Sunday, June 1, 2014

Kitty Miracle

So maybe this isn't your typical miracle, but to me this story is as close as it gets.

The story begins one morning last July, when I was headed out my back door for a shopping errand. I was delayed by some adorable kittens in my backyard. I counted at least 5, including the mama. They were probably only 3 months old. I hung out for a while to see if I could get close to any. Not this time, but they'd be back.

Bran, Brave, and Mama one of the first times I saw them.

Throughout the summer I got to know all the cats - turns out there was a mama and 5 kittens. I started feeding them and they would often sleep on our covered porch, all 5 kittens snuggled up on one lawn chair. At first only mama would let us pet her, but by the end of our time together I could even pet the pipsqueak a little. We have an organization in Grand Rapids called Carol's Ferals, who supports the TNR effort (trap, neuter, return). I was able to have all 6 of my friends fixed before going on a 2 week vacation abroad. When we returned I was worried they wouldn't show up again, but after a few days there they were. This was around the time when they were letting me pet them and I was hoping I could find homes for my friends.

From left to right: Brave, Bran, Princess Pipsqueakers, Mu-Mu, and Grey.

September 17th, 2013 was the last time I saw 5 of the 6 cats. They straight up disappeared, and I was upset to say the least. I was so worried about what could have happened to them because they knew they had a steady meal at my house and had consistently been there each day. Brave came back a day later, alone and looking slightly bewildered. We brought him inside the house for a night to protect him and our friends adopted him the next day. I was happy that I had at least saved one.

Brave - my friends Brad and Kate adopted him (taken before his family disappeared).

Flash forward to this morning. I was scrolling through my facebook newsfeed and saw a story from Carol's Ferals about a new cat they have in the shelter named Decklan. I thought, "wow he looks so much like Bran," one of the kittens from last summer. So much so that I had to compare a photo I had taken to the ones posted on Carol's facebook. Turns out, if this isn't Bran then he has an identical twin - check out these photos!

This photo is one I took of Bran last summer after I got him neutered. Btw, I named him Bran as a Game of Thrones reference - I once startled him so much that he fell off of the porch (he was fine).

These photos are of Bran now, AKA Decklan. If you look at all his features, they are the same cat! Wow!


Isn't that a modern day miracle? I was so happy I almost teared up. What are the odds not only that he is alive, but that he ended up at the same shelter that I got him neutered through and I happened to see the post on facebook? Thinking for almost a year that this little guy probably didn't make it and now here he is. I still wonder where the other four are, but if Bran made it then maybe they are out there somewhere, too.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Rent the Runway Review

I've known about Rent the Runway for a while - I can't actually remember how I first learned of it. As Andrew and I prepared for his sister's destination wedding in Florida, I thought it'd be the perfect opportunity to rent a dress or two. After all, they weren't selling much in the way of wedding worthy dresses for warmer climates here in Michigan. So I scoured the site over and over looking for the perfect dress. There were many I liked, but some were too expensive, not available in my size, or not quite right for the occasion. I finally settled on two, and this is how it went!

I placed my order for two Shoshanna dresses about three weeks before the wedding weekend (you can order up to four months in advance). I decided to get them shipped right to Florida so I didn't have to worry about transporting them. When you decide on a dress from RTR, you can choose a back up size for free, and also a second dress of equal or lesser value for $32.50. Also, if you purchase the year-long membership for $30, your shipping and insurance charges are waived, and you get a free rental on your birthday, so I signed up for that as well. I had favorited many dresses, but went with the Shoshanna ones after looking through the photos and reviews from other renters, which were super helpful. You can narrow the reviews by similar body type to yours, and it gives you a much more accurate sense of how the dress will fit since most of us don't have the genes of a model. My rental period was for four days, and I actually received my dresses a day early, so they were there when I arrived in Florida.

The first dress I wore for the bridal shower. I had ordered a back up size in this one and ended up going with the larger size. Luckily that worked out because the smaller size was very faded. Hmm. Anyway, I don't normally like pastels, but this looked great with the darker blues. One of the necklaces I brought matched just fine, and I received many compliments!

The dress I wore for the wedding was perfect! I loved it and it was so me. It was actually slightly cooler than normal in Florida in March, so I was a little chilly, but once we danced intensely to "Timber" I was fine; )
I also wore the larger size in this dress. RTR only sends you one backup, but I found the size chart on Shoshanna's site and was freaking out that the one I ordered wasn't going to fit. No one answered the emails I sent, so I got ahold of them on Twitter and they kindly sent me an additional size. Really I could have worn either size in this dress, but the smaller one had some very tiny stains that no one would have noticed but me.
I also think the dress brought me good luck, being so floral and bright, because I caught the bouquet. NBD!


A few other notes about RTR:

  • They send your dresses via UPS on hangers and in a RTR garment bag, which you get to keep. Fun!
  • You can also rent accessories on the site, some as cheaply as $5. You can also buy things that can't be returned like spanx, tights, and insoles.
  • RTR has dresses and accessories from something like 200 different designers
  • At the end of your rental period, you simply pack the dresses in the provided UPS envelope and drop it in a UPS box or schedule a pickup. Easy.
  • If you want to try out RTR and let me refer you, we both get a $20 credit once you rent.
Have you ever tried Rent the Runway? How was your experience?
If you do decide to try it out, I'd love to hear how it goes!

*This review is not affiliated with Rent the Runway. I just wanted to try it and opted to share my experience!


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

PhillyFest!

Geez, I kinda fell off the wagon with blogging there for a minute! I made it to and from Philadelphia successfully and even though it was still cold, it felt so nice to be in 40 degree weather with no snow in sight. (Plus we're going to Florida in two weeks, yesss!)

I'm watching United States of Tara and don't feel like trying to be witty, so here's the trip in pictures. Good night!

We went to a great coffee shop called Menagerie.

Gaby and I in the 1700s.

I thought this was like some psychedelic bell, but I guess it's just foreign.

The Liberty Bell!



Nicole, Doug, Gaby, me, and Andrew!

We ran up 66 steps like Rocky!

Waterworks (like Monopoly!)

Any trips planned for you?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Heading to Philadelphia

Hey friends! Happy Friday. I'm taking a weekend trip to Philadelphia and am looking for recommendations! I've been once before - 10 years ago (I'm feeling super old right now). Anyway - suggestions for a vegetarian/vegan cheese steak? This is my main goal. Also, I'm sooooo looking forward to a high temperature of 49 degrees on Sunday. Do I sound crazy yet? I'm even feeling like 20 degrees is 'warm' these days. Oh, cruel winter, how I hate you.

Throwback from my Philadelphia trip - 10 years ago!! Whoa.

What are your weekend plans? Going anywhere fun or still snowed in?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vegan a Week #5

I'm not going to share my meals with you because they were repeats and I'm sure I'm already boring you enough with endless salads! But I did indeed have a vegan day this week on Monday, and to prepare, I made vegan cookies on Sunday! I thought I'd share my recipe because these are sooo good (and summery, if you're missing it as much as I am!)

Lemon Poppyseed Vegan Cookies
makes approximately 36 cookies
prep time - 15 minutes
baking time - 10 minutes per batch
Ingredients
Cookies:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegan margarine
  • 1/2 cup vegan sour cream
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy/almond yogurt
  • zest of one lemon
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons poppyseeds (optional)

Glaze:

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Directions
1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a cookie sheet. Beat margarine and sugar until creamy. Beat in sour cream, yogurt, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Mix well.
2. Mix in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Fold in poppyseeds. With floured hands, roll into rounded teaspoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets. Bake 10-12 minutes, until the edges are lightly browned. Cool completely before glazing.

I'm not kidding about the floured hands - this dough is sticky!

3. For glaze, mix the powdered sugar and enough lemon juice to reach your desired consistency. Place cooled cookies on wax paper to glaze.
4. Enjoy!


Share with your friends, family, and coworkers. They will have no idea they are vegan! So delicious!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Graze Box Review

I was intrigued by the idea of getting some tasty new snacks to try in the mail each month, with the first box being free, so a while back I joined the waiting list for graze. Graze is only $6 a box shipped (with the option of 1 or 2 boxes per month) for a "nibble box," which contains four snacks. I definitely think the price is right! I've never tried NatureBox, but I know those are more expensive (I'd love to hear about your experience if you get NatureBox though!)

My graze box arrives each month in a cute little cardboard box that is designed to fit in a standard size mailbox, which I don't have, not that it matters! Inside, I find my new snacks to try, some nutrition information about each, and the web address for the ingredients.

This month, my fourth so far, my favorite treat was the summer berry flapjack. I went on a trip to England a few years ago and discovered flapjacks - the best use of oats ever. Mmm, so good! It's worth it to me to keep my Graze box just to get the flapjacks!

I also enjoyed the salsa fresca and jalapeno fiesta. The coco paradise was pretty good, but I have a hard time enjoying dried fruit, which is mostly was that snack contained. To adjust what you receive in your boxes, you simply go to the website and review the available snacks. You can click one of four options - trash, try, like, or love - to help determine future boxes. 

So, my favorite things about graze in a nutshell:
  • Only $6, which equates to $1.50 per snack
  • Healthy snacks in a filling portion
  • Easy for grab and go
And a couple things I don't like so much
  • Rarely are the snacks vegan - with my resolution it'd be really helpful if more of them were!
  • Many of the snacks contain dried fruit, which I'm not a fan of (personal preference, of course!)
If you do want to try graze, please let me refer you so that your 1st and 5th box are free! That's a great deal that I didn't even get! And then let me know what you think! Are there other boxes besides graze and NatureBox? I'd love to hear from you!




Thursday, January 23, 2014

Farm to Table Roasted Vegetables

When winter is dragging me down I have to remember that even though I can't have a juicy, sweet, bright red tomato, winter has its own gifts from the ground and I need to work with that. I'm going to share a really easy recipe with you that you likely already make, but the story behind it is really the best part.

The company I work for (Steelcase) brings in different internal and external speakers for an ongoing series we have called Curious Minds. Last summer, they held a Curious Minds event to launch a new mobile farmer's market that would be visiting us each week, called the Veggie Van. The Veggie Van is part of our Grand Rapids YMCA community outreach efforts, and the purpose is that they bring fresh fruits and vegetables to urban areas where they might otherwise not have access while supporting local farmers by selling their produce. To help keep this program sustainable from a cost standpoint, they visit locations like my workplace, hoping we will spend more than the people in the urban areas. Not only does the Veggie Van have local produce, but they come up with their own fancy recipes (in the fall my favorite was butternut squash risotto) and they also sell things like local raw honey, maple syrup, and cheddar cheese.

I look forward to shopping there each Thursday afternoon! Lately I've been buying root vegetables to roast. It's really easy and delicious! I use beets, carrots, potatoes, and onion that I buy fresh from the Veggie Van.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash, peel, and/or cut everything into bite size-ish chunks and place in a large bowl. Cover your veggies with olive oil (a tablespoon or two) and some spices - I use lemon pepper, garlic, and sea salt and stir to coat evenly. Spread your veggies onto the parchment paper like so...

And bake for about 25 minutes - take it out to turn over/spread around and bake about 20 more minutes. My oven is a little iffy, so keep an eye on it! When they look good and roasted, remove and enjoy! They go well with anything - we had them as a side with crab cakes this weekend. I know I've been trying to eat vegan, but the crab cakes were so good!!

Do you have any good wintry produce recipes? Next I need to experiment with squash, cabbage, and cauliflower and spice up my repertoire!