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Because Facebook doesn’t do GIFs.

Posting these auto-animated GIFs here where (I think) they’ll actually work. Clicking on each image should show you the animation, which will give you a startlingly good idea what a day with this child is actually like.

wesgif wesgif2

In which I put my money where my mouth is. Or was. Or something.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

A few years ago, I had a grand plan to build a database of recipes that cross-referenced a ton of food allergies and dietary restrictions – so you’d know exactly what you could make for that dinner party to which you invited a vegan, someone with celiac disease, and someone who was allergic to nuts and legumes (for example). Although I’m pretty good at handling those situations in my actual life, the site turned out to be way more than I could handle, so that fell by the wayside (although as some of you know, I’m working on a scaled-down version that’s about being vegan without consuming soy).

[MUSIC TANGENT! I must go here when the word "wayside" occurs.]

Anyway, because of our current financial situation, I haven’t been entertaining guests lately – so when a friend of my son’s who was allergic to nuts and chocolate visited yesterday, I was WAY out of practice and all the treats I’d made contained one or the other – usually just a little almond milk, but THAT’S ENOUGH.

The kids were hungry and I had to act fast – plus it was the last day before our weekly grocery shop and I was out of a lot of stuff. So naturally, I turned to Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook. This hefty tome by two of my favorite cookbook authors, Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, seems to have the answer to every question you might ever need to ask. I’ve had it for seven years and I’m still running across brilliant-sounding recipes I swear I’ve never seen before. It may actually be magic.

Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero

Plus, doesn’t that title make you feel firmly supported by a powerful yet cruelty-free force?

It came through in a big way; the book opened right to Jelly Donut Cupcakes (recipe online here). I used the rice milk option and made six with cherry preserves and six with apricot, since that was what I had on hand, and they came out AMAZINGLY GOOD – the cherry ones in particular were magical.

Happy children! No trips to the emergency room! That’s really all I can expect out of a Saturday afternoon.


Since I was very young, I’ve been terrified of snakes.

I remember an instance when I was standing very still, playing hide-and-seek I think, and a small garter snake wrapped itself around my ankle. I think this was the trigger. If you don’t have any phobias, you may be thinking, “But that’s not even scary.” No, it’s really not. Also when I was very small, I fell off a balcony or something and broke my arm, but I’m not afraid of heights or balconies or anything related to that.

You can’t make sense out of a phobia.

There are two different things people tend to say to you when you mention that you suffer from ophidiophobia (or snake-phobia, which is not a real word but is easier to spell).

The first: “They’re not slimy!” True. They’re not. It’s interesting to me that people across the board so quickly arrive at the conclusion that the only potentially upsetting thing about snakes is a misconception about their texture. I’ll happily let frogs and newts, despite sliminess, crawl on me. The difference? THEY’RE NOT SNAKES.

The second thing: “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them.” I dispute this assertion. If you hook a snake up to a heart rate monitor and show it a not-terribly-realistic drawing of me, does that snake have clearly measurable arrhythmia? I have never actually done this study, but I feel pretty confident about the outcome.

As an adult, I didn’t find this phobia that limiting to my existence. I chose to live in urban areas without much in the way of nature around (there are many reasons, but the snakelessness of city sidewalks is right up there on the list) (also I am allergic to grass and trees).  The biggest risk was TV shows and movies. Or clicking through on nonspecific “Wow, this is amazing!” links online (I feel so validated in my cautiousness on the rare occasions in which the comments make it clear that it actually was a snake).

But then I had a kid. And not just any kid – a boy one. This opened up whole new worlds of grass and dirt and terrifying picture books. I thought surely people who knew me well would check books they were considering as gifts for potential freakout-inducing images. I soon found out that people don’t necessarily check books they’re buying for small children for anything; a picture book about Dizzy Gillespie stands out in my memory – got it as a gift and was reading it to my then-preschooler until I got to the part about how badly his father used to beat him. (If I ever buy your kid a book, I promise I will have read it first.)

So I made a resolution. I couldn’t prevent the uncomfortable physical effects that happened when I saw a picture of a snake, but I could damn sure keep them to myself. My kid wasn’t going to grow up with irrational fears like mine – at least not ones I could prevent. For several years, mostly through the use of deep breathing, I successfully stuck with this plan.

He was just four when, after he’d spent some time with a relative, he came home with many hilarious stories about times Mommy, who was absolutely terrified of snakes, had encountered one – or a drawing of one, or whatever – and wigged out.

Lesson learned: If you plan to fake anything about your personality for the benefit of a small child, you might want to send out a memo to the people who actually know you.

Anyway, I’m slowly making progress. I can look at cartoon snakes without any measurable reaction (well, as long as they’re not moving). The last time I encountered a real snake went less well; we were at a presentation about my kid’s afterschool program and some guy way at the other end of the auditorium had a massive snake wrapped around him and – well, I spent the entire event with my face buried in my mother-in-law’s bosom. Making tiny whimpering sounds. Not real big on dignity. But I used to be pretty sure that if I saw a real live snake I’d have a massive heart attack and die, so I’m still counting that as progress.

Dirt-cheap vegan cookbooks in Kindle format, chapter 2.


Another weekend, another couple of cookbooks by my favorite authors on sale. Since it looks like a bunch of you actually bought the ones I posted last week, I thought it’d be worth letting you know about these as well!

500 Vegan Recipes: An Amazing Variety of Delicious Recipes, From Chilis and Casseroles to Crumbles, Crisps, and Cookies
by Joni Marie Newman and Celine Steen could conceivably be the only vegan cookbook you’d ever need to own. The breakfast chapter, specifically the granola and muffin recipes, is where I’ve spent most of my time – if you don’t count the Butterscotch Pecan Cookies, which are absolutely magical and one of my favorite-ever recipes in any category. I would make a batch every day if I weren’t so confident in my ability to also eat a batch a day. The breads, the soups, the casseroles… there’s a lot to love here, and it’s only $2.99. The only possible negative (could be a problem with the book, or it could be something I’m too chicken to try and it’s perfectly fine) is that a bunch of the cupcake recipes contain neither any sort of fat or any of the things that are sometimes used to substitute for fat (for instance,applesauce, banana, tofu). I read pretty much every review or discussion of the book on the entire internet and couldn’t find anyone who said they’d actually made any of these specific ones. Even if there are a few errors, though, that still leaves you like 495 recipes to work with. $2.99!

bestveggieburgersThe Best Veggie Burgers on the Planet: 101 Globally Inspired Vegan Creations Packed with Fresh Flavors and Exciting New Tastes,
also by Newman, really pushes the boundaries of the definition of “burger.” I checked this out of the library a while back and, while there were a bunch of recipes I really wished someone would cook for me, I didn’t end up making any – mostly due to my having checked out Bryant Terry’s Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine that same week and become completely obsessed with it, but also partly because I didn’t have all the ingredients on hand for any of the recipes I was most interested in. I’ve had it on my wish list ever since, but for $2.99, I’m taking the plunge today. Besides, someone titled a review “I will forgive her spelling” and elaborated with “I don’t get why vegetable is one g and veggie has to be two, but this book is such a find, I will forgive her for it,” and frankly, I think she deserves some sales for having to put up with that sort of nonsense.

Great cookbooks on sale for a pittance.


A pittance, I tell you.

At least for today (Jan. 5), Amazon has the Kindle versions of some great cookbooks on sale for $1.99 – $2.99.

I picked up Robin Robertson’s Quick-Fix Vegan: Healthy Homestyle Meals in 30 Minutes or Less. Robertson is pretty much a legend in the vegan/vegetarian world; she has approximately eleventy billion books out, and this one has been at the top of my wish list for a while. Meals in 30 minutes or less! Do you know what that means to me? It means meals in an hour or less, because I’m slow at food prep. But relatively speaking, that’s still exciting. These are good, solid plant-based recipes with a minimum of “weird” vegan ingredients.

Hearty Vegan Meals for Monster Appetites has been on my shelves for a few years, and has gotten a lot of use. Authors Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman aren’t kidding about the Monster Appetites thing; if you ever wanted to veganize that KFC sandwich that uses fried chicken for bread, this book has got you covered. If your tastes are somewhat less gluttonous than that, there are still dozens of amazing comfort-food and baked-good recipes. If someone ever demands 75% of my cookbook collection, this will be in the 25% that stays.

The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions is another offering from the dream team of Steen and Newman. It took me a while to check this book out despite my admiration for the authors, as I’ve been vegan for a quarter-century and am pretty familiar with substitutions. I was glad I checked the eBook out of the library; had I looked at it in a store, I’d have been unimpressed by the first chapter (dairy substitutions: instead of milk, soy milk! Instead of butter, vegan butter!) and moved on. I’m so, so glad I didn’t; turns out later chapters offer some completely new-to-me substitutions – not only for animal products, but for things like gluten, soy, alcohol, nuts and sugar. Which is great and all, but it’s also a cookbook that contains some genuinely fabulous recipes (savory artichoke pie! Fruit and cheese Danishes!). So happy I could finally acquire my own copy!

UPDATED: Oh! Also Julie Hasson’s Vegan Pizza is only $1.99. I’m a huge fan of Hasson’s Vegan Diner and I just this minute got Vegan Pizza in the mail; I think I’m OK having paid more for the hard copy, as a quick look through gives me the impression this book may never leave my kitchen counter. Every single recipe sounds great – she offers a ton of soy-free and nut-free alternatives, so I feel like they’ll all be workable no matter which of my food-allergic friends or family members I’m attempting to feed.

An Evolving Dialogue with Hulu.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. I have no pets so do not buy pet food.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. I’m vegan.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO. Not in the market for a new car.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO NO NO oh my god there’s a SNAKE in it get it away get it away get it away

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. It has Samuel L. Jackson. Who doesn’t like Samuel L. Jackson?

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Puppies are adorable.

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Um, the kid was kind of cute.

Is this ad relevant to you?
YES. Because, uh… OK, look. I’ll be honest. I’m going to click YES on everything now because I do not want to see that goddamn snake again.

Is this ad relevant to you?
NO.Well… almost everything. (Stupid pasta-making homophobes.)

A conversation with W.

Not an actual illustration of this conversation.

Not an actual illustration of this conversation.

W: “Mommy, you look like Courtney.”

E: “Courtney? Who’s… wait, you mean Courtney in the book we’re reading?”

W: “Yes, you look just like her.”

E: “There aren’t any pictures of her…”

W. “But you look exactly like the way they describe her.”

E: “Courtney’s African-American, though.”

W: “I know! I mean EXCEPT for that.”

E: “So if I were black, I’d look like Courtney.”

W: “YES!”

E: [Thinking of Courtney descriptors] “But I’d have to have curly hair, right?”

W: “Right. And short hair.”

E: “And brown eyes.”

W: “Yes.”

E: “And be 12 years old and not a grown-up woman.”

W: “Right.”

E: “So other than those things you can hardly tell us apart.”

W. “Exactly. That’s what I’ve been TRYING to SAY.”

Kid Cool.


Since his 6th birthday, W. has been increasingly interested in being cool. The first time it really leapt out at me, he was working hard on developing cool handwriting – I can remember doing that so clearly, although I think I was a good bit older.

One day recently he accidentally put together a fashion statement that had other kids following him around like he was a rock star; it took a week before I noticed he had been swapping it for the clothes that were laid out for him and wearing it every day. A shopping trip for a few more acceptably iconic t-shirts headed off a major hygiene dilemma. (This outfit consisted of – in case your child could use more adulation – black jeans with gray pinstripes, a white long-sleeved shirt with a black skull print, a black t-shirt with a white image of lightning, and – I think this is the key – a gold Mardi Gras necklace he got from his grandma.)

And then there’s the pop culture – in books, he’s fully a creature of his peers, tearing through Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Harry Potter, Lemony Snicket. With music, he’s so totally my baby; we got him his own stereo and I’ve been burning him a bunch of mix CDs, and if I have an album on I haven’t listened to in ten years, the tracks he requests copies of are invariably the same tracks I put on my own mix CDs back in the day.

I see several possible explanations for this:

  • As I’ve suspected for years, my musical taste is objectively correct.
  • I have extremely immature taste.
  • I should be an A&R person for music for children.
  • W. should be an A&R person for music for middle-aged women.
  • W. is extremely mature for his age.

This mix-CD thing is fantastic, as he’ll say stuff like, “Can I invite A. over to listen to the new Kinks album in my room?” like he was from the ’70s.

As far as TV goes, he can tell you every detail of every episode of my favorite show, Pushing Daisies. After all these mind-melds, I started to get a little overconfident.

This weekend, I decided he was ready for Mystery Science Theater 3000. This did not go as smoothly as expected – as my collection is confined to elderly VHS cassettes, I was trying to find something on Netflix streaming that would be appropriate – and sufficiently high-energy to hold a 6-year-old’s interest. The lack of episode numbers, along with my lack of a functional brain, made this a bumpy ride, and after starting and stopping a few Season 1 offerings, he got bored. I told him the secret was to find a Joel episode from one of  the middle seasons, but we never made it that far.

The next day he brought it up in passing, and I said maybe we’d try again some other time – I knew people with 8-year-olds who liked it but maybe 6 was a little young.

WELL. Suddenly this all became VERY interesting to him.

His best friend was due for a playdate at 4. Around 3, he disappeared into his room with the iPad and closed the door.

Ten minutes later, he poked his head around the door. “When A. comes, can you tell him I’m in my room watching Mystery Science Theater?”

“Sure, honey.”

Ten more minutes. “Is A. here yet?”

“Not until 4, honey.”

“When he gets here, will you tell him I’m in my room watching Mystery Science Theater?”

“I will, but – don’t you want to go meet him at the door?”

“Just tell him I’m in my room watch-”

“OK, I’ve got it.”


Ten minutes pass. He comes out. “Mommy? I think the Mike episodes are better.”


“I like the Mike episodes better.”

“What do you mean, BETTER?”

“The robots are funnier and the movies are more colored.”

“That’s not even true! You’ve hardly seen – how many have you seen?”

“I’ve seen a couple.”

“You’ve seen like half an hour! You don’t have the information to make that kind of judgment!”

(Aaaaand then I heard myself talking and gained the perspective needed not to get into a Joel vs. Mike debate with a first-grader.) (Which, yes, I recognize I already did.)

I think our relationship will recover from this. I don’t have any strong opinions about Star Trek or about which Darren was better on Bewitched.

Christmas is the time to say… ?


First, I’d like to deeply apologize for the unnecessary Billy Squier reference.

Maybe this image of  W. taking an entirely unrequested curtain call after his glee club’s Christmas performance will make up for it.

At the very least, it sets the stage for the story to follow: The Year W Started Composing His Own Christmas-Card Sentiments.

A Card to Me, His Mother:

Dear Mommy, thanks for making smoothies for me! Mine better be good on Christmas Eve!

A Card to His Very Own Father:

Dear Daddy, thanks for all your support this year!

A Card to His Uncle:

Dear Uncle J, I am glad you have a brother like R. I wish I was his brother.

I hope this will inspire you all to up your own card-writing game next year.

A conversation.

We were at Whole Foods. W. and I had walked there to celebrate his last day of summer camp with a Tofutti Cutie.

We were sitting at a small table outside, next to the exit. Next to us was a young man with a clipboard, asking shoppers over and over, “Do you have a minute for civil rights?”

I was kind of boggling at how few stopped, but then I remembered that this particular WF leans more toward foodie customers than progressives (not that you can’t be both!). Unlike the one in San Diego, where I could hang out all day – but that’s another story.

Finally, W. asked, “Mommy, what is he saying?”

“Do you have a minute for civil rights?” I thought about it for a second; I knew they’d talked about Martin Luther King, Jr. at kindergarten, but that might have been it. “Do you know what that is?”


“Civil rights is… a lot of people aren’t treated fairly in this country because of maybe their color or how much money they have or being a girl – things that shouldn’t matter. Civil rights is what we want everyone to have.”

“So what is he doing?”

“I don’t know exactly, but there are a lot of organizations… that’s a group of people… that work to get everybody the same treatment.” (I hadn’t practiced explaining civil rights to a 5-year-old in advance, so there you have it.)

W’s eyes got huge. He whispered to me, “Can we say yes to him?”

“Sure, honey.”

We sat there for another minute and W. said, “But he’s not gonna ask us.”

“Maybe not – but we can ask him.”

I leaned over and said, “Hey, what have you got there?”

He was there on behalf of the ACLU, and gave some examples of the cases they’re taking on.

“They do a lot of important work,” I said to W., then to the guy, “So… have you got a petition, or what are you looking for?”

Selling memberships, it turned out. I don’t usually make charitable contributions on the street – I’ve thought out how much I want to give and who I want to give it to – but I thought it was important to give the kid a small lesson in getting involved, so I did.

Walking home, W. wanted to know how we just fixed that problem. I gave a fairly convoluted explanation of how people like the guy we just talked to raised money to pay lawyers who could go to court and fight for the people who were being treated unfairly…

“Can you and me do that, Mommy?”

“Well, no, honey, lawyers do that part.”

“Aw, come on! You know how good I am at fighting!”

I thought back to all the conversations with daycare staffers, starting when he was two-and-a-half, who he’d backed into rhetorical corners. “We’ve been using these explanations with kids for fifteen years!” they’d say.

I thought of all the times he’d backed US into rhetorical corners. All the times we’d diagnosed him with an overdeveloped sense of justice.

“You know what, dude?” I said to him. “I think you could be one of the best civil rights lawyers of all time.”

He shrugged self-deprecatingly. “OK! I’ll be a civil rights lawyer then!”

You know? I really think he might.