Friday, March 30, 2012


It has been an interesting week, to say the least.  Three out of the five of us were sick (including mama) so we were house-bound pretty much the entire week.  We did get out today, since we were all feeling much better, having hot chocolate (and tea and coffee) with Grandma and my niece.  It was nice getting out amongst the living again and especially seeing my Mom and niece.

It's always easier to see the bad in the difficulties in life.  In light of the challenges I faced this week, I thought I would list the things I am thankful for instead...

     ~  two sick boys who were uncomfortable, tired, and unhappy...allowing us to slow down our pace and enjoy a relaxing week (not thankful that they were feeling this way, but thankful we were able to slow down...just thought I should clarify)
     ~  one middle boy who didn't get sick, but had to cancel three of his playdates
     ~  dinner tonight...a simple vegan meal that received no complaints!
     ~  family movie night where no one is complaining!
     ~  our trip to the doctor which confirmed an ear infection and strep throat and allowed us to treat our very uncomfortable and unhappy oldest boy
     ~  the day after beginning treatment when our oldest awoke as a new person...hooray!
     ~  a couple of inches of snow falling today, since we didn't experience much of a winter up here in Northern Michigan this year
     ~  my glass of wine that I'm enjoying while my feet are up on the coffee table
     ~  my husband who bought the wine a couple of weeks ago
     ~  "pet sitting" three dogs, two cats, and four chickens...allowing us to get out of the house and walk in the fresh air, even when we didn't feel like it
     ~  visiting with said pets (spread out between 3 homes, of which the humans are all on separate cruises!!) who made us feel as we were the best things in the world
     ~  my husband who worked late all week so he could watch a movie with me tonight after the kiddos go to sleep

Happy weekend to you all!

Monday, March 26, 2012

spring break and sick boys

It's the beginning of spring break for us.  And unfortunately two of my three boys are a bit under the weather. 

There is some kind of virus in my house.  Something flu-like with no fever but with a bad sore throat and cough.  Poor kiddos.  We had to cancel one playdate today and may have to cancel another tomorrow. 

On the upside, one boy is feeling quite well.  And hot chocolate does cure all, right? 

Here's to having more healthy boys tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

book review: Let Them Eat Vegan! by Dreena Burton

I am excited to share Dreena Burton's fourth cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan!:  200 deliciously satisfying plant-powered recipes for the whole family.

This book definitely lives up to it's name.  This paperback book is big and full of fantastically healthy recipes.  Many recipes are wheat free, soy free, and gluten free.  If not, Dreena has more than likely given substitutions to transform them to accommodate for these dietary restrictions.  What I really love about this book is that all of the recipes are made from whole foods...not the vegan junk that is convenient (like vegan cream cheese, vegan mayo, etc.) but heavily processed and not good for you.

The cover of the book catches your eye immediately.  There are bright and beautiful pictures in the center of the book too.  Beyond the recipes, Dreena includes different sections to help you feed your vegan family.  I especially liked reading Plant-Powered Lunch Box and Let Them Eat Greens!  I'm always looking for healthy tips on what I can put into my boys' lunchbox and how I can incorporate (or sneak!) greens onto their plate.  She also includes sections on helpful tools to have and pantry items that are good for a beginner to have on hand. 

The chapters in this book are as follows:

Breakfast Bites and Smoothies - From muffins to pancakes this chapter even includes a section titled Let Them Drink Smoothies! which gives you the 101 on preparing green smoothies with a variety of ways to personalize them.

Salads That Make a Meal - not just green salads, there are bean and quinoa salads here too.

Proud to be Saucy and Dippy - Dreena admits to being a bit saucy, and loves to add sauces to enhance her dishes.  This chapter doesn't disappoint with 30 entries!

Vegan Soup for the Soul - I love a good bowl of soup.  Some of the soups in this chapter are simple and kid-friendly, while some are more sophisticated to have at a dinner party (she also offers suggestions to make these appealing to your children as well).

Side Stars - Another full chapter packed with favorites like Creamy Polenta as well as some creative additions like Almond Roasted Cauliflower.

Your Main Squeeze:  Casseroles, One-Pot Wonders, and Tarts - I love this chapter!  Most of these recipes are so simple, just toss all of the ingredients into your casserole dish and pop into the oven.  Some require you to whip them up in the food processor before popping them into the oven, still quite simple.

When Burgers Get Better - Veggie burgers made easy and tasty!

Good Pasta Belongs on a Plate - Not the Wall! - So true!  There are some creative pesto recipes and a comforting play on macaroni and cheese called Mac-oh-geez! which I love.

C is for Cookie, That's Good Enough for Me - Dreena is the queen of cookies.  This chapter boasts over 25 cookie recipes including classics like Sugar Cutout Cookies and Gingerbread Folks to Pecan Date Nibblers which uses dates as the primary sweetener.  All of Dreena's cookies are made without refined flour and sugar.

Let Them Eat Cakes, Pies, and Puddings - A lot of entries in here including several raw options, some sauces, and even vanilla yogurt!

Dreena Dazs - A full chapter on ice cream! Need I say more?

I've made a lot from this book already and I have yet to be disappointed.  And...I am happy to share a recipe, not found anywhere online yet, that you and your family (kids included of course) are sure to love.

Cocoa Cookie Dough Balls - Makes 14 to 16 dough balls

1/2 cup raw almonds (see note for nut-free option)
1/2 cup + 2 TBS rolled oats
A few pinches of sea salt (about a scant 1/8 tsp)
1 cup pitted dates
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 TBS nondairy chocolate chips or cocoa nibs (optional)
A few teaspoons of unsweetened cocoa powder, unrefined sugar, or a combination of both, for dusting/rolling (optional)

In a food processor, process the almods until fine and crumbly.  Then add remaining ingredients and (except the optional chocolate chips) pulse or process.  Once the mixture starts to become crumbly, process fully for a minute or two.  It will appear as if nothing is happening at first, that the mixture is just whirring around in crumbs, but soon it will start to become sticky.  When you see it start to become a little sticky, add the chocolate chips and process again.  Continue to process until it forms a ball on the blade.  Stop the machine and remove the dough.

Take small coops of the dough (1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons in size) and roll in your hand.  Repeat until you have rolled all of the dough.  Toss or roll the balls in the coating, if using,, and refrigerate.  Eat and repeat often.

Allergy-Free or Bust!  For a nut-free version, replace the almonds with just 1/4 cup of raw pumkin seeds, and add another 1/4 cup of rolled oats.

If This Apron Could Talk:  Make a double batch and freeze half.  They thaw very well.

Kid-Friendly:  These are excellent to pack in school lunches, with a nut-free option for you if nuts aren't permitted in your school.

Savvy Subs and Adds:  Replace vanilla with 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or orange oil.


Let Them Eat Vegan! is a great book for the beginner vegan and just as great for the more seasoned vegan cook.  Her recipes read as if she's right there in the kitchen with you, answering the questions before you've even asked them.  Her quirky, funny, witty, and caring personality shines through in her writing.  Don't hesitate to add it to your collection!

Monday, March 19, 2012


It's the middle of March in Northern Michigan and for the past week it's been feeling a lot like summer.

I had to find the short-sleeved shirts, shorts, and tennis shoes and stow away the winter coats, boots, snowpants, hats, and mittens (not really stowed away just yet, because you never snowed 20 inches one weekend and was in the 70's the following weekend).  We went to the park, we put on sunscreen, we walked to lunch, it's been in the 80's the past three's a lot like summer, only it's technically still winter here.

My family out West has been having our type of weather lately:  cool temperatures, hail/sleet, puddles in Arizona.  What's happening here?  I don't know, but I'm not complaining!!

I apologize for the duplicate photos.  I can't seem to get my laptop to plug in correctly, which means it's not working because it's so old the battery is basically worn out and it needs to be plugged in constantly or it turns off when you least expect it...not fun.  So I'm on my iMac and can only get my iPhone photos on here...I'm technically challenged.

Our middle boy had a big weekend.  He got going on two wheels all by himself.  It didn't take him long.  He's 6 1/2 and has been riding a scooter for 9 months so balance wasn't much of an issue for him.  He's just needing a bit more practice starting, stopping, and turning.  But he did great for his first day.

He also lost his second tooth!  Or, I should say he pulled out his second tooth.  I guess we're heading down that road.  Not patient enough for it to fall out on his own so he took it out himself.  I think that's just fine.  Daniel did the same.  Now, if he would just wear the clothes I have for him (we've been having issues now that he has "new" (aka: new to him) clothes that he doesn't like).  Hmmm.  I think I have my work cut out for me.  But, I already knew that...


Look for my review of Dreena Burton's Let Them Eat Vegan! tomorrow!!  I'll also be posting a recipe that is only available in the book.  You'll want to check back for the recipe, definitely.

Good night all.

Monday, March 12, 2012

a new book, a scruptious dessert and a new bed

Today was an exciting day.  The UPS man brought a package...for me!  Usually my working-from-home husband gets all of the packages but today it was my turn!

I know what you're thinking.  Yes, I already am lucky enough to have received my copy of Let Them Eat Vegan! last week.  But today's copy came officially from the publisher because I'm going to do my first ever book review!  I'm so excited I can barely contain myself...honestly.

So, stay tuned later this week when I'll be doing my official review which will include a never-before-published recipe.  You'll definitely want to check that out.

Here's a sneak peek of something I made for dessert tonight.  It's low in sugar, made without refined flours, and of course it's plant-based.

Onto other important news...

A certain big boy is becoming less and less of a baby.  He'll always be my baby of course...they all will.  Last weekend he spent the last nights in his crib.  This is the way his room looked then:

I thought this was his last night in his crib, but Mother Nature dumped 20 inches of snow on us this night and my husband was busy digging us out and we couldn't get to disassembling the crib and assembling the new furniture.  So this was actually his second to last night sleeping in his crib...the crib that all three boys slept in...don't get me started...

And now the new room!  My niece loves the new setup!  His is her first bed of choice to put her babies in for napping.  She's a good mama to her babies.

This big boy loves his new freedom.  Much to my dismay he's coming downstairs in the mornings all by himself.  But to see the proud look on his face when he does, I can't say no.  Thankfully he doesn't think it's time to wake up at 3am...yet!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

my grandma

Today is a sad day for our family.  My Grandma passed away one year ago today.

I'm lucky to have some amazing women in my family.  I have some fabulous Aunts who are like second Mom's to me.  I have several gorgeous cousins who are successful, fun and amazing.  And of course there is my Mom and sister, my two best friends and I don't know what I would do without them.  Disclaimer:  all the men in my life, you're pretty fabulous too!  

But my Grandma?  She took the cake.  She was such a wonderful, caring, loving, generous, honest, lovely woman.  We used  to talk all the time.  At 90 years old she was still living on her own and we always talked about what we were cooking.  She was usually making beans and a cake or pie or something.  She could take a little of this and a little of that and make a mighty fine meal.  She always made more than just she needed and would then pass out portions to her friends in her apartment building.  She would buy roses, keep a few for herself and then pass out the rest to her children and then to the women in the apartment.  And then we'd talk about how we were happy to be us.  Happy that we are who we are and not wanting for anything else.  She'd ask to speak to my boys, even when they were little babies, telling me that they'd hear her voice over the phone and they'd know she loved them.  Yes, it was true. 

Her very best ability was to make each and every one of us feel as if they were the special one.  She could make them feel that even though she had 7 children, 16 Grandchildren, and 7 Great Grandchildren, they were her favorite.  Probably because she said it.  When I was younger we used to write back and forth.  I still have many of her letters.  Letters that she'd write the date and time at the time.  Letters that she usually started writing at 2 or 3am and tell me all about her day.  She'd tell me about the people who would come to visit or who would call on the phone.  I'd hear about what she was cooking even back then and what Grandpa was tending to in the garden.  I felt special.  But little did I know, she made everyone else feel that special too.  And I think that's fabulous. 

Twenty years or so ago she and my Grandpa would come to stay with us when my parents went out of town.  They'd stay for about a week and care for us as my Mom and Dad would.  She made donuts...homemade donuts.  I will never forget that.  We lived on a small bay then and she went ice skating with us and made snow angels.  We built a snowman, with her help of course, and we were looking for what we could use for the eyes, nose and mouth.  We found the most perfect, round, brown pellet-looking pieces that we picked up and placed on our snowman's face.  Later did we find out that they were rabbit droppings!  We still laughed about that recently!!  She would roll down the grassy hills with us and climb into play tents with her Great Grand kids.  And these are only my memories.

She had her honest moments too.  We've all heard her say how we're "looking much better now" and how our "butt doesn't look as big in these pants as opposed to the pants we wore last week".  These phrases usually came with a little pat on the bottom too.  We took it as a compliment and laughed as we shared it with each other.

My sweet and kind.  And today, this one year anniversary of her passing, we experienced the most beautiful weather yet this year.

This is a look down our street.  If you read my last post you'll see it looks quite different today.


I don't think there's a coincidence that the weather was as beautiful as it was today.  Not a chance.  Just like I don't think it was a coincidence when we saw the most beautifully vibrant sunset last year heading home after her funeral.  We all saw it, it was gorgeous.  

I know she's with Grandpa, and they're happy, and they're with us.  And we will see them once again.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

the morning after

The snow began late Friday afternoon.  We were on our way home from my oldest son's cello lesson and the flakes were big and plentiful.  We all were excited.  Our Northern Michigan wasn't all that it could be this year but we were hopeful we weren't done with winter just yet.  Mother Nature let us know we were right.

After it was all said and done we got about 20 inches.  Before the storm most of our snow was gone, just having some patches in the grass here and there.  We aren't wanting for snow now!

The view down our street.

The view the other direction.

It was a heavy, wet snow that really coated the trees.  So much so that branches came down, knocking out power and transformers in our entire area.  It was an adventure for all.  Luckily we have a small generator that we were able to plug our fridge into and it allowed us to use our microwave and radio (I could not find our battery-operated radio).

We read bedtime books by flashlight in front of the fireplace.

Not long into book time they decided that making shadows on the wall was much more fun.

There was a camp-out for the older boys in our room.  It was too dark upstairs for them.

 The morning after the morning after gave way to the sun trying to shine it's way through the cloud cover.


And finally giving way to beautiful blue skies...the calm after the storm.


I didn't see Chris much last weekend.  He responded to calls (and was stranded in a stuck Engine for four hours) all Friday night.  Saturday he helped friends who had downed tree branches in their yard and on their house.  After probably 25 or 30 calls in total over the weekend, he was ready (we all were ready!) for a full-nights sleep.  Luckily the Sleep Gods have provided.

The lack of posting has not been for lack of content, it's quite the contrary!  Power was out, internet was out as a result of our router failing after the storm, and lack of sleep and a good book has kept me away.  Just today I got my new Dreena Burton cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan.  I'm so excited and am really surprised by how many recipes (200!!!) are inside!  Have I mentioned there's an entire chapter devoted to ice cream?  This girl knows how to do it right! 

So, if you'll excuse me...I have a cookbook to read!