Birthday! Anniversary! Meme!

It’s been a rather zippy few days here at the Fish residence! (That being said, it’s always speedy, just sometimes more than others…). Let’s see… to begin : Happy Birthday Mr. Fish!

Mr. Fish is one of those kids who really, I mean really has a difficult time with birthdays. I get rather excited because it means cake and presents and yummy food and people having to be extra nice to me :). He gets morose, melancholy and even down right cranky as the days tick away and his birthday approaches. I do understand. I had a much more difficult time watching the birthdays from 25 to 29 pass me by, but something sort of “clicked” when I hit 29, and I realized that dreading birthdays, or anything, really, just sort of spoiled the moments leading up to and after, but didn’t change anything, because, well, change is inevitable I guess.

To ease his birthday bitterness, I asked him what birthday treat he wanted, and he asked for the too-good-to -be-true Lemon Bars from VCon. This is the fourth time I’ve made them, and I still have no food p*rn to show you, because we just go through these things so fast it’s crazy & never have a chance to snap a pic. However, to satisfy your desire for eye-candy, here is a shot of the cupcakes I made for our 4th Wedding Anniversary, which is, or was, the day before Mr. Fish’s birthday :

This was the first time I’d made the marble cupcakes from VCTOTW, and they were really, really delicious. They were also very fun to make with the Guppy because they get a little messy at the end, and that means a lot of finger licking (we also observe the 5-second rule in our house. We’re dirty birdies.)

Next is a little Meme-love. Yoga Mum tagged anyone who’d had green tea a few mornings back. I ‘ve been swapping my morning espress for green tea in solidarity with Ricky who has been doing a cleanse. Maybe I’ll be able to knock it for good? Anyway…

Here’s the low down:

1. Post the rules of the game at the beginning.
2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

What were you doing five years ago?

I’d just finished my Masters Degree in French Literature, was teaching French for a US University Summer Programme in Paris, and was preparing to begin working as an English language assistant for two years at a University in Paris. I was also about to meet the future Mr. Fish.

What are five things on your to-do list for today?

1) Try to find some time to read “Millénium, Tomb 1: Les hommes qui n’aimaient pas les femmes” by Stieg Larsson. Great read.
2) The dishes (that’s just perpetual…)
3) Yoga & lifting w/free weights
4) Work a little on this bag which I am making as a messenger bag, not a diaper bag! (Thought I should clarify).
5) Write lesson plans for Wednesday’s & Thursday’s classes (last day of classes is the 23rd! Yippie!)

What are five snacks you enjoy?

1) Fresh fruit (not original, but true!)
2) Smoothies without too many seedy fruits
3) rice cakes with almond butter & molasses (an idea given me by our coolicious Ricky)
4) fresh baked cookies hot from the cooling rack
5) a homemade raw bar from the freezer all coldish, burrrr!

What are five things you would do if you were a billionaire?

Okay, this says billionaire so I could come up will way more than 5, but here’s a few…

1) Pay off my student loans & my sib’s student loans/debt & my parent’s debts
2) Buy a home with extra bedrooms & bathrooms so my family could visit and stay as long as they liked (oh, the tickets would be my treat, too!)
3) Put money aside for the Guppy & my nieces’ & nephew’s education & set up a scholarship fund for young women at my high school in the U.S.
4) Invest enough that I could live off my fundage and devote my time to creating a non-profit organization for women- not sure how I’d organize it, but it would provide grants for education, training opportunities, quality, affordable child-care, small-business loans, as well as creative and moral support for women with goals, but who need help with the logistics of their path.
5) Create a quality health-care programme for all the school-aged children in the two U.S. cities I lived in (hey, I’m a billionaire…I have enough!)

What are five of your bad habits?

1) I’m too sensitive.
2) I take everything seriously.
3) I’m terribly hard on myself.
4) I stress about things I cannot change.
5) I try to do too much at the same time.

What are five places where you have lived?

In the U.S., two:

1) Michigan
2) Arizona

In France,

3) Paris
4) Versailles
5) near Tours

What are five jobs you’ve had?

1) Paper girl (when I was 9. Did I mention I lived on the Canadian boarder? Sub-zero temps, snow…oh, it was up hill, too! lol! )
2) Entertainment Listings Editor for an artsy weekly
3) Dance teacher
4) Waitress
5) Research assistant

Five people I tag:

Because I share her disdain for tagging, I am shamelessly stealing this idea from Yoga Mum over at Yoga Gumbo I tag you if:

1) You had a smoothie today.
2) You’ve never made your own seitan.
3) You have more than one tattoo.
4) You wish you were taller.
5) You’d like to take a nap.

Please let me know if you do this! I know some of you kids dread these puppies, but I like learning more about you! :)

The Sweet Smell of Racism, Sorry About Your Fulbright!

Many of you cool kids who come hang with me are in North America. Have you heard these two lovely news tidbits from your neck of the woods?

Feeling hungry? How about a little Anti-Arab and Anti-Muslim sentiment from one of the largest food chains in the United States? I have no food to showcase here kids, as this has me reeling and feeling a bit nauseated. I’m so angry and bitter about this it’s probably best I don’t go on too much, but I would encourage you, if you feel concerned by large-scale racism and discrimination, to read more here about this ridiculousness, and sign the boycott Dunkin’ Dounuts petition if you should feel inclined.

When I was completing my Master’s Degree in the U.S. I applied for a Fulbright Scholarship to do field work for my Doctorate in North Africa. I wanted to study the voice of feminism in the oral tradition of the Maghreb, specifically in Morocco and Algeria. Those Fulbright folks thought my idea was a little to risquée at the time because, you know, the U.S. was invading Iraq and all that…but hey, I had other options, and found myself in Paris. Boo hoo for me.

But I’m one incredibly lucky Fish- I had a back-up plan. This is not the case for many, and it is most definitely not the case for scholars in Palestine who endure things I could not even pretend to describe here. For many of them, Fulbright is the opportunity they need to to their research, field work, etc. Well, sorry about your luck kids, but since Israel won’t let you leave, we’re pulling your funds! Ha! This brief afticle in the International Hearld Tribune (It’s the Global Edition of the New York Times) explains it well. Seems a bit like punishing a whole lot of people for things they haven’t done. Maybe it’s just me

Mothers…

NB: I know that yesterday was Mother’s Day in North America, not today (don’t worry, Mum got her card on the right day!).

The idea of Mother’s Day is a rather complex one for me to actually write about, because it brings up many feelings and emotions rather difficult to articulate in the short space of a blog entry. I also couldn’t even contemplate the holiday without having zillions of images of my grams whizzing about my head and through my heart. This made me rather melancholy and waxing nostalgic, because, well, she’s gone and I miss her so, so much. Thus, I decided I would not blog about M day, having wished my mumma a happy day via telephone. Curiously, however, as day turned to evening, I found myself rummaging around for pictures of my mum, and specifically trying to find pictures of my grams with my mum, and becoming increasingly frustrated because the pictures I was looking for were not to be found.

Forgoing sadness, I opted to share a little mumma-love on the blogosphere, because I love my mumma to pieces, and really, moms rule, and IMum on left, Grams on Right, moi in the middle don’t think that I understood just how intense and complicated the job description was, until I myself became a mom. The above picture is of ma maman with Grams (her mom), on her right, and our Auntie Lorraine on her left. I’m fairly sure that the baby with all that hair is my sister Tam, latter half of the groovy 70s.

Here on the right is my still slim & sassy mum after her third kiddo (3 more to follow…). My Grams is on the far right with my Uncle who would kill me if he saw this but doesn’t read my blog, my sis Tam on Mum’s lap, and yours truly in the middle trying not to open my present until Dad has snapped the pic.

I love this picture, taken during my mum’s recent visit. The Guppy is blurry because she was cracking up laughing, not because she was being tickled, I think we were being silly, a hobby around here. I value the picture’s eloquence, so telling with the juxtaposition of the wild frenzy of love from the Guppy and the calm, loving smile of her Pamma.

The mother/daughter relationship is such an interesting one, often mirroring each other from one generation to the next. My contemplating a blog entry gave me pause to reflect on the similarities between Grams and Mum, and it didn’t take me long to find my answer : unconditional love and support. I announced I was becoming vegetarian at 16, mum bought more fresh fruit and veggies. When I got my nose pierced way back when I knew everything in 1990, my mom was less-than-thrilled, though she held her tongue. In tiny-town rural-ville, I blended about as well as Ziggy Stardust at a Rotary Club luncheon. A visiting Grams said without hesitation she’d pierce her nose, too, if it would help calm down the parents- and she was serious. When the first tattoo followed a month later, she swore she would also get a tattoo to show her solidarity if need be. Now that I see the dynamic between my own daughter and my mom, I can see the same sort of complicity between them, and while piercings and tattoos are rather passé, I am sure that whatever challenges the Guppy brings my way, her Pamma will be there to help balance things out.

Now that I’m the Mumma around here, I frequently find myself filled with doubt concerning my parenting: am I a good mom? Could I be doing this better? What would Xena do in this situation? (kidding). The crushing feelings of self-doubt are often harder than the actual mom-duty, and I know that both my mother, and hers, delt with it. To all you ladies out there (because biological mother or not, we women are the mothers to our students, neighbors, sisters, brothers, etc.) I hope you had a great day. My Mother’s Day is in 2 weeks…

à très bientôt, Pamma!

Hélas, my mum’s visit has come to a close. It was much more difficult for us to let her go this time, and the Guppy and I are still feeling rather blue (Mr. Fish may also be a bit out of sorts because Pamma was his partner in crime in the soda & pizza department…). We had a great time with her, and will hopefully work out a trip over to visit her this summer -actually, Guppy is convinced that we are going on a plane to fly and see Pamma and Grandpa this summer -and Auntie Tracy, and Auntie Amy, and Uncle Timmy…and she continues the long list of family members she hardly knows but who are much talked about), she tells me so multiple times a day!)

In other non-foodie news, I had to declare a forfeit on my half-marathon which was to be run Sunday last. It was a last-minute decision, and not one I felt at ease with, but I was struggling with a stomach issue, and decided it was better to deal with that in bed than in the medic’s tent. Still, I am disappointed (very), as I take my (non-professional athlete) training seriously, and peaked at 45-mile weeks plus cross training, which to me was an all-new high. I just need to find myself a new race and fast to take the edge off…

There will be plenty of Vegan-Foodie goodness coming very soon – promise! And now that I’m not off on a promenade or Napoléon sighting or chocolate buying adventure with Pamma & the Guppy, I’ll be back to blogging away…

This beautiful rose is for you Pamma. I love you! And the Guppy says “pintyhose”! (silly private joke)

Cookies for Monsieur Hotto

Chocolate Chip & Chocolate Raspberry

Not sure about you, but I really don’t need an excuse to bake cookies. My family loves cookies, and we love to eat cookies, so really, I need more reasons not to bake cookies…however…

Monsieur Hotto is an elderly neighbour that I met last fall when I saw him wrestling with his grocery bag in the cold (the bag was winning). I actually didn’t realize we were neighbors until I offered to help him home with his bag. He is just this adorable 83 year-old sweetheart – he’s got a quick wit and fabulous sense of humor, though he was recently widowed and sometimes seems a bit abandonded. I lived very far away from my grandfather (across the continent), and couldn’t be there to pick things up from the store for him or bring him little care packages of fresh-baked bread or homemade soup, but he had wonderful neighbours who did, and I am still so greatful to them. I really miss my grandpa, and so, one could say that there is something selfish in bringing my neighbor cookies or lemon bars (from Veganomicon, of course). I say, I’m happy to see him happy, and the Guppy loves to stop by and say hello and give him a kiss on the cheek and then laugh jokingly “oh! ça pique!” (hey! That’s prickly!). I like to check in on him and say hello, but I’m shy and need a bit of a reason to go visit. This is part of why I have really gotten into baking. If I make a batch of something, it’s far too much for my little family, so I just wrap up a portion for my cher voisin.

These are two of our favorites: Chocolate Raspberry cookies from Veganomicon and Classic Chocolate Chip from How It All Vegan.

The Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies from HIAV are pretty much our standard cookie, but I had been itching to try the Chocolate Raspberry ones from VCON so this was my excuse. They are really amazing, and have quickly gained ‘favourite’ status in our home, but I found that I needed to make them much larger than the recipe suggested in order for them to be soft and chewy. When I made the first batch they rather came out like crunchy ginger-snap type things, which made my jaw hurt, and the Guppy didn’t even want to try to bite through one. I found that when I made them much bigger and thicker, though, they were fudgy-raspberry heaven.

So next time you’re baking something up, make a little extra for someone who might need a little vegan-love…

Also, please visit Endless Simmer to vote against Anthony Bourdain and vote for Hezbola Tofu (and check out all the creative & beautiful vegan make-overs of clueless Bourdain’s recipes) a rather arrogant and ignorant French chef who is giving French chefs & cuisine enthusiasts a very bad name. As a Franco-American who lives in France I would like to say that that thankfully the French are not as closed-minded as Monsieur Bourdain paints them to be. I have encountered here in France the same sorts of mixed-reception my herbivore lifestyle initiated in all the other countries I’ve ever lived in/visited.

Back From Five Freezing Days In The South of France

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This is one of my favorite paintings by Toulouse Lautrec, the French painter who took the name of the beautiful city of Toulouse as his pseudonym (he was not in fact from Toulouse, but Albi, a gorgeous medieval city about 60k from where I was – Saint-Sulpice – very near Toulouse). This really hasn’t much to do with our trip, but since we were near Toulouse, and we went to Toulouse often during our visit…er…ok, anyway…

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Spring has most definitely spring down there, there were blossoms and flowers and buds galore…but with the exception of my daily runs and literally running to the car or to the house to escape the hail and pelting rain, we didn’t really get to be part of the beauty outdoors. You can see my brush with the elements here.

The beauty we did get to enjoy was inside the toasty-warm walls of my in-laws home. We had such a wonderful time- especially the Guppy who was so excited to have other people around from the moment she woke up (we don’t get to see much of our families & extended families so this was a very special treat).

My in-laws have a beautiful home and they had a roaring fire going at all times keeping the house feeling very cosy and homey, and they were so great about my vegan dietary considerations. During their visit to our house during the holidays I had cooked up a vegan storm, wielding whisk and spatula to make satisfying meals for omnivores (and to charm the in-laws of course!). So it was only natural that they suggest I help cook up some dinners- because creating healthful, varied, vegan meals takes some planning and experience, and if you’re not used to it, well, it may seem a bit daunting.

The really big hit dish of our vacation was this fabulous recipe for orange chicken-style tofu. I have seen this recipe floating about all over the blogosphere, and it has lots of variations, but this is a great “base” recipe that you can easily expand on. For example I use way more orange juice – at least a cup – which means that you need to add more corn starch or arrowroot to compensate for the added liquid. I also usually add at least 1 red and 1 orange pepper, an entire sweet onion, and chunked pineapple.

My super-sweet 19-year-old nephew proved to be a wiz in the kitchen! He not only helped me make the orange-tofu, but he was also my main helper when rolling the 49 spring rolls for our final dinner there (my fingers were all puckery when I was done!). He was also amazing with the Guppy who just fell in love with him. He was so great with her, very intuitive for such a young guy, knowing if she needed a juice box or some applesauce, etc., and had no problem letting her jump on his bed or “hang out” with him while he was playing guitar (he even played on demand for her…)

It was also so fun to hang with my sister-in-law, L. She is so handy and crafty- a real inspiration with so many great ideas for various projects. She graciously donated a skein of yarn and some needles and showed me a great pattern for a skull-cappy-chuky thing, which I need to make time to finish. Plus she gave me various huge fabric scraps to amuse myself with.

Now if only we could find jobs down there…we’d pack up and move in a flash!

 

 

INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY!!

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Here is some beautiful mimosa that lined part of the path where I went for my (almost) daily run when in the southwest of France this past week. You could smell it for meters around, even in the freezing cold and wet, it looked and smelled amazing! It’s common to give mimosa sprigs to women (we gave some to the Guppy’s mamie for la fête des grand-mères last year). Strong and beautiful from roots to tips, just like we women!

A bit back I was cruising around and saw this inventive culinary way to celebrate International Women’s Day and I just had to participate. I knew I would be cutting it close as we’d probably be coming back from our week in the Southwest, but I decided this was something I wanted to do! I have so many incredible, strong, beautiful women in my life- from the past, in the present, and I am sure that they’ll still be there in the future! I was very fortunate to spend the week with my brother-in-law’s family, and his wife L is a great example of one of the many hip fish I get to swim with. She took time to show me how to knit a cap (working on that), generously donated random pieces of fabric for me to play with, and was just generally a super-cool fish.

So here is my YELLOW contribution to the day…

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These are the Lemon Gem Cupcakes from Vegan With A Vengeance, topped with the Lemon Icing and the finishing touches of the vegan sprinkles were added by the Guppy, who is also a pretty cool little lady.

EDITED TO ADD: I’m really not cupcake obsessed. Really. I wanted to make lemon tarts, but these were just quicker & easier. Picking my battles, one cupcake at a time.

 

Sundays = The Long Run

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Here are some beautiful moments from this morning’s run through the forest. It was still pretty darn cold when I took off, so there was some cool-looking misty-fog, which made me feel all daring and fearless, how cool is that?

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The forest where I run is the largest in France (so say the locals, anyway). If you’ve ever seen a French movie with a woodsy-forest scene in it, it was probably filmed here.

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There are also these fabulous rocky outcroppings which are amazing. In addition to the outcroppings, there are wild boar, and they freak me out a little (let us just say I have a very healthy respect for them after an unplanned encounter with them last year). I have no pictures of them, because unlike me, they are not vegan, and while they rightfully don’t appreciate we humans invading their turf, I don’t want them taking out their angst on little ‘ole moi.

A Joy Division Moment…

Last night Mr. Fish and I watched Anton Corbijn’s 2007 film Control which recounts the rise and fall of Ian Curtis of Joy Division (one of my favorite post-punk bands). We both found Corbijn’s film to be somber and sophisticated, the stark beauty of the black and white images accompanied by a poignant screen play, beautiful in its simplicity- light and airy, not weighed down by unending dialogues and wordy diatribes, in contrast to the weight of the events themselves: the perfect illustration of the dichotomies Curtis seemed unable to make peace with.

So, enough of my babbling, enjoy two great Joy Division songs!

30 Days of Yoga! Because Yoga Is Like Chocolate For The Soul…

I’m sooo excited about all the super-creative stuff I’m going to be working on this year. I’ve got a mini-mountain of projects just aching to move from the “can’t wait to do this” pile to the more active “look what I’m doing” pile. Changing my focus this time around, I decided to opt for very different (for me) resolutions this year: learning to knit & crochet (there were two others, but they are personal, but really, not exciting, so don’t feel left out!).

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For those who know me, it probably seems rather odd for me to be seemingly so excited about such -gasp!- domestic-y sorts of things, but it is my mission to constantly keep the world guessing about my true identity.

I spread all my crafty goodies on my bed during the Guppy’s nap today to try to decide what to do. I had almost half of a pathetically-basic beginner’s scarf done, but learned a beginning knitter’s lesson the hard way: keep all projects well hidden from curious 2 year-olds. I came home from teaching and Mr. Fish was trying desperately to fix the damage, which was super-cute, but futile. Helas. My incredibly gifted in the knitting and crochet department is coming for a yet-to-be-determined-when visit, and I can’t wait to learn from a human and not try to decipher cryptic instructions from books and the net.

Now, you read the above and well, I sound pretty chipper, don’t I? In reality I’m feeling a bit deflated. When my alarm went off today for my run I got up, walked to make an espresso, turned on the machine, and then just walked back to bed, tail between my legs (and the worst part is I didn’t even feel more rested when the alarm went off two hours later!). Who stole my mojo? Où se trouve mon zen? And while we’re at it, let’s look for that generally-over-abundant energy, please.

I run about 30 miles a week, which to most avid runners isn’t huge, but what I really dig about running is its subjectivity. It’s personal. Your PR is *yours*, no one else’s, and only you know where you started from, how much work you put in, and how much you’ve gained (well, unless you’re a competitive athlete and that’s different). In order to maintain my running habit I have to get up early (between 4:30 and 5:30 a.m.), which is also about perspective, but for me it’s really ugly early, and since I sometimes don’t get to bed until after 11 p.m. (like the midnight last night), the morning can be tough. This doesn’t usually bother me for more than my initial 15 minutes of waking up, and once I’m dressed & out the door I’m feeling good.

But not today.

I’m really in an energy funk, and I know we are all feeling some version of cabin fever, but it’s really getting me down. Getting up and running to beat the sunrise is one thing. Running in freezing temps with rain pelting you is another. Rain is my friend, but I need some zesty sunny energy goodness!!

Yoga is also my friend, and I try to hit the mat at least four times a week, though sometimes it’s more like two or three. For me, yoga is necessary- without it I can’t run, my lower extremities being a bit damaged from so many years of dance, but it’s not just about keeping my soleus from snapping like a ratty old window blind.

Yoga is like chocolate for the soul. You feel all yummy and warm and sweet when you’re done, and I think that’s what I need. It’s what we all need! So here we go, it’s the “let’s get February over with and out the door 30 days of yoga challenge”. I officially started on Monday, so this is day two for me. The rules are simple, for a day to qualify there must be a minimum of 10 minutes of structured yoga. I think if I can stick to it, it might help me find my fleeting mojo, or at least to concentrate on something other than the cold temps when my alarm goes off in the morning…I’ll keep you posted.