A Resolution I Can Keep


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The first week of 2018 is coming to a close.  How are everyone’s resolutions going?  I don’t usually make resolutions but, moving forward, I am resolved to be kinder to myself.  I tend to be hard on myself, demand a great deal of myself, and then fall into negative self-talk when I can’t meet my own expectations.  In 2018, I resolve to say positive things about myself and focus on what I believe is my calling.  Writing.

I didn’t always think writing was my calling and, by ‘calling’ I mean the one thing I loved to do above all other things.  Writing was a hobby, nothing more.  After all, there were many other worthwhile things I could be doing.  I liked reading, enjoyed words, and always wrote even if it was just in a journal but it was always the thing I did to keep myself sane while I pursued that worthwhile thing.  And yet, there was always an image in my head: an example a friend set for me that always had me asking myself, is this worthwhile thing something I love doing?

That friend is Tara Novak and the example she set for me occurred on a New York trip we had opportunity to take with our High School drama group.  Tara is an immensely talented violinist and she brought her violin on that trip.  In the early morning, Tara was practicing her violin in the stairwell of the hotel our group was staying in.  That has always stayed with me.  With her talent, no doubt Tara could have taken a few days off practice and no one would have ever noticed.  She didn’t.  No matter what others might think or say, Tara was running scales before breakfast, honing her craft.  I never asked her if she did so because she loved violin too much not to play: whatever her reasons, her example is the standard I have measured my choices against.

I have taken enjoyment in many things and, perhaps they were worthwhile, but none of them was the thing I’d do in a hotel stairwell.  The only thing I’ve never wanted to take a day off from and, yes, would do in a hotel stairwell, is writing.  I love words.  Reading them, writing them, finding that one word that perfectly expresses what I want to say.  Words are my passion.

Pursuing that passion isn’t always easy.  I have some physical limitations from the car accident that can make writing difficult and I am not always nice to myself when I come up against those limitations.  I tell myself if I was a better writer, more talented, I would be able to write less drafts and my book would not be taking so long to complete.  I find Tara’s example a comfort in these times.  She wasn’t in that stairwell playing Bach’s Chaconne from Partita in D Minor (though she could have done if  she wanted!): she was playing scales.  I like to think of my writing that way.  I have thousands of words and, even though they aren’t yet honed into a manuscript, each word is like a note in a musical scale: the necessary practice for the manuscript that will come.  I remember Tara in a hotel stairwell on those days writing doesn’t go well or I’m especially tired.  She reminds me to never give up and I am able to show myself kindness.  I will always be grateful.

Not a stairwell but I did recently get some work done in a hotel room. It came equipped with a lounge chair.

If you’re interested in how practice truly does make perfect, you can find Tara Novak on Facebook and Twitter as well as her website.

For That Holiday Potluck


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I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season.  If, by chance, you are in need of a vegan option to take to a potluck or are having a vegan visit for dinner, I wanted to share a recipe I recently made.  I have two go-to recipes for potlucks/family dinners: a pumpkin kibbeh or the tahini casserole from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet.  I wanted to try something different this year and, while thumbing through my recipe box, found a casserole I wanted to try.

I found the original recipe in an Eating Well magazine and thought it sounded tasty.  Tasty, but it was not vegan.  I made a few tweaks and my vegan result was wonderful; just as creamy and delicious as I imagine the original to be.  It’s easy, doesn’t take much prep, and travels well.  I portioned out what I didn’t take with to the dinner and put the containers in the freezer.  I pull one out the night before to thaw, heat it up, put it in my thermos, and I have a delicious hot lunch at work.

If you or your vegan visitor like asparagus and pasta in a creamy sauce, give this recipe a try.  Happy Holidays!

casserole (2)

No-Cheese, Asparagus, and Pea Baked Pasta

12 oz chickpea rotini (I like the chickpea pasta because it keeps its texture)

1/2 cup minced white or yellow onion

1 lb bag frozen organic asparagus, cut into bite size pieces if whole

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 cups frozen organic peas

5 TBSP all-purpose flour

4 TBSP extra virgin olive oil

4 cups unsweetened almond milk

2 tsp dry mustard

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 block Daiya cheese, Smoked Gouda flavor, shredded

1 TBSP chopped tarragon, or 1 tsp dried

2/3 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Coat a 9 by 13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the chickpea pasta and cook 2 minutes less than package directions.  Reserve 1/2 cup of cooking water and drain pasta.  Put pasta in a large bowl and set aside.
  3. Put the minced onion in a large skillet over medium-low heat and cook until onions are translucent.  Add the garlic and cook another 30 seconds to 1 minute.  Add the frozen vegetables and heat until vegetables are thawed, adding a little water to the pan if vegetables start to stick.  Scrape into the bowl with the pasta.
  4. Using the same pan, heat 2 TBSP of the oil and then sprinkle in the flour, whisking until the flour starts to brown-2 to 3 minutes.  Whisking constantly, slowly pour in the milk.  Add the reserved water, mustard, salt, and pepper.  Bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.  Remove from heat and whisk in Daiya and tarragon.
  5. Pour sauce over the pasta and vegetables and stir until coated.
  6. Transfer to the prepared dish.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the breadcrumbs with 2 TBSP olive oil and sprinkle over the casserole.
  8. Bake until heated through, 30 to 35 minutes.  Let stand at least 10 minutes before serving or let cool, cover, and take to a potluck.

It will serve 8 if each has 1 cup.  Any leftover can be parceled out and frozen.

The original recipe was published in the Eating Well magazine by Katie Workman: I didn’t copy down the edition.  I’ll be better, I promise 🙂  I subbed out 2 cups leeks for the onion I had on hand, Gruyere for Daiya’s Smoked Gouda, and milk for almond milk.

A New Plant-Based Snack on the Shelves


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There is no denying that convenient foods are, well, convenient.  I do follow a healthy, whole food diet as much as possible but, with weekly meal prep plus the need to pack work lunches, I can’t deny that I rely on convenience foods to round things out.  Imagine my delight when I find something that is both convenient and healthy.  I discovered a product at my Natural Grocers the other day, a product so good I’m going to have to cut myself off.  I’ve already consumed one container in two days.  The product?  The Honest Stand’s cheese dip.

Okay, it’s not dairy based cheese.  However, it is organic and made with vegetables and nuts; something that makes me feel a bit better about how much of it I’ve eaten in the past few days.  And, it isn’t really an un-healthy food.  The Honest Stand came into being because the founder, Alex, suffers from celiac disease with the extra bonus of being allergic to one of the main proteins in dairy.  A product that is safe for customers who must eat gluten-free, suitable for vegans, organic, packaged in BPA free recyclable containers, and is delicious is a product I can enjoy guilt-free.

My local Natural Grocers only carries three of the five flavors: Garlic Parmesan, Smoky Cheddar, and Spicy Nacho but, as I’d always choose spicy over mild and smoky over the regular, you’ll not hear me complain.  I purchased the available flavors and took them home to test.  All three dips passed the first test, that of texture.  The dips aren’t thick like some spreads but neither are they too runny.  They can be spread on a cracker or the cracker can be dunked; whatever the preference.  The dips also passed the second test, that of taste.

The Spicy Nacho edged out the Smoky Cheddar to be my favorite.  The cheese dip can be eaten cold or warmed and the Spicy Nacho is good either way.  I took it to work and ate it with tortilla chips but it’s equally delicious topping nachos.

The Smoky Cheddar is becoming a staple in my lunch box.  It’s so easy to eat with vegetables and crackers.  I’ve tried different flavors of crackers and my favorite combination is the Smoky Cheddar dip with Back to Nature’s Cracked Pepper Harvest Whole Wheat Crackers.  The combination is extra smoky and all delicious.

The Garlic Parmesan comes in a very close third.  I haven’t tried it with crackers yet because, the moment I saw it on the store shelf, I knew what I was going to do.  I took it home, cooked up some penne pasta, warmed the cheese dip, tossed it with the pasta, ground some black pepper over the top, and tucked in.  It’s better than any Pasta Alfredo I ever remember eating.

Best of all?  It’s not too expensive: less than $4.00 per container.  Want to try it but don’t live next to a Whole Foods or Natural Grocers?  It can be ordered on The Honest Stand’s website.





I Have Made Dirt!


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Hello, Everyone!  It looks as if all my posts from Vegan Wayfarer were uploaded here with no problems.  I should probably fix some of my older photos but I know I probably won’t.  Chalk it up to learning and move on, right?

I’ve been adjusting to a new schedule at a new job and working on my manuscript so haven’t been posting here.  It turns out blogs don’t write themselves and do not benefit from being ignored.  However, you know what does benefit from being ignored?  Compost.  (How’s that for a segue?!)

I admit it, I began composting with the best of intentions but then got busy and let it fall by the wayside.  Still, the compost bin continued to do its thing and, when I checked it earlier in the year, it was full of lovely black soil; fragrant, rich, intoxicating.  There’s something thrilling about vegetable scraps and shredded paper (printed with vegetable inks) turning from a hot mess-literally and figuratively-into nutrient rich soil just waiting to be used for planting.

My composting adventure didn’t start out all that well.  I ordered a compact bin I figured I could handle from Home Depot and, when it arrived, assembled it in my front room before carrying it outside to its home by my fence.  It’s dual chambered; the concept being I can add scraps to one side while the compost cooks in the other.


My compost bin and a tub of compost ready to use.

I began adding scraps from my cooking processes and they began to ferment inside the bin.  Then came the smell.  I always used to watch “Labyrinth” and laugh at the bog of eternal stench, then I began composting and it was no longer funny.  Before my neighbors could camp out on my front lawn with pitchforks and torches, and before my family could happily toss me to them, I went to Google.  Google educated me in such terms as “green” and “brown” materials necessary for a healthy compost bin.  My compost was all green with no brown, a situation I quickly remedied.  The smell abated and the crisis was averted.

Even left forgotten, the compost bin did its thing and I ended up with half a bin of lovely, lovely black dirt.  It smells like the richest potting soil and inspires me to use words like “loam” and “worm casings”.  I let it get wet when it rains and stir it with a pitchfork, an act that makes me feel like I’m already a gardener.  I can’t wait to use it.  I’m going to try my hand at planting herbs first.  I’m having trouble finding bulk herbs in my local grocery stores and I wince at paying 4 bucks for six leaves of mint.  I’d also like to try my hand at growing tomatoes though I’m aware they don’t do so well in Colorado.  Once I’ve nailed down sprouting and growing a few things, I’ve got an old fort in the backyard I’d like to use for gardening.  There are already uprights for beans and places to hang pots.  But first things first.  No worries.  I’ve purchased a book on gardening in small spaces and have the fall and winter months to educate myself.  Next stop, seedlings.


I was going to try to get a picture of the entire fort but the wasps had laid claim to the place I was standing. I let them have it. For now.

Eating at Saj


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A few weeks ago, I filled in for my work counterpart.  This resulted in a looooonnnnng day and, by lunchtime, I was ready for a break.  Away from the building and my desk, somewhere that served good food.  Saj Mediterranean Grill is a fairly new arrival to the neighborhood.  It’s a toss up as to whether Mediterranean or Mexican food is my favorite (hummus or tacos?!) so I was looking forward to trying Saj out: when the opportunity came, I jumped at it.

The first thing I noticed is, Saj is busy.  The line stretched almost to the door.  A good sign when considering the quality of the food, not such a good sign when I’m on a clock and have an hour for lunch, including drive time.  I took deep breaths and maintained my equilibrium.  I’d take my food back with me if necessary.  I spent my line time perusing the menu, reading about the meaning of “Saj”, and wondering if the garlic aioli could possibly be dairy free.  The menu offers a wide array of if-not-vegan-easily-made-so options including wraps, salad, and pizzas.  A sign on the wall told me “Saj” is the flatbread baked on a domed or flat griddle called a Saj, and the garlic aioli is made with mayo.

There is a handy chart at the register that lists the sauces and their ingredients.  As neither the garlic aioli nor the tahini were dairy free, I decided on zaatar sauce.  I’d also spent my time in the line watching food go in and out of the large oven, placed so you can watch everything that happens with your food.  Saj’s website doesn’t lie: their ingredients are fresh.  By the time I’d reached the register, I’d decided on a wrap made with the wheat saj (flat bread) and, once I’d decided on a sauce, filled my wrap with spicy hummus, basmati rice, falafel, kalamata olives (one of my favorite things), and sauteed peppers and onions.

When my wrap arrived, the flatbread reminded me a bit of a crepe.  A little thicker but it did resemble a pancake rather than what I usually expected from flatbreads like pita or naan.  It was a bit sweet as well, though that was a good contrast to the salty ingredients I’d chosen.

My wrap wasn’t too salty, although I love salt so perhaps any future orders should contain more fresh vegetables.  I liked it though.  The briny tang of the kalamata olives did overwhelm the other flavors but please don’t consider that a complaint:  I appreciate that the staff didn’t skimp on the olives.  There was something pickled as a garnishment: the menu has pickled turnips as an option but the peppery bite-reminiscent of horseradish-made me wonder if the garnish wasn’t pickled daikon. The staff was busy so I didn’t ask but cleaned my plate of everything, wrap and garnish.  There were no leftovers to take back to work with me and I left the restaurant with ten minutes to spare.  Since my drive back was five, I made it back to work in plenty of time!

I purchased a beverage.  I usually don’t when I eat out as most commercial beverages contain too much sugar.  I did for this visit, as a special treat, and was glad I had done so.  I decided on an orange pomegranate San Pelligrino and the sweet/tart carbonation cut through the oil and salt of my meal.  I could have shared with a friend: there was too much sugar for me to finish the beverage but I was glad to have it while eating.  My entire meal came together to satisfy every section of my tastebuds and I’m looking forward to eating at Saj Mediterranean Grill again soon.


Not a healthy beverage choice but it was tasty


A Bean By Any Other Color…


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I’ve tried many new food items since becoming vegan: things I never thought I would eat much less like.  Things like pressed fermented tofu and seed cake, though seven-grain tempeh sounds more appetizing; and then there are all the beans.  My pre-vegan repertoire consisted of black beans, kidney beans, navy beans, and the occasional lentil.  My post-vegan pantry has expanded to include all of those plus cranberry beans, anasazi beans, black, green, red, and black lentils, yellow and green split peas, Christmas lima beans, and so many more.  Some of the tastiest and most versatile beans I use are garbanzo beans, aka chickpeas.  They make excellent crispy snacks if marinated and oven-baked, star in chickenless salad, chickpea and noodle soup, and not-tuna salad.

My enthusiasm for new and interesting beans may have gone too far.  I was at an Asian market (since become a diner so I need a new source for black salt) and was going nuts at the prices of bulk lentils, spices, black salt, and green garbanzo beans.  The friend I was shopping with said, “um…green garbanzo beans?”  “Yep”, I replied; “aren’t they cool?”  My friend looked like ‘cool’ wasn’t the first word that occurred to her but she made no other protest and a bag of green garbanzo beans accompanied me home.

As summer takes over in Colorado I eat more salads and, at long last, the time came for me to soak and cook the green garbanzo beans in order to make not-tuna salad.  I admit, a lessons I’ve learned from previous cooking experience sprang to mind as I prepared the beans. Lesson one: soup mixes comprised of multiple beans and/or grains look pretty until they’re cooked.  Then, black beans or black rice color EVERYTHING else in the mix and the entire lot turns brown.  What would cooked green beans look like?  However, I’d purchased the beans and was committed.  How bad could it be?


Well…cooked and mashed green garbanzo beans are no longer green.  “Unappetizing” and other, stronger, words came to mind but I’m anything if not wasteful.  I mashed my beans, stirred in Just Mayo, mustard, chopped green olives, chopped celery, and 1/4 a sheet of nori, snipped into teeny pieces.  I was going to eat it no matter how it looked.

While the salad looked nasty; once I spooned it over a bed of red leaf lettuce and covered it with sliced Easter egg radishes, appearance was no longer an issue.


Taste was no issue at all.  There is no substitute for soaking and cooking my own beans.  Taste, texture, cost…there is no comparison, although I admit I use canned beans because they’re convenient.  The beans in my salad were smooth and creamy, which bore no resemblance to actual tuna salad but, this far into my vegan diet; that isn’t a bad thing.  The salad is filling, tasty, and easy to eat at my desk at work.  And, the green garbanzo beans?  I think that all future recipes will keep them whole rather than mashed.


A Frond For Me, A Frond For You


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I go to the grocery store with the best of intentions.  I am enticed by the vivid colors of fresh, organic produce and always have a plan for what I buy.  More often than not, those plans go by the wayside as I get busy with my job and working on my manuscript.  Since I can’t bear the thought of all that lovely produce going to waste, my intricate plans become soup.

I like making soup.  I rarely need a recipe for it and I can have dinner done in the time it takes vegetables to cook: often a half hour or less.  My soups all start the same: sweat chopped onion in a stock pot, add garlic, add water or vegetable stock, add washed grains if I’m using them, add vegetables after grain has cooked, add canned or pre-cooked beans, heat through, eat.  Tasty and simple.  My last soup was created because I’d purchased some beautiful collard greens intending to make a lemon-chopped greens salad, didn’t get to it, and needed to use them up.  Why soup?  Well…

…I’m not that familiar with how to cook collard greens.  I tried the Sicilian Collard Greens from Alicia Silverstone’s The Kind Diet when I first became vegan but overcooked the greens.  The memory of the horrid bitter mass they became is still with me and I haven’t tried that recipe again.  My sister likes collard greens but, as she cooks hers with bacon fat, that recipe isn’t an option for me.  I perused my cookbooks and thought that a recipe for collard greens, wild rice, and black-eyed pea soup from Robin Robertson’s 1000 Vegan Recipes sounded good.  I had to adapt it as I had rice and greens and very little of the other ingredients but that’s what I love about making soups: you don’t need to follow a recipe.  Throw everything in a pot and it’s very difficult to go wrong.  I made notes of replacements I could make with what I had on hand and read my new recipe out to my family.  They entered it into their Weight Watcher’s App and, finding the total point value satisfactory, dinner was planned.

Robin Robertson’s cookbook was one of the first I purchased when making the switch to a vegan lifestyle.  I figured I’d have all I needed with 1,000 recipes and have found this cookbook to be eminently useful.  The best tip is to either steam or simmer tempeh for 30 minutes before using it in a recipe as doing so takes out that bitter aftertaste.  I also appreciate these recipes are more of a guideline.  I’ve made some recipes while adhering to every jot and tittle but some don’t include enough herbs and spices for my liking.  I thought as much with this soup recipe and added a few of my favorites.  Most spices are free on my family’s diet plan so I can indulge my inner mad kitchen scientist.


My version of the soup was excellent.  The entire kitchen was filled with mouth-watering scents as the soup cooked and I adjusted the original recipe so everything was cooked in one pot.  This is a great idea if all the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting, not so much if you’re planning on leftovers.  I’ve found that greens left in soup overnight take on an unappetizing smell.  This happened to my delicious soup and I was reminded that I’d made this observation once already.  Hopefully, now that I’ve twice been left with no leftovers (something that annoys me), I’ll remember to cook only the amount of greens that can be consumed in one sitting.  If my greens are in such bad shape they won’t last while I heat leftovers, the freezer is always a viable option.

Nasty leftover greens aside, I can’t say enough good things about this soup.  It satisfies both senses of taste and smell, is soothing to the tummy, and-when paired with a slice of molasses cornbread-makes for a filling meal.  The cornbread is made from one of my mother’s recipes and I’m sharing it with her permission.  Since my recipe breaks enough from Ms. Robertson’s; I’m sharing it as well.  Two recipes in one post!

Side note: my mother uses Wholesome! brand organic stevia in her recipe.  If stevia isn’t your thing, feel free to substitute another sweetener.

Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean soup with Molasses Corn Bread.

The cornbread takes 40 to 45 minutes to cook so make it first.  You will need:

1 Cup yellow cornmeal

1 Cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp sea salt

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 Cup unsweetened apple sauce

3 tsp or 6 packets Stevia leaf herbal extract

1 cup unsweetened plant based milk (we use almond/coconut)

1/4 cup molasses

2 cups frozen organic corn kernels

1 TBSP ground flax seed meal

2 TBSP water

  1.  Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Lightly oil a cast iron skillet and set aside.  Mix the flax meal with the water and set aside.  Rinse the corn and let drain.
  2. In a medium bowl, combine cornmeal, flour, salt, and baking powder.  Mix well and set aside.
  3. In a second bowl, mix applesauce, sugar, plant milk, molasses, and the flax egg.  Mix well and stir into dry ingredients.  Stir in the corn and pour the batter into the skillet.
  4. Bake cornbread until the top turns golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean; 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Slice into 12 slices and serve plain or with desired topping.


Collard, Wild Rice, and Bean Soup.  You will need:

1 Bunch Collard Greens, stemmed and chopped

1 Medium onion, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, minced

2 14 oz Cans Organic Tri-Bean Blend beans rinsed and drained or 3 Cups mixed cooked beans, drained

6 Cups vegetable broth

1/2 cup Wild Rice Blend (I like Lundgren’s), rinsed

2 tsp cumin

2 tsp coriander

1 tsp thyme

1 pinch of red pepper flakes

A kitchen timer!

  1.  Place the chopped onion in a stock pot over medium low heat and let cook 5 minutes.  Add minced garlic and let cook until onions are translucent, about 2 minutes more.  Add a small bit of vegetable broth if onions and garlic begin to stick.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, cumin, coriander, thyme, red pepper flakes, and wild rice.  Cook 15 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped collard greens and cook another 15 minutes.  Add the cooked beans and heat through, 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. Enjoy!  Can serve 8 people if the portions stay around 1 cup.

Note: Only chop all the greens and add them to the soup of all of the soup is going to be consumed in one sitting.  If not, chop the equivalent of one large frond per person and cook in a separate pot of boiling, salted water until collards are tender.  This takes about 20 minutes.  Drain the collards and divide them among the bowls when the soup is complete.  Stir and enjoy.






Going a Viking


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The latest special exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science is Vikings: Beyond the Legend.  I was looking forward to seeing it.  When I first began researching different cultures for my book, I had no idea where to begin.  I visited the children’s non-fiction section of my local library and pulled off the shelf every cultural and historical book that looked remotely interesting.  I remember reading a few books on Vikings but, as my attention was quickly diverted to the cultures of the Ancient Mediterranean, my reading on Vikings quickly fell by the wayside.  I was looking forward to re-acquainting myself with them.

I began said re-acquaintance by attending a lecture at the museum before purchasing a ticket to the exhibit.  The lecture assured me I would see the Vikings in a new light; show me proof they were much more than raiders and killers portrayed by history.  Maps shown at the lecture did make me aware that Viking ships made it far further into various lands than I knew and that was interesting.  However, as another slide showed archaeological evidence that victims of a raid had been neatly buried in one mound with all their heads neatly buried in one adjacent, the lecture didn’t do much to dispel the raider image.  I had hopes the exhibit would do a better job.

It did.  The artifacts on display are incredible.  I learned Viking culture was so much more than swords and raids.  Metallurgy did involve the forging of swords but it also resulted in fabulous jewelry the intricacy of which, the exhibit tells me, is almost impossible to replicate today.

I was able to see Viking ingenuity at work in the inner workings of a lock.  The spring mechanism, activated by pressure from the teeth of a key, was brilliant.  I wish I had been able to get a photo of it.  The exhibit did tell me that the penalty for theft where the goods had been locked away was higher than if they had not.  An interesting facet of law.

The role of women in Viking culture interested me.  I had always thought that only men went a viking but, apparently, this isn’t so.  Women too, went on these travels.  Women had a great deal of authority in the home, more so than most other women of their day, and this role and power as household manager is symbolized with the keys found in some burials of women.


Of course, Viking raids did definitely happen and were brutal.  And yet, the Vikings were also accomplished traders, dealing in goods as far away as China.  There was a replica of a Buddha found in a burial but, try as I might, I couldn’t get a clear photo of it.  I did manage to get a picture of a glass beaker, something I would have thought would be unheard of in Viking lands.


One last observation: I took a photo of this blurb from the exhibit.


That struck me.  In my reading, I learned that some Viking colonies had been abandoned, presumably because of a lack of natural resources.  This understanding and resiliency showed me how truly multi-faceted Viking culture really was.

I left the exhibit with a desire to know more and I decided to go straight to the source.  What did the Vikings have to say about themselves?  To find out, I purchased The Sagas of the Icelanders from the gift shop.  I look forward to reading it and learning more about this fascinating culture.

A caveat:

I googled tips for taking photos in a museum and did try to put them to good use but I still have a long way to go. 🙂




Burger Free at a Burger Joint


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I checked my archives and couldn’t find when/if I’d ever posted about Red Robin.  It’s not a place I eat at a great deal but I remember it was one of the first eateries I visited soon after making the switch to veganism.  I remember researching what options were vegan and I remember utilizing a build-your-own burger option.  I checked Red Robin’s website and couldn’t find it but I did choose what I wanted veggie burger, bun, and condiment-wise, printed it, and handed it to the waitress.  If I remember correctly, Red Robin’s veggie burger isn’t bad.

I re-visited Red Robin last week.  It was a gorgeous day and my step-father had a gift card so, after a walk at the reservoir, off we went.  I was already primed for a veggie burger and fries when I noticed a new option in the appetizer section of Red Robin’s menu.  My local Red Robin was offering guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips.  Burger forgotten, I placed my order.

There are not words to express how much I enjoy guacamole.  When paired with salsa and crispy, salty, tortilla chips?  I’m willing to walk the reservoir a second time, if necessary.  It probably was necessary because the waitress told me the guacamole was bottomless.  Yep, she said bottomless and I did find it necessary to eat a second helping.  In order to feel good about my level of protein, I ordered a side dish of the southwestern black beans to accompany my guacamole goodness and tucked in.

This was delicious.  There wasn’t room in either dish to mix the guacamole, salsa, and beans together so I’d take a bite of one and then the other.  I had plenty of chips: one order covered two helpings of the guac and one of the beans.

Black Beans 2

Guacamole is, perhaps, difficult to get wrong, but Red Robin doesn’t miss the mark.  It wasn’t too salty and neither were the tortilla chips which meant the entire meal didn’t overwhelm.  The salsa and guacamole come in the same ramekin topped with jalapeno slices which aren’t too hot.  I would have said they could have used a touch more heat but my family was chortling at me as I began to turn red so, apparently, the meal was spicy enough.  I enjoyed it and it’s nice having a non-burger option at what is definitely a burger joint.

I can’t find the guacamole, salsa, and chips on Red Robin’s online menu so this option might be location specific.  Going to Red Robin?  I found this handy guide online.

Developing My Writing Brain


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I would love to be a word genius: stories spilling out of my brain with no need for editing or grammar checks.  That’s not how my writing process goes, unfortunately, so I do a great deal of reading.  Reading is my favorite thing and, among the amazing fiction I read for fun and the history I read for research (and fun), I also read about writing.  Some of the books I read are craft and others are writers writing about writing.  Most I read and put back on my shelf but I just finished a book I thought worthy of mention: Fire Up Your Writing Brain by Susan Reynolds.

This book doesn’t cover craft-not really.  Rather, the book contains tips and tricks derived from neuroscience to take what I already know as a writer and make it work more efficiently.  This is a book I’ll have to study and my favorite part were the quotes included from different writers.

There were three things I read on my first pass through this book that stayed with me:

First, a little blurb about Mark Zuckerberg was included stating he buys multiples of the same shirt in order to minimize how many decisions he makes in a day.  He’s quoted as saying; “There’s a bunch of psychological theory that even making small decisions about what you wear, what you eat for breakfast, etc., can make you tired.” (Fire Up Your Writing Brain, page 162).  The TBI I sustained in my car accident years ago means it’s easy for my brain to get overwhelmed.  Planning my meals, multi-tasking at my job, researching, writing my manuscript, posting to my blogs…it can get difficult for me to keep it all straight.  This quote struck me.  I’ve already been looking for ways to simplify my life and reading this has caused me to make doing so a priority.

Two, no one is perfect and yet I keep expecting my writing to be so.  The section entitled “Your Expectations Are Too High” on page 194 spoke to me.  In it, Ms. Reynolds states “The best advice anyone can give inexperienced writers is to write a first draft as quickly as possible, as good books are not written, but rewritten and rewritten and rewritten.”  This is something I’ve heard many times from many sources but perhaps, this time, I was ready not just to hear it but take it to heart.  I finished a first draft years ago: all 611 pages of it.  It’s been whittling and paring and cutting that mass of research and character background into something more readable that’s been a problem.  I have difficulty not tweaking this, re-writing that, what if this, and would it be better if… What Ms. Reynolds’ book is helped me realize is it’s still too early in my process to expect perfection.  I need to turn off my editing brain for a while. Easier said than done but I’m pushing through.

Three, it’s important to have a writing space.  I’m fortunate to have an office downstairs where all my books are neatly on their shelves, I have a desk, a comfy chair, and a place to put my feet.  While simplifying my life, parts of my office have become a dump site for papers I have to scan before I can shred, blank cards I have yet to fill out and send to friends and family, and other detritus I’m can’t throw away before I look at it.  Writing in this room feels different than writing anywhere else in the house.  Because of my books?  I can’t really say.  However, I need to get the room organized so I can work there without feeling anxious about mess.  This too is now a priority.

I gave this book 5 stars on Goodreads.  The information in it is bound to be more useful than I yet realize.  This is one that definitely goes on my bookshelf; just as soon as I get the shelf dusted and sorted.