Saturday, July 31, 2010


It's the weekend.  I'm enjoying my morning tea while reading the New York Times.  And I come across this article:

Debate Heating Up on Plans for Mosque Near Ground Zero

And I can't help but comment on this.  This makes me so sad.  Can't we all just get along?  Really?  No matter your thoughts about having a Muslim anything near Ground Zero, the point is that the ADL really didn't think this one through, and their position (which is so inconsistent with who they are and what they stand for) is giving credence to fear-mongers across the country.  And I am disgusted that politicians are using this issue to further their campaigns.  Lastly (because I know you've had enough of me by now), I am most hurt by the sentiment.  Hurt that this is what most Americans think of their Muslim co-workers, friends and neighbors.  It's all fine and dandy to talk about tolerance and interfaith gestures but at the end of the day we still think of MODERATE Muslims as outsiders.

It just doesn't sound very American to me.


Friday, July 30, 2010

What's Cookin': Bean Dip, Baby!

I can't believe how long it's been since I've done one of these!  It's not that we haven't been creating culinary delights, but we've just been eating them far too fast.  I barely have time to whip out the trusty camera before some tiny person comes along and swipes my grub.  Bad form!

I did have a chance to take a few shots of this fantastic lunch that I threw together last week - it was really easy to make, given that I had just gone to the farmer's market and had lots of fresh produce on hand (well, what was left of the produce after Nissa got done with it).  The trick, I learned very quickly, was to keep everyone else OUT of the kitchen until I've had my way with it (which sounds a lot dirtier than me taking a bunch of pictures of lettuce.  Unless you have a lettuce fetish.  In which case this post will make you feel good in ways I don't want to really think about right now).

Basically I took a bunch of fresh romaine lettuce (locally grown, natch) and rinsed it, patted it dry and spread it all out.  Then I took some raw beets (also locally grown!  Hooray for good food karma!), chopped off the greens, scrubbed them a bit, cut them up into biggish chunks and then tossed them into the food processor to get them grated.  I also rinsed a can of chick peas and had them at the ready, along with some chopped scallions (not too much).

Before putting all of this together on the lettuce leaves, I spread my Totally Amazing, Goes-With-Everything Bean Dip on each leaf.  We always have tubs of this stuff in our fridge- it's healthy, filling and tasty and it's the perfect companion to so many things - chopped veggies, nacho chips, and as a spread on sandwiches, wraps and lettuce.  It's really THAT good.

Did someone say Recipe?  Well certainly, dahlings!

Totally Amazing, Goes-With-Everything Bean Dip
(adapted from the Black Bean Hummus Recipe in Eat For Health by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.)

This makes a LOT of dip.  If you don't eat it almost every day like we do, you may want to reduce the portions to suit your own needs.  Here's the way we rock our dip, though...

3 15-ounce cans of beans (You can do any combination, really.  We usually do two cans of black beans and one can of garbanzo beans.)
6 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 Tablespoon seasonings to taste (We do different things here too.  Sometimes chili powder, paprika, ground black pepper, or a tablespoon of Mrs. Dash - any flavor that suits you.  Really anything goes!)
6 Tablespoons tahini (Arrowhead Mills is the brand that we get in the organic section of our grocery store.)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 clove garlic

1 or 2 teaspoons Bragg's Liquid Aminos or low sodium Soy Sauce (this is optional because it makes your dip saltier...which you may or may not need/want.  We sometimes like it, and sometimes we leave it out.  The dip tastes great either way)

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or blender.  This is a really thick puree, so you may need to add a tiny bit of water (the original recipe calls for 2 Tablespoons) to get things going.  Our Vitamix slows down a bit but can still handle the mix without water. 

Process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed, and add additional seasonings and water to taste.

That's it!  It's really that easy.  Now go make some, and tell me if it doesn't knock your socks off!

Happy Friday, all.  See you on the flip side...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Surly Girl

I don't know when exactly it happened, but I woke up this morning and realized that my just-turned-four-year-old is actually a teenager in disguise (you see how I used italics there?  That's because this is serious business, yo. That means it's time to pay attentionTime to stop with the italics, Mahreen. Right-tee-oh.  Onwards!).

Ever since she turned four (going on fourteen), Inara has been...challenging.  Most days she is sweet and loving and lots of fun to hang out with - but there are the occasional days (and today has been one of them) where she walks around with this huge chip on her shoulder.  Because being four is apparently very stressful and there is no POSSIBLE way that I could ever relate to her - may I be smitten by the lightning bolts shooting out of her eyeballs if I even think about being nice or understanding or compassionate.  And lord help me if I should try to FIX THINGS. 

I think part of it may have to do with the fact that the baby formerly known as ever-sweet Nissa is starting to hold her own around her big sis. Nissa is starting to go after what she wants - which is usually whatever toy or activity Inara is playing with.  The problem is that she won't back down and she won't give up and she is not afraid to get hurt trying to get her way.  She's like a bionic baby whose sense of fear has been replaced by continuous shrieks of euphoria when faced with extreme danger.  Most rational human beings would say: "Oh, lookie there.  That Big Person doesn't want me to have that toy.  That Big Person is now running away from me.  Oh, well.  I want a cookie."  But not Nissa.  I am fairly certain that if I could take a peek into the insantity of her mind I would find the following: "ME WANT RA-RA'S TOY.  ME WANT IT NOW!  RA-RA RUN!!! ME RUN TOO (never mind that I can't actually walk)!!!  RA-RA JUMP OFF TOP STEP!!  ME JUMP TOO (never mind THAT I CAN'T WALK!!!!)!!! ME GO HEADFIRST BECAUSE IT BE FASTER.  AND BECAUSE I DON'T KNOW HOW TO MAKE MY LEGS WORK YET.  AAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!  THAT WAS AWESOOOOME - FORGET COOKIES, LET'S DO THAT AGAIN! RA-RA, RA-RA, RA-RA - WHERE ARE YOU??????"

And this goes on and on and on alllllllll day long.  And by this point Inara is downright pissed off (I'm still having fun with italics, peeps).

Enter surly four year-old teenager person, stage left. 

A typical conversation between Exasperated Mama and Surly Four Year-Old Teenager Person (filled with lots of italics just to annoy you):
Surly: stomp stomp stomp stomp - followed by the very loud slamming of our coat closet door.
Me: (opening door to talk to her) Inara.  We don't slam doors.
Surly: Ugh!  But MOM (Not Mama. She only says MOM when she's in Surly Mode).
Me:  Yes, Inara.
Surly: (sighing) I need some PRIVACY IN HERE.
Me:  You need privacy?  In the coat closet?
Surly: Yeah. I need PRIVACY.  From YOU.
Me: (resisting every urge to not sound like my mother and say "there is no such thing as privacy from ME, missy!" when did all this become MY fault?  I'm trying to HELP YOU, SURLY)  Okay.  You need privacy.  I can respect that.  Do you want this to be your own private space?  Is it a place where you feel like nobody is bothering you?  Because I think you might be frustrated by Nissa always trying to take your toys...
Surly:  I told you already, MOM.  I want to have privacy from EVERYTHING.  So can you give it to me now?  Can you just shut the door and not come back?

What's a mom to do?  I mean I do feel for her, it's got to be tough to always have to watch your back around your big scary one year-old sister who doesn't process the concept of personal space like a rational human being.  So you know what I did?  I let Inara have her private space.  In the coat closet. 

Every so often, she will scurry in and out of there - as fast as her little legs will take her.  It's as if she's a guerilla soldier taking enemy fire, she's dodging and jumping and rolling to get to the pantry or the toy box or the bookshelf.  And then she's shooting these furtive glances all around and I can see her brain processing - processing the angles and the routes and the path of least resistance to get her back to the safety of her private coat closet. 

Most days she won't even let me come in to join her - I think that she thinks that if she lets me in then it won't be long before other, less-wanted little people (or person) will be in there too.  Or who knows, maybe she just doesn't like me very much right now - she is a mini-teenager, after all. Every time I open the door (after knocking, of course.  I remember how much it irked me when my parents didn't knock before coming into my room...I just didn't think I'd have to follow privacy protocol at age FOUR), I'm told, "MOM! What are you DOING?!?  Can you just shut the DOOR????" 

So I actually have no idea what she's doing in there, amongst our coats and shoes and umbrellas.  Until now, that is.  Today after lunch (which she ate in there) Inara left the door to the coat closet open  and this is what I found:

 Surly Mini-Teenager Den 

I can SO see her in there now, listening to her angsty Rainbow Brite records, chugging back big swigs of water, wearing her badass bike helmet and glove, and mulling over the unfairness of the world in general. 

Sometimes it's so hard to be a four year old.

Whatever, MOM.  You should have known that I was going to be Surly when I put on my angsty mini-teen skull necklace this morning. Now leave me alone.  
Nobody gets me like Rainbrow Brite, anyway.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Bountiful Harvest

I just love this time of year in our town.  We have so many farmer's markets with their locally grown and organic produce to choose from, that every day is a veritable food adventure.  It's really been pushing us to try new and interesting recipes, which I always love sharing here on the blog too.  Another benefit of living in the city is that we've been able to walk to at least two different farmer's markets per week - and the time spent outside with the girls has been so full of happiness and childhood bliss.  I feel like we're making such great memories this summer, and both my stomach and my soul feel so nourished because of it. 

Last night we walked to our one of our favorite farmer's markets (the girls love it because there's always a kid's activity...which is just so thoughtful of the organizers to put together), and Yousuf and I love that there is always a fantastic variety of food to pick from. 

So get this - for under thirty dollars, this is what we brought home:

Kale, blueberries, beets, carrots, blue potatoes, peaches, apples and some cute little patty pan squash.  The baby was free, although I did have the urge to take a nibble out of one her delectable cheeks. 

By the time I had snapped this really not-so-good quality photo, she'd already half-finished a peach.  Which was then followed by the rapid inhalation of blueberries and squash:

I had to stop taking pictures when she made a grab for the carrots and the beets (both of which she managed to take chunks out before Mean Mommy took them away).  I had plans for those!

I hope you're all enjoying your summer as much as we have been.  Here's to long summer days filled with lots of great adventures.  And to fabulous food!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

That's What Little Boys Are Made Of...

My brother and his wife are expecting their first baby any moment. Literally! We've been waiting with baited breath since yesterday because it seems as though my sister in-law is in early labor, and every fiber of my being just wants to hop into our van and drive the four hours to be with them RIGHT NOW as they welcome this precious little soul into the world.   I'm going to be only slightly less annoying, however - and just blog about how emotional I get about the people that I love having little people of their own to love.  Because I know that won't annoy my brother AT ALL.

I can't quite believe that my little brother is going to be a father.   A part of me still expects all this new baby-ness to be one of his legendary practical jokes (like the time he told me that he backed my parent's car into a lawnmower just after I actually DID back their car into a lawnmower.  I was SO FREAKED OUT that there were evil lawnmowers lurking behind every bush and boulevard ready to jump out and bash themselves into us - all while he laughed himself to tears every time I drove anywhere - for DAYS.  Not that I'm an easy target or anything....).  But, I've seen the evidence firsthand - in the form of my unfairly gorgeous and glowing sister in-law - and all signs are pointing to BABY! 

Mansoor and Nadia's baby boy is already so loved, by so many of us - at our house, Inara has already been telling everyone she meets that, "I have a sister named Issie and a baby brother and his name is Ameer and he is coming really SOON!" - at which well-meaning and ignorant strangers look down at my belly and say, "Oh! You're expecting again!  And so soon!"

And that's when I regret eating that Post-Day-From-Hades bowl of ice cream after my little cherubs have gone to bed.  Again.

Ahem. I digress.

Right. So apart from the fact that Inara is clearly over her little sister and is now yearning for a little boy counterpart (to which I say I AM NOT READY TO DO THIS AGAIN. Yet. Ever. Probably. Maybe.  Oh but babies smell so good....Ack!  I must remember the sleeplessness and the non-stop fighting and the needing and wanting....and oh, the smell...the squishy cuddles....and, oh crud...I...just...can't....resist....) - we're all eagerly anticipating Baby Ameer's arrival.  I'm personally looking forward to being the Aunt that buys him cute clothes, keeps him up late, and sneaks him unhealthy treats.  So basically the things that Mansoor and Nadia have been doing with my kids for years.  DON'T THINK I DIDN'T NOTICE, GUYS.

So, hurry up and come on out, sweet baby!  We can't wait to meet you - and your mama REALLY wants to get some sleep!

Ameer, my little prince, I am so looking forward to gazing at your genetically-blessed face and marveling at your amazing metabolism (which you surely will not have inherited from me!).  I know that you and I are going to have so much fun together in the years to come. I can't wait to tell you about the time your daddy ate dirt, or snuck out of the house or the many times that he stood up for me and protected me, his big sister, when nobody else would.  I love him, and your mommy, and YOU more than words will ever be able to express.

Sweet little lovely boy, you've already melted my heart and you're barely even here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Look Out World...

It's been a pretty huge week for us at the VeniVidiHousehold.  We had back to back birthdays last weekend - on Saturday Inara turned the big 0-4, and then on Sunday I turned...yeah, I'm not telling you how old I turned. It's far too depressing.


And now this!  This, my friends, this is HUGE.  Talk about icing on the cake...and talk about a big week for our family.

Before you get all your skivvies in a knot, let me just preface this by saying that I AM NOT PREGNANT. So let's just nip that in the bud right there.

And yes, I am totally screaming like a middle-aged mom at the latest Twilight movie premiere.  Not that I'm a fan of Edward (Go Team Jacob!) or anything.


Check it out!  THIS IS HUGE!!!  I personally think the ending is the best...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Wanted: Stylish, Sleep-Inducing Window Coverings

One of the first things that attracted us to this old house was the windows.  The house may be on the smaller side of life, but it is brightbrightbright, because of the numerous and very large windows scattered throughout our home.  Now, however, what started out as a beautiful and attractive feature is quickly becoming a pain in my backside, and something needs to be done - fast.

The problem becomes complicated by the fact that I don't really want to do anything with the windows, and mostly I'd just like to leave them the way they are, showing off their beautiful trim and crown moulding.  Check it pretty, no? 

 The window at the top of the stairs.  So dreamy...until you see the parking lot right outside.

However, I also don't want to look into my neighbor's kitchen when I come out of the bathroom, you know what I mean?  Right now there are really, really not-so-pretty plastic blinds on the bedroom windows, and I'd like them to be gone, like yesterday.  It sounds like it should be a relatively easy task to take out the blinds and replace them with something modern and stylish, like a printed roman or inside-mounted roller shade - but again, it's a little more complicated than that.

That little complication comes in the form of two angelic cherubs who, given the opportunity, will wake up at the bumcrack of dawn if even so much as a sliver of light enters their room, at the right angle, at the EXACT WRONG time.  In our house, bedtime is a complicated ritual that involves bizzare light-eliminating acts from every single nook, cranny, crevice, gap, and crack...everywhere.  We basically walk around smoothing down every bumpy surface around the windows and doors, and then cross our hearts and hope to die, stick a needle in our eye and pray to the heavens above to not be woken up at 5am by two little people who don't NEED TO SLEEP IN ORDER TO SURVIVE.  They freak me out, man. Especially when they're staring at me with their wide, non-sleepy eyes and their heavy, non-sleepy breath and saying, "Mama!  MAMA!  Look...I can see the light! The light...the light...I must go towards the light....."

Okay, maybe they don't say that last part, but the fact is that my kids have an uncanny knack of sensing daylight and it must be constantly quenched in order for me to function like a marginally normal, occasionally-twitching human being. 

Enter my design dilemma:  Do there exist pretty shades that a) show off my GORGEOUS window casing, and b) keep bedrooms so dark that you can't see your own hand in front of your face?

Yousuf thinks that we should go with cellular shades...but honestly, I find them to be a bit boo-ooring.  But, I think I could learn to live with them if they really are all that and a can of beans at keeping out light.  I need your advice, oh wise and sage internet readers!  What's a sleep-deprived, yet style-hungry mama to do???

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Lazy Summer...

Look, I know I haven't been around lately.  To be honest, I have about 10 posts that I've started and for one reason or another, just never gotten around to finishing up.  The truth is, we've been enjoying the heck out of this summer.  Sure, we moved, we unpacked, we're settling in - and all that stuff does take time, but there's also something else.  And that is that we're ENJOYING OUR REAL LIFE!  Shocking, I know. 

We're still not getting a lot of sleep, and there is still so much to be done to this old house, but our little family of four is having a fantastic summer.  We've only had a couple of setbacks - the biggest one was that my bike got stolen last week (which apparently is an unfortunate side-effect of city living, I'm told).  However, the good news is that it wasn't worth a lot of money, and now we know not to leave our bikes out back.  I think more than the loss of my bike was the fact that some jackwipe came ONTO our property just for an old bike.  The world really is full of crazies, I tell ya. 

Here's a few shots of what we've been up to.  I hope you won't mind my laid-back and lazy summer style of blogging over the next few weeks.  There is just so much to sunshine to soak up and lots of lemonade to sit back and sip. 

And you know what? I'm loving every second of it.

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