Monday, October 31, 2011

Honey Eating Vegan

Stroke 2006
Heart Attack 2008
CIM Relay 2010
Healthy Husband? Priceless

This is the sign I held on the race course when Ernst ran a leg of the California International Marathon last year. I drove to a few parts of the course and cheered him on as he ran by. The back said:

Carnivores Drool
Vegans Rule!

The sign was quite a hit, runners would comment on it as they saw it. One woman said, "You're making me cry!" There were people at the finish line taking pictures of us with our sign. If I had only known five years ago that things would turn out so well, because...

...five years ago today, Ernst had the first of three huge wake up calls:

Halloween 2006 - Stroke - After this we really cut down down on dairy and meat.
Easter 2008 - Heart Attack - This is when meat, poultry, all dairy and eggs went too.
New Years Eve 2009 - We thought it was another stroke, turned out to be an ear infection, but CT scan showed plaque in artery feeding brain - This is when we went on the McDougall Diet - low oil and vegan, herbivore, plant-based, starch-based, plant powered; whatever you call it, it isn't easy but we are doing it.

Lessons learned:
I really detest Halloween.
ERs on holidays are incredibly busy.
Life is better than food.

On that awful day, I came home from college to hear the message on the answering machine, "Honey, I'm in the ER, I have some tingling on my left that is getting worse, don't worry but please come and bring..." When I got there, I was so relieved to see him calmly lying on the ER bed, reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. My reasoning said, what bad thing could be happening, he is reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, surely that is a good sign. Bad things don't happen to people who bring Maya Angelou books with them to the Emergency Room.

As it was, the whole ER seemed to think nothing bad was happening to him. He knew. But he just stayed calm as he read his book, as his stroke symptoms continued to get worse, as they continued to give him one pill every hour or so, trying to lower his crazy high blood pressure. I reassured myself that if they didn't seem worried, I wouldn't either. I wish I would have screamed like an insane wife for them to do more.

There are not two but three kinds of strokes. The bleeding type, the clotting type and the type he had, where the vessels are constricted because of high blood pressure. High BP is not something to mess around with. Strokes are scary. For us, we are happy he was "just" left with tingling and numbness, it could have been so much worse. But who wants "it could have been worse?" We know it could have been better. You only get one body, but sometimes you get another chance to be good to your body. We are not blowing that chance. We are not living with the mantra "everything in moderation." Tell that to a freaked out wife who thinks her husband could die or lose his great mind. Moderation my foot, we are living to the extreme! We are living like hamsters on a diet.

 Life is Better Than Food. Friends and strangers marvel when they find out all we have given up food-wise. They say they could never do it. To us it has been a no-brainer. Others are amazed that I eat the same way. But why would I continue to eat the stuff that almost killed one of the greatest minds I have ever known? That almost stopped one of the biggest hearts around?

We aren't militant vegans. I wear leather. Hey, if the whole world gives up beef, I'll switch to hemp shoes, but until then I can't pass up a cute pair of leather sandals. And we eat honey. It's not like anyone has a "bee bee gun" to their little heads forcing them to work. I am much more concerned about the tomato workers in Florida working in abominable conditions than I am about bees or silkworms or already dead cows. When I see the videos of filthy slaughterhouses, I am so glad we don't eat meat, but health reasons were our motivating factor.

Yet I do prefer using the word vegan rather than the term plant-based diet. Vegans are very often annoying and self-righteous (me included), but at least when someone hears that word, they stop to think whether they put bacon fat in the food they are about to serve the Big E. (Or at least I hope they do.) This is a meat eating society, and it is hard to swim upstream - "you don't eat FISH either??" -  but we've got our fins flapping like crazy going up that stream.

We are plant-based.
We are starch-based.
We are vegan.
And Ernst is here.

or not


and after?

Bill Clinton - meat eater
Bill Clinton - vegan

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Didn't Zone Out at the Zone Visit

seriously sleep deprived

Well, I survived the day. I came home last night (this morning) with my brain going bonkers with images of security cameras at schools. One call had to be made to the police, the rest were false alarms. I tossed and turned and morning came way too fast. I knew when I woke up there was no way I could make it to Morgan's baptism.

I ended up getting to Fairfield in the afternoon. We worked on that construction project for a whole year, working 2 or 3 times each week, but I somehow still missed the exit. I got there in time to hug Morgan, who had just cut my hair two days before. Of course I couldn't fix it like she did, I'm all thumbs with my hair on the best of days, but after last night I was even more thumby than usual. I put my stuff down up front, and then went to pick up some food before the Zone visit started. I got back, and all the people who had been inside earlier had been asked to leave and wait outside for the official opening of the doors. Where was my stuff? I had just bought a new notebook and everything.

When we were let back in, I went to Lost and Found - no bag. I found out my stuff was where I had left it, we still had our great seats. Thank you Morgan, because of you we had sixth row aisle seats right in the middle. It was great, and the sheer amount of people there finally woke me up. We saw lots of old friends from all different times and phases in our life. It was a wonderful evening all around. Now I am seriously getting some shut eye; the bags under my eyes are becoming suitcases.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Sunflower Drive In Wins Zagat Award!

Sunflower Drive In
One of our all time favorite places to eat is Sunflower Drive In. It's a little funky place in the adorable part of Fair Oaks, CA where chickens roam free, but are never on the menu. Ernst always has the Nutty Burger, while I'm a fan of the Nutty Taco. They are vegan, filling and yummy - a treat that always delights.

We have known the owner Becky for a very long time, my mom was in her congregation before moving back east. My brother used to hop on his motorcycle to go on Nutty Taco runs for us, it has been around that long. Well, lo and behold, it just won a Zagat Award! Congratulations Becky. Please never close. Please never close! We'll go nutty without our Nutty Burgers!

Nutty Burger

Not a future nugget

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Calgon - Take Me Away

When I was a kid, there was a television commercial that played often. There were scenes of a busy woman's day: cooking, kids yelling, housework, phone ringing etc. The woman would say, "Calgon - take me away!" The next scene was this same woman, in a beautifully clean bathroom, inside the clean and perfect tub, surrounded by bubbles as she soaked away all her troubles.

I remember thinking as a kid, well that doesn't solve anything lady, your life is going to be even worse once you get out of that tub! But the saying stuck, and I repeat it before a busy time in my life. This will be a Calgon - Take Me Away Weekend.

I am still in training with my new job, there is much to learn. Did you know there are snakes at schools and worms falling from the ceilings, not to mention the fire department is often sent out if someone burns microwave popcorn? The calls are all day, varied to the point of being humorous. I am in awe of the person who is training me because she makes it all look seamless.

Tomorrow I work until 2 am, and then somehow want to make my friend's daughter's baptism in Fairfield Saturday at noon. That is the night of the Zone Meeting, so I'll just stay until then at the Assembly Hall. The next day, Sunday,  I work again and our meeting was switched to that night, and then work again on Monday and another meeting that night. I think Tuesday is free, so I'll sleep in and start the month off behind, I'm super good at that. I need to start another quilt too. How did I ever work before? Unemployment, why did I not enjoy you more!!!!

My Do One Thing a Day October List (in small font because it is really boring)

 Cleaned out little medicine cabinet. It now has a “his” and “hers” side. “Hers” has more stuff. 
       Got my unemployment docs filed and organized for our little Romanian class.
      Cleaned out the car, organized the glove box, got the garden tools out of the rain. 
     Cleaned up the files in my Romanian folder.
       Organized the drawer of my nightstand. Found my United voucher.
       Cleaned out the shelf in my nightstand. Found a Starbucks card.
       Filled out the paperwork for my new job.
       Cleaned off my desk. Found the 44 invitations to the Zone visit! Plus a Hancock’s return card.
       Cleaned off the washer and dryer, and put all my quilt fabric on top in bins or bags.
   Did RBC work for Ernst and did a document for Petr.
  Cleared out the spice drawer. Found a spider living in there.
  Got the quilts ready for the craft fair, made tags, made the price list.
   Cleaned out the cupboards in the bathroom – Ugh lots of hair!
   Worked on Romanian stuff for CO visit.
   Better organized the laundry area and fabric bins.
   Worked 18 hours RBC this weekend and was too beat to think.
   Cleaned out the top drawer in the little white cabinet.
   Switched purses and wallet, found the Lowe’s card (!) and another Starbucks card worth $25.
  Cleaned the knife drawer. Removed the phone chargers from the knife drawer.
.   Organized my sewing drawer.
   Cleaned the food cupboards.
   Molly gear cleaned and organized.
   Cleaned under the kitchen sink. Ick.
   Organized my computer files! Backed up the Romanian stuff, finally. 
  Cleaned out the flat pan drawer and the liquor cabinet. Found Molly’s flea meds with the booze.

Still to do, and avoiding them: linen closet, desk AGAIN, tool bench, garage, get out my winter clothes and that should be it.
Almost forgot, Buy Calgon!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Squeezing in One Last Picnic

What happens when you take a perfect October day, add in a nice park setting, a group of Moldovans and all their kids, our new CO and wife, squirrels, dogs off leash, food tables...and Molly? Surprisingly, a really great picnic with no lasting damage.

We arrived with our arsenal of equipment: water bowl, harness, leash, cable ties with carabiners, wet wipes, blanket and the reason for all of it, Molly. We drove up and saw a family in our group had arrived with their new chihuahua; no leash, no collar and of course all Molly wants is for someone to pass the mustard - hot dogs at the park! I took the string out of a boy's hoodie and fashioned a leash for the little ankle meister, and we decided to stay.

Because it just isn't a party without dancing, someone brought the necessary generator to run the music. Our new COs are quite the dancers (and volleyball players and Frisbee throwers and dog lovers). It was incredibly touching when the circle dance moved over to dance around Mama Elizabeta, the matriarch of our biggest family. She is wheelchair bound now and it was very endearing to see her clap her hands with the music as the dance came to her. These people continue to melt my heart.

Molly was in her glory. Kids galore to pet her and fuss over her. We have a new young girl in our congregation who learns differently than most. Our interaction to this point has been just waving at the meetings. I seriously doubted she would, but was pleasantly surprised when she let me lead her over to the Molly Girl to sit with us. She sat on my lap for so long, I thought I would never get my legs to wake up. But after time, she was totally relaxed around the dog and was saying Sit Molly. I loved speaking Romanian with her, she understood me and she reintroduced me to the Romanian word for soft, which is close to Molly. I wonder if they all think we named our dog Softy.

I was feeling really good about the whole afternoon. We were such great dog owners, so prepared and forward thinking. Patting ourselves on the back, we left the park as the first hints of sunset appeared. We were almost home and AHHH! I left my purse at the park. You left your purse? Where? Umm, sort of hanging in a tree. Hanging in a tree? Who hangs their purse in a tree? That would be me, nearing five decades of life, still not capable of pulling off a dummy free event. Some friends were still there, the purse was still there, lesson learned, next time I'll hide it under a rock.

a little lower, yes that's the spot

enough attention, where's the food?

with my little buddy
Our CO setting up a disc golf challenge for the kids

no shame

Moldovan Molly

one gorgeous October Sunday

more back scratchers!

She did knock all the water balloons for the balloon toss into the dirt, but no animals were killed. A good day at the park.
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Friday, October 21, 2011

Is Geocaching in China Legal?

Geocaching in China?

No GPS allowed.
The Geocaching site is blocked.
No caches are allowed to be placed.

Legal, schmegal we did it anyway. And it got us off the beaten track and into a couple fun adventures, if not any successful finds.

Geocaching is something we discovered a few years ago. It is a fun way to get out and about to some places you normally might not. In a nutshell, a cache is a hidden container, usually containing a small log book and some little trinkets to give and take. The general location is found using a GPS, but then good old fashioned hunting comes into play. They are all over the place; you probably pass by them all the time in your jaunts around your town.

We have geocached in Texas, New York, Connecticut, Philidelphia, Seattle and all over California. We are disappointed when someone's idea of a good place leads us to an ugly patch of dirt in some parking lot, but when it is good it is good. Here are some of our more memorable ones:

  • On a mountain overlooking the Hudson River Valley with my brother and his wife
  • In the Reading Terminal Market in Philly with my sister, mom and friend Debbie. That was a clever one.
  • Soon after Ernst's heart attack, overlooking Lake Tahoe with a group of about 15 wonderful friends. Life is grand!
  • At the pier in Ventura, after Aaron and Becky's beach wedding, still in our dress clothes
  • Ernst and his friend Jason, finding an underwater cache in October in Lake Tahoe, brrrr
  • Any cache with our old dog Kodie, who thought we finally understood what a decent walk was all about: a little walking, lots of stopping, sniffing around and digging
What sign?

Just a little nibble before we put it back
 So of course we wanted to try this in China, we wouldn't let a little law stop us. It's a free country, right? Oh, yeah, not so much, but we were determined. So with our hosts looking the other way, as in going to do something totally more worthwhile that day, we set off. Because you can't use a GPS there, or rather it is illegal to use one, we just had some sketchy maps from the Internet. There was a long subway and bus ride, and then lots of walking. We were in a very westerny area with lots of expats. There was a big park and fancy new apartment buildings. Toto, are we still in China?

We walked and walked and walked, trying to figure out some really bad instructions. Or maybe my husband just copied them down wrong? We were trying to look so nonchalant as we snooped around the entrances to these fancy compounds. There were guards and gates and lots of construction going on. We lifted up many rocks and bricks and pieces of wood, but we knew the trail was cold. We pretended to be looking at the planted landscaping, so rare there. There was something in the instructions about a lion, and I was convinced it was near an apartment called Lion's Gate. How many times, though, can you walk past a guard, peering into the ground cover and not appear suspicious? If only we had a dog, it would have been so much more natural looking. It occured to me after awhile - this is illegal, we don't speak Chinese and what would I tell my mother if we got in trouble?

Geocaching in China with no GPS
Enough of that one, on to the next. This one was on some hill near a pagoda, near the Forbidden City. Again, more endless walking. We passed by the Forbidden City, not at all interested in entering, intent on finding this unnamed hill on another badly drawn map from the Internet. We walked down one street and were immediately stopped by some police officers, but we just acted lost. We're really good at appearing to be lost tourists, we have so much experience.

It finally occurred to us, we must give up on this one too or we will be terribly late for our dinner with our friend Mr. Pitt from the States. We got on a hilariously crowded bus, missed our stop and ended up getting a quick walking view of Tiennamen Square, a nice bonus. We were late for dinner, but full of images of parts of Beijing we wouldn't have seen otherwise.

up to no good
If you want to try it, bring your most comfortable walking shoes, really clear maps, sunglasses to hide where you are staring and a sense of adventure. If you get in trouble, don't call us. Geocaching in China? Who would do such a thing?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

First Day of New Job

Here I go, back into the workforce. After eleven months, my first day lands on the week of the CO visit, go figure. I was determined to leave the meeting early last night, but I had a trunk full of bread to deliver, so I got to talking and talking and then came home with my brain on fire. Need to find the off switch, but don't know if I was born with one.

My O is for October, O is for Organizing is going smashingly well. I love the idea of organizing one small thing a day. I have kept it up and feel much better about my house right now. So far I have found:

  • a Starbucks gift card
  • a Hancock Fabrics merchandise credit card
  • another Starbucks gift card
  • the missing Lowes merchandise credit card with about $75 on it
  • the tickets to the Zone visit for half our congregation, Oops, they were on my desk!
  • some overdue library books
  • more hand sanitizer bottles than anyone ever needs
  • some sweet thank you cards that made me cry all over again 
  • a spider in the spice drawer
  • and yet another Starbucks card
I'm ready to buy caffeine and fabric and home improvement products while keeping my hands germ free. Three cheers for organizing. Less than half a month to go. Lost gift cards - Be afraid, be very afraid.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Think Before You Pink

Pepperidge Farm Cookies
Imperial Margarine
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream Bars Dipped in Chocolate
Breyers Ice Cream
Hebrew National Beef Franks
Oscar Meyer Lunchables
Betty Crocker Frosting
Instant Velveeta Mac and Cheese
Three Musketeers Halloween Candy
Cocoa Pebbles

What do these products have in common? They are just a few of the hundreds of brands that are being featured this month in grocery stores in connection with National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Buy the food with the pink ribbon and the store will donate for breast cancer research. This is very similar to the campaign in one of the fast food places that went like this: Buy a gigantic sized amount of sugary soda, and they will donate to the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. Never mind the fact that consuming giant amounts of sugar laden soda is contributing to diabetes in juveniles.

soda for the cure

cocoa for the cure

chicken breasts for the cure

cookies for the cure

food for thought

This month, this is what I plan to do. Keep doing what I am doing, but just a bit better. My weak link at this point is exercise. I permanently damaged a nerve in my thigh in Zumba class (a truly freak happening, try Zumba, you will love it) and have not got in a groove since. I went to get my mammogram, which I am conflicted about the research on, but I would never forgive myself if I missed an early detection opportunity. We will continue to stay away from animal products, but I know that even vegans can be unhealthy. So more veggie chopping and healthy food making. The food stores are full of healthy choices as long as I hit the produce aisle, whole grain breads and (contrary to popular belief) the middle of the store in the aisles with beans, grains, rice, and frozen and canned real food.

This is what I won't be doing. I won't be eating from a bucket of deep fried chicken for the cure or slicing up cookies from a chubby little doughboy or eating Velveeta mac and cheese or drinking Pepsi or eating anything unhealthy tied with a pretty pink ribbon. Not everything is pretty in pink.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Not Great Weather for a Craft Fair Booth...

...featuring quilts, knit hats and warm fuzzy scarves. I wasn't there until the end, but my poor friends sweated and baked and were pretty fried when I arrived. They said if they weren't selling my stuff too, they would have left after the first hour.

Being a kid carnival and not really a craft fair, people were not so much in the buying mood. Being a really hot October day, they were not really in the mood to look at anything involving warmth. Not the greatest introduction to craft fairs.

As we were about to pack up, things got cooler and the sales got hotter. I only sold one silly quilt, but by then I practically kissed the woman's feet, I was so thrilled. My friends sold several of their ADORABLE hats and scarves, so we left fairly happy. They had set it up really cute and we want to try again, at a venue with more buyers, and on a day with lower temperatures.

Natalya, the Oh So Chic Baby Quilt found a home
I did learn something about myself as a seller in the short time I was there. I am a lousy seller. I enjoy the anonymity of Etsy so much and never realized it. A person would come up to see the quilts, and I would want to hide. My friends would nudge me to go tell them how the quilts are upcycled and unique, but I just wanted to hand them a brochure or something. It's like I'm a quilt floozy on Etsy, and a quilt wallflower at a craft fair. Must work on my floozy side.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Squared Up's First Craft Fair

My first craft fair is tomorrow, and I won't even be there. I heard about a little carnival at Mission Avenue School and it has very reasonable vendor fees. Some friends who knit scarves have been wanting to do a craft fair with me, but we are scared of the professional ones like Second Saturday. This one is more our speed.

Make me money, Honey, and you are free to leave

I have an RBC weekend, so my friends very kindly are going to put my quilts with their scarves. I named the table Warm Necks and Cozy Laps, but we have no signs and I still have no business cards. I did made some new tags which turned out adorable, I must say. It would a little sad if they all went at once (HIGHLY unlikely, but one can always dream). I'm really attached to Ginger, the Cookie Quilt. Maybe naming them was a bad business decision; like how naming chickens makes them harder to eat.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

White Trash Winter Gardening

They have way better dirt than we do, and it isn't fair. We live in the same neighborhood, we should have good dirt like they do. They are our neighbors with the pool and the cute kids and the good dirt. We have hard pan soil, a dog and a doggie pool. But we love them anyway. Hadassah and I usually end evenings at their house sitting on the couch covered in snuggly girls. The conversation always turns to gardening. We have grand plans in Spring about how our gardens will be amazingly awesome this year, and then Fall conversations about all that went wrong. We went to a class together a few weeks ago about winter gardening, and we got all jazzed. The jazz has worn off.

It's starting to look a lot like Christmas tubs on sale at Target
This will be my first attempt at a winter garden, and as seen from the pictures, a very lame attempt. These are some thrashed containers Hadassah gave me, which I filled (not enough) with compost and then some potting soil. I put seeds in for beets, chard, lettuce and kale. I see a problem already. As the sun hits lower in the sky, the dirt itself is going to get very little sunlight. Also, I try to never drink out of plastic, but here I am attempting to grow organic veggies in these most likely not food grade plastic tubs. Hopefully the beets don't glow in the dark. But if they grow in the dark, the plastic could be a good choice.

Wanted for questioning in the Rocky the Squirrel Murder Case

Molly's job is to chase away any cats who see these as giant litter boxes. After the suspicious death of the squirrel, I hope she doesn't take her job too seriously.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Beets, It's What's for Dinner

Nope that is not beef, it is beets. When I was younger, I thought only old people liked beets. Now I love them. Hmm, wonder what happened to me.

I'm on a root vegetable kick right now. Although the weather has been gorgeous, we have had some rainy days and the days are getting shorter. To me that means a menu change, big time. Out with the summer stuff that goes bad when you turn your back. And in with the hearty stuff that stays good for days and days, if not weeks.

My latest greatest, Beet and Potato Salad. I throw the unpeeled beets and potatoes in a pot and boil them. Then I peel both when cooled, cube them and mix with salt, pepper and hummus. YUM, except I pee red the next day, which can be a bit daunting.

This was the inside of the mystery compost pile squash. I cut it up, seeded it and baked it. I pureed it with whatever was the white liquid of the day in the fridge (Rice Dream, Soy Milk, I forget) and some veggie stock and salt and pepper.

Mystery Squash Soup was the yummiest stuff ever. We have another one I just picked, and we're saving the seeds for next year.

I think I need a bigger soup pot. This was Clean Out the Fridge Soup, onions, carrots, celery, cabbage, beet tops with veggie broth and water. I don't use olive oil to saute with anymore, just broth. And then of course I added salt and pepper and some dill. Don't worry Mom, we are getting enough protein, we just finished a huge pot of beans.

Rootin' Tootin' Root Veggie Roast, with carrots, cauliflower, parsnips and yams from the Croatian store plus... eggplant from the same store! It was so cute, I couldn't resist. All the stuff at that place is so cheap, I try not to laugh when they ring it up. I try not to laugh at all in that store, I don't want them to yell at me.

Mushrooms growing in our yard after one day of steady rain. Don't worry Mom, I'm not going to cook them.

One of the last hangers on from the summer garden. We had lousy tomatoes, but the spreading plants went to town. We got so much FOOD from them. I used to plant a few veggies for the enjoyment, this year was all about the food. The compost Ernst put down in this part of the yard was a miracle, the plants went crazy and gave us so much output.

Squash on steroids, the brick raised bed is where the garden is supposed to stop.

This is what I picked just today. We didn't plant most of this squash, but we're not complaining, There are three more round food-like things out there, and then that will put the Summer Garden of 2011 to rest.

this had bite marks, another mystery

these tomatoes have crop circles, the plot thickens

From time to time I make dog food with the veggie scraps. Our neighbor gave us some "iffy meat" so Molly will get some homemade pup chow. A house guest who shall remain nameless once accidentally ate some of this concoction. S/he thought, Wow Jessica is a really lousy cook and Ernst sure isn't picky!

The sewer guy just told me there's a dead squirrel in our backyard. Don't worry Mom, I won't cook it!

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