July Highlights

Sunday, July 29, 2018
The end of my birthday month is almost here and the theme of the month has definitely been celebration! My birthday, my sister's birthday and two great friends' birthdays all happen this month, not to mention the pseudo-birthday (I guess?) of the whole dang country. Between all those milestones and a few other annual get-togethers, I've seen a whole lot of my friends and family -- enough to make it feel like winter holiday season in the middle of July. Let's start from the very beginning...

fourth of july independence day grilling vegetable kebobs tadiq jujeh kabab marinated tofu chicken veggie

First up, 4th of July festivities. Usually I spend this holiday with friends, but in some weirdly unspoken coincidence, we all opted to spend the day with our families instead. This year John, my sister, my brother-in-law and I headed to my parents house just outside of the city. We made tadig and jujeh kabab (tofu for us, chicken for everyone else), tons of grilled vegetables, zucchini brownies (I can't stop making them after talking about them here), and homemade peach ice cream. We capped the night off by watching fireworks from the top of a hill overlooking the entire city skyline. It was a very relaxing and restorative mid-week break.

children zoo lincoln tortoise brass brews at the zoo sculpture fun

Next we headed to the annual Brew at the Zoo event the local children's zoo hosts. My friends and I have been going for the last 4 years and it's always a fun time. We see animals, we try to avoid the inevitably less-than-good local cover band that plays and somehow one of us always ends up inside the brass tortoise. We extended the festivities this year beyond the 11pm event end time -- which is miraculous for us old people -- and ended up at a very small-town-aesthetic dive bar with incredibly cheap beers and some woman named Misty's (wearing a party hat, naturally) 50th birthday celebration. We took over the TouchTunes, forced everyone to listen to some 90s hiphop and then headed to the 24 hour Hi-way Diner next door to relive our high school hangout days. After some grilled cheese and fries and a very tipsy Uber home, we all vowed to never drink again.

Cut to the next day, John and I headed to Omaha for another annual 4th of July party that some college friends always throw. This year they're pregnant so it morphed into a diaper keg. I managed to stomach exactly one beer from one of my best friends that was back visiting from Wisconsin and brought some local brews with her. It was great to see people I hadn't seen in about a year, and even better to see my friend that was visiting. My stomach also thanked me for remaining sober at a party that's notoriously been a little rambunctious.

birthday celebration party food grill vegetables veggie kabob burger feast picnic outdoor deck

cucumber garden lemonade vodka drink juice dispenser jug summer alcohol

peaches grilled case baskeball pump birthday table celebration
A totally normal birthday party scene, right?
zucchini brownie cake frosting sprinkles jimmies birthday celebration

The next weekend began some joint birthday festivities. My long-time friend turned 30 two days before, my birthday was up next and then two more of us are turning 30 in August as well. When we all get together it's guaranteed there will be more food and drink than one group needs. This time we had homemade veggie burgers, burgers for the meat eaters, grilled veggies and and peaches, chips, guacamole, cheese, cherries, more zucchini brownies (I told you I had a problem) and a whole lot of homemade cucumber vodka lemonade. Even after stuffing ourselves with food we still managed to play badminton in the backyard and then walk to a nearby park and play Horse like we were 12 again. I am not good at basketball. One of my friends played on 7 teams in one season when we were kids. Spoiler alert: I lost.

joslyn art museum omaha deco building marble 1930s

modern love omaha restaurant menu vegan vegetarian food

modern love bowl mac and shews vegan empty omaha
Ate my mac and shews so fast I forgot to even take a picture
saddle creek breakfast club omaha brunch vegan banana bread french toast preserves syrup fruit strawberry

This weekend there have been even more birthday celebrations. I had dinner with my family to celebrate mine and my sister's birthdays. It was a low-key affair, but as always when I hang out at my parents' house, there was a ton of great homemade food. The next day John treated me to a little staycation in Omaha for my birthday. We visited the Joslyn Art Museum in the morning, grabbed bubble tea and wandered the shops at Midtown (Hutch was adorable) and then grabbed donuts at Bob's before I headed to a bridal shower at Corkscrew Wine & Cheese for a bit. After I was done stuffing my face with truffle oil popcorn, we checked into Hotel Deco for the night, rested up some and then had an amazing dinner at Modern Love. John had some mushroom stroganoff while I had the mac & shews and a blueberry basil sangria. We finished it off with some lemon strawberry shortcake with coconut whipped topping. 100% will be returning again, probably many, many times! The next morning we started off the day at Saddle Creek Breakfast Club where we had some amazing banana bread french toast, tofu and jackfruit rancheros and hashbrowns. The rest of the afternoon was chocked full of shopping -- basically moving our way from downtown Omaha back towards Lincoln with lots of stops along the way. We're finally home now and boy does it feel great to sit down.

All these celebrations have been great, but they've also left me a little short on me-time. One thing I've done this month to try to claim back a little time is to ditch the snooze button in the morning and replace those 15 minutes of half-sleep with some light morning yoga and meditation. It's made it a thousand times easier to get up in the morning and I actually feel like my morning routine isn't all about rushing out the door, but rather starting my day off in a centered and calm manner. We've even started making oatmeal each morning and sitting out on the front porch while we eat. Such a relaxing way to start each day!

After this busy, busy (but still very enjoyable) month I'm looking forward to a slower, lazier August. I hope everyone had a great month as well!

A Birthday Wish List

Sunday, July 22, 2018
May have put this balloon up a full 2 weeks before my birthday...
In a few days time, I'll be turning 30. The big three oh. Old. I've got some thoughts on leaving my twenties behind which I might share with you lot in another post, but generally I'm feeling really excited to enter this new decade of life. Of course there's also the fun part of birthdays -- presents! We're not a huge birthday present family, but I'll often get one or two things, at least from my boyfriend and my sister so I'm always trying to keep a few things in mind for when they ask me what I want. Here you go guys -- a handy-dandy post, just for your convenience! *waves*

I work above a coffee shop, and across the street from two others. I make my own coffee at home most every day of the week, but on days I forgot, I really do not want to be caught without a reusable option. I would love to add one of these to my reusable kit. The fact that you can customize them however you'd like is just a bit of bonus fun. I'd choose the glass body with an all white lid and a cork band.

Summery workout clothes

I'm in desperate need of summer workout gear and 3/4 leggings just don't cut it when it's 95+ degrees outside. I need shorts. So. Badly. And tanks and light t-shirts galore. These Rec Shorts from Outdoor Voices in black are definitely up my alley. I am also willing to give the Warmup Shorts a go, or the Run Short from Girlfriend Collective. For tops, I'm apparently a huge Outdoor Voices fangirl -- the Tie Tank and the Tie Tee, the Cool Runnin's tank and the Doing Things tank are all calling my name.

Bike things
We're all in on this bike thing at this point -- we've been riding at least once a week and really enjoying it as both a form of transportation and a workout. Until now we've been borrowing maintenance stuff like tire pumps, extra tubes, a multi-tool, and chain oil (thanks Dad) but it's time we got our own. Water bottle holders, a small pack and a phone mount would also lighten the load that I force John to carry around in a backpack right now. There are so many different bike accessories we could acquire over time, but it'll be great to get a start on the basics!

I always love getting a good book. I still haven't read one of Lucy Dillion book's, All I Ever Wanted and I'd love to crack into it.  I've also been hearing great things about Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton. Cookbooks are always nice, especially since I'm essentially relearning how to cook now that we've gone vegetarian. Isa Does It, Oh She Glows Every Day, BOSH!, or Chloe Flavor would all be more than welcome!

Of course I don't expect to get all of this, or even really any of it at all, but hey, you've gotta be prepared in case people ask, right?

Plastic Free July, Low Impact Living and Who to Follow

Sunday, July 15, 2018
We're already halfway through July. Ridiculous. How? When? I only have 16 days left of my 20s?!? I really don't understand how time works anymore.

July doesn't just mean birthday month for me -- it's also is Plastic Free July. What's Plastic Free July you ask? It's an awareness campaign that challenges participants to refuse single-use plastics for the entire month of July. The idea started in 2011 in Perth, Australia but there are now over 2 million participants from all over the world! The aim of the challenge is to call attention to just how much plastic we consume in our day to day lives, promote behavioral changes that reduces plastic consumption and support people as they live a lower impact life.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass pantry bulk shopping

I'm sure you've noticed lately that I've been discussing topics that are at least tangentially related to the environment more and more frequently. 2018 has truly been eye opening for me regarding the state of our planet. We've made more plastic in the last 10 years than we have in the entire previous century and we're exponentially increasing our consumption every year. Already, more than one million plastic bags are used a minute across the world, totaling more than 500 billion each year. Only about 5% of plastic ends up getting recycled, so much of the plastic used ends up in landfills or in our oceans. In fact, over 1 million sea birds and 500,000 mammals die every year due to the plastic that ends up in our oceans. Often they're dying due to starvation after mistaking plastic for food, filling up their stomachs and never being able to pass the plastic out. And sadly, every single piece of plastic we've made ever still exists today and will continue to exist for about another 500-1000 years. (Source)

I know that was a lot of disheartening information to read and it might have even made you angry, either with me for shoving it in your face or with the world for letting our planet get into such a sorry state. Whatever emotions you might have felt, I'd like you to consider harnessing them into some kind of action. If your instinct was disbelief, thinking that those facts couldn't possibly be true, line up a documentary watch party. If your heart went out to all the animals that starve due to plastic, go out and do a little trash pickup in your area. If you were floored by the number of bags we're using a second, go prep yourself a little plastic-free shopping kit. Any approach you can think of will literally make this world a better place than it currently is.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass
My plastic-free shopping kit: reusable tote and produce bags, mason jar for wet bulk items and small jar for bulk spices
If you're ready for a few simple changes to help you reduce your plastic usage very easily, here are some of my favorite ideas:

1) You're probably already using reusable shopping totes thanks to the discount for bringing them in many stores or even the up-charge or complete ban in others. Go a step further and swap the plastic produce bags for some reusable cloth bags like these.

2) Next time you need to stock up for self-care Sunday, ditch your plastic shampoos, conditioners and soaps and grab some plastic-free packaged bar soaps instead. They last so long, work just as well and you now officially have a reason to go make a Lush haul.

3) Create and bring your own plastic-free supply kit with you wherever you go. A reusable water bottle, cutlery, a container for leftovers from restaurants, and maybe even a reusable coffee cup if you're a coffee addict like me should help you reduce a lot of incidental plastic in your day to day life.

4) A lot of plastic comes from food packaging. Shop the bulk section, which so many regular grocery stores have these days. In my area, Fresh Thyme and Super Saver (locally-owned chain) both have really great selection and cheap prices. If you need something from the deli you can ask them to put whatever you're buying into your own container. Finally, try to buy loose produce instead of plastic wrapped produce.

5) Make what you can. You don't need to go all in right away, but figure out what you use a lot of that you can't find without plastic packaging and scour the internet for DIY varieties. There are so many easy recipes out there for anything from bread to nut milks to face masks and making them can be a really fun alternative to sitting in front of the TV for yet another night. I love making my own cold brew coffee from locally-roasted whole beans that I buy loose from a local coffee shop, strained with a cheesecloth (which is also great for making nut milks). Lip scrubs are also super easy to make using honey and sugar.

zero waste plastic free july reusable eco friendly mason jar tote bag produce glass coffee cold brew cheesecloth filter free
Making my daily cold brew coffee with cheesecloth and a mesh strainer
Maybe you're hooked and ready to dive into this plastic-free life, or at least to keep learning about it? Time to get your follow button finger ready! These are some of my favorite Plastic Free July, low impact living or even full on Zero Waste people and resources:

http://www.zannavandijk.co.uk/resources/ - TONS of other great links here
Vermicomposting post
Flirting with veganism post

And finally, if all else fails, please recycle! No one is a perfect, plastic-free human. In reality, just focusing on reduction is probably more realistic than complete elimination, especially at first. So while you're still a plastic consumer, let's move the needle on that 5% recycling rate. At the very least you're helping prevent more plastic from being made.

What changes are you going to tackle first to reduce your plastic consumption?

How To Use All That Zucchini

Sunday, July 8, 2018
zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves recipes family tradition

If your area is anything like mine, zucchini season has officially begun. I went from nothing but big giant zucchini plant leaves to practically baseball-bat-sized zucchinis within about 4 seconds. At first throwing a few chunks of zucchini into to whatever dish I was making was enough to keep up with my crop, but now I'm actively seeking out zucchini-based dishes to use it all up before it goes bad. What's better than taking a healthy veggie and turning it into a sugary, unhealthy baked good in order to consume it? Nothing. So without further ado, here are two family recipes that I, a July baby, have begged to have at birthday parties since I was a little girl: zucchini bread and zucchini brownies.

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves ingredients mixer kitchen aide

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves grater shredded

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves whisk dry ingredients bowl metal mix stir

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves kitchen aide mixer metal bowl dry ingredients mix stir add

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves glass pan oven spatula

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves

Zucchini Bread

Yield: 2 small loaves
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 1 hour
Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes

3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cup grated zucchini (drain a little when measuring)
3 cup flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cream eggs and sugar.
3. Mix in vegetable oil, vanilla and zucchini.
4. Combine flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg in a medium bowl. Whisk together. Slowly pour dry ingredients into wet ingredients while mixing.
5. Pour into 2 greased and floured bread pans.
6. Bake for 1 hour.

Note: These loaves freeze really well. Just double wrap in tin foil and freeze for up to several months. To defrost, just leave it out on the counter. The bread will have more of a moist top than if not previously frozen, but if you ask me, that's the best part!

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves measure measuring pyrex shredded grated

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves ingredients bowl mess mix flour

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves sprinkle sugar oven batter dough pan

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves fork eat chocolate chips moist frosting pieces

Zucchini Brownies

Yield: 1 13x9 inch sheet pan of cinnamon-y, chocolate-y brownies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Bake time: 45 minutes
Total time: 1 hour

1 1/2 cup + 2 tsp sugar, divided
1/2 cup butter/margarine
2 eggs
2 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
2 Tbsp cocoa
2 cup grated zucchini
1 cup chocolate chips

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit if using a metal pan, or 325 degrees if using a glass pan.
2. Cream 1 1/2 cup sugar, butter/margarine and eggs.
3. Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and cocoa in a medium bowl. Mix into wet ingredients until well blended.
4. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips.
5. Pour batter into a greased and floured 13 x 9 pan. Sprinkle 2 tsp sugar over top.
6. Bake for 45 minutes. Frost if desired, which you obviously do desire.

And don't forget, shredded zucchini freezes beautifully so even if you can't fathom turning on your oven in this summer heat, you can squirrel away all that zucchini goodness for later this year. Happy baked good feasting!

Now Finn says, "Go clean up that mess!"

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves cat finn black ears

zucchini bread brownies recipe cooking baking garden vegetable bake baker loaves mess dirty flour spill

June Highlights

Sunday, July 1, 2018
June has easily been the most social month of 2018 yet. Now that things are warming up, people are coming out of hibernation and looking to spend as many warm summer nights outside as possible. All this people time is both refreshing and exhausting for a little introvert like me, but in the end, summer adventures are always some of the best times of the the whole year. Let's take a look at a few of my highlights from June!

wedding engagement ring diamond gold lab grown emerald cut east west sideways ethical jewelry custom made

My first favorite is actually a bit of a cheat since it technically happened at the very end of
May -- I GOT ENGAGED!! The Friday night of Memorial day weekend, John planned a little date night for us to go to a local restaurant downtown. That itself wasn't out of the ordinary since we've been trying to get in at least one official date night a month, so I wasn't suspicious at all. I knew something had to be up when he sat around watching me get ready and kept asking if I was done. Right after I declared myself officially beautified, he told me to stay in the bedroom because he had a gift for me he had to go get from downstairs. When he came back up he told me he knew it was a bit of a joke between us that he never really got me gifts like stereotypical boyfriends do, so this time he got me something but didn't wrap it. Before he could give it to me though, he said he needed to tell me how much he loved me and appreciated our relationship, etc, etc, insert mushy emotions here. Then get got down on one knee (despite apparently telling himself he wouldn't do that) and proposed with the most gorgeous, perfect ring! I obviously said yes right away and then we celebrated with a fantastic dinner, wine and a walk to the 24 hour donut shop, as one does. It was completely perfect!

bike lake man ride cycle commute eco friendly

I should probably just stop here because obviously not much can top an engagement, but there were still plenty of other things I loved in June. Jazz in June is a highlight every year, but this year might actually top every previous year I've attended. The weather for every show I went to was perfect, the food vendors were top notch once again and this year I had the added bonus of getting to ride my bike to the show! The absolute topper however was getting to see Jazzmeira Horn. Her vocals amazed me, her music selection was fantastic and she really got the crowd engaged in a way I've never seen at Jazz in June before. She even kept the concert going 40 minutes after it was supposed to end without giving a damn about any local noise ordinances or rental contracts. A woman after my own heart...

On a style note, I've been wearing my Topshop Moto Jamie skinny jeans to death as you can see from these pictures. The light wash is perfect for those unbearably hot days when I'm not really feeling shorts or skirts. They pair really nicely with a more flow-y, oversized tops which is exactly what I want when I'm trying to avoid sweat patches and they're also ├╝ber comfortable, which is clearly everything. Don't be surprised when you see me rocking another pair of these in black sometime soon.

And finally, remember that new mascara I chatted about in my last post? Well Glossier lash slick has quickly become a favorite. Like I said before, it's super natural looking, easy to apply, doesn't flake or smudge and, unlike my previous go-to mascara, it isn't tested on animals. Looks like I'm just going to have to get used to paying $16 for a mascara...