Thursday, January 19, 2017

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce and a Heated Discussion about ONLINE Education

Waking up sick and feeling like you are starting to catch the cold that your kids just got over--sucks! I thought I had escaped it. Nope.  Sore throat, feverish, feeling like crap--that's me today.

The silver lining is that I don't have school for five days.

Yesterday was rough, speaking of school. I went to school with a light heart and a smile on my face.  Entered class and found my seat.  We chit chat for a few minutes and then class begins. Sociology gets heavy with content real quickly. You go to class happy and upbeat and leave pissed and contrite. That was me yesterday. We are discussing change in society. Several things contribute to change. Our two topics this week are technology and family. We were asked to give up our phones for 24 hours to see how our own lives were impacted with the current technological device that seems to be center to most peoples lives.  Our conversation then switched to how we use this technology. Finally ending up on the topic of online education. This is where things got sticky and loud.

One comment was made. ONE. The comment, in short, was made that nobody should use online education ever because there are plenty of public college campus. NO ONE?  Really?  That comment pretty much broke the class volume meter and a deep discussion went forth.

This is where I threw my hand up and outrightly disagreed with this persons comment.  First of all, who are they to say who gets to go to college and what type of college they attend? Education comes in many forms-not all education is formal and sitting in a classroom. Not everyone can attend a classroom every time or most of the time.  Not to mention that today, online schooling is not the norm, although it is leaning toward more people taking online classes, but in fifty years we might see most people going to school online and think to ourselves, "why didn't we do this sooner?".  What about those single mom's working two jobs, or the guy sitting in prison who wants to better his life, or me the mom with four kids, a business, and a family to raise, trying to balance and juggle life? What about all the other situations where an online education might be the only way for someone to get an education?

How you get an education is all relative to your own unique situation. We need to stop judging people's decisions because they don't fit into our norm or value system. Personally, I feel that if you have the desire, heart, and ambition to go to college, online or in person, then do what ever it takes to make it happen and DO IT! Not to mention, maybe a person does both. Like me. I use both formats.

I can't wait to see what he has to say about the family unit and how it changes our society.  We watched the pilot episode of Modern Family. We were asked to judge the episode on how we felt it related to real families in todays society.  1-5 were our choices, one being not so much and five being closely related. I chose four and he chose one.  OKAY then.

This is what I love about in person classes. The discussion in real person. I like hearing the passionate responses by other class mates and listening to their point of view. This class encourages us to speak honestly and truthfully about our feelings and points of views.

These topics get heated and filled with loud voices, strong opinions, and deep discussion. We all leave on good terms because this is a safe place to talk about our differences openly and in a guided format. Hearing my classmates ideas and thoughts on a variety of subjects allows me to really think about my own opinions. I have had to reevaluate my own ideas on occasion.

I guess the key to all of this is that we are talking. We are communicating our ideas. We are listening. The one thing I am learning is that we need to be careful about using words like: always, everyone, should, and never. These words are limiting and don't allow for change or inclusion.  The assumption is the everyone should be doing all the right things every single time. Life doesn't work that way.

That was sociology. Then came the text from my daughters about a situation at home (I'll tackle that tomorrow).  Finally math hit me in the face with 2.5 hours of nonstop head down computing and working as fast as I could.  It feels like a marathon on most days in math. The thrill and rush of working with numbers gets my heart pumping and brain moving.  It's an awesome roller coaster of emotions.

I walk in the door and I am home feeling like a bus just hit me. Dinner is always next when I get home at 4 in the afternoon. This is my life two days a week for the next eleven weeks. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world because I am able to be a student and a mom. I get to do both.

I like this easy Cauliflower Alfredo recipe that takes just a few minutes and can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days.

I have used several recipes but pretty much wing it each time I make it because they all have the same basic ingredients: cauliflower, nutritional yeast, lemon, salt, pepper, garlic, and liquid.

If you are not familiar with Nutritional Yeast, this is what gives the sauce a "cheesy" flavor. It's nutty and similar in flavor to a strong parmesan cheese. You can buy this at most stores but best to buy it in large quantities because once you use it, then you find other reasons to use it. It's a great vegan alternative to cheese.  You can make all types of sauces with it.

I use my Vitamix to get a smooth and creamy texture. I dip bread in mine. Some of my family eats in on noodles.  Others eat it like a thick soup. My personal favorite is to make a marinara sauce and have both sauces on my noodles.  YUM

I have used this recipe from OH SHE GLOWS with great success.  Like I said above, I don't really follow a recipe anymore. I just add the ingredients to my Vitamix, taste, adjust, blend, and serve.

This is my other favorite recipe from Minimalist Baker.

If you are new to vegan cooking I highly recommend visiting both of the sites listed above. I have learned so much about plant based cooking from both these ladies. I don't mind sharing recipes from friends and colleagues because it saves me time. My life is about balance and time management these days.

Also this week, I made smoothies in the mornings and pre-portioned them up for anyone who needed a quick snack, juice, or lunch. I repurpose the jelly jars. They are the perfect size and I get to reuse something that I would have normally thrown away. We don't recycle class in Oregon. The bonus--theres not any plastic--but glass. I like that.

I hope you have a great day! I will medicate, rest, and move on with my busy self.  Life of a mom is all about moving forward and finding a pace that works with your lifestyle.  GO MOMS!


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Sushi Bowls

My Sushi Bowl all messy and stirred together.
I like eating mine this way because each bite is a party to my taste buds.

Our family has discovered a new family favorite. Sushi Bowls are a great way to use up stuff in your fridge, especially, if you made sushi a few days ago and have left overs--like we did. Visit link to see what we used.

We make rice every day. This is something we have done for years. The kids love it and it's a great easy meal when we are in a hurry. The sushi bowl starts off with a bowl of white rice.  I open the refrigerator and notice I have pineapple, mango, and asparagus left over from the night before. I grab these. Then things just rolled from that point. I reach for a sheet of seaweed and using my scissors, start cutting the tiniest strips. I grab a few green onions, throw a handful of Panko crumbs, and make a small batch of Sriarcha Mayonnaise.  My bowl takes on a life of its own.

My belly says thank you.  That was yesterday.

Today, I make another Sushi Bowl.  

Tomorrow I might make a third Sushi Bowl. 

These sushi bowls are easy. Too easy for a formal recipe.  Use your imagination to create the perfect bowl of UMAMI for your desired taste buds. 

I used: rice, soy sauce, red bell pepper, pineapple, mango, red onion, cucumber, asparagus, sesame seeds, strips of nori (seaweed sheets), and my imagination.  Use what you like. If you don't have any dietary restrictions then this will open up a few more options that our family does not do.

Cory and the kids made it home from our nieces wedding all safe and sound.  That night we sat down to watch a movie while the kids were also settling in for the night.  We thought Isabella had gone to bed but she surprised us with a gentle knock and opening of our bedroom door. She could not sleep.

We turned the movie off until she was tired. We talked for a few minutes about MLK's birthday on Monday.  We watched his speech  from 1963 and talked for about 30 minutes on an important subject.  I wrote this on my Facebook page and took a picture of it. I didn't think I could remember it all again. Overall, it was a valued few minutes to help her understand some important social topics of our time and those of our past.  My role as her teacher never ends. I don't punch a timecard. Moments of learning and teaching can happen at any time and I hope that I am always ready and able to use that time wisely. 

We made hot chocolate mix earlier in the day. Finnley is quickly turning into a little kitchen helper. She wants to help and I am excited to have her help. Our kids all work in the kitchen and I love this about them. They love to help cook, prepare, clean-up, and create. Cooking is a wonderful tool because it allows us to spend time with our kids, it gives us an opportunity to teach them something fun, we are able to make memories, and they are learning something that they will use their whole lives. Cooking opens doors to communicate, to laugh, and to share.  I wouldn't trade those minutes spent in the kitchen with my kids for anything; priceless moments with the returns of eternal blessings.

I hope that you each have a week filled with intention, purpose, and joy.


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sunday Funday

You know, ever since we stopped going to church, Sunday is a fun day again. I know that sounds harsh but it's our truth. I have plenty of friends and family that love Sundays because they get to go to church. I'm happy for them. It's just not our fun way to spend Sunday. It's not where our family finds our truth. Some would have us believe that we should not express this sentiment out loud because it goes against the norm. Whose norm? I have had to relearn my spiritual path and find what works for me and our family.  It's been a long road but I would do it again because where we are today feels more in tune to our path here on this earth and beyond.

My family is my sanctuary; along with--the beach, the hiking trails, my home, my yard, my sewing room, my trip up the coast, my camping trip, and my text books.  All of these places and things teach me how to be a good person. They teach me how to center myself. They teach me about a higher source. I believe the key word there is teach.  In these places I am teachable because I am open and listening. I want my kids to understand that not all people worship the same, receive guidance the same way, or believe in the same God or religion, if any religion at all.  I want them to know that acceptance and tolerance is a two way street. If I am allowed to enjoy my Sunday-my way; then, others need to be allowed the same right-their way.

We believe in the spirit of human goodness. We believe that nature is healing, alive, and full of wisdom.  I believe in love. I believe in the belief that humans start off good and through our environment, life's ups and downs, and personal choices, we chose the wrong path. I believe that each day we get a new slate to start over.  I believe that with every choice there is a consequence-some good and some bad.  I have to believe that, we as humans, want to do good. I believe that we each have a story book filled with chapters that detail our lives and until we share those stories with others, nobody truly knows an individual by seeing their outsides only.  I believe in love, kindness, acceptance, giving, mercy, empathy, and so much more. I believe.

This Sunday I hope that you are able to find the place or places that make you feel centered, focused, teachable, and loved without fear that you choose to do so in a building or outside with Mother Nature. Both places offer safe havens for those that need and want it.

My family comes home today.  Finnley and I had a fun weekend playing together. We took baths, read books, had a tea party, made chocolate chip cookies, and I managed to study a bit for my psychology class.  I am studying the about the developing human and all the stages we go through from birth to death. It is very fascinating. I am especially intrigued to be studying about stem research and DNA mapping.  Just when I think my brain cannot hold anymore information it explodes with excitement and opens up to receive more.  I love learning!

These are a few things we did this past week with links to recipes and how-to's.  I thought this would be a fun way to do my Sunday Funday post.

Slime with two ingredients (plus coloring):  This is really easy and fun SLIME to make.
Bouncing Egg experiment: Youtube video HERE.

Pamela's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies:  Recipe Here.  I made a few adjustments to meet our vegan diet.  I replaced the butter with vegetable oil one for one AND I used two flax meal eggs to replace the two real eggs in the recipe. Use your favorite chocolate chip to fit your dietary needs. We use a dark chocolate chip.  The results were good. I did the first batch with a cookie scoop. They do not spread out . We ended up with little balls.  Honestly a cookie ball taste just as good as a flat cookie.  For the second batch, I put the dough in the fridge, scooped the balls, BUT-flattened the cookies a bit with a fork.  Each batch I cooked for 10 minutes and reset the timer for an additional two minutes.

The cookie was amazing!  Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle.  Just like we like them. My favorite part was the cookie with my coffee. This was a little bit of paradise for me.  A sweet treat for our Sunday Funday.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Planting Seeds

It's freezing!  The temperatures are ridiculously cold for our area. Portland is a winter wonderland and an ice skating rink. Temperatures are not rising so the snow and ice are staying.  My family is heading in that directions today for our niece's wedding.  

Traveling with the potential for black ice and dangerous driving makes me anxious for them. I am staying home because Finnley has been sick for a week with a chest cold and cough.  We took her to the walk-in clinic and found that she has bronchitis. Thankfully it's not pneumonia.  I was worried that her little body was having a hard time breathing and now we know that it is.  They sent us home with a breathing treatment with the hope that she recovers quickly. I have a follow-up visit next Friday. If she is not better by then we will have to look at a steroid treatment.  UGH!  

Last night she slept for the first time in a week, which means I slept too. YAY ME!

With most of my family heading into the big city this means I have the whole house to myself (besides Finnley).  It feels open and empty.  Not in a bad way.  As a mom we don't realize how much of each family member we carry in our homes when they are present.  I worry about each of them. I cleanup after them. I make dinner for them. I listen to their words, desires, frustrations, and accomplishments. I am their cheerleader-always on! They are my world and when they are home I care for their needs. I carry their emotional essence and I did not realize this until they left.  I will miss them but I feel that I might needs this small break from a heavy load.  I shall not feel guilty because I recognize that as Mom's we need to refill our own needs.  Today I will get to do a few things I want to do and this I will glory in. 

What shall I do is the question I am asking myself?  

I am hoping to work a bit on our garden plans. We ordered our seeds and they arrived this month.  We are preparing to embrace Imbolc on February 1st.  This is a time for us to celebrate the coming of a new season. It's the half way mark between winter and summer.  I feel this is a good time for us to work on our planting and start our seedlings.  We will also make our corn dolls (corn=crop) to ensure a successful planting season.  I have a candle making kit coming soon too. My little girls love these crafts. I love sharing with them about the 8 important celebrations for our way of belief.

We will be eating foods that represent this holiday.  Burn a few candles.  Learn about the folklore of our ancestry in regards to this celebration. I can't wait.

Planting seeds is a physical action but we also have seeds planted within our beings that are emotional, spiritual, and symbolic. I ordered the book pictured above to help grow the seeds of knowledge in regards to the celebrations of the pagan way. This journey has brought me joy and a sense of who I am. I feel connected to something more than myself for the first time in a long time.

I believe these seeds of growth started a while ago.  It's taking me until this past year to fully embrace this journey. Fear of what others would think always held me back.  Fear is a powerful tool that others use to sanction our movements.  It keeps us down and does not lift us up. Through my psychology and sociology classes I have learned so much.  I hope that when my schooling is over I will be able to help others overcome those fears.  

My education to this point has been the best investment made by myself in a long time. It planted the seeds of confidence, determination, success, and vision.  I look to my future with planning. Something I haven't done in years outside of my family's needs.  Personally, the seeds I have planted and nurtured are benefiting my family too. I now think about my future job. I think about how I can contribute to our family financially. I think of how strong my kids will be because they will see that I accomplished something hard. 

This month we will physically be planting seeds, but emotionally and spiritually, I will be tending to my the growing of the seeds with my kids, my family, my husband, and myself. Growth is good for our minds, our souls, and our existence.  When we stop growing and nurturing we become stale. Our choices each day allow us the opportunity to chose growth.  Do you find yourself in a growth mind set?  Are you tending to the seeds in your own life?  

Have a fabulous day!  


Friday, January 13, 2017

Friday the 13th--Our Septic Nightmare Continues-and SUSHI

It's Friday the 13th. I love numbers and  Friday the 13th has never been a day that I think is different than any other day. With that said, if you do believe that Friday the 13th is a day to have apprehension about, then you might think that today is a scary-look over your shoulder-kind of day-especially after hearing about our septic nightmare. Either way it's a day and we will each do the best we can to get through it.

Our day started off with septic issues. I do not like to use the word hate often, but today--I HATE BEING ON SEPTIC!  Since moving into this house we have had to have it pumped out 3 times. Maybe this is normal--I don't know. We are doing everything in our power to not replace our septic system.  For those that don't know the price tag on that adventure-about $15000.00.. YES-that's three zeros.

We just went through a huge issue with our well and pump system--that is still not fixed and we just learned that we need to spend another $2500.00 today on that.  OUCH! Total price tag for the well will be around $8000.00

Homeownership has a high price tag some years.

The silver lining in this whole process, for me, is that, we get it fixed and then we are set for the next 20 years (my fingers are crossed). I love my house and I love owning my house but the constant need to upgrade, repair, and invest can sometimes be overwhelming and expensive.

Last night when we saw sand in the bathtub and toilet downstairs, we knew immediately that our septic was full.  Normally we have spillage everywhere but this time we were fortunate to see the sand first. The last time it was full the bathroom flooded with sewage 4 inches deep.  Its Friday and we can only hope that they can come pump it before the weekend.  We can't use the water to flush--I have kids, this really sucks, especially with a three year old that refuses to use the potty if anything is in the toilet. On the bright side, we are having to once again evaluate our water usage. We are a large family and our water needs get out of hand with showers, baths, and laundry. I don't think this is a bad thing to try and conserve water.

Other things we are looking at, are changing all of our cleaning supplies to natural alternatives. I do this most of the time but on occasion we have used things with bleach. Bleach is not good for a septic system. ALSO--this is a big deal--toilet paper and plastic tablets (like laundry and dishwasher tabs) don't work great in a septic system. We will be switching back to all liquid products. The toilet paper we use is suppose to be septic safe. I'm thinking we need to do some more research.

I went to bed feeling overwhelmed and a bit stressed. Laying in bed I thought to myself, why am I letting this affect me.  It's something that happened. It needs to be fixed.  We have the means. Just fix it. I felt much better once I let go of the anxiety of the situation.

Today I woke up in a better place with the whole septic nightmare. It is what it is and I will not let it affect my happiness or mood.

Last night we made sushi for the family. This is a great way for my kids to help in the kitchen. They can individualize their rolls too. I like that.  Sushi doesn't have to involve fish.  We make ours with veggies and fruits. We use sauces to add spice and flavor.

Veggies we like are: cucumber, asparagus, sweet potato, carrots, avocado, green onions
Fruits: mango, pineapple, strawberries,
Flavors: ginger, jalapeno, lemon grass, sesame seeds, soy sauce, Sriarcha, mayonnaise

I use Nori sheets and sushi rice.

Special tools: a sushi mat, rice maker

There are a lot of youtube videos that will walk you through the process of assembling your rolls. My friend Nami at Just One Cook has amazing Japanese tutorials.

Well, lets hope the weekend is awesome and amazing.  The sun is shining so I know that we are off to a good start.


UPDATE:  They were able to pump it out today. The size of the toilet paper bomb that he found was one of the largest he has seen in a while.  Basically, we had a Moby Dick sized toilet paper whale clogging the the exit to our drain field.  Small miracles were heard today.  This means that we may not have to replace the whole septic this year.  We definitely need to evaluate our toilet paper usage and the type we are using. I am not believing all toilet paper is septic safe even though most of them say this on the labels.  I am off to do my research.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

New Expectations

Our view for date night this week.  These sea lions are entertaining to watch. We ate at Clearwater which is located downtown.  Great food, good ambiance,  and beautiful views.

I've been in school for one year and in this time I have had to change my expectations of a few things in my life. I have had to create new expectations for myself and my family.

The first change was my ability to keep up with everything in the home.  My home has always been a place of pride for me regardless of the size, style, or worth. I say this because while I lived in the travel trailer for one year with my family, this was my home. I cared for it like I would a brick and mortar residence.  My home is a place where my family resides.  Having an organized and clean home makes me feel ready to tackle the day.

I've had to back off the orderly manner in which I prefer my home to feel and look like.  The floors are not as clean, the stove is not spotless, the beds are rarely made, the bathrooms, well, they are always in need of TLC.  Don't get me started on the laundry. I don't think I have seen the bottom of a hamper in months.

AND--you know what, it's okay.

I wouldn't trade my experience now because school has changed me. It has allowed me to have a year of new friendships, new ideas, and a new self or being.

The second expectation I have had to change is that of my husband. I kind of expected him to walk into my role with ease and to fill those shoes I have worn for 28 years. I expected dinner to be made after a long day of being in class. I thought the laundry would be kept up. I, in my expectations, expected him to be me, only in a male form.

Oh, how wrong I was.

He has been a rock star.  He is doing a fabulous job and working and keeping our home in check. Is it how I would do it? NO, but he is doing it his way and for that I am grateful.

Another expectation, is that of myself. Looking back 28 years ago I never expected my life to be what it is today: being in school, living at the beach, four kids, and a wonderful man by my side. This has taught me that I might have expectations of the future but that I should be open to change, challenges, and new circumstances.

Finally,  I expected school to be hard and challenging.  It is on some days but for the better part, it is not.  I thought I would be behind in class. I have not been behind, if anything, going to school has allowed me to shine with my organizational skills.  School has brought out the best in me--and I am so happy that I chose this path a year ago.

What do I expect of the future?

Who knows. Honestly, I don't want to know. I want it to be exciting and filled with choices that are fresh, authentic, and fulfilling.

I have hopes, dreams, goals, ambitions, and desires.  Those will not supersede the path of my family's adventures in the future. I am constantly reworking my school status to accommodate those of my family.  This is perfectly fine with me.  I'm fortunate that I get to do both at this stage in my life.

My new expectations are to not have many. To live each day NOW with an open mind, open heart, and a playful soul.

This week I made our favorite vegan tomato soup. The recipe can be found HERE.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Udon Stir Fry and Winter Semester

I'm glad to be back in school. I love my breaks at the end of each semester but the feeling of going back to school after a break--is better.  I love being home with the kids but, honestly, its boring. My brain needs to be stimulated with learning and ideas. I get that it can be done outside of the classroom but there is something about being in a classroom that triggers a greater depth of appreciation for me.

I missed my friends. I missed the homework. I miss being challenged and learning hard things--hard math, hard social issues, hard physiological theories, and writing. My sister in law called me an over achiever last night on the phone. Maybe she's right.  I don't feel like I'm trying to over achieve. I feel like I'm trying to be filled to brim with purpose.

I know that my purpose is more than being a wife and a mom.  Now don't freak out.  Those are important and I wouldn't change them for the world but it is okay for me, as a woman, to say that I want more. I want more because I am able to handle more and smart enough to learn more.  

I want my daughters and my son to understand that we are all capable of more if that is what we desire and wish for.  More for me is not what your more looks like. It's not even what the next person may see as more. My more may be quite small compared to the next person.  It doesn't matter because my more is perfect for me.

I have two classes with an hour break in between.  This is the first time I have two classes on the same day. It means I am away from home for about 5 hours. I am now taking a lunch to school.  It feels weird for some reason to need a lunch but I can't go more than a few hours without food. This is requiring me to think about what I can take for lunch. I'm trying really hard to avoid the vending machine because it all adds up in the end.  All I really want to do is grab a candy bar and call shit tight. My blood sugar levels would not like that.  Today I packed a pasta salad, Fritos, pistachios, and a small orange.  It was enough to get me through the day.  YAY

I busted through the door at 4 and jumped right into family and dinner.  I love the ease of working with Udon noodles.  I presoaked them in warm water to break them up and then set to sauteeing my vegetables-carrots, mushrooms, celery, garlic, some ginger, some lemongrass paste and lots of onion.

I opened a can of garbanzo beans and a can of bean sprouts to toss in at the last minute. I am using salt, pepper, and soy sauce for the seasoning.

I won't post a formal recipe because this is easy stuff:  heat oil, saute vegetables, add noodles, add sauce, add canned items, heat and serve.

It's that easy folks.

Ta-Da--dinner is done.  Bellies are full.  Mom is tired and ready for bed but has a ton of homework to do...LOL

Enjoy your day!  I'm off to my writing class.



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