Excited about my photography class

I decided to use the money I received from Christmas (thank you, moms & dads!!) to sign up for an online photography course. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a while now to help hone my skills and build my confidence.

This particular course has received rave reviews on the photography forum I regularly visit and I was very excited to get started.

I’m also happy to have a buddy to take the course with. A while back on the photog forum, a bunch of us signed up to be paired with a buddy who was at the same (roughly) skill level as us. So me and my buddy Laura (who lives in the northeast) are taking the course together. It will be nice to have someone to turn to for support or to give me a kick in the pants to get out and take pics and practice. ;)

Anyway, I read through the first lesson and already learned a few things that will be SUPER VALUABLE to me in my work.

I did a bit of practicing on Ava with my new skills (shooting in manual mode and using the in camera meter to meter for exposure) and came up with this pic (which I converted to b&w in Photoshop).
She’s got a messy face cuz she was strapped in her booster seat eating lunch. (How else do you expect me to get her to sit mostly still and not run away from the camera? LOL)

I still have to work on my “assignment” (taking pics of several things outside using different manual settings) for lesson one but I haven’t had the time yet. I’m hoping to get to it this week so I can move on to lesson 2. :)

Vegetarian Chili Recipe

A new friend of mine made this veggie chili for a holiday potluck I attended in December. The chili was sooo good that I emailed her to get the recipe and try it out myself. Turns out she doesn’t really follow a recipe, but kind of makes it up as she goes. However she was happy to give me a list of the ingredients and approximate amounts. I made some slight adjustments when I made it for dinner last night, but I’m very happy with how it turned out. It was delicious.

Vegetarian Chili

One Chopped Red Bell Pepper
One Chopped Green Bell Pepper
One Chopped Yellow Bell Pepper
One Hot Pepper (Jalapeno)
One can black beans (drained)
One can pinto (great if you can find them already in chili sauce) –
drained
Tempeh (cut into cubes)
One large can of whole tomatoes (I used chopped tomatoes)
One small can of tomato paste – for thickness (I only added a few spoonfuls)
Chili Powder – (I used a teaspoon)
Cayenne Pepper – (I used a couple shakes)


You can throw this all into the crockpot and let it cook throughout the day. I didn’t have time for that since I didn’t start dinner til 5, so I put it into a large pot. I cooked it on the stovetop over medium-high heat for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the peppers softened.

I found the chili to be quite thick, so I added in a cup of water at the end to thin it out.

We garnished it with plain yogurt and shredded cheese, however this could easily be a vegan recipe without the garnishes. :)

It makes about 6 or 7 servings.

Yummy!!

Swimming and yummy food shopping – weekend recap

It was nice, laidback weekend around here.

On Friday, Ava and I went to a friend of our’s 2nd birthday party at the rec center. We had snacks and cupcakes and then all went swimming. Ava got to wear her new bathing suit (which I must say is super cute on her). She was a bit apprehensive about going in the water at first. The kiddie pool was really crowded when we first got there. It seemed school let out early that day or something because there were a LOT of kids there. But it thinned out a bit and Ava ventured in on her own time. Once she got in the water, she had a lot of fun splashing around, cheering kids on as they went down the little slide, and even went down the slide a few times herself (while holding mama’s hand). I think we’ll have to get her swimming more often. The last time we went was over the summer at an outdoor pool. It had been too long!

Friday night, Jody got back from San Francisco, where he’d been for three days on business. He had a good time and got to see the city a bit this time and wants us all to go back there sometime so he can show me and Ava around. I don’t know if that will happen anytime soon, but it would be nice to go someday. I’ve never been to California.

On Saturday we did very little. Stayed home, washed diapers. Jody attempted to fix our dishwasher which is no longer draining. Ugh. Hmmm, not much else.

Today we went grocery shopping at Wild Oats (a natural foods store), where I got a variety of foods to make some new (to me) vegetarian recipes this week. :) The store is a bit of a drive for us – about 30 min. away – but I seemed to do pretty good with the amount of food I bought for the money I paid so it was worth it. I hate that organic foods cost so much more than conventional, but like someone previously said, you pay for it now, or pay for it later. I’m pretty excited to try out these new recipes (some which came from Running2Ks and Miriam).

For dinner tonight I made vegetarian chili using a recipe a new friend gave me. It turned out really good. I’ll post the recipe this week. :)

Tonight we watched Desperate Housewives and “Hitch” and now are about to call it a night.

I think I’m getting (or have) a cold. I started with a sore throat yesterday and have had a bit of a runny nose today. I’ve been using Zicam (anyone have any luck with that?) today and hope it helps me get rid of the cold fast.

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. I have a bit more to write about, but I’ll save that for later. :) G’night.

Let’s talk about food

I’ve been inspired by many of my blogging friends to start creating some recipes of my own and posting them on my blog. Here is the first of what I hope will be many successful attempts at whipping up something new and tasty. :)

Yammy Pasta
Sauce:
1/2 of a 40 oz. can of yams (drained)
6 oz. can of tomato paste
1 C cream (though you could substitute soy milk easily enough)
approx. 1/4 C frozen chopped onions
approx. 2 C frozen chopped spinach
a couple shakes of Pumpkin Pie spice (which is just cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger)
a couple shakes of cayenne pepper
approx. 1 T brown sugar
Pasta:
Whole Wheat Pasta

Mash yams. Mix everything else in. Heat on stovetop until hot.
Prepare pasta according to package instructions.
Place yam mixture on top of pasta. Sprinkle parmesan cheese or nutritional yeast (I would have if I had it) on top. Serve.

Makes about 5 servings.

I also found that you can add some soy milk to the mixture (without the pasta) to water it down a bit and make it into a soup, which was how Ava liked to eat it. I should clarify. She ate it only after making sure she spread some in her belly button and all over her chest. Glad I took her clothes off for this meal. ;)

Anyway, I thought it was pretty tasty and seemed like a good combo of veggies. I can only assume that Ava liked it. ;) I wish I could give you Jody’s take on it, but he hasn’t had any yet. He’s been out of town on business the past few days and gets home tonight. Yay! I’ll be sure and have him test out some of the leftovers.

Now let’s talk about Tings.
I’ve had a few people inquire as to what exactly Tings are, so here’s a pic to give ya an idea. (Don’t say I never did nothin’ for ya.) ;)

They remind me of Cheetos, but don’t have any cheese in them. (They are actually a vegan food.) However they do have nutritional yeast, which has a cheese-like taste to it. I recently found a Yeast Meets West website listing all of the benefits of nutritional yeast and I have to say, I’m quite impressed.

Nutritional yeast contains 18 amino acids (forming the complete protein) and 15 minerals. Being rich in the B-complex vitamins, it is vital in many ways and particularly good for stress reduction. The B-complex vitamins help make nutritional yeast such a valuable supplement, especially to the vegetarian. It is one of the rare vegetarian sources of B12.
One element of yeast is the trace mineral chromium, also known as the Glucose Tolerance Factor (GTF). This is necessary to regulate blood sugar and is important for diabetics and people with a tendency toward low blood sugar.

So not only are Tings a yummy snack, they are good for ya too. :) I have to add that Ava LOVES them.

Little fairy pic

There are a lot of technical things wrong with this photo, but I still think it’s pretty darn sweet. (Of course, being the mama I’m slightly biased.)

Here’s my little fairy.

I don’t know if she’ll let me play dress-up with her again anytime soon. I bought this garb a couple days ago cuz I figured it would make for some cute pics (both of Ava and potential clients), but Ava wasn’t all that impressed and had the wings flipped over and onto her front within the matter of a minute. ;)

Working on healthy eating (and ? for the veggies out there)


As part of my New Year’s Resolutions, I included: “* Become more aware about the food and drinks I ingest and feed to my family. – to include researching vegetarianism and veganism and learning about the impact of current farming and food production in this country on the animals and environment so that I can make informed dietary decisions.”

I admit I haven’t done much research yet, but my gut is telling me that the best thing for us is to make a gradual switch to vegetarianism. However, I’m not sure I will cut fish completely out of our diets. I need to read up on that. But I am fine with no longer eating chicken or turkey and I haven’t had beef in nearly 8 years so that’s no skin off my nose. (By the way, I don’t mean to imply that we’d be vegetarians if we continue to eat fish.)

So far I haven’t had much problem cutting meat out of our diets (Ava hardly eats it anyway), although it will be a lot easier once the meat we do have in the house (think frozen chicken and ground turkey) is gone. I’m contemplating giving it away to friends if anyone wants it. That way I know it won’t get “wasted,” but I don’t have to be the one consuming it. ;)

Tonight’s dinner was Country Lentil soup (courtesy of Fantastic) and Tribe Roasted Red Pepper Hummus with pita bread. It was very tasty and I loved hearing Ava say, “Moo-oore, hummeeess.” :)

Question for all of the vegetarians or vegans who read my blog:

Do you have any books (or websites) on the topic (especially relating to kids) that you recommend? Specifically, I’m looking for a good book that discusses nutrition and the vegetarian child. I want to make sure Ava’s nutritional needs are being met and I’d like to be “armed” with this knowledge as soon as possible because we have her 18 month check-up next week. I’m not sure what my doc’s stance is on vegetarianism. She’s pretty open-minded and has been mostly supportive of my parenting decisions in the past, but she likes to know that I’ve done my research and made informed decisions so I want to go prepared.
(By the way, I have other questions about vegetarian/vegan eating, but I will save those for another day.)

For anyone who is looking to cut some meat out of their diet, even on a very small scale, I just came across this site – Meatless Monday – that looks like a great way to get started. “Meatless Monday is a national health campaign to help Americans prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer – four of the leading causes of death in America.” It includes recipes, cooking tips, ways to eat on the go, staples for your cupboard and more. It seems to be a very helpful resource.

Thanks in advance to any book recommendations or websites you all have. :) I appreciate it!