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An announcement

So, I have something to say.

No, mom, I’m not pregnant. Good try.

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The picture above is a hint and if you’re much of a consistent Versatile Vegan reader, you might have your suspicions.

You might think that I’m more versatile than actually vegan.

You’d be right. And if we’re coming clean, I’m not at all vegan anymore.

It started innocently enough with the fact that I couldn’t handle soy or almond milk yogurt. So I ate regular Greek yogurt, but that was it. No other dairy.

But cheese? Oh, cheese. There is really no substitute for good cheese and I went through all the stages of grief with this one before I decided, why not cheese?

And then as I was training for my 1/2 marathon, I really started craving eggs. Yes, smelly, smelly eggs. I ate some the evening after I finished the race, hoping that the craving would be satisfied. It only seemed to fuel the fire. Now I eat scrambled eggs at least once a week.

And at that point, resisting the ice cream above seemed absolutely futile. I’m still very vegetarian, but I can no longer resist the siren song of real butter.

I felt like I had to tell you. Many of you have been with me for a good two years and I owe it to you to be honest. I feel like I’ve been pretending for awhile. Well, no more pretending.

Miss Rae just came running up the stairs.

“Mommy, will you play house with me? And let’s pretend that you’re the Mommy and I’m your baby.”

See? No more pretending!

I’m still going to yack about my running and my kids and the good food I eat. I hope you stick around!

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

So, Jack the cat died.

Mom, you might want to stop reading.

If you’re new, we moved in with Great Grandpa about 16 months ago. Well, we moved in with Great Grandpa and Jack the cat. (I’m not sure why we always add “the cat” after his name, but we do.)

Sadly, Great Grandpa died almost exactly a year ago. And last week, Jack the cat missed Great Grandpa too much and he died too.

Jack was old. Super old. And I was sad, of course, but kind of relieved that he didn’t have to endure another winter (he didn’t like to be in the house) and while I was certain that the kids would be sad, I wasn’t prepared for J Man’s emotional response.

My buddy burst into tears. He immediately wanted to know where Jack the cat was and questioned whether or not Daddy had thrown him very high into the sky so Jesus could reach down and take him to heaven. The theology might be lacking a little, but I assured both kids that we would see Great Grandpa and Jack the cat again when Jesus comes.

J Man was still pretty morose, so I suggested that he make a picture for Jack the cat.

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To translate, we’ve got a sign at the top with “No Jack”. Underneath he’s written, “Jack is a rock” and then that’s supposed to be a star. Jack’s house makes an appearance along with a pen drawing of Jack himself. The final word on the page, Jack, crossed out really gets me.

And now J Man is already talking about getting another pet. Oh boy…

I thought of Jack the cat tonight. Well, I actually thought of mashed potatoes, because that was dinner. Mashed potatoes always makes me think of Great Grandpa because he loved mashed potatoes and gravy. And thoughts of Great Grandpa led to Jack the cat.

Great Grandpa would actually have been pretty irritated with the way I prepared my mashed potatoes.

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I used cauliflower. With the holidays coming up, I’m trying to pre-watch my calories so I can have my Christmas cookies and eat them too. Cauliflower is lower in calories than potatoes, so that helps, but just plain mashed cauliflower isn’t my favorite.

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Two tips for making awesome cauliflower mashed potatoes
:

1. Use 1/2 potatoes and 1/2 cauliflower. I really truly couldn’t tell that I was eating cauliflower when it was mixed in with a small amount of potatoes.

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(Sorry for the foggy photos- my potatoes and cauliflower were steamy!)

2. Cook your cauliflower well. No one wants crunchy mashed potatoes and use a potato ricer. The mixture was super smooth and silky, just like mashed potatoes should be.

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Great Grandpa would’ve wanted nothing to do with my mashed cauliflower potatoes, but he would’ve been happy to know that J Man was so attached to Jack the cat (although I’m certain that he would’ve frowned on J Man’s idea for how Jack might get to heaven…)

Peanut Butter Cookies

We’ve talked before about the standard I’ve set with my children involving my business trips as compared to their treats. Aka, my guilt gets them some nice stuff.

Last week I had a very speedy out-and-back to Portland. I was gone less than 24 hours. There was no time for shopping, unless you count my breakfast at Panera (swoon) and thankfully, some frosted pumpkin cookies caught my eye. Just a little something for the kiddos to know I was thinking of them.

So when I returned and woke the kids up the following morning, they were polite for about 48 seconds before J Man questioned, “Did you bring us a treat from Portland?”

Past treats have involved basketball jerseys and paint-by-number books, so I knew that the pumpkin cookie may or may not be met with rounds of applause. (Sidenote: a colleague and experienced business traveler/mom shared with me that she rarely purchases gifts for her kids at her destination city, but instead swings by Wal-Mart on her way back home and buys Polly Pockets for the win. Brilliant.)

Wishing to soften the blow, I said, “Mommy was gone for a very small time, so this is a very small surprise.”

J Man eyed me suspiciously.

“Is my treat a hug?”

After those low expectations, both kiddos were thrilled with their pumpkin cookies and all was well in the world.

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Except for the fact that I didn’t bring Matty B a pumpkin cookie, and truth be told, when I’m gone overnight, he’s the one who deserves the biggest treat for enduring bath/jammies/stories/prayers/I-need-a-drink-of-water/is-olive-the-cat-going-to-come-into-my-room-and-scratch-me?

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So I made some cookies. I didn’t make up the recipe, but I did add peanut butter chips, so I feel like I can take partial credit for their amazingness.

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The recipe is so simple and the ingredients so few that you could easily memorize this process and then shock and amaze random people at a moments notice.

Matty B officially proclaimed these his 2nd favorite cookies in the world. Second only to peanut butter blossoms, of course.

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We ate them with my mom and dad along with popcorn and apples. We also played wii bowling which is apparently very boring to J Man now. You would’ve thought I had offered him a hug…

She & Him, 46/52, looking down

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A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2014

She: discouraged because I insisted that she wear her hair in a pony tail.

Him: diligently working on a maze that Matty B created for him. Mazes might be the new thing.

Five on Friday

1. We took the kids to get flu shots. It was semi-traumatic and the only thing that got us through was the promise of a treat afterward.

There was both a fro-yo shop and DQ just down the street from the hospital. Would either of those suffice?

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Absolutely not. Baskin Robbins was requested and even though it’s all the way across town (and yes, I understand that I live in small town Walla Walla, it was still far away!) and it was snowing, we slipped and slid our way to Baskin Robbins.

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Shockingly, we were the only customers on this 28 degree evening. And yes, Miss Rae got vanilla. Vanilla.

2. Speaking of snowy weather, my dad absolutely petrified me this evening. He and my mom were driving from Portland, home to Walla Walla and the roads were treacherous. I was certain they would be fine until I received this text:

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I need help. WHAT?!

I frantically called him. It was a pocket dial. OMG, I almost had a heart attack. He better have brought me a souvenir.

3. Miss Rae has inherited her daddy’s love of catalogs. Her latest favorite activity is to take a marker and circle all the things she wants Santa to bring her for Christmas.

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Tea set? Typical. Cute bunny sleeping bag? Naturally. Christmas ornament organizer? What???

4. I need this overnight pumpkin spice cinnamon roll loaf.

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Need. It feels like the right thing for Thanksgiving day breakfast, don’t you think?

5. I tried to buy the kiddos snow boots today. Because it’s been doing this:

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Purchasing snow boots in Walla Walla is apparently an impossible task involving fairy dust and a unicorn. The shopping here is awful and I’m not even telling you how I really feel.

But. But.

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The sunsets can’t be beat. I dare you.

Before and After Quinoa Salad

November “Before/After”

Positive

Before

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After

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Treats for teachers and some of my staff- apple crisp that turned out to be a lot of crisp and not so much apple.

Before

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After

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Miss Rae and I did some pre-Thanksgiving baking. As you well know, I always make the apple pie for the big day and this year I wanted to experiment with a lattice crust. I’m pretty happy with how it looks.

However, there have been some negative before/after happenings:

Before

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After

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That’s a shattered picture frame in a sack, FYI….

I’m not quite sure how this happened. I heard a crash and a shatter and a scream. Miss Rae is fine, but I need a new picture frame.

My recipe today, however, is a scenario where after was definitely better than before…

Before

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I made quinoa for dinner a few nights ago. It was barely tolerated by all, including me. It was just so…boring…

After

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Shockingly there were leftovers, so I jazzed up the remains with spinach, basil, sundried tomatoes and garbanzo beans.

Presto-chango, delicious!

One more…

Before

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From long and gray…

After

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To short and red! What do you think?

Quinoa Salad

Ingredients

1 cup cooked, cooled quinoa (mine was cooked in vegetable broth for flavor)
1 cup chopped spinach (fresh)
1/4 cup chopped basil
1/4 cup chopped sundried tomatoes
1/2 cup garbanzo beans
Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Mix all ingredients in medium bowl. Serve immediately.

WIAW, Veteran’s Day

On a “normal” day I’m pretty good at being healthy. A few miles at the crack of dawn or a yoga class before the crack of dawn always sets me up for a day with balanced nutrition. And part of that “balance” comes into play because on a normal day I’ve pre-packed my breakfast and lunch and I’m pretty diligent about feeding my kids well for dinner, thus Matty B and I reap those benefits.

But on an “abnormal” day, all bets are off. And today I mostly ate whatever I wanted at that moment, so you’ll see a fair amount of green and a lot of sugar…

Because of Veteran’s Day, J Man didn’t have school so I took the day off to chill with the kiddos.

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Breakfast: fruit and yogurt because the boy had already requested a trip to the Walla Walla Bread Co. and I can’t say no to their scones.

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Snack 1: pumpkin scone (puts Starbucks to shame) and soy latte (puts Starbucks to shame), and of course, colored pencils.

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Afterward, we headed to the Milton-Freewater Veteran’s Day Parade because Matty B’s school was participating. As you can see, Rae loves parades. That’s why she covered her ears the entire time, even when candy lay in piles at her feet.

Snack 2: unpictured fun size peanut butter snickers. It was laying at my feet!

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Interestingly enough, at the end she said, “that was fun!” Really?

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Lunch: Green smoothie. I’d had a sugar overload and it was barely noon. This smoothie made me feel a little bit better about life. Banana, raspberry, spinach, almond milk, almond butter, cocoa powder. Bonus: extra for tomorrow! Note: the logos on those cups are about as polar opposite as they come…

After lunch, the kids had some friends over (it was a miracle- we found friends who have a boy exactly J Man’s age and a girl exactly Miss Rae’s age! This scenario allows me to drink coffee and have adult conversation with another woman who, shockingly, shares a lot in common with me based on the fact that her children are my children cloned. It’s beauty)…anyway during this play date I put out some snacks: apple wedges, cucumber slices and these:

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Snack 3: 1/2 this box. They were too spicy for the kids and I loved them!

Dinner was simple and easy- this salad plus a few bites of Matty B’s pasta.

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And then because I certainly couldn’t end a day like today without dessert…

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They looked so lonely in the bottom of the bag…

Today was good. Great, actually. But I’m ready to get back to my idea of “normal”- although I still wouldn’t mind candy laying in piles at my feet…

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