-loving sister.

** Case in point: in Veganomicon, the authors make this note in the introduction to a recipe called, “Mac Daddy” which is supposed to be a type of mac ‘n cheese: “Any vegan potluck would be incomplete without Mac Daddy, but since omnivores tend to be sketchy about nutritional yeast, save this for appreciative vegans and vegetarians.”  Hmmm…  So we are NOT the same…

28 Days Later

01.29.2013

Twenty eight days ago I went on an anti-inflammatory diet because of a psoriasis flareup.  I haven’t had a psoriasis flareup in fifteen-plus years, which was when I was diagnosed with the fairly common skin condition.  At the time, the doc prescribed some kind of skin-thinning, kidney-damaging cream and said, “your skin is going to be the barometer for how you’re doing with your health for the rest of your life.”

Okay, I thought, I bit (too) smugly, I’m sure I can manage this without your fancy prescription!  And I did manage it.  My naturopath sister told me that she had a friend who controlled her psoriasis through diet, so I gave up dairy and never looked back.  (Well, for a few years I looked back – I dabbled in dairy.  But never with the devil-may-care abandon that marked my Life Before Psoriasis.)  I did a little yoga, I exercised spring through fall.   I made it through the stress of law school, dating in my 20’s, and the newborn-baby-phase – twice – with nary a flareup.

My psoriasis since that initial breakout disappeared altogether from most parts of my body, but every once in awhile (when I’d had too  much sugar, or a dairy “slip up” or drank too much alcohol) I’d get some spots on my legs.  Eventually they’d disappear, but I didn’t feel like it was GONE.  So last summer I gave up eating gluten, and that seemed to do the trick – plus after six months, I was feeling more energetic overall.  Score!

Well, the week after Christmas 2012 I discovered the honeymoon was OH-VER.  I went to my internist about a “little rash” and she said, “Oh, honey — that’s psoriasis.”  I was in denial.  It didn’t look a thing like psoriasis to me!  Over the course of the next week, however, it became VERY VERY OBVIOUS that I was in it.  I won’t add any links to images from Google of how unsightly psoriasis can get, but let’s just say that I showed a couple of my very close lady-friends my arms and abdomen and they visibly recoiled.  Oh, and the itching!  Especially in my scalp.  I essentially can’t wear black anymore.  Or short sleeves.  Or v-necks.  I’m just grateful it’s winter, though I dread an invite to an indoor pool (and cancelled my son’s weeknight Parent-Tot swimming class in favor of a weekend one so that my husband could get in the pool with him instead of me).

The point is, I tried to control the flareup by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, and I’m here to proclaim my defeat.  Although I do believe that giving up all meat, eggs, dairy, gluten, nightshades (peppers, spuds and eggplant) and sugar stopped the flareup from getting worse, I finally let my dermatologist talk me into some pharmaceutical products.  I’m just desperate at this point.  Plus I can’t take eating this way much longer.  There’s a reason that vegans are almost exclusively slender people: they no longer enjoy eating.

An interesting aside: for the first three weeks of my restricted diet, I mostly missed sugar.  Imagine my surprise to discover that this week when I open the fridge, I stare longingly at the MEAT DRAWER!  Chocolate?  WHATEVER, you SISSY!  I WANT BACON!!!   RARRRRRRRRRR!!!

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