November 28, 2012

The subject line said "help"

I received this message from my college daughter today..... 

So I'm sitting here in English class, trying to drown out my teacher going on and on about how to formulate a research question and what is included in a good thesis, and I couldn't help but hear what I just heard.

A guy in my class is reading his thesis.
"The world is facing a threat much greater than nuclear war. Can we start now to avoid catastrophe?"

The teacher says, "Okay, but what is that looming problem besides nuclear war?"
The guys says ,"Oh, well I thought that was covered in the research paper. We are supposed to state it in the thesis?"


I don't know whats worse - the guy not knowing how to write a thesis, or the teacher accepting that as a decent thesis statement.

November 22, 2012

Donating Black Friday

Many of us are making our lists for Black Friday or Cyber Monday. If you are planning to shop online remember that many schools, churches, and community groups allow you to give back when you shop through a specific website.

How it works: go to the charity or cause website, follow the links to your favorite stores, and your selected charity receives a portion of the sale. Before you head right to the merchant website, check to see if you can help at the same time:
  • ask your child's school or your church to see if they participate in any programs
  • search for "online charity shopping" or "online cause shopping"
  • look for shopping links on your favorite websites
As online shopping becomes more popular, giving back has never been easier!

November 21, 2012

Choosing Vegan

Today, my friend Christine agreed to share her story about becoming vegan and some of her holiday favorites. I know I will be trying the chickpea tart for sure!  Thanks Christine! 

I started eating a vegan diet exclusively a little over a year ago. I had read The China Study and learned about the health benefits of eating a vegan diet. I decided I wanted to give it a try for 30 days. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine offers a 21 Day Vegan Kickstart Program complete with a menu plan, recipes, ideas and articles and posts from well-known and not-so-well-known vegans to help you try to eat a vegan diet for 21 days.

The thought behind the program is that if you try to eat vegan for just 21 days, it isn’t as intimidating as deciding to cut out animal products all at once for the rest of your life. After 21 days you may decide to add animal products back into your diet. Maybe you’ll decide that eating a vegan diet isn’t for you, or maybe you’ll be like me and realize that eating vegan can be just as satisfying and rewarding as eating a diet including animal products, even more so. You may feel a lot better, lighter, and have more energy realizing that adding animal products back into your diet just weighs you down and upsets your stomach. Whatever the end result is, it’s a way to test yourself, challenge yourself to rid your diet of animal products and see how you feel.

I did the challenge last year in October. I let animal products back into my diet on Thanksgiving day. I still refrained from eating meat, I can’t go there, but I ate foods containing butter, milk, cheese, etc. My body had an unpleasant reaction. I discovered that I can eat delicious foods that make me feel great and not have the side-effects that animal products gave me. The day after Thanksgiving last year, I went back to eating a vegan diet and have not looked back.

However as a vegan it can be challenging to find something to eat at social gatherings, parties, and holidays. It’s especially difficult at Thanksgiving and Christmas where the meal is often centered around the turkey. Luckily I think it’s even easier now to make a delicious, healthy meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas free of animal products.

So that being said, how does a vegan navigate around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or Christmas?

It’s a good thing we have wonderful vegan cookbooks that are available and have become staples in my kitchen. Dreena Burton is my favorite vegan cookbook author. She is a lovely lady and has been vegan for almost 20 years, has 3 young girls, and has recently released her fourth vegan cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan, which includes 200 “plant powered recipes” that focus on whole foods cooking without the vegan meat and cheese replacers. A lot of her recipes can be adapted to be nut, soy, gluten, and wheat free too. This book is my most frequently used cookbook in the kitchen.

On her website,, Dreena recently wrote a post about vegan cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas menu ideas. She included a slew of recipes, many of which I have made and loved. I would like to touch on a few. If you are looking for a replacement for turkey for your holiday meal there are a couple of delicious options I would recommend.

Festive Chickpea Tart
This tart is savory, flavored with spices associated with holiday cooking and very simple to whip up. You can use a pre-made crust to make preparation that much quicker or even make it crust less. I’ve made this several times and it’s a delicious centerpiece that non-vegans love too.

No-Fu Love Loaf
This is a fantastic vegan version of meatloaf. It has a lentil base including oats and barley and all the seasonings you love that go into a standard meatloaf. I have three young boys and they love this recipe.

Besides the centerpiece you’ll want some delicious sides to go with your holiday meal.

Roasted Vegetables
I love roasting my veggies whether they’re root vegetables, brussel sprouts or asparagus. Roasting them with a touch of oil, salt and pepper is really all you need.

Dessert is the best part of the meal, right?

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
I had never tasted a chocolate pumpkin pie before making Dreena’s recipe and I don’t need to
look any further. You’ll be surprised how quick this goes together. And I haven’t found a person
yet who hasn’t loved this pie.

Pumpkin Pie Custards with Brulee Topping
This is a must-make recipe this holiday season (along with the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie of course). I first made this custard as an actual pumpkin pie. My oldest son loves pumpkin pie and I wanted to make a vegan version that was low in sugar but full of healthy ingredients. We loved it so much I made a second the following week. I also reserved some of the custard to try the brulee. Wow! The sugar on top caramelized nicely and created a beautiful crust on top. This will be your show-stopper recipe that will have your guests speechless. Make sure you have enough custard cups for your guests as it’s fun to have individual servings, but of course it’s not necessary.

This just touches on a few of the recipes Dreena mentions in her Thanksgiving and Christmas Menu Ideas post. She also mentions green salads, cranberry sauce, gravy and squash. All are great ideas to have at your holiday table. All are delicious, healthy, and satisfying. Which ones will you be making this year?

November 20, 2012

Just sit in the chair and be quiet.

Have I mentioned that Janet, my BFF since grade school, is also my hair stylist?

I haven't made any of my own hair decisions since she was in cosmetology school. Because she has known me since we were kids, she knows that I do not want to curl it, pin it, braid it, or accessorize it. If it takes more than 10 minutes in the morning I will go to work with bedhead.

And she knows that I am not attached to my hair, so it's not a big deal to try things. It's awesome.

I told my oldest I was going to get my hair cut and colored, and she asked what I planned to do. I told her I wasn't sure. "That's ok," she said, "you can tell her what you want, but she'll do what she wants anyway." That was pretty much true:

     Janet: I have this crazy new cut I want to try.
     Me: Ok - you know I'm in.

     Me: I don't know, I'm not feeling it.
     Janet: It's cute.
     Me: It reminds me of Flock of Seagulls.
     Janet: No it's good. (trimming and's a nice day for a white wedding...)
     Me: You sure about this?
     Janet: Trust me.

She was right, of course, as usual.

White and Wild Rice Pilaf

White and Wild Rice Pilaf
by Campbell's Kitchen

Over the years my family has learned to eat a wide range of foods, but it wasn't always that way. This is a great middle-ground recipe. Why?

First, there are no funky ingredients. I like to cook with feta cheese, couscous, and flax seed. But not everyone wants to hunt those things down or buy a whole package for one recipe. This recipe is straight out of the pantry stuff.

Second, this recipe can be easily modified. The proportion of brown/white rice can be adjusted. You could use sodium free broth. If you wanted a thicker texture you could throw in a can of cream of celery soup. And as a mom, I would definitely chop those carrots and celery up (as in hide).

This could look like two entirely different dishes with a few changes. Love versatility!

November 19, 2012

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

Baked Stuffed Acorn Squash

When I was a kid, my mom made acorn squash dripping with brown sugar and butter - probably a weird thing for a kid to like. I picked this recipe for the memories, but I bet this dish with cherries, mushrooms, and almonds is fabulous (although the pic looks like pecans). I also love the fall colors and textures.

On the site where I found this recipe, also I also found Garbanzo Gravy!

I know, I know - you non-vegetarians (my sister and my other sister) are saying "Eww, gross." But I have learned over the years that the best part of a vegetarian diet is finding ways to add nutrition and make substitutions for less healthy foods. Garbanzos are high in protein and way lower in fat than traditional gravy. I can't wait to try it!

November 18, 2012

Cider Roasted Vegetables

Cider Roasted Vegetables
by gluten free goddess

Easy. Easy. Easy.

The kitchen is a busy place during the holidays. I love recipes that can be put together without a lot of preparation. If you cooked this in a pretty baking dish it could go right from oven to table.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can use whatever you find in season (except brussel sprouts - no one likes brussel sprouts).

Easy Decorative Pillowcase!

We are gearing up for the holidays around our house, and I decided to give the family room pillows a facelift.

This thing I love about this project is that the pillow can be covered without damaging the original, which is great for ones that were handmade - or for sentimental race-day favorites, that just don't match the room, or have gotten a little shabby. And they are removable so they can be washed!

Directions, with pictures. Ready?

Step 1: Start with a doubled piece of fabric that is about 6-8 inches longer than the pillow (you can't tell that in the picture) and about an inch wider on each side. I use about a half inch seam allowance on these so I have wiggle room if they don't match up perfectly.

Step 2: Open the fabric. Place it good side UP on the table. Fold the bottom up so it covers about 3/4 of the pillow and the folded edge is at the bottom of the pillow. Iron the bottom edge.

Step 3: Fold the top down so the top fold is even with the top of the pillow. Iron the top edge. Now fold the edge back a few inches to make a little pocket. Iron that little pocket. This will make a nice finished edge on the pillow when you are done.

Step 4: Put the side with the little pocket under the other flap.

Step 5: Take your inside-out pillowcase to the sewing machine and sew the two sides. When you sew don't fold anything just sew right on down each side in a straight line. In the pic I just folded it back to show the little pocket.

Step 6: Now turn the pillow case right side out.

Step 7: Put the pillow in the case. The fabric should overlap, creating a nice, closed fold. If you want you could add buttons, ribbon, or Velcro to keep the seam shut.

Ta-da! It's amazing how much new pillows can change the look of a room. For 3 yards of sale fabric I covered 3 pillows and made a runner for the coffee table with enough left over for a few random crafty things. Can't beat that!

Almost turkey time! Maybe...

When people find out that I am a vegetarian, their first response is often, "Really! What do you eat?" It does seem that as we enter the "eating" holidays, what to do about the turkey tradition comes up. You could always try Tofurky (ok, yeah, I'm not so sure about that one either).

Or you can hang with me for the week for some great meatless holiday recipes from around the web! 

November 15, 2012


Today I had my annual doctor's visit, and after logging my height, weight and blood pressure, the nurse asked if I had any medical history. "Nope," I replied. She started listing conditions as little questions: Diabetes? High blood pressure? Heart disease? "No," I replied again, "nothing." "Oh," she said, "That's what it said in your chart, but I thought it was a mistake."

A few minutes into the visit the doc asked the same questions about any new medical history. Ok, so I came from work on too little sleep, too much coffee, and probably limping a little from my run the day before, but did I look that bad? "I can make something up," I offered. "No" she said, "it's just unusual."

Unusual? Unusual to be 44 years old and healthy? I guess sometimes we forget to be grateful for the things right in front of us.

November 10, 2012

Boring? Really?

The youngest was lurking over my shoulder while I was looking for holiday ideas on Pinterest. We came across this cool idea to plant jelly beans that grow into lollipops overnight.

''Wow you were boring as a mom. I wish we had Pinterest when we were little.'' She was kidding of course because I was awesome even without it.

Locks of Love

The middle daughter decided it was time to lighten up for basketball season, and donated her hair to locks of love.


My oldest and I have been planning tattoos for more than a year. We decided to wait until both of us were ready and go together.

My daughter chose an infinity symbol because even the meanings of the infinity symbol are infinite. 

I chose an inscription from a ring that I have worn for several years, that has become a life affirmation - be brave. The best parts of my life have come through times that were scary or unknown.

Those words are a reminder to me to to step outside my comfort zone and do things I did not think possible (this does not apply to karaoke nights or hot wings contests). I chose the inside of my wrist - and "upside down" in the tattoo world, so that I can see it every day.

November 8, 2012

There's a rainbow in the closet!

The shirts in my youngest daughter's closet are organized by sleeve length then by color. I. Am. So. Proud.

November 4, 2012

A Day of Giving

My son and his girlfriend arrived back home on Thursday night. The airline was able to get them a flight out of JFK, since LaGuardia was still underwater (photo by JetBlue Airways).

All of our friends in the area have checked in and came through the storm unscathed, but there are so many who still need help. Check out what WABC-TV in New York is doing all day Monday.

The Disney/ABC Television Group has designated Monday as a "Day of Giving" across network and syndicated programming spanning News, Daytime, Primetime and Late-Night, encouraging the tens of millions of viewers engaged throughout the day to help those impacted by Hurricane Sandy. Starting with "Good Morning America" all the way through to "Jimmy Kimmel Live" the network will be raising money for relief efforts.

Donations to the Humane Society and the American Humane Association are also needed to help rescue stranded pets and aid animals currently in shelters.

Warriors, we are not.

The middle daughter and I did P90X yoga tonight. Is it wrong that as the video was starting she walked in eating out of the bag of chips as I was chugging the last of my glass of wine?