Archive | December, 2010

Farewell, 2010 (or hello, 2011)

31 Dec

After the wonderful and helpful comments on yesterday’s post, I thought I’d share my other (biggest) resolution with you all. It’s a scary one to admit out loud, especially in blogdom, where the Google cache never dies.

So, my pour-my-heart-into-it resolution for 2011 is to challenge myself as a photographer. Eventually, I’d like to become good enough to think about doing actual shoots. I don’t want it to be a hobby forever. My absolute favorite thing about photography is people. I love telling stories through the art of the photograph, and capturing the moments that are often missed otherwise.

Of course, it’s still fun using animals as models, too. 🙂

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Happy New Year’s to all my wonderful readers!

Setting Goals

29 Dec

I don’t like New Year’s resolutions. In my experience, I only follow the really vague ones that can be comprehended in a zillion different ways. You know the ones – try new things, look at life more positively, make healthier choices.

But damn it, in the year that I really overhauled my eating habits for the better, took control of my fitness, and made sleeping well a priority, the holidays still got the better of me.

How does it happen? I have no idea! I didn’t give up entirely – while I certainly indulged sometimes, I didn’t do anything terribly wrong. I didn’t eat a whole cookie sheet of Christmas cookies, or suddenly tear into the processed foods.

I think it was more gradual. Starting with Thanksgiving, I was cooking for family events, which means lots of taste-testing. Then there’s the whole working full-time on my break from school, which meant that I couldn’t go to yoga and had to drive places instead of walking my normal 2+ miles per day. And since we do try to eat mostly in-season foods, there have been potatoes and other root vegetables a-plenty. Summing it up, I didn’t screw up on a grand scale, but on more of a sliding scale.

So how do you fix those mistakes that aren’t so terrible, but are more akin to the little extra snack when you’re not really hungry?

(Seriously, I don’t have an answer. Normally I’d tell you my oh-so-wise solution here, but I don’t have one.) It’s so easy to say – well, just go back to what you were doing before! And I’ll certainly make an effort to. But how do I feel better in the short term and beat this awful feeling? What do you to to stop the doom and gloom post holidays?

Some Sunday for your Monday.

27 Dec

I can’t resist draping a scarf around our dog when it looks this adorable.

May all your days be merry and bright.

23 Dec

When I was a kid, Christmas meant long drives in the snowy weather and staying out until nearly midnight, which I adored. I remember soaking in the Christmas lights on the drive home and dreaming of reindeer stopping by.

As a young adult, Christmas means something completely different to me. It means getting to see family again (okay, sometimes the spiked eggnog is a must for that one) and days of shopping and baking leading up to the 25th. It means setting up our tree and trying to show those around us what they mean to us with small little gestures.

I don’t know about any of you, but winter around here is long and frigid. I’m only in love with the scarves, mittens, and steaming mugs of cocoa for November and December. So for this week, I’m embracing the snowy skies and Christmas lights.

What’s your favorite part about the holidays? What says Christmas to you?

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Florida on film.

20 Dec

Okay, these are all digital. But I do miss my darkroom days!

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Back to scarves, mittens, and mugs of hot coffee in Chicago!

Dear Florida,

14 Dec

Please warm up.

We flew into sunny Florida yesterday afternoon, only to find that it was thirtysomething degrees and windy. Lovely! I guess beggars can’t be choosers since we drove to the airport in a five degree freeze.

Weather aside, we had a wonderful dinner at our favorite restaurant in Disney, the California Grill. It’s located in the Contemporary resort, and the prices are quite steep but more than worth it.

First of all, this is the view you dine with:
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and then there’s the food. We’ve previously been to Disney as vegetarians, which was difficult but doable. The California Grill, for instance, has great goat cheese ravioli. Yesterday, though, we asked our server if she could make any recommendations. She suggested leaving it up to the chefs, since they cook with seasonal foods and could whip something up.

And whip something up they did. Proof:
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It may be hard to tell, because I was shooting wide open with the ambient light (it was dark out by this point) but they made up eight little dishes of pure delight. My absolute favorite was the garlic roasted button mushrooms, green beans, and potatoes. If I could just grab that chef and have him cater our whole wedding I would, just for that dish. They also made a delicious flatbread with seared mushrooms and onions, a dish with sticky rice, arugula, sprouts, and asparagus, and a salad with beets, and candied walnuts. I don’t even know what was on R’s plate because it was gone within a matter of minutes!

Tomorrow promises to be warmer, and I’m hoping that we’ll be brave enough to actually venture outside more and spend a whole day at Epcot.

We’ll be at Disney until Friday night, and while I love it here, I’m really missing our animals. I’m especially worried about Sunday, our dog, who is really anxious around other people. It’s her first time without her for more than a day since we adopted her in May. And of course, Holly, who is my little model kitty! Anyone else have a hard time leaving their pets when they go on vacation?

 
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By Monday night…

10 Dec

I’ll be here, AKA the happiest place on earth.

Don’t worry, I’ll have the new camera in tow! If Amazon cooperates, that is.

Killing time with the best of them.

6 Dec

Growing up I swore (out of spite, probably) that I would find one home or apartment and stay put. My mom moved us around a lot when I was growing up (house count total when I graduated was 7, they moved again later that year!) and I was determined to find a place, make it a home, and be done with it.

Of course, real life got in the way. Crappy apartments need to be upgraded, there were two bedrooms with roommates and downsizing to a one bed, one bath when R and I got our first place alone together. We’re still here, and plan to be for quite some time.

In the meantime, I’m slightly embarrassed to say that I have a habit of mentally decorating places we don’t even own. West Loop loft/studio? Yes, please!

A statement couch, to liven things up, some wall art, and housing for my rather extensive magazine/book collection:

 

 

Do you have any go-to ways to kill time?

The dreaded v word.

1 Dec

What word is that, you ask, that strikes fear in the hearts of the in-laws, and has people shuddering at the thought of giving up so much?

Vegan, of course!

I say this completely tongue in cheek. Actually, our families have grown used to what they see as our “weird food” already and most people I talk to about the vegan diet are open-minded and supportive. Even better, I get lots of questions, and I thought I’d address some of them here.

I’ll give you a little background first, because not every experience or lifestyle is the same. I became a vegetarian at the age of 11, but it was years in the making. I think I was five or six when I was at the grocery store with my mom and refused to go into the meat section because I had recently noticed the blood in the pre-packaged meat, and connected what was on my plate to those cute animals I loved so much. There were many lectures and fights about how I wasn’t allowed to give up meat, and I succumbed every time until a fifth grade classmate brought in crawfish for the whole class to eat.

You know, these guys?

I managed a polite “no, thank you” and never (intentionally) ate meat again. My mom realized I was serious, and told me there’d be no special meals prepared for me, but I was free to prepare my own. That spawned a long history of cooking and baking, but that’s a story for another time.

There was a time when I was a bad vegetarian, that’s for sure. I ate mostly simple, processed carbs and dairy, and lots of frozen foods. I learned about health and nutrition slowly, and made simple changes along the way.

Over the past year or so, R and I started incorporating more home cooking into our lifestyle. We made lots of soups, homemade veggie burgers, sandwiches, and pretty much anything that I could make without meat. But once in awhile we’d get pizza and I’d notice how downright bad it made me feel, even if I just had one piece. I couldn’t drink milk anymore without a nasty upset stomach, but I had always thought of veganism as extreme – and that’s what giving up dairy would make me, since I had always felt a little iffy about eggs anyway (I can’t help it, I’m a softie!)

I’m going to answer the questions I most commonly get, but if you have any others I’d love to hear them!

So if you don’t eat any meat or dairy, what DO you eat?

We eat lots of fresh fruits and veggies, all sorts of beans, nuts, and whole grains. There are so many options now that companies like Earth Balance and Whole Foods make lots of vegan friendly products! I love PPK for recipes, and we have at least five vegan cookbooks.

How do you cook and bake without dairy?

Baking was definitely a challenge. It wasn’t until I tried the vegan vanilla cupcakes recipe in Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World that I realized it was doable. And, honestly, I’ve found recipes that I like even better – including a chocolate chip cookie recipe and a chocolate frosting recipe that I made purely out of necessity one night when we were out of some ingredients. Just like normal baking and cooking, you develop a feel for the chemical reactions and what works. For instance, 1 cup of soy milk and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar whisked together and left sitting for about 10 minutes can act as buttermilk in a recipe.

Look! Vegan cupcakes:

What about nutrients? Do you take supplements to make up for protein deficiency, iron, B12, etc?

I’ve found that I really don’t need supplements, although I take b12 to be safe.. There certainly IS an unhealthy way to be a vegan, and I bet some peoples’ bodies wouldn’t react well with it no matter what. But my energy increased exponentially after I stopped eating dairy. I’ve found that most vegan foods are already supplemented with B12 and the like, and nuts, beans, etc are great for protein.

I’ve heard that soy is bad for you/I don’t like soy, but it seems like all vegan foods have it.

This was a major concern for me. While raw soy and soy cooked at home are healthy, the processed soy featured in so many frozen veg*n foods is probably not good to have often. Because of this we try to cut down on soy consumption as much as possible. To do this we often have almond or coconut milk instead of soy milk, cheese alternatives that don’t include soy (Daiya is the best) and tempeh or seitan instead of soy fake meat. I do still use soy milk for baking, but that’s such a small amount I feel it’s negligible. Really, I eat much less soy now that I’m a vegan because I’m more aware of how bad it can be.

Is it hard eating at restaurants and with family or friends?

In Chicago, it’s a breeze. Wait staff is almost always friendly and knowledgable about what dishes are veg*n, and most places around here have that information on their menus already. In the suburbs where our parents live, we’re often stuck eating salad or pasta, but we rarely go out there. Calling ahead to places often helps, and it seems like they appreciate it too. Family gatherings are tough, but I always ask what I can bring, and make a few vegan dishes so we know we can eat those. I’ll admit that it was tough on Thanksgiving when there was an inch of melted butter collected at the bottom of each of the vegetable dishes, but I know most people don’t think twice before adding it!

I hope this was an interesting and not completely boring look into the vegan lifestyle. As a closing note, I want to say that I think anyone who truly thinks about what they’re eating – whether it’s meat, dairy, or veggies – is making a difference. Where your food came from is so important, and no one lifestyle is perfect for everyone.

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