Pants on Fire

(My mom is going to have a field day with this one.)

So Avi has been fibbing. A lot. Almost always to cover up for something that he didn’t do (getting dressed for school, putting away his hockey equipment, finishing his homework) because instead he was doing something he’d rather do (mostly, read for fun).

I get it. I really do. I get lost in books all the time, and have for as long as I can remember. There is almost nothing negative I can say about that trait- except for the time management component, and it took me years to find a balance for it myself. (Some would argue I still haven’t.) He’s reading- and comprehending- almost four grade levels ahead, and consuming books at a voracious pace.* There is nothing cooler than watching your 7 year old fall in love with a book you remember reading at his age AND THEN TALKING WITH HIM ABOUT IT. I made my own private book club, you guys.

That being said, the fibbing thing? Opposite of cool. And he’s SO BAD AT IT. Not that I want him to be a good liar, but whoa. (Was I that bad at lying as a kid, mom? Probably. I always got caught.) He has like six definite physical tells, ranging from the way his eyes move to how he juts out his chin to the insistent tone of voice he uses. And then the things he says! For a kid with a super imagination, he really doesn’t put a lot of effort into creative explanations.

Last week he had a “book report” worksheet for school. We have a deal that he doesn’t have to use one of his regular chapter books for these worksheets, since they’re designed to be used with second grade level books. He basically has to write a sentence or two describing the beginning, middle and end of the story, so rather than trying to summarize Harriet The Spy in six sentences he uses something like Lyle, Lyle Crocodile.

I walked past his room and he was sitting on the floor reading a different book. I reminded him that he needed to finish his homework and that dinner would be ready in half an hour. Plenty of time. When I walked back to check on him right before dinner, he was still on the floor reading the same book. Okay. Not catastrophic, although kind of a bummer that he’d have to go back to working after dinner. But here’s where everything went sideways. When I said, “Avi, you were supposed to be finishing your homework,” he fake-startled, looked at me, looked at the book in his hands and said, “Oh! I must have picked up the wrong book by accident!”

Uh, what?

He then spent the entire dinner arguing that he had in fact gotten the wrong book accidentally and just hadn’t noticed, despite the fact that that didn’t make any sense whatsoever in this particular configuration of time and space. By the time he finished eating, he was finally able to acknowledge that he had just gotten caught up in the book he wanted to read and then was frustrated and embarrassed that he’d missed the chance to complete his homework as planned. Also annoyed that he’d gotten caught. Seriously, he said that. “It’s annoying to me that you noticed.” Sorry, buddy.

I’m torn about how to handle this. I don’t want the fibbing to continue or get worse, and I don’t want to discourage the reading. I want him to take care of the things he needs to take care of, and I want to give him the supervised autonomy to do them without me hucking him every five minutes. Is it impossible to have it both ways?

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That Thing You Do

Is navel gazing strictly reserved for those with child? Or is my association of the two based on the book of photographs by Charlee Brodsky that my friend Alisa sent me when I was pregnant?

(Because I’m not. Pregnant.)

But I have been almost embarrassingly introspective these past few months year.

Strike that. It’s not (that) embarrassing. It’s actually understandable and appropriate and I guess I just needed time to reconcile all of those FEELINGS before trying to WRITE about them.

We made A Big Decision ten months (!!) ago and Moved Across The Country over the summer. (Anyone who doesn’t think selective capitalization [or parentheses] is effective should try their own Move for comparison.) It probably goes without saying that in order to do that I had to quit my job. It was (is) still weird not to be working full time. Hold that thought.

Two (!!!) cross-country drives and several hundred boxes later, California (and the Kralls) welcomed us.

It’s criminally beautiful here. I could gush about the produce all day. Avi has piles of new friends and we love his new school. Being less than a mile away from our closest friends is a perk I can’t even put into words most days.

If this place weren’t so far away from Pittsburgh it would truly be perfect. And by “Pittsburgh” I mean “the people we love and miss very dearly”. I said something today about “going home” – meaning Pittsburgh – and immediately felt guilty. I don’t know why. We’ve only been here five months. I lived there for most of 32 years.

I love the freedom and flexibility here. I love the time (and produce. Have I mentioned the produce?!) I have to cook healthy foods. I get to hang out with Avi more now than any other time since he was 9 months old. Awesome.

I’ve also been writing. And drawing. And writing and drawing. Apparently years of stifled creative energy can explode all at once if you’re not careful about how you release it when you finally have the time.

I have a lot of options, and that’s probably why I’ve been feeling so unmoored. And excited. And scared. Way back when we started talking about Moving Across The Country, the theme song (or lyric of choice, I guess) was usually Little Red’s “excited AND scared” from INTO THE WOODS. I think it’s taken me this long to realize that it wasn’t just the Move that had me feeling that way.

This is why we can’t have nice things, Pittsburgh.

As you may have guessed, it’s been A Month. You’ll find no apologies here for my absence, just acknowledgement that it’s my busiest time of the semester. So I was looking forward to a well-deserved night out with friends last evening.

We joked about me blogging the night; I’m not going to do that. It was a fun, successful blending of groups, even. But I’d like to talk about what happened afterwards.

Pittsburgh, grow up. If you see two men in a car together, they may be friends, they may be lovers, they may be coworkers, they may be partners. They may even be married. GET OVER IT. This is now, this is life. And last night, those were my friends. My friends who had a brick thrown at their car simply because they were two men together inside.

Excuse me? I thought we had worked past this little issue. I thought all of the strides made on the national front regarding DADT, Prop 8 and (hopefully) DOMA were trickling downward. The little things were improving. The majority of people in this country now support gay marriage for the first time ever. But this isn’t about marriage equity, this is about TWO GUYS SITTING IN A CAR!

I’m so angry right now. And a little scared, honestly. It happened in my neighborhood, down the street from my house. That’s not the kind of neighborhood I thought I lived in. It’s not the kind of neighborhood I want to live in. It’s certainly not the kind of neighborhood I want my son to grow up in.

So now, as I head into my big event week on campus, I won’t think about last night as a lovely (and hilarious) evening with friends, a nice reprieve from work and stress, a wonderful visit. I’ll think about it as the night that I was reminded that my hometown can still be quite small-town. And I don’t like that at all.

I expect better, Pittsburgh.

#lobsterbake2011

Last weekend was the annual lobster bake at the mountain house, a tradition started years ago by a group of work friends, which we were not, that grew to include families of those friends, which we are, and for which we are now tremendously grateful to be a part of.

The weather was practically perfect, unlike past years when the event was held later in the fall – yielding gorgeous photos of snow dusted foliage,

almost the same view of the woods from yesterday, with snow

but shivering lobster eaters huddled inside. (That photo is from #lobsterbake2009)

Avi is a big lobster fan, and much like we’ve had to start getting him his own mussels at restaurants (or be very careful with the rationing lest he eat our entire order), he had his own lobster this year.

He did a pretty solid number on the thing, gamely cracking and twisting to get to the meat and asking for help with the really tricky parts.

He almost gave away his entire tail, deeming the meat “too tough”, but we realized he had some thicker bits from the edge of the body in his mouth and convinced him to give the lusciously sweet tail a second try. Remind me again why we did that?

One of the best things about the lobster bake is the rest of the non-lobster food, a delicious smorgasbord of homemade delights and awesome store-bought crap food (Doritos!) that I don’t normally get to eat. In case I didn’t make it abundantly clear, lobster bakes are solidly in the cheat day category, i.e. 100% NOT x diet friendly!

But x diet influenced our day regardless, as I discovered that it’s difficult to go from one extreme to another, though maybe not how you’re thinking. I made chocolate chip cookies to add to the supplemental food extravaganza. Unfortunately, the thing about baking for real after baking like this is that you may not have all the ingredients in the house that ordinarily you’d take for granted. Like, uh, flour. And sugar. Oops.

My adaptation was a roaring success, however. Enough that I promised the recipe (!) to not one but three different people. Here goes nothing.

(Sort of) Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 cups coconut flour
3/4 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup coconut oil
2 cups dark brown sugar (I may have had to stop midway through mixing to acquire this.)
1 cup sugar (This one, too.)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking soda
2 tbs vanilla extract
4 large (good) eggs
1 bar of decent semisweet baking chocolate
oil, spray or butter for coating the glassware

Right off the bat I should note that this makes a lot of cookies. A LOT. But they are done blondie style, so you can control the size of your cuts. They also freeze beautifully.

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees. I was able to do all three of my dishes of cookies together (more on that in a bit), but you may have to stagger your baking depending on your oven.

Mix dry ingredients (not sugars) really well  in one bowl and set aside. Melt butter then coconut oil into the butter (it helps them combine) and set aside to cool. Stir in brown sugar, sugar, vanilla to the  butter/oil combo. While it continues to cool (seriously, you don’t want your eggs to get funky, do you?) chip apart the chocolate bar. Add the eggs to the wet ingredients, then the dry to the wet. It’s going to be crumblier than your typical cookie dough, but that’s why we do them as blondies. Stir in the chocolate shavings/chips/whatever you managed to do with the bar.

For baking, I used 2 9 inch Pyrex pie plates and 2 small 5×5 glass dishes from Ikea. I baked one of the Ikea dishes at home, then chilled the rest of the dough and took it up to the mountains for the lobster bake. I could have easily fit all four dishes on two racks in my oven, though. There seemed to be no major baking-uniformity issue, either.

Spray or coat the glass dishes with whatever stick-free method you prefer. Press the dough in until the bottom is completely covered – I think most of my cookies were about 1 inch thick.

The coconut taste is so subtle that several coconut-haters were fooled. And the fine texture of the dough due to the coconut flour goes nicely with the irregular chocolate chunky slivers. Seriously, it does!

I recommend East End Fat Gary as the perfect accompaniment to these cookies, but then again, I recommend Fat Gary to go along with pretty much anything. I do not, however, recommend anyone try this at home:

Or else you will be mocked. And subject to inside jokes on The Internet.

What I Love vs. What I Eat, vol. 6.1: MOAR BISCUITS

Wheeee! I made more biscuits! And I totally confirmed my suspicion that the coconut flour (and prevalent coconut flavor) can be pushed in one direction (sweet and delicious!) or another (coconut, what?!) depending on the additional ingredient combinations.

Here’s your starting point.

For savory biscuits, I swapped out the coconut oil for unsalted butter, removed the stevia and doubled the kosher salt. I added a CSA jalapeno pepper (very finely chopped) and some fresh CSA parsley, and baked for 17 minutes.

I also got 13 biscuits out of the batter, and they’re only 45 calories a piece. “Coconut, what?!”, indeed.

Nutritional information for one biscuit, approximate: 45 calories, 4.1 grams fat, 9.4 mg cholesterol, 1.9 grams carbohydrates, 1.3 grams fiber, .2 grams sugar. .5 grams protein.

For sweeter, coconuttier biscuits, I added finely shredded unsweetened coconut to the batter (made with coconut oil) and tiny bit of vanilla. I also topped the biscuits with larger pieces of unsweetened shredded coconut.

Next time I’ll probably use vanilla flavored liquid stevia for the whole batch so I can calculate the nutritional information and ingredient amounts. This was part of a larger experiment (you’re not seeing the complete failure of forgetting to sweeten unsweetened cocoa before mixing it in….right) so I can’t quite do the math with this tiny batch of four. It was just enough to whet my appetite to make some more this evening.

MOAR BISCUITS.

What I Love vs. What I Eat, vol. 6: Egg Salad & Biscuits. (No, really.)

(For more on this once-and-future series, see this post. Or find all the harebrained episodes via tag in the sidebar.)

Alternate title: What I’m Eating For Lunch Today (with homemade gazpacho) That Is Rocking My World.

There’s no need for exposition, the food speaks for itself.

We’ll start with the eggs. Plenty of people have done healthier, non-mayo-based egg salad. Most involve mustard and yogurt, but since I’m avoiding dairy the yogurt is a no go. Straight mustard doesn’t lend itself to creaminess very well, and the dijon mustards all have added ingredients I’d rather not use. I decided to go the mustard route but made two changes to get the consistency and creaminess that egg salad should have. I picked a “creamier” root vegetable, and I added an unconventional liquid.

I may have eaten this yesterday for lunch, too, with heirloom tomatoes and brocolli sprouts.

Very simple. Hard boiled eggs, celery, leeks (the creamier root), cilantro (favorite herb, though your mileage may vary), yellow mustard, kosher salt, pepper and…unsweetened almond milk. Weird, I know. But it worked. I made it for a baby shower and even non-x diet eaters thought it was great. I hard boil eggs almost weekly, and this could very easily be whipped up in single serving portions without the vegetables – though I highly recommend them for the texture. Heck, this may even become part of my weekly lunch repertoire.

But alas, with no grains (they’re an x) it is difficult to eat an egg salad sandwich.

I’ve been baking with raw almond flour, garbanzo bean flour and coconut flour. All have their uses, thought nothing really caught my eye as a suitable staple alternative until I came across this recipe on a gluten free site. I made it as written, with coconut oil not butter, and used this chart to convert to stevia powder. I also made my biscuit drops a little smaller, getting 11 to the batch. Ideally next time I’ll get 12. I prefer even numbers.

Guys, they’re so fluffy! It’s amazing. They taste like bready biscuits!

I think the batter itself will be a wonderful base for further experimentation. It’s very subtly sweet, almost like corn bread, which made me think immediately of adding chili powder or jalapeno peppers. I want to punch up the coconut in a future version as well, maybe with coconut extract and flakes. What a find. High five to Andrea Bijou for the recipe.

Soooooo back to my lunch.

Non-dairy egg salad + gluten free/sugar free biscuit =

daaaaamn close to an egg salad sandwich! And with my chilled soup and ice tea, I can eat like the weather is just warming up for summer instead of cooling down for fall.

As long as I don’t open a window or look outside.

But we were on a break!

Dammit, August. I was trying to simplify. Relax. Enjoy the moment. Stop recording life and try living it.

But then you had to go and be awesome, and I have no record of it for The Posterity.

There was great cooking (despite the so-called x diet), family vacations, beautiful beer money (what?!) and of course, Batman. All in a day’s work.

So here’s August:

I’ve been baking, sans gluten or grains of any sort. Raw almond flour is my new favorite ingredient, followed closely by raw, unsweetened coconut. These are delightful, x-friendly and even passed muster with non-x friends at a dinner party.

I also turned these

into these

with the same raw almond flour. Fried green tomatoes a la x. Or something.

Meanwhile, these came

signifying our official “membership” in the Good Beer Investor Program at East End Brewing Company. We were number 21, if I recall correctly. A good omen? Really looking forward to drinking and spreading the Good Beer Cheer (Scott, that should totally be a thing) with these (dare I say?) beautiful beer monies.

Midway through August was vacation time, but before we left for the  beach we had to deal with the snow in Pittsburgh.

As Batman filmed downtown, we were treated to all sorts of vehicle and star-sightings as well as a lovely dusting of prop snow for several days. I missed most of it because I was on campus, but caught a bit at the end. Crazy weather juxtapositioning, since approximately twelve hours after I took that picture, I got to see this

We had a wonderful time at Bethany Beach again this year, due to the fabulous generosity and awesomeness of family. The weather was mostly perfect

and even when it wasn’t, it was beautiful. Exactly what we all needed before the start of the school year(s), since I indeed came right back to this

and this

(Can somebody *please* explain to me the significance of the panda??)

Avi’s hockey practices with his first official team started this month, also. He is very excited.

No really, he is. And we are, too. SHAHA is amazing.  More than worth the lengthy drive to the South Hills several times a week. Also: my hair is so long. Wow. Also also: I was not driving when this picture was taken. But! I can’t wait to see how quickly Avi continues to develop with this sport his whole family loves. His skating skills are really impressive and we can actually see him putting it all together on the ice. So much love!

Yeah, so that was August. I also took my absolute favorite picture of Avi ever (so far) during this month, so even though I’ve shared it with The Entire Internet already, I would be remiss if I didn’t share it again here. He’s so freakin cute, it slays me.

Told ya so.

Bring on September!