Alexa and I got together this Monday to catch up since we didn’t see each other at all during the winter festivities, one of the drawbacks of working in retail stores during the holidays. Naturally we got all dressed up super cute and took some photos in town. I got to wear some of my Christmas gifts, my beautiful new skirt and collar clips.
While getting together Alexa mentioned that she was thinking about making a post on her favorite music from 2014. I thought I should too, but I soon remembered I actually didn’t listen to much new music in 2014. I am notorious for saying the term “new album” when I mean “most recent album.” But I do have a few albums that I got pretty excited about, and I will leave some out, since I think they are making Alexa’s list. One thing is for sure, it is the year of the female singers for me.
YUKI – FLY
No I am not going caps crazy, the proper title and artist name are in all caps. I’ve been a huge fan of the Japanese singer YUKI since high school. I even had a friend perform one her songs for our wedding to walk down the aisle to. She originally was the lead singer of the group Judy and Mary, who wrote the theme song to Rurouni Kenshin. Once the group broke up, she went solo, starting out with a rock song, morphing into folk, and then into her own brand of pop.
Her newest album sticks to her self branded pop style, but dips into different styles of music. Most interesting is her borrowing hip hop styles in Naminori 500 Miles. Fly is just as refreshing and uplifting as her joy album. And the artist direction is really fabulous, though very disconnected from single to single. And can we talk about her new music video for Daredemo Lonely? I love her self awareness of the video medium (you can see the sides of the set during the video) and use to playful dance (in a very Fatboy Slim style). And that outfit? brb guise. I gotta get a new workout outfit.
Shiina Ringo – Hi Izuru Tokoro
This is the first album with original songs from Shiina Ringo since 2009, five years ago. She had released a few singles, live albums, and such. This album, does have some singles that were released a few years earlier, but still delivers some great new ones. Her newest single featured is Nippon, which was used as the theme for Japan for the World Cup.
Earlier in the year Shiina released another full length album filled with covers of songs she wrote for other artists. It is a great collection of songs, but they don’t play well with each other. They varied too much, leaving a sour taste when playing them back to back. But it is an interesting departure since the songs aren’t always her signature retro-meets-rock genre.
I am shocked to see Shiina’s new Monroe hairdo. Although she always dabbles in jazz, enka, and older songs her fashion is modern or from 50’s and earlier. She says her favorite albums are from Ella Fitzgerald and Blankey Jet City, a modern garage rock band, which kind-of sums up her music style.
Ga-in – Truth or Dare
The first thing is that I need to point out is that South Korea is a very sexually repressed nation. Although pop stars might be barely dressed, TV story lines have the “kiss” as the ultimate climax of love. From the perspective of music, it is dominated by record companies creating groups and controlling all aspects of image, which can leave some “sexy” dances and videos looking stiff and forced. Ga-in is a singer from the group Brown Eyed Girls, but releases music as a solo artist with a different company than her group. This gives her a lot of control of what she releases in music and videos.
Truth or Dare is only a mini-album (Ga-in has yet to release a full length album as a solo artist), but has extremely dark undertones. What makes this release so special is the title track, Fxxk U. The video highlights rape in a relationship, a taboo subject in the United States as well (can we remember about the NC-17 rating for Blue Valentine?)
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – Pikapika Fantajin
Most everyone on the internet knows Kyary Pamyu Pamyu because of her Pon Pon Pon music video or her Lady Gaga meme. But I know her as the next prodigy from Nakata Yasutaka. In March 2014, Alexa and I were able to see Kyary Pamyu Pamyu perform LIVE, which was absolutely amazing.
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s newest album really excited me. She is still keeping to her style of 8-bit mixed with some retro-electronica. Nakata Yasutaka has the tendency to evolve his sugar-pop groups into a more dance-club based, like his other projects capsule and Perfume.
Since Kyary Pamyu Pamyu’s style is essential to her music, it is worth noting her artistic themes. I wasn’t as impressed this time around. It took awhile to choose which video to link below since they just didn’t has the same punch as before. But she did come up with some cute album photos.
On a totally different note, I think I was most excited about Blonde Redhead’s newest album this year. Like most fans, I wasn’t sold on the first listen. The songs are much less layered than previous albums, making it a dull first listen. But the upon the second listening the songs grew onto me. I started to like the simpler form, as it gives a more haunting feel to the music. The group really challenged themselves by simplifying the music, creating a minimalist theme for this album. I admire how each album they stick to specific theme to the sound, most groups don’t do that anymore. It is a bummer that I missed them when they came to Philadelphia for their tour. They were playing at Union Transfer, which mean I could listened to them while eating Little Baby’s Ice Cream.
Need to give a sampling of these albums? Below are videos from each album, and some of the artists are streaming on Spotify and all artists (except for YUKI) are available on iTunes.
I’ve been a bum about documenting my reading. I wrote on post early on about what I read Winter 2014. Then I started to write about what I read in the spring but never finished the post. I would like to keep on top of these posts, so I wanted to make a compilation of what I read for the rest of the year.
What I am Currently Reading
ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running – I was trying to train for a half-marathon but never got close enough to doing it. I was hoping it would have tips on form and how to build stamina.
Sailor Moon Vol 1 – Alexa and I have been extra nerdy lately about Sailor Moon. I’ve been watching the old series, and Alexa has been watching the new one. The new series is suppose to be closely link to the mangas, so I figured I should brush up.
Norwegian Wood – I liked the short stores from After the Quake, so I picked up this novel by Haruki Murakami. I am a little disappointed by it’s lack of surrealism, but it is still very interesting historical/coming of age novel.
My Drunk Kitchen – Alexa suggested I pick up Hannah Hart’s new cookbook, and I listened. It is pretty darn funny and makes me think about how much I love humorous literature.
This week we kind-of a theme. The NEW YEAR! Most posts are going to be about body image and dieting because, well that is what most people think of when they hear about the New Years (that and hangovers). I thought it was pretty funny. I actually went running the morning of New Years Day, and I was surprised how little people were out running. I am thinking hangovers? Maybe that is too cliche?
This year was probably the most successful holiday season for food. I got plenty to eat, and didn’t hate myself (whether it be feeling bad physically or emotionally for overeating, getting weird pressures for eating habits, or eating too many rich foods) I’m slowly getting more and more comfortable with myself, but Raechel really hits home. It’s hard to tune other people out, and feeling the pressure.
This blog post goes hand in hand with Raechel’s. Gena writes about how things aren’t clear cut when recovering from an eating disorder. I didn’t have the healthiest relationship in college, and some of the habits Gena talks about were ones I adopted once I tried to get a healthier grip on food. Some still linger and drive me mad wondering “why can’t it all be normal?”
Um… speaking of dieting and body image, if some major corporation is going to make money off of a new dieting product, they can take my cash for these. Adult size moon boots? Gimme gimme! It’ll make doing dishes more fun, it’ll make grocery shopping more fun, I mean everything would be more fun.
The funny thing about Japanese cuisine is that sometimes vegan recipes slip in without notice even though fish dominates plates. The reason? Probably it is because Western cuisine uses a lot of cheese and butter. So if fish or benito flakes are taken out of the equation there isn’t much left. This soup looks light, sweet, and full of different textures.
Do Any Common Cold Remedies Work?
I am all for self healing. I am not for companies marketing you crap. There are lots of pills and vitamins that don’t hold any water. Sometimes they lack the actual vitamin or substance they advertise. What is under the radar? Echinacea, garlic, vitamin C, zinc, Airborne, and chicken soup. The results made sense, but I surprised by some of the bad side effects.
I wanted to take a photo each day for the entire year. I figure sharing them on Saturday would be a good plan, but to do so it either would mean, lots of photos next Saturday, or only three photos today. I chose posting the three today.
Day 1: Took some photos of books for my reading updates, Toulouse kept blocking the books, but never really “posing” with them.
Day 2: I was feeling under the weather but had to get out of the house. I stopped by Sweet Freedom in Collingswood and took a photo of their bathroom decor.
Day 3: Rainy day encourages snuggling. This was my husband’s favorite picture of the day.
This wasn’t a planned recipe for the blog. I was making a shopping list at the beginning of the week and I always plan a “oh crap dinner.” It is something brainless for me to do and get made in a jiffy, just in case I work late, or just feel tired. This week I figured I would make a creamy tomato soup. I am not sure what possessed me to do so since I am very particular about my tomato soup.
The end result was an absurdly easy soup. It didn’t take long at all, possibly 20 to 30 minutes. I used canned tomatoes, so the only thing you need to chop are onions and garlic (which I chopped poorly since, you know, blending) Although this dish doesn’t adhere to my ideals of cooking with fresh ingredients it is still more healthful than having a can of campbell’s tomato soup.
It also keeps spending money down. The broth was homemade, and could be made with homemade milks. It also uses mostly shelf stable ingredients, so if you can easy make this without preparation (depending on how well stocked your pantry is). This makes a lot of soup so you have lots of extras for lunches or for freezing for another dinner.
What I love about the soup is that it begs to have bread dipped in it, or to have some sort of grilled sandwich in it. And if you are feeling up for it that night, you can easily make some hot crispy sandwich while the soup is boiling.
Sweater: Forever 21 | Skirt: Monteau via Modcloth | Tights: Unknown | Shoes: Thrifted
Who likes my new sweatshirt? It was a gift from my sister in law, which was a pleasant surprise since it is one of those things I like but wouldn’t of bought on my own. I had my husband take a photo to wish everyone a happy New Years! I am sure everyone has their own New Year’s Resolution, including me. My resolutions tend to be similar every year, but always slightly different.
Drink Less Booze
I’ve been drinking a lot lately, and honestly I am not really happy about the results. I’ve gain some weight, which isn’t the end of the world. But I know it has a lot to do with drinking often, which are empty calories. I know there are actual health benefits to certain drinks, but let’s face it, they are usually just excuses. My goal is to drink no more than two alcohol based drinks each week, excluding celebrations.
Run and Workout More Often
I got out of the habit of consistent exercise. I have lots of excuses, and I want to try and ignore them to do more. Maybe I will try and train for a race to give me the motivation.
Kick the Coffee Habit
Here’s my problem with coffee, I don’t drink it to wake up in the morning. I purely drink it for pleasure, which has slowly have grown from a weekly treat, to a daily drink. Some days I feel exhausted and I can’t help but wonder if it is the coffee. To make things worse, I don’t even drink good coffee anymore. I am not going to make coffee forbidden from my diet, but put it on the same level of a cupcake- very infrequent.
Read 16 Books (with less comics)
Anyone make a reading challenge on Goodreads? Last year I made the challenge for 15 books, and I finished it. BUT three of the books were cookbooks (which I REALLY did read) and six were graphic novels. Not saying there is anything wrong with graphic novels, but I would like to make the ratio a little less drastic next year.
Have a Cup of Tea Each Night
I use to have tea as a dessert every night. I miss this practice, and I have a large collection of tea sitting in my cabinet. This will hopefully also decrease the amount of “snack” foods I eat when I am not actually hungry. Not the worse thing I can do, but I always wake up not hungry which in turn postpones my workout.
Pay More Attention to Vegan Clothes and Beauty Products
I’ve been heading more and more down a consistent path to veganism as a lifestyle. But I am pretty sloppy when it comes to checking beauty products and clothing. I also want to get a handle on honey, as I tend to skim over that ingredient with foods.
Start taking a photo a day
One of my favorite blog features is The Dainty Squid’s Project 365. She recently posted Project 365 + why you should do it too! I just recently got a very expensive camera. Although I’ve see a major difference between the photos from my old camera and my new one, I sometimes wonder if I will ever get total “use” of it. This project will force me to get out of the apartment and take some pictures!
Get Out of My Apartment
Part of the reasons why I made resolutions for drinking less booze, drinking more tea, and exercising more is that I feel awful. Almost everyday. My husband does too. We are pretty sure it is our apartment. It is really old, dusty, cramped, and we now have a neighbor who smokes right by our window. I don’t want to write “buy a house” but that is our ultimate goal. Hell, I’ll take moving in with parents than renewing the lease.
Finally getting around to posting a new recipe. I wanted to post it before Christmas, but I had lots of family gatherings to get to. So I was in the kitchen often cooking a bunch of foods, some were huge family hits, such as Angela’s Crowd Pleasing Chickpea Caesar Salad. I even had a cookie! My childhood friend Justine baked some vegan snicker doodle cookies which made me really happy.
So this dish started out as an idea for Christmas day breakfast, but soon fell apart since it wasn’t a good dish for sharing. But instead really yummy for a single serving. It is easy enough to make, just a little planning. Just bake some apples, let cool, freeze, and blend. Simple enough right?
It also tastes amazing with the gingerbread granola I posted earlier this month. But you can honestly use any type of granola. I put pomegranates on top, but you can use whatever you want. I thought the pomegranates added a nice sweetness, but didn’t have too distinctive of a flavor.
I am very excited to get last week over with. Work has been really stressful, it has been busy and then add the anxiety of getting all the work done before Christmas. Well, I got most done last week, and I got my big family get together over with. I was pretty anxious about that since I was making a lot of food. Good news is that the Crowd Pleasing Chickpea Caesar Salad was indeed crowd pleasing. It is even going to be made again this Christmas day for midday lunch.
This post is a little late, and I wasn’t even sure if I was going to post one this week. But I feel like I have been lacking on the blog, which is understandable with all the hubbub of Christmas. Some articles this week were so interesting I just felt like I had to share. So enjoy!
I am a big fan of reading Farmer’s Market Vegan. I love how Ali writes about the good a vegan diet does to the environment and is open to discussions about how it can harm our social systems (or rather how our farming practices are unjust). She posted an article on consumerism and veganism, and it wasn’t what I was expecting. I thought her post would be about how companies market vegan goods, but instead it talks about how veganism fits with consumerism, and other other institutions.
Gluten-free is the new wheat-bran of health. I think there might be some truth to the trend, but I think for reasons that people aren’t grasping. Most of my beef with the gluten-free fad is the consumerism behind it. But I understand where people are coming from, they are trying trying to feel better. If something is working, sometimes it is just better to keep going with it, whether it be a placebo effect or an actual gluten intolerance.
I always make sure I add a teaspoon of spirulina to my smoothies every morning. I either flavor it with chocolate or matcha. So when I saw this post I had a big “duh! Why not?” moment. I am thinking about adding a small amount of spirulina for a morning hot cocoa to switch up my morning routine.
When people hear about seaweed as a food they think of the Japanese and Asian dishes. But the food is becoming a staple in Western cuisine, and is being grown domestically. It even has a history with Western civilizations as a common food product. Gastropod has an interesting podcast talking about the food, and the currently advancements it is making.
Protesting All The Way
I love learning about culture event that are unique to certain areas. Santa-con is a controversial one in New York City. Most New Yorkers hate it, and it is a holiday mostly for suburbanites. This isn’t something exclusive to New York, as I remember drunken floods in Philadelphia during Halloween and Saint Patricks “week” (I use the term week since people came to drink the weekend before, after, and the day of Saint Patricks day).
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!
This is a tough question since my husband and I don’t eat out often. We only eat out 2-3 times a month, including eating out for lunch during work. We don’t even go to bars that much since it is so expensive. But I think we hit the same problems most vegan have, there aren’t any LOCAL vegan restaurants. Sure there are lots of options in Philadelphia, but it involves taking a train and walking to the location (like 30-40 minutes each way)
That being said we have some favorite vegan and non-vegan places. Each place has their own special place in our hearts. All of these places are pretty much exclusive to South Jersey or Philadephia with one exception. So take this an an eating guide to the Philly area.
MAJOR CHAIN: Panera Bread USA
If we are traveling and need to grab a bite, we almost always stop here. Sure there are other chains with great vegan options, but I find that Panera is the most spread out. There is a hearty sandwich that is easy to veganize (no cheese, swap bread). There are also other options, and their website is really helpful and open.
FAMILY EATING: The Pop Shop Collingswood, NJ
If you are eating out with your non-vegan family and they just want your standard all American dinner, the Pop Shop is your best bet. The Pop Shop isn’t a vegan restaurant, but a sort of family geared diner. They specialize in breakfast, ice cream, and grilled cheese. They also have vegan options for all categories. They have a great vegan cheese, vegan pancakes, vegan shakes, and tofu scrambles. My favorite? Tofu Buffalo Wing Sandwich, no cheese, no mayo. Downside? They don’t have an exclusive vegan grill, so that might freak some strict vegans out, or pose a problem to extreme dairy allergies. Also worth noting, I have only been charged extra for the vegan option once- for a sundae. So that’s a bonus.
ICE CREAM: The Franklin Fountain Philadelphia, PA
Okay this another non-exclusive vegan eatery. And I have to say narrowing down best ice cream in Philly is hard. I mean Capogiro’s has fabulous sorbets, and has been named world’s best ice cream. Little Baby’s Ice Cream is my favorite part of seeing a concert at Union Transfer (yes you can rock out to Chrvrches with some vegan ice cream). But neither is are exclusively vegan. (hey did you notice how many ice cream places I just dropped? Can you tell I like ice cream?)
But Franklin Fountain is a throwback soda fountain that is very accurate to the time period, well with the exception of their few vegan ice creams. They give lots of options for vegans, including vanilla, chocolate, and one seasonal vegan ice cream (such as peppermint stick or pumpkin), sorbets, caramel, whip cream, and much more. My favorite? Vanilla ice cream in a violet soda. It’s not on the menu, but trust me, it’s awesome.
PIZZA: Blackbird Pizza Philadelphia, PA
I remember being disbelief that a vegan pizzeria would ever open. I am even more shocked that it stayed open for so long. I wish I tried this place out when I lived in Philadelphia because it is even better than most of the pizza places in the city. The place is really laid back and feels like any old pizza takeout. The options are amazing, and some non-vegans drool over their potato pizza, which is apparently a thing. This place is ALL vegan, so no sweating the menu.
QUICK BITES: HipCityVeg Philadelphia, PA
HipCityVeg has been featured on the site a few times. When I go into the city it is usually do something specific like see a movie at The International House, or go to the Art Museum. So I usually don’t want to sit down and eat. No instead I plan on eating at home, and realize that by the time the train arrives and I start cooking I won’t be able to eat until 7 or 8 pm. So I usually stop by HipCityVeg and grab something to eat. Everything is vegan, and the menu is simple which means your food get made fast. My recommendations: The Banana Whip, Buffalo Bella Burger, and the Udon Noodle Salad.
FANCY BITES: Eden Vegetarian Cafe, Bar Harbor Maine
I am super sad this place closed, but I think it is worth mentioning. This was an all vegan restaurant in Bar Harbor Maine. It was suppose to be a little more high end, and even had a bar. I liked the place since the food was a perfect way to end a day full of hiking. The menu was seasonal and would list all the locally sourced food, including things such as fiddleheads, tofu, and seaweed!
BAKERY: Sweet Freedom, Philadelphia, Bryn Mawr, PA & Collingswood, NJ
I had a friend recommend this vegan bakery, so I went to check it out with my husband. After eating the yummiest cookie sandwich and root beer float cupcake I saw tons of signs with “gluten free” written all over them. I wouldn’t of had a clue. Sweet Freedom is all gluten-free, animal-free, peanut-free, soy-free, and refined sugar-free. I think this why I love them so much, I don’t feel stuffed, or bogged down like most baked goods (or that rotting teeth feel from too much sugar). They started in Philly and expanded to Collingswood and Bryn Mawr, expanding their menu to juices, smoothies, and foods (hot foods only at the Bryn Mawr location). My recommendation? Their cookie ice cream sandwiches for the summer, cake balls, and cookie sandwiches.
I first heard of Loving Hut from Eat Your Kimchi. They visited one of the Korean branches that catered their menu to have more traditionally Korean foods. The name and logo looked familiar, which I later found out that there use to be a Loving Hut chain on South Street in Philadelphia that I would pass by on a weekly basis. I never had the chance to eat there before it closed down. But I always wanted to give this all vegan chain a try.
When I flew into Orlando to visit my Grandparents, I knew I wanted to go to a vegan restaurant before heading down to a small town. By chance I found out that there was a Loving Hut in Orlando, about 20 minutes away from the airport. Unaware of how the chained worked, I was surprised to see absolutely no Korean food like in the Eat Your Kimchi video, nor did it look like that restaurant. When I returned home, I learned a little bit more about the chain.
Loving Hut is owned by spiritual leader Ching Hai. She leads the spiritual movement called the Quan Yin Method, in which one of the rules is that followers maintain a vegan diet. Loving Hut was opened to show the world how delicious vegan cooking could be. As a marketing tactic, all stores are allowed to alter the menu. This is great to make the menu reflect the tastes of each region. For example a vegan living in Korea might want Korean styled food over a vegan burger. The downside is that not all Loving Hut chains are created equal. I’ve read reviews that the Philadelphia Loving Hut was embarrassingly bad.
The setting of restaurant was pretty laid back, and reminded me of most Chinese and pizza takeout shops in New Jersey. The store had posters hanging with Vegan “celebrities” including Leonardo da Vinci (which he wasn’t rumored to be vegan, just a vegetarian). There was also a big flat screen TV showing videos of Ching Hai. Aside from the videos, the atmosphere was very open with a wonderful server who was happy to ask where all guests were from. I assume that they got lots of people who were traveling to Disney World and other theme parks.
This location carried foods that had Southeast Asian influences and some Americanized foods like burgers. We were pretty hungry so we got the Happy Half Moon wontons. They were perfectly deep-fried, the wraps weren’t chewy or oily. This would be a dish I would of recommended to anyone who enjoys dumplings and wontons.
I got the King Spice Cha Cha, Oyster Mushrooms that have a spicy breading and are deep fried. They are served with sauted peppers and onions with a large scoop of rice on the side. Everything was a little more oily than I was use to, but never overwhelming. There also wasn’t too much food, just enough for one really hungry person.
My husband got the Lemongrass Noodles, which had a faux beef topping the noodles. Even though my husband isn’t a huge faux meat person, he loved the dish. For anyone who doesn’t like faux meats or TVP, there is a tofu option. The noodle to protein ratio might of been a little high, but it didn’t seem to bother my husband.
We finished the dinner with an avocado shake and rose cappuccino. The avocado shake could of been better, as it was little watery. The cappuccino was delicious, not too sweet and it didn’t have a pool of syrup on the bottom of cup. The rose flavors actually worked well with the espresso. Although there wasn’t enough foam to make it a “cappuccino,” it was a pretty tasty latte.
If I had this restaurant nearby me, I would get all my takeout from it. Sadly, even though the staff was very open and welcoming, I didn’t like the atmosphere enough to come back and sit down. It was fine since we was a stop in between traveling.