Road Rants – Letting Out or Letting Go?

I’m afraid to even mention this on the Internet for fear that word will catch on and destroy the secret to my morning commute, but considering I have about 6 readers, perhaps it won’t be such a moment – Lower Wacker Drive is open.  That lovely, subterranean tunnel that snakes around downtown Chicago, has been reopened after a lengthy reconstruction.  Lovely and harrowing all the same.  It is not a route for the faint of heart.  Entrances appear without warning.  Exits disappear into sketchy alleys or dead ends.  Proper signage is almost extinct.  I have seen men fully exposed as they relieve themselves against its walls (ew).  Hustlers appear from nowhere just when a light turns red and if you pause at the wrong moment, a cacophony of car horns will convince you otherwise.

Entering the Underworld

Entering the Underworld

No, Lower Wacker Drive is not for the faint of heart.  Yet it is my favorite, speedy, underground passage.  I think I’m clever that I know it’s secrets.  The bat caves of Chicago.

It is also the place that I curse the most.  Because I have taken great care to learn and navigate it’s passageways, I expect others to do the same.  It’s an auto response that I do not take pride in.  It’s harmless, right?  The kids aren’t in the car, I get to let it all out, no one can hear me.  But when I finally got around that car that paused at every hole in the wall, I realized that I must have cursed more in the last five minutes than I had all weekend.

photo

Cursing causes no relief.  I think it just makes me a surly, erratic, explosive person.  Just another wretched urbanite, hostile at the interloper.  Tourists!  (I actually love tourists – weird, I know.)

Expressing rage by letting it out only makes it easier to do the next time, like when the kids are in the car (oops – don’t say that at school, sweetie).  Not so cute when the 4yo says the s, d and occasional f word.  Yikes.  It’s like practicing a habit, only not such a great habit.  Each time a fierce word is said in frustration and anger, it is reinforced for that next moment.  Holding it in, well, maybe that’s not so great either.

I’m thinking that trying to empathize with that driver who is lost, confused, baffled by the enclosed tunnels would be an exercise of letting go, instead of letting it out.  It feels awful to have expressed a verbal assault on someone, then drive by and realize the driver is about 80, barely peering over the dashboard.  Haven’t we all been that slow, uncertain driver at one point?  In a strange place?  What can be stranger than Lower Wacker?

Better to slow down, get around, in through the nose, out through the mouth.  Sigh.  Get home safely.

And now, for something completely silly…

photoTurtle sightings in the Chicago Underworld.

 

Obviously, the house was still standing, and so was I

I had a friend over last Friday.  Within seconds of them entering the house, our boys disappeared upstairs to take apart all the toy boxes.  Our girls played games and watched a great, girl movie, Penelope.  My friend and I, we sat in the living room (which no one really lives in), hid from the kids, and talked for the duration of the movie.  I need to do more of this.  Parenting is hard work alone.  It seems everything snaps into perspective when I spend time with other mommies, especially one with twice as many kids.  Especially really straightforward, intelligent, and compassionate mommies.  What a treat.

My blog came up once.  I confessed that I don’t write much.  Often the frequency of my posts correlate to how clean my eating has been.  With my aspirations of eating mostly raw vegan foods, and clean, wholesome foods all the time, I’m a little embarrassed to write when I’m having a tough time.  So, when I’ve had a week like this last one, a week when I ate the whole house down, I’m not thinking about Raw Vibe so much.  She laughed.  I was tense.  She laughed louder.  Then I did, too.  I didn’t feel so bad about eating the whole house down.  Obviously, the house was still standing, and so was I.

Guilt can be a powerfully destructive force.  Perhaps the discomfort of a little guilt might keep one on the right path.  Like say – I lost it, yelled at the kids.  Saw their hurt faces.  Felt bad.  Felt guilty.  Apologized.  Hugged them.  Kissed them.  Gave them chocolate (just kidding, well, maybe once or twice).  Resolved to try harder to let the intensity of my emotions pass so I can communicate better.  A little guilt can help keep me strive to parent more compassionately.  When trying to eat better food, on the other hand, I’m afraid that a little guilt escalates into an all out war on my body.

In cleaning my office, I began to unpack boxes that have been sitting around since I moved (about three years ago – ugg).  In one of them were my old journals from middle school.  About 50% of the entries were something like, “Dear Journal, I feel so guilty about not writing in my journal so I decided to write, but of course it is late so I have to go, leaving with you the promise of writing tomorrow. Bye.”  25% were about boys.  (At 12!  Did I have no other interests?  I’m so glad I’m homeschooling my gorgeous daughter!  I don’t think I could handle catching her necking with a boy.  Do people even say necking anymore?)  The other 25% of entries were logs of what I ate, my workouts, and my weight.  At 13!  Yikes!  There was a lot of feeling guilty going on then.  If I was writing something, I was feeling guilty.  If I was celebrating one thing, I was feeling guilty about another thing.

Now at 45, I’m still writing the same crap.  Well, not so much about boys, unless I count my little one – who’s amazing.  Every time I sit down to write, I want to apologize for not writing.  Instead of writing the apology, I look at my screen with a gazillion open windows, and pause to let the apology pass before I let my fingers hit the keys.  I want to write my food log.  My workout record.  My daily weight.  I still am searching for that something hidden within that pile of trivial data that will release me from this obsession.

Guilt.  Still every day, something to feel guilty about.

The amazing thing is, after laughing on the couch with my friend, imagining how absurd that phrase is, “I ate the whole house down”, I felt so much relief.  Big deal.  Resigning myself to feeling guilty is so pointless.  The house didn’t come down, and nor did I.  Guilt doesn’t motivate me to do better.  Letting go of guilt, lightening up, moving on, now that’s motivating.

 

 

Raw Vegan Banana Bread (a measured variation)

My last banana bread post was based on a whole lotta estimates, so I fixed up a batch and took care with the measurements so I could share them with you all (five or so readers).  By the way, anyone notice how efficient the Akismet plugin is on Word Press.  So efficient that my statistics dropped to almost nil while Akismet so studiously blocks spammers.  I don’t really want a bunch of spam traffic, but wouldn’t it be nice to have some traffic.  Perhaps I should post more.  Or go back to Blogger and live with a false sense of traffic.

Well, here it is, my better tested banana bread recipe, which could also be considered muffins because it’s easier to dehydrate them in small mounds opposed to a flat bread style.  Don’t let the dehydrator scare you, if you don’t have one, try them in the oven at the lowest setting and open the door a crack.  Better even if your oven is convection.  Best with a dehydrator, or like mine, I have a dehydrator setting on the oven.  Just plan for about 24-36 hours to dehydrate.

Raw Vegan Banana Bread

Serves 30
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 24 hours
Total time 24 hours, 20 minutes
Dietary Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Breakfast, Snack
Misc Child Friendly, Freezable, Pre-preparable
This raw vegan treat is a great, healthy substitute for good old fashioned banana bread.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups Raw Almonds (Can substitute walnuts or pecans.)
  • 1 cup Carrots (Pureed, about 4)
  • 1 cup Apples (Pureed, about 2-3)
  • 1 cup Flax Seed Meal
  • 3-4 Ripe Bananas

Directions

Step 1
In food processor, grind almonds to a powder. Put in large mixing bowl.
Step 2
Puree carrot chunks in processor. Add to bowl.
Step 3
Puree apple chunks in processor. Add to bowl.
Step 4
Add flax meal. Or grind flax seeds in coffee grinder or high speed blender.
Step 5
Mash bananas. Add to bowl.
Step 6
Add agave and mix mixture with hands or large spoon.
Step 7
Scoop mixture onto teflex sheets and dehydrate for about 24 hours. I use an ice cream scoop to make nice, uniform balls. If the dough is too wet to hold a form, add more flax meal to thicken or additional ground nuts.

Raw Vegan Banana Bread

I’ve got a bunch of ripe bananas on the counter, beckoning me.  Instead of freezing them up, I’m in the mood for banana bread.  Here is a post from my former blog that I’m reprinting today to get me warmed up and in the mood for making up some raw-vegan banana bread.

banana bread

reprinted from mixedthreadsblog.com, March 6, 2012

Banana Bread.  I can’t imagine life without it.  But it doesn’t always make me feel so great in spite of all the healthy substitutions.  In fact, a warm, moist loaf of banana bread is the kind of Midwestern wholesome treat that seems like such a nice thing.  I would make it for the new neighbors.  I’d make it for the family with a new baby.  I’d make it for my daughter.  I’d make it just because that bunch of bananas are getting just the right amount of brown spots – ding – ripe enough for bread.  One delicious slice would soon turn into two, then three, then, hmmm, maybe I’ll just take a chunk of the crust, and then soon it would be over.  Not so great.  Several pounds later and I’ve got a problem, and I wonder, “was it the banana bread?”

Enter Victoria Boutenko.  I think I’ve written about her before.  She is one Raw Mama.  When she and her whole family were sick, she came home one day and put them all on a raw diet, cold turkey (but no turkey).  She tells her story much better than I and you can visit this amazing woman and her family here.  My mother and I have been enjoying her cranberry scones for quite some time, now.  In fact, we frequently make them together which I am convinced adds to the happiness it brings us both.  Absolutely.  Cook Prep together.  Eat together.  Love together.  Sharing good food strengthens bonds.

These scones have become my morning muffin with coffee (still working on that), so I’ve been anxious to mix them up a bit.  After spending many a fruitless hour looking for a good raw vegan banana bread to no avail, I decided to create my own.  This last week, I think I’ve got it.  My SIL and her family were the lucky ones to try them right out of the dehydrator.  I was so charmed as her little boy devoured them with gusto.  Oh, how I wish my kids ate like that, but that’s for another blog post.  The banana bread muffin had that warmth with a little crust on the edge that made me feel like I finally got it.  While making these, I didn’t pay specific attention to quantities, so I’ll give it to you the best I recall.  Next time, I’ll take greater care and update the recipe.
Banana Oat Muffins

  • 2 cups pecans or walnuts
  • 2 cups carrot puree, 2-4 carrots
  • 2 cups apple puree, 2-4 apples
  • 1 cup flax seed meal (or grind flax seed in high speed blender)
  • 4 tbsp agave nectar (or less depending on how ripe the bananas are, more ripe – more sweet – use less sweetener)
  • 3-4 ripe bananas

Now here is where I started mixing things in until the batter tasted just right.

  • Oat flour
  • Ground almonds
  • Cinnamon
  • Nutmeg

1.  Using a food processor, grind up the pecans.  Add to large mixing bowl.
2.  Cut carrots into chunks and puree in processor.  Add to bowl.
3.  Cut apples into chunks and puree.  Add to bowl.
4.  Add flax seed meal to bowl.
5.  Mash bananas (leave one aside) and add to bowl.
6.  Add agave.

7.  Mix with hands – very squishy.  This is where I thought it was too wet, so I started adding stuff.  First a little oat flour (I know, not totally raw, but not such a bad thing to have in your diet), then some ground almonds.  Add a little cinnamon and a bit of Nutmeg, then a little more oat flour until it was wet enough to form a ball, but not so wet that it turns into a blob.  I thought raisins would make a nice addition, but I’m getting a little bored of raisins in my morning muffin, so I took another banana and broke it into smallish pieces and mixed it in.
8.  Place a Teflex sheet or pieces of parchment paper on top of dehydrator screens.  Make balls of batter using an ice cream scoop or spoon.  I got about 55 scoops out of my batch and used two trays.  Dehydrate for up to 24 hours.  If you’re not hung up over the food being truly raw, these might work by baking at the lowest oven temp possible.  I haven’t tried it, so if you do, drop a line and let me know how it goes.
The true joy of “cooking” raw vegan foods by dehydrating is that you can check it anytime, eat one, think, “hmmm, needs a little more time” and put the rest back in – all without getting salmonella (okay, I know it’s possible, just a lot less likely).  Also, if the phone rings, the dog is barking and the kids are flooding the bathroom, I know I’m not going to burn anything.  Whew.  Love that.Now I’d like to get them to look a little more like muffins.  Important?  Probably not, but there’s nothing like the power of suggestion when trying to get fussy eaters to try something new.Oh, and these are so great the mornings that I go to yoga.  When on my stomach while working through all those back poses, the cobra, locust and bow, it makes a huge difference what I put in my belly that morning.  This is a nice, calming, bite to eat that I can grab easily first thing the morning.  Just enough fuel to get the kids ready for school, fight traffic, and work my way through a class.  My favorite breakfast.

Eat and share with love.

Very Berry Smoothie

My little one surprised me this morning by asking his papa to take him to school.  That surprised us both, and while my husband whisked him away in a taxi, I dragged myself back to bed.

Sleeping in when sick always sounds like a good idea, but in practice leaves me feeling even more groggy throughout the day.  At around noon I finally pulled myself together to come downstairs, but with a seemingly thick coat of bubble wrap about my head.  Hungry, unfocused and aimless, I was already stuffing easily accessible, junky food in my mouth without thinking. So when my daughter made this a special request for lunch today, I was happy to oblige.

 

Very Berry Smoothie

  • 1 cup Strawberries
  • 1 cup Blueberries
  • 1/2 cup Raspberries
  • 1/2 cup Blackberries
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed Orange Juice

Blend and Drink.

After pouring her serving, I blended in a chunk of ginger (about an inch) for my own for that extra zing.  I love ginger.

Making this smoothie brought me back to Arizona where my mother-in-law has a freezer full of frozen fruits.  She picks or purchases them when they’re in season and stores what she has room for.  What a treat it was to open the packed freezer to pick a delicious add-in for our smoothies.  Every summer I think of doing that, but never quite get it done.  When I paid the high prices at the grocery store for all these off-season berries that I imagine have traveled thousands of miles to get to chilly Chicago, made me really appreciate her frugality and preparedness.  Next summer.  Strawberries in June.  Blueberries, July.  Blackberries and Raspberries in August.

Exercise with the Flu?


The photo above was taken during my not-quite-daily walk along Lake Michigan. It was about as warm today as it was during my early morning walks in Arizona last week. Unseasonably warm. No complaints, here.

Since I woke up still feeling fluish, I wasn’t really planning a walk today. But the clear blue skies and balmy temps beckoned, so I donned my sneakers and walked my short route.

Arizona gave me the gift of walking without tons of layers, but Chicago… oh Chicago, how I love your lakefront. It was great to get out, stretch my legs and rest my eyes where the lake meets the sky.

I questioned whether I ought to be working out, having the flu and all. I’ve read that while daily moderate exercise will build up your immune system, taking a break while sick is necessary to help the body heal. I admit, resting is a challenge, especially when there are kids to chauffeur, feed, amuse, etc. The walk was mentally invigorating, but I’m feeling especially run down tonight. I think I’ll take that advice and try for some extra sleep.

Cranberry Kale Juice

The flu is still hanging in here. With most of Chicago hospitals filled to capacity with flu victims, I am grateful that I’m not worse. Because I woke up again with the chills and heavy congestion, I’m going to keep it light today with juices and smoothies.

This juice was inspired by a leftover bag of cranberries from the holidays. About half were still good. And the juice turned out neither too tart or bitter.

1 Bunch Lacinato Kale (Dino Kale)
1/2 Bunch Celery
1 Large Cucumber
1 Inch Chunk Ginger
2 Apples
1/2 Bag (abou 6 oz) Cranberries

Juice. Drink. Share.

I’ll Stick to the Chaise Lounge

downton-abbey-vogue-189-by-jason-bell Worst part of my vacation – getting sick.  No, being sick for that extended week that I paid Travelocity and US Airways a ridiculous sum to change my flight just to enjoy a few more days of sunshine, except I didn’t actually get out much because I was sick.

06MCLAINE_SPAN-articleLarge-v2Best part of my vacation (except all the lovely time with my family, which comes first) – having a great excuse to curl up on the couch all day long watching seasons 1 and 2 of Downton Abbey with my MIL and 12yo.  Just in time before my flight home, we topped it off with the season 3 premiere.

downtonabbey

Cantaloupe Smoothie

So stuffy, lightheaded, feverish sick today. This smoothie is light enough and easy on my fickle tummy.

1/2 Cantaloupe, cut in chunks
4 Coconut Water Ice Cubes

Blend. Share. Love.

Vacation with the Virus

The week before Christmas, the kids and I had all gotten the flu.  I had taken the advice of my well-meaning chiropractor and didn’t get the flu shot this year, then immediately caught it.  Bleh.  My only consolation was that it wouldn’t be me to get sick this year when the family all gathered together.  Oh, was I wrong.

flushotEvery time this group gets together for the holidays, sickness travels from one person to the next like fire in a drought.  This is no exaggeration.  We come from all parts of the country (and world) to share our own special, regional viruses.  Those little bugs get together and have a party of their own at the expense of their hosts and seem to produce one super bug.

Merry Christmas.  Exchange gifts.  Share the love.  Trade viruses.  Get sick.  Nothing like watching one kid begin to sniffle, another complains of a sore throat.  One vomits while tethered to the breast, as another breaks out in bright red hives.  We celebrate the season with daily trips to the pharmacy as we can’t seem to keep those fevers down and the mucus dry enough.

photoIn the middle of a bright, sunny, Arizona afternoon, one mommy takes a pass through a darkened living room, touching each forehead of the eight kids bundled up there – all vegging out watching movies – determining who’s ready for the next round of Tylenol.  Indeed, it is worse among the kids, but the parents do not go unscathed.  A dad disappeared, swallowed by a dark room, under cover, only to emerge when his flight home beckoned.  My father-in-law, the patriarch of this clan who has given up the comfort of his own bed, misses the gatherings as he lies sick on an air mattress stuffed in an office.  For the rest of us, sleepless nights for the kids usually meant sleepless nights for the parents.  We were all a bit groggy and the kids got to watch a lot of movies.

I arrived here feeling rather smug, believing that my kids and I would be immune.  I had suffered already, this trip was one to be enjoyed.  No, just a couple of days with her cousins, my daughter caught the bug.  What?  She’d been sick only two weeks ago.  Then the boy.  Then me.  Did we just catch another strain of the flu?  How unfair!

The one family that got their flu shots remained well.  They burst into the darkened home full of vibrant energy.  Come on, let’s go biking, hiking, playing, shopping, etc, etc.  No thanks.  We’re sick.

We extended our trip.  Why go home to freezing Chicago when we could convalesce in sunny Arizona?  The kids get better first, so it is a treat to have Grandma and Grandpa ready to amuse them.  Grandma fills me with home remedies, healthy food, and care while I just want to close my eyes and rest.  Isn’t it true, when you are sick, you just want to have a mom around?

Raw schmaw.  Juicing schmooshing.  With all my focus on healthy diet, exercise, and natural living, I definitely plan to get the flu shot next year.