Monday, February 16, 2015

A Lovey-Dovey, Potentially Overly-Sappy Blog Post. I Shall Try Not to Make You Up-chuck.

Generally speaking, I am not a particularly sentimental person. Not really. (Ok, maybe sometimes.) I also hate "PDA." No public displays of affection! And I feel like a blog is just about as public as one can get, but you was Valentine's Day AND my anniversary on the SAME day, so how could I NOT blog about it?

This past Saturday was Valentine's Day as most of you know. We woke up to big, fluffy, white snowflakes and a fresh inch or two on the ground. It was absolutely gorgeous! I'd been wishing for more snow (don't be mad, but I love it) and what is a more perfect day to get that wish than on Valentine's Day/our anniversary?

For the record, we did not want to get married on Valentine's Day. We are not hopeless romantics or overly-sappy. This just happened to be the only day that our reception site had available for the year, and my mother was REALLY gung-ho about this reception site.  So, we were married on February 14th, 2004.

But back to the was so pretty. I had to take a picture. I wish you could see just how big the snowflakes were. This was one of those light and fluffy snows. The Cupids are pointing to all of the things in my backyard that you are NOT SUPPOSED TO NOTICE OR LOOK AT, OK! It's shameful. We've never quite known what to do with our patio furniture in the winter. We could tarp them, maybe we should have.... This spring the old back deck must be re-built, so hopefully we can make a storage space underneath.  In the meantime, please ignore the frozen table and all of the garden fence attempting to keep the puppy ON the beaten path. 

(Don't look there, there or there.)

Noah likes Valentine's Day a lot. For some reason though, he didn't want to give out Valentines in class this year. He wanted to hand out little Valentine treats, bubbles and erasers, which he did, but when it came to giving classmates the puppy and kitten Valentine cards that he earlier chose, it was a no-go. I can't quite figure out if it's because every year he laments having to write on each card, or if he was somehow starting to feel embarrassed at the thought of giving a girl a Valentine?

Jon and I gave Noah his ultimate, Valentine dream: A giant Hershey Kiss! Noah saw this at Target a couple of weeks ago and begged for one. And even though it says: "#1 Teacher," he still loved it. Maybe even more than if it said: "#1 Kid."

Perhaps you are wondering about Noah's latest "hair style."  I know that I am! The mullet-esq-ness of the whole thing is purposeful. I choose my battles. Haircuts are just not at the top of my chosen list. Noah wants his hair long. He doesn't want it short. For the past several months he's been absolutely obsessed with the 1980's show "Full House" and has had the goal of growing "Uncle Jessie" hair.

It's his thing. He wants a ponytail and a man-bun too. I just want him to do his homework, brush his teeth after only being asked once, and to go to bed by 9:00. So I'll gladly give him the man-bun with no hassle if he holds up his end of the bargain.

For Jon, my gift was this gorgeous ridiculous crocheted hat that I made. Remember when I told you that everything I make comes out lopsided or wonky? I swear I followed the pattern for this men's "aviator style" hat, but it ended up being really small! Also, one of the ear flaps is two inches longer than the other. It kind of looks like a stretched out earlobe. No. It looks exactly like a stretched out earlobe. Josie has been chewing on the leftover balls of wool yarn for the past month. So when she saw the hat, she immediately knew the smell and passionately tried to chew it up.

I also gave Jon a pair of gloves that people use when they lift weights. He exercises every other night so I thought he could use a pair of gloves. I also gave him a box of Little Debbie "Nutty Bars." Hmm....that's like dueling gifts. I felt badly that my presents weren't anything spectacular this year. The thing is, Jon really dislikes receiving presents. He just doesn't.  He always asks that I don't get him anything or buy anything expensive that he doesn't really need, and he genuinely means that. So, in recent years I've tried to honor his request by only giving things I KNOW he could use or by making homemade gifts.

Last month, I told Jon not to get me anything this year for our anniversary. My new car in January was more than enough of a gift for a long time to come, I said. Unlike his preference to not receive gifts, my husband loved to give them!

And this is what he gave me (I'm sharing with his permission.) The sweetest, homemade card. At some point, Jon got into my craft paper and made a card with butterflies. There are butterflies on the inside too, and when you unfold the card and open it all up there are even more butterflies! Isn't that nice!? Awwwww. :)

There was a gift too, which I'll tell you about later on in the post.....

I wanted to get into the Valentine's spirit, so I decided to wear pink on this day and to wear pink make-up too. I know it might be a little corny, but come on, you need to live a little and be goofy sometimes! (Or always.)

I have this pink faux-wrap dress from a few years ago that I found at Lands' End and some berry colored tights. was FREEZING on Saturday, so I spent the rest of the time that I wore the dress in a crocheted hat and purple snow boots. 

Truth be told though, within three hours, I was sadly back into my winter "uniform." Black leggings, a long tank top and cotton Henley shirt. For those of you who have read How Bourgeois for a while, you know that I used to really care about my outfits. I wore dresses all the time and I put thought and effort into what I wore. Since Josie though, when I had to start hurrying to get ready and found myself outside everyday on walks and in the grass and on the ground and carrying a dog around, my dresses and tights went to the back of the closet. Jon decided to wear a "uniform" this year to just make his work mornings more streamlined, so I decided that I needed a uniform too. The problem is, I tried leggings because they were much warmer than tights and you can easily tuck them into warm snow boots. And once you go leggings, you never go back. I'm serious, they are SO comfortable that WHO CARES that you are wearing leggings and "might" look all slovenly. (Some people look spiffy, but compared to my old dresses, I definitely look a little lazy). Leggings and layers of cotton tops. It's like wearing pajamas all day. I feel shame. Hey though, at least on Valentine's Day I wore a tank top and shirt in complimentary pink tones! That's good for something, right?

For my makeup I used some my Origins "Quick! Hide." concealer in light and "All-And-Nothing", translucent, talc-free pressed powder. They don't use parabens in their cosmetics, yay! My blush was Vapour Organic Cosmetics "Aura Multi-Use blush in Courtesan 213." On my eyes I used Vapour's "Mesmerze Eye Shimmer in Provoke" as a pink base and then I used a light shell pink color over that. It was from an old, Lancome eye shadow-quad that came as a gift with purchase. The shadow was similar to THIS ONE in "Pink Pearls." Next,  I lined my lids with my Origin's "Automagically eyeliner pencil" in Jet and put on a few coats of Physician's Formula's "Organic Wear Natural Jumbo Lash mascara" in Ultimate Black. My eyebrows, which I think are the wrong color for my hair really, were just done in an old pencil I have from Target and some brown eyebrow shadow. I need to find a new eyebrow color... I highlighted my cheeks with Vapour's "Trick Stick Highlighter" in Star and highlighted underneath my brow bone with Origin's" Eye Brightening Color Stick" and Phsycians' Formulas' "Shimmer Strip" in the lightest color. Finally, on my lips I used Burt's Bees "Lip Crayon" in Carolina Coast with Burt's Bees Lip Gloss, which I LOVE, in Rosy Dawn. And that is that!

Since it was our anniversary, I must admit that I was feeling a tiny bit nostalgic. So, I pulled out a scrapbook that I made for Jon for our anniversary quite a few years ago. It might have been our 5th or 6th? I thought I might share some of it with you. (That is if you want to see....)

This is the opening page. Here we are getting married. (You might have figured that out yourself.)

This next page is from our early days of dating. Jon and I met 18 years ago in college! I spied him in our dormitory's cafeteria and the rest is HISTORY! Actually though, we were good friends for seven years until we dated. (My gosh, we're like that new Bravo Channel show: "Friends to Lovers.")  I always had a long-term boyfriend during college, so we just never had dated until I asked Jon out to dinner a couple of years after school. He said "yes" but then changed his mind and called the date off because he was worried it would ruin our friendship. Legend has it that I then "fake cried" and asked him to reconsider. I'm so ashamed glad that I shed those pretend tears, because Jon eventually took me up on the dinner date. And then we went on another date and another.....

I'm not sure how I saved all of this ephemera for such a long time, but the ticket stub in the upper right hand corner is from the first play that we went to see in Toronto. And the photo in the upper left corner is Jon zonked out after work. In the early days I would meet him after work at his apartment before we'd go out to dinner. He worked in downtown Detroit at PriceWaterhouse and would often come home and fall asleep in his chair. That's our cat Priya. I miss her all the time.  The dirty looking photo on the right is Jon's view of the Detroit skyline from his office. And there is a movie advertisement from a movie that we saw in the early days. Our first movie together was Amelie'. Oh! And in the middle, I kid you not, is part of my first Valentine's Day gift from Jon...some old New Kids on the Block trading cards??? Why? Neither of us have any idea why he had them and why he felt compelled to give them to me. But thanks?

Oh gosh, this page is embarrassingly sappy. I swear, I'm not a sappy person, REALLY. Not usually....
A coffee sleeve from the bagel shop where we'd often walk to for bagels and coffee. Some weird picture of the two of us in my Mom's house that says: *CRINGE* "Once apon a time." *CRINGE* SPELLED INCORRECTLY! O.M.G. The black and white photo is the little house where Jon had his apartment. It was 450 sq. feet, like an Ikea apartment, but totally not an Ikea apartment ! Are those LOVE LETTERS!? *BLUSH*  Moving on!!!...................

Then one day, after we had been dating for a year and a half, Jon was transferred to Price Waterhouse's San Francisco office. We went back and forth as to whether or not I should go with him and move to California. I didn't want to move to California (I always wanted to live on the East Coast and never saw myself in the West). At the same time though, I didn't want our relationship to end. Some people said that the best idea was for Jon to move out first, see how he liked it and then decide if I should move, but I knew that I didn't want to be in a long distance relationship. It was just too far. So, after a while, we decided that I'd tag along. I didn't have a ton going on back in Detroit. I was working at our library while investigating grad-school programs, trying to figure out what to do next. I could do all of that and more in San Francisco (I thought.)

HOW did I save these MUNI tickets!? Here are some tickets and a pass to San Francisco Municipal Railway. The N-Judah line of the light rail stopped right at our corner. We lived two blocks from Golden Gate Park. We had the ocean to our left and downtown to our right.

That photo in the middle is of Jon and I minutes after arriving in SF at our new flat. We had been driving for five days in a little, red coupe filled with luggage, a cat and a guinea pig. (What a great boyfriend to be willing to tote my guinea pig cross-country). The picture in the bottom left, I took from the top of a nearby park. Isn't it gorgeous!? And in the lower-right hand corner....that's me with my engagement ring. I mean engagement donut. It is a long story, but Jon proposed to me by putting a donut on my finger that said: "Will you marry me?" It was very Homer Simpson-esq. I don't know if I should laugh or cry. (It's ok, you can laugh. My beautiful ring was being made. It was just taking a while). By the way, do you know that we kept that donut frozen and with us for nearly TEN YEARS! Yes, that is so sick, but I swear. I guess it must have thawed when we moved back to Michigan (we had to drive the guinea pig again), but then we re-froze it until our poor donut basically disintegrated around 2012.  :(

Ok, I think this is the MOST AMAZING thing about the whole sappy book.....somehow.....for some reason, not only did I keep the pizza receipt from our first night, first meal in San Francisco, but I saved it for years! We rolled into town, drove straight to our new flat, had NO IDEA where to get something for dinner or what to get. We ended up looking in a phonebook and just ordering from the closest pizza place, "Round Table." I remember, it was dark and we walked for the pizza, not even really knowing how safe the neighborhood was or not (it was safe), and then we ate it in our apartment that was totally empty except for a blow-up mattress, some suitcases and the dim over-head light. The moving truck was a couple of days away. I remember being so homesick and sitting on that floor and thinking "WHAT have I done!?" And this was just as the WHOLE HOUSE STARTED TO SHAKE as the N-Judah light rail train came by AGAIN! (It wasn't easy to sleep those first few weeks).

Honestly, I think I saved the receipt because back in 2003, or still now, I couldn't believe that a little pizza could cost $18! 

On the next page there are some business cards... Paul K., the lovely restaurant that Jon's boss took us out to a few weeks before when we made a whirlwind trip to San Francisco in search of a new apartment. And then there is Alvin's of San Francisco! Oh my gosh, Alvin and his wife were always so so sweet to us. We even took Noah back to meet them several years later. They have their own roasting facility and also sell tea, but the way we met is by going to their now closed coffee shop on Irving Street. We've ordered Alvin's roasted coffee beans and had them shipped to Michigan before. He'll even make you a custom blend. I highly recommend it. One of my best memories....I can't remember the name of the drink, but sometimes Alvin would make me a cup with espresso and chocolate gelato....AMAZING!

I see doodles on this page and the last page that I did on the plane to or from SF once. Jon and I were laughing about how any object could have eyes and a mouth put on it, turned into a cartoon, and sold at one of the gift shops in our beloved Japantown. So I made "Off Road Beverage" (on the last page) and his friend "Irony." Get it?

And there is a postcard from City Lights Bookshop that Jon wrote and mailed to me a year or so earlier when on a trip with his family talking about moving to San Francisco one day. Oh, and there we are by the ocean at Stinson Beach!

San Francisco was really wonderful. Well, it was wonderful, but also hard. We had unknowingly chosen the foggiest place in SF to live. Most days were foggy, it was depressing. Jon worked a lot, and he was soon sent on repeated projects that ran weeks or longer. Each with exhausting, daily commutes in insane traffic to the south bay. The original job description was to work in the SF office, not for hours in gridlock traffic on a Californian freeway. Meanwhile, this was just post-tech bubble burst. All of the companies that I would have applied for with my design degree where on a hiring freeze. I spent my days exploring the city, trying to figure out where to work and investigating school programs. It was a nice time, but extremely lonely. I remember how difficult it was to get used to having to take two different buses to get to the nearest Safeway Super Market, and the vaguely unsettling feeling that the super market had to have a security guard at the door. I think the most difficult thing for me was the mixed feelings of sadness and wariness that I felt about having to pass multiple multiple pan handlers each day on my block. I first and foremost felt sad for them. I truly did. I especially remember a young man with a nice smile who always asked me for money. I wondered so many times what difficult things in his life must have happened to land him on the streets and what could I do to help him. It was incredibly sad.  Some people were aggressive though, and so I also felt a little fearful once in a while. There was one woman who was there almost every day. She had a devastating mental illness. She'd scream, literally scream like she was on a pulpit about the devil. She'd yell at anyone walking by. I just remember being afraid of her and seeing that she had sores all over her face. It still makes me sad twelve years later. I have to ashamedly admit that sometimes I felt down that I could not leave my door without being asked for money or having to sometimes feel intimidated. Is it ok to say all of this? I think I was just naive and sheltered and I had lived an easy life, so I wasn't used to things like this. 

Very soon, Jon was offered a new job opportunity back in Michigan. It was by far one of the most difficult decisions we've ever had to make.....stay in San Francisco or move back to Detroit. EVERYONE thought we were crazy to leave SF. We even thought we were crazy! The job in Detroit was promising though, and Jon's San Francisco position wasn't exactly what he thought he was signing up for. We also knew we wanted children one day, and moving closer to our families and to a place where we could have a home and a backyard made more sense.

I still remember to this day, packing up the car and crying as we left San Francisco. I asked Jon if we made the right choice and he said there is no way to know for a long time. I do in retrospect think we made the right choice. That doesn't mean we don't miss San Francisco and think about it often, but that chapter of our lives had its time and its place and I'm so glad that we went for it!

We were married on Saturday, February 14th, 2004. I honestly don't remember much, it was such a whirlwind. We were too young. Twenty-six. 

I saved our wedding vows which we wrote and recited. I love public speaking...

And by the way, I learned that day from Jon,while listening to his vows, that during college he knew he would marry me one day! Wow! Who would have thought!? :)

And then one day, sweet, little Noah was born. Six pounds, one ounce of wailing baby. None of us slept through the night, I swear, I REALLY I MEAN THIS, for three YEARS after that. THREE YEARS! And then we were all crazy and completely lost our minds from sleep deprivation. The End.

Noooooo just kidding....(about the "The End" part, not the sleep deprivation part. That part is true). Eventually though, in 2007, after reading a bajillion sleep books and pediatricians shrugging their shoulders, Noah began sleeping through the night and so did we. And life got waaaaaaay better. 
The rest is really history that has yet to be recorded in this scrapbook, so I'll leave it here! Thanks for reading along though. 

By the way, look at sweet, baby Noah. Awwww, nighttime party-animal.

P.S. Just this morning I had to coax him out of bed at 9:00am, so things eventually even out, they all sleep eventually. :)

Ok, back to Valentine's Day/our anniversary. Well you guys, I just have to tell you that I must have one of THE sweetest husbands in the WORLD, because not only did he make me a SURPRISE three-course dinner for our anniversary, he made me a VEGAN surprise three-course dinner! 


I mean, how nice is that!? I just thought that was amazing and I felt so incredibly lucky. AND, it was REALLY nice not having the pressure to get all dressed up and go out to a swanky restaurant. I highly suggest eating in on one's anniversary once in a while.

I was asked to stay out of the kitchen while Jon cooked. Here is what he made.............

 Our appetizer was sautéed Shishito Peppers with olive oil and sea salt. They were crunchy and delicious!

An arugula salad with roasted beets, blood oranges and a light, homemade dressing. It was great! Jon used THIS recipe, but because there were no Asian Pears at the store, he substitute blood oranges . I loved this dish.

For the main course, Jon made this Mushroom Stout Pie With Potato Biscuits from the awesome vegan chef and cookbook author Isa Moskowitz. Check out her great site, The Post Punk Kitchen. YUM!

Oh my gosh, this man served me HANDMADE vegan potato biscuits, and they were delicious!!!
It is award time.

And then, as if my anniversary could not get ANY better...... Jon surprised me with VEGAN CHOCOLATE MOUSSE, which we ate in bed while watching three hours of Bravo Channel shows on demand and Saturday Night Live! (While the puppy chewed her disgusting, smelly chew stick and we bribed her with kibble to just stay there rather than eat out of the kitty litter box so we could just catch up on our episodes of Girl's Guide to Divorce). On a side-note, about two minutes after this picture was taken Jon mentioned that we were basically eating pure fat. This "vegan mousse" he was cocoa powder whipped with the solidified part of coconut milk. He put down his pure fat. I took one four last mouthfuls and then put mine down too.

And that my friends is the love-dovey, saccharine sweet, news from the little yellow house.

Until next time, GO EAT SOME CHOCOLATE and hug a chef or whatever they say!

Lauren :)

Friday, February 13, 2015

Simple Abundance

For those of you who are at least as old as I am, (37) do you remember when the book "Simple Abundance" by Sarah Ban Breathnach came out back in the mind-90's? Do you too vividly remember that salmony colored cover that was so popular and featured on the Oprah show? For some reason, that book cover stuck in my head like a familiar memory, and when I came across several copies this fall at our library book sale, I felt compelled to purchase my own. As odd as this sounds, I think I bought the book because I actually felt GUILTY for not reading it so many years ago. I have a vague memory of hearing Oprah talk about the "transformative power!" of these 366 essays - it's
"A Daybook of Comfort and Joy." Being too young at the time though, I made no great effort to find the book and read it. Fast-forward twenty years, and something about that peachy cover called to me.

Because I'm short on time before I need to pick Noah up from school, I will let Amazon's book description explain Simple Abundance for me. They do a better job than I could anyway.......

"With the grace of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's Gift from the Sea and the wisdom of M. Scott Peck's The Road Less Traveled, Simple Abundance is a book of 366 evocative essays-one for every day of your year-written for women who wish to live by their own lights. In the past a woman's spirituality has been separated from her lifestyle. Simple Abundance shows you how your daily life can be an expression of your authentic self ... as you choose the tastiest vegetables from your garden, search for treasures at flea markets, establish a sacred space in your home for meditation, and follow the rhythm of the seasons and the year. Here, for the first time, the mystical alchemy of style and Spirit is celebrated. Every day, your own true path leads you to a happier, more fulfilling and contented way of life-the state of grace known as... Embrace its gentle lessons, savor its sublime common sense, dare to live its passionate truth, and share its extraordinary and exhilarating gift with every woman you encounter: the authentic self is the Soul made visible."

Basically, each day you read a short essay on simple abundance - finding joy and gratitude in the everyday! I was already on a path lately, to growing my awareness and thankfulness for things in my life big and small, but this book has been a wonderful addition to my journey. One of the basic "tools" in finding simple abundance is through journaling. Sarah Ban Breathnach journals everyday and suggests that we do it too. It doesn't have to be any kind of written masterpiece, just get your thoughts, your fears, your questions and conflicts out on paper, rather than holding them in. She calls this: "having a conversation with yourself." Sarah's belief is that often times, if you journal out questions or dilemmas that you might have and get things down on paper, when you return at a later time, you just might find your answer. So, for what it is worth, I've been inspired by Simple Abundance to journal/blog today, the small things that I've found joy in. I hope that this book or post can inspire you too, because I promise, once you start seeing the joy in the everyday ordinary, it can truly enrich your life.....

I really liked this picture that Jon took of Noah using his new camera from work. It's a much nicer camera than the one that I own, and a much much nicer camera than the one on my phone that I'm always using! It makes me happy that we were able to capture this nice winter moment.

A small moment of peace. Josie taking her afternoon nap at the foot of my bed. I've found that if I give her my mittens, she'll often chew on them, snuggle up, and go to sleep! What you're seeing here is a BIG DEAL. (Picture below.)  It's a big deal for me, because it means that I can now have a bit of my old life back. 

This may sound strange, but in years past, especially in the cold weather months, after I've done all of my housework downstairs, I've usually headed upstairs for the remainder of the afternoon before school pick-up to do any other work that I can or to blog. This is because our little, old house is quite cold, and especially in the back of the house, it doesn't get much sunlight and can be depressingly dark. Chilly and dark. The upstairs though, my bedroom, it's lit up everyday with sunlight (if there is any) and my room is the warmest and brightest in the house by far. I can't explain, but just being up there makes me feel happier! I have a lap desk to work on, and our laundry is up there too. There's space to exercise.  So I've always spent an hour or two up there when I could. It's not just my bedroom but also my office, my laundry mat, my exercise studio and writer's retreat!

That was until Josie. We never taught her how to go up our ancient, steep stairs. We rarely took her up either. Jon and I wanted the cats to kind of have their own space in the house. And so, from September until just this week, I spent all of my days, everyday, downstairs with Josie. I had taken to wearing lots of fleece jackets over my outfits on the coldest days and I could certainly feel a sense of sadness and longing that I couldn't be upstairs in my sunny, happy place like I used to.

Then, last week, Josie decided to start wailing and barking and whimpering, every time that I would quickly run upstairs to change a load in the laundry or grab my purse. Then she took to crying in the evening if I went up while she spent time with Jon and Noah. It got worse and worse. Finally over the weekend we decided to just teach her how to go up and down the stairs. It took a few days, but now she's doing well, which also means that she can FOLLOW me up and down the stars at will. Which also means, she has found for herself, THE WONDERFUL SUNLIGHT and warmth in my room! 

Now all Josie wants to do is go upstairs with me (sweetly, she won't go unless I go with her.) and to lay on my bed or in the sunlit patch on the floor and take a nap! Today around 1:00, she sat barking at the foot of the stairs while I cleaned up from lunch. I knew what it meant. It meant: "Woof! Go upstairs with me!" So, after everything was done, I made coffee and we went upstairs, and for the next hour and a half she rested and chewed on my mittens, as I worked on emails and blogging and laundry. It was WONDERFUL! I am so so happy. Josie and I both need the vitamin D that comes through those upstairs windows! (Hey, can you make vitamin D even through glass?) * Oh apparently not. Darn. But there is still some emotional pick-me-up that one gets in the winter from light and warmer temps!

I'm always happy when I can get some crochet in. I don't crochet frequently like I used to, only here and there now. I'd like to more often, but I think that it makes it even more special when I do pick up my hook and yarn. I've been trying to crochet pink and red hearts to decorate the house with for Valentine's Day and have some extra pink yarn. I used it to make this ear warmer / headband. It's just three crocheted roses and a bunch of leaves on a band.

Josie will now demonstrate how it buttons in the back for a custom fit.

Who wore it better? Just kidding, of course Josie did!!!! \(^-^)/

For some reason, everything, I mean EVERYTHING that I have ever crocheted comes out lopsided or comically huge or just...cartoonish. I like how this cheerful ear warmer came out, but I kind of felt like Chiquita Banana with it on my head!

This month I am enjoying vegetables and fruit, even though we're in the dead of winter. That way, when summer comes with it's bounty of produce, I can be even more thankful for what variety lands on my plate.

Ok, I need to preface the following. It's VERY important to me for you to know that I do NOT judge others on their food choices. Just like I strongly feel that there is not right or wrong in coloring your hair or going gray, I believe that what you choose to eat is a super personal decision and judgement is not something I am interested in. And besides, I can't judge anyone on what they eat because, heck! I am the QUEEN OF CHOCOLATE! :)

I almost can't believe that I've done this, but several days ago, I signed up for The 30-Day Vegan Challenge! I've never been one to do anything TOO extreme, and even as a long-time vegetarian, veganism always just sounded.....a little intense for me. I always thought that I could never give up dairy or eggs or be dedicated enough to check each and every label. 

Then, at my recent check-up, my cholesterol number was slightly up. This was a surprise for me, because in the past, I've always had good numbers. My raise quite possibly could have been a fluke, the result of holiday eating (my check-up was January 5th and before that, Jon and I had polished off two wheels of truffled brie cheese!), but still fluke or not, it was a way to challenge myself to eat healthier. I am a vegetarian who might be getting too many of her calories from carbs and cheeses perhaps. Maybe. Also, in addition to learning a new way to eat healthier, I looked forward to learning a new way of cooking and baking and for more opportunities for me to make compassionate choices in regards to animal products. 

Sooooo.....even before last month, I've been playing around with the idea of taking the 30-Day Challenge. I came across this all-inclusive online program about six months ago, and since that time, have really wanted to give it a shot! I figure that 30 days is a very doable commitment. This is a great way to try something new and it gives me the chance to see if I like veganism before I decide to permanently make a change. More so, the program takes you step-by-step and really educates people on all kinds of topics, from health and nutrition to grocery shopping, cooking, baking, eating out and affording fresh produce. I like that it's basically a "course" in going vegan! I also love that the 30-Day Challenge is teaching me how to cook new dishes. 

Here is the crazy thing guys..... I swear, this is TRUE, but how can it already be true!? So I'm only 4.5 days into being vegan. No dairy, eggs, meat.... yesterday, I was busy and didn't have a chance to make my 2:00pm coffee of the day. Everyday, around 1:00, 2:00 or 3:00, I seriously need a coffee because I'm feeling tired. Well, yesterday, it wasn't until 4:30 or so that I realized...."Oh my gosh! I forgot to make my coffee!" And then it hit me....."WHAT!? I don't even feel like I NEED my coffee!!!" What in the world!? Is this even possible? Is this even possible on only day 4!?
Who knows if it is true, but all I can tell you is that I feel very good. Not only am I eating lots of fruits and veggies, beans and lentils and grains, but now, I am actually CRAVING them. This is so foreign to me! I have a salad from last night waiting in the fridge for me and I can't wait to have some for lunch! Also, I am in shock about this, but I don't feel deprived at all. In fact, I feel 100 times MORE full and satisfied than I did when I was eating a vegetarian diet.

I've been starting my days with a small coffee with almond milk. Then I have a banana. Then I exercise and have a bowl of steel cut oats with frozen fruit. Lunches have been leftovers from dinner the night before or salads, fruit and almond milk yogurt sometimes. I will show you some of the things I've made below. I snack on fruit, a small handful of vegan chocolate chips if I want. I even made banana-oatmeal-chocolate chip cookies! No flour, sugar, or eggs and they're great! I'll share the recipe below. Then we have dinner. Veggies, sometimes tofu, quinoa or rice or pasta and often that's that! (Although I did have home popped popcorn with NUTRITIONAL YEAST on it the other night. Ha! Never thought I'd type THAT sentence! LOL.) Basically though, if I'm hungry I eat. I try to choose some kind of healthy choice, a whole food and I eat. There's no deprivation like I worried that there might be. 

Anyway, I just wanted to share with you that I'm finding some daily joy in learning about a new way to eat. It's truly been a lot of fun!

On Monday evening, I knew that we'd be out until dinner time, so I made this "Slow Cooker Tofu Curry" that I learned about from my friend Carrie. Thanks Carrie! :) It was delicious and SO easy! I just served the curry with brown rice and a salad.  And like most meals, I got dinner and the next day's lunch out of it!
*Oh, and in case you are wondering....Noah usually has no interest in my vegan meals so far and some of my vegetarian meals, so, he often has his own dinner. Jon likes to try anything, but sometimes the guys eat their own meaty meals. I have zero problem with this. I don't ask them to be vegetarian or vegan. They can choose what works for them.

Here are the remnants of my lunch salad that I later ate at dinner. It was, before this picture, mixed greens with cucumbers, shredded carrot, some avocado, cherry tomatoes and a can of Garbanzo beans. I topped it with salt, pepper and a simple balsamic vinaigrette. I could only eat half the beans, so the second half made a nice bean salad to accompany my dinner.

I liked last night's dinner very much. Again, a basic salad and some rice, but then I made a homemade, super fresh, tomato and pea curry with polenta. It was GREAT! You can find the recipe in the book "The Forks Over Knives Plan." It did take me close to two hours to properly wash, chop, puree', cook and put everything together, but it was worth it! I had this and was stuffed.

Part of the vegan challenge, at least for me, is to eat less processed food and also less added sugar. I gave up sugar in my coffee about a month ago and it's been going ok! While most bakes goods and and starchy treats have dairy and/or eggs in them, you can still bake vegan treats and often times they are super healthy! Take for example these DELICIOUS Oatmeal - Chocolate Chip- Banana cookies!
My friend Heather posted the recipe to her Facebook page and I was excited to try them. I had the perfect opportunity to bake some up when she surprised me by stopping by yesterday.

These cookies are great for anybody with a gluten allergy because they are gluten-free, plus vegan, plus NO sugar added and SUPER quick and easy!

You will need: 3 ripe, mashed bananas - 1/3 cup applesauce. (I used no sugar added apple sauce.) - 2 cups oats - 1/2 cup almond milk - 1/2 cup chocolate chips - 1tsp. vanilla and 1tsp. cinnamon.

Now smash your bananas in a big mixing bowl and add in all of the other ingredients until combined.  I used two tablespoon sized spoons to put rounded heaps of the "dough" on a baking sheet. In retrospect, I think I should have flattened my cookies a bit before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes and there you have it!!!

And the great thing, they're really more like having oatmeal and bananas with a few chocolate chips sprinkled on. You're getting the fiber in the oatmeal and the nutrients of the banana, sooooo EAT THESE COOKIES FOR BREAKFAST! ;)
Oh! And they are very filling and satisfying. A nice, healthy way to get a chocolate fix.

The other night Jon asked me to take a picture of what a "Dad Dinner" looks like. Don't you think he did a great job? Jon is a much better cook than I am. I feel badly because I'd bet the guys would rather have "Dad Dinners" every night. This was Chicken Piccata, peas and mashes potatoes.

Early this morning I met my good friend Irini at my favorite coffee shop, Commonwealth for a quick tea. I was hungry for breakfast so I ordered their Irish Oats with almond milk, brown sugar and fruit. (This was the first time I added sugar in a while. I shouldn't feel guilty about it, but oddly I did...) Anyway though, it was so pretty looking when it came, that I had to take a picture.
I find happiness in seeing a friend after a long time, and eating oatmeal.

All this cooking takes time. This was Josie last night, watching me cook dinner. It was sweet. :)

I had what I think was a personal improvement over the need to control things this past week. When Noah called us into his room the other day, only to find that he had found some old Spongebob wall decals in the back of his closet and had plastered them all over his bedroom wall, I normally would have been like: "You put WHAT on  your walls!?" (A bit of back story.... I worked really hard when we moved to make Noah's current room less frenetic and cluttered than his old room. I didn't want the walls covered in all kind of things, especially because his room is on the first floor and every guest can see right in.)  Instead of cringing over three hundred Spongebobs splatted on the wall above his bed, I stopped, congratulated him on his efforts and instead of telling him to take the stickers down, I asked Noah's permission to take the four foot blob of stickers and perhaps spread them out around the room. He readily agreed and enjoyed the following results......  Patrick and Spongbob mesmerized by crabby patties.

And what he calls: "Stalkerbob." Which is creepy and self-explanatory. 

In other Josie news..... a most amazing thing happened in the past week..... she started doggie daycare!!! I just need one day a week, ONE day where she can go play with other pups for several hours while I have some uninterrupted time to get things done. I couldn't even believe that we actually got our act together and made this happen. I've been asking around about doggie daycares for MONTHS! I asked at the vet, asked friends who own dogs, asked dog walkers that I know and asked my neighbors who they use. Everybody liked a different place. Then I did my own research of the five closets doggie daycares. I called them, I made a comparison chart! Then we went and visited the day care that Jon and I chose. It was all a process, a big application form, faxing of Josie's vet records, a visit for a temperament test. I'm so so SO glad that we did it though. She went for a few hours on Sunday, just as a "test." They told us that she played the whole time! And then, this past Wednesday, she went for her first official day. I dropped Josie off around 10:30 or so and camp back just before 4:00. I GOT SO MUCH DONE!!! FINALLY!!! \(^-^)/

OF COURSE I missed Josie a lot and like a HELICOPTER PARENT I called the daycare to "check-in" on her mid-day, but it was still great!

I really think Josie loves it too. She is in the "Small Dog" group. They have their own HUGE area and there are NO CAGES or kennels. One room has cots and blankets if they choose to rest and little divided areas where they can eat privately. Then, the main room has two big couches covered in fleece blankets where they can lounge in front of the giant flat-screen TV that plays the ANIMAL PLANET channel 24/7/ LOL. There is also a large indoor play area, and a door that is left open to their own outdoor play area so they can come and go as they please. Then, about twice a day, the small dog group is lead out to the REALLY big out door area where they can run super fast and climb on the toys. It sounds like a nice time to me! Here is one of the pictures that they posted of Josie. She loves being around other dogs, and on this day, I was told she befriended a puppy named "Harvey" and that they played the whole time. (That's Harvey in the lower-right corner.)  :)

Silver Sisters!!!! \(^-^)/ I'm so sorry that I haven't had a lot of "hair news" for you my friends. I know many of you visit this page for the "hair." If you ever have an idea for a hair-related post that I've yet to write, I'm always happy to hear your suggestion! 

I cut off quite a few inches of my hair in August. I regret doing it myself, but my hair salon was closed and the next several days that followed was a huge event called "The Dream Cruise" and it's too long of a story, but I didn't think I could get into see my stylist Lydia any time soon. While trying on clothing at Macy's I saw in the dressing room, the back of my hair. I was in horror when I saw how yellowed my ends had become from using products and heat styling. I was really due for a trim. I think I trimmed off too much. At any rate, my hair is slowly growing back.  I don't know why it looks so short in these pictures, but today, not being curled up on the ends, my hair is now about 2-3" below my collarbones. Sadly, the ends are yellowing again. GAH! Time for some special shampoo or a trip to see Lydia.

I wanted to ask you guys if you ever feel more self-conscious when you wear your hair in a style that shows your gay hair and your old hair color? For example, I've been braiding my hair, like on the left recently. When I pull my hair back, it shows a lot of my dark brown color compared to when I wear my hair down on the right. I don't know why, but when I show my two-tone hair, I worry it looks more strange. It certainly doesn't stop me from going out with my hair braided, but do you ever worry about this too? Is it all just in my head? Get it? (Pun intended.)

I am thankful each day for having hair and the ability to make fun hairstyles and for Youtube videos that teach me how!

You know, one thing that I really really feel lucky about, is that I'm just a two-minute walk from our local library. The other day I got bundled up and returned my dog cookbook (LOL) when my Forks Over Knives book came in. There's nothing like new reading material, huh!?

When I walked out our door, the BEST, most smokey, BBQ smell came wafting from a food truck parked behind an advertising firm across the street. I swear, it smelled so delicious, that for a second, I almost ran over and ate the entire meaty truck! At least I wanted to. Then I walked past our friend Josh's new church! He's now the reverend there. I waved and said: "Hi Josh!" Since Josh and his family, who are also our good friends, still live about an hour away, he stayed at our house the other weekend. That was the weekend of the BIG winter storm. Josh needed to be at church on Sunday morning at 7:00am, so he stayed with us the night before. Instead of a long long treturous drive in a snow storm, he only had a one minute walk to church from our house. I hope he stays with us again. It was fun for Jon and I to chat and really cool to see a priest's collar and how that works!

Well my friends, this post is so long and tangent-y, that it's taken me a WEEK of working on this darn thing. I think it's time to stop here.  Thank you form the bottom of my heart for reading along, even on the small small things.

I wish you lots and lots and lots of tiny joys this weekend. Keep an eye out for the little pockets of happy in your day-to-day, and soon you will find more smiles upon your face! :)

Until next time!
Lauren \(^-^)/