More than you want to know

Thanks to Mr. A of A Barbarian in Gentlemen’s Clothing for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I am 100% certain he did it to make this middle-aged Midwestern American, er, uncomfortable. But I am pleased to do it because he makes me smile with his authentic style.

My answers to his fantastic and bold questions:

1. The goal is to love life, not to endure it. If you’re bound to repeat an endless cycle of your life, are there things you wouldn’t want to repeat for eternity? If there are, have you done anything to change them now? What are those things?

Living a real life Groundhog Day sounds awful! That said, I wouldn’t avoid the challenges I have had in my life, they make me who I am today. The one I work on most with my coach is being self-compassionate and acting grateful towards myself. Daily rituals are part of that habit.

2. Have you ever thought of doing something, but didn’t try to pursue it? Are you glad you didn’t pursue it? Tell us about it?

When I was finishing my undergraduate degree in journalism I considered law school. My dad strongly discouraged me (aka forbid). Two words: Thanks Dad! Bullet dodged. (Ok, 4 words).

3. Is there someone out there that you follow with no question, even thou you know they’re wrong? Tell us who and why do you follow?

Well, any friend or colleague who has earned my trust will get my loyalty even if I disagree with the choice (and there’s always the outside possibility that I am wrong 😉).

4. Is there a thing you’ve been waiting to do? Why are you waiting? Are your concerns realistic?

I am getting ready to launch a new startup. I am finishing up another product launch for a client and expect 2020 to be clarity & focus on the new business. I am very grateful to the many friends who have been quietly encouraging me over the past 18 months of its development.

5. Tell us something that is you’re supposed to be committed to, but found yourself half-assing it? Why are you holding back? How can you give it everything you have?

Does occasionally eating Irish butter while vegan count as half-assing? I have 2 speeds: on/off. Half-ass doesn’t exist for me.

6. What is your ideal haircut for men that you find very irresistible?

Euro cut, long on top short on sides. Well groomed. Exception is men with curly hair–let it grow!!! Especially at the back when it curls up….like McDreamy:

7. How is your net worth? Are you still living from paycheck to paycheck?

Thankfully we’re in a good spot, but ask me again in 12 months (see question 4). Bootstrapping a business is definitely a challenge!

8. What is a guaranteed way to get a better night’s sleep?

Sleep alone by sending your husband on a Canadian fishing trip (Sorry honey). But just look at this muskie Av caught!

9. What are the red flags that you look out for in a romantic relationship?

We have been married 22 years (I’m 46). We’re wayyyyyy past red flags. Besides, he’s perfect 😇.

As our boys begin their dating life some advice and learning they’ve experienced is the trust factor of “self” vs “other” oriented. It can be difficult to spot early on, but invariably shows itself. At least in teenagers. I think adults can be incredibly sophisticated at hiding narcissistic tendencies. Red flag.

10. Is there anything that I have written that you consider poor or irresponsible? Is there a topic that I’ve written that you don’t agree on?

Hmmm…good question. Not that I can think of on either count. I’d tell you. Your Art of War posts are fantastic! And TMI Tuesday makes me smile. I ❤️ your fashion style!! Especially shoes!! I have perfect toes 😉

11. Now for the Mr. A being Mr. A question. If you don’t need a towel after sex, then you’re doing sex wrong – do you agree or disagree? You may choose not to answer, but if you do; tell us why?

Agree but disagree. To each their own.

And now my nominees…and food-related questions:

    1. You’re vegan (play along). What food do you occasionally “cheat” for?
    2. Favorite dinner guests. Real people you know.
    3. Favorite dinner guests. Famous. Dead or alive.
    4. Worst dinner party disaster. (Either as host or attendee).
    5. One thing you’ve changed about eating as you aged.
    6. Favorite summertime cocktail (bonus points for recipes!)
    7. Worst thing you ever ate out of politeness (ie Grandma’s Christmas ham)
    8. Best destination to visit for food.
    9. What one food best represents where you live? (Don’t forget to share your location!)
    10. The food you make when you need comforting.
    11. Food you once threw up (or cleaned up) that you can never eat again.
  • The Rules:

    Thank the blogger who nominated you.

    Answer the 11 questions the blogger asked you.

    Nominate new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.

    List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award in your post/or on your blog.

    Notify the nominees about it by commenting on one of their blog posts.

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    Bee’s knees cocktail (vegan)

    My favorite job ever was working in Marketing & PR at the Minnesota State Fair during the summers after my sophomore and junior years in college.

    I got a lot of exposure to humanity and answered lots of unusual questions. My favorite being: “Is it the real Barney or just some guy in a purple dinosaur suit?” Yes, and yes.

    One of the PR issues that I had to address was protestors who were opposed to the beekeeping demonstrations showcased daily. Now, mind you, this was 1994. The challenges of hive collapse and the extinction of many native bees was not as well known as it is today.

    The protesters stated that the beekeeping and harvesting of honey was the “enslavement” of the bees. I didn’t quite get it at the time.

    Fast forward to now and our vegan diet, which does not include honey. Bees and insects represent the health of world in many ways.

    So this modified version of a Bee’s Knees cocktail is made with agave instead of honey. I steeped the agave with lavender from the garden, which is healthier too since it has a lower glycemic index. It makes for a perfect end of day pre-dinner cocktail at the lake.

    I am going to admit, however, that I have not fully honored the respect of bee byproducts in my life. I have fallen in love with an artistic technique called encaustic acrylic painting.

    I finally bought 2 pieces from a local artist–Jodi Reeb–who specializes in this technique using beeswax heated to 200 degrees mixed with acrylic paint. I simply love it! Layers upon layers so the colors merge and meld. The finished piece has a glean to it and an uneven surface. The landscapes make me feel very content (despite not being vegan). It’s ok to make some exceptions right?

    Bee’s knees cocktail (vegan)

    • 1/2c agave, steeped with 3-4 lavender sprigs for at least a day
    • 1/2 lemon, juiced
    • Vodka

    Steep the agave with lavender for several days on the counter. Shake 3 shots (about 6 tablespoons) with half of the lemon (about 2 tablespoons) and 1/4 cup of the agave in a martini shaker filled with ice. Strain into a chilled martini glass, garnish with lemon slice and lavender flower.

    **Recipe makes 2. Decide if you want to share 😉

    Banh mi (vegan)

    This is the vegan’s version of a barbecue sandwich. Layers upon layers of flavor and absolutely impossible to eat without making a mess. But you won’t care cuz it’s just that good.

    I tried a different technique with the tofu–slicing into 1/2 inch, marinating and then baking it. It got a little texture on the outside but still plenty moist. It has the appearance of something other than tofu, which may be important to some folks.

    I also used a readymade cabbage slaw for the pickled vegetables. That’s speeds things up too. I had black currant vinegar on hand which blended the tart/sweet punch perfectly!

    You can pretty much accessorize with any crunchy vegetables you have though. I had radishes, daikon radish sprouts and a jalapeño. I thought about slicing a cucumber too but it was already too fat to fold 😉

    Fresh herbs–mint and cilantro–and a Sriracha mayo finish it up. Round 2 was open-face sandwich style.

    Creating this feels like creating art: between the colors and flavors it turns out differently each time, but always delicious! Easily my favorite sandwich and WAY better than barbecue.

    Banh mi (vegan)

    • Baguette
    • 1 block extra firm tofu, sliced into 1/2″
    • 2 tbsp tamari
    • 1 tbsp sesame oil
      2 tbsp Sriracha, divided
      Juice of 1/2 lime
      1/2 cup vegan mayo
      1 cup coleslaw blend
      1/2 cup vinegar–apple cider or another fruit based cider works well
      2 tbsp sugar
      Sliced radishes
      Sliced jalapeño
      Sprouts or lettuce
      Cucumbers
      Mint and cilantro leaves

    Drain and slice tofu. Mix tamari, sesame oil and 1 tbsp Sriracha. Coat tofu and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

    Microwave vinegar about 1 minute until just warm enough to dissolve sugar. Cool, then add coleslaw and allow to soften for about 30 minutes.

    Bake tofu on tinfoil at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes. An ambitious person would flip it halfway through.

    Mix mayo with remaining Sriracha and lime juice. Adjust heat to your preferences.

    Slice cucumbers, radishes and jalapeño. Prep mint and cilantro leaves.

    Assemble sandwich by putting mayo, herbs, vegetables and tofu on one side, slaw on the other.

    Roasted Shishito peppers (vegan)

    We first had these little gems–Shishito peppers–in Phoenix. Wow. Who knew I could eat an entire bowl of peppers!

    That answers your first question: No, they’re not spicy. Well they say 1 in 10 is actually spicy and that’s consistent with my experience too. But not jalapeño spicy even. Just enough to keep eating for the random wildcard surprise.

    They’re super easy to prepare and make a great app or side to anything from southwest cuisine to burgers. The long stems are ideal for snack ready eating–many places serve them with dips, but honestly I find that unnecessary.

    The skins are very thin so it’s not even like a red pepper, you barely notice it, which is also a win for a roasted/blackened technique so you don’t end up with that giant mess of exterior to cleanup.

    They can be difficult to find so if you run across them as I recently did in the coop or your farmer’s market, by all means buy them!!!

    Roasted Shishito peppers (vegan)

    • Shishito peppers (8 oz is a good amount)
    • Olive oil
    • Juice of a lime
    • Salt

    Toss in olive oil, cook on a vegetable grate on the grill over medium heat, about 5 minutes until slightly blackened. Remove from heat. Squeeze lime juice over and sprinkle generously in salt.

    Banana bread dump cake (vegan)—a non recipe

    There’s an entire category of desserts that are particularly popular in Minnesota during “cabin season”–our brief 3 months of summer when pretty much the entire Twin Cities metro area heads north to a lake for the weekend: dump desserts.

    These are the kind of thing you put together with whatever random cans of fruit (or perhaps some sour rhubarb bought on the side of the road) you have in the cupboard plus lots of sugar and white flour. Served with ice cream or “Cool Whip” of course. There’s no measuring involved, which certainly evolved because whoever started this tradition probably was sauced by the end of a long day on the boat (for my European readers, that means “tipsy”).

    I have decided that this type of baking is right up my alley. I sincerely struggle with the whole measuring thing, particularly if there’s extra care required like sifting flour. Seriously? That’s not happening.

    Unfortunately this definitely creates inconsistent results, and I can’t even blame it on it being a vegan recipe. This lazy attitude about measuring has been with me long before the dietary switch.

    My last banana bread was a total disaster. I didn’t read closely enough to notice the step of grinding the oats. It was a bit like glue. Green glue, as it had zucchini in it. Poor Avery desperately tried to pick through for the chocolate chunks. Alas, the compost got most of it. Not even butter helped.

    Today I had 3 bananas to use up, so here we go again. I found a good vegan recipe, but there’s a catch: it’s in metrics. I know many of my devoted followers easily make the conversion from my usual U.S. customary measures to metric units and that a simple Google search brings up conversions. But that’s too much work: why not just guess? (No I am not sauced, it’s only Monday).

    So that’s what I did and here’s the non recipe, which I think should become the universal standard since everyone understands the units.

    BTW, no one is more surprised than me when something comes out of the oven looking like this! Luck is on my side tonight!

    Banana bread dump cake

    • 3 overripe bananas, mashed.
    • Vegetable oil, coconut milk yogurt, coconut milk to equal just a bit more than 1c total (325mL)
    • ~2x as much dry to wet (flour). I lost track and just kept adding until it wasn’t soupy anymore.
    • A scoop of brown sugar
    • A scoop of cane sugar, plus the little bit that’s left in the bottom of the package, putting that back would be annoying.
    • The sugars are equal to half of the flour. Next time I will add more. Hopefully I remember to buy more since I just used it up.
    • A capful of vanilla
    • A pinch of salt, not the regular salt but the fancy coarse flake salt because I forgot to buy regular kosher salt this week.
    • A sprinkle of baking powder and baking soda
    • What’s left of that dark chocolate bar you’ve secretly been eating, chopped

    Mix all the wet ingredients together and then add the dry, finishing with the chocolate. Coat loaf pan with cooking spray (seriously people don’t skip this step). Bake at 325 Fahrenheit for 55 minutes.

    Good luck with that. Sometimes it’ll work. Sometimes not. When it does, everyone–especially teenage boys just home from hockey–will be very very happy. Dump cakes help keep expectations low…which makes it occasionally easier to exceed them.

    Bunny battle royale & 2 vegan summer salads

    While traveling this week, the bunnies got into my garden. They ate the zinnias out of the front pots, two new arbor vines and–most annoyingly–my herbs. They destroyed the cilantro, did quite a number on the dill and parsley.

    People: This is war.

    My mom graciously enclosed what’s left and let’s hope they bounce back. Avery has been assigned to “shoot” hockey pucks. Not my fault if bunnies are in the way.

    Read below for the draft post I had started while on the road. The irony!

    ………

    Which herb is my favorite? Tough choice. Why limit life to just one?

    I am thrilled with my expanded herb garden, which is going gang busters with all of the rain we’ve had–except the basil, which is craving for the sun and heat.

    Fresh tarragon, dill and mint are growing well right now and I am sprucing everything up with a few herbs. I vary those 3 on my avocado toasts for breakfast. I have an avocado toast “problem”/addiction. I love it! I substitute tomatoes for the salmon now, but that recipe remains the best base.

    A long-standing favorite summer salad is chicken tarragon with grapes. So when I came across this vegan version on the Charming Chickpea, I couldn’t resist. Super easy and super awesome! I added tarragon, red grapes and red onions and threw it in a wrap.

    We also tried a new recipe from Bon Appetite: Asian melon salad. Super bright with mixing textures of the soft honeydew and crisp cucumber. The ginger dressing with the serrano is fantastic. We skipped the avocado (not ripe yet plus I use it in my toast) and peanuts (oops forgot those at the store!) but made up for it with plenty of fresh mint! It’s a weed. And I am thankful because that means I can’t kill it.

    Unless the bunnies figure it out, I should be good.

    Stop to smell the lavender

    It’s finally spring here in Minnesota!! I planted my flowers and an entire bed of herbs. I decided to give them more space and perhaps overdid it. But I expect to use lots of mint for mojitos amongst other things this summer on the patio. All told, I planted 10 different herbs including multiple varieties of basil, mint, thyme and lavender. And some swiss chard for color.

    I was in such a hurry to get it all planted that I didn’t really enjoy it. They say gardening is one of the most mindful things you can do because it requires you to get multiple senses involved. It was definitely a signal that I am working too hard in that my mind refused to turn off.

    So having a week off came just in the nick of time. Well actually I needed to do this several months ago, but lesson learned. I truly slowed down this week as I accompanied Matt to a work trip in Phoenix. It’s hot, like 100 degrees hot. It takes some adjusting.

    Regardless I spent as much time outside as I could handle. I found a fantastic outdoor lap pool and started to get back in swim shape.

    Sidenote: The outdoor pool in MN opens in just a few weeks!! I can’t wait to see all of my friends…or as Matt calls them, my “subjects” since I am like royalty after all of these years as the Mayor of Swim Town.

    We didn’t have a car so I walked a ton and that really allows you to take notice of things you miss. The desert is beautiful in its own way, but I am definitely a water girl!

    Of course there was food involved. I was impressed to find multiple new fast food salad/healthy chains. It’s getting easier to find vegan options. The highlight was a kale guacamole with grapefruit, honeydew cucumber spritzer and pomegranate limeade. I will be tinkering with those recipes with all of my herbs for sure.

    In Minnesota our summers are truly beautiful and perfect. Especially on the lake. Every time I see the lavender in my garden I will be reminded to slow down and enjoy it!