Saturday, November 29, 2008

Why Paul Wins

I get the impression that it's kind of tough being a seven-year old boy. Especially a seven-year old boy who's... let's say athletically-challenged. A seven-year old boy who has a weird sense of humor and who guffaws when a giggle would suffice. A seven year-old boy who already loves girls and cannot not let them know. A seven-year old boy who, try as he might (or might not), is unable to stay out of the little world in his brain during school -- couldn't do it if his life depended on it. That's my boy.

Well. Said boy's class is doing a long-term reading project -- Read Across America. The class earns mileage for each time increment they read, and the point is to make it all the way across the country (hence the name). For each major stop, there's a worksheet, and the first one was about Maryland. We worked on it last week, and got to the part about well-known people from the state, so we looked that information up... Edgar Allan Poe, Harriet Tubman, Babe Ruth... Paul could have picked any of those. Who does he pick instead? Last name on the list: Frank Zappa.

And that's why Paul wins. He will always choose the answer in the far left field. And I hope he always does. Now, if he could just focus...

(He made a fantastic little Zappa drawing, too. I'll post it soon.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Soul Revolver @ The Surf Club, November 22

That was fun. We were all looking for a certain mtnest...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What are you reading?

Specifically, what books are you reading? Since I'm sort of in over my head these days, I plan to live vicariously through you...I bet you're regretting our friendship right now, aren't you? Yep, I thought you would.

What's that? What have I been reading? Honestly (and somewhat shamefully), I read (too many) blogs in the middle of the night. Daily Kos, AmericaBlog, MediaMatters, Smitten Kitchen, PostPunk Kitchen, Gawker, Wonkette, Via Chicago, Sorry I Missed Your Party...I'm all over the place (which explains alot, doesn't it?) As far as books go, I'm not trying too hard lately. I've just finished Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without A Country (he was sort of a coot near the end...) and a really truly trashy book about the Rolling Stones: Exile on Main Street: A Season in Hell with the Rolling Stones (which could not have been worse if sheep wrote it -- a.w.f.u.l.), so I'm sort of at loose ends. There's a stack (of smart books) next to the bed and another stack (of even smarter books) in the living room, but I'm just not really feeling any of those books these days (also, I seem to have the attention span of a newt).

So I'm hoping that you can help me out with a few great recommendations. I'm not looking for a big "commitment" book but not another rock band book, either. I'd like an engaging read, yet something that I won't feel guilty about falling asleep on, night after night. Because that's what will happen. Any advice?

I'm a bad band wife.

I'm failing in my mission to become Cheverly's answer to Sue Miller Tweedy if I forget to tell you that Soul Revolver is playing Saturday night! I've been told that there's a very special encore, though -- try as I may -- I haven't been able to figure it out yet. I guess we'll all just have to go to the show.

Did you know about my mission? I'm trying to be the second best band wife of all. There are plenty of bad ones (I'm looking at you, Yoko. Lisa Bonet? You too. And definitely you, Nancy Spungen.)
Big goals here at pricklygirl central. Big goals...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The DMV is my friend.

pricklygirl is getting old(er) and had to go renew her license. This follows the indignity of being informed that -- after age 40 -- a documented eye exam is required. Needless to say, it's been a lot of fun in the pricklygirl household (even more than usual) of late.

Well, here's a tale that will warm even the coldest of hearts. I saw a great optomistrist Sunday -- no appointment (he had some stuff to say about my background and age-related eye stuff, but I'm choosing to ignore that for now.) Picked out glasses Sunday afternoon and was told 10-14 business days to get them, though sometimes they arrive in less time. Tuesday was notified that glasses were in. Wednesday, went to DMV armed with papers, work, iPhone, etc, expecting a loooong wait. They were sooooo nice. Twenty minutes later, I was out the door, renewed license in hand.

The moral? Get your eyes tested. You probably do need a new prescription. Get those new glasses. Go to the DMV. You'll be happy you did.

This heartwarming tale has been brought to you by notions of age-related responsibility. Notice I said "age", not "maturity".

Friday, November 14, 2008

November 15 is...

National Clean Out Your Fridge Day...

and while I'm sure there are a million better things to do (catching The Hot Noodles at Mayorga Coffee Factory in Silver Spring between 7:00 and 10:00pm springs to mind), this wouldn't be a bad way to spend at least part of Saturday...
Fortunately for us, we recently inherited a relatively new fridge from people who were fastidious about fridge cleanliness, so I'm not going to be partaking in this national exercise...sometimes things work out my way. Rarely, but sometimes.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

This makes us seem so difficult...

From wikihow...

How to Feed a Vegan for Three Days or More
The following series of steps will help you to feed even the pickiest vegan coming your way. Be prepared to visit your nearest natural food store, eat some of this grub yourself, and thrill your vegan beyond words.

Prepare the first meal. You'll need to ask the vegan a bunch of questions outlined in the next step, but your guest might get hungry before you get a chance to do so. In that case, a great first meal option is spaghetti. You can get vegan noodles (easy, just check the package to make sure there aren’t egg whites or dairy in them). Check your tomato sauce to make sure that there isn’t Parmesan or other cheese in it. Mushrooms are a great vegan sauce addition, like your meaty meatballs, they can be cooked separately and added to the food at the end. One fun processed food product is vegan Parmesan cheese in a shake can. It is a fun addition to the table as a condiment for vegans. Make your own garlic bread with fresh garlic- instead of butter, use olive oil or vegan margarine (check for whey on the label) to mix and spread the garlic and salt. Get a simple sourdough or French bread; check the label for dairy or eggs. Steamed vegetables make a healthy side dish (use olive oil, don't use butter). This is a simple meal, and over dinner you can subtly find out most answers to the questions below.

Find out how strict your vegan is. The way to a vegan’s heart is through his/her stomach. There are a few questions that you want to ask a vegan before deciding what food to make them. Be prepared for your vegan to not be a true vegan, it is difficult to avoid every single animal by-product, and some people use the title “vegan” because it is easier than saying, “I am a vegetarian that eats no animal products, mostly no dairy products, no eggs, but I am not vegan because I eat honey and casein, and questionable milk chocolate if I am PMSing.” Onto the questions!

Do they eat cane sugar? (This question may result in a long treatise about how they sometimes use animal bones to bleach conventional cane sugar, even brown sugar, just stop them in their tracks and say, “I know, I plan on using unbleached organic cane sugar, I just want to know if you have a sweet tooth.”) If they do eat cane sugar, you are home free, almost everything you make for them the rest of your omnivorous family will be happy to eat. If they respond that they only use a little agave nectar or stevia, don’t have a sweet tooth, or don’t like sweets, we can still help you feed them, just be prepared to have two levels of sweetness, one for your family and one for them.

Do they eat casein (milk protein)? This will show you how serious they really are. Many people eat tofu cheeses with casein in them (sometimes as much as 20% casein). The casein tastes decent (to vegetarians), and melts when heated, separating it from much of the vegan cheese on the market. If they do eat casein, ask them what brand of “cheese” they eat. Buy that brand, it will make them very happy. If they are true vegans, they only have a few options. Your vegan may not want any fake cheese, this is a way to understand if they like processed foods at all. Some don’t. Many people find any soy cheese vile tasting and unsatisfying. This is not a good food to feed your family as an example of “vegan food,” they won't like it (use vegan ice cream instead).

Do they like fake meats? Some vegans have strong opinions on this subject. Others were raised on meat and potatoes, and those habits die hard. Tofu, Tempeh, and Seitan are great meat alternatives, but they require knowledge of how to make them taste good (this might be too much of a challenge for you). If you cook meat alternatives, cut them small, marinate, cook thoroughly, and serve hot. Fake meats are already flavored and can be a great time saver that can make a meal seem heartier.

What kind of milk substitute do they drink? Soy, almond, rice or none of the above? You can get specific enough to ask about brand if you want. Soymilk is easy to find, you can buy it anywhere now, and most major brands taste good. Many contain ample amounts of sugar, keep this in mind and apply the answer to the question about sugar. It is rare for vegans to drink a glass of soymilk with dinner; water, tea, carbonated beverages, (or in rare cases) coffee and alcoholic beverages are more likely to please. Soymilk in a vegan house is often used for baking, on cereal, in tea and coffee, and not for drinking.

Do they have any allergies or strong dislikes to other foods? If you are going through all of the trouble to make them vegan food, make sure that they are going to like it, and be able to eat it. Some vegans don’t like fruits and vegetables, so feed them what they will like, and then they won’t have that starved/pinched expression that will force them to jump ship for the nearest natural food store to eat packaged food in the aisle before they pay for it.

Proceed with purchasing and cooking food for your vegan, after answering all of the questions above and below.

Do they eat honey? If you're tired of asking questions, just don’t use it. Maple syrup and agave nectar are fine alternatives when you need a liquid sweet, just remember to check labels: granola, bread, and cereals are three places you often find honey. The vegan won’t care that honey isn’t around, but some will really care if it is in their food.

Do they eat whey? Just don’t buy products with whey in them. Whey is usually one of the last ingredients on many labels. Whey and gelatin can be sneaky ways you can feed your vegan things they really don't want to eat.

If a label goes on for a mile, many of the “natural flavors” as well as other ingredients you won’t recognize, can contain animal products and by-products. Stick to simple, less processed foods, your vegan will be happier, and you won’t go blind reading the fine print on those labels. Some packaged foods even have a V on them for vegan, this is rare but thrilling when you find one.
Do they eat non-organic foods? When cooking for a vegan, organic vegetables, fruits, and oil can be really important ways for them to feel at home in your home.

Do they eat white flour? Your vegan might prefer alternative flours like spelt flour (white spelt is amazingly light and yummy, but more expensive), whole wheat flour (prepare for hockey puck cookies and cupcakes) or no flour. Again, this goes back to the processed foods issue. Some vegans refer to white flour and sugar as “white death,” needless to say, you might think twice about feeding them these substances.

Discover a few different breakfast options. Breakfast can be very easy. Toast with peanut or almond butter, berries and tea is an excellent breakfast. Oatmeal with soymilk, raisins, berries and ground flax is also a great breakfast. Muffins can be easily made vegan. Granola or cereal with the milk substitute of their choice is a great option. Pancakes and French toast are two easy meals to make vegan. French toast in particular is amazing, no sulfur egg aftertaste, vanilla flavor rules, if you have a picky kid, they might prefer the vegan French toast recipe to normal French toast (just don’t tell them that silken tofu is involved).
How to Make Vegan Pancakes
How to Make a Vegan Smoothie

Have a few lunch and dinner options on hand.

Once you have an answer to the cheese question (casein, vegan, or no processed foods) a great lunch meal is tacos or enchiladas. The excellent thing about this meal is that you can have multiple kinds of shells (corn, spelt, or wheat) and multiple cheeses (dairy, casein, vegan, or none). People can build a taco or enchilada to their own food preferences and you don’t necessarily have to know exactly what those preferences are. Refried beans (watch for lard on the ingredient list) are a wonderful high protein food for all of us. Mushrooms, olives, tofu, tempeh, and walnuts are other excellent foods to add to this meal.

Summer grilling is a great way to feed your vegan. Clean a portion of your grill to be veggies only. Corn grills beautifully if soaked in a water-filled bucket for an hour first. Steamed artichokes are great for grilling. Portobello mushrooms become a burger themselves when grilled. Kabobs with a mix of veggies and meat alternatives marinated in teriyaki or soy sauce mixes are great. Vegan sausages and hotdogs are great, as are vegan veggie burgers (some veggie burgers have egg and dairy products in them). Make sure your burger/dog buns are vegan; check the labels for egg, whey, and milk products.

Soup and sandwiches can be a great lunch. Tomato soup with rice, miso soup with green onions and tofu, minestrone with veggies and noodles (make sure the noodles aren’t egg noodles). Veggie sandwiches lightly grilled with olive oil, avocado added after. Crackers to break up in the soup, or French bread with olive oil are a great way to fill out a soup meal. Sprouted grain breads (freezer section of natural foods area) for those with the healthy vegan gene can be used to make quite delicious sandwiches.

Curry is an excellent meal that can easily be made vegan but still really rich. Coconut milk, garbanzo beans, cauliflower, garlic, ginger, and tofu or tempeh work great for this dish. Most recipes are already vegan or can easily be altered to be vegan. Check chili paste ingredients for fish products. Curry powder is vegan. Use white or brown basmati rice to go with this meal.

Pizza is an excellent choice for most vegans. Buy or make pizza dough as usual. Great toppings for vegans include: basil, pine nuts, olives, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, walnuts, spinach, onions, and peppers. Pesto made with basil, garlic and pine nuts without Parmesan is a great sauce, as is marinara. Even without cheese this meal is great for vegans, but if you have their fake cheese of choice, this meal becomes even better. Vegan cheese needs to be next to the sauce in order to melt effectively so make it the second ingredient that you put on the pizza if you are using this type of cheese substitute.

How to Make Basic Vegan Nut Roast
How to Make Hazelnut & Split Pea Vegan Roast
How to Make Vegan Vietnamese Summer Rolls

Make dessert. Vegan desserts are an area that has seen vast improvement in the last 10 years. The quality and quantity of available products alone is huge. For dessert, you can easily purchase a vegan version of whatever you eat for dessert yourselves. If you are having ice cream, get a pint of vegan ice cream. Some vegans report that Rice Dream is not as delicious as other ice creams on the market. There are also rich coconut based ice creams that are decadent. Vegan cookies are also widely available, both locally made, and commercial varieties. It is a great idea to have a pint or two of in season organic berries or fruit to offer in case they don’t eat processed foods or sweets. Those berries can easily be incorporated into breakfast if they do eat the ice cream and cookies. There are also some great cookie recipes on-line, just Google “vegan cookie recipe” and check the sources and citations below. Dark chocolate is often vegan (check labels for milk products and butter). Vegan chocolate chips are available in the bulk and baking sections of most natural foods stores. Vegan cupcakes are also very easy to make and extremely gratifying; the whole family will enjoy them.[1]

How to Make Vegan Cupcakes
How to Make Princess Cake (Vegan)
How to Make Cookies and Cream Vegan Ice Cream
How to Make Vegan Cheesecake with Tofutti

Remember that few vegans are alike in their food tastes. Do not expect that the next vegan you run into will have the same food tastes as your current vegan. A person may be vegan for nutritional reasons, for ethical/religious reasons, and/or for environmental reasons. In addition, they may be “freegans” (people who will only buy vegan, but if something is about to be thrown away, or is offered for free, they will eat it, even meat). They may be “raw foodists” this means they will only eat foods that are cooked below 110 degrees F, or are raw. Vegans may be really strict or not true vegans at all, they just use the label to simplify down to food choices that they prefer to eat as mentioned above. All self-described vegans are trying to do something that is very difficult, and it can seem like they are thwarted at every turn and treated like a second-class citizen at many restaurants. Imagine not being able to order 95% of the menu, or being told something is vegetarian or vegan only to discover it isn’t. It would be like if you were on a diet, and someone offered you a piece of cheesecake and promised you it was diet cheesecake with only 50 calories, and then after you ate it, they said it wasn’t diet and it had 500 calories, and they laughed. So if your vegan is a bit gun-shy about trusting others with food, it is usually with good reason.

Avoid mixing their food with meat residue. Some foods are processed on the same machinery as dairy foods, meaning they may contain trace amounts of dairy foods in them. If your vegan is willing to eat off of your pots and pans they will probably have trace amounts of dairy/meat products in their food anyway, so take this one whatever way you want, unless they said “no” to the first three questions above, in which case you will need to avoid most packaged foods anyway, and you may want to purchase a pot strictly for their food to be cooked in. If you never clean your cast iron pan, assume that your vegan will be able to taste some of the meat that you have cooked on there over the years. Try to use predominately one pan for your vegan during the duration of their stay, and make a point of keeping it somewhat separate from the meaty pans. If you hand wash dishes, clean their pan first before you clean the meaty dishes; the vegan will be so overwhelmed by your thoughtfulness he/she will not hesitate to return to your home again. (Which you may or may not want.)

Well, at least they got the part about breakfast and dessert right (we do like them!) But we just seem so...difficult (I wouldn't like me either with this list.) Gee, I know a lot of meat eaters that have waaayyyyyy more food issues than I do.

Now, back to
The Joys of Vegan Baking...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A neat thing...

Cheverly Weekday Nursery/Mother's Day Out is starting a new concert series featuring parents and other family members of current and alumni students. The first concert is this Saturday, and it features pianist Naoko Maeda (mother of Mother's Day Out student Hinna). The idea with this benefit series is to bring a wide variety of music to children in our community through their families. Many kids don't know any professional musicians personally, so this is a great opportunity for kids to expand their horizons as they see familiar people doing extraordinary things. Future concerts in the series will include a Serbian choir, as well as two rock bands (Cheverly's own Soul Revolver and The Hot Noodles) in addition to (hopefully) performances by local jazz musicians and a former opera singer (guess who...)
If you're in Cheverly this weekend, I hope that you attend Saturday's concert. Your donation is tax-deductible (so you get a jump on next year's charitable giving), childcare is available for kids under five, the music will be great...and there are treats after the show, which is always a good thing.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Night

Well, the Prickly Ranch is full, and we're gathered around the warming glowing warming glow of the teevee. Thing One is keeping track and coloring in blue and red sections on his electoral map, Thing Two has finally agreed to get out of costume and into jammies (and her eyes are getting very, very heavy...and there she goes...out. Thing 2 will have to celebrate tomorrow) and I'm thinking about the next Halloween candy I can flout veganism with....
We're allowing Paul to stay up late tonight -- this is a once in a lifetime event, and he will remember this (and probably save his colored map for posterity...)
I hope we have enough Twix to see us through tonight!

Today's the Day!

You know what to do.
(We just got back from San Francisco and I'm too tired to write much right now. Red-eye flights and middle age do not mix, but you can see pictures from our trip... And if you're looking for an activity to do while waiting for election returns tonight, grab your crayons.)