Heroine Queen

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Last fall, my husband’s band, Hallows, released their first single, Tiny Heart. I am very excited to share with you all their second single, Heroine Queen, which was released earlier this week. Not only do I just enjoy seeing my husband behind a drum kit, it’s been really interesting learning the ins and outs of creating a song: the writing, recording, producing, and mastering. It is a lot of work and I have the upmost respect for people who make music their sole career!

As always, if you enjoy the song please share! We appreciate your support.

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/ / Band photo by Joseph Fryer and Cindy He.

Smoothie Time

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I’m not sure when green smoothies became popular. Growing up (and still today) my mother always made shakes for a quick meal on-the-go or as an afternoon snack. They would include plenty of fruit and protein, but never any vegetables. Getting enough servings of fruit in each day hasn’t been an issue for me, but vegetables are another story. Sometimes, I’ve been known to purchase supplies to make salads for the week and than something in our schedules shift and the lettuce goes uneaten.

We all know eating dark leafy greens are really good for our bodies, so when I started seeing spinach smoothies popping up a few years ago I was very excited. Smoothies really are the perfect way to pack in a lot of extra nutrients with minimal effort.

Remember the plethora of bananas I had lying around a few weeks ago? Besides baking my favorite banana bread, I also created a new favorite smoothie concoction. Jordan prefers several fruits to be blended together; he loves the flavor profile to be bursting. I prefer simplicity of taste, allowing the fruit to compliment, and not to overpower.

This is a great go-to smoothie base, but it also works well on its own. The banana creates a rich creamy consistency reminiscent of a (dairy-free) milkshake.

Spinach Banana Smoothie

Almond or Coconut milk
1 to 2 bananas depending on size
A huge handful or two of spinach
Ice (only if your bananas aren’t frozen)

There is no right or wrong way to make a smoothie. I just pour and adjust the increments as needed.

What are your favorite smoothie combinations?

A Battle Fought

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I worked on Mother’s Day and that was good for me. I wasn’t ready to spend the Sunday church service being reminded that another year had passed. I wish I could say it wouldn’t have bothered me, but I knew I needed to guard my emotions. Despite my own disappointment that day, I am really blessed and lucky that my mother and Jordan’s mother are both still here and influence our daily life. This isn’t everyone’s reality. Many face that day with unresolved sadness.

Last week, terrible news surfaced: a young co-worker and friend of Jordan’s died tragically. A family in an instant, torn apart by loss, was forever changed.

I was thinking how this happens everyday; gang violence, drunk drivers, or cancer. But we all too easily can become immune. 24hr news has dulled our senses.

I was thinking how we are all facing a battle. Some more life-altering than others, but they all feel monumental when we’re in the midst of it.

Working through this season of my life, everyday, sometimes every moment, becomes important. What am I supposed to be learning? How is this shaping my future? Am I loving my friends and family? Am I too caught up with myself? Am I compassionate to those around me?

The parents, mourning the loss of their daughter, are facing a harder battle than me. We can’t compare the two. But it is far too easy to isolate ourselves from others’ battles and lose perspective, magnifying our own struggles. Sometimes we need to be in the trenches with people, baring a little discomfort, and sharing a tiny sliver of the burden. In high school, in the span of maybe seven months, I went to five funerals. All of them were for young lives tragically cut short and to be honest, those feelings have never left me. Their lives haven’t left me.

Battles are being fought all around us.

I guess I am learning to savor each moment I have: this season of being a couple, being a daughter/sister, being an aunt to four healthy nieces and nephews, having food on the table and a roof over my head, going after our dreams, and even the growing pains.

We celebrated Mother’s Day quietly. I think that is the best way. My parents were away for my nephew’s baby dedication, so we spent the afternoon with Jordan’s family: playing games, eating yummy food, and at times I just sat back soaking in the day. Especially knowing so many families weren’t having a day like ours.

This life is fleeting. This life of mine is beautiful.

Doing it the French Way

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Over the last year or so, I’ve been on a mission, a mission to curate my wardrobe differently. After I transitioned out of college and started building a professional wardrobe, I fell into the trap of over-acquiring. While it was fun browsing stores like Forever 21 and H&M, cheap clothes simply don’t last. After I left that job, far too many pieces became obsolete because I wasn’t buying multipurpose clothes. I wasn’t making smart or wise purchases.

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Slow Days

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Jordan was away on business most of last week and while I missed him terribly, I enjoyed the slower pace. Our summer is looking to be a busy and exciting season, but all the planning, logistics, and impending change has started to feel really overwhelming. Instead of going crazy by trying to plan the unknown, I just chose to not think about it for a few days (some may call it avoidance, I call it sanity 😉 ). I spent time reading a new book, watching marathons of Sarah Plain and Tall on the Hallmark Channel, and baking. I acquired a rather large quantity of ripe bananas last week, which were just dying to become banana bread. And because I aim to please, I obliged 🙂

Before we get to the recipe, I must chime in with a rather exciting outcome of my dairy-free life. I have become a regular tea drinker! This is a big deal as I was missing the comfort of a warm cup of coffee (coffee without cream isn’t that appealing anymore). While I’ve always liked iced tea, I never could get into hot tea. That was until I discovered the problem wasn’t tea in general, but the kind I was generally offered. The typical you-are-sick-drink-this-herbal/green-tea simply doesn’t have enough flavor for me, but a traditional English breakfast tea with a hint of honey is my jam. The only problem is, I seem to want it at about 8 pm each night. I need to track down a decaf version.

This recipe was given to me in high school and may have been an entry at the 4-H fair (yup I was in 4-H!).

Vegan Banana Bread

3-4 ripe bananas (3 large or 4 small)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil (I used my dads canned applesauce, but coconut oil might be a good addition)
1 cup sugar (I reduced it to 3/4 cup)
2 cups flour (I used 1 cup whole wheat)

Optional inclusions (1/4 cup): chocolate chips, walnuts, raisins.

Mash the bananas and combine with oil/applesauce. Slowly incorporate dry ingredients with the wet. Add inclusions and mix until combined. Pour in lightly oiled pan. Bake at 350 for an hour.

My oven is old and doesn’t let me know when it’s preheated, so keep an eye on the loaf if you feel your oven is more reliable.

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Mango Guacamole

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There are people on the internet that would like to convince us that print is dead. Despite this talk from the media, only about four percent of readers read solely with an e-reader. Print still has hope! While I prefer reading my books in print, I’m not a huge book buyer (that would be Jordan) except for cookbooks. There is something about pulling out an old cookbook with stains scattered throughout. Those creased and dog eared pages tell a story, guiding us to the best recipes.

Though I don’t mind branching out and trying new dishes, I’m also not someone who feels restricted by a recipe. Recipes give inspiration and a starting point that then helps guide me to the end result. At this point in my kitchen journey, I feel pretty comfortable. I know what can be tweaked and omitted without completely creating a disaster.

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Following Advice

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Do you struggle with following your own advice? I know I do. It’s easy to say to someone, “Surrender to God”, and “Cast your worries on Him, cause He cares for you,” but actually living that out is a different story. Sometimes my prayers are pretty desperate, “How much longer?,” I ask. I suppose if I’m asking that, there is still more to learn.

People have told me that it’s brave to share our journey in this, very, public way, but I feel pretty far from brave most days. I feel like stress is showing up on my face (maybe it’s not the dairy?! 😉 ). And I would be embarrassed admitting how many times I’ll suddenly cry for no real reason other than I’m worn out from the emotional highs and lows.

The mind games are hard to fight. I continually catch myself, slipping into the rabbit trail I like to call, “Wallowing.” Which sadly, happens more than I’d like to admit. I suppose this is what life is about: the hard, gritty, raw parts; the parts that we’d like to bury, but really can’t face alone, so we reach out for support. Willingly, friends come alongside to support and occasionally give advice (and vice versa). As the words exit my mouth, sometimes I wonder if I believe what I’m saying.

Last week, Jordan suggested we play tennis (you know take advantage of the nice weather) and I resisted at first. After a few hours, I decided to take my own advice, enjoy the sunshine and release any frustration on the court. And you know what? It was really good advice.

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Truth Tuesday / / 002

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Thank you for all of your responses to my first Truth Tuesday! I had so much fun compiling my first list, I thought I’d do another.

Here are my truths for this Tuesday.

/ / In junior high, I had a geocities website devoted to 7th heaven. I was pretty active on message boards, making friends and enjoying the community activity. Geocities didn’t have buttons for italicizing or bolding fonts, so I even learned how to code a little.

/ / In college, a couple friends asked me to “model” for a school project. I really hope Ogden* (who also photographed our wedding) achieved a passing grade because Oy! some of my faces are priceless. This was clearly around the time I watched a lot of America’s Next Top Model 🙂

/ / I swam competitively for almost ten years. Even at the peak of my cardio ability, I barely managed running a mile without gasping for air and stretching out a side cramp. Swimming for two hours each night? No problem. Running and I simply don’t mix.

/ / Food has become super complicated lately: paleo, vegan, gluten-free, whole 30, no sugar, sugar (only if it’s unrefined!), organic, but better yet just grow your own food on your own farm. Food is taking up a lot of headspace and yet, it’s such a privilege to be able to choose to eat or not eat something. I miss the days where as long as I ate salad it was okay to eat cake.

/ / After the 1996 USA Olympic women’s gymnastic team won gold, I convinced my parents to let me take lessons. It only lasted three months before I determined I should stick with water; there’s less hand/eye coordination needed.

What are your Truths for this Tuesday?

*© o.m.f.c. photography

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The Art of Artisanal Bread

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Learning to maintain a pantry has been more challenging for me than learning to cook. What constitutes a well-stocked pantry is different for everyone, but once achieved, it certainly makes the question, “What’s for dinner?” easier to answer. I combed sites like thekitchn.com to get a general idea, but it’s mostly trial and error, “Why did I purchase those lasagna noodles if I’ll never make lasagna?”

It’s not difficult to swing by the grocery store or farmer’s market in the summer for a missing ingredient, but that’s not always possible during the winter months. It seemed to snow a few times each week this winter season, so keeping our staples on hand was important: beans, canned tomatoes, a few grains (pasta, quinoa, rice) milk, flour, eggs, butter and bread. This, of course, is pretty barebones but still allows for options. Specifically eggs, butter and bread. I can do a lot with eggs and bread.

Eggs and toast is a fallback meal either for breakfast or a light dinner, but looking at bread ingredient labels is a little disheartening. Why is there so much unnecessary crap in them? Especially since the essence of bread is flour, yeast, salt and water; all things I have at home. I’ve been making my own pizza dough for years, but for everyday bread? That seemed time consuming and impractical. I received Artisanal Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François as a Christmas gift a couple of years ago. Their tagline is “mix once, bake many…” Alright, I could handle that.

Their premise involves a slightly wetter dough that keeps in the refrigerator (up to two weeks) and doesn’t need much work, i.e. kneading. The basic recipe makes about 4 1 lb. loaves* that you pull apart and bake freeform on a pizza stone (or ceramic tiles). I’ve used other recipes but I like the fact that the dough rests in the refrigerator until I am ready to use it. Relying solely on their master recipe, I don’t feel the need to go back to store-bought bread again!

The book has so many different styles of bread. I look forward to branching into bagels and flatbread.

The Master Recipe

3 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons yeast (2 packets)
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 all-purpose flour (I have also used bread flour)

Warm the water (it can be cold, it’ll just take a little longer to rise) and add salt and yeast. Mix just slightly (it doesn’t really need to dissolve) before adding all of the flour. I use a wooden spoon to incorporate the water mixture and flour until it comes together. Sometimes I add a little more water if it feels dry. Cover and set aside for 2-5 hours (sometimes I forget and let it rise longer). After the first initial rise session, refrigerate with a lid until ready to use. You can bake immediately but Hertzberg and François recommend waiting and refrigerating overnight.

When it is time to bake, pre-heat oven to 450. Slice off the amount of dough needed and slowly stretch a little to reshape into a ball, which they call cloaking*. Due to the wet dough you’ll want some flour on your hands. Set the ball aside to rest for about 40 minutes. Using a cerated knife make a few slices to the top of the dough. They suggest using a pizza wheel to place dough onto pizza stone, but I just grab it with my hands and carefully toss it onto the stone. You can also place a baking pan with water in the oven to create a steam bath. It helps create a nice crust. I have forgotten on occasion though.

Bake for about 30 minutes. The outside will look golden when ready.

Slather on the butter and honey. Enjoy!

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*While researching videos on how to cloak, I discovered the authors have a youtube channel which has helpful tips for yeast breads.

*I usually only get 3 loaves out of each batch. I grabbed a smaller amount this time, but I think I made it too small 🙂

An Anniversary Weekend

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A few months ago we found out our friend, Tony Rabit, was going to have his art featured at Rotofugi Gallery. The opening turned out to be the night before our anniversary so we decided to stay downtown for the night and make a weekend out of it! Tony’s work is so whimsical and fun. We can’t wait to add the piece we bought to one of our wall galleries.

The weather was perfect on Saturday. I wore my Saltwater Sandals (being hopeful that it would stay warm) and by the afternoon we were stripping off our light jackets.

My only request to Jordan for our weekend was to eat brunch together. I love breakfast food but since I’m usually working early mornings, we don’t enjoy this meal together often. We chose The Gold Coast location of the Original Pancake House (we ate there on our one year anniversary 🙂 ) and landed a table outside on their patio! My 30 day dairy-free trial run ended on Friday, just in time to enjoy diner coffee with cream…but it’s looking like I’ll be eliminating it again. My acne flared up pretty bad almost immediately!

We wanted to enjoy being outside, so we kept on walking and found ourselves in Lincoln Park (plus the walk helped burn off those pancakes). I thought we had seen everything at the zoo from our visits last summer, but we somehow had never gone inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory, which sits on the same property. It is so beautiful and lush; just the foliage we needed to experience after this long winter.

Most of all I just appreciated this time together: talking about the past, present and our future without the usual distractions. Thanks for another great anniversary, babe!

p.s. We played tennis on Sunday for the first time this year and oh my abs! Swinging the racquet is quite the workout. While I love practicing yoga there is nothing quite like working up a sweat outside.

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^ The colors throughout the conservatory were amazing.

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^ They had these little, prehistoric plastic animals all over. what a fun idea!

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