Saturday, October 19, 2013

I have a new house!

My family and i have been in the process of moving to a new house for nearly a month now.  It's the same neighborhood; just a different house.  When we moved in, it was like, "Ahh!   Finally, space!"  because in the old home, the you had to go through my bedroom to get to my brother's bedroom, which was quite a nuisance, because I liked to do pilates and Quintin likes playing the electric bass guitar.

Also, I shared a bedroom with my grandma, so I THINK I just got a taste of my college years.
Anyway, the new house is SO COOL!  My bedroom, for example, is nearly three times the living space that I was used to before.  There are two closets.  A lock on the door!  A secret nook where I'm storing books for now!  And the best part... In one of the closets, there's a door in the side of the wall.  In the door is an attic space.  I repeat.  I have a secret room!  My dreams of having a secret library have finally come true!!

My brother's got one as well.  It's just smaller, 'cos his bedroom is bigger.
Anyway, the other night I thought I heard someone jumping around upstairs where my room was, though Quintin was in his room playing the bass (obviously).  Suddenly I realize- The attic space is a great place for a serial killer to hide!  Then I started freaking out VERY QUIETLY.  I went into Quintin's room and asked him to check the room with me, but bring one of his swords.  (he collects katanas, please do not ask.)

He said that the attic spaces were connected!  So then we checked HIS secret room, and there was a hole in the flimsy wooden wall, large enough for an adult to crawl through.  And hide.
So then we BOTH started freaking out, but then... Quintin got a very smug look on his face.  I asked him what was up.  He said, "This is my chance to prove myself!  When he pulls out his gun, I'll throw a sword to him and challenge him to fight!" Quintin has been taking fencing classes for the last 2 1/2 years, but I still said, "Quintin, this is NOT Anime!"

So then I called my mom, who was furniture shopping, and in hushed voices, I said, "Mom... I think there's a burgler hiding upstairs..." In the time it took her to get to the new house, I nearly fainted.  She came immedietly, and called over my grandma (Who is living at the old house so SHE gets her own space as well).  They arrived, and feeling bolder, I grabbed one of Quintin's canes and yelled into the secret room, "All right, if you're hiding, you'd better come out now, you b@stard!"  I got surprised looks from my mom and grandma, because I NEVER curse.  So then My grandma checked the space behind the hole with light from her cell phone and... no one was there.  I said I'd check my attic space for a hole.  So I did.  And there was a solid wall where the attics might have intersected.  
Also, i was told that it might have been a squirrel that I heard earlier.  Sigh.  Having an overactive imagination is both a blessing and a curse.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Vegan advice

As I have said in my previous post, I am vegan.  I'm not here to patronize omnivores, just to talk about veganism.  Like, my experiences culinary-wise and health wise.  i hope you'll find this random hodge-podge of info useful.
I became vegan summer before last because my father brought home a dead chicken.  Before this, i was vegetarian, and thinking about veganism, but THIS was the thing that made me make the transition.  I knew I would miss cheese, so I binged out on cheddar and smoked gouda.  Then I got sick of cheese and made an easy transition.
Mostly, the reason I'm vegan is because I hate factory farms with a passion, but I am also a singer, and a vegan diet is easier on the voice.
Where do I get my vitamins?  Well, I actually get everything I need from plants.  In fact i recently had a checkup, and the doctor said that my body isn't deficient in anything!
I get my protein from:

  • Quinoa, tempeh, and beans with rice
  • Tofu and veggie burgers
  • Almonds, cashews, and walnuts
  • Legumes and beans.  I especially love peas.
It's very important to get protein.  When I first went vegan, I was tired all the time, and I looked it up, AND boom! Protein deficiency.  Also, I had a bit of an episode at Bryant Park last winter when I was ice skating.  I fell down, got a tiny cut on my hand and fainted.  I wasn't getting enough iron!  Now, I get my iron from:

  • Kale and swiss chard
  • Quinoa
  • Beets
As for calcium, I drink lots of coconut and almond milk, and I am currently obsessed with bok choy.  Broccoli is also an awesome source of calcium.  Dark leafy greens are good for most B vitamins.  For that tricky, tricky B-12, I've been eating raw spirulina bars.  Not all the time, of course, because your body can store B-12 for a long time.  And then I discovered kombucha!  (As a teenager, I steer clear of the alcoholic variety.)  It's so yummy... like fizzy fruit juice!  My favorite flavors are ginger and mango.  And apparently it has anti-cancer qualities, cleanses your liver, and balances your digestive system.  It also has B-12.  For Omega-3, I take flaxseed oil.

I have family in Texas, and I'm actually finding it easier to be vegan down there more and more! (Although veganism is frankly effortless in NYC)  Fruit grows down there.  So do vegetables.  And there are quite a few vegan tex-mex meals.  Beans and rice.  Freshly pressed corn tortillas.  Avocados.  
Salad bars are good, too.  Just get plain lemon balsamic.  Get all the yummy stuff.  Cranberries.  Green apple.  Cucumber.  And if you put avocado, it's a lot more filling.  French fries are also vegan.  And I've actually been to a vegan restaurant, too!  It was called "Spiral", I think.  Oh my god, their burgers are amazing.  

When you're at an Italian restaurant, if you look close enough, you have a few choices.  You can get bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil (which is a fantastic meal by itself, if it's fresh.)  I'm pretty sure bruscchetta is vegan. You can request plain pasta with garlic and oil.  You can get a salad with regular balsamic dressing.  Or a plate of steamed veggies.  
In a pinch, at any restaurant, I get a side of french fries and a side of sauerkraut.  Yup.
When I'm on the run, I usually get some bananas from a fruit cart (4 for a dollar in the city, baby), some falafel, or a bagel with tofu spread.

I'm a pretty big fan of ethnic food.  I love Thai food- especially pineapple fried rice.  A lot of asian food seems to be either meatapalooza or vegan.  Middle Eastern, too.  Nothing gets me like some falafel.  And it's really amazing how tahini can taste if it's fresh, like... buttery sour cream, or something.  Oh!  if you mix baba ghanoush with rice, it tastes SO GOOD.  
Another culinary tip-  Cut a piece of tempeh into triangles.  Cover with water in a pan and simmer.  Then drain out the water, and simmer in about half a cup of teriyaki sauce.  This is extremely delicious and when I first tasted it, It was so yummy I could've sworn I felt teary-eyed.

Oh!  There's this magical substance called "Earth Balance" that is basically vegan butter.  It's non-hydrogenated, non-GMO, and it comes organic.  Um... things to avoid... I guess ├╝ber processed things. Once every blue moon I'll have a vegan hot dog, or a slice of pizza with fake cheese.  BUT I RARELY DO.  I don't recommend eating that stuff. It's so processed and unhealthy.  Very bad for you.  Which reminds me; only buy organic tofu.  It's a lot better for you.  And if you can, make your own seitan.  I haven't done that before, but I will soon.

Before I finish, I want to tell you guys about vegan baking.  It's not gross, or dry, or weird.  It's absolutely yummalicious and you won't miss the eggs or anything.  One of my favorite recipes is orange cake.  It's FULL of zest, and it's light and delicate.  Then there's an orange glaze that gets soaked into the cake and OMYGOD IT'S SO GOOD.  My (omnivore) family loves it.  here's the recipe http://rtatum0.blogspot.com/2012/01/vegan-orange-cake.html

Then I started to make cupcakes.  A mommylord gave me one of Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks, and I started to do vegan baking more.  Then Pi Day came around, and I started doing pies...
Before I went vegan, my mom, a hardcore carnivore, was sure that vegan baking was gross.  Whenever she tries anything that comes out of the oven now, her eyes widen and she says, "This is vegan??".  My mom frequently requests vegan cherry pie.  

One last thing: To make vegan whipped cream that is absolutely creamy and fat and sweet, take two cans of full fat coconut milk.  Refridgerate them for a few hours, then put the solid parts into a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, along with vanilla extract and a cup of powdered sugar.  Keep it in the fridge when you're not using it.

I apologize about the sudden switch to "foodie blog" mode, and to vegans and omnivores alike, I hope this post was helpful!

An Italian Dinner

I am a bit of a linguaphile.  I love words- dying words, sophisticated words... reading books... and studying languages.
Do you ever get that burning desire to become fluent in about a dozen languages like, this summer?  That's sort of how I was, but I need to study other things, like biology, and music theory.  So I limited myself to just a handful: ASL, French, and Arabic.  And Italian.
Italian is probably the language I need the most, next to English.  English is a WEIRD language.  It steals from others, and makes up rules, but breaks them all the time!  Not to mention that the words are pronounced very oddly next to other languages.  I pity people trying to learn English.  

Italian is so beautiful!  I love the way the grammar fits together, and the way it feels in your mouth when you speak it.  Gnocci.  Svavilava.  Cucchiaio.
Also, I get a lot of exposure to it.  My dad is an opera singer, and most operas are in Italian.  PLUS the people he works with in the opera business are often Italian.  My family is talking about how we want to go to Italy next summer as well, and I definitely want to study it in college.  

I've been using the Rosetta Stone program, and it works SO well!  (No worries, I haven't been paid to advertise it.)
I've never used it with kids my age, though.  That is, until my friend Valentina came to New York.
The entire summer, I've been back and forth, emailing a homeschooled girl who lives in Monaco.  Valentina is so cool!  She's fluent in French, English, and Italian, she plays the piano, and is an avid dancer.  Now she's both in my playwriting class, and palmistry class.  

Her mom suggested having an Italian dinner one night with them and Neva (remember? from "the dance"?).  Neva studies even more languages than I do!  Right now, her forte is Hindi, but she is still going strong with Italian.
Valentina's mom, Jackie, only spoke to me in Italian, and whenever I slipped back into English, she responded with a mock-insulted, "Cosa?".  We were making food as well; Neva and Valentina hand-rolled pasta, while I chopped vegetables for a salad. (Which was SO delicious- it was half raw asparagus, half avocado, with olive oil and lemon juice, generously sprinkled with mint leaves and toasted sunflower seeds) The whole experience was SO educational; I forced myself to be better at Italian.  My brain hungrily absorbed new verbs and names of foods.  Some of the things we talked about was the history of the pasta name we ate (strozzapreti- literally priest strangler.  From what I could understand, it had to do with Mussolini.), what our brothers were doing, and Dan's face when he tasted kombucha.  

Then we watched Ballando con le Stelle, which is the Italian version of "Dancing with the Stars".  I've never seen the American version, but I really enjoyed watching it.  I picked up some new words, too, like piunti, "Salve!", and provotico.  We were rooting for two women; one had strange makeup and an exotic dress (her dance was very modern and unusual), and a rather graceful transvestite woman.  What I thought was strange was that when they read out the points, they did it in a VERY STEREOTYPICALLY american accent, so 27 points (ventisette piunti) sounded like "Ventysetay poonty!"
Then we had dinner!  Jackie very kindly took my vegan diet into consideration, and we feasted on salad, creamy risotto, and fresh (egg free!) pasta.  The food was all so delicious and fresh... and then we went back into the bedroom to watch the rest of Ballando con le Stelle.  We're not sure what happened next... and we're pretty sure it was the food or something... but we ended up with our arms around each other on the bed, giggling about blonde hair and how silly celebrities are.
We all agreed that we needed to do this again soon.