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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Home Cookin': Green Pea Hummus

Posted By on Wed, May 20, 2015 at 9:01 AM

Green pea hummus ready to eat - SAM SIMON
  • Sam Simon
  • Green pea hummus ready to eat

Everyday, my kids come home from school famished. I’ve learned that I need to get a snack in front of them immediately if I want homework, violin practice or playdate success. To keep things interesting, I’m always searching for new, healthy ideas.

My kids love hummus, especially since you can pair it with so many things; pitas, tortilla chips and carrots are favorites at our house. But even standbys need an update every now and then. So I was excited to find recipes for summery hummus variations popping up on all of my favorite recipe sites. This one, made with fresh or frozen green peas, was the most appealing. It’s similar to the regular stuff so it's an easy sell for hummus-loving kids, but different enough to bring some excitement back to snack time. It's tasty, beautiful and easy as pie to make. Best of all, it incorporates veggies, so you can feel even better about serving it with tortilla chips or crackers on the side.

Many recipes I came across skipped the garbanzos entirely and used only peas and tahini, but I like my combination version better! Use as little or as much garlic as you like. We love the stuff so I actually used three cloves, but I recommend starting with one and adding more if you wish.

Hummus ingredients - SAM SIMON
  • Sam Simon
  • Hummus ingredients
Green Pea Hummus

Ingredients:
1 15-ounce can or one cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup fresh shelled or frozen peas
1 tablespoon tahini
1-2 whole cloves garlic
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons kosher salt
black pepper to taste
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Directions:
Combine all ingredients except sesame seeds in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and adjust salt, lemon juice, and garlic if necessary.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Roots and Wings: Gleanings

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2015 at 1:29 PM

Jessica with her four daughters
  • Jessica with her four daughters

Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she explores her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont. This is her last installment. Look out for a new series from Ticktin about raising girls coming soon. 


It's been just over four months since my family returned from our journey around the world. That's almost as long as we were away. We are changed as a family, but have readjusted to the school routines and work schedules at home  in Burlington.  

Here are some of the things we learned from our trip that we carry with us as we embark on this new chapter of our lives:

1. Perspective on what is important
We don't sweat the small stuff much anymore. When you fall on your pregnant belly into oncoming traffic and knock a hole through your lip, like I did on our trip, you are grateful for your life, that of your unborn child and your whole family. It's okay if you have to eat fish soup for breakfast and bathe in a too-small tub the next day.  When you find yourselves in rural China boarding a train and not knowing when your station is coming or how to communicate with anyone and your children are hungry and exhausted, it feels like less of a big deal when you don't get what you want for dinner or you miss the ice cream truck. 

2. Kindness is necessary
Making your way through the world requires kindness.  Sometimes it's a gesture as small as driving your kids to school and letting someone cut in even though you are in a rush or smiling and asking "How are you?" to the check-out person at the grocery store. Kindness is an essential ingredient to happiness — yours and others. A Japanese woman who worked in a bakery near our house in Kyoto gave our girls free treats every time we walked by. In China, people spent the better part of an hour helping us find our guest house in the old city of Lijang even though none of us spoke each other's languages.  Kindness is universal.

3.Be a problem solver
It's easy to complain about what is wrong and how you wish things were different.  We had mishaps on our trip, like when Dahlia dropped our rental car keys down a sewer in Hawaii or when we lost our way and had no place to sleep in rural South Africa.  Instead of becoming hysterical and panicking, we had to be resourceful and find ways to solve our problems. Recently, I tool my four girls to New Jersey to visit cousins without my husband, Adam. We got lost, my phone battery ran out and we had no maps in the car.  Not one of us got upset. We all just knew the best thing to do would be to stop at a gas station and ask for directions. Problem solved.

4. The 3C's 

Since Adam instituted the 3C's (Caring, Confidence and Curiosity) on our trip, we have had regular Sunday evening meetings to talk about them.  Each child gives examples of how they exhibited these behaviors in their daily lives and we give them constructive feedback and praise where appropriate.  The girls take this seriously and have journals where they record their actions. Adam and I also share what we have done. Together we are all becoming better, more caring, confident and curious people.  
 
5. Have a sense of humor
After seeing intense poverty and inequality in the townships of Cape Town, meeting the survivors of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima and watching children with masks on playing in the polluted air of Beijing, it can be easy to feel burdened by the seriousness of the world's problems and fall prey to negativity or cynicism. We have learned that levity is a key to survival.  In fact, in all the places we saw suffering, we also heard laughter. As a family, we laugh regularly and heartily at ourselves and at each other. We seek out funny stories, jokes and riddles to share.  Humor plays a central role in our lives even as we try to find ways to give back and help the world's problems in small ways.

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Get Out!: Microadventures

Posted By on Fri, May 15, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Elise and her dad, Tristan, enjoy an evening walk - SARAH GALBRAITH
  • Sarah Galbraith
  • Elise and her dad, Tristan, enjoy an evening walk
For me, life is all about the 5 to 9, meaning the hours that I am not at work. Don’t get me wrong, I love the working hours of my day and view my work as a nonprofit program manager as a contribution to society. Still, for me, the real living happens after I shut down my computer or punch out on the time clock. I relish 6 p.m. hikes, bike trips and paddles into the sunset.

I was immediately struck, then, when I read this blog post by career adventurer Alastair Humphreys. He has biked and backpacked all over the world and rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. But it was only after he and his wife started a family that he learned to make the most of smaller windows of time in the wilderness, closer to his home. He did this so he could find some balance between his career as a writer and motivational speaker and his family life.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Humphreys preaches “the gospel of short, perspective-shifting bursts of travel closer to home, inspiring followers to pitch a tent in nearby woods, explore their city by moonlight, or hold a family slumber party in the backyard.” He has coined the term “microadventure” and believes that a lot of fun and exploration can happen in the hours we’re not at work.

My partner, Tristan, and I have been microadventuring for years. Together we have spent many work nights in our tent, perched high on the Long Trail. We would hike in after work with a no-cook dinner like sandwiches and chips, set up camp, enjoy ourselves by a campfire and sleep soundly in nature. We’d wake up before sunrise so we had time to hike back out to our car and drive home, drop our stuff at our apartment, shower, head to work and find breakfast and coffee along the way. It was a great start to the day!

After we settled into home ownership five years ago, we found our time outside of work occupied by chores like mowing the lawn, tending our large vegetable garden or power-washing moss off the side of our house. Still, we invested in good headlamps and bike lights so that we could get out after dark. Some nights we tended to our housework, then rode our bikes or hiked at night; other times we rode or hiked right after work and then were the crazy neighbors picking green beans by headlamp at 10 p.m.. We continued to find many opportunities to spend a night in our tent, like when we drove four hours to visit our family and camped in their backyard under the fruit trees.

Now that we have a 6-month-old daughter, Elise, I want to show her how to balance work and life. It’s important to have a career, make progress on home projects and keep up with chores, but it’s also important to unwind, exercise and connect with nature and friends.

Last Thursday, Tristan, Elise and I left home at 6:30 p.m. for a hike in the Marshfield Town Forest. We packed a simple dinner of turkey and vegetable wraps and a local craft beer for the adults to share, and put Elise in our hiking carrier for the 1-mile walk to a grassy picnic spot with a view. The three of us took in the magic of the evening; we listened as the spring peepers and snipes came out to sing and we watched the first planets and stars come into view. After we had our fill, we headed home wearing our trusty headlamps and Elise fell asleep in her carrier. We knew that times like these are not only vital to our well being but also solidify what's important to us as a family. 

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Will You Go Out With Me?: Wings Over Plattsburgh

Posted By on Wed, May 13, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Ryan outside of Dry Dock Lounge - ANGELA ARSENAULT
  • Angela Arsenault
  • Ryan outside of Dry Dock Lounge

After a long, frozen winter spent mostly apart (Ryan's band was on tour), Ryan and I wanted to do something extra special for our first date back in the “One Awesome Date a Month” saddle. Our last date was three months ago and between whipping donuts in our car on the frozen lake and eating tasty cider donuts afterwards, it was pretty epic. Thinking there might be a connection between the lake, eating delicious things and having a really fun date, we looked to replicate the combination.

What we came up with is sort of genius. If you happen to be a massive buffalo chicken wing enthusiast who’s seen the spectacular documentary “The Great Chicken Wing Hunt” (like my husband), then it’s date-plan gold.

One of the very first things I learned about my husband was that he had an affinity for buffalo wings unmatched by anyone I’d encountered before. While in college at Tufts, he and a group of similarly obsessed friends attended weekly wing nights at Worldly Wings in Medford. When they graduated, the folks at Worldly Wings bestowed upon the group one canary yellow, mesh jersey (perhaps symbolizing that they were clearly on Team Worldly Wings for life?) which has since been passed around this group of friends like a pair of traveling pants.

So anyway, back to the movie. In it, a motley crew of characters travels around the “wing belt” looking for the best buffalo wings in America and (spoiler alert) one of the places they choose — Dry Dock Lounge — is just on the other side of Lake Champlain in Plattsburgh. Knowing that we could actually get there in under 90 minutes was like a gift to my wing-loving husband. When I agreed to make the pilgrimage as part of our date it was like a party.

We drove to the Grand Isle ferry dock on a ridiculously gorgeous Tuesday morning. As soon as we entered the line-up of cars, trucks and motorcycles all waiting for this giant hunk of iron to carry us across the water, we both felt transported. There’s just something about water, about boats maybe, that makes it feel like you could be almost anywhere. The dry-witted ferry ticket guy quipped that we were only traveling 1.7 miles, but that didn’t matter. We were on a journey together.

After boarding the vessel, we got out of our car and went up a set of stairs to sit on a bench and enjoy the views. As the breeze mussed our hair and sent a chill down my back, I was reminded of a trip Ryan and I took to Scotland a lifetime ago. I huddled next to my husband for shelter from the wind and felt a hint of, what do they call it…? Romance.

The scenery that greeted us along the drive into Plattsburgh from the ferry dock was not particularly romantic, but it was exotic in its own way. A cluster of abandoned lakeside motels to make the imagination run wild, a 1950's diner touting its “Red Hots” on a sign from the same era, and finally, the Dry Dock Restaurant and Lounge, in all of its dive bar glory.

As we approached our Mecca-for-the-day I must admit I felt slightly intimidated. You can’t really see into the windows, which isn’t very inviting, and there seemed to be nobody else there.

“I don’t know about this place, babe,” I said.

“That’s why we should go in,” Ryan replied.

Of course, as soon as we opened the door we were greeted by the happiest bartender this side of Lake Champlain.

“Hiiiii, guys! Come on in! Ya here for lunch? What can I getcha?” she said.

We ordered two beers, a soup of the day, a grilled chicken sandwich and one order of medium buffalo wings. The beers were cold, the soup needed a little salt, the sandwich was saved by the garlic butter and the wings — oh, those wings.

I don’t generally love the wing-eating experience. The little appendages are often over-spiced for my wimpy palate and it’s an awful lot of work for not a lot of meat. But these wings were different. They were big, first of all, and perfectly spiced. It wasn’t just the typical Frank’s hot sauce and butter combo, there was pepper on these wings. And it made all the difference.

Ryan, clearly the established expert, described the wings as “super solid,” which is actually high praise given his level of wing snobbery.

Polished-off wings - ANGELA ARSENAULT
  • Angela Arsenault
  • Polished-off wings

The Dry Dock itself is just what you’d expect: dingy carpet, a couple of televisions, scent of a hundred-year-old bar; in short, charming. And surprisingly perfect for an awesome date.

We left the Dry Dock feeling like we’d completed a mission. Since we had a little time before we needed to get back to the ferry, Ryan capitulated to a quick stop at another mecca — the one they call “Target.” It was a surgical strike, just long enough for me to make sure this Target actually exists, that it isn’t like the post-apocalyptic Target where we used to live in Brooklyn, and to know that I can actually get to it whenever I want. (Don’t judge. I find this comforting.)

With checkmarks in both of our “Things that make a trip to Plattsburgh complete” column, we returned home victorious. And the best part: we laughed at ourselves and our slightly bizarre “needs” the whole time. If you can both just go with it and let your quirks be your guide when planning a date, then sense of humor wins and will not steer you wrong. 

Lake Champlain Ferries has frequent departures between Grand Isle and Plattsburgh. Click here for a schedule. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Home Cookin': Coconut Horchata

Posted By on Wed, May 6, 2015 at 9:09 AM

Horchata - SAM SIMON
  • Sam Simon
  • Horchata
I love Mexican food all year long, but Cinco de Mayo really makes me want to go all out and try something new. Taco night is a regular thing at our house, so I was so excited when my new issue of Saveur magazine arrived with a feature on the best California tacos. But as I scanned the article something different caught my eye: a recipe for a summery twist on horchata, a traditional cold and sweet Mexican beverage.

Horchata is actually the name for several different types of traditional Latin American beverages, most of which involve soaking grains, straining the liquid and adding something creamy like milk, along with some spices. In Mexico, it's made with white rice, vanilla and cinnamon. I’d had it before and loved it, but I assumed it would be complicated to make. I was wrong!

You do need to soak your rice overnight, but otherwise the process is quite simple. This recipe calls for both coconut water and coconut milk and the results are delicious!

The kids liked straining the rice mixture through the cheesecloth and grating the cinnamon sticks. And they especially loved the taste. Cal, my 7-year-old, even wanted to put it on his cereal in the morning. I said no to that idea, but I will definitely be whipping up some horchata for our next taco night!

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Monday, May 4, 2015

Roots and Wings: Cultural Literacy

Posted By on Mon, May 4, 2015 at 9:04 AM

Jessica's daughters at a public school in Kyoto - JESSICA LARA TICKTIN
  • Jessica Lara Ticktin
  • Jessica's daughters at a public school in Kyoto

Roots and Wings is a follow-up to Jessica Lara Ticktin's blog series On the Fly: Homeschooling Adventures Around the World, in which she chronicled her family's recent four-month international adventure. In this series, she'll explore her family's efforts to incorporate what they learned from their trip into their daily life in Vermont.

What does it mean to be truly culturally literate? Does it mean familiarity with the food or language of a different culture? Is it the ability to recognize and appreciate difference? The understanding that there are many ways to live a life?

One of the primary goals of our four-month international adventure was to immerse our children in other cultures so they would develop a kind of cultural literacy. Because their exposure to other cultures here in Vermont is limited, this was a top priority of ours.

While in Japan, we put our two older daughters in a Kyoto public school for a day. The idea behind it was two-fold: we wanted them to feel what it was like to be an outsider — a minority that stood out — and we wanted them to see how a Japanese elementary school compared to an American school. The girls spoke little English that day, ran around the dirt schoolyard and ate lunch with Japanese kids, and observed what went on in the classroom. They remarked how wild and loud the younger kids were, contrary to the stereotype that Japanese kids are quiet and orderly all the time. There was a different educational philosophy in play in the Japanese school — letting kids express themselves when and how they needed to, allowing others to develop the ability to focus on work amid the noise. This seemed strange to our girls. Weren’t the teachers supposed to keep control of the kids all the time? We suggested that perhaps the quiet, seated children using hushed voices in our classrooms might be odd to the Japanese kids.

We had all three of our girls attend a public school when we traveled to South Africa. It was easier, at least linguistically, because English is spoken there. But, once again, they stood out for their skin color and accents. The girls encountered questions like “Do you live in a mansion?” and “Have you met the president?” It was their first time confronting the stereotypes others had about them and their lives. This perspective was illuminating. The girls hadn't thought before about what people outside the United States knew or misunderstood about their country.

While here in Vermont we have a more homogenous population than other states, we are lucky to be a designated refugee resettlement area. My two older girls, Dahlia and Lola, frequently come home from their public school in Burlington telling me about a new child who doesn’t speak English well or who they know is Muslim because of the head scarf they wear (something they learned to identify while in Turkey and Jordan). While my girls don’t fully grasp what these refugee children have been through, they do recognize the awkward, shy body language and occasional tears that accompany the arrival of a new student who doesn’t know the language or culture well. It is this ability to empathize — through something as small as a smile, directions to the cafeteria or inclusion in a recess game  — that my husband and I worked hard at cultivating during our trip.

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