08 January 2018

Winter Walking Plan 5 Years On


Lady in Pink by Childe Hassam, 1890

Five years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting a winter walking plan to help me stay more active during the cold months. I've actually kept up with that resolution every year since, and this will be my fifth year completing a walking regimen during the winter. As I wrote in my original post, I like going for long walks during nice weather and am naturally more active during the spring, summer, and fall, but in wintertime I need a structured plan to keep my activity level up. Five years on, I've found that it's really improved my health and mood during a time when I tend to feel a bit low.

While I initially followed a "couch to 5k" walking plan I found online just to have a starting point, over the years I've developed my own routine. I always start the first week in January, and continue for twelve weeks until the end of March, when spring begins and my activity level usually picks up. My goal for the first two weeks is an easy fifteen minutes a day of uninterrupted walking, and every two weeks I increase the time by five minutes until I'm walking forty minutes uninterrupted by the end of the plan.

Sometimes, if the weather is mild enough, I'll do my walking outside--this year I've resolved to go out as long as it's at least 40 degrees and clear. But for the most part, I actually just walk indoors around my dining room table. Yes, it feels a little silly to start with, and yes, I did used to worry about the neighbors watching me, but I got over it pretty quickly. After all, is there anything more inherently silly about walking around your house than walking on a treadmill? Not to mention the fact that the former is a lot cheaper than the latter!

To occupy myself during my walking, I'll listen to music or audiobooks on my iPod. I like to save any new music I get for Christmas to listen to once I start my plan, so it gives me something to look forward to and motivates me to get started. I also always have a long audiobook going for when my walks get longer--that's how I've been (slowly!) making my way through the Harry Potter series for my first-ever series reread, or rather relisten.

I'm not an exercise buff by any stretch of the imagination, so I'm actually pretty surprised and pleased with myself that I've found a routine that works and I've stuck with it all this time. While it probably seems very slow and mild to those who run, lift weights, or do intense aerobic exercise, when added to my daily activity it's enough to keep me feeling good until the warm weather returns and I can spend more time outdoors walking around town and working in my garden. So the moral of this story is find whatever kind of exercise works for you, at the level that works for you, and don't worry about looking silly! Once you find the right routine, keeping it up will be easier than you think.

01 January 2018

2017 in Review


The Sand Bar by Thomas Cooper Gotch, c. late 19th-early 20th century

2017 Memories


For my 27th birthday: I had a pretty pastel celebration






2017 Favorites

Favorite flower in my garden: Double Impatiens



Favorite new recipe: Fat-Free Vegan Doughnuts



Best beauty purchase: Maybelline Blushed Nudes Palette



Top three books read: The Serial Garden by Joan Aiken (children's),  
High Rising by Angela Thirkell (adult), and Diary of a Provincial Lady by E. M. Delafield (adult)


Favorite TV program watched: Mapp & Lucia (BBC, 2014 version)



Guilty pleasure TV of the year: The Bold Type (Freeform)



Favorite film of the year: Beauty and the Beast (Disney)



Song of 2017: "Someone To You" by Banners

24 December 2017

Christmas Wishes for 2017 with the Muppets

"When the River Meets the Sea" from Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas

Like a baby when it is sleeping
In its loving mother's arms--
What a newborn baby dreams is a mystery.
But his life will find a purpose,
And in time, he'll understand
When the river meets the sea--
When the river meets the almighty sea.

"It's in Every One of Us" from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
(video from A Muppet Family Christmas)

It's in every one of us
To be wise.
Find your heart,
Open up both your eyes.
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why--
It's in every one of us,
By and by.

 "One More Sleep 'Til Christmas" from The Muppet Christmas Carol

There's something in the wind today
That's good for everyone.
Yes, faith is in our hearts today,
We're shining like the sun.
And everyone can feel it--the feeling's running deep.
After all, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas--
After all, there's only one more sleep 'til Christmas Day.
  

18 December 2017

Recipe: Light Vegan Nutmeg Sugar Cookies

Note: Please keep in mind that my recipes reflect only my own experience, and that if you choose to follow them you do so at your own risk!


Lately I've been experimenting with vegan baking without using ready-made substitutes for eggs and butter. This recipe is the result of one such experiment, and I couldn't be more pleased with it: these sugar cookies have just the right amount of sweetness and a subtly festive flavor thanks to a sprinkling of nutmeg. Their crisp texture makes them perfect for dunking in a hot drink, or for just enjoying on the side of one. The key to the recipe is using coconut butter, which is made of pureed coconut, for shortening--it imparts a surprisingly buttery taste without either an obvious coconut flavor or the unpleasant oily aftertaste of refined coconut oil, which I've tried in the past.
  Ingredients

- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup light amber maple syrup
- 4 tablespoons coconut butter, melted
- 2 1/4 cups einkorn flour*
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon sugar + 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg for topping

* Einkorn flour is made from an ancient variety of wheat and is naturally moister than all-purpose flour. If you substitute all-purpose flour, you may need to add 1-2 extra tablespoons of almond milk.

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two large baking sheets with baking parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the sugar, maple syrup, and melted coconut butter.

3. Add 1/2 cup of the flour, the baking soda, and the salt to the wet mixture and combine. Add the vanilla extract and 1 tablespoon of the almond milk and combine again. Keep alternating 1/2 cup flour and 1 tablespoon of almond milk, finishing with the last 1/4 cup of flour. As the dough gets stiffer, you may need to finish incorporating the flour with your hands.

4. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator until it's firm, at least 30 minutes.

5. Sprinkle a clean work surface and a rolling pin with a bit of flour. Place the cookie dough on the floured surface and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick. Cut with cookie cutters and transfer to the prepared baking sheets with a thin spatula. (You can re-roll the dough once or twice to get more cookies from it.)

6. Sprinkle the cookies with the sugar and nutmeg mixture and bake until golden brown around the edges, around 20-25 minutes. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes 32 cookies 3" in diameter

10 December 2017

Recipe: Vegan Spiced Pear Muffins

Note: Please keep in mind that my recipes reflect only my own experience, and that if you choose to follow them you do so at your own risk!


This recipe is a collaboration with my mother, Michelle, who used to make a non-vegan version of these around Christmastime. Since she eats a mostly vegan diet nowadays, we worked together to substitute the dairy and eggs in the recipe to make a version we could both enjoy. The resulting muffins have a soft, moist texture with a festive, seasonal flavor thanks to pureed pears and warm spices. If you don't have pears on hand or want to save a step, you could use applesauce instead. (But be sure to use coconut butter and not coconut oil--the former is made with coconut flesh and adds a rounded flavor without tasting of coconut, while I find the latter can leave an unpleasantly oily aftertaste in baked goods.)

  Ingredients

- 1/4 cup coconut butter
- 1 cup sugar
- 3/4 cup pureed pears (about 3 pears cooked and pureed)
- 2 cups einkorn flour*
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup unsweetened soy milk
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
* Einkorn flour is made from an ancient variety of wheat and is naturally moister than all-purpose flour. If you substitute all-purpose flour, you may need to add 1-2 extra tablespoons of soy milk.
Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with parchment muffin wrappers and set aside.

2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl, stir together the coconut butter, the sugar, the pear puree, and the vanilla extract. If the coconut butter is very hard, you may need to microwave it in a small microwave-safe bowl on low power until it is soft first.

4. Add the flour mixture and the soy milk alternately to the pear mixture, mixing well after each addition.

5. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin cups, filling each about 2/3 full.

6. Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden brown. Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then use a fork to carefully pop them out of the pan and let them cool completely on a wire rack.

Makes 12 muffins