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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

December detox

I received a juicer as a bridal shower gift from my awesome coworkers, and I'm in love with the thing.

My twin sister spent some time with me after Christmas and we had an end-of-year detox: making lots of smoothies, trying out various juice recipes (and even making our own creation!), and eating lots of raw foods during the day.

Most of our meals during the day were liquid, and we even had a completely raw dinner one evening. We walked and talked as we shopped non-stop. We did yoga DVDs together and watched movies while drinking hot tea and mulled apple and cranberry cider (just 100% organic juice--no added sugars or other juices involved here). We treated ourselves to homemade beauty treatments, such as a hair mask made from avocado and coconut milk, a face mask made from pumpkin and honey, and a face/body mask made from pineapple and coconut milk.

The star of the detox weekend, however, was the juicer. My sister received an identical juicer as a Christmas present, and we both are juicing beginners. It was so much fun to learn how to use the machine, see its power in action, drink the yummy and healthy treats it made, and compost the pulp afterward.

Our skin was glowing, our bodies felt great, and best of all, I was with my sis.

So long, rubbish! Welcome to beauty, simplicity, love, and joy. Out with the junk, in with the clean. Goodbye, regrets, toxic relationships, and old anxieties. Hello, peace, understanding, reflection, and new dreams. Happy New Year!

Friday, December 20, 2013

happy winter solstice

Last night at yoga practice, our teacher tied the winter solstice to our practice. Tomorrow, December 21, is the winter solstice--the shortest day of the year. Our teacher explained how people used to mark this as the real turning point in the year, when the sun stands still and then slowly comes back to bring more light and life to earth. It's almost like an earlier new year. We did a lot of twists to "ring out" the bad and then a lot of opening postures to open ourselves up to the good. At the end of class, we did a meditation: we closed our eyes, and on our exhales we focused silently on the word "release," and on our inhales we silently focused on the word "receive." She closed our practice with a wish for a happy new year when the winter solstice is here, and so I'd like to offer the same wish from me to you and yours.

"We'll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

the price others pay

I'm not trying to get on a soapbox here and I hate it when I sound preachy. But I want people to really think about the hidden costs of always trying to keep up with the latest technologies.

I don't have a smartphone. I have affection for my "dumb phone" (as I call it) that has the sliding keyboard. I have a computer at work, a laptop at home, and even a smaller laptop I use for travel. For now, I just don't need my email or my Facebook or games on my phone. And yet everyone these days seems to be telling me I "NEED" to get a smartphone.

When I was growing up, my sisters and I never, ever had a TV in our bedrooms. When I was driving a car, my two sisters and I shared one cell phone (which meant two of us were without it while the other had it), and it was only to be used in emergency situations. Depending on what we were doing, we had to decide who had priority in having the phone. We had just one family computer growing up. We didn't own a video game system. I'm not knocking the use of technology in homes--heck, I've embraced faster computers, larger TV screens, and telecommuting technology, and my husband loves his PlayStation. I don't think it's wrong for people to evolve with the times or enjoy what technology can do for us.

And people fully realize the price others pay when they are scrambling to get the latest iPhone (really, Apple, how many times a year do you have to put out a new phone?)? Do we fully understand how much waste is affecting our environment, and worse, how our constant demands and consumer culture are killing others?

While driving to work the other morning I heard a story on NPR about how electronic waste has spiked worldwide, and the U.S. is at the top of the list when it comes to dumping "high-tech trash."

After a conversation about this topic, my colleague sent me a link to a powerful, devastating video about war in Africa and how we are funding the violence. I realize it's the holiday season and many people are thinking about presents. Please, take a moment to reflect on all that you truly have, be honest about what you really, truly need, and shop smart.

Eve Ensler wrote this commentary in 2009 about the war on women in Congo, a war that is directly tied to "our role in plundering minerals." Four years have passed, and the violence remains.

There are many things you can do to be a better consumer, saving your money as well as saving the earth and helping our brothers and sisters in Africa and other countries that slave away for our pleasures and conveniences:

  • Don't buy things because you want them. Buy things (stuff) when you need them.
  • Don't throw out an old model just because a new one has come out. Get your money's worth! Use what you have until it runs out or until it's broken.
  • Recycle and/or safely dispose of computers, TVs, batteries, lightbulbs, cell phones, and etc. Many Best Buy stores will recycle them, and some natural foods stores will also recycle batteries and light bulbs. Also, if something still works, give to Goodwill so that another family can get use out of your old TV or DVD player.
  • Purchase fair trade coffee, chocolate, sugar, and etc. Look for labels that say they are fair trade certified. People in other countries deserve to receive a fair price for their work and their goods, and it's important that we work to try and identify which organizations, companies, and etc. don't take advantage of the labor that is available to them.
  • Ask yourself if your eight-year-old really needs a cell phone. If you have multiple children, can they share a laptop or an iPod?
  • Consider purchasing non-toxic toys for your children, or books to read, or a bicycle so they can go outside and enjoy fresh air and sunshine.
  • Support local, small businesses when shopping for gifts, or shop in stores like Ten Thousand Villages where you can find unique, hand-made gifts from around the world.

Friday, December 13, 2013

merry christmas to me

I'm so incredibly happy right now. I have a keyboard! This holiday season (and no matter your religion), I'm encouraging you to treat yourself and pursue what you love.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

wedding DIY and savings

Do-it-yourself wedding invitations, programs, and favors not only save money but are also more personal and are fun when family or friends pitch in to help. I purchased stamps, special ink, and embossing powder from Michael's craft stores, and they regularly offer coupons. A heating tool for embossing is not that expensive, and you can emboss cards all year round for an extra personal touch to all of your messages to friends and family (they're a fun craft for kids, too!). I purchased card stock from Paper Source and a family member had nice printers she used for printing the invitations, address labels, RSVP labels, and wedding program. All of the pictures below are examples of using the embossing technique with stamps:

For our favors, I used fancy card stock from Paper Source and decorated them with quotes about autumn, our names and date, and a stamp/embossing powder. The card and the favors were stuffed into paper bags that had been embossed as well. I was never a fan of typical wedding favors (Jordan almonds, bubbles, etc.), so instead I gave individual packets of organic mulling spices, purchased in bulk online to save even more money. It's also becoming increasingly popular for couples to donate to a charity on behalf of guests rather than handing out favors, which I think is a lovely idea.

Other ways to save for the budget-conscious bride and groom:
  • Plan your own wedding. I created a spreadsheet of everything--it had tabs for my budget, to do list, guest list, announcements, gifts received with a column where I could check off when I had sent the thank you cards, and etc. Of course, I kept my wedding as simple and non-complicated as possible. Had I money (and the desire) to throw a grand, lavish wedding with millions of details, and especially since our wedding was in a state different from that in which we live, I probably would have hired a wedding coordinator. Needless to say, I saved a lot of money by planning my own wedding.
  • Ditch the DJ and use your own wedding playlist for the music.
  • Ask friends and family to donate their talent in lieu of a gift. For example, my incredible, talented sister created my bouquets, corsages, boutonnieres, and floral arrangements that were used at the reception. I paid for the flowers and she worked her magic--because of her generosity, I saved hundreds on flowers.

  • Buy a dress that's out of season. My dress was a Casablanca dress, and a quick Google search showed me that their dresses retail online from about $800 to $1500. I purchased mine for less than $300 at a bridal boutique in Lexington, NC. It had never been worn and it wasn't their latest design, but none of my guests (myself included) follow bridal fashion and would know this. It already came with a bustle for the train, so the only alteration I had to pay for was to get it taken up (I'm a shorty!).
  • Don't splurge on expensive shoes. No one sees your shoes unless you're wearing a short dress, and even then you can get away with shoes that don't cost a fortune but still look cute. Mine were flats (I insisted on comfort) and were $20 from Marshall's. Sold!
  • Don't splurge on jewelry. I had my wedding rings, never really wear bracelets anyway so did not wear any, and didn't wear a necklace because the top of my dress had beaded detailing. The earrings I wore were a gift from my in-laws, given to me on my birthday a few years ago. They are elegant and simple, my hair didn't cover them up, and I decided to wear them instead of purchasing new earrings as a loving gesture to my new family. Work with what you have; or, if you really want some new jewelry, be sure you'll be able to wear it again so you're not wasting money on one day's use.
  • Cut out the traditional wedding cake and get multiple cakes instead. We both hate fondant and have never been a huge fan of wedding cakes, so we decided to purchase multiple flavors to please our guests and purchased them from a local natural foods store. The guests raved about them and we saved a ton of money.
  • Do what works for you, not what other people want to work for you. So many people put pressure on brides to do things a certain way or do things because they've always been done that way. Some families expect huge weddings that are essentially a family reunion. We were lucky in that our families didn't push us to do anything or question our planning. We were on a budget and that meant we had to have a small wedding. It was very hard to narrow down our guest list to a certain number, but thankfully our friends and family were completely understanding and didn't make us feel guilty. I chose to not wear a veil because, A. I'm not a veil person, and B. they're crazy expensive! It's such a small garment (would you call it that?) and I'd be wearing it for just a few hours...I decided to put funds toward other things. We chose to have a "mini-moon" instead of a long honeymoon because we were already taking a lot of time off from work to prep for the wedding and we were too busy paying for the wedding. If other couples have parents pay for their entire wedding, and given that paid time off isn't an issue at the time, I can see why people might take a week-long honeymoon to some exotic location. We decided to wait and take our time when it comes to taking a larger, expensive trip--to make it when it works for our budget, not for the sake of having an instant honeymoon. There were a couple of naysayers, not many, but luckily we're both good at ignoring naysayers and we do things that work for us. Whatever trade-offs you make to help keep your combined wallets and sanity intact, know that in the long run you'll be glad you did instead of caving in to outside pressures.

Most importantly, have fun! What happens on one day doesn't define your love or your marriage.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

wedding playlist

For the music at my wedding reception, I used a playlist I created on iTunes. It took a lot of time, and I was lucky that the house where our reception was had a wonderful sound system that could be adjusted throughout the house as well as outside of the house. The day before the wedding, my friend Becky was helping me connect my laptop to the sound system. My parents were in other parts of the house, setting up spaces for a snack and bar station, and they heard our music as we tested it on the speakers. Later that night, dad was remarking about "weird music" he heard at the Wrights' house. I laughed and told him it was a part of my playlist, and told him I considered it a "multi-generational" mix that was supposed to please a variety of people.

I am so glad I decided to provide my own music (and that I was even able to get away with this). We started it a little late and paused it for cake cutting and toasts, and it lasted us until people left the party. Throughout the night I'd hear snippets of songs and smile as memories flooded me.

There's the memory of my friend and colleague, Christa, riding with me in the car to Luray as we blasted Cee Lo Green, both of us with tears in our eyes as he sang exactly what we wanted love to feel like and how we wanted to be loved: "One rarely finds a lady that happens to be three times a lady; God is good, but he took his time when he designed you baby...that's why I want you. Oh I'll even quit my job, loving you I'll make it my job, thank you Lord, thank you Lord, this is it, my God."

There's the memory of my partner and I driving around eerily quiet neighborhoods after a massive snowstorm shut down the D.C. area, just days after I saw a friend and former colleague buried, listening to Robin Thicke's 2 Luv Birds and Leona Lewis' The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face as I tried to remind myself of loved ones still present in the world rather than focusing on the string of people I had lost in the past few years. He consoled me with good food and good music and I will forever be grateful to him (and he distracted me with laughs as we watched Groundhog Day with my roommate at the time and her then-boyfriend-now-husband).

I remember crying in England and Scotland when I was five because my sister, Heather, had beautiful purple flowers surrounding her that were also called heather, and I had no flowers named after me, but that's when my mom told me about Nat King Cole and his daughter, Natalie Cole. I remember listening to Nat King Cole (along with Paul Simon, who somehow didn't make my list...shame) on long road trips with my parents and sisters. I still equate Nat King Cole, the Sleepless in Seattle soundtrack, Paul Simon's Graceland album, and the Lion King/Rhythm of the Pridelands cassette tapes with trips out west.

I hear Josh Turner ask if I'd go with him and I think of my friend Natula and our time together on the horse farm. I hear Darius Rucker's Wagon Wheel and think of Lauren, Steph, Bridget and I driving to the Great Smokies and our hiking (and somewhat scary Tennessee) adventures. I hear Jack Johnson and songs from the Garden State soundtrack and I think of my best friend growing up, Coley, and the 20+ years of friendship we share. I hear Guster and Jack's Mannequin and think of Kathryn and that drizzly night we spent on the cool ground at Ravinia just outside of Chicago, hearing those bands play while we drank red wine and ate a picnic we had made. I hear Colplay and think of Rebecca and Becky, our magical times in high school and college where we cared nothing about what the world thought of us and dreamed and danced pirate dances and made films for Latin class and for fun. I hear Josh Groban tell me I'm loved and not to give up, and I think of Genevieve and how we sang this song at the top of our lungs as we blasted it in our Raleigh apartment we shared in college. Other songs remind me of my friends at the animal hospital where I worked when I first moved to the D.C. area. One song in particular reminds me of a friend whose life was taken too soon by someone who didn't deserve her. I think of my sister when I hear Keane singing about somewhere only we know, and that weekend where we listened to Keane's album over and over again in her car, the same weekend she cheered me up after a breakup with a college boyfriend. I hear Michael Buble and I think about the day my mom and I drove to Charlotte to see The Lion King on stage for her birthday, listening to Michael Buble there and back again.

Throughout the evening a number of people commented on my playlist and how much they liked it, and so I've decided to share if anyone wants a rocking mix of music (I'm biased, of course) or wants ideas for their own wedding music. I've nothing against DJs and I think they can be really fun (as long as they're not obnoxious). Still, I'm glad I chose to utilize my own playlist, because it felt more personal, I get to play it anytime I want to remember the fun evening and smile, and, as Coley put it, "it was us."


Buongiorno Principessa by The Ten Tenors
Wait Till You See My Smile by Alicia Keys
Let's Stay Together by Maroon 5
Better Together by Jack Johnson
You Are by Lionel Richie
Feeling Good by Michael Buble
If My Heart Was a House by Owl City
L-O-V-E by Nat King Cole
I Choose You by Sara Bareilles
Unforgettable by Nat King Cole
All You Need Is Love by 101 Strings Orchestra (instrumental)
Marry Me by Jason Derulo
For Once In My Life by Michael Buble
The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face by Leona Lewis
Close Your Eyes by Michael Buble
Can't Help Falling In Love by Andrea Bocelli Featuring Katherine McPhee
I Want You by Cee Lo Green
Your Song by Elton John
Crazy Love by Michael Buble
2 Luv Birds by Robin Thicke
Wagon Wheel by Darius Rucker
The Luckiest by Ben Folds
Take Me Away by Keyshia Cole
Lovely (Just The Way You Look Tonight) by Michael Buble
Love Somebody by Maroon 5
From This Moment On by Shania Twain
Come Fly With Me by Michael Buble
When I Fall In Love by Nat King Cole
Many The Miles by Sara Bareilles
No One by Alicia Keys
Would You Go With Me by Josh Turner
A Message by Colplay
Alive by Celine Dion
Somewhere Only We Know by Keane
You're Still the One by Shania Twain
Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall by Coldplay
She Will Be Loved by a UNC Chapel Hill a capella group (I hate I don't know their name!)
Stereo Hearts (feat. Adam Levine) by Gym Class Heroes
Everything by Michael Buble
Save The Last Dance For Me by Michael Buble
Hey Mama by Mat Kearney
Swallowed In The Sea by Coldplay
Sway by Michael Buble
Heaven Sent by Keyshia Cole
Dark Blue by Jack's Mannequin
Let Go by Frou Frou
Your Song by Ewan McGregor & Alessandro Safina (from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
You and I by Michael Buble
The Real Thing by Bo Bice
One Of These Things First by Nick Drake
Why U Wanna Go by Sean Kingston
Your Love Is a Song by Switchfoot
Try A Little Tenderness by Michael Buble
You Are Loved (Don't Give Up) by Josh Groban
A Thousand and One Nights (SMASH Cast Version) [featuring Raza Jaffrey & Katharine McPhee] by the SMASH Cast
Tale As Old As Time (Instrumental) [From "Beauty and the Beast"] by London Music Works
My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson
Do You Love Me by Guster
Clocks by Coldplay

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the calm before a very happy storm

My wedding's in a week and two days. I'm trying to leave my work email inbox in a decent state before I head out of the office but it's fighting against me, tooth and nail. I'm working to take care of every little last detail that comes into my brain to ensure I haven't missed anything when it comes to planning our wedding and mini-moon. Our pastor blessed us and prayed with us the other night, and I've never felt as close and connected to my partner as I have in the past few days. Preparing for this huge commitment has synced our brains, I think.

As excited as I am, it's nice to do things that aren't wedding-related. I'm making an honest effort to avoid making an enormous fuss about the day. I'm not dropping everything else in my life for it and I expect that the day after the wedding my life will go on in almost the exact same manner it has been. Sure it's a huge life change and there will be shifts in how we've been living our lives, but a wedding is a wedding and neither of us is trying to make it anything more than that.

I've been minimizing the amount of time I think about the wedding, because I'd rather not get anxious about trying to control things that are, ultimately, out of my control. Unfortunately, I've been dreaming about logistical details (I help plan meetings for a living, what can I say), and I've never been good at forcing my subconscious in a certain direction when dreaming (otherwise I'd have escaped millions of nightmares throughout my life). We actually are attending a wedding this upcoming weekend, and my goal is to bask in the bride's and groom's joy, to toast them and celebrate them and be present in their moment without thinking about ours to come.

One of the best things that's happened in the last week? Walking in the woods with my fiance, not talking about the wedding, and soaking in the fall colors, drinking in the silence and the peace and the calm before we head into the loud, loving arms of our family and friends next week.

Monday, November 4, 2013

the ABCs of autumn

I love it when butternut squash ravioli, pumpkin pie, and pumpkin lattes start appearing on menus. I love it when you wake up in the morning and realize you need a robe or sweater or coat before you venture further into your day. Last week it seemed like the leaves on the trees changed overnight. Lining the roads, they looked as if they were on fire with their brilliant reds, oranges, and golds. Suddenly I'm craving soup with a big hunk of crusty bread, I'm ready to break open the mulling spices, and I long to watch movies that for whatever reason have historically made their way into my DVD player during the fall season (movies like Anne of Green Gables, Mermaids, and Harry Potter).

What do you love about autumn? I decided to log a few of my favorite things alphabetically:

  • Acorns
  • Boots with jeans tucked in
  • Campfires
  • Dressing up or decorating for Halloween
  • Equinox -- the arrival of autumn
  • Fall foliage
  • Gathering the harvest
  • Hot apple cider
  • Increased deer sightings
  • Jumping into piles of raked leaves
  • Knitted sweaters
  • Leaves falling and rustling in streets
  • Mugs of hot cocoa
  • Nestling under quilts during cold nights
  • Orion beginning its rise into the sky
  • Pumpkins!
  • Quiet nights and mornings when people stay inside cozy places
  • Raking leaves
  • Sweatshirts
  • Thanksgiving
  • Under layers needed to keep warm on brisk mornings
  • Very spooky TV shows (this season is chock full of them -- The Walking Dead, Sleepy Hollow, Grimm, Dracula, and let's not forget all of the fun Halloween movies)
  • Winter coats brought out of storage
  • Yule logs (okay, so this is more of a Christmas-y thing, but I do love the magical Christmas season, too, and autumn is the magical season that leads up to that...that's my logic for including it on this list, anyway)

Any suggestions for X and Z? What tops your list for autumn?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

morning magic

Morning Magic
By Natalie Ramirez

I sang with the stars
and drove west
to a fat harvest moon,
low in the sky,
a bright orange beacon
glowing in the cold autumn air.

The first golden streak
that pierced the horizon
transformed the dark indigo velvet
where Orion and Cassiopeia had danced
into a robin's egg blue sea
and painted the sky
with dappled pink clouds,
the color of cotton candy
at the state fair.

Golden leaves that glittered
as they fell
in patches of sun
that peeked through canopies
of green, red, orange, and brown
whispered morning magic
as black birds sailed
past fluffy white contrail.

I drove through rolling green hills
that saw the civil war,
past tracks where Southern served the south,
past crumbling silos and headstones,
into land
where some are awakening from deep, long sleep
as others slumber on.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

gaining ground

When I was younger, I desperately wanted to live on a farm. I also wished I had been born a boy, and much of that had to do with my intense dislike of dresses, barrettes, lacy socks, and the like. Plus, I liked the games the boys were playing on the playground (soccer, kickball, Batman) much more than I liked the girl games (hair braiding, hopscotch, "house," and dolls). I stopped wishing I were a boy a long time ago, but the appeal of a farm has never left me.

I wrote a story in the 5th grade, one that won a competition and allowed me to attend a young writers' conference at the local university. The story's setting? A farm.

During my years at university, I spent two summers working on a horse farm. The intense physical labor, the connection with nature, the exhaustion in my body at the end of the day, and the interaction with animals was nothing short of glorious.

Today, I like to support local, organic farms by choosing to purchase their goods at farmers' markets or my local organic market. One farm that I discovered at the Del Ray farmer's market is Smith Meadows. It's 75 miles from my home and, while I don't eat meat, I've encouraged my partner to purchase his meat from their booth since all animals are grass-fed, humanely raised, and not treated with hormones or antibiotics (and the pasture is not chemically fertilized or treated with pesticides). They also sell free range eggs from grass-fed hens as well as homemade pastas and sauces.

I was so excited when I learned that the lead farmer, Forrest Pritchard, wrote a book about his experiences of being born into a farming family, choosing to become a farmer himself, overcoming huge obstacles to achieve the success he has today, and learning how the earth takes care of itself when humans take care of it in turn.

I just finished the book yesterday afternoon and already feel like I could read it again. Fabulous writing coupled with fascinating stories (all true!) made for a really fun read. It's so much better knowing where our food comes from and it's comforting knowing that there are still farmers, unsubsidized by the government, that farm with integrity.

For anyone who ever dreamed about living on a farm and for those who want a closer look at farm life, working with the earth, and knowing where your food comes from, I highly recommend this book. You won't be able to put it down.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

a pie for a rainy day

It's a cold and super rainy October day, there's a leak in the ceiling, and I worked a 10-hour stretch. What else was there to do but go home and make a tofu pumpkin pie?

What do you do when you want a little lift on a grey and stormy day?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

walking down the aisle

I made a really difficult decision recently, one that required a lot of inner reflection, time to think, and bouncing my thoughts off of other, close, trusted individuals. I decided that I will walk myself down the aisle during my wedding ceremony.

I had already asked both my biological father and my stepdad to walk me. I hadn't even thought about the logistics of the whole thing. If I were holding flowers, would they link their arms in mine? With three people walking side-by-side (down a narrow aisle, at that) and a train involved, how would we avoid trampling the dress? Deep down, though, it wasn't about how the three of us would get it done. It was all about the feminist in me.

I hate labels. I really do. People associate certain ideas, memories/experiences, and stereotypes with labels. Someone recently told me I was a free spirit. Immediately my reaction was to cringe, even though I absolutely love the idea of me being a free spirit (and others being free spirits, too!). It's just that I've seen so many different labels misused and misunderstood that, even when someone is complimenting me, my first instinct is to rub it off like an unwanted kiss.

Ultimately, I have to admit that I am a feminist, whether others like it or not. I am an activist. I am a free spirit. And I really don't want anyone walking me down the aisle.

There are so many odd wedding traditions I think are outdated or horribly sexist, and others that are just plain gross to me. However, the idea of someone walking the bride down the aisle is, in my mind, a beautiful tradition. So many people have walked with me on the road to where I am today; the problem is that the number of family and friends who have walked with me is a HUGE number! Why does the father walk the bride down the aisle, and not the mother? How does my twin sister play into that, or some of my best girlfriends? What about my grandfather, my great-aunt, my high school teachers...? Better yet, what is the meaning of any of them walking me down the aisle in the first place?

To me, I feel it is a gesture meaning that person is giving me away. There are multiple reasons why I don't like the idea of someone "giving me away." I made it clear to my fiance, before he asked me to marry him, that he only had to ask me--not my parents. I've been independent for over nine years. I moved out of my parents' home just weeks after I turned 18 and never went back. I've been supporting myself for a long time, so why would my future husband ask anybody else but me permission to be his wife? Even though I could try and ignore the symbolism of my dads walking me down the aisle, my inner compass was telling me that it bothered me, a lot, and that I shouldn't ignore it.

I know I tend to resist traditions that are followed simply because "they've always been done that way." Still, making this change to the order of things and risking hurting the feelings of others was nothing I took lightly. Luckily, both of my dads are supportive of strong women, are not anti-feminists, and are extremely understanding guys. Both said that above all they wanted me to feel comfortable with all of my decisions and do what would make me the most happy on my wedding day.

I've heard a lot of really cool wedding traditions, and I've nothing against individuals doing what they want to do to celebrate their union, partnership, love, and commitment. The beauty of weddings is that you don't HAVE to do what people say you HAVE to can do whatever you want! Okay, unless your parents are paying for the wedding, in which case, I think you're probably out of luck. I truly believe that the more creative we are, the more fun we have. Our intention for our wedding day is to enjoy it simply and lovingly, and we really aren't incorporating many traditions into our ceremony or celebration. I definitely look forward to hearing about what others are doing or have done for their own weddings--traditions that I may or may not be able to share in but ones that I can appreciate nonetheless.

In the meantime, I'm so grateful for a huge weight to be lifted from me. Now, if I can just NOT step on the dress...

Thursday, September 26, 2013

hello autumn, my old friend

We're on the cusp! At midday I stepped off of a plane after being in Atlanta for a week and could immediately detect that the air is cooler than when I left. Driving through Old Town I spotted the first fallen leaves scattered on the charming brick sidewalks, pumpkins and wreaths that evoked images of harvests adorning the fronts of a few enthusiastic houses, and attire that had morphed during my absence from light-as-air summery outfits to layers more appropriate for chilled breezes. I was eagerly anticipating some steaming chai at Le Pain Quotidien, where I ate for lunch, but alas, their seasonal cuisine still held the taste of summer: zucchini, watermelon, and light fare. Autumn is by far my favorite season of all, and every time I experience it I always hope it will last longer than it did the past year. I've pledged to use all of my senses as much as possible to bring awareness to autumn this year, so today I'm thrilled to announce that I believe my old friend has just arrived.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

du jour - 10 Sept 2013


  • The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (his latest--and I can't put it down!)


  • Sara Bareilles' latest album, The Blessed Unrest


  • For lunch at work, I packed a super-filling and yummy medley:

sauerkraut from wildbrine (my briny new love)

tempeh that I sauteed and steamed in coconut oil and tamari (the smell is heavenly!)
then topped with Tessemae's rub and hot sauce after the tempeh had cooled a bit

quinoa (I ate it with the tempeh) that was cooked with a vegan bouillon
and then spiced with turmeric and cardamom

Monday, September 9, 2013

a twist on a new favorite

I've only made the curried potato and chickpea dish once, and quite recently at that, but my fiance and I loved it so much that I knew I wanted to make it again--and soon!

Yesterday afternoon, we went grocery shopping for the ingredients that we didn't already have at home. Our local market didn't have red potatoes in their produce section, but they did have red okra!

I ended up modifying the recipe quite a bit, so I'll include it here at the bottom of the post. Note that I did use an entire serrano chili pepper--including the seeds!--as I am trying to knock a cold out of my system. The heat is not too intense for your mouth, but watch out because it sneaks up on you! I was blowing my nose after just a few bites. It doesn't taste overwhelming and it doesn't detract from the flavors at all, but if you'd prefer less heat, omit the seeds, try using only half of the serrano, or just omit it completely. The curry already provides some great spice!

  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas
  • A bunch of red okra, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large and 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 small serrano chili pepper (with or without seeds), minced
  • 2 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tablespoon grey sea salt

Cook the onion in the oil for several minutes over medium heat until softened. Add the tomato, garlic, and serrano pepper and stir well, heating for another few minutes. Add the curry powder and stir until it is thoroughly mixed in, then add the chickpeas and okra. Stir well, add the tablespoon of vinegar, then cover and let steam over low heat for a few minutes. Uncover, add the salt and stir well.  

I enjoyed the dish over a bed of raw kale, and you could also pair it with rice or another grain. My fiance decided he wanted to put the mixture along with some baby romaine inside of garlic naan for a sort of wrap--yum! We both have decided that we like this version way better than the mashed version with the potatoes, and I'm already excited for the next time we make it!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

a briny new love

It's official. I'm obsessed with wildbrine.

Seriously, their "bold" sliced pickles are the best damn pickles I've ever had in my life. On the website they call them "courageous" pickles, but the package I picked up in the local organic food store says "bold." 

The pickles have excellent heat to warm your mouth, plenty of garlicky goodness, and, as their website describes, a slight smoky note. My fiance said they smell like pork! Um, gross, because I don't eat my friends the piggies, but thankfully his comment did not deter me from stuffing my face with these pickles.

Today I tried the horseradish kimchi, and holy mother of cabbage--I could eat this stuff all day long!

The pickles and kimchi are raw, chock full of flavor like you wouldn't believe, and naturally probiotic (let all of our gut bacteria rejoice!). They are fermented through brining, which, as the website says, "maintains the health benefits of raw food, boosting its nutritional value, and delivering deliciously complex and balanced flavors." The products taste like they have vinegar in them but no vinegar is used to create their intense flavors.

Ask your local natural foods store if they carry wildbrine, and if they don't, demand it! Your taste buds (and your gut!) will thank you.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

green fire

In a Wildlife Management course I took in college as part of my Zoology degree, I read Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac. I really enjoyed the book, and the class ended up changing some strong ideas I had believed about certain things as well as helped shape my ethic towards nature and wilderness (along with many other wonderful courses I took in college).

When I saw that my local public broadcasting station was airing a short documentary about Aldo Leopold, I excitedly set my DVR to record the show. I forgot about it, but recently found it buried under long lists of shows, and after finally viewing it, I am so incredibly glad I did.

The film is a beautiful tribute to Leopold, and I learned so much more about him than I knew before (which really wasn't all that much, but still...). Leopold's eloquent writing, innovative thinking, extraordinary land ethic, and inspirational messages for generations to come were and still are truly remarkable.

If you're interested in the documentary, visit

“I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in.” 

“Acts of creation are ordinarily reserved for gods and poets, but humbler folk may circumvent this restriction if they know how. To plant a pine, for example, one need be neither god nor poet; one need only own a good shovel.”

–Aldo Leopold 

Above: a photo I took at sunset in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Above: a photo I took in the Shining Rock Wilderness area of North Carolina's Pisgah National Forest.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

a new enchilada casserole

This recipe from VegWeb for Fajita Enchiladas with Green Chili "Cream" Sauce is just awesome (and by the way, VegWeb, I love your new look!).

Instead of making enchiladas, though, I made an enchilada casserole. I've made an enchilada casserole before--this was just a new take.

The only other modifications I made to the recipe was using pinto beans instead of re-fried beans and using four cloves of garlic instead of two. I think next time I'm going to try red enchilada sauce instead of green (no offense, my lovely tomatillos!).

I just want to take this moment (as I'm stuffing my face and typing these words) to thank the brilliant people who come up with such delicious and nutritious vegan recipes. You all rock!!

Monday, August 12, 2013

curried potato and chickpea magic

This is by far one of the best dishes I've made. The original recipe is here:

The thing is, I wasn't in the mood to ingest all of that extra oil from frying the patties, and I also didn't feel like eating a burger bun. I've had a headache today that I just can't shake--part of me thinks it's due to the weather shifting, and part of me think it's because I slept in way too late yesterday, throwing off my natural rhythm. I had some raw juice at lunch and I've been trying to drink plenty of water, and I'm also forcing myself to stay awake at least until 9:30 and then go to bed and get a really good night's sleep.

I figured that with dinner I should avoid extra grease and extra carbohydrates, hoping it might help chase away the headache. So I followed the recipe in the link above and simply stopped after the point where I added more bread crumbs and let the mixture cool. I put a big scoop of the mixture on top of organic greens that I lightly dressed with balsamic crema. The result? FABULOUS.

My fiance agreed that this is one of his new favorite dishes, and he ate it just like I did, atop a salad. It's vegan, easy, and SUPER delicious. I just don't know how you could make it taste bad, even if you tried.