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! :)

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

beauty and the beast, a 4 year old's perspective

The other night I watched Beauty and the Beast with my nieces (ages 2 and 4), my mom, and sister.  The 4 year old (M) did not like the Beast. This is understandable: the Beast locks Belle's dad in a dungeon, keeps Belle captive, and yells & grows at her a lot. He is actually pretty scary for much of the movie.  In hindsight, we should have anticipated M not liking him.

What I couldn't have seen coming was M falling for the charms of Gaston.  Bewildered, M asked why Belle didn't want to marry Gaston.  Then, when Gaston rallied the townspeople to attack the Beast, she began cheering, "Yeah! YEAH!!" and raised her arms in exclamation.  And later, while the Beast and Gaston fought, she chanted "NO BEAST! NO BEAST!" At this point, J (the 2 year old) leapt to the Beast's defense yelling "YES BEAST! YES BEAST!" :)

We tried to explain that Gaston was actually the mean one, but M was unconvinced. Hmmm, hopefully this is not an indication of M's future taste in men...

Thursday, January 09, 2014

my nieces are delightful, exhibit a

Today, I got to read books and "talk about things" with my 3 (almost 4) year old niece, M.  We read two books: the Cat in the Hat and King and King*. 

At the end of the book M asked me "Why did the two princes get married?" To which I responded that sometimes princesses and princes fall in love and get married, but sometimes princes fall in love with princes, and princesses fall in love with princesses.  Side note: It's really difficult to say the plural of "prince" while also saying the plural of "princess" and have it not all run together. I should have said "boys" and "girls". Oh well, lesson learned.  :)

She seemed satisfied with the answer, and moved on to more pressing issues like: "Why do women have a uterus?"

After a very long talk about things related to the uterus (thankfully her mother fielded most of these questions), she then contemplated if she should have a baby. We told her she didn't need to make any rash decisions. She thought for a moment, and then must have concluded that she needed more information before deciding because she asked that a list of Dr. Seuss books be compiled. Very sensible.

My niece is awesome, by the way**.

* It's an okay book, although not as good as And Tango Makes Three, (M loved this book), which is about two boy penguins falling in love and raising a baby penguin
**I have 4 smart, hilarious, energetic and delightful nieces, they are actually all awesome, not just this one. 

Monday, January 06, 2014

pin 11: barley chocolate chip cookies

The Pin: Barley Chocolate Chip Cookies
The Verdict: Yum, yum, yummy. These definitely have an oaty taste, but I approve.
Nutritional Label

My barley obsession continues. I recently made a pot of stew and threw in some quick cooking barley for good measure, and it may have been the best part of the stew. Well, okay, maybe not, but it was darned good addition. Okay, on to the cookies!

I want to be clear, just because these cookies are made with barley four instead of white flour, they are still cookies. So while they might be healthier than regular cookies, they are still in no way actually healthy. A lot of sugar and butter went into the making of these cookies. But, white flour did not! I made a nutritional label (linked above) for those curious about that sort of thing.

The dough smelled and tasted good  a( little grainy as opposed to smooth), and it was not as creamy looking as regular cookie dough - defiantly denser. In fact, when I put the dough on the cookie sheet I just used my hands, there was little stickiness.  They cooked up great, smelling wonderfully as they were baking, but did spread out a little more than I'm used to with my cookies.

I am often critical of chocolate chip cookies. So, I was wondering if these would meet my standards.  Luckily they did.

While they have a slightly different taste from normal chocolate chip cookies, it's a pleasant taste - almost like oatmeal cookies, but not quite that strong.  I would still make my normal cookies for parties or functions, but if I just have a hankering for some home-made cookies, I would make these again in a heartbeat.

**If you make this with margarine, it will cut the fat by 1/3. I usually use butter, but I know some people aren't picky and may like that information. **