Tuesday, December 31, 2013

No-Bake Brownies with Medjool Dates

Let me start with this...as soon as the first taste hit my tongue, I went bonkers! I know I have a winner when I belt out joyous words alone in the kitchen! :) My inspiration (the recipe is almost identical to theirs) is found over at A Couple Cooks. Also, take a look at their original source, My New Roots.

Ingredient List
     1 cup walnuts
     1/2 cup raw almonds
     1/2 cup cocoa powder (I used Moonstruck)
     ~13 Medjool dates
     1/2 tsp cinnamon (I used Penzeys Spices)
     pinch of salt

Grind the walnuts and raw almonds in the food processor. Add the cocoa powder, cinnamon, and salt. Pulse once or twice. Add the dates last, one at a time with the processor on. After all the dates are in, keep the processor going until a ball begins to form. Transfer the mixture onto a non-stick surface and form as desired. I used a glass dish lined with non-stick foil and pressed down to my desired thickness, 1/2 inch. Refrigerate.

Sonja and Alex over at A Couple Cooks have a lot of recipes right up my alley. Two more of their creations are on the menu for this week: Smoky Mac and Cheese with Squash and Spinach served alongside baked salmon tonight. Tomorrow's meal will be inspired by the Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas recipe.

Hope everyone has a fun New Year's Eve! NYE of '99 was the first night Jon and I met. :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Ethics I Expect in Clothing Manufacturers

This year has definitely been an eye opener for me. Ignorance is bliss, and once realization hit me, there was no turning back. Blind purchases are no longer allowed. By that, I mean that I must first research a company before buying. If they meet the ethics I expect, they are added to my shopping suggestions. Here are my current rules when scoping out a company (this is a starting point, I welcome any additional thoughts or information):

    - Transparency. The company should provide sufficient information about their products from start to finish. Otherwise, I am left thinking they have something to hide.
    - Since Patagonia says it so well, I will quote them: "There’s no excuse...for exploitation of the labor of poor people to make nice things for the better off." 1
    - Clear efforts being made to lessen their environmental impact.

I have to be honest, I know little about animal use in the fashion industry. It does concern me. Again, please share any insight you have on this topic. Here is a scenario from last night of how I approached this:

"I 'need' (would like) more warm clothes for Oregon."

After searching the usual suspects on my shopping suggestions page, I ended up really liking the Patagonia Ranchito Hoodie on Nordstrom's site. Free shipping (to arrive on or before the 24!!) and returns was appealing. But as I looked at the contents of the hoodie, I was curious how the wool was sourced. All it took was a quick search to find Where Our Wool Comes From on Pataognia's blog. Satisfied with what I read, I made the purchase.

If you are interested in the hoodie, it looks like I bought the last one available through Nordstrom. However, it is still available for free shipping and returns through Zappos in other colors. You can also purchase directly through Patagonia, however, available colors and sizes are limited.

1 FAQs at patagonia.com
images via Nordstrom.com

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Taaluma Totes: Carry a Country

The recipe for a Taaluma Tote pairs an ethnic print with recycled burlap coffee bags to create a limited edition backpack. The piece is constructed in a Virginia factory that provides opportunities for adults with disabilities. When the bag is purchased, a portion of the sale "provides a loan to a person in THAT tote’s country" 1 using Kiva.

"They had a vision of an apparel company that wouldn’t just try to make money, but would do so in a responsible way." 2

The kind hearts behind this business are Alley and Jack. They are a couple, Virginia Tech engineering grads, and lovers of travel. They took a risk and started their own company. Watch their video below and read Backpacks that give back to learn more about this duo.

browse the totes

I decided to purchase the Ghana tote in orange, blue, and green for future hiking trips with Jon. We are always drawn to this color combination, so it was an easy choice. I have admittedly been very lazy these last couple years. Being in a new environment will definitely get me out and exploring. Plus, carrying a unique backpack thoughtfully made will put some extra oomph in my steps. Sounds cheesy, but it is true. I feel so much happier supporting a company like this than I would running out to find one at the mall. Besides hikes, it will be great for air travel back to Vegas and drives up to Seattle (can't wait for baseball season!!).

Disclosure: I learned about Taaluma Totes through Alley. She noticed my interested in ethnic prints and reached out via email. I received wristbands for spreading the word. You can also get wristbands, find out how.

1 Kiva
2 The Roanoke Times
Find more links to what others are saying about Taaluma Totes on the press page

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Life Update

Hello!! Wanted to post another life update. I will return to reviews and brand highlights soon. :)

Jon and I took our first drive to Seattle to meet up with his family for Thanksgiving. There was a really cool thick fog over the city all day.

A couple days later we flew to Maui to be with his family again. It is very difficult being away from them, so this trip was extra special. :) Plus, the week after Thanksgiving is great because not as many people travel around that time...makes the kiddie pool much more tolerable!

We are calling the newest one "Lil Tiny"..."Lil" must be said with a slur. She makes cooking interesting. There is a nice window perch above the sink, so she loves to bat at green beans or plan out how she will steal the raw chicken from the other side of the counter. She is also a pain in the butt when it is meal time, because she gobbles everything down so fast and proceeds to steal everyone's food. And, she still is of the mindset that I need to give her unending attention really, really early in the morning. Being in Maui for that week only exacerbated this! By the way (mostly so you do not think we are cruel!), I found a great pet sitter to check in on them daily while we were gone.

And...our house in Vegas is "sale pending"! We listed it on a Sunday and it received multiple offers within less than a week. It will be sad signing it over to the new owners. It was the first house we bought together. We were also the first homeowners. It has the feeling of being ours.

As usual...I am looking forward to catching up with everyone. :)

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