I'm continuing to blog on the new site. Please join me there!
Hi, old friends.
I'm blogging again, but over on a new site. Please join me there!
P.S. We bought a farm. OK, not technically a farm, but a farmhouse on some land with a bunch of fruit trees.
As a new transplant to Boston, I can complain about the heat and humidity. Silently. In my head. I don't dare say anything negative about this sunshine to the folks here who endured last winter's 110 inches of snow.
But it is hot and muggy and sticky right now and all I want to eat is cold beer.
Since that, for various reasons, is a bad idea, the next best option is to only serve my family foods that are either cold, crunchy or both. And walk around town with ice packs tucked into my bra. (Yes, I did.)
Here's some of what we had today.
Green smoothies are a morning staple in our home. Mine usually contain:
-kale or spinach
-fruit, such as a frozen banana, pineapple, an orange or berries. (Mango is delicious, but Magpie and J are allergic to it, so it's a sometimes treat.)
-parsley or cilantro
-a small chunk of ginger
-a squeeze of lime
-and then I sprinkle hemp seeds on top
For the girls, I usually stick with spinach/kale and two fruits.
Blend it up in the Vitamix (I will have to proselytize about that sweet machine in a future post) and drink up your morning salad. You will feel so good all morning long, you'll forget to put ice packs in your undies.
For dinner tonight we ate a what's-on-the-verge-of-going-bad salad. I hesitate to include a list of ingredients here because the point really is to just chop up whatever is in your fridge, but you can trust that this combination tasted great:
-Red leaf lettuce
-Avocado (sprinkled with sea salt, then scooped out in bite-size moons with a spoon)
-Roasted eggplant "chips"
To make the eggplant chips, I sliced a Japanese eggplant into 1/4-inch thick rounds, tossed them with olive oil and salt, and then roasted them in the oven at 350 degrees for about 25 minutes.
My go-to salad dressing is always this:
-Pour into a jam jar 1 part balsamic vinegar and 2 parts olive oil.
-Add a squeeze of grainy mustard, a squeeze of honey, a pinch of salt and some finely chopped garlic.
-Shake-uh-shake-uh-shake-uh the jar (lid on, of course).
The girls will eat my honey-mustard-balsamic just fine, but they are 7 and 10 years old so they still prefer ranch dressing. I always follow this vegan ranch recipe when I feel like appeasing them.
Is dinner in your home this exciting?
Finally ... dessert.
One of my favorite things about our new life as 41-year-old college students is that we live in a giant building with hundreds of other middle-aged college students. Frequently, they must move away, and just as we desperately gave away items that didn't fit in our Uhaul when we left Washington a month ago, our neighbors often leave items in the lobby they no longer need.
As I was heading out for a run a few mornings ago, I spied a Cuisinart ice cream maker near the mailboxes. My sneakers turned me right around so I could bring that baby back upstairs to its new home.
We followed The Kitchn's recipe for vegan coconut ice cream tonight and it turned out great. We added pecans and chocolate chips to the base recipe. The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of agave, which I think is way too much (evidence: Magpie just crawled out of bed with a tummy ache). With the chocolate chips in there, you probably could skip the sweetener altogether.
Of course, it was still delicious. And cold, which was the whole point anyway, right?
P.S. You might have noticed all the "vegan this" and "vegan that." I'd say we eat about 90 percent vegan these days. I made the switch last March after watching the documentary Vegucated, and I've been irritating friends and family about it ever since. I'll write more about that another time, so you can be irritated, too.
The weather in Boston today is alternating between hot, rainy and hot, so we're crafting it up inside our apartment.
Step one was a quick (ahem, 90-minute) trip to Michael's craft store, though. That's one thing the girls are getting used to. Since we don't have a car, we either walk or ride the T (subway) wherever we need to go. The girls end up walking about 10 miles a day and rarely complain--they're troopers. Ask me again in January.
They've been wanting to make miniature food and other objects out of Fimo dough for their dolls. By wanting, I mean obsessing. Check out their idea lists:
Yes, #44 says "vegan stuff."
(Oh my! Add thunder to today's list of weather events.)
So they bought some clay and immediately began creating once we got back home. FYI: they actually purchased the Premo! brand of clay, not Fimo. It's working great.
Longtime Penny Carnival readers might remember the edible version of that rainbow cake.
They're not following any instructions, just experimenting as they go. Most importantly, it's been three hours and they're still diggin' it. Score!
Easy. Fun. Minimal mess. Functional results (for the dolls, anyway).
Let’s just pretend that three years haven’t passed since my last post on Penny Carnival. Because, if I focus on that, starting up again will never happen and as my friend Sarah reminds me, “perfect is the enemy of good.” So I’m going to skip the whole “I can’t believe how long it’s been” blah blah blah and just jump the frig back in.
I probably should include a quick recap, though. Here’s the Penny Carnival 411:
2008: I begin blogging. At the time, our family of four lives in Spokane, Wash., where you can own a 3,000-square-foot house on 1/3 acre for the cost of a jar of pickles. I work from home as a freelance journalist. Our daughters “Bo” and “Magpie” are 3 and less than a year old at the time. Life is a mixture of kid crafts, sewing and growing vegetables in the yard.
February 2009: The book sling is born. Frustrated by Bo taking three hours to select a bedtime book from her standard, spine-facing bookcase, I invent the forward-facing “hanging book display” (which later becomes the “book sling”). I enter my idea in a contest on Apartment Therapy and win $250. The book sling tutorial quickly becomes the most popular page on my blog, and years later my little DIY keeps popping up on the Internet and on TV (i.e., the Today show just last month!), prompting my husband (“J”) to occasionally ask, “Tell me again why you didn’t patent that thing?”
September 2010: After nine years as a journalist, I go back to my first career: teaching. Instead of getting my feet wet by subbing, I jump headfirst into a full-time position teaching kindergarten.
I. am. overwhelmed.
Blogging frequency slows but chugs along. Kindergartners are hilarious. They tell me every detail of their lives, including on which part of their body their dad had surgery last week (picture child rolling onto his back, lifting legs into air, pointing to nether region).
This was our family back then:
Summer 2011: We move from Spokane to my hometown, Bellingham, Washington, to live closer to my parents and sister. I take a position teaching first grade instead of kindergarten. First graders are slightly larger, slightly more filtered versions of kindergartners. And apparently, in this day and age, first graders must learn to read Shakespeare by June. Stress ensues. Blogging slows down even more.
July 2012: Blog posts cease.
June 2014: We decide to put down roots in Bellingham and buy a 1976 house on 1/2 acre. The back yard is fully fenced—perfect for the dog we’ve been planning to adopt. A gosh-darn creek runs through the property. The neighbors welcome us with fresh strawberries and pie. A few doors down there are sheep that bleat at us whenever we walk by. We bleat back on our way to the garden share, where neighbors trade extra veggies they’ve grown and books they no longer read.
We tear down walls inside the house and spend blood, sweat and money remodeling the place. New floors. New kitchen. We sit in the living room at night talking about how much we love our new home.
Four months later: J announces that he wants to pursue a doctorate degree. At Harvard.
Harvard is 3,130 miles from Bellingham. There are still burn marks on my arms caused by steam from the wallpaper remover. I am not above occasionally showing J those scars.
June 2015: We quit our jobs, sell our house and move to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Our apartment is 767 square feet and the oven is so small I have to leave the door open while baking in order for my cookie sheets to fit inside. Doing so on a 90-degree day suuuucks.
Bo is now 10 and heading to fifth grade. She is a dancer and a thespian. At bedtime, she no longer struggles to find a book to read. She falls asleep immediately because she is so damn tired from filling the world with joy all day long. I adore her spunk, her energy, her creativity and her Punky Brewster fashion sense.
Magpie is 7 and will be a second grader. She loves dance, sports, shellfish, making friends and not bathing. Her sense of empathy and ability to read others’ emotions often amazes me. When I look at her, I want to eat her up.
J has been working as a school principal but is now a full-time doctoral student at Harvard. We are still not sure how this all happened, but he is an amazing human being and—despite how much we joke about it—he deserves this opportunity. He is also an advocate for the underdog and a relentless champion for children who need one. I love him to bits.
As for me? Good question. At some point, I’ll need to get a job. For now, my role is to help us all transition to our new world. We don’t have a car now, so sometimes that means walking a mile to buy a vacuum and then walking a mile home with a vacuum in my arms. More often it’s about making dinner and putting bandaids on fresh blisters (did I mention we don’t have a car?). I’m also finding time to go for long runs along the Charles River and read the newspaper with a cup of coffee in hand. As snarky as I'm being about small ovens and square footage, it really is quite dreamy.
Check back in if you want to read more about our adventure. The sewing machine made the voyage, so you can expect some of that in the future, too, plus some balcony gardening and home cookin’. It’s good to be back with my old friend Penny and with all of you.