Shake It Off

Not the Taylor Swift tune, although it’s one of my faves, but I’m talking about shaking off the much too serious posts I’ve been writing about wetiko, death, and the dark night of the soul!

While I haven’t done a whole lot of retail therapy shopping lately unless it’s toys or clothes for a growing Angel Boy 2.0,  I’ll tell you about a heartbreakingly exquisite moment that he and I shared on a recent visit.

Picture this: he lives between Puget Sound and some MAJOR railroad tracks. The good thing is the neverending entertainment of watching boats and sunsets and moonrises and the tiny little beach that’s across the street and the less good thing is the long and loud freight trains that heavily traverse the tracks all day and all night.

However, to a little boy, choo choos are AWESOME and AMAZING ALL THE TIME, exactly like his daddy thought at that age. We often drove to the train museum at Balboa Park and rode the little train there, too.

The day I was leaving, as I was packing my suitcase, Theo came in my room and grabbed my hand. I said, “What’s up, Mr. T? I’m packing up to go home, do you want to help?”

He looked at me intently still holding my hand and pulled me to my feet. In a sweet, small voice, he whispered excitedly, “AmmahAmmah, choo choo!” and raised his arms so I could pick him up. We stood at the window and he patted my back and leaned into me as I read to him all the names on the cars and we counted them until the train passed. I counted 56 cars and never wanted to put him down. I wish there had been 10,556 more.

Time stopped for those few minutes.

Nothing else mattered.

A boy, his grandma, a shared love of trains, and the beauty of a little human whose spirit shines so brightly even at eighteen months that he already knows the meaning of life and of happiness, being fully invested in the moment, the mindfullness of joyful living that some of us seem to lose as we transition into adults.

My little buddy. Beyond adorable…THEO-dorable!

This is the Balboa Park train. Can’t wait to take 2.0 !!!

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Date Night with Princess Rosebud and Her Tugboat Man – Native Foods Cafe Restaurant Review

Lit matchStoking the fires in a twenty year marriage sometimes can be as simple as changing out of bleach-stained sweatpants.

For all my love of fashion trends and designer handbags, you can usually find me in a pair of threadbare sweats and an extra large Yale t-shirt that my son keeps me supplied with.  Or should I have more correctly said “with which my son keeps me supplied.” Damn those pesky grammar rules! You know what I mean though, right?

(I’m the proudest Yale mom EVER. Yale bumper stickers, Yale license plate holders, Yale key chains, Yale sweatshirts, Yale t-shirts, Yale+Hello Kitty marketing marriage merchandise…and I drink coffee out of a — yes, you guessed it — a Yale mug. Without a doubt, I REPRESENT, YO!)

Back to date night…if you read my post (and you should) Pap Smear With Benefits, you’ll remember that whilst mid-exam, my gyno told me about a newish vegan restaurant in Encinitas, Native Foods Cafe on El Camino Real, just north of Encinitas Blvd. It’s the only chain vegan food establishment I’ve ever seen, and we were excited to try it.

I got all dressed up head to toe in clothing from Anthropologie so I’d fit right in with the trendy vegan crowd and made my tugboat man wear skinny-ish jeans, even though he was doing a fair amount of grumbling about not being built like a twenty-year-old skateboarder. He’s right, ha ha, but when in Rome….one’s attire needs to be appropriate for the venue, that’s my motto.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed that it was way more of a casual atmosphere than I had anticipated for a date night meal, and I was super overdressed. I mean, I could have NOT changed out of my bleach-stained sweats and I would’ve fit right in. You can only imagine the grief I had to listen to from my tugboat man about those skinny jeans I forced him to wear…

A very nice longhaired hippie-ish young man explained the menu and took our order as soon as we walked in; we paid and were given a number to take to our table where the food was delivered. It’s set up is similar to Rubios or other fast food establishments, not the fine dining ambiance I had anticipated.

This is what we ordered:

Bangkok Curry Bowl
Seared tofu steak on top of steamed veggies, greens and brown rice with a lemongrass and ginger-infused coconut milk curry. Topped with sesame seeds and cilantro. 9.95 GF

Sesame Kale Macro Bowl
Grilled Native Tempeh atop steamed kale, brown rice, creamy ginger sesame sauce, tangy sauerkraut, gomasio and toasted sesame seeds. Green onion garnish and crunchy cucumber seaweed salad on the side. 8.95  GF

Native Fries
Thinly-cut, cooked in pure vegetable oil and seasoned just right!
Seasoned Potato Fries. 2.95

I’m a pretty fair vegan-veg cook and I’m sorry to report that we were both underwhelmed by our meals. The tofu was chewy and rubbery, the tempeh was flavorless, and the brown rice was gummy — it seemed to me that it had been sitting in the pot far too long and had attained the consistency of old oatmeal. The kale was simply a few large steamed leaves I needed a knife to cut into bite-sized pieces;   I would have chopped them in squares or strips. The fries were pretty good, though.

Let me know if you’ve been there or if you do go, please share your experience with me. Maybe we got just there on a bad day.

I know this might be a touch nitpicky but here goes:

What really bothered me about Native Foods Cafe was the fact that a big part of their marketing is directed toward the promotion of “meat replication” vegan food.

This is our personal passion; we don’t want to eat any food that sells itself as a flavor replacement for meat or chicken and tastes like a living creature.

This might seem to be an extreme concept but my hub and I strongly believe that this is the right way for us to live — respecting and honoring the right of animals to exist without cruelty and abuse.

These are some “meat replica” examples from their menu:

  • Sausage Seitan meatballs
  • Oklahoma Bacon Cheeseburger
  • Crispy battered Native Chicken
  • Philly Cheese Steak
  • Bistro Steak Sandwich
  • Native Seitan Steak

After we left Native Foods Cafe feeling slightly disappointed with our date night fare, I was reminiscing with hub about the BEST vegan/vegetarian food I’ve ever eaten.

makedaIf you’ve lived in San Diego as long as I have, you might have eaten at The Prophet on University Avenue, owned by a good friend of mine, Makeda Cheatom, also known as Reggae Makossa.

With training in culinary arts from San Diego Mesa College, Cheatom opened The Prophet vegetarian restaurant in the 1970s.

Her amazing food attracted well-known patrons such as Dick Van Dyke, Gloria Swanson, and George Harrison of the Beatles. “George got mad at me because I wouldn’t let him smoke,” Cheatom says.

Nowadays, Makeda runs the non-profit World Beat Center in Balboa Park and only creates her awesome food for special events.

It’s too bad, really, because she’s a truly gifted chef, providing spectacular food and memorable dining experiences.

Finally, as far as date nights go, it’s a good thing we can try again next week!

Daily Prompt: Fight or Flight

January 1981–Balboa Park, San Diego, California At that time, my son’s dad and I lived near Balboa Park in a little section called Hillcrest/University Heights. There was a back way to the south side of Balboa Park through a canyon trail. That was a favorite walk for my two dogs, Sabrina and Beowulf. Sabrina was a Border Collie. Wolfie was an Akita/Malamute mix that I rescued when I was a junior at SDSU and he was about four weeks old. I bottle fed him and took him to classes in a baby front pack. Fully grown, he was over a hundred pounds and stood about thirty inches high. He had no idea how big he was and sat in my lap just like he did when he was a puppy. He was an awesome pet. They both attended graduation ceremonies with me, which got us into the local paper.

In January of 1981 I was seven months pregnant. I was very active, and continued to attend ballet classes and hike with my dogs. On this particular morning, we walked down 10th Avenue to Robinson and over to the end of Vermont and wound our way through the canyon trail. It was an enchanted place after a rainy winter with lush green vines, mature trees, and a seasonal creek–not at all desert-y  and dry like in this photo.There was probably tons of poison oak but I must have been lucky and avoided it. I remember there was a hill covered in nasturtiums and my dogs loved to roll around in them.  We walked for about thirty minutes and followed the trail toward the park and then turned around. We were halfway to the entrance at Vermont. It was quiet except for the far off hum of Highway 163. I heard a twig crack and ignored it, thinking it was a little critter. My dogs both alerted, ears pricked, hackles rising. More twigs cracked, and I turned around.  I will never forget the next few seconds. A man was sneaking up behind me. As soon as he saw me looking at him, he unzipped his pants and exposed himself. Moving swiftly was not an option being seven months pregnant and fifty pounds heavier, but I tried. I remember trying to be careful that I didn’t trip and fall. The faster I walked, the faster he walked, and he was closing the gap between us. Sabrina turned to growl at him and Wolfie placed himself between me and the man. I simply FROZE. I couldn’t move a muscle. My brain was screaming at me to run away from DANGER, and my legs felt like they were encased in concrete. The adrenaline was pumping, sending the proper primitive signals, but I panicked. Just before the man lunged at me, I picked up Sabrina because I didn’t want her to get hurt. Yes, I picked up my forty-five pound Border Collie, screamed at Wolfie to COME, and RAN THE WRONG WAY. I ran–lumbered--back into the ravine and NOT toward the street that was full of houses and humans and safety. I ran as best as I could with my huge baby-filled belly, until thankfully, a group of women came down from the park and the man disappeared. One of the women who lived nearby took me to her house and we called the police from there. I was so entrenched in fear and panic that I wasn’t able to provide them with a good description, other than noticing he was overweight and probably couldn’t run any faster than I could. This was before cell phones, and when the policemen drove us home, I called my mom. She was an RN and drove over to check my heart rate and blood pressure, as well as delivering a stern lecture about not putting my unborn baby in danger. Needless to say, there were no more solo canyon adventures. After more than thirty years, the re-telling of this potential rape? murder? robbery? still causes my heart to pound.