Thursday, December 18, 2014

December Randomness

- Excited to do some Christmas baking, but even more ecstatic to eat the finished products.
- Happy to be back in Sacramento for the holidays.
- Almost completely done with my Christmas shopping. This never happens this early.
- Loving the comfort and warmth of flannel sheets.
- Figuring out a good solution to make sure I get my 10,000 steps a day in the new year.
- Bummed I have to restart knitting my hat, but I know I'll like it a thousand times more once it's knit on smaller needles and I've had more practice with cables.
- Trying to find the motivation to run more often.
- Hoping to have enough room in my suitcases to bring all of my stuff back to Philadelphia.
- Craving oatmeal, trail mix, and smoothies all the time.
- Remembering how delicious California oranges taste.
- Trying to keep my December Goals in mind.
- Needing to give myself a manicure badly.
- Planning my vegan Christmas menu. It's going to be pretty similar to what I had for Thanksgiving since it was amazingly delicious.
- Starting to appreciate bananas a lot more, especially blended.
- Feeling so weird to be driving everywhere now.

It's so good to see you again, California!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 9

Yesterday's Best Friend Friday adventure was one of the best I've had in a long time! It was the epitome of Best Friend Fridays!

We started the cold and slightly drizzly day at Starbucks where I picked up a chai to take with me on the subway ride to Old City. I don't go to Starbucks that often, so whenever I do it seems like a huge treat. They have so many cute holiday mugs this year. I especially like all of the ones with gold accents, but I was good and didn't take any of them home with me.

A few weeks ago I asked my siblings what they wanted for Christmas and all of them responded with, "surprise". That doesn't help at all. My brothers are seriously the hardest people to buy presents for. I don't know what kind of things boys like. Girls are easy to shop for; clothes and jewelry are always a safe bet. A few days later Nate texted me again and asked for a Philadelphia sweatshirt. That was so relieving! I knew exactly where to get the perfect sweatshirt for him. So yesterday, Lauren and I headed out to Old City and stopped at Old City T-Shirts (again). The owner was super friendly as usual, and even gave us candy canes and a complimentary "Shop Small" tote bag!

Because it's super important to get my 10,000 daily steps in, we then walked over a dozen blocks to hit up Staples. I still had more rewards to use up before the end of the month, but even more essential, my printer ran out of magenta colored ink that morning and I actually needed to come here. Of course we picked up more than just ink though. Lauren picked up some supplies to start a new planner and I selected a fun book for Abby as part of her Christmas present.
The big highlight of the day though, and the main reason for venturing out yesterday was to visit Christmas Village in the iconic Love Park. I've been reading and looking at pictures of the event, so I was pretty excited to go and take a gander at all of the vendors' booths. I was hoping to get even more Christmas shopping done. There were several dozen booths there, each one occupying their own little wooden makeshift shop. The event's set up was so cute and festive! Both mine and Lauren's favorite attraction by far was the indoor German holiday market, featuring hundreds of ornaments and holiday decor handmade in Germany. I wanted to buy all of the ornaments and lots of the nutcrackers, but sadly money doesn't grow on trees. Just as exciting though, we both picked out our favorite ornament to receive for Christmas. I know this will become a yearly tradition for us besties!

After walking around Old City and Center City throughout the day, it was time to head back home. We stopped at the grocery store on the way and much to our amusement, we found two bags of Tings (basically, vegan cheetos) tucked in with the regular Pirate's Booty. It seems like this particular store received these few bags by mistake since we've never seen them here before and there wasn't a respective tag for the item on the shelves. But a happy mistake this was. We quickly scooped these two bags up and along with our other groceries, walked back home.

As soon as we got back to our apartment, you can bet I immediately started making pizza dough. No Friday is complete without pizza, but I'm sure you're tired of hearing me say that.

Christmas present shopping, Christmas Village, finding Tings, and indulging in pizza...what could make a Best Friend Friday better?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread

Two weeks ago I made bread! Whole wheat sandwich bread, more specifically. Lately I've been eating an almond butter sandwich for lunch on days where I was lazy and just wanted something quick. Because I like to indulge in pizza made from white flour most Fridays, I try to eat as much whole grains throughout the rest of the week. I also find that whole wheat flour tends to give food an extra dimension in flavor, especially in breads. I was so spoiled back in California. I didn't live too far away from Costco where they sold several vegan whole wheat breads (in packs of two!) for a very reasonable price. Unfortunately, there aren't too many whole wheat bread options at my neighborhood grocery store here in Philadelphia. The one vegan brand that they do sale is over $5 per loaf, and while that doesn't really break the bank in the long run, I do try to stick to a monthly budget and every little bit that I can save allows me to do more things that I enjoy. Plus the only store-bought option here isn't my favorite. I figured I'd give bread making a go and if it turned out to be a complete failure or it tasted like cardboard, then I could just go back to buying bread like a normal person. If on the other hand I actually liked the taste of homemade bread and it wasn't super time consuming, well then this little lesson in baking would save me from depending on the grocery store to support my almond butter sandwich addiction.

I googled "vegan whole wheat bread recipe" and looked at several different variations before selecting this one. I wanted a recipe with minimal ingredients (sandwich bread doesn't need to be super fancy when you're going to be dressing it up with sandwich fixings, just my opinion), and I didn't want the entire process to take over a day to make a single loaf of bread (this needs to be something that I can do pretty often if I want to make this a permanent change). The only change I made was using honey instead of maple syrup or agave. I know that most people don't consider honey to be vegan, and that's fine. I on the other hand eat honey and still consider myself vegan, but that's a whole other story. Anyway, I also did not take advantage of the cold dough fermentation option because I felt that was too time consuming for my needs.
The entire process of this bread baking experience took about 5 hours from start to finish, with the majority of this time spent waiting for the dough to rise.
I ended up overcooking the bread a little bit, so next time I'll bake it for only 40 minutes instead of 45.
I cut the bread into thicker slices and yielded 11 slices, including the heels. The bread doesn't taste that great on its own since there aren't really any flavorful ingredients, but an almond butter sandwich sounds delectable!
Yesterday I used up the last few pieces of bread to make myself a hearty veggie sandwich. Mostly I wanted a reason to eat more Field Roast Chao cheese slices. With the cheese I added Tofurky slices, hummus, shredded carrots, sliced olives, tomatoes, onion, and spinach. This was the best sandwich I've had in the longest time and it was honestly due to the bread. Even though the bread was in the freezer for several weeks and after defrosting it in the microwave for a minute, it still tasted really fresh. I've never had any brand of store-bought bread, vegan or non-vegan, taste this freshly made (except of course for bread bought directly from a bakery).

This recipe produced the perfect whole wheat sandwich bread and I'll definitely be making it again, probably like every other week to be honest actually!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vegan Friendsgiving

This was my first year in my entire life not being with my family for Thanksgiving. Sadly this meant that I missed the delicious feast my aunt prepares every year. She even makes me an entire vegan spread, just for me!

Also spoiled by past traditions, Lauren was sad that she couldn't partake in her family's festivities on Thanksgiving. We were lucky to be able to spend time with some of my other relatives this holiday though, but nothing tops tradition. We're so used to having certain dishes, prepared a certain way. Instead of hijacking Thanksgiving as guests, we decided to have our own vegan Friendsgiving the day before the real deal. This way we could make all of the dishes we wanted to, however we wanted. This plan also allowed us to bring some leftovers to the actual Thanksgiving dinner.


For having a relatively tiny kitchen to prep and cook in, Lauren and I worked together pretty well to get Friendsgiving prepared. Lauren did most of the cooking though. 

This Friendsgiving we enjoyed:
- Mashed potatoes with gravy
- Sauteed green beans with slivered almonds
- Roasted brussel sprouts
- Cranberry sauce
- Gardein Holiday Roast
- Lauren's homemade stuffing

And for dessert Lauren baked a chocolate pudding pie with a homemade graham cracker crust!

Everything was delicious. Friendsgiving is now one of my favorite holidays!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 8

This past Friday happened to be the day after Thanksgiving, aka: Black Friday. Fortunately (perhaps a little unfortunately too), I didn't buy anything! And for that I'm pretty proud of myself. That's not to say that I didn't purchase anything this past week though. I mean Black Friday deals basically run all week long now; it makes it basically inevitable to pass up on shopping.

Anyway, back to the point of this post, being that it was basically a holiday Lauren and I didn't have our traditional "Best Friend Friday". On Wednesday we took a train out to New Jersey to spend Thanksgiving with some of my relatives, then we came back to Philadelphia on Friday.

Amtrak train rides always make me so sleepy. I don't know what it is. I can get on the train very well rested, but as soon as I sit down in my seat, I get so tired. Even though we got back to Philadelphia in the early afternoon, I was so tired and just wanted to nap the rest of the day. So, we didn't do any best friend activities when we returned to the city.

However, this week "Best Friend Friday" meant stuffing our faces with banana muffins at the train station, boarding a train back to Philly, and indulging in leftover Friendsgiving dishes for dinner. Not too shabby, I'd say.

We will return to our normal scheduled "Best Friend Friday" this week! ;)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

12.14 Goals

In an effort to be more productive and accomplish my goals during my 24th year of life, I've decided to post a "to-do list" of sorts at the beginning of each month. At the end of the month I'll go back over my list and talk about what I was able to conquer and note the tasks I have yet to tackle.


1. Make some type of scrapbook or album in an effort to take lots of pictures.
2. Read two books.
3. Run at least 50 miles.
4. Finish gifting all of the Christmas presents ON TIME.
5. Complete Summer Sampler blocks 16-20.
6. Run one mile in under eight minutes.
7. Clean up and organize my room at my parents' house.
8. Ride my bike.
9. Craft something that I pinned.
10. Try a new recipe.

Monday, December 1, 2014

11.14 Goals Roundup

November was an interesting month to say the least. The weather did a complete 180 on me and I had my first experience of living in the snow. There was just a little bit of snow, but still. While I've been to the snow countless times, I've never actually lived in it. The cold temperatures (which I'm not used to at all) made it feel a lot like Winter which kind of put me more into the holiday mode. I know it's only going to get colder here within the next month and I better soak up the remainder of the "warmer" days, but I don't want to even think about that yet!

Because it's been so cold I holed myself up inside a lot more than usual. Although this should make me more productive with getting stuff done, my productivity level hasn't actually been that great. This past week I've been sucking at blogging, but starting now I'm vowing to get back on track and blog more regularly.

So here's November's roundup since I know everyone has been on the edge of their seats!


1. Read a book: I borrowed "The Marriage Plot" and loved reading it. This is the second book I've read cover to cover by Eugenides and his style of writing just resonates with me perfectly. The topics he chooses to cover are really interesting to me and the way his stories unfold keeps my eyes glued to the pages. I also read "Middlesex" by the same author a few months ago.

2. Finish Summer Sampler blocks 11-15: I like to multitask while I watch T.V. Last month this meant that I got more knitting done in a few weeks than I had all last year. This month my Netflix addiction allowed me to have more cross stitching time. I finished these blocks and even started the 16th one!

3. Knit myself a hat: Sadly no hat was made this month, although I really should get going on this since my ears freeze every single time I step outside.

4. Finish THE quilt: I didn't finish the quilt either. I think my fear of messing up is preventing me from even trying. All that is left to do is the binding. I don't mind the tediousness of this step, but I really don't want to do it wrong.

5. Complete a project I've pinned: Although I've made a lot of recipes on my "Vegan Food" board this month, what I really wanted to accomplish was completing something off of my "Crafty" board. Yesterday morning as I was going through my list of goals to see how many things I actually got done, I noticed that I hadn't really crafted anything that I pinned. For the past month (at least) I've been meaning to sew up a yoga mat bag. About a month ago I pinned several styles and tutorials that I liked, but I knew that ultimately my finished product would be something I created. The links I pinned were good starting points, but I pretty much knew exactly what I wanted. I ended up taking ideas from the different pins (just looking at the pictures and not reading the tutorials) and created something I'm fond of. I enjoyed digging through my pins and making time to create something that I've been wanting to.

6. Get a good start on Christmas present making and buying: Even though I'm not completely done with my Christmas shopping or making, I'm still going to consider this goal complete. I pretty much know exactly what I'm going to get everyone on my list, which never happens this early. I've bought many of the presents that I plan on purchasing and got a decent start on making gifts. I still have a few more items to make and I hope to have the majority of them finished within the next two weeks since I'm not taking my sewing machine back to California for the few weeks I'll be there.

7. Use my big camera a lot: I started the month off taking a lot more pictures than I normally do (mostly of food), which was great. But about halfway through the month my big camera was pushed to the side and I was just using my phone to take daily photos for Project 365, and even that started seeming like a chore. Not good.

8. Run at least 100 miles throughout the month: Not even close. I ran slightly over 20 miles in November and I'm bummed about that. My only excuses are the coldness that I'm not used to and just pure laziness. I need to get my miles in so that I'm ready to participate in a few fun races next year without dying!

9. Try a new recipe: I loved this goal. I made chocolate chip apple pulp muffins, apple pulp pancakes, banana muffins (adapted), dinner rolls, whole wheat sandwich bread, and chocolate pudding pie

10. Paint my nails: I wanted to paint my nails in a festive color for Thanksgiving but never got around to it. Cooking for Thanksgiving was obviously more important. Seriously. So, instead I painted my nails a non-festive dark purple a few days after the holiday.

Score for November: 6 out of 10

Now it's your turn, December!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 7

So I'll be honest, Lauren and I were pretty lazy this Friday mainly due to the fact that we stayed up past 5 AM the night before watching episode after episode of Scandal. But hey, that's what roomies and besties do, not complaining! Because we had a super late start to the day and Lauren had lots of school work to do, we decided to postpone "Best Friend Friday" to Saturday.
However, all was not lost on Friday. I still managed to sneak in Friday night, pizza night! That makes Friday a win in my books!
Saturday was a completely different story though. Although we still woke up pretty late, I felt much more rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. Lauren whipped up another bomb brunch! We dined on breakfast potatoes, sauteed veggies with vegan sausage, and roasted brussel sprouts. It was delicious as always!

After brunch we made the trek to Whole Foods for Thanksgiving supplies. Going to Whole Foods seems like such a treat because it's not a short walk or fast drive to get there, which I'm used to. Instead we have to take the subway and still walk about half a mile after that. All of that transportation is completely worth it to have an abundant supply of awesome vegan options at my fingertips, sadly though it's just not feasible to make this a weekly destination. So when I do get to go, I almost feel as if it's my birthday. Not really, but you get the picture.

Besides picking up Thanksgiving necessities, we also scored the last Field Roast Chao Creamy Original sliced vegan cheese, which we have been dying to try! I also picked up some almond butter because apparently our neighborhood grocery store doesn't feel the need to stock their shelves with anything but peanut butter. And of course we couldn't leave Whole Foods without selecting a special treat to indulge in right then. I picked out the vegan chocolate chip crumb muffin and it was so good! I've never had a vegan muffin that tasted that amazing. It was chewy (sounds weird, but I loved the consistency), but still crispy on top, and soft and fluffy in the center. I read the ingredients prior to eating it, and I'm pretty sure it's the addition of tofu that's responsible for the delicious chewiness. I never would've thought to add tofu to a muffin, but that was a pretty genius idea.

Well that pretty much wraps up this week's "Best Friend Friday", or should I say "Best Friend Saturday" (that doesn't sound as cool though). Tomorrow I hope to watch parts of the Philadelphia Marathon. I especially want to see the super fast runners sprint to the finish! I've never really watched a race before; I've always participated in them. Although I'll probably be freezing while I gawk at the runners, I'm actually excited to be a spectator this time around. I'm sure that watching all of the awesome half marathoners and marathoners will pump me up even more for my small little 2015 race schedule.

Have I mentioned yet that weekends are the best?

Also, happy 20th birthday to my little bro Frankie!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Marissa's Orchid Cowl

I shared the first part of Marissa's belated birthday present, so here's the final piece! Way back in June when we were in Oregon and perusing yarn shops, I brilliantly came up with reasons why I needed to buy yarn, even though I have a huge box full and I'm the slowest knitter ever. At that moment I just had to knit something for Marissa's birthday and none of the yarn I already had would work. Marissa is like me in the sense that we both have super sensitive skin, and I knew that 100% wool yarn would not be a good idea. I picked out Blissful Knits in Platinum because there was a decent amount of silk in it and it wasn't scratchy or irritating when I rubbed it against my neck. (Am I the only one who does that in yarn stores? Hopefully not.)

The majority of the patterns I lean towards are made from sport weight yarn, but I didn't realize this till recently. I had the hardest time finding a pattern to knit with this fingering weight yarn and made knitting master Lauren help me. She suggested I pick out different yarn since I couldn't find a pattern I liked, but because I'm so stubborn, I insisted on using this exact one. I never buy yarn with a purpose in mind, except for this time. I really did buy this yarn to knit Marissa something for her birthday, so I had to!
After lots of searching and respective frogging, Lauren suggested I try the Orchid Cowl pattern. Initially I was against it because it's not knit in the round. This meant I would have to learn how to do a provisional cast on and then somehow sew it together in the end. I really didn't want to do this; I just wanted to simply knit a "normal" cowl in the round. I've never knit lace before either, so that was a little scary. After some encouragement, I gave this pattern a chance. I figured I was never going to get better at knitting unless I tried new techniques and practiced.

Lauren walked me through the provisional cast on which really helped. Starting a knitting project is the hardest step for me. Not necessarily physically starting it, but mentally. I never like how my projects look when I first start which makes me think I'm doing something completely wrong. Although I do mess up a lot, most of the time this is just a mentality issue. If I keep knitting, I usually end up liking the finished project. But starting is always the hardest part.

Surprisingly the lace repeat was pretty easy once I got the hang of it. There were a few times where I was off by one stitch and frustratingly had to go back several rows to fix the problem. Lauren told me to put a life line in every so often, so I did. But of course as soon as I started using life lines, I didn't need them. Oh well, it's a good habit to get into since I mess up a lot.

This pattern was written to make a cowl that wraps around your neck twice. Usually this is my favorite style of cowls, but this time I wanted to try something different. I wanted the cowl to just be slipped over your neck once; I thought this would help show off the lace better. I wanted to make the cowl shorter in diameter but much taller, so I cast on twice the amount of stitches the pattern called for, and left out the last garter and stockinette repeats.

After I finished knitting the cowl but before it was time to join the ends, the pattern said I needed to block my project. Usually I just make Lauren block all of my stuff for me, it's just easier that way and she's so good at it. But I figured since I learned how to knit lace and do the provisional cast on, it was time to learn how to block things properly. Thanks for teaching me your ways, Lauren!

If I didn't have any knitting help I would've taken a needle and yarn and literally sewed up the seams to join the cowl. Luckily though, my best friend and roomie is an excellent knitter and suggested I use the kitchener stitch since there are different versions for knitting garter and stockinette. I'm sure my reaction to that advice was basically a puzzled blank face. I looked up several videos on how to do this, and after these videos had been waiting on my Pinterest Knitting Board for a week, I finally worked up the courage to attempt this. I could've easily made Lauren "help" me with this step, but since I had already learned so much from this project, I thought I better teach myself how to do this final step. It took me over an hour to kitchener stitch the cowl together because I was going so slow as to not mess up or get frustrated. But it worked. The cowl stayed together, looked pretty good (if I do say so myself), and I didn't get angry doing it! Triple win!

Again, I made Lauren model the cowl for me (concurrently with the Scout Tee) since I wouldn't be seeing Marissa till next month, and I just couldn't wait that long!
Enjoy Marissa, happy belated 23rd birthday!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 6

 This past Friday in an effort to get out despite the freezing temperatures and get errands taken care of, Lauren and I ventured out to Reading Terminal Market. I love this place for so many reasons. Although it's a pretty touristy attraction, being a local (wow, that's weird to say), I still like coming here. There's so many different food vendors with plenty of vegan options. This place has almost any type of food you could image; you can buy everything from a Philly cheesesteak to a chocolate nose. The food aspect is obviously my favorite part, but Reading Terminal Market also has an assortment of local crafts and fun products to shop from. I came specifically to buy my brother a birthday present (hint, he loves food), but you can bet that I picked up a little snack here for myself too!

Afterwards, Lauren and I walked about half a mile to Staples because I had some rewards to spend. I'm so used to suburban chain stores where everything is laid out on one floor, all spread out. This Staples store though was laid out over three stories! It was so weird trying to figure out where everything was. This little stop wasn't that interesting, but was slightly necessary. I picked up some much needed packing tape and some cute floral printed binder clips.

Our Best Friend Friday outing didn't last as long as usual, and we ended up retreating back to our apartment much sooner than expected. But all was not lost! The best part of the day for me was probably making homemade vegan pizzas for dinner and finally conquering our difficult oven. I was so hungry that I didn't have time to take a picture of its deliciousness before I gobbled it up. But I'll leave you with this tantalizing description: think homemade WHITE dough (white flour seems like such a treat now, ha!), marinara sauce, black olives, onions, broccoli, tomato, and bell pepper! 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Marissa's Lace Scout Tee

One of my goals for this birthday year (ends in July) was finally catching up on all of the presents I owe people. I felt pretty accomplished when I was able to mail Marissa her last year's birthday gift, last month. Even though I finally got that present to her, I still hadn't gotten to this year's gift. Well, it's safe to say that I'm finally all caught up on her birthday gifts!

Since I felt so bad about all of the belatedness, I wanted to put a lot of effort into her presents to make them hopefully worth the wait. A few years ago I made myself a lace Scout Tee and it's become one of my nicer casual staples. Marissa told me she liked it (hopefully she just wasn't being nice) and asked me where I bought it. I told her that I made it, and she seemed really impressed and wanted one. I thought this was the perfect opportunity.

Pretty soon after moving to Philadelphia, Lauren and I visited Fabric Row. One of the fabrics I picked up was this lace, especially for this project. I knew I wanted a neutral color, preferably in the white/cream colored range since that's what I made mine out of. There wasn't much to choose from, but I did like this fabric because of the selvage end. I knew the lacy scalloped edge would serve as the perfect hem for the garment.

I sewed up a size larger than Marissa's true size because I was picturing a pretty loose fitted, drape-y top. This was my first time ever sewing French seams and I'm pretty much in love with them now. I'll be sewing up all other garments like this. While I don't really have a problem with a "normal" simple seam, French seams just make clothes look much more refined, if you don't have a serger.
I made a very silly mistake sewing on the first sleeve; I sewed it on completely upside down. The shoulder seam was all the way down at the underarm, and the underarm seam up at the shoulder. That just didn't work, believe me. I even tried it on to see if there was any way I could make it work. Nope. So I started unpicking the sleeve seam, and it was nearly impossible since I was working with lace. I knew that if I continued this way, the only thing I would accomplish would be ruining the fabric. My only other option that I could come up with was completely cutting the sleeve off. Luckily, because I was using the French seam method, I only had to cut off 1/4 inch from both the sleeve and the shirt, rather than 1/2 inch. To keep it consistent, I also cut 1/4 inch off from the other sleeve and the other side of the shirt. I resewed the sleeves on correctly, hoping that this "adjustment" wouldn't cause the arm holes to be too tight and restricting. As soon as I completely finished sewing the sleeves on, I quickly tried the top on, praying that it wasn't too tight. It was a little snug on me, but thankfully Marissa is a lot smaller than I am, so I'm pretty confident that it will still fit her. In retrospect, I probably should've made her a size smaller; it still would've been loose on her.

I like using muslin for the neck binding when using lace for several reasons. One, it makes sewing the binding on correctly easier because the needle catches the fabric fibers better. Also, I think it makes the finished product look nicer and more "professional".

Because Marissa lives on the opposite side of the country from me now, I had to bribe Lauren to model Marissa's presents for me (the muffins worked well). Lauren had me promise to take pictures from the neck down, and being the polite person I am, I obliged.

Marissa just received her present the other day and she informed me that it fits perfectly! Awesome! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Vegan Apple Pulp Pancakes

A few days ago I talked about how in the past, I was hesitant to use my juicer out of guilt of wasting so much of the fruit and veggie pulp. My first endeavor using the leftover pulp was in making chocolate chip apple (pulp) muffins, and they were delicious! After this baking success, I decided to try my hand at another recipe since I still had some apple pulp to use up.

I decided to make apple pulp pancakes (from the same blog as the muffins) because, who doesn't love pancakes? Even though I would be perfectly happy eating the same boring oatmeal every morning for breakfast, Lauren doesn't quite feel the same way. I thought this would be a good way and reason to change things up, for one day at least.

This is a single-serving recipe, so I made two batches in separate bowls. I love how simple the recipe is and that the batter can be made in just one bowl (per serving). It speeds up the process and makes washing the ensuing dishes a bit easier.
I mostly followed the recipe, but like usual I made a few changes. I added only half of the recommended oil, left out the nutmeg and cardamon, and used all whole wheat flour. Since the recipe said it would make one serving, I assumed that meant one regular sized pancake. So I poured out all of the batter into the pan in one glob, and started spreading it out. It was huge! Not that I'm complaining or anything, I do love large pancakes. It was so big that it almost filled out the entire pan. Although they'd be a lot easier to flip if I made two smaller pancakes, I actually like having one colossal one.

I topped my apple pulp pancake with a little bit of almond butter and some maple syrup. It was delicious and a great change to my normal breakfast routine. Lauren still likes the muffins better, although both recipes are yummy. At the moment I don't have anymore pulp to use up, nor any produce needing to be juiced. So it seems like these pulp-y posts have come to an end, until I get a sudden urge to juice again!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

November Randomness

- Working pretty diligently on making Christmas presents
- Got my flu shot yesterday
- Feeling a little more accomplished in the knitting realm
- Slacking a lot on running...maybe I should've continued #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS this month
- Finding that cross stitching is the perfect thing to do while watching mindless TV
- Enjoying mailing packages
- Starting to believe that 70 degree weather is warm
- Looking forward to spending several weeks in California in less than a month
- Wanting to sew lots of garments for myself
- Hoping to go to lots of craft fairs this holiday season
- Obsessed with vegan donuts, even though I haven't had one since August
- Slowly catching up on belated gifts I owe people
- Stuffing my face with the 40 Alternative Baking Company cookies my mom sent
- Excited about going to a farmers' market this weekend, and hoping to make this a weekly routine
- Seriously thinking about running another marathon in July
- Not completely agreeing with how radiators work. I want them to be on all day long, not just when the thermostat says it's cold.
- Recognizing that wearing scarves/cowls is actually a necessity and no longer just a fashion statement
- Craving trail mix all the time, like I could eat it for every meal
- Wearing closed toed shoes all the time now
- Thinking that walking over a mile to go somewhere isn't far at all
- Baking more to use up leftovers. I'm doing a pretty good job at not wasting food.
- So glad I purchased a huge packet of sequins several months ago

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Vegan Chocolate Chip Apple Muffins

One of my October goals was to use my juicer. I had several apples leftover from the farmers' market that didn't taste that great, so I figured juicing them and making apple juice would be perfect. Unfortunately, I never made time to juice them in October so I wasn't able to cross that off my goals list. But luckily for me, those apples stayed good through the first week of November. This past Sunday morning, to complement Lauren's bomb brunch, I finally brought out my juicer and made apple juice!

I received my juicer for Christmas two years ago, but haven't really used it that much. One of the main reasons this appliance has gone unused for so long is because I hate the idea of wasting so much good fruit. Yes the juice tastes awesome, but you end up having to throw away so much of the healthy, fibrous leftover pulp. I knew there had to be some way to use the leftover pulp so I hopped onto Pinterest and searched for "vegan pulp recipes". After some research, I was very excited to learn that there are tons of recipes to use up the beloved pulp. Fruit pulp works the best in most recipes because it's typically sweet and adds a flavorful element to whatever you're making. Apple pulp especially works well because it almost mimics applesauce. I had four apples to use up, but I had absolutely no idea how much pulp I'd be leftover with. So, I found several recipes to use up an undetermined amount of pulp.
The first recipe I tried was for chocolate chip pulp muffins. I mostly followed the recipe, but I make a few changes. Even though she specifically says not to use all whole wheat flour because the muffins would be too dense, I did this anyway. I'm a rebel, but mostly I wanted to make my muffins semi-healthier. I also added a little extra apple pulp (4 apples makes slightly over 1 cup of pulp) because I had so much to use. I think because I used all whole wheat flour and added extra pulp my batter ended up being a tad thicker, so I also added an extra few splashes of almond milk to combat this problem. I left out the nutmeg and cardamon because I didn't have any on hand, and didn't add any coconut or nuts either. Lastly, although I firmly believe that chocolate chips are an essential component of the food pyramid, I cut back on them for this recipe. I didn't want the chocolate to overpower the apple flavor, and since I eat chocolate chips in my oatmeal every morning for breakfast, my diet definitely does not lack this extraordinary ingredient.

So, what's the verdict? Well, I must admit these muffins are pretty good! They're still a little dry for me, but Lauren didn't have a problem with the consistency. If I were to make them again though, I'd probably add a tad more almond milk. I also baked them a little too long even though I took them out of the oven 5 minutes earlier than the directions called for. I baked them for 25 minutes, but I think around 20 minutes would have been perfect (again, this could be because of how I altered the recipe). I couldn't taste the apple flavor that much which was fine, so the chocolate chips were a good addition for flavor purposes.
These muffins make a great snack or a delicious breakfast (I ate 2 of them this morning!). I no longer fear wasting pulp when I juice because I know that the leftover pulp can easily be added into various recipes. I think this muffin recipe would be pretty good regardless of which kind of fruit pulp you add. I'm not quite sure how great of an addition vegetable pulp would be, but I guess it doesn't hurt to try. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Project 365: Days without Pictures

I shared my idea for Project 365 earlier, but I also wanted to show how I'm utilizing the empty spaces for the days where I forgot to take a picture. Since I'm storing all of my photos in albums, I didn't want to just leave several pockets completely blank simply because I didn't have a picture to display for that particular day. I wanted to be able to write my daily statement somewhere in the album (even if I don't have an actual photograph to complement it) so that I'd have a complete account of all six years, in one place.
It was important to me that everything inside my albums still flow well together. However I made up for the missing pictures, I was sure I wanted it to be cohesive with the rest of the book. After holding out and waiting till the perfect idea came to mind, I knew I just had to buckle down and figure out what I really wanted. I hated that having this little detail not yet figured out prevented me from completing my project (for now). Lauren likes to say that my decision making skills resemble a squirrel crossing the road. I might have to agree with that.
After much internal debate, I cut white card-stock into 4x6 inch pieces (the same size as the pictures) and rounded the corners. I wanted to incorporate the date stamp since the rest of my pictures include that. I stamped the date in black ink in the center of each respective card, then wrote my daily statement on the back in fine black Sharpie, just like I did for the days where I did have an actual picture representation.

Fast, simple, pretty cohesive, and to the point. Just like I wanted. I can finally say I'm up to date with my Project 365 albums!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 5

On Friday Lauren and I headed out to Fabric Row once again. Unlike last time though, we were met with subway "complications". Basically, we needed to buy more tokens and the specific subway station we were getting on at doesn't sell tokens there. After lots of "confusion", we decided to walk back to the grocery store, buy tokens there, and then walk all the way back to the subway station.

When we got off of the subway and started walking to our destination, it started raining. I checked the forecast before we left, and no where did it mention there would be showers. On top of that, it even hailed a tad! That was pretty annoying, but thankfully it didn't last long.

Once we reached Fabric Row, we stopped off at PA Fabric Outlet first so Lauren could pick up some buttons for sweaters she has and will be knitting. The store is going out of business, so everything there was 50% off. I scored 20 yards of twill tape for only $3.50. You can't beat that!

The main reason I wanted to go fabric shopping though was because earlier in the week, Lauren surprised me by gifting me the Linden Sweatshirt pattern that I had been wanting badly. As I was checking my email one day, there the pattern was! Thanks Lauren, you're the best! Anyway, I really wanted to purchase some sweatshirt knits to sew this pattern up. Solids are always a safe option and I love stripes, so I was hoping to find either of those in the perfect weight fabric. Of all the shops in the area, I think Fleishman Supplies has the best selection of fabric for the best price, so that's where we ventured next. I found a brown heather knit (that's more t-shirt weight) and a white/black textured sweatshirt knit to experiment with. Hopefully I'll get around to sewing them up soon!
After some fabric shopping, we were hungry! We went to our favorite restaurant in all of Philadelphia, Blackbird Pizzeria! We learned our lesson last time that we can't handle their spicy smoked habanero buffalo wings, but we really liked the actual wings without the sauce. So this time we tried the root beer BBQ wings, and they were delicious! They had just the right amount of flavor without burning your tongue off; I'd definitely order these again. Of course we also had to order our usual Haymaker Pizza. A trip to Blackbird wouldn't be complete without it. I do want to try a lot of other Philadelphia vegan restaurants because there are pleasantly a significant amount of them, but Blackbird is seriously so hard to pass up! Plus, it also doesn't hurt that I got to eat pizza on a Friday (I have a serious Friday night, pizza night obsession)!

Fabric shopping and Blackbird Pizzeria pretty much rounded out this Friday escapade. Once we got home, it seemed like the perfect time to just relax and watch Netflix for the rest of the evening. I'm so happy that Netflix finally has several series from HGTV and the Food Network on their Instant Play. We spent the rest of Friday watching episode after episode of Chopped. It was an awesome Friday!

Although Saturday is obviously not Friday and therefore not really part of "Best Friend Friday", we extended our adventures. The following day Lauren and I walked over 3 miles (round trip) to attend a local craft fair, Art Star Craft Bazaar. Our favorite booth was Inedible Jewelry. Over a year ago, Lauren bought me a chocolate chip cookie for my charm bracelet, and a slice of vanilla cake (I'm still unsure of how I want to display it) for Christmas. While I loved those pieces before, seeing all of their products in person made me love their company even more! At the West Oak Design booth, we were able to "make and take" miniature terrariums! I had never made one before and Lauren has been dying to make one, so this was the perfect opportunity. They're so cute and mine is now currently sitting on my window sill, next to my other plants. For lunch, we walked outside and were greeted by several food trucks. After gawking at each one and reading their menus, we decided to try Samosa Deb since we love Indian food. I tried their veggie samosa and the veggie plate, which included rice, chana masala, and pakora. The food was okay, but it wasn't that similar to what I was used to. The spices seemed a little off, and the pakora (usually my favorite part), seemed more like falafel than pakora. Oh well. I'm still so glad we braved walking in the cold to come here.

And there it is. Another awesome Friday (and Saturday) spent with the bestie, doing what we do best: shopping and eating!  

Thursday, November 6, 2014

My Thoughts on Yoga and Zumba

One of my October goals was to try yoga and zumba. When I moved to Philadelphia, I joined a great gym that offers many fitness classes as part of the membership fee. I've belonged to three gyms, two of which had fitness classes as well, but have never taken advantage of this perk. This was the first gym that I had to pay my own membership fee (thanks dad), so when I joined I promised myself that I would get the most out of this yearlong experience.

I took my first zumba class during the first week of the month and found it a little difficult, but a good workout (aka, I sweat a lot). I decided to go back two days later (with a different instructor), and although it was still a little confusing, enjoyed it even more than before. I kept going to zumba, and each time I participated it became so much easier and even more fun. Zumba was a little challenging at first because I was so unfamiliar with the style and techniques. But after going for over a month now, I recognize all of the songs and am more confident with the repetitive dance moves. It really helped that I used to take ballet (a long time ago) and played an instrument, and so I can usually pick up the counting, rhythm, and beats of songs pretty quickly. I made Lauren try a zumba class with me, and she hated it. Like she refuses to go again. That's okay though, I still go several times a week by myself. I also like that because most people are so focused on what they look like while they dance and they're trying so hard to watch the instructor to see what to do next, no one really cares what you look like. I've never felt self conscious about how I look when I'm dancing because I know that the people near me aren't watching me. Rather, they're staring in the mirror, making sure they don't look silly themselves. This works out pretty perfectly. The fitness classes rotate on a quarterly schedule, so every week the same exact classes are offered by the same instructors as the previous week. I've attended four different zumba classes with three different instructors so far. I definitely have more fun and get a greater workout in some than I do others, but I pretty much will go to any of the zumba classes as I enjoy them that much.

Yoga on the other hand is completely different than anything I've ever done before. I didn't try a yoga class till the end of the month because I first had to purchase a yoga mat. I was on the fence of buying a mat because I didn't want to invest money into yoga and then end up hating it. But then again, I wouldn't know if I hated yoga unless I tried it. So basically my cyclical thinking convinced me to purchase a yoga mat on one of my Target escapades. I figured even if I ended up hating yoga, I could still use my mat for stretching or trigger point/foam rolling. So I set off for my first yoga class, having no idea what to expect. I don't own any "yoga clothes", so I just wore running clothes. Pretty similar. I made sure to wear cropped pants versus shorts though. I knew I'd be doing a lot of stretching and weird movements, so in an effort not to overexpose myself, I opted not to wear shorts. Good choice on my part; my attire didn't pose any problems during class. Besides my outfit choice, I pretty much suck at yoga. I did go on a day when my legs were really heavy and muscles tight from running, but I don't think those were the true causes of my suckage. Compared to the other people in the class (even the guys), I'm not flexible at all. I can't touch my toes with my knees straight, and oh my goodness my calves burn doing the downward dog (no one else seemed to have an issue with this). I did however find a few poses that do feel really nice and wouldn't mind staying in that position for awhile. But that's not how yoga works; instead as soon as you find a comfortable pose, you immediately have to twist yourself into something a lot more daunting. Besides this, I didn't like that the room was so quiet! I get that yoga is supposed to be about relaxation and peace, but I much prefer music when I'm exercising. All I could think about during class was, "I skipped zumba with fun music to be in a room with 'calming' noises?".

I decided to give yoga another shot yesterday; this time with a different instructor. While I still don't love yoga, this most recent experience went a lot better than my first one. To start off, I actually liked the music. Replace the calming, soothing sounds with music I'm actually familiar with is a huge step in an effort to enjoy yoga. In this class the instructor slowly walked us through a sequence of different poses. We kept repeating this same routine, each time speeding it up a little. I really liked this repetitiveness. Because I'm so new to yoga and I hardly know any of the poses nor recognize their names, repeating the same moves over and over again was so helpful. The instructor, instead of sitting in front and doing yoga with us, actually walked around the room and helped people who were struggling or not quite getting the poses correct. Although she never corrected me, if I was doing something incorrectly I would definitely want to be assisted so I would know what to fix. Most importantly though, I actually felt like I completed some form of physical activity. The poses we did seemed more strength-based rather than all flexibility-based. I know it's important to work on being more limber, but including more strength elements in the class made yoga more of a workout which I really appreciated.

I'm so glad I tried these classes. From the start I have enjoyed going to zumba, and while my first yoga class was a bust and I seriously questioned whether or not I wanted to go to yoga again, my second attempt at it went much better. I still like zumba a lot more than yoga, but knowing there's a style of yoga that I don't mind is reassuring. I'll still go to zumba a lot more often than yoga, but working one or two yoga classes in per week is something I'll try to do.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS

When I first moved to Philadelphia, I left the idea of running back in California. I was so busy with moving and spending time with family when I first moved, that I didn't make any time for running. I was okay with that because those things are more important than running, to me. However, even when family left and I settled down into my new normal, running wasn't part of that new routine. I knew that if I continued to make excuses and push running to the side, I would have a hard time getting back into it. So, towards the end of September I decided that October would be the month where I dedicated myself to running again. I had been following @pinkcupcakegirl on Instagram for quite sometime, and she announced that she would be hosting a virtual running streak throughout October. Basically, everyday during the month you walk or run at least a mile. Anyone could participate, and you could share your adventures using #streakwiththeCOOLKIDS. I knew that this challenge of running at least a mile everyday was exactly what I needed to get back into running mode.
I was surprised that I was still able to run around the same pace as I could before (perhaps even a little faster), despite not having run consistently in over a month. That was good news, and I think that realization encouraged me to keep at it. I didn't have any set goals with this challenge, besides running a mile everyday. Even though I walk basically everywhere (thanks to big city living) and I easily walk over a mile daily, I felt it was important and necessary at least in my situation, to actually run everyday as well. I wanted this goal to be attainable for me. I knew that if I "failed" this challenge, it would make me even less motivated to run than I was at the beginning of the month. As long as I completed 31 miles by the end of October, I would be ecstatic. I think by having realistic goals (especially when starting back up), it made the process much more enjoyable and a lot less stressful.
Throughout the first week or so, I really looked forward to getting out and running everyday. The weather was still fairly nice outside and I felt so proud and accomplished posting my finished runs on Instagram. After a while though, I felt like sharing my watch pictures on Instagram was a little too redundant. Being the obsessive person that I am, I had already gotten through half the month of holding myself accountable in this manner, that I couldn't stop posting my runs this way. I'm sure it would have been a lot more interesting and less chore-like had I had prettier pictures like cool scenery shots or whatever to share. However carrying around my phone while I run is not something I like to do, and I rarely do it. So that idea didn't really work.

Also towards the end of the month, I started dreading having to run. More than a few times I would make up lame excuses as to why I couldn't go running throughout the day, which left me having to lace up my running shoes around 9 PM. While I hated this and I cursed myself every time for procrastinating, I still ran. Despite the time of the day and my mindset, #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS forced me to get my runs in, and for that I am thankful. 
Basically, what I take away from #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS is this: for me personally, the challenge of running a mile a day is great as a method of getting back into running. It holds me accountable and prevents me from some saying, "oh I'm too busy to run today, I'll just make it up tomorrow". Because I accepted this challenge, I had to complete it. Had it not been for the streaking challenge, I honestly don't think I would have run nearly as much as I did throughout the month. #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS came at the perfect time for me and really helped motivate me to make running more habitual again. I also ran my fastest 10k which I wasn't expecting at all!

That being said though, I also took up an interest in zumba in October. Towards the end of the month, there were a handful of days where my legs felt so heavy and tired if I ran more than two miles and then went to zumba class. While I think it's definitely possible to run and do zumba (or other workouts) all in one day, I need to be smarter about how I exercise. I want to get better at running (faster and longer distances) but still be able to incorporate zumba and a little bit of yoga into my life. I believe the best way for me to accomplish this is by running smarter. I need to run less often, but make my fewer runs stronger. Having rest days throughout the week is an essential aspect of this concept, and is the main reason I'm sadly not participating in #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS in November. As fun and encouraging as this challenge was for me in October, it no longer resonates perfectly (like it did before) for me. I know a lot of people would be able to run everyday in addition to other forms of exercise, but I'm not at that point.
In 2015 I hope to run another marathon. My first marathon (CIM in 2013) was all about finishing in the designated time limit of under 6 hours. I accomplished that and finished in 5 hours and 45 minutes. My goal for my second marathon is to finish in under 5 hours. For me, this is a pretty attainable goal as long as I train properly. To me this means that the rest of 2014 will be spent getting back into shape and resurrecting my "love" of running by making running more prominent in my life. Official marathon training will start January 1. November and December will be spent building a solid platform to start marathon training in order to make my time goal more achievable.

Thank you, #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS for motivating me and making me interested in running again. Thank you for inspiring me and showing me that there are many more races to be run, and even more goals to be chased!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 4

This past Friday, Lauren and I hopped on the subway and headed out to Old City. We haven't been to this area of the city since moving to Philadelphia in September. However, when we were visiting in May, the hotel we stayed at was in Old City and so we went a lot of our downtime walking around and touring this neighborhood.

One of the many places we went to in May was Old City T-Shirts. Between Lauren, Leti, my mom, and I, we picked up several t-shirts. This shop is pretty cool because you first pick out whichever color and style of t-shirt you want and then you get to pick out the design. They have a few dozen Philadelphia-ish designs and a variety of colors to choose from. The owner then takes your shirt downstairs and prints your chosen design on the shirt in less than five minutes, and best of all, the shirts are very affordable! Lauren and I picked two up this time, one for Abby and one for a birthday present.  

Afterwards, we walked from Old City to Rittenhouse Square. Although it was a chilly gloomy day, the walk was nice and didn't seem that long at all. A Japanese-based clothing store recently opened in Philadelphia, and Lauren has been wanting to check out their thermal heattech layers, so it seemed like the perfect time to do so. When we walked into Uniqlo I was a bit overwhelmed. The store is three floors, and because I wasn't familiar with their clothing or setup, we were browsing the men's section for awhile before we realized we were in the completely wrong area. Once we found the women's department and a nice employee gave us the "new customer talk-through", Uniqlo seemed much easier to navigate. I tried on two tops (the same top, different colors) and a pair of cords. All of the items were pretty comfortable, but the sleeves on the tops were just way too weird for me, and the cords weren't skinny enough at the ankles. Leaving the dressing room, I was expecting to go home empty handed and I was perfectly content with that. Then I found Lauren in the thermal layers section of the store and unexpectedly felt the need to purchase heattech layers as well. As I was waiting in line to buy my items, there was a wall display of tights and leggings (also heattech) that called my name and I realized how imperative it was to pick up a pair of tights as well. I ended up buying black cable knit tights, a long-sleeve striped thermal top, and a pair of gray thermal leggings. I obviously needed all of these things. I have to admit, this store is pretty cool and not so horribly priced.
Next it was lunch time, my favorite time! I scoured one of my newly favorite websites (vegphilly.com), and based on our whereabouts, chose to go to Mi Lah Vegetarian. As we were approaching the restaurant, the building looked oddly familiar, like I had been there before. We stopped to look at the menu before entering, and the menu seemed unfamiliar to me, so I thought the outside appearance was just a coincidence. But as soon as we set foot in the dining area, I knew I had been there before. More specifically, my dad and I had ordered take out from this restaurant two years ago. I remember exactly what my meal looked like and I wasn't that fond of it. But when we sat down to dine this time and I looked over the menu for the second time, I was pleasantly surprised that this menu was completely different from anything I ordered before. I ordered the marinated seitan burger with sweet potato fries; Lauren ordered creamy cauliflower soup and a black bean quesadilla with seitan taquitos. Everything was so delicious and I can't wait to go there again!

Unfortunately we didn't have my beloved pizza for Friday night pizza night. But we did indulge in some yummy homemade vegan pumpkin pie ice cream that I made the night before using Minimalist Baker's recipe. That's some serious good stuff right there!

Even though Friday was Halloween and the most festive thing we did was snack on pumpkin pie ice cream, that's perfect for me. I enjoy walking around the city like a tourist and spending all day with my bestie!

Monday, November 3, 2014

11.14 Goals

In an effort to be more productive and accomplish my goals during my 24th year of life, I've decided to post a "to-do list" of sorts at the beginning of each month. At the end of the month I'll go back over my list and talk about what I was able to conquer and note the tasks I have yet to tackle.
1. Read a book.
2. Finish Summer Sampler blocks 11-15.
3. Knit myself a hat.
4. Finish THE quilt.
5. Complete a project I've pinned.
6. Get a good start on Christmas present making and buying.
7. Use my big camera a lot.
8. Run at least 100 miles throughout the month.
9. Try a new recipe.
10. Paint my nails.

Hello, November!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

10.14 Goals Roundup

Let's see how I did on my October goals, shall we?
1. Read a book: I picked up "Swimming to Elba" from my local used bookstore at the beginning of the month and enjoyed reading it. It was a good, fast read, but not one of my most favorites. I have a running list of books I want to read, and the used bookstore, while they do have a lot of books, just doesn't seem to have any that I'm looking for. I think I'm going to have to start resorting to other methods for finding books.

2. Run at least one mile a day: Thanks to #streakingwiththeCOOLKIDS, I've been consistently running throughout the month. I ran everyday in October, and did much better than my initial hope. I ran a total of 81.8 miles for the month!

3. Take donations to a thrift store: Check! Since Lauren and I moved to Philadelphia in September, we've had a bag of donations just sitting in our apartment, waiting to be donated. I got tired of seeing that bag everyday at the foot of my bed, so I walked to the nearest thrift store one day and checked this item off of my list!

4. Sew something: Wahoo, I finally took out my sewing machine and made something. I sewed something for Marissa's belated birthday, and also used my sewing machine for some Halloween cards.

5. Go to a local fabric shop: I think this was the first thing I completed off my list. There's a little section of Philadelphia called "Fabric Row", so one Friday Lauren and I scouted out the area. There are about a dozen fabric shops within that neighborhood, some being a lot better than others. I found maybe three shops that I would actually go to again. I'm so spoiled by the fabric district in San Francisco, that Philadelphia's "Fabric Row" just didn't live up to the hype. However, I am glad that I ventured out and tested this city's fabric sources.

6. Make something with beads: I had multiple ideas on how I wanted to use my beads, but I didn't have the right tools to make my thoughts come to life. This is something that will have to get done back in Sacramento in December.

7. Try zumba and yoga: I started attending zumba classes towards the beginning of October and have continued to go at least twice a week since. I tried yoga for the first time towards the end of October though, because I just finally purchased a yoga mat. Yoga isn't my favorite thing to do, but I actually like going to zumba...more about this later!

8. Start swimming laps: Completely failed at this. I didn't even consider going swimming. Just the thought of putting on a swimsuit and being in the water for an hour was enough to push this goal out of my mind. I realize that the pool is heated and indoors, but I can't stop thinking about how cold I would be getting out of the pool, drying off, and walking home with wet hair.

9. Use my juicer and ice cream maker: I'm so sad I didn't entirely complete this goal. I did use my ice cream maker to make Minimalist Baker's pumpkin pie vegan ice cream to indulge in on Halloween, and it was delicious. I never thought to use cashews as a base over the traditional canned coconut milk which is used in most creamy homemade vegan ice creams. Sadly though, I slacked on using my juicer. For over a week I was planning on making apple juice but never did it. I had the apples and everything too.

10. Summer Sampler blocks 11-15: Sadly I haven't cross stitched at all this month. I was so good the previous months though, but this month I started to get back into knitting, pushing cross stitching to the back burner. I'm okay with not finishing (or even starting) this goal. I've been wanting to be more interested in knitting and now I finally am, and I hope this interest will stick!

Score for October: 6 out of 10

Not bad, not bad. But I know I can do better in November!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Homemade Halloween Cards

Once I figured out that I would be moving to Philadelphia, one of the things I looked forward to the most was sending (and receiving) mail to different family members back in California. I mean, I love getting mail, especially packages, so wouldn't other people like receiving mail too?

Earlier this month my mom sent me a Halloween card (which she does for most holidays) that I appreciated. My little cousin Abby also sent me a picture she colored for Halloween that she was really proud of. It made my wheels start turning and I thought about how cool it would be if I sent holiday cards to my siblings and little cousin as well. I didn't really do anything with this thought though, until last weekend when several relatives came and visited. I was thanking Abby for the Halloween card she sent me, and she asked me to send her one too. Okay Abby, you got it! Since I had been thinking about sending cards anyway, I put my plan into action. I knew I wanted them to be homemade, while using supplies I already had on hand.
I cut up some kraft paper for the foundation of the cards and went digging through the fabric scraps box. Initially each card was going to have a single Halloween character on it. But then I thought, why not include more characters, but make them simpler. So that's what I did. I freehand cut out pumpkins, bats, ghosts, and crescent moons out of scrap fabric, then sewed one of each onto every card. I also glued sequin eyes onto the ghosts to make them look a little most ghostly.

I wasn't too worried about perfection for this project. I would've finished the cards a lot sooner had I simply glued the fabric onto the cards, but I really liked the look of the stitches. I didn't want all of the cards to be exactly the same, rather I wanted a more one-of-a-kind feel to them (while still having the same basic design). I think the unevenness of the stitches, different colored sequined eyes, and the freehand cutting helped accomplish this feel. Perhaps Thanksgiving cards are in the future? One thing is for sure though, I bet I can keep the post office in business! 

Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween!

I so wish I had a good reason to go trick-or-treating this year! Who doesn't love collecting candy from everybody?

2009: When Lauren, Nate, and I made our own cow costumes for Halloween!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Best Friend Friday No. 3

This week's "Best Friend Friday" post should really be called "Best Friend and Family Friday" since some of my relatives were in town for the weekend, and we spent the majority of Friday with them. It was nice to be able to get some errands done and be driven anywhere we needed to go. We could've gone shopping or do basically anything in Philadelphia, but we chose to go to Target and Trader Joe's, typical!

We stocked up on essentials from Target and filled up our pantry with delicious snacks from Trader Joe's. It really can't get much better than that. The maple cookies are to die for!

I took a pretty long nap after that, and then Lauren and I met up with my family back at their hotel for dinner. We ordered take out from the best vegetarian Chinese restaurant in Philadelphia, Su Xing. My favorite dishes were the veggie fried rice, General Tso's tofu, and the sesame seitan. Everything there is so good, and I love that all of their dishes are vegan. It makes it really easy, yet extremely difficult because there are so many choices, to order.

Last Friday wasn't our typical adventure day, but it was great nonetheless. Back to our normal Fridays this week! Also, I suck at taking pictures now. You can bet November will be filled with hundreds of photos to make up for October.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Vegan Larabars

One of my September goals was to make something out of dates. Lauren and I have a favorite farmers' market in Sacramento; they have the widest selection and best prices by far! One Sunday morning when we were there (before moving to Philadelphia), we came across a booth selling dates that offered us samples. I don't recall ever eating a date before, but this one was super sweet and really chewy! The two nice ladies there told us that they keep well in the refrigerator. We were sold!
I've seen so many recipes for raw desserts using dates that I figured I would make something like that. The plan was to make something in Sacramento, but time passed so quickly and we never got around to it. So we did the next best thing. We brought the packaged dates with us to Philadelphia in our suitcases! Crazy? Perhaps. But definitely worth it!

One of our favorite snacks to eat has been Larabars, but since moving to Philadelphia and not having easy access to Target, our cheapest supply of Larabars has been cut off. Because we're living on a budget and doing our best to stick to it, that meant a lot of our favorite unnecessary foods had to be cut out, like Larabars. Since I was craving these wonderful, tasty snacks, I decided to ditch the raw vegan cheesecake idea and opted to make Larabars instead!

If you know me well, you know that I can be a pretty impatient person. I hate doing research; I just want to jump right into the project. So I googled "vegan Larabars" and chose one of the first few links that popped up. I quickly scanned over Chocolate Covered Katie's recipe and decided to give it a go. They were delicious; Lauren and I devoured them within a few days. So of course I had to make them again and use up the remainder of the dates. I altered her recipe a bit to fulfill the need for Larabar-lookalikes and also because I don't own a food processor. The following method is what worked best for my situation.
I used the exact amounts of all the ingredients the recipe called for (but I made 3 batches at once); I just adjusted the process. I blended the cashews and  chocolate chips together in my Magic Bullet until they were a powder-like consistency. I pitted the dates and then chopped them up as fine as I could get them. I found that it worked best to ball up the dates and chop the ball up into super skinny cross sections, and then cross section them again. When I got tired of chopping, I dumped the dates, the powdered cashew and chocolate chip mixture, vanilla, and salt into a quart sized Ziploc bag and mixed everything together in there. When I was satisfied with the texture and taste, I emptied the deliciousness into a lined Pyrex dish and used my hands to spread it out evenly. I found that it tastes so much better once it's been refrigerated, so I let it chill for a few hours before slicing and digging in. 

Making these Larabars for the second time was a much easier process than my first go-around. I learned what works best and what ends up being a complete failure from my first attempt. Initially I tried using the Magic Bullet as a food processor; I added everything, including the dates to the blender. Bad idea. Because the dates are so sticky, they stuck to the blades, stopping them from turning. Basically, the Magic Bullet wouldn't blend with the dates in there, and the whole apparatus smelled like burnt rubber. I just assumed the cashews and chocolate chips wouldn't blend well in the Magic Bullet either, so the first time I made these Larabars, I chopped all of the ingredients by hand. While this worked, it took forever and was exhausting. With the above modifications however, the Larabars were a breeze to make and I have no issues with making them again in the future.
I don't remember how much we spent on the dates, so I'm not sure if our homemade Larabars are actually cheaper than store bought ones. Regardless though, they're delicious and I definitely see myself making them again...just as soon as I find another (closer) source of good dates! Philly dates, where you at?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Baby Project Life Scrapbook

I finally finished Marissa's birthday present from last year!

My sister and I don't have a lot of baby pictures of ourselves because my mom likes to hoard them. In middle school my class was assigned to make a scrapbook of our lives, from our birth up to eighth grade. Since it was a school assignment and my grade depended on it, my mom surrendered some baby and toddler pictures so that I could make copies for my scrapbook, with the understanding that I would give her back the originals. Well, needless to say, I didn't follow through with that entire plan. To this day, almost seven years later, I still have those pictures. Marissa, doesn't really have any though. But fortunately for her, since we're only a year apart, she's in a lot of the pictures I have of myself. A few times last year she was complaining that she doesn't have any baby pictures to share with her friends (because that's what friends do, we share baby pictures of ourselves). I just knew I needed to make her a baby album so that she had some tangible memories of her tiny self.

Another day, a month or so later, I was at my grandma's house and I was helping her organize her belongings. With five children of her own and nine grandchildren, you could imagine the countless boxes full of photographs she has and the humungous amount of space they take up. So, as I was helping her condense those boxes, I mentioned my idea of making Marissa a baby album for her birthday. My grandma was more than accommodating and quickly gave me many of the double prints she had of mine and Marissa's early years. With the photos from my grandma and the ones I already "borrowed" from my mom, I set out to make Marissa's birthday present.

It started off well. At the time I was obsessed with the Project Life concept. I scanned the pictures onto my computer and ordered prints from Shutterfly. I bought a binder, page inserts, and baby-themed card inserts. I cropped all of the pictures, rounded the corners, and inserted them into their respective pockets. But after that, the unfinished scrapbook sat. And it sat uncompleted for about a year. I was so stuck on how to "decorate" the blank pockets and make the overall scrapbook something to be proud of.

As her birthday approached this year, I was reminded of this unfinished and super belated gift. I promised that it would be done by her birthday this year (September 4). So I got back to work on it. I rearranged a lot of the pictures and  made a rough outline of the text I wanted to include. I wanted to ask my parents about several of the pictures and events, so I was hesitant to write anything down permanently in the scrapbook until I got their advice. So once again, the scrapbook sat unfinished and her birthday passed with no present in sight.

I really wanted to finish her scrapbook in early September so that I wouldn't have to move across the country with it. But that didn't happen. I made a second promise to get the finished gift mailed to Marissa by the end of September. On one of the last days of September (shocker), I spent an entire day working tirelessly. I added all the text, fancy titles, and lots of cute and random (yet appropriate) quotes to the pages. The end was in sight! But I still had a few empty pockets to fill and I needed to order a 12 x 12 photo to cut up to fill an entire page. The shipment on that alone would take up to a week, so my September deadline was out of reach.

The 12 x 12 photo actually came much quicker than I expected, although September was already over. As soon as it arrived, I manipulated it until it was just the way I envisioned. I spent another day finishing up the rest of the empty pockets. Then the next day, I completed all the necessary sewing. And boom, it was complete!

So there's the story of Marissa's very belated baby scrapbook birthday present. Now I need to get to work on her presents for this year (belated of course, once again). I want to have them finished and mailed to her before Christmas!

Because it was so long in the making and this project has been on many of my "goals lists", I just had to share some pictures of the album. My focus is to share the layouts rather than the personal photos and text, so the photos aren't that sharp, but hopefully still enjoyable.