Project 365: Days 103-109

Day 103: Toulouse naps on clothes on hangers… not sure if that is comfy.

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Day 104: Abandoned building at the beginning of my hike.

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Day 105: Cat stretches

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Day 106: Quick shot of my owl clock

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Day 107: Forgot to take a photo with my nice camera! But I did take a shot of my booze for my Untappd account. If you want you can friend me.

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Day 108: That sky is filled with fluffy as fuck clouds.

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Day 109: Third cat photo this week. I must be obsessing over this little fuzz.

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Blog Recipe Round-up: Tempeh Edition

This recipe roundup was a little tricky. Tempeh can be a vegan staple, but so many people are afraid to use it. It has a bitter taste when raw, and is a flavor that might take some time to grow on you. I also find that some people have a hard time imagining outside of the box for tempeh. A lot of recipes use it for a stir-fry.

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I tried my best to find traditional and non-traditional recipes for tempeh. Some might seem traditional but is really a mix of cuisines. For example the gochujang tempeh with blasted broccoli might seem traditional but tempeh isn’t used in Korean cooking. It is still a great combination. Everything was pretty good, so read and pick something new to cook this week!

Stir-Fry with Tempeh with Black Bean Sauce

I am fairly big admirer of the No Meat Athlete. I like the guys sensabilities and he seems so down to earth. He makes vegetarianism/veganism seem so normal. Sometimes people make vegans seem like they are part of some specific subculture, punks, hippies, hipsters, etc.

The overall recipe is pretty much okay. Stir-fries are nice since you really can’t mess it up. BUT I am not a huge fan of using kale in a stir-fry. Although generally tasty, there are a lot of cooking technics I would switch up. I would of put more emphasis on browning the tempeh. I would of also toss the kale in the wok first and cooked it down for 3-5 minutes before adding the other veggies. The kale was too chewy, but if I cooked it any longer, the other veggies would of been over cooked. 

Bottom Line: I would of used bok choy or nappa cabbage instead of kale, but very tasty.

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Black Bean and Mango Chili

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Today has been a gross day. I’ve been accepting that my productivity is deeply effected by the weather. Particularly overcast rainy days. Whenever they is a steady drizzle I just want to stay in all day and pretty much do nothing. Now that the sun is coming out I am finally getting around to posting this awesome recipe.

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I am a little surprised that I am just posting a chili recipe. I’ve become a pro at chili, I could practically make them in my sleep. I’ve become so comfortable with them that I’ve more or less stopped using any sort of recipe. It also so helps that I use chilis as a great medium to chuck all my leftover produce in one dish. Oh and don’t forget the fact that I get hella good chili peppers from my CSA. 

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So what has prompted me to make a chili recipe since I am not so formal about my chilis? Really cheap mangos. I love fresh mangos, especially ones that aren’t too fibrous. I bought a giant box of mangos and then started to get tired of blending mangos in my smoothies. Mangos were building up and I didn’t want my last three to go to waste. So I figured I could make something savory out of them.

Or perhaps I’ve been subconsciously persuaded due to all the mango recipes that are circulating. I am seeing so many come into my blog feed that I am starting to just insert the word mango in blog titles! Regardless of the reason I am glad I took the plunge.

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This isn’t a completely new idea for a chili recipe. I mean I did google “mango chili” to get some recipe ideas (or rather an idea of how long to cook mango). And they all seem to be sickenly sweet. I already found my recipe pretty sugary, I can’t imagine adding more sugar, or raisins in the mix. 

This recipe kind-of takes awhile since I am starting with a pound of dried beans. But this also make a lot chili, like 6-8 servings, depending what a serving is to you. I think it is best for a picnic or a summer barbecue. There is plenty to pass around, and you can leave your house after your done cooking, being very far away from your hot kitchen.

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Sunday Reading 04-19-15 #32

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Hey guys I am pooped today. My husband and I went for 9+ mile hike today. At the time I felt a little bummed about ending the hike, I felt like I could keep going, but once I sat down it all sank in. I got some soup cooking and I am ready to watch the newest episode of Once Upon a Time and series finale of Gilmore Girls. Side note, I’ve only two clips of Gilmore Girls before I sat down and watched the whole series via Netflix, and I am finding out I literally saw parts of the very first episode and the very last episode. Very very weird. Anyways your reading:

Recipes:

I had a big “duh” moment when I read Emily’s new chia pudding recipe on her blog. Instead of using a milk, she just blends almond butter into water. I am getting a little tired of just simply having two shakes in the morning, so maybe having a pre-run chia pudding will shake things up.

OMG gotta get some dates so I can make these Ooey Gooey Caramel Bars.

What a brilliant idea for using cauliflower leaves- roasting them as a little side dish.

When I get my carrots from my CSA I have to try out this Carrot Top Pesto. Instead of using oil Lacy uses tofu, and I hate that oily-greasy feeling in pesto.

Mental Health:

I’ve always at a weird feeling about plus size models. It was great to see different body types but it felt like it was creating new difficult body standard. Good thing I am not alone. I want to see more plus size models, but I want to see more in-between, more girls with realistic bellies, etc.

This is in interesting article about how body positivity focuses so much on everyone is beautiful, and it is missing the point a little. As an artist I feel like there is always something beautiful about everything, I also know that angles, make-up, lighting, context, all make something more attractive… but overall I think the article hits something we should remember, beauty isn’t everything.

News:

LA Times had a fun interactive how much water do you use for your dinner page. But I call bullshit on their water numbers for meat versus beans. A quick search reveals that a pound of beef, pork, and mutton need more water than chickpeas or lentils. But the Huffington Post has a cool comparison of which food uses more water. Some information was surprising- chocolate and vanilla! Holy cow so much water!

Fun Stuff:

These sunglasses are magical (and so are the photos). Too bad they are already sold out.. but let’s be real, I probably wouldn’t of bought them anyways.

I am in love with this dress.

A list of top bars to sit outside at in Philadelphia. I’ll be busy this summer.

I love when artists use layers to create extra depth to their art. Kate Gabrielle made this awesome layered painting of a misty beach scene. It is beautiful and a surprising change from her normal bubbly art.

This couple just stole my heart!

Videos:

Thank god fitness has evolved for women because this would be sooo boring.

Project 365: Days 96-102

Day 96: Jon sits in while I get the camera set up for my outfit photos.

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Day 97: OMG WE’RE IN JAPAN! No, just visiting the teahouse display at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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Day 98: Took photos of my mango black bean chili. Will be posted on the blog Monday. Yum!

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Day 99: Lunch for the day- raw corn fritters from Ani’s Raw Food Asia.

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Day 100: Another recipe to be posted- sweet potato pasta with sesame seed crumbles

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Day 101: I just noticed how cute these two turquoise doors are.

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Day 102: I can’t wait to open up this bottle. You would think I would of learned my lesson from the Voodoo Donut beer, but I know Alexa and I need to try this Sriracha beer. NO SPOILERS GUYS! We will need to find out it’s disgusting on our own.

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Alexa Asks, Jen Answers #15: How can I transition to being vegan with non-vegans?

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Alexa is working toward a vegetarian diet, and is loaded with questions. Jennifer’s got answers. We talk about anything as long as it is vegan. Are tattoos vegan? How do I politely not eat Thanksgiving dinner? How do I order without pissing off the waitress? We know you are dying to ask!

asksalexaI am living at home and eat often with my family and my man’s family. I find it hard to say no to their animal based cooked meal. So how can I transition into a vegan lifestyle?

So let me state by painting the living situation that Alexa and I are dealing (or rather dealt with in my case). Basically I’ve lived with my sister and Alexa is living with her parents. These situations, I would say sitting down as a family for dinner wouldn’t happen daily, but sometimes would still happen. But I think Alexa and I can agree the trouble was the idea of having dinner with our Man’s family. I lived with my husband’s parents for about a year and a half and his father cooked dinner with a passion. It took forever to get him to stop cooking a dinner for me when I worked late at a restaurant. 

So what does one do when dinner is being served for the whole family? And with little choice from your end as well? I truthfully gave up veganism when living with family. I babysat my nieces a lot and I had a hard time not nibbling at their uneaten mac and cheese (which actually got them to eat it). When I live with my husband’s family I felt really rude asking for them to cook all vegan or make another dish for me.

So I kind-of found some middle ground, or rather ways to work towards a vegan diet. Now these steps are basically if you are in a temporary situation. I now live alone with my husband, and shared family dinners are now vegan. If I visit my in-laws they make a vegan meal for me. If I visit my family I usually make food for myself. If for whatever reason you think you’ll be living with other people in shared dinner situation longterm I would recommend taking steps to eat 100% vegan. Although these steps are still good to get use to the vegan transition.

1 – Start with veganizing your breakfast & lunch

Breakfast and lunch are pretty easy to make vegan for yourself since they are meals that vary widely from other people in your family. In fact, I think this is an easier way to transition into veganism than slowly eliminating certain foods from your diet. I think starting from breakfast you start to create new traditions. It might be hard at first since breakfast in a Western diet is very heavy on animal products (yogurt, ham, sausage, bacon, buttermilk pancakes, etc) But even starting out with smoothies and vegan cereals with soy milk are great starts.

Lunch might be a challenge if you are a sandwich person. They can be really easy to make on the go. There are many different sandwiches you can find on pinterest that are vegan. Sometimes it involves some time in the kitchen, but often yields several servings. So you might be in the kitchen for lunchtime, but you will be able to make lunches for the week, which can be worth it. Salads, wraps, soup, and sushi can be other great lunches to make.

2 – Start “phasing out” certain foods for dinner

Once you become pretty comfortable with a vegan breakfast and lunch, start telling people that you are trying to go vegan and start phasing out certain foods. I would recommend with little things. For example, try asking the cook to make vegetable sides with olive oil instead of butter. Then after two weeks, say you are trying to cut out steak, then eggs, cheese, etc.

I would try and get rid of foods that are used as a garnish first, then used in sides, then just not as commonly cooked. Like if the family eats a salad every night ask for no cheese in your salads or buy your own vegan dressing. Make it so it is easier for the cook.

3 – Offer to cook dinner

Rarely do people turn down a free dinner. So share the vegan joy by offering to cook for the family. Respectably this can be hard. When I was living with my in-laws I would have to plan ahead since they planned dinners out for the week. It was even more difficult since they would make this list on Monday- to go grocery shopping that weekend (a whole week ahead!) Hopefully, by cooking for everyone they will taste vegan food, and get an idea what vegan dishes they can make themselves. Sometimes people are just clueless about what dishes are vegan or how to veganize something.

You can also make quick dishes. If the dinner is steak with sides, you can heat up some vegan protein to add to you meal. Making some veggie burgers and freezing them is a quick option, just microwave them or ask if it could be grilled before the steak. Getting other frozen dishes like faux chicken nuggets, seitan, etc, can make you dinner easy.

4 – Research vegan options for eating out

Take a look around for vegan meal options. Keeping a mental note about what your options are. There are tons of blog posts that list various options you have at major chains like chipotle, panera, etc. Google things that are nearby and keep track. That way if your friends want to make a sporadic late night trip, you don’t worry about not having something to eat.

I also recommend checking out that Happy Cow for local restaurants that have vegan options. There are usually a lot more options that aren’t listed. The database is from readers so sometimes restaurants that are new or have non-vegan options tend not to get listed. So if you don’t see a restaurant on that site, that doesn’t mean it won’t have any options.

5 – Be strict about what YOU buy

Once you start getting a hold of eating out, breakfast, and lunch get really strict about what you spend you money on. Start flipping over boxes for cereals, cookies, granolas, breads, etc. You maybe surprised about what isn’t actually vegan. Once you know what is vegan for the meals that are more automated, it will be easier when you move out. That way your vegan focus can be on making vegan dinners and recipes. Which brings me to the last point:

6 – When you leave, announce you are full vegan

Once you move out and you decide you want to be 100% vegan, make an announcement. Once you move out it is easier to tell everyone that you are now vegan and stop making meatballs for dinner. Even if you haven’t fully transitioned out, it still a good idea to tell other people. I use to get served eggs and cheese with family members for awhile. It was mostly a pain since they would make these special dishes for me, even though they got it wrong.

What about you guys? What are some tips about living in a non-vegan household?

Vegan Casseroles Review

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Shop on Amazon or Barnes and Noble

Many blogs have featured this newer cookbook on vegan casseroles. Since so many blogs had giveaways, sample recipes, and glowing reviews, I wanted to give the book a try. Which is a little weird since I never really grew up on casseroles. At least “all-American” casseroles. Sure we had mac and cheese, lasagna, and tuna noodle casserole. But that was mostly it. When I started to cook I was always intrigued by casserole recipes. They were so exotic and foreign to me.

So I can’t say if Julie has put all the classics in this book, but many looked familiar. She features both American classics (beans and rice, chili casserole, nacho tots) and more traditional cuisine (stuffed peppers, lasagna, mac & cheese). The overall goal of the book was to make quick dinners that give the comforts of casseroles, but were vegan and not too heavy on fats and calories.

Photos

Compared to most cookbooks reviewed on here, there aren’t that many photos. But truthfully, I doubt that you need a photo for each recipe. Casseroles aren’t the most photogenic food out there. But what I really appreciate is their choice of recipes to photograph. If the dish wasn’t as straight forward as a mixing all the food and baking, they took a picture. For example there was a photo of the stuffed cabbage or lasagna. These aren’t traditionally thought of “casseroles” but fit the definition. The photos that are available are beautiful and presents the foods as something delicious and appetizing. It is interesting to see some reviews online and see the not-so glamorous shots of the dishes. Not to say the blogger casseroles look disgusting, but the photos in the book are just a little more inspirational.

Set-up

The book opens with a very short intro. I think this was a smart choice. If you are picking up a book about specific vegan foods, there is a good chance you already know a good bit about veganism. You are going to know all the different vegan substitutes, which foods aren’t vegan, and the benefits of lifestyle. The book jumps right into the recipes, dividing them up as appetizers, dutch-oven casseroles, old favorites, pasta, vegetable, desserts, and “staples.” The staples section is filled with sauces, and crumbles for recipes. Although it was a pain to flip back and forth for some recipes between the nacho sauce and the casserole, it wasn’t too big of a deal. It was a little easier because by the end I started to memorize the sauce recipes, needing the flip pages less and less.

Writing

The writing is brief and to the point. This book had a small opening, and jumps rather quickly to the recipes. She keeps the length down in the recipes. There aren’t any long stories, cultural references, stories about the recipe development, just a short paragraph describing the dish. Sometimes she suggests how to enhance a dish (like in the Rice & Beans being served with lettuce, avocados, and salsa). This makes and easy read that isn’t distracting from the recipes.

Overview

The biggest criticism I’ve read about this book is how “unhealthy” the recipes are. I get it, what one considers healthy is subjective. I would say yes, these recipes are vast improvements on the originals. Casseroles are known for using cream, cheap meats, cheese, and canned soups. Some recipes use fake cheese, faux meats, and other processed ingredients. But realistically, you are using mostly whole ingredients that are commonly found in kitchens. Many of the “fakes” can be taken out, or is listed as “optional.” The serving sizes are huge and decently low calorie. I plugged in the ingredients in a calorie counter, and I found that the recipes have lots of nutrition.

 Another arguement for the “it’s unhealthy” debate is that some foods are not made from scratch. This is true, but Julie Hasson points out in the book, if you want you can make your own seitan, soy cheese, or tater tots, but a casserole is suppose to be easy to make. You can do this with ALL of your food. You can make your almond milk, bread, dog food, kombucha, beer, etc. But we as humans can only do so much. That is why bakers, butchers, and restaurants showed up. We can only do so much. It is just your decision.

I think the important thing to put into perspective are the goals of the book. Julie Hasson wanted to make vegan versions of classic casseroles. They are suppose to be affordable, which they were. They were also suppose to be to a certain degree less processed, which most recipes didn’t use processed products. And the final criteria was that the recipes were suppose to be easy. Each recipe varied on the amount of worked required, but overall they were pretty eat to make. I don’t think there wasn’t anything that my husband and I didn’t like. There is definitely some foods that saved better than others, or little tricks to making it turn out better. But overall, I would recommend this book to pretty much any vegan. 

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Tamarind Sprout Wraps

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I’ve never been a normal person when it comes to lunches. I don’t just settle for a sandwich. During my youthful meat eating days I remember making oven fried chicken instead of sandwiches. There is nothing depressing to me about having leftovers for lunchtime. Since I have such an open view of lunch, my definition gets muddled. What makes a meal for lunch over dinner?

To me it has to do with portability. Some people that means it can’t be heated up, or needs to be eaten with the hands. This can get tricky with vegan foods. Sure there are vegan sandwich options, but let’s face it, they can get messy since veggies aren’t perfectly square shaped. So what does a vegan do?

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Faux sushi wraps does the trick! You will be surprised what will stay wrapped up happily in nori. The structural stability of sushi has less to do with sticky rice and more about tension and properly sealed nori. The end result is a leak-free lunch that is packed with veggies. Oh and gluten-free, if that is your thing. These wraps are fairly fast to make, and the longest step is cutting the carrots. You can swap out the carrots for any other veggie like bell pepper, cucumber, or even beets!

The tofu, avocado, sprouts and sauce are what you want to keep for sure. The tofu offers a nice chewy texture, the avocado a creamy burst, and the sprouts a slight crunchy texture. The tahini-tamarind sauce gives most of the flavor, and helps soften the nori wraps.

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This recipe serves one and makes two rolls to cut up. It is pretty low calorie, so you will want to have both rolls for yourself. It is pretty easy to double, triple, or quadruple the recipe. But I would recommend not wrapping until the day of since the nori will get soggy and gross overtime.

Another super tip, quickly press the tofu while you get all the components together. Prep the tofu, then start chopping, maybe get other chores done in the morning like dishes, making breakfast, etc. That way you don’t need to wait too long. You only need about 15-20 minutes of pressing.

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Tapestry Dress and a Penis Hat

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Cardigan: Target | Dress: Pink Martini via Modcloth Stylish Surprise | Tighes: Target | Purse: Homemade | Shoes: Dirty Laundry

I really wanted to share this cute new dress that I got from Modcloth. I haven’t been shopping for new clothing in awhile. Mostly because I am trying save most of my paycheck for a home. Scrimping and saving can suck. But every year I let myself buy some clothes from Modcloth’s Stylish Surprise Sale. It is pretty fun since you give your size and they send a random dress. It is a great way for them to get rid of their odd stocks. I’ve gotten some cool dresses this way. I’ve also gotten some busts, like they send two of the same dress once, and a third, all size 2. I’m more of a large-small if that makes any sense. The cool thing about this dress? It is really stiff, so I can do whatever I wanted in it during a windy day. No fears of it flipping up. It makes me wonder if I should start making dresses at home of stiffer materials.

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Jon and I went into Philadelphia this Saturday to go see the Kano exhibit. The cool thing about having a membership to the art museum is that it doesn’t give you any sense of needing to spend the WHOLE day at the museum. You can pop in, see one exhibit, and call it a day. The Kano exhibit features Japanese screens, paintings, fans, and more that were made by the Kano school. It was an interesting contrast from what I learned about Japanese art in school since most of the focus of these screens and fans were with gold leaf. 

The pieces are very delicate and rotate every few weeks to help preserve them. We went to see the 2nd rotation, which finished it’s run that weekend. So we plan to go one more time to the 3rd and last rotation before the exhibit ends. Sadly, no photographs were allowed so I couldn’t take a picture of the best piece there. There was a portrait of a Japanese man of high status, I can’t remember if he was an official, shogun, or whatever. But he had a hat that looked like it had a penis on it. I looked at the painting, then the description if there was anything maybe explaining it. Then I catch my husband bending closer to the picture, as if maybe there wasn’t a penis on the hat, and that it was just an oddly shaped flower. Since photography wasn’t allowed they had sketch books, but I didn’t want anyone catching me drawing a penis hat. I mean come on! I joked that photos were allowed because they didn’t want the phallic hat to circulate.

But is there any super smart Japanese history aficionados? Have you seen any black hats that look likes penis is just sitting in the front? I need to solve this mystery.

 

Sunday Reading 04-12-15 #31

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My cat waits for Jon and I to come back from our day out in Philly.

This week has been gross and drizzly. I’ve been sooo unmotivated. Sure I’ve been running, but it has been slow and not very fun. I didn’t want to cook or clean or even read. Nothing has been touched on the blog for the most part. But this weekend really spun everything around. Just Saturday morning I made a grocery list and I thought “my god, I just decided on 4 new recipes that I can put on the blog….” Funny how weather can effect your mood and creativity.

So this weekend has been beautiful. Saturday I went for a 3 mile run that usually takes me 30 minutes. When I got home my husband looked shocked and asked if I took a short run that morning. I just had a great run and really enjoyed myself, I guess it reflected in how fast I ran! We went into Philly for the day to see the new Kano exhibit. We then proceeded to walk to the art museum (2.75 mi), then walk to Blackbird Pizzeria (3 mi) and ate a whole pie together. Then decided to walk to the train stop furthest from the pizzeria (1.15 mi). We walked a whopping 6.9 miles, not including walking around the museum. So my little feet traveled 10 miles overall! I think I deserved all 4 slices of the best vegan pizza ever. (in case you wondering our pizza had arugala, cherry tomatoes, seitan sausage, pumpkin seed pesto, pepper flake, and tofu ricotta.)

Recipes:

I just bought a bunch of mangos (14 champagne mangos to be exact!) and I think these beer-battered tofu tacos with mango salsa need to be made!

Speaking of mangos, there is an AWESOME Mango Carrot Cake that I should of made for Easter dinner. Bummer.

Health News:

I remember so many conversations about feeling “fat” when I worked at a restaurant and after a certain point I choice not to participate in those conversations (not even saying ‘but you look so good!’). There is a good reason why I wouldn’t participate, fat talk is bad for our mental state.

Although I don’t think all of America’s obesity problem isn’t really a problem (some people simply eat too many unhealthy foods) but this article reminds us that skinny doesn’t mean healthy, and fat-shaming isn’t healthy either.

This is an interesting article about how studies found that people were happier with spending their money on experiences and not things.

This article wasn’t what I was expecting, it was better. I think making children diet is horrible. If your child needs more exercise or a healthier diet, to me, that means the FAMILY needs to exercise and change their diet.

Fun Stuff:

Kaylah linked this cool urban geode street art project. I looked at it and thought “I think I saw something like this!” Turns out they have some in Philadelphia and I think Jon and I passed by it. I tried finding some pieces and I have a feeling some might of been taken down already. Bummer. But I’ll try again soon.

I got my mystery dress from Modcloth and I got this awesome dress for $15!

Anyone remember livejournal? I wasn’t huge on it, but this article reminded me of my techie teenage years.

I love this photo shoot on Specs and the City. I love the liberation of self made fashion shoots, but I am not a huge fan of being in front of the camera, I rather be behind it. Maybe I should do a shoot with Alexa…?

I’m super in love with these new nail wraps. I’ve been wearing the same wrap for the ENTIRE WEEK! Which is a big deal considering my nail polish chips on the same day. I’m going to have to stock up.

Videos:

This new documentary about queer farming (farmers that are queer, not queers harvesting more queers, duh) looks bitchin.

This video is a little long, but well worth the watch. Maysoon Zayid is a funny woman and has some great point about disabilities in the US.

I watched Major Lazer’s video for Get Free for the first time. It was awesome. The filming is very cinéma vérité and makes me think of documentaries like Harlan County, USA and Always for Pleasure.

Mind blown by this fish: