In the interim….and other excuses

I just wanted to say hi.

Hello.

Yes, I’m still here. And oh boy do I have lots to share with you.

But that will have to wait for another time (another time soon, though!).

You will get to read ALL about why I have so horribly neglected my blog for a while now.

Part of it has been *starting my own business* of independent, freelance writing and editing. Working on building up the clientele part of it, though. 

I named it Inklined. Ink-lined. Like writing…..Get it? You can find it at inklinedllc.com. Feedback is always appreciated as well!

Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I did not forget about you. With my crazy life, I kind of forgot about me. But I’ll discuss that later.

I have a ton of project ideas in mind and recipes that I want to try over the summer. Oh, and we just started planting in our garden again! So you’ll get to see a nauseating number of photos of that.

And with that, I’ll leave you. But I’ll be back soon.

excuses

 

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‘Tis The Season (Of Gifting)

I LOVE giving people gifts. I’ve always prided myself as a pretty creative gifter. Maybe that’s because I pay attention to people more than most others do….well that sounds a little creepy.

Last year, I crocheted 7 infinity scarves for my close friends and family, each tailored with their favorite color. This allowed me to watch horribly-entertaining shows on Netflix for hours on end. And I wanted to set fire to all of my yarn only a few times! Success. (Minus the fact that one of my good friends turned out to be allergic to the baby alpaca yarn I made her scarf with and ended up with a lovely red rash around her neck…sorry, Laura) To make all of these, I started back in October.

This year, 4 days until Christmas, and I haven’t even started my gift-making-extravaganza yet.

I’m so screwed. :/

For the next few days, I will be feverishly working on gift baskets, which will include homemade chapstick, whipped body butter, relaxing bath salts and invigorating sugar scrubs.

I have very few of the ingredients I need for all of this, so additionally I will have to brave the psycho-crazy-last-minute shoppers. And I will be one of them.

There are a few gifts that I have completed so far, however.

This year, I decided to let the gift keep on giving even after Christmas: potted paperwhite lilies that will bloom (hopefully) sometime in January.

It was very easy to do, and fairly cheap for as many as I made. All you need are paperwhite lily bulbs, potting soil and a flower pot really. If you want to fancy-it-up you can wrap the pots with ribbon, or even decorate them. You can also top the potting soil with decorative shells or beads of different colors.

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I put 3 bulbs to a flower pot. You can do less, or more if the pots are bigger. I wrapped the flower pots with ribbon and included some fun shells and beads on top of the soil. Instead of decorating the pots, I’m going to write the names of the people I’m giving them to on the pot with chalk. The chalk will eventually come off, or can be washed off, and they can reuse the pot for flowers in the summer if they wish.

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The lilies need watered about every 3 days. Unfortunately, they will only bloom once. (Which is actually fine with me. I’m surprised I haven’t killed all of them off already.)

Although I thought this was a fun idea, one remark I got was: ‘You made a gift for someone to finish doing all the work on…’ Ya, well, I figured they needed a new hobby as well. I’m thoughtful like that dammit.

Another gift idea I had involves booze. ….no one is shocked….

One of my roommates is really in to beer. She loves everything about it, especially trying new ones. So, in a bout of cleverness, I decided to give her the 12 Beers of Christmas.

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I bought 12 different singles and wrapped each of them with white paper, writing the number order in which to drink the beers. One a day for 12 days, with the last one to be opened Christmas Eve. Each one I bought was a special seasonal, and no two were from the same brewery, including the bomber I bought for Day 12. I finished off each one with a festive ribbon, which I successfully curled without ruining it. And then I wrote a poem to accompany them.

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Go me.

As for the rest of my brilliant Christmas gift ideas….well, they may turn out to be New Year gifts instead. What better way to ring in the New Year than with a present?! Maybe that was my plan all along.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Remember me? Ya…I’m not sure if I would either. I’ve been neglectful, unreliable and seemingly nonexistent for a while.

“I’m sorry” can only go so far. And actions speak louder than words.

As a way to beg for forgiveness, I have made you something special!!! …well actually I’ve made a group of strangers at an upcoming holiday cookie exchange something special…

Side note: I’ve never been to – or heard of – a cookie exchange, but I’m pretty sure it’s just another excuse to sit around and drink wine, which is fine by me. No one really cares about the cookies – they’re just going to give them away anyway. 

BUT I’ve included the recipe and lovely pictures to accessorize it.

So, what do you say? Friends again?

Did I mention bacon AND chocolate are included?

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….I knew that would do the trick.

I bring you a little piece of heaven on earth in the form of Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cookies! Yep, I made it happen. Just for you!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup butter, softened (1 & 1/2 sticks)
  • 1/4 cup bacon grease….that’s the good stuff
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (I always add a little extra)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 & 1/4 cup flour – or you can use rice flour to make it gluten free, which is actually what I did with this recipe
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
  • 8-10 ounces of bacon…or until you feel satisfied there’s enough in there

Step 1: cook the bacon. No one wants raw, chewy bacon with their chocolate….

Step 2: save your bacon grease and let it cool until it’s completely solid

~Turn on the oven to 375°F~

Step 3: mix softened butter, bacon grease and sugars together until fluffy/creamy

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Step 4: add in eggs and baking powder and blend well

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Step 5: add vanilla and cinnamon

Step 6: stir in bacon and chocolate chips

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Steps 7-10: taste test the dough…for obvious reasons – check for poisons, determine quality, ensure bacon to chocolate chip ratio is satisfactory. You’re also doing yourself a favor and saving time making that one (or two) extra cookies. This of course is all a go unless you have issues with raw egg in your dough…in which case you can save the taste testing for me. I’m happy to help.

Roll dough into small balls (insert appropriately inappropriate comment here) and place on a greased cookie sheet, or a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

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Bake between 8 and 10 minutes. (Mine took closer to 10) Do NOT forget to turn your oven timer on….although burnt bacon cookies do make the house smell nice.

Makes about 4 dozen smoky, sweet cookies. Bacon really does make everything better. I may try to add peanut butter to them next time.

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Genius? I’ll take it . Isn’t it nice to know that (queue music) “You’ve got a friend in me…”

Sometimes the sweetest things in life take a little elbow bacon grease.

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

Dark Chocolate Chip & Bacon Cookies

*This post was inspired by:  http://foodfunlife.blogspot.com/2013/02/bacon-chocolate-chip-cookies.html

 

I Can Can. Can You?

You know all those veggies in the previous post? Well they have to go somewhere, right? Mostly, they’re going to my stomach, which is super happy about that, but one person can only eat so many veggies…

Besides being frozen, dehydrated, put in recipes, given to the dog as treats, and given away, I have taught myself (with much help from others and from a step-by-step book) the art of canning.

My Mom and I actually went in on this project together. We acquired all of the supplies (minus a pressure cooker) and the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. I read and learned…and then still asked for help because I am a disaster in the kitchen when it comes to cooking or preparing food at all.

For our first trick, we turned cucumbers into dill pickles. This actually was not that difficult to do. We went with a kosher pickle recipe and added a few things to it. All the ingredients, minus the spices, were from local farmer’s markets. The cucumbers were from my own garden.

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Washing off the cucumbers

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Scruba, scruba, scruba

Fresh dill from the farmer's market

Fresh dill from the farmer’s market

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Garlic, bay leaf, 1/2 serrano pepper, and spices into each pickle jar

Klondike helped

Klondike helped

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

Heating jars, lids, ingredients

In they go

In they go

The final product

The final product

Mmmmm pickles

Mmmmm pickles

We ended up making 8 pints of pickles, which will be ready to open NEXT WEEK!!! I’m very excited to try them and see how they turn out!

In a frenzy of pickling excitement, we also made zucchini relish!! All of the zucchinis were from my garden.

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Chopped bell peppers, onion, and shredded zucchini

The spices

The spices

Ingredients

Ingredients

Toss everything in together

Toss everything in together

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Simmer

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

Can it! And there you have it: Zucchini relish

End of Summer BBQ anyone??

Canning is actually easier than I thought it would be….but I also haven’t done anything extremely difficult. I can still cross this off of my Summer Bucket List as my new learned skill.

*Pats self on back*

 

Garden To Table Goodness

I have been meaning to follow up with the Let Your Garden Grow post for a while now. Veggies are happening!! So SO many veggies. I’ve actually considered opening an zucchini stand next to the neighborhood kids’ lemonade stand….but I don’t want to steal their thunder. Although the garden has had some ups and downs, as expected, it is flourishing for the most part.

There are a few lessons I have learned along the way that only a plant could teach me (and Google when the plant won’t divulge).

  • Patience is a virtue – anyone who knows me knows that I am not necessarily the most patient person. (Those of you thinking “understatement of the century” just hush)
  • Don’t cast off something as dead, even though it may look it. My tomato plant has looked AWFUL for the past month, but still keeps giving me yellow pear tomatoes. In return, I’ll keep watering it as its reward.
  • Never trust an automated watering system. The zucchini are wilting due to lack of water. The cucumbers are sickly due to too much water. The green beans are exploding due to the right amount of water. It’s like Goldilocks, but with plants and water. Yeah, ok, that was a stretch.
  • Do NOT plant Fall veggies in the Summer. They will not do well. RIP arugula. (On the other hand, my kale and spinach are rocking it!)
  • If your neighboring community garden beds are full of rotting veggies due to lack of picking, it’s a free for all. It drives me nuts that people decide to plant and grow all this food and then let it go to waste. That’s where I come in to happily harvest those veggies for them, and either take them home, to my restaurant for use, or to the Food Bank. There are too many people who do not have food to let all of that go to waste. *Soapbox moment of the day brought to you by neglectful, lazy plant parents*
  • Carrots are deceiving. They may look ready to pick, but the joke’s on you when you pull up a tiny root instead. This goes for turnips and radishes as well. Sneaky bastards.
  • Vine plants will choke out anything else around them. Beware.
  • I LOVE the feeling of picking my dinner, or lunch, or what have you. I have a hate-hate relationship with the grocery store. Going out to the garden or out my front door to pick fresh ingredients beats it all. It’s such a good feeling to know what you’re eating, how it was grown, and where exactly it’s coming from. For me, that’s exciting.
  • I’m proud of this first garden attempt. It has gone well for the most part and has been overwhelmingly rewarding.

Here are a few things I have harvested:

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Green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, peppers, wax beans, tomatoes of all shapes and sizes, cucumbers, eggplant, turnips, carrots, snap peas, green onion, broccoli, spinach, kale, lettuce, and radishes.

My kind of ‘grocery shopping.’

Playing With Needles

So. I’ve been a slacker. A big one. BUT that’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. In fact, for the past 4 weeks I have been learning a skill that will take me far in life. It has been tough, grueling, and time-consuming. Many will attempt, but few will find the will power to carry on and succeed. With the help of lessons and a guru, I have been able to create a piece of art with my newly attained talent.

Watch out, world! I’m learning to knit!

I bought my Mom and I knitting classes for Christmas and we’ve been on the journey to become knitting fiends! We’ve been going to Your Daily Fiber, where Ivy, our instructor, has been incessantly patient with us. After 4 weeks, and many many MANY mistakes -and an impressive vocabulary of colorful words directed at the yarn and knitting needles-, I have finished my first project. My new work of art will be displayed for all to see…on my head. I made a beanie! Colorado has been so accommodating during this time by providing cold temperatures and several Spring snowstorms so that I might be able to actually wear it before we reach scorching Summer temps -in which case I will STILL wear it.

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AND it’s bright orange, which makes it that much better.

Diving into the knitting world, you have to learn not only a new language with your hands -how to hold the needles, what to do with the yarn, how to determine when you’ve dropped a stitch, how to refrain from giving your project the middle finger-, but also a new vocabulary. Purl, knit, turn, block, finish, sock stitch, rib, cast on, etc. I’m slowly catching on to these and am able to sometimes use them correctly so I don’t sound quite as moronic to our knitting instructor -who is amazing by the way…and did I mention very patient?-.

I don’t know how to read patterns yet, so I just did what Ivy told me, which worked out pretty well for the most part. For this project, and for my particular stitches, I cast on 80, knit 1 purl 1 for 2 inches, knit in the round for 6 inches, knit 8 stitch 2 together for 1 row, knit one row, knit 7 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row, knit 6 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row….all the way down. Finish by sewing the top stitches together and bringing them through the top of the hat (I know what I’m trying to say, but not really sure how to say it. Obviously.). Sew in your yarn tails.

If that made any sense to you, you are a knitting professional, because I just re-read it and it looks like gibberish.

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For my first project, I think it turned out pretty well. Because I’m still very new to this, I think I’m going to sign up for more classes so that I can learn to read a pattern, and hopefully learn to fix mistakes myself without completely crumbling and having a mild panic attack every time I drop a stitch.

Although Summer is fast-approaching, you will be able to pick me out of a crowd. I’ll be the one in a tank top, shorts, sandals, and a bright orange beanie.

And maybe socks, if I make those next.

Project suggestions are welcome! I’ve already been encouraged to try my hand at knitted underwear…..

 

Vegan Diaries – The Final Countdown

Originally posted on http://shrinkingjeans.net

vegan diaries

As of today, I have successfully been a vegan since March 11. That’s about 5 weeks, people! I have been diligent and faithful with minor unintentional slip-ups. And guess what? I survived! It IS possible to go vegan without starving yourself or depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs. In fact, I have eaten cleaner and healthier in the past 5 weeks than I can remember doing before. I didn’t really lose weight (maybe a pound or 2), I didn’t become anemic, and I didn’t join PETA. But I did learn a great deal more about food than I ever thought was possible, and has sent me on a mission to be much more aware of what I put into my body from here on out.

As a way to commemorate my last few days of this vegan challenge, I hosted a vegan potluck where people crept out of their comfort zone and made some dang delicious vegan grub. Simply seeing that vegan smorgasbord brought me great happiness. Some of the scrumptious dishes provided (and devoured) included:

SOOOO much good food and a fun thing to share with friends. Everything turned out great and everyone enjoyed themselves, sans dairy and meat and all.

Learning and researching have been important aspects in this journey. And insanely eye-opening. Among the documentaries I watched, the articles I read, and the book I devoured, I have discovered there is a great deal more about the food industry that is not necessarily common knowlege, and not necessarily advertised. You have to search out the information, take the initiative to read and research it, and have the diligence to apply it to your every day consumption.

A few of the areas that I am much more aware (i.e. a label-reading fiend) include:

  • Corn and its many different masks. Corn is in just about everything at the grocery store, but may be labeled something different depending on its purpose in the food.
  • Sugar and sugar substitutes. Fake, real, or what have you, something sweet is added to many different products that wouldn’t even necessarily call for it. Not only am I looking for this culprit, but where exactly it is on the ingredient label. Remember, the higher up on the list, the more it makes up that particular product.
  • Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). Holy yikes! They are in EVERYTHING! It’s hard to stay away, especially because they are labeled as so many different things, but chances are most of the items in your grocery cart contain them. There are organizations and companies out there who will provide labels on their products if they do not contain GMOs, such as the Non-GMO Project.
  • Enriched vs. Unenriched ingredients. Enriched flour, sugar, etc. is processed so that it is stripped of any nutritional value, but is made to have a longer shelf-life and a more concentrated flavor.
  • Artificial food dyes. This is an issue most people don’t necessarily think about. Artificial food dyes are in many foods that you wouldn’t even think of: marshmallows, pickles, chocolate pudding. Not only are most of them petroleum based, the chemical make-up can cause a whole mess of health problems. Although they may be FDA approved, in many other countries a warning label is required to inform consumers that there are unnatural food dyes added.
  • Grass fed vs. not; farm fresh vs. not; organic vs. not.

It baffles me that we must become our own educators when it comes to our food. Many people won’t. We put faith in a system with little question, because we don’t think it would fail us to the point of allowing harmful products to be obtained. That’s just wishful thinking. It’s not about the good of the society anymore; it’s about marketing and target audiences and pretty colors and enhanced flavors. It’s about the money. Bottom line. Priorities have certainly become skewed, and we’re supposed to fall victim unless we have the audacity to go beyond what we’re being sold and dig a little deeper. And I do.

As a recap, these are some of the places I got my information, education, recipes, inspiration, and motivation.

Documentaries

Books

Websites (blogs, recipes, etc.)

Additionally, when I first started this journey, I set some goals for myself. I feel I have accomplished and exceeded even my own expectations. They included:

  • Become more familiar with the vegan/vegetarian community
  • Gain an appreciation for a strict plant-based diet
  • Actually cook a few recipes from the cookbook
  • DON’T CHEAT
  • Be an inspiration (hopefully) for those interested in trying it
  • Learn – I feel like this will be happening a lot
  • Have fun!

I have most certainly learned, become appreciative, and had fun throughout this challenge. It wasn’t all easy and wasn’t all hard; it was an adjustment. My mom has told me she has started reading labels more carefully when she goes grocery shopping. I’ll count that as being an inspiration. Who knows, maybe I’ve struck something in someone else along the way, too.

What now? Honestly, I’m not quite sure. What I do know is that I will be making more educated decisions about what I eat. I also intend to severely limit my meat and dairy in-take going forward. My new goals are to buy local (when possible), stay educated about what I’m eating, continue to read labels, cut out what my body doesn’t need, eat clean, and make choices that will benefit me in the long run. Armed with information, I plan on applying it as much as possible when it comes to food choices.

Whether vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore, it’s important to educate yourself about what you’re putting in your body. If I am to take one thing from this entire experience, that would be the meat tofu of it all.