These are the people in your neighborhood

Lately Half-moon is really into SOUNDS. When he hears a sound he gets wide-eyed and says, “OH. WHAT’S THAT?” And he also wants to know what sounds things make. It’s easy when he asks what sound a truck makes, or a duck. It’s much harder when he asks about things like deodorant, North Dakota, stripes and starfish. What sound does a starfish make? This might be the eternal question of the universe. I know I stumped one of my favorite yoga teachers with that one the other day, and he usually seems to know the answer to everything. I wonder if Rumi knows.

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Because he’s into sounds, and because I like to be outside, Half-moon and I spend a lot of time walking around. These walks use to happen at a faster pace, but now we linger and watch. A couple of weeks ago a fire truck drove past and rang their bell for us. Now the “sound” of a fire truck is “ding ding.” 30 seconds later a city bus went by and honked. So guess what sound a bus makes? “Honk honk.”

IMG_8909Last week I wanted to go get lunch at the Mermaid Cafe before they closed for good, but before we could go in we needed to watch a UPS delivery man make his neighborhood rounds.We followed him around a city block, watching and listening. When another truck parked him in, he got out of his truck and explained to us that he’s not allowed to reverse- he’ll get in trouble. So I pointed out where the driver of the other truck was and we all stood together and waited.Β I soon realized that there were delivery trucks all over at this time. We started picking up on the rhythm of the neighborhood and how things work at 11 am on a Thursday. It was like a scene out of a Richard Scarry book.

When I could wait no longer for a Bahn Meatless sandwich, it took a little convincing, but luckily we could sit in the window and continue to watch the street. When we finished lunch and walked out on to the sidewalk, our new UPS friend was driving past, waving vigorously.

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I’ve realized that I can no longer really have an agenda, but I’m learning that maybe that is the luxury of not having any place that I really have to be. The luxury of being forced to slow down and watch. And listen. Two days ago we stood and watched a tree get cut down for two hours. We watched the first city crew disassemble the large tree right before our eyes (by a man we had met the week before in a different spot, when we stopped to talk to him and he made lots of SOUNDS for us with his truck) and then we watched the next crew drive in and take the tree away using a giant, loud claw machine. Normally I would be slightly annoyed by the noise, or just walk past without a second thought, but standing and watching this whole process was almost meditative.

In addition to sounds, Half-moon has also been super into lingonberries. And pancakes.

IMG_8819I was cooking vegan all month (something that ended a little early when I decided I just needed some eggs and cheese already), but I adapted a recipe for vegan oat pancakes earlier in the month that I will share. You can make them vegan- or not- but I highly recommend them with lingonberries (my mom gave us a jar of them that she found at Whole Foods.)

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Vegan Oat Pancakes

Makes about 12 pancakes, depending on how big you make them

Ingredients:

1-2 bananas, mashed
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 flax eggs (2 Tbsp flaxseed meal + 5 Tbsp water)
pinch salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 Tablespoons canola oil (or coconut oil)
3/4 cup (or more, depending on consistency of batter) coconut hemp milk (or substitute other milk)
1 cup rolled oats
1/3 cup whole wheat or unbleached flour (or sub other flour)
Chopped walnuts (optional)
Lingonberries for serving

Instructions:

Prepare flax egg by mixing flaxseed meal and water and letting set for 3-5 minutes. Mash bananas with baking powder. Add flax egg, oil, salt, vanilla, milk and nuts (if using) and stir. Stir in oats and flour until just combined.Β Melt oil (I used coconut oil) in a skillet and add desired amount of batter to make a few pancakes at a time. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side – until golden brown (I am working on a getting better and cooking the pancakes- I find that when it’s ready to flip, the pancake will easily give a little.) Serve with lingonberries (or maple syrup.)

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I’d like to thank all of the bus drivers, fire fighters, tree trimmers and UPS drivers who have taken the time to honk, wave, and interact with us- I wish I could make you all a big batch of these vegan oat pancakes.

In like a lion

Ah, March. Historically I’ve had a bit of hard time with this month, and I know I’m not alone in this. It feels like everyone you know is off somewhere warm and green, eating local citrus fruit, sipping cocktails out of coconuts and diving into impossibly blue water. I know this isn’t true, but it’s where your mind goes when you find yourself staring at your own walls and messy cupboards. I remember one March in college when I housesat for a dear family friend who was taking her annual trip to Mexico. While everyone else in the world was on vacation, I sat on the floor of her glassed-in front porch with her black lab, Puccini, and wrote a poem about a dying fish who belonged to my best friend’s roommate. This fish floated sideways in it’s tank going up and down, up and down, and I wrote some lines about trying to find your equilibrium. I bet I could find this poem if I looked around, it has become the thing that I now think of when it becomes March.

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But March is also a time of renewal and rebirth, and even if we can’t see it through the rain-snow and mud, warm, green days are on the way. And if you can’t get out of dodge, one way that I have started to look at March is as an opportunity to shake things up a little bit and maybe get out of a few ruts. A few years ago, inspired by one of my favorite yoga teachers, I decided to create my own version of a “cleanse” right around the time of the spring equinox. For about 12 days I gave up coffee, dairy, sugar and alcohol and I ran most mornings before work. I started each day by drinking warm water with lemon and I cooked vegan dinners by night. As a vegetarian who cooks most meals using whole and mainly organic ingredients, this wasn’t too much of a stretch and I didn’t feel very different at the end of the 12 days, but I did learn that you can put avocado in smoothies instead of yogurt, that I could live without coffee and beer and that even though getting out of bed 40 minutes earlier- in the dark- is rough, that it feels really good when you get home from your jog and the sun is just coming up. And I also discovered some new favorite recipes and a blog that I still love to this day. So, I’m going for it again. I’m not giving up coffee this time (let’s not get too crazy here), but I did drink it black this morning, instead of with my regular heavy pour of 1/2 and 1/2. I’m going to keep making overnight oats with whole milk for Dan and half-moon, but I’ll have my oatmeal plain with raisins and walnuts. And I’m going to cook dinners from the extensive- and underutilized- collection of vegan cookbooks sitting on my shelf.

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I’m not going to buy dairy alternatives like fake cheese or almond milk- the strange list of unknown ingredients weirds me out- but hell yeah I’ll make walnut + lentil loaf with ketchup on top. Last night I made chili, that just happens to be vegan if you don’t add sour cream or cheese on top.

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It’s still cold and damp outside, so warm, hearty meals are in order- but this is a good time to cook farro for the first time or try a new recipe for new soup. Or go to a different yoga class or buy a new plant or finally get those three empty jars of honey out of your cupboard. Instead of writing the whole month off, do something that helps you look at the world with fresh eyes, even if from your own kitchen. If you get creative, there are seemingly small things you can do to help you look at the world a little differently. March is your oyster.

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Pinto and Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

1 cup dried pinto beans
1/2 cup dried black beans
Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, chopped,
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 cans tomatoes (diced or San marzano style- or combination)
2 cups water or veggie broth
Salt
Chili powder
Cayenne pepper (optional)
Toppings:
Fresh squeezed lime juice
Cilantro
Green onions

Directions:
Presoak beans for a couple of hours in a big pot, and then bring to a boil and let simmer for a couple of hours until cooked and water is mostly absorbed. Place the beans in a bowl, and then add olive oil to the pot. When the oil is warm, add the garlic, onion and celery and sautΓ© for a few minutes. Add the chili powder and cayenne, if you like the heat, and salt, and sautΓ© for another minute. Add the beans back to the pan, and add the tomatoes and broth. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for a few minutes (or longer) before serving. Taste for salt and cayenne. Top chili with lime juice, cilantro and green onions.
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Do you have a way that you like to “celebrate” March? I’d love to hear it. Happy almost spring, my friends.