simple birthdays.

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Just like that, both my kids birthdays came and went in the last 2 weeks.  Now I am the proud mama to 6 and 10 (!!) year olds.  Time truly slips through the fingers like water.  I thought it might be fun to share our birthday rituals here, for we keep things simple yet meaningful and always have a wonderful time together.  Naturally, this creates less waste, too, since we are focused on consuming less, and teaching our kids the satisfaction and joy that can come with simple things done well.  (sidenote: for more gift ideas for kids and adults alike, check my zero waste gift guide, which also gives tips for low waste wrapping techniques)

cakes // I always let the kids decide what kind of cake they would enjoy for their birthday, and then go about finding a vegan and hopefully gluten free version (so that I can enjoy too!). This year Carmela chose lemon cake with cream cheese icing, and Vincent chocolate cake with chocolate buttercream.  The lemon cake didn’t turn out as great as I would have hoped, so I won’t share the link here.  But, the chocolate cake was excellent, and it was THIS one from Minimalist Baker.  We are still using the same old birthday candles from ages ago.  When they run out I’ll probably just make candles from leftover candle wax.  Plastic free/no sprinkle decorations can look so beautiful- lemon slices, roses + other flowers, grated citrus zest looks beautiful on white frosting, chopped nuts or toasted coconut pressed round the edges, or a favorite tiny figurine sitting on top.

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gifts // By now, the people in our lives know our lifestyles and are wonderful at co-operating with us not wanting plastic or more toys.  I also try to emphasize something small, because I don’t want my kids to expect to be flooded with tons of gifts.  Not only is it overwhelming for them (and anyone!), but having fewer things sends the message to take care and love what we do have.  This gratitude and appreciation is so important for me to foster in them.  For Carmela, I had been wanting to update her room, as she had very little and I wanted to give her a more cozy space.  So, I got her a little nightstand which doubles as a small bench or stool, a few cozy pillows, and a new colorful cotton rug to go by her bookshelf to make that a more comfortable spot to sit.  She slept in Vincent’s room that night and it was so magical to see her wake up and go into her newly rearranged room.  We also gift the kids an experience- so somewhere they want to go or something they want to see.  This year, Carmela chose the Exploratorium in San Francisco and we made a special day of it.  For Vincent, a special concert (a full orchestra playing Beatles songs, his fave).  Gifts others gave to them included: a states map puzzle, enamel pin of Bill Nye, various books, gift certificate to the local ice cream shop, bath salts and homemade items.  My kids loved them all and they were ecstatic to receive these little treasures.

rituals // by far the most looked-forward-to aspect of birthdays here, the kids love these repeated rituals that seem to delight them and add comfort knowing they can expect the same thing every year.  These things will be different for every family, but I encourage you to find a little rhythm to your years.

-I watercolor them a special card from scratch and Joel and I write a meaningful note inside, also usually I make a little poem for them.  They love to see what the card is like each year.

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-The night before I like to read this traditional little verse:  When I have said my evening prayer, and my clothes are folded on the chair, and mother switches out the light, I’ll still be ___ years old tonight.  But from the very break of day, before the children rise and play, before the darkness turns to gold, tomorrow I’ll be ___ years old.  ___ kisses when I wake, ___ candles on my cake.  note: we aren’t traditionally religious, but we still practice giving gratitude at night before bed for the days gifts, a sort of Universe prayer if you will.  The kids just love this being told to them when they’re tucked in bed on their birthday eve.  Such a sweet little ritual.

-The morning of, we all smother the birthday child with the kisses for their respective age, and make quite a big, loud, dramatic deal of it 😉

-Either while we are lighting the candles on the cake, or while we are eating the cake, we tell the birthday child a detail or memory from each year of their life.  Ie, when you were a baby…., when you were one year old…., when you were two years old…etc.  This I think is their favorite of all.  There is something so special to a child hearing memories and stories straight from a loved ones mouth, especially concerning them.  Sometimes they ask to hear the story of their birth, too.

-birthday crown: when Carmela was tiny, I bought a felt birthday crown from Etsy (so easy to make, too) and they love putting it on on the morning of their birthday.  This one is the closest I could find, though ours has a ribbon instead of elastic.

-the morning after, I let them have a slice of birthday cake for breakfast, which is always the most exciting thing for them, to get to “break the rules” one day!

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What are your birthday traditions?  I’d love to know!

 

 

in season now: cauliflower + 6 ways to use it

Cauliflower

note:  I wrote this entire post and then realized I had already done this same post last year, haha.  I guess I just really love cauliflower!  Anyways, there’s some different recipes here for you to try out if you, like me, also love this veggie or are trying to figure out different ways to use it up.

Cauliflower is one of the earliest cool season veggies that come to our farmers market.  It’s always such a joy to see something new after months of tomatoes, cucumbers and peaches.  Not that I’m complaining- but the newness of seasonal foods is such a pleasure. A treat!  Something exciting, like rekindling a relationship and catching up with an old friend.  At our market, we’ve got purple, orange, and green cauliflowers, along with the usual white.  They all taste amazing and slightly different from each other.  My kids think the purple is the coolest thing.  Which it totally is!

To choose a good cauliflower, look for tightly packed, dense heads that feel heavy for their size.  If there’s leaves on it still, they should look fresh and green instead of witty or browned.

When you get it home, you can either store it whole- it does well put directly into the veggie drawer of the fridge, loose- or, cut it up.  Cut it into florets and store in a large container, such as a Pyrex bowl with a lid, or some mason jars.  It will keep for 5-7 days or so in the fridge like this and is nice to have already cut to lessen prep in the week.

Purple graffiti cauliflower vegan meal

Here’s some of my favorite ways to enjoy cauliflower:

creamy cauliflower soup // cauliflower is SO creamy when pureed.  Velvety, luscious goodness.  This soup is so easy to make and is the most comforting thing ever.  I love that it includes a boost of protein from the yellow split peas, too.  Sometimes I like to do a variation of half cauliflower and half pumpkin, recipe HERE.

cauliflower squash soup vegan creamy dairy free plant based chickpeas

cauliflower buffalo wings // I mean, isn’t this just the best way to eat cauliflower? 😉 I use THIS recipe, but use Miyoko’s butter (palm oil free) and 1/2 cup rice flour + 1/4 cup chickpea flour instead of the all purpose.  Joel actually always makes these because I hate waiting for them to be done haha.

mash // continuing with the velvety puree texture I was talking about, cauliflower makes a great addition to mash.  I like half and half potato and cauliflower, which lends a velvety texture and a slightly sweet/nutty flavor profile.  All cauliflower mash is excellent, too- and can be a great way to introduce cauliflower in a different way to kids.  I just steam until very soft, then puree with some crushed garlic, salt, fresh thyme, olive oil or Miyoko’s butter, and maybe some nutritional yeast or miso if you like.  A few splashes of broth or plant milk to thin if necessary.  Great with lentil stew, to top shepherds pie, or as a side with mushroom gravy and roasted veg and gigante beans for a delicious “roast” dinner.  THIS recipe for a casserole esque bake is so yummy and combines the best of both worlds.

roasted // roasting cauliflower transforms it into the most amazing, crispy, nutty, sweet and addictive flavor.  I love simply roasting with a touch of oil, thyme and salt and keeping it in the fridge to add to bowls, lentil salads, or roasting half and half with cubed red potatoes or half moons of delicata squash.  THIS recipe is also so excellent and adds such a beautiful spin.  Sometimes I roast and toss with cumin and oregano and chipotle for an excellent taco filling.

curry // the mild taste and smooth texture of cauliflower makes it a perfect toss in for curries.  Indian types are classic, but it works in Thai curries too.  I like to add it with chickpeas and coconut milk and spinach similar to THIS recipe.  Protein, veggies, fats and greens- a one pot easy meal.  In the same vein, it’s so good in curry spiced rice with cashews and golden raisins- my recipe can be found in THIS meal plan post– scroll down to find it.

turmeric curry chickpea cauliflower rice

ricotta // cauliflower makes THE most excellent ricotta sub for lasagnas and manicotti.  Here’s the manicotti RECIPE.

manicotti

What’s your favorite way to eat cauliflower?  I’d love to know your simple, go-to recipes too!

 

this week v.

kids Carmela vincent

Hi friends!  How’s you Sunday going?  I’m just over here watering my plant babies, organizing and rearranging things, and heading to the library to pick up new books for the week.  I’ve got a pot of soup bubbling away on the stove and some nice jazz floating around.  It’s a good day.  I’m grateful to be alive.  Here’s some little things from my week:

making a murderer // I canceled our Netflix about a year or more ago, but recently reinstated it so I could watch Season II of Making a Murderer.  I just love anything mysterious/crime related.  Netflix, on the other hand- I’m ready to delete it again.  It’s just such a time suck for me and I find it difficult to set boundaries around it.

soup // Joel + Vin hit the market on Saturday while I slept in, and they brought back an amazing head of celery with tons of dark leafy greens attached.  When I get celery like this, I love making this excellent celery + wild rice soup, which utilizes the greens as pesto.

ebook // still working on the ebook of recipes, still absolutely loving it.  I’ve got a while to go, but this week I’m working on writing the recipes for a creamy + spicy tomato soup, mushroom stew, panang curry, tahini maple dressing, and photographing them.  The most challenging part has been measuring.  Because I hate to measure.  But it’s a good lesson in patience.

doula work // I attended an orientation/interview for a doula training program at a hospital here and will attend the workshop in December, and be on the floor by January.  Beyond inspired and grateful.

low waste cleaning // I did this little roundup of all my staples for low waste cleaning, find the post HERE.

zero waste cleaning

Carmela’s birthday // Carmela turned 10!  I can’t believe it.  What is time?  Ten years in the blink of an eye.  Mamas (and papas), hold your babies tight and give them extra kisses.  Even when you feel like you’re in the trenches, wiping butts and noses, dealing with tantrums, having no time for yourself.  The day will come when that will seem like the sweetest time in the world.  She chose to go to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, an amazing science based place where everything can be handled, touched, and explored.  We stopped by The Butcher’s Son in Berkeley, an all vegan deli, which I highly recommend if you’re in the area or passing through.  They had the Beyond Italian sausage in bulk there, plus just about anything  else you could think of, veganized.

ritual // everything has been so, so busy lately.  The last few weeks have felt like I’ve hardly had a chance to breathe.  I’ve let go of some of my usual grounding rituals and am really feeling pulled to return to them.  This week, I will return to getting to bed earlier, early morning journaling, and body movement.  Without these, (especially going to bed early/waking up early) I feel frazzled, immediately waking up to hit the ground running.  Read a post about re-centering HERE.  I also am craving outside time- a hike, trip to the ocean, getting out into natural spaces, receiving that special type of healing from Mama.  Not sure that I’ll get that this week, with the smoky skies and red sun from the devastating fires here in California.  It breaks my heart to see my beautiful state ripped open, raw and hurting, over and over again from the blazes.  Here’s how you can help if you feel called: HERE.

vegan Docs // after wanting a pair for years, I finally picked up a pair of vegan Doc Martens.  My old leather ankle boots have almost bit the dust, and I’ve really been enjoying the Docs.  They’re great quality and so comfortable.

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math + literature // this book caught my eye on our teacher’s bookshelf at one of our homeschool meetings.  It pairs literature with math, basing exploring a problem on numbers involved in the text of the story.  I thought it’d be great for Carmela, who detests math but loves reading.  We’ve been so enjoying it so far, and Vin has been joining in, too, using the example of Madeline: “12 little girls in 2 straight lines” to find out how many girls were in each line?  Here’s the book for 4-6 grades if you’re interested (they also have other grades).

homeschool math

savory breakfasts // still very into savory breakfasts, especially as the weather just finally shifted this last week from hot to arctic (for me anyways, certified cold hater).  I just don’t want anything that’s not HOT in my body, especially in the morning.  Nothing else appeals.  The kids have been loving steel cut oats (I cook a la Zero Waste Chef method HERE) + I have been eating soups, leftovers, and sautes.  Yesterday, I did leftover steamed kabocha squash + leftover broccoli sautéed with tempeh, calabrian chiles, garlic, and a drizzle of tamari.  Delicious, filling, nutrient dense and took less than 5 minutes.  The day before, leftover lentil curry, rice, and lots of cilantro + lime.  Read more about savory breakfasts HERE.

savory breakfast

I hope you all had the perfect weekend for you.  Enjoy the extra day off if you have it!  Treat yourself to a nice pot of soup to eat all week, or a nice hot bath.  You deserve it.  LOVE YOU xx

this week iv.

 

pumpkin patch vegan kids

October is almost gone, can you believe it?  I can’t.  Fall is well underway, although here in northern CA it’s only chilly in the early morning and late evening.  I still haven’t packed my cutoff Levi’s away for next year.  This week I pulled out the slow cooker, we went to the pumpkin patch, and watched A Nightmare Before Christmas, and ripped out our summer garden to make way for winter plants.  I’ve been working really hard on the recipe ebook and it’s very rewarding work.  If I didn’t have kids, I think I would literally lose track of time and work all day on it.  Although my eyes are hating me.  Maybe I need those blue light blocking glasses I’ve been seeing on everyone?

I’ve also been really contemplating letting go.  It seems like that in fall, nature gently encourages us to shed what we no longer need.  For me I’ve been really diving deep into the reasons why I do the things I do.  Anytime the answer is, for something outside of myself, I really evaluate that.  For example, the term “flattering” for clothes.  Sometimes I feel like I get caught up in the feeling that I need to look attractive.  Which can mean many things, but I’m letting go of the need to dress a certain way.  As a teenager and young adult, honestly, the way I dressed was in order to elicit a look of sexual desire from others.  I found comfort and attachment and validation in feeling desired in this way.  I’m not ashamed or anything and not saying that doing so is wrong.  Just looking at it and contemplating whether or not it was actually ME.  Which it wasn’t.  Really, I just wasn’t whole enough to dress the way I authentically wanted to.  So I went through my closet and reevaluated what I was wearing because I liked the way it made me feel vs I liked the way it make others view me.  I’m done with restricting clothing and sold a lot of pieces that I felt fit into this realm.  Similarly, bras with underwire.  Anything that I’m itching to get out of at the end of the day should be an automatic no.   I bought a loose linen dress that is anything but “figure enhancing”- it actually makes me look bigger- and I love that.  It’s architectural, theatric, loose and comfortable, easy to move, kneel, squat, sit, bend, play in with my kids.  So, I invite you, in this season of fall, to similarly examine your choices is life- the things you do, say, watch, read, think, follow- and without judgment, examine honestly WHY you do them.  Is it because your authentic self wants to?  Or is it because you felt for some reason you needed to.  Then, I invite you to think about the concrete steps you could take to move more towards what YOU want.  To uncover a little more of your true wants, needs, desires, joys and bring them back into focus.  I invite you to work towards wholeness.

Beaton linen dress alabaster ethical clothing

linen dress from ethical woman run company BEATON (one of 2 pieces I added to my fall/winter wardrobe- sounds funny but I live in CA and its so warm still and can be layered easily).  I’ve worn it almost every day.  Speaking of, check out THIS POST.

notes from this week:

zero waste workshop // if you’re local and want to come to my zero waste workshop, click HERE for more info and how to sign up.  Looking forward to it immensely!

miso + corn chowder // this slow cooker chowder from Heidi Swanson took me no time at all to make, is loaded with flavor, and was almost completely hands off.  Recipe HERE.

instant pot // I’ve been waffling on getting an Instant Pot for a year or more, but I’m kind of anti-appliance- I like to keep it minimal in the kitchen.  After talking to so many people about how its life changing, and then reading The Plant Paradox where it states that pressure cooking beans removes almost all of the lectins, which can irritate people with autoimmune disease, its on my list.  Hoping to find one secondhand though!

papier-mâché pumpkins // we went to the pumpkin patch yesterday as a homeschool group and got a few pumpkins, but I thought it would be fun to make a big papier-mâché one that we could store and use for years to come.  We did a similar project making a large apple years back.  Here’s an inspiring post.  I used repurposed chicken wire as the base instead of a plastic ballon, which makes it more sturdy, too.

halloween // speaking of seasonal pleasures, here’s last year’s post about how we navigated a low waste halloween (doing it the same this year).  Here’s another excellent post with ideas (read the comments too!) from @simplylivingwell- love her account.  And for good measure, if you’re curious, here’s Thanksgiving and Christmas and Valentine’s.

call me by your name // I’m late to the party here, but I finally got my hands on a copy of this movie via my local library, and it’s still haunting me with its beauty.

ojalá // this song on repeat.  goosebumps every time.

book club // how have you guys been enjoying Gentle Discipline?  I’m currently on the chapter on lying and wow.  Shifting my perspective so much.  Parenting is so hard and I definitely fail a million times each day just like with anything in life, but I’m always acknowledging my mistakes, reconnecting with my kids, finding the root of the thinking, forgiving myself, and moving forward.  Book club post is HERE in case you missed it.

dates // It’s date season and I bought myself a big case of Medjools.  SOOOOO gooey, the best treat ever.  Sometimes I eat them with celery which is a divine salty sweet combo.  Also celery + red grapes is another favorite.

core challenge // I’m on day 5 of the core challenge that was put on by Ali Kamenova last year.  I did it last year around this time and thought it would be fun to revisit since I usually do leg heavy workouts.  I’m seriously feeling it.  Using a pullup bar instead of the dip station for hanging leg raises and such.  Whew.  The core is so important for us to remain strong, flexible and supported as we age.  Don’t neglect it.  Find the free challenge HERE.

Love you + enjoy your weekend

xx

Amanda

book club: gentle discipline

books

I posted yesterday on Instagram that I’m starting a new series on the blog: a book club!  Specifically, a non fiction book club geared towards personal growth.  What I look for in a book is that it is interesting, mind expanding, enables me to step back from my current mindset and consider new information in order to grow into my higher self as a partner, parent, friend, soul.  I do love fiction, too, but these days I just don’t have tons of free time and so I try to fit in books that packaging punch and make my life a little easier and more connected and mindful.  So, I hope that you’ll join in, too, if you find this interesting.

The first book we’ll be starting with is a book on positive/gentle parenting called Gentle Discipline by Sarah Ockwell Smith.  I’ve picked it up before but for one reason or another, never finished it.  So, I grabbed a copy from the library and am diving in again.  This one would be great for most people- anyone who is a parent, grandparent, future parent, or who works, lives, or interacts with children, or anyone who’s simply curious about this topic.  What drew me to this book in the first place is that it gives specific examples of situations and areas of conflict you might (will) encounter with kids, and then gives gentle solutions + the logic/psychology behind the behavior.  It’s all well and good to read about the ethos of positivity in parenting, but quite another thing when conflicts ACTUALLY arise, and knowing how to handle them in a gracious manner, in a way that helps both your child and you grow.

A description to give you an idea of whats in the book: “A practical guide that presents an alternative to shouting, shaming, and blaming–to give kids the skills they need to grow and thrive. Topics include:

Setting–and enforcing–boundaries and limits with compassion and respect
Focusing on connection and positivity instead of negative consequences
Working with teachers and other caregivers
Breaking the cycle of shaming and blaming”

I’m excited to dive into this book and implement some of the strategies, plus learn more about the why behind “difficult” behaviors.  If you’d like to join, simply grab a copy of the book (check your local library, thrift store, Thrift Books, or friends collections first please!)  and start reading!  At the end, I’ll pop back on here and recap what I’ve learned and how I’ve been implementing it into my life as a parent.  I hope you’ll join the discussion too so we can all learn from each other.  So happy to have you along ❤