Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Plenty of Fish in the Sea?

For the last three months I have been preparing for graduation, which at St. Edward's University means researching and analyzing a global issue and spewing out a thirty page paper on the information. I'm not going to share this lovely piece of workmanship with you (beg as you may!), but I am going to do a little post on things you can do to help.

I chose overfishing for my topic. Coming from the East Coast I grew up around delicious seafood restaurants. Newspapers talk of fishermens' issues, crab feasts are more than tradition, and everyone can send you to their favorite markets for fish. When I became vegan I wondered about whether I would occasionally include fish in my meals, which I don't, but I took this opportunity to research why I should or shouldn't. Don't worry... I am not going to say you shouldn't enjoy seafood. I know that that would simply go no where. What I am going to ask is that you enjoy it a little more sustainably and conscientiously. By doing this, your grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be able to taste a piece of delicious tuna or order any sushi they'd like. Sadly, if consumers continue on their current path, by 2050 most seafood will only be enjoyed through storytelling.

So what is going on? The oceans are simply being overfished. Currently 25% of global catches are ten types of large predator fish, and nine of these ten are in collapse (meaning 90% below amounts that were present 50 years ago). Much of the fishing that is occurring is happening illegally, with catches being unreported or underreported and all sorts of regulations being skirted. This mainly happens with industrial ships in foreign waters, waters off of developing countries where the boats can take all the fish while the local populations go into starvation since their food source is gone. Not only do these illegal ships harm local people but they also have abysmal living conditions for workers, making them sleep on cardboard in cockroach infested areas after 18 hour days and paying them with by-catch rather than money. It is estimated that the IUU (illegal, unreported, unregulated) boats catch around 19% of the global catch, but that is a difficult number to accurately get. Because of the overfishing that is rampant, each year since 1988 the global catches have gone down by half a million tons. It is not leveling off because there are no areas for fish to regroup and restock; current technology allows ships to locate and catch fish in ways that never happened before.

Beyond this, the common method of bottom trawling (where a HUGE net is scraping the bottom of the ocean) is extremely destructive to the ecosystem, killing plants and animals that aren't the target. Each year trawlers drag up an area twice the size of the contingent United States. With a harmed ecosystem and a lack of fish the oceans are not healthy, which means they can't absorb carbon as effectively as before. More carbon in the air is the biggest cause of climate change and global warming, so we need the oceans to be at their peak to help fight.

Depressing, right? It's looking pretty awful for the world's oceans, air, and stomachs. But luckily there are simple changes that YOU can make, changes that will fight these issues. Consumers have the power in their hands, so by making smarter choices in the way we buy we can make a difference for the world.

How you can help:

1. Buy local. If you are lucky enough to have oceans and bays nearby, support them! Local fishermen typically use sustainable methods of fishing because they want to maintain their livelihood. Go to markets that sell local catches and do not be afraid to ask where the fish was caught.

2. Buy sustainable. For those who don't live near water or don't like the fish offered at the local market, seek out sustainable companies. A New Hampshire-based company called EcoFish sells frozen fish from high-quality fisheries throughout the world. They only sell fish that have been caught using sustainable methods, such as hook and line, rather than by trawlers. Yes it may be more expensive, but it is a necessary step to ensuring our ocean as we know it. Another idea is to find sustainable fish markets. I was lucky enough to interview Carol Huntsberger, proprietor of Quality Seafood in Austin, and learned all the steps she has taken to make sure she is only selling sustainable options. Support smaller businesses like hers that are happy to answer questions and rely on customer feedback and desires.

3. Be informed. If you've taken the time to read my lengthy overview above, you are likely more informed than you were. Stay that way! Be up to date on what types of fish are endangered and shouldn't be eaten while which others are safe. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a great tool for this called the Seafood Watch Pocket Guide that can simply be downloaded and carried with you to restaurants and markets. This will help ensure the fish that need protection for a while get it so they can replenish their numbers naturally. Do more research online, through books, and even documentaries. I highly recommend a recent film called The End of the Line if you'd like to learn more.

4. Ask questions. Ask where the fish is from and how it was caught. These two pieces have huge effects on how sustainable it is. Within every realm, whether ocean fishing or fish farming, there are more sustainable methods than others. This is another place where you can inform yourself on the best and worst places to buy from. But fish from the United States are almost always a safe bet since regulations are high here.

5. Eat less fish. This doesn't sound great right now, but will be better in the long run. What most fish currently need is a break, or at least a breather, and the First World consumption of fish has risen drastically since 1950. More than one billion people throughout the world rely on fish as their main form of sustenance, and most of these people are in Third World countries. For those in developed nations, fish is typically a choice made on desire. By eating fish less often the demand for fish will reduce and so will the global catch. When you eat it, enjoy it. Take time to appreciate what you are eating and to realize that the steps you are taking are ensuring seafood for generations to come.

So there you have it! Even making one or two changes can have effects on the market and the oceans. You have more power than you think. Share this information with friends and family and take heart in knowing that simple actions can have a big impact.

** If you would like a list of my sources please let me know as I'd be happy to provide them. I decided to keep them out of here to make it a bit more reader-friendly.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I Have a New Obsession...

It's called the Antique Mall. It's a huge space with all sorts of vendors that I can, and just did, walk around for hours. Seriously, I had to drag myself out! There is such a fun mix of stuff, from kitchenware to decor to art to clothes. Plus I got to scratch my buy-things-itch without spending too much.

I originally went to find an old blue Mason jar to make this beaut:

{via pinterest}
Back story to the project goes.... About a month ago Peyton and I decided to hold each other to the plan of never leaving dishes in the sink. To some people, this may seem obvious and simple. To us, it was a big deal. Surprisingly, we've been doing an excellent job! The kitchen looks prettier and we feel better when we follow through, so follow through we have. But it's also meant more time at the sink, and the ugly Seventh Generation soap bottle has just been bugging me. So this cute mason jar DIY was just the solution. Until I read about the lids corroding and decided in other pictures I really didn't like the pump top sticking out. So around I perused until I found this gem:

Funky, fun, and a beautiful blue color. It's an old milk of magnesia bottle that cost $7.00. Right now I just have a cork in it, but for practicality I might add a little pour spout in the next few days. I then added this mat:

Nothing too special there, but I had been wanting another one after I washed the floors yesterday and then this guy appeared for just $1.99. Not too shabby, plus it ties in with the soap bottle. And to round off my blue mood I had to snatch this old farmhouse looking bowl for $4.99:

It had me at hello with its charming beaten-up teal paint and dark blue rim. I feel that in its past life it sat on an old wooden table, greeting children with freshly picked strawberries and peaches as they slammed the screen door. Sadly, its life here won't be quite as glamorous, but it will be useful for Peyton as a wallet and change depository after work. No more little piles on the table!

So there was my trip for today. I'm so in love with that place that when I go again, I may never return.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Working with the Man Stuff

Living with a man can be hard. Not to say that mine is bad per se, because honestly I kind of have it made. He is, in fact, finishing up his thorough cleaning of the fridge as I speak (rock on, awesome husband o' mine!). For me, and many other taken ladies, it's more the combining of goods and letting go of certain styles that brings the difficulty. Like lacy shower curtains, pink sofas, or closets such as this:

{via pinterest}
Not that I have any of those, but you know, the options are kinda gone. And it isn't simply the restrictions on style, but also by being given things that I have to live with. This too has been fairly easy (seriously P., not complaining!! :)) Besides having to widen my color range to Tennessee orange I would say that there weren't many demands. But there was one thing that was and is staying: the foosball table.

The foosball table is a slight dilemma to me. You see, I love foosball. And not to toot my own horn too much, but I kinda rock it. So when I moved in and saw it sitting in the limelight by the fireplace, my heart skipped a beat. But that was back in the days where this home was temporary, not my permanent nest to furnish. And let's just say, as much as I love to play, I really didn't love the laminate camouflage decor it sported nor the fact that it was taking prime real estate. My fantasy is to have a cozy sitting area around the fire where we will read books and banter, sipping cognac and watching dog paws running in unknown dreams. Yet with no furniture, no money, and no taste for cognac, those dreams are a bit distant. So the foosball table sits another day.

The look is another thing altogether. That I could change, and that I did. In a brilliant moment I came up with the best solution: paint it with chalkboard paint! My reasons were as follows: 
  • It's black = much more badass than pretend light green leaves stamped on = Peyton likey.
  • The matte finish will make it blend nicely with its surroundings. 
  • It's fun! And functional! I mean, who wouldn't want to keep track of their beat-downs in the most convenient location possible? What meany wouldn't want to draw a picture or jot down a quote to cheer up everyone's day?
  • It's changeable, homemade artwork to help it seem a little more purposeful in that spot. 
So with great intentions and Peyton's permission I set to work. The table went from this:

To this:

Added some primer to make the paint stick to the slick surface. 
 And finally, to this:

And I must say, by picture three I was not happy. I had turned a light and airy (albeit ugly) pattern into a black blob in the middle of our floor. Definitely not the inconspicuous finish I was looking for. But I stuck with it, followed the directions, and in three days prepped it by swiping a light layer of chalk on and wiping off. And hallelujah! All was better. The used, chalk-on-surface look softened the black to a nice gray. Plus I got to start my decorations, and that is always, always fun. 

Maybe it's not everybody's cup of tea, but it's making the best of what we have. It's the perfect compromise, and we love it. Plus wherever it ends up, which hopefully will one day be its own game room, it will still be functional, fun, and not permanently girlified. I'll keep you updated as it evolves, which I'm sure it will almost daily since I have an unpredictable walking eraser (*cough* Tegan *cough*). Anyone else make any fun, little changes this weekend? I'm always looking for more ideas and inspiration (especially when school hasn't started...)!

Anyhoo, time to go enjoy the last few hours of weekend while I still can. Trueblood Sunday here I come!


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Get Your Paint On

Good morning and happy Tuesday!!

The up-and-at-em chipper bug has caught me.  How can it not when:

A. We just returned from a wonderful vacation.
B. The house smells like yummy cologne (thanks to our new roomy Manny!).
C. I have no obligations for a week.
D. I am actually feeling inspired to conquer my long list of to-dos... annnd
E. That instead of that list I am finally blogging.

I am very excited to recap the trip with delightful memories and pics, but sadly I left the camera 1,600 miles away so that post will just have to wait. Instead I will finally share the biggest thing we've done in the past few months. I've been meaning to put this up since May, but that means going through pictures, which means taking said pictures, which means getting the right light (yeah... I try, albeit unsuccessfully), which starts with cleaning. And that whole process apparently alluded me for quite some time. But here I am, three months later, sharing the simple, yet oh so gratifying, project that we conquered. We painted! And I feel like we did it right. Even though officially we aren't finished (booo to trim). But so it goes.

I've wanted to paint the main area since I moved in. It was a tired looking white that just made the whole space feel blah. We both loved the idea of a cooler neutral, so we decided to try to find a gray that was virtually the color of the white paint when shadowed.

It began with samples colors. This is something I've never committed to doing before, but for an extra ten bucks was sooo worth it. All were Behr Premium Plus Ultra and the four colors are as follows:

Top to bottom:
Manhattan Mist (760E-2)
Burnished Clay (UL260-12)
Subtle Touch (790E-1)
Graceful Gray (UL260-10)
And another look:

Graceful Gray, Manhattan Mist, Subtle Touch, Burnished Clay
We wanted to see how they would look near the floor since ours has a fairly red finish. We have hopes and plans to change that in the future, but we also don't want to live with some huge clash until then. Manhattan Mist was immediately out since it was too blue, as was Subtle Touch for being, well, too subtle. So we were down to Graceful Gray, which had a slight green to it, and Burnished Clay. We loved Graceful Gray, but I had worries that it might be too dark, so we slapped on some more.

All was looking snazzy so away we hopped on over to Home Depot and grabbed two gallons of Graceful Gray. And so followed came the "fun" stuff. Jamming out to "Rock Lobster" and the occasional Depeche Mode definitely kept us going.

And after hours of painting, an extra gallon of paint, three rollers, and some intense concentration on doing the edge work by moi (I was previously deemed unfit for precision work, so I mustered all the focus I had to finish what remained), we were left with a beautifully painted living room. And let's just say some boogying and cartwheeling ensued. Sometimes the mister is simply uncontrollable. :)

So let's take a gander at some before and afters:

Living Room Before
Living Room After
Living Room After
Fireplace Before
Fireplace After
Wall Before
Wall After
Kitchen Wall Before
Kitchen Wall After

So it definitely is a subtle change, especially in pictures. But in person it is just enough contrast to really freshen things up. Hopefully my picture taking abilities will improve by the next post, or at least I'll remember to get befores and afters in the same spot...

Time to go wash some dogs, do some shopping, and show congress how budgets are made!


Monday, July 11, 2011

Today's Playlist

Today I tried running for the first time in a few months. It started as a walk, but as often happens my mighty iPod motivated me to push a bit harder. Luckily I had legs itching to run and a mind needing clarity, so I tried it. And it felt good. Until afterwards, of course, when my ankle was sore and my back felt off kilter. But it was one hundred percent completely worth it. So in the spirit of my run and my iPod, I'm sharing a few songs off the playlist that I was loving. It's eclectic, and apparently just what I needed.

Some energetic Linkin Park Feat. Jay-Z got it started with "Numb Encore." Typically listen to it when flying down a hill on skis, so definitely had to get moving to this one.

Then came the emotions. Coldplay's "Fix You," the song I am counting down the days to hear at ACL.

I love this song so much I need the lyrics. It's as beautiful on paper as in the air.

"When you try your best, but you don't succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can't sleep
Stuck in reverse

And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can't replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

And high up above or down below
When you're too in love to let it go
But if you never try you'll never know
Just what you're worth

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Tears stream down on your face
When you lose something you cannot replace
Tears stream down on your face
And I...

Tears stream down on your face
I promise you I will learn from my mistakes
Tears stream down on your face
And I...

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you"

And finally, to round off my slightly depressing hits, I ended with a soul-lifter: 
OneRepublic "Good Life"

"Sometimes there's airplanes I can't jump out
Sometimes there's bullshit that don't work now
We are god of stories but please tell me

What there is to complain about...

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life"

Here's to the start of a good week!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Losing What You Barely Had

I haven't been too busy on here recently. There are numerous reasons for that, such as lack of cleaning led to lack of pictures led to lack of posts. But there has been something else, something much bigger, going on. I was pregnant. And yes, the was is the most correct tense. It started on a hot Texas morning three weeks ago when I stood barefoot in the bathroom blow drying my hair and watched two pink lines show up on a stick. The shock that I felt after eight months of trying and countless negatives can not be expressed. But for those of you who know me, it's safe to say you can understand just how jubilant and excited I was. There was tons of jumping up and down, a hushed tone so as not to wake Peyton, and a thrilled call to my mother who almost dropped the phone. I chose to tell Peyton later at dinner with a surprise gift that held a beautiful silver rabbit music box. That Wednesday was jam-packed with emotions, and I can say that all the joy contained within me was matched with sheer terror.

"Sheer terror" might sound dramatic. But honestly, I knew that things could go wrong to this teeny tiny being that I'd been dreaming of for years and there wasn't a thing I could do to stop it. I like to be in control, yet in this situation I was housing something that I could not promise to protect. Those two lines had opened me to the potential of a pain and a loss that I was begging not to have. And throughout all the assurances that I was young and healthy and nothing would happen, I was put of my mind scared.

To say that every time I have gone to the bathroom I have checked for blood would not be an understatement. If I averaged seven times in a day over three weeks, that gives me a whopping one hundred forty-seven instances of worry. It got better, but I still wondered. Funny enough, I still haven't seen a drop of red. Science beat nature out this time.

Last Thursday Peyton and I excitedly went to see our bean for the first time on ultrasound. We were warned it would be just that, a bean, with a flickering heart. I say excitedly because even through all my worry, I still had hope. I might not have had morning sickness or extreme fatigue or even the feeling that I was pregnant, but I still wanted to believe that a baby was growing peacefully within. So we watched the black and white lines move around and got excited to see one blob in particular, but no, that was only the amniotic fluid. Yet that, that marvelous black liquid bag, was proof that something was in me. We continued to peek around but learned no more because there was no embryo to see. Absolutely normal, we were told, it was simply that the embryo was younger than we had assumed and would need another week. We were sent to get blood work and invited back in another week to look again.

On paper, it all sounds reasonable. And in many cases it is. But I knew. I just knew that something was not right, and as much as I wanted to believe the doctor and know that it was okay, my heart said otherwise. On Friday I waited with bated breath as the nurse found my blood hormone counts, the straw I was clinging to that everything was fine. But, of course, it wasn't. My progesterone was low and my HCG (the hormone released by the embryo) was within the enormous range of normal but could only be looked at with a comparison to another count. So more waiting ensued as I was put onto progesterone supplements and told to have my blood redrawn the following Tuesday.

This, coupled with the ultrasound, had me prematurely grieving and trying to protect myself from what I thought to be the truth. I told people I knew it was over; I told them that it wouldn't come back good. I went through the process of letting go early to be ready when the blow came on Wednesday. But ya know what? As much as I tried, and even as much as I said I knew, I never lost that little bit of hope within me that everything was okay. This became much clearer when the clock switched to 12:00 this afternoon and I was free to call for my results. I was petrified. Calling and finding out the truth meant losing my pregnancy, my baby, my plans. It meant having an embryo in me that had stopped developing normally versus one whose heartbeat I would see on Friday. It meant really coming to grips with what I'd been telling myself and others for the last six days, something that I just wasn't ready to do. Of course it also could have meant learning that my bean was growing fine and healthy within me, but whether it was my protective instincts or simply intuition, I knew that that was only a hope.

So I called. And I waited. And I was informed by the lab tech that they couldn't find my chart and would call again. And that's when I knew, because I had previously been told they could tell via the internet. Obviously, telling someone that they have a "bad pregnancy" is the job of a nurse, not a lab tech. And obviously, they have to not scare the patient and just tell them they lost the chart. Paranoid a little? That's what I tried to tell myself as I had these thoughts while waiting the thirty minutes for the call. I was becoming crazily paranoid and negative, I insisted, and they simply had lost my chart. Then the phone rang, and it was the nurse.

My progesterone levels were fantastic, had gone from 10 to 23.3, and they look for 15-16 as necessary. But my HCG, the hormone released by the embryo, had not risen as needed. Because the embryo grows so rapidly, the HCG should rise two to three fold every 48-72 hours. Mine had gone from 5800 to 6800 in five days. I was gently told what I already knew, that this was a bad pregnancy. So now here I am. I have an appointment on Friday to confirm through ultrasound that development isn't occurring as it should, and then I'm guessing further options will be given. There is a slight, slight chance that the counts are wrong and that everything is fine, but by this stage, I'm done holding onto hope. I know what I've known to some extent from the beginning, and I need to work with that.

It's tough for me to really accept and understand everything that's happening because it seemed so unreal from the beginning. I'm sure all pregnant women feel that, but I felt the same as I always had. How could I have been growing a human within me and feel so normal? How can I be losing something that I never fully believed I had? And how, when I barely had it, can it hurt so much? It's just all so theoretical. I was told that it was there, that it was fine, that everything would be okay. And then I was told that things aren't okay, that it's still in there, and that it won't last. All the while, I have seen no vomit or blood, to tell me one way or the other. I simply have had to believe. So here I am, saying that I was pregnant when in fact I am pregnant with a pregnancy that I know isn't going to last. I am pregnant with an embryo that has stopped developing. I am pregnant with a baby that I love with all my might but didn't even believe was in there. I am pregnant with a dream that I'm going to have to let go of. I might have to choose to bring forth the bodily fluids to move on, to start fresh, to let go of the dream. But I will remember it, and I will love it, and I will not be ashamed to talk about it because these things happen. They are sad, probably more so than I'm realizing right now, but they need to be brought in to the open so women can find comfort. 

On ultrasound day I was doing my daily scan of the newsfeed on Facebook when I saw this post:

This week we remember the babies born asleep, or whom we have carried but never met, or those we have held but could not take home, or the ones who made it home but couldn't stay. Make this your status, if you or someone you know has suffered the loss of a baby. Baby loss is still a taboo subject. Break the silence. In memory of all angels.

It probably sounds ridiculous to say that I felt like it was speaking to me, that it was another sign to make me realize what was happening, but it was and it did. Later that night I told Peyton that everything wasn't okay, that this message had spoken to me and I knew that it was timed like this for a reason. He, reasonably enough, told me that I was just worrying and reading into things that couldn't possibly be related. And he might be right. It might have been a huge coincidence. But it's a coincidence that I saw, that I let in, and that I am helping to fulfill.

For those who have gone through this and don't want to share, that's completely okay. Losing a pregnancy is a private thing, one of the most private, so there should be no pressure. But for those like me, people who need to share and let it out to move on, opening up has to be an option. Most people don't realize how many women have miscarriages, or that they know plenty that have gone through it, often silently. It's a fact of life that is skirted away. I luckily had researched enough so that I don't feel like it's my fault, or that I'm alone. Countless women have been through it and are going through it now, so I am part of a womanhood that understands. By sharing on here, I am simply helping myself heal. I am getting my thoughts and feelings down so I can see and sort through them as a whole. I face it head on and let the emotions wash over me, hoping that in the end, letting it all out will simply be cleansing. 

I don't know if I believe that my little one had a soul yet or where it was even going, but I can say that I like to think that it did. As bittersweet as it is to me, I am choosing to think that it will be headed to a heaven-like place to meet my grandmother. That it will be at peace up there. And I know that when it's time for us to have our child we will. But right now I'm mourning for our sweet pea that didn't make it, because even though we never really had it, it was all us. 


Monday, June 6, 2011

Laugh a Little

In a wonderful book that I recently finished (The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin) I saw a statistic that made me a bit forlorn. Apparently, on any given day, a child laughs an average of 300-400 times while an adult only hits 17.  I understand that slammed with work and responsibilities (such as taking care of these non-listening laughing little children) our lives can't be quite as funny and carefree as they once were. Plus, our brains are a little more mature and able to understand everyday concepts a bit better. Take, for example, an adult compared to this baby:

(Can't help but laugh with her, can ya??)

But to laugh 96% less than we did as children? Ridiculous! So in an effort to raise my daily laughter percentage I settled in on my comfy couch with the puppy at my side to do some research. That's right, for the good of my health and all adult human beings, I found that you can laugh more if you sit around looking at funny prints on for over an hour. And since I understand that most people don't have the will or time to commit to such high pursuits, I've decided to share some of the ones that I found most amusing. So have some laughs and then GET BACK TO WORK! And even then, do keep your daily laugh count in mind. Maybe, if we all get really serious about this, together we can raise that average to 34/day. What do you say?

**After way too much time spent figuring ways to get them posted on here, I've realized that the easiest way is to get YOU there. So simply click here and you should be able to peruse my Pinterest board.**


Thursday, June 2, 2011

Butterscotch Brownies

There are days that I feel like a super-wife. I've got dinner on the table for Peyton when he gets home, a clean not-so-dirty kitchen, an apron protecting my splendid clothing, and music wafting its harmoniuos tunes throughout the house. I conveniently forget the fact that I'm actually in running shoes with an old t-shirt and odd tennis skirt, that the house hasn't been vacuumed for far too long, and that the dogs haven't been fed. Or maybe I'm simply asserting my women's studies side and quietly fighting the wifely image shoved on us. Whatever it is, today I am super-wife. And here is why...

I made butterscotch brownies.

Heavenly, gooey, vegan brownies with just the right balance between sweet and salty. And they will win his heart all over again. Plus hide the fact that I've completely monopolized the bathroom counter with hair products that I rarely use, clothes that are mostly clean, three pairs of tweezers, two contact cases, and a pair of scissors. (Let me lovingly point out that if Peyton has noticed this takeover, he has been completely mum on the subject.)

But I digress.

These babies are good stuff. I can attest to this firsthand (the cook naturally gets to try things first.) I found them the other day on Your Vegan Mom and knew I had to give them a whirl. Her description is great, as is her recipe, and I have to say the pecans are my favorite part. Do not leave them out! I also added a few chocolate chips. Delicious, but not as jam-packed with flavor goodness as the pecans. Her recipe can be found here, and while there check out some of those other yummy-looking meals! This is the first I've tried, but I'm sure there will be many more. And maybe, if I'm lucky, next time I'll be sporting an apron with this bad boy:


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Life is a (Hopefully) Long Road

At least that's what I'm trying to remember today. For the past month or so Peyton has been interviewing for a promotion in Delaware that seemed like a sure thing. And it was. Until yesterday, that is. Politics in his company held him back (while potentially opening up another great opportunity), so our Delaware dreams are no more.

Now, without insulting anyone from Delaware too much, we weren't thrilled about living in or around Dover. Moving from one of the best cities like Austin to a small, seemingly simple town like Dover was a bit tough to stomach. But that's where the excitement came in for me. It's easy to come to Austin and to love it, to take it in, to be encompassed by its unique culture. It's a whole other deal to go to a city where there isn't live music nightly, abundant happy hours, outdoors sports and activities of every and all types (stand-up paddling anyone?), and always a new restaurant to try. These are the cities that you have to dig for the gems. You work to find what you can make yours, what will make that place unique. It might be as simple as walking around exploring until you stop in the sunshine on a beautiful street with lovely old houses, shady trees, and birds singing the most lovely songs. Or it may come from trying hole-in-the-wall restaurants until you find "your place." And it might take time. You might have to slowly meet people, find groups, go to the same spots and realize one day that this place holds a piece of your soul. The place that you thought seemed simple and empty, has awakened a part of you that you never knew existed.

So this is how I saw Dover. It was an exciting chance to explore and discover. It was a shot for Peyton and me to create memories in a place not touched by any others and to grow closer in the process. And I couldn't forget the fantastic fact that it was 1.5 hours away from Baltimore. This, of course, led to dreams of me swooping in for a girl's night with my MAC ladies or a quick trip to the only dentist I've ever seen (yes, this was actually in my daily thoughts) followed by a Harbor East Whole Foods run (and maybe a swing by Lululemon??). I envisioned having babies that frollicked on the beach on weekends year-round and got to see their grandma more than four times a year. Babies that would grow up belonging to the east coast and knowing the seasons. Who would roll down hills of lush green grass and come back with stains on their clothes. Who would sail the Chesapeake, visit Deep Creek Lake, and get bundled up like little babushkas in the winter. (Thanks Camille for that image, seen here. Umm... Adorable, anyone?) So clearly the news dashed the dreams I held for my future loves.

But, and there's always a but, this is when I have to remember that life is a long road. Would I have ever guessed four years ago that I would be married to a wonderful man from Tennessee, living in Austin, Texas, and about to graduate with a science degree and a 4.0? Not in many, many guesses would I have gotten that. Who would have thought that dropping out of school and getting a job as a carsales[wo]man would have led me here. And I have to say, it's pretty great. I may miss things up north, but I also love things down south. I love the warmth and the great weather. I love the music scene, the Texas state parks full of cactus and dried wood and cedar, the way at any moment I could see a striped lizard scurrying away from me. These are things that I would have to trade if we moved away, and I'm not sure I'm ready to do that. Our babies may not have the beach every weekend, but they could grow up getting colored mohawked hair at the Austin City Limits music festival every year. Or eating vegan milkshakes from Toy Joy. Or counting armadillos on hikes. We'd figure out ways to see the grandparents more often, and those trips would be sacred and special in a way that weekly ones wouldn't. We could be the proud parents of Austinites who would be just as beautiful as Delawareans.

Or maybe we won't. Because (I tell myself YET again) life is a long road, and it's an amazing adventure. Two years from now we might be in New York or San Francisco or back home in Baltimore. We might be in the process of adopting a little bean because we can't have our own, or rubbing my swollen ankles since I'm about to pop. Even though I don't know where we will be or how we will get there, I'm sure we will do our best to soak up the good. We will create the best moments we can. We will explore what the world has to offer and create a life full of love and happiness, a life we can be proud of. Because life is a long road, and we're in for a superb ride.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Yummilicious Tofu Casserole

Coming home to a well-dressed husband making you dinner is pretty gosh-darn nice. Coming home to a well-dressed husband making you a certifiably delicious, can't-get-your-fork-out-of-the-pan dinner is even better. Earlier in the day I had spotted a yummy looking recipe on my friends' blog, Smalltimore Eats. I casually mentioned to P. that it looked like it would hit the spot that night, and lo and behold he not only listened but got on it! And let me tell you, we are sooo glad he did. It's a casserole with tofu, onions, red pepper, and corn covered by cornbread. I have never been a casserole fan, but this meal (that is a perfect size for a dinner party) was in our house for less than 24 hours. Seriously. Whether vegan or meat-eater, you will be missing out if you don't give it a shot.


So thank you Katie and Amy for the delicious recipe! In a food coma I completely forgot to take any pictures, so I just borrowed these from them and am sending you over there for the recipe. Enjoy!


Friday, April 29, 2011

An Outdoor Escape

Posting pictures of the yard has been on my mind for the past two months (that's when I took these pictures), but apparently I haven't found the driving force necessary to do so. Here enters the need to escape from personal issues and to procrastinate from writing a fascinating paper on potatoes and globalization. Those quite motivating factors, coupled with the fact that we should document the "beginning" before showing the progress we've made, have led me to finally disclose our share of the great outdoors. Mind you, we like to say it "has potential," so don't get your hopes up too high. Definitely no fountains or great landscaping or well manicured green lawns. Just a lot of dirt, some plants, and dog poo (that I'll gladly tell you now is long gone!).

So imagine you are just driving walking (don't need to promote unnecessary use of fossil fuels in imaginary situations) down the road to come to our humble abode... Walking, walking, walking and bam! There it is on the left. Once upon a time you would have been greeted by ultra lush asian jasmine ground covering. Sadly, though, that is now a bare cover with mostly dead roots. Hurts the eyes a bit, but we are giving it lots of TLC to get it back on the mend.

You then turn up that lovely little sidewalk and are looking at us straight on. To the left is the lonely, never-used front door and to the walkway on the right is the driveway, back door, and backyard. So let's just take a right for pictures' sake. In real life though, our front door and it's "M" wreath would absolutely love a visit.

Before moving you take take a quick peek over to the right while you are deciding which way to go... Some semi-green grass, pretty crepe myrtles, and lots of low, dying jasmine yet again. Poor guys.

So you've made your way to that little entrance that you see above, and are greeted with a wide open breezeway filled with stuff. Some "stuff" is useful, such as the tools and recycling bin and firewood. And then some is temporary and will hopefully have moved on by your next visit. The back door is to the left and will enter the kitchen/dining area, but you decide to be brave and face the wilderness that is beyond.

And this is what you are greeted with! Not too shabby, eh? We have hopes that the vast expanse of dirt (oh, life with dogs) will either A. be lush, green grass one day or B. become a lovely natural landscape that prevents erosion and works with the Texas droughts. It's just cash and indecisiveness that are holding that space back.

You then take a stroll down the pretty patio, forgiving the fact that it is due some attention, and turn around to gaze at the lovely orange Tennessee umbrella and grill cover. "Lovely", Peyton we said! You also spot one loner dead bush by the garage. Curious...

By taking a turn you now see the back corner and the pathetic, dying orange tree. Don't you worry though! We have finally taken pity on that dejected soul and hopefully done some good for it. More to come on that soon.

If you decided to venture off of the patio to the left you would end up right here, in the far left corner of the yard. This space is the sunniest spot and just begs to become a vegetable garden in the future. Those wishes are definitely swaying our vegan hearts pretty quickly.

And this... well, this is just an example of the ground we have to deal with. Hard pounded, dry dirt and rocks. That's part of the reason why any change to the landscape is going to take quite some hard work through gritted teeth.

So there you have it! The place that oozes potential but needs lots of TLC. We are hoping to continue on as far as money will allow so that we can enjoy it as much, if not more, than the dogs have been. And with this starting point, I now have no reason not to post some of our progress. Long live procrastination!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Sweet Potato Black Bean... Stuff

Peyton and I have had a wonderful time recently riding bikes to the Whole Foods to pick up some yummy goods. I ride along, hair blowing, curvy calves glistening, laughing away with the fresh vegetables sticking out of my beautiful wicker basket. (Ok, reality. Have helmet hair when I arrive, sweat dripping out of every pore, can barely breathe let alone laugh, and lug a heavy backpack full of orange juice, almond milk, and soon to be smooshed bananas. But ya know, I like to imagine it the other way... It's that whole Pinterest fascination (more on that here) that has me living my life through gorgeous (and imagined) images.) Anyway, even though they aren't picturesque, these trips truly are great. As always in life, there is:

The Good: Bonding time without any gadgets, fresh air, helping save the world, helping save the dollas, and most importantly, a good booty workout.


The Bad: We don't plan well, leave when hungry, and come home famished with no energy to put together any of the ingredients for recipes we just decided on.

Luckily, there is a meal that saves the day time and again by keeping us from eating frozen food good badness. It's quick, easy, and great for the ticker too. I learned about it from my lovely friend Jenn and none of us have come up with a name besides that "sweet-potato-black-bean-salsa-and-cheese-stuff." But the yumminess makes up for the lackluster title. (I mean, how much would we really sell from a menu with that one? Possibly lots if we added "Locally grown, free-range, grain-fed, and hormone-free potatoes." Hmmm...)

Sweet Potato, Black Bean, Salsa and Cheese Stuff

One sweet potato
Black Beans
Vegan cheese **We've decided that Daiya is the best after sampling almost every other out there**

1. Bake sweet potato. Due to our lack of planning, we always use the microwave. Scrub that bad boy down, keep it wet, fork it a few times all over, then wrap it in a paper towel and microwave for around four minutes each side (or until soft.) **It can't just be me that was thinking this was getting "dirty" after the first few steps... can it? :) **
2. Chop and mash potato (we keep skin). Add beans, cheese, and sprinkle of salt and microwave until cheese is melted. 
3. Top with salsa and whatever else your heart desires! I sometimes add avocado or spinach and then have salad as a side.
It seriously is that simple. So simple, in fact, that I wonder if you are questioning my sanity over writing it down. But sometimes the simplest combos can be the best. And this sweet potato as taco (getting towards a name... hey hey!) thing hits the spot. So snatch up these versatile, long-lasting ingredients next time you're shopping and I bet that "stuff" will be beckoning you to try. 

P.S. Despite a post having nothing to do with our recent accomplishments, we have indeed had a very successful weekend in home business. I am totally giddy to share the details with you but have to finish the final touches... More soon!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Spring Has Sprung!

And I'm really loving a few things in particular.

1. Ok... So it has nothing to do with spring. But I am love, love, loving it. Pinterest is an amazing online community that you can create inspiration boards by "pinning" pictures that you find. You can peruse other people's boards, comment on pics they've pinned, and repin them onto your own! It's fantastic and beautiful and totally a visually-drawn procrastinator's dream. And I've just found (true obsession never rests) that I CAN tie it to this lovely season with my number 2, found there but originally from here. If you are interested in joining you need to get on the invitation list and wait a week or two. Or you could just take a peek, realize how amazing that place is, and ask me to send one of my invites to you. I'd be thrilled to share the joy.


My nightly occasional walks with Tegan are now sans iPod because of the natural musicians all around. Birds' songs are simply intoxicating. They call stress out of me after a long day and then refresh my soul as they announce a new morning. They are so gentle that when they first begin I barely notice, but every year they never fail to usher in the time of new growth and beauty.

3. My new herb garden. Being vegan, we cook lots and lots at home (not that you would know since recipes have certainly been lacking... will work on that!) and use herbs all the time to add flavor to our meals. I'm embarrassed to say that for the past two and a half years I have been purchasing all my basil, cilantro, parsley, and dill from the grocery store and swearing every, single time that I would plant some that weekend to stop the endless waste of money that is the herb market. But lo and behold, I never did. So after forking over much more than necessary to please our taste buds, I finally did it. I planted some herbs.

I was inspired by the dollar section in Target one day when I saw these.

So I grabbed four, a dollar pack of five metal plant markers, and then swung by Home Depot for some seeds. In no time flat I had some metal pails full of dirt and lots of tiny balls of magic.

All I had to do was wait. And let me tell you, when those first little sprouts started to show I called the hubster out excitedly like they were shooting out benjamins. Parsley was the slowest little guy, and Basil most definitely the cutest, but they are all out now experiencing the world with gusto.

Maybe I still have some waiting to do since they haven't even hit puberty, but baby, we are on the road to herb-free shopping trips. Hallelujah!

4. Peyton working outside. Poor Peyton doesn't get much time to enjoy life, as work has him going into the wee night hours most days, but the silver lining is he is able to do it outside. Most nights he can be found on our patio with a string of Christmas lights bunched above him in the umbrella, two lanterns swaying in the tree, Pandora streaming in his ears, glass of wine at hand, tapping away on his laptop. Maybe not the ideal situation, but it definitely is a darn good workosphere. I'll try to snap a shot sometime soon, but let's keep our fingers crossed that I won't get a chance!

So how about you? Is there any thing about spring that has you entranced?

We have plenty of gardening ideas on our plate this weekend to keep us out and about appreciating the chirpy weather. With spring giving us so much beauty, we are trying our best to pitch in. Spring is the time to be fresh, to try something new. Whether that be gardening, running, tennis, cooking, or sitting outside on your porch, go give it a shot. Just spread your wings, open your mind, and free your song. Spring is here!