Vegetarian Leanings

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Health, Chooch, Cooking, Cooking, ExperiMENTAL

As a bonus of all the amazing people we’ve met in the last four years, my palate has grown immensely. What with food allergies, diabetes, vegetarians, vegans and all manner of eating preferences you must either be willing to try new foods or choose to eat crap from a McDonald’s drive thru on the way to the event.

We’ve tasted a long list of new foods, most delicious but some not. One particular day in February, I had my first cucumber sandwich, my first artichoke dish and my first ever Ethiopian restaurant. My favorite? The Ethiopian cuisine, and along-side it, the Ethiopian honey wine (mead). Thanks to Mia, John, Thomas and Andrea for the experience!

When hosting or attending pot-lucks, I typically feel the need to bring dishes that most, if not all, can enjoy. Because of this I’ve done a lot of experimentation with vegan/vegetarian cooking. Some dishes have been utter failures and some have been successes. Luckily, I’m not alone in this quest since those friends are eager to share what they’ve learned over the years. Whether tips, tricks, products, or explanation of concepts, I eagerly try to absorb all they say.

One of the biggest surprises? Marshmallows aren’t vegetarian because they contain gelatin. Oops! You can make or buy vegan/vegetarian marshmallows, but you have to work hard to find them or make them. I’ve decided it’s just not worth it for the only things I use marshmallows for: Rice Krispie treats and dipping in the chocolate fountain.

Another surprise was that granulated and brown sugar are not always vegetarian. Sugar cane is frequently processed with bone char to remove color. Artificial sweetners (Splenda and the like) are also off limits because of the animal testing that was done to get them to market. That leaves some raw sugars and agave nectar. I’m finding that converting existing dessert dishes is problematic, especially since my cheesecakes are a big part of my repertoire. I’m mainly trying new recipes that already call for these ingredients, and have found great success there.

And while I know there is controversy, I use meat substitutes when I cook vegetarian. I have to. My husband doesn’t eat beans of any kind, and I have to get more protein in the dish somehow. I only use the ones I think are tasty, and only in ways that I think are flavorful. Thanks again to friends guiding me to the better products and how to best use them.

There are breast cancer risk concerns about having too much soy, but we don’t eat soy meat substitutes more than maybe twice a week.

If I’m cooking vegan or vegetarian and my husband isn’t going to be there, I happily use beans. He dislikes them intensely and will not eat them because of an allergic type reaction. Growing up, I had beans a few times a week, so this has been a big sacrifice. I miss beans in some family favorite recipes, but I still get them a few times a week.

Favorite Products:

  • Earth’s Balance as a butter substitute. For years I used Smart Balance, but thanks to Andrea Gideon I now use EB instead as a spread and in cooking/baking. It has a truer butter flavor, even in pralines! You heard me, pralines!
  • Paulette Jaxton introduced me to Field Roast brand sausage substitutes. The Italian variety tastes better than any other Italian sausage I’ve ever had, possibly because there are no weird hard chunks that make me wonder what part of what animal it came from. They also offer an apple sage and chipotle variety that I have yet to try.
  • Fake meat crumbles, again thanks to Paulette – Morningstar crumbles are great in spaghetti/nacho cheese/soups. They break down more than ground meats, so you won’t keep that chunky texture. But you will add low fat protein, and it absorbs flavors wonderfully.
  • Gardenburger’s black bean/chipotle patties are seriously tasty. When I need to eat something quickly, this is what I reach for. A patty on a whole wheat sandwich round is filling and delicious, especially topped with romaine or spinach and salsa. It also packs a nice protein/fiber and nutrient-rich punch.
  • Beans – Black and Pinto are my favorites. Both are loaded with antioxidants on top of protein and fiber. I use them when eating alone at home. I typically toss them into a salad or season them chili powder and cumin as a meat replacement in Mexican food.
  • Egg replacer – Ener-G is the one that I keep seeing referenced. Of the two baked dishes I’ve made, one turned out great and the other was disgusting (family brownie recipe) and tossed out. I’ll continue experimenting, but only at home.
  • Thanks to Keith and Jenn of Ditched by Kate, I’m now a huge fan of Maple Agave Nectar. It’s a delicious and much healthier replacement for traditional maple syrup. I’m also converting us from Splenda to Agave, once and for all. I think it’s worth the modest calorie increase to alleviate concerns about dangerous risks when using sugar substitutes.

For ourselves, I’m finding that we have about 3 “meatless” nights a week now, and we’re eating far more chicken and turkey than beef these days. The overall result is that we’re eating healthier and I’m feeling better. While I still enjoy meat, I’m finding that I’m tipping ever closer to vegetarian living. I’ve never liked fish, no longer eat pork, and won’t eat anything on the bone or resembling what it came from. I buy boneless/skinless chicken breast ONLY and never look directly at the Thanksgiving turkey that I don’t cook. And how I love those little packages in the meat section, I can almost pretend that it’s not from an animal that way! I even have to be careful of seeing others as they chow down on things like shrimp, drumsticks, mussels (thanks Chooch) and the like, or I’ll lose my appetite. I’m just one bad experience away from being a full-on vegetarian, I think.

It will be interesting to see how my sons react to our increasingly different menu items, as only a few of the regulars they are used to remain and have typically been altered somehow. Naughty Bear experienced a wide variety of choices this weekend, but I don’t know how much he actually tried of the vegan/vegetarian variety.

Although, if I were to go vegan, I’m pretty sure Chooch would sacrifice me to his love of cheese, and I just can’t risk that. I’m pretty sure our unconditional love would suddenly have a condition attached. But I love my mouse!

Forgiveness

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Health, No Whining, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter

I promised to write this post last week, but due to the insane preparations for my hubby’s 40th birthday, a three night stay at our friend’s house and a rough weekend illness-wise, this is the first chance I’ve had to finish writing and post it. While I apologize for the lateness, the topic actually came up again in a discussion with a young woman still trying to recover from an abusive relationship and I think I have better formulated my thoughts.

Background:
Someone in Twitter expressed how hard it is to forgive someone for hurting you while they are still doing it. I won’t say who it was, as it may make a complicated situation more difficult.

My response was a lesson that was hard learned and remains even harder to enforce: “Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself, not the other person. It takes a lot of work, but is freeing.”

That brought a follow-up tweet by @ObiOrion: “There are acts over the recent years I’ve been forced to accept but does that mean I have to forgive?”

Short answer? Of course not. You can hold on to that for the rest of your life, if you so choose. I simply choose not to.

The long explanation of my short answer involves revealing that, like most, I’ve been hurt grievously by some that I loved. In the most damaging case, I spent years carrying the pain around with me, waiting for the phone calls of apology. I nurtured that pain, feeling justified and righteous, knowing that I did not deserve the years of mis-treatment from them, and that there would someday be an epiphany that would lead to them coming to me with arms open wide. I would finally have what I needed, which was acceptance for who I was and all that I had been, and continue, trying to do.

And you know what? I finally realized that those calls would never come. Maybe pride or a belief that I deserved the treatment that I got would never allow them to apologize or acknowledge my place in their lives.

So, being an analytical type of gal, I then had to ponder what to do with my need for apology as well as the need to have a situation that would allow me to forgive them. Because it was crushing me beneath the weight of anger, sadness and rejection to the point that at times I had trouble catching my breath.

Should I continue suckling at the teat of hurt and rejection? Drop hints or openly confront them on how I’d been wronged and hope for an apology to come? To get people to acknowledge that they aren’t, in actuality, any better than me? That we are all just animated lumps of meat with frailties, gifts, fears and beautiful flaws? That you don’t have to make someone feel worse to feel better about yourself? To break through facades built up over lifetimes in order for them to deal with things that were done to them?

Or, should I just forgive them? Let go all of the pain, rejection and loss that I felt. (Or at least try to). It seemed impossible and unlikely, but I’d heard some TV shrink talk about it, and while I initially scoffed, the possibility of freeing myself was tantalizing.

So, I simply stood in front of a mirror, went through some of the most egregious and painful events, and spoke them out loud while looking myself in eye. And then I told myself how I felt: rejected, diminished, foolish, ugly, unloved, fat and unworthy. You’d think I felt ridiculous or silly, but didn’t. I was caught up in it, as pent up as these feelings were. Hell, the venting aloud itself was cathartic.

Then I closed my eyes and thought long and hard on whether or not forgiveness was in my heart for the pain that I spoke aloud as well and all the pain I didn’t. I again looked myself in the eye, and said, “I forgive ‘A’. I forgive ‘B’. I forgive ‘C’ … And on and on down the list of people related to this long-term issue. I then gave myself permission to drop that load and move on without it. I know there are some that will call it crazy, (and I could NOT care less) but it took that physical tangible act for me to be able to begin to move past it. Hearing an apology from them was not something that I had control over. The only control I could exert was how I let it affect me and impact the rest of my life and future relationships.

The apologies never came. I’m convinced they never will. Now, I won’t lie and say there isn’t still insecurity and sadness. And a few aspects still haunt me.  But I’m freed from it, at least as much as if they had apologized and maybe even more than that. Because I did it for myself. I took control of how much more time I would waste on them and the pain they brought me over the years.

In talking with my aforementioned troubled friend, I could see how the continued burden weighed on her. Plus, there is a continuing issue that keeps these people in her life. Another friend and I tried to convince her to once and for all cut those ties, and move on past them. Don’t waste another minute on people that make you feel bad, especially since they may not agree that an apology is in order.

“I forgive.” Two simple words that mean so much. Who cares if the oblivious people that committed the painful acts that inspired it never hear it? And no, I’m not saying that if an apology is given that you should withhold forgiveness. That’s a personal choice you have to make. But I figure that life is pretty fragile and extremely short, so why not? It will likely make you feel even better for taking the high road.

Convention Schedule

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Convention, Convention Attendance, Cool Links / Clicky Linky

Upcoming Convention Schedule:

Since all the cool kids are doing it, I thought I’d post the convention schedule for Chooch and I for 2011.

There is a small chance we will attend RavenCon in Richmond, VA in April but it will likely just be for evening social time.
We are humbled and overjoyed to have been asked to again be participants at Balticon 45 over Memorial Day weekend.
We have our fingers crossed for Dragon*Con as attendees, but it’s too far off to know for sure. September in Atlanta has a mighty strong pull…

That’s it, money’s tight and we’re acting accordingly. Hope to you see at Balticon!

Second Honeymoon

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Exercise, Half-Marathon, Knitting, No Whining, Soulful

We lucked into a fantastically cheap but very brief “weekend” away. It actually began Sunday and ended on Tuesday when we packed up and left gorgeous Virginia Beach. It’s pretty chilly and deserted in early March, which suited us fine because it also meant fewer people. Besides, you just cannot beat the view if you’re an ocean lover.

We’ve been through a lot in recent months, with a lot more coming up and needed to recharge our batteries. We had no plans upon our arrival, although we had some toys to entertain ourselves, and just wanted to “be” without any demands. I don’t think I tweeted or FB’d much, except for a few DM’s to keep plans on track. The bass we brought for my lesson sat untouched and we didn’t even open Game of Thrones.

We emerged from a nasty rain storm, but the weather almost immediately turned sunny with temps in the mid-50’s. Warm enough for us, to be sure. Our hotel was beautiful and we even got a free bump to a larger, oceanfront room due to a low vacancy rate.  After hanging on our balcony and enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the ocean and hanging in our room for a bit, we headed out for dinner at a place that I immediately envisioned Chooch’s band playing in, and would love to wave a magic wand and make that happen. (Ditched by Kate tours Virginia Beach? Sounds good to me!) We headed back and settled in for the night, door thrown open to hear the ocean in spite of the cold.

The next morning, I arose and headed out for a run. It was the single most invigorating run of my life, what with the view, the biting wind, and ocean sounds. My pace really suffered because I kept stopping to take pictures. With our “no plans” rule, I wasn’t sure that I’d make it back out with Chooch before we left so I took full advantage of having remembered my little all-weather camera.

I even found the spot from 2 (or was it 3?) years ago when I did a break-neck paced drive to Virginia Beach with a visiting friend from New Mexico. She’d never seen an ocean before, and I found that unacceptable. On the last day of her visit, we had just enough time to race down here, play in the sand for 15 minutes or so, and then race back to Reagan airport for her flight back home. It was a deliciously fun time, and reminded me of my teenage years where no plan was too crazy.

After my run yesterday, I inadvertently woke up Chooch when I returned to the room to stretch out my tight muscles. I ran for a bit on the sand for the first time, but even tougher was running into the very strong winds. My skin was very smooth after the sandblasting it got, but I don’t recommend it.

We got moving, and headed down for our complimentary restaurant breakfasts. (Did I mention this trip was cheap? That was partly due to breakfast being served until 11, which we decided meant we only had to pay for one meal each day.)

Chooch had some stuff going on at work, so we headed up to the room so he could plug in the laptop and get to it. We then remembered a beautiful spot next to the restaurant with an internet cafe/work stations so he grabbed his work stuff and I grabbed my knitting and we sat in this beautiful seating area with a wall of beach and ocean in front of us. Way better than a wall with a TV, don’t you think?

After that was done, we headed out to the aquarium. This is something that we do in every city we visit that has one, a tradition we started while dating with an aquarium on the Oregon Coast when I first visited him in 2002. Although it’s not terribly huge, we spent hours because we love marine life so much. Seals, jellyfish, sharks, rays, coral and all manner of underwater life were beautiful and charming as expected. I’d say the otters were the most fun to watch as they frolicked and played as only they can, but we also have a special affinity for turtles. My favorite was seeing both a pair of cardinals and the seahorses, for the significance they hold for me. <3

At this point, we were starving and we grabbed a tasty dinner and headed back to the hotel with some ice cream for later. (The room had a mini-fridge.) We chilled out with the ocean sounds serenading us and eventually we … well … it was romantic and all … so … we couldn’t resist… recording our podcast, Into the Blender. HA! You thought you were going to get some naughty time info, didn’t you? Not gonna happen, loveys! What happens in Virginia Beach stays in Virginia Beach. Mostly.

We actually are behind on our self-imposed bi-weekly schedule, partly because of my impromptu trip to Arkansas and partly due to social gatherings we committed to before I knew I would be traveling. So we sat and recorded enough content for either a two hour episode or three 45-ish minute episodes. The editing goal will be three episodes, which pleases me. I like having buffer for exactly the type of events that delayed our release this time.

Tuesday morning, I woke early, started writing this post and headed back to bed for a bit. We eventually got up, got ready for the day and grabbed our tasty free breakfast again. I grabbed some waffle sections from the buffet, and couldn’t help but giggle when the sign said “waffle sticks” as it brought to mind the South Park “fish sticks” bit. I shared that with hubby, and we recited the funniest joke of all time, slightly modified.

Joke Teller: “Do you like waffle sticks?”
Butt of Joke: “Yes.”
Joke Teller: “So you like to put waffle sticks in your mouth?”
Butt of Joke: “Yes.”
Joke Teller: “You are a gay waffle.”

Yes, that’s how my mind works on a romantic weekend. And yes, you should pity Chooch.

We then went for a walk on the beach, the first one for Chooch since we arrived. We went up to water’s edge, but I chose not to put my toes in considering how cold it was. We were bundled up in heavy coats and the wind was strong and stinging. We took some photos and walked along the beach as I wanted to show him a Neptune sculpture further down the boardwalk.

We chatted, cleaned up some trash on the beach and met a beautiful and loving dog that was being walked by the family that rescued him from near death by an abusive owner. The dog, Russell, was part Akita and part … breeds I don’t recall. Lookit, he was sweet and beautiful, I was distracted. Check out the photos below to see how he looks now. Shockingly, he was only 17 pounds when the family rescued him a few years ago and is now healthy and content with just a few remaining behavioral issues, none of which we witnessed. I’d have never guessed how terrible a start he’d had in this life if they hadn’t told us.

Being so close to the air base, every time a plane went overhead Chooch would look up and announce what type it was. After marveling at the Neptune statue, we made our way back to the car. It was a beautiful ending to our trip, as Chooch drove home and we hammered out some story ideas.

Home now, I refuse to sulk that it’s over. Instead, I choose to be joyful that we had this time away from most of the demands of our life and I feel even more in love and dedicated to my husband than ever before. I already was, but somehow feel those things even stronger, which I didn’t think was possible. We just needed to unclench from the stress we were feeling and experiencing and knew this was our only chance for a very long time. We also knew we’d never be able to do it this cheaply again, so dove in.

I feel more than grateful for him and our life together, and suggest that if you can steal a few moments away for yourself, either with or without a loved one, just to luxuriate in unstructured playtime, you should definitely do it. Take a day or two and slow down, sleep, relax and just be. It will serve you beautifully, at least it has for us.

I’ve loaded a bunch of photos (90 or so), about a quarter of those we took. There are also some videos. Most of the collection is from the Virginia Aquarium at Virginia Beach. Note: The very last photo is prolly NSFW or kids, but it is jokey in nature. I’ve marked it as restricted, but you’ll be able to view it if you click that you want to.

March Fourth Is A Day To March Forth

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Breast Cancer, Firsts, Friends, Mom, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it before, but I hate posting twice in the same day. This second post is not one I can resist, so you’ll have to bear with me.

Earlier today I submitted my paperwork to establish my own small (teensy, really) business. This is extremely exciting, as it will hopefully allow for some income in a “work at home” way as well as allow us some creative opportunities.

Now, this morning I already announced that I now have the verbal, soon to be written, legal rights to publish my Mom’s short story and will be moving forward with my breast cancer charity anthology. Submission guidelines for written works as well as cover and inside art will be posted as soon as I have the details fine-tuned.

Then, around noon, I excitedly dropped off the business filing paperwork at the Richmond office immediately prior to picking up my visiting friend M.A. in PA from her mass transit delivery system.

She immediately told me that it was the perfect day for it because of March the Fourth being a day to March Forth, which is exactly what I had done. The crazy coincidence of it all swept me up in a giddy excitement. The perfect, unplanned timing of it was such a lovely surprise. Especially when I looked down to see that I had absent-mindedly put a t-shirt with “Realize” emblazoned across the front.

So take a moment today and be bold. Do something you’ve been putting off. Take on a new project or finish up an old one. Do anything, so long as it’s a step forward in some way.

Happy Fourth of March!

Hard Work and Good Fortune

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Exercise, Family, Friends, Half-Marathon, Mom, No Whining, Soulful, Weight Loss

In these days of migraines, allergy symptoms, and tiles being blown from our roof it’s easy to get a bit saddened. Add to that financial issues from a now longish-term illness preventing me from making any real income and it’s a down-right downer of a time.

But take heart, dear reader, because you never know when fortune will befall you and hard work will pay off.

  • We have a fantastic week ahead full of fun, frolic and friendship that we’ll carry in our hearts for a long time.
  • I’ve hit the “lost 10% of my flab” goal. I’ve got a long way to go, but am damned encouraged.
  • My half-marathon training is coming along nicely. I will never win a race, but I will definitely finish it.
  • Today I’m submitting paperwork that will create our very own small business, teensy even, in the hopes of generating income at home since I can’t get traditional employment until I can hopefully get my health issues better managed.
  • And the best news of all? My father, sister and brother are 100% behind the publishing of my Mom’s short story. I’m giving myself two weeks to develop a good plan to move forward in the request for submissions, and will post details as soon as I have them. This is a passion project that I can’t wait to begin shaping.

Happy Friday, indeed!

The Dragons Are Coming. Prepare To Dance.

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Books, Cool Links / Clicky Linky, No Whining

Most likely, you already know that HBO is currently hard at work creating its newest series, “A Game of Thrones” based on the epic and epicly beloved George R. R. Martin “Songs of Ice and Fire” series.

Today I discovered that there is a release date for the long-awaited fifth book in the series, A Dance with Dragons. We only have to wait until July 12, 2011. There was much rejoicing and squealing!

You can now pre-order the book from Amazon, using our affiliate store. It costs you nothing extra, but puts a few pennies in our coffers. Many thanks if you choose this option.

Enjoy the inserted post from Martin’s very own blog below:

[first posted at 9 am EST on my website]No. Sorry. Not done yet.

I’m close, though. Watch this space. When the book is done, you will read it here.


original cover 2006

Meanwhile… there is news. Big news. The end is in sight, at long long last, and we’re close enough so that my editors and publishers at Bantam Spectra have set an actual publication date.


revised cover 2007

A DANCE WITH DRAGONS will be in your favorite bookstore on

TUESDAY, JULY 12, 2011


new cover 2009

Yes, I know. You’ve all seen publication dates before: dates in 2007, 2008, 2009. None of those were ever hard dates, however. Most of them… well, call it wishful thinking, boundless optimism, cockeyed dreams, honest mistakes, whatever you like.

This date is different. This date is real.

Barring tsunamis, general strikes, world wars, or asteroid strikes, you will have the novel in your hands on July 12. I hope you like it.

((For what it’s worth, the book’s a monster. Think A STORM OF SWORDS))


final cover? 2011

The dragons are coming. Prepare to dance.

And hey… thanks for waiting.

~~~~

Spring Peek-A-Boo

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Exercise, Firsts, No Whining

The First Day of Spring 2011 isn’t until March 20, but my day was brightened by this peek of what’s to come.

As I was driving home yesterday, I noticed this peeking up through my dormant grass. If you look closely, you can even see a bit of green grass.

Come on Spring! Bring on the beautiful blooms and choking pollen, as I’m tired of this cold weather. I can’t wait to return to a more reliable running schedule, and for my treadmill-less life that means no more ice on the roads!

 

Grateful, Not Bragging

Author: Vivid Muse  //  Category: Chooch, Dizzy, Friends, Our Kids, Soulful, Too Long For Twitter, Twitter/Facebook

I just tweeted:
“Dizzy from phone call, emails and DM’s from friends. I am so very blessed. Must find a way to pay the Universe back for what I have.”

I’m now in the grips of a dizzy spell, one of the few that I’ve gotten from positivity rather than negativity.

I happily sit, wavering in my chair, because of the overwhelming sense of love and positivity sent my way this morning via text, phone call, DMs and emails.

It’s completely overwhelming, and I feel like a decadent king with huge piles of friendship on a banquet table in front of me. I dare not indulge too much, or I might burst.

There are a lot of things that I can’t share about the trip to Arkansas, for obvious reasons. While I am over the moon for the result, having Naughty Bear local again and having time with LT, it took a huge physical, emotional and psychological toll on me. No, really. Huge.

To immediately return into the arms of my husband and beloved friends this past weekend utterly and completely soothed my ragged edges and invigorated me for more, More, MORE!

To then have a seemingly random outpouring from a variety of sources today? It’s more than any one person could possible deserve or hope for.

If this is too Happy-Unicorn-Rainbow-Lovey-Dovey for you, have no fear. I’m sure I’ll be pissed or depressed about something soon enough and will share it here. But I feel compelled to share the joy when I feel it, too.

Bliss is attainable and I recommend that you open yourself up to it if you haven’t already.

/stumbles with a drunken swagger/

“I love you, man!”