Category Archives: goals


How is it that project task lists multiply? We started with a two-step plan when our oven stopped working.

Step one: get a gas line installed
Step two: buy a new gas range

And then we decided that before our new stove is delivered, we might as well re-do the kitchen floors since you can’t just unplug a gas oven and move it out of the kitchen. And by some miracle, we pulled off installation of a new floor before the range was delivered and installed, although we still had to polish it.

Eventually we managed to get all 7 layers of polish. Seven! But since all the furniture and kitchen gadgets are out of the kitchen (and as you can imagine, I have A LOT of kitchen gadgets), we might as well paint the walls, right?

You would if your kitchen came with stenciled vines and beige and green walls. It seems worth it, but it is hard to squeeze all these projects in between late-spring/early-summer activities and busy work weeks. And I haven’t even mentioned that the painting led to replacing the cheap trim and also removing and replacing filthy caulk. And every single one of these tasks takes way longer and way more trips to the hardware store than you could anticipate. Our house has been chaotic for weeks as a result.

US, Sweden, and Washington flags all at half-mast on Memorial Day

We are SO close to being finished. And we celebrated “almost finished” with a trip to IKEA where we failed to find new window treatments.

Of course, a trip to IKEA means we have to squeeze in some Seattle food, right? Jess found us an incredible food experience in Katsu Burger. The burgers are different kinds of meat or tofu breaded in panko and fried, served on a giant sesame bun and topped with amazing sauces, pickles, or in some cases wasabi coleslaw.

They were the most gigantic burgers I have ever been served. Veggie burgers aren’t typically gigantic. Levi had a curry pork cutlet.

And then there were the fries. Oh my god. We shared an order of nori fries and curry fries with dipping sauces like wasabi mayo and a spicy mayo made with sriracha and magic.

And to complete the meal – milkshakes! Green tea pineapple and kinako cup (kinako, chocolate, and black sesame). Wow.

The perfect weekend is a careful balance of hard work accomplished and some fun. Sunshine and junk food help. And a bonus chicken Instagram (create your own caption, it’s fun):

My weekend still has one last day. Back to painting, caulking (say “caulk” a dozen times in front of a teenage boy and try not to laugh), and mitering for me.

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Filed under family, food, goals, home

Make it from Scratch: vegan seitan nuggets

One of our biggest strides this year has been in the “buying less processed food” department. This is an exciting development. If we learned anything when we were eating for $5 a day, it was that making things from scratch beats any coupon hands down. Look at our homemade soy milk. The numbers are in: we spend about 53¢ on a half gallon of plain organic soy milk compared to the $2.69 store bought containers. A little quick math:

($2.69 – $0.53) x 2.5 (average half gallon containers per week) X 52 (weeks in a year) = $280.80 annual savings

Just like that, we trimmed $280 from our annual grocery budget by making one grocery staple at home. The more things we start making ourselves, the more we save. Another big budget saver for us lately has been cooking big batches of beans in the pressure cooker every week instead of buying cans. Organic canned beans aren’t cheap. I haven’t done the math, but there are significant savings there. This is the financial benefits alone. We are also creating less garbage and eliminating weird chemical ingredients from our food and its packaging.

The next step is to keep trying new recipes for food made from scratch. We need to find recipes we like that are easy enough to work into our busy schedule. Yes, our time is valuable, but we’re not superheroes for spending an extra 15 minutes here and 30 minutes there in the kitchen. Or even an hour or two when you are multi-tasking a few recipes at a time and making double batches of them all to stock up the fridge and freezer.

A big budget item for vegetarians can be meat analogues. All those veggie burgers, nuggets, and sandwich slices are spendy. For our budget and our health, we try not to buy that stuff too often. It is processed food, and it is easy to fall into the trap of buying and eating it a lot when things get hectic.

When I came across Joanna Vaught’s seitan nugget recipe, I was intrigued. I’ve made my fair share of homemade seitan, veggie sausage and burgers before. Never nuggets! I loved the way she compared the nutritional values of different nuggets. Hers win! So I decided to test them out.

They were a huge hit with the whole family. We loved them. In all honesty, of course we prefer the texture and the junk-foodiness of some of the store bought veggie nuggets. We don’t allow ourselves to buy them very often, though, so homemade nuggets will be a welcome addition to our dinner schedule. The recipe really was faster than some of my other homemade seitan making experiments. I made two batches pretty quickly, and plan to make more soon to put in the freezer.

Next up: I’m going to test out a couple of Vegan Dad’s lunch meat recipes(Veggie lunch meat and Hickory Smoked Veggie Turkey). Wish me luck.


Filed under food, goals

Ba-Gock: Introducing Chickens to Our Backyard

Aren’t we just full of big projects? Many people already know Krista & I have been “planning” to add a backyard flock to our house since forever. I mean, that was part of the reason that we bought a house at all, and part of the reason we bought the house that we bought. Our house is magically in a one square block pocket of the city that is not incorporated (NO anti-urban farm regulations here!) so we can build an egg empire if we so choose. But as with all things, life gets in the way. With all the raised garden bed building and bee keeping frenzy of last year, our chicken coop never materialized. This week, our dear friends forced our hand to throw in on a chick order & build some coops together. Frankly, with all the eggs on our table these days, we’d be fools to put this off another year. So please, let me introduce you to the breeds we’re ordering this year.

CLOCKWISE FROM UPPER LEFT: buff orpington, barred plymouth rock, easter egger, white leghorn, that’s not a real chicken, and welsummer

We picked each breed for a different reason, but they are all pretty, hardy and productive. They will lay a variety of egg colors to keep things interesting. Levi read a library book about chickens and specifically requested the buff orphington when we first hatched this scheme years ago. So we had to get one for him.

Now, we only need to train the attack dogs to leave them alone.

When I was a teenager, I had a very failed flock of guinea hens who were picked off quickly by predators thanks to my completely inadequate coop. I do want to publicly thank my dad for telling me that they “escaped” and ran away. I appreciate the kindness of that little lie. My bestie Rayshell had a family flock of chickens for years, but they were not beloved family pets. They were not friendly and really stupid!! I grew up in a rural area, so almost all of my neighbors had chickens and I remember feeding & collecting eggs when our neighbors went on vacation. I have read many, many books from the library about chickens, because I’m that kind of nerd. And that, my friends, is the extent of my chicken-rearing knowledge!

questions i know you will ask:

why are you getting chickens?
This is like asking me why I’m a vegetarian. All of the Reasons! Every reason to get chickens (except eating them) is why we are doing it. Eggs! Localizing our protein supply, food security, economic reasons, entertainment value, a very steady compost supply, food safety issues (no one will recall our eggs), organic food and higher nutrition, we don’t have enough hobbies to fill our time, bug and weed control, etc. Homegrown eggs are rumored to be lower in cholesterol and higher in various nutrients. I’m no food scientist, but it just makes sense. It’s really not a new idea. People have had backyard chickens forever.

how many chickens are you getting?
We’re starting with five and plan to add a couple every year like diversifying a stock portfolio.

i thought you were vegan?
yes, we have a lot of years of veganism under our collective belts and we can bake some mean vegan cupcakes, but having a supremely local, cheap, unprocessed, organic protein source is more important to us at this point. Not every vegan needs to run out and get chickens as mandated by me (obviously I don’t make decisions for other people), but it’s the right choice for our family right now. I still consider veganism to be a superior dietary choice to mindless, unconscious, over-processed food choices. Just sayin, this isn’t a mindless, “trendy” decision for us.

where are you ordering from?
My Pet Chicken. Many hatcheries require orders of 25 birds, but they ship as few as 3.

can i come visit your chickens?
yes, please do! we can watch Chicken TV together!

if i visit, may i draw/photograph your chickens?
What a ridiculous question. I love art, especially art made by you, especially art of my pets. I will make you dinner if you make chicken art for me. Also, can I hire you to do portraits of my cats and dogs, too?

are you going to post 100 photos, stories and videos about your chickens?
Of course. We love over-sharing.

what are you going to do when they get old and stop laying? will you eat them?
Our vegetarianism doesn’t stop at our backdoor, so we will not eat them. They will age as gracefully or ungracefully as they like in our backyard flock. We already have plenty of worthless pets around, so what’s one (or five) more? The way I figure it, at least they will earn their retirement, unlike dogs and cats, who need to get jobs & pay rent.

what is your chickens’ theme song?
I am so lucky to have such good friends who would ask me such an important question. Our girls will cluck, lay eggs and forage to their theme song:

(I’m going to tell the girls that the parts about slaughter and roasting are fiction. These chickens will live a life never knowing the fate of their brethren.)

Stay tuned. We will document our coop-building experience before the chicks arrive, and then all the precious moments after they arrive. The delivery date is the week of May 16th. We won’t see eggs for weeks/months, but the cuddling and entertainment should make up for it.


Filed under chickens, food, garden, goals, spring

Long Live the Queen

Yesterday I drove out to east Olympia to pick up our package of bees from the Olympia bee club people. This is a tiny part of the order of bee packages they made this year. They arrived from California Friday night. Each package has three pounds of bees, a can of syrup and a queen in a cage.

Mark Savage gave a few demonstrations on how to hive the bee package, how to release the queen from her cage, how to place her in the hive, and how to install the feeder.

Then I signed out my three pound box of Italians and brought them home in my little Toyota. The bee club people brushed off all the hitch hikers, so I didn’t get stung while driving.

I was told to wait for “15 minutes of sunshine” to install the package. In Olympia, we cram in a lot when we get “15 minutes of sunshine.” It was raining on and off much of the afternoon. So we spent our time fussing with the hive until it was in its Final, Most Perfect resting place. Bees don’t like it if you move their hive around. They are very good navigators, but they depend on you to leave things in the same place. The clouds broke for a minute, so we suited up and carried the bees out.

As much as I wanted to hurry and get them in the hive, I was mesmerized by the package of bees. There they were, our girls, all in one box, for the last time ever. Once we open the box, it will never be the same. It’s one of those “no turning back now” moments.

I used my hive tool to pry the syrup can out of the package. Please feel free to admire my vegan cowgirl boots. I covered the whole with a paint sample sheet to encourage the bees to stay in the box.

I pulled the queen cage out. It was totally covered in bees like a magical ball of bees. This is testament to the power of her scent. These bees don’t even know this queen, but they love her so much. I gently brushed them away and they started flying around.

And then, there she was, Her Royal Highness. She’s going to determine everything about our hive, so I hope she’s a good queen. Levi said, in hushed tones, “She’s beautiful.”

There’s a cork in the queen cage, which is pretty easy to pull out with a screw. Just take care not to screw the screw into the queen. Then you replace the cork with a candy plug or a mini marshmallow. Mark Savage told the newbees that he recommends putting a small nail through the candy plug and roughing up the edge of it just to give the bees something good to hold onto and make it easier to chew through. They have to get through this to release their queen. This is supposed to give them enough time to get to know her before they are in physical contact, so they won’t harm her.

We nestled the queen cage in between two frames, and carefully, gently, with excruciating slowness and delicacy, rolled the box on top. I had to make some adjustments after this photo was taken. The queen cage should be directly underneath the hole in the box. The bees in the box think, “Hrmm, there is food, there is a queen, there is comb down there… what am i doing in this box!?” Then they move into the hive and start the business of running a hive. Hopefully!

Then, we put the second box over the whole contraption and closed it up. We’re supposed to leave it for 24 hours, then go back to see if the queen has been released yet, shake out the bee box and remove the syrup feeder. It is really hard to wait to check on them, but we’re distracting ourselves with all the other work we need to do on our microfarm. So cross your fingers for our little bee colony. We will report back as soon as we have more news. My hope is that Levi will come up with a phenomenal name for the queen. I’m also accepting suggestions of names for her – you know, the “too weird to name your baby” names are perfect for queen bees.


Filed under bees, goals, spring

marmoleum, linoleum, schmanoleum

We finally went shopping for marmoleum.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I had no idea what marmoleum was a couple weeks ago. If you’re in the same predicament as the two-week-ago me, I’ll try to help you out a little. I cringe when I hear myself use the word “green,” but it is creeping more and more into our vocabularies, especially as we try to work on our house. In general, we’d like to have a “green” home. As we decide what to put in our house, there are all kinds of green options available these days. Most of you who read this know us; we have both been little granola vegetarians since we were kids. You can be pretty passionate about the environment and still have a lot of room for improvement, and we are far from perfect. It is challenging to put your money where your mouth is when it comes to purchasing things that cost hundreds or thousands of dollars and you are trying to just do little DIY projects here and there over time. It is even more challenging to wade through the mass marketing of “green”. How do you tell what products really are good for us and the planet in this day and age, when you can buy USDA certified organic pancake batter in a pressurized can?

Anyway, to put it simply, marmoleum is like environmentally friendly linoleum, except what we know of as linoleum today is actually polyvinyl chloride. The real, old school linoleum was made out of stuff like linseed oil, rosin, ground cork dust, and wood flour. So I guess the stuff we call marmoleum is true linoleum. Jess snapped this handy photo of the display at the fancy flooring store downtown to show you the marmoleum ingredients:

Pretty simple. The idea of having something in our house that is natural and less likely to offgas toxic crap is appealing. And my allergies are only getting worse. This week I had an insane allergy attack that my two prescription medications couldn’t tackle, and I ended up home from work for two days in a Benadryl stupor. I really hate missing work. So this stuff is really appealing to us for the kitchen floor. We heard you can even get “click” marmoleum that snaps into place without glue and is pretty easy to do yourself. We’ve both been really drawn to the idea of good ol’ checkered floors in the kitchen.

Image from apartment therapy. Here’s just one of their posts about checkered floors.

We had in mind some variation on checkered with charcoal, light gray, and off-white. Then we looked at the samples up close, stepping all over them and sitting on the floor with them for over an hour. It didn’t take long to learn:

– we were drawn to the nostalgia of the linoleum we remember from our school years, and DO NOT WANT marmoleum that looks like faux granite, faux marble, or practically like it has been sponge painted

– while some of the bright colors were appealing, we didn’t like any of the limited offerings that come in click

– this means we either have to get pre-cut 13″ square tiles or sheets, both which have to be installed with glue and (preferably) by a professional

– we also didn’t like any of the offerings that came in 13″ tiles, so no way in hell will we be able to try to do this project ourselves

Honestly, we didn’t care for almost any of it, but I spotted a Dutch Design line and both of us fell instantly love with a bright green (???). There was also a red I really liked, but red just isn’t going to work for what we have in mind.

The patient employees let us take home the samples we settled on: Scrabble (white with black flecks), Galentine (dark gray flecked, looks less granite-y from 5’8″ above the floor), and Painted Fields (that amazing green by Dutch designer Kiki van Eijk, with flecks of pink and dark brown when you look at it up close).

I really believe in putting stuff we love in our house, and the rest of the kitchen is going to be almost entirely white. So we could get away with accents of bright green on our otherwise gray and white floor. I think it could look really sharp, but will it look insane five or ten years from now? And do we want to pay someone lots of money to install this, especially considering it may need to be touched up when we replace the cabinets that are currently touching the floors? Stay tuned. I think the next step is to shop for polyvinyl chloride “linoleum” and see how easily we could install that ourselves and exactly how much money we are talking about.

In the meantime, I have been playing with patterns in Photoshop:


chain links!

I think Jess is leaning toward this:


Filed under goals, home


It may seem like I am a little slow, posting a list of goals twelve days into this wonderful new decade. It is just that the new year came and went and I had zero desire to make resolutions. I am not really a resolution type of girl. And then yesterday my brain went into overdrive and I realized we actually have pretty lofty ambitions for the year. I better write them down! And by writing them down, I mean I created a Google document and shared it with Jess and 3 seconds later we were both editing our spreadsheet of goals for 2010. This is how we planned our elopement (harder to plan than it sounds), our honeymoon road trip across the country, and our Christmas dinner grocery list. Might as well “write down” the goals, right?

In 2009 I’m sure we had a lot of goals, but whatever they were was overshadowed by BUYING A HOUSE. We hoped and dreamed and I am still amazed by the fact that we succeeded in buying a house. We bought a house! What more could you possibly expect out of us?

In the middle of Operation Becoming a Homeowner (and yes, that was the title of our Google doc planning out the research and purchase of a house), Jess’ old Honda was totaled. With most of our savings earmarked for a down payment on a house and our credit on hold in fear of messing up our home loan, it was a little hard to shop for a car. And seriously, what car do you buy to replace the car that carried you across the country on your Honeymoon?

We have hemmed and hawed over this decision for the past six months. Do we become a one car family? Buy a brand new car? A used car? We considered everything from a 1974 BMW 2002 to a barely used Prius. And finally, ten days into the New Year, we obliterated one of our major goals for this year and bought a car.

It turns out that despite the fact that I know almost nothing about cars, we have always been good at picking cars. Our thorough research and Consumer Reports told us to buy either a Scion XA (already have one and love it but you can’t find cheap used ones!), a Honda Civic (the car we were replacing), or a Toyota Echo . The Echo was the first car I ever bought and loved, and it gets incredible gas mileage, so we finally settled on a cheap older one we could buy outright. Now Jess just has to relearn how to drive a stick. And with that came a great sense of relief for us both. Major decision made. Now we might as well knock out a bunch of other stuff our little hearts desire.

Here are some of the things we want to do this year. If we even do a few of them, it is going to be an awesome year.

buy a car
start a designated emergency car repair or replacement fund
build a chicken coop and get chickens
start keeping bees
grow a badass garden – we are starting from scratch in our new yard, so this goal alone could take up the whole year, not to mention…
Jess becoming a Master Gardener through our local WSU extension program
finish painting the inside of the house
get new wood floors in the house
replace a lot of the trim and baseboards
start putting together that emergency kit I always talk about
AND go on a family vacation or two – NYC watch out in April!

And with all that typed out, I am going to start getting ambitious on our laundry.

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Filed under family, goals