Friday, January 05, 2018

One Word 2018

It's January, so I suppose New Year's Resolutions are in order.

I don't usually make resolutions, and I find that my big declarations for self-betterment or changes tend to not pan out. Not because I never better or change myself, but because they are often too lofty or too empty. I'm not sure.

I recently saw that a couple of my friends are choosing a word to focus on (like gratitude or kindness) throughout the year. I like this idea; it's simple, yet if you choose a word wisely, it can probably have a big impact.

A word I often use to describe how I'm feeling is "overwhelmed," and yet I continue to live a life made to overwhelm.  With that in mind, my word for 2018 is:


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Meal Prep Mania!

I hate to cook when I come home from a long day at work. I won't do it. I just won't. I refuse. Even if I plan to do it, I won't do it.  Additionally, as a single person, when I do make a meal, I often have to eat if for days. This bores me, and before I know it, it's 555-PZZA to the rescue.  I end up spending more money than I have on food that is easy, but not especially tasty or good for me.

To combat that, this year I cooked up a storm over Winter Break, and I froze everything in individual portion sized bags, giving me enough dinners for about 3 months of weeknight meals.  So, if I stick with my plain I will have healthy meals each night that I can heat up in less time than it takes to order a pizza!

Here's what I made (linked recipes where available):

Budget Bytes Black Bean Quesadillas (vegetarian):
This is probably my favorite meal. I could eat it daily. The recipe makes 8-10 quesadillas. I swapped out frozen corn for peppers because I had some in my veggie drawer that I needed to use; they seem to freeze and reheat well.

One Pot Spicy Thai Noodles (vegetarian).  This is another one of my favorite recipes. It makes a ton of food, and I've yet to meet someone who didn't love it. SO GOOD. Even skeptical meat-lovers loved it. You could easily add meat to it, but I don't think it needs it.   I decided the zucchini won't freeze and reheat well, so I swapped it out for frozen peppers and green beans. I also barely cooked the veggies, so when I reheat, they will cook the first time (I hate overcooked veggies).

Turkey Kielbasa Lentil Soup:
I've blogged about this before; it's one of my favorites. I added a bunch of crushed red pepper to make it more spicy and added another half of a package of turkey kielbasa. Delish!

Crockpot Ziti
So yummy! And easy. I used a combo of Italian sausage and beef. You could make this meat-free and use mushrooms instead, but I think the meat flavors really takes this over the edge as one of my favorite new recipes.

Turkey Tortilla Soup:

I used leftover Christmas Dinner turkey, and it's pretty tasty. Not my favorite, but it's a cheap way to make turkey leftovers stretch. I just threw everything in a crock pot and cooked it all day,.

Pinto Bean Soup (can be vegetarian): 
Swap out the chicken broth for veggie broth to make it vegetarian (seems silly not to; I had left over chicken broth from another recipe, so I didn't). I also added a package of taco seasoning on my friend's recommendation, and it gave it some zip! That said, I don't think I'll make this recipe again, although bean soup is so easy and cheap, so I'll keep testing them out.

Budget Bytes Country Breakfast Bowls (Breakfast For Dinner) (vegetarian): 
I'm most skeptical about this recipe's ability to reheat well, but BudgetBytes has never steered me wrong before. Fingers crossed!

No recipe because I didn't make this; my mom did, and I snagged a couple of portions of it because it was so tasty. She used fire roasted tomatoes instead of regular diced, and it really took the chili up a notch. No recipe, but I recommend that tip!  My favorite vegetarian chili recipe uses quinoa, which sounds bonkers, but actually is really good; I'm sure I'll make a pot of this before winter is done.

No recipe, but it's hard to mess up meatloaf. Just throw beef, breadcrumbs, onion, ketchup, mustard and some seasoning together and cook it. So easy. So delicious. I can't believe I didn't like it when I was a kid; what was wrong with me?

My friend's Pasta Sauce (vegetarian):
No recipe. I made this vegetarian by swapping out the meat for more portabella mushrooms. Smelled delicious, although it all went into the freezer, so I'll have to update later!

Goodbye, 2017

Whew, that crap of a year is over. Goodbye, 2017!

okay, so it wasn't all bad. Highlights in pictures:

I helped organized the St. Louis Women's March. It was an incredible learning experience, and so amazing to see how many people turned out for this, and for marches across the world. It also pushed me into more direct activism in my community, and for that I am thankful! #ResitTrump #ResistRacism #Resist!

I adopted a new cat! Anya is a beautiful and sweet calico. She has yet to realize she is food secure, so no man's plate is safe while she is on the loose, but she is a sweetheart when she's not hunting.

My first trip to the beach. Me and 4 fabulous friends visited Puerto Rico. A trip of many firsts - first real beach vacation, first time paddle boarding, and first trip the a rain forest. It was wonderful.  Sadly, a few months later the catastrophic Hurricane Maria hit.  Half of Puerto Rico is still without power.

Fun times at the farm with the family. Cooper was in heaven :)

Hiking! This fall was unmatched for it's beautiful colors. It was gorgeous.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015: my favorites

Well, I dropped off the blogwagon... Here's my 2015 recap of things I loved:

  • Frank Turner. I'm pretty sure I would not have survived the last couple of months without this British folk singer. He has a punk and pop vibe (I realize that doesn't sound like it should go together) and if you have not heard him, click on his name and be ready to fall in love. His songs are catchy, but if you listen closely they can also pack a punch.
  • NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts - how did I not know about this? 
  • Kayaking. I got back on the water this year. Not enough, never enough. But more than I had in a while. Perhaps 2016 will be the year I buy a kayak!
  • Luther - Yes, I'm behind the times on this one. I've loved Idris Elba since The Wire, but somehow this show never made it to my queue until recently. Season 1 is absolutely AMAZING. I love it all. But season 1...damn. Watch it. 
  • True Blood - another show I was late to watch. I had resistance to this show, but once I actually started watching it I couldn't stop. I was a True Blood watching maniac. If you are looking for a show to marathon on your next break, it's perfect! It probably helped that I was playing a vampire role-playing game at the time. Which leads me to...
  • Vampire - this role playing game. By far my favorite RPG to date, although Shadowrun is still up there. 
  • Juicing - not for some bullshit detox diet, but just as a tasty way to deliver more veggies to my belly. Seriously - all those veggies you don't want to eat? Juice them, add a banana, and viola!
  • Climbing - okay, this one isn't new, but something kicked in this year, and I am just better. My technique is seriously improved, and instead of being stuck in place because of some of my weaknesses, I've adapted my form to work around them. 
  • Traveling with my students to DC and NY. It was so cool to go to the museums and watch them get so excited about what they were seeing. I hate that we lose our sense of wonderment as we age (or maybe just I do).  Also, these kids were just awesome. It was a great time.
I'm sure there are more new things I found this year that I love, but those stand out at this moment. 

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 in review

I don't usually really sit down and reflect much on each year as it passes, but 2014 was a bit of a doozy, so I feel it warrants some reflection.

In some ways, it was an amazing year that brought me a lot of joy. But it was also a crappy year for many reasons:  loved ones (of mine or of people I love) have passed away, I've felt stagnant in some areas of my life, and I've been reminded that while some friendships grow, others, sadly, dwindle. And all of this was happening against the back drop of our community experiencing tragedy and unrest, filling many with hopelessness and anger.  It's really easy to dwell on the negative, forgetting that I actually have a lot to be thankful for. In an attempt not to forget, here are some of the highs of my year:

  • Winter/Spring:
    • I started a bunch of home improvement projects, these would actually continue through the year. My house definitely feels more "put together," and is a more pleasant place to be. Without the help of my awesome brother, this would not have been possible. He is super cool.
    • Cooper and I had the opportunity to work with a fabulous dog trainer (Tovah) one on one for months. She helped me and my pup so incredibly much; her training has made our lives much happier. 
    • I bought a new bike, and was able to hit the trails here and at the farm.
  • Summer:
    • I  traveled to see dear friends I haven't seen in years. Friends that my heart identifies as family. It was fantastic, and not to be traded for the world.
    • I spent a day in Missoula, the city that breaths life in my soul.
    • I ate huckleberries :)
    • I watched my best friend full of happiness and love as she got married. It was a beautiful ceremony.
    • I was able to travel to all these places to see friends for free because I won airline tickets in a raffle (yay!)
    • I tried something new and terrifying:  rowing (ultra beginner stage), and found I absolutely love the peace that being on the water brings. 
    • My niece (K) and I spent more time together; she is a ball of energy and makes the world better. She's hilarious, too. 
    • My garden, especially my tomatoes and cucumbers, grew like crazy.
  • Fall/Winter:
    • I visited Boston (for free, again) and drank in the history and beauty of that city, meeting new friends while doing it.
    • I cut 70-80% of the meat out of my diet. I feel better about my impact on the earth's resources in this respect.
    • I found out Twin Peaks is coming back for a Season 3, with all episodes being co-written by Lynch/Frost (the only way it can work!)
    • I was invited to a "surprise" wedding (the surprise being on us, the guests) by two of my favorite people. It was one of the best weddings I've ever attended.
    • I, with a couple of friends, lots of community members tried to bring something positive  to our city in the midst of unrest and pain.
    • I have a new fence that keeps my dog safely in the back yard. :)

So, what do I wish I'd done more of?
  • hiked, climbed, biked
  • cooked
  • created less trash
  • run (I couldn't, due to an injury.. hopefully I'll be able to this spring)
  • gotten at least 7 hour of sleep a night
  • made healthier choices
  • spent less money/saved more money
  • volunteered
  • planted sunflowers

Sunday, August 10, 2014

update on eating less meat

Week one was a success!  I really didn't miss the meat, and I savored it more when I did eat it.  One place I am going to have to watch out is eating too many carbs. I'm going to have to be carb smart about this. But, so far, so good, and if anyone was thinking of lessening their meat consumption, I think the 80/20 rule is a great way to start!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

the 80/20 lacto-ovo vegetarian

Lately I've been thinking about decreasing my meat consumption. Although I think it is perfectly fine for humans to eat meat, I do think that many of us (especially in our high-protein crazed culture) eat meat in a quantity that is unsustainable and unethical, so I am cutting back.

My goal is to follow the 80/20 rule, where most of my meals are meatless, but I can enjoy turkey at Thanksgiving, a good pork steak at a St. Louis bbq, and I will able to eat anything served when I am a guest a someone's house for dinner.  Factoring 21 meals in a week, this means I can eat meat 4 meals a week if I want to. When I put it like that, it doesn't seem too difficult! Maybe I'll even end up going 90/10 meatless later.

As easy as it should be, it will be an adjustment.  For me, the best way to start is to start small. With that in mind, I've started with going vegetarian for breakfast (something that I do 98% of the time already) and for lunch.  That way, I only have to worry about meatless dinners 3 times a week at the start.  It's easiest for me to control breakfast and lunch, so I'm starting there. Of course, my 4 meat meals could be eaten anytime, so if you invite me over for brunch, don't worry if there is sausage in that casserole you made!

As expected, the first (& 2nd & 3rd) person I told about my plan was worried about my protein consumption. But guess what? Meat is not the only way to get protein. Also, I'm going 80% lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means eggs, dairy and all that jazz are okay*. But even if I wasn't eating eggs, I could still get good protein from veggies & such

Going veggie isn't totally new for me; I give up meat for most Lenten seasons. Even so, this is going to be a lifestyle change, so I've got some good sources of help.  100 Days of Real Food is a great website with tons of recipes and tips on clean eating, which translates very well to healthy vegetarian eating. Also, my friend & vegetarian just started a blog with great Bento Lunch ideas.  

Wish me luck! 

*yes, I realize my reasons for over-consuming animal flesh are applicable to animal by-products, but the idea of going vegan is too difficult for me to entertain. In an effort to start small & find success, this is where I'm starting. Who knows what the future holds (although a future without ice cream seems pretty bleak, indeed, so it probably still holds dairy products).

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

adventures in sewing: picnic blanket!

Today I decided to make a picnic blanket.  I've noticed several blankets with vinyl (or other water proof materials) on the bottom, and a cute print on the top. What a great idea, I thought!  So I headed to the fabric store.

I paired a neutral vinyl with a fun flannel pattern, and set to work. Pretty quickly, things took a turn.  Firstly, it is really hard to work with this much fabric. I had 2 1/2 yards of the vinyl, 5 yards of the flannel (because of width issues) and a table that was too small to accommodate it all. Also: vinyl sucks. Like seriously sucks.

But, all was not lost! I decided to try out using bias tape, as it would make super pretty edging and save me from having to fold over the vinyl multiple times, which my sewing machine (and I) would not have tolerated.

So, after a few bumps, the project turned out to be pretty painless.  I just sewed the two fabrics together (wrong sides together) and used bias tape to cover my pesky raw edges. Here is a really great tutorial I found on bias tape.  I also found that paper clips and clothespins worked much better than pins for this project. Binder clips would probably work, too!

The cherry on top: I have just enough umbrella fabric to make two small pillows, thereby turning my picnic blanket into a star-gazing blanket! :)