Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 25: Chillaxin'

Funny story, I have this t-shirt that is one of my favorites to sleep in because it's ultra soft and super comfortable. My mom gave it to me for Christmas two years ago because Charlie Brown and Linus are on it, and she knows how much I adore the Peanuts gang. "Chillaxin'" just happens to be written across it, and Lauren insists that whenever I wear it, I must chillax. What does chillax mean, you ask? Simply put, chillaxin' is when you choose to be a little bit lazy (stay in your pajamas all day long), go with the flow, and just do anything you want despite how unproductive it may be. Basically, chillaxin is relaxing while remaining chill.

I'm sure you've guessed by now, but Friday, March 27 was spent doing just that. For Best Friend Friday this week, Lauren and I chillax'ed all day long. I spent the entire day cross stitching while Lauren worked at perfecting specific knitting techniques and finished a yarn embroidery piece for her art wall. Crafty chillaxin' day for the win!

I spent one of my more active moments of the day making pizza. I just couldn't let go of that Friday tradition; eating pizza is relaxing, you know. As part of our marathon training, a good portion of our Saturdays are spent running. Lately I've been using these long Saturday runs as an excuse to finish my entire personal pizza Friday night. I have to say, I think it's the pizza that powered me through those 12 miles. ;)

Even though we didn't do anything excruciatingly exciting this past Friday, I definitely enjoyed doing "nothing" with my bestie on her last true day of Spring Break!  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 24: Rita's Italian Ice

First off, I just need to say that I was so close to titling this, "Ice Ice Baby" because so many icy things were going on, but I chickened out at the last minute. Nothing against Vanilla Ice though.

Anyway, the morning of Friday, March 20 was spent anxiously waiting for Lauren to finish her last final of the quarter. We had been planning to go to Rita's Italian Ice once she finished her test to celebrate the first day of Spring by getting a free flavored ice. Apparently Rita's is pretty popular around here, but I had never heard of it back in California so I was excited to try it. Rita's closes for the Winter and reopens the first day of Spring; I guess some people don't want to eat frozen treats in the cold, but I'm not one of those people! Lauren and I have walked past their establishment several times before, and their colorful building has been taunting me to go in. We had been pretty pumped to go to Rita's, but then we found out that snow was on the forecast for Friday. Lauren was hesitant to still go, but I wasn't going to let the snow deter me. 4.5 miles walking in the freezing snow has nothing on me!

To be truthful, I didn't actually know what Italian ice was. I wasn't sure if it was going to be snow cone/shaved ice-like, or more like Merlino's/Hagen's which I have enjoyed countless times back in Sacramento. I was definitely hoping for the latter, but I would've been content with either. To my amazement Rita's was pretty similar to the thick slushie-like Merlino's, except without chunks of fruit. From what I can gather, it seems like they have a dozen or so different flavors everyday. Looking on their website, they have pages and pages of different flavors, but I'm not sure how often they are rotated.
Lauren quickly selected the mango Italian ice and I picked the pineapple. We had the option of adding custard on top for $1, but since it's not vegan, we just stuck with the Italian ice. But it I weren't vegan, I'd be all over that custard! It looked more than delicious swirled on top. Even without the mouthwatering custard, my pineapple Italian ice was delicious, just like I expected! As part of our marathon training, Lauren and I have long runs every Saturday, and we usually find ourselves headed in the direction to Rita's. Lauren brought up the idea of planning on running route so that we end at Rita's. That way, in the hotter Summer months, we can walk back home with a cold treat as we rest our legs and replenish all those lost calories ;)

Despite it snowing and being pelted in the face with huge snowflakes (at that point are they really snowflakes though?), our freezing jaunt around the city was completely worth it for this sweet treat! I may have been an icicle when I got back home, but at least my taste buds were satisfied!  

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Exercise Induced Anaphylaxis

You know how some people say they're allergic to exercise? The majority of the time they probably are just joking and looking for an excuse to not workout, but there's actually some truth to that statement for others, like me. While I'm not truly allergic to exercising in and of itself, I have had an allergic reaction while running several times.

Several years ago while I was in Oregon on a trip, my throat and mouth became super itchy after eating a chocolate peanut butter dessert. Although it was very uncomfortable, I didn't think anything of it since my breathing wasn't affected. A few days later though, a bunch of sores developed in my mouth making it too painful to eat. Long story short, I immediately got a blood test to determine exactly what I was allergic to. I read over the ingredients from that chocolate peanut butter dessert multiple times, but was confused because I had eaten all of those foods before without any problems. When my blood test results came back, I was surprised to see how many different foods I was actually allergic to, especially the ones I was currently eating without any adverse reactions. Supposedly, I'm allergic to all nuts (except pistachios, Brazil nuts, and cashews), soy, corn, and wheat. I found it interesting that I was allergic to almost all of the vegan items that I was tested for, yet any potential allergies to animal-derived foods (dairy, eggs, shellfish) came back negative. Perhaps it's just a huge coincidence and my allergist didn't seem as amused by my "finding" as me, so I suppose it's unrelated. My allergist agreed that since I haven't noticed any symptoms from eating corn, wheat, soy, or most nuts, that I can continue to eat these foods. But, I should cut out peanuts from my diet since the peanut butter was most likely the culprit in my initial allergic reaction. Even though my breathing wasn't impaired, I still carry around an Epi-pen since each subsequent allergic reaction can be completely different than the previous one, and there is still the potential I can go into anaphylactic shock even though it's never happened before.

Anyway, back to exercising. I experienced my first exercise induced allergic reaction about two years ago, but I didn't attribute it to exercising at the time. I just figured I ate something that didn't agree with my body and I was having an allergic reaction solely because of that. However, the same thing happened several months later, and it was then that I started to do some research. Over a year later I had another allergic reaction while running, but it was more severe. I was running outside by myself and I still had half a mile left to run when I noticed my hands starting to swell, turn bright red, and become really itchy, my throat was also itchy. I ran the remaining distance as quickly as I could and as soon as I walked through the front door I was already barking orders at Lauren to grab some Benadryl and my Epi-pen (just in case). Luckily the Benadryl worked and I didn't need to use my Epi-pen. By just looking at my face now, Lauren can easily tell when I'm having an allergic reaction. She recognizes my "dog face" that according to her, resembles a dog's snout, but bright red and covered in hives.

That last experience happened in August, but I've been carrying Benadryl with me to the gym, just in case. Luckily I do because two weeks ago it happened again. I was doing a track (speed) workout and towards the end of the run, I could feel my hands start to balloon up and become itchy. Of course I felt like I needed to finish my entire run, then I rushed to my locker and took a Benadryl. The antihistamine kicked in within 15 minutes, and besides feeling lethargic, I felt much better. But two days ago, it happened again while I was doing another speed workout. This time was a little worse than before. Like all previous reactions, I had that same horrible feeling in my hands, but this time my lips and mouth started to become numb. Again I took Benadryl, but it took longer for these symptoms to subside.

These last two "attacks" have happened so close to one another, and within just two weeks the symptoms were even worse. I did additional research about EIA and learned that it's pretty hard to identify the cause for certain. EIA can be due to hormonal changes, food, temperature/humidity/seasonal changes, or medications. After analyzing my habits and environment, I believe that for me, EIA occurs as a result of a specific food I eat prior to exercising. This food can normally be eaten without any problems; it's only an issue if my body is stressed (running) after consuming that particular food. Because of this, it's difficult to pinpoint the co-factor. I have absolutely no idea what food is causing this, but I also know that the last two times this has happened, it has been during a speed workout where I'm running significantly faster than I typically would. So, the intensity of exercise could also be a factor for me.

This all being said, for now I'm going to stop doing speed workouts in hopes that I don't have another allergic reaction. From previous situations, I already know that I personally have to stop eating three hours prior to running. Thankfully I haven't had to resort to using my Epi-pen before, but again, each allergic reaction is different and I always need to be prepared.

While this post was partially meant to create a greater awareness to a rather uncommon condition, I chose to share this story because I want to tell the whole story, the entire journey. Believe it or not, I actually enjoy running (usually), and so I want to be transparent and not only share the highs (races, PRs), but also the lows and the struggles.      

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Paint Chip Wall Art Tutorial

Over a year ago I pinned a link for a paint chip wall art DIY. Soon after admiring it, I went to Home Depot and selected a handful of paint chips in four different colors. I never actually read the tutorial, but I loved the general idea of the finished project. Like many other things though, these paint chips remained untouched and even moved with me across the country. A few months ago when I finally convinced myself to start an art/gallery wall, I knew I'd finally put these paint chips to use. I selected one of my empty Ikea frames and got to work. While all of my inspiration for this project came from this initial tutorial, I went rogue and ended up creating my own. I loved the use of triangles, but I wanted something slightly more detailed/intricate with more white space showing. Plus, I like math, so of course I needed to reacquaint myself with some basic geometry !

- Frame (optional, but everything looks better framed!)
- 1 sheet of white cardstock, slightly larger than your desired finished piece
- 4 different colors of paint chips, 3 sheets of each color (I used Glidden)
- Scissors
- Elmer's glue
- Q-tip
- 2-3 different colored pens
- Ruler

The frame I picked came with a mat that I wanted to use, so I simply placed my mat over my cardstock and drew an outline of the space I needed to fill.
I tried out various sizes of triangles, but I ended up liking the smallest ones the best. To obtain these triangles, I drew a grid on the back of the paint chip that looks like this. Basically, you'll want to make 1/2 inch x 1/2 squares in one color of ink. In another color of ink, make vertical lines every 1/4 inch (you're dividing each 1/2 x 1/2 inch square in half). The column and row shaded in black were shorter than 1/2 inch, so I ended up tossing those pieces out.

Now, cut out your squares, using the black ink as a guide. Do not cut on the pink colored lines, just the black!
So now you have a bunch of tiny squares with a pink line running down the middle. You're two cuts away from having yourself a perfect triangle! Position your square so that the pink line is running vertically. Cut from the bottom right corner up to the tip of the pink line. Then cut from the bottom left corner up to the top of the pink line. To clarify, I drew where to cut with a blue pen, although I just free-handed this part. Do this with all of your paint chips. I ended up using 2 1/2 sheets of 4 different colors (about 10 paint chips total).
Now you have yourself a bunch of tiny little triangles, so it's time to adhere them to the piece of cardstock. After experimenting, I found Elmer's glue and a q-tip to be the best method for attaching the triangles to the cardstock.
I started at the top left corner and worked my way to the right side. Then, I worked my way down from the top left corner to the bottom left corner to give myself somewhat of a template to work off of. For the first row and column, it helped to lay out all of the triangles before gluing them down to make sure that the spacing worked out.
For the two vertical columns that make up the perimeter, I just cut a triangle in half to fit the open space. All you have to do is cut on the pink line to achieve this.

My favorite part of the entire project was "randomly" choosing which color to use next. I didn't want to have the same color adjacently touching one another, so I took this into account when selecting the next color. Technically it wasn't truly random, but I definitely wasn't going for any type of pattern either.
Lauren walked by my desk as I was about halfway through with the project and admitted that it was making her dizzy looking at it. I could definitely see how this is possible, but I don't get that vibe at all after I framed it. I love the way it turned out and I think it'll add a nice pop of color to my art wall!

Monday, March 16, 2015

When the family visits...

...we go places!

My mom loves to travel and she loves to do everything when she's on a vacation. While some people love to travel to relax and unwind, she's the complete opposite. Lauren jokes (although completely true), that when we're on a trip, my mom is always the first one awake and the first person ready to leave in the morning, which is completely different to normal daily life. So of course one of the first things my mom did when my family arrived in Philadelphia was pull out dozens of brochures that she had collected in an attempt to plan out the ensuing week's trip. She likes to fit in as much as possible, kind of like getting the most bang for your buck, I suppose.
A month ago, we had decided that the Sunday they fly in, we would all go to the Philadelphia Flower Show in the afternoon, since that's the last day of the exhibit. Unfortunately though, Marissa got sick on the plane and Nate didn't adjust well to the time change, so my dad, mom, Lauren, and I ended up being the only ones able to go to the show. Frank wasn't able to come on this trip because he was still in school, but hopefully he'll be able to visit soon! The Convention Center was packed and it was hard to make our way through the crowds at many of the Disney-themed displays. There are some serious flower enthusiasts out there, and since none of us have that great of a passion for intricate floral arrangements, we mainly stuck to the less popular smaller displays. I actually enjoyed admiring the competitions by flower species more than the main attractions. The brightly colored tulips were my absolute favorites, followed by the daffodils. The succulents, cacti, and other houseplants were also fun to look at, and I was so tempted to purchase several for our apartment. But, I didn't want to have to deal with carrying them back on the subway and I've never been successful at keeping succulents/cacti alive.
My grandma, aunt, and Abby joined the party on Wednesday morning. Later that day everyone but Lauren (she was in class) visited Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. This was my third time seeing both sites since May. Our tour guide at Independence Hall was my favorite by far, and they finally reopened the upper floor of the building to the public. The best part of the day though was watching Abby being so enthralled by the Liberty Bell. What other five year old would sit and stare at the Liberty Bell for a good ten minutes, while continuously asking detailed questions about the bell? Only Abby. It's hilarious how much she loves that bell. She has a fantastic memory and remembered everything anyone told her about it. She picked out two different Liberty Bell key chains from the gift shop and carried them around in her pocket. Every so often she'd pull them out, examine them, and recite the differences and similarities between the two key chains and the real Liberty Bell. That fascinated me.
My parents and grandma had a dinner reception to attend Wednesday evening, and my aunt stayed back at the hotel while Abby slept, so it was just my siblings, Lauren, and me for dinner that night. We decided to have a little fun of our own and go out to dinner by ourselves. We collectively decided to try Pattaya Grill since we all like Thai food. I was pleasantly surprised with all of their vegetarian offerings, and they had plenty of meat dishes for Nate and Marissa as well. Lauren and I shared the vegetable dumplings and the vegetable spring rolls for starters, and the tofu pad Thai and veggie drunken noodles for entrees. Both appetizers were delicious, especially the garlic sauce that came with the dumplings. We had never had drunken noodles before, so I was looking forward to trying something new. I liked how the noodles reminded me of my beloved chow fun, but the sauce wasn't my favorite. It was a little too spicy and tasted like enchilada sauce. The pad Thai was really good though, although I wish the tofu was firmer. We stopped at Capogiro for dessert since Lauren and I had been wanting to try the sorbets for awhile. I got a scoop of the orange sorbet, and although it was pretty expensive for a single scoop, it tasted amazing!

On Thursday we all went to the infamous Reading Terminal Market. I'm pretty sure this was the highlight of everyone's trip. Of course we all had to have a real Philly pretzel, and it was fun watching them stretch and twist the dough into pretzel shapes. My family loved picking up donuts and breads from the Amish bakeries. My aunt even introduced us all to Irish potatoes! A trip to Reading Terminal wouldn't be complete for me without picking up a vegan dessert from Flying Monkey Bakery; I devoured the lemon poppy seed whoopie! My siblings enjoyed Reading Terminal so much that we went again on Saturday morning before their flight back to California.
One of the things Marissa has never done, despite visiting the City of Brotherly Love several times before, was see the Rocky steps. Throughout the week Marissa and I were playfully arguing who the true Rocky is, so of course we had to run the steps and determine once and for all who the title belongs to. Lauren, Marissa, and I raced up the steps twice while my dad filmed us. Lauren crushed Marissa and me the first go around, but I soon caught on to her trick. The second race was much closer, although Lauren still finished first. I passed up Marissa by using Lauren's strategy of skipping every other step. 
Friday was spent at the Adventure Aquarium, Su Xing House, and taking a ghost tour.

It was sad to say goodbye to everyone since I won't be able to see them till July, but I'm glad that they were able to come out and visit for a week. And I'm even happier that they found so many things they like to do in Philadelphia. I think they had a fun visit to the city, and they all said they're eager to come back soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 23: Adventure Aquarium

This past week has been filled with lots of fun activities. My parents, Marissa, Nate, my grandma, aunt, and Abby spent the week visiting Lauren and me in Philadelphia! Their hotel was literally next door to our apartment which made meeting them for breakfast and other outings so easy. We spent the majority of the week taking care of errands (Ikea, Target, Trader Joe's) that Lauren and I can't get to easily without a car, and doing touristy things. But on Friday, March 13 (yup, Friday the 13th!), we spent the day somewhere completely new to me: Adventure Aquarium!
The aquarium is actually located in Camden, New Jersey which is only a half hour drive from Philadelphia. Although Camden is known as the murder capitol of the United States, I didn't feel at all frightened driving to the aquarium. We did visit in the earlier part of the day, so I'm not sure how the area is at night. Also, we didn't go anywhere in Camden besides the aquarium, so I can't speak of the safety for the entire city.
We spent several hours at the aquarium, and looked at pretty much everything there. I'll admit though, we didn't linger for too long in the kids' areas. Way too many little people for us. Plus, I wasn't a huge fan of the tiny play structures and I didn't feel like squeezing in between children to touch the bat rays, so we quickly walked through those exhibits.
Adventure Aquarium is much smaller than the Monterey Bay Aquarium that I've gone to in the past. While there weren't as many things to see in New Jersey, I spent more time looking at what they did have. My mom was really excited that Adventure Aquarium has two hippos, animals I've never seen in person before (that I can remember, at least). Unfortunately they were sleeping when we went, but their ginormous sizes took us all by surprise and we were convinced the aquarium installed magnifying plexiglass.
Since Nate is now a freshman at Dominican, our family has become huge lovers of the school's penguin mascot. My mom loves everything penguin now, so it was a delight that the aquarium housed "Penguin Island".
I have to say though that my favorite parts were probably admiring the jellyfish, the colorful varieties of fish, and the little swimming turtles. Sure there were plenty of sharks and other rarer sea life to fall in love with, but I was never the kid who loved animals. Does that make me a terrible person? I loved all of the brightly colored fish and ever-changing shapes of the jellyfish though.

The evening was all about being open to trying new things. Lauren and I really wanted to go to our favorite restaurant in Philadelphia, Su Xing House, which happens to be completely vegetarian. While half of my family members don't mind eating tofu, the other half are a little more skeptical. But, being the gracious people that they are, they didn't complain one bit! We ordered more than a handful of dishes and together we pretty much devoured everything. There was only a small portion of veggie fried rice to take home. To show our gratitude for eating a completely vegan dinner without being bitter, Lauren and I agreed to go on a ghost tour of Old City later that night. I'm not a fan of anything supernatural, but not everyone in my family has that same opinion as me, and that's okay. What has somewhat recently become a philosophy for me, is that I don't care what people believe in/don't believe in. I'll respect whatever it is that a person believes/doesn't believe, so long as they too truly respect the other person's differing opinion. I don't want to miss out on time with my family solely because they want to do something I don't completely agree with. If they can find the energy to support what I want, then I should also be able to put my differences aside and be there for what they want to do. While going on the ghost tour wasn't really my favorite part of my family's visit, I'm glad I was able to spend the entire Friday with them and my bestie (of course!).

My family just left yesterday, so it was a welcomed treat to have been able to spend all Friday (and the entire week) with them, especially since I won't be seeing them again till July.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 22: Crafty Day

I can't believe it's March already! I'm not complaining at all though; I've been so anxious for Spring to finally get here. The cold and I don't get along well, to say the least.

Anyway, on March 6 Lauren and I spent Best Friend Friday doing crafty things all day long. Yup, that's right, we didn't leave the apartment at all!
Early on in the day, I jumped into working on a project for my art/gallery wall that I started a few days before. I spent several hours (at least it feels that long) gluing tiny triangles onto a piece of paper, and I love the results! I already framed it up and it's ready to get hung up now. Lauren has taken an interest in planners. She bought a super cute gold planner several months ago, and now beautifies it at the beginning of each week. Let's just say we've accumulated quite a supply of pretty post-its, note pads, pens, and washi tape. Apparently a lot of people who share this hobby find a lot of cute decorating supplies in the Target Dollar Spot, but sadly a lot of people pick the bins over and often wipe out all of the Target stores in their entire city. No joke. So, Lauren spent the earlier part of the day making her own paper page flags and water coloring stickers. Who needs Target anyway? That's a joke obviously; I love Target.
The later part of Friday was spent eating pizza (of course!), watching Law and Order: SVU, and working on more crafty projects. This week's pizza was a little different. We decided to go all out and have all white pizza dough this week; man we live on the edge! We topped off this glorious dough with a tiny bit of marinara sauce (because we ran out), a ton of cashew cheese sauce, sauteed spinach, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onion. Even without olives (we ran out of these too), it was delicious!

Usually when we watch TV, we're always multitasking. This usually means we're doing something crafty; something mindless, yet still completely worthwhile. On Friday I continued working on Lauren's belated birthday cowl, and Lauren completed the binding of a quilt. Did I mention that she completely finished the quilt and that it's for me? That's right! I am now the proud owner of a beautiful new handmade quilt and I couldn't be happier! I guess that means I better finish up Lauren's quilt soon though.

Even though we didn't go anywhere exciting or life-altering this Friday we still had fun doing best friend things at home. That's what best friend are, actually. Best friends don't need an elaborate venue or fine dining to enjoy each others' company. Having the time fly by when you're just hanging around your tiny apartment is the very essence of a best friendship. Didn't you know? 

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Vegan Asian Noodles

One of my goals for this month is to try a new recipe each week. Several weeks ago, I pinned this Simple Sesame Noodle dish and have been dying to try it since. I'll admit though, Lauren was pretty hesitant to try it at first. Luckily though, as part of our shared meal prepping/cooking deal, we have to at least try the other person's creation, within reason of course.

I loved the simplicity of this recipe, and the fact that I already had most of the ingredients on hand. The entire recipe was already vegan, so I didn't have to come up with any substitutions! However, I wanted this dish to serve as a complete meal, and felt it needed a little more veggies. I used her recipe as a great starting point for my completed Asian Noodle dish.
(serves about 6, as a full meal)
- 1 pound whole wheat spaghetti noodles
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup water
- 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 tbsp Sriracha sauce
- 5 whole green onions
- 1 bell pepper (I used half of two different ones, for more color)
- 1 package extra firm tofu
- 1 cup frozen edamame
- 1 large carrot

1. Cook the entire package of spaghetti according to the provided directions. I cooked mine for about 11 minutes in boiling water. Then drain, and rinse noodles in cold water to prevent them from sticking together. Toss the noodles in a large bowl.

2. Slice tofu into cubes, bell pepper into thin strips, and mince the garlic.

3. Heat a tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Once the oil is hot, toss the tofu cubes into the pan, and cook until all sides are golden brown. With the tofu still in the pan, throw in the bell peppers and half of the minced garlic. Continue to saute, but make sure not to overcook the bell peppers. Remove pan from heat and let cool. When completely cool, add the contents to the bowl of noodles.

4. Defrost the frozen edamame and add to the bowl of noodles.

5. Shred the carrot and add to the bowl of noodles.

6. Chop the green onions and add to the bowl of noodles. I like to save the bottoms of the green onions and regrow them!

7. Make the sauce. In a separate smaller bowl, mix the soy sauce, remaining olive oil and garlic, water, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and Sriracha sauce. Pour over the bowl of noodles and mix the entire bowl thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate for several hours before serving to let all of the flavors soak in.

* This dish can be served either chilled or hot, but I prefer it on the colder side!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

03.15 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. Take lots of pictures when my family visits.
3. Finish Lauren's belated birthday cowl.
4. Reach 450 miles on my running shoes so I can get new ones.
5. Try a new recipe each week.
6. Finish THE quilt. (Let's try this one again).
7. Mend all of my clothes that need some TLC.
8. Fill three more frames for my art/gallery wall.
9. Beat Lauren at least once in the Work Week Hustle using my FitBit.
10. Incorporate weights into my workout routine.

Monday, March 2, 2015

02.15 Goals Roundup

For only having 28 days to complete these goals, versus the normal 30 or 31, I'd say I did pretty well this month ;)
1. Read a book: I finished Eleanor & Park in less than 24 hours and I loved it! It was a fast read and it kept me hooked. Even though I'm in my mid-twenties, I've found that I'm mostly drawn to young adult fiction. This story about two high schoolers living completely different lives who fall for each other, definitely fits this mold.

2. Finish my Summer Sampler: I'm so excited to announce that I finished it! I was really dreading having to go back to each square and complete the respective back stitching, but surprisingly it was actually pretty fun to do. Now I have a beautiful finished project that just needs to be framed and hung up!

3. Try a new recipe: I made Mexican quinoa one night for dinner, and Lauren and I both enjoyed it. I left out the avocado and cilantro though. Next time, I'll definitely add the cilantro and toss in some other nutritious veggies, perhaps bell pepper. I also made sweet potato black bean burgers since I had been desperately wanting to try out a bean-based burger patty. I love sweet potatoes and black beans so I figured I would fall in love with this recipe, but that didn't really end up being the case. Lauren was correct in saying that I overcooked the patties. They were a little on the dry and tough side. In my defense though, I thought the burger patties needed to cook for that long so they wouldn't be so squishy in the middle. But, I guess that's how bean-based burgers are supposed to be. I'm not too fond of that texture, so maybe this type of recipe isn't really for me.

4. Go thrifting: I begged Lauren to go to a local thrift store with me a few weeks ago, as I really wanted to find some interesting and unique frames for my art/gallery wall. I went in with an open mind, but even that wasn't enough. It wasn't the thrift store's fault though, they just didn't receive many worthwhile donations, in my opinion. I'm so used to all of the Goodwills in California and all of the treasures that accumulate there that I wasn't prepared for anything different. Needless to say, we left completely empty handed.

5. Start a gallery/art wall: Even though our thrifting adventure was unsuccessful, I didn't let this stop me from accomplishing this goal. I ended up buying a handful of frames from Ikea, and browsing through the frame aisles even excited Lauren enough to start an art/gallery wall of her own! I picked up a variety of frames in different sizes and colors, and have already filled three of them. Considering I didn't have any true direction prior to February, I'd say this is a pretty good start! Out of the frames I bought at Ikea, I only have six more to fill...although I'm sure I'll end up wanting more!

6. Start Lauren's belated birthday cowl: After pouring over pattern after pattern on Ravelry, Lauren and I worked together and decided that the 3 Color Cowl would be the perfect accessory for me to knit for her. We went to Loop about a week ago to purchase a few skeins of yarn, and I've been working diligently on this project since. There have been several days where I just didn't want to put my needles down, which is a little new to me, but I love it!

7. Sew something wearable with knit fabric: I've had a Scout Tee cut out in a striped knit for a few months now. It's a pretty easy pattern to sew up and truly shouldn't take longer than two days to sew. But, I've been so afraid and anxious to sew up this super stretchy knit. I really don't want to mess up and have to try to unpick a bunch of stitches, so I' haven't started.

8. Use my big camera EVERY day: The first week of February went pretty well. I managed to take the lens cap off my camera and shoot around, just for fun. Many of the pictures ended up being shots of food and random pictures of our apartment. However, shortly into the month I completely forgot to use my big camera one day, and after that one little forgotten day, I sadly just gave up and resorted back to my iPhone for daily pictures for my Project 365.

9. Try a new-to-me restaurant: Lauren and I tried the dinner buffet at Sitar India and loved it...a little too much though. I'm sure we'll be back soon though.

10. Play with watercolors: One Saturday evening, Lauren and I broke out the little watercolor tablet I picked up from the Crayola section at Staples and went to town painting. I think Lauren enjoyed it much more than me since her creations turned out a lot better than mine, but that just means I need to practice more!

Score for February: 8 out of 10


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Best Friend Friday No. 21: Trader Joe's

On February 27, to an outsider it may seem like Lauren and I didn't do anything super exciting. But then again, everyone has a different definition of "exciting". What may seem important and fun to me, probably feels pretty drab and boring to most people. I'm okay with that.

For the past month (seriously), I've been wanting to go to Trader Joe's for one main reason: almond butter. Over the past year, my love for this tantalizing nutty goodness as morphed into being an essential part of my everyday diet. Unfortunately though, our local grocery store only carries a small selection of almond butter, although their peanut butter options are overflowing. Literally the only non-flavored almond butter they offer is also packed with added sugar and oil. Thus, my longing to go to Trader Joe's. Trader Joe's has the best, most simple almond butter for the best price, in my opinion.

Being that it's a two mile walk one way, so four miles round trip, Lauren and I have been putting off this excursion for awhile. As I stared into my almost-empty almond butter jar earlier in the week, I knew that I had to go Trader Joe's sooner rather than later. Initially we were planning on making the trek Wednesday afternoon, but after running that day, we decided that Friday was a better option.

Because we don't get to go to Trader Joe's that often, we bought whatever we wanted. Of course we had to stock up on essentials like nuts, raisins, cereal, frozen fruit, and two jars of almond butter. But, we also picked up some treats as well. I love that there are plenty of vegan options that most other grocery stores don't carry.

I could easily go on and on about how much I love almond butter (perhaps for another post?), but I won't torture you today. After we got back to our apartment and taste tested some maple cookies and Joe Joe's, we decided that the rest of Best Friend Friday should be spent relaxing. So, we watched Law and Order: SVU, and that was the perfect choice. We had other plans for the day, but this just seemed better.
I made pizza with marinara, cashew cheese sauce, spinach, black olives, and onion for dinner. We dined on our fabulous pies in front of the TV and worked in some knitting time, and all was well again. Here's to being flexible with plans and taking time to relax and unwind!