Friday, December 31, 2010

A New Year

This year has been another adventure.  I changed my major at the last minute, turned 21, moved into a new apartment and celebrated my very first one year relationship anniversary (trust me, this is a big deal).  It's been full of growing, changing and learning how to be the best I can be.

Challenges are always facing happiness.  Financial instability and depression can really get in the way of life satisfaction.  Fortunately I have figured out ways to combat these problems.  I've got a new job and I've learned how to deal with my feelings of self-loathing.  My life is far better now than it was a year ago.

This year I want to focus on my yoga practice.  I love going to classes but I've never had a solid, regular home practice and I would like to develop that.  Not only does it provide excellent physical activity but also gives an opportunity to ground, to balance, to love.  Teaching elementary school isn't in the cards anymore, but I would like to become a yoga instructor in the future.  I want to share what I have learned, to give back.  This requires learning how to become disciplined enough to have a regular practice.

I hope this will help my discipline in other areas of my life.  We shall see.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I just want to be home

It's been a while.

Once I made it through the treacherous finals week, I took a good four day vacation to the mountains.  Skiing and enjoying a cabin in the woods was just what the doctor ordered--Until I couldn't stand being away from home.

It's so odd how vacations don't turn out the way we hope.  There is an unfortunate "grass is always greener" issue that tends to come up, where once you get where you want you realize that you would just much rather be at home.  I love the  mountains.  I love beaches.  I love going places.  But sometimes my tiny apartment feels much better, no matter how much I want to leave town.

So I try to remain content wherever I am.  I just find it harder than I imagined.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Celebrating memories

Yesterday I got started on cookie baking, beginning with a German/Mennonite cookie called pfeffernusse, or peppernuts.  They are delightful little spice cookies that go excellent with tea or coffee.  I grew up with these during Christmas and many variations were shared within our church, as well as several baking parties for the Mennonite Country Auction every Fall.

This is one thing I love about the holidays.  So much of what we do as adults is influenced by the traditions we experienced in our childhood.  Regardless of how some may try to escape their background, it's nearly impossible to leave behind.  Especially when it comes to cookies.  Because the sense of smell is so strong, it connects us to many specific memories.  There have been times at work when a dish was made that could only be described as smelling like "Christmas at Grandma's."

Rather than running from memories, I like to run to them and recreate happy holidays in the past with my cooking.  I plan on creating just such memories for my own children.  I will celebrate where I've come from.

Here is the link for the pfeffernusse recipe I used if you're interested.  For vegans out there, Earth Balance can be replaced for the shortening, egg replacer for the egg and it still turns out great.  It does have honey.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gift wrapping doesn't have to be new

This year we're doing an alternative on wrapping Christmas presents.  While my family has had it's years of "brown paper packages tied up with string," we're going one step further.  Newspaper.

There are stacks of newspapers wandering all over campus.  The major companies give the University free copies on a regular basis along with our own mediocre campus publication.  When there is so much free, unused paper lying around, there isn't any point in purchasing more paper just for the sake of looking more festive.  That is my environmentally friendly plan for gifts this year.

Besides, who decides what looks "festive" anyway?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Veganism as a Religion pt. 2

Yesterday while discussing how my diet has been changing with someone, I stated that I have been a bad vegan lately.  I also added that it's kind of like saying you're being a "bad Christian."  I think I may have offended (and I may be doing so right now), so I would like to expound on that statement.    I have made statements about the subject before, but I would like to continue.

When one follows a certain set of beliefs, be it a religion, a dietary choice or any sort of lifestyle that includes specifics on what is appropriate to do i.e. rules.  When you're breaking those appropriate behaviors you're being a bad .  I think what is taken offense here is when one equates dietary decisions with religious beliefs (even though diet is an extremely important element within several religions, including Judaism).  However, it follows the same principles.  Regulators of food production have what's called "Standards of Identity" for most products such as ice cream.  In order for ice cream to be ice cream, it has to have a certain volume of milk, sugar, etc.  If you see yourself as being of a certain religion and have in your mind the "Standards of Identity" for a follower of that religion and you aren't adhering to those, you no longer qualify as a good ________.  The same goes for diet.  If you aren't following the rules of the diet, you don't belong in that category.  You are now something else.

As Christians, I know we forget.  We forget that it isn't about the rules.  There is such a fine line between legalism and "sinning so that grace may abound."  It's difficult to not let your "Standard of Identity" be influenced by rules, regulations and outside opinions.  There's too much emphasis on expectations put on yourself, expectations put upon by others.

Even though I have slowly added to my dairy intake, I still call myself Vegan.  Not because I necessarily follow the stringency of these rules, but because I continue to be influenced by the philosophy of one.  My heart is still there.

And that is all that matters.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Deck the Halls

I couldn't contain myself.  My entire house is decked out in "Christmas Cheer" complete with 45ft of lights, ribbon and greenery all over my walls, a tinsel covered tree and a "gingerbread" house (I cheat and use graham crackers).

I'm not quite sure what inspires people to go so all out crazy with this decorating business.  No matter how much I tell myself that it will just be over soon anyway, that it's a waste of money, etc. I just cant help the excitement I feel.  It reminds me of the start to all this Christmas business, when the trees were a reminder that it wouldn't be winter forever.  I think we all need this time to enjoy some part of winter, to remind ourselves that the sun will indeed come back.

It will be warm again.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Hotels and head colds don't mix

Last Christmas break, I was headed to Italy for two weeks.  I spent Christmas with my family at my grandparents cabin (which, to let you all know, is the best place in the world) and a few days later Erik drove me to Seattle where we stayed at the Motel 6 closest to the airport in order to catch the plane in the morning.  Erik had a terrible cold and decided to make a nice little medicine drink full of Nyquil and Emergen-C.  

In the middle of the night he sat straight up and started talking about all sorts of crazy things, eventually waking himself up.  I had a good laugh.

Lesson learned: This Christmas remember that a Cold Cocktail isn't a good idea if you don't want to be caught talking in your sleep.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Goodies

I'm getting ready to bake for the holiday season.  I have made my list, will be working on my grocery list and once finals are out of the way it will be a baking frenzy.

As someone who grew up with Christmas treats galore, it just wouldn't be Christmas without an insane amount of goodies in the home.  The signature chocolate peanut butter fudge was always present, along with varieties of peanut brittle, sugar cookies, peppernuts (a German Mennonite tradition) and divinity.  It's interesting to see what happens once you become vegan.  The recipes have to be tweaked a little and things like divinity simply don't exist.  Although I have been lenient in my veganism, I do try to go as vegan as possible when it comes to baked goods since the way I make them usually ends up in less fat and sugar.

I'm posting a few recipes that I've come to love over the last few years.  I hope you have the opportunity to experiment with these and enjoy them as much as I do.

Molasses Ginger Cookies


    all organic ingredients:
    1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
    1¾ cups whole wheat flour
    1½ teaspoon ground ginger
    1½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon sea salt (fine grain)
    ¾ cup melted Earth Balance (or a fat replacer such as applesauce or bananas)
    ¾ cup Sucanat (adjust to your preference)
    substitution for 1 egg, prepared. (I used bobs red mill egg replacer)
    ¾ cup unsulphured molasses
    --optional-- Sucanat for sprinkling


Preheat oven to 350°Fahrenheit.  Lightly spritz canola oil on surface of baking sheet.
In a bowl, whisk flour, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt together; set aside.
In a separate large bowl, beat Earth Balance and Sucanat until fluffiness occurs.
Mix in egg replacer and molasses.
Beat in dry ingredient mixture, half at a time.
Drop dough in balls of your preference onto the baking sheet(s).
Sprinkle with Sucanat if you plan to.
Bake about 10-12 minutes or until the edges are about set but the middle of cookie is still soft.
Let stand about 5 minutes on the baking sheet(s) before moving to wire rack to cool completely.

English Toffee


    2 cups sugar
    2 cups Earth Balance margarine
    2-12 ounce bags of vegan chocolate chips
    2 teaspoons of veg. shortening
    walnuts (optional)
    candy thermometer


Get a cookie sheet ready with wax paper on it.  Medium size pan on medium heat, melt margin and vegan sugar.  Stir constantly until you reach 285 degrees on the candy thermometer. (Usually about 15 minutes when hard crack stage sets in. You can also test in a glass of cold water by dropping in a bit and seeing if it hardens and is crunchy, which means it is ready) Pour out mixture onto wax paper cookie sheet. Let it cool.

Set up a double boiler system and melt 1 teaspoon of shortening first and then add a 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips. When melted, pour on one side of the toffee batch, and spread out. Put in fridge and let cool. When chocolate has hardened flip entire toffee batch over on another piece of wax paper and peel off old wax paper. Repeat double boiler procedure and put in fridge. After cooled, you can now break up and eat. Please store in the fridge, and should stay fresh about 2 weeks. My friends call this vegan crack because it is so addicting. So please Beware!

With nut option you can add them to the batch just before the hot toffee is being poured out. You can also blend up the nuts to coat the top and bottom of the chocolate before it cools.

Puppy Chow


    1 box Nature's Path Heritage Bites Cereal (Crispix-style but without the Vitamin D)
    1 10 oz bag of vegan chocolate chips (I prefer Tropical Source brand)
    1 cup creamy organic peanut butter
    organic powdered sugar


Put entire box of cereal in plastic mixing bowl.  Place chocolate chips and peanut butter in microwave safe glass bowl and place in microwave for about a minute and a half- stopping half way to stir.  Pour mixture over cereal and stir.  Once the chocolate mixture is coated evenly over cereal, place cereal in a paper grocery bag and pour in powdered sugar.  Fold bag top over and take bag outside to shake.  Look inside and see if more powdered sugar is needed.  If so, place more in the bag and shake again.  Place cereal in a Ziploc bag and let cool in the fridge.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Career changes

My job has changed.  Ever since I was 11, I either babysat, cleaned houses/churches/businesses or food service.  For the first time since 11, I will not be taking care of children, cleaning or serving people their food.  I am ecstatic.  

It makes me think of how people can stay within the exact same field for their entire lives.  I wonder if I will ever be satisfied doing the same job for the rest of my life.  People do change their career several times during their lifetime.  Why in the world do we go to college for one career when it is likely that we will just change it 10 or so years down the line?

It is frustrating to enter this time in your life when you really have to choose what you're supposed to be doing for the next few decades.  You really do have to be an adult.  You do have responsibilities.  And those choices you make will effect the rest of your life.  It's a daunting task.

No wonder we have a a huge on campus counseling center.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Today's Prompt:  Describe what you like or dislike about December.

It amazes me how much water is in snow.

As ridiculous a statement that seems, I am quite serious.  When it's cold outside and the snow is just solid and, well, there it just doesn't hit you that it really is water.  Unfortunately it is warming up right now and I'm being reminded once again how wet things get when it's been snowing for weeks on end.  I have gone through three pairs of shoes in one day.  UPS has failed to delivery my boots properly, so it will be several more days before I have waterproof shoes.  Due to wet feet all day, I will likely catch a cold.

This is what I dislike about December.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Today's prompt: Write about a time you recovered from something...or recovered something.

Almost exactly a year ago, I was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery.  Over the course of a few days I had grown an abscess the size of a softball on my lower abdomen that had attached to a lymph node, but it wasn't positive that's what it was until they got in there to take it out.  It caused a terrible infection, I was in a lot of pain and was just all around miserable.  I spent a few days in the hospital and was sent home.

It is surprising to me how many people undergo surgery when it isn't essential.  This experience was one of the most frightening and the recovery was quite long.  Not only does it affect you physically, but being on so many pain medications and your body trying to mend itself quickly seems to add a lot of emotional strain.  I did not feel myself for at least a month, and this was considered a fairly routine surgery.

However, Erik was the most wonderful person throughout all of this.  Because the abscess had to drain, they left the wound open and it had to be packed with gauze everyday.  We hadn't been together long, but he stepped up to the challenge of doctoring me (as disgusting as that nasty gaping wound was).  That was when I knew how great he was.

So while surgery may be a terrible experience, it does have it's bright moments.


Today's Prompt: Come up with a mathematical formula to express something you know/believe.

December - Finals = A wonderful month

It has been a very long, intense semester.  I am not (or thought I wasn't) a Science buff, but changed my major to a "soft science."  I took on Anatomy and Chemistry along with two food/nutrition classes and (thankfully) one very nice Human Development class which consists mainly of in class assignments and take-home tests.  I am up to my ears in the cells, tissues, chemical equations and the chemical make-up of proteins, carbohydrates and fats.  

One benefit was the realization that I am capable of doing whatever necessary to learn material.  Nothing is too hard as long as you put the work in.  And boy, have I put work in.  My life has consisted of little else but studying and assignments.  Being social is being at work.  But it has been an excellent lesson in dedication.  I love what I am studying and cannot wait to get out into the work field and change people's lives.

And in exactly two weeks, it will all be over--For a few weeks, at least. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

I will not be a Christmas crazy-pants. I will not be a Christmas crazy pants. I will not be..

As we are now past the Thanksgiving holiday and moving head-long into Christmas, I have allowed myself to pull out the tree, hang up the lights and start crafting other decorations, cookies and enjoy the peppermint schnapps.

Christmas is a fun time to listen to pretty music and eat way too much.  To enjoy family and friends at various holiday parties.  To love life.

But why in the world is it now?  Why do we put so much into the Christmas holiday?  Money, time, effort, even emotions are put into this holiday bank and we often end up depositing way more than we have.  The goal is usually to enjoy ourselves and spend time with people we care about, but in the end we can end up feeling more empty, stressed out and lonely than we did in the beginning.

What we must remember is to celebrate in simplicity.  Do so within your means.  I am no Scrooge.  I enjoy Christmas as much as the next person.  But it is so important to really treasure each and every moment you spend during the holiday season.  We must remind ourselves of the real reasons we do what we do and learn how to make it more meaningful instead of just about stuff.  Paring down the activities, the shopping and cooking will not be the end of the world.  Your friends will not hate you for giving them a handmade card with a special recipe inside.  It truly is the thought that counts.

As cliche as it sounds, remember the spirit of Christmas.

Friday, November 26, 2010


Today's prompt: Turkey

What exactly does a vegetarian do for Thanksgiving (or any holiday, for that matter)?  I refuse to give in to this Tofurkey business.  If you're going to have a pretend turkey, just go ahead and eat the real one.  I cannot even imagine the taste of that tofu-based fake poultry.  No thanks.

I like to dig in to squash, mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  Pretty much absolutely everything but turkey.  While some may find this a mortal sin, I certainly do not miss the gigantic bird.  Waking up at 5a.m. to get that darn thing in the oven doesn't fit with my sleep schedule.  It's a holiday.  Sleep should not be interrupted by early morning cooking.

And to be honest, I never cared for the taste anyway.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Another odd holiday

I have experienced some interesting holidays, to say the least.  When my family moved to Twin Falls, we were destined to enjoy most festivities on our own.  For Thanksgiving, however, we did choose to make the trek back to Washington.  What an adventure that was.  On the drive back we experienced freezing fog, freezing roads and a whole lot of snow.  Eventually we stopped 1.5 hours from home to wait the storm out until morning.

There have been several Christmases on my own, a birthday abroad and several exciting New Years adventures (without regards to the one very intense Halloween).  So this year when the Pacific Northwest was hit with a lovely snowstorm, I shouldn't have been the least bit surprised.  Erik and I have stayed home, celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday on our own with a visit or two with a few friends.

I am most thankful that I am not alone.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Today's Prompt:  What is the last thing (or one of the last things) you searched for on the Internet?

The weather is miserable.  It is currently 1 degree Farenheit, there are large icicles hanging from the roof and a good foot of snow is covering the ground.  Our plan was to head to Idaho Falls, but that plan was foiled when the storm hit.  I still had hopes of making it.

What have I been searching for on the Internet?  The road closure reports.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


Today's Prompt:  Complete this thought: Today I hope...

Today I hope I can thoroughly enjoy this break.

I have stress issues.  I stress and worry when I have too much to do and I stress when I have nothing to do.  I worry about absolutely everything, even when nothing exists.  I look ahead days, weeks, months, years.  Then I stress about what is in those future days.

Today I spent the day lounging about, watching movies and eating far too much rich food.  Now I am worried it will add to my body mass, that I should be exercising, that there is homework to start thinking about.  I have moved my thoughts ahead about one week and realize the break is going by rather fast and soon it will be over.

I must be present.  I need to be here, in this exact moment, right now.


Today's prompt:  What do you love doing that you would like to get paid for?

Over the summer, I had no job.  It was stressful due to bills that needed to get paid for and no money to pay them.  However, I took this time to get things in order.  I spent a lot of time working on my resume, getting a budget together for the next school year and researching all sorts of things.  Having the ability to spend four or more hours per day doing "office work" for my life was fantastic.

Not only is the organizational work something I enjoy, but also using several hours to focus on meditation, reading and simply living life fully is incredibly fulfilling.  If I could do all these things and more and receive payment, I would be pleased.

This brings up a point that I find important.  Would I be happier living in the jungles of South America, with no money?  Is it possible to live at all without finances?  Or would you always feel as though you needed to be working?


Sunday, November 21, 2010


Today's prompt:  Write about an area in which you do not want to be frugal.

Clothes are my downfall.  I constantly feel as though I have nothing to wear, even while the bulging closet is telling me otherwise.  I like to have options and easily tire of what I already have, which says a lot for my lack of contentment.  I don't want to have to be frugal with the amount of clothes I buy.  I could find something new to purchase at least every day.

But here is the issue.  Those clothes are often produced in factories with underpaid laborers.  It adds to the "stuff" we have in the world.  It's giving into this consumerist society.  So while the very selfish, uncaring side of me wants clothes up to my ears, the other half wants to fight back.

I have a lot of internal conflict.


Since I didn't make it to blogging yesterday, you get two blogs in one day!

Today's prompt: What would  you do for a Klondike bar?

Here is the thing.  I have never actually experienced the supposed greatness of a Klondike bar.  But I sure have experienced the advertisements and catchy jingle that usually accompanies said advertisements.

I think the fact that the slogan for Klondike is a writing prompt says a lot for the amount of control the media has in our society.  To assume that every person has heard that little jingle (which is likely 99% accurate) means that we are all up to our ears in advertisements.  There is no way to escape.  And it is to our detriment.

What would life be like without it?

Friday, November 19, 2010


Today's Prompt: Write a brief bit of fiction using the prompt "Glove."

She stared out the window.  Delicate flakes were falling ever so gracefully, landing in various places on the lawn.  As  she turned away, she felt a sting.  The bite of winter was settling in.

It isn't as though she completely despised the season.  No, that definitely wasn't it.  The beauty of the frost upon every blade of grass, the snow covering the branches, it was all like an enchanted fairy land.  The problem was the length.  The chill.  The everlasting death that came after the fairy land.

The bright red wool was the only light some days.  Those worn out, ratty gloves that she spent so many long hours knitting.  Crafts are not exactly her strong point, but gloves were a necessity during the cold season and she needed something to do.  

Those gloves are the only thing keeping her warm.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


Today's prompt: What is the dead leaf thinking as it falls to the ground?

Leaves are a incredible.  They provide such beauty simply with their color.  As the weather turns, their color becomes even more beautiful and dramatic.  But as they fall to the ground, what in the world would it be thinking?

Well, if this leaf is dead, it probably wouldn't be thinking anything.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Today's prompt:  How are you selfish?

When I first read this, I immediately jumped down the road of "to be human is to be selfish."  This has been a common argument of mine, one that I firmly believe in.  There is always a benefit to yourself no matter what you do.  It may be feeding starving orphans in Africa for free, but you will still feel good about it.  You get something out of it.  To be unselfish is to receive nothing, to benefit in no way.  But you can find some sort of gain from anything you may do, be it intrinsic or extrinsic. 

How am I selfish?  I speak far too much.  I am attempting to relate to people but end up going down the road of talking about myself.  I want to help, but end up "gaining" the opportunity to boast about my own misfortunes or successes.  Please understand, I do this unintentionally.  

I am needy.  Poor Erik must pay attention to me constantly while I often forget  he needs attention as well.

I purchase clothing made by children in sweat shops.  My desire for too many material possessions is stronger than my desire to fight the system, to fight for those with little to no rights.

I would rather spend money on a movie than donate it to charity.

The list goes on and on.  We are all selfish.  But admitting to it and trying to move ahead, to move past our selfishness and become a better person; that is also what it means to be a human being.

A New Challenge

This month is one of rejuvination.  October really took a toll on me in every aspect of my life.  Too much school, too many emotions, too much spending and way too much eating.  Now it's time to get back on track.

I've really enjoyed this time of discovery.   Learning how to refigure life so I can actually spend my time living instead of simply trying to keep up is refreshing.  Finding time to take a few moments to breathe, to soak in the beauty of the day and truly enjoy something is an incredible (and challenging) experience.  Not to mention the difficulty of controlling my wallet and caloric intake.

Part of this includes taking moments to do things I want to do but feel I never have time for.  One of those is writing.  So I have taken on a challenge.  Write about a simple prompt each day for the next month.  I hope you enjoy the next 30 days!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mere shadows of dairy puppets.. or something

At an appetizer get together, I chose to make an artichoke and spinach dip.  I remember well the deliciousness of these warm dips and really wanted to have some.  It does break a rule of mine though.  As a vegan I try to stay away from meat and dairy mimicking products.  I feel that if I'm choosing to not eat something, it's for a reason and it seems silly to use things that just pretend to be what you want to avoid.  But, I really wanted to make this.  So I'm sharing it with everyone in hopes that if you do feel the urge to go out and buy a big pile of pretend dairy products, this is what you'll make.

Spinach and Artichoke Dip

    1 pkg chopped frozen spinach, thawed
    1 can artichoke hearts, chopped
    1 pkg vegan cream cheese
    1/4 cup soy milk
    4 tablespoons Veganaise
    1/3 cup nutritional yeast
    1/4 cup vegan soy parmesan
    1 cup chopped green onion
    1/4 cup chopped chives
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    4 tablespoons olive oil
    1/2 block vegan cheddar (I use Follow your heart)
    1 tomato, chopped
    5 cloves minced garlic


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Heat oil in skillet, add peppers and garlic, saute 4 min over medium heat, add soy milk, heat for 1 min. Add chopped artichoke, heat 2 mins. Add cream cheese, green onions and chives, heat through till melted. Add soy parmesan, nutritional yeast, 1/2 vegan cheddar and Veganaise.  Let heat until completely melted and add spinach. Stir and let heat for 3 min. Add pepper to taste.  Pour into oven safe dish, top with the rest of the vegan cheese and cook for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and top with chopped tomato.

Serve hot with tortilla chips or crostini.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Too much information

A current survey suggests that Atheists or Agnostics tend to know more about various religions than those who actually are part of the religion.  This doesn't surprise me one bit.  As someone who struggles to reconcile my faith with the reality of what religion really is (something to maintain order and explain natural disasters, diseases, etc) I certainly have done a lot of research and reading.  The more information I find, the more questions I end up with.  It's a difficult, and oftentimes painful process.

The biggest link seems to be with those who grew up with some sort of religious background, so were already aware of what the religious claims were.  The article states that "American atheists and agnostics tend to be people who grew up in a religious tradition and consciously gave it up, often after a great deal of reflection and study, said Alan Cooperman, associate director for research at the Pew Forum.  'These are people who thought a lot about religion,' he said. 'They're not indifferent. They care about it.'  Many people seem to view someone who is unsure about their religious stance as ill informed and "lost."  Lost may be better described as overwhelmed and ill informed is likely not the case.  In fact, they are probably over informed.

As a Christian I think it needs to be acknowledged that when it comes right down to it there is a simple "accept what you're told without question" attitude.  We like to pretend that isn't the case, but if we are honest with ourselves we know this is more often the case.   And this survey is why.  It seems as though in the back of everyone's mind we realize that there are severe contradictions and unfulfilled promises that we can choose to overlook because it causes so much disruption.  It most certainly is easier to take the "ignorance is bliss" attitude.  There are many days when I wish I could just slip right back into my childlike faith.

But here is the deal.  Somehow we have to take that information and figure out if we can accept it, move past it and realize that many of the issues stemming from all these questions are man-made.  We have to look beyond these mistakes and imperfections and choose to either continue to find God in the world around us, in nature and the people we see everyday or not.  

It's your choice.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Bad moods

People stress me out.  Not people in general, just those who are uptight and stressed about everything themselves.  Those who are constantly moving fast, making sudden moves and speaking in an almost desperate tone to get all the words out as quick as possible.  I just want to grab hold of them, give them a good shake, sit them down in a corner with a cup of tea and make them stay there doing nothing for half an hour.  For some reason, I feel they would figure out how to do something.

The problem I encounter is "catching" their stress.  The second that person walks into the room, there is a feeling or energy that consists of nothing but anxiety.  When others feel that, they can become as stressed out as the other person.  It's just too much for me to handle.  Crying is how I deal with overwhelming feelings and I sure cannot be doing that in so many inappropriate places.

Once I began to realize the effect of others' feelings and moods on me, it has caused me to wonder if I ever caused that much stress in other people.  I am fairly certain I wasn't so laid back in the past and had excessive feelings of all kind that probably spilled over onto others.  This makes me realize that while we may be having "one of those days," it's important to realize that what we're feeling can often be felt by others.  If we aren't careful to monitor our behavior, we could end up passing our negative "energy" onto  hundreds of people in one day, especially if you work in a service job.

How much are we to be held responsible for this?  If someone has a sudden outburst of road rage due to coming in contact with our bad attitude, is this the fault of the person having the outburst or the originator of the stressful, angry feelings?  While people may never be prosecuted for causing negative feelings, it sure does make you think twice about taking your stressed self outside the house.  When we are aware that how we feel effects everyone, not just ourselves, we can effectively monitor the behavior and attempt to keep things under wraps.

So as you go out today, regardless of your attitude, try to remember that most of the time everyone already knows how you're feeling.  Maybe you should just stay home.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Veganism as a religion?

Lately I've been tired of my choice to be a vegan.  I get exhausted from trying to figure out special things for dinner, how to get the right nutrients, and trying to find something to eat when going out.  People are always bugging you about it as to "why?" or "what can you possibly eat" or even "I should just sneak some cheese in there and see what happens!"  It gets a little annoying and sometimes I just want to throw it out the window, say "to hell with it" and just eat the cheese.  Laziness is usually what I chalk it up to.

I think we can tend feel the same way about our religious beliefs.  Whether you're a Christian, Buddhist or Jew, the religion you practice has certain "rules" and ways of living that become a lifestyle choice, a part of who we are.  But there are times when you get tired or bogged down by that lifestyle choice.  It feels stagnant and like nothing but going through the motions.  Not to mention all the people "persecuting" you, making fun of your beliefs or just always asking the "why?" questions.  Throwing it out the window can seem a very welcoming choice, especially when you realize that the answers you have to those questions don't really sound very convincing.

These are the times when we must remind ourselves that we did make these decisions based on very passionate and (hopefully) informed grounds.  There is something that I have made a dedication to, and it isn't so easily cast aside by simply feeling weak in my beliefs for a few days.  I take this time to reevaluate why it is that I choose to walk the path I do, am reminded of the reasons why... And plow on through.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Favorite Fall Recipes

Fall+Soup+Rolls+Tea=One happy Alexis.

I absolutely adore Autumn.  Sweaters happen to be my favorite article of clothing and when it isn't bitter cold, I don't have to wear a coat with them.  The beautiful colors, the crisp air, the smells, harvest parties.. Ahhh.  It's so wonderful.  One of my most loved parts of Fall is making soup and rolls again.  Not that soup isn't "allowed" in the Summer, but in Idaho it tends to be a smoldering 90 degrees or more.  Adding a hot bowl of veggies and broth sure isn't going to help stabilize temperatures.  Rolls of course can be eaten any time of the year, but there isn't anything quite like a warm homemade roll to go with your soup.   

Tea is another "must have" during the chilly months.  Not only is it comforting, but it can often help keep the colds away if you purchase the right ones.  Chai tea is a spicy, milky tea that tastes somewhat like Christmas in a mug (or jar, or cup, or glass).  It's perfect thing to warm you up and give a dash of caffeine for studying.  I suggest purchasing Oregon Chai concentrate and mixing it with chocolate milk of some sort.  This ends up being my dessert more often than not.

In the spirit of the changing seasons, I am sharing a few of my favorite recipes.  Enjoy!

Potato Soup

    5 Potatoes, peeled and cube

    1 White onion, chopped
    1 tablespoon Olive oil
    Celery salt to taste (I use around a tablespoon)
    Nutmeg to taste 
    1 1/2 tsp Black pepper
    1 1/2 tsp Paprika (optional)
    1 heaping tbsp Corn starch
    1/4 cup Nutritional yeast
    3 cups Plain dairy-free milk
Put the cubed potatoes in a large pot and add water to where the water level sits about a half an inch above the potatoes. Set them on high and turn your attention to the onions.

Cook the chopped onions in a medium pan with a tablespoon of olive oil until they are limp, but not burned.

At this point the potatoes should be boiling heavily. Add the cooked onions to the pot. Then add the celery salt, nutmeg, pepper and paprika. Let the mixture cook another 8 to 12 minutes, depending on how  you like your soup. (The longer you cook it, the smaller your potato cubes become and the thicker your soup gets).  Drop the heat down to medium.

Put a heaping tablespoon of cornstarch and the nutritional yeast in a bowl, add 1/2 cup of water and whisk the mixture until it is smooth. Add this to the soup pot and mix well.  Add the 3 cups of soy milk fast and mix it up quickly. Let it sit on medium for around five minutes, but you don't want the soy milk to scald or it starts to separate. Drop the heat to simmer and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Serves: 6
Preparation time: 30 minutes

Dinner Rolls

    2 1/2 cup flour (I use unbleached white wheat)
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    2 1/4 teaspoon yeast (or one small package)
    3/4 cup warm water
    egg substitute to equal 1 egg
    2 tablespoons oil

Mix 1 cup flour with the sugar, yeast and salt.  Stir in warm water, egg substitute and oil.  Beat until smooth (this will be very liquidy).  Cover with a hand towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

Stir in remaining flour and knead for about three minutes on a floured surface.  Continue kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Divide dough into ~12 rolls and arrange in a greased baking pan or muffin tin.  Cover and let rise another 15-20 min.  Bake at 425 F for 8-10 min or until slightly brown.

Using a baking pan will make rolls with soft sides vs. the muffin tin which will make crusty sides.

Serves: 12
Preparation time: 45 min

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


I have noticed that I have a serious problem when it comes to facing difficult things in life.  My first instinct is to run away.  Currently it's Anatomy, Chemistry and Modern dance class that are really causing me issues.  Anatomy and Chemistry are hard sciences and definitely not my strong point.  In fact, while I should be studying for a bones quiz, I'm writing.  I had to take a short break as I panicked about failing.  My instructor for Modern is wonderful, but requires so much individual exploration that it terrifies me.  Being put in a situation where I have to show myself and potentially fail (ie look like an idiot) is too much for me.  Knowing that I must go on Tuesdays and Thursdays puts fear into my heart.

Many of us have this "Fight or Flight" battle going on inside of us.  It has much to do with developing our character.  If we run away once, it will become easier to run again, and again... and again.  If we choose to stick it out from the beginning, that's who we become.  Someone who always pushes ahead, never backing down.  However, if you have been one who turns tail too easily but wants to change, it can take a long time to figure out how to work through things and stick them out.  That desire to get up and leave can get awfully strong, especially if you're exhausted and there isn't much more you feel you can do.  But what doesn't kill you usually does make you stronger.  Other times, running is the best thing you can possibly do.  Certain situations are such that it's better when you leave if there is mistreatment of any kind.  In fact, you're stronger for it and is often the more difficult choice to make.  And in the end, sometimes you just have to be carried through.  Erik encourages me through every difficult thing I encounter and I'm not sure how well I would be doing if it weren't for the support, the extra body to lean on.

My desire to turn and run is still there but I am fighting through.  I am passionate about my career goals and have to work extra hard to get to it.  Failure isn't an option for me, so neither is running away.  I will continue to fight through.

Wall-E May Be Near..

Last Friday, I was following a conversation underneath my grandma's Facebook status that read "How do we slow down consumerism in our country by helping build the economy in the U.S."  It was interesting to see how far that wildfire burned.  There were some very angry commenters, and others who encouraged finding the happy medium she was asking for.  Not only was I surprised by the burning passion some felt, but that this was done over Facebook of all things.  It makes me wonder where the future of political debate is.

This question of slowing consumerism and building the economy is a tricky one, that I'm not even going to attempt answering.  I do know that while watching the documentary "No Impact Man," I was very influenced by the way he chose to purchase only used clothing, local foods, and make his own soap (I would like to mention that I in no way see this man as the perfect "green" human.  His relationship with his wife really bothered me and there were times when I wondered about his mental health).  His actions really took a stab at consumerism and many people quite literally hated him.  The hate mail sent to his blog or otherwise was very explicit.  The quote from him that I really took to heart was "People become hostile because they don't want to hear that they should live without."  So true.  This is why budgeting is such a problem for people, why cutting up those credit cards is like tearing up your heart.  These actions point towards restraint which our country doesn't encourage.  We live in a society of immediate, constant satisfaction whether it be food, material possessions or sex.  Most want--and want it now!  

Repercussions are seen running rampant all over Western civilization.  Anywhere from 20%-29% of adults in most states are obese.  Landfills are overflowing and STD's are seen in alarming numbers of young teenagers.  Not being taught how to live without has some serious consequences, and if we can't learn how we may be seeing a Wall-E world sooner than any of us cares to.  

My contribution towards living without--I did my sweater shopping at Goodwill.  But I do have more kitchen appliances than necessary and have a hard time not constantly buying new things.  This will take some time.  But I know I don't want to have my planet covered in skyscrapers of trash and be going around on my hovercraft, overweight and detached from reality.  No, thank you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Potato Soup

Last weekend we decided it was time to have friends over for dinner.  Those attending were asked to bring some sort of bread, salad or wine (we ended up with a grand total of 6 different wines that night.. a record!) and we provided the soup, which happened to be potato since it's generally cheap and the weather had been a little chilly.  After inviting everyone, I realized that we have no chairs, no table, not enough wine glasses and my soup pot surely wasn't big enough.  In fact, the apartment isn't even big enough.  I wasn't quite sure what we had gotten ourselves into but dang it, I wanted to have people over!

I borrowed a huge stock pot from my good friends and neighbors, Chris and Christine and discussed how we could set up their card table and bring my little folding table out onto the balcony.  This sounded perfect and even if it was a little.. lacking, I was sure it would all work out.  It's hard to be judgmental of small spaces and lack of furniture when you're in college.

It rained.  All day it threatened, but around the time people started showing up with their delicious garlic breads, caprese salad and merlot's was when it finally let loose.  A nightmare considering my vacuum cleaner can reach every part of my apartment and not need to be unplugged.  Where these 15 people were going to go was beyond me.  But we did have food, and plenty of it.  If food wouldn't do it for some, there was enough wine to go around.  It turned out great.  Most went outside since the rain wasn't terrible.  We did in fact set up the card table and chairs, so anyone outside crowded around when it was time to eat.  Those who didn't want to be out in the cold (which  included myself) sat on the floor using the gigantic class coffee table.  And even though it was a school night, we were up late enjoying the company and conversation of one another.

I was reminded of all the shared dinners I experienced as a child.  Not just the typical Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter dinners, but dinners after home group church, dinners with home school groups, and family to celebrate one obscure holiday after the other.  I grew up within a community who loved to share and eat (what better way to celebrate the birth of a new child than bring over a casserole).  It was our way of building and maintaining relationships.

Seeing all the different friends we have cram themselves into our small apartment, bringing food and drink to share and enjoying themselves made me the happiest I have been in a while.  As we build our own community, I'll have to keep in mind that there isn't anything quite like a simple time with friends.. or potato soup.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Jungle. Or in other words, walking to school

I walk everywhere.  Because of the location of my new apartment, there isn't a need for me to use my car 95 percent of the time.  It sure is a "greener" and healthier way of living.  Heck, I get rewarded for it at work!  But sometimes I wonder if people are driving with their eyes shut.  This comes from many near collision experiences, when I see large trucks coming straight for me as they barrel around a corner while I'm crossing (it was my turn!) and then honking to get me moving.  As if the fright of almost joining the road kill club wouldn't scoot me along..

Not that pedestrians aren't idiots.  I have seen far too many with their iPods in (guilty) while texting on their cell phones and clearly not paying attention.  Expecting that you're a super hero who repels large moving objects is a bold move.  I'm not going to doubt your superhuman abilities, but please, experiment in your private time.  Besides, you don't want everyone to know your second identity, do you?

Drivers:  You have got to understand that if you're turning right on red, there are likely people in the crosswalk.  I don't know how many times I've had to wait out someone turning or almost been hit because the driver forgot that right on red is also time for pedestrians to cross.  Also, just open your eyes, look both ways, etc.  I assume you've all been to drivers ed.  I specifically remember being told to look left, right, then left again just to make sure nothing weird showed up.  Please use that information.

Pedestrians:  Do not expect that just because you have the right of way, you won't get hit.  Cars are much bigger than you, so yield to them.  I get so upset when I see people in the middle of the night, wearing black and crossing a highway with nine cars coming at them.  If you can't be seen, your chances of living have been decreased.  See what the cars around you are doing, making sure that they see you and are prepared to stop.  A common occurrence is walking down the sidewalk and the entrance to a business happens to go through that sidewalk.  Most of the time I have to stop for those people because they aren't thinking a person would be there.  I had a lady who refused to look right before she pulled out onto the road and if I hadn't waited I would be in a body cast at Gritman.

So remember what you learned from Barney and look both ways before crossing the street.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Disappointments Overthrown

Blink three times and July will be gone.

I feel like this is the way things have been all Summer.  Just yesterday, I was moving and my second nephew was born.  Now he has gained several pounds, kept his gigantic head of hair and I am getting ready to move back to Moscow for school.

It makes me wonder if I have been taking the time to truly enjoy each and every day.  The beauty of summer is tantalizing, but oftentimes easily missed when the heat is overwhelming and there appears to be "nothing to do."  While I was spending my time searching for jobs and stressing about money, a baby was growing up right in my very arms.  I could see nothing past the disappointments, when I should have been appreciating every little miracle and joy that came my way.

Last weekend I was able to obtain a job working in a concessions stand at Targhee Fest 2010.  $500 later, I realized how incredibly blessed I am.  I have been on more trips and weekends vacations in the past three months than any other Summer in my life.  And very likely only because I didn't have a job.  Erik loves me.  The support I receive from him during whatever "crisis" I may feel I'm going through is worth more than millions of dollars.  I have nearly finished the gigantic piece of literature that "Sherlock Holmes Vol. I" is.  So regardless of being poor as a pile of dirt..

...this Summer has been amazing.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Financial lessons

As everyone should know (and if you don't, I would love to come live in your hole) the economy is not at its best.  Due to mortgages given out when they shouldn't have, extremely high credit card debt, etc., we are now in a recession.  And have been for some time.  A dear friend of mine and I are in the same "financial crisis" at the moment and we both realize that we should have been doing a much better job at managing our money when we had it.  To quote, "If I had known, I would have bought a whole lot less and saved a whole lot more."

I think many of us feel the same way.

In response to this, I have been learning how to better manage my money while I am unemployed.  I call it  self-improvement self-employment.  Using resources from my dad (that I neglected until it was too late) and a free online Quicken program called Mint, I am learning how to obtain a better hold on my finances so when I do have money, I'll know what to do with it.  And I felt I should share the wealth.

If you're new to responsibly dealing with your finances, I suggest reading "Personal Finance in Your 20s and 30s.  My dad gave me this book as a financial resource and at first I skimmed through, thinking I already knew what it had to tell me.  Wrong.  It has all the information you want to know about any and every bit of finances, from creating a budget to how much you should paying for rent to how and when you should buy a car.

I also encourage everyone to look into  It's an incredible budgeting tool that allows you to upload all your bank accounts, credit cards, loans, etc. so you know are aware of how much money you have and where it's all going.  Set up your monthly budget right down to the socks you're buying and away you go.  You end up having to see how far in debt you are as well so it does a great job using scare tactics to keep you from spending.

One of my favorite tools is the Goal tool.  You set a monetary goal for a vacation, getting out of debt, wedding plans or anything else you could think of.  State the specific date you want the money by and it shows you how much you need to save per month.  Not only that but you can connect this goal with a bank account to track how you're doing.

While there are times when there isn't much we can do to fix the current financial situation, there are at least opportunities to figure out what to do better next time.  I'm taking this opportunity and showing it who's boss.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

"He's got the whole world in His hands.."

It can be quite difficult to remember that there is actually Someone out there that has something to do with what is going on in your life.

I have spent from April until now attempting to obtain a job.  It appears an impossible feat.  Things change when you have more than yourself to think about and when Erik was looking for an internship, we weren't sure where we would end up for the summer.  Jobs that have been available were usually in the wrong place or offered at the wrong time.  I had turned down a job in Idaho Falls and passed up an interview because we were told that Erik didn't have an internship at the INL.  Two weeks later, we are moving up to Idaho Falls and I can find no employment.

There are moments in life that just do not make sense.

But I am reminded that this is just one moment, one little blip in the whole scheme of things.  There is hope, for beyond all the new age-y philosophies I carry I do know that there is One who holds it all in His hands.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Eco-friendly Summer Essentials

As a self proclaimed "hippie," there are certain ways of learning how to live and what to use on a daily basis.  Summer is one of the greatest seasons for one who enjoys being in the great outdoors, but also requires some extra thinking about what products to use to protect your skin from the sun, keep cool and bring those flimsy flip-flop purchases down to a minimum.

One of the most important things for summer is keeping those darn feet from getting overheated.  Another problem is the amount of money and resources get used up by endless pairs of flip flops or other sandals.  Plus, when you're like me and you're out hiking or windsurfing during the summer months, you need something that will hold up and get good traction without looking ridiculous.  Chacos are great for that.  These ones were give to me as a birthday present from Erik, and they come in all sorts of colors.  The thin straps look a little more "girly" than your basic Chaco, adding a nice touch.  They also last a long time.  You can get them re-soled, re-strapped, re-anything so when something wears out, you only replace what's broken, not the entire shoe.  Initially they do cost a chunk of change, but if you think about how many pairs of other sandals you've purchased and worn out... it's definitely worth it in the long run.

Another important thing to cover is your body... in lots of sunscreen.  With over 1,000,000 new cases a year, skin cancer has been steadily rising as the use of things such as tanning beds increase.  I'm just as vain as the next person (I've used those tanning beds several times), but it becomes awfully dangerous to sacrifice your life for your looks.  The Environmental Working Group has done a study on thousands of sunscreens, checking for everything from protection against harmful sun rays to toxic chemicals found in the creams, causing their own problems.  They found the top 5 best and worst sunscreens, with Soleo Organics Sunscreen Chemical Free SPF 30 being number 1.  To see the report, check out this link: Eco-Friendly Sunscreen

I really don't care for shorts that much.  From a family that seems to be one of the most fertile, my hips are made for having babies.  So I prefer to wear things like skirts and dresses to keep cool.  Patagonia carries a variety of skirts and dresses for summertime.  One of my favorites (that I actually own) is the Morning Glory skirt.  It works with just about anything and the material breathes beautifully.  Not to mention its durability is hard to beat, especially when it comes to a skirt.  And with Patagonia's dedication to creating products that cause the smallest amount of harm to the environment, you know you're getting a quality product using ethical means.  Click to find out more about Patagonia's mission statement: Patagonia

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

A different lifestyle

Many have asked why it is I choose a vegan lifestyle.  Often it isn't as nicely worded as that.  Most of the time I hear "wait.. you don't eat eggs or dairy?  Not even cheese?!  How could you live without cheese?!?!"  I smile.

I don't look down on a single person who eats meat, dairy or eggs.  In fact, I don't live a complete purist vegan life, as I eat honey occasionally.  However I do think that this is the right choice for me (as Unitarian-ist as that sounds..hippies are known for that, right?).  And I think it is important for people to understand that my choice is a lifestyle, rather than a diet.  So often it is seen as a simple weight loss regime, and can be used as such.  But.  Instead, I have chosen to use this dietary decision as a stepping stone into a completely different way of life.

I was first inspired to live a differently by my parents.  When I was a child my parents found it important to do things such as have a garden, keep chickens for eggs and a goat for milk (of course, we didn't get as far as using the goat for milk when a dog found her rear appetizing enough to attempt making a meal out of it).  I have fond memories of making buckets of soap with from a recipe found in the "Tightwad Gazette" and often using the "More with Less" cookbook.  We ordered from Azure Standard, a natural bulk foods company that sells bulk natural food and home products at a low price.  Lentils and granola were often seen in our home.  And the medicine cupboard was full of vitamins, herbs and tinctures.

I didn't realize how influenced I was by these things until I learned about vegan diets, why people chose to do this and what other things changed in their lives once they made the switch.  So often I saw that there was a connection between people wanting to live simpler lives and having some sort of vegetarian lifestyle.  As I learned, I began to change how I did things.

Meat, cheese and eggs are obtained through some pretty gruesome methods.  Animals packed into buildings, becoming sick and injured doesn't quite seem like an ethical way to be getting your food.  And while you may think that milk products aren't obtained poorly, these cows are injected with hormones and antibiotics to keep them producing milk and not getting sick.  Even chickens are packed into crates and their beaks are burned off so they don't peck each other to death.  So that ended my desire to eat anything connected with animals products.

The food I eat and the products I use are most often found locally to support local farmers and businesses.  This oftentimes gets you the best tasting food since there isn't need for many or any preservatives due to the lack of travel.  It also uses less gas.  I also choose to use the least amount of paper, plastic, etc considering that while global warming may or may not be worsened by humans, waste is a serious problem.  No one wants to end up in a "Wall-E" world covered in trash.  Using less hot water, less soap, less of everything helps in energy use and covering the planet in toxic chemicals.

Medicine can even cause serious problems if you take it in excess.  Antibiotics no longer have the effect they once did (it has been suggested that this is due to the antibiotics found in so much of our food).  Things such as tylenol are harsh on your body and often unnecessary.  Head aches usually have a reason such as dehydration, stress or lack of sleep and can be fixed without the use of pain killers.  Yet we pop pills for everything (I had an excedrin addiction for a while).  There is definitely a time and a place for them.  I had surgery in November and due to the bacteria found in an abscess that would have turned flesh-eating if it was left alone, those antibiotics probably saved my life.  But there are other options for minor problems.

I have a hard time when it comes to living with less sometimes.  I like clothes.  A lot.  It's difficult for me to remind myself that it isn't necessary to own 500 pairs of shoes, 20 jackets, etc.  In a society that tells you the more you have, the better you are, it's not an easy thing to know that living without is okay.  But I continue to learn, be inspired and influenced by what I learn.