Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, Act Four

It was February and by now I had made three other recipes that had all been successful. Acts One, Two, and Three had been winners and it was time for Act Four! We were invited to celebrate a birthday party of a friend and what could be better for a Birthday celebration than a cupcake? Nothing, of course.

In between acts three and four, I purchased unbleached, earth-friendly cupcake liners that I found at Earth Fare. The less bleach that we can consume, the better!

I thought about making a cupcake with mounds of frosting, but I decided against that approach. Beth likes fruity things, but one of the rules of the invite was no fruit, so had to think harder (Alfonso, her hubby and our friend, does not like fruit). It was Beth's special day and I would abide by her rules. I remembered that she liked my vegan peanut butter cups and it seemed clear to me that I had to make a peanut butter cupcake with something chocolaty on top.

I knew just where to look and found exactly what I wanted Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Quick Melty Ganache. As I made the batter, I wanted to dive in and eat it straight. I had to restrain myself though because these were for a friend and her party. Once the cupcakes were in the oven I scooped out every last bit of goodness in the bowl and gobbled it down. All I can say is MMMMMM!

The cupcake batter was filled with peanut butter (duh), molasses, flax seed, and several other ingredients. This combination produced heavenly, moist, and fluffy cupcakes. The ganache was very simple and produced a perfect topper for this cupcake. Frosting would have worked well, but I felt this cupcake needed a ganache on top. Besides, ganache is more fun and sounds fancier than frosting.

To top off these cakes, I chopped up unsalted and roasted peanuts and called it an afternoon. My next and only real challenge was to get them to the party. I wanted them to make it safe and make it without one of us breaking down and scarfing them up before the party.

Luckily, we had success and they made it safe. The cupcakes seemed to be a hit based on the compliments that I received. I think Beth liked them and that is what mattered because it w
as her celebration. I am pleased to say that John and I loved them! I expect that this treat will be made and enjoyed again!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

HELP! I Need a New Hairdo!

I have been growing my hair out to donate and I finally decided to donate to Children With Hairloss. A big THANK YOU to my friend Kelly for helping find this organization. Children With Hairloss provides wigs to children that have medically related hair loss for free! If I send in 8 inches of hair, they will use it for a hairpiece. I was originally going to go with Locks of Love, but they do not provide all wigs for free. They base the price on the financial situation of the family.

I donated my hair several years ago and felt it was time to do it again. I don't have the prettiest or the thickest or even the most manageable hair, but I can grow a full head of hair and I need to share it. I can't imagine what it feels like as a child to have hair loss. Looking like everyone else and feeling normal is such an important part of being a child. Having a medical problem is bad enough, but hair loss is probably devastating. The thought of children having to face difficult medical issues and hair loss breaks my heart. I can't provide a cure for their medical issues, but I can share my hair with them.

I am ready to cut my hair.
If I donated my hair today, my hair would still be between chin and shoulder length. Before I can get my haircut, I need to decide what to do with my hair. I really need your help!!

So, the point of this blog is to ask you to help me with hairstyle suggestions. I currently have bangs, so the only requirement that I have for a new hairstyle is that it have bangs. I tend to prefer a bob, but I am open to other suggestions. Something edgy would be fun.

You can comment on this post with links to hairstyles/pictures or email me with pictures you think would work for me.
Please get creative and give me your suggestions.

This is a recent picture of me to get an idea of my hair. I am on the right.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Less Impact Progress

Last week, I posted a blog about a book and documentary that I read by Colin Beavan. His blog, book, and documentary all titled "No Impact Man." I am truly inspired by this man. His promise to live one year with no impact made me think that I could do even more to reduce my impact. I sometimes feel overwhelmed because I see so many people living without any regard to for the earth. I try not to be judgemental, but it is hard not to care. We are mistreating this gift from God. How can we be ok with destroying a precious gift?

This just means that I have to do more, I have to make less of an impact. I don't see myself living no impact any time soon, but I can reduce my impact. I can move forward by making more permanent changes.

When I think about the decisions I make each day. Most of them seem completely harmless...until I think further.

In my last blog post, I promised to reduce the amount of time that the TV was on at our home. I identified several times throughout the day that we could turn off the TV. They were: while getting ready in the morning, while cooking, while cleaning, and while on the internet. The first day was rough. I forgot about my promise several times on day one, but by day two I was excited. I got ready without the use of TV, I came home and cooked without watching TV, and went on the internet with the TV off. This past weekend I cleaned a bit and the TV was off the whole time.

Week one has gone well. We still need some improvement, but John and I both feel that these are changes that we make permanent. Our TV was off for 5-8 hours where, in the past, it would have been on for no reason. Our power bills are already low ($30 or less and our home is over 2,000 square feet) but, I am excited to see if this has any impact on future bills. And of course, I am excited about the reduction in our impact on the earth!

I want to move onto some of the other ideas that I have, but I think we need to stay here for a while. I hope for this to be a lifelong change and there is no need to rush from this to something else. I would like to try one more week before I move on to more. Colin and his family dove in to each new change, but I think we need to take a more gradual approach. For us, I think it is more likely to stick.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A No Impact Man Inspiration

I was recently invited to be part of an invitation only book club that was going to read No Impact Man for their next meeting. I had never heard of the book, blog, or documentary, but agreed to take part. I checked the book out from the library and left it in my car for a couple of weeks. I had other projects and books to read at the time. Several weeks before the meeting, I decided to start reading.

In the book, Colin Beavan asks his wife, Michelle Conlin, to take part in a year long experiment to try and live without any impact to the environment for one year. Colin, Michelle, Isabella (their daughter), and Frankie (the dog) embark on this remarkable project. The book chronicles the steps and phases they take to be no impact while living in New York City. As you can imagine, this is no small feat.

The book was fascinating and thought provoking. The family gave up mass transportation and taxis. They rode their bikes or walked everywhere. They gave up all new products, shopped only at the NYC farmer's market, became vegetarian, got rid of their TV, made no trash, used only reusable containers for everything, gave up electricity, no elevators, washed all clothing by hand in their bathtub, composted, gave up family vacations, made their own food, no coffee (well, for the most part), and so on.

The experiment was to see if they could live no impact and then see what they could take away from the project as part of their normal life afterward.
I am summing this all up and not doing it the justice it deserves, but I am not trying to write a book review here. I just want to share the main idea. For more information, I recommend reading the book, watching the documentary, and checking out the blog written by Colin.

If an urban family can live no impact for one year, why I can't I? This question was pretty easy to answer without much thought. I can't ride my bike to work. I live 18 miles from my job and some of the roads would be too dangerous to ride on. While I can't live no impact right now, I can certainly do more for this precious earth.

As I first thought of this idea, I was not sure what else I could add because we already do so much. We have rain barrels, a compost bin, shop at the farmers market, gave up the use of plastic bags, bring our own take out containers to restaurants, have and use our programmable thermostat, are strict vegetarians, time our showers, use low flow shower heads, turn off lights when we leave a room, use CFLs, use a reel mower, use an electric weed whacker, have hybrid cars, etc.

As I thought more in depth, I realized we can do so much more! I have several changes in mind, but the first one is reduce the amount of TV that John and I watch each day. John and I own two TVs and John suggested that we get rid of one. Hmm? I am just not there yet. I, like so many other Americans, am addicted to TV. The book shed a bit of light on TV watching and I realized that I use TV as an escape from life or as a way to relax after work. While those are not bad reasons for TV watching, I could certainly spend time doing something else.

So this is my pledge. I am going to turn the TV off more when at home. I will:

  1. Turn the TV off while getting ready in the morning. Each morning, I watch the Today show while getting ready. I like to have to have the noise to wake me up and like to hear what is going on in the world. Instead of TV, we could listen to NPR. I can get news and weather just as easily from the radio. The radio still uses energy but, it is a lot less than a TV.
  2. Turn off the TV when I cook alone (John said he would do this when he cooks alone as well) and when we cook together. I can open the window and listen to the birds or turn on the stereo and listen to music. If we are cooking together we can talk.
  3. Turn off the TV when we clean. Both of us clean and we both like to have the TV on when cleaning. We can easily turn off the TV and focus on cleaning.
  4. Turn off the TV when I am on the internet. I have a very bad habit of having the TV on while on the net at night. There is NO need to have both on as my attention can only be given to one thing fully.
This is a slow start, but it is a start. This should reduce at least 5-8 hours a week that the TV is on at our home. This is my phase one to reduce my impact on this planet.

There will be more to come on my progress and what else I decide to do. Feel free to tell me what you have decided to do to reduce your impact. I enjoy learning from others.