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Top 5 Green Actions

Lately I’ve been noticing that I am easily distracted. I get my mind set on doing something based on what an “expert in the field” is saying only to turn around and hear another “expert” telling me I need to be doing something else. With all the modes of communication available to me it’s easy to be bogged down with excessive information. I feel like they are just throwing bits and pieces of stories at me and hoping something will stick.

This is especially true when it comes to living green. There are about a hundred thousand things everyone could be doing to build a better world but it would be impossible for every person to do each of these things. I’ve narrowed it down to what I believe are the top five things. These are the actions I personally can see myself continuing to do or working toward doing more often.

1. Buying less stuff

We live in a culture where buying and having more stuff and a bigger place to keep it all is marketed as the fastest way to find happiness. I believe this to be wrong. Work on finding happiness within yourself through relationships, hobbies and activities. Collect only things that you actually need, rather than things that are advertised to make you think you want them.

2. Buying products from socially responsible companies

There are certain things you will probably never stop buying and for each person these special items may be different. Be sure that you are purchasing your favorite items from socially and environmentally responsible companies. Follow the links to my guides below for more information:

And be sure that when you do make purchases you bring your reusable bag.

3. Using alternative forms of transportation

The most significant change an individual could make toward reducing their carbon footprint is to cut down on how much they drive. Trains, buses, bikes, carpool. Avoid spending time in a vehicle occupied only by yourself and your imaginary friend. Read more in Getting Around.

4. Eating less meat and more sustainably grown and harvested food

Meat
Recognize the importance of knowing where your food comes from and what is being used to grow or raise it. Find out more, read Buying Food: The Naked Truth about Local and Organic. Decide for yourself whether fish should be on your menu: 

5. Conserving energy and water at home

When it comes to conserving energy and water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Protect the environment by conserving energy and water with these 100+ tips. Additionally, check out The Pros and Cons of Wind Power.

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Look Beneath the Surface

This award-winning video was published on April 16th, 2012. It was made by the Environmental Protection Agency. Take a moment to watch it and see what is beneath the surface.

The little things we do or do not do can have the biggest impact on our environment. We produce plastic for the sake of convenience and it becomes garbage. Imagine how much of a difference we could make if we reduced this waste simply by recycling or better yet, used reusable packaging and containers.

We can all make a difference and help protect our environment!

-xoxo-

Current Projects – Bunny Slippers

Bunny Slippers

These comfy slippers are for sale in my Etsy store. They make a great gift for a friend or a family member. You might even want a pair for yourself!! They will keep your feet warm, are adorable and are made to order. Just imagine wearing these slippers while you are relaxing by a fire in the cold winter months.


Listing includes one pair of slippers in any color (select from the drop down menu) made using 100% acrylic yarn, for durability and comfort. They feature floppy ears with bows a cute bunny face and a fluffy tail.

Select your size (5-10, sorry no half sizes) from the drop down menu when you order.

Let me know which accent color you prefer in the comment box. I will choose a complimenting color if none is specified. If you would like these slippers in any other color combination please let me know through conversation. 

This pattern was purchased from: https://www.etsy.com/shop/TwoGirlsPatterns

Healthy Energy Drinks

It’s an all too true reality of life, noon comes and goes and takes with it your productivity and attention span. That’s when we reach for those liquid cures in hopes of actually getting some work done before the sun goes down. Be it your fifth cup of coffee, a fizzy sugary soda pop or the magic energy potion in the shiny metal can.

So I got to thinking, is there a way to get passed that afternoon sleepy slump without the sugar/caffeine? Well try these substitutes and see for yourself.

The Fire and Rain – 3-4 8oz glasses throughout the day

  • filtered water
  • 1 slice lemon
  • 1 pinch cayenne pepper

Sleep is the best thing you can do for you body in terms of keeping it functioning at optimum levels. But, let’s face it between work, family and friends and keeping up with hobbies, getting 7-8 hours every night is next to impossible. Staying hydrated is the next best thing and this drink will help you in this endeavor. It’s just water with a squeezed lemon slice and a pinch of cayenne pepper. The lemon adds flavor and is alkaline, which helps your body maintain a healthy pH level. The cayenne pepper helps raise energy levels naturally and provides protection for your heart by helping to maintain proper cardiovascular movement throughout the body.

The Elixir Vitae – as needed, during the day, not before bed

  • hot water
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tsp honey (to taste)
  • 1 inch of fresh ginger root
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric

Cut off two thin slices of ginger and place in your cup or mug. Use a garlic press to juice the remaining ginger into your mug. Add spices, fill your mug with hot water and stir.

This delicious drink is the closest thing to a non-caffeine/refined sugar pick me up. Ginger speeds up metabolism and increases circulation. It also aids in the digestive process which can help stave off the post lunch coma that contributes to the afternoon slump. Turmeric, a cousin of ginger, also helps speed things up in the body, including energy levels. And Cardamom has long been valued medicinally for its ability to increase circulation and improve energy. Honey is mother nature’s equivalent of an energy shot and is one of the best kinds of sugars for your body.

The Preemptive Measure  – 1 glass in the morning

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup raw almonds or 2 tbsp almond butter
  • 1 scoop of high quality whey protein powder (low sugar content)
  • 2 washed kale leaves
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 tbsp ground flax seeds
  • 1 cup milk of choice

A deficit of protein in your die is often the reason for fatigue. A morning protein shake is a really easy and delicious way to make sure that you’re starting the day off well fueled. Pair this with a piece of whole grain toast and you have everything you need to give you a solid energy foundation for the day.

Friendship, Adventure and Wishes in Bend, OR

My friend Jules and I just returned from a long-weekend trip to Bend, OR.

Bend is going on my list of favorite places. It reminds me so much of Boulder, CO where I grew up, I felt very homesick while visiting. It’s ecology is considered high desert so I took comfort in the dry mountain air and the familiar flora. The surrounding mountains and buttes give ample opportunity to explore the great outdoors and the fresh mountain springs provide excellent conditions for brewing beer.

Photo Credit – Julianna Large

Here are a few things I learned throughout our visit:

  1. If the wine selection is limited to “the red one” and “the white one,” it’s not gonna be very good. 
  2. Beer can only be improved upon when brewed with pumpkin and served in a caramel sugar-rimmed glass.
  3. Ten 3-ounce samples of beer for $10 may sound like a good deal, but it’s still 30 ounces, no matter how you look at it.
  4. A hot beverage and a game of shuffleboard, even when you don’t know the rules, is the perfect way to spend your night when the wind and freezing air keep you indoors.
  5. Always check the map before heading out on a hike. It’s surprisingly easy to get lost on 100% of trails tested, even the one that only has one trail.
  6. There is no problem that can’t be fixed by a long soak in a hot pool. We all just want to be soup.
  7. Wishes can come true if you just ask.
  8. If you try to be cultured and take the round-about art tour, you should probably just pass. Get a cup of coffee, talk about life and love, read National Geographic and crochet a pair of bunny slippers instead.
  9. Take time to enjoy yourself. Go with the flow, balance some rocks, don’t plan every minute and hope that adventure finds you.
  10. And lastly, sometimes your soulmate might actually be your friend. There are thoughts you can only share with friends, there are things you can only do with friends and there are times that the only people you can count on are your friends. 
Photo Credit – Julianna Large / the rock the camera sat on

This Thankful Thursday, I am thankful for Jules. We’re new friends, and I’m a shy person, so it was really nice to have the opportunity to get to know her better in a one-on-one setting. 40-year friendships don’t just materialize, you have to invest in them. So Jules, here’s to a long and healthy friendship!

8 Limbs of Yoga – The Basics

The Yoga Sutra is a fundamental guide for living with a cultivated body, mind, and spiritual awareness, written in India between 200 B.C and 200 A.D. by physician, Pantajali. This ancient text outlines the eightfold path, called ashtanga, which literally means “eight limbs” (ashta=eight, anga=limb)

These eight steps act as guidelines toward living a meaningful and purposeful life. They serve as a prescription for moral and ethical conduct and self-discipline; they direct attention toward one’s health; and they help us to acknowledge the spiritual aspects of our nature.

Source: Ayuh Yoga

Eventually, I will go into more detail about what each of these limbs means. In the meantime here is the lowdown on the 8 limbs at their most basic analysis.

1. Yama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with each other)

  • Ahimsa: Nonviolence
  • Satya: Truthfulness
  • Asteya: Nontheft
  • Brahmacharya: Nonlust
  • Aparigraha: No greed 

2. Niyama – Self-restraints (how we morally interact with ourselves)
  • Saucha: Cleanliness
  • Santosa: Contentment
  • Tapas: Sustained practice
  • Svadhyaya: Self study
  • Isvara pranidhana: Dedication
3. Asana – Practice of yoga postures and movements, control of body
4. Pranayama – Practice of breathing exercises and techniques, control of breath and life force
5. Pratyahara – Practice of bringing the awareness to reside deep within oneself, control of senses
6. Dharana – Concentration and steadying of the mind free of external (noises) or internal (useless thoughts) distractions.
7. Dhyana – Meditation
8. Samadhi – Bliss, aka: enlightenment.
These eight steps of yoga interact and intertwine with one another, like branches on a tree, and guide along the pathway to attain of physical, ethical, emotional, and psycho-spiritual health. Yoga allows the natural state of total health and integration in each of us to become a reality.

-XOXO-

Floral Granny Square Blanket

I used to nanny for my cousins’ baby girl. We used to have so much fun together and I know those memories will always be special to me. Sadly they just moved away. Before they left I gave Harper a first birthday gift, this floral granny square blanket.

I used Lion Brand Baby’s First yarn in Honey Bee, Cotton Ball, Twinkle Toes, Fairy Tale, Beanstalk and Sea Sprite and an N hook. The free chart and pattern are below.

Using Yarn A make a magic loop.
Round 1 – Chain 3 (counts as 1 dc), 11 dc into loop, ss into the top of the beginning ch-3 to join. [12 dc] Fasten off.
Round 2 – Join Yan B in any dc. *ch 3, 5 dc into next dc, chain 3, ss into each of the next 2 dc; repeat from * twice more ch 3, 5 dc into next dc, ch 3, slip stitch into next dc [4 5-dc groups, 8 ch-3] Fasten off.
Round 3 – Join Yarn C in the center dc of any 5-dc group, ch 3 (counts as dc), 4 dc into the same dc, ch 3, skip 2 dc and ch-3, dc into the space between 2 dc of round 1 (below 2 ss of Round 2), ch 3, skip ch-3 and 2 dc, *5 dc into the next dc, ch 3, skip 2 dc and ch-3, dc into the space between 2 dc of Round 1 (below 2 ss of Round 2), ch 3, skip ch-3 and 2 dc; repeat from * twice more, ss to the top of the beginning ch-3 to join. [4 5-dc groups, 4 dc, 8 ch-3 spaces] Fasten off.
Round 4 – Working into the back loops only, join Yarn D in the first dc of any 5-dc group, *skip the next dc, 7 dc into the next dc, skip the next dc, ss into the next dc, skip ch-3, 7 dc into the next dc, skip ch-3, ss into the next dc; repeat from * 3 more times. Fasten off.
Round 5 – Working into the back loops only, join Yarn E in the 4th dc of any corner 7-dc group, ch 3 (counts as one dc), 4 dc into same dc, *dc into next 2 dc, ch 3, dc into 3rd dc of the next 7-dc group, dc into next 2 dc, ch 3, dc into 2nd double crochet of the next corner 7-dc groups, dc into next dc, 5 dc into next dc; repeat from * twice more, dc into next 2-dc, ch 3, dc into next 2 dc, ch 3, dc into 2nd dc of the next 7-dc group, dc into next dc, ss to top of ch-3 to join. Fasten off.
Make as many granny squares as your project requires (I made 20). I also did a Round 6 in Yarn E making single crochets all the way around with 5 in the corner to really square it up. I attached the square by single crocheting through the back loop only.

45 Things I Learned From the Gilmore girls

I just finished re-watching my all time favorite television show, Gilmore girls. If you’ve been living under a rock, you might not know that Netflix added it to their library of television series. It took me about a month to watch all 7 series, take from that what you will. I kept a list of lessons I learned as I was watching. Enjoy as you let the wisdom wash over you because Gilmore girls is more than just a TV show, it’s a lifestyle.

  1. You can’t always help who you love.
  2. All bad girls wear red nail polish.
  3. Childbirth is like doing the splits on a case of dynamite.
  4. There’s no such thing as too much coffee
  5. Bagels are like glue in your intestines. Ew.
  6. Candy bars are chocolate covered death with a caramel surprise.
  7. “Oi” is one of the funniest words in the world. Oi with the poodles already.
  8. Wallowing is an important first step after a breakup.
  9. Brazzelfrat and snicklefritz are seriously underused words.
  10. The plural of “cul-de-sac” is “culs-de-sac.”
  11. Snow is magical.
  12. Every relationship is just a big honking leap of faith.
  13. Being attracted to pie doesn’t mean you should date pie.
  14. Ethics are highly subjective and completely overrated.
  15. A banana eating contest isn’t always about eating a banana.
  16.  It’s much better to have a haunted leg than a cold.
  17. If you’re frustrated with someone, just push them in a lake.
  18. Once your heart is involved, it all comes out in moron.
  19. Rich people have hilarious sock drawers.
  20. Mondays are bad, but they come around eventually.
  21. Ladies don’t even look at puddles.
  22. All anyone wants is to find a nice person to hang out with ’til we drop dead. It’s not too much to ask!
  23. Smart girls are mean.
  24. Always make friends with the girls who have the emergency pop-tarts.
  25. Answer the pepperoni.
  26. You can’t watch “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” without massive amounts of candy.
  27. Cooper Boom is a phrase used to speed people up.
  28. Ladies don’t do anything for themselves.
  29. Kids always have jam on their hands, even if there isn’t any jam in the house.
  30. It’s good to have choices when deciding what to do with your life.
  31. Booze is grown-up milk and cookies.
  32. Almost anything can be “dirty.”
  33. Always carry a book.
  34. It’s impossible to not become your mother.
  35. Important decisions should be made with pro/con lists.
  36. Stay away from windows when drinking.
  37. The difference between cows and humans is hay.
  38. Fries are the devil’s starchy fingers.
  39. A “kropog” is a unit of distance not volume.
  40. All grown-up women own a Hello Kitty waffle iron.
  41. Waffle is a good modeling name if you’re from Belguim.
  42. College is good for the skin.
  43. When you’re dating someone, never dress weather appropriate.
  44. If you think your eye is swelling, maybe your face is shrinking.
  45. Mexican food makes good hangover food.

-XOXO-

What are your favorite Gilmore girl lessons?

Blueberry Muffins!

I’ve been baking a long time and have made plenty of mistakes. When I first started baking I thought 1 1/4 cup meant a single 1/4 cup rather than 1 AND 1/4 cup. Those cookies were… fine… Once I mistook the ingredients “an egg” to say “8 eggs.” I was also tripling the recipe to make enough for an event and it wasn’t until I cracked the 9th shell that I realized how insane it was the I needed 2 dozen eggs. But these blueberry muffins are fool proof. They are scrumptious and simple to make and they have blueberries in them so they’re healthy right?



Preheat oven to 385 degrees. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of ten.




Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.



Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans by 1/3 cupful. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly. Sprinkle Turbinado (or brown) sugar over top.




Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.Allow to cool completely before removal.




Serve immediately with butter.



Warm up later in the toaster oven.


Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • A heavy pinch of salt
  • A dash of nutmeg
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 generous cup plain, unflavored yogurt (more if you want)
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • A capful vanilla extract
  • Softened butter for greasing muffin tins
  • Turbinado sugar


Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees
  2. In a large bowl mix flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside.
  3. In another large bowl whisk together sugar, oil, cap-ful of vanilla, egg, and yogurt. 
  4. Add the dry ingredients and stir to a count of ten.
  5. Add blueberries, reserving 1/2 cup, to mixture and stir 3 times.
  6. Add mixture to well-buttered muffin pans by 1/3 cupful.
  7. Sprinkle remaining berries on top and press down lightly.
  8. Sprinkle Turbinado (or brown) sugar over top.
  9. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean.
  10. Allow to cool completely before removal.

-XOXO-

Baby Animals

In an effort to add a little more color and beauty into the world, every week on Pinterest I pick one of my favorite things and create a a new board to house all the images I find. On Tuesdays I make a blog post devoted to the theme.

Baby Animals

I probably don’t need to explain to you the value of baby animals because anyone with a beating heart can see just how adorable they are. I thought I’d make a list of what baby animals are called based on species because learning things is fun! You can find out more about each of these species on Zooborns.
Baby Name
Animal
Antling
Ant
Baby
Ape, Aye-aye, Bonobo, Lemur
Calf
Aardvark, Addax, Antelope, Bison/Buffalo, Bongo, Camel, Caribou, Cattle, Dolphin, Elephant, Elk, Giraffe, Gnu, Hippopotamus, Manatee, Moose, Porpoise, Reindeer, Rhinoceros, Whale, Yak
Caterpillar
Butterfly
Cheeper
Grouse, Partirdge
Chick
Most Birds: Chicken, Crane, Crow, Dove, Emu, Falcon, Finch, Grouse, Gull, Heron, Hummingbird, Jay, Lark, Magpie, Nightingale, Ostrich, Parrot, Penguin, Pheasant, Quail, Woodpecker, Wren
Colt
Donkey, Zebra
Cria
Alpaca, Llama
Cub
Aardvark, Badger Bear, Bobcat, Cheetah, Fox, Hyena, Leopard, Panda, Racoon, Tiger, Walrus, Woodchuck
Cygnet, Flapper
Swan
Duckling
Duck
Eaglet
Eagle
Ephyna
Jellyfish
Eyas
Hawk
Farrow, Shoat
Boar, Hog, Pig
Fawn
Caribou, Deer, Pronghorn
Fledgling
Eagle, Owl
Foal
Donkey, Horse, Mule, Zebra
Fry, Fingerling
Fish, Trout
Gosling
Goose
Hatchling
Alligator, Bird, Crocodile, Dinosaur, Emu, Snake, Squid, Turtle
Infant
Aye-aye, Baboon, Gorilla, Lemur, Monkey
Joey
Kangaroo, Koala, Opossum, Possum, Wallaby, Wombat
Kid, Billy
Goat
Kit
Badger, Ferret, Fox, Muskrat, Skunk, Squirrel, Weasel, Woodchuck
Kitten
Binturong/Bearcat, Bobcat, Cat, Mouse, Rat, Serval, Squirrel
Lamb, Lambkin, Cosset
Sheep
Larva
Bee, Clam, Gnat, Hornet, Sand Dollar, Sea Urchin, Termite, Wasp, Yellow Jacket
Leveret, Bunny
Hare, Rabbit
Maggot
Fly
Nymph
Cicada, Cockroach, Grasshopper, Louse, Mosquito
Owlet
Owl
Piglet
Boar, Guinea Pig, Hedgehog, Hog, Pig
Pinkie
Mouse, Rat
Polliwog, Froglet
Frog
Porcupette
Porcupine
Poult
Grouse, Turkey
Puggle
Echidna, Platypus
Pup
Agouti, Anteater, Armallio, Bat, Bearcat/Binturong, Coyote, Dog, Dolphin, Fox, Gerbil, Guinea Pig, Hamster, Hedgehog, Hound, Mole, Mouse, Otter, Prairie Dog, Rat, Seal, Shark, Squirrel, Walrus, Wolf
Snakelet, Neonate
Snake
Spat
Oyster
Spiderling
Spider
Squab
Dove, Pidgeon
Squeeler
Grouse
Stot
Ox
Tadpole
Frog, Toad
Whelp
Coyote, Otter, Tiger, Wolf
Wriggler, Tumbler
Mosquito



    Have a terrific Tuesday!

    -XOXO-


    Exercise for Beginners

    Are you ready to start exercising regularly? Or maybe you’ve fallen off your exercise plan and need a boost getting back to the gym. Follow this 20 day sequence to help you start, or start again. Starting with day 1, only progress to the next day once you complete the previous. If you miss a day return the the day before you missed.

    Credit: downtown.tumblr.com

    Things to remember

    • Don’t skip your break days: they are important to protect your muscles.
    • Stretch properly beforehand.
    • Keep yourself hydrated.
    • Push yourself but not to the point of injury. Be mindful of your body.
    • Have fun!

    Workout Terms Glossary

    Jumping Jacks
    Starting standing with feet together and arms straight by your sides. Jump up and spread your arms and legs wide as you land. Jump up again to return to center.

    Leg Lift/Raise
    Lay down on your side, hip on the floor, and prop yourself up on your forearm. Lift your top leg straight up into the air. Lower it back down without touching your bottom leg. Repeat.

    Lunge
    Take a big step forward with your left foot, bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg.

    Crunch
    Lay flat on your back. Place your hands behind your head, and your feet flat on the floor. Pull your shoulders away from the mat. Make sure you don’t pull your head forward with your arms but rather keep your gaze upward and use your hand for neck support only. Lower yourself back to the mat.

    Sit-ups
    Start by lying on your back on the floor, cross your arms over your chest or place hands behind head or neck. With feet flat against the floor and knees bent, lift upper and lower vertebrae from the floor. Lower back to the floor with control. That’s one rep.

    Red

    In an effort to add a little more color and beauty into the world, every week on Pinterest I pick one of my favorite things and create a a new board to house all the images I find. On Tuesdays I make a blog post devoted to the theme.

    Red

    This warm and positive color is associated with physical need and will to survive. Red is energizing, exciting emotions in us and motivating us to take action. It symbolizes the spirit of leadership, ambition and determination. It gives confidence to those who lack it. It stimulates passion in both love and revenge.

    Follow my Red board on Pinterest.//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js

    Have a terrific Tuesday!

    Fall-ing for Autumn

    In an effort to add a little more color and beauty into the world, every week on Pinterest I pick one of my favorite things and create a a new board to house all the images I find. On Tuesdays I make a blog post devoted to the theme.

    Autumn Equinox

    Yesterday was the Autumnal Equinox. The word equinox comes from the Latin words for “equal night.” At the fall and spring equinoxes the hours of daylight are equal to the hour of darkness. This happens because the Sun crosses the celestial equator. Autumn is a time of change as leaves change color, days grow shorter and temperature begin to drop.

    Why do leaves change color? The bright pigments carotene (yellow) and anthocyanin (red) you see so vividly during the fall are actually present all year. They are simple masked by chlorophyll (green). When the temperature starts dropping, a barrier forms between the twigs of trees and the leaves preventing sugars from exiting and nutrients from entering the leaves. This results in the chlorophyll breaking down, leaving behind these other pigments.

    Follow my Autumn board on Pinterest.//assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js

    Have a terrific Tuesday!

    Gluten-ous

    It’s time to get to the bottom of this gluten free business. It’s clear that it’s not just going to leave stage right. I’m finally going to investigate gluten and living gluten-free.

    According to the Mayo Clinic “A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes the protein gluten. Gluten is found in grains such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).” The mayo clinic describes the purpose of a gluten-free diet as, “a treatment for celiac disease.”

    Apparently Peter Gibson is the originator of the idea of gluten intolerance. He published a study in 2011 which found gluten to cause gastrointestinal distress in patients without celiac disease. This study was one of the strongest pieces of evidence to date that gluten intolerance is a condition.

    Like any good scientist, Gibson was unsatisfied with these results and proceeded to conduct an even more rigorous study in 2013, where he found that subjects reportedly worsening gastrointestinal distress with each meal. Gluten wasn’t the cause, the cause was likely psychological and Gibson stated, “In contrast to our first study… we could find absolutely no specific response to gluten.”

    Source: Gluten Free Club

    It seems that going gluten-free is largely market driven and not based on any scientific evidence. Manufacturers, large and small, are jumping on the band wagon labeling products as gluten-free to appease the masses. But is it really good for us to adopt a diet sans gluten if celiac disease does not ail us?

    Here’s my “professional” opinion: Of course you will feel better when you stop consuming all the pastries and cookies and crackers! It’s logic. Don’t replace these gluten-filled items with the gluten-free products that have come out. These are often even more processed and pumped with extra sugar and fat. If you HAVE to adopt a gluten-free diet, adopt a generally healthier diet as well. If you cook more at home using real ingredients, cutting out more processed foods, you will feel better! Regardless of the presence of gluten, so stop vilifying one food group… please.

    Eat more vegetables and fruit. Eat more real ingredients and less processed items. Allow yourself a treat every once in a while. Donut, ice cream, whatever your vice is, everything in moderation.

    Source: Flour Advisory Bureau

    One good thing I’ve seen coming out of this fad is that gluten-free products are more easily available and less expensive for people who actually do have celiac disease. And that’s a win in my book.

    Further reading

    My Family

    Today I want to express my love and gratitude to my supportive family. They’ve helped me through every stage of my life. Even now, when I’m so far away, I know that they are thinking of me and I am always thinking of them.

    Old family photo – from left to right: Dad Charles, Me, Sister Erica, Mom Debbie

    Thank you family!

    Think about the individuals in your life. Who do you turn to for support? It’s never too late or too early to communicate how much you appreciate a person.

    Mission Blue

    Have you seen Mission Blue on Netflix yet? Go watch it, immediately. I loved it! Here’s a trailer:

    Mission Blue is part oceanic road trip; part biography; part action adventure story. Fisher Stevens is our guide. His lifelong love for the ocean led him to produce the Academy Award winning film, The Cove, which focused on dolphin slaughter in Japan.

    This film expands on the theme of The Cove, weaving legendary oceanographer Sylvia Earle’s personal history with the bleak truth about what’s happening to our oceans. We follow Sylvia’s incredible and unique journey, from her childhood memories discovering and playing in the ocean as a young girl to her adult life as an ocean scientist and beyond.

    Sylvia passionately believes that creating a global parks system for the ocean that she calls “Hope Spots” is the best way to restore the health of the ocean. As she travels to the Gulf of Mexico, the Galapagos Islands and the Coral Sea it becomes clear the challenges we face are truly daunting. As a witness to change over the past 60 years, Sylvia is leading the movement to restore the ocean to health before it’s too late.

    The goals and passion for change presented in the film are as beautiful and haunting as the imagery. Mission Blue is an alert for all who are dependent on rainwater, clean air and weather cycles regulated by the ocean (yes, that includes you). As Sylvia says: “No blue; no green. No ocean; no us.”

    Find out how you can help by visiting the website. Here’s a synopsis of the list on the Act Now page.

    Everyone can make a difference! I’ve decided to stop eating fish. I realize now the hypocrisy of not eating turf meats for environmental reasons but continuing to eat surf meats. This will be a difficult change for me because sushi is my favorite food. But for me personally, I believe it is the right thing to do. What are you going to do?

    Caprese Salad

    Summer’s winding down which means an end to my all time favorite ingredient combination: tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. Caprese means in the style of Capri, which is an island in west Italy in the bay of Naples.

    It’s so easy to make too, just chop all the ingredients and mix together in a large bowl. I used garden tomatoes, mozzarella pearls and fresh basil from the farmer’s market.

    For this meal I also added pasta and balsamic vinegar.

    What’s your favorite Caprese dish? For more delicious ways to enjoy Caprese here’s a Buzzfeed list.

    New Job

    Today, I start training for my new position at the Courtyard Restaurant. That’s right! I am no longer going to greet you smiling at the door. I will soon be a server. Yay! Thanks Kennedy School and McMenamins for this opportunity!

    Meditation

    I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection. For a lot of this journey since I moved to Portland everything was new. I didn’t have a usual breakfast place or a bar that never disappoints. I didn’t have a hike I knew like the back of my hand. I had but one friend. It was exciting because everything was new. Any person I met had a story I hadn’t yet heard. Every restaurant I tried was an experiment. Every place I went, even going to Target, was an adventure. But slowly all these things fell into place. Some of the people I met became regulars in the sitcom that I sometimes view my life as. I started visiting certain restaurants regularly and stopped going to some entirely. I know the routes to get to all the important places I need to visit. All of this happened naturally, I didn’t even notice I was becoming a local (can I say that yet Portland gods? Please don’t strike me down!)

    Source: Yellow Wood Design

    And now that the novelty of my new hometown has worn off I’ve started reflecting on what I’ve learned. I moved halfway across the country with my best friend to a place I knew no one and had no job prospects. Not only that, I was across the Oregon border before I even knew where I was going to be living! Was this half-made plan everything I dreamed it would be?

    So, I’ve spent a lot of my free time thinking. I’d go on walks and think, I’d listen to music and think, I’d drive around and think. And after a little bit of hard thinking my brain would slip into a sort of nothingness. I realized I had been meditating without intending to. After making this realization I decided to do some research.

    Source: Karma Jello

    The goal of meditation is to focus and quiet your mind, eventually reaching a higher level of awareness and inner calm. You can meditate anywhere and at any time. No matter what’s going on around you, you can access a sense of tranquility and peace.

    I’ve constructed a table outlining some various forms of mediation. I’ve found that, as a beginner, mantra meditation works best for me. Of course yoga has always been one of my favorite activities as well.

    Information from Mayo Clinic

    Here’s a list of ways I practice meditation day to day. Maybe you will be able to utilize some of these tips.

    • Breathe deeply: Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. What are you feeling?
    • Scan your body: Close your eyes and become aware of the sensations in your body. Can you locate the source of your discomfort?
    • Repeat a mantra: Check out Deepak Chopra Soul of Healing affirmation (free on Spotify and All Music) for an A-Z list of mantras you can try.
    • Exercise: Combine your exercise routine with meditation, focus on each movement. How are you changing?
    • Prayer: Write your own prayers and one written by someone else. What are you thankful for?
    • Read and reflect: Read sacred or texts and poems. What does it mean to you?
    • Focus your love and gratitude: Treat those you interact with throughout your day with kindness. How can you help?
      
    The most important thing I’ve found through practicing meditation the last of this list. I have realized that I am quick to judge and when offended I jump to conclusions about the other persons motive. By remembering that every person has the right to be happy I realize that they’re actions were probably not directed toward me or meant to hurt me, there is something else going on in that persons life that is affecting their actions. 
    I am also prone to move quickly and overlook some of the beautiful things in life. Meditation helps me remember to slow down and appreciate what I have and what is right in front of me instead of mourning the things I have lost and yearning for things I don’t possess. How has meditation influenced your life? New to meditation? Do you think you’d like to give it a try?

    My Fave Five Fab Food Blogs

    I’ve made the move. I now am based in Portland, Oregon and I couldn’t love it more. It does rain though, nobody lied about that. It’s probably why there are delicious restaurants beyond counting on every street. Rain makes people gloomy, food makes people happy. You’ll see my point. People generally scitter about doing there day to day activities, not spending much time outside (although today the sky is quite blue and the sun is casting a glare on my laptop screen).

    Gorgeous day hike at Horsetail Falls. Hiking here (PNW) is like hiking in a fairytale.

    The grayer days throughout the winter months give a fantastic opportunity to hone up on cooking skills. Today I bring you my top five favorite foodie blogs.

    1. 100 Day of Real Food (website)

    When I made the commitment to real food, this was my first source of information and inspiration. It has an unbelievable amount of resources available for anyone interested in starting a real food lifestyle.

    2. Budget Bytes (website)

    A very clever title for a wonderful blog about eating well without breaking the bank. She details the cost per total, per serving and per ingredient.

    3. The Fit Cook (website)

    This blog teaches about the nutrition involved in each of the recipes she shares. It’s a great read and easy to follow with step-by-step pictures.

    4. Vegan Sparkles (website)

    I am not vegan, but lots of people are, and I like to know a few recipes to make if I know they might be coming over. Because that is the nice thing to do. This is my most favoritest vegan blog. A pleasure to read. (BONUS: vegan recipes are also vegetarian.)

    5. Gluten Free Goddess (website)

    Gluten-free diets are popping up all over the place these days (celiac or intolerant or simply fad-followers). Regardless of the reason, I like to know some gluten-free recipes and this is the blog I like to read.

    Winter Solstice and Pfeffernüsse

    The winter solstice is tomorrow I wrote this article for Images, the quarterly publication produced by Boulder County Parks and Open Space. Please read because it’s pretty interesting (in my very humble opinion). I thought about copying it here but I didn’t want to lower my google ranking for duplicate content. So yeah.

    Anyway Monday is Pfeffernüsse Day in many European countries. No I did not just sneeze, pfeffernüsse (also known as pepernoten in Dutch, päpanät in Plautdietsch, or peppernuts in English) are traditional German cookies. Although they are more related to Christmas (Weihnachten) these days, they were often enjoyed during winter solstice celebrations.

    When I took German in high school, we would celebrate Sankt Nikolaustag on December 6th. We would put our shoes in the hallway and our teacher, Frau Singer, would fill them with sweets. Afterward we would sing Christmas carols auf Deutsch and then we would head to the home economics classroom where we would make these spicy little cookies. Fond memories.

    Today I would like to share the recipe with you. It makes about 5 millions small, round, thin cookies so you might want to half the recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup molasses
    • 1/4 cup honey
    • 1/2 cup healthy margarine such as smart balance or earth balance (butter works too)
    • 2 eggs (vegan option: 4 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 4 tablespoons water)
    • 4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup white sugar
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
    • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 2 teaspoons anise extract
    • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt

    Directions:

    Stir together the molasses, honey and margarine in a saucepan over medium heat; cook and stir until creamy. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Stir in the eggs, anise extract, white sugar, and brown sugar. Combine the flour, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, cinnamon, baking soda, pepper, and salt in a large bowl. Add the molasses mixture and stir until thoroughly combined. Refrigerate at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 325°F (165°C). Roll the dough into 3/4″-sized balls. Arrange on baking sheets, spacing at least 1 inch apart. Bake in preheated oven 10 to 15 minutes. Move to a rack to cool.

    Molasses, honey and margarine in medium sauce pan.

    While that cools to room temperature, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, spices baking soda and salt).

    Then add the sugars, eggs and extract to the molasses pot.

    Finally add the molasses mixture to the flour mixture and stir until combined. It’s very sticky so be ready for your arm workout for the day. Switch arms to build muscles evenly.

    Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, then roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes.

    Eat, drink and be merry!

    Pictured from left to right: Sugar Cookie Cut-outs (and how to ice them), Vegan Cinnamon Sugar Cookies, Candy Cane Blossoms, and Pfeffernüsse

    Workout Playlist

    Creating a good workout playlist can be overwhelming and while it’s good to have a motivating mix spending time creating the playlist takes valuable time from your workout. So I’ll make it simple for you. The only workout mix you’ll ever need:

    Just kidding… unless that works for you. And in that case, you can just stop reading now. If you need more variability, READ ON!

    Skip the musical roulette

    Instead of setting your MP3 player on shuffle, proactively build timed playlists that provide the right energy all the way through your workout. Barney Stinson says a playlist should be all build. Here is his classic “Get Psyched” playlist:

    For a workout mix though I would recommend starting slow for your warm up, building up to a peak and then bringing it back down for your cool down.

    Keep it fresh

    Every month, find a weekend to look around on iTunes charts to see what’s new by your favorite artists and in your favorite genres so your playlist never gets stale. Workout songs are a personal choice because it comes down to whatever gets YOU moving.

    If you need a place to start, here are a few of my favorite workout songs:

    • “Get Down Tonight” – KC and the Sunshine Band (113 BPM)
    • “Rock and a Hard Place” – The Rolling Stones (129 BPM)
    • “Dancing with Myself” – Billy Idol (176 BPM)
    • “Moves Like Jagger” – Maroon 5 (128 BPM)
    • “Safe and Sound” – Capitol Cities (138 BPM)
    • “Beat It” – Michael Jackson (139 BPM)
    • “Walk This Way” – Run-DMC (106 BPM)
    • “All Shook Up” – Elvis Presley (125 BPM)
    • “Seven Nation Army” – The White Stripes (124 BPM)
    • “Stronger” – Kanye West (104 BPM)
    • “Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons (138 BPM)

    Get in rhythm

    Studies have shown that listening to music that syncs with your movements provides a better workout than exercising without tunes. The following is a good guide to follow based on what your workout involves:

    Beats per minute    Perfect for

    160 and up                  Running, jumping rope
    140 to 160                   Jogging, Spinning
    125 to 140                   Power walking, stair-climbing, elliptical
    105 to 125                   Walking, toning
    60 to 115                     Stretching, yoga, warming up


    What’s on you workout mix?

    Upcycled Gift Bags

    I inherited some small brown paper bags with handles at a volunteer project this summer. I thought to myself, “These would be perfect for gift bags, if only they didn’t say Xcel energy on them.” Fortunately, I am a very clever person and I have upgraded the ugly plain bags into cute gift bags for Christmas gifts.

    It’s very simple to make some of these cute bags for your own use and for any occasion. Find some plain bags. Then check the scrapbooking section of your local craft store for decorations.

    Gather some glue and scissors (it’s even easier if you just use stickers), and assemble. Be extra Earth-friendly and reuse your beautiful creations year after year.

    Have fun with your creativity! Share a picture of your works of art on my Facebook page.

    Vegan Cinnamon Sugar Cookies

    This recipe comes from my College Vegetarian Cooking cookbook. The author describes these cookies as “giant Teddy Grahams” which is so accurate I couldn’t think of a better way to say it.

    They are vegan and we all know the best thing about vegan baking is that you can eat the raw cookie dough (I guess I should add, “without worrying about getting sick,” because raw eggs have never stopped me from eating cookie dough). The other best thing about vegan baking is that you can take the cookies out early if you like soft cookies or leave them for the entire duration if you like them crunchier (for the same reason). So with all that said, here’s the recipe.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup softened margarine (I use smart balance)
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
    • 2 cups flour
    • 1 1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 325°F. Add margarine and sugars to a mixing bowl and combine vigorously until smooth and creamy. Add flour, cinnamon and baking soda. Stir until thoroughly incorporated. Roll dough into 1″-sized balls and place on ungreased cookie sheet, approximately 2″ apart. Bake for eight to 10 minutes or until lightly browned on the edges.
    Dear my parent’s Ninja blender and food processor,
    I’ll miss you when I move out. I have treasured our time together. We created delicious and nutritious smoothies in individual travel cups. You perfect the art of making cookie dough. If I wasn’t a poor unemployed post-graduate I would invest in your cloned family members. I will not forget you, let’s make the most of the time we have left together.
    Love, Maggie
    Dear my parent’s convection oven,

    I’ll miss you when I move out. I have treasured our time together. You have made it so that I can cookie two trays of cookies at the same time for the same amount of time. Your light provides rays of light as if God is watching over the things that bake within you. If I wasn’t a poor unemployed post-graduate I would invest in your cloned family members. I will not forget you, let’s make the most of the time we have left together.
    Love, Maggie

    These cookies look so yummy…. mmmmm cinnamonny goodness. Did I ever tell you that cinnamon is my favorite food group? Well it is. 🙂
    Cinnamon Sugar Cookies with Candy Cane Blossoms

    Sugar Cookies and How to Ice Them

    The sun is slowly setting behind the Flatirons. I am watching it through a window Espresso Roma on the Hill. Small snowflakes speed to the ground as if racing; they cover the dirty black asphalt in a pure white blanket of snow. My Bhakti chai steams in a chipped blue mug in front of me as I breathe in the crisp Boulder air, filling my lungs with it’s slightly marijuana-smelling freshness. The colors of autumn, which were incredibly lovely this year, have been erased and replaced with a new beauty. It reminds me why I love Colorado so very much: the beauty is spectacular for a few fleeting moments before it disappears and is replaced by some other magnificent sight. There’s no way to capture the moment to recall later so the best thing to do is enjoy it while it’s there.

    With the fresh snow I am giving myself permission to feel festive, not that I haven’t tried. My personal rule is that Christmas doesn’t exist until Thanksgiving is over so now my Christmas playlist is on repeat and my Holiday movie count is at ten. I’ve also eaten an entire package of Hershey’s candy cane kisses and Christmas cookies are building up. To makes these sugar cookies that don’t spread and keep their shape see the recipe below.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 1/2 cups unsalted butter (at room temperature)
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3 tsp vanilla extract
    • 5 cups flour
    • 1 tsp salt

    Directions:

    1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a medium bowl with an electric mixer on low to medium speed.  Mix thoroughly, scrape down the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula and mix again. Do not over mix as this aerates the dough and causes the cookies to spread more during baking.
    2. Add eggs and vanilla extract to bowl, mix, scrape down the bowl with your spatula and mix again.
    3. In a separate bowl sift flour and salt together .
    4. Add all of the flour mixture to the sugar mixture bowl.  Mix on low speed. Do not over mix at this stage either, the glutens in the flour develop and the dough can become tough.
    5. Roll the dough out between 2 large pieces of parchment paper.  Place on a baking sheet and into the fridge for a minimum of 1 hour.
    6. Roll out the dough further if you need to, and cut out cookie shapes.  Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Re-roll scraps and repeat, refrigerate again if necessary.
    7. Put cookie dough shapes back into the fridge for 10 minutes to 1 hour to chill again.  They will then hold their shape better when baked.
    8. Preheat your oven to 350°F (176°C).
    9. Bake cookies for 8-12 minutes or until the edges become golden brown.  The baking time will depend on the size of your cookie.
    10. Let cookies cool to room temperature before decorating.

    This was my first attempt using a glaze this way. Below is the icing recipe I used…

    Ingredients:

    • 1 cup powder sugar (confectioners sugar)
    • 1 tablespoon milk
    • 1 drop lemon juice (can be fresh)

    Directions:

    1. Mix all the ingredients together. These amounts are approximate: use more powdered sugar and less milk for the edges so it doesn’t run everywhere, use less powdered sugar and more milk for the insides so it spreads itself. It takes a little practice. The lemon juice isn’t for flavor, it just counteracts the sweet sugary flavor.
    2. Once mixed you can add food coloring however you’d like.
    3. Refrigerate the icing for 10 minute before using (and periodically during the process).
    4. If using an icing bag follow the instructions for using the attachments. Line a glasses with a plastic bag or an icing bag and pour the icing in.
    5. Cut a small corner off the bag for the icing to come out of. Start very small at first, you can always cut more but you cannot cut less. Add the icing attachments if you have them.
    6. Use the thicker icing to line the edge of the cookie and make shapes, the fill with the thinner icing.
    7. Add sprinkles and create a masterpiece. 🙂

    50 Water Saving Tips

    Water is vital to the survival of everything on the planet and is limited in supply. Earth may be known as the “water planet”, but even though about 70% of its surface is covered by water, less than 1% is available for human use. The Earth’s populations and demands for water use increase the water supply remains the same, but we can all do our part to protect this critical and precious resource. When it comes to conserving water, small adjustments can have a big impact. Save water and protect the environment.

    Inside Water Savings

    Kitchen

    • When washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.
    • Dishwashers, especially Energy Star, typically use less water than washing dishes by hand.
    • Look for water efficient dishwashers if you are thinking of buying a new one.
    • Use only one glass or container for your beverage of choice each day to cut back on the dishes you need to wash.
    • Soak pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.
    • Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Instead, compost vegetable food waste.
    • Wash your fruits and vegetables in a pan of water instead of running water from the tap.
    • Don’t use running water to thaw food. Instead, defrost food in the refrigerator.
    • Install an instant water heater near your kitchen sink so you don’t have to run the water while it heats up. BONUS: This also reduces energy costs.
    • Collect the water you use while rinsing fruit and vegetables. Use it to water house plants.
    • Reuse leftover water from cooked or steamed foods to start a nutritious soup.

    Laundry Room

    • When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.
    • Have a plumber re-route your greywater to trees and plants rather than the sewer line. Check with your city and county for codes.
    • If you’re looking to buy a new washing machine look for water efficient models.

    Bathroom

    Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you’ll save up to 150 gallons per month.

    Time your shower to keep it under 5 minutes. You’ll save up to 1,000 gallons per month.
    Turn off the water in the shower while shampooing and conditioning your hair, while washing your body and shaving your legs to save 150 gallons a month.
    Toilet leaks can be silent! Be sure to test your toilet for leaks at least once a year. (To test for leaks add food coloring to the tank, if you see color in the bowl you have a leak).
    • When running a bath, plug the bathtub before turning on the water. Adjust the temperature as the tub fills.
    • Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and save up to 4 gallons a minute. That’s up to 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
    • If you’re in the market for a new toilet, consider buying a dual-flush toilet. It has two flush options: a half-flush for liquid waste and a full-flush for solid waste.
    • When washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
    • One drip every second adds up to five gallons per day! Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks.
    • While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.
    • Install water efficient faucets and shower heads.

    Outside Water Savings

    Garden

    • Group plants with the same watering needs together.
    • Reduce the amount of lawn in your yard by planting shrubs and ground covers appropriate to your site and region.
    • Plant species native to your region.
    • Start a compost pile. Using compost in your garden or flower beds adds water-holding organic matter to the soil.
    • Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil around plants.
    • Use sprinkler that deliver water in larger droplets. Mists evaporate before hitting the ground.
    • For hanging baskets, planters and pots, put ice cubes on top of the soil to water without overflow.
    • Water only when necessary. More plants die from over-watering than from under-watering.
    • Apply water only as fast as the soil can absorb it.
    • Minimize evaporation by watering during the early morning hours when temperatures are cooler and winds are lighter.
    • A running hose can discharge up to 10 gallons per minute so time your use.
    • Examine soil moisture depth. If the top two to three inches of soil are dry, it’s time to water.
    • Collect water from your roof by installing gutters and downspouts. Direct the runoff to plants and trees.

    Lawn

    • Adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk or street.
    • Mow your lawn to between 1.5 and 2 inches to shade soil and protect roots.
    • If you walk through your grass and you leave footprints it’s time to water.
    • Make sure your grass seed is suitable for your region.
    • Aerate your lawn so water seeps into ground instead of running off.
    • Water your summer lawns once every three days and your winter lawn once every five days.

    Other

    • Use porous material for walkways and patios to prevent wasteful runoff and keep water in your yard.
    • Use a broom instead of the hose to clean off the driveway, sidewalks, paths and patios.
    • Let your kids play in the sprinklers over areas of your lawn that need water.
    • Wash your car on the lawn to water it at the same time (use biodegradable soap and a hose head that you can turn off the water).
    • If you see water leaking from public sprinklers or fire hydrants report them to the city.
    How do you save water in your home?

    Variation on a theme: Candy Cane Blossoms

    I know today is Black Friday and it’s tempting to go out and get all the great deals that have been advertised. I just want to get on a soap box really fast and say how ridiculous I find it that we spend one day expressing how thankful we are for all the blessings we have in our lives and the very next day all that goes out the window. And for what? Cheap goods that no one really needs. I hope that everyone who reads this might take a step back and really evaluate what’s important. I also want to put a plug in for Small Business Saturday which is tomorrow. You may not get a toaster for $3, but chances are you already have a toaster. And by shopping small you will support your community in a very big way and you will find great gifts that are unique and meaningful. Use this map to find small businesses in your community. That’s all *takes step down off soap box*…

    I do love this season. I love the music and the tingly feelings and the well-wishers. Oh… and the cookies. I LOVE cookies! The way cookie monster loves cookies. *nom nom nom* One of my favorite Christmas cookies is peanut-butter blossoms. They’re the ones with the kiss stuck on top. (Follow the link for the recipe).

    So, when I saw a picture for the most adorable “Candy Cane Blossoms” on Pinterest, I was super excited. I mean, the spell Pinterest holds over me was broken: I didn’t even pin the recipe. I actually got off the couch and checked whether I had the ingredients. Keep scrolling down for the recipe.

    Ingredients

    • 48 Hershey’s Candy Cane Mint Candy Kisses
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened (vegan option: smart balance or other healthy margarine for baking)
    • 1 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 egg (vegan option: 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed into 2 tablespoons water)
    • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons milk (vegan option: milk substitute of choice)
    • Red or green sugar crystals, and festive sprinkles

    Directions

    Heat oven to 350°F. Remove wrappers from candies. Beat butter, granulated sugar, egg and vanilla in large bowl until well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt; add alternately with milk to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Roll in red sugar, green sugar or sprinkles. Place on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until edges are lightly browned and cookie is set. Remove from oven; cool 2 to 3 minutes. Press a candy piece into center of each cookie. Move from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

    You can also make them birthday cookies like I did for the girl I used to nanny.

    Happy late Thanksgiving everyone! Let me know what your favorite cookies are in the comments below.

    Cooking Fats: Behind the Music

    I didn’t realize I had so much to say on this subject but as it turns out I am quite passionate about cooking oils and fats. So passionate that I believe this is one of the longest posts I’ve ever written. Because of this epic of a blog post, I have included jump links so you can simply click on the oil you want to know more about to easily move around this article.

    Recommended Oils

    Coconut Oil

    Coconut oil is extracted from the brown meat of a coconut. It contains, 92% saturated fats, 6% monounsaturated fats and 1.6% polyunsaturated fats. These saturated fats were once considered unhealthy, but recent studies show they are a safe source of energy. Additionally, previous studies were conducted on refined coconut oil that contained hydrogenated oils (which are bad!). This is why you should be sure to buy virgin (processed without chemicals or high heat) coconut oil that is high in the medium-chain fatty acids, which absorbs quickly into the body.

    Coconut oil also has important health benefits. It is rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and acts against bacteria and other pathogens. Additionally, coconut oil provides a slight boost in metabolism and, compared to other fats, increases the feeling of fullness.

    This oil is semi-solid at room temperature therefore it won’t go rancid for months or even years. I recommend using coconut oil for frying, due its high heat tolerance, due to saturated fat content.

    **Side Note** higher saturated fats means higher smoke point, the smoke point is the point at which the nutrients in an oil or fat begin to break down).

    Coconut oil can be used as a replacement for other oils in a typical recipe by a ratio of 1:1. You need less coconut oil than you’d expect when sautéing (due to low water content).

    Top of page

    Butter

    8 Health Benefits of Butter – Dr. Axe
    Like coconut oil, butter was also demonized in the past due to its saturated fat content (68% saturated fat, 28% monounsaturated fat and 4% polyunsaturated fat), but there really is no reason to fear real butter. Real butter is good for you and actually fairly nutritious. It contains Vitamins A, E and K2. It also contains the fatty acids Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA), which may help decrease body fat percentage in humans, and Butyrate, which can prevent inflammation, improve digestive health and fight obesity. For butter rich in Vitamin K2, CLA and other nutrients, make sure it comes from organic, grass-fed, unpasteurized cows.

    When cooking with butter, it tends to burn at high heat, like for frying. This is because regular butter contains trace amounts of sugars and proteins. To avoid burning your butter, you can cook with ghee, clarified butter from which sugars and proteins have been removed, leaving only pure butterfat. I recommend using butter for baking, and cream-sauces and ghee for frying.

    There’s a quick tutorial for how to make butter yourself at the bottom of my recipe for buttermilk cake. Here is a tutorial for clarifying butter.

    Top of page

    Olive Oil

    Olive Oil Excellence

    Extracted from the fruit of the olive tree, olive oil is loved for its heart healthy effects and is believed to be a key reason for the health benefits of the mediterranean diet. It can raise HDL (the good) cholesterol and lower the amount of oxidized LDL cholesterol circulating in your bloodstream. The fatty acids in olive oil are mostly monounsaturated (75% monounsaturated, 14% saturated, 11% polyunsaturated).

    When buying olive oil, make sure to look for quality Extra Virgin Olive Oil, that is cold-pressed and unfiltered. It has much more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined type. It should appear cloudy and be golden in color. The bottle should be green to slow oxidation ( a process which creates free-radicals that are damaging to cells in the body)

    To keep it from going rancid, store olive oil in a cool, dry, dark place. While olive oil is inferior to coconut oil for cooking at high heat, studies show that you can still use it for cooking or sautéing at lower heats (under 320°F). Olive oil is best used to drizzle on salads or other dishes after they have been cooked.

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    Animal Fats – Lard, Tallow, Bacon Drippings

    The fatty acid content of an animal depends on the animal’s diet: A diet primarily composed of grains results in higher proportion of polyunsaturated fats; if the animal is pasture raised or grass-fed, saturated and monounsaturated fats will be higher. That said, animal fats from naturally-raised animals are superior for cooking.

    You can save the drippings from meat to use later, or you can buy ready-made lard or tallow from the store (just be sure to check the label for no hydrogenated oils).

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    Avocado Oil

    Avocado oil has a similar composition to olive oil: it contains primarily monounsaturated fats, with few saturated and polyunsaturated as well. Therefore, I recommend using it in similar ways to olive oil.

    Recent studies show that avocados are a powerhouse of nutrients and healthy fats your body craves. Keep your eyes peeled for a post all about this wonderful superfood.

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    Fish Oil

    Fish Oil – Dr. Vlada Korol
    Omega-3 fatty acids are DHA and EPA. This is old hat if you read my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Another way to satisfy your need for omega-3s can be found in a tablespoon of fish oil. The best source is cod fish liver oil, because it is also rich in Vitamin D3, a nutrient many people are deficient of. Due to its high concentration of polyunsaturated fats, fish oil shouldn’t be used for cooking. To unlock these health benefits, take it as a supplement, one tablespoon per day. Store it in a cool, dry and dark place.
    Just check with the manufacturer to see where the fish came from and how it was caught and find it on you’re sustainable fish guide.

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    Flax Oil

    Flax oil contains lots of the plant form of Omega-3, Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA), which I discussed in my post about hemp, flax and chia seeds. Due to the high content of polyunsaturated fats, this oil is also best used as a supplement: added to salads, smoothies and other cold foods. However, unless you’re vegan, fish oil is probably a better option. Some studies show that ALA is not efficiently converted to the active forms, EPA and DHA (both of which are readily available in fish oil) in the human body. Therefore, it is absorbed slowly into the body and should be used in small quantities.

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    Nut Oils and Peanut Oil

    There are many nut oils available and they are generally rich in polyunsaturated fats. They can be used as parts of recipes, but are a poor choice for high heat cooking or frying.

    One exception is macadamia nut oil, which like olive oil contains monounsaturated for the majority. The taste may just make up for the step price if you’re willing to shell out the dough (that was a pun). Macadamia oil can be used for low- or medium-heat cooking.

    Peanut oil is derived from peanuts, which aren’t technically nuts (they’re legumes). Peanut oil is popular in Asian cooking and some fast-food restaurants use it for deep-frying.

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    Sesame Oil

    Despite this oil’s high proportion of polyunsaturated fats (41%), it is stable enough for cooking at high heats. It also adds flavor when drizzled over a stir-fry. Sesame oil is a great source of Vitamin E and other nutrients, and is beneficially for maintaining blood pressure. Sesame oil keeps very well at room temperature but storing it in the refrigerator keeps it from going rancid for even longer. Make sure you buy the unrefined variety.

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    Avoid These

    The following oils are created from genetically modified plants or must be highly processed before hitting the shelves at your local grocery store. This processing increases the shelf life but involves very high heats removing most of the natural flavor. It also causes oxidation, creating free radicals that can damage the cells of our bodies. The processing also creates a huge imbalance in Omega-6 to Omega-3, making them far too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids.

    Many of these oils have been wrongly labeled as “heart-healthy,” but new research has linked them to heart disease and cancer. One study looked at vegetable oils commonly found in U.S. grocery stores and found that they contain between 0.56 to 4.2% trans fats. That’s why I continually strew the importance of reading labels. Trans fats are bad!

    Trans fats increase levels of LDL or “bad” cholesterol and lowers levels of HDL or “good” cholesterol. It is found in hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated fat products like margarines and vegetable shortenings. It is also used in packaged snack foods and by fast-food and other restaurants.

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    Canola Oil

    Canola oil, best used in baking and frying, is derived from rapeseeds. Fun fact: its name comes from the phrase “Canadian oil, low acid” referring to the first canola plants. These were bred in Canada to have lower levels of erucic acid, which was believed to have adverse affect on the heart, at the time.

    The fatty acid breakdown of canola oil is fairly good, with a perfect Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio of 2:1. That’s before the heavy processing, the final product is completely devoid of this natural ratio. Watch this youtube video to see the whole disgusting operation.

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    Palm Oil

    Palm oil is derived from the fruit of oil palms. It consists mostly of saturated and monounsaturated fats, with small amounts of polyunsaturates. Which is why I would recommend using it for frying. Red Palm Oil (the unrefined variety) is best. It is rich in Vitamins E, Coenzyme Q10 and other nutrients.

    Palm oil is a tricky one for me to classify because there are many beneficial qualities associated with this oil. Unfortunately, harvesting palm oil is terribly unsustainable: in areas where palm trees are farmed specifically for the production of oil Orangutans, an endangered species, are losing their native habitat. So if you are very attached to using palm oil check with the manufacturer to find out about their farming practices and whether they are sensitive to the habitat of orangutans.

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    Avoid these too:

    • Cottonseed Oil
    • Rapeseed Oil
    • Grapeseed Oil
    • Soybean Oil
    • Corn Oil
    • Sunflower Oil
    • Safflower Oil
    • Rice Brain Oil
    • Hydrogenated Oil
    • Any oil labeled refined, hydrogenated, or partially-hydrogenated

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    What is your favorite oil or fat to use for cooking?

    The Sssshhh!-We’re-trying-to-sleep Workout

    We’ve all gotten the urge to workout in awkward situations. You don’t want to wake a sleeping baby with your grunts of motivation. You’re roommate is studying for a big test and can’t stand your heavy breathing. It’s 1 o’clock in the morning and your downstairs neighbors are pounding on your floor because of your incessant jumping on their ceiling. Now you are equipped with this little beauty. It’s a total-body workout which can be done in almost perfect silence.

    You can download the printable pdf here.

    Below is a description of how to do these workout moves. For a full list you can check out my glossary here. You can also find more printable workouts by clicking here.

    Front Kicks
    Start in a standing position. Lift your right leg straight out in front of your body until it is as close to parallel with the ground as you can lift it. Alternate legs.

    Uppercut
    Stand with feet hip-width distance apart. With a quick upward motion, scoop your right fist through the air to just in front of your face. Repeat on the other side.

    Lunge Kick
    Do a lunge then when you’re standing do a front kick.

    Lunge
    Take a big step forward with your left foot, bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg.

    Front Kicks
    Start in a standing position. Lift your right leg straight out in front of your body until it is as close to parallel with the ground as you can lift it. Alternate legs.

    Squat
    Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides, Squat slowly until both knees are bent 90 degrees and raise arms straight to shoulder level in front of you. Immediately rise out of squat, returning to standing with arms by side.

    Pushup
    Lay on your belly with hand flat on the floor on either side, forearms perpendicular to the floor. Stiffen body and literally push yourself away from the ground, hinging at the knees. When arms are straight hold and with control release your body, hover above the ground and repeat.

    Russian Twist
    Grab a 5- to 15-pound dumbbell with both hands. Stand with feet hip-width distance apart and your arms straight out. Take a big step forward with your left foot and, engaging your abs twist your torso to the left as you bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Twist back to center, push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg.

    Crunch
    Lay flat on your back. Place your hands behind your head, and your feet flat on the floor. Pull your shoulders away from the mat. Make sure you don’t pull your head forward with your arms but rather keep your gaze upward and use your hand for neck support only. Lower yourself back to the mat.

    Calf Raise
    Stand with feet hip-width distance apart. Lift up onto your toes, hold and release.

    Tricep Dip
    Find an elevated surface such as a step, a coffee table over a chair. Place your palms on the surface directly behind your body. Hold yourself up and gently lower yourself down using your arms. When your arms make a 90-degree angle behind you lift yourself back up to the starting position.

    Glute Kickback
    Standing facing the back of a chair, hold onto the top of the back rest. Lift your right leg straight behind you as far as you can, hold and return to the floor. Repeat on left side.

    Plank
    Set-up the top of a push-up position with your hands directly below your shoulder. A variation of this is to rest on your forearms with elbows directly beneath shoulders. Hold your body completely straight by engaging your abs. If you can’t hold the plank for the full duration, work up to it. Form is more important the length of time: don’t drop your hips or raise your butt.

    Vertical Leg Crunches
    Do crunches but instead of positioning your feet on the floor press them straight up as if trying to press them into the ceiling.

    Side Plank
    Lie on your side with your legs straight. Prop yourself up with your hand directly below your shoulder (or on your forearm with your elbow directly below your shoulder). Your body should form a diagonal line with your feet stacked on top of each other. If you can’t hold the plank for the full duration, work up to it. Form is more important the length of time: be sure your hips and knees stay of the floor.

    Short Bridge
    Lay on your back with arms by your side and feet flat against the floor, hip-width distance apart. Lift your hips from the mat until your body forms a straight line from shoulder to knee.

    Bird Dogs
    Postion yourself like a table top, knees flat on floor, hip-width distance apart directly below hips, hand shoulder-width apart, directly below shoulders. Lift your right arm and left left so they form a line parallel to the floor, hold then return to table-top. Switch sides.

    Jack-Knife Sit-Up
    Lay flat on the ground, arms extended over your head legs straight. Raise your arms and body off the ground at the same time as you lift your legs straight up so that you meet in a fold balanced on your lower back.

    Hershey Bar Cake

    Yesterday was my last day working for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. The seasonal position started in April and ended in October so I knew it wasn’t forever going in but it is still sad to say goodbye. I loved everything about working there; my co-workers are all wonderful, caring people and my work was interesting and varied. I learned a lot about myself this summer and a lot about what kind of work I’d like to pursue in the future. They say when one door closes another one opens and behind the second door there’s cake! (That transition was a little forced, sorry)

    I made this cake for my mom’s birthday because it’s her favorite since she was a little girl. This is quite possibly the best chocolate cake recipe ever in the history of ever. Just sayin’.

    Also, I lost a lot of pictures when I did an update to my phone so unfortunately the pictures of her birthday party were among those that have gone missing. 😦

    Ingredients:

    • 6 (1.55 ounce) Hershey’s milk chocolate bars
    • 1-1/2 cups Hershey’s chocolate syrup
    • 1 cup butter
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 4 eggs
    • 2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1 cup buttermilk
    • 2 tsps vanilla extract 

    Directions:

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a bundt pan. Set aside. 
    In a microwave safe bowl combine the candy bars and the syrup. Microwave in increments until melted stirring occasionally. Set aside. 
    In a large mixing bowl, beat butter and sugar at medium speed with an electric mixer until fluffy. 
    Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. 
    Add melted chocolate, beating well. 
    In another bowl, combine flour and baking soda. 

    Add dry ingredients alternately with buttermilk to sugar mixture. Beat well after each addition. 
    Add vanilla. 
    Pour batter into prepared pan(s). 
    Bake for 45 minutes.
    Then cover with aluminum foil and cool in pan for 15 minutes. 
    Turn over onto wire rack. 
    Dust with powdered sugar, frost it, drizzle with icing or leave it. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
    “This cake has a hole in it.”
    “You fixed it!”

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Create

    Studies show that the majority of people eat fewer than 70% of meals at homes. Reclaim your kitchen, reinstate family dinner, eat together, learn to cook and shop for food (don’t forget your reusable shopping bags!), invest in and value your food, and plant a garden to grow your own ingredients. During the 11th week of wellness, I encourage you to make at least 90% of meals at home. 

    Check out my recipes page for ideas.

    This week create: eat only food that was prepared at home

    Click the week for more information for why these are important to your wellness

    Pumpkin Spice Bread

    It’s October and pumpkin is everywhere. In the past two weeks alone, I’ve had two pumpkin spice latte, 4 cups of sweet harvest pumpkin tea, a bag of pumpkin spice kisses, five varieties of pumpkin beer (including one from Fate) and this bread… (and no, these companies are not my sponsors).

    Ingredients:

    • 1 can pumpkin
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup water
    • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
    • 1/2 cup applesauce
    • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
    • 2 eggs
    • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 4 teaspoons cinnamon
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 teaspoon ground cloves

    Directions:

    Heat oven to 350°F. In a large mixing bowl, combine pumpkin, sugar, water, vegetable oil, applesauce, yogurt and eggs. Beat until well mixed. Combine the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, nutmeg and cloves in another bowl and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture. Beat until smooth. Grease two 5×3 inch loaf pans and dust with flour. Evenly divide the batter between the three pans. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool for 10-15 minutes, then remove from pans by inverting onto a rack and tapping the bottoms. Slice and serve plain, buttered, or with cream cheese.

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Practice

    The 10th week of wellness is upon us. It’s important to remember to have fun in life. If you have a hobby already great keep at it, keep practicing! If you don’t, I am giving you permission to give yourself time to relax and do something you enjoy. I will even send signed notes that you can give to your boss. That probably won’t do anything but I am willing to do that for you anyway. Just shoot me an email.

    PHYSICAL & SOCIAL

    • Any team sport
    • yoga
    • Extreme sports
    • Contemporary dance
    • Boxing
    • Martial arts
    • Volunteering
    • Traveling
    • Bodybuilding


    ARTISTIC

    • Taking up an instrument
    • Pottery
    • Photography
    • Learning graphic design
    • Watercolor painting
    • Wood-working
    • Sculpting
    • Building models

    INTELLECTUALLY STIMULATING

    • Learning a new language
    • Researching a topic
    • Blogging
    • Playing simulation games
    • Creating a comic book
    • Writing poetry
    • Songwriting
    • Completing word games and puzzles
    • Becoming a chess master


    COLLECTIONS

    • Wine
    • Shot glasses
    • Postcards
    • Comic books
    • Memorabilia
    • LPs
    • Sports cards and paraphernalia
    • Beanie babies
    • Beer bottles
    • Antique lighters
    • Cigars
    • Pulp literature
    • License plates
    • Decks of cards
    • Stamps


    This week practice: take up a new hobby

    Click the week for more information on each of these topics that are important to your wellness:

    Happy Bartolomé Day!

    I didn’t write this but it’s better than what I could write so I’m just reposting. Here’s a link to the original on The Oatmeal.

    Just to reiterate I didn’t write this or make it in any way. I just uploaded the pictures, which is super impressive, I know. You should seriously check out The Oatmeal though. He writes great comics, especially about cats. 🙂

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Reconnect

    It’s week 9 of 12 Weeks of Wellness. I hope you’ve been keeping up with and adding to the other 8 wellness tips. This week the focus is on reconnecting with what is important to you. If you’ve lost touch with friends and family, be sure to give them a call. If your passion is building handcrafted boxes, collecting teapots or volunteering at the hospital, refocus your center toward these things that matter most to you. If you’ve been meaning to catch up on your reading, go ahead and take the time to relax with a cup of tea.
    Life is for living, you only live once so seize the day.
    Identify, focus in on, and spend time doing what matters

    Deep down there are things that drive you – hobbies that excite us, passions that you wish you had more time to explore, people you wish could spend more time with. 

    Breaking it down: Questions to ask yourself

    What does my life look like ten years from now?
    Picturing yourself in the future can help you figure out what you need to do in the present to get where you want to be.

    What is my purpose?
    Life is about discovering the answer to this question and the answer is always changing. Focus on what your present purpose is.

    What excites me?
    Security and comfort may be keeping you from pursuing the things that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

    What can I let slide?
    It’s important to recognize that there just aren’t enough hours in the day to keep up with everything. Decided what you may be willing to cut back on.

    Do the consequences have meaning?
    Your goals may change and something you’ve been striving for will not be as important as it once was. It may be time to let it go and move on.


    Making time

    Do it first.
    Decide on your top three most important tasks and do them first thing in the morning, before other items that don’t matter as much.
    Schedule it.
    If you’ve blocked out time for the most important people and tasks in your calendar there is no chance they will be lost in the shuffle.
    Treat it as an emergency.
    In an emergency you forget about the things that aren’t important and your to-do list does not get checked off. Don’t let the important things be forgotten.

    This week reconnect: tune out external distractions and focus on what matters

    Vegetarianize Your Meal

    This will be a quick post for Food Fun Friday. If you’re trying to cut back on your meat consumption for whatever reason (you love animals, your health or the environment) you might want to know how to substitute tofu for ground beef or turkey in a recipe. Here’s how…

    Freeze one package of firm tofu. Open package, dump block into a colander in the sink. Use you hand to crumble the tofu into pieces. 
    Heat two tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add tofu crumbles. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons of brewer’s yeast. Stir until heated through.
    Use in any recipe as you would ground meat. Like in Chili.

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Balance

    Food companies have us hooked by strategically including choice ingredients in their food: sugar, salt and fat. These three ingredients offer instantaneous bliss that causes us to continue to pursue happiness by overindulging. You really can’t eat just one. Be sure to pay attention to the amount of sugar and salt you are consuming to avoid some serious health problems in the present and in the future.

    This week balance: limit your overall sugar and salt intake

    CLICK THE WEEK FOR MORE INFORMATION ON WHY THESE ARE IMPORTANT TO YOUR WELLNESS

    Getting Around

    My first semester of college I took a microeconomics course. I learned a lot from this class but one of the biggest things I took away was the following.

    “When traffic is congested, each driver is imposing a cost on all other drivers on the road –he is literally getting in their way (and they are getting in his way.) This cost can be substantial: in major metropolitan areas, each time someone drives to work, as opposed to taking public transportation or working at home, he can easily impose $15 or more in hidden costs on other drivers.” – Microeconomics by Paul Krugman and Robin Wells

    In that class I also learned that “You don’t need to know this,” means, “You need to know this,” in professor speak, and that you should never enter a jungle alone (I don’t remember why, but I wrote it down in my notes).

    The point is, I had never really thought about the negative economical factors involved with automobiles. The environmental impact is something I’ve always known is terrible. Automobile driving is a major cause of:

    1. Global Warming: Carbon dioxide emissions from autos are the largest contributor to global warming.
    2. Air Pollution: Automobiles produce nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter that contribute to smog and respiratory illnesses.
    3. Water Pollution: Automobile manufacturing, gas and oil production, road runoff of fuel, oil and antifreeze, underground gasoline storage tanks and marine oil spills all pollute our water.
    4. Habitat Destruction: Oil drilling, metals mining and road construction all damage wildlife habitat.
    5. International Conflict: Nations compete over oil reserves. The US currently imports 48% of its oil — the highest levels ever. Many analysts ties this oil dependency to the hundreds of billions we have spent on Persian Gulf wars.
    Americans drive an average of 231 miles per week, which comes out to about 12,000 miles per year. For a car with average miles per gallon (21), this is 571 gallows of gasoline annually. Given that every gallon of gasoline used emits 20 pounds of CO2, that means our cars are emitting 11,420 pounds of CO2 each year. The Union of Concerned Scientists stated, “personal use of cars and light trucks (including pickups and SUVs) is the single most damaging consumer behavior.” In fact, the most significant change an individual could make toward reducing their carbon footprint is to cut down on how much they drive. Here’s how:
    Lastly, be a considerate and cautious driver. Fast accelerates and decelerations are damaging to your vehicle and the environment. Moral of the story: Be the tortoise, not the hare. In this classic children’s tale, the tortoise proved that slow and steady won the race. The arrogant hare who burst from the gates and slams on his breaks for a rest proves that being a jerk never got anyone anywhere. Or at least that’s what I got out of it.
    How do you cut back on your car time?

    Seed Showdown: Comparing Flax, Chia and Hemp

    It’s Food Fun Friday and what’s more fun than talking about seeds? I can’t think of anything. It started with flaxseeds, and now that hemp and chia seeds are prominent players in the health food market I think it’s time to compare and contrast the benefits of these superfoods. It’s time for a Seed Showdown.

    Here’s a Venn diagram

    aaaaaand a table.

    and now for some words…

    Chia

    Remember the “Ch-ch-ch-chia Pet“? Well these seeds are the same thing only you aren’t going to grow them into a cute hedgehog, you’re going to eat them. Chia, Salvia hispanica is a plant, which belongs to the mint family. It was so highly recognized by the Aztecs that it was often used as currency. It contains high levels of antioxidants, calcium, magnesium and iron. Studies show that chia has enormous potential to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and Type 2 Diabetes. It can lower blood sugar (glucose) after a meal, reduce inflammation and blood pressure, help maintain hydration and is a natural blood thinner.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Travel/eating-chia-seeds/story?id=18296119

    My tip: fill a liter bottle with juice, tea, flavored water or lemonade and add 3 tablespoons. Shake every 5 minutes and enjoy throughout the day.

    Flax

    Flax or Linum usitatissimum is in the Linaceae familyHippocrates wrote about using flax for the relief of abdominal pains, and the French Emperor Charlemagne favored flax seed so much that he passed laws requiring its consumption. Flax contains alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), dietary fiber, and lignans.

    http://positively-healthy.com/a-beginners-guide-to-flaxseed/

    My tip: Add 2 tablespoons to a glass of almond milk and drink within 30 minutes (or the milk will start to thicken). Flax is also well suited for baking, add 1 tablespoon to any recipe when you add flour.

    Hemp

    HempCannabis sativa L. and other non-drug varieties of Cannabis, commonly known as hemp were not previously commonly cultivated, but are becoming more popular. Technically hemp seeds are the nut of the plant. A diet rich with hemp has been shown to lead to increased energy, improved metabolism and immunity, reduced food cravings, and it can help lower blood pressure. Hemp also contain plant sterols that have been shown to reduce cholesterol.

    **Interesting plant nerd side note** Two of Boulder’s favorite pass times find there origin in the Cannabaceae family: hops and hemp. #TheMoreYouKnow #DoHashtagsWorkHere?

    http://kimberlysnyder.net/blog/2013/05/26/raw-tabouli-salad-with-hemp-seeds/#i.1cj27pxv9fjy

    My tip: Add 1 tablespoon to smoothies, 1 tablespoons to oatmeal, 1 tablespoon to everything you eat, ever.

    Definitions

    Lignans – antioxidant compounds found in plants that seem to provide extra protection against many types of cancer, are anti-inflammatory, and may also help lower cholesterol levels.
    Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) – anti-inflammatory. Read more about the importance of balancing omega-3s and omega-6s 

    Soluble and Insoluble Fiber – Put simply soluble fibers (those found in chia and flax) absorb water, helping to slow the absorption of sugar and cholesterol from foods, while insoluble fibers (those found in hemp) do not. Read more here.


    I hope that clears up some of the confusion if there was any. My conclusion: all of these seeds can be beneficial additions to your diet and can be used in so many ways so, if the budget allows, having them all on hand is a good idea. If you have to choose just one, the price for flax can’t be beat, hemp is probably the most well-rounded health option and chia is a very fun alternative to try.

    Did I miss anything? What is your favorite way to eat these healthy seeds? 

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Freshen

    We’re more than halfway through our 12 weeks of wellness; this week we’ll focus on the home and making your space safe, stress-free zone where you can find relaxation and comfort.

    To freshen your space in a sustainable way, check out my Greening your Home Posts: Part 1 and Part 2

    This week freshen: nest and take care of your space

    No Fuss Ice Cream

    The weather is cooling down so I’m trying to get as many frozen treats in before the outside becomes just as frozen. This Food Fun Friday recipe is for ice cream that you can make at home even if you don’t have an fancy smancy ice cream maker.

    The basic recipe calls for one 14-oz can condensed milk, 1 pint whipping cream and 2 tsp. vanilla. You can add anything else you want for other flavors. I used Nutella because, well do I really need a reason?
    Pour whipping cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract into a large mixing bowl. Then use a mixer to whip it until stiff peaks form (5-8 minutes).
    Warm 1/2 cup of Nutella in the microwave until liquidy (if you have a soften or melt button pre-programmed into your microwave use that. If not change the power to about 30% and microwave for 1 minute, checking occasionally.
    Fold in melted Nutella.
    Spoon in about another half cup of Nutella (not melted) and continue folding. To form swirls don’t mix in completely. Pour the mixture into a bread loaf pan. Cover and freeze for at least 8 hours before serving.
    Feel free to lick the spoon, Nutella is the best thing on Earth.
    Once frozen enjoy your delicious homemade treat.
    What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? I think we’re all clear on what mine is. 🙂

    Feedback Loops: Cynicism and Hope

    Colorado is experiencing 1000 year flooding. The damage and destruction is unbelievable. My dad keeps saying that word, “Un—believable,” or, “Un—freaking—believable!” It reminds me of the movie, The Princess Bride, the character Vizzini keeps saying, “Inconceivable!” until finally Inigo Montoya says, “You keep saying this word, I do not think it means what you think it means.” Only in this case, with my dad, he knows what it means and it’s the best word to describe these disasters.

    I know one storm cannot be definitively linked to climate change and it will take months of research to determine if climate change caused this storm to be more likely to occur. I can’t help but speculate that it is likely to have catalyzed  this, and all the other monster natural disasters that have occurred recently around the world. Storms of these calibers did not occur so frequently in history.
    When things like this disaster happen we look at the world’s problems and have good intentions, we wish the problems will go away but when we see they stubbornly remain we react as if they are happening in a movie. People continue to starve, communities fall apart, violence thrives, families fade, nature disappears, and those unaffected continue in their daily lives.
    At this point there are two options: hope and cynicism.

    Diagrams adapted from A Better World Handbook by Ellis Jones, Ross Haenfler and Brett Johnson
    The cycle of cynicism can be broken and replaced with a cycle of hope. When we find out about a problem that disturbs us, and when we decide we want to help, instead of giving up when we see no options, we should search for more information. We take actions that are in line with our own values, the vision of a better world can become a reality. If we stop blaming others for not doing anything and start taking personal responsibility for being good people. Finally, it’s important to recognize that we can’t do everything, otherwise we may fall back into a cycle of cynicism.

    In ecology we talk about feedback loops. A positive feedback loop continues to build on itself. For example, climate change is a positive feedback loop: As temperatures warms, there is less snow and ice, this leads to more sunlight being absorbed by the land and the sea, which leads in turn to further warming. A negative feedback loop is a system that is kept in equilibrium such as the relationship between predator and prey populations: As the predators population increases they catch more and more prey causing the prey population to decline. With fewer prey to catch, predators begin to die off leaving a greater opportunity for the prey to regenerate their population. Now there are again more prey so the predator population increases again, forever and ever.
    Both the cycles of hope and cynicism are positive feedback loops; one leads to apathy and the other leads to a better world. Which loop will you pick?

    Abso-fruit-ly Yummy Smoothie Recipes

    Last summer you may remember from my Backpacking For Dummies post that, due to wildfires and drought conditions, Colorado looked a little like this:

    Well this September we have received 50% of our average annual precipitation within the last 48 hours, so now it looks a little more like this:

    I know homes, businesses and people have experienced devastating loss over the past 2 days. I would like to express my sympathies to everyone who has been affected by this disaster.

    So guess what this is. Just guess! okay fine I’ll tell you: this, yes this very thing that you are reading with your eyeballs, is my 100th post on Maggie’s Mind Mumbles!

    Congratulations to me but mostly congratulations to you. You, who come here to my blog and read whatever nonsense gibberish I happen to feel like writing in the moment. I really appreciate it. (No, I’m not crying! Someone just poured water all over my face).

    Not only is this post #100, it’s also Friday, which we all know is the best day of all the days. AND not only is it Friday, it’s Food Fun Friday (what a big day!) so it’s time to blend up some fun. Today’s recipes are berry good. Check out the 36 supercharged smoothies in the a-peel-ing infographic below!

    These 36 are sub-lime aren’t they? But in case that’s not just peachy with you, here are just a few more grrrrape recipes.

    • Banana – 2 frozen bananas, 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 2 teaspoons honey, a pinch of cinnamon.
    • Strawberry Banana – Same as above, replace one banana with a cup of frozen strawberries.
    • Strawberry shortcake – 2 cups frozen strawberries, 1 cup crumbled pound cake, 1 and 1/2 cup milk, sugar to taste and top with whipped cream.
    • Triple Berry – 1 and 1/2 cups frozen mixed blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup milk.
    • Raspberry Orange – 1 cup orange juice, 1 cup frozen raspberries, 1/2 cup plain yogurt.
    Food Network
    • Peach Mango Banana – 1 cup frozen mangos, 1 cup frozen peaches, 1/2 frozen banana, 1 cup plain yogurt.
    • Honeydew Almond – 2 cups frozen honeydew melon, 1 cup almond milk
    • Cantaloupe – 2 cups frozen cantaloupe, juice of 1/2 lime, 1/2 cup water, sugar to taste.
    • Carrot Apple – 1 cup carrot juice, 2 cups frozen apple.
    • Kiwi Strawberry – 1 cup frozen strawberries, 2 peeled kiwis, sugar to taste.
    Food Network
    • Cherry Vanilla – 1 and 1/2 cup frozen cherries, 1 cup milk, 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt.
    • Tangerine Honey – 4 frozen tangerines, juice of 2 limes, 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup ice.
    • Apricot Almond – 1 and 1/2 cups apricot nectar, 1/2 cup vanilla yogurt, 2 tablespoons almond butter.
    • Grape – 2 cups frozen grapes, 1 cup grape juice.
    • Blueberry Pear – 1 and 1/2 cups frozen blueberries, 1 frozen pear, 1 and 1/2 cup maple yogurt.
    Food Network
    • Banana Date Lime – 2 frozen bananas, 3/4 cup chopped frozen dates, the juice of 1 lime, 1 and 1/2 cup milk.
    • Peach Ginger – 2 cups frozen peaches, 1 and 1/2 cups buttermilk, 3 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger.
    • Grapefruit – 1 frozen grapefruit, 1 cup grapefruit juice, 3 tablespoons sugar, a pinch of cinnamon. 
    • Pomegranate Cherry – 1 cup frozen cherries, 3/4 cup pomegranate juice, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, a pinch of salt, a pinch of cinnamon. 
    • Vietnamese Coffee – 1/2 cup chilled espresso or strong coffee, 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, a pinch of cardamom, 1 and 1/2 cups ice.
    Foor Network
    • Blueberry Banana – 1 frozen banana, 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon lime juice, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract.
    • Creamy pineapple -2 cups frozen pineapple, 1/2 cup cottage cheese, 1/4 cup milk, 2 teaspoons honey, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, a pinch of nutmeg, a pinch of salt.
    • Peanut Butter Apple – 1 frozen apple, 3 tablespoons peanut butter, 2 tablespoons flaxseeds, 1 and 1/2 cup milk, honey to taste.
    • Apple Ginger – 1 frozen apple, 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, the juice of 2 limes, 1/4 cup honey, 1 cup water.
    • Creamsicle – 3/4 cup frozen orange juice concentrate, 1/2 cup water, 1 cup vanilla frozen yogurt.
    Food Network
    • Lemon Poppyseed – 2 teaspoons poppyseeds, the zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, 1 cup plain yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, sugar to taste.
    • Mango Acai – 8 ounces frozen acai, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 cup orange juice.
    • Mexican Coffee – 1/2 cup chilled espresso or strong coffee, 1/2 cup milk, 3 and 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon almond extract, 1 and 1/2 cups ice.
    • Banana PB&J – 1 cup frozen banana, 1 cup milk, 1/4 cup peanut butter, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 2 tablespoons jelly.
    • Black Raspberry Vanilla – 1 pint frozen blackberries, 1/2 cup frozen raspberries, 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 tablespoon honey.
    Food Network
    • Chocolate Raspberry – 1 cup raspberries, 1 cup chocolate frozen yogurt, 3/4 cup milk.
    • Pomegranate Berry – 1 cup frozen blueberries, 3/4 cup beet juice, 3/4 cup pomegranate juice, honey to taste.
    • Cucumber Kale – 1 and 3/4 cup vegetable juice ice cubes, 1/2 cucumber, 3 kale leaves, the juice of 1/2 lemon.
    • Pineapple Mango – 1 cup frozen pineapple, 1 cup frozen mango, 1 cup coconut water, a pinch of allspice.
    • Peanut Butter Banana – 1 frozen banana, 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons malted milk powder, 1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder, a pinch of salt.
    Food Network
    • Oatmeal Cookie – 1 cup vanilla yogurt, 1 cup milk, 1 cup oats, 1 teaspoon flaxseed, a pinch of cinnamon, top with a cookie.
    • Chocolate Banana – 1 banana, 1 cup chocolate frozen yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, a pinch of salt.
    • Apple Spinach – 2 cups spinach, 1 frozen apple, 1/2 cup silken tofu, 1/4 cup milk, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1 tablespoon wheatgerm, 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon lemon juice.
    • Mint Jalapeno – 1/3 cup fresh mint leaves, 1 jalepeno pepper, 2 and 1/2 tablespoons honey, a pinch of salt, 2 cups plain yogurt, top with toasted cumin seeds and cilantro.
    • Cucumber Honeydew Mint – 1/2 cucumber, 1/2 frozen honeydew melon, 1 cup pear juice, 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1/4 cup mint leaves.
    Food Network
    • Strawberry Maple – 2 cups frozen strawberries – 1 and 1/2 cups milk, 1/ cup maple syrup, 1/4 cup wheat germ, a pinch of cinnamon.
    • Birthday Cake – 1 and 1/2 cups vanilla frozen yogurt, 1/4 cup wheat germ, 1 cup milk, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 teaspoon almond extract, top with sprinkles.
    • Carrot Mango Herb – 1 cups frozen mango, 1/2 cup carrot juice, 1/2 cup orange juice, 1/4 cup mint, tarragon or basil.
    • Blueberry Banana Spinach – 1/2 cup yogurt, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup frozen blueberries, 1 cup spinach, 1 tablespoon flaxseed, 1/2 frozen banana.
    • Banana Split – 1 frozen banana, 1/2 cup frozen strawberries, 1 teaspoon cocoa powder, 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup milk.
    Food Network

    Smoothie making is a science and a tricky balancing act. The best rule of thumb is to include one frozen ingredient and one liquid ingredient in whatever combination you want. I like to freeze the fruit because I find it is hard to keep fruit from going bad in the summer when fresh is available and it’s cheaper in the winter to buy frozen. You can freeze juices, teas, coffees, etc. into cubes and use that or plain water cubes as well.

    Practice makes perfect and soon you will find a routine that works well for you. Play with these recipes and concoct your own to really get into the smoothie making s-pear-it.

    Roasted Veggie Quinoa Salad (but mostly bugs)

    My job with Parks and Open Space requires a lot of hiking. And when I say a lot I mean A LOT. On average I hike 4 miles every work day. And let me tell you the main thing I have noticed on my many, lengthy hikes through the plains and foothills of Boulder County. There are approximately thousands of different kinds of insects out there in the great outdoors (for once I may have been modest).

    I promise there is a recipe in this post; it’s Food Fun Friday after all. I should be giving you a recipe or at least discussing why the food you’re eating is probably killing you slowly or something. First I would like to thoroughly ruin your appetite (just be glad I didn’t include pictures) by talking about insects, the least appetizing things I can think of.

    Just a preview of what’s to come

    I am going to be highly non-scientific for a minute so entomologists cover your ears. I have classified these insects I have encountered into five categories: the gross ones, the lovely ones, the dumb ones, the mean ones and the pesky ones.

    The Gross Ones

    These are the bugs that make me squirm: Spiders (I know not insects) and earwigs. But mostly spiders.

    The Lovely Ones

    The only bugs I will classify here are butterflies (or flutterbys as they should be called) because they are very nice to look at and they are curious but shy creatures who want to know what your business is in their neighborhood but won’t stay too close.

    The Dumb Ones

    Bugs that fall under this category include grasshoppers, cicadas and flies. I can’t tell you how many cicadas I have seen fly head first into the side of a hill or a tree trunk. They make a surprisingly loud crunch on impact then they take off again, apparently unscathed, on their journey. While I do enjoy the variety of colors you find, grasshoppers are especially dumb. when frightened, are critters that take flight (rather than stay and fight) and for some reason seem to think jumping right into my shins is the way toward safety. I’m sure you’ve used an outhouse at a trailhead at some point and know them to be often full of flies. Well they all panic when you come in and you hold the door open for them to escape into the wild and they just fly around frantically and never find the source of the fresh air.

    The Mean Ones

    This is the classification that encompasses wasps, hornets and biting flies. The ones that are just out to get you and leave a painful blemish behind. I haven’t been stung recently but I remain wary of these nasty buggers. Biting flies remain the bane of my existence; they are all just out to get me.

    The Pesky Ones

    These are the insects where the word bug comes from. They just bug the heck out of you. Mosquitoes for instance are extremely persistent and have that distinct buzz that really grinds my gears. I know they are just trying to survive by sucking my precious blood but seriously do they have to leave the obnoxious itchy red bump behind? I haven’t yet figure out what kind of fly it is that likes to circle my head as I hike 20 feet before flying off but when I do, they better watch out!

    So, to return from my tangential story about pests; here is the promised recipe for quinoa and roasted vegetable salad for your enjoyment…

    Start by cooking quinoa to package specifications. Chop up any veggies you find in your pantry. I used zucchini, summer squash, onions, carrots and potatoes. Toss all the vegetables together in a large bowl with 3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbsp Herbs de Provence (buy herb mix or make your own), 2 Tbsp olive oil and 1/2 tsp salt. Then spread in a baking dish.

    Bake for 30 minutes at 450°F stirring halfway through. Mix veggies in with quinoa and lemon dressing (juice and zest of one lemon, 2 Tbsp EVOO, 1 Tbsp Herbs de Provence) serve with chicken, or other protein, or by itself, whatever you want… what do I know? All I want to talk about is insects.

    buzzz buzzz buzzzzzzzzz

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Unplug

    It’s the 4th week of wellness and we’re focusing on how we can unplug from distractions such as technology.

    Modern technology is wonderful in many ways. We can communicate with friends and family all around the world. We can get instant updates about world news, sports and events. There are thousands of facets to boost creativity. Job searches have never been easier. Research can be done with a click of a mouse. But with great power comes great responsibility. We have so many things we need to check and update and learn about and watch and read and on and on and on that sometimes we forget about the things happening around us, in the real world outside of cyberspace.

    This week unplug: disconnect from unnecessary technology

    Click the week for more information on why these are important to your wellness

    Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    It’s Food Fun Friday (which, let’s face it, is every Friday) and I will share with you an alteration of a recipe that is a family favorite: Ohio Buckeye Cookies.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    Inspiration for these cookies hit me on the head, literally, as I was on a walk. There is a tree called an Ohio buckeye (Aesculus glabra) which can be identified, according to my tree identification book:

    Leaves have 5 to 7 short-stemmed, lanceolate leaflets, each 4 to 6 inches long and 0.5 to 1.5 inches wide. The yellow flowers, hairy below and with stamens longer than the petals, are borne in erect panicles, 5 to 7 inches long. The capsule, about 2 inches in diameter are spiny on the surface and usually enclose two seeds, about 1 to 1.5 inches in diameter. Brown bark is fissured and scaly. Grows 50 to 90 feet tall and 2 to 3 feet in diamet; crown oblong, rounded. Also leaves and twigs have an unpleasant odor when bruised.

    Which probably means very little to most of you but, the plant nerd that I am, I couldn’t leave out any of those details.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye tree nut and leaves

    It was this very nut that fell from it’s lofty branch and hit me squarely on the top of my head. Like Isaac Newton before me, I was struck with an idea (although I will not claim that my idea will change the course of science as we know it) and a craving for the buckeye cookies my grandma makes.

    When I came home I looked up the recipe for this delectable treat. I was surprised by the amount of sugar added to many of the recipes I found and decided to work out a recipe for more of a protein bite in favor of this sugar packed morsel.

    These are the ingredients I used.

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: ingredients for Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites
    Add peanut butter, rice milk and seeds to a medium sized bowl.
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: ingredients for Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    Stir until everything is mixed together. The mixture should be very sticky, but not liquidy at all. 
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: peanut butter filling for Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites
    Using a spoon and your hands, form 1-2 inch balls out of the mixture and place them on wax paper to keep them from sticking. 
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites without chocolate
    Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Once the peanut butter balls are chilled, remove them from the freezer.
    Melt your chocolate over a stovetop or using a microwave, being careful not to burn the chocolate. 
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Melting Chocolate
    While the chocolate is still melted, dip the peanut butter balls in the chocolate, covering them completely. 
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites dipped

    Return the chocolate covered peanut butter protein balls to the wax paper. 
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    Return to the freezer for 4 hours (or overnight). Store in refrigerator. Makes about 24 small peanut butter protein balls.
    Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Ohio Buckeye Protein Bites

    Ingredients:

    • 1 jar (16 oz) natural peanut butter (I use chunky, but if you prefer smooth, use that)
    • 6-8 tablespoons rice milk (any other kind of milk should work fine too)
    • 6 tablespoons hemp seed, flax seed or chia seed
    • 6.4 oz dark chocolate, or about two regular sized chocolate bars (85% or higher cacao is ideal, I used Chocolove)

    Directions:

    Add peanut butter, almond milk and protein powder to a medium sized bowl. Stir until everything is mixed together. The mixture should be very sticky, but not liquidy at all. Using a spoon and your hands, form 1-2 inch balls out of the mixture and place them on wax paper to keep them from sticking. Put in the freezer for at least 30 minutes. Once the peanut butter balls are chilled, remove them from the freezer and melt your chocolate over a stovetop or using a microwave, being careful not to burn the chocolate. While the chocolate is still melted, dip the peanut butter balls in the chocolate, covering them completely. Return the chocolate covered peanut butter protein balls to the wax paper and return to the freezer for 4 hours (or overnight). Store in refrigerator. Makes about 24 small peanut butter protein balls.
    And now for the poem that comes in every Chocolove chocolate bar:
    Strong Dark
     
    Sonnet 75
    So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
    Or as sweet-seasoned showers are to the ground;
    And for the peace of you I hold such strife
    As ‘twixt a miser and his wealth is found.
    Now proud as an enjoyer, and anon
    Doubting the filching age will steal his treasure,
    Now counting best to be with you alone,
    Then bettered that the world may see my pleasure,
    Sometimes all full with feasting on your sight,
    And by and by clean starved for a look,
    Possessing or pursuing no delight
    Save what is had, or must from you be took.
    Thus do I pine and surfeit day by day,
    Or gluttoning on all, or all away.
    William Shakespeare 

    Paper or Plastic?

    The other day I watched a white plastic bag lazily float through the air as I was waiting at a stop light. It has an odd sort of beauty in the grace with which it moves. The wind catches in little pockets and it inflates, then as the wind shifts it flattens and picks up speed. Bits of it get caught on fence posts, branches and car antennae causing it to cartwheel as it makes its way to whatever destination it is fated to reach. Then I snapped out of my reverie and realized what a terrible crime this bag represents.

    It’s a mystery to me why people continue to choose plastic bags at the store when they accumulate at home faster than second uses can be developed for them. Not to mention their tendency to blow away, as mentioned, creating litter, or the fact that they hold relatively few items for their size. Whatever the reason, they continue to be used by the general public.

    Did you know that according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), close to a trillion plastic bags are used worldwide each years? The United States alone used about one hundred billion of those, which comes out to almost one thousand plastic bags per U.S. household per year. If one household cuts out plastic bags, this could actually make a noticeable dent.

    It takes twelve million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bags the U.S. alone uses each years and fewer than 3 percent are recycled. This means they wind up in landfills where they can take hundreds of years to decompose. Or they end up in rivers and oceans where they choke and poison about one hundred thousand whales, birds, and other aquatic life each year, or act as rafts carrying foreign species to new ecosystems.

    Going Green – Plastic Island in the Pacific

    I once thought paper bags were more environmentally-friendly-ish because they are biodegradable. Nope. Making ten billion paper bags (about the number of grocery bags United Statesians use in a year) requires fourteen million trees to be cut down because they require virgin fibers to hold up to heavy groceries. On top of that, pulp and paper mills are among the worst polluters of air, water and land of any manufacturing industry.

    There is a hidden option, it’s like the elusive third door that no one tells you about but really has the best prizes if you just take a wild stab and guess it. Reusable cloth bags! By far the best solution to the bag crisis in the US.

    Sophie World

    The tough part is remembering to bring them with you. Practice makes perfect so keep trying. Here are some techniques you might want to try:

    • Doorknob – Attach at least one, if not more than one, reusable shopping bag to the doorknob you most often leave through. You have to literally touch them in order to get out of the house.
    • Car – Designate a box in your car to store a few reusable bags. Now you only have to remember to get them into the store.
    • Purse – There are many options of reusable bags which are small enough to stick in your purse or pocket. There’s no excuse for not using it if you’ve been carrying it around with you.
    • Make a note – Stick a note anywhere you’re likely to see it –on the mirror, on your dashboard, on your forehead– to remind yourself.
    • All of the above – If you’re like me then you’ve probably accumulated dozens of reusable bags at festivals, fairs and events. I keep my bags anywhere and everywhere.

    As an added incentive many places across the US either give to a discount for using your own bags or expect you to pay for the store’s plastic or paper bags you use. So if being a Earth-saving superhero isn’t enough, maybe money will convince you.

    How do you remember your reusable bags when shopping?

    12 Weeks of Wellness: Rest

    As we continue on our 12 week program toward physical wellness keep up your good hydration habits but add this next weeks focus to your routine. Today we’re talking about rest and why it’s important.

    Here is an infographic I created with the same information found on the previous “Sleep is Awesome!” infographic. Enjoy your new-found learning about sleep and why it’s important!

    This week rest: wind down early and stick to a regular sleep schedule this week.

    Click the week for more information on why these are important to your wellness


    Birthday Peach Snickerdoodles

    Right before my birthday in June my co-worker Sally asked me ever so sneakily, “If someone were to make you cookies or cupcakes what would be your favorite flavor?” I answered Snickerdoodles because I lurve cinnamon oh so very much. On my birthday, I arrived at work and this was waiting in my cubicle.

    The fish is an inside joke

    So, as her birthday approached in August I wanted to return the gesture. Equally sneakily, I asked, “If you had to choose your favorite cake, pie or cookie flavor what would you choose?” She said peach pie and snickerdoodle cookies. Being the genius that I am, I combined the two.

    Fortunately, it is currently peach season and my dad had just brought a box of peaches home with him from the western slope. In order to use them before spoiling my mom busily made peach jam, peach salsa, peach cobbler etc. and I made peach snickerdoodles.

    This recipe makes 3.5 dozen cookies, which is a lot but I gave away about half. You could probably half the recipe but it was too complicated for me to figure out.

    Select four medium peaches

    Peel and dice (I used a knife, but blanching or a peeler would work too)
    Add 1/2 cup butter, 1/2 cup margarine, 2 eggs and 1 1/2 cup sugar to a food processor

    Mix well, then add half of the diced peaches

    Mix 4 cups flour, 2 teaspoon cream of tarter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 2 teaspoon in a large mixing bowl

    Add pureed peach mixture

    Mix until evenly blended

    Add remaining peaches

    Fold peaches into batter. Batter will be very wet. Dollop spoonfuls onto greased, parchment paper-covered cookie sheets. Sprinkle with mixture of 4 teaspoon cinnamon  and 4 tablespoon sugar. Cook at 400°F for 11 minutes or until just browned on top. Cookies will be soft.

    Let cool on wire racks.

    Make a lovely birthday card and deliver to recipient.

    Hahaha I crack myself up!

    Ingredients:

    • 1/2 cup butter, unsalted, room temperature, cubed
    • 1/2 margarine, room temperature, spoonfuls
    • 1 1/2 cups plus 4 Tb sugar, divided use
    • 2 eggs
    • 3 3/4 cups flour, sifted
    • 2 tsp cream of tartar
    • 1 tsp baking soda
    • 1/4 tsp salt
    • 4 fresh peaches, peeled, seeded, diced, divided use
    • 2 tsp plus 4 tsp cinnamon, divided use

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 400. Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Using a food processor, cream together the butter, shortening, 1 1/2 cups of sugar and the eggs. Add half of the diced peaches and puree until smooth. In a large bowl combine the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the creamed ingredients from the food processor. Fold in the remaining diced peaches. In a smaller bowl combine the remaining 4 tablespoons of sugar and the cinnamon. Drop a rounded tablespoon of cookie batter (the batter is very moist) onto the cookie sheets about 2″ apart. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture and bake for 11 minutes.

    Happy Friday!

    Green is the New Black: An Info Guide for Fashionistas

    About a week ago I read an article about consumerism. Basically the author was suggesting that in order to be sustainable you should stop purchasing. Anything. My response was that this is an unreasonable request. This may work for some people but it isn’t practical for the majority. Being green should be an attractive lifestyle to all kinds of people. I think the more important lesson for the green fashionista is to be conscience of WHAT your buying and both the quality and quantity of these items.

    In Greening Your Home Part 1 (Big Purchases) and Part 2 (Decorating), I talk about learning your personal style for home decor instead of following every current trend. The same applies to your wardrobe and this an info guide for all you fashionistas because green is the new black (I always love in books or movies when a character says the title).

    Make the cuts

    The first step to a greener wardrobe is to edit it. I don’t mean get rid of everything that isn’t made of sustainable materials and replace these things with pieces that are more environmentally-friendly. That would be the opposite of green. What I mean is find the time to look at every article of clothing that you own. Assign a spot on the floor for YES and a spot for NO.

    Look at each item carefully; try them on if you need to. Ask yourself:

    • Do I like this item?
    • Does it look good on me?
    • Do I feel good while wearing this?
    • Is it torn or have holes?
    • Can I fix it within a week?
    • Do I dread seeing someone while wearing this?
    • Do I only wear it on laundry day?

    If you haven’t worn something for a year, you probably don’t need it anymore. Some things (a wedding or bridesmaids dress, Halloween costumes, etc.) are exceptions. If you can’t think of a good reason to keep something, don’t! Put it in the NO pile and get it out of your life.

    I don’t believe in MAYBE piles. I always end up keeping everything and it’s just a waste of time trying to kid yourself. Give yourself clear guidelines about what stays and what goes, and stick to them. Purging your wardrobe is oddly satisfying.

    Develop a Shopping Strategy

    If you have a game plan before you leave your house about how you plan to shop you will be more likely to keep on the righteous path toward green (I’m officially a green crusader after that statement). Here are a few tips that might help you on your journey.

    • Always keep at least one reusable shopping bag by your front door or in your car. There is so much information about the evils of both plastic and paper bags but this post has neither the time nor the space so in the meantime you’ll have to take my word for it. When asked if you want paper or plastic always respond by saying, “Neither, I care about my planet and have brought my own bag.” Or something along those lines.
    • Make a list and stick to it. If you make a list you will (hopefully) only include the things you really need, and you will resist the urge to go shopping out of boredom. Think of all the things you can do with your time now. Also, by sticking to the list you won’t be caught off guard by those strategically placed items that stores are so good at setting up in order to encourage you to buy on impulse.
    • Opt for organic or sustainable materials. As I mentioned in Greening Your Home Part 2, conventional cotton  farming practices are the most pesticide-intensive in the world. Organic cotton is more expensive but is also more luxurious and used in better quality clothing, which means you won’t have to buy clothes as often. Silk, cashmere, and wool are all sustainable materials, linen and hemp come from plants that even when not grown organically require very little treatment with pesticides.
    • Consider vintage, consignment and thrifting. Now I could go on for pages about how much fun I find thrift stores (and I probably will at some point, so look forward to that). But the main thing you should take away from this post today is that clothes that are used require no additional energy to manufacture, the energy is already used and gone. Also you won’t be wearing the same outfit as a hundred other people.
    Some e-cards is really helping me tell a story today. They just really understand my life.
    • Don’t get suckered by sales. Sales are a clever ploy to get you to buy things you don’t need. There is a sale for every occasion: Father’s Day, Labor Day, After-Christmas, 4th of July. I know when you look at that label for 75% off it can be tempting, but just because you can get a brand-new shower head that also brews coffee for $19.95 doesn’t mean you need it.
    • Treat everyone you come across with respect. No matter where you are shopping or what you are buying, everyone deserves  to be treated with dignity, respect and friendliness. If you are unhappy about a policy or product, the people you come in contact with are not to blame.

    Where to Buy

    Now is the time I give you a list of the places you should be making purchases from. This list comes from A Better World Handbook and is ranked based on five factors: Human Rights, The Environment, Animal Protection, Community Involvement and Social Justice. They also have a Shopping Guide.

    • A Companies – are social and environmental leaders
    • B Companies – tend to be mainstream companies taking social/environmental responsibility seriously
    • C Companies – have either mixed social and environmental records or insufficient data to rank them
    • D Companies – engage in practices that have significant negative impact on people and the planet
    • F Companies – have the worst social and environmental records

    Yak Chili

    My parents were vegetarian throughout my childhood and during my teen years they had added white meat (birds) back into their diet. Considering I was dependent on them very much for food my diet mimicked theirs. Therefore, when I started becoming interested in cooking, I watched my mom to learn from her by example. This meant I never really learned how to cook red meat (mammals).

    A friend of mine has a yak ranch in Fairplay, CO and I bought a pound of ground meat. I had this meat that I didn’t know how to cook but was interested in trying. I scoured Pinterest for yak meat recipes. I found some ideas but in the end I used the recipes to teach me how to cook the meat properly and added it to a chili. Chili is the best.

    To start you need to brown the meat. Yak meat needs to be cooked slowly in order to preserve the flavor. You can also use ground beef or turkey. Add a tablespoon of olive oil to the bottom of a large pot. Heat up the oil on medium low and add a pound of meat with one chopped onion.

    Cook at a consistent, medium heat until meat is cooked through and onions are translucent.

    mmmm steamy!

    Drain the liquid from the pan to cut the fat, or leave it in to increase flavor. Add a can of diced tomatoes with liquid.

    Drain liquid from three cans of beans. Use some combination of chili beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, black beans etc.

    Then add the beans to the pot.

    Add a can of tomato sauce, a cup of frozen corn,1 teaspoon paprika, 2 teaspoons ground cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon oregano, 2 teaspoons garlic powder.

    Let the liquid cook out for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

    Serve topped with cheese with a side of bread or Fritos.

    Ingredients:

    • 1 lb. of ground meat
    • 1 medium onion, chopped
    • 1 can of diced tomatoes
    • 1 can tomato sauce
    • 3 cans of beans (kidney, pinto, black etc.)
    • 1 cup frozen corn
    • 1 teaspoon paprika
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 1 teaspoon oregano
    • 2 teaspoons garlic powder

    Directions:

    Brown the meat in the bottom of a large pot in a tablespoon of oil with chopped onions on medium heat. Add diced tomatoes with liquid. Drain beans of liquid then add beans to pot. Add the can of tomato sauce, corn and spices. Simmer on low for 20 minutes. Add salt to taste after cooking (salt makes beans tough, add it later to prevent this). Enjoy 🙂

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    How to Make Butter, Buttermilk and Buttermilk Cake

     My mom had some leftover buttermilk from another recipe, which I find is often the case considering it comes from the store in large quantities, so we searched for a way to use it. We hoped that what we found would be a cake, because we love cake.

    I found a recipe for a cake, which I altered a little to suit our needs. Mostly this means subbing softened butter for shortening, reducing the sugar content and number of eggs and increasing the buttermilk content. It also means adding dried cherries and miniature chocolate chips because, let’s face it, nothing can taste bad when it has cherries and chocolate in it.

    Ingredients:

    • 2 cups sugar
    • 1 cup softened butter
    • 3 eggs
    • 2 tablespoon vanilla extract
    • 3 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 3/4 cup buttermilk
    • *add-ins to your desired concentration optional*


    Directions: 

    Beat sugar, butter, vanilla and eggs together with spoon or mixer.  Mix flour, salt and baking soda with a wire whisk in a separate bowl. Add to creamed mixture. Add buttermilk and continue mixing until smooth. Add in cherries, chocolate chips or other mix-ins. Pour into greased, 9×13 cake pan and bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until centers tests done.  Let cool and serve from pan.

    Yum… Buttermilk cake.

    Interestingly, I recently learned how to make butter and buttermilk at home. You can learn this (and many other things, like how-to make soap, shingles and cooking in a wood oven) if you come to the free Summer Heritage Event tomorrow evening at 5:30-7pm at Walker Ranch, just west of Boulder. But I’ll enlighten you here in case you can’t attend this event.

    It’s so unbelievably easy, and delicious you will be surprised you haven’t been doing it yourself for ages. Take a pint of whipping cream, pour it in a mason jar (you can do it in batches if your jar isn’t large enough). Be sure the lid is on tightly, then shake the jar up and down to the beat of “Stayin’ Alive” by Bee Gees.

    Photo from I’d Eat It

    Side note: This is also an excellent arm workout, probably where the shake-a-weight idea came from.

    The whipping cream will start getting really thick and you won’t feel it moving around much. If you opened the jar now, you would have whipped cream, but keep shaking with that steady beat. Eventually (between ten and 30 minutes) the side of the jar, which were coated, will become clear. The butter will form a solid mass in the center of the jar and the liquid you see is buttermilk.

    Add two ice cube to the jar to solidify the butter and separate the liquid from it. You can then pour off the buttermilk, collect and store it in a airtight container.

    You are now a certified 19th century prairie wife (Not meant to be sexist but that’s the way it was in those days).

    How do you use up leftover ingredients?

    Your Best Butt Forward

    Everyone should include a butt exercise in their routine and here’s why: strong glutes can enhance athletic performance, prevent injury, improve posture and result in a nice shape.
    All women gain muscle differently, but all women can benefit from strengthening their butt. This is a workout that will help you put your best butt forward. Have a happy Workout Wednesday and as always, drink plenty of water and rest whenever you feel you need to.
    You can download the printable pdf of this workout here.
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    Below is a description of how to do these workout moves. For a full list you can check out my glossary here. You can also find more printable workouts by clicking here.
    Jumping Jacks
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     Starting standing with feet together and arms straight by your sides. Jump up and spread your arms and legs wide as you land. Jump up again to return to center.

    Lunge
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    Take a big step forward with your left foot, bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg. 

    Squat
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    Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides, bend your knees slowly until your upper legs are parallel with the floor and raise arms straight to shoulder level in front of you. Your chest should be slightly forward and your knees should not extend past your toes. Immediately return to standing with arms by side. 

    Plie Squat
    With hand on your hips, stand with feet facing toward opposite walls in a wide stance. bend you knees to a 90 degree angle keeping your back straight and your entire body in a single plane. Don’t let your knees extend over your toes; if they do, make your stance wider. Straighten your legs to the starting position and repeat.
    Side Lunge
    Stand with feet together and hands on hips. Take one large step to the right and keeping the left leg straight bend the right leg, lowering yourself toward the ground. Stand back up and bring your right foot back to touch the left. Then repeat on the left side.

    Butt Kickers
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    Start in a standing position. Start jogging in place kicking your foot as close to your butt as you can with each step.


    Short Bridge
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    Lay on your back with arms by your side and feet flat against the floor, hip-width distance apart. Lift your hips from the mat until your body forms a straight line from shoulder to knee.

    Side Leg Circles
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    Lie down on your side, hip on the floor, and prop yourself up on your forearm. Lift your top leg in a circle toward the front, up, back then down. Do the required number of reps then switch to your other side.

    I’m Back! (and hopefully for good this time)

    Every website I’ve ever read about blogging says to never tell your readers that you took a break from writing because they either didn’t notice and now realize or they did notice and don’t need you to tell them. But it felt weird for me to return to the blog-osphere without at least addressing the multitude of changes that have occurred in my life. First, I graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in Rangeland Ecology concentrating on Restoration Ecology in December.

    Here’s me standing next to the portrait of the founder of Warner College of Natural Resources

    I moved back to my hometown and I got a job as a hostess and expeditor at FATE Brewing Company in January. They opened in February in Boulder, CO and I have loved working here and making new friends.

    This photo is from their website

    In April, I visited Portland, OR…

    …with my mom, Debbie…

    This is at a lovely breakfast place called Cheryl’s.

    …and my best friend, Alyssa, and her mom, Wendy.

    This photo of Alyssa and I is taken outside our hotel, Hotel D’Luxe

    We sampled some local cuisine and toured and fell in love with the city.

    Voodoo Doughnut

    Also in April I started my second job with Boulder County Parks and Open Space. I am working in Education and Outreach, which means I get to go hiking in Boulder County at least twice a week talking to people about nature and the like. And they pay me to do that.

    This is me in my uniform.

    I also get to eat lunch with adorable critters like this Eastern Fence Lizard

    …enjoy the beautiful wildflowers like this Rocky Mountain Columbine

    …and churn butter, do laundry by hand, play games while dressed up like a 19th century prairie woman (Summer Heritage Event next Saturday 07/20 at 5:30pm at Walker Ranch).

    On June 6th, I turned 23 years old, and was lucky enough to celebrate with my family and friends.

    In June, I pet sit for the two most entertaining hounds I’ve ever met.

    The black on is Stella and Hank is the brown one

     And just last week at the beginning of July I visited my best friend Kristen in L.A., CA (Hermosa Beach)

    This is Kristen and I at the only winery we made it to (we meant to go to more but you forget things like that when you share a bottle of wine).
    In Venice Beach we tried to match the cover of the Jack’s Mannequin album Everything in Transit
    The fish market at Redondo Beach

    So far it’s been a fabulous year. Except for the part when I got attacked by a wild turkey. That was one of those times when I wish I were on a reality television show because I bet it would be hilarious to watch now that the trauma has (sort of) worn off.

    So I guess that’s the end of this post, you’re all caught up now and you can look forward to a post with a new workout on Workout Wednesday and a post about buttermilk cake on Food Fun Friday.

    What’s that you say? You want to hear the story about the turkeys? Well okay if you insist.

    It all started back when I was about 5 years old. A goose at the Denver Zoo bit me and ever since I have had an irrational fear of large birds in particular, but birds in general as well. They fly by, near your face and eyeballs, with those sharp beaks and gouging claws. Let’s not forget how closely they are related to dinosaurs like T-Rex. And then I saw that Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds and it was all over.

    But recently, due to my job with BCPOS most likely, I have had to make peace with this fear. I have started observing birds in the wild (instead of avoiding eye contact) and found humor in some of their actions. I was even was able to see the cuteness of a goose when I saw these goslings at Walden Ponds, east of Boulder.

    One fine day I was patrolling at Heil Valley Ranch, just west of Longmont, CO. I was on the Lichen Loop enjoying the slight breeze and the gentle sunshine. I came across a group of wild turkeys. They were nesting in this area so I’d heard them in the distance on prior trips and had even seen them from a distance but this group was just off the trail.

    They are the strangest looking birds, with the wrinkled, sagging skin around their heads and necks and they make sounds that I can only describe as a gurgling metallic bleat (whatever that means). I observed them, and took a few pictures as they walked away from me. Then I set off to continue my hike. The end.

    Just kidding…

    I was barely past the larger group of turkeys when I saw and heard a patch of western wheatgrass near the trail rustle. It startled me but I figured it must have been the wind. Regardless, I turned to look more closely and saw the feathers of another turkey. She had flattened herself to the ground probably out of fear of the strange creature that had approached her with quick, noisy footsteps. I turned to leave her alone but she decided it was time to protect herself (and her chicks).

    In one swift movement she had made herself as large as she could by throwing her wings out and over her back and was merping (another turkey sound) her head off. I yelled in a frightened sort of way, which might not have helped the situation. Then in what I can only assume was an effort to make herself more aerodynamic she put down her wings down close to her body, lowered her head and charged toward me. I circled around a rock because I didn’t know what else to do (probably smart as since I’ve heard that turkeys have been know to puncture car tires so there’s no telling how my bare legs would hold up).

    She reversed her charge and came back around the rock from the other side, still in the same head-down, wings-in position. My memory is a little fuzzy but I remember being chased around this rock multiple times before I began my mad sprint down the mountain, (away from the trail in the direction I wanted to go, toward the bit of trail I had come in on) backpack bouncing up and down.

    She chased me about 20 yards in a herding matter and all the while I am hollering and yelping. I don’t know if she exactly intended to chase me right toward where her chicks were cheeping around on a bare patch in the grass, but I was forced to leap over them. I counted about three, possible four, adorable balls of fluff and feathers as I careened by/over them. My radio, clipped to my backpack belt, broke and fell, lost in the tall grasses. My ponytail fell out of its fasten as my hat blew off my head. I snatched the hat out of the air before it was carried away on the wind.

    She stopped on a boulder, like a sentinel, ensuring I was gone for good. Then in a panicky way she scurried around collecting the oblivious chicks. I made it back to the trail with adrenaline, fear and sadness pulsing through my veins, tears splashing down my cheeks. I knew it was no good to go forward so I turned around and went back, defeated by a turkey.

    And that is the end. Except I did end up finding the radio. I know that was concerning all of you very much; a poor radio left out in the rain with mad, wild turkeys on the loose.

    Tell me about your experience with wildlife, domestic animals, children in the comments below.

    Homemade Any-Nut Butter

     
    Nut butters are quick and easy way to make a meal, but unfortunately the cheaper one are packed with sugars that gives you an sugar spike in energy and then a super crash shortly after. The ones with less sugar are more expensive and sometimes it is hard to justify that cost. Lucky for you, now I’m going to let you in on a secret: nut butters are the easiest most mindless thing you can make in your kitchen as long as you have a food processor or blender. Making nut butter at home is so simple and cheap, you seriously won’t believe it’s this easy.

    You can use this recipe for walnut, hazelnut, almond, peanut, cashew, pecan, etc. butter. Now my plant nerd is going to come out real quick so bear with me: not all of these are actually “nuts,” for example a peanut is actually a legume and an almond is a seed inside what is called a drupe. But in the world eating, we don’t specify such things and refer to them in an umbrella category of nuts… and I’m NUTS about each and every one… groan I let out my bad joke side too, sorry.

    Ingredients:

    2 cups of your favorite nut
    Mix-ins such as salt, honey, cocoa powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.

    Directions:

    Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place nuts in one layer on baking sheet and roast for about 12 minutes. This time may vary depending on oven, so keep an eye on it between 8-15 minutes. For raw nut butters: skip the roasting. Add nuts to a food processor and pulse. You will have to scrape down the sides about every two minutes or so. It starts out making a meal, but will eventually turn into a paste. Just continue to process and scrape down the sides. Add any mix-in you like and enjoy!

    Peanut Butter

     no extra ingredients, just peanuts…

     A few pulses later,

    and a few more,

    starting to look like peanut butter,

    Perfect! Took about 10 minutes. I keep old containers and rinse them out so I always have a few peanut butter jars around but any airtight container in the fridge is fine. Estimated cost: $2.00/12 oz (Average jar holds about 16 oz and cost around $5.00)

    Almond Joy Butter

     Almonds… mmmm…


    Add some cocoa powder and coconut flakes to taste

     Pulse…

     If it’s dry or chalky add some almond milk (about a tablespoon at a time until desired consistency)

     Looking good keep pulsing.

    Done! This one took about 20 minutes of pulsing and it smells heavenly without any added sugar. Yay! Estimated cost: $7.00/24 oz (Average jar is about 16 oz and cost about $9.00)

    Save money: check
    Improve health: check
    Winning

    Tell me about nut butters you’ve made in the comments 🙂
     

    Greening Your Home Part 2: Decorating

    Part two in a series about how to green your home (part one can be viewed here) is all about decorating and the little details. Home should be three things: an oasis, which makes you feel safe and healthy, a reflection of your personal style and it should smell wonderful.

    The most important thing to remember when redecorating (or decorating for the first time) is that your style is more sustainable than whatever the current trend is. Focus on what you like and dislike and find furniture (see part one), textiles and decorative objects to fit your niche. Think about your style, do you prefer mid-century modern, girly antique, breezy beach cottage, or something else?

    De-clutter Your Life

    Alright, in my experience the best decorating strategy is to start by cutting out all the clutter in your life. This extremely freeing (when I get on a roll sorting into the trash, recyclable, give-away and sell piles I just feel like the queen of the world), but what’s more is accumulating a bunch of junk you don’t need is an unsustainable habit.

    I know it’s time to clean out when magazines are piling up on the floor, mail on the table, laundry goes undone, clean clothes remain on the floor… I think I’ll stop listing things now since I am beginning to sound like a major slob.

    MAGAZINES
    Only keep subscriptions to those publications, which you read regularly and would miss if they did not arrive each month. Not only do they take up space but if you aren’t reading the magazine it’s a waste of paper. 

    BILLS
    Opt for e-bills to pay online. Saves paper and cuts the clutter.

    JUNK MAIL
    A year’s worth of junk mail slays over one million trees, wastes 28 billion gallons of water and uses as much CO2 as 2.8 million cars. 41 Pounds is a service, which removes you from junk mailing lists for five years.

    Things to keep around

    STORAGE

    Now that you’ve removed the clutter you need a place to store the stuff you DO want to keep. I made a couple of storage containers out of old shoe boxes. I don’t know why but I can’t stand to get rid of shoe boxes, they are so sturdy it just seems a waste. I was using them to store things hidden in my closet (because they aren’t very attractive) but I found a pin on pinterest, which showed me the light. Here are my results:

    I can post a tutorial on how to make these boxes (no sewing). Check out my poor sickly plant: that was a just because gift from boyfriend (aww). I just replanted it from the plastic container it came in into a big boy pot. It’s not adjusting well.

    Toss the things you don’t need, hide the things you don’t want to see, and as for the rest? Continue reading; there’s no need to keep every surface in your home totally barren.

    PLANTS
    Plants are my favorite things in the world; I prefer to live in a jungle home with every surface (including the floor) supporting a pot with a plant of some kind. I think they are so pretty AND they can eliminate toxins from the air. Here is a list of beautiful plants and the toxins which they remove.

    • Gerbera daisies (reduce formaldehyde levels)
    • Chrysanthemums (reduce benzene and trichloroethylene levels)
    • Orchids (reduce xylene and toluene levels)
    • English ivy (reduces benzene levels)
    • Bamboo (reduces formaldehyde levels)
    • Butterfly palm (replaces your humidifier)
    • Rubber plant (reduces formaldehyde levels, can be toxic to pets)
    • Peace lily
    • Heartleaf or elephant ear philodendron

      Just a little plant pun for you: I would have given you flowers, but I never botany. *groan*

      CANDLES
      I love candles. They smell lovely and create ambient light. As long as you use candles made from soy or beeswax they are also eco-friendly.  Make sure to keep these around.

      Soy wax burns cleaner, lasts longer, holds more fragrance, contain no toxic chemicals or carcinogens, and are all-natural (when no non-natural fragrance or color is added). Beeswax candles are naturally scented with honey and smell sensational. Look for sustainable brands because the bees need the wax to lay eggs in and store honey so we don’t want to exploit their homes.

      REFURBISH
      Look at objects in a different light. For example, while shopping at ReSource Yard, a building materials re-purposing company here in Fort Collins, I found an old brick in a pile of other old bricks. Because this particular brick was the only one like it, it was practically useless on its own but check out how I decided to use it.

      My wine selection is lacking, but before I had a place to store wine I couldn’t buy as much. I’ve been looking for a unique wine storage unit for a while now. You never know what you’ll find, if you look with a creative mind. (Haha rhyming, I give you permission to use that as your personal motto).

      WHAT’S IMPORTANT
      Say you have a collection of pig figurines. Find a way to display your collection where it’s viewable, not in the corner gathering dust. Pig figurines may not be trending in the interior design world but if it’s important to you it will make you feel that much more comfortable in your home. Your home should reflect your personal style.

      PICTURES and PAINTINGS
      I love having pictures of my family and friends all over the house. I also have framed artwork from poster stores, Dustin Hawks (my brother-in-law), magazines (Yoga journal always includes a full page image of some scene in nature. I change these out every month), and even a few flea market purchases.
      • Support a local artist to find new art and help your community.
      • Look for art at flea markets, garage sales, antique stores and thrift stores.
      • Recycle pages from books, magazines, newspapers and turn them into art.
      • Frame photographs and hang them artistically, below is a beautifully designed gallery wall:

      FABRICS and TEXTILES
      Unless they’re organic, the cotton sheets on your bed were probably sprayed with 1.25 pounds of pesticides. Conventionally grown cotton uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and 10% of all pesticides. These carcinogens seep into groundwater and contaminate the habitat for fish and other wildlife. Regular cotton sheets are also treated with formaldehyde and some of the colored dyes may contain heavy metals. Now you know why your mom told you to wash your sheets before sleeping in them.

      As for cotton-polyester blend sheets, they don’t tend to last as long (meaning you have to buy more often… so not green) and are derived from petroleum. So when you’re looking for a new set of sheets, be sure to look for the following:

      • Organic cotton (or linen, or pesticide-free bamboo)
      • Free of harsh chemical dyes
      • Not chlorine bleached

      A few brands to check out:

      • Anna Sova ($130 for a complete set)
      • Coyuchi ($50 – flat and fitted sheets sold separately)
      • Loop ($200 for a complete set)

      and for those not rolling in dough, Target has a line of organic cotton sheets starting at $25 for a set.

      All the statistics above apply to curtains, towels and blankets. Look for organic cotton or wool blankets to snuggle up with this winter so you don’t have to turn up the heat (double green win!)

      Did I miss something? Leave your sustainable decorating tips below in the comments, and come back soon to learn about Earth-friendly cleaning in Part 3 of Greening Your Home.

      Spiced Couscous and Turkey

      It’s Foodie Friday Maggie’s Mind Mumblesians, and I have a recipe that would be a great to use for leftover turkey after Thanksgiving. If you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving you can go the deli at your local grocery store and ask for one slice of turkey cut 1/2 inch thick (chicken works well too). For me it cost about $7.00.

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

      Start by breaking up the turkey with a knife into bite-sized pieces, and collecting the other ingredients…

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey


      Slice the 4 medium carrots and 4 spring onions. chop up 1/2 cup cilantro. Boil 2 1/4 cups of water, add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon  salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add the carrots and cook about 3-4 minutes until tender but still crisp. Drain the carrots reserving the liquid (scroll down for a hot and steamy picture).

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

      Measure 1 cup couscous into a heat-proof bowl, then add the turkey to the bowl and pour in 1 cup of the cook liquid. Stir until mixed and cover tightly. Let sit for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

      Meanwhile, melt 3 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1/2 cup sliced almonds and 1/4 cup golden raisins, the spring onions and 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Cook, stirring constantly about 2-3 minutes until nuts are toasted. Stir in the cilantro. You can practically smell this picture!

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey


      Divide the couscous and turkey among bowls (serves 4), top with carrot and some of the cooking liquid. Sprinkle with almond mixture and more cilantro (we all know how much I love cilantro). Top with plain Greek yogurt and/or harissa or other hot sauce.

      Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Spiced Couscous and Turkey

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      Sustainable Holidays

      There’s just one week until my Thanksgiving week long break and I can’t tell you how relieved I am to realize it’s just around the corner. In some ways this break is bittersweet because it is the last Thanksgiving I will see in my Undergraduate as this is my final semester at university (for now). On top of that Christmas and other winter holidays are waiting to burst forth with sparkling twinkle lights, soft frosted sugar cookies, striped peppermint canes, peace, love and good will toward man.

      Wintertime brings forth thoughts of joy within my spirit, but with these holiday parties, gifts and excessive food we also see a lot of waste, which is not very Earth-friendly. I would never suggest that anyone should cut out the important traditions, or stop giving gifts or never throw a party. What is life, let alone Christmas without these things? However, winter sends our consumerism into overdrive and I am here to give some tips on how to reduce (not remove) some of these excessive purchases.

      Invitations and Cards

      Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start. When we read we begin with ABC when we throw a party we begin with invitations. On this topic, I’m torn. It’s always quite lovely to receive a beautiful invitation to a wedding, holiday party, or shower. On the other hand, the paper industry is the third largest producer of greenhouse gases in the U.S.

      • Evites (like those from Punchbowl.com) are virtual invitations, which may provide the answer. 
      • Another idea is to use partly or 100% postconsumer recycled paper.
      • Non-wood pulp paper:
        • Cotton paper from Crane’s, which uses leftover waste from the textile industry.
        • Botanical Paperworks is a company which uses biodegradable materials to make cards with seeds in them. You plant the card and can enjoy a garden of beautiful wildflowers next spring.
        • Kenaf and hemp papers are a good choice, because kenaf and hemp are sustainable and easy to grow without pesticides.
        • Resource for recycled tree-free paper: Vickerey.
      • Avoid cards which are embedded with metallic sparklies or are coated in plastic. They are tough, if not impossible to recycle.

      Gift Wrap

      Gift wrap is often not recyclable due to the large amount of ink used in printing, nor is gift wrap generally made from recycled materials. So considering the gift wrap is rarely appreciated before it is torn off the gift and wadded into a ball to be used later in gift wrap basketball (is that just my family?) it’s a bad idea to use conventional wrapping paper. But good news everyone, there are alternatives:

      • You can find gift wrap and bags made from recycled paper and tree-free materials on Lucky Vitamin.
      • Wrap gifts unconventionally: Gifting your foodie friend kitchen utensils and a gift card to their favorite restaurant? wrap it in a pretty kitchen dish cloth. Wrap a gift inside a usable tote or purse; two gifts in one!
      • Make a cute origami gift box (see my tutorial here) or gift bag (see tutorial on How About Orange) from magazines or newspaper. Recycling is the best! Plus, magazines have beautiful glossy pages.
      • Save still pretty bows and ribbons from year to year (key words, still pretty; don’t be saving ratty old bits of useless material.)
      Origami gift box from magazine pages.

      Gifts

      When it comes to gifts, people generally default to things. Change your mindset. Unless you know exactly what someone wants or needs, a thing might not be the answer to your gift giving questions. What to give instead? Gift certificates are a great place to start, not generic, impersonal ones but ones that really show you know who they are and what they like. Have a friend who loves yoga? Get them a a punch pass to a local yoga studio. Remember that foodie friend I mentioned earlier? Restaurant gift card! More ideas:

      • A donation to a charity in their name.
      • Tickets to their favorite concert, sports team, the ballet, the opera, the movies… etc.
      • Gift card to a salon or spa.
      • Mom and dad would love a framed picture of you and your siblings.
      • For your gal pals, a night out and an overnight stay in a luxury hotel.
      • For a sporty friend, sessions with a personal trainer.
      • For that recently married couple, a bottle of the wine served at their wedding or honeymoon.

      See it’s not so hard. Homemade gifts are also very appreciated. They show you put time and energy into their gift. Here are a few links to homemade gifts (pinterest is the best pinterest)

      That should keep you busy for a while.

      Refreshments

      No one can deny that food and booze can make or break a party. Food and booze also tend to be served in excess at parties, with good reason. No host or hostess wants to be caught without food to serve the seven who RSVPed “no” but decided to come anyway or the plus one your nephew forgot to mention he was bringing (*hint hint* this is also a commentary on party etiquette).

      Thanksgiving: the holiday we give thanks for what we have (to waste)  

      More than 25 percent of food produced for humans is thrown out (that comes out to about 50 million tons of food every year). This food ends up in landfills, which are major sources of human-produced methane, a greenhouse gas that is twenty-three times more prolific than CO2. The moral of the story is to:

      • only serve the amount of food you’ll need,
      • store the leftovers for a meal tomorrow,
      • use local and organic ingredients,
      • recycle and compost waste, and
      • use cloth napkins and reusable dishes and utensils.

      As for alcohol serve organic alcohol as often as possible. Why does it matter? Alcohol come from plants and it takes a lot of plants to make that much alcohol. This means a heck of a lot of pesticides; not good for you, or the planet. Organic alcohols:

      Decorations

      In my family decorating the house for Christmas is a Christmas tradition I love (in fact one year a cried… I don’t actually remember why but it had something to do with Christmas decorating and not doing it as a family… or something). I love changing the decor in my apartment (especially the door wreath) seasonally, but Christmas is when I really go all out with the decorations (this is probably true for most people).

      Unfortunately some of the decorations on the market are not very Earth-friendly, namely twinkle lights. A string of 300 hundred of these lights can use 30 kilowatt-hours of energy (emitting 45 pounds of CO2) over the holiday season. And with those big fat lights, your looking at 450 kilowatt-hours (700 pounds of CO2). The solution? LED lights! Not only do they only use 3 kilowatt-hours during the holiday season, they don’t get hot so your fire risk goes WAY down.

      Old town Fort Collins in winter. I wonder if they use LED lights…

      Use decorations you can reuse from year to year (i.e. a paper garland is a no-no, also not chic. That goes for confetti too, which is ridiculously hard if not impossible to clean up). Look for decorations at antique stores, thrift shops and garage sales instead of buying them new.

      Other than that, the only thing I can suggest is forgetting the Christmas tree all together. But I would never suggest that because I LOVE Christmas trees. Seriously.

      This room is unquestionably gorgeous!

      However, consider an artificial Christmas tree. No luxurious spruce smell, but also no messy needles. Or if you could never go without a real Christmas tree, buy one with roots attached that you can replant when Christmas is over.

      Clean-Up

      Don’t give up on being green just because you are over-whelmed with a mess after a party. Hopefully you’ve already reduced a lot (a major point of this post in case you missed that) and you are left with a relatively easy cleanup. Use green products like Seventh Generation and Simple Green (more on green cleaning products later). Replace your plastic trash bags with recycled trash bags or use biodegradable bags, such as BioBag. Avoid disposable dishes and utensils! Here’s a few tips if you need more dishes to cover your guests:

      • Check out vintage shops for unique (and cheap) dishes that send you good vibes, man.
      • If you buy new, get organic or renewable fabrics, recycled glass, sustainable woods, and ceramics colored with nontoxic dyes.

      The end… Good luck to you with your holiday season. Leave a comment to tell me how you plan to utilize these tips or share your own.

      ACDC – Apple Cake Disastrous Conundrum

       
      My grandmother’s birthday was on October 17th. Before her birthday we were discussing what kind of cake she would like and I brought up the pumpkin shaped cake, which uses to bundt cakes. She loved this idea but requested that instead of pumpkin flavoring it be an apple cake with cream cheese icing. I said I’d make it, how hard could baking in a bundt cake be?

      INGREDIENTS:
      • 2 eggs 
      • 2 cups sugar 
      • 1/2 cup applesauce 
      • 1 teaspoon vanilla 
      • 2 cups flour 
      • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
      • 1 teaspoon baking soda 
      • 2 teaspoons cinnamon 
      • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg 
      • 4 cups diced peeled apples 

      I made the applesauce first (a few days before). It’s basically the same process as making Apple Butter only this time I didn’t add spices because I wanted plain, sugar-free applesauce. I used lemon juice to keep the apple from getting too discolored and I didn’t cook it as long as for the apple butter.

      Beat eggs until light and fluffy.

      Gradually add sugar,

      applesauce,

      and vanilla.

      Into a separate bowl, stir together flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg.

      Stir into first mixture.

      Core, peel and chop apples before stirring them in.

      Grease a 12″ bundt cake pan. I mean seriously grease it, maybe use flour too… Then pour in batter to about 3/4 full.

      Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then cry when it falls apart and you realize how badly you just failed.

      Make batter again. This time pour into two 8″ round pans. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes.

      Let cake cool in pan on a rack for 10 to 15 minutes, then LEAP for JOY because it doesn’t fall apart. Cool completely before spreading with cream cheese frosting.

      CREAM CHEESE FROSTING

      • 1 pkg.(3 ounces) cream cheese, softened
      • 3 tablespoons butter, softened
      • Pinch of salt
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
      • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

      Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl; beat until smooth.

      Sing Happy Birthday, blow out the candles and make a wish. Happy Birthday Grandma!

      Now what am I going to do with the rest of these apples?

      Greening Your Home Part 1: Big Purchases

      In my opinion home should be two things: an oasis, which makes you feel safe and healthy and a reflection of your personal style. Okay, three things, it should also smell terrific. Whether your home is a sprawling house in the suburbs or a closet-sized apartment in the city home should make you release a sigh at the thought.

      Greening your home doesn’t require a decorator or another mortgage. In fact, if you went and replaced everything in your home to “greener” products, you would actually be the anti-green (red?). So let’s break this down: we want to reflect our personal style, we want to feel safe and healthy and we want a nice smell. Over the next couple of weeks I will try to address each of these topics.

      Today, let’s talk about the big things for decorating in an Earth-friendly, sustainable way. Furniture, floors, walls and building will be the main focus.

      Furniture

      The most prominent feature in your home (besides the walls and ceiling and stuff) is probably your furniture. If you really need to replace your furniture you should, just keep in mind it take a lot of energy to manufacture new products and processing emits toxins and chemicals. Here are some alternatives to buying new.

      ONE: VINTAGE
      Antiquing is an action for a reason: not only can you find carefully made (things were just made better long ago), GORGEOUS furniture, it is completely ecofriendly because no energy is required to produce it (it’s already been made, and used, and maybe used again). Check out local antique stores, flea markets, garage sales, and furniture consignment store (How to shop garage sales etc. coming soon!).

      And if you think antiques are stuffy, or boring, check out the above image, which is totally chic.
      TWO: REFURBISH
      A little sprucing up can do wonders for furniture, sometimes making it look new and always returning unique results. As an added bonus, upgrading furniture uses 85 to 95 percent less energy than producing a new piece.
      THREE: REPURPOSE
      In Fort Collins and Boulder, CO there is a company called ReSource Yard. They operate by removing usable cabinets, doors, windows, hardware, lumber, etc. from buildings, which are being remodeled or torn down. They then sell these building materials. My dad made an entertainment center entirely from material bought at the location in Boulder. 
      Look for something like this is your area or check before purchasing furniture whether it has been repurposed. Scrapile is a Brooklyn-based company, which uses piano wood scraps to make furniture and home accessories.
      FOUR: ECOFRIENDLY PRODUCTION
      More and more you can find new furniture in furniture stores made from sustainable materials. Check for Forest Stewardship Council certification on wood. Bamboo is a good choice because a forest of bamboo that has been clearcut can regenerate in as little as 3 years (compared to the average conventional wood forest, which can take 30-50 years, or even longer). Fabrics should be organic (for more about organic products check out future post on organic foods).
      FIVE: GIVING
      When you DO need to upgrade your furniture, be sure to donate (or give to a poor college student) the old furniture. If you liked it at some point, chances are someone else will like it too. Also, it can’t hurt to get that karma boost from having such a kind-hearted nature. If you feel that your karma is maxed you can also try selling the furniture in a garage sale or on Craig’s List.

      Building

      FLOORS
      If you deside to replace whatever floors you have, please consider the following…

      Carpet, though soft and confortable, are loaded with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as toluene, formaldehyde and xylene, all of which are bad for your nervous system and the Earth. Carpet is also very difficult to clean, even if you steam it, therefore they accumulate soot, fungus, flea eggs, dust mite poop, arsenic, mercury and pesticides. Yum!

      Instead, opt for either bamboo flooring (for the same reasons mentioned above) or reclaimed/refurbished wood (possibly from a piano factory). Lay out some areas rungs, which are easy to shake out. Look for those made from natural fiber with no nasty glues.

      If you absolutely must buy carpet for whatever reason, Interface is a company that, while not completely guilt free, at least uses some recycled and renewable materials in production.


      PAINT
      Painting is a great way to drastically change the look of a space, but most paints contain high levels of VOCs, which is probably why you get that headache when you paint. The best thing you can do is look for low or no VOCs latex paints or milk-based paints. We don’t want petroleum-based paints (don’t even get me started on petroleum). Check out BioShield paint by Benjamin Moore or Old Fashioned Milk Paint. If you learn nothing else today, learn this: never dump unused paint down the drain! (Also, just covering my bases but please don’t set it on fire… I know you were totally just about to do that.)

      WALLPAPER
      I know, wallpaper brings to mind scenes of interior design nightmares, but there are some very chic patterns available (it’s making a comeback ya’ll). Most wallpapers are made with vinyl, aka PVC. If you have room to learn two things today, I suggest you learn this too: vinyl is literally the worst. Look for the wallpaper that is vinyl free (since ’93).

      That’s all I have today. Leave a comment below if there’s something you’d really like to know more about.

      Why I Don’t Make Apple Sandwiches (anymore)

      I remember when I first discovered apple sandwiches on pinterest. I thought the idea was so novel and I’m sure you’ve seen the idea floating around the internet. I decided to try it out. It was seriously the best thing I ever tasted. I ate it at least once every day. This is the general process.

      Slice the apple. Using a cookie cutter or apple corer cut out the core, or a knife works too but it’s not as neat looking. Can we just take a minute to notice the lime green (I guess you would actually call it apple green) apple shaped cutting board and the lime green (again probably apple green) apple-picture apple corer. This is very matchey-match, is it not? Totally unintentional.

      Spread your peanut butter. I like creamy but crunchy works fine.

      Sprinkle some granola on two of your apple slices and add chocolate chips or raisins to the other two (or more granola).

      Then stick it together.

      After a while this process became irksome to me. Peanut butter does not like to stick to apples; I got more on my hands than the slices. The granola always landed everywhere but the peanut butter and precision with the chocolate chips was tedious. So now I cut apples like a normal person…

      Add some granola and chocolate chips to a small dish,

      Smear in some peanut butter,

      And stir it around. It’s the same flavor combination with about half the work. You’re welcome.

      Oh boy, you’re in for a treat!

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      Rainbow Chicken Fajitas

      Rainbow Chicken Fajitas are named such because they are made with a rainbow of vegetables. I’m sorry to disappoint those of you who were expecting to see the newest addition to the My Little Ponies family.

      This is Rainbow Fajitas; note the chile pepper cutie mark.

      Anyway, it’s Food Fun Friday so I’ll get on with the recipe. This is a meal I have been making since I lived at home. It was one of those my mom taught me: basic and quick for nights when we had a lot going on and she didn’t have time to be super creative. Now that I live on my own I make it quite frequently (I often don’t have time to be creative). The point:

      • It’s a delicious meal that doesn’t take too much time (prep, cook or clean-up), basically a one pan meal,
      • I have made it for friends multiple times and always receive compliments, and 
      • when I tell my boyfriend it’s fajita night the response is always enthusiastic (and he doesn’t even like bell pepper that much!)

           Start by preparing your vegetables. I used red, orange and yellow bell peppers because they were a dollar per pepper at the grocery store. I wanted to add more color so I also used a red onion and some zucchini. Any vegetable you have in your inventory would work beautifully; traditionally peppers and onions are involved. Cut everything into somewhat equal-sized sticks.

          Set aside the veggies while you cook the chicken. I always use chicken for fajitas because it’s how I learned; I’m sure it is just as simple to use steak. King Soopers just introduced a new meat brand, which is free range, so they were having a sale on all meat produced by this brand (meat sales are the best sales, especially free-range meat sales).

          Slice the chicken breast into strips. Heat oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the chicken to the skillet.

          Let sizzle for about 3 minutes then flip chicken strips. It’s important to not stir the chicken around in the pan too much because it makes the meat very tough if jostled too much. If you are worried about burning it, reduce the heat (and increase the time cooked).

          After another 3 minutes cooking on the other side they should be cooked through, if they aren’t done you can continue cooking now. They also continue cooking while wrapped in foil and later, when added to the skillet again with the vegetables. So I wouldn’t worry too much.

          Lay out a piece of aluminum foil on the counter, remove chicken from the pan and place on foil.

          Wrap chicken in the foil to keep warm while veggies cook.

          Add a little bit more oil to the skillet and heat over medium. Add the prepared vegetables to the skillet.

          You can buy the packets at the store, McCormick’s is the only one that I know of that doesn’t pack their seasoning packets with preservatives. I make my own mix and keep it in a spice jar. I use it for tacos and fajita’s both. Sometimes I mix it in with ground turkey for burgers as well, and it’s great for chili. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: multi-purpose is a college girls best friend.

          Here is the recipe for my mix:

          Cook veggies until tender. Then add about half a cup of water and 3 tablespoons of fajita seasoning, stir the vegetables to coat them in the seasoning. 

          Now unwrap your chicken. Pour any liquid that has gathered in your packet out in the sink, then add the chicken to the skillet and stir. Cook until water mostly evaporates.

          Serve wrapped in a warm tortilla with beans (I made “refried” beans the same day, what a treat to have beans straight from the crock-pot), cheese, sour cream, salsa, lettuce, etc. Whatever suits your fancy! Smaller fajita tortillas are really the best for this recipe, we only had burrito tortillas and they worked fine. We just had monster fajitas!

          Don’t show these to Chipotle; If I ever need a job there, this is evidence against my burrito wrapping skills.

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          Can the ocean keep up with the hunt?

          I watched this video in my Wildlife Ecology and Conservation class (FW104) and answer a few questions about it. I found the information to be very important, especially to a fish lover like myself. I also wanted to pass it on because, as anyone who has been following this blog or knows me will have heard me say before, it is critical for everyone to understand where their food is coming from and how it is produced. So here is the video; it’s about 20 minutes:

           In case you don’t have the time to view this video here are the main ideas:

          Commercial Fishing

          • The ocean is what they call a biological desert. For it’s size, diversity is actually very low.
          • The fish population in the open ocean is being exhausted due to over-fishing through commercial fishing operations and pirate ships (ARR!).
          • We aren’t catching the same fish species for consumption as we have in past decades. As larger fish disappear, global fleets target smaller fish, lower on the food chain. This leads to further collapses in the ocean ecosystem.
          • 20 million metric tons of fish are discarded as waste annually. Untargeted fish are called bycatch. This unintended harvest is equal to a catch 4 times that of the US fishing fleet. 
          • Fishing gear that have had considerable impact on bycatch include bottom-trawling nets (nets are run along the bottom of the ocean, capturing everything they come across) and long-line fishing (thousand of lines with hooks are trailed behind ships, with no system to discriminate species). Both forms are meant to catch large amount of fish at once and are prone to catching endangered species like sharks and sea turtles, who die before they can be returned to the water.
          • Hook fisherman leave the habitat intact by one fisherman, fishing with one pole and one hook. They catch one fish, keep it if it’s what they want and throw it back if it’s not. No damage is done to the ecosystem but it is not practical for the vast quantities of fish demanded by the public.
          • In extreme cases, it is very hard for fish stocks to recover, especially if fishing continues at the same rate. The solutions are to either stop fishing all together or…

          Aquaculture

          • The USA is the leader in aquaculture, or the practice of farming fish. The main type of fish that are farmed are tuna and salmon.
          • The problem with aquaculture, especially tuna and salmon, is that these are carnivorous fish. In order to farm these fish, we must feed them. This increases pressures on fishing, but instead of fishing for direct consumption we fish for smaller fish to feed the larger fish for indirect consumption.
          • It takes 17 pounds of fish to produce one pound of tuna; three pounds to produce one pound of salmon.
          • Tilapia, from the Nile River, is an omnivore and can be raised mostly on plant-based proteins.
          • Catfish farming in the Mississippi delta, has experienced great successes. Feeding them has gone from 10-14% fish meal to 1-2% fish meal today. 
          • Shellfish farming is also a good business. They stay quiet, they stay where you put them and they clean up the water. They also produce vast amounts of food in a small area; according to the video shellfish could be the answer to world hunger.
           http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaculture_of_salmon
          • There are a few risks to human health associated with aquaculture due to bioaccumulation: PCBs and dioxins are two examples.
          • Natural salmon are less exposed to bioaccumulation problems because they consume mainly crustaceans whereas farm fish eat fish meal. In fact, natural salmon have pink flesh due to their diet of shrimp and crustaceans (much like flamingos), and farm salmon are dyed pink before they are sold at market. Gross!
          • With farmed fish we are concerned about disease and infection so we use antibiotics in feed as a preventative measure; this could lead to resistant bacteria. 
          • Disease and infection is more of a problem in farms than in the wild. They use this analogy to describe this: if you stood on a football field with someone who has a cold you probably won’t catch it (the wild) but if you stood in an elevator with 11 people who all have colds you will probably also catch cold (fish farm).
          • Large number of escaped farm salmon may impact the integrity of the wild population by messing with thousands of years of natural selection.
          • Tropical areas have many mangrove wetland habitats (mangrove forests) that have been displaced by shrimp farming. This destroys habitat that the people and wildlife depend on (ex. crab production and medicinal plants). A particular example is salt water released from ponds contaminated fresh water aquifers.
          • Deep water aquaculture is where net cages are submerged and anchored to the sea floor. Could be better for ecosystems than near or on land aquaculture depending on implementation.
          • Improvements in vaccines have reduced antibiotic use. Improved nets and anchors have reduced escapes, land-based tanks protect wild populations from farm-waste and disease.

          Want to do something?

          Unfortunately, most people don’t pay attention to where their food comes from. Do you think you’ll pay more attention now that you have this information?

          If yes, there are many resources available to you and I hope you’ll check them out:

           

          • I keep this seafood watch guide in my wallet (mine’s from April 2007, a friend brought it to me when she visited California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium). You can print out your own from the website. 
          • Seafood watch also has and app for Apple and Android.

          Now I love salmon as much as the next person (maybe more depending on who’s next) but I know I’m going to always check where my fish is coming from, what about you?

          Slow-cooker (not so) Refried Beans

          I honestly had no idea the you could make refried beans at home. Or at least I never really thought about it. It’s most likely because I am probably the only person in the world who actually enjoys re-fried beans from a can, Rosarita vegetarian refried beans to be specific (which coincidentally have the exact same ingredient list as the ones not specifically marked vegetarian).

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker (not so) Refried Beans

          I pinned a while back a tutorial for cooking dried beans in the slow cooker over at Budget Bytes. As I was reading through it for the garbanzo beans I used in the Butternut Squash Autumn Stew, I noticed a recipe in the side-bar for “not refried beans.” I was intrigued so I clicked the link. I guess you can’t really call these “refried” or even “fried,” because they are cooked in the slow-cooker. But they do taste very like refried beans. In fact, I think they taste better because they aren’t weighed down with a million pounds of lard (actually there is no fat added).

          The story actually starts about a month ago. I bought this bag of pinto beans because it was $2.00.

          That’s right, that says 4lbs. So I had this bag of beans with not really a clue what I should do with it. And that’s when I discover the not re-fried beans recipe. It was fate. So I measure out the 2 cups of beans required for this recipe and got creative with my storage of the remaining 3 pounds (2 cups of beans equals 1 pounds, in case you were wondering. Now you know).

          So, since it’s Food Fun Friday, I will now instruct you in the delicate art and science of slow-cooker beans. Measure out 2 cups of beans (1 pound). Sort and wash the beans, then chop up one medium-sized onion and add it to the slow-cooker.

          Then add 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 teaspoon chili powder and 1 tsp black pepper.

          Next, add the sorted and washed beans along with 6 cups of water and, say it with me now “Set it and forget it.” (Set it: low, forget it: 8 hours or 4-5 hours on high). Return to a heavenly smell and this:

          Removed some of the liquid (about 1 1/2 cups) to make it easier to mash the beans. Then using a potato masher start smooshing (this is a technical term) the beans. You could also use a hand mixer.

          Smoosh until there are only a few recognizable beans remaining. Then store it all in airtight containers.

          The original recipe says that this make about the same amount as 3 cans, but this quantity shouldn’t scare you because it is freezable. It was wonderful in the burrito I had for dinner (There really is no better taste than re-fried beans and melted cheese). It would be a perfect layer in 7-layer dip or by itself with tortilla chips.

          Burrito Making 101:

          Spread the beans
          Sprinkle the cheese
           Broil on lo in the oven for about 10 minutes
          Enjoy every bite!
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          It’s All About the . . . Buns

          It’s Workout Wednesday on Maggie’s Mind Mumbles: Here’s a free printable workout, made especially for you…

          If you are looking to tone your cheeks and the mighty squats challenge didn’t work for you this workout might be more up your alley. It’s another workout in my “It’s all about the…” series, this time focused on your buns.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: It's all about the buns Workout

          Just 5 moves, 1-5 times per day, 3 times per week and your on your way to a nice round boot-ay. Just make sure you do it on three non-consecutive days each week, as muscles groups need 48-hours of rest between exercising.

          Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: It's all about the buns Workout

          Download this free printable workout.

          Don’t forget to check out my workout terms glossary.

          These are the moves in this workout:

          Elevated Bridge Lift
          Lie on back with legs extended and heel resting on an elevated surface (stair step, chair, step, low table). Lift right leg straight over hip, foot flexed. Slowly lift hips off floor until body forms a straight line from left heel to shoulders. Lower body back down to floor. Do reps then switch to other leg.
          Extended Squats
          Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, arms by sides, Squat slowly until both knees are bent 90 degrees and raise arms straight to shoulder level in front of you. Immediately rise out of squat, lift heels off floor, rising onto tiptoes, and raise arms straight overhead. Hold then release returning to squat position.
          Squat Dip
          Stand two feet from front of chair or other elevated surface, facing away, feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. Lift leg and place top of foot on surface behind you. Lower into a single-leg squat, keeping right knee behind right toes and dipping left knee toward the floor, straighten right leg to stand. Do reps then switch legs.

          Step Kick-back
          Stand facing an elevated stable surface (chair, stair step, step low table) feet hip-width apart, hands on hips. Step onto surface with right foot and lift bent knee to hip level in front of you. Hinge forward slightly from waist and kick left leg behind you. Bring knee back to hip level as you straighten up. Lower left foot to floor and lunge right leg behind you. That’s one rep, repeat reps then switch legs.

          Tree Twist
          Stand on tiptoes, feet together, a couple of feet behind a chair or other belly button level stable item you can hold onto. Place hands on chair (or other item) and keeping back flat, hinge forward from waist and lift bent left knee to hip level in front of you, left foot by right knee. Keeping upper body still and left foot by right knee, slowly bring left knee directly out to side, slowly return knee to center. Do reps on tiptoes then switch legs.

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          Butternut Squash Autumn Stew

          The air feels crisp and cool, leaves are creating a beautiful mosaic of colors across the landscape and the days are growing shorter, which means it’s time to make soup!

          Every year I always elect to craft a butternut squash stew; to me it screams fall. Therefore every year as the sales on butternut squashes begin I pick one up. I must be blocking the fact that every year it’s actually me who’s screaming (and fall is not mentioned once in said screaming). I wonder why I never remember how awful it is to deal with butternut squashes probably some psychological blockage. Well I am reminding you now to save you the trouble. They are literally the worst vegetable. And here’s why:

          1. They are impossible to slice into when raw. Are they made of steel or what?
          2. You also cannot peel them when raw. They wear the armor of the gods.
          3. After you cook them, you can’t peel them without burning the skin right off your fingers.

            On the other hand, butternut squash is also one of the most delicious vegetables and they’re packed with vitamins and other wonderful things your body needs. So here’s my solution, buy a bag of frozen, cubed butternut squash and save yourself the hacking, prying, swearing, and crying.

            If you, like me, enjoy torturing yourself this is how you tackle the Monty-Python-and-the-Holy-Grail-bunny-like squash:

            (Aside: this is a somewhat obscure reference so I will spell it out for you: the knights in the movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, underestimated the rabbit because it was cute and cuddly and did not intimidate them; then the bunny lurched at one of them and ate his face off. The butternut squash appears inviting and agreeable but then it turns on you becoming an impenetrable fortress. Was this allegory too much of a leap?)

            Right, sorry about the silliness… Back to squash (which is in no way silly):
            1. Preheat the oven to 375°F
            2. Cut the squash in half. Spoon out seeds and goop (technical term); save seeds.
            3. Pour a thin layer of water into a baking pan or cookie sheet with sides.
            4. Place the cut side of the squash face down in the water.
            5. Slide tray into oven and bake for 40 minutes or until fork easily pierces flesh of squash.

            Toss the seeds with salt and toast in toaster oven until crispy 🙂

            While the squash is baking, prepare your other veggies. Finely chop 1 medium onion, peel 3 potatoes and an apple, then chop, setting one potato aside from the others.

            Bring 3 1/2 cups of chicken broth to a boil. Add 1 1/2 pound chicken thighs and boil until cooked through, about 15 minutes. Remove chicken from broth and place on a plate to cool. Pour broth into a bowl.

            Meanwhile bring about 3 cups of water to boil in a separate pot. Add the apple and two of the potatoes. Cook until tender then drain water and add to a food processor. When squash is finished baking scoop half of the squash into the food processor and set the other half aside to cool. Pulse the potato, apple and squash until smooth. This thickens and adds a creaminess to the soup/stew without adding fat.

            Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and the third potato cook until onions are translucent, add 2 minced cloves garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (we enjoy spicy food here, feel free to reduce or omit this ingredient if you prefer non-spicy), 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/8 teaspoon allspice and 1/8 teaspoon ginger, 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard, and 1/8 teaspoon celery salt. Stir until you catch a strong whiff of garlic (about 30 seconds), then pour in the reserved chicken broth. Reduce heat to simmer.

            With a fork and knife and fingers… remove the skins from the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the bones. Add chicken to simmering pot. Then add pureed potato, apple, squash mixture to the pot. Add one 15-oz can petite diced tomatoes as well (with liquid).

            Return to the other half of the squash that you set aside. Cut cubes into the squash and remove skin. Add squash cubes to the pot. Then add 1 cup (ish) chickpeas/garbanzo beans. Stir until everything is heated. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper (or to taste).

            Serve over cooked quinoa or brown rice or with bread.

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            Ingredients

            • 1.5 pounds butternut squash, halved and seeded
            • 2 tablespoons olive oil
            • 1.5 lb chicken thighs
            • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
            • 1 can diced petite tomatoes
            • 2 cloves garlic, minced
            • 3 1/2 cup chicken broth
            • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
            • 1 apple, peeled and cubed
            • 1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
            • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
            • 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
            • 1/8 teaspoon ground mustard
            • 1/8 teaspoon celery salt
            • salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)
            • 1 cup garbanzo beans

            Well that’s a long list now isn’t it… trust me it’s worth it! (See that bowl of apples? my grandma gave me even more after I made the apple butter… look out for apple cake and applesauce posts coming soon!)

            What’s your favorite fall soup?

            It’s All About the . . . Girls

            It’s Workout Wednesday: YAY! Here’s a printable workout for you…

            This post in my “It’s All About the…” series (see Arms and Legs) is about a problem all women face: gravity. You see gravity is a very strong force that causes certain… things to sag as time goes on. The good news is we can fight gravity and prevent these consequences of aging with simple and effective workouts like this one.

            I actually got this workout from Self.com so you can thank them for the clever names. You can view the slideshow by following the link. All you need is medium resistance bands to do this workout on 3 non-consecutive days each week to stop the sag and add perk up the girls.

            Description of workout (full glossary):

            Breast-in-Show Row
            Stand on left leg, loop band around right foot and hold an end in each hand. Extend right leg and arms out in front of you to start. Bend arms and draw elbows straight back. Be careful not to hunch forward; keep back straight and shoulders down and back. Slowly release arms, keeping leg extended. Do reps and switch legs.
            Bust a Move
            Stand in a side lunge, right leg bent and right foot turned out at an angle. Place one end of a band under right foot. Bend at waist so chest points over right thigh toward floor and hold arms extended out to sides to start. In one fluid motion, pull the brand up and back, diagonally across body, as you raise torso and rotate it open. Slowly return to start. Do reps then repeat on opposite side.
            Cleavage Kickback
            Stand on an exercise band, feet hip-width apart, holding an end in each hand. With arms down at sides, squat and bend slightly at waist, keeping back flat. Draw the band behind you, keeping arms straight, squeezing shoulder blades together and feeling chest stretch open. Slowly release arms for one rep.
            Full Circle
            Start in a push-up position on knees or toes with hands set wide. In one fluid, circular motion, shift weight to right arm, lower yourself to the floor, the shift weight across body to left arms and push yourself back to start. Do reps then change direction.
            Glute Bridge March
            Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your arms on the floor at should level, with palms facing up. Raise your hips so your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Engage your abs and lift your knee toward your chest, hold then lower. Repeat on other leg.

            Perky Pike
            Start in an inverted-V pike position, hands and feet on floor, butt lifted high, to start. Lower left forearm to floor, then lower right forearm to floor. Straighten left elbow the right elbow, to return to start for one rep. Do reps then reverse order.

            Sag Stopper
            Start in a lunge with a band looped under back foot. Hold an end in each hand buy shoulders, arms bent and parallel to the floor, elbows behind you. Press arms straight out to front, level with shoulders. Slowly and with control, bring arms back to start so you feel chest stretch open. Do reps then repeat on opposite side.
            Superwoman Slide
            Start in a push-up position, hands directly under shoulders, resting on paper or plastic plates (for carpet) or washcloths (on wood or linoleum) as gliders. Keeping arms straight, slowly slide them out in front of you in a V shape to lower chest toward floor. Hover above floor if possible, and then rest on floor. Bend arms to slide hands under shoulders and push up to start.
            X-Raise
            Stand with feet hip-with distance apart, the end of a band under each foot. Hold the other end in the opposite hand so band crisscross in front of you, hands at sides. Bend knees and squat extending arms out slightly to sides. As you straighten legs to stand, simultaneously reach up and out. Return to squat.


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            It’s been a month . . .

            I have officially been a Blogger blogger for one month after switching from blogging with WordPress and it has been quite a process to move. I’ve been recording all the things I did in order to make the switch because I could not find a straight answer all in one place during my move. This made it a very complicated, technical and sometimes stressful experience for me. However, I think I am down to the last steps in the move (tiny details that I am probably the only person who will ever notice), and I am very pleased with my decision to switch.

            Why I switched:

            • Personal preference was a major factor. I have now used both the WordPress and Blogger platforms for blogging and personally I’m a Blogger girl.
            • Part of this preference for Blogger is due to the new design and seamless connection with all Google software such as AdSense and Google+
            • I didn’t like that WordPress only allows bloggers who own their domain to add advertisements. I am very new to blogging and I’m not ready to make that kind of commitment (It’s too soon, I’m too young!) I love that Blogger, and the affiliation with Google allows AdSense.
            • I am new to Google+ but I really enjoy this mode of social networking. It’s awesome to have it synched so easily to my blog.
            • Additionally, I believe Blogger is easier to use, or at least more intuitive, but this is personal preference.
            • Finally, a somewhat superficial reason, you can change color, font and background of words with blogger, something that is only available to domain owning bloggers on WordPress.
            Router Freak [dot] com

            A list of things to do:

            1. Research. Make sure it’s really what you want, like I said, this is a complicated process full of headaches, sadness and hair-pulling. Don’t go through it just to find out you prefered the old way better.
            2. Export old blog. In WordPress go to your Dashboard > Tools > Export > Download export file > Save. If you already have posted in Blogger go to Customize > Settings > Export blog > Dowload File > Save to be sure the new file won’t overwrite these posts (it shouldn’t but better safe than sorry right?). Use this application to translate your WordPress file to a Blogger compatible file. Then go to Blogger and go to Customize > Settings > Import blog > Select file > Import
            3. Check that all posts are correctly formatted (I had to go through and edit the captions and re-center all images).
            4. Set-up your new blog before going public with it. You don’t have to be super knit-picky about it but make sure things are generally the way you want them before informing your readers you’ve moved. That way when they arrive at your new home it will look lovely and clean, not like a construction zone with caution tape draping across every wall.
            5. Post a goodbye post to old platform to redirect followers to new blog. Also post to other social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook your new blog location.
            6. Use a redirect program to automatically send people to new post when they try to go to old post. Unfortunately you can’t do this without owning the domain. Kind of a Catch-22 if you ask me, nobody ever seems to ask me though.
            7. Go through old pages on old blog and relink old posts to new posts. This took ages and probably isn’t completely necessary if you are willing to lose some page views. I wasn’t.
            8. Find link ups in old posts and link to new posts. Another very tedious step which I am still working on. All my posts in my new blog that were imported from the old blog link to posts that are on the old blog instead of to these same posts on the new blog. The links are just a web of lies.

              Gabriel Weinberg [dot] com

              Consequences:

              • Only hardcore readers will follow you to your new blog (thanks guys!) so expect a drop in your readership. The return to previous view counts did not take as long as I expected though.
              • I’ve said it multiple times throughout this post but you should really understand that this is very time consuming process. Add all of this on top of keeping up with new blog posts and you’re in for a rough couple of weeks.
              • Getting used to the new blogging platform takes time but when I go back to WordPress I find that it, while once the only way to blog for me, is now confusing and Blogger makes sense. Brains are weird. Give yours a chance to adjust before throwing in the towel.

              On the bright side, if you love blogging and have decided that you need to make the switch it is probably all going to be worth it. Keep your spirits high and remember why you started your blog in the first place.

              Cute Girly Quotes and Sayings [dot] blogspot [dot] com
              Which platform do you prefer and why?

              Just say no . . . to canned beans

              It’s Food Fun Friday, and after you read this post you will seriously be kicking yourself that you haven’t been cooking your own beans in the slow cooker all along.

              3 Reasons to buy dried beans over canned beans:

                1. Money – You can get three cans worth of beans from a single bag of dried beans. Taking that into consideration it’s cheaper in the long run.
                2. Health – Canned beans have a ton of sodium in them. All that extra salt is unnecessary and unhealthy. Dried beans on the other hand are simply beans, not other ingredients (except the occasional pebble, which you should refrain from eating as a rule of thumb)
                3. Environment – buying in bulk is better for the environment because there is less packaging and therefore less waste.

                Are you convinced yet? If not, perhaps the ease of the process will help… To the tutorial!

                Empty the beans onto a flat surface and remove any bad looking beans, pebbles etc. Pour into a colander and rinse with warm water. Add beans to your slow-cooker.

                For every pound (2 cups) of beans add 6 cups of water.

                Leave to cook on high for 4 hours or on low for 8 hours. There will still be water in the cooker even when they are done. They should be tender.

                Remove from slow-cooker either by draining in a colander or with a slotted spoon. Store in an airtight container. This makes about three cans of beans, but don’t worry about the quantity, if needed beans are freezable.

                This tutorial applies to all kinds of beans. We don’t discriminate here on Maggie’s Mind Mumbles.

                Keep your eyes peeled for Fall-is-here stew using these chickpeas/garbanzo beans!

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                Questions? Comments? Leave them below.

                It’s All About the . . . Legs

                Hello! It’s Workout Wednesday and guess what, I have another free printable workout for your fitness pleasure!

                Did you know that leg exercises burn more calories than any other muscle groups? This is because your legs are the largest muscle group in your body, which means it takes more energy to move them.

                Another workout sequence to add to the “It’s all about the…” series: legs. These moves are designed to tone and strengthen your upper and lower legs muscles. The secret to exercising your legs is slow, controlled movements. For stronger, leaner legs the goal isn’t to get your heart rate up (see It’s All About the Heart: coming soon!), the goal is to use motion to purposefully fatigue the muscle.

                On three non-consecutive days each week, do this workout. All muscle groups need a 48-hr resting period between training. To make the workout more intense, hold weights in hands during lunges or attach ankle weights during any of these moves.

                Download the free printable workout.

                View my workout terms glossary. Exercises in this workout sequence:

                Forward Lunge
                Take a big step forward with your left foot, bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg.


                Leg Bridge
                Lie on back with knees bent. Rest your arms on the floor at should level, with palms facing up. As you lift your hips from the form to form a straight line from shoulders to hips, extend on leg in the air. Hold, then lower foot flat to floor and switch to the opposite leg.
                Leg Lift
                Lay down on your side, hip on the floor, and prop yourself up on your forearm. Lift your top leg straight up into the air. Lower it back down without touching your bottom leg. Repeat.

                Plie Jump

                Starting from a wide stance turn your toes to face out. Bend your knees then pressing up from your toes jump straight up. As you land bend your knees again.


                Reverse Lunge
                Take a big step backward with your left foot, bend your knees and lower your body until both legs form 90-degree angles. Push off with your left foot and stand back up. Do reps, and then repeat on other leg.

                Wall Sit
                Press your back against a wall. Keep back flat against the wall slide down until knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. Hold.

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                Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                On the first day of October it only seems fitting to post a recipe for pumpkin muffins…

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Whenever I make up a new recipe it is always a messy process. The first step is always the idea that acts as a catalyst for the rest. In this case the trigger was pumpkin. As the chill in the air gets stronger I always start craving pumpkin everything. It doesn’t help matters that Starbucks incessantly advertises the pumpkin spice latte, or that the scent of pumpkin bagels can be detected wafting halfway across campus, or that people insist on pinning every pumpkin recipe that comes under detection. Regardless of how the idea came to me, come it did.

                The next step is generally in what form do I want to eat the craving (sometimes this is linked to the first step, as in “I am craving tomato soup,” rather than simply tomato). I decided muffins would be the best mode of consumption. Muffins are compact on-the-go type foods. Sometimes you need that kind of thing around the house.

                Then comes the Googling and the comparing and the improvising. I tend to have about 13 web pages open along with at least two cookbooks on my lap. “A cup and a half of oil; that’s outrageous! I’ll need to reduce that, Maple syrup? Nope don’t have any of that, I’ll use brown sugar… What’s the conversion factor again? Baking powder, baking soda, salt… How can I slip some flax seed in? Can I use almond milk and yogurt instead of milk?”

                It’s a nightmare, honestly. But, it’s definitely rewarding when something wonderful comes out of all this hard work. Luckily this is one of those times. This is what my recipe card looked like after all of that.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                I wanted to use flax seed to give them some more nutrition. Flax seed can increase the fiber, unsaturated healthy fats, phytoestrogens and omega-3 content when added to foods.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Flax seed

                 In a medium-sized mixing bowl add 1 3/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup flax seed, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda and a pinch of salt.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                I wanted a lot of spice flavor so for the spices I used cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and allspice. I prefer the flavor of ceylon “true” cinnamon because it is sweeter than the cassia variety (most of the store bought cinnamon is cassia). Cinnamon is my favorite flavor, in Maggie’s world, we look for excuses to add cinnamon.

                To the flour mixture add, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon allspice and 1/4 teaspoon cloves.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Libby’s 100% Pure Pumpkin is the best pumpkin puree out there. I’m not usually able to tell the difference between store-brand and name-brand products so I tend to stick with store-brand because they are cheaper. In this case there is no comparison. I am generally disappointed with the quality of the store-brand pumpkin purees.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Pour the entire 15-ounce can of pumpkin into a larger mixing bowl. (Be sure to remove any large metal items that fall in).

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Add 3/4 cup brown sugar to the bowl.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Next add 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Then an egg…

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Mix it all together then add the dry ingredients.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Whisk together all the ingredients until just mixed.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Then add about 1 1/2 cups of your mix-ins (I used 3/4 cup walnuts and 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips).

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Spoon into greased muffin tins. Each cup should be between 1/2 and 2/3 full. (I hope this picture doesn’t give you vertigo. I’ve rotated it every possible way, it’s just a weird angle).

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Bake for 20-25 minutes at 375 degrees.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                Cool in pan for ten minutes then remove and continue cooling on a wire rack.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts
                Yummy! Hello autumn; I welcome you with open arms…
                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Pumpkin Spice Muffins with Chocolate Chips and Walnuts

                …as long as I can eat one of these everyday for the duration of the season. Please and thank you!

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                Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese

                I’m not really sure when or why this obsession started but I am an absolute grilled cheese fanatic! And don’t even get me started on tomato soup. Campbell’s tomato soup is a staple in my kitchen. But wouldn’t you know, it’s not really the healthiest of choices: it’s packed with sodium and sugar (as most condensed soups are), so I have been avoiding buying it lately.

                The other night I had an extreme craving, it was intense (like camping… get it? *nudge nudge*). And, can you believe, I had nary a can of the delicious red stuff, like I said I’ve been avoiding it. BUT, I did just happen to have four large tomatoes. I thought to myself, as I often do, “I could probably whip together some tomato soup from these… How hard could it be?” Later that night, as I was enjoying my wonderful warm cheesey sandwich covered in tomato-ey soupiness I answered myself: “Not hard at all… not… hard… at all.”


                So here’s what I did. (I only made enough for two bowls because I didn’t want too much leftover, so double or even triple to recipe for a larger batch).

                First, I cored the tomatoes (no goopy middle in my soup!) and cubed them. Then I sliced half an onion, crushed a LARGE clove of garlic, (seriously, it probably was about 3 regular sized cloves). I put all of this into a large pot and then I added 2 bay leaves (they’re kinda old so I have to use two). I also poured in a cup of water, and tossed in a chicken boullion cube, 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon cloves.


                I brought this to a boil and left to simmer, covered for 20 minutes.


                After 20 minutes I poured it into the food processor and blended until it was smooth. (For a thinner soup, run it through a food mill instead of the food processor. I don’t have a food mill but I’ve been told it’s a magical experience to make soup with one.)


                I then made a roux in the empty pot using 2 tablespoons of butter, melted, and 2 tablespoons of flour. I cooked that over medium heat until it was light brown and then poured the vegetable mixture back into the pot. (look at that beautiful moment captured on film, a bubble popped… electric) (<— that was a Gwen Stefani reference)


                I added 1 teaspoon salt and 2 teaspoons sugar and brought it back to a boil. Then I let it simmer again while I made my grilled cheese.

                I melted some butter in a pan,


                placed a slice of bread on top and spread it around to coat the bread in the butter,


                sprinkled some cheese over the bread (ALWAYS use shredded cheese in grilled cheese. It may be a bit more technical to flip but it melts much more evenly),


                topped it with another slice of bread,


                and cooked until the cheese was mostly melted, (oops! slightly burnt)


                Before flipping I added some more butter and let that melt, then I placed the sandwich over the butter and spread it around again.

                Then I dished out some tomato soup into a bowl, cut the sandwich in half and settled down to watch an episode of Futurama. 😉


                Oh my, that looks so good; I’m going to have to make this again!


                One thing is certain, I will not be needing to buy Campbell’s in a can anymore.

                Stop looking because these are the best brownies you will ever find…

                As many of you know I am a firm believer in eating healthy. I am also a firm believer that denying yourself something is not healthy, especially when that something is chocolate. So to clarify my firm beliefs… Moderation is key. That is why everyone needs to have a good brownie recipe. I honestly think it should be included in life’s handbook. 

                Here’s some information on chocolate (*I am not a doctor, please consult your doctor for more information on the following*):

                • Cocoa contains flavenol, a type of flavenoid and natural occurring antioxidant, which researchers suggest may protect neurons (Huffington Post, 2012)
                • The antioxidants in cocoa can also prevent aging caused by free radicals, which may lead to heart disease (Cleveland Clinic, 2012)
                • Dark chocolate may lower blood pressure and cholesterol (Longevity, 2009)
                • Dark chocolate contains theobromine, caffeine and other stimulating substances (Longevity, 2009)
                • It also contains serotonin, which acts as an anti-depressant (Longevity, 2009)
                • Dark chocolate also increases endorphin production, which increase pleasure (Longevity, 2009)
                • Surprisingly dark chocolate can prevent diabetes (Women’s Health, 2012)
                • It can reduce stress (Women’s Health, 2012)
                • And help protect against sun damage (Women’s Health, 2012)
                • On top of all this it tastes goooooood!
                Like I said, moderation is key and be sure that your grabbing a quality bar of dark chocolate, and you can receive some of these benefits and more.


                So brownies… My idea of the perfect brownie is crispy crust, gooey inside, chocolate chips, not frosting, no nuts, and not too cakey or fudgey. This is it. This covers all bases for my ideal brownie. This recipe has a short ingredients list so be sure to use quality chocolate.

                Add 1 1/2 cup sugar to a mixing bowl,


                Pour in 3/4 cup flour,


                Then add 3/4 cup cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli dark chocolate cocoa powder).


                Crack three eggs into the bowl…


                Add 3/4 cup melted butter (I have no idea why the butter looks neon in this picture)


                And 1/2 teaspoon salt (I skipped this because I used salted butter). Then mix it together; don’t mix too thoroughly just enough to combine the wet and dry ingredients.



                Mix in chocolate chips (I used Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate chips).


                Pour the batter into a greased baking dish. That is the best looking chocolate batter I have ever seen. I’m totally drooling.


                Bake at 325 for 30 minutes (sorry it’s a bit blurry, I was shaking with happiness). Test with a toothpick for doneness (remember there are chocolate chips in there so your first poke might not come out clean.


                Let cool on a wire rack for about 5 minutes (or as long as you can wait… I made it 2 minutes). Cut into cubes and serve with a nice cold glass of milk.


                I had almond milk which was quite delicious…


                Brownies: seriously the best things on the planet. These are the perfect balance between fudgey and cakey, with the signature brownie crispy crust.

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                Parmesan Chicken

                I have been making this recipe for parmesan chicken longer than any other. In fact it was the first dinner I ever cooked on my own. I was in a Food Fun class in middle school and one of our assignments was to cook dinner for our family. We had to present pictures and the recipe in a presentation to the class. (I wish I still had the pictures from then; they’re probably in a box at my parents house somewhere). It is really simple and easy to modify for variety.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


                I like to make an assembly line of my ingredients: 

                • Chicken (free-range, hormone free, on sale yay!), 
                • Two eggs, slightly beaten (I usually used a stick of butter, melted but I didn’t have any…), 
                • Some breading mixture (The original recipe 1/4 cup parmesan and 1/2 cup italian seasoned bread crumbs. I used 1/4 cup parmesan, 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs and some paprika, black pepper, salt, italian seasoning, oregano, garlic powder and onion powder… I didn’t really measure just added what I thought looked good… it was for science), and
                • A greased baking dish,
                • All lined up to next to the oven, pre-heated to 450.
                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

                I took a total of zero pictures during the following steps; if you try this recipe you will see why. My hands were quite literally caked in bread-y goodness and it would have just been a big old mess. So you will just have to use your imagination skills.


                Basically you take your chicken and coat it in the eggs. Then roll it around in the bread crumb mixture and place it in the pan. Repeat for all your chickens.

                Usually if there is leftover butter I will pour it over the chicken but since I used eggs I didn’t do this. Butter really works much better from my experience. I also sprinkle leftover breadcrumbs over the chicken. Bake for 40 minutes.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken


                Serve with salad, bread and your favorite beer. Yummy!

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken
                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Parmesan Chicken

                Variations:
                1. After baking 20 minutes remove from oven and pour marinara sauce over chicken and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Serve over spaghetti with more marinara sauce.
                2. Like I’ve said, use butter instead of eggs.
                I’ve taken the leftover chicken for lunch in a quesadilla…

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
                chees and chicken quesadilla, carrot sticks with ranch and some seaweed 😉

                And to add to this salad…

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Lunch Ideas
                Hard-boiled egg, pile o’ veggies and some chicken goodness.

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                How do you use your leftovers? 

                Slow-cooker Apple Butter

                In my plum cake post I talked about the plums my grandmother gave me. Well, the same day she gave me a dozen apples. I knew I needed to make something with the apples to use them up before they went bad. Enter: Apple Butter

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

                I started by gathering my supplies: washed apples, bowl for peels, peeler. And found a comfortable place with a nice view: my porch at my outdoor table.

                Maggie's Mind Mumbles//: Slow-Cooker Apple Butter

                It took about an hour to peel all the apples… (Julia Child never had this kind of problem peeling apples… then again Julia Child probably had an apple peeler)