I recently started drawing Custom Pet Portraits. I had forgotten how much people and families love their pets. Their pets are like family members. Dogs and cats provide companionship, comfort and a lot of fun. Growing up, our family had two dogs and my sisters and my husband had cats in college. Unfortunately, the two dogs and one of the cats met an untimely demise. Trigger, our golden retriever simply went missing one day. Hermie, our miniature schnauzer suffered an accidental death. Piggy the cat never woke up. Sooza and LiLi developed cancer and had to be put down. My husband’s cat Saby just left the house and never came back. I was traumatized by these events. I haven’t gotten over the pain of losing them. Even though I love animals, I haven’t been able to get another dog.
My kids are always asking for a dog and I keep telling them “maybe when you are older…” However, they do play with their friends’ pets all the time. It is sort of like having fun without the responsibility.
Back in the day, my family used to watch TV shows together. Especially the prime time shows…Three’s Company, Wonder Woman, The Jeffersons, Love Boat, Seinfeld, Friends. All five of us, parents and three girls would gather around the sofa and laugh and laugh. Even my super serious and super cranky Dad! Saturday mornings were sacred for us kids. We watched shows like the Justice League, Buck Rogers, Scooby Doo…on Saturday mornings eating our Cocoa Puffs.
Nowadays, my kids watch YouTube, DVR TV shows and binge watch Netflix. It is such a different world. They are in constant virtual contact with their friends via group texts, FaceTime and social media. Everything they watch is ready and available and they don’t need to wait. I used to program our VCR for my favorite shows and MTV video premieres. I get it. But there are so many shows out there, that it is impossible to keep up with all of them. Some of my friends are addicted to Bravo, some to HBO and others to Netflix.
Luckily for us, my kids both recently discovered Stranger Things and The Office. So now, all four of us have a show that we can watch together (we fast forward the inappropriate teenager parts for my 10 yr old with Stranger Things). There is common ground and content that can work for the whole family. It takes a little bit of research and a lot of patience.
My thirteen year old son and my ten year old daughter get along well. They have different likes and interests and don’t fight a lot. Their biggest squabbles are what movies to watch on family movie nights and who ate the last ice cream bar. While I think this is great, I can’t help but think of my own childhood that was sort of like “Hunger Games” in comparison.
Looking back at my childhood, I have many fond memories. Having two younger sisters was a lot of fun. If I got into a fight with one sister, there was another one to take her place. As the oldest sibling, I ruled the roost and made the laws. I am two years senior to my middle sister P and almost 6 years older than J, the youngest. For years, I was physically larger and taller than both of them. Growing up with two younger sisters and two crazy parents can really sharpen a girl’s sense of humor and survival skills. We fought about all kinds of things…not just movies or ice cream. I don’t know when we started to joke about each other mercilessly or play pranks on each other…but it hasn’t stopped.
As a teenager, my room was covered with 80’s celebrities…JFK Jr., Duran Duran, the Soloflex guy. I subscribed to Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine and watched Elsa Klench on Style. I was just sooo cool. One day I came to my room to find that there were mustaches on several of my posters. That was call for extreme action. I marched to J’s room and beat up Mingy, her favorite pillow.
For some strange reason, we were obsessed with lip balm in the 80’s. Blistex in those round canisters was all the rage. Keeping interlopers from my Blistex was practically a full time job. I used my Blistex in a uniform and clockwise fashion, it was always clean and of course perfect. My sister J’s Blistex had an upside cone design. My sister P’s container always had fuzz, random bits of mystery flakes and looked like it was stabbed with a toothpick. If I didn’t hide my Blistex, I would find that one of them had dug a nail into the middle of the canister!
Secret video taping was also a constant danger in my house. My sister J would place a cam corder on top of the fridge just to tape us with morning face and bed heads. And forget about sleeping happily on tour buses while on vacation. She made sure to take multiple shots of me dozing with my mouth open and my head in an angle that gave me two chins.
My sisters also had a collection of fake bugs. I remember pulling back my comforter and finding a line of fake ants on my pillow. I also let out a blood curdling scream when I found a large plastic spider in my dresser drawer.
Before you feel too sorry for me, I was not so innocent growing up. I loved imitating my sisters, making up terrible nicknames and shaming them just for fun. Luckily, as adults, the pranks have died down. However, my sister J sent me a picture that my son had texted her. It was a picture of me asleep on the sofa with mouth wide open and my head at an angle that allowed my chin to double!
My kids told me the that their Dad makes better grilled cheese and better chocolate milk than I do. How can that be possible? Well, he adds extra cheese and butter on the sandwich and extra chocolate in the milk of course! As a family, our diet is mostly healthy and we eat out only once or twice a week. However, I often find Oreos, Doritos, premixed chocolate milk, yogurt with candy pieces and ice cream of all varieties when my husband B. goes shopping. I can’t even go on about the secret weekend donut/dessert runs. These take place early in the morning on weekends when I am still asleep or out for a run.
I have told B. that taste is acquired for healthy foods such as vegetables and fruits. While sugar is readily accepted by kids. Kids have more taste buds and their taste buds are more sensitive. Taste involves not just physical signals but sensory ones too. (Accounting for Taste) We find food to be tastier if it is plated nicely on pretty dish or a fancy spoon. Food appears attractive when it it is presented with garnishes. We are already bombarded with images of unhealthy foods that are loaded in fat, calories and sugar. And those images are not of fresh, whole foods that are unprocessed fruits, vegetables or grains.
With each meal, I try to include a fresh fruit or vegetable. I would like my kids to be exposed to these tastes everyday. Taste can be changed. For example, people with health issues that are forced to cut back or sugar or salt, find the foods they used to eat previously taste too salty or too sugary after a few months. The more we eat certain foods, the more we get used to the taste.
While I can’t stop B. from buying junk food, I do have solace in the fact that taste changes with age. (Taste changes with age) As we get older, the number of taste buds adults have decreases. Adults have around 10,000 taste buds and kids have 30,000. And, we are more inclined as adults to try new foods and new tastes. Grown ups look at food not only from a taste perspective, but a health perspective also. I am confident that my kids will eat better as they get older. Both of them now eat tomatoes, lettuce, onions, olives, broccoli and green beans which was unheard of just a few years ago.
I can assure you that I am not the food police in our house. With a Dietetics and Nutrition background and I know how to counter the unhealthy food. I let them eat the unhealthy food, but in limited quantities. Big desserts in our house are for the weekends only. I adopted this rule from one of my daughter’s classmates who was lamenting how horrible her life was without weekday desserts. Before you think I am a mean and awful Mom…during the weekdays, my kids drink chocolate milk for breakfast and lunch. I pack a little something sweet in their lunch like a small cookie or chocolate. And they eat a PB&J for lunch everyday at school (their favorite). I know they will remember the “dessert on weekends only” with great fondness…hardship makes us stronger…right?!
The following recipe is a vegan Hot Artichoke Dip that even my kids love. It is low in calories and big on taste. I hope you like it.
Hot Vegan Artichoke Dip
2 cans of quartered Artichoke Hearts (14 oz cans)
2 T Vegan Mayonnaise (I use “Follow Your Heart” Veganaise)
2 T Nutritional Yeast
1 t Garlic Powder
1 t Salt
Drain the artichokes and add them to a food processor. Add the Veganaise, nutritional yeast, garlic powder and salt and blend until smooth. If your dip is too thick, try adding a tablespoon of water or several as needed. Empty into a serving bowl and microwave for one minute or empty into a pan and heat until hot. I like to eat mine with veggies, toasted baguette slices or toasted pita/chapati/naan.
A friend of mine assumed that I only consume organic food made from scratch. That is very far from the truth. Unless you grow your own food, you are eating processed food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are minimally processed and meat substitutes and nut milks are heavily processed. Most of us don’t have the means or the knowledge to grow our own food. Although I eat a lot of fruit, vegetables and whole grains, I certainly do consume my fair share of seitan, pea protein, nut cheese and some soy based products. I just don’t have to time to make my own. With an active family and schedule, I don’t feel bad about that.
Fruits and vegetables do not have to be organic. I used to follow the Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) Dirty 15 rule because it ranked produce with a percentage of pesticides found after harvesting. But, according to the Journal of Toxicology (article), some pesticides are more toxic than others and they are not all equal. So, I try to buy organic when possible. But, sometimes stores are low in organic inventory or the non-organic produce looks fresher than the organic. A good washing of non-organic fruits and veggies removes most pesticides. Simply eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial along with a balanced diet.
My husband and my kids are not vegan. They consume mostly organic eggs, milk, chicken and fish at home. But, the kids get fast food when they are out with friends and we go to restaurants that do not serve organic meat and dairy.
According to the Washington Post, there are two main differences between organic and conventional animal products. One is what the animals are eating and the other is the level of Omega 3’s. I do care what the animals are eating and not so much about the Omega 3 levels. (article)
Organic milk, eggs and meat come from cows that are pasture raised and grass fed and free range chickens that are not fed animal or poultry by-prodcuts. I just feel better buying organic animal products, but when we go out…
As long as you are eating a diet that includes plenty of vegetables, fruit and grains with some protein (animal or plant based), you are on the right track. If that diet includes organic foods, even better! I would love to be the perfect, puritanical, organic, and unprocessed vegan but I’m not and I’m okay with that!
1 Medium Yellow or Red Pepper, washed and deseeded
2 T Garden Gourmet Basil Paste (or fresh basil if available)
2 T Olive Oil
1/2 t garlic powder
Salt to taste
Cook burgers according to the package. While they are cooking, add olive oil, basil paste, garlic powder and salt to a large mixing bowl and mix well. Chop mushrooms, peppers and tomato into one inch pieces. When burgers are done cooking, cut them into one inch pieces and add them and the veggies to the mixture in the bowl. Mix well so the dressing coats all the pieces and serve. This recipe serves two.
It is the middle of January. While I haven’t been perfect in checking off everything in my New Year’s to do list, I am on the right track.
On getting enough sleep: I have made it to bed at 10:30 only once in the past two weeks. My bed times have been between 11 pm and 11:30 pm.
On managing my time: I am doing better on this one. I have been finishing about 90% off my daily to do list. However, I haven’t started meditation yet. I did download several apps to help me do this.
On getting back to my usual running pace and mileage: This one is going well. I have managed to get back to doing physical therapy. I am back to my usual mileage and the physical therapy is going to get me back to my usual pace.
Trying to improve my habits is going to take time and won’t happen overnight. Small steps will lead to my goals. I have to remember that each day is a fresh start and a chance to improve. It’s funny that I am so disciplined in certain areas of my life such as my Vegan diet, exercising and managing the household. But I slack off with sleep, time management and physical therapy.
I am entering everything I need to do into my calendar. This way, my schedule is on every device: iPhone, iPad and Mac. I have got reminders and alerts on items that involve others. The calendar will help me become more mindful of what needs to get done. Hope your New Year plans are going in the right direction also!
I am not sure when it happened to me or when it happens to others. As I mark another birthday and shake my head at yet another mole or spot on my face, I realize that I am now mellow. Mellow can mean: aged, cured, developed, rounded, seasoned, cultured or smooth. To me, it means that I am much more easy going than I was in my younger days.
As a kid, there is so much pressure on perfection and learning things properly. Aaah, the exuberance of youth! I see my kids always wanting things to be perfect or to be the best at something. My 12 yr old son has to have all his electronics devices in a certain way. My 9 yr old daughter has to have her stuffed animals in a particular order when she goes to sleep. And both of them love organizing their backpacks in their own way. Heaven forbid, mom puts a water bottle in the wrong place. Their motivation makes me smile.
As teenagers, we still have all that energy, only we pretend we are too cool to care. My room was my sanctuary during my teens. My two younger sisters and parents were not allowed to loiter. All my favorite bands and actors were on my wall in the coolest arrangement of course. A mean comment from one of my friends would send me into a sad brooding spiral. “How could she?!!”
In my twenties, it was all about eloping (that’s another post), career paths, promotions and graduate degrees. No pressure or need for perfection there…right? What I remember about my twenties is that B and I worked really hard and played hard too. Everything just mattered so much more.
My kids came along in my thirties. I had to make the agonizing decision to quit working and be a stay at home mom. Being first time parents is really hard. I remember torturing my family when they came to see the kids as babies.
“Did you wash your hands?”
“Is this one of the sterilized bottles?”
“That is a choking hazard…!”
I went from that to “You can still eat that…we have acids in our tummies that kill germs.”
In my forties, I really just don’t care about all the things I used to obsess about. I tell my kids that they need to relax, that other people have it much harder and to stop complaining. By now, all my family members know each other really well. We used to push each others buttons in our younger days. Nowadays, we still push buttons but less frequently and then say something nice afterwards…
And my friends, many of them are still neurotic about things. They stress about aging, botox, kids and keeping up with the neighbors. But many of them have also mellowed just like me. It’s funny that words of wisdom from the past can help us throughout life. My karate teacher told me “stand tall and be proud”. One of my uncles told me “health is wealth”. And a teacher once told me “be thankful for what you have.” And I tell my kids “do your best, if it doesn’t work out, try again, if it still doesn’t work out, move on to something else .”
Bourbon Hot Chocolate
3 T Cadbury’s Drinking Chocolate or any sweetened chocolate
6 oz Water
1 oz Bourbon
Heat water in a pan until boiling or microwave in a mug for two minutes. Add chocolate and make sure it dissolves completely. Add Bourbon. Viola!
Rum & Coconut Cooler
1 C Orgain High Protein Almond Milk or nut milk of your choice.
1 T Coconut Sugar
1 t Coconut Flakes Unsweetened
1 oz Rum
This is a cold drink. Combine all of the ingredients together, paper umbrella optional.
Cooking and creating new recipes is one of my passions. Although the experts say that eating less highly processed foods and more whole foods is healthier, its not always that easy. Even with my nutrition and dietetics management background, it can be challenging. Hectic schedules don’t always allow for “made from scratch” cooking. And weekend bulk prep doesn’t always work for all recipes. I try to buy organic milk, meat and eggs whenever I can, but of course that rule is broken with fast food joints that my husband takes the kids to. I try to stick with organic fruits and vegetables, but that’s not always possible. Sometimes, the non-organic items may be fresher than the organic ones or not be available at the time.
I have managed to find a “middle of the road plan” for my family. In our house, I make plant based food for myself, kid friendly meals for my 12 and 9 yr old and meals for my husband. That may sound daunting, but our Venn diagrams do overlap with some foods! And, my husband does enjoy a lot of my vegan dishes.
My kids have become interested in making their own food these days. Cooking on the weekends has become a favorite activity with my 9 yr old who always bugs her older brother to help. She always cajoles him into joining in. Whether its Trader Joe scones or grilled cheese, they want to do it themselves. They are allowed to make things like waffles, toast, PBJ’s and eggs with minimal supervision. They have also acquired some knife handling skills with supervision of course. They are not allowed to turn on any appliance unless an adult is present. Both kids have been super picky eaters in the past, but they have opened up to salads, tomatoes and nuts from helping me cook. I am not sure how long they will be interested in cooking. But, here’s hoping they learn a few skills and acquire new tastes that will take them through life!
I have gotten many recipe requests from friends. Therefore, I am working on a recipe gallery. Most of them are plant based, easy and take about 30 minutes. I hope you will find some of these dishes helpful and delicious as I do!
“Don’t walk in front of me…I may not follow. Don’t walk behind me…I may not lead. Walk beside me…just be my friend.
__ Albert Camus
It is so much easier to make friends as a child. No inhibitions, no baggage and no preconceived notions. The majority of adults have an average of two close friends. Why is it so hard to make friends as an adult? I am referring to friends other than a partner or spouse. Family, kids and schedules cramp friendships. As people get older, they get set into their habits and are unwilling to change.
I had a lot of friends as a child, teenager and as a young adult. However, having kids really strained some of my friendships over the past decade and I have lost many. Facebook has connected me back to many of those. These days I have a few really “immediate” friends. By that I mean friends who I interact with daily and appreciate me for who I am. They know the good, bad and ugly, yet remain friends with me.
My parents and my two younger sisters are my closest friends. It’s a different relationship because we’re family. It’s unconditional. We are constantly teasing and joking. Insults are the norm. Some of our friends are shocked and appalled at the things we say. But it’s all in good fun. We have always been there for each other, barbs and all. I can’t imagine not talking to my parents or sisters everyday and not crack a joke.
My workout buddy “M” and I are friends. Our friendship is very simple and pure. We have been running and biking together for almost six years. We spend countless hours on trails talking about life, family and just cracking bad jokes about people on the trail. It is nice to talk to a friend that listens to rants and does not judge. We finish our workouts and say “see you next time”. My youngest sister always says “I can’t believe M puts up with you for those 8 mile runs!”
Then there are my other friends. They know who they are! There are the ones who text me funny gifs long-distance. There are the ones who keep my neighborhood funny and interesting.
Friendships are a two way street. I have found that there is no perfect friend. Some of my friends have shocked me with their views which are polar opposite from mine. Yet, we respect each others views and agree to disagree. Even if some of them have made rude or insensitive comments over the years, I have realized that they have a good and caring side too. As I get older, I find myself brushing off comments and issues from my friends that would have ended our friendship years ago. I have learned to let things go and it takes a lot of patience. Even if you are an introvert at heart like I am, you really do need to have a few friends.
I cannot believe that I forgot hand sanitizer for our plane ride to Chicago! I managed not to freak out for the hour and forty-five minute flight. I have really mellowed as a mom and as a person. My two kids and I love going to Chicago. Both my two younger sisters and my parents live here. The tall buildings, parks, museums and restaurants are always fun in the summer.
It has become complicated over the years however. I think we are all getting set in our ways. All three of us sisters were close growing up. We still fight about what’s cool and where to eat and who’s at fault. There was always competition between both my younger sisters. The youngest trying to boss the middle. That dynamic still remains today. I am the oldest. Two years older than my middle sister and almost six years older than my youngest. Nowadays, the youngest tries to boss all of us around! One sister was annoyingly sensitive, the other was super bossy. I was their fearless leader because I was the eldest and the tallest and sometimes, the meanest.
These days the schedule revolves around our kids. I have two and my middle sister has two around the same age. The interesting thing is that the younger generation also has a heirarchy just like we did. It’s very entertaining to watch all four cousins interact. There’s the sensitive one, the bossy one, the crier, and the leader…