Saturday, December 31, 2011

Great Moments of 2011

I compiled a short little slide show with photos from every month in 2011! Enjoy...


Moments of 2011 from Eatplaylove D on Vimeo.

I feel compelled to share that is the very edited version. The first version I created was 17 minutes long, oopsie. I'll be burning that version to DVD to mail to our family!

A Pinky Swear With Friends? Catalyst For New Year's Change... 2012 Mind Body Challenge

I believe ringing in the New Year is a great time to set intentions. I like to reflect upon the last year, think about where I would like my year to go, where I want to focus my energy. Typically my thoughts return to the same pillars of my daily life, spending money, healthy lifestyle (how I eat, exercise), focus on my family, as well as new interests to take on.

I'm not so great at making lists, checking off must do's, one by one (I'd call that Resolution Style).

As J and I were sitting around the kitchen table at our friends' house the other night, the discussion came up about a Whole Living magazine article, 21 Day Mind + Body Challenge. I had just read the article that day and it definitely peaked my interest. My friend asked me if I wanted to join her taking the challenge and after some brief discussion, I was on board. Lucky for both of us, our husbands wanted to join in as well. Which also makes me wholeheartedly grateful for my friends, the people I chose to surround myself with, they support me, encourage me, and I adore them for it!  A pinky swear sealed the deal and we even came up with ramifications for breaking the cleanse. Mine is that I have to go snowboarding (with the other 3) for a FULL DAY with only a lunch break. I can tell you right now, there is no way I am going to break the cleanse because that deal breaker truly SCARES ME!!!

We sat around the table for a few hours and discussed what we were up for, it's a 21 day cleanse which eliminates the major allergens from your diet. The six things we will be skipping for the first 3 weeks of January are processed foods and beverages, added sugar, dairy, gluten, caffeine, and alcohol. Eep! Well what exactly does that leave you may be wondering? Tons of fresh fruit and vegetables, by week three some grains, and lean proteins. We also agreed on green tea which does have some caffeine, I drink plenty of tea unsweetened.

Sounds like a trendy diet....

I think embodying a detox plan is a bit easier to swallow than the dreaded word, DIET. It's three weeks, I've eaten this way before for over a year, when Sj was a nursing baby. Three weeks should be a cake walk (hahaha). I know it takes a solid 2 weeks for your body to process and rid your body of the 6 things we are giving up.

I'm really not much of a diet fan and I will be so bold as to throw "strict eating regiments" into the general umbrella of dieting. I do enjoy eating what ever I chose, the majority of food in our pantry and refrigerator is healthy whole foods, but like many people I have my weaknesses. I'm curious to see how my body responds, if I can let go of some extra weight that's been dragging me down. I don't own a scale, I'm the type that goes by how my jeans fit and I am definitely not satisfied with my above the waistband bulge that I currently am sporting.

I can guarantee there will be updates from the next three weeks. Day 1 starts on Monday for obvious reasons. Wish me luck....


-----

Friday, December 30, 2011

[Food Friday] Eat Out, Boulder! Brasserie Ten Ten

This may sound funny, but the Brasserie Ten Ten is one of those restaurants in Boulder that sometimes escapes the forefront of my mind when choosing a place to go out to eat. After we sit down and start looking over the menu, I'm always reminded of how much I enjoy the food at the Brasserie. The Brasserie was opened back in 2003 by the Executive Chef of the Med (same owners). The food is French inspired and well executed, while the atmosphere is friendly and casual. My favorite meals at the Brasserie have always been for lunch. I like the price point, as well as enjoy the fare for mid afternoon.

J and I reserve the Brasserie for lunch dates when we are without the girls. Kids are definitely welcome here, but I think I can escape to a Parisian Brasserie much easier in my mind when I just have my love across the table from me. Lunch on this day, happened to be a bit on the conservative side. The Brasserie has a diverse menu, with plenty of options from vegetarian to the classic fruits de mer and many traditional French dishes. Escargot or roasted bone marrow, anyone? Even with those options, don't be surprised when you see more than one Brasserie Hot Dog pass by your table, it's definitely a regular's favorite.

 Frites

Slider, French Dip

 Bisque De Tomate

Special Salad of the Day (salmon, greens, almonds, apples, onions)

Overall Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)
Happy Hour: 3-6:30 daily (menu)

1011 Walnut Street
Boulder, CO 80302

Perk, Brasserie Ten Ten does take reservations of any size. A true find in Boulder! 


------
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, we were simply paying customers. 

Happy New Year, Meet My Favorite Bento Packing Inspiration!

Hello Kitty Santa Curry Bento
The bento blogosphere is full of such amazing talent. For months now I've been wanting to share one of my favorite bento bloggers, but just haven't seized the moment, until NOW! Sheri is someone I found via Twitter and I instantly started following her blog. Her bento packing style is top on nutrition and amazingly beautiful. I will admit, I am in awe of her! Not only am I inspired by Sheri's bento skills, but she has a wonderful warm hearted spirit. Go check her out!

How to find Sheri:
Happy Little Bento (blog)
Flickr Photostream
Twitter 

Thank you Sheri for allowing me the use of your photo:
Original Photo link from Flickr

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Unique Knit Cotton Scarf: Raspberry Stitch

I've decided to add a record of some of my knitting projects here, so I can use the posts as a resource for future projects. I started knitting when Sj was a baby and I know the very basics. I'm really good at scarves, blankets, and cotton washcloths aka anything square or rectangle. I have been known to knit a hat or two as well, but not very often.

I love the raspberry stitch because it's unique and fairly easy to knit once you get into a rhythm. I always use natural materials such as cotton or wool. This is a Sugar 'n Cream 100% cotton scarf, I made for a gift. I decided to keep it narrow because it makes for easy wear and also versatile for many seasons, not just winter.

Clover Takumi Size 5 needles
1 full skein of green, 1 partial blue, 1 partial green

The pattern takes 4 stitches to complete, so you can determine the width you would like, you must add 2 stitches for the knit stitch that starts and ends a row.


Cast on 18 stitches
Row 1: K1, P next 16, end K1
Row 2: K1, K1P1K1 (on same stitch), P3 together, repeat to end K1
Row 3: K1, P next 16, end K1
Row 4: K1, P3 together, K1P1K1 (on same stitch), repeat to end K1

Repeat

YouTube tutorial below, as well as other photos...





Thursday, December 22, 2011

Easy and Unique Knit Scarf, Farrow Rib Scarf

My husband returned from Norway with some beautiful Dale wool yarn for me. He purchased two skeins of the exact same yarn, but different colors. Since one skein did not work for a scarf, I decided to create a striped farrow rib scarf. Even though I have been knitting for gifts, considering the source of the yarn (a gift to me from Norway), I've decided to add this one to my personal collection.

 I think it turned out lovely.


Chunky wool yarn
Clover Takumi Bamboo needles size 10

Cast on multiple of 3 (15 shown above)

Row 1: slip 1st stitch purl wise, k1, p1, *k2, p1* across

Rows 2 through infinity: repeat row 1.

For stripes, I switched colors once 10 rows were completed. 

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Birthday Wish, A New Year and A New Journey...

I never gave a second thought to my December birthday growing up, even though it is less than two weeks before Christmas, they never really meshed in my mind. I'm counting my blessings my mom and dad never stuck a birthday candle in a hockey puckesque fruit cake and belted out the birthday song. I have fond memories of homemade round layer cakes, always adorned by those hard sugar Happy Birthday letters you can still purchase in the baking aisle of the grocery store.

I don't think the birthday gifts wrapped in Christmas paper started happening until I was in my twenties. Living in Colorado with all my family in New York, a birthday slash Christmas package would arrive in one fell swoop. Really it wasn't to take away anything from "my special day" it was just practicality. I've had long conversations with other fellow Sagittarians and I'm always amazed at how some people feel robbed to have December birthdays.

What's the famous saying, it is what we make of it?

Now here's the kicker. Starting a few weeks ago, I've had an overwhelming desire to make some changes in my life. They are mainly related to lifestyle, it's truly the mental fog (hello, denial) of bearing some physical weight I'm having a tough time shedding. I want to feel differently about this body I've had exactly 38 years to come to terms with. While my endurance and strength are apparent as I casually take myself out on a 5 mile hike, I want to feel that same reality when I look in the mirror. I have a hard time seeing the beauty within when I catch a glimpse of a reflection passing by a storefront window. My eyes instantly focus on the areas of my body that I try to conceal, knowing a bulge here or there is the physical representation of what I have not shown I can control.

Which brings me to having a December 13th birthday... I've got a 3 week head start on the focus I want to bring to my daily life, putting at the top of my list my eating habits and exercise. While some will wait until the end of the holiday season, making January 1st the day to start anew, I will start today. When I blow out my candles tonight, I'm going to wish for the strength and courage to find that place in me that recognizes I am good enough to have exactly what I want. As with wishes you unfortunately can't buy a perfect body image, so instead my focus turns to self confidence, dedication, and courage that will make it happen.

To a new year and a new journey...

------

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I'm Warning You, Beware of Cowl Neck Sweaters

Today I reached a new level of public embarrassment. I usually have bright red cheeks a healthy glow, but today my flushed skin went from hairline to chest. So what in the world did I do?

This morning I was out doing some birthday shopping for my soon to be 5 year old when I just quickly perused the women's sweaters in the shop I was in. I tried on a cute sweater and it was a steal, so I decided to buy it. I got home ripped the tags off the sweater and tried it on. I looked in the mirror and was confused. Somehow I had brought home the wrong sweater.

Did I set down the sweater I wanted while looking at other things? I mentally traced my steps in the store to think when such a switch would've occurred.

Then I thought, how in the world did I buy the wrong sweater? It was the same color and brand, but I didn't even try on a flowy sweater like the one I saw draped on my body in the mirror. Odd, just odd.


I decided to head back to the store and look for the sweater I wanted. When I got there I checked the dressing room rack, the sweater rack, and a few other places I had been earlier. Finally I headed to the register to return my wrong sweater, as I couldn't get my hands on another. When the clerk called on me, I tried to explain that somehow there was a mixup and I wanted to return the sweater that was in the bag. We started to talk about the sweater I wanted and he starts looking over the receipt and asking if the person that checked me out was at the store. I pointed to the other guy that helped me earlier. Before we went any further, the clerk flipped the sweater upside down to look for where he could reattach the tag I pulled off. That's when I saw IT.

The sweater WAS THE ONE I purchased, I just tried it on upside down at home. Now, in my defense the sweater is very odd shaped and has a large cowl neck.

See the photos below:



Oops!

<- The Wrong Way


The Right Way ->






I looked at the clerk with a bright red face and said, oh my goodness that is the sweater I bought! I realized in that moment, I must've tried it on upside down. We both had a good laugh and he placed the sweater back in the bag. I walked out very embarrassed and definitely a bit humbled.


---

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Tuesday Tips: The Broken American Food Supply

With great eloquence and candor, a mother (Robyn O'Brien) tells her story about why she started paying attention to the broken American food supply. She doesn't know me, but I am on her team. Join us.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Eggnog Cake with Eggnog Buttercream Recipe: Fabulous and Easy Holiday Dessert!

Invited to dinner and want to whip up something easy and fabulous to wow your friends and family? The possibilities are endless, but it's November and a great way to celebrate the season is with an Eggnog Cake. While I was surprised to find that there were very few eggnog cake recipes online, I was also surprised that the ingredients were so varied. I actually came up with this recipe after not finding exactly what I wanted. It turned out wonderfully. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!
From the picture of the buttercream, you can see it was made with love! What a moment to capture. 



Eggnog Cake with Eggnog Buttercream Frosting

Cake batter:
1/2 cup butter soft at room temperature (NOT melted)
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp rum extract
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp fresh ground nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 cup eggnog

Frosting:
2 sticks butter soft at room temperature (NOT melted)
1lb Confectioner's Sugar
1/3 cup eggnog
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
*1 tsp rum extract
*1 tsp nutmeg
pinch salt

Directions:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, grease and flour 2 round cake pans (I used 9"). You can also cut parchment paper rounds for the bottom, I did not have an issue with my cake sticking.

2. Cream butter and sugar with a mixer on medium until light and fluffy.

3. Add eggs, one at a time until incorporated well. Take a moment to wipe down the bowl with a spatula.

4. Add vanilla and rum extracts.

5. Combine flour, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt in a bowl. I do sift them, it's not absolutely necessary.

6. Add dry ingredients from step 5 to wet mixture in 3 parts. Alternate with 1/2 of the eggnog to the wet mixture. It will go like this, 1/3 dry mixture, 1/2 of the eggnog, 2/3 of dry mixture, 2/2 of eggnog, 3/3 dry mixture. Until gently combined. Do not over mix.

7. Pour evenly between both pans.

8. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 25-30 minutes. If using 8" pans, it could take 30-35 mins. Keep an eye on the cake, pulling it out right when it browns will prevent it from overcooking and drying out.

9. Make the buttercream frosting while the cake is baking. Cream butter and sugar on medium speed in a stand mixer, it will look thick and hard THIS IS OKAY! (It is preferred that the butter is not too soft because it will soften in the next step, to a perfect consistency.) Add the *extracts, *nutmeg, and salt. Gradually incorporate the 1/3 cup of eggnog to soften the butter and sugar mixture in three steps. If you think it's necessary for spreading you may add up to 1/2 cup total of eggnog to the mixture. Do not make it too moist, as your frosting will be runny. For my buttercream 1/3 cup was perfect consistency (see heart photo above). *notes, try the frosting if you would like w/o the nutmeg and rum extract. They greatly change the flavor, it will be much milder (if you prefer) with out them, more like a vanilla buttercream. I liked the bolder flavors of the added nutmeg and rum extract. It does not overpower the cake, but rather compliment it with it made as I listed above.

10. When the middle gently bounces back from touch, place cakes on cooling rack for 5-7 minutes in pan, then gently invert to cool completely before frosting.

11. Enjoy and delight your guests! Questions, feel free to email or comment below!

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Post Wherein I Judge Another Mother

Eight years ago, I left my full time teaching job to stay home to raise my daughter. Over the years my absence from the classroom was lengthened after the birth of my second daughter. This decision never came lightly, but I can wholeheartedly say I have never regret my decision to stay home to raise my children. While I wish I could candidly say it's been all rainbows and Rockwell moments, I don't think I could go that far. There's some witty quote about the hardest job you'll ever have just waiting to be thrown in here. I definitely have my fair share of hard days, but I guess how I choose to handle it varies differently from my experience today.

While I was running a few errands in the morning, I was walking down the aisle of a store when I came across this mother...


Let me break down what you are seeing. A mother on her cell phone talking so loudly, that I gathered she was speaking to her mother about the wonderful pillows she just found. The search was over for pillows! Woohoo! I wonder if she also told her mother she was sitting on those pillows in the middle of the aisle at the store blocking customers from walking by or how her daughter was being completely ignored. As you can see her two year old was destroying the end caps and pulling everything off the shelves. It wasn't until the toddler reached above her head for a pile of towels and a stack of soap dishes fell onto the little girls head, that the mother realized she had better go. I am sure you can guess who got yelled at for acting so stupid. Yes, the poor toddler.

When I first turned the corner and happened upon this mother so completely checked out, I honestly didn't know what to make of it. This grown woman, responsible for a young child, is lounging on the floor of a store while her daughter does what ever she wants to the store displays?!? In some ways I do get it, but that level of desperation for me is only reserved to the comforts of my own home. I can't quite wrap my brain around how any of the above photo is something that feels okay. How do you get to that moment of chaos and blatant denial? The other thing that really angered me about this mother is how her actions negate all the hard work the majority of us mothers put in with our children. It takes time, patience, and consistent effort to teach your children what behaviors are acceptable in the home and out in public. When my children don't cry in the checkout aisle because I won't buy them a candy bar, does one assume because I am lucky? No, it's because I do the work, every single day.

I wish this photo was the end of it, but unfortunately due to the size of the store and the acoustics, I proceeded to hear this same woman berate her toddler, who had now become tantrum enraged, for the next twenty minutes. While I may see or hear things everyday that I don't necessarily agree with, I typically just let it be. I don't like to judge another mother's decision for how she parents her child, rarely do I ever write about them, but this moment I simply couldn't shake. In this case, I'm still wondering if I should've asked her for a cup of tea. If I should've smiled at the little girl and handed her an age appropriate toy to distract her while her mother was busy.

The thought that is mainly on the forefront of my mind is, if it's this bad in public, how is life behind closed doors...

---

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Hike Boulder: Mallory Cave from NCAR

I'm a creature of habit. I have trails I like and I pretty much hike from two trailheads in my neighborhood. On Sunday J and I went for a hike without the girls and when we rolled up to one of our go-to trailheads, it had more cars parked than I've ever seen before. I suggested we drive up to NCAR and hike from there. NCAR is the sandstone building you see perched on the mountainside in South Boulder. If you drive west on Table Mesa Drive, the road will dead end into the NCAR parking lot. There is no fee to park here.

If you proceed to the backside of NCAR, you will find the Walter Orr Roberts Trail which leads to the Mesa Trail. The Mesa Trail can take you from NCAR to Eldorado Springs if you head south or to Chautauqua Park if you head north. In between there are many routes to take and on Sunday, we hit the Mallory Cave Trail.

J and I had a short window of time for our hike, the most important one was it was late afternoon and I wasn't sure what time the sun would be dropping (first day of time change). On a whim we picked Mallory Cave and I am so glad we did.


Here are some shots from our hike just taken from my iPhone. The trail was wonderfully carpeted with pine needles and leaves. Luckily most of the direct route up to Mallory Cave is south facing, so we had no issues with a mud or ice on the trail. The Mallory Trail is a great uphill climb, but tempered well with many switch backs. A handful of times there are wonderful open areas to get a great view of the city and eastern plains. If you look closely at the photo on the bottom left (above) you can see NCAR sitting off in the distance, it looks tiny from the trail. I couldn't believe how quickly we felt so far away. 


The photo on the right is of J climbing the final 75 feet of the trail. You do have to scramble up the sheer rock face to get to the top. I promise it's worth it, but I don't want to spoil what you find up there with a photo, you'll just have to find out for yourself. Please note, there was only a bit of ice on this final ascent, use caution if it is wet or icy! The cave is not accessible because of a fungal disease affecting bats called White-nosed Syndrome, but none the less there is something worth seeing.


Close to sunset, the view on the way back. We couldn't help but ponder how incredibly grateful we are to have such amazing hiking access within minutes of our house.

Hike Info:
From parking lot: 2.8 miles round trip (Mallory Cave trail climb closer to .75 miles up)
Elevation gain: 950 feet
City of Boulder, Trail Map and Information for Mallory Cave

Where To Buy Bentos in Los Angeles [w/ Photos]

There's a great little section of Sawtelle Boulevard in West Los Angeles that is referred to as Little Osaka. While you may find yourself wandering around a number of shops in the area, including a great grocery store, I wanted to share the best spot for bento supplies I found.

Tokyo Japanese Outlet is like a dollar store, it's stuffed with all sorts of unique goodies like skin care products, stuffed animals, stationary goods, bento supplies, and many household items. You can see what some folks on YELP enjoy about this particular location. The bento boxes they carry are very plain, but super affordable (average $5 or less). I didn't pick up any bentos, but rather some accessories such as rice molds and small hand towels.







Tokyo Japanese Outlet

West Los Angeles, Sawtelle Center 
2109 Sawtelle Blvd. Los Angeles, CA
Tel: 310-914-5320

Hours of Operation:
Sun-Th 10:00-23:00
Fri & Sat 10:00-24:00

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Sometimes Lunch Packing Isn't Awesome!

One of the biggest mistakes of being passionate about packing healthy and cute nutritious lunches Monday through Friday, is not having fresh ingredients on hand. I'm being honest when I say as someone who LOVES packing lunch, it can be dreadful with an empty pantry. This morning it was crunch time to get the girls out the door for school and we were out of bread (well except for 4 heels). I'm not usually thrown back with no bread in the house, I simply reach for a tortilla or pasta leftovers.

No tortillas in the house. No leftover pasta, only stuffed peppers. I just couldn't see packing stuffed pepper leftovers to my 8 year old. Not only did it have a food safety issue, I feared the social impact would've been greater.

I did what anyone does in a pinch, I cut off as much of the hard end of crust as I could and threw together gently crafted a sandwich with almond butter and jelly. I included some frozen edamame and an apple with a little sprinkle of Italian Volcano Lemon Juice (organic) to keep it from turning brown.

Sometimes it feels good to be real and share what I consider to be a pretty lame attempt at lunch. It helps me want to do better because I know I can. Today definitely would've been a hot lunch day for my girl if the options weren't a hot dog or cheesy broccoli baked potato, two things she snubbed!

My New Unicycle Riding Elephant Fetish

Really Chris Martin? You had to one up this bizarre intrigue I have with you by skillfully riding a unicycle in an elephant costume? I didn't know you could peak my interests any further, but they're totally tuned in. I'm going to call this one, check mate. Hot, hot, hot.




Interview with Mat Whitecross the Director of the Paradise Video! Great Story.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Contemplating a Conscious Christmas

With Christmas just around the corner and knowing some of you are already done shopping, my thoughts are just turning to how I want our Christmas to be. I've taken a few different approaches during the holidays, one year avoiding items Made In China (that is tough work), another year keeping a tight budget per child (that is tough work), and others just picking up things here and there that caught my eye which I like to refer to as mindless Christmas shopping. I remember one year on Christmas Eve feeling as if I hadn't done enough and running around trying to find something meaningful for the girls. I can guarantee I did not accomplish what I set out to do on Christmas Eve. I never feel good about the mindless approach, especially in January when my bank statements arrive and I see toys strewn about.

Here's where my intentions are going into this Christmas Season:

1. Handmade items, for example my oldest daughter has a special blanket called, Silky,  that a friend of mine made for her years ago. Miss GL was never given a Silky, so I am going to make GL one this year. Obviously that won't be a Santa item, but it will be something special under the tree.

2. Shopping online with small business retailers that value Made in the USA and selling items that are made from non-toxic paints, plastics, and that are made from natural materials. If I catch the timing right and keep an eye on my emails, I can typically find great free shipping deals combined with a percentage off of my total purchase. Bonus, I'm supporting a small business. I AVOID the large online retailers (yes, pun intended) after they stopped working with their Colorado affiliates back in 2010. If I am going to shop big box, I just do it in my neighborhood rather than online.

3. Asking my daughters to think about one or two special toys they would like, but providing a list of no more than 5 items. I don't like encouraging them into thinking Christmas is a gift giving free for all.

4. Choosing toys and craft items that encourage imaginative play. While we are not a electronic free house, I am always amazed at how creative my girls can be when given the right inspiration.

5. Experiences as gifts. I love having a Zoo Membership or tuition for Ballet School as gifts for my girls. Those gifts keep on giving year round, which are my favorite.

6. Sticking to a budget. I don't want any buyer's remorse come January. I want to find a comfortable number we can afford with out having to use credit cards and have a cash only Christmas. This is hard because so many other incidentals come up during the holidays, but I am hoping if I start now I can achieve this.

7. Family time, I want to take the focus off the stuff and make it about our family. Family fun baking, decorating, visiting museums, hiking together, and slowing down to cherish time!

8. Handmade items for our family. I can't quite divulge what I am making right now, but I am crafty and I am hoping my skills will be appreciated come December.

I hope setting my intentions now will allow me the chance to achieve what I am putting out there. I want to be free from regrets and the depression that sets in from post-holiday glut (physically and mentally). 

Mom, I Need A Break From Carrots

I've always wanted to post a photo collage on Fridays of what my daughter's bento looks like when it arrives home everyday. At her school, they aren't allowed to dump leftovers in the compost from lunches that were brought from home. I'm not sure if this is a new rule or if it's even a rule, it's just what my daughter has mentioned. So I believe what comes home to be a true representation of how she ate that day.

The only problem I have with posting "how'd she do" today photos is that I actually have to follow through with taking them. I'm not so good with that. I see a lunch box return home and I just want to get it into the sink. I'm going to work on my follow through because I do find leftovers interesting.

I recently purchased a 10lb bag of EarthBound Organic Farms carrots from my wholesale club. I feel like we have carrots coming out of our ears, which also may be represented by the photo below.


While I love Laptop Lunches for their waste free component, sometimes something like a squeezable organic applesauce sneaks into a lunch. It's rare, but usually a indicative of what's lacking in my refrigerator or fruit bowl. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

I swear that hot dog is a penguin... Bento

Back in March I picked up two different hot dog shape makers. One turns a hotdog into a penguin, the other into a crab. Today I tried the penguin, can't you tell...

Organic chicken hotdog, bun, organic ketchup (joyful bear)
strawberry hearts
veggie booty
red pepper flowers
raspberries

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: In Awe of Murmuration

Murmuration from Sophie Windsor Clive on Vimeo.

Fruity French Toast Bento

It doesn't take much thought when you glance over and see an extra piece of French Toast just sitting there. My reaction is to cut it up and put it Sj's lunch for the day. Easy enough.


Vanilla yogurt with fresh raspberries in the thermal container
grapes, carrot flowers, heart strawberries
french toast (no syrup, I figured the yogurt was sweet enough)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Genetically Modified Foods, Americans Are In The Dark

Did you know that the United States of America is one of the only developed countries in the world to NOT label GMO's (genetically modified organisms) or GE (genetically engineered) foods? You can find  labels on foods in Europe to Japan, but Americans are still in the dark on this issue. ABC recently reported that 93% of Americans polled are in favor of labeling GMO's in our food, but the FDA continues to drag it's feet. Do you know how incredibly amazing it is to have the support of 93% of Americans surveyed, Wow! Could we actually call this a true bipartisan issue?!?

What is standing in our way? Corporations that buy elected officials which skirt the concerns of everyday Americans. I believe it's time for our voices to be heard.

Sign the Just Label It Petition now, let the FDA know we want action.

Do we really want to be the family represented in this video? I certainly DO NOT!



More GMO related posts I've written, can be found here NOgmo.

Monday, October 31, 2011

PROUD Like There's No Tomorrow

After climbing three flights of stairs, the last being much tighter and steeper than the previous, I arrived at the open balcony of the Wheeler Opera House. As you would imagine, the spring loaded seats are velvet covered, the balcony railing is serpentine shaped rich wood, most likely a mahogany. I couldn't help but reflect upon the history of the space I was occupying, as my eyes were drawn to the beautiful chandelier hanging overhead. The walls are intricately painted with stencil detailing, the mahogany runs in lovely organic curves through out the entire theater. There's no denying it's a very special place.

I wasn't in the Opera House for a live theatrical performance, I was there to catch the latest release of Warren Miller's annual feature length ski movie, this year aptly titled ... Like There's No Tomorrow. The ellipsis is a part of the title, allowing one to fill in the blank with how they would like to seize the moment. For some reason my first thoughts always rise to, LOVE Like There's No Tomorrow. As I settled into my seat, my girls next to me with J on the end, our friends sitting behind us, my heart started racing when the movie opened. The lights go down, but the glow of the movie illuminates the theater, the music is always the hook setting us up to get ready for the 90 minute adventure we are about to embark on.

While I could find a way to muster the appropriate lingo to describe the skiing action in ... Like There's No Tomorrow, I seem to always have a much different take away from the movie every year. Don't get me wrong, the skiers and snowboarders are amazing at what they do, but I'm moved in such a different way. I found myself fighting back tears in the Squaw Valley segment thinking, wow I'm actually crying at a ski movie. Holy sap. I can't quite place why it felt so emotional to me, the music always plays a roll, Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone to Fascination Street. Maybe it was the highlights of one of the Directors of Photography, Tom Day's intense passion for what he does and how much he loves where he lives. Or maybe it was how my oldest daughter was nestled into my husband's shoulder with the glow from all the beautiful pristine snow on the screen highlighting their matching blue eyes.

More than likely the tears welled in my eyes more than once during the movie because of the music, the setting, the stunning visuals, and the taking in of my husband's hard work. I've openly admitted many times, I've never quite felt what the passionate skiers in the movie feel with skies strapped to my feet. Although, this year I've come the closest to understanding, for some reason the slow motion shots to me were so deeply moving it transcended the experience into a feeling for me.

I tend to be a hard nose about J's job always highlighting how often it takes him away from us, there is no denying that what he does is incredible. Giddy school girl emotions run through my body when I know I'll be seeing a segment he was an integral part of creating. There's nothing quite like watching my two girls so intently focused on a film playing on the big screen, that their father produced. It's magic. While I am surrounded by people hooting and hollering at the incredible ski action they are watching, I join in for my husband, confirming to him I'll always be his biggest cheerleader.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

200 Hikes Day 199: Sparkle Snow

The title of this post is facetious. At some point the number of times I went hiking just got replaced with, I want to go out for a hike. My desire to take photos varies, sometimes my phone or camera is always in my hand and other days I like to hike with no stopping or distractions. Yesterday we received a nice snowstorm and today the sun was out in full force. I was drawn to the trails, to get out there and crunch around on the ice pack and get a little rush of blood to my cheeks.

It was delightful.

This is in my backyard. The view from the start of the trail.


As I was walking back down the trail, the sun was blazing in my face. I was looking down off the trail on the right and the magnificent beauty of the snow sparkling from the sunshine was breathtaking. I tried to capture a photo, but it's hard when the sun is so bright to see exactly what is being captured.

Here's my attempt at remembering the moment, sparkle snow in all it's glory.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chipotle, Food WITH OUT Integrity

Please see updated link from May 2013 at the bottom of this post! 

As I sit to write this post,  I am conflicted by what I need to say. While I could instantly take the straight forward fact stance and simply publish the response I received from Chipotle in regards to my inquiry, I feel like it's just not that easy.

In my family food matters. Nourishing my daughter's growing bodies in a way that is wholesome and void of additives, chemicals, preservatives, antibiotics, genetically modified organisms, and other laboratory created substances is a tough job. But a job I embrace. I'm the first line of defense and I wholeheartedly understand that every dollar I spend in the market or at a restaurant drives what items that market will in turn choose to sell me. Consumers drive supply, it's a simple proven fact. Convincing everyone of this fact is a different story, but again I often take on the conversation with friends and acquaintances convincing them their dollar has power. I recently heard 80% of all processed food in the grocery store contains genetically modified foods. Here's a breakdown of crops that are genetically modified, 94% soybeans, 73% cotton (Bt & HT), 73% corn (Bt & HT). Bt means every cell of the plant is spliced to produce insecticide and it is categorized as an insecticide by the USDA (not as a vegetable). 

Unfortunately in the United States our politicians have simply become Corporate Whores (back door deals help corporations buy the laws that put their business interests before citizens). The USDA and FDA are being run by men and women that have spent a majority of their careers working closely with or for companies such as Cargill, Monsanto, or DOW Chemical. Corporations that are in the business of engineering chemicals side by side with engineering the seeds that produce crops that become our food. NOT food that was grown on a family farm from seeds that were passed down for generations. While in most developed countries the government protects the citizens from genetically modified foods, here in the United States we've allowed our children to become the guinea pig generation. We don't know the deep ramifications that GMO's reek on our health, partially because when a seed is genetically modified it is patented and that makes it intellectual property of the company that created it; essentially making it illegal for independent tests to be done on the seeds. To top it off, we don't know what we are eating because the government has been dragging it's feet on labeling GMO's. Our only protection against GMO's is buying organic because it's illegal for organic foods to be genetically modified.

Which leads me to Chipotle. I'm not sure if you've ever been to their website, but they do one heck of a job wearing a gorgeous environmental loving costume. They throw around words like "food with integrity", family farms, naturally raised meats, and sustainable farming. They sponsored Food, Inc movie showings and even have the audacity to publicly boast about their relationship with Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms (a man who has TRULY changed the face of farming, not pretended to).



I went for a very long time without questioning Chipotle's use of genetically modified corn, but one day it hit me. If the corn was organic, I am sure they would find a place to boast about it, but I convinced myself that they must source conventionally grown non-GMO corn like other conscious businesses do. Take for example Whole Foods, they sell corn tortilla chips that are NON-GMO Project verified, which means the corn is conventionally grown from seed that has not been created in a laboratory. Surely if Whole Foods can sell a huge bag of tortilla chips for $2, Chipotle could seek out conventional corn farmers that grow real corn and make it work for their profit margin.

So I wrote to Chipotle, straight forward asking them their stance on GMO's. Finally, I heard back from them. Unfortunately they were BRUTALLY HONEST with me (full letter below). They use GM corn in their stores, the animals they purchase from ranchers were fed grain that was GM, essentially throwing out every single adjective they use to describe their food and business. Chipotle is one big greenwashing sham. They've got slick PR and Marketing departments, which they use to deceptively distract their customers from what they are really selling.

Chipotle, we deserve better. You can make the change, America will embrace it. Time to truly give us Food With Integrity, not Food With Illusion. In case you need to fully understand the definition of integrity:

integrity |inˈtegritē|nounthe quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness he is known to be a man of integrity.

--------------------------

Denise,

Thanks for writing to us. We appreciate your concern over GMOs and I hope I can help. I know you are not asking about the corn salsa, but to be clear, the sweet corn we use in our corn-poblano salsa is not GMO. Our supplier does not purchase GM seed, and maintains a more-than-safe buffer zone between their fields and neighboring fields to prevent any cross pollination. This corn is also grown in the Pacific Northwest, near the facility that processes this corn. The peppers in this salsa are also GMO free.

Unfortunately, while we are able to secure suppliers for the salsa, we cannot guarantee that the corn used in our corn tortillas is non--GMO at this time. The field corn used to feed our livestock is also not organic (we don't buy organic meat today) and so we cannot guarantee that it is non-GMO. This is certainly a direction we are looking to take, but suppliers are very difficult to find. Also, since GMO foods are not segregated or labeled in this country, and the only way you can tell generally if something is GMO free is if it’s labeled specifically as organic and the price point for organic foods are too high at this time. We were able to find non-GMO corn for our salsa, but that is more of the exception than the norm. 

We are working on increasing our use of organic produce when the benefit outweighs the costs. For example, if we can find organic foods, but we have to ship them across the country, it could negate the benefits because of the impact of transportation. That's why we are also focused on using locally sourced produce whenever we can.

Unfortunately, there is much to be done to improve our current food system. We are not perfect, but we are working to make a change and we’ll likely never stop trying to make things better. GMO concerns are certainly among the things we are trying to improve upon and it is one of the reasons why our corn salsa is coming from non-GMO sources as we do want to give our guests options. 

I know that wasnt't the answer you were hoping for ad I'm sorry we aren't there yet, but we do want to be honest as we understand these things impact our guests' dining decisions.


Sincerely,
SK | Customer Service Manager
Chipotle Mexican Grill


[UPDATE FROM MAY 2013, CHIPOTLE LABELS GMOS]

------------------------

Monday, October 24, 2011

Quick and (Almost) Easy Half Bathroom Re-Do, With Before and After Photos!

The neighborhood my husband and I purchased a home in was originally built in the early 60's. The footprint of our home when it was built was a 950 +/- square foot home, 3 bedrooms, one full and one half bathroom. The half bath is in our bedroom, making it an official "master suite". Since the 60's our home has been added onto and our square footage has doubled. But interestingly enough, the people we purchased the home from didn't do much updating in the two decades they lived here. Our half bath when we moved in contained all 1960's original components (sink, mirrored cabinet, light fixture, toilet, light switch, and towel bar).

As you can see from the photo below, our 16 square foot half bath (which I am truly grateful for) is basically a closet with a toilet and sink in it. It gets the job done, I was adamant about having a second toilet when looking at houses. The bathroom isn't just open to our bedroom, we installed French Doors, in the photo I have both doors fully open. The former owners of our house had very interesting taste in paint color, they loved bold bright colors. Before the house went on the market, they did a once over on the entire place with a pale grey color. Occasionally you can catch a glimpse of their interesting taste, like shown here in the bathroom, they left the ceiling bright mustard yellow. I think this color compliments the lovely neon green our bedroom once was.


Due to the size constraints of the space, it was very difficult to walk into a hardware store and purchase a new sink off the shelf. We did have the option to replace our original wall mounted sink with another wall mounted or pedestal style sink, but I really wanted a small cabinet for basic storage. After the IKEA store opened in Denver, I set my sights on a bathroom cabinet that would fit our tiny space perfectly. Thank goodness for European design that highlights the need of small spaces.

This weekend, we finally set out to install our new sink and cabinet, update the towel rack, and give the space a fresh coat of paint. We only ran into ONE minor problem, which is detailed below. Our wall mounted sink had no shut offs at the hot and cold water supply. The lines were original and no one over the course of the last five decades installed shut offs.


Looking at this photo, I realized I never had my head under the sink very often. Thank goodness I didn't.  To remedy our problem, we had to turn off the main water shut off to our entire house. The sink was removed and water shut offs were installed on the pipes with soldering. After that was completed we were ready to reconfigure the new pipes under the sink and get to the installation.

With the two main pieces of the bathroom being a white toilet and sink, I wanted to add some color to the room to give the space more interest. The color of paint I chose was called Summer Dragonfly from a no-VOC eco-line our big box hardware store phased out in the Spring. I picked up a few gallons of paint for $5 each. I had the paint, crossed my fingers the color would work, and just went for it.


Total cost of bathroom re-do was a little under $200.00 including the new shut off valves, paint, towel rack, sink and faucet with cabinet (IKEA provides all the new pipes with the cabinet). The toilet we had replaced when we first moved last year. The framed Van Gogh print was just repurposed from another room. At this time, we have also decided to keep the vintage mirrored cabinet and light fixture. I'm sure we'll update them eventually, but for right now, they seem to be working just perfectly in the space.

Before and After:

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Dearest Chipotle (Say it isn't so)...

Dearest Chipotle,
  I desperately need some clarification on your stance on serving particular ingredients to your consumers (including myself and my children). I am a mother of two young girls and quite frankly I've adored the Chipotle "front", sustainability, hug a farmer, know where your food comes from. The Willie Nelson video was at the crux of beauty! Right after that kumbaya moment, this awful feeling crept into my mind. Something I had never questioned before.

I was standing at the counter last week, this thought came over me. Intuitively I recognized that there are no claims as to what type of corn you use in your tortillas and chips. I am not referring to the whole sweet corn in your salsa.  I wondered if the corn was the exact opposite of natural, but rather LABRATORY CREATED GM corn?

I avoid Genetically Modified food products and crops at all costs. I can rattle the % of GM soy, corn, and cotton that has taken over the agriculture landscape in the USA. We all know corn is one of the biggest GM crops in the USA. To be more fair, we also know when a corn seed is genetically modified, it becomes labeled as an INSECTICIDE because every single gene in the plant produces insecticide. I couldn't imagine Chipotle using Bt Corn to make their corn chips, the place where pigs are groomed before they reach the slaughter house?

My two very important questions:

1. Is the corn used in your tortillas and chips made from Genetically Modified Bt Corn?

2. Are the animals that you purchase to sell for meat fed a grain based diet which includes GM grains?

I appreciate your time and response in this matter. I still am holding out that Chipotle is doing the right thing by not purchasing GM insecticide (aka corn) to sell in the form of tortillas and chips.

Denise

Want to submit your own questions, do so here.
More information as to what inspired this, other than my gut feeling? Read this article.

------------
This exact message was submitted at 10:30 pm, 10/20/11, via Talk To Us on Chipotle's Webpage, response will be posted as soon as I receive one, IF I receive one. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Homemade Egg Roll Bento

I'm huge on sandwich alternative bentos. Sandwiches day in and day out just get boring to pack, not to mention to eat! We made egg rolls last night for dinner, so I just heated it up a bit and added it to the bento. In the small container above it is some Organic Tamari (wheat free soy sauce).

To make the egg rolls, we buy the pre-made egg roll wrappers in the refrigerated section of the grocery store, typically near where you'll find tofu. We shred carrots, purple cabbage, saute some Shiitake mushrooms with tofu, fresh ginger, garlic, salt and pepper, add sesame oil and tamari, and then use the filling to stuff the egg rolls. The best part of home made egg rolls, you can bake them in the oven, they get nice and crisp and it's easier to do a big batch that way! Tip, brush the outside with a little sesame oil, then they bake up wonderfully.

This is what my workspace looks like, which I typically don't show!

Egg Rolls: vegetables and tofu. Tamari in small container.
Strawberries, celery, carrots.
Organic popcorn, medium cheddar cheese, homemade chocolate chip cookie!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Tuesday Tips: Seven Indoor Plants Which Eliminate Indoor Air Pollutants

Did you know the average American spends 90% of their time indoors and that indoor air quality is the 4th greatest contributor to a person's health? While I would love to have my windows open year round, I just don't live in a climate which makes that possible. There are many houseplants which have been proven to remove pollutants such as VOC's or Volatile Organic Compounds from the air.

I love house plants, I once went through a phase where I bought a plant every time I went to the hardware store. Once we moved into our house, I had the pictures hung on the walls, the curtains up, but something was missing. I had yet to buy houseplants. I only have plants from the list below because I love that they not only add softness to my house, but they work very hard to help keep our indoor air quality healthier! It truly motivates me to keep my plants healthy, knowing they are helping me keep the air in my home cleaner.

Here's a list of 7 plants with photos and which pollutants they remove:

Ferns 
Eliminate: VOC's such as Toluene (release in printing inks), Xylene.  

Golden Pothos 
Eliminates: Carbon Monoxide and Formaldehyde.  

 Peace Lily 
Eliminates: Acetone, Ammonia, Benzene, Ethyl Acetate, Formaldehyde, Methyl Alcohol, Tricholoroethylene, Xylene. 

Anthurium
 Eliminates: Ammonia, Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene. 

Dieffenbachia 
Eliminates formaldehyde, such as from new carpet.

 Dracaena 
Eliminates Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene. 

Song of India 
Eliminates Formaldehyde, Toluene, Xylene. 



When you are houseplant shopping, keep an eye out for this logo, which was created to help you identify plants that help clean the air.

For more information as well as other plants to bring into your home that improve the air quality, visit:

Costa Farms O2 For You, Clean Air Plant Guide





------
I'd like to thank Costa Farms for providing me with new houseplants for my home. This post was an idea I've had in my queue for months, not something Costa Farms requested.