December 30, 2009

Lazy Girl Split Pea Soup

We've had lots of lovely meals lately - Christmas Eve tamales and a huge Christmas ham. Since then, we've been eating pretty simple food. Yesterday, my girls and I had a lazy day at home and I made homemade split pea soup in the crock pot. I don't use my crock pot much because it has a tendency to make sort of soggy food which I don't really like - but it's perfect for soup that needs to cook a while - especially when I'm too lazy to watch it!

I pre-soak split peas because it helps to make them (all legumes, really) more digestible. Plus, it reduces cooking time! Soaking is a very simple process. Simply cover the legumes with filtered water by a few inches and add 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice. Leave them on the counter overnight and rinse a few times before using the next day. I try to prepare two batches of beans at once so I am prepared for a few meals. Try being the operative word.

Split Pea Soup
**As a former teacher of mine used to say - "Read All the directions before starting!"
1 ham bone, optional (I got mine from my mother-in-law's Christmas ham - and it still had meat on it)
2 cups soaked split peas
1 whole onion
5 or 6 medium carrots
3 o 4 stocks of celery
2 bay leaves (optional)
Sea Salt to taste (not till the end or your beans will be tough!)
4 cups filtered water*
*If you don't use a ham bone, you might want to use chicken stock instead of water. 

1. Mince the onion, carrots and celery and throw them in the crock pot. Traditionally I would sweat the veggies in a pan with some butter or bacon fat first (YES, I said bacon fat!) but this is a LAZY recipe so I just threw it in the pot. Incidentally, these three ingredients are pretty much the basis for most great soups.

2. Add the ham bone and split peas

3. Cover the whole thing with filtered water by a few inches. I didn't actually measure it but it should be at least twice as much as the amount of peas you add. So, 2 cups peas = minimum 4 cups water.

4. Turn the crock pot on high and cook for 5 or 6 hours. If you have more time, you can place it on low for longer. But, like I said, it was a lazy day so I didn't start my recipe till about 2 pm.

5. AFTER the split peas are cooked (they'll be soft and squishy), carefully scoop the veggies and peas out of  the pot and puree it a bit at a time in the blender.

6. After all the flavors are thoroughly blended, add salt to taste - a little at a time. Don't be stingy. Soup tastes bad a lot of times because it's not salted enough. We only use Sea Salt at our house - not that iodized stuff, despite the fact that my father was one of the first Morton Salt sales people in AZ. "When it rains, it pours!"

7. Be sure to take the rest of the meat off the ham bone!

Serve as is or with a little sour cream or plain yogurt on top.We also ate hot biscuits with our soup.

As a testament to how lazy I was yesterday, I rinsed the adzuki beans I soaked the night before and threw them in the leftover water from the peas. The water was already flavored by the carrots, celery and onion. We'll eat that tonight. Like I said, LAZY...

The picture at the top of the page is what my girls and I enjoyed together because I wasn't standing in the kitchen cooking!

December 23, 2009

Happy Holidays - Really.

Lots and lots and lots of gingerbread!

This time of year, motherly duties get amped to a different level. There is a house to clean, laundry to wash, kids to manage, extra shopping to do, holiday cards to send, parties to attend (or throw), rehearsals and concerts to perform in or attend... That list could go on indefinitely. A lot of us cram activity into every corner of our calendar and drag our families along for the ride.

Instead of enjoying the events that should create positive memories for us, we can end up racing from one thing to the next - just hoping we'll finish on time. I get grumpy, overwhelmed and stressed out by my normal list of things to do, never mind a holiday list! Usually, I find myself saying a lot of, "Wait a minute," "Let me just finish this first," or "Shhh...Just be quiet for a minute so I can think!" By the time the holiday arrives, the preparation leaves me feeling exhausted and anticlimactic.

This year, we made a resolution at our house. Instead of spending our holidays racing around or acquiring new stuff (after all, we just got RID of a bunch of stuff), we decided to buy fewer presents - like two small gifts per child - and focus more on making little memories with our kids, enjoying each moment as it comes! We baked cookies, drove around looking for Christmas lights and picked out and decorated the tree - together. So, we broke more than one treasured ornament because my three year old is really fast and grabbed them before I could stop her. I wouldn't trade one moment to get those ornaments back.   I don't want to miss out on the fun the holidays are supposed to be because I was too busy planning for them to enjoy my kids, friends and family. Today is the day to start enjoying every minute of life!

Happy Holidays, friends. May you stop and breathe - and be grateful for the love surrounding you!

December 18, 2009

Vampire baby

It seems like the troublesome threes have been less troublesome lately. Maybe I'm just getting a little more used to heading off or dealing with the challenging moments. When my little thespian decides to show me her dramatic acting chops, I often slow her down with a few words or just take the time to hold her. When I get frustrated, I talk to other mamas who believe in peace parenting - like Stacy over at Mama-Om. Her post about finding "The Good Place" has been a real encouragement.

Then, something happened this week that reminded me my daughter is definitely still three. My husband picked her up from a class while I was at work. When I arrived home, I discovered a band-aid on her shoulder, covering a full mouthed bite. Apparently a hard core Twilight fan attended preschool with her that morning. Some creative questioning revealed that the boy who bit my daughter had tried to play with her but she hadn't - um - consented. He hadn't bitten her first, he'd bitten her BACK. Ugh. This is a first!

We spent a little time talking about it and my daughter said she'd felt hurt when the little boy bit her. But when I asked if she was sorry and ready to apologize, her little chin hit the ceiling and she regarded me coolly from the corner of her eyes "No, I am NOT."  We don't force false apologies because we prefer they come from a sincere place, so I decided to address it when she'd had a chance to cool down a bit.

Later in the week, we visited a friend's house where my daughter's five year old cousin and several other kids (all boys) were playing in the yard when we arrived. She ran out happily to join them. After a few minutes, I noticed all the boys were playing in another part of the yard, but I couldn't see her. I went out to check on her and found her standing alone, looking forlorn. Apparently an older boy had told her she wasn't welcome. She was crushed. We resolved the conflict and another little boy took her under his care and they played happily till we went home.

The next morning, before she returned to her class, I asked her about this incident with her cousin and friends and how being left out had made her feel. "Sad" she answered. Then I asked how she thought the little boy who'd bitten her had felt when she would let him play with her. Looking chagrined, she said, "Sad, hurt."

Encouraged by the progress we were making, I asked, "So, now that you understand how much it hurts to be left out (and bitten), are you ready to tell that little boy you're sorry?" Once again, she employed the sly, corner of the eyes glance and said with a sweet smile, "Oh mom. I don't think he'll come to class today."

"Um, O-k." Maybe that didn't go as well as I thought.

p.s. I did notify her Royal Highness, Princess Three Year Old that in future, she may bite FOOD but that any further people biting would result in her staying home from her beloved class for at least a day. That, at least, moved her enough not to bite anyone in the near future.

Being in the moment

Last night, on the way to pick up my husband from work, I witnessed a terrible car accident. About five car lengths in front of me (with no other cars between us), a car traveling southbound (as we were) - clipped the front left bumper of an oncoming vehicle. The cars impacted so hard, the southbound car bounced up on two wheels just like the picture above - only it seemed like the bottom two wheels left the ground too. I was afraid the car would land on its roof but somehow it righted and bounced - hard - a few times before swinging into a neighboring yard and coming to a stop. By the time I reached the car, I was already on the phone with 911. We prayed for the drivers after we got off the phone. The two in the oncoming car got out and ran to the other driver, who appeared to be unconscious.

My first thought afterward was immense relief. My kids were in the car with me and I was so grateful that we weren't involved in the accident. The second thought was - how important it is to be in the moment when driving. I don't know what caused this accident. Did something medical or mechanical occur to cause him to lose control of his vehicle? Whatever the cause, I drove away a little more thoughtfully.

So, I wanted to send a reminder out to all my friends today. This time of year, there is so much going on, it's easy to be distracted while driving. For me it's little people talking (or whining), phones ringing, my list of things to do, running late and feeling tempted to speed. Yet, all those things are not nearly as important as the precious people in my car and the cars around me!

Be in the moment this week and have a safe holiday driving season!

December 16, 2009

Picture Perfect

A few weeks ago, we scheduled an afternoon session with a photographer. I picked coordinating outfits and planned our day carefully so there would be enough time for the baby to nap and for me to get everyone ready. Everything seemed to be going pretty well until…

While I was fixing my hair (and then hers), my princess obsessed three year old kept saying, “Mom, I have a new rule. No jeans.” Just the day before, she’d worn the jeans I’d chosen for the pictures so I sort of blew off her comment, thinking she’d get over it when she remembered how cute the outfit was. How overly optimistic of me!

When we walked into her room to put on the jeans, my daughter, still determined and fairly cheerful, reiterated her “new rule”. Fairly cheerful myself but wanting to be on time, I tried to encourage her gently to get dressed in the outfit I'd picked. She demurred. I tried a little harder. She refused – a little louder. My perfect schedule started to fall apart. Finally, I’m ashamed to admit it, I resorted to wrestling her into her jeans as she had a complete meltdown and resisted with an impressive singleness of purpose.

As we had our encounter, I had a total flashback to childhood. Every time we took pictures as a family, I wanted to fix my own hair (and believe me, I was NO good at it). My mother, paying good money for these pics, re-fixed it every time and I hated how it looked. I can see the telltale signs of a sobbing session in my little face when I see those family pictures. Most of all, I still remember how I felt not to be able to make that small decision about my appearance. My heart crept into my throat as I realized that, though well intended, my actions made my daughter feel the same way.

I swallowed my pride and apologized, holding her for a few minutes while she recovered her calm. Then I asked her why she didn’t want to wear jeans.

“Mom, I can’t wear jeans for the pictures because I don’t feel good in them!” (It’s true, she’s a dress girl and NEVER wears pants. What was I thinking?)

“Ok, how about this idea? You wear your black shirt, black tights and your pink tutu. Would that be ok?”

The response was a sob of relief and a brilliant smile. “That will be perfect, mommy!”

It took me a while to recover from hurting her feelings this way but it was an important lesson for me. I was trying to create something that doesn’t fit our lifestyle. We’re not a color-coordinated, matching outfits, portrait posing kind of family.

More importantly, we are raising our daughters to listen to their inner voice and learn to think critically to make their own decisions. For a three year old, this would apply to clothing choices. No wonder my daughter was surprised I didn't listen to her when she tried to communicate her wishes cheerfully and creatively the first 20 times. In the future, I'll remember that helping our girls to have that sense of choice means sometimes I have to find a way to accommodate both our opinions or ideas.

 By the way, the pictures actually were perfect!

December 8, 2009

The Undomestic Diva - Unstuffed!

A few weeks ago, after spending days feeling directionless and overwhelmed by all the STUFF in my house, I had an epiphany. We have too much stuff! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a hoarder. After all, we have a townhouse with little to no storage so we’ve always tried to live pretty slim.

After spending a few discouraging days tripping over toys, trying to reorganize the small kitchen space and doing innumerable loads of laundry I knew we needed to make a change. After a particularly hard day in which I couldn’t seem to keep anything off the floor for more than five minutes, I practically jumped my husband when he came in the door, “That’s it! I’m done with all this JUNK in our house! We need to get rid of it!!!” He looked at me, laughed and said, “I completely agree, Babe. When do you want to start?” What a guy!

We spent the next few weeks going through closets, drawers, counters and toy boxes weeding out “stuff”. Our criteria? “If we aren’t using it and someone else can, it’s gone.” We compiled 4 large storage bins of clothes, toys, "fall decor", unused gift bags etc, held a carport sale and donated any remaining items to a local charity.

The result of this process was another revelation. While before, we were careful about how we spent our money because our resources are limited, now we are careful because we want only what we really need to live. We don’t want to clutter our space and our time with stuff that will require more picking up, cleaning, organizing, etc.

We want our girls to learn two important lessons from our stuff-purging experience. First, living simply is a great way to be good stewards of the world around us. It causes us to consider carefully what items we choose to admit back into our space, which might even include environmental or labor considerations (like no "made in china" stuff). Second, the most important things in life aren’t - things - but the people we are blessed to know. Our new goal is to spend our time enjoying each other and exploring the world together as a family.

The getting rid of “stuff” thing is kind of addictive. I have a feeling that our original clearing house is just a precursor to the next one. In fact, I think I’ll go start a “give away” bag right now!

December 3, 2009

Yes. This is really my dining room table (well, it WAS my dining room table!).

Today I spoke with two different friends dealing with a similar problem. One friend is full time mom to two kids under 5, the owner of a budding art venture and a part time student. The other friend is full time mom to two kiddos under 3, serves actively in her community and plays a big role in her husband's career by skillfully playing hostess and diplomat. Each feels overwhelmed by housework, a busy schedule and a baby who won't stop crying - nevermind the older kid who needs attention.

Boy, do I relate to how they feel! This week, I woke to a house that seemed to have been hit by a tornado - in every room. What happened? Two days ago, it looked great. I attacked the piles as quickly as I could but was stopped short by - a baby who wouldn't stop crying unless I held her. She's teething and in pain. I lay down with her to help her nap and just as I put her in the playpen to sleep, my three year old woke her - completely - for the second day in a row! Grrrrrr... I'm not sure I should describe the emotion I felt at that moment. My verbal response to her was not admirable.

It's real life to have an unending list of things to do when you're a mom. Most of us expect it and tackle it with gusto. But, even the most patient of mothers feels her edges unraveling if her baby wails, or whines, or screams all day. That last sentence is merely theoretical of course, because I am NOT the most patient of mothers. So, I can't actually speak to that definitively.

But what's the answer for normal moms like my friends and me? Let the baby cry and continue to work or pick her up to give her the message I trust her internal sense of what she needs? While I chose number two today, the third option is the one my friend chose when the crying threatened to send her over the edge. Put the baby in the crib and take a few moments to calm down. A wise choice made by a wise woman.

Breaks, no matter how small, give us not only the strength we need to finish the task, they also allow us to connect with that inner wisdom so necessary to our being the mothers, wives, friends, sisters - WOMEN - we need and want to be. They also allow us to come back ready and able to deal with the grumpy baby and the never-ending list.

This is, of course, the promised reminder...especially as the holidays approach - to Take a Break. Don’t wait for the schedule to ease – it won’t. Be the best version of you today for yourself and for your family. Take the time to be quiet, be alone (or with friends), to laugh, to write, to scrapbook, to do whatever you enjoy that will refresh you and make life worth living now, TODAY. I promise to take one too.

December 1, 2009

Now THIS is a haul!

This is just part of what we bought in a recent trip to the local farmer’s market. UPDATE: Check out Phoenix Farmers' Markets here and here. We also got lots more veggies and a GIGANTIC green heirloom pumpkin that wouldn't even fit in the picture. 

In this economy, nearly everyone is looking for ways to cut corners and save money. But, one of those cost cutting methods is driving me crazy. People I know keep posting Facebook status updates like, “I bought a week’s worth of groceries for a family of 6 for $65!” Zoom to - a picture of groceries stacked all over somebody’s kitchen counter. 

Contents: a bag of cat litter, multiple boxes of sugar cereal, canned spaghetti, pop tarts, white bread, mac and cheese, various other simple carbohydrate foods with little to no nutritional value. 

Basically, all the food on this list has to be supplemented with synthetic vitamins to provide any nutritional value!

Before you get offended because you posted this picture…the one I’m speaking of isn’t yours. I am worried if you were the one who commented “Teach me your ways, oh great shopper!” 

I guess I’ve been so long in the realm of crazy hippie organic mama (my sister’s title for me) - I forget scoring this kind of stuff is considered a success. Our family uses my mom’s old-fashioned advice - "Buy food from the outside aisles of the grocery store - meat, veggies, dairy, grains, not processed (read: boxed, canned) foods". We make our food from, well, whole fresh FOOD! 

While we follow my mom’s advice in theory, we go about it a little differently. 
1. We buy organic produce (cheaper & fresher at the Farmer's Market than big box stores) 
2. We buy local whenever possible either from the Farmer’s Market or friends.    
*Bonus 1 - we're supporting the local economy 
*Bonus 2 – local = less petrol used to transport = environmentally friendly
*Bonus 3 – Nutrient variety because we eat whatever’s in season  
*Bonus 4 - Our kids will know that milk comes from animals on the farm (not a plastic jug) 

3. We only buy meat when we can afford to buy organic, grass fed - usually from a local farm.
*Bonus 1  – Savings! Legumes & eggs are an awesome & cheap source of protein!
*Bonus 2 – Green choice. Factory farmed meat is a big environmental offender.
*Bonus 3 – the meat we do buy tastes incredible! 

4. We eat like hard core foodies - trying new recipes from with our fresh ingredients using great online food blogs (

        A deal is only a deal if the value exceeds the cost. The food I buy must be nutrient dense and have a low environmental impact to make it worth my hard earned dollars. There are a variety of reasons I could list for choosing organic food. Mostly, we think a diet that excludes as many poisonous chemicals as possible from our food and from the water and dirt used to grow it is a serious investment in our family’s future – both in terms of our family’s immediate health and in the health of the world we leave to our children. I would rather spend more money on good food now than pay for bad health in the form of insurance premiums and co-pays later. We eat well to be well.

        So, the picture above is MY idea of a good haul. The rest of our shopping trip would include lentils, dairy and whole grains (we make our own bread - using a bread machine - I do NOT have time knead bread myself though I have amazing friends who do it!). The best part is, we get to hang out as a family on Saturday mornings when we visit the farmer's market!
        Ok, rant over. Have a lovely day and go eat some REAL food!
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