So Many Projects…

I did it.  I started a blog, gave myself a schedule, and started writing.  People that I didn’t even know before started following me (Hi guys!).  I was figuring out affiliate links.  Apparently Hillary Clinton was advertising on my pages (not something I have control over; it’s the price I pay for free blogging space).  I was on my way to being a professional writer.

Then I ghosted.  Right at the beginning of a week-long project, I gave some cryptic explanation of how there were a lot of changes in my life and I’ll be back soon and please don’t forget I exist in the meantime.

scared kitten tangled in pink yarn

Much like this kitten, I felt overwhelmed and surrounded by so many things to do.

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It’s Kitchen Week!

Hey guys,

Exciting things have been happening around here.  As much as I was looking forward to sharing all of my friends’ creative kitchen ideas with you, I need to take a quick break.  Looking forward to writing for you again next week.

Pax,

Elizabeth

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Hello lovely readers,

This week, I will be focusing on the kitchens of a couple of my friends, and a more thorough tour of my own kitchen.  Why?  It seemed like the thing to do in a lifestyle blog.

But really, like me, my friends have a very small space to work with and they have been very clever in working with it.  Most of the blogs I follow are mommy blogs.  I love reading about how those bloggers organize their lives, but really, those women are at a different point in their lives than me and my friends.  They often have multiple children (hence the “mommy”) and a house.  It’s not picture perfect all of the time, and they’re usually honest about that.  However, they do have different material to work with.

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Selective Minimalism

I maintain a fairly small wardrobe.  This is mostly out of necessity since I share one small walk-in closet with my husband and he takes up half.  In true minimalist style, I turn all of my hangers around some time during winter and around Christmas, donate everything I haven’t worn for the past year.  Recently, that hasn’t been much.

I strive to have fewer clothes but I also try to make sure the ones I have are high quality.  I’m considering writing a post on how to spot high quality clothing at thrift stores.  If you’re interested, please let me know in the comments.

So here’s my secret: I try to only buy a piece of clothing if I need it for a specific purpose or if it’s going to become my new favorite thing.  You know; it’s the [insert article of clothing here] you want to wear multiple days in a row because it makes you look so darn good and, on top of that, it’s super comfortable.

I told my rule to a friend once and she said, “If I did that, I’d buy the whole store!”  I can respect that, because that’s exactly how I feel about yarn.  I have yarn stuffed in the weirdest places.  Where most women would have shoes or sweaters in bins under their beds, I have yarn.  There is a bookshelf in my living room that is a yarn shelf.  Don’t worry, we have plenty of books too.  Most of it comes from other people clearing out their stashes or crazy sales, but the fact that I’m gearing up for a handcraft business doesn’t account for the amount of raw material I have.

And I love it.  As a child, I used to fantasize about winning the entire stock of a craft store.  It is one of my dreams to own a yarn store where fellow crocheters and knitters can gather and make beautiful things over the coffee I will provide.  I recognize this is weird (even if it’s not nearly the weirdest thing about me).

For some women,  the minimalism trend is a revelation.  I would not have been able to pare down my wardrobe to it’s current size without the encouragement of other lifestyle bloggers, but I’m keeping the yarn.  To borrow words from the Konmari method, it gives me so much joy, even if it does clutter up my living space.

I call my style selective minimalism.  When it comes to organizing your space, you do you.

Pax,

Elizabeth

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Pizza Night (or use up leftovers on a crust of bread)

 

Frozen pizzas are a great way to feed people relatively quickly, especially when I don’t feel creative.  I’m also lucky to live in a beautiful city with many great mom and pop pizza restaurants and food trucks.  I even have a friend who organizes a Pizza Club, where they go out to a different pizza place every week.  The availability of pizza in this town is approaching endless.

That being said, making pizza from scratch is super easy, takes less time than going to a pizza parlor, and is considerably cheaper.

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Tomato Basil Soup

Tomato Basil Soup

I’ve been making a lot of meals on the stove top lately.  It’s great for summer because I don’t have to heat up the entire kitchen via the oven just to have a hot meal.  I also like to experiment and cooking on the stove top lends itself well to that.  It’s much easier to add a pinch of this or a touch of that when the food is sizzling on the stove as opposed to hiding away in the oven.

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21 Abbeys and Monasteries Where You Can Buy Awesome Gifts

21 Monasteries and Abbeys Where You Can Buy Awesome Gifts

When my husband and I were in San Antonio recently, we visited a local handmade beauty products shop.  I love visiting handmade shops like this and seeing what other artisans have come up with.  My people…

While we were there, I noticed a display of soap made by the local Poor Claires of St. Michael the Archangel Monastery.  The shopkeeper told me the nuns were raising money to build a new monastery, one bar of soap at a time.  Of course I wanted to help and I got a high quality bar of soap in the process.

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Sunny San Antonio

Hello lovely readers!  While you were all reading about Vegan Oatmeal Craisin Cookies (which has been my most popular post so far, thank you!), my husband and I were celebrating our first anniversary in the lovely city of San Antonio.  I brought back a few pictures to share:

The courtyard at the historic Fairmount Hotel where we stayed. The Fairmount is famous because it is the largest building ever to be moved.

The courtyard at the historic Fairmount Hotel where we stayed. The Fairmount is famous because it is the largest building ever to be moved. Workers put the whole building up on hydraulics and scooted it to its current location a few blocks away when they needed to widen a street.

View from the River Walk.

View from the River Walk. I timed it just right so there were only a couple of people in the shot. The River Walk was actually a lot busier than this picture makes it look.

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DIY Kitchen Spray

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Recently, I obtained a food handler’s license for my job at the church by taking an online course.  One of the things the course covered was how to properly disinfect surfaces using a bleach solution.  Sure enough, when I got home and looked at my bottle of bleach, it had instructions for how to mix a bleach solution for disinfecting kitchen surfaces.

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Vegan Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

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I’ve been on a quest to find a good vegan cookie recipe.  I’m not vegan myself, but my friend from my small group is.  I like to bake for my small group and I love my friend, therefore the quest for vegan cookies.  Besides that, it’s a challenge, and I like challenges that involve food.

Oatmeal craisin cookies are one of my favorites.  Craisins (dried cranberries) seem so much more fancy than raisins, even though they’re really not.  The rich red color of the berries makes the cookies themselves more visually appealing, and we eat with our eyes first.

This particular recipe was the result of an experiment.  I started out by making the cookies according to the recipe in The Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook.  Just as I was adding the eggs, I realized that I had wanted to make vegan cookies instead.  Since I was about to have access to a great focus group (a.k.a. the lovely ladies in my small group) I decided to do an experiment, for science.

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I finished the conventional cookies, then got to work on my vegan version.  The two problematic ingredients were butter and eggs.  Butter can be a problem if it’s needed for structure or flavor.  Otherwise, substituting vegetable oil tends to work better in most recipes.

The second problem was the eggs.  There are several ways to substitute eggs in vegan baking depending on the purpose of the egg.  In this recipe, the eggs were acting as binding so I used a flax egg.  A flax egg is ground flax seed mixed with water (eggs are wet and add liquid in a recipe).  The problem with flax eggs is that they can add a nutty flavor, but since these are oatmeal-based, the nutty flavor was desirable.

A flax egg

As the conventional cookies cooled, I set to work mixing the vegan cookie dough.  One of the nice things about vegan cookie dough is that you can eat the dough without worrying about salmonella from raw eggs (we may need to be concerned about E. coli in the flour though, alas).

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With my two batches of cookies completed, I placed them out for my unsuspecting guests with no labels.  The blind taste test was on.  Can you guess which cookie is vegan?

Table with vegan and non-vegan versions of the cookies

If you guessed the cookies on the right, you are correct!

Ladies and gentlemen, all taste testers agreed that the vegan cookies were better!  All parties concurred that the vegan cookies were more visually appealing, were sweeter, and had better texture than the conventional cookies.  The conventional cookies won on buttery-ness, but that’s to be expected.  So, whether you are vegan or not, this recipe is worth a try.

Vegan Oatmeal Craisin Cookies

Makes about 48 cookies
For Flax Eggs
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax seed
  • 5 tablespoons water
For Cookies
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 cup craisins
  1. In a small bowl, mix flax seed and water to make flax egg.  Set aside.
  2. Mix together (by hand or with an electric mixer) vegetable oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and vanilla.  Add flax egg and beat until combined.  Add flour a little bit at a time and beat until combined.  Stir in rolled oats and craisins.
  3. Drop dough by rounded teaspoons onto parchment paper-lined cookie sheets 2 inches apart.  Bake each batch for 8-10 minutes at 375°F.

Have you tried making these cookies?  What was your experience?  Did you serve these to someone and later reveal that they were vegan, because I definitely want to hear that story.

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St. Martha and the Paradox of Hospitality

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Traditional image of St. Martha, casually slaying the devil.

Gospel Reading for July 17th, 2016

Jesus entered a village where a woman whose name was Martha welcomed him.  She had a sister named Mary who sat beside the Lord at his feet listening to him speak. Martha, burdened with much serving, came to him and said,“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The Lord said to her in reply, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken from her.”

Luke 10:38-42

I’ve always felt a kind of kinship with Martha because I think I would have reacted exactly the same way.  Martha often gets criticized for her part in this story.  She complains to Jesus, her honored guest, and receives a correction.

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