Stuffsoup – a little blog with a lot of "stuff"

Hello My Name Is…

Posted in parenting by stuffsoup on March 26, 2010

One of my daughter’s preschools was looking for parents to volunteer to do “art training” at the Minneapolis Institute of Art through their Art Adventure series and then teach something profound to the kids about what they learned there. So, I took the bait and signed up to attend. Last night, I went to the MIA to learn more about 8 diverse pieces of art for the category “family, friends, and foes”.

When I arrived, I was handed the appropriate packet as if they knew I was coming (which, of course, they did, but it was still a bit surprising since there were people there for other “art adventures” too). They also had the standard name tags for people to wear though I don’t think it was to help us remember names since there wasn’t much interaction between us. Perhaps it was to mark us as being a part of the tour itself. The MIA is a labyrinth of rooms – I only nearly got lost once, so that didn’t seem too bad at all. In my defense, it was because I was chatting with one of the other parents that was there and we followed someone else from our group heading the wrong direction.

We had one of those “I know you, where do I know you from” moments and thankfully we both felt that way. (It always seems more awkward when only one person feels that way.) I ran through the gamut of places I go which started to seem pretty paltry as I quickly neared the end of the list. We finally figured out that it was from a particular Lifetime Fitness class and so this “sighting” seemed way out of context. I was then glad we had the name tags to be sure I got the name right since we ran into each other again already this morning. Sometimes it really would be handy if we all wore name tags like Laverne (of Laverne and Shirley) always wore her initial on her shirt.

The art was interesting. There were a couple of the pieces that at first blush, I was not fond of at all, but honestly, as more of the story about the artist and the pieces themselves was told, the more intrigued I became. I still don’t necessarily want to have some of these pieces displayed in my living room, but I can appreciate them more and can maybe appreciate the point that the artist was trying to make. Back story really can lend more interest.

I am still not sure how all of this will translate into talking with preschoolers about this art, but I think it will definitely be interesting and I hope my new friend has a great time talking with the 5th graders.


Be Still My Heart

Posted in Down syndrome,parenting by stuffsoup on March 23, 2010

My daughter had her riding helmet and cowboy boots on (even though she had clearly forgotten how to walk in the boots over the winter with their extra heel). My son had his pieced-together outfit with lots of camouflage, pink boots, green scarf, and purple mittens and he was ready to be a good (and warm) spectator. I had my new (to me) digital camera at the ready to hopefully get better shots in the low light. Everyone was excited to start the spring session of We Can Ride, a wonderful program for therapeutic horseback riding. The horses, the volunteers, everyone was ready for riders and the riders were ready too.

First, the horses were lead by the riders (with the volunteers’ assistance) around the arena for a warm up, then one by one, with big smiles, they mounted. My daughter has been riding horses there since she turned 2 years old and she loves it. They did the usual riding around the arena doing stretches and I snapped pictures whenever my daughter was close enough to see well from the gate where her brother and I watched. I could see that both my daughter and the horse she was riding were being a bit feisty. The horse stopping in his tracks periodically and my daughter pulling some at the reins (even though they are not yet attached in a way that she has control of the horse – it is just for practice at this point). Both were a bit resistant to all the instructions they were being given – both were just trying to settle into the new session.

At one point, the instructor called for the class to line up at the far end of the arena for a game of red light, green light. My daughter had just passed that end of the arena and so instead of doing another loop, the volunteers decided to take her back. The horse was not happy with this decision and resisted the turn around. They pushed for him to join the other horses already lining up. Then, the horse decided to protest in the strongest way a horse has to show his disagreement. He fired his head back and lifted his front hooves off the ground and as my daughter slipped off the left flank of that horse, my breath caught in my throat. It looked as though the volunteer who was on that side was going to catch her, but she said later that she just couldn’t get ahold and as my daughter fell to the ground, I gasped.

The next thing I saw made my heart stop right where it was… the hind hooves raised… and they were coming down right at my daughter. A million things raced through my mind, but the loudest of them all was just NOOOOOOOO! I dropped my camera and fought my way through the gate and into the arena to get my baby girl. I was so afraid. It was the scariest I have ever felt in her whole life. As I moved toward her, I knew I had to pull it together for her. By the time she reached me from the other end of the arena she was wailing, but she was alive and she hadn’t been trampled. We sat in a chair just outside of the arena and I held her and I kissed her and I tried to comfort her the best I could. I asked her if she was ok, I asked if she was hurting anywhere, I told her things like “I bet that was scary, huh?” and “boy, that (horse) sure wasn’t listening very well, was he?”. She WAS scared and she WAS hurt and in hindsight, she was also angry. So, I just held her some more.

The volunteer who had the near catch came over and said to my daughter something like, “that horse, it was like he was dancing there, huh?” My daughter paused in her grief and I knew I had my opportunity. I said to her that it would be absolutely ok to tell that horse, “no more dancing, just walking today”. And, she looked at me and she said, “yeah”. Yeah. She made it. She breathed and I could exhale. When asked if she wanted to go ride again she said, “yeah” and she went over to the lift (even though she was being asked to use the block for mounting) and she rose (literally and figuratively) to get back on that horse. The instructor told me later that she also made sure to say to the horse before she got back on, “no more dancing!”. As she walked on, she smiled and said “that’s better” and so I guess we all will be.

I asked if a horse had ever bucked anyone off before, because it really seemed like such an anomaly to me. One volunteer said “yeah” but another said “oh, never, not since I’ve been here”. I can’t say I won’t be holding my breath just a little bit next week. These are animals after all and I was just reminded of how powerful they can be.  But, it really is a great program and I have to trust the process. So, if you have a few minutes and would like to check out the We Can Ride program, here is a link to a video about them – my daughter is in the video too. 🙂


Posted in Down syndrome by stuffsoup on March 21, 2010

Today is World Down Syndrome day.

Down syndrome is characterized by a person having all or a part of an additional 21st chromosome, thus having 3 copies instead of 2. It is also known as trisomy 21. Thus, the significance of the date 3/21. So, today is a day for people all around the world to pause and reflect on Down syndrome and how it has touched their lives and perhaps even raise awareness of what Down syndrome is and what it is not.

Down syndrome is not scary once you know more about it. It is not contagious as some children have worried. It does not necessarily mean that there will be bigger hardships in health than for a typical child. It does not mean that a child can’t learn or grow or live a happy, productive life.

Down syndrome is a relatively common genetic condition affecting approximately 1 in 800 births. It is characterized by certain physical features and thusly it is more visible. It does affect learning and development but not necessarily in such a profound way as was once thought.

Down syndrome touched my life just moments after I kissed the forehead of my newly born first child. I felt scared then, nervous, unsure, but also determined. I am forever grateful to the friends who reached me with books and information so I could know more and do more. I have learned so much about children, about development, about things most parents take for granted, about patience, about letting things go, about fighting for things worth fighting for, about life. I have found amazing people who are also on this journey and amazing people who are not, but who are accepting in a way that makes my heart full.

And, while I still worry sometimes and cry sometimes and ache sometimes. Usually the worry, the tears, and the aching is because of what someone else has done to my child, not what my child has done. There are definitely challenges (some bigger than others) in helping her reach her potential, but I love her so much and I am so proud of how far she has already come. I know there are more great things in store for her and I can hardly wait to be there for them.

So, happy Down syndrome day everyone. And, if you know someone touched by Down syndrome, feel free to wish them a happy Down syndrome day too.


Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 20, 2010

Well, here we are at day 30 of the 30-day vegan cleanse. After I go to sleep tonight, I will have made it (because in theory, I could still raid the fridge or something) and I think, I’m better for it. The most frequent question I get is “Will you still be vegan after this is over?”. The short answer is no, but the longer answer is yes. I won’t strictly be following the diet that I have been doing for the last 30 days, but I will more frequently take other options, including vegan options. Most of the other questions have to do with how it has been, how I have felt, if I feel it was worth it, if I achieved what I wanted, if I’ll keep blogging, etc..

I have felt good. It has felt good to make healthy choices. My skin hasn’t been so dry which is a welcome thing during a Minnesota winter. I’ve been quite “regular” (if you know what I mean). I’ve lost weight. I didn’t get a chance to weigh in today, but as of two days ago, I had lost 6% of my weight and that feels good for only 30 days. There were many days that were hard, but I do think it was worth it. I wasn’t completely sure what to expect, so mostly what I wanted to achieve was just doing it and I’m glad I did and the weight loss was definitely the biggest “perk”. As for blogging, I would like to keep blogging if you’ll have me. The posts likely won’t be as frequent, but I enjoy the outlet and love connecting in this way.

I started out this journey blogging about “extreme learning” and I would have to say that I did learn a lot. I had a glimmer of what it is like to have a gluten allergy and how hard it can sometimes be to find good substitutes. I learned about some foods that I had never tried before. I learned about raw foods which is a whole other interesting concept. I learned some new recipes and I learned some new ways of thinking and looking at things.

Day 30 – last

Breakfast – gs apple with pb dip

Snack – Mrs. May’s Trio bar in cranberry

Lunch – oatmeal with agave, almond milk, and berries

Dinner – sichuan sauce over rice noodles and carrots plus just a little Good Karma (rice divine ice cream in very vanilla) for dessert

The good. New perspective on food.

The better. New recipes that will be added into my rotation.

The best. I did it!

As Dr. Seuss said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” In some ways, I’ll actually miss this journey, it provided a good structure to learn some of the things I think I needed to learn. It will be good though to test my skills in a way that is more sustainable for me and my family. Thus that old proverb about every end being a new beginning is true… more challenges and more learning are yet to come, though I will definitely smile because it happened. 🙂

Who’da Thunk

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 19, 2010

Today the kids and I went on a class field trip to the Lowry Nature Center. It was an interesting talk and an interesting walk and the kids stayed more engaged than at some past field trips. I even learned something new about snakes… apparently they never stop growing and the more they eat, the bigger they get. The group also went out to tap a maple tree, each taking turns turning the hand drill into the trunk and after checking out the trees, they got to sample some maple syrup from last year.

I am always completely fascinated by the idea that someone had to think these things up. I mean, who drilled the first hole into a maple tree? Did they try many other trees? (Apparently a box elder tree can be tapped too, just that the syrup isn’t quite as tasty… really?) What prompted them to heat the stuff instead of just eating it the way it came out and leaving it at that? Who decided how long to cook it? How much was lost before they got it all right? Don’t get me wrong, I’m really glad there are so many people experimenting with things, I just often wonder about the failed experiments and how people come to their successes. It is all amazing to me.

Day 29 – repeat

Breakfast – gs apple with pb dip

Snack – Mrs. May’s Trio bar in strawberry and some Veggie Crunchers

Lunch – Barcelona spinach

Dinner – the last of the black bean sweet potato chili over brown rice

The good, the better, the best. I’m glad Barcelona spinach (spinach, garbanzo beans, brown rice, and rice milk) will be a relatively easy go-to lunch. Even though it was pretty cool, it was fun to get outside with the kids today. Plus, they got to throw piles of leaves up into the air just for the fun of it.

I guess when you think about it, we really are experimenting all the time. I’m glad to know about the experiments of others that seem to work so well whether it is a parenting tip, a recipe, a new exercise, or whatever other thing. We all can learn so much from each other and keep getting better tastes, experiences, and outcomes. Go world.

Coming or Going

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 18, 2010

As I was driving to the gym this morning, I looked around at all the bare trees and brown-ness and thought of how cool the temperature is and I was thinking how if I just “dropped in” somehow, I might not really know whether it was fall or spring. And, since I was apparently feeling a bit philosophical today, I started thinking that, in some ways, I feel the same way about my weight. It is still not “ideal” and if you just took a snapshot today, you wouldn’t know if I was at this weight topping out or on my way to losing.

If you look closer outside, there are clues that it is spring and not fall. Small buds are trying their best to come out, the Vs of ducks and geese are flying north instead of south, and there are small fingers of ice that are melting off of the ponds. When I look closer at myself, I know that I am on my way to losing mostly because I feel so very much like I’ve just gone through my own “winter”. I feel spring, today I am spring.

Day 28 – dig

Breakfast – oatmeal with agave, almond milk, and berries

After-workout snack – almonds

Lunch – salsa (with a can of beans added for protein) with blue corn chips and cantaloupe

Dinner – Barcelona spinach and 2 Ani Phyo oatmeal raisin cookies

The good, the better, the best. When I lived in Barcelona, they sold this bag of frozen mixed veggies that I loved. It was just spinach and garbanzo beans, but I’d put it with rice and then some cream sauce that I can’t remember anymore since I’d given up on making it here. It may have even been something like a Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup or something. Anyway, I thought I’d give this a go, but didn’t know what I could use to “cream” it up. I heated some frozen spinach from Trader Joe’s (it was in a bag and not mashed into a box, so I could just get a cupful out) and added some garbanzo beans, then I put some pre-cooked brown rice in the pot to warm it all together. Then I tried some rice milk for a bit of cream. It turned out just fine and it did remind me of Barcelona, which made me smile.

I am glad to be leaving winter behind. I do know that there may still be flurries, like the ones forecasted for next week, and there may even be a blizzard, but I feel spring trying to come and that is good. So good.

Thirsty in the Ocean

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 17, 2010

I had an a-ha moment at a gas station. I wanted my daughter to be able to share a birthday treat with her class, and one of her schools strongly prefers store-bought treats to homemade since they come with an ingredient label (though I would gladly give them an ingredient list – but that is a topic for another day). Anyway, I had sent treats the previous day, but didn’t know if there were enough for her additional smaller class, so when I was putting gas in the car, I went into the c-store to see what I could find for her to have a plan B.

I looked around hoping to find something that wasn’t horrible, but that the kids might enjoy. As I looked, through the filter of this 30-day vegan cleanse, there was basically nothing… nothing in there that I could eat. And, I can tell you that I have eaten gas-station food in the past. It was an eye opener to see such a large store with nothing to eat.

Day 27 – low profile

Breakfast – gs apple with peanut-butter dip

Snack – LaraBar in cherry pie and Veggie Crunchers

Lunch – hummus on rice cake bits (they got a bit crunched) and pea pods

Dinner – black bean sweet potato chili over brown rice

It is incredibly interesting to have a new framework for looking at food choices. I know all of the information was there in my brain before, but it has been much easier to filter out extraneous data. I like having the new lens.

Christmas in March

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 16, 2010

I was very excited when Jennifer from invited me to join a networking group of blogging women at The Blog Pantry. I was also a bit nervous. I mean, I had seen some of the blogs that these ladies have put together and they all look so amazing. My curiosity won though and I decided I could learn some cool things and certainly meet some cool people and I love that! Then it was just a matter of figuring out HOW to make it happen. Eventually, a plan (in the form of a neighbor girl with homework and kids that were already in bed) came together and off I went. Late, but there.

Molly Herrmann from hosted the get together at Midtown Global Market (a favorite place of mine where you can find the best burrito in town along with many other fantastic things). The group got together in a restaurant there called A La Salsa. They were easy to spot… they all seemed to be as well put together as their blogs (I was glad I had a shower today and even put on some powder in the car). The ladies were all so warm and I got that feeling I had early in college when everything was new and when you would meet people, you’d ask “what’s your major?” (only tonight it was “what’s your topic?”). Maybe it seems silly, but it was really fun, exciting, and it was as good as I had hoped in so many ways. Plus, Molly had great goodies that she gave away to all of us at the end… love that too! I’ll be sporting my new Midtown Global Market t-shirt soon.

Day 26 – munchy

Breakfast – oatmeal with agave and almond milk

Early lunch – yummy pad thai and cantaloupe

Snack – go.raw ginger snaps, a bowl of toasted sesame pea pods, and dried apple

Dinner – 2 gf waffles with agave and berries

The good. I guess it is good to know that when I don’t have a snack in the morning with a later lunch, I am really hungry by mid-afternoon. I wanted to eat so much, I couldn’t decide what to eat… thus the random assortment of snack today. Though at least they were all pretty healthy. I can say when this has happened in the past, the choices weren’t so healthy.

The better. I was glad I remembered this recipe that I got from a book-club friend.

Toasted Sesame Pea Pods

32 ounces of sugar snap peas blanched for 1 minute and drained, then add 1/8 cup sesame oil, 1/4 cup sesame seeds, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. May serve warm or chilled or make a smaller batch as I did today.

The best. The Blog Pantry event was the highlight of my day. I actually felt giddy about it. I love that feeling.

One of the other bloggers described the group as “inspiring” and I would concur. It helps me want to keep blogging and keep learning and keep experiencing all there is. I mean, there was this whole world happening there and I’m glad I got a peek in.

Job Hazards

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 15, 2010

Every day for the last 25 days, when ever I would pick up a knife and a cutting board, my task was generally to cube or even to mince, so tonight when I was making mashed potatoes for the family, I started to cube the potatoes (small cubes) before putting them in the pot. They did cook pretty quickly, though I suppose it took a bit longer to cut (I am able to cut a bit faster now however even without cutting my fingers – which is a bonus).

It’s funny how your fingers can start to do something even before your brain fully registers it. Apparently researchers have figured out that our unconscious brain “knows” things or becomes aware of things even before we are consciously aware. Apparently we “know” before we know. Although we can still be wrong sometimes.

Day 25 – kinda fruity

Breakfast – strawberries and a cup of rice milk

After-workout snack – almonds and grapes

Lunch – a Mrs. May’s Trio bar in blueberry and cantaloupe

Dinner– leftover sichuan sauce over rice noodles and french fries (potato strips baked with some ev olive oil) with nayonaise

The good. The Trio bar was new to me and it is a bit more calories than I would normally like (230 calories per bar) but it worked well in a pinch and is clearly portable for times like today when I was eating that part of lunch while chasing my soon-to-be-3-year-old son out the door.

The better. I was quite pleased with how well the sichuan sauce kept and it was really good warmed and poured over my Trader Joe’s rice sticks as well as over the spaghetti squash before.

The best. The cantaloupe was good and juicy and it reminded me of summer. As did the sunshine today and the warmer weather. I really like that.

Some tasks are probably really good to get on “auto pilot”. It is how we can get so much done in a day or multitask our way through the “to-do” list, but periodically I suppose it is good to look at these things and make sure they still serve us well. Is there anything that you have on auto pilot that you wish wasn’t quite so automatic? And/or, conversely, do you have things on auto pilot that save your day?

I Ate Chocolate Cake

Posted in 30-day vegan cleanse by stuffsoup on March 14, 2010

Wait! Don’t panic. If you’ve been reading this blog since the beginning, I’m sure that title was a bit startling as it doesn’t seem to fit with my 30-day vegan cleanse, but you should know that it was “legal” chocolate cake. See recipe below. 🙂

My son and daughter had a combined birthday party today and I knew when I started this cleanse back in February that this would be a tough time, so I was so pleased to find Ani Phyo and her raw-foods recipes on youtube. Check her out, she’s got some good stuff.

Day 24 – chocolate, etc.

Breakfast – 2 gf waffles with agave and berries

Snack – bits of things I was preparing for the gathering including recipes below and fruit

Lunch – “summer” salsa with tortilla chips

Snack – oatmeal raisin cookie, chocolate cake with strawberries, and a few grapes

Dinner – black bean sweet potato chili over quinoa

The good. Oatmeal raisin cookies from Ani Phyo. I was so surprised that these tasted just like an oatmeal raisin cookie. I’d definitely remember the touch of cinnamon next time for further effect since I forgot it today. Here’s the recipe.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Oatmeal (she didn’t really give a quantity and I over shot, but it was fixable), 1/2 cup of medjool dates with pits and stems removed (plus the extra one since I overshot the oatmeal), and a pinch of cinnamon all mixed by hand in a bowl. It gets kind of stick-together-y. Then, add 1/2 cup raisins (I just put in enough to “look right”) and form balls or cookies. That’s it – amazing, eh?

The better. Real vegan, gluten-free, sugar-free chocolate cake. It was so decadent. It kind of reminded me of a truffle. I thought it was best with berries and I think I’ll serve the rest with more berry. Here’s the recipe.

Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake

3 cups dried organic “naked” walnuts, 2/3 cup cacao powder (I used cocoa powder), and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt all blended in a food processor or blender. Add 1 cup medjool dates with pits and stems removed. Form it into whatever shape you like, frost (see below), and serve with raspberries (or strawberries if the store sells out of raspberries 20 minutes before you arrive -grr).


1/3 cup pitted medjool dates, 1/4 cup agave syrup, 1/2 cup ripe avocado, and 1/3 cup cacao powder all blended in the food processor. (Again I used cocoa powder and because I don’t think my avocado was ripe enough to make it spreadable, I added just a bit of chocolate almond milk.)

The best. It was great getting together with friends to share tasty treats and the kids were so happy to have friends come to play. I am happy to have good people in my life and the lives of my kids.

The “regular” (read fabulous!) chocolate cake that I made for the kids and other guests was sooo tempting, but I was so glad to have something new and interesting and sweet to have instead to keep me on track to make it to the end of my 30 days. If I could make it past that, I think I can get past anything.

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