Shoe repair - who knew how great it'd be

Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Guys, I just picked up my boots from the shoe repair place and I'm amazed.

How have I never had shoes repaired before??

I've had these black leather Chelsea boots for at least 3 years, and I wear them every. single. day. in the winter. They were scuffed and dried out, covered in salt from winters past, and the heels were worn down to the wood on the outsides from all my weird walking.

I got them back and they're like brand new. The heels are completely, undetectably fixed, the leather is shining and supple again and you'd never be able to tell they weren't fresh from a shoe store.

How much did it cost? THIRTY SIX DOLLARS. That's it!! And she told me that if I had brought them in before the heels were so badly worn that it "wouldn't be so expensive next time." Because she thinks that's expensive! I bought these shoes for probably a hundred bucks from ASOS and I definitely didn't expect them to last this long but now I'm convinced I'll never stop wearing them. It's a Christmas miracle 😂

Repairing stuff is great guys. I'm a convert.

Just an aimless ramble about Bullet Journals

Sunday, December 29, 2019
Lately I've been hearing the complaint that a Bullet Journal is just too complicated and time consuming to continue using in 2020, both in person and from people I follow online. Some of those people have switched to a preprinted planner, some have ditched the whole structured planning thing entirely.

Don't get me wrong -- any of these choices are perfectly fine, no one needs to use a Bullet Journal and I in no way want to be prescriptive with how a person should plan their life. It does, however, make me think a lot about how much Bullet Journaling as taken on this alter-ego as a super creative endeavor and how that effects people's experiences and perceptions of Bullet Journaling, including my own.

I actually started blogging because of Bullet Journaling. My most viewed posts are all Bullet Journaling related and they're all about spreads with all kinds of washi tape, colored markers, planning and drawing involved. I started a Bullet Journal to organize my life, but I too started making it very creative almost right away. I loved doing that for quite awhile, but eventually it became more stressful than fun. I ditched the creativity aspect for an entirely black-and-white, repetitive layout that only takes me about 5 minutes to make each week. I've been doing that same weekly spread for a year now which is only a small variation on a spread I came up with over 2 years ago. I still love it.

Regardless of how much my Bullet Journal style has changed, I am so glad I stuck with it. Having a Bullet Journal - in whatever form - is quite literally the only thing that got me through wedding planning, moving house and planning a honeymoon this year, and job hunting and learning a ton of new skills for work last year. I am not naturally a forward or detailed planner, but the routine and practice of keeping a Bullet Journal is what helps me think more in that way, saving me from all kinds of last minute stresses.

I guess all I'm saying is that I hope people don't forget along the way that despite what you might see on Pinterest and Instagram, Bullet Journaling isn't only about creativity and aesthetics. At its core it's a super simple framework -- merely a set of actions -- for planning. It can be elaborate and creative if you want, or it can be chicken scratch on a collection on scratch paper. You're free to change your mind, make some weeks pretty, some weeks not, never try for aesthetics at all, make up new routines for your journal, ditch things you don't like about the original method, only use your Bullet Journal on super busy weeks, and anything and everything in between. And don't give up on it simply because you don't have time to make it pretty -- give up on it because you've tried different things out and it's still not working for you (and remember that that's also perfectly allowed).

Do what you like, try different things, and abandon what doesn't serve you.

Our vegan Christmas dinner menu

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Hello from my pajamas and my new fuzzy, warm robe that I'm delighted to have received for Christmas yesterday! I hope you're all enjoying any holidays you may or may not celebrate and that you get to enjoy at least a little time off to spend with your loved ones.

We had a great holiday in our house which featured a first for us -- hosting Christmas dinner! Of course in the midst of all the prep work and then the subsequent holiday cheer I took absolutely no photos to document the experience, but it was special none-the-less. I thought I'd pop over here to share the Christmas dinner menu that we devoured last night before I head back into the world of too much sugar, Christmas movies and forgetting what day it is. We did a lot of prep ahead of time -- like making the bread, desserts and roasting squash and chestnuts -- and all of the sides cook at the same temperature for the same amount of time, so this was actually really easy to do and came together in around an hour and a half. It comes omnivore approved as well so no one has to feel like they're missing out on something! I will definitely be making these recipes as Christmas tradition.

Most of these recipes are from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's cookbooks, all of which I highly, highly recommend! Check out the ones I used here* and here*.
*Affiliate links

For the main:
Pumpkin (but actually squash) Cranberry Risotto with Chestnuts
(From Isa Chandra Moskowitz's The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook)

1 3lb pumpkin or squash
3 tablespoons refined coconut oil
1 yellow onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/3 cup dry white wine
5 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt (we ended up adding way more to taste)
(optional: we added some ground thyme to taste)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup coconut milk
2 cups chopped, peeled and roasted chestnuts (fresh or from a jar)

(Can be done ahead of time)
Preheat the oven to 425ºF. Cut the squash in half, remove the seeds and stingy bits. Put the halves cut-side down on a baking sheet and bake until easily pierced with a fork but not mushy, about 30 minutes.

(Can be done ahead of time)
Roast chestnuts if needed.

Heat a 4-quart pot on medium heat. Heat the oil, then sauté the onion, garlic and ginger until softened, about 7 minutes. Add the rice, stir to coat in the oil and cook until lightly translucent around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to deglaze the pan. Add the first cup of veggie broth, stirring until most of the liquid is absorbed.

Continue adding each cup of veggie broth one at a time, stirring very frequently and letting each cup absorb before adding the next, until the rice is just tender, around 15 to 20 minutes. When you're on the last cup, add the cranberries and keep stirring. When most of the liquid is absorbed add the lemon juice, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, red pepper flakes and optional thyme. Stir in the coconut milk. Cook for 10 more minutes, stirring occasionally. Fold in the squash and chestnuts. Taste and adjust seasonings.

(Note: Like I said in the ingredient list, we ended up adding way more salt because we were using low sodium veggie broth. We also added some thyme just because it sounded good, and it was indeed very good. For the squash we used a mix of buttercup and delicata. I think we over measured the squash in the first place, but we only ended using about half of what we bought because we thought that ratio of squash to rice looked nice. Don't be afraid to make tweaks to our tweaks as well!)

On the side:
Miso-Glazed Roasted Carrots
(From Isa Chandra Moskowitz's I Can Cook Vegan)

3 tablespoons mellow white miso
3 tablespoons warm water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise

Combine the miso, water, oil, syrup, salt and red pepper flakes. Add the carrots and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on baking sheets.

Cooking instructions below.

Maple-Mustard Brussels Sprouts with Toasted Pecans
(From Isa Chandra Moskowitz's I Can Cook Vegan)

1/2 cup maple syrup
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half
1 cup raw pecans

Toast the pecans either on the stove top on medium heat in a cast-iron skillet or in the oven for a few minutes. Cool and chop roughly. Mix the syrup, mustard, olive oil, salt and red pepper flakes. Add sprouts and toss to coat. Arrange in a single layer on a cooking sheet.

Cooking instructions below.

(Note: You honestly could cut the sauce ingredients in half if you wanted to. This is a very saucy ratio, and while delicious, not totally necessary.)

Roasted Fingerling Potatoes
2 pounds of fingerling potatoes

Clean the potatoes and cut them in half lengthwise. Toss them with oil, salt and pepper to taste. Arrange on a sheet pan.

Cooking instructions below.

To cook all of the sides:
Amazingly, all the sides cook for the same time at the same temperature making this the best menu in existence. We shoved all three things in the oven on their own trays, baked them all for 20 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, then turned everything and popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes, this time with the convection setting on. Once everything was fork-tender we put each sheet under the broiler for a couple minutes each just to give them a bit more color and them plated them all up and dug in!

(Note: We probably could have had the convection setting on the whole time we cooked them, and if you choose to do that just make sure to keep an eye on them as the times might need to be adjusted, or the temperature could come down a few degrees. )

Homemade Bread - We baked this the day before to save some of our sanity.

And finally, most importantly, dessert:
Molasses Cookies, Peanut Butter Blossoms and Mint Crinkle Cookies - again, all of these were baked ahead of time

Pictures from Portugal

Sunday, December 8, 2019
Last weekend my family and I got back from a week long vacation in Portugal -- several nights in Lisbon and a couple in Porto. It was a lovely visit filled with lots of meandering, shopping, eating and hills. So many hills. Here are some of the pictures I shot over the course of the week, all of which are unedited and definitely not in any particular order, so forgive me.