Friday, February 01, 2013

An Introduction to Vegan Living

So I'm not really a vegan. I mean, I like to think I am. I try to cook that way at home, though it's not always 100% vegan.

However, my breakfast is a great vegan start to the day. It has tons of fiber, which is good for you. When I've been traveling and not eating very well, I always look forward to this morning meal.

Here it is:
Fiber cereal
Fruit and nuts
Almond milk

The fiber cereal is a mixture of four different kinds of cereals: Uncle Sams, wheat squares, Grape Nuts, and rolled oats (non-instant). I just layer them up in a big container, then shake it up until it's all combined.

Once I pour that mixture into my bowl, I add fruit and nuts. The fruit is important because--let's face it--that batch of cereal is pretty tasteless! I always add raisins, since they're easy to keep on hand. And I like to add a banana, too, if I can. The most important point is to remember to have a bit of fruit in every bite! Otherwise it's not very good.

The nuts are important in the beginning, when I was learning to get used to almond milk. Almond milk tastes nutty (surprise, surprise), so I could reason with myself that the nutty flavor was coming from the walnuts (or pecans) I had in my cereal. Usually only four or five halves is enough. And now I'm used to the almond flavor, so the nuts aren't as important, but I like them, so I still use them.

Next is the almond milk. I use Blue Diamond non-sweetened vanilla, and it's really good! It did take some getting used to, I admit. It's not cow's milk. But I really like it now, and try to use it instead of cow's milk whenever I can. I especially like making hot chocolate with it!

One note about this cereal: It is very filling! I started out making a large bowl, like I always did with my Frosted Mini Wheats or whatever I was eating, but I never could finish it! So I make a small bowl, and it stays with me until lunch.

So, skeptics out there are reading this and thinking, "Wow, she has a lot of provisions to make up for the bad taste. Why doesn't she just grab a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and call it good?"

Most of us were not raised vegan, and by the time I was 30, I had trained myself to add some sugar here, a bit of butter there, and to choose taste over health. Well, as the rate of obesity increases, as well as diabetes and heart disease, it's become more obvious to me that choosing foods because they satisfy my taste buds isn't perhaps the best idea. So, this little breakfast bowl is one way that I'm re-training my taste buds. So if right now I don't like the taste of some healthy foods...I'm adding other, tastier, healthy foods to compensate. I'm retraining my sense of taste.

Not that all healthy foods taste bad; on the contrary, I think it's mostly a matter of training ourselves out of liking healthy foods, when in fact they are quite tasty! On this little vegan journey, I have learned to enjoy foods I've never tried before, or tried and hadn't liked. Next week, I'm going to take on brussel sprouts, and am fully prepared to love them!

Friday, July 13, 2012

How to Mark Butter

I've gotten in the habit of marking my sticks of butter by tablespoon. Before I did that, I kept the butter paper so I would have its markings. But the paper would get messy, and it was a less than ideal solution. So, this is what I do now. It works for me, and maybe it will work for you. Start with your butter still in its paper, and a clean knife you pulled from the drawer.

Using the dull side of the knife, gently press on each tablespoon marking, rolling it a little to indent the butter beneath.

Unwrap your butter, and voila! Each tablespoon of butter is marked out nicely for you!

Place in your butter dish (sans paper), and you're ready to bake! Mmmm...butter....

Monday, April 16, 2012

How to Build a Rain Barrel

The Problem:
A garden, which requires daily watering in the summer.

A gutter that creates a waterfall to the ground, and the water has gouged an 8-inch hole in the ground.

The Solution:
A rain barrel! A rain barrel will catch the falling water, and save it for when we need it.

We looked around to buy a barrel, but they're fairly expensive. We really had no idea how large a barrel we needed. We checked out YouTube for videos of how to make one ourselves. It turns out that it was a project that was fairly inexpensive and simple, so off we went to Home Depot.

  • Irrigation tube: $5.41
  • 32 gal. trash can: $9.88
  • 3/4" spigot: $5.33
  • Auto/Marine sealant: $4.57
  • 8 cement blocks: $$1.39 each, $11.12 total
  • 4 cement caps: $1.09 each, $4.36 total
  • 2 1" Spring Clamps: $2.09 each, $4.18 total
  • Things around the house: Knife, scissors, x-acto knife, Sharpie, length of old water hose, dirt
Total Price: $44.85
Let's get started!

The Base:
  1. Arrange four cement blocks in a square, leaving a square hole in the middle (see the photos below)
  2. We filled the spaces with dirt for extra stability
  3. Start with the next layer of cement blocks. Fill with dirt.
  4. Top off with the cement caps

The Spigot:
  1. Trace around the spigot onto the side of the trash can. Cut out inside the traced hole.
  2. Apply glue
  3. More glue
  4. Work the spigot into the hole

The Overflow Hose:
  1. Trace around the hose and cut a hole a few inches from the top of the trash can.
  2. Cut the hose to length long enough to send the overflow water where you want it (Ours was just long enough to make it to the ground and a foot or so away. We already had the water pounding into the ground, so a softer flow of water onto the same place seemed like it would be fine. You could use a longer hose to direct to a flower bed or wherever.)
  3. Insert the hose into the cut hole. Make sure the metal attachment is on the inside of the trash can, to help the hose stay in place
  4. Glue

The Drain Pipe:
  1. Cut slits in the rim to accommodate the larger gutter.
  2. Slide over gutter and measure length to trash can.
  3. Cut off excess pipe
  4. Trace and cut hole in trash can lid 
  5. Clamp pipe to gutter, and put other end of pipe in trash can
Tada! You're done! Now just wait for the rain! It only took one night of good rain to fill up our barrel! I'll be interested to see how much water it takes to water the garden.

  1. If you're an observant kind of person, you'll notice that in the pictures, our rain barrel moved from directly under the window to a few feet to the right. Let's just say, test out your pipe and how it connects to the gutter before deciding where to put the base.
  2. I suppose, if 32gal doesn't end up being enough, that we could add a second barrel using the same technique, only connecting it to the first barrel with the overflow hose, so it will fill up after the first is full.
  3. I'm hoping that having a lid for the barrel will prevent mosquitoes, but I will definitely be checking occasionally. A friend suggesting adding Mosquito Dunkers to the water to prevent mosquitoes. They're donut-shaped things that float on the water and kill mosquito larva.
After last night's rain, it looks like we'll need to add a little more sealant around the spigot. Other than that, I'm completely satisfied with my new rain barrel. I can't wait to start using it, and I really hopes it helps with our water usage this summer! 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How to Cut an Angled Bob Haircut

Now you have cut your bangs all by about giving yourself an entire haircut?

I've cut my hair for almost ten years now. That has included long hair, pixie cuts, and everything in between. Some haircuts have been huge fails, but you know what? I've paid for haircuts that have been huge fails before, too, so it happens to the best of us, I guess. While I've had stints in this time where I've paid for my haircuts, these days I mainly stick to cutting my hair myself. I can make the decision for the cut at the spur of the moment, I don't have to make an appointment, and I don't have to make sure someone else can watch the boys. It's free, and if it goes horribly wrong, I can always go the salon if needed.

So, not to say you need to give up your weekly/monthly/bimonthly appointment, but if you're interested in trying out a haircut on yourself, here's a good one to try. The Angled (or Wedged) Bob haircut. It's like a bob, only it angles up at the back.

Start with wet hair and pull it straight back into a tight pony tail. The higher your pony tail, the more layers you will have.

Pull the pony tail out away from your head to desired length. (If you want a very short wedge, and don't pull it out at all, this method will probably not work for you. It will cut too much off.)

Now cut off all the hair beyond the pony tail! Exciting!

Pull the holder out and admire your work so far. The hair at the back of my neck is usually a bit thick, so I hold the hair in my fingers (which are perpendicular to the ground) and trim. This would have been a good time for a picture, but it didn't happen.

It's almost right, but I've found that it helps to then cut off another inch or so straight off the bottom. I'm grabbing my chip clip from when I clipped my bangs to do this task. Clip and cut!

The chip clip wouldn't hold some of the hair up front, so I just pull that down with my fingers and snip it off.

Here it is air dried. Crazy hair and all it's flippy-ness.

And now I've told it who's boss. The flat-iron, THAT's who's boss!

From the side (that chunk of hair over my right shoulder is a reflection in the mirror, NOT an overlook on my part!).

You can see at the nape of my neck where the hair is still a bit thick and could use a little more trimming, but I've got to head out, so this is what it is for today. I can mess with it later, or just let it grow out a bit and no one will notice. *wink*

Obviously you can personalize this to your own taste! Leave it longer in front where I decided to cut it. Pull the ponytail higher for more layers in the back, or lower for less. Or, for an overall layered look with no angle, pull the hair up directly on top of your head! That's how my mom did it in college, which is where I got the idea in the first place to try it with an angle.

Have fun with it, and let me know if you try it!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

How to Cut Bangs

Cutting bangs has always been a bit of a hassle to me. And considering I keep my bangs pretty long, I have to cut them often to keep them out of my eyes. A while back I saw an interesting idea about cutting hair using a special tool that looked a lot like a chip clip, and I thought it would be perfect for bangs! it is! How to cut your bangs with a Pampered Chef chip clip.

The before:

Tools Needed: comb, sharp scissors, and a swing-arm chip clip (Pampered Chef was the first place I saw this kind, but they're at Kroger and other places now)

 Use the comb to section off the hair you want to cut. I sort of part mine in a wedge (think of the opposite of a widow's peak). Then clip your bangs with the chip clip. Slide the clip down the hair to the desired length. Clip with scissors.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Church Banners

By the way, I had the privilege of designing Advent banners for our church this year. I kept forgetting to take a picture, but someone else did.

Initially, way back in August, I was approached to help make fabric banners. My main job was to work on the concept. It took quite awhile for us to decide on colors, fabrics, all the special bits and baubles that go onto banners, etc. Suddenly, it was November, one of the ladies bowed out of the project, and I figured out I was supposed to be sewing it all together, as well. Now, I like to sew, but it's time-consuming for things I'm familiar with. I had no idea how long it would take for something like this. There was no way it would be done in time for Advent.

So, I suggested we scrap the plan.

"Let me do what I'm good at. I can design the banners and have them printed. They'll look great, won't cost us any more, and best of all, will be up on the wall for the first week of Advent."

The music director (the one coordinating this) was a little hesitant at first. She is very aware of the traditional nature of our church, and not having fabric banners might be a shift some people weren't ready for. Plus, she really had her heart set on fabric banners and felt she wouldn't be happy with anything else.

"Just let me see what I can do. I'll give you a call when I'm ready."

With that, I got busy. I really love designing. It's so much fun to choose fonts and colors, then carefully piece it all together. I enjoyed adding meaning through text in the background, for those who would care to look (verses referencing the attribute of that particular banner). And I added in some light flares reminiscent of Advent candle flames. I kept a traditional font and hoped the sunburst wouldn't be too wild for our church.

When our director saw it, she loved it. She had some reservations about the initial color choices, and I immediately saw that she was right. My choices (aqua, orange, pink) were too contemporary and not related to Advent. I think I chose them because they worked well with the Advent purple background. Muting them to red, green, and gold made much more sense. After that change, it was final! I made the order, we stayed under budget, and the banners were up for the first Sunday after Thanksgiving. They were on curtain rods that were held up by Command strips!

The response was great. Everyone really enjoyed the burst of color it gave our sanctuary, and many commented that we should have something similar up all the time. I had fun doing it, and it's always gratifying to be "in one's element." I'm grateful that I can use my knowledge for such purposes.

Monday, January 02, 2012

It's a New Year

It's January second, and people all over the world are making resolutions...or resolving to make none. Some people have already broken their resolutions, and some will wait to March to get around to making any.

My resolutions actually started a few weeks back. I have gotten into a lazy pattern at home, allowing a cycle of chaos to roll on to the point where it seems that things seem to have hit critical mass around here, and something has to change. So...resolutions.

  • Become an early bird. James has settled into a 6am schedule. Usually I do all I can to fight it--or remain as asleep as possible while allowing him to babble next to me in bed--but when it's time to really get up (the last possible minute), it's my schedule that controls me, instead of the other way around.
    • Set the alarm for 6am. Rise earlier if James gets up earlier.
    • Get ready for bed at 10pm
    • Take my shower at night, so I'm ready to hit the ground running
  • Be in control of my house.
    • Use My Simpler Life's declutter schedule as a guide through the year to help me declutter
    • Use Time-Warp Wife's house cleaning schedule as a guide for cleaning my house
    • Take weekly photos of my house, since I'm more aware of clutter when I see it in 2D. Weird? Maybe.
    • Have my mom and others keep me accountable and encourage me often.
    • Read two books about organizing/decluttering
  • Bring my photography business to a more professional level.
    • Finalize design for pricing brochure, and find an inexpensive way to have it printed/folded
    • Create client information sheets and order forms
    • Attend at least one photography seminar this year
    • Research and finalize decision about new camera body, and start saving!
  • Blog more
    • Done!