Happy New Year : A wine, an update & WoYoPracMo

Bonne Année! Happy New Year!

I know, it’s already the 3rd, but we’ve only just returned from our little holiday. We had a wonderful time celebrating with family, but it’s always nice to be home, isn’t it?

I’m a very goal-driven individual, and usually the thought of embarking on the adventure of a New Year inspires me. There’s a “clean slate” feeling that comes with each new “year diary” I purchase : yet to be filled pages of dates where I’ll be noting and scheduling everything. As I fill in the pages with birthdays and anniversaries (lest they be forgotten), I find myself thinking about the things I’d like to achieve during the coming year, as well as taking stock of all that I did the previous year.

January 1st also usually means calculating my yearly running mileage and training information. It’s fun to compare my averages, the long runs and speed work, and see how I’ve improved. I just can’t bring myself to do it, at least I haven’t yet. Being out the last 7+ weeks of 2008 hit me pretty hard (as you know and are probably sick of reading about!) and I feel so frustrated not knowing when I’ll be able to get back to training, which goes back to me being a goal-driven person. I can’t schedule a new race or set any goals for myself as I’m dwelling in the purgatory of the injured reserve. Alas.

There is some good news on the “My Left Foot” front, however. I can now go up and down stairs. Very exciting stuff indeed. For the past four days I’ve seen a real improvement, and hope that with PT beginning on Monday I’ll be running (maybe) sooner than later. I’d hoped to be running by my birthday, the 9th, but I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

The exciting news is that I was able to try a little yoga, and it was ok! I knew WoYoPracMo (World Yoga Practice Month) was coming up, and I’d planned on participating pre-foot breakage.

woyopracmo

I managed a 10 minute practice on the 1st, and worked up to 25 minutes yesterday! How exhilarating it felt to be moving for the first time since November 12th! If you’re not familiar with WoYoPracMo, you can find out anything and everything with a Google search, or just click on the above logo. Yoga Mum created this specific community last year (I got in just after January) and it’s a wonderful resource. There’s also a supportive community of yoginis & yogis to help you stay motivated if you’re thinking about giving WoYoPracMo a try. I’m really excited that I can participate, even if I’m rather shy of my usual 45min to 1 1/2 hour practice. Some yoga is better than no yoga at all!

And now for the resolutions! I know many find that the idea of a New Year’s resolution is foolish, even hypocritical : why not change when we feel we need to? Why wait for an arbitrary date on the calendar to take action? Me, I like resolutions. I like to think of them more as goals to be cultivated and nurtured throughout the year. I’ve managed to make many positive changes thanks to deciding to cultivate a new habit on January 1st.

When I was 13, I decided to write my Grandfather once a week so I’d be sure he received some happy mail. Poor man probably grew tired of reading the same adolescent drivel, going on about dance, school, and of course boys, but with a few exceptions I continued writing him (in addition to calling of course!) until he died in 1996.

Another successful resolution was to stop biting, playing with and otherwise disfiguring my fingernails, resolution January 1995. My mum still laughs when she sees my now mostly-taken care of hands as she remembers the way they looked when I was young.

I feel a bit disappointed in myself, because I don’t really have a resolution for this year. I have many things I want to accomplish, but I can’t pinpoint one thing I want to change. I guess the list is too long! I’d like to be a better person : a better wife and mother, a better vegan and teacher…laudable, but vague. This is the first year that I don’t have something concrete, and it’s a little strange. I’m giving myself a little more time, because I’m sure something will come to me!

Pâte à Sel : Salt Girl & Doughboy

Until 6 weeks ago, Guppy & I were a pretty active pair. Afternoons most often meant going for a walk or a bike ride, maybe exploring in the “Grand Parc” of the castle…but since I have been immobilized, she has also been grounded.

We have become rather adept with the pâte à sel or salt dough thanks to our forced “down-time”, and I must admit, it’s been much fun.

saltgirl
My only real complaint is that I have been without food coloring for a few months so things were very White Christmas, but Guppy didn’t seem to mind.

doughman

Here’s our little “Salt Dough” recipe. This stuff will last in the fridge in an air-tight container for about a week or so, depending on how much it gets used. I know you can make longer-lasting stuff, but for that you need cream of tartar, and that is a very special-order item here in France.

Pâte à sel

*by cup I mean a cup, mug, or glass – it’s the ratio of quantities here that matters.

1 cup of salt

1 cup warm water

2 cups flour

Directions : mix. Then play.

Seriously, just mix it up, adding either more flour or more water until it feels right. You can obviously add food coloring to make things more spiffy. I considered adding a few drops of essential oil so it would smell perdy, but since Guppy still does way too much tasting of everything, I opted not to do that. But you could if your kidlet is less apt to still put everything in their mouths.

We’ve had so much fun we’re planning on making some baked salt dough holiday ornaments later today – how Osmond’s Christmas is that? I know! But heck, it was even my idea to do it. I embrace the holiday schmaltz in all its glory, because we’re making memories here people!

Food : Then & Now

Then:

Since so many of you kids out there in blogland are foodies – vegan & omni alike – I thought you may enjoy this. (I think it’s freaking fascinating and can’t stop wasting spending time reading it) . Check out this Food Timeline that Kelly of Eat Make Read posted. I don’t want anyone getting their vegan organic cotton panties in a bunch over the accuracy of the site – for me it’s purely for entertainment purposes, or perhaps a good starting off point for further research. I just think it’s terribly interesting to connect the dots of our genetic histories and food choices. I also think it would be wonderfully interesting to run a timeline of the apparition of “affluenza-esque” diseases parallel to this one. The introduction (and government-produced propaganda for the marketing) of sugar really marks some interesting changes in the ways we lived and died. Now excuse me while I eat another sugar cookie. Ahem.

Oh, and I’m also thinkin’ that I should be eating whole rice and millet more often, since they are just some of the most ancient grains regularly consumed meaning our bods have the technology to utilise them proficiently. And they rock.

Just sayin’.

Now :

Speaking of some great grains…

couscous-stuffed-shrooms

Curry Couscous Stuffed Mushrooms served with Red Wine Carrots.

I know, another washed-out photo on a food blog! How original! But get over it, because this meal goes down in the history books of deliciousness. (For a vegan I am awfully cheesy, don’t you think?). These carrots disappeared so quickly that I think for the first time ever in the history of the world I was reprimanded for not having made enough veg for dinner. Yeah, that good. Oh, and they have red wine in them. We all know how I feel about red wine.

And the schrooms? Out of this beloved galaxy my friends. I wish I could tell you what kind I used, but I can’t. Not because it’s top secret, but because Monsieur F has been negotiating the shopping since “My Left Foot” so, I told him to get big mushrooms. He asked how big. I said, as big as the palm of my hand, por favor.

mushroom

I think he did a pretty darn good job. Don’t you?

Anyway, I hate to be a tease, but these are two snazzy recipes which will be featured in 500 Vegan Recipes by our super sistahs Celine of Have Cake, Will Travel and Joni of Just The Food.

Oh, are you beginning to hyper-ventilate in a freaking panic because you still have a billion things to do before the 24th at midnight and are out of ideas? Take a deep breath. Joni has recently posted some great holiday recipes that would make delicious gifts, and so has Ricki of Diet, Dessert and Dogs – so you’ve no excuses! Inspiration is everywhere! (I think the chocolate will travel just fine to France, don’t hold back!).


It’s not Monday yet, is it? At least we’ve got cookies!

Today marks the end of our first holiday of the school year, and that means back to work for Guppy and I (well, until tomorrow, which is another holiday – woo hoo!). We decided to get the most of our last holiday weekend :

rain-puddles1

…walking in the “rain puddles” as Guppy calls them. So much more poetic than “mud puddles” if you ask me.

raking“Swishing” the leaves (I asked her what she was doing, and she told me plainly, “swishing the leaves!”). We’re between the rows of trees on the left of my header photo, FYI. It’s called le parc du château, because it’s part of the castle domain here in Fontainebleau.

drumsolo

What walk in the park would be complete without the spontaneous drum solos!

After our lovely promenade, kicking up leaves with our feet – I *love* that sound! – we headed back home for a delicious snack of tea, hot chocolate and cookies!

pb-cookie

and not just any cookies, these are the “Classic Peanutbutter Cookies” from Ricki’s much-awaited cookbook Sweet Freedom due out in early 2009. It’s not difficult to win over a family of self-described cookie monsters, I admit it, but holy yum! It will never cease to amaze me how something so easy can be so good! And the sprinkles? Ask the Guppy, who was in charge of criss-crossing & decorating. She helps remind me to pay attention to the details of happiness. Cookies = good. Sprinkles on cookies = fantastic! I have to remember to think like a 3-year-old. I think that the majority of the time, it’s the right way to go. Knowing there are cookies waiting for your afternoon snack makes the day so much more exciting, don’t you think?

bibsinprogress2

I finished up the embroidery for my new niece’s bibs this weekend, too. Hopefully I’ll get them assembled today or tomorrow. They are just begging to be drooled upon!

Vegan MoFo Day 13 – I Love You Vegan Chocolate…

I was never a big chocolate fan…

(Please don’t throw things at me. I’m sorry.)

Let’s start over.

I was a late-bloomer in the chocolate department.

(That’s better. Now you won’t reject me or find me alien. Whew.)

As a child, I was far more interested in light, sugary tastes or even caramel, but chocolate just didn’t do it for me. I never picked the Hostess Cup Cakes. I was a Twinkie girl. My favorite birthday cake flavor was lemon with lemon frosting. I’d pick jelly beans over a chocolate bunny and day of the week.

I’m not saying I disliked chocolate, but I just didn’t get what all the fuss was all about. Especially with women who were, geeze, like my mum’s age (from the Cretaceous period or something, or so it seemed to the Littlefish I was). They just went on and on about chocolate as if it were some kind of cute guy they couldn’t get enough of. Or a drug.

I can’t tell you when exactly it was that I came to the Dark Side…and I mean that sincerely, because while milk chocolate used to be fun from time to time, it was only after really getting to know dark chocolate or chocolat noir that I began to understand that there was something special about the stuff.

The beauty of the dark chocolate is that it is nearly always vegan! Hurrah for vegan food! Vegan chocolate! Vegan goodness! Do read your labels and all, kids, but here in France, where the peeps are more dark aficionados, one discusses the quality of his or her chocolat noir as they would their wine – it’s très serious. All this quality and care of the dark chocolate is really just wonderful for those who wish to avoid ingesting mammalian secretions, because as any artisan de chocolat or chocolate craftsman can tell you, pure dark chocolate would be tainted by any milk products.

I couldn’t agree more…

I want to thank you all most sincerely for the encouragement and kindness in your comments yesterday. I really needed them, and was pouring over them before leaving for work this morning. I did indeed quit, and while it was very unpleasant, I do feel relieved for it to be out in the open and official. It’s rather bitter-sweet, because while I feel so much lighter having freed myself of a horrible psychological burden, I now have to try to find a replacement job ASAP because while it was only a few hours a week, the paycheck made a large difference in our month-to-monthness.

Enter the chocolate.

As is the case of many French towns, we have multiple chocolateries, but I have a little weakness for one in particular. They specialize in chocolates from Belgium (though they make the majority of their wares in their shoppe). I spotted this beauty last week while buying a little chocolate love for some friends, and I just couldn’t resist. Dark chocolate with mint leaves? Brilliant. I love mint-chocolate, but I’d never, ever had chocolate with mint leaves, only extract. And the ingredient list has only 6 items! Just the pure cocoa goodness, sugar, mint leaves, vanilla and emulsifier. Ta da! Needless to say, I broke into my little mint-chocolate stash this afternoon. Helped me take the edge off…

I’m not going to get all preachy about the touted health-food aspects of chocolate. These are still hotly debated benefits in the medical community, and if you closely examine ANY study done on the benefits of chocolate you will find the names of the heavy-hitters in the food industry and their cousins, the agribusiness goons, who all have ties to the major candy manufacturers in the world. Am I saying it’s all bunk? No. But should we really trust them to tell us what’s really good for us? (Cause, you know, they were SO telling the truth about drinking all that cow’s milk…). Just saying we shouldn’t be cracking that fudgy-smudged smug grin too soon.

But hey, good for us or not…who cares? It’s chocolate.

Vegan MoFo Day 8 – Gratitude…and a secret family recipe to share my gratefulness with you!

There are days when I am overwhelmed by waves of gratitude. I am able to look beyond the artifice of the superficiality our consumerist-bulimia so often imposes upon us. This shallow egotism, to which we are unwittingly yoked, is so often subversive and hidden… just discreetly clouding to the corners all that is really who we are… our substance, our essence. Who we are is of course the decisions we make, the choices which delineate diets… our politics, really. The life we live is the best suited spokesperson for what we believe in, and there are moments of serendipity where we can feel that what we’re doing is in harmony with what we want to be.

I’m so grateful for …

twirling through the forest trails

the last of the summer berries

some of the last tomatoes I’ll be buying before next Spring

the amazing aroma of garlic frying in olive oil, just waiting for the above tomatoes…

Very gratefully feeling better, I was able to set aside some time to enjoy my family, make a few litres of what my family calls “Garlic Gravy”, which is just the most amazing and most simple tomato sauce. I’ve got a good amount in our deep-freezer for Winter cooking. I never buy jar sauce, ever. I do, however, during the winter months, buy canned tomatoes. But my great-grandmother Antonia’s “Garlic Gravy” needs fresh tomatoes to really shine. This is our family recipe, but it is so terribly basic that you might be thinking, “she’s got to be kidding, this isn’t a tomato sauce recipe…”. Oh yes, it is. Let me reassure you…

Great Grandmother Antonia’s Garlic Gravy

this is for just a normal amout of sauce, for lasagne or for a pasta dinner…

  • 2 to 3lbs vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 1 bulb of purple or pink garlic, or just normal if you can’t find them
  • fresh parsley
  • about 30cl or a 1/4 of homemade ketchup or a few tablespoons of tomato paste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Now here’s the deal kids – cut up your garlic and tomatoes BEFORE you do anything else. Seriously. I have begun this thinking I could chop tomatoes like the wind, only to find that my garlic is burned and that my haste made nothing but waste.

So, once everything is all cut up & ready, cover the bottom of your pot with olive oil and heat it on high until it’s just terribly hot. Add your garlic, and while stirring it, *very* slowly begin lowering the temp, being very careful to not burn your garlic. If it looks even a little brown, get your pot of the burner NOW! Continue sautéing your garlic until you just know it’s about to brown on you and add your tomatoes. Now turn that heat back up until it begins boiling. Don’t forget to stir from time to time. Bring the sauce down to a simmer, and let it go, uncovered, for about a half an hour. Add your ketchup, parsley, and add your salt and pepper if you need, and let it go for a few more mintues. That’s it. Sometimes I leave it with the chunks of garlic and tomato, sometimes I blend it up and it looks just beautiful. The taste will bluff you, because you’ve done nothing incredible, but your sauce will taste as if you did.

I’ve never met my great-grandmother. She passed away before my parents were married – she was in her 80s, outside working in her garden (she chopped her own firewood until the end) when she suffered a what would prove fatal stroke. Despite all her talents, she never quite mastered English (she was Croatian), and she took coins from her pocket to communicate to the paramedics that my mum worked at “Penny’s” department store, and that’s how they knew to call her there. I feel very close to her despite never having seen her – genetic memory? – and feel so greatful that she shared this recipe with my mum, who shared it with me when I began making my own food, about two years ago.

What are you grateful for?

I’m so thankful to be a vegan, and to have wonderful, nutritious vegan foods to eat, and fabulous blogger pals like you!

No Raw Thursday, No Iron Cupcake and No to Palin!

Don’t forget to leave a comment here to be entered

into my little drawing for a felty-love pouch!

Visiting in-laws means no Raw Thursday for the Shellyfish…proving true to form in my normal “I have to do everything really well so my in-laws love me” way, I’ve been very busy cooking & baking up a storm, and it just wouldn’t do for me to be eating a separate, raw meal at the same table… I’m working on showing how “normal” vegan cuisine really is, and while I don’t think raw cuisine is “weird” (ok, sometimes it IS), I do think it would appear a bit strange for me to be eating my Raw Tacos while they dine on the lasagna that is in the oven! JFTR (just for the record), my brother and sister-in-law are adorable, and they would love me even if I didn’t cook up a storm…it’s that perfectionist/over-achiever curse from being a ballet dancer all those years…not them! So, see you next Thursday for some raw goodness!

The Public Broadcasting System, or PBS, is the primary public and commercial-free channel in the United States (un peu comme ARTE ou France 5 mais sans les pubs). This channel provides many incredible educational programmes for children, excellent news coverage, and fabulous documentaries. There is a very un-scientific poll up on their web site asking people if they feel Ms. Palin is qualified…http://www.pbs.org/now/polls/poll-435.html you don’t have to be a U.S. citizen to realize that McCain’s feeble attempt at harvesting the female votes that would have perhaps gone to Hillary Clinton is a catastrope in the making…she may be a woman, and it’s always exciting to see more women in power, but she has a horrible environmental record, is not a pro-women’s rights voter, and has no experience with foreign policy AT ALL. Please click the link – it’ll take 20 seconds – and let your voice be heard! Oh, and check out the uber-talented Kindara and her fab Quilted Obama T-Shirt – because everything is political, our choices, our voices, and especially our art!

I have had too much on my baking pan this month, so I’m passing on the Iron Cupcake challenge for September (much to the chagrin of M. Fish). Please go check out some of these excellent entries from some of my favorite bloggers : The amazing Amanda braved post-Ike conditions to make her Basil-infused Chocolate Mousse Cupcakes, Diann has some adorable popcorn-decorated Peach Gazpacho Cupcakes, the Michigander (I love that word!) Maggie has some beautiful Basil-Citrus Cupcakes, and Sweet Potatoe has delicious Coconut Cupcakes with Mango-Basil filling and Coconut Frosting. Today is the posting deadline, so the hills will be alive with the sounds of cupcakes!

Thoughtful Fridays…Bad Religion

Hate is a simple manifestation

of a deep-seated self-directed frustration

all it does is promote fear and consternation

it’s the inability

to justify the enemy

and it fills us all with trepidation

From “Them & Us”,  Process of Belief.

Let’s just say I’m feeling a bit frustrated by all the folks using their powers for propogating the evil out there today… let’s use our powers for good, what do you say?

Rock out a little, if you will…it’s the weekend after all :

The Incredible Mr. Fish

This is Mr. Fish. Isn’t he just too freakin’ sexy-cute? (I’m not used to the beard, but I think it’s pretty fun). Sadly, he was unable to come with the Guppy & myself on our North American adventure. I’m missing him something awful. So is the Guppy.

The above photo was taken of him playing this festival :

…which I totally missed out on because I’m out of the country! :(

When we met, Mr. Fish and I thought we’d do a lot of collaborating musically. I’ve been a singer (dancer, poet, papergirl) and he was singing and playing in a band when we met, and the logical “next step” was for us to start writing songs together. The universe laughs at you, though, when you start getting all arrogant and begin planning things… Mr. Fish’s former band broke up (don’t call me Yoko! I really had nothing to do with it.) and our lives took a very different direction.

We did manage one amazing collaboration though :

…and she’s the most beautiful song either of us has ever written!

Go check out Mr. Fish’s band Copernic# on their My Space page if you’d like to give them a little listen!

And here’s a little food p*rn, which has nothing to do with anything, but you know, just to keep the edge off:

This is my favourite way to serve left-over chili the following day – burritos! Just put a little on a tortilla with some soy yogurt (which is like my version of sour cream) and some chopped tomatoes and even for an exceptional treat – avocados! Yum!

Back in the U.S.S…A! & La fête de la Bastille

Holy portion sizes, Batman! I’m back in the land where everything is bigger, newer, brighter & shiner! I am extremely thrilled to spend time with my family, so excited to eat pinto beans, green chilies, or blue corn chips whenever I want to, and to catch Sesame Street on PBS with the Guppy! I haven’t been on North American soil in two years (and to be honest, last time I was here it was for a sad/urgent reason and I didn’t really do any “observing”) and it’s surprising how much things have changed (and yet, have stayed the same). Logically, the longer I live away, the more I find myself feeling like an observer and not at all like a participant, though it is rather strange to get the feeling I’m more of a foreigner “visiting” than an expat “returning” home. So silly all these games of the mind!

I promise I’ll be putting together a little post showcasing the newish or striking things I’ve noticed since I’ve been here (holy inflation, Batkids!). I’m also giving some thought to my future post highlighting the differences between the eating habits of the French and the North Americans. I’m actually in Southern Michigan, which is not “home” for me, but home is where your family is, and that’s where most of my peeps are this summer. I’ll be heading north soon, and will hopefully get to spend at least a day in one of my very favourite countries, Canada. There has been some first rate food and lots of fun so far on my visit, so I’ll need to get my poop in a group and get some photos of all that excitement on the blog post-haste!

Copyright © 2008 AFP

Il faut pas oublier l’égalité! Don’t forget equality!

It’s July 14th and that means it’s the French National Holiday! Tearing down the prisons of economic hierarchy and gettin’ giggy with the people – right on. I’m sorry I missed being home for the fireworks & fun, but I caught this little news story online, featuring one of my favourite French Feminist groups, La Barbe, who denounces the omnipresence of males in positions of power in government, and it made me smile. These women commemorated the holiday by placing beards on the statues of the monument at la place de la République (dear to my heart because I lived just near by). This isn’t the first time they’ve done this:

Isn’t it funny that our phallocentric societies fawn over the workings of men, yet the monuments to their grandure always seem to be graced by the feminine form. Grrr… we still have so much work to do, even when on vacation!