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.