Mother's Day Freebie

Mother's Day is coming up fast, and I've got just the thing for you to send your mom to tell her that you love her.  These freebie card designs (for personal use only) are a little preview of my upcoming owl collection of invitations and party supplies, and they're sure to put a sweet smile on your mom's face.  They're especially great cards for kids to print themselves and give to mom.  Just download the 5 x 7 image that you like and print at home or at a local print shop.


Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie

Need a little pick-me-up in the mornings?  This chocolate raspberry smoothie will do the trick.  It's got a bit of protein in it to keep you going until lunchtime, and it's pretty darn tasty.  Try it out after your workouts, too, for a quick meal.

If you're having a brunch party or kids' sleepover, this smoothie is something to easily make in one batch.  It will get everyone going for the day.

Chocolate Raspberry Smoothie


* 4 ice cubes (optional if using frozen berries)
* 1/2 cup water
* 1/2 cup soy milk (or cow's milk if preferred)
* 1 scoop chocolate soy protein powder 
* 1 medium-sized banana
* 1 cup frozen or fresh raspberries


* Put ice cubes and frozen raspberries in a blender and crush.

* Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth.

* Enjoy!


Go Vegan for Environmental Awareness Month

There are lots of organizations that celebrate April as an environmental awareness month since it includes National Environmental Education week, National Parks week, Earth Day, Arbor Day, and Earth Hour.  Usually, in doing my part, I choose something new each year to start doing that will help preserve the environment or increase sustainability.  This year I've decided to go vegan!

I've always tended toward vegetarian fare to begin with, but after reading Veganist by Kathy Freston this month, I realized that the social responsibility aspect fit in line with my sustainability beliefs as well...Not to mention the health benefits!  To start, I've been cooking two to three meals a day that are vegan (no animal products).  I originally thought that giving up dairy was going to be the hardest part since I put cheese on everything.  It turns out that I got over it really fast, and I really don't miss it.  Of course, I am making substitutions in my meals with vegan products that act like their animal product counterparts.

I have to say, though, that this is definitely forcing me to try a large variety of foods that I never would have cooked with otherwise.  Things like quinoa, black-eyed peas, nutritional yeast, and udon noodles have now become staples in my pantry.  Eating this way reduces a number of problems including: the harmful impact on the environment that animal food systems create, carcinogens in the things we consume, animal cruelty in food processing plants, bad cholesterol levels, and many more.  If you know there's no way you can make such a drastic change in your diet, then try Meatless Mondays once a week. It'll give you a chance to experiment with your food, enjoy cooking whole foods, and give you a sense of doing good.  Here's an easy whole wheat pizza recipe to get you started.

Whole Wheat Pizza


* 1 teaspoon white sugar 
* 1 tablespoon instant yeast
* 1 tablespoon olive oil
*1 teaspoon salt
*2 cups whole wheat flour
*1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour


* Stir together the olive oil, yeast, and salt.   Mix in the whole wheat flour and the all-purpose flour until dough starts to come together. 

*Using a mixer with a dough hook (or using your hands if preferred), knead until all of the flour has been absorbed, and the ball of dough becomes smooth, about 10 minutes. Place dough in a bowl sprayed with cooking spray, and turn to coat the surface. Cover loosely with a towel, and let stand in a warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). 

* When the dough is doubled, tip the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide into 2 pieces for 2 crusts. 

* Roll a ball of dough with a rolling pin until it will not stretch any further. Then, drape it over both of your fists, and gently pull the edges outward, while rotating the crust. When the circle has reached the desired size, place on a well oiled pizza pan. 

* Top pizza with your favorite pizza sauce, vegan shredded cheese, artichokes, peppers, spinach, and onion.

*Bake for 16 to 20 minutes (depending on thickness) in the preheated oven, until the crust is crisp and golden at the edges, and cheese is melted on the top.

(Recipe adapted from Allrecipes.com)



If you are a bottled water drinker, then you have to watch the documentary Tapped.  It discusses the ridiculously low regulation of the bottled water industry compared to the very high regulation of municipal drinking water.  There are a number of problems surrounding bottled water including: large companies claiming access to local water reserves that should be available to local citizens, the processing in petroleum plants that add harmful BPAs to the product, and the fact that empty bottles are thrown into the oceans to pollute our water resources and harm the wildlife in those ecosystems.

A better way to get your water intake is to carry along a reusable water bottle during the day.  They come in all sizes so you don't have to feel weighed down with a huge bottle.  It'll save you money and also contribute to your health, the environment, and making companies more socially responsible through how people choose to spend their money.  For those throwing parties and needing lots of drinks, try using a jug of tap water with a nicely printed label instead of the bottled stuff.  The presentation will be classier, and you'll feel better about making your party more sustainable.  Of course, if worse comes to worst and you have to buy bottled water, always recycle!  

Remember, Nalgene not Nestle!  Here are some of my favorite reusable bottles:
Thermos to-go, Camelback with sip straw, Kor red dot design award winner, and the classic Nalgene 32 oz bottle with attached top.


Happy Easter

It's still pretty cold here in the UK, and we're in the middle of the rainy season.  Still, we can celebrate Spring and this Easter with the sprouting flowers popping up everywhere.  The tulips are in full bloom, daffodils are lining the roads with bright shades of yellow, and the green grasses are tempting us as their vibrant color begins to come back to life.

In celebrating new life, whether in your religious beliefs or just in the environment, try bringing some of this natural beauty into your home.  It'll liven up your space and make you feel happier to see and smell something fresh and new.  We could all use a little something like that to brighten up our days.


Celebrate Earth Hour

Today is the annual Earth Hour celebration sponsored by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).  It takes place every year in cities, towns, and homes around the world where people and corporations turn off their electricity for one hour.  That's just sixty minutes to substantially help the environment!  The hour chosen (between 8:30 and 9:30pm local times) allows power to be shut off at its generally highest usage point during the day.  This is usually when people are home from work or activities, families are watching television, or the laptops and other gadgets are out in full force.  Since this is such a peak time, it's the perfect opportunity for people to show their support for the environment and commit to conservation for just one hour.

Why is this important?  Well, in the U.S. alone, commercial and residential buildings account for 40% of energy consumption (Secretariat of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation , 2008).  This contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, overconsumption of resources, and long-term degradation of the environment.  By everyone doing their part for this one hour, we can save a substantial amount of energy and resources contributing to the decline of our natural environment.  So, don't forget!  Switch off those TVs, I pods, laptops, and even the lights at 8:30pm wherever you live.  It'll give you a fun thing to do with the family, a bit of time to be social with friends, or time to just hang out and meditate for a while.  There are some great "how-to" guides on the Earth Hour website for suggestions on what to do along with lots of pictures to check out from around the world after Earth Hour is complete.  Happy Earth Hour!

Bandung, Indonesia

Bangkok, Thailand

Edinburgh, Scotland

(Photo sources: WWF/ Earth Hour Global and Maverick Photo Agency)


St Patty's Day Trifle

To celebrate this St. Patty's Day, here's a little treat that is sure to please.  This chocolate trifle includes layers of brownie, chocolate pudding, and cool whip dyed green for this festive occasion.  It can be adapted for any craving, but these ingredients give the best consistency for a chewy, creamy mouthful.  If you'd rather have a crunch in your dessert, just add some Heath bars, graham crackers, or peanuts to your layering.

St Patty's Day Trifle


* 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate
*1/2 cup butter
*1 1/2 cups sugar
*2 eggs
*1 tsp vanilla
*1 cup all-purpose flour

*Jello instant pudding mix-chocolate
*3 cups milk

Cool whip:
*1 carton cool whip
*Green food coloring (about 25 drops)


*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and grease a 9 x 9 inch pan.

*Melt butter in microwave or on the stove and pour into a bowl with the chocolate.  Stir well until the chocolate has melted into the butter.

*Add in the sugar and eggs.  Then, mix in the flour until just blended.

*Pour into the greased pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*Set pan aside to cool.

*Follow the directions on the Jello package.  Mix the packet into the milk in a medium bowl.  Whisk well to remove lumps.

*Place in the fridge to set for at least ten minutes.

*Mix the green food coloring into the cool whip.  Use as many drops as needed until the desired color is achieved.

*Cut or crumble the brownies into small bite sized pieces.

*In a deep bowl or several small cups, layer the ingredients in the following order: brownies, pudding, cool whip.  Make sure to spread each layer to the edge of the bowl or cup.  Repeat the layering a second time.

*Chill until ready to eat.  Enjoy!

(Brownie recipe from Allrecipes.com)