Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sneak Peek

Two days ago, FedEx delivered a box to our door that was clearly marked with the Petunia Pickle Bottom logo. I held off for two whole days before asking Jarod if I could just open it up and make sure they sent the right one. After all, the bag I wanted sold out rather quickly. Do you wonder why? It's just so cute! Of course it sold out in short order.


Luckily, that beautiful bag is what was in the box. Now I just have to wait a month to use it.

Would it be weird if I admitted that I caress the box a little every time I walk by it in the basement? Because I don't. I mean, not really. It's more like a kindly little tap. Because what if my bag is lonely and needs to know that I'm thinking of it?

I am far too excited about having a really nice bag of my very own.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Recipes and Craziness

First up, two recipes that are rocking my sort-of vegan world.

1. Magic Sauce. I'm dying to put it on salad, but so far have been using it on pasta. I saute some mediterranean vegetables (yes, the frozen bag from Whole Foods--it's my current favorite shortcut since nothing is really in season right now) and spinach (also frozen) with salt, pepper, a bit of Melissa's Chile Seasoning, and some ginger, toss some linguine with toasted sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, combine veg and pasta with Magic Sauce and voila! A dinner we all enjoy. Zinashi keeps insisting on picking out all the bits of squash and green beans, but when some of it passes her lips without being seen, she doesn't notice. I keep putting it in her bowl, trusting that someday she'll accept all the vegetable deliciousness.

2. Homemade Nutella. We eat it on our toast every morning. I'm sorry if you find this alarming, but I miss butter, and I really cannot eat toast with just jam. Our vegan breakfast compromise was to keep eating eggs or oats cooked with milk, but everything else would be vegan. And homemade nutella is vegan. Brilliant. I've made vegan muffins, but this is just so much more satisfying.

It should also be noted, as part of sort-of-vegan news, that I have fallen off the one-coffee-per-week wagon. I...could do better. That's really all there is to say about that.

...

We had our six month post placement visit with our social worker on Monday, and I've not yet managed to blog it on our adoption blog because we've had other things to say. But I will. What I want to say about it here is that the six month mark is when you can start paperwork for your next adoption, and while in the past I couldn't imagine wanting to do that, now I suddenly understand the people that do. Because if we felt that Zinashi were ready for a sibling, and if we had enough funds, I would probably want to start again now. Which is downright ridiculous, honestly, since I still don't have Zinashi's US birth certificate (thank you, State of Missouri, for not understanding the international adoption process and requiring paperwork that is redundant), which I need to get her new Certificate of Citizenship in her new name and then to get her new Social Security card in her new name, and then to get her passport in her new name. But I don't know...Zinashi does want to have a sister; we've talked about it. And I do see changes in our future that would make it harder to get some of the paperwork done (moving, eventually). So this is just my wish thrown out there. I'd like to start again, possibly sooner rather than later. If you want to buy me a lottery ticket or enter the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes on behalf of our second child, please go right ahead. Also if you'd like to talk my husband into it, that would be great, too.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Another Post Proving That I'm Becoming a Boring Old Lady

I may be having a little too much fun getting rid of all our stuff. Or is that even possible, to have too much fun cleaning out and organizing? Every time I take another load to Goodwill or put things in the garage for an upcoming garage sale, I feel lighter. Yesterday we skipped church for a little photo shoot (mostly Zinashi, with some family shots), and when we got home, Jarod took charge of most Zinashi-related stuff so I could go to the grocery and work on things at home. It is slightly embarrassing how much joy I got out of emptying all the old herbs and spices out of the spice rack in preparation for selling it. Maybe you use all the spices in your spice rack, but I do not, and there are not jars for some of the things that I do use regularly (cardamom, for instance, and ginger).

I'm also very nearly done (finally!) with figuring out where to put all the stuff that fit on this desk system when we traded it out for a smaller desk. We've gotten rid of a lot of stuff. There's still some filing to be done, and a few items that got lost in the post-Ethiopia shuffle to attend to, but I am mostly done. And that feels really fantastic. Up next? The basement. The goal is to only have down there what could be stored in a small apartment storage locker, as that is likely to be our reality when we make a move. Ideally, I'd love for everything to fit on our main floor, but I figure that as long as we have the basement to use, we don't need to be doing closet Tetris every time we want to do a craft project or locate holiday decorations.

Getting our house ready for sale is going more slowly than I'd hoped, but I just keep reminding myself that everything will get done in the time it was meant to be done, so long as we keep plugging away at it. When I really don't feel like filing, or the basement seems too cold to bother with, I keep this in mind. Things will work out, but I still have to work at it. Or they won't. I hope that makes sense to someone other than me, or else I'm just blathering on here like an idiot.

Oh, wait.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Still a Cat Lady

Everyone told me that when I had kids, I'd stop caring so much about my cats. Um. Well. They certainly get less attention from me personally than they used to, but I won't say that my level of caring about them has diminished. And one of the greatest stress relievers I know of is still giving this cat a good stretch.

prefers birds as snacks

She'll stretch her front paws all the way up in the air, and stretch her back ones as far as they will reach, stretching her toes apart at the end. Then she will hang like a limp noodle and let me do as I wish, which usually means that I put her through a series of contortions that I've named things like "Dancing on the Ceiling" and "Ice Capades" and "Scarf!" She's kind of a pain in the rear sometimes, but I forgive her because she's just so great otherwise.

One of the most annoying things she does is to meow at Zinashi's door when I'm trying to get Zinashi to sleep; usually I will get her and lock her in the bathroom when she does this, but today I decided not to bother since I was at an interesting place in my book. She meowed for a bit, then it was quiet. When I finally exited Zinashi's room, I found she'd put herself in the bathroom and curled up to sleep. Equal parts annoying (the meowing at the door part) and endearing. This is what I try to remember when something I like gets broken by her wild, random exertions.

On Sunday, Zinashi and I arrived home after being gone all day, and the first thing I noticed was a broken tchotchke. And then another. And then another. There were broken bits of nostalgia all over the house, and I was more than a little peeved. I wandered about, picking up bits of things and trying to decide if I could salvage them with superglue, cursing Lucy's nature all the while, until I noticed the bird droppings. Every place there were broken things, there were also bird droppings.

How a bird got into our house I've no idea, but as far as I know, it never exited. We found one tiny feather, and that was all. I guess Lucy had a snack...a snack she had to chase all over the house. I'd call her a little stinker, but how can I blame her? It's probably the most thrilling thing that's ever happened to her in her whole life.

lucy wants a belly rub

I guess I'll forgive her and move on, just hoping I don't find anymore bird poop in my house.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Randomness, Just Like Always

Zinashi and I are having a lazy day. I've pulled a chair for her up to the desk, and she is coloring with pens (big stuff, since I usually have her use crayons or washable markers) while I dink around on the internet. I've swapped out jeans for pajama pants. I am pretending all those dirty dishes in the kitchen just don't exist. It's been a really nice morning.

...

My favorite handbag, the only one that was really working as a carrier of all of our stuff, has finally bitten the dust. I'm sure that someone handy will be able to fix what needs fixing and give it the necessary cleaning attention, but I can't seem to take all the trash out of our car, let alone vacuum out a handbag that also needs leather bits stitched back together. I've carried that bag since 2006; I don't think that's too short a time to warrant a decent replacement. A really decent replacement. I've never had a nice purse. Mine always come from Target or some discount shoe store or Old Navy clearance. So I've asked for this. I know that technically it's a diaper bag, and we are not using diapers, but it's just my style, and has the added benefit of turning into a backpack when we need it to (I'm thinking of the CT/NYC trip we're planning this summer). I would love to be the girl who can just grab a clutch and leave the house, but I am terrible at remembering all the little things when I'm going a specific place, so I really prefer to just always have Zinashi's kit and my reusable bags with me. It will be so nice to have a bag that is just what I want instead of something I found cheap that doesn't really work, that I eventually pass on to my mom. (Yes, this is what I do. If I'd just skipped purchasing all those handbags I eventually passed on to my mother, I would have more than enough to purchase this bag, without having to tweak the budget.) (But then my mom wouldn't have so many lovely bags, so...I guess someone still wins in this situation.)

...

Of all the years to go without purchasing new clothes, this may be the perfect pairing of both the best and the worst. On the one hand, our budget is a lot more limited than it used to be, so it's good not to be tempted by every pretty shirt that comes along. On the other hand, it appears that the five or so pounds that I've gained since Zinashi came home are going to be around for awhile, and there's nothing that will make a girl feel chubby like pants that don't fit quite right. I'm pretty sure I could come to terms with my current body size and shape, if only my tummy weren't threatening to muffin top right over the waist of some of my trousers the moment I sit down. I'm starting to wonder if Spanx count as clothes, and if not, should I just buy some? Or should I keep trying to exercise more, even though it's truly more trouble than it's worth to me at this point? I don't know the answers to those questions. I'd really like to keep to my resolution to not purchase new clothes or shoes, but I'd also like to be comfortable and attractive. Pajama pants do work well for that first part, but they're not that attractive, particularly since most of them were purchased, um...a long time ago. On post-holiday clearance (mostly Halloween--lots of owls and black cats over here). Oh, well.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three Things, Mostly Unrelated

1. Today I got a lot done. For the first laundry day since what seems like the beginning of time, I got all the laundry done and folded and put away. I got through a few extra little projects. Zinashi and I took a long walk. I showered. I don't remember what else. But I do know that I was in my pajamas until 2:15pm, and this seems to be a predictor of success. If I've had to get dressed and get out of the house, there's usually a crash late morning, a struggle to put lunch on the table, a nodding of my head as I attempt to stay awake while Zinashi is very successfully avoiding sleep at naptime. It's like I've used up all my steam before 11am. With the absence of coffee, it is often even harder to revive than usual. I hereby resolve to figure out how to stay in my pajamas more days of the week.

2. I cooked a good vegan thing tonight (another accomplishment!). Perhaps you'd like to hear about it? Because maybe you'd like to make it? The key ingredient is something I wouldn't usually buy, jarred madras sauce, which I had a coupon for (Whole Foods shoppers, take note), and I thought, "Eh, why not?" Turns out it's delicious. So, the recipe:

1 jar Seeds of Change Madras Simmer Sauce
1 can coconut milk
1 small can tomato paste
2.5 lbs. potatoes
1 medium onion
3/4 cup red lentils
minced garlic, however much you like--we like a lot

Chop onion and saute in a bit of oil (organic safflower is my current favorite) until onion is soft and starting to brown a bit. While onion is sauteing, peel and cut up your potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Before you're done with the potatoes, your onions will be all set and ready for the next step; in between your potato peeling and chopping, add lentils and enough water to cover. Allow to boil/simmer while you finish with the potatoes, adding a bit more water as necessary to keep the lentils/onions/garlic barely covered. Add potatoes to the pot, adding just enough water to cover them; if some corners of potato are sticking up, that's okay--you don't need a ton of water. Stir in the simmer sauce, coconut milk, and tomato paste. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a little more than a simmer (to medium-ish). Cook until potatoes and lentils are tender. Serve over brown rice. Easy and delish!

I have no idea what to call it, so make up your own name for it. This recipe makes enough to serve a large family, which means that for us, there's enough for Jarod to take to work the next day, some to save for leftover night, and a nice portion to freeze.

3. I think a lot about diet and exercise and the pressure to be thin. Admittedly, I also think a lot about how I'd like to be a touch thinner. Which is ridiculous but true. I think it's hard to a woman in America and not feel like the body is a thing to be shaped and formed into something better than it already is. I wish I could do better at making my peace with this; it may be something I never figure out. How can I, when our culture is so imbued with references to the perfect body and pushing harder and fighting against fat? While in the meantime, the majority of us are overweight or obese, and it's a health issue, not a perfect body issue. I find this to be endlessly frustrating--that we are hit with a barrage of beauty and body standards while at the same time being inundated with enticements to eat things that simply aren't meant to be eaten, or at least not eaten very much. Again, as a health issue, not a perfect body issue. Are we really so daft as to believe both that we must pursue six pack abs AND eat a sandwich made of fried meat, devoid of a bun? I don't know where I'm going with this. I guess I just want some levity. And that's one thing I'm hoping to get out of Lent. Maybe it's not very holy, but then again, maybe it is. I'd like to respect the body I've been given by treating it well, but not making it the whole focus of my life. I have a lot to say about this, it turns out. I guess I should make this a whole other post. But I'll save that for later. Because it's midnight, and I DO have to leave my house in the morning. (Drat.)

Monday, March 14, 2011

My Own Private Lenten Miracles

So it turns out that menu planning is my new best friend. My old method was to have a lot of our tried and true staples on hand, but with Lent it just doesn't work out. I don't have enough tried and true vegan dinners that I even know where to begin with keeping staples on hand for that. So every week I'm sitting down and writing out the weekly dinner menu, and the added benefit is that I save money every week at the store. I have a feeling this has less to do with making my list based on menu planning and more to do with not being able to eat my usual impulse purchases (most contain dairy and/or eggs, as they are generally baked goods or milk chocolate), but let's go with menu planning! It's a financial miracle!

I'm feeling more confident than I thought I would about Lenten dinner preparation. Vegan dinners are really not so hard, it turns out, if you're comfortable with a wide variety of international flavors and can find the time to chop a lot of vegetables. We eat out once a week, and I'm pretty sure it would be fine with all of us to grab some misir watt at Duo each week, though we'll likely branch out to Blue Koi a couple of times because: Ants on a Tree with tofu, yes PLEASE. (Locals who have been to Blue Koi are nodding, and the rest of you are confused. Sorry to the rest of you--both for confusing you and because you don't have Blue Koi.) So it's working. And I feel good. Even without coffee*. Another miracle!

The one thing that seems to be missing from the Lenten fast for me is a spiritual aspect, which is kind of the point. I don't feel like it's doing much other than teaching me to cook in a new way. But maybe that's part of the point? That I am stretched a bit by learning to feed my family in this way? I'm hoping that's enough. I'm guessing that it is.

*I do allow myself one coffee with dairy per week, at Starbucks on Saturdays when I take Zinashi and my young charge. I don't do non-organic soy for reasons both environmental and personal**, and I figure it's better just to order as usual and not make a big deal out of it. I had my one cup on Saturday, and it was nice. It would have been nicer if I could have sipped it while chatting with a friend instead of in the company of three-year-olds, but I'll take what I can get.

**If you've watched Food, Inc., you know this already, but Monsanto controls 90% of US soybean production. Monsanto has done horrible things to the environment, has manipulated governments to do their bidding, and has destroyed farmers who dared to come up against them. I come from a family of farmers; that's where it gets personal. I no longer consume domestic, non-organic soy products, including M&M's and most other candies. That's how strongly I feel about this issue.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Hear Me Roar

Yesterday was International Women's Day, but I was too busy being a woman to write about it. No, really. I started off early by taking Jack and Mary Liz for our monthly breakfast, then popped by the grocery store on the way home. From there it was just one thing after another, including our usual Old Lady Mary visit, and Jarod had to work a late-ish shift, so Zinashi was all mine until shortly after 9pm. By that time, I had a raging tension headache, so all was lost aside from zoning out to something on Netflix and self-medicating with chamomile tea. I did spend a lot of the day thinking about what it means to be a woman (no, really, corny but true), and how I continually feel like I am expected to do something other than make a home and be a mother, while at the same time feeling that there's little room for anything else at this moment. Frankly, I don't really mind not having some other career plan or some longing to do more than be good at what I'm doing right now. I feel like I should, but I don't. I have room for improvement as the mother and housewife, so it's not like my life is without challenge. Today I organized the downstairs shelf we use as a pantry, and it made me feel accomplished. What else do I need in life? I do love this piece, as it expresses so much of what I feel and why I make the choices I do in regards to what we buy, eat, and otherwise consume as a family. It's not just about us and about our little family, and I hope to raise our daughter to be the kind of woman that will take what we've done one step, or a thousand steps, farther.

If I were clever, I would insert a video of Zinashi roaring here, but she is sleeping, and I'd prefer to hit publish on this before it's two days late. I'm dangerously close to that line now. See? Always room for improvement in my current situation. Maybe next year, my International Women's Day post will be on time.

Monday, March 07, 2011

In the Beginning

I pretty much had my own private Mardi Gras last night; it consisted of two cookies and two Lindt chocolates, for which I was not at all hungry. I felt kind of sick afterwards. For those of you not in the know, Jarod and I have been attending an Orthodox Christian church for a year now, and with that has come some new traditions (actually old traditions, but new to us). Orthodox fasts occur several times during the year, but we have yet to fully participate. The Lenten fast, which began today, is THE big fast for Orthodox Christians, and this year we wanted to be a little more intentional about our participation. For the most part, an Orthodox fast is vegan eating, and consumption of wine and oil are also restricted. It's a time to simplify, and I am glad to do it. It's a bit of a juggling act with Zinashi's nutritional needs, so what we've decided to do as a family is to eat our usual breakfast, which includes either eggs or milk every day, and alter the rest. It's fairly easy to slip extra protein onto Zinashi's plate at lunch and to make her snacks more substantial so that our vegan dinner won't be a big deal when it comes to her nutritional needs. I know that there are a lot of families who eat a vegan diet all together, but I'm not comfortable doing that with Zinashi when she was so recently malnourished. And so. Breakfast is for cheaters.

Except for the part where I normally get to have coffee.

I KNOW.

My friend Nicole pointed out that I could still have coffee, but the problem is that I really don't like coffee plain. I like it with half & half and something sweet (lately, chocolate syrup is my favorite) (stop looking at me like that). But half & half isn't part of the Zinashi Sponsored Breakfast Plan, and so. No coffee*. Today I had some jasmine green tea, and I didn't suffer as much as I feared I might. Until later, when I got a headache.

Still, I think the fast is going to be good for us. It was long past time to break some habits and put them back where they belong, in the realm of treats for sometimes but not all of the time. Or ingredients to rely on less (ahem*CHEESE*ahem). I am no ascetic, and I do think that food was meant to be enjoyed, but having whatever you like whenever you'd like to have it takes a lot of joy out of food. It makes the things that really are special seem less so. The weeks ahead may grow tedious, but it's all for the best.

At least, that's what I'm saying on Day One.


*I have tried all sorts of non-dairy alternatives to half & half, and frankly, none of them work for me. It's either a flavor issue or a consistency issue or a film-on-my-teeth issue or some combination of the above. So thank you but no thank you for your suggestions for half & half substitutes. I'd rather just skip the coffee.

Friday, March 04, 2011

I Have No Brain, and Therefore No Title for This Post

Apparently, after a week of vacation, I need a week of vacation to recover. Not that I would exactly call our trip a vacation--it was more geared towards spending time with people and soaking up some warmer weather--but re-entry into life has been a little bumpy. I guess I didn't realize how tired taking Zinashi into multiple public restrooms every day for a week would make me. Downside to having a daughter as opposed to a son: I'm on bathroom duty when we're out, and if we're "out" for a week, then I'm on bathroom duty for a week. Including when we are following someone else to another destination and stop too late for Zinashi to make it to a toilet. Yes, that happened, and no, it wasn't just pee. Sorry, Starbucks in I'm-not-sure-where, Texas, for the underwear and wipes that caused a bit of an unpleasant aroma in your bathroom. I tried to minimize it, I swear!

(Parenthood is just as glamorous as you imagine it is--get yourself a kid today!)

There's also the issue of trying to get our house in good shape to contend with, and I'll confess right now that I seem capable of doing only one extra thing per day without feeling like I need a nap. Today I put together our new desk and rearranged the art on our walls; I should probably either take two naps or have a third coffee. Or get take-out for dinner.

I do get a certain amount of satisfaction from getting this place ship-shape. It's becoming the house I always dreamt it could be, and it's a shame that we're only getting around to doing this because we'd like to sell it. I guess that's how these things go, and the good news is that we'll be taking far less stuff to our next place, which will hopefully lead to that place becoming the house (or apartment) I always dreamt of.

For now, though, let's just enjoy this photo of the daughter I always dreamt of.

our happy girl