"If you ask me what I came to do in this world, I, an artist, will answer you: I am here to live out loud." ~ Emile Zola

20 September 2011

In the Garden- An Update

September weather is my absolute favorite, although this year there seems to be a lot more rain. The mild temperatures and sun feel wonderful as the Autumnal Equinox approaches! As we move toward autumn, many green things in my yard are slowly ending their life cycle, including a few things in my garden. Many others are still in full, happy growth! :)

Late last week I fertilized the garden again, pulled weeds, and clipped/neatened veggies and herbs. Our porch flowers are thriving, with new blossoms daily and pops of color to brighten our home!

Tomato in the morning sun.

Happy Growth:

~Tomatoes! Both tomato plants are still blossoming, and there are plenty of baby tomatoes on each. They are a bit smaller than in later summer, but still vibrant in flavor, color, and deliciousness! This weekend I spent a while staking and re-staking the new growth!

~Eggplants! Well, it seems the purple eggplants we expected are not purple at all. Our little round, globe eggplants turned yellow and remained the size of eggs! Turns out we have an heirloom called Thai Yellow Eggplants! lol We have been collecting them, but haven't yet tried to eat any. There are loads of new blossoms and baby Yellows on our plant, which keeps on growing full and beautiful.

~Wildflowers! My very late planting of wildflowers is showing it's first buds! Alyssum is flowering and the Zinnias have their first blossoms. Can't wait to see what color they will be!


Winding Down:

~Beans! Our bean patch is definitely on its last stems, and the leaves are growing worn, thin and brown. There are still some flowers and baby beans, but they stop growing at just an inch or so and become soft.

~Greens! The few more mature lettuces we have left are no longer producing new leaves, or their leaves stay small. We had to pull many that were bolting. We have new lettuces that I planted a couple of weeks ago. These have been thinned, but many remaining bolted this past weekend and had to be pulled. Those that are left are looking a little... wobbly and uncertain. :/ The spinach I planted along with the lettuce a couple of weeks back didn't make it. After two days of splattering rain, our new sprouts were smashed. The two that lived haven't grown at all, and one died this past weekend.

And in Other News:

~Carrots! Hmmm... Though we have gorgeous carrot greens that continue to grow, the few I have uprooted to check progress have had teeny, thin roots. :( Looks like another year without a happy carrot harvest. We will have to investigate what could have caused this, as last year's carrots, though small and short, were actually edible and tasty!

~Herbs! Most are looking great! We have some new dill and cilantro that needs some growth time before starting to harvest. We have pretty much depleted our basil- it's no longer replenishing after cuts.

~Broccoli! We've got about 12-14 broccoli seedlings growing! They've been thinned out a couple of times. Having never grown broccoli and never fall crops, I'm not sure what to expect. They are still looking pretty spindly (photo below).

Baby broccoli. Hoping for a fall harvest...

19 September 2011

Curtains- My First Machine Project!

My first real sewing project- kitchen curtains made from vintage fabric in a bright pattern of veggies and pansies, which I found at Creative Reuse Pittsburgh.

I thought the vibrant colors of the fabric were much too loud on the white background of the original fabric, so I put my new tea-dye skills to work! After washing and drying the material, I dropped it into a lighter tea using only half of the tea bags as in my previous dye sessions, letting the fabric soak half the time. The results are perfect, dulling the colors a bit and giving the white background a slightly worn look. They work great in my kitchen, which I prefer mostly neutral with little pops of color in towels and cookware/dishware (I love reds).

As a brand newbie sewer, I have to admit that I find the measuring and cutting of the fabric is much more difficult than the sewing part and figuring out the machine! I feel pretty good about my machine work during the project, actually, and ran into only a few challenges: thread coming out of the needle while sewing, keeping a totally straight seam line, and finding my stitches were very loose. My Mom helped me figure out that I was threading the machine slightly wrong and that I needed to increase the machine tension to make my stitches tighter.

So how'd they turn out? You judge for yourself! Some slightly lopsided seams, a few loose stitches, but overall I am quite happy!

17 September 2011

Things I am Loving... Concrete!

On Etsy, I have been very drawn to amazing things made with concrete, really noticing and appreciating the unique properties of the material when used in creating. Simple. Rustic. Awesome. Here are a few of my favorite concrete-based creations on Etsy, followed by a couple of great tutorials on how to make your own "concrete" planters!

Square . Concrete . Pot:

Oak Leaf and Acorn Necklace:

Slim Industrial Rustic Concrete Vase / Holder:

Grassy Pebble: Concrete and Faux Grass Necklace:

Indoor/Outdoor and Awesome Concrete Planter -Circle:

Electric Blue Bib and Gray Bib Necklace:


Great DIY projects for your fantastic concrete planters!

Making Hypertufa Pots

How to Make Modern Cement Planters Using Packaging

13 September 2011

Pittsburgh Walk for Farm Animals 2011

I am so excited to be participating in raising funds for the 2nd Annual Pittsburgh Walk for Farm Animals 2011 next month! On Saturday, October 1st, Pittsburgh will host its second Walk for Farm Animals to support the lifesaving rescue, education and advocacy work of Farm Sanctuary! Please help me reach my fundraising goal of $300! Any amount donated, whether $1 or $100, is hugely helpful. Visit my fundraising page or look for the widget on my blog sidebar to the right to contribute. Any amount is welcome! :)

For 25 years, Farm Sanctuary has relied on the Walk for Farm Animals to support its life-saving mission to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals, and promote compassion. The Walk for Farm Animals takes place annually in more than 75 cities across the United States and Canada to celebrate and promote compassion for farm animals and raise funds to enable
Farm Sanctuary to continue its vital work. Last year, Pittsburgh was the 6th BIGGEST WALK ON THE CONTINENT, had 150 walkers and raised over $13,000! This year, our goal is to have 300 walkers and raise $30,000.
Please help us move closer to the #1 spot this year!

Our local Walk coordinator, Kim Piper of
Sunstone Soap, states, "Our goal is to walk together as a compassionate community while we have fun, raise money and help better the world for all beings!" Please join us! All members of the community (
regardless of dietary lifestyle- non-vegans and non-vegetarians are absolutely included) with a love for animals and a desire to end their needless suffering at the hands of factory farms are invited to walk, volunteer, donate, or help in some way.

How You Can Help:

* Sponsor me in my fundraising efforts as part of Pittsburgh's Walk, donating what you can to help me reach my goal of $300! All donations go directly to Farm Sanctuary! Visit my fundraising page via this link or via the widget on my blog sidebar.

* Register to walk in Pittsburgh or your own city!

* If you are unable to walk, register to "Sleep In" as a Virtual Walker!

* Donate a vegan food item to our post-Walk picnic!
Please contact me to arrange this.

* Donate a gift card, retail item, or handmade good to our "Moopon" sale!
Please contact me to arrange this.

* Spread the word about the Walk, Farm Sanctuary, and the plight of abused and neglected farm animals!

Thanks so much for your support!

12 September 2011

Vegan Sweet Potato & Bean Burritos

I love this recipe, and we have made it many times! Sweet, spicy, fresh, and delicious, not to mention lower in fat. The title of this post leaves out the "Black Bean" in the original recipe simply because when I made them this last time I used a combination of kidney beans and garbanzos instead, with great results.

This recipe makes A LOT of burrito mixture! Two of us eat two burritos each per meal with plenty of filling, and we get 3 meals easily from one recipe.

Experience in making this recipe has led me to make some of my own modifications to better meet our taste preferences. You'll see my changes in italics beside each recipe ingredient and in the Notes section after the cooking directions.

The biggest modification I make is significantly reducing the amount of cumin and coriander called for. I love cumin, but I find the 4 tsp called for is too much and reduce it by 1 tsp. Additionally, I find the 4 tsp of coriander the recipe calls for to be overpowering, and find it adds a strong perfumey taste. I reduce the 4tsp in the recipe to 1 tsp with satisfactory results. Lastly, I almost always end up adding an additional 1-2 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice to the burrito mixture at the very end of the recipe, after the bean and potatoes are mixed in with the onion-spice blend.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Burritos
from Moosewood Restaurant Low-Fat [Vegetarian] Favorites

5 c peeled, cubed sweet potatoes
2 tsp canola or other vegetable oil (I used olive.)
3 1/2 c diced onions
4 large garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tbsp minced fresh green chile
4 tsp ground cumin (I used 3 tsp., reducing by 1 tsp.)
4 tsp ground coriander (I used 1 tsp., reducing by 3 tsp.)
4 1/2 c cooked black beans (three 15-oz. cans, drained) (Make sure to rinse, too.)
2/3 c lightly packed cilantro leaves (plus additional chopped for topping)
2 tbsp lemon juice (Fresh is best. I added an additional 2 tbsp at end.)
1 tsp salt
8 eight-inch flour tortillas
Fresh tomato salsa

1. Preheat oven to 350 OR 300 degrees F (see "my notes" below).

2. Place sweet potatoes in pot with water to cover. Cover and bring to boil. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. While the sweet potatoes are cooking, warm the oil in a medium skillet or saucepan and add the onions, garlic and chiles. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are tender, about 7 minutes. Add the cumin and coriander and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. In a food processor, combine the black beans, cilantro, 2 Tbsp lemon juice, salt, and cooked sweet potatoes and puree until smooth. (You can also mash the ingredients in a large bowl by hand using a potato masher. The result will be a less smooth but nicely textured filling.) Transfer the sweet potato mixture to a large mixing bowl and mix in the cooked onions and spices.

5. Lightly oil a large baking dish. Spoon about 2/3 to 3/4 cup of the filling in the center of each tortilla, roll it up, and place it, seam side down, in the baking dish. Cover tightly with foil and bake for about 30 minutes, until piping hot. Serve topped with salsa.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Rather than baking these as called for in step 5, I do the following:

In step 4, I add the bean-potato mixture to the skillet with the cooked onions and spices and reheat entire mixture over low heat. This is when I add the extra lemon juice and adjust spices, adding pepper and additional salt, if needed.

While the mixture is heating in the skillet, I toss the tortillas onto the top rack of the oven for several minutes, preheated to 300 degrees F. Remove when warm and set aside.

When mixture is hot and tortillas are warmed, add mixture to each tortilla and top with fresh additions like:
chopped fresh cilantro, avocado slices, fresh tomato chunks, salsa, vegan (or dairy) sour cream or plain soy yogurt (adds the zing and creaminess of sour cream with lower fat), vegan cheeze or dairy cheddar

Enjoy! :)

10 September 2011

Budgie Bathtime!

Our Lily and Otis love an occasional bath in a bowl of lettuce or spinach leaves and some warm, shallow water. Here, Lily has already indulged and moved away long enough for Otis (green & yellow feathers) to take his turn. :) The video is a bit dark- hope you can still enjoy it!

09 September 2011

It's National Yoga Month: What is Yoga, Anyway?

September is National Yoga Month, a celebration of yoga and a campaign to inspire healthy living through yoga. Check out the official website to learn more and to see if any studios in your area are hosting Yoga Month events or offering a free week of yoga!

Yoga is something I haven't posted much about, despite being a yoga teacher.
Coping daily with a chronic illness has left me feel quite alienated from my own practice, although yoga can be a valuable tool for maintaining balance and healing. I've recently been working toward reconnecting to my yoga and rebuilding a practice, and I will hopefully be able to share some of my experiences here on my blog.

What is Yoga (my personal definition?

Yoga is who we are, our natural state of happiness, bliss, joy, and unconditional love. Yoga guides us into stillness so that we may experience the truth of who we are, leading us back to the essence of our true selves. It lets us uncover and discover our true nature so that we can live with new awareness. Yoga guides us inward toward the eternal, creative energy at our core, and fosters the realization that we are than body and mind. Yoga is the practice of celebrating what is. Like all spiritual practices, yoga brings us "home" to the realization that we already have everything we need. When we are alienated or far from "home", yoga reminds us that we are already there, that we are not separate or imperfect after all.

What is Yoga Really?

Here's a little excerpt from an article I wrote about
about what Yoga is, the very basic definition of Yoga, during my teacher training 10 (yikes!) years ago:

Yoga dates back to prehistory in India- evidence of yoga practice has been found as far back as 2000 to 4000 BC in the Indus Valley civilization. Yoga was originally referenced in the Vedas, the most ancient scripture known. It was further outlined several thousand years later by an Indian philosopher named Patanjali, who codified the spiritual path of yoga into a manual called the Yoga Sutras, which outlined the yoga way of life to help humankind.

The Sanskrit word "yoga" means “to yoke”, “harmony”, or “union” between the body and mind or between the individual soul and the eternal source of all, the Universal Soul. Traced back to a divine source, yoga has traditionally been a sacred and often carefully-kept secret.

Yoga encompasses physical movement, breathing, meditation, and other practices. These practices make up the Eight Limbs of Ashtanga Yoga or the Eight-Limb Path of Yoga
, which is a step-by-step guide for "right living", a plan to guide us from action to knowledge to liberation. A blend of philosophy and science, the practice of yoga is intended to purify the body and obtain a calm, clear mind, leading to self-awareness or ultimate "bliss".

I used these books for reference, and recommend all of them:
Jivamukti Yoga: Practices for Liberating Body and Soul
Meditations for the Mat: Daily Reflections on the Path of Yoga The Spiritual Science of Kriya Yoga
Yoga and the Quest for the True Self
Yoga: The Spirit and Practice of Moving into Stillness

08 September 2011

Backyard Visitor: Awesome Spider!

This incredible spider was hanging out on our window screen the other day, resting and bug catching from a beautiful circular web! She was huge (the size of a quarter with legs all extended- yikes!), with brilliant, hairy orange legs banded in white and black and a bulbous body patterned in yellow and black. I looked her up online and identified her as a spider called a Marbled Orb Weaver. Stunning!

Here's the picture of our visitor, slightly unclear since the photo was taken through the window screen. Below that is a photo from the internet.

07 September 2011

Quote of the Week: Mother Earth, Father Sky

"Is not the sky a father and the earth a mother, and are not all living things with feet or wings, or roots their children?"

~Black Elk, Oglala Sioux

05 September 2011

Projects I'd Love to Make: All Lacey and Pretty

I have been in love with old lace and linens since sometime last year. I love the look of aged doilies and lace mixed in with more modern lines and styles. I would love to try these projects!

Here are more ideas of doily-inspired projects:

DIY with Vintage Doilies

Doily Crafts & DIY Roundup

Many of my dream project ideas come from the
Craftzine Blog.

03 September 2011

Someday I'd Like To...

... see the Monarch butterflies at their migration place in Mexico:

... spend a night watching Aurora Borealis anywhere on Earth (Sweden or Norway would be cool, as would Alaska or Australia):

01 September 2011

Chocolate Zucchini Bread!

I came across this recipe for zucchini bread with chocolate when I was still super excited about harvesting an abundance of squash from my own garden. Once I accepted that I won't have any home-grown zucchini of my own (*sigh*), I was ready to find another way to make this delicious bread. Bought a big, healthy zucchini from a Grow Pittsburgh stand this weekend, and made this recipe that very day. :)

The result is a moist, chocolatey bread that is more like cake. The zucchini seemingly melted away into the cake, and with the chocolate chips added little, random pockets of gooey goodness. YUM!

I veganized the recipe and changed a few things, but click on the title to follow the link to the original instructions. I also doubled the recipe with good results.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread


1 1/2 c Shredded Zucchini

1 c Whole Wheat Pastry Flour

1/2 c Cocoa Powder

1 tsp Baking Soda

1/4 tsp Baking Powder

pinch of salt

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 c Canola Oil (I used half applesauce to reduce the fat content. Use 1/3 c applesauce to replace all oil.)

1/2 c Sugar (For a less sweet bread, use 1/4c sugar here.)

1/2 c Packed Brown Sugar

Vegan substitute for 2-Eggs (I used Ener-G Egg Replacer.)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 c Chocolate Chips


In large bowl, use a mixer to combine oil/applesauce, sugars and vanilla. Add egg replacer and shredded zucchini. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, salt, cinnamon, baking soda and baking powder. (I used a regular, fine metal kitchen strainer, as my sifter broke.) Slowly add dry ingredients to wet. Beat until combined. Stir in chocolate chips.

Scrape batter into a greased 9x5x3 loaf pan, OR a loaf pan lined with parchment paper (my preference). Bake at 350 degrees for 50-65 minutes, or until sharp knife inserted into center comes out clean.

Eat it up, yum! :P