Tuesday, November 26, 2013

artist: danielle tanner

Danielle Tanner of the shop GirlAndParrot on Etsy has a ton of beautiful prints and original paintings. My personal favorite (above) is the first original piece she could not bring herself to sell (though she does offer prints of it in her shop). She also has a sweet little blog you should check out, too. 

Also, she does indeed have a pet parrot named Flojo. I'm usually not huge on birds, but this little guy is pretty cute. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part iii

I've been raving about my father-in-law's vegetarian stuffing recipe on this blog and in real life. Every year, I start talking about this stuffing on November 1. He resents the pressure to excel, but is always sweet enough to make extra stuffing for me. And you guys, it is the best.

After multiple emails and general annoying follow up from yours truly, this is the best I could pry out of him in terms of a recipe. I apologize for letting you down, but you really can't go wrong with this mix of ingredients. When we have vegan family members attending, he uses veggie broth and omits the egg. I've crossed out the non-vegan ingredients in this excuse for a recipe he gave me.
You know, Steph, I never do it the same.   And I just use amounts that seem right, depending upon the size of the end product…  I use that store-bought bread cubes…just plain bread cubes.   Lots of chopped yellow onion.   Much less (about ¼ as much) chopped celery.  A whole lot of sliced mushrooms.   I use crimini, but you can use any kind.   Usually chop up an apple or two.    Dried cranberries.  Sometimes I throw in pine nuts, or other nut meats that I may have around.  Very small pieces.   Lots of parsley.   Chopped.   An egg or two.   Then low sodium chicken broth, or if truly veggie, then use vegetable broth.    Salt and pepper to taste.  Fresh sage and thyme….lots of it, chopped well.   Then wash your hands, and stick them in it and mix it up real well.    I put it in low sided casserole dishes, maybe 2 to 4 inches deep, max.   Cover with aluminum foil and bake at about 350 to 375 for about one half hour.   If the pans are deep, maybe cook an extra ten minutes.   If you like it a bit crispy on top, then remove the foil for the last ten minutes.
Coming up next: the perfect apple sauce with no added sugar. I am making this, so I promise it will be an actual recipe next time.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

nursery to-do list

I am 6.5 months pregnant and the nursery is not finished. I know this is normal, and that most people don't get the nursery done until weeks, if not days, before the baby decides to make his or her appearance. But I am Type A neurotic and a planner, so this is generally unacceptable to me. Don't worry; The Husband tells me I am crazy on a daily basis.

Our list:
  • Donate clothes and other items that are taking up our limited storage space. Move items to our teensy garage.
  • Get rid of extra dresser and set up large drawers in nursery closet for The Husband's clothes.
  • Ikea trip for a solid wood unfinished crib, armchair (update: we got this armchair instead; way more comfortable AND cheaper), and small laptop table (update: we got this laptop table instead because it's more stable). Possibly purchase some new nightstands to make room for the cosleeper in our bedroom.
    • Survive putting all these items together. Hope that the instructions do not drive The Husband and I to divorce.
    • Paint wood crib with no-VOC white paint and seal with water-based acrylic gloss in order to prevent paint peeling and chipping, especially from baby teeth.
    • Attach glider / rocker base to armchair to make it a glider chair, as shown here.
    • Paint metal portions of laptop table gold, or use gold leaf. Accept that the laptop table you purchased instead will not be pretty, but it is also sturdy enough to not fall on your child's head.
      • Give away current desk.
  • Find a place to move the beloved lingerie dresser / craft cabinet (bedroom or living room?)
  • Purchase blackout roller shades in white.
  • Purchase cheapo white curtains. Realize you did not buy enough while at Ikea. Purchase more from their website. Remove hideous finials and paint curtain rods that came with the house.
  • Purchase long dresser to double as changing table.
    • Fill hardware holes, sand, and repaint. Drill new holes for knobs.
    • Attach cute knobs that aren't baby death traps.
    • Line drawers.
    • Secure changing pad to top of dresser.
  • Cut, fold, and glue colorful cardstock paper shapes to make mobile. Hang from painted embroidery hoops. Make one for over crib, one for over changing table.
  • Paint walls and trim with no-VOC paint.
  • Figure out storage and organization for diaper supplies (on top of dresser? Install wall shelves above baby's reach?).
  • Get some sort of cute storage bin or basket for toys.
  • Find and purchase inexpensive art and frames.
  • Sew throw blanket / toddler bed-sized comforter.

Friday, November 8, 2013


In case it wasn't obvious, I kind of love my cat. A lot (maybe too much). We adopted her from the Ojai Valley Animal Shelter almost 3 years ago, when she was only a few months old. She grew from a shy, scrawny little creature into a big (14 pounds!) kitty who loves snuggling with me and attacking The Husband.

Fiona isn't very a good huntress. She has never successfully caught any sort of creature, not even a moth. Once, we watched her try to attack a tiny spider. She'd run at it, almost pounce, then wimp out and run away squealing in terror. This cycle repeated itself for almost an hour. The spider survived (easily).

We have to put vases of flowers (I always have flowers!) in places Fiona cannot reach, because she likes to chew the flower buds off of the stems.

Fiona loves to hang out in the bathroom sink while I'm putting on makeup. It's as annoying as you think it is.

Fiona also likes to jump in the bathtub as soon as you're done with your shower, or at least lurk between the shower curtains. It's as creepy as you think it is.

Fiona is good at fetch. If you throw a crumpled piece of paper, she will race after it and bring it back to you (or at least halfway back, depending on her mood).

Fiona doesn't have any sort of survival instincts or typical cat street smarts. When something scares her, she either falls on her back with her belly exposed (think fainting goat) or runs to her scratcher and hides her head underneath it. She thinks that if her head is hidden, she's safe, which puts her self-preservation instincts on par with a toddler's. 

Fiona is the most affectionate cat I have ever encountered. She loves to curl up on The Husband's lap or my shoulder. If she is sleeping next to me, she will reach out a paw to make sure she is touching me. Her happiest moments are when she can touch The Husband and I simultaneously while sleeping. She also likes to sleep on television remotes. It's weird.

Fiona likes to lay on a shelf between the kitchen and living room and swipe at anyone who walks by. Considering you have to squeeze by the shelf to get into the kitchen, she gets a lot of targets to hit. This makes The Husband really mad.

Whenever The Husband first gets out of bed in the morning, Fiona chases him and bites his feet while he tries to walk. He swears loudly at her throughout the process and I laugh. It's a good way (for me) to start the day.

Fiona is a complete nut and a bit more high-maintenance than your average cat, but we can't help but love her. She's been the queen of the house for the past three years, so we shall see what happens when baby girl arrives and knocks her off of her throne. Until then, we will keep enjoying her crazy ways. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part ii

This Thanksgiving recipe is pretty basic, but super yummy. Roasted root vegetables are healthy, flavorful, and very easy to cook. Adding sage and thyme really ties them into the rest of the Thanksgiving dish flavors. Use whatever winter root vegetables (or squash! and then let me know how that works out because I've never tried it!) make you happy. I just made this recipe up when I had a bunch of leftover root vegetables from another recipe, so it's by no means an exact science.

The important thing is chopping everything up to a size that enables everything to cook evenly. In general, carrots and parsnips will cook the fastest, followed by the sweet potatoes, and finally the regular potatoes. So I make sure to chop the carrots and parsnips a little bit larger than the potatoes. Also, make sure there's enough room in your casserole dish for every vegetable to be touching the bottom of the dish while roasting, and stir everything around mid-roast.

Roasted Root Vegetables
A healthy & easy side dish for the fall
Servings: 6

2 small or 1 large sweet potatoes
4 medium carrots
2 parsnips, peeled
2 small potatoes of your chosen variety
2 tablespoons olive oil
Dried sage, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary (to taste - but go bigger with the sage than the other herbs)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
2. Cut carrots and peeled parsnips into 1 - 1.5 inch pieces.
3. Cut sweet potatoes and regular potatoes into .5 - 1 inch pieces. (See photo above for relative veggie sizes)
4. In a large casserole dish, pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil and use a paper towel to coat the inside bottom and sides of the dish with oil.
5. Place all the veggies in the dish and drizzle with remaining oil. Sprinkle dried herbs as desired and use hands to mix everything together, coating the vegetables with oil and herbs.
6. Put casserole dish on middle rack of the oven for 40-50 minutes, or until fork tender. After the first 20 minutes, use a large spoon to stir the vegetables and expose different parts of them to the bottoms and sides of the dish.
7. Allow to cool briefly before serving. Keeps well and is tasty cold or reheated.

Coming up next: THE BEST STUFFING RECIPE EVER, and it just happens to be vegan. That is, if my father in law ever sends the damn recipe to me. But seriously guys, it's the best stuffing I have ever had in my entire life. Get ready.

Monday, November 4, 2013

my second trimester lifesavers

I am less than two weeks away from my third trimester. Holy crap.

My second trimester was, overall, much easier than my first. Though my morning sickness actually worsened in the first weeks of this trimester, getting on Zofran made all the difference. Regaining my energy level was amazing. Besides the normal and natural improvements that come along with the second trimester, ere are some things that made my life much more enjoyable:

1. Coconut Oil - My skin has always been dry, but it has crossed the line into super dry since I became pregnant. I was drinking a ton of water and religiously applying body lotion, but still feeling itchy and gross. An esthetician recommended that I try using coconut oil. This sounded gross and crazy to me, and I didn't bother to try it for weeks. Finally, out of desperation I decided to go for it, deciding I would just jump back in the shower if the oil was as terrible as I expected it to be. I bought an additional jar of TJ's extra virgin coconut oil (because bringing the jar of oil I cook with into the bathroom is gross). I applied small amounts of coconut oil all over my skin right after exiting the shower, while still dripping wet. And...it was amazing. My skin has been doing so much better. It's moisturizing without being overly greasy and I don't feel like I'm drowning in oil. Get the extra virgin, unrefined version to ensure there are no crazy additives like soy or weird chemicals.

2. Grapefruit Essential Oil - My feet have been swelling a lot throughout the second trimester, and sometimes hanging out with my feet up just doesn't help enough. Grapefruit essential oil was recommended to me by another lovely hippie in my life, and a Babycenter article I stumbled upon also recommended it as a remedy for swollen pregnant lady feet. I put a few drops into a bit of body lotion, and have The Husband rub it into my feet for a couple minutes. I really think it's been helping my feet deflate more quickly when I put them up, but worse case scenario, it smells amazing and I get a foot rub out of it. Just make sure to always combine a couple drops of essential oil with a carrier oil, like olive oil (or in my case, oily body lotion), since the undiluted essential oil can be too strong for your skin to handle; also, test out the essential oil + carrier oil on a small patch of skin before putting it all over your body. (PS. Here's a list of essential oils to avoid during pregnancy)

3. Ginger Echinacea Lemonade - For when I'm feeling a little rough, but not nauseous enough to necessitate a dose of Zofran. Echinacea should be safe during pregnancy (link is to a resource my doctor recommended) but obviously I'm not your medical expert so make your own decisions. The sugar and ginger combination seems to bring me back to normal.

4. ASOS Maternity Clothes - I'm cheap but like to try to look nice, yoga pants notwithstanding. I generally dislike spending a lot of money of a piece of clothing, and absolutely hate doing so for maternity clothes, since the time frame in which I will be wearing them is very limited. Old Navy maternity shirts and dresses are a little too casual / unfashionable for me personally, and while I love my jeans and other pants from Motherhood Maternity, the prices for their cuter tops are a little more than I want to pay. Enter ASOS maternity section. They have a ton of cute clothes and stuff is always on sale. I've grabbed a gorgeous long dress (under $55!) for a maternity photo shoot next month, as well as a couple shirts (under $15 each!) that help me feel less fat / grungy. The size differences made me die a little inside (pre-pregnancy, I was a US size 2, I wear UK size 8 in the ASOS maternity clothes), but my ego can handle it. I will definitely keep shopping there even when I am not pregnant.

5. The Husband - As always, The Husband is by far the biggest lifesaver for me. He is so kind and nurturing, and downright spoils me a lot of the time. He also tries to limit how much he makes fun of me when I eat a scary amount of cookies in one sitting. He can tell when I'm completely run down (even when I lie and try to hide it), and will step up and deal with things so I can rest. And all this is in addition to being hilarious, intelligent, kind, and a great partner. I'm so lucky.

Friday, November 1, 2013

vegan thanksgiving recipes part i

Can you all believe it's November already? Do you know what that means? That my favorite holiday is just around the corner. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday of the year because of its emphasis on family without being preoccupied by gifts. Also, the food doesn't hurt.

The Husband's family is an interesting mix of vegans and carnivores, so Thanksgiving with his family is filled with both traditional and creative dishes. There are a couple vegetarians on my side of the family that have inspired some great dishes, too. Over the years, I have enjoyed amazing vegan dishes cooked by others, and whipped up a couple vegan recipes myself. Between now and Thanksgiving, I plan on sharing some of these recipes here.

(cooking! with a rather large belly! also, how terrible are those orange linoleum counters? i'm trying to own it with the cafe curtains)

This first is a twofer! After the jump, my mom's amazing vegan gravy recipe (with some minor tweaks by me) and my mashed cauliflower (mashed potato alternative) recipe.