Spring Fever

woodsSpring is in the air around here. Okay, okay, I must admit, spring in South Florida is just a lump of hot days where I wait, dreading the humidity’s impending return. I guess what I should’ve said was, spring is on my mind.  Yes, that feels a bit more accurate.

This is my eighth spring in South Florida. I thought the first few were pretty spectacular, what with not having to wait for the snow to melt and all. In fact, I decided to move to Florida as an undergrad at SUNY Oswego when I roused one late-April morning, and looked out my window only to see two inches of snow had settled on my car while I was asleep. I decided to blow off my classes and go back to bed; there was no way I was pulling a snow brush out that late in the year. I’d spent two-and-a-half decades in Upstate New York- enough was enough.

[Next stop, South Florida]

Year round warm hot weather turned out to be a novelty that I quickly grew bored with. My year used to be marked by four seasons. Sure, some unpleasant weather popped up from time to time, but these seasons worked in harmony with one another and gave my life a sense of time and balance. In the absence of traditional seasons, I feel disconnected; I’m living in a vacuum.

This year Miss P is with us, and I’m realizing that if we stay in South Florida, she’ll never know the crisp pungent air and blazing leaves of fall – the season she came to us. She won’t wipe the fog of her warm breath away from the window as she peers out at snowflakes gathering on front lawns and mighty pines or feel a stir of anticipation as the inclement weather slowly gives way to the rebirth of spring. She won’t dance in the sunshine, inhaling the sweetness of lilacs and fresh cut grass as the first signs of summer reluctantly creep up, or run barefoot though the velvety lawn collecting crab apples and lady bugs.

lilac bush

The delicate blooms of a lilac bush. (Very special thanks to Jasmin Efing in New York for allowing me to share her photo.)

In South Florida, I’m forced to experience the beloved seasons I speak of mentally rather than physically. I keep scented candles and trinkets representing each one stuffed in a bureau drawer – a sandwich bag full of colorful fabric leaves, a snow globe that lights up and sends glitter swirling onto the encased landscape, a pine cone I picked up off a dirt path in Vermont – and I draw upon these collections throughout the year as a means of triggering my mind to take me back. Still, there is a hollowness and palpable longing.

These treasures will never evoke the seasons for Miss P; not as I know them. They won’t coax vivid images onto the back of her eyelids or fill her nostrils with scents that aren’t really there, yet are so powerful, at times, they seem to take over the room. They won’t leave her reeling with a visceral longing to hop in the car and head north until she’s home, because she is home, and here she will know her own seasons. Non-seasons. Seasons that fall out of balance with my own.

These are some of the things I’ve spent the last few months pondering, but life doesn’t slow down while I dwell on its implications, so I must continue to move forward. We’re already busy around here creating our own spring traditions- hybrids of the way spring is meant to be experienced and how it presents itself in the subtropics.

I’ve been making floral crowns for Miss P and taking her for leisurely strolls around our neighborhood. We recently learned the Poppins Hip Carry in our new woven wrap, and it’s become one of our favorite carries for walks because it allows Miss P greater freedom to look around at the world while still providing an opportunity for her to turn into me and nap when she’s had enough.

These days we’ve been enjoying every moment of fresh air we can, because soon it will be so hot outside that the candle residing on a tabletop on our patio will turn to a pool of wax in the blistering afternoon sun.

Spring Fever

My little flower child

crown

Most would call this sudden urge to be outside, this urge to commune with nature – to honor it with time and flowers and feelings of gratitude – spring fever. For me, “spring fever” has become a seasonal symptom of another psychological malady called homesickness.

For Miss P – this world where lilacs don’t bloom, and Robins don’t lay their speckled eggs the color of the June sky, this world where leaves don’t turn luminous with hues of gold and red and burnt orange in fall, and snowflakes don’t blanket the forest in February, this world of year round mosquitoes and greenery, this world where the air has only two settings: hot and hot and humid – this world of suspension is home.

I can’t wait to take her home with me.

I’ll leave you with a handful of photos from our spring shoot.

And what spring photo would be complete without a Beatrix Potter book? My sister and I adored Potter’s books – and the furry creatures that run wild throughout them – when we were kids.

Spring Photo Shoot Book 3Spring Photo Shoot Book 1Spring Photo Shoot Book 2

Miss P looking like a magical fairy in the frilly dress her Grandmom sent:

Spring Photo Shoot 1Spring Photo Shoot Tinkerbell

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Meatless Monday Zucchini “Spaghetti” w/Creamy Avocado Pesto

Zucchini spaghetti3

Ripe avocado lends a perfect base for the robustness of fresh basil and garlic to fuse with the nuttiness of nutritional yeast and tahini. A little fresh lemon juice adds a zing to this savory modified pesto. Serve it a-top a bed of spiralized zucchini for a raw vegan and gluten free twist on the Italian classic.

This dish is surprisingly satisfying, plus it takes mere minutes to whip up. Sure to be a (cruelty-free) summertime hit!

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 6 medium zucchinis
  • 2 ripe avocados (halved, and pitted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • juice from 1 small lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled)
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • sea salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Optional ingredients

  • grape tomatoes
  • sun-dried tomatoes
  • fresh basil, torn
  • fresh parsley, chopped

To prepare

Wash and peel zucchinis. I use a spiralizer to transform my zucchini into spaghetti-like strands, but you can certainly julienne the zucchini by hand. Once your zucchini is spiralized, place it in a large bowl and set it aside while you prepare the sauce.

Zucchini Spaghetti1

My favorite part of preparing this meal!

Zucchini spaghetti2

This picture shows four medium zucchinis spiralized.

To make the Creamy Avocado Pesto, simply toss the flesh from both avocados and all remaining ingredients into your food processor or high speed blender (I use my Vitamix), and blend until smooth.

Next, empty the sauce into the bowl of zucchini, and mix until zucchini’s evenly coated. (I find that a wooden spoon does well with this job.)

Garnish with chopped or sun-dried tomatoes, fresh parsley or torn fresh basil (because, seriously, can you ever really have enough fresh basil? No. No you can’t).

Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

A garden salad drizzled with olive oil and apple cider vinegar makes a tasty compliment to this meal.

Zucchini Spaghetti w:Alfredo Pesto

Now that’s what I call un-cooking!

 [Wipes drool from keyboard]

Meatless Monday Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup

I was introduced to the concept of Meatless Monday in 2011, during my first graduate residency at Goddard College in Plainfield, Vermont. If you’re unfamiliar with the term – as I was at the time – Meatless Monday is a global movement that seeks to promote greater health and environmental sustainability by simply choosing to forgo meat on Mondays.

I was initially intrigued by the campaign, but by the time I returned home from residency and plunged into my first semester of graduate work, it was long forgotten. After all, I was already submerged in the vegan lifestyle, which meant all my days were meatless.

I’ve been noticing some references to Meatless Monday over the past few months, primarily via social media, but I don’t see them as often as I’d like to. I thoroughly support the vision behind the movement, but I realize that if you typically consume meat at each meal, the idea of removing it, even just for one day, can seem a bit implausible. After all, what will you eat? I mean, who wants to nosh on carrot sticks and lettuce all day? That sounds terrible. Plus, you’ll be ravenous by the time Tuesday rolls around, right?

Eh, not so much.

I’ve been bouncing back-and-forth between a vegan and vegetarian diet for years now, and as zany as the idea may seem to a carnivore, it’s totally possible, dare I even say easy to put together delicious and satisfying meals sans meat.

MM food

Top: Rolled oats w/fresh strawberries, almond milk & sliced almonds; Berry smoothie; Choco-Banana “Ice Cream” (made from blended bananas, coconut milk & raw cacao powder) Bottom: Peanut butter & jam on whole grain bread w/apple wedges; Red lentils, quinoa, green beans & yam

In an effort to raise awareness, and to promote the myriad of health and environmental benefits that are a direct result of cutting down on meat consumption, The Excellent Adventures of Miss P will feature a recipe and/or an applicable lifestyle piece each Monday.

We welcome you to share your favorite meat-free recipe(s) with us at: excellentadventuresofmissp@gmail.com. We may even feature some of these recipes on the blog (with your permission, of course).

This week, I’d like to talk about the nutritional benefits of homemade soups and stews; both are a staple in our home for many reasons. I’ve always loved soup, but it wasn’t until I stopped stocking up on sodium and preservative laden cans of it and started making it myself – with pure unprocessed ingredients –  that it became a health food.

Most soups and stews are easy to make, and recipes tend to be forgiving of substitutions and additions, meaning you probably already have everything you need to prepare a big pot without making a trip to the store. Soups and stews also provide an excellent opportunity to sneak in a plethora of nutrient-dense foods to ensure you’re getting the most out of your meal. (Think loads of filling fiber, plentiful protein and an array of vitamins and minerals just to name a few.) As a side note, I use organic ingredients whenever possible, and I try to avoid adding canned foods as said cans are usually lined with Bisphenol-A (BPA). Although many sources have cited BPA as safe in small amounts, I tend to air on the side of caution when it comes to chemicals my family will be ingesting.

I make soup every week, so there’s always a fresh batch hanging out in our refrigerator ready be ladled into a sauce pan and reheated. I also like to keep an assortment of these soups in the freezer along with staple-ingredients, such as broth and beans, to drastically reduce the likelihood of having to reach for a can.

For our first Meatless Monday post, I’d like to share the recipe for one of my absolute favorite black bean soups. I love black beans; they’re loaded with iron (20% of your daily intake per 1-cup serving), fiber and protein, and they’re extremely versatile. Plus, they taste terrific.

I hope you’ll give this soup a try!

The Ultimate Black Bean and Veggie Soup:

Black Bean Soup

This recipe is a modified version of the Zesty Black Bean Soup from Whole Foods Market’s website; my version omits some of the prepackaged ingredients and adds a couple superstars to the mix. 

This soup is nutrient dense and fast and simple to make. The spice-blend of cinnamon and cumin lends an unexpected and exotic flair. 

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin unrefined coconut oil
  • 5 medium-sized carrots, cut into coins
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon (or to taste) fine sea salt
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 celery stalk, finely sliced
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 4 cups black beans (I prefer fresh, but you can certainly use 2 15 oz. cans, no-salt-added, drained and rinsed.)
  • 1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
  • 1 quart low-sodium vegetable broth
  • fresh cilantro, chopped

Optional Ingredients:

  • additional cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • sour cream
  • nutritional yeast
  • cheese
  • hot sauce
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • tortillas

To prepare:

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, bay leaf and salt and cook until carrots are just tender, about 7 minutes. Add onions and garlic and cook 5 minutes more. Add cumin, cinnamon, beans, corn, tomatoes and broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tomatoes reduce (about 20 minutes). Stir in cilantro. Serve.

Note: This soup keeps well in the refrigerator; it also freezes well!

This soup can be served with additional cilantro, lime wedges, hot sauce, sour cream… the possibilities are endless. Add cooked rice or quinoa to transform your bowl of soup into a hearty meal.

chopped veggies

Mmmm! All those colorful fresh-chopped veggies make me want to drool on my keyboard. Also- I prefer making my own broth, but I was a bit short on time this week.

Black Bean Soup

MM soup

Black bean soup w/super grain blend (red & white quinoa, buckwheat & millet) & fresh cilantro. Delish!

Have a Marvelous Meatless Monday!

6 Months

6 Month Chalkboard

…and what 6-month-photo would be complete without a face full of drool?

Dearest Poet Victoria, Our Little Miss P:

You’ve made it halfway around the sun, our sweet child. In your time here, you’ve learned to use your voice when you want to be heard- even if it’s only to babble to your blanket or razz at Raffy the Giraffe- you’ve also learned to tug at our hearts without making a sound.

You can move your body across a room, sit up and even “stand”. You’ve outgrown clothes, socks and hats and transitioned from peering up at the world from a cradle to gazing out at the world from a high chair.

You’ve filled our lives with so much peace and light and laughter.

Rock n' Play:High Chair

You’ve become so perceptive and observant; it’s like each day you’re seeing the world for the first time, and, in a sense, I suppose, you are, because this world is vast and ever-changing.

In spite of the uncertainty that often travels at the heels of new discoveries, you can take comfort in knowing we are beside you, and our love for you will remain steadfast and fierce.

The next 6 months of your journey will bring you full circle for the very first time; you’ll see spring gently fold into summer, taste your first solid foods and crawl. You’ll also likely say your first word, blow your first kiss, wave goodbye and take your first step, though we know you won’t yet wander too far.

Each day with you, our Little Poet, is an excellent adventure, and we can’t wait to see where this magnificent journey takes the three of us next.

Love, Mommy and Daddy

6 Month Collage Landscape

Ahhh, the deliciousness of being 6-months-young:

6 Month Hallway16 Month Hallway56 Month Hallway46 Month Hallway2

“There’s a flame of magic inside every stone and every flower, every bird that sings and every frog that croaks. There’s magic in the trees and the hills and the river and the rocks, in the sea and the stars and the wind, a deep, wild magic that’s as old as the world itself. It’s in you too, my darling girl, and in me, and in every living creature, be it ever so small. Even the dirt I’m sweeping up now is stardust. In fact, all of us are made from the stuff of stars.”

-from The Puzzle Ring, by Kate Forsyth