Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Triangle Vegetarian Society Holiday Party

I look forward to the Triangle Vegetarian Society Holiday party every year. It is fun to catch up with friends, eat wonderful homemade food, and participate in a white elephant gift exchange. I was asked to lead the event this year by facilitating, making sure all of the food ingredients were labeled, and running the gift exchange.

A lovely family in Durham were gracious enough to open their home for the party. They are a warm and friendly family that make wonderful hosts! The family has three children and they were fun to have around. The youngest, Eric Jr., was so cute, cuddly, and fun to hold! I enjoyed leading the event this past December, but am happy to give the reigns back to the TVS president for December 2009.

This year, we made (actually John made) a quinoa and tomato dish that received many rave reviews. Every dish was absolutely delicious! Some of the dishes included (all ingredients are vegan): baked apples, fruit crisp, lasagna, spinach and black beans, hummus and chips, rice pudding with raspberry sauce, etc. I enjoyed everything I tried and had to hold back so that I did not stuff myself!After dinner, I facilitated a white elephant gift exchange. For the exchange, everyone brings one wrapped gift that they found around their house. Gifts can be stolen three times before the gift becomes dead. Stealing and opening presents is a lot of fun and generally produces much laughter. This past party was no different! Some of the gifts opened were quite interesting, such as the steel handcuffs (which were stolen three times). There were many lovely gifts, such as Tom's natural products, clocks, wreaths, wallets, books, etc. This was the first gift exchange that I actually came back with something I wanted! I ended up with a garment steamer and John ended up with several vegetarian cookbooks and unused dental floss.

The event was a success, as always, and I am already looking forward to next year!

Monday, December 8, 2008

My Best Buddy Friend

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
Roger Caras

I have created one other post about dog sitting and could not wait to post another! Recently my friend Kelly allowed us to watch her dog, Bailey, while she was out of town at a conference. We got Bailey on a Tuesday night and got to keep her until Sunday afternoon. John and I were delighted to have her for so long.

This might sound silly, but I would consider Bailey to be my best buddy friend. I have known her since she was a puppy and liked her since first pet. We have had the pleasure of watching Bailey many times and always feel joy from her visits. She is a happy and sweet dog that likes to cuddle and play. Each time she stays with us, she makes me feel special because she follows me around like she is a part of my shadow. Every time I would turn around, she was there to say hello. If I said something sweet or said her name, she would wag her tail with vigor to show me she was happy. I am not sure I could ask for anything else in a buddy friend.

In the evenings during her visit, we would play her version of fetch. This game consisted of me throwing a tennis ball, Bailey chasing the ball, retrieving the ball, and than running around me in circles teasing me with the ball. I would have to chase her to get the ball out of her mouth. We would sometimes play this game for a half hour. It would usually end with me running around our downstairs and her chasing me. Sometimes we would switch and I would chase her. Even though she is two, she still has puppy energy!

After our fun, John and I would begin cooking dinner. She would act as our vacuum cleaner as she searched our kitchen floor for any crumb or morsel of food that was dropped. She did not miss a thing! We tried to be careful, but she is fast! John and I eat dinner at our coffee table (this habit will be stopped once we have kids) and she would rest behind us on the couch looking over our shoulder staring at the food. For several dinners, she even laid her head on John's shoulder as he ate. It was really cute! I wish I had gotten a picture.

Later in the evening, we would usually retire to the couch as I used the computer, read, or watched TV. She would hop right up and cuddle next to me. Sometimes she even cuddled on me. I found it especially funny when she would lay on my wrists and lick my hands as I was trying to type on the computer. It made me giggle and she received the pets that she desired.

At night, we let her sleep on the bed with us on a big blue towel. Each night she would creep off of the towel and on to one of us to cuddle. We fought it for a while, but by the last couple of nights, we just allowed her under the covers with us. During our last night with Bailey, she slept cuddled with John with her nose in his armpit and her body under our covers. It was hard to say no to her when she acted SO cute!

It broke my heart when she had to go home. John and my Dad dropped her off to Kelly and I was glad to absent from the goodbye. It is always too difficult for me to say goodbye and leave her. Going back to our place is just not the same. Her wiggles, jumping, and noises of joy are absent from our entrance and her sweet little face is missing.

The memory of her visit stays me. I anticipate the next time that I will be blessed enough to be e graced with her sweet little licks, wagging tail, and soft cuddling.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Spiced Vegan Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies- Yummy!

Every year, my Mom and I get invited to a cookie party by a family friend around the holidays. I enjoy decorating cookies, sipping on holiday drinks, and chatting. This is the fourth year that I have attended the party and every year I have made vegan cookies.

All of the recipes are consolidated into one recipe book and are handed out to the guests. My recipe titles always state that the cookies I make are vegan (such as Spiced Vegan Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies). I want people to know that you do not have to use animal products to make a yummy cookie.

At the end of the party, each guest can take cookies home. One year I received an email from someone telling me that her husband thought my oatmeal raisin cookies were the best he ever had. My cookies always get positive comments from other guests. That just proves to me that a cookie does not need to contain eggs and butter to be yummy!

Spiced Vegan Oatmeal Cookies
Adapted from a recipe on
  • 3/4 cup margarine
  • 1/3 cup organic natural sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup soy milk
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp cloves
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 cups quick cooking oats or oatmeal
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
Cream together the margarine and sugars until smooth. Add vanilla and soy milk and mix well.

Add flour, baking soda and spices until well mixed, then stir in oats and cranberries.

Spoon 1 1/2 inch balls onto an ungreased cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until done.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Andrew's Christening

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world."

- Matthew 28:19-20
Early this November, we went to Charlotte for the Christening of our nephew, Andrew. It was a beautiful day with family and friends. The sacrament was celebrated by Deacon Jim, who is a friend of the family. His personal connection to our family and the emotion he showed was touching. He did a wonderful job dedicating Andrew to the Christian faith.

(Mary Catherine, Warren, Andrew, and Alex)
(Godmother- Aunt Julie)

The party afterwards was filled with food, fun, and laughter. We had a beautiful sunny day that allowed us to spend the time outside with family and friends. Mary Catherine, John's sister, and Warren, her husband, did a wonderful job organizing the baptism and party.

(The Family)

(John and his Dad)
Andrew is fortunate to have a family who loves him and loves Jesus. I am confident that Andrew will grow up with God's presence all around him. I am excited for him as he becomes a child and then an adult in the church making his first communion and then being confirmed. My prayer for Andrew is that his journey to Jesus will be as special as mine.

John and I are blessed to have wonderful parents and a wonderful extended family. We enjoy every family get together and look forward to the next. We are fortunate to have a happy family that gets along and cherishes spending time together.

(Brothers- Andrew and Alex)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Pumpkin Decorating Contest

The Fun Committee at work held the annual Pumpkin Decorating Contest (not sure how many years they have had the contest). I submitted an entry, as usual. I generally participate in any activity where I get a chance to create something art-like. I designed my pumpkin to look like Jack the Pumpkin King from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

This year, I won third place. In previous years I won first and second. Maybe next year I will win first!

(pictured here are the first and second place winners.)

All of the entries this year were done well. It was difficult competition! :) Congrats to all participants!

If I want to win first place next year, I guess I better begin thinking of ideas now!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Hiking At Eno State Park

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
~John Muir

John and I enjoy hiking and we do not get to go nearly as much as we would like. When I was in graduate school in the mountains of Virginia, John would visit me during the summer and we would spend entire days hiking. We spent time on the Appalachian Trail and other areas nearby. We had many interesting adventures that we talk and laugh about to this day. We learned a lot about hiking, direction, and compasses during those summers! We were exposed to many parts of nature that we had never experienced and are thankful for each and every things that crossed our path.

One of the many things John and I have in common is enjoying nature. Even before we dated, and were just friends, we spent much time outside in nature. We both have the need to explore and see the beauty that is God. I personally find that I am the most connected to God when in nature.

While in college, I would retreat to the hiking trails, campus ponds, and woods when I needed to solace. I would spend time in conversation and prayer with God. I cannot help but be touched by God's spirit through all of the abundant life in nature. This is my true reason for being an environmentalist. Destroying nature and the environment is a direct hurt to God.

I always feel like John and I grow as a couple and in our spirituality when we hike together. We are always amazed by the beauty and feel at peace while in nature. We are thankful to live near a beautiful state park that has many hiking trails. Many of our Saturday afternoons are spent hiking in Eno State Park, when the weather is not too hot or cold. We especially enjoy the spring when everything is blooming and autumn when everything is changing colors.

Our most recent hike was this October where we witnessed the beginning of the changing of the leaves. We walked on the trails and crunched in the fallen leaves. We were dazzled by the river and its ability to reflect the changing colors. The river mirrored the brilliant colors and carried the leaves away. I felt sheer peace our hike. It helped me clear my mind and prepare myself for the upcoming work week. It was stress release at its best for me.

During our hike, we stopped to take a picture of our vegan hiking boots. Several Christmases ago, my parents bought us vegan hiking boots so that we did not have to hike in our sneakers. Our boots are SO comfortable and we are proud to say that they are cruelty free.

I cannot wait for our next hike. I hope it is soon!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Company Outing

The company that I work for has a Fun Committee that plans employee events each quarter. The events helps foster community within the company. This year our company picnic was a little late -October 23.

The picnic was held at Lake Crabtree in Morrisville, NC. We were allowed to take the afternoon off and picnic while enjoying the company of co-workers. There was a lot of food! I brought veggie burgers and recycled/compostable lunch ware. I ate more food than I wished I would have eaten!

Next to the picnic shelter was a small playground that several of us decided to visit. The monkey bars and slide brought back many memories from my childhood. We enjoyed acting like kids as we attempted the monkey bars and the slide. The slide did not present any challenges (although you would not know that by the look on Diana's face). The monkey bars, on the other hand, presented serious challenges for me. I was only able to hang and was not able to maneuver myself to the other side. I was not good at this activity as a child and I can see that age has not helped one bit. The only thing that was easier is the drop to the ground because my feet were not that far from the stones!

I really enjoy the fun committee activities and always make a point to attend an activity, if I am not traveling for work. I think that community with my co-workers is important for my well work happiness. It helps me to get to know my co-workers on a personal basis and makes it easier for me to approach them at work when tough situations arise in the office. Most of the people that I work with are nice to be around.

I cannot wait for the Holiday party!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Blueberry Delight

"Blueberries as big as the end of your thumb,
Real sky-blue, and heavy, and ready to drum
n the cavernous pail of the first one to come!"

~Robert Frost

In early September, I went blueberry picking with my parents, John, and Diana. We went to Philoxenia Farm, an organic blueberry farm, outside Hillsbourough, NC. The weather was warm and the blueberries were ripe! It was towards the end of the season and we got to the farm just in time. There was a good amount of blueberries left on the trees and there were plenty available to be picked. We were informed that there was only about a week or two left of good blueberry picking. I was ecstatic that we made it in time! I never get sick of blueberries! I could eat berries every day and still want them the next day. Their sweet tartness never gets old to my taste buds.

We had fun giggling and chatting as we picked and ate blu
eberries throughout the day. My Dad got tired and the sun, so he sat most of the day out. The rest of us kept on picking. It was a fun challenge to be able to fill up a bucket of blueberries. The four of us stuck together as we picked the heavenly little berries. It worked well because my Mom and Diana are both 5'2" and John and I are taller. We hit the top of the trees and they hit the bottom. We worked well as a team!

By the end of the day, we had a ridiculous amount of berries to take back with us! I cannot remember exactly, but I think we had close to 12 lbs of berries. John and I picked the most berries and were delighted with our picks. We saved some of the berries to eat fresh and the rest we froze to enjoy later.

The first treat that I made with berries was a blueber ry cake. The cake is very simple and only has several ingredients, but has a mountain of flavor! I brought the cake to a potluck and it was a hit! I received many complements on the recipe. (I should have taken a picture of the cake on a plate, instead of the bright blue pan. )

I am so happy to have blueberries in our freezer. We enjoy blueberry pancakes, muffins, and other sweet delights. I had hoped that having the blueberries in our freezer would motivate us to use them more often, but so far it has not. As it gets closer to the holidays, I plan to use them more. Maybe I can even convince John to get up one weekend morning and make me pancakes! Yummy!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chocolate Equals Happiness

Chocolate is ground from the beans of happiness. ~Alexis F. Hope

If I had to choose a favorite food, chocolate would be among my top picks. Dark chocolate is my absolute favorite. When I do partake in chocolate consumption, I prefer it to be high quality. I prefer organic chocolate from Whole Foods (or the natural section of any grocery store) and have several favorite brands.

My Mother's birthday was in September and I offered to make her a cake to celebrate. She said that she wanted chocolate. I was ecstatic to get to make a chocolate cake! I made a mountain high chocolate cake, from scratch, and a rich chocolate icing. The icing recipe has been in our family for many years and it is so good that I never look elsewhere and always want this recipe. The icing contains coffee, but it does not add a coffee flavor. The icing is just rich and dark chocolaty tasting. Mmmmmm.....

This year, I decided to add a little pizazz to my Mom's cake. I bought organic raspberry jam and a tub of raspberries and got to work. After making cake one, I gave it a thin layer of icing and then a thick layer of raspberry jam. Cake two also got a preliminary coat of icing. Then, the whole cake was then iced and topped with raspberries.

I am my biggest critic and usually am very picky about what I make, but I must say that this cake was scrumptious! My Mom loved it, I loved it, and John loved it. My Dad would not try it because he does not like raspberries. He also refuses to eat vegan food. He surely missed out though! My Mom is not a vegan, or vegetarian for that matter, and loved the cake. She said she would never be able to tell that milk and eggs were not in the cake. I have made the cake and icing for others any they could not tell either. I will admit that I have made several vegan desserts that did not turn out, but you never know until you try. Right?!?!

I am not the best photographer in the world, but still think the cake looks yummy. In the end I do not really mind that my Dad did not have any because we got to indulge in more slices! Mm...mmm....mmm GOOD!