Friday, February 27, 2015

The Rocky Story

Ever since Lauren and I decided we would be moving to Philadelphia, people have been telling us all about Rocky and how cool it was going to be, living in Rocky's famous city. Less than a year ago there was a commercial showing scenes from Rocky when he was running through the Italian neighborhoods of Philadelphia; I'm not even sure what the point of the advertisement was. I've never actually watched the Rocky movie, but I've heard quite a bit about him and his Philadelphia excursion.
Back in May when my mom, Leti, and Lauren visited the city to look at housing options, we even took pictures with a Rocky statue in the Independence Hall Visitors' Center. When we moved back East in September, our families even raced up and down the real Rocky steps. In October when I made it a goal to run at least a mile each day, I even ran the Rocky steps for real, like a true runner. Up until this week, I figured those experiences would be the closest I ever came to Rocky.

That all changed on Tuesday though. Monday evening, Lauren was studying for a big epidemiology midterm and she was constantly reminding herself and me that she needed to bring her calculator to class the next day. I've been known to have a pretty good memory, so I didn't think reminding Lauren to pack her calculator would be an issue at all.

Well, Tuesday morning, 14 minutes before her class started, I received a text followed by a call from Lauren, saying that she forgot her calculator. I started panicking for her. I quickly answered the phone call, asked her where the calculator was, and told her I'm on my way. I was still in my pajamas with unbrushed teeth, and without contacts in. Without thinking, I tossed on a pair of jeans, grabbed the calculator, and zipped my heavy jacket on. There was no time to waste; I would have to wear my glasses in public. I quickly contemplated leaving sans glasses and contacts, but thankfully realized how much worse this would make the situation. I wouldn't be able to see the stop lights and would likely get hit by a car. Glasses it was. I picked up my keys and gloves, and scanned the several pairs of shoes I had sitting by the front door. Old running shoes would have to do. I didn't even have time to grab a pair of socks, so sockless it was going to have to be.

As I was walking down the hallway of our apartment building, I was getting myself mentally prepared, "okay, I got this. I can walk super fast". But then it struck me, why not just run?

So I ran. And I ran, sprinting my way down the busy streets of Philadelphia, scattered with students walking to class. I'm certain I looked very silly in jeans, running shoes, glasses, and a heavy jacket as I made my way through traffic. A red traffic light? No problem. One of the best things about big-city living is that no one truly follows the traffic signals. And then my shoes came untied. I knew I should've double-knotted them. If I kept running in untied shoes, eventually my shoes would start falling off, causing me to run much slower. Luckily I was at the largest, busiest intersection of my journey and I approached a red light that I actually had to stop at. Perfect timing, I'd say. I peeled my gloves off and retied my shoes. Right as I finished, the red hand changed to the walking pedestrian symbol and I booked it across the street. Without any other incidents, I made my way to the building where Lauren's class was held. She was waiting outside for me, and in the midst of giving it my all to get that calculator to her, I almost ran right past her. I handed her the calculator and off she went. I looked at my phone, it was exactly 10 o'clock, the the time her class starts.

I walked home very slowly after that. My jaunt back to the apartment got me thinking though. The initial text was sent literally 14 minutes before my arrival. I was able to answer Lauren's phone call, make myself look publicly appropriate-ish, walk from one end of the apartment building to the other, walk down two flights of stairs, and run over 1.1 miles in under 14 minutes, all the while having to stop and retire my shoes. I cursed myself for not wearing my watch to record my run, then reminded myself that I was in a big time crunch. I was pretty impressed with myself to say the least, so much so that I considered skipping that evening's workout, but I quickly tossed that crazy thought aside.

Then I had the biggest realization. While it was all happening I was so concentrated on getting Lauren her calculator that I wasn't thinking about anything else. Now that everything was solved and good again, I began to process what just happened. I was Rocky, the girl version of course though. Even though I never watched the movie, I've seen clips of him (in black and white) running across the city, crossing one street then the next. From what I can gather, he finally made it all the way up the steps where he reached his finally destination, and he was victorious. He felt on top of the world, lifting his arms in the air. Well, that's exactly (sort of) what I just did. I weaved my way in and out of crowds, through the busy streets of Philadelphia. I encountered some issues along the way, but I too eventually reached my destination. I successfully delivered Lauren's calculator, just in the nick of time, and I felt accomplished. I could see myself running with excellent form and perfect stride, with the Rocky theme song playing in the background.

Now that it's all over, Lauren and I freely joke about what happened. We laugh about how funny I must've looked, and at my thought process at the time. But really what we truly both agree on, is the fact that I was Rocky Balboa that morning.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Healthier Vegan Banana Muffins

Last week we had several almost too-ripe bananas that quickly needed to be used, which only means one thing around here: baking! Around this time, Lauren and I had decided we needed to start eating better, so I didn't want to bake anything with too much sugar or oil. Lauren has made countless delicious banana breads and dozens of muffins in the past, but this time I really just wanted something simple. I didn't want anything too sweet since your basic muffins can easily be dressed up with a dollop of almond butter. I'd pick almond butter over anything else any day!
After scouring Pinterest for awhile and not being able to find anything that met my picky criteria, I decided to just roll with it and create my own recipe. As an added "fun" bonus, I even calculated the caloric count per muffin. Only 127 calories per muffin, not too bad!

(Makes 12 muffins)
- 3 ripe bananas
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 cup soy milk (I used Silk Light Vanilla)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp canola oil

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease muffin pan and set aside. 

2. In a medium bowl, mash all of the bananas.

3. Add the sugar, soy milk, vanilla extract, and oil to the bananas. Mix thoroughly.

4. In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, and mix just until everything is combined. Don't over-mix though.

6. Distribute the batter evenly amongst the muffin pan.

7. Place the muffin pan in the oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

8. Let the muffins cool in the pan, then remove and enjoy...perhaps with a spoonful of almond butter!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 20: Coconut Milk and Loop

Lauren and I usually plan our weekly schedules in advance, and coming up with ideas on how to spend Best Friend Friday is no different. We caught wind that Starbucks was going to start serving coconut milk as another non-dairy milk option, so of course we needed to try our usual orders with this alternative. For several of the past holidays, we each received several Starbucks gift cards, so what better way to start out the weekend than with a warm cup of chai?

The coconut milk definitely made my chai taste completely different than what it would normally taste like with soy milk. It wasn't a bad type of different, but it wasn't great either. The sweetness of the coconut mellowed out the chai spices, so that it truly didn't even taste like a typical chai anymore. It was as if  I ordered something completely different. Lauren's drink on the other hand though was basically undrinkable. She ordered a caramel latte, and the added coconut milk, according to Lauren, made the drink taste like plastic. I despise the taste of coffee to begin with, but tried her drink anyway. Although I wouldn't go so far as to call it plastic-like, the sweetness of the coconut and caramel seemed to cancel each other out, leaving the latte having a completely straight up plain, black coffee flavor. Needless to say Lauren tossed out her drink after just a few sips. I'll stick to soy milk in my chai as well in the future, but I may substitute it with coconut milk every once in awhile. Even though we weren't ecstatic about it, I'll happily welcome any new vegan options to any restaurants.

This past weekend also happened to be Stitches West. For the past two years Lauren and I have attended this annual yarn convention in Northern California. It was awesome because it was just a two hour drive from home. Now that we're living on the East Coast, Stitches West wasn't so feasible this year. Being the big knitting fiend that she is, Lauren had been pretty devastated (seriously) about missing out on this event for the past several weeks. Also, I had been wanting to go to our local yarn store again to purchase some yarn for Lauren's super belated birthday cowl. So, we decided to do some yarn shopping of our own in honor of Stitches West. Even though we wouldn't have hundreds of options to choose from, some yarn is better than none! Loop is about a two mile walk away from our apartment, and they were having their Winter sale. Plus, Starbucks was on our way to Loop, so that was an added bonus!
I gave Lauren a budget for her cowl and let her choose whichever yarn she wanted for her 3 color cowl. She picked out Madeline Tosh Merino Light in Antler and Charcoal,  and Dream Jilly in Bitter. When we got back home that afternoon I started knitting it up, and I must admit, I'm loving it.
I wasn't planning on boring you with yet another pizza picture since there was enough other happenings to share, but let's face it. I love pizza. Always have, always will. I was looking through my Instagram photos the other night, and I'm proud to admit that I have a fair amount of pizza posts throughout my profile. No shame though. This Friday's pizza wouldn't have been the same without our usual whole wheat dough, Newman's Own marinara, cashew cheese sauce, sauteed spinach, onion, tomatoes, green bell pepper, and black olives. Delicious as always!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Year of the Sheep

Happy Chinese New Year! I know, I'm almost a week late. But better late than never?

Being half Chinese, I've celebrated Chinese New Year somewhat traditionally for my entire life. Normally I would go over to my grandparents' house and have customary "jai" for dinner and take a grapefruit leaf bath, amongst other things. This year though, since I'm in Philadelphia and away from my family, I had to celebrate in a much more Americanized way, and I made Lauren join me.

Since I don't have access to any of the traditional Chinese foods or customs, I honored the New Year the best and most fun way possible...Americanized Chinese food!

Lauren and I went to our favorite Philadelphia Chinese restaurant, Su Xing House, where everything is vegetarian (almost all vegan), and ordered whatever and however much we wanted.

We started with fried dumplings, which reminded me more of pot stickers. We also dined on brown fried rice, veggie chow fun (because noodles are a must as they represent longevity), broccoli with garlic sauce, and two different varieties of fried seitan. I'm in love with their fake meat dishes! Saying that everything was delicious is a complete understatement. There are no words to describe how excited Lauren and I had been looking forward to this meal (and the ensuing leftovers). So I'll just leave you with a few photos of the amazingness! I wasn't able to take pictures of all of the dishes, because let's face it, my hunger got the best of me!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Secret Valentine Exchange

 I recently participated in a handmade gift swap for Valentine's Day, and I was pretty pumped since I had never done anything like this before. Sure I like to do crafty things, but I've never made anything for anyone besides my family, Lauren, and Heather (who are pretty much family). I was excited to try new crafty techniques, but I was even more ecstatic to receive a surprise gift in return. Have I mentioned yet that I love receiving letters and packages in the mail?

The person we were making something for was not the same person who would be making something for us. In the beginning of January all of the participants filled out a short survey about our likes and interests. Towards the middle of January, we received someone else's survey responses and we were to make something for them and ship it so that they would receive their gift by Valentine's Day.

From reading my recipient's questionnaire responses, I took away that she likes neutral colors, knitting, and reading. But I was lost after that. I had no idea how to form these interests into something more tangible to make. So I did what I always do in times of need; I went to Lauren for guidance. Being a true knitting fiend herself, she mentioned that knitters always need project bags. She also suggested that I make bookmarks to hone in on her reading hobby. Thanks Lauren, you're the best as always!
Participating in a swap was appealing to me because I thought it would be a good chance to learn a new technique, and it gives me the chance to share something I'm confident in that most people don't necessarily know how to do. I decided to make a project bag and a pouch for knitting notions; both are tutorials by Noodlehead. In my entire life I've only sewn in two zippers but I had a lot of help with them. I thought these projects would be good in practicing this technique. I no longer wanted to fear sewing a cute project just because it had a zipper. I don't know what I was so worried about. Once Lauren showed me how to use the zipper foot, sewing both of the pouches was a breeze. They still took me a lot longer than they should've, but I deliberately took my time, chalking it up as a learning experience.
For the bookmarks Lauren and I decided that incorporating cross stitching would be a good idea. For the past two years I think (yes, I'm slow), I've been diligently working on the Summer Sampler and have stitched up some pretty cute little characters. I decided to make three bookmarks, each with a separate character/scene I thought my recipient would enjoy. I picked the watermelon, whale, and arrows. I created  my own simple tutorial on sewing up these cross stitched patterns into fabric bookmarks. The hardest part was getting the top stitching just right, but honestly, that's always the most frustrating part of sewing projects. Lauren came to the rescue again and helped me figure out this tedious task.

I'm pretty happy and proud of what I was able to make, and I hope my recipient is enjoying her surprise goodies. Both Lauren and I wanted to keep the tiny mint green linen pouch for ourselves, but I promised to make more if we could let this one go. I shared a picture of what I received from Fiona (and she did too- that's the kind of blogger I like!) and I'm still super tempted to start a new knitting project just to use that cute pouch. But, I have to finish what I've already started, otherwise hoarding unfinished projects is going to become one big habit that I definitely don't need. I'm in love with my presents and I'm pretty certain I want to participate in another swap soon. I think I made Lauren catch the swapping bug as well!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 19: Heart-Shaped Weekend

As probably everyone knows by now, whether you like it or not, last Saturday was Valentine's Day. Being that I'm not in a relationship, you might think I'm one of those haters. On the contrary however, I actually love this holiday. Really though, I love all holidays. Who doesn't love an excuse to celebrate something?

Luckily for me, my best friend completely agrees with me. Apparently a lot of people celebrated "Galentine's Day" the day prior to the real holiday, but I hadn't even heard of that till I went on Instagram that day. Lauren and I celebrated Galentine's Day pretty much all Friday and Saturday though. We bought each other presents (that still haven't arrived) and candy/snacks. Does best friendness get any better than that?
Being that it was Friday and the start of Valentine's weekend, we made heart-shaped pizzas for dinner! We did this last year as well and I'm now dubbing it a tradition! My mom used to make my siblings and me heart-shaped meatloaf for Valentine's Day, but since I don't eat meat now, pizza will have to do!
And of course we had to have something heart-shaped on Saturday as well (since Saturday was the true Valentine's Day). So, Lauren whipped up a batch of banana heart-shaped pancakes, adapted from the Thug Kitchen cookbook. Technically she only made us each one heart pancake and the rest were circles. But regardless of their shape, they tasted excellent! I lack the necessary taste buds to be a fan of banana, but I truly don't mind the banana in this recipe.

I sure did have an excellent Valentine's Day/Galentine's Day weekend with my best friend. Running into a Girl Scout cookie site sale and loading up on some sweet treats didn't hurt either (yup, a lot of the cookies are actually vegan!). And I definitely didn't mind snacking on my mini oreos (already gone) and cinnamon sugar pita chips!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Playing Catch Up

It feels like I haven't blogged in forever. I want to, and it's not like I don't have time, it's just that I don't know exactly what to write about. So, I thought I'd play a little catch up and just brief you on what's been happening around here lately.

Lauren and I made the trek over to Target and Ikea last week. We spent less than ten minutes at Target because their dollar spot journal stuff was a bust. However, we made up for our lack of Target purchases at Ikea. We each bought a handful of picture frames (I bought 9 just for myself!) and we've been happily looking up art wall ideas. We also picked up several candles; we hardly ever agree on candle scents, so when we do it's like we have to buy them. Plus, having a more decorated and organized apartment makes our living space more "us". The extreme coldness and urbanization of big-city living has made us a little homesick for warm, suburbanite California. So having a mini Ikea shopping spree sure made us feel more at home.

I've been slowly (and I mean super slowly) learning how to use my DSLR camera. I've really just covered the truly basic stuff, like a few of the different camera modes. But I've been loving playing around with the aperture.

I spent all of yesterday in the hospital; being the bestie that Lauren is, she tagged along for the ride without complaining. Apparently when I'm really sick I get bossy. I experienced my first ever dose of morphine and CT Scan (weird!), and after picking up my medicines, I'm on the mend. I slept almost all day yesterday and I'm still awfully tired. Even though sticking to my marathon training schedule is important, resting during sickness is even more vital. Even if I have to miss an entire week of running, I know that I'll be able to pick up where I left off once I feel 100% like myself again.

Since I basically slept all day yesterday, I had a burst of energy this morning where I suddenly wanted to be super productive. This could also be due to the fact that Lauren cleaned the bathroom and kitchen (all after going to the grocery store) all before going to class and work today. I guess I wanted to channel her productive outlook. So, I decided to meal prep (for just half the week). I didn't actually cook any of the food since I like my meals to be as fresh as possible. But, I did cut up all the veggies and fixings. So now all I have to do is pop open that Pyrex lid and pour it all in a pan and turn the stove/oven on. All of the busy, tedious work is already done. I'll see how much time/energy this saves me in the long run, but I've actually enjoyed Monday Meal Prep. Also, I made the most delicious roasted sweet potatoes, just saying.

Besides being sick and having to take time off, running has otherwise been going pretty well. Lauren and I have run outside only twice in 2015 because it's so dang cold here. We decided to make an effort to brave the cold and get an outdoor run in at least once a week. Initially we were completing all of our runs on the treadmill which got pretty boring. Listening to music helped, but my ear buds won't stay in my ears! I've been doing some research on ear buds for petite ears, but until then, I'm music-less. Then it came time in our schedule for the wonderful fartleks. I actually really don't mind fartleks; they just seem scary. We thought it would be a lot easier to run fartleks on the indoor track rather than having to keep changing the speed of the treadmill. The indoor track did end up working well for the fartleks, so much so, that we have been doing all of runs on the indoor 1/12 mile track since. Yes, we've even run 8 miles on the track at one time. That's 96 laps! And yes, it is very possible to get dizzy while running literally in circles.

We have some fun plans coming up this weekend! At least I think they sound fun. And looking even further into the future, I'm so looking forward to Spring. I can't wait until it's warm enough to wear just pants and a sweater outside and not freeze. My family is coming out for a week long visit in March and I really hope they bring the warm weather with them! I guess the below-freezing temperatures give me even more of an excuse to knit though. We shall see though!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 18: Sitar India Buffet

Two days ago on February 7, Lauren and I were abruptly awoken to an accidental fire alarm ringing loudly throughout our apartment building a little before 8 in the morning. I know what you're thinking, you're not awake by 8 AM? Well, no. On Fridays we sleep in as late as we want because it's Lauren's first "weekend" day, and we usually stay up pretty late on Thursday night/Friday morning. It turns out we're not the only ones who typically sleep in late on Fridays either. After quickly changing into jeans and throwing on jackets and shoes, we found ourselves standing out in the cold amongst a handful of apartment neighbors still in their pajamas. This wasn't the first accidental fire "drill" we participated in, so we took the time to change into daytime clothes, which I know is a bad habit to get into in case of a true fire alarm.

I wasn't planning on going into detail about this disturbing wake up call, but the truth is, despite its complete annoyance, it allowed me to accomplish more throughout the day. Luckily I didn't go back to sleep after that fire alarm because less than an hour later, we had to rush down three flights of stairs and back out into the cold for another accidental alarm. And yes, a fire truck came both times. Lauren always jokes that the fire department is going to become so desensitized to our apartment building's alarms, but fortunately they have to come every single time.

Because Lauren has class Monday-Thursday, I'm in charge of preparing meals those days. Lauren is responsible for Friday-Sunday meals, and every "weekend" morning Lauren makes pancakes for breakfast, which I highly encourage! This Friday wasn't any different. I happily enjoyed my chocolate chip pancake, although I had to top it with butter rather than almond butter (I LOVE almond butter) because I'm running extremely low on my tree nut necessity. Add some maple syrup on top, and the deliciousness of my pancake made up for the utter annoyance of the previous fire alarms.

Way back in October I dropped off some donations at a nearby thrift store. Since then I had been wanting to go back to shop. As one of my goals this month is to check out the local thrifting scene, I made Lauren accompany me early in the afternoon. I was really hoping to find some inexpensive basic frames to start my art/gallery wall, but no such luck. I truly miss the abundance of thrift stores in Sacramento and the vast array of items they sale.

Since we were already kind of in the area, Lauren wanted to explore a grocery store that is I guess common in the East, as she's heard that it's cheaper than typical stores. I didn't really know what to expect, but I entered with an open mind, hoping to score some good deals and/or use this as a good excuse to try new products. After spending a good half hour in Aldi's my take away is this: they do offer a handful of name brand products at a slightly reduced cost, but most of their items are off brands that are significantly cheaper than you would normally find their counterparts elsewhere. The checkout lines take a lot longer to get through because people fill their carts up to the brim. So if you have time to spare and don't care about name brand products, then this may be the place for you. I wouldn't mind doing more grocery shopping here, but its location is definitely out of the way and there are a lot of items we purchase on a weekly basis that Aldi's doesn't carry. That being said though, we did walk away with rice cakes, trail mix, and Mamba candy!

Several months ago Lauren and I got flu shots at CVS. Part of their promotion was a 20% your total purchase coupon. We like getting each other presents for every single holiday that exists, and since no one else (except my mom) gives us Valentine's Day presents, we pick a few items out for each other. We decided to venture over to CVS to use a coupon and pick out our own Valentine's Day treats (which we then make the other person buy and gift to the other). It's a good system. We're allowed  to pick out anything in the store, and my selections were mini Oreo's and cinnamon sugar pita chips.
We were welcomed back to our apartment with an excellent mail day. We received Target and REI purchases, a very belated holiday card from my family, and I got my Secret Valentine Exchange gift from Fiona! How cute is that?
The highlight of the day though, and also perhaps the worst part was going to an Indian food buffet for dinner. Lauren and I both love Indian food, and we're very keen on the idea of buffets. After talking to several classmates and doing some research, Lauren came across Sitar India and was eager to try their dinner buffet. Of course, I happily obliged. I was really impressed that they actually label what is vegan (and gluten free) and they had a vegan dessert. Lauren had to remind me to take a picture of my plate, but I was already halfway done with my second servings by the time I took my phone out, so this picture doesn't do the buffet justice. Sorry about that. At least it's better than no picture, am I right? I stuffed myself with veggie samosa, rice, chana masala, cabbage/veggie curry, dal, kidney bean curry, and naan. Even though I was so full after two large plates, I made myself stuff down some dessert as well. The dessert was surprisingly delicious! I don't remember what it was called, but it's made out of carrots, coconut milk, almond, raisins, and cardamon. It was seriously amazing. And to make the buffet even better, you get an unlimited amount of sweet mango juice! Lauren and I left, completely stuffed. There were several times we truly thought we were going to be sick. I couldn't even talk about food the entire walk home in fear that I may see my dinner a second time. Despite feeling super sick afterwards, I'll probably never learn my lesson and keep indulging in buffets. I really don't go that often, I promise! I'm sure Lauren and I will frequent Sitar India again and revel in all its glory!

This Best Friend Friday was all about trying out new places. While I'm definitely a creature of habit and could probably eat the same thing everyday, it's good to explore and be semi-adventurous. Thanks for trying new-to-us places with me, bestie!    

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 17: Sewing Day

This past Friday on January 30, Lauren and I decided to have a crafting day, or more specifically, a sewing day! Lauren has been busy with school and work so she has been itching to get some sewing time in, and who am I to pass up a day filled with craftiness with my bestie?

Whenever a new indie sewing pattern comes out that I adore, I just have to buy it right away, without any solid plans for it. Typically this new pdf just sits in my inbox for months, sometimes even years, until I get the sudden urge to sew up a new garment. When we moved to Philadelphia, Lauren and I kept all of our already pieced patterns rolled/folded up in an unused, clean trash bin. It was a sad state, and even worse to work with curled pattern pieces. We decided that our patterns need to be hung up and kept unfolded/unrolled. After hanging up Command Strips, hole punching our pattern pieces, and wrapping leftover yarns scraps through the patterns, we came up with a great solution that works well for us. Since we wear different sizes, we're unable to share patterns which means that we each have to print out the dozens of pages, tape, and cut all of the patterns we want to use. It's really not that big of a deal (I actually find piecing patterns quite relaxing), but that means that we each needed our own space for pattern storage. Lauren hung hers up by her desk, and mine's by the window (because I don't have enough space by my desk), and so far this system is working really well. Because our patterns are now in clear view, I at least always want to start sewing something new whenever I walk by.

Anyway, on Friday Lauren started and finished a Tiny Pocket Tee, sans the pocket. I finally finished my Tova Top. Our sewing on-and-off marathon truly began the Saturday before, and I finished this one project in the amount of time Lauren managed to sew three garments. That's okay though. I'm really happy with my finished product and I think that it will actually get worn a lot! I also restarted a Pretty Blouse that I initially began years ago. It's about halfway done now, but it still needs sleeves, a hem, and a finished neck.
This probably goes without saying by now, but obviously we had homemade pizza for dinner. We changed things up a little bit this week and tried a new "cheese". Usually we top our pizzas with Daiya Mozzarella, but we only had a little bit left and we were trying to save it for Super Bowl nachos. Cue Pinterest! I went through my pins and found vegan pizza cheese sauce. We had all of the ingredients so of course I had to try this recipe. Initially I was worried I wouldn't like the taste or texture since I've become accustomed to Daiya. But once I had my first taste, I knew that this cheese sauce would be delicious on pizza. Lauren and I loved this recipe. I'm pretty sure Lauren even prefers it over store-bought vegan cheese. The recipe makes a huge batch and should keep well for a few weeks, so I've been topping everything I could think of with the leftovers.

This week's pizza toppings included: Newman's Own marinara, cashew cheese sauce, spinach, black olives, yellow bell pepper, tomatoes, and onions. I've mastered the cooking time and rotating the two pizzas on various oven racks so that our pizzas come out with the perfect golden crust!

An awesome Best Friend Friday was definitely had!   

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

02.15 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 my Summer Sampler!
3. Try a new recipe.
4. Go thrifting.
5. Start a gallery/art wall.
6. Start Lauren's belated birthday cowl.
7. Sew something wearable with knit fabric.
8. Use my big camera EVERY day.
9. Try a new-to-me restaurant.
10. Play with watercolors.

Ready, set, go!

Monday, February 2, 2015

01.15 Goals Roundup

I've come to the realization that making and completing these monthly goals are helping me recognize what I actually like to do. The goals that I can easily and quickly cross off of my list are things I'm excited to accomplish and don't seem chore-like. On the other hand, there's a few things that I have to will myself to do. Although I know you shouldn't force yourself to do anything you don't want to do, balance is still important. Being a well-rounded individual is something I strive to become. While I love to do some crafty things, being aware of the world around me is also important. Even though I'm sure I could easily stay in my apartment all day long knitting my blanket, I understand how necessary it is to go outside and explore where you live. Initially these monthly goals were meant to encourage me to get things done, now however, I want to use them to make life even bigger.

Sorry for that tangent; my epiphany is over now. Let's evaluate January, shall we?
1. Complete Summer Sampler blocks 16-20: I was able to check this off my list not too far into the month which left a little bit of time to work on another surprise cross stitch project.

2. Read a book: Within the first week of January I started and finished "Family Pictures" which was a pretty good read. It was slow getting into the book, but once I reached the climax of the novel, I had to know how it ended. This was the book I originally bought on Amazon way back in September, hopeful that it would arrive in Sacramento before I moved across the country. Unfortunately it didn't, but luckily Leti held it for me until I came back for the holidays in December. I also recently bought a Kindle which meant that I had to scour the library's collection of ebooks. In the middle of January I checked out "Born to Run" and spent several days at the gym, on the stationary bike, trying to get though the book. Some parts were very interesting, like the descriptions of the American River 50 mile race (since I participated in it), and that held me captive. However, I gave up on the book about half way through. I felt like I was forcing myself to get to the end. After realizing that I was finding excuses why I shouldn't read, I decided to go ahead and let the ebook's check out time limit expire without renewing it. I've heard a lot of great things about this book, especially from my running group, but this wasn't the type of motivation I needed.

3. Use my new kitchen gadgets: I used my new food processor for multiple recipes like: larabars, salad dressing, cheese sauce, and falafel. But, I haven't found the perfect recipes to try with my Ninja chopper. This month though, my chopper will be put to a lot of use! That's for sure.

4. Stick to a running schedule: Lauren, Marissa, Heather, Leti, and I are signed up to run the San Francisco Marathon in July. Lauren and I knew that as soon as we registered for the race, we had to come up with some sort of system to hold us accountable for our training runs. I picked up a calendar from Target's dollar section, and wrote the distance/time we have to run every single day, including when our rest days are. I'm very happy (and a little surprised) that I stuck to this schedule pretty dang well. I only missed one day of running out of the entire month (a 24 minute run), so I consider this goal a huge success!

5. Sew something for myself: I made myself a sleeve for my new Kindle and whipped up a Tova Top that I'm actually excited to wear. I also restarted a Pretty Blouse that isn't quite done yet.

6. Go somewhere new to me: Of course this happened to be food related, and I'm not surprised nor ashamed at all! Lauren and I tried Hub Bub and The Green Line Cafe and love the latter!

7. Take lots of pictures, with people in them: I don't really know anyone in Philadelphia besides Lauren and myself, so when I said that I want more pictures with people in them, I guess I really meant that I wanted to take more bestie pictures. That didn't really happen though. I realized that my aim is to take better, higher quality photos. Yes, I definitely want to take a lot more photos to document everyday life because ten years from now there's a good chance that I won't remember all of the littler fun things I did, like what I did throughout the day. I definitely want to remember that, but I also want to have good pictures in my Project 365 albums. Years from now, I want to be able to look through those albums and think, "hey, that really is a great photo!". So for the rest of the year, I'm striving to take more best friend and family (when they visit/I visit) photos, and better quality pictures with my big camera. I also want to learn exactly how to take better photos with my big camera. That means no more using the "automatic" feature and instead playing around with the shutter speed, f stop, etc. and what those all actually mean.

8. Start a 2014 scrapbook: I sure did! I went through my hoarded paper stash and I trimmed down dozens of patterned and solid papers to make a 50 page book. Next step, slowly getting pictures printed. I think the best way for me to work on the book is by month, so that's the plan.

9. Go to the farmers' market: Lauren and I went to our local farmers' market once this past month. It's not a huge market, but we did manage to pick up some sweet potatoes, parsley, broccoli (which ended up being bad, due to the freezing temperatures), and apples (basically out of season now). As much as I like to support local businesses, I also really enjoy truly good produce. I don't mind paying a little extra for items grown/made locally, nor does it bother me that farmers' market produce appears "different" than "regular" produce from the store, or whatever. However, for example, I'm a picky eater when it comes to fruit and as it's the winter, I'm loving that it's finally citrus season. Living on the East Coast now, we don't really have a local supply of oranges. The grocery store right around the block carries plenty of oranges (from California) that are delicious, and so I end up enjoying those way more than the apples from the farmers' market. Unfortunately, I am pretty certain that farmers' market trips aren't something that's going to become a regular weekend ritual for us right now. Occasionally we will walk over to the park and see what they have to offer, but for now it seems like the best quality produce actually comes from the grocery store.

10. Stretch and go to yoga more often: I've been going to yoga about twice a week and I think it's really helping me stick with my running schedule. There have been numerous times where I'm actually way more sore from yoga than running, but that's good. I'm building strength and working on my balance and flexibility, not to mention reaping the benefits from the included stretching.

Score for January: 8 out of 10.

I think that's the best I've every done on my monthly goals!