One of my favorite quotes is by J.R.R. Tolkien: "All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." Here I'm giving glimpses of all I am deciding in the time that is given to me. Enjoy! All pictures and posts are mine, thank you! Please ask permission for photo use.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

autumn party, continued

After the prep comes the party! 

Below: the gluten-free (and vegan!) pumpkin chocolate bread (buckwheat flour gave it its very dark color), which was delicious!

Below: mulled cranberry apple cider (one of my favorite drinks to make in autumn).

Below: acorn squash tossed with local honey, organic olive oil, and a dash of Himalayan pink salt (roast at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, taking out to stir once halfway through, and enjoy!).

Below: the damage! Not too bad once leftovers were sent home with others or put in the fridge for later.

Below: I also have to share the sweetest seasonal cards that my friend, Madeleine, made. I love the cute designs and colors--perfect for a festive fall!

We also ate the following foods (not pictured): chips with hummus; salsa with black beans, corn, and avocado; peach, basil, and fresh mozzarella salad with balsamic vinaigrette; Granny Smith apples with pumpkin pie dip; red wine; and cookies from Firehook bakery (we had to save those for later as we were too full to eat them; Madeleine, the chocolate espresso cookie was divine!). 

If I could have produced Caribou Coffee's pumpkin chai lattes for everyone, I would have! I love seasonal foods, whether it's fresh fruit smoothies and salads for summer, pumpkin treats and cider for autumn, or hearty soups with crusty bread and winter squashes for the colder months. 

Do you have any favorite seasonal foods?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

autumn party prep

I'm having such a fun time preparing for company! Cleaning house is not my favorite thing to do in the world, but set anything to great music (or at least a fun shuffle in iTunes), and you can do anything with an extra bounce in your step! Or at least enjoy belting out fun songs at the top of your lungs while being productive. What's better? Here's a sample of what's popped up my shuffle playlist for this evening:

  • "Everything" by Michael Buble
  • "Why U Wanna Go" by Sean Kingston
  • "Graceland" by Paul Simon
  • "I'll Be Around" by Michael W. Smith
  • "The Last Song" by Rihanna
  • "I Dreamed A Dream" by Lea Michele and Idina Menzel
  • "Here's To The Heroes" by The Ten Tenors (set to John Barry's glorious music from Dances with Wolves, one of my favorite movies)
  • "Places" by The Ten Tenors (Ever seen Out of Africa? It's another one of my fave films, and you'll recognize more of John Barry's music in this song from that wondrous movie starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford.)
  • "Gravity" by Sara Bareilles

Setting out my ingredients to prep for my cooking tomorrow is getting me excited about the food I'm going to make (and eat!).

Below: OK, so this isn't food, but they're cute, fun, petite pumpkins for decorating an autumn-themed party. Also, I don't own a table runner, but a scarf does the trick!

Below: some of the ingredients for gluten-free pumpkin chocolate bars.

Below: some of the ingredients for honey-roasted acorn squash.

Below: some of the ingredients for mulled cranberry apple cider.

Now I think I'll relax with a homemade organic smoothie and watch some New Girl and Modern Family (can't wait for Grimm, Once Upon a Time, and The Walking Dead to come back!). Happy Thursday!

peaceful neighbors

Sunday, September 23, 2012

du jour - 23 Sept 2012


  • Eat Pray Love (I've seen it once before and loved it)


  • "One More Night" by Maroon 5
  • "Some Nights" by Fun
  • "Coming Up Strong" by Karmin
  • "Too Many Fish" by Karmin
  • "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" by Crash Test Dummies (it's a long story of why I'm listening to this bizarre song and I blame my sister, Heather)


  • Recently I watched an episode of Pati's Mexican Table where she made enchiladas in red tomato sauce. Deciding to recreate her sauce, I bought the ingredients and played with Vitamix today. My Organic Market didn't have a serrano chili pepper, so instead I used organic ground chipotle pepper. I also added organic spinach to sneak in some greens.

  • I also made homemade, organic, raw almond-walnut butter with the Vitamix, then mixed in organic honey, organic pumpkin pie spice, and an oil blend. It's delicious, and I can't wait to put it on Ezekiel's 7 Sprouted Grains English muffins!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

hot comfort for a mean cold

Today's comfort food while I'm stuck with a cold indoors on a beautiful, sunny, perfect autumn day? Vegan, gluten-free hot cereal with organic wild blueberries and organic maple syrup. Pair with a steaming mug of hot tea and honey, and flip the bird to your cold. I raise my mug to you--happy autumnal equinox!

Friday, September 21, 2012

sick day

I have my first (and hopefully only!) cold of the season. Yesterday I was able to work a full day from home instead of going into the office and spreading my germs, and today I attempted for one pathetic hour then logged off and went back to bed. I haven't had a cold since April, so I wasn't surprised that, as temperatures have been dropping and the pollen has intensified, my seasonal allergies seemed to have morphed into a cold. I have ceased exercising, have been consuming excess amounts of hot tea, and plan to start taking a teaspoon of Manuka honey twice daily. I've tried to sleep as much as I possibly can, which is naturally hard for me because when the sun is up and out, my body tells me I should be awake. I'm looking forward to a really hot shower in a few hours, and have decided that even though I feel miserable, I don't have to look that way! I'm going to give myself a full facial today as well (although forget the make-up--I'm au naturale when I'm sick at home). Here's what all I've been doing to make my sick days as tolerable as possible.

  • Sick day! I feel worse today than I did yesterday, but I'm determined not to let it get the better of me. I'm a huge fan of pampering myself. I spend more money on organic food and wholesome, non-toxic products because I feel better about what I'm putting in and on my body. I treat myself to an organic spa when I can afford to, and my mind and body thank me for it. Here's a glimpse of what today's, at-home spa will incorporate:
 Above: who says awesome facial products can't have fun packaging?

 Above: for smooth, soft, sensual lips, use Sweet Lips lip scrub from Lush!

 Above: I'm a huge fan of the Buffy body bar from Lush, not only because of the name (keep reading this post and you'll see what I mean), but because your skin feels divine after using it. Not all of Lush's products are vegan or free of parabens, sulfates, and etc., but this is one that is "hippie" approved (my boyfriend calls me a "hippie") and works like a charm!

Above: my favorite, inexpensive body moisturizer? Fair trade, organic coconut oil. Rub it into your skin after a shower until the oil is absorbed, and you'll be glowing! A little bit goes a long way, too!

  • Fresh air: Thankfully it's not too hot and not too cold to leave the windows open, and the fresh air and breeze feels wonderful. Today I'm going to sit in the sunshine for 15 minutes to get a vitamin D boost (and sunshine always makes me feel good).

  • Exercising my brain: While I'm doing some stretching to maintain flexibility and keep blood and lymph flowing, I'm not really exercising because my body is telling me it needs good, old-fashioned rest. That doesn't mean I can't exercise my mind, though! I have a membership to Lumosity, a website where you play fun games to improve your brain health and performance. It can help in all sorts of situations, including how you operate in the workplace! Lumosity is helping me keep my brain and mind active while the rest of my body rests.

  • Guilty (and non-guilty! pleasures: Normally I don't have too much time to watch TV, so now that I'm home sick, I can take advantage of all this extra time to watch movies and catch up on DVR. I'm a fan of the old show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and watching old episodes of Sarah Michelle Gellar kicking butt and laughing at the witty writing has been fun. A coworker told me about Suri's Burn Book, and it's like a train wreck--I can't look away! That's a really guilty pleasure. Something not so guilty? Finishing the documentary I started watching earlier in the week, Carbon Nation. Here are some fascinating (and sobering) tidbits from the film:
"A single medium-sized coal plant in 10 days of operation completely negates 300,000 trees over a 100-year lifetime." My take on this? The time for green, clean energy is NOW and every second we waste not pursuing it is even more detrimental to our clean air, clean water, health, animals, and plants.

In Chicago, the temperature on a green roof is 80-90 degrees. On a blacktop roof, it's at least 160 degrees. If the temperature of Chicago were reduced by just one degree, Chicago would save $150 million per year on air conditioning costs. Painting rooftops white is just as (if not more) effective.

Every year we clear forests that, size-wise, are equivalent to half of California. One-fifth of the total of humans' carbon emissions comes from deforestation. The land is cleared for cattle for meat production and for soybeans to grow so the cattle can be fed. If every meat-eater went meatless one day out of the week, the impact would be huge. One of the many reasons I became vegetarian is because of the harmful impact that the meat industry has on our environment. I don't preach that everyone on the planet needs to be like me, but if everyone made a small dietary change such as going meatless for one day out of the week, it would mean more trees, more water, and less carbon dioxide in the air that heats up our earth.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

du jour - 18 Sept 2012


  • Downton Abbey (I watched the first episode of the first season last night and LOVED it! This show is addictive.)
  • Carbon Nation (fascinating documentary--I recommend it!)


  • "Dark Blue" by Jack's Mannequin
  • "Hammers and Strings (A Lullaby)" by Jack's Mannequin
  • "Hurts Like Heaven" by Coldplay 
  • "Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall" by Coldplay (favorite verse: "maybe I'm in the black, maybe I'm on my knees, maybe I'm in the gap between the two trapezes, but my heart is beating and my pulses start cathedrals in my heart")


  • Ishmael by Daniel Quinn


  • organic spaghetti squash with organic tomato sauce

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

for the love of books and teachers

Recently I re-read Watership Down, a wonderful, magical story by Richard Adams. My high school history teacher was retiring after my junior year, and I suppose was cleaning out his things, and toward the end of the school year he placed a huge stack of books on my desk. He knew I loved to read, and Watership Down was one in the pile. I must have looked at it in a confused manner, because he proceeded to tell me that it was a great read and that I would enjoy it; I merely thought it was a children's book about bunny rabbits (despite the thickness of it). It took me a while before I ever really got around to reading it...I suppose I didn't really take it seriously. Once I began, I could hardly tear my eyes away from the pages.

Book lovers--if you haven't read The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon yet, I'm telling you to stop reading this post right now and go out and get it. It is one I literally felt I could not put down and it became a part of my physical being until I came to the end. Some other favorites of mine that I will re-read time and time again are The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, and Jane Austen novels. Some of my favorite memories growing up include my grandfather teaching me to read (one of his favorites to read with my sister and me was Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are) and my mother reading James Herriot and Laura Ingalls Wilder to my sisters and me at the dinner table. One of my all-time favorite literary heroines is Anne of Green Gables.

Back to Watership Down. I already had this old, tattered (yet beloved) copy of the book that was gifted to me by my history teacher. I was visiting my friend Genevieve when she lived in Los Angeles, and while passing the time in a shop while she was at work one day, I noticed another edition of Watership Down. The  cover featured beautiful artwork of a pastoral landscape and a rabbit, and also had a "new introduction by the author." I was excited to read the introduction, and I'm one of those suckers who will buy something for its beautiful packaging or label, and I also am one of those who thinks you can never own too many books. Naturally, I purchased a copy. (In case you are wondering, the publisher of the edition I own is Scribner; the cover design is by John Fulbrook III; it is the first Scribner trade paperback edition with Richard George Adams' introduction copyright dated 2005).

Rereading books is like catching up with old friends. I always find something new (or at least come across things I've forgotten!) when I travel through the pages. I'm reminded of why I love the book and how it's touched my life. Thank you, Mr. Johnson, if you ever happen to read this, for giving me that first copy of Watership Down. You've had a major impact on my life in more ways than one, as have most of my favorite teachers. One never forgets his or her favorite teachers, and I have so, so many to thank for inspiration, including (but not limited to!)--and in no particular order--Ted Hunter, Al Johnson, Sarah Wright, Sheri Little, George Eckart, Miles Engell, Jane Lubischer, Nick Haddad, Gregg Wiener, Scott Ritchie, Dayle Cutts, and Beverly Alt. My only regret is probably never fully expressing the extent of my gratitude and appreciation to most of these individuals. I imagine that many people don't realize the impact their teachers have had until later in life, and I wonder if any of those teachers ever fully realize the full extent of their wonderful work. Regardless, (good!) teachers are to be treasured and cherished.

I'll close with one of my favorite parts of Watership Down. (I've tried to make sure it's not a spoiler for those who have not read the book yet! This means I've omitted some lines.)

"Then he saw that in the darkness of the burrow the stranger's ears were shining with a faint silver light. 'Yes, my lord,' he said. 'Yes, I know you.'

'You've been feeling tired,' said the stranger, 'but I can do something about that...We shall be glad to have you and you'll enjoy it. If you're ready, we might go along now.'

They went out past the young sentry, who paid the visitor no attention. ...Hazel...stopped for a moment to watch his rabbits...

'You needn't worry about them,' said his companion. 'They'll be all right--and thousands like them. If you'll come along, I'll show you what I mean.'

He reached the top of the bank in a single, powerful leap. Hazel followed; and together they slipped away, running easily down through the wood, where the first primroses were beginning to bloom."

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Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chicago, take two

The last time I was in Chicago was a year ago. I visited my friend Kathryn over Labor Day weekend in 2011, and was lucky enough to be able to visit her again this past weekend (the weekend following Labor Day 2012 weekend). This time my visit was shorter, because I was extending my stay after completing a work meeting and not going purely for fun. However, fun was to be had and we had it! I've also decided this is the best time to visit the Windy City; the weather is PERFECT at this time of year! A sampling of my Chicago adventure is below.

Below: the view from my hotel room while I was on-site at my work meeting. 

Below: the pooches! Samantha (the golden one, a.k.a. Sammy, Sammers) and Luna (the darker one) are two of my favorite doggies ever.

Below: Kathryn's amazing Thaitini! She invented this cocktail and it is divine.

Below: cocktails from Tiny Lounge. I enjoyed Henry's Holiday (Tito's handmade vodka, fresh strawberry puree, simple syrup, fresh lemon juice) and Marcella (hayman's old tom gin, fresh strawberry juice, balsamic syrup, rhubarb bitters, splash of cava). The bartenders were quick and made the drinks without blinking--I'm sure they could do it in their sleep! We sampled roasted sweet potato empanadas (sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, served with chimichurri and ancho sauces), and my mouth is still watering just thinking about them.

Below: my flight of mimosas at Fork. Included was a traditional mimosa, a bellini, and a "pomosa" (pomegranate and blueberry with prosecco). We sampled their house-made pretzels with beer cheese sauce and fell in love instantly! We've vowed to try brunch at Tiny Lounge and Fork upon my return to Chicago. Other places I love in Chicago are Royal Thai on West Montrose (the vegetable dumplings are outstanding!), Apart Pizza, Gene's (a gourmet European market), Ravinia Pavilion, and the shops around Lincoln Square. I've enjoyed the time I've spent downtown and in Millennium Park as well.

Below: Treats from Lutz Cafe and Pastry Shop. There were SO many good-looking treats--it was hard to pick just two to try! I had an almond croissant (filled with a delectable almond paste) and a lemon-poppy-seed cupcake (with light, fluffy frosting--not heavy or over-sugary). There is so much I want to try next time I visit, including the Baumkuchen, or "Tree Cake," which has concentric circles when sliced (they look like the rings of a tree!).