what vegans eat

I posted earlier in the week about our Veganuary experience — so far, so good. Today, for football playoffs, we made quite the vegan spread. I texted my parents — their doctor has recommended they go plant-based for years, but they think all she wants them to eat involves kale and salads. I wanted to prove them wrong — that there is more than meets the palate than just bowls of raw vegetables. Enter our football food:

From top left: vegetable pizza (served cold: broccoli, cucumbers, carrots, peppers, Kite Hill ranch dip, and vegan cheese); homemade egg rolls (with broccoli slaw & mushrooms) and four dipping sauces; salsa and Siete queso (with RoTel tomatoes); buffalo dip (made of cashews, artichokes, and buffalo sauce); and spinach-artichoke dip.

It was quite the spread and while I am not certain how vegan we will remain after our month-long challenge, I think these recipes will make their way into our standard rotation. (In truth, the spinach artichoke dip has been in our regular rotation for years.)

My parents are curious now, though, so I think that’s good — they want us to make this stuff when they come to visit next. I feel like them admitting curiosity is a step in the right direction to them taking their doctor’s orders.

veganuary, part 1

So, my husband and I are smack dab in the middle of Veganuary; typically, we start the year doing a Whole30 and I know many who do ‘dry January’. W30 is our usual way to kick off the year by nourishing our body and lessening the sugar intake after the holiday season where my favorite breakfast/lunch/snack/dessert involves my mom’s peanut butter Hershey Kiss cookies. They are amazing.

Usually, by week 2.5, I’ve stopped eating on the W30 because I am not a big meat eater. This year, I’d read about Veganuary and this seemed more up my alley because I love carbs and I love vegetables. So far, it has been great. Unlike W30, if you slip up, you do not have to start from the beginning; with the exception of two incidents (pizza and carrot cake), I have remained 100% vegan.

I am doing a lot of cooking but not any more than usual — one thing that I’ve been more mindful of is lunch. I am typically awful about making and eating lunch. I’ve been doing a lot of pb&j on sprouted bread and also, baked potatoes. They’re not the most exciting lunches but I’m actually eating lunch daily and not waiting until 3PM to do it. I’ve also been having dessert oranges after nearly every meal. It’s my favorite thing about winter — I just love oranges and I have the kids hooked on dessert oranges too.

Dinners feel really nutritious. I’ve been using mirepoix that I buy precut from the grocery store. I NEVER use onions in my cooking because I don’t like them but these are diced in small pieces and I’ve been reading about health benefits, so I’ve been using this in pretty much every meal. The kids don’t seem to notice. I’ve kept at not eating beans more than a couple of times a week; I’ve been trying to keep soy products to once a week; and buns (veggie burgers are delicious) and pasta, once or twice a week; and then soup. It’s a pretty well-balanced offering, I think and isn’t much different than how we’d typically eat except there are is not meat or cheese.

Last weekend, my husband wanted football food for the playoffs. We made our usual lineup of buffalo (chicken-less) dip where we used cashews, artichokes, and hot sauce. I was skeptical but this dip was outstanding and literally tasted like the chicken and cheese laden dip does. SO GOOD. We also made a spinach-artichoke dip; we use the recipe from TrueRoots and just had to make a couple tweaks (almond yogurt; vegan mayo). These dips were fantastic and I think we may make them again this weekend.

So, the food piece has been good. A few other benefits we’ve noticed — better sleep, more energy, less anxiety, and something my husband brought up at dinner tonight: nail health. He’s noticing his recovery time is better and I’m noticing that exercise is easier for me as well.

Overall, we are both pleased with the first half of this month and I’m looking forward to reporting on the second half. I hope it continues just as well.

review of the decade

I hoped to get around to doing this before now but time slipped away. I’ve been doing things that work for me and bring me peace: yoga, vegetable consumption, and dog walks mostly. I haven’t really set aside time to write but I did make a point to add it into my planner this week because it’s also something that I enjoy.

My old neighbor posted this article on Facebook at the beginning of the year: https://www.workingmother.com/christina-fattore-unedited-decade-in-review-twitter-thread?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook  She also added her own decade in review and after much reflection, I wanted to do the same.

My rainbows and sunflowers review would look something like this:

Got Brutus
Moved to Boston
Hired as an English professor
Ran a few half marathons
Started practicing yoga
Traveled the world: China, Vietnam, all through Europe & the US
Got engaged
Got married & gained two bonus kiddos
Bought a house and can now walk to the beach
Grew our family through adoption
Took a sabbatical & started a graduate program (again)
Became a SAHM

My unedited review would be a bit different; of course, it would include all of those things but there are so many events that led up to these, some related and others not:

Devastated by having to end a toxic relationship; sold my share of our house before moving
Burnt out as a high school ELA teacher
Went through infertility & medical interventions: Surgeries, drugs, IVF.
Did not respond well to fertility meds and felt like a shell of my former self
Struggled with extreme anxiety; couldn’t exercise during IVF
Miscarried twice
Collapsed at Epcot (during miscarriage)
Lost two cousins to opioid overdoses
Lost myself and worked hard to find myself after IVF
Dealt with significant anxiety during adoption process
Struggled with identity as SAHM

Everyone acts like going through struggles are necessary to come out on the other side and of course there’s something to that but sometimes, I think it’s okay to acknowledge that what got you to the other side was nonsense and was unnecessary. Either way, I’m here now — mostly thriving — still struggling with the identity/SAHM piece but trips to see friends has definitely helped. To date, I trust my husband with a needle more than any medical professional; he’s given me HUNDREDS of shots over the years and I’m grateful for his patience though we both could have gone without all of the strain on our marriage while trying to grow our family. Still, here I am. Standing. Practicing yoga again. Walking my dog every single day (usually 3-4 times despite having a decent yard), and trying to stay grounded each day.

I really appreciated the piece that everyone sees and internalizes over what the whole reality is. Obviously, those closest to me know all that I’ve experienced over the years and I’m most grateful for those people who have chosen to listen, love, and not judge regardless of my messiness at the time.

happy new year

It is officially 2020 — I don’t know about you, but the idea of staying up until the ball drops is not particularly appealing to me at this age. I was asleep before 10PM and I have no regrets.

Today marks the first of the year and with the first, a lovely dietary challenge. Typically, my husband and I do the Whole30 in January and it’s something we look forward to. What’s not to appreciate about loading up your body with nutrients and nourishing what was is left behind of a month of sugary, boozy indulgences?! This year, though, we are trying something different: Veganuary.

I almost can’t believe this myself except that aside from our Whole30 rounds, I lean more toward vegetarianism than that carnivore life. I do like steak but easily pass on chicken and do not eat pork. This seemed like a good way to test out this lifestyle and see how it makes us feel. I’ve done a ton of reading on it and spoke with my doctor at my last physical. I am to follow up with her after our month to make whatever adjustments may be needed if we choose to adopt this long-term (figuring out B12 basically).

I am at the point in my life where I need to be making my physical health more of a priority. We don’t eat a lot of junk foods and I rarely drink — I consume plenty of water and exercise (though not as regularly as I should), so I really want to be more intentional with this in the coming year. In some of the books I’ve read, they talk about how diet is more responsible than heredity for things like heart disease and this is the primary driver of our vegan test. We really want to see if we can live a more plant-based life because we don’t want to struggle with some of the health issues our parents have.

My other January challenge is going to be to get back more in the swing of yoga. I’d like to challenge myself to set aside even just 10 minutes to reset each day. I also want to get back to taking classes during the week and plan to use my ClassPass for studios closer to my house than my typical place in Boston (though I will be heading there on weekends to practice). For me, practicing yoga definitely makes me a better wife, mother, and overall person. I need to keep this in mind when I am feeling frazzled and am fighting the reset my body so clearly needs.

For the first time on a vacation, I went to yoga. We spent the last few days of the year in DC and it’s always something I’ve talked about but this trip, I did it. I walked a mile to a POWER yoga class and IT.WAS.AWESOME. The class only had two other attendees because it was just days after Christmas, so I basically had a private class. It felt great to sweat it out on the mat and then take a leisurely stroll back to the hotel before heading to the National Zoo. This is something I’d like to keep striving for — at least one or two yoga classes a trip to keep me centered and reflective of my gratitude.

I’m hopeful that a few trips are in the cards for this year: Another DC adventure (with a side of yoga and my cousin’s college graduation), a trip to PA with the kids where they get to run around my parents’ farmette and head into Pittsburgh for a Pirates’ game, and hopefully a trip to Florida or some other place in south when the weather starts to change next fall. Travel is something super important to me and I’m fortunate to do a fair bit of it. I’d like to keep that momentum moving forward this year because it is something that allows me to feel like me as a person, not just me as a mom.

I don’t tend to make resolutions or set too many goals for myself for the coming year. Last year, I established a great routine with diet and exercise. I was able to keep that routine going until our Disney vacation and then getting back into the swing of things with yoga became increasingly difficult — there was always something going on in Boston that I had to plan around: races, wedding, and summer traffic in general. I’m hoping that with ClassPass, I’ll be able to maintain that schedule closer to home.

The last piece and, possibly the most challenging, is to figure out what I want to do when my son starts school. I started in a library program and while I did enjoy one of the classes I took, I am not certain that librarians’ roles in schools is what I am really looking to do. I feel like my career life is at a standstill and I’m not certain how to really navigate it. I am scheduled to take two classes in the spring but may cut that back to one only. I am really at a crossroads here… Aside from this piece, I look forward to moving through the year with intention, purpose, and kindness leading the way.

 

feast of the seven fishes

The feast of the seven fishes is an American Italian tradition and for my family, it is how we spent Christmas Eve every year growing up. My dad worked in an Emergency Room and thus worked many a Christmas but almost always had Christmas Eve off, so my fondest memories stem from that. Each year, we would go to my Aunt Sherry’s and Uncle Mark’s house where UM would cook up his seven-fished feast: baccala, calamari and homemade sauce with pasta, smoked salmon, scallops, and a few other seafood offerings in my Aunt Suzi’s gumbo.

We used to have so much fun running around and eating and enjoying each other’s company. When my husband and I started spending Christmas together, we started this tradition with our own family. We stopped traveling and stringing ourselves out and kept with this Christmas Eve offering of love, merriment, and seven fishes. This year was no different; on the menu: shrimp cocktail, scallops, lobster stuffed tilapia, crab cakes, seafood stuffed mushrooms, and calamari.

As usual, our feast was a big hit (and so were the accompaniments of vegetable and fruit trays, my mom’s cheeseball recipe with crackers, and of course, Christmas cookies. This year, though, instead of feeling my usual joy and reminiscence, I felt a deep sadness. My Uncle Mark is no longer with us; he passed fourteen years ago on the 11th. His sons, my cousins, Mike & Jack have both since passed as well. Both passed three years ago in September and December respectively.

I don’t typically miss people who are no longer around and mostly just continue on with my day but this year was different. I am not sure if it’s because I’ve felt their presence or their absence (even though they wouldn’t be celebrating in MA regardless) but it’s hit me harder than it has before and ultimately, the feast that has brought so much joy and happy memories served a different purpose this year.

I have tried to make the most of the holidays this year. Tonight, after dinner, we had cookies and opened presents from our Bruttie boy. Brutus is known around our family for delivering gifts of pajamas and books each year: This year was no different, as each of the kids got pjs and MadLibs. So fun. For me, Brutus somehow managed to order a personalized mug and book with him pictures in cartoon form — it’s awesome and such a thoughtful collaboration with my husband.

I am hoping that the pit of sadness I’m feeling is lifted a little tomorrow. I took a yin yoga class today and my body was really resisting many of the poses. (Yin is not new for me — I typically take a Yin class weekly, actually.) I’m not sure if that class stirred up something that has me in my feelings or if it was the nearly three hour long chat I had with another cousin of mine today. Either way, I’m trying to breathe my way through tonight and hopefully, bringing in that new energy and out the old will help ring in the holiday cheer tomorrow morning.

Happy holidays to those missing loved ones — and a special hug to those dealing with addiction and/or the fallout around it.

fall reads

Much of my fall has been taken up with class-based readings. I did make time to finish two books recommended for one class and a few non-academic reads based on interests in health and nutrition and a couple pleasure reads during my trips to South Carolina and DC/VA.

Grain Brain by David Perlmutter, MD

Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar—Your Brain's Silent Killers; Hardcover; Author - David Perlmutter

This book was really interesting. I am trying to be more deliberate in my focus to choose healthy, nourishing foods. I don’t want an onset of health issues for things I can control; thus, I checked this book out of my local library. It had a lot of information on issues grain consumption causes — most of which I already knew and some of which I’ve experienced. It was a nice reminder about why we choose the foods we do to cook.

Whole30 by Melissa Hartwig & Dallas Hartwig

The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom (Hardcover) by Melissa Hartwig

My husband and I have talked about doing another Whole30. We held off for the fall but I think that the holiday season will be too rich and we will want to do one in January just to get our bodies back in working order. I like to get a jump start on the new year challenges by reviewing this to get into the right mindset. We normally don’t go through the whole thirty days but it’s a great reset and we do like to follow it strictly for a couple of weeks at least.

Whole30 Cookbook by Melissa Hartwig

The Whole30 Cookbook: 150 Delicious and Totally Compliant Recipes to Help You Succeed with the Whole30 and Beyond

I check this out on occasion; mostly when I want some ideas on easy and healthy dinners. I’ve been making a lot of Whole30 meals that are just simply roasted chicken and vegetables.

Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal

Image result for reality is broken jane mcgonigal

This was an assigned book for class but I thought I’d review it since it’s not a text book per se. It had a lot of interesting thoughts regarding the benefits of video gaming. I tried to read it with an open mind and there were definitely parts that stood out to me but I’m not yet convinced that video games are a form of technology I’d welcome into my home.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

It's Complicated : The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd - Used (Very Good) - 0300166311 by Yale University Press | Thriftbooks.com

This was another book assigned for class. This one I really thought was interesting. There were a lot of takeaways about technology and how it extends the social context of teens that I could appreciate. I also liked views about teen’s changing voice to fit the expectations of those viewing their online presence and how/what they decide to keep hidden from everyone. If you have tweens or teens, I think this is worth a read.

The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis, PhD and Davir R Cross, PhD

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I checked this book out from my school’s library because my husband and I have had some concerns about sensory processing with our toddler (mostly because he’s had some school struggles at school and it’s largely been described to us that he has difficulty when high-chaos is ever-present). There is some great information in here for adoptive parents and also some really positive suggestions. Personally, I appreciated the information about issues that may arise from/with the first two years of life and development.

Living with Tracheomalacia by the Esophogeal and Airway Treatment Center at Boston Children’s Hospital.

This was an e-book published by Children’s Hospital and I read it because my son has this diagnosis. While we have his issues largely under control, I still felt it informative and helpful in understanding some of his medical issues.

The Conscious Parent by Shefali Tsabary

The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children; Paperback; Author - Shefali Tsabary

Wow. This was such a loaded text to read. There were a lot of takeaways around ego and supporting our children. I actually wrote down a number of excerpts for my husband to read because I thought he’d be interested in improving some aspects of parenting as well. I really took this text to heart. It was surprisingly quick to read (I read most of it on my flight to Charleston) and was loaded with great suggestions, thoughtful questions, and a good bit of reader engagement. I have already recommended this book to others and think it’s really a great resource for any parent and/or anyone who engages with children.

I can’t date Jesus by Michael Arceneaux

Image result for i can't date jesus

I started reading this on the flight to Charleston when I finished The Conscious Parent and just waited and waited for whatever the humor I was expecting to pop out at me. It never did and while I’m sure some people would find this book engaging, I, personally, did not. I did appreciate the actual writing style of the author and his candor in sharing such personal and intimate details of his life but the humor I expected based on the title certainly fell short for me. I’m not sure that I would or wouldn’t recommend this book to someone else; I guess it would depend upon what that person is looking for…

Where’d you go, Bernadette: a novel by Maria Semple

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

This book was pretty wild — I loved the story line and even though the end felt a bit rushed, it was a really fun read. I started this on the plane ride to DC and finished it that night while 4 slept. The character development was nicely done but the character relationships at times seemed a bit disjointed/forced; otherwise, I would recommend this as a beach read/something similar because it flows nicely and the plot-line is easy to follow.

Other People’s Houses by Abbi Waxman

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This book was a fictional doozy! It really started with a bang. I started this on my flight home from DC and finished it the following weekend. It’s light and scandalous and exactly what every small-town, tightly-knit school community can relate to (even in a far-fetched kind of way). This would be a great beach read — the storyline jumps around a bit more because of the style of book, but I still enjoyed it.

breaking the cycle

Over the weekend, my husband and I had the pleasure of attending an annual trip to the Finger Lakes region in NY with some of my closest college friends, their spouses, and a gaggle of other friends. There were 16 of us in total; six couples; two sisters and a friend; and another friend of the group. Ten of us are parents who were really excited for a kid-free, adults-only weekend — what a time to be alive!

We rented a limo-bus for the big wine event and spent the entirety of the day eating snacks, visiting wineries & breweries, wine tasting, and singing songs. Honestly, this is the next best thing besides a wedding reception and basically all that we have to look forward to as a time to let loose since we are all married. We capped the night off with a trip to a local bar that was within walking distance.

At the bar, we were all paired off and checking in with each other on recent moves, familial relationships, our kids, work, etc. This is not atypical. We are a group of doctors, engineers, marketers, educators, and law professionals (among other things). My friends and I seem to have similar familial backgrounds and strangely, so do our husbands — dysfunction, hurt, frustration rising to the top of the guys’ childhood experiences.

It is not lost on me that each man in this group serves as an amazing supporter of their wives, their children, and each others’ children. We are all the better for knowing one another and I cannot express my gratitude enough that within this group of men who have experience emotional abuse and more, each one of them has made promises to themselves to do better; to be better.

Each of these guys wakes up each morning, determined to be a better version of those who modeled parenting and manhood to them. Each approaches each day making deliberate decisions that encourage and better not only their spouses and children but society as a whole. Each and every day, these men break the cycle that was modeled for them — a cycle that set out to destroy the livelihood of those around them (and those including them).

My admiration runs deep for each and every single one of these guys who chooses to prioritize feelings and family over anger and abuse. We so often read about breaking cycles and statistically, we know how difficult that can be, so to be surrounded by people who looked at toxic relationships in their lives and decided they deserved better and their children will not get that exposure to such toxicity from them is really powerful.

Our bar chats were very serious, especially on the heels of a lighthearted limo ride full of wine, dancing, and scream-singing, and fortunately, our Wendy’s nightcap was also light and full of laughter, but those conversations between are so meaningful and I just cannot believe how fortunate my husband and I are to have such strong support from afar all year long and have such compassion and strength from this group of friends (most of whom we see once a year for this event and some of whom we only know because of this event).

On the drive back to MA on Sunday, I brought this up to talk to my husband about it and he noted it’s something that has stood out to him as well. We are all able to support each other so deeply because we all have respect for one another’s experiences and we trust that the support and advice given is genuine and out of care. We should all be so lucky to have such models around us and our families, pushing toward a new normal for all to see.