Sunday, May 29, 2016

a vegan egg??

So, awhile ago I picked up a package of Follow Your Heart's Vegan Egg from my local co-op. I've been mostly sticking to minimally processed foods in an effort to avoid anything that results in trash and clean up my diet in the process. I've been doing pretty well, but I really wanted to try this out so I finally caved and bought one.


The outside of the package is easily recyclable, but inside, the powdered product is packaged in a plastic bag (of course). I have been making tofu scrambles for years and have been happy with the results, but I'd heard good things about this new(ish) product and my curiously got the better of me. I finally tried the Vegan Egg out this morning, making up a scrambled "egg" to go along with my hash browns and cantaloupe. Was it worth the plastic I'll now have to toss? Sadly, no. Let's be honest, it would have to be pretty darn amazing to be worth the plastic, but anyway...

First, this product is far from cheap. Beyond the high price however is the product itself. Sure, it's plant-based and cholesterol free, but how does it taste? The cooking time is much longer than my usual scramble (seriously, it seemed to take forever!) and the resulting "egg" was rather disappointing. The texture is a bit odd, the flavor is bland - I only added minimal seasoning as I didn't want to add much to cover up the taste of the actual product. Granted, it's been quite awhile since I've had chicken eggs, but I do know, I won't be buying this again. Curiosity satisfied, it's back to bulk bin shopping and no trash for me. :-)

As more and more of the population adopts a plant-based diet, food scientists have been working hard to develop vegan replacements for those animal-based favorites. One can purchase vegan burgers and hot dogs, ice cream, cheeses and just about anything else you might desire. Often though, the simple alternatives are the best in both flavor and nutrition. I make a yummy vegan mac and cheese from scratch and my black bean burgers rock! But I'm also more than happy making foods less familiar to me.

So, you may wonder... Is tofu scramble just like scrambled eggs? Nope, I'm not gonna lie, but it makes me happy in more ways than one. By shopping from the bulk section (my co-op carries bulk tofu!), I avoid the trash and it doesn't require any chicken servitude. Yes, there are less inhumane sources of eggs (stick with free-range, local eggs if you must!), but hens do age and stop laying. Then what? Not many people will keep old hens who are no longer "earning their keep" until they pass naturally. We all know where they eventually end up... the same place as non-productive milk cows. :-( And what becomes of the majority of the roosters hatched? It's not just the hens I'm concerned about. I decided to stop eating meat when I was around 11 or 12, but I still consumed plenty of dairy and eggs. Was my environmental impact lessened in comparison to my meat-eating days? Absolutely! Every positive change is worth making even if we aren't yet ready to go all the way! These days, I have a much better understanding of the egg and dairy industries, so it's all plant-based for me. :-)

There are tons of tofu scramble recipes out there - just do a quick Google search and you'll find more than you'd ever have time to try. Here's the one I found years ago and still enjoy using. Most of this guy's YouTube videos are mechanical or musical in nature, but this is a great, basic tofu scramble recipe (seasoned with a sprinkling of humor):

If you aren't already eating a plant-based diet, be adventurous and try some vegan alternatives to your old favorites. You just might be pleasantly surprised! :-)

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Great British Sewing Bee is back!

This is one of my favorite shows! Season 4 is showing now on BBC2, but if, like me, you're in the US and don't have access, head over to YouTube to catch up with this season. :-)

Here are links to the first episodes:

Episode 1 - Basic construction

Episode 2 - Children's week

Episode 3 - Lingerie week
"I'm built for comfort, not speed."

No backstabbing or snarkiness, just lots of good stitchy fun. :-)

Monday, May 16, 2016

homemade vegan mozzarella!

So what's a girl to do when she wants some cheesy goodness without dairy and also avoiding the plastic waste from packaged vegan cheese? Make her own, of course! Added bonus of course is there's no extra additives either. =)

I tried a vegan cream cheese once. It didn't go well. This time, I decided to try a mozzarella-like cheese and used the recipe here: vegan mozzarella!

It got even stretchier when it cooled a bit. I poured the leftovers into a glass dish and popped it into the fridge. While it did firm up more once cooled, it wasn't firm enough to slice or shred, but it did make a yummy grilled cheese!

Next time, I'll probably remelt the cheese before putting it on the bread to get more even coverage and be sure it is completely melted. Still, yummy. =) I'll have to try this recipe out on a pizza soon!

I can't vouch for how it would do in a microwave since I don't own one.

Friday, May 13, 2016

It is Only Money and It Grows on Trees!

It is Only Money and It Grows on Trees! is an interesting look at how money is viewed by different cultures/religions and how we might change the way we view money and develop a healthier relationship with money. The book follows a daily discussion had by a group of students and their instructor. Various students lead discussions in how their own culture (Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish, etc) views money.

"Money doesn't grow on trees. This comes from the attitude that money is scarce. Many people believe that money is difficult to make and difficult to keep. There is an insufficient amount or a shortness of supply. The thing is, it is an attitude, not a reality." (chapter 1)

I'm sure we've all met people who no matter how much money they have, they feel broke. Or those who spend every penny (and often then some) no matter what their income, putting themselves in a constant state of financial stress. But we all know people who have very little money yet feel very wealthy and always seem to have enough. Once basic needs are met, it isn't about our income. It really is all about attitude and the actions we take with our money.

"Your beliefs become your thoughts. 
Your thoughts become your words. 
Your words become your actions. 
Your actions become your habits. 
Your habits become your values. 
Your values become your destiny." 
-- Mahatma Ghandi

Do you handle your money according to your values? This year, I've sworn off buying new items aside from just a few areas. While this does saves me money, my main goal is to align my spending with my values. I love finding things secondhand because I know these items are getting a second lease on life instead of ending up in a landfill and I'm requiring fewer resources. I also keep to a budget, saving for retirement and for expected (and unexpected) expenses in order to stay out of debt and be able to care for myself in my golden years rather than being a burden to anyone.

"You don't need to be limited by your current financial situation. You have talents that you can use to become wealthy. You have character and work ethic. You need to believe in yourself and keep moving forward." (chapter 10)

We all make choices each day that can either increase our wealth or set us back. Advertisers may tell us what we "need", financial institutions may offer us credit allowing us to buy things we can't truly afford, our family or culture may have led us in a direction that doesn't reflect our own personal values, but in the end? We must take responsibility for our choices and take an active role in our futures. 

Probably the most useful part of this book is the workbook at the end. Questions and exercises relate to each chapter and really get you thinking about what you're doing now with your money and what you might change in the future. This was certainly a thought-provoking book!

I was sent a free digital copy of this book to read and review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced by this gift.

Friday, May 6, 2016

green your holidays with alternative gift wrap

So, I haven't had gift wrap in at least 4 years. I kind of hate it. I just can't bring myself to buy paper that gets used once, ever so briefly, and tossed. Depending on the paper you buy, it may be recyclable, but most comes wrapped in plastic so I skip it entirely and find other, usually more crafty, ways to wrap gifts.

Remember the handspun shawl I knit my mother for her birthday?

I used this great paper box I found at Goodwill awhile back. I think she loved the box almost as much as the shawl. lol She said she planned to use it in her sewing area. Of course, if she didn't plan to use it, it would be great for gifting something else to someone. I'm just happy to hear it's not headed to either recycling or the landfill. =)

Thrift stores are a great place to find inexpensive containers for gifts. I limit myself to $1 max to keep the cost down and have found some great boxes to reuse. Think outside the box though! I've found a few lidded baskets like these:

I spotted these little baskets a month or two ago and snapped them up, knowing I'd be in need of containers this Spring. I'm not entirely sure, but I think the round one started its life as a toilet paper roll holder. lol It's perfect for a caked up skein of handspun though! =)

A skein of handspun sent to my mother for Mother's Day this year. =)
I've sewn simple drawstring bags like this:

They work not only as a reusable gift bag, but if the recipient is a knitter or crocheter, they're great project bags too! These were made from purchased fabric, but these days I'd just find a clothing item at the thrift store to remake into a bag if I didn't have anything in my stash. =)

Don't care if the container completely hides the contents? Check out open baskets, pails or even vases or maybe a mug for something small? Is the recipient a cook? Use a baking dish as sort of a gift basket. There are so many items in the thrift stores that are in new condition that make great gifts or containers for gifts, don't cost a lot and help keep trash out of the landfill. =)

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

April craftiness

It's May already? This year is just flying by! Temps are warming up (I think we hit 85 the other day) and everything is greening up (before it turns brown again over the summer). I've been working on greening up my own space too. But that's for another post. On to the craftiness!

I've worked just a bit on my poncho, but not enough to show any real progress. I did have a couple knitting FOs though! First up, Brickless from the skein of handspun I finished in March.

Brickless, paid pattern by Martina Behm
It's already in it's new home. My mother loves lilacs so I sent this shawl to her for her birthday in April since the yarn is shades of lilac and green. =) I've had this pattern for ages, but hadn't gotten the urge to knit it until now. Not sure what took me so long. It was a lot of fun to knit and a super simple pattern to memorize. I just had to glance at the pattern to see how many to bind off for the different sections. I may make another of these some day for myself.

Next, I grabbed a skein of yarn I dyed myself back in the Fall of 2013. I kept holding onto the skein for the perfect project and thought I'd found the perfect match with the Shard shawl I snagged when the designed had a coupon code for a free pattern recently. Here's the skein:

It's color blocked with sections dyed in blue/green, blue/purple and grey. I've seen a few finished Shard shawls online and really wanted to make one. I'm not entirely happy with my result:

Shard shawl, paid pattern by Romi Hill
I in no way think this is the fault of the pattern, though I really think this needs to be a 2 skein shawl with more repeats than the pattern calls for. I only had the one skein and no way to recreate it so I took my chances. What I ended up with was an awesomely textured, tiny shawl. The depth is fine, but the length isn't something I'd ever use. I still need to block it and I'm guessing it'll grow some, but I don't think it'll grow enough. I'll decide after blocking what its fate will be. I may frog it or I may just move on and donate this one. Some people do like small shawlettes... Either way, I may very well knit this again with more yardage. The pattern is very easy to follow and memorize.

At the same time I started the Shard, I caked up another skein to try out a Pinch shawl. Two projects involving tons of short rows probably wasn't the best idea. lol

Pincha shawl, free pattern by Pinpilan Wangsai
What you see above? Yep, it still looks like that. I haven't frogged it yet, but I think I will. Nothing against the pattern. I've seen some awesome finished objects! But it's all short rows that you really have to pay attention to and I think I got my fill of short rows for awhile. ;-)

Not much sewing happened last month, but I did sew up a few very useful bags for my little backyard garden space!

I picked up a roll of landscape fabric and pulled out my serger that was already set up with some polyester thread and whipped out several planters in no time. I've been debating between doing containers or a raised bed or possibly just digging up a larger space in my yard than I used last summer to avoid the cost of materials and soil. I've been planting perennials (lots of berries!) around the edges though so space was dwindling if I didn't want to cut too far into doggie space. My yard is tiny and frankly, I wasn't excited about weeding and didn't really have the budget for a lot of materials so... containers won! ;-) And these were super easy! And cheap!! Win-win. I just cut off a section of fabric, folded in half and seamed up both sides. Then I boxed the bottom corners. I folded the tops down to give a smidge more stability. I played around with the sizing and finally settled on a good size then planted away until I ran out of dirt. Once I get more soil, I'll whip up a few more of these for the seeds I have started in little peat pots. The dirt in my yard is about half rocks (yep, lots of fun planting my trees) so containers mean mobility and good dirt. I'm sure the plants would thank me if they could. =)

So, not a ton of crafting last month, but it all made me happy. Okay, the one didn't so much but frogging it won't bum me out either. lol I'm hoping to actually finish the poncho in May and I already have a pair of socks on the needles... it's been ages since I knit socks! For me it's all about crafting what's making me happy though so it's all good.

Until next time, I hope you all craft what makes you happy! =)