Tuesday, January 31, 2012

bunting

I recently learned about the word 'twee'. Used primarily in British English, it describes things that are nauseatingly cute or precious. (Thank you, urban dictionary.) Derived from 'sweet', it captures a saccharine preciousness...think Shirley Temple cute.


I can't say I'm a fan of the word. It makes me envision a grown woman, talking in baby talk to a kid that thinks she is crazy.

And yet...


And yet every time I see my completed holiday crochet project hanging in our living room, I think...

"Too, too twee..."


This idea comes from Lucy's post over at Attic24, one of my all-time favorite blogs. And you can find her write-up of the pattern on Ravelry.


Any favorite made-up words out there? Lately J's been referring to 'cinnamon' as 'cimma-nom' (emphasis on the nom). I have to admit, it captures something...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

banana bread smoothie

Have you ever heard Judy Garland singing "In Between"? In it, she laments her status as an adolescent...

     I'm past the stage of doll and carriage,
     I'm not the age to think of marriage,
     I'm too old for toys and I'm too young for boys,
     I'm just an in between.

It makes me smile, because it's exactly what I loved about teaching freshmen. They were old enough to take part in adult conversations, begin forming their own opinions, challenge everything. In a lot of ways, many were more adult than I. And yet, they were so eager for attention, approval, and love. They were entranced by new ideas. And in a lot of other ways, they were still very naïve about the world.

Everything that is so challenging about being (and dealing with) an in-between age, is exactly what makes it so wonderful.

I find that in-between is a great way for lots of things to be.


Today was an in between day for the weather.

I'm not sure if I should curl up in a fleece to watch a romantic comedy, or put on a light dress and skip off to a barbeque. I can hardly remember what season it is. Thankfully, I don't have to decide, because I can have the best of both worlds.


I don't often share smoothie recipes, because they are so easy. I'm pretty sure I could walk into just about any kitchen and find five or six ingredients to make a delicious smoothie. So you know I'm sharing this because it's a really stellar combo.

Spicy and comforting, cool and refreshing. If you like banana bread, you'll love this smoothie. If you like eggnog, you'll love this smoothie. If you like babies, you'll love this smoothie.

If the whole protein powder thing is not your deal, replace it with 1/4 to 1/2 cup of oatmeal, almond meal, soaked buckwheat groats, or silken tofu.


Banana Bread Smoothie

Ingredients:
one very ripe banana, frozen
1 scoop of unsweetened, unflavored protein powder
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 heaping tbsp of raw, chopped pecans
10 drops liquid stevia
splash of vanilla extract
a liberal dash of cinnamon
a liberal dash of nutmeg

Add all ingredients to your blender and blend until very smooth.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

3 years

It's been three years.

Three years of the security that comes with knowing you will kill that bug for me.

Three years of constantly trying to mend the relationship between you and the cat.

Three years of really delicious broccoli rabe.

Three years of the best hugs in the world.

Three years of reading Trivial Pursuit cards before bed, just for fun.

Three years trying to shake all the nicknames you've made up for me, when I secretly like them...


And I think I love you more than I did three years ago.

Happy anniversary.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

reversal

Lost Generation by Jonathan Reed

How cool is this poem? Think we can reverse it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

big dreams


Source: google.com via Clair on Pinterest


Today you can find me over at Simplistic Living, where I'm the first contributor to Jenn's "Dream Big" series. I wrote about three of my big life dreams and how I plan to reach them.

This was a great experience, because I often find that my big goals are sort of obscure and vague. I'm interested in so many things, it's sometimes hard to say what I really hope to do with my life. This was a great opportunity to reflect deeply on where I hope to go, and what's meaningful in my future.

Check out Jenn's blog while you're there too! She is always full of happiness and inspirational thoughts.

P.S. You can also find a mention of yours truly in this post from Anna. We had an amazing get-together with Mackenzie, and she summed it up so beautifully. The blog world can be a warm, warm place.

And while you're dreaming, remember...

Saturday, January 21, 2012

a winter blanket

There's been something interesting outside lately.



Yesterday morning I discovered our first batch of snow for the weekend. And this morning we were graced with much more. I had been dreading it, but stepping out on a soft carpet of white reminded me what it is that is so magical about snow.


Everything was muted and calm. And yet, I could feel the stirrings of life...people peeking out of windows, children itching to play, snow boots being pulled on resolutely.

And in those moments, I realized why we call it a blanket of snow. It was so warm. True, the temperatures rose since our recent days of single digits. But it was more than that. It was the warmth that you feel when the entire earth has been wrapped in a blanket of white, and it feels as if Mother Nature herself is settling down for the winter.


Hope you are enjoying it as much as I am.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

magic


This is the year.


This is the year an owl arrives with my acceptance letter to Hogwarts.


I hear they have a new grad program or something. I'm ready.


In the meantime, you'll find me at the library. I'm studying for my MBA degree (Magical Business Administration). I'm going to open up a tea shop in Godric's Hollow.


The Hermione socks and Weasley owl sweater were hand-knit by my amazingly talented sister. Yes, I'll tell you when she opens her etsy shop. No, you can't have mine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

downton abbey recipes

I hope you love Downton Abbey as much as I do. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you need to get yourself over to PBS and catch a few episodes. Better yet, the whole first season is available on Netflix. And it is so good. Part drama, part romance, all British period piece. And it's not just me. Critics are raving about this show. So are bloggers.

I've been so happy to see the same enthusiasm for Downton Abbey on other blogs, and was particularly inspired by the home decor captured at Design Sponge and the fashion captured at Mon Petit Chou Chou. I thought a recipe round up might be a good accompaniment!

Source

All the dishes you see below are either from the show, or traditional British fare. The first is apple charlotte, the dish Mrs. Patmore refuses to make for Sir Anthony Stallan's visit. The fourth is raspberry pavlova, similar to the raspberry meringue pudding she served instead...with salt on top! The third dish is crêpes suzette, which Mrs. Patmore serves to the dog instead of the uppity new maid. And the sixth dish is kedgeree, served for breakfast in an early episode.

Soup (like the watercress soup below) would appear at the beginning of a meal, and cheese (like that beautiful Wensleydale) was often served with, or as, dessert.

And of course, can we ever get enough tea at Downton Abbey?



Don't forget that Lady Rosamund also loves the lamb from Downton Abbey. A great main dish would be roast lamb with mint sauce (served after the lamb, and always from the left). Or, if you're looking to make a dish eaten around the servants' table, you could make a hearty lamb stew.

I won't pretend these are super healthy recipes, but they are definitely fun, and if you're using the wholesome, unprocessed ingredients of the time, you're doing something right. And of course, we've got to do something to pass the time until episode 3!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

raw almond joy truffles

Are you pro-snow or anti-snow?

I love the ambiance and quiet of a good, clean snow. But besides the freakish October dusting we got, our sidewalks have remained sadly dry. And as I face a new semester of public transit and lots of walking, I'm secretly crossing my fingers that we'll make it out on the other side, sans snow.

But that doesn't mean I can't still enjoy a few snowballs this season...


The trick to making healthier, vegan truffles is to replace the dairy with healthy fats. Here's a post about the amazing potential of coconut fat. Use coconut oil, nut butters, or seed butters as a base. Then get creative with flavors and coatings.

If you use raw cacao powder, these truffles are also appropriate for a raw food diet. Raw, vegan, gluten free, dairy free, sugar free truffles. And yet...so indulgent.

The dark chocolate peanut butter truffles seemed to be a big hit, so I'm sure you'll enjoy these as well! The best part about these truffle recipes is how easy they are. Smoosh, and roll. To make measuring sticky ingredients easier, it's worth investing in a kitchen scale. Nutrition labels should tell you how much certain volumes weigh, and then you can just scoop right into the bowl!


Raw Almond Joy Truffles

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil, at room temperature
1/2 cup + 1 tbsp cocoa powder
1/2 cup almond meal
1/4 tsp liquid stevia
dash of salt
1/8 tsp almond extract (optional)
about 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Carefully mix the coconut oil and cocoa powder in a mixing bowl until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. Since the almond extract will not be cooked, it will add a slightly bitter taste of alcohol to your chocolates. If you don't think you'll like this, omit.

Refrigerate the mixture for about 20 minutes. Scoop balls of the mixture out and drop them into the coconut. Cover with coconut and shape the truffles.

You can try rolling these with your hands, but they melt easily, so I recommend using a melon baller and a teaspoon to scoop out your truffles. If the mixture becomes too soft while working with it, just stick it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes. Likewise, if it's too hard, let it sit at room temperature for awhile.

Refrigerate the truffles for at least an hour before eating. Store in the refrigerator.


Update: See these featured on the Healthy Living Blogs site!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

love, grandpa c

When I was last home, my mom gave me a letter she found from my grandpa to me. He used to write me stories and send them across the country via snail mail. I'm afraid the papers won't be legible in another few years, so I thought I would write the story here (exactly as it was originally written) to preserve it and share my grandpa's humor with you.

The pages are fading, but his memory does not. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.


Here is another story about a duck. This duck was named by his mother. This is not unusual because most mothers name their children. This duck mother named the first born son, Herman.

This too, is not unusual because most duck mothers name their first born duck sons, Herman. So- - - - there are a lot of duck sons named Herman flying all over the place.

This duck son named Herman was a wood duck. No, he was not made of wood. Yes, some hunters make ducks out of wood but Herman was not one of them.

Herman was hatched from an egg that was laid by his mother in a woodduck nest. Woodducks lay eggs in a woodduck nest so they can hatch into woodducks like all the other wood ducks that are hatched from eggs.

When Herman broke the shell of his egg, he found a ladder in the nest. The ladder is used for escaping the nest. Herman climbed the ladder and found a whole new world waiting for him. He looked at his friend, Aldis and said, Aldis why don't you become a writer and write all about these new things we see". Aldis looked back at Herman and said, Gee whiz Herman, why can't you wait until I get a little older. I'm nothing more than a spring duck now. First I have to graduate from Whatsamatta U.

He looked down and his heart jumped into his throat. There below him was a lake full of water. Herman said to himself, "Self, what am I going to do with all this water around me. I don't even have a canoe to paddle to shore in". Aldis had to agree that it was a long swim to shore.

Herman looked at the water and the water looked back at Herman and said, "Whatsa matter wimp. Don't you know that all ducks know how to swim even if they don't take swimming lessons. Gee, what a wimpy duck.

Well, Herman decided that he didn't want to be called wimp because his mother name him Herman. So Herman jumped into the water and started to paddle his little orange legs and lo and behold he found out he could swim.

As he was doing the duckstroke, he saw the shoreline as the waves in the lake washed upon the shore. He thought about how far he was from shore and wondered if he could swim that far.

Suddenly he saw it. A shadow was lurking in the trees along the bank of the lake. He saw the long pointed nose and the toothy grin of Freddie the fox. Freddie was famished. He had a very long hard day of looking for something to eat. He was getting a little tired of eating earthworms and meatballs every time he got hungry.

When Freddie saw Herman paddling for the shore his mouth began to water he began to plan his menu. "Aha,  woodduck under glass or should I have duck alamode with some vanilla icecream with a cayenne pepper on top. MMMMMM, yummy", thought Freddie. I will wait here until the little wimp can walk to shore and then I'll nail him". Freddie wasn't ready for what was about to happen. For high in the sky Herman's mom and dad were watching their young son as he struggled for shore.

All at once they spotted the villain and climbed about ten feet up from where they were flying. Then down they plummeted. Their bills were ready as they manuerved to tag Freddie and then ZAPPWHAM. Both ducks hit Freddie where his tail was and he rolled down a rocky embankment never to bother another woodduck again. They hit Freddie with a double duckbilled whammy. This is the worst kind of whammy that any duck can think of.

Now mom woodduck and dad wood duck and Herman lived happily ever after. Aldis decided to attend Watsamatta U. and became a writer. He wrote a bestseller titled, Wimpy New World.

Monday, January 9, 2012

vegan vichyssoise

I had my wisdom teeth removed when I was 18. Two were impacted, two were normal. All had to come out.

My mom was a wonderful nurse. She listened patiently to my laughing gas-induced, cotton-mouthed babbling the whole way home. She filled all my prescriptions. And she made me vichyssoise.


If you've never had honest-to-goodness vichyssoise made with loads of white potatoes and heavy cream, you need to add something to your bucket list. My version can't compare to my mom's. (Can we ever make soup that tastes as good as what Mom makes?) But as it's vegan, and much lower in calories, I'm pretty happy with it.

Vichyssoise can be served hot or cold. You can peel your potatoes for a prettier soup, but I left my peels on, since they're good for the constitution (or because I'm lazy).


I try not to reminisce about my days of oral surgery when I eat this soup. Instead, I picture French countryside, cats in the window, wisteria in the garden.


Creamy and thick, this soup is cheerful, yet hearty. It's like sipping on liquid mashed potatoes. Healthy, easy, delicious...

Put on some fuzzy socks, light a candle, and go make this soup.


~~~

Vegan Vichyssoise

Ingredients:
2 tbsp vegan butter substitute
3 medium-large white potatoes, diced (Mine weighed in at around 9 oz. each)
5 cups of chopped leeks, fresh or frozen
1/2 a large sweet onion, coarsely chopped
4 large cloves of garlic
1 cup of water
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
salt and pepper, to taste

Melt the butter in a large pot, then add the potatoes, leeks, onions, and garlic. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 10-15 minutes, until potatoes are just turning soft. Add the water and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer until the potatoes are very tender, about another 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat and add the almond milk. Use an immersion blender to blend until very smooth. (Or, transfer to a blender in parts.) Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Don't be afraid to use plenty of salt!

To serve hot, heat the soup back to the desired temperature. To serve cold, allow the soup to come to room temperature, then refrigerate until cold.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

10 tips to save on healthy groceries

Here is a fact about me: I love grocery shopping.

I'm not really sure why. J and I sometimes walk to nearby grocery stores, only to browse the aisles with no intention of buying anything. (He's doing it to appease me...we're not some weird grocery-loving couple.)

Given my love of groceries, I've spent a lot of time figuring out how to make a healthy diet affordable on student stipends. And it's not as easy as people sometimes assume.

Healthy food is not cheap...at least not if you want to eat something other than rice and beans at every meal. And to maintain the diet I value, I invest a lot of time and energy into making it happen. And I am motivated by the knowledge and experience of what it means to be healthy.

Not everyone is so fortunate to have those luxuries of time, energy, and motivation. I think it's important to remember that when we're being hard on others, or on ourselves. And let's face it...most people don't care about it as much as I do. That's why I wanted to share how we manage to eat healthy without breaking the bank.

~~~

1. Shop around

We buy groceries from six different stores near us: two traditional grocery stores, two health food chains, a European market, and an Asian supermarket. On top of that, some of our groceries come from online retailers like Alice, and during the summer, I frequent the farmers' market.

The key is familiarizing yourself with what stores provide which products you need, at the best prices. Trader Joe's is amazing for traditional, healthy foods on the cheap, like raw nuts and fresh produce. The Asian supermarket is our go-to for tofu and rice. And our little European market has fish at unbelievable prices.

Unit prices are important here. You don't want to know which package of tofu is cheaper. You want to know which pound of tofu is cheaper. The unit prices are usually displayed in yellow next to the item price.

Shopping around also gets you familiar with what a product should cost. What's a good price for a pound of tomatoes or a cup of almond milk?


2. Clip coupons and shop sales

Don't go crazy on this one. You do not need ten years worth of canned soup.

But, as I come across coupons I can use, I stash them in my wallet. And when something we use frequently is on sale, I stock up a bit and buy more than we need at the moment.

But just one more word of warning on this one: do not buy something just because you have a coupon. Often, coupons trick us into spending more by promoting expensive products and brands.


3. Buy in bulk

It hurts a bit to spend the money up front, but buying in bulk often results in lower unit prices. Just make sure you are purchasing things that won't go bad before you use them, and check shipping costs before checking out, as this is a sneaky cost that creeps up on you based on the weight of your items.

I buy spices and beans in bulk from amazon, and usually opt for free super saver shipping, so I don't have to worry about added costs.

I also love Natural Grocers.


4. Avoid everything processed

If you can make it yourself, it's probably cheaper and healthier. And yes, this means you will need to spend time in the kitchen.

Many health advocates, including food journalist Mark Bittman, recommend avoiding the center aisles of the grocery store, where foods are more processed and unhealthier. Processed foods may seem inexpensive, but the lack of nutritional value actually limits their economy.

It's tough to completely avoid convenience foods, but make substitutions where you can. Season your own oatmeal. Eat raw nuts instead of potato chips. Make your popcorn on the stove instead of in the microwave. And when you do buy processed foods, look for five ingredients or less.

Don't forget that you can save money on household, hygiene, and beauty products too. The internet is teeming with recipes, and making your own prevents toxic chemicals from entering your home.


5. Get what's always cheap

Beans, cabbage, rice, bananas, oatmeal. Items that are always inexpensive should be staples in your pantry. Find the cheap things you love, and eat more of them!








6. Make compromises

I would love to buy our meat from a local farmer. I would love to participate in community supported agriculture and fishing. "Organic" and "local" are important labels for me. But as thrifty as we are, we can't always afford those things. Sometimes, I buy non-organic produce so we can have more fresh veggies around. Prioritize your values and be ready to sacrifice some of them to save your wallet.

For guidance on which produce to buy organic, see EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides.


7. Waste not, want not

We just watched the documentary Dive, and were astonished to learn that our country wastes enough food every year to feed everyone in Haiti for five years.

Keep an eye on your fridge. Eat stuff before it goes bad. Don't throw things away just because you're sick of them. Get creative with leftovers. This saves you money, and is a more environmentally and socially sustainable practice.

Don't waste in your household either. Save on paper towels by keeping dish towels in the kitchen. Drink a tall glass of water instead of taking an ibuprofen. Run a sink of dishwater, instead of pouring soap on every dish.


8. Reassess your priorities

So maybe it's not a major priority for you to buy chia seeds and eat more raw vegetables. But when I found a pair of shoes in my closet that I had never worn, I knew it was time to redirect my spending a bit.

I'll admit it. I make some sacrifices to enjoy luxury, healthy foods. I shop at the thrift store, I don't eat out more than a couple times a month, and I travel home by bus. To me, those are easy sacrifices to make that let me spend (or save) more in other areas of my life.



9. Think long term

Eating well is an investment in your health. It will save you loads on drugs and hospital stays in the future.

Buying in bulk pays off in the long run.

Expensive items will leave a lasting impact on your budget, long after they've been consumed.

Food that spoils slower is less likely to be wasted.

If you're considering the ramifications of your decisions in the future, you're more likely to make better ones.


10. Evaluate every purchase

Will it make your life easier, happier, more fulfilling?

Whether it's groceries, shoes, or dishes, I try to avoid impulse buying at all costs. Shopping is a great thing, and I love finding happiness in a cute new bowl or an exciting new ingredient. But it's far too easy to wantwantwant. When I decide that it's better to pass something up, I console myself with the thought that someone else will come along and enjoy it just as much, if not more, than I do.

And it's never worth it to be too hard on yourself. Budgets are like diets. Splurging is human. And forgiving ourselves for it helps us ultimately succeed.

~~~

I hope this was helpful. Some tips may seem obvious, but they all really do make a big difference.

Do you have other tricks for saving money on groceries? I could always use them...

Friday, January 6, 2012

cycling for everyone

This video will make bicycling enthusiasts so jealous. It makes me jealous. Isn't it amazing what a little smart investment can do?


Here are a couple more interesting links about changing our values to support a sustainable and healthy society:

The Center for a New American Dream

Mother Nature Network

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

dark chocolate peanut butter truffles

I think Mother Nature made a resolution to do a better job making it feel like winter. Our warm December walks and sweatshirted Thanksgiving seemed like dreams when we woke up to a -6 degree windchill this morning. J trudged to work sans hat (I was horrified and immediately found a new crochet project). And I made a grocery run sprint to Trader Joe's. When I got home, I needed something cozy and sweet.


So, apparently, did Maus.


Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

Ingredients:
1/2 cup unsweetened, salted peanut butter
3 tbsp dark cocoa powder
2 tbsp unsweetened almond milk
1/2 tsp liquid stevia
1/4 cup ground salted peanuts

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and smoosh together with a spoon until very well-blended. You could also use a food processor. When mixed, a soft dough should form. Break the dough into two pieces, then break each piece into two pieces. Continue this process with each piece until you have a total of 16. Shape each piece into a ball and roll in the peanuts until coated. Refrigerate the truffles for at least one hour before serving, and store in the refrigerator.


Check the salt and sugar levels of your ingredients. It's okay if they vary from mine, but be aware that you might need more or less stevia/salt, depending on your ingredients. If you don't like stevia, a different sweetener could be used, but a liquid sweetener is likely to make the truffles too sticky. You could also use a different nut butter if you don't want to use peanut butter.


Update: See this recipe linked up at Sweet as Sugar Cookies!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

resolutions

I love resolutions, and lists, and goals. These are all things that make me feel like I am Getting Something Done.

But my resolutions for this year are *mostly* about doing less.

I don't like stress. And yet stress and anxiety have plagued me since I was a first grader, keeping myself up at night worried about where my black and hot pink Barbie sneakers were so I'd be prepared for P.E. the next day. It's a tough life for first graders these days.

We are living in a time of great anxiety. We stress about our careers. We stress about our health. We stress about our appearance. We stress about stress. Because let's face it...we know that reducing stress is one of the first things we can do to improve our health. (Not to mention our careers, our appearance, and our happiness.)

So my main resolution this year is to let go of stress. And instead of trying to do this in a frantic, must-stop-worrying-NOW sort of way, I am just going to be better about using the practices that I know reduce my stress without adding more things to my to-do list.

~~~


1. Be mindful, be present, be loving.

Stop any negative thoughts as soon as they start. The only time it is possible to live is now. So breathe in and breathe out, and remember that everything is okay. Do everything with intention, live in the moment, and radiate love.



2. Tilt

I found this post by Sarah Wilson so incredibly relate-able and spot-on. In it, she says that achieving perfect balance is pretty much unattainable. The key to happiness is to allow yourself to become totally immersed in the things you love. She calls this practice "tilting".

Her words:

Breaking constantly is exhausting. Saying “no” is exhausting and doing things for balance, rather than because it matters to you is, frankly, martyrish. Tilting on the other hand is a positive flow forward, a moving “with” life.


3. Eat healthy, eat happy.

I am so glad I indulged over the holidays, but my body, my skin, and my brain have all gone on strike. It's time to get back to clean eating, and I'm in love with Dr. Fuhrman's food pyramid as a guide. It prioritizes micronutrient-rich foods and a vegan diet, without making treats totally off-limits.


4. Yoga, thrice a week.

I love exercise. But the recent gains I've made in my strength and stamina have left me a bit lacking in flexibility and balance. Plus, yoga is an amazing technique for managing stress, and since exercise is already a part of my routine, this is totally manageable.



5. More photography.

You wouldn't think this would be a problem for a blogger. But I tend to take pictures of food and crochet projects. And that's about it. This year, I want to use up more of my memory card on memories, the real stuff that makes it worthwhile to have a camera.


Source: dearmonet.tumblr.com via Clair on Pinterest

~~~

What are your resolutions this year? I have been so inspired by other bloggers' great ideas. We can't manage it all, I guess, but I love all of the reminders of what's important.