Happy New Year!

My kids and their cousins peek into a fallen tree in hopes of catching a glimpse of a hibernating critter of some kind.

My kids and their cousins peek into a fallen tree in hopes of catching a glimpse of a hibernating critter of some kind.

Well our major festivities for the season have come to an end, and visits from families have come and gone. We’ve had such a great holiday season, which served to remind me how fortunate I really am.

I look back on 2013 with a sense of satisfaction, few regrets, amazingly. There are, though, one or two things I want to focus back on as we get ready to ring in 2014. I’m not a big fan of resolutions, but while contemplating how to better manage time again so I’m not as stressed out about things, I have come up with a couple of goals for myself:

1) Meditate again! I’ve completely stopped, and that’s bad. Bad because I like my ‘meditation mind’ much better than the mind I walk around with otherwise. While I’ve still retained some of the benefits of having discovered meditation a few years ago, I definitely feel the effects of not having practiced it in a while. When I meditate, pretty much everything else seems to fall into place.

2) Exercise again. Not sure why I stopped completely, other than I seem to have gotten back into the “I’m to tired to exercise” mindset. I seem to have forgotten that exercise actually makes me feel more energized, and that counter-intuitively, that it feels better to take a 30-minute walk after a long day at work than it does to sit down and sack out on the couch for the same amount of time.

A little bit of scenery from my neighborhood. Brother in law's barn in the distance.

A little bit of scenery from my neighborhood. Brother in law’s barn in the distance.

3) Pick up my studies again. This time, along with my kids who have expressed interest in learning more about Buddhism, too.

When I’ve got all those activities going, overall, my approach to stress and “too much stuff going on” is so much better. I think remembering that would have helped me a little more when things got really hairy this past fall.

Other than that, that’s it. I have so much that I’m happy about with 2013. I think the biggest change for me this year was my switch back to being vegetarian. There were a lot of important events this year, but rediscovering that again has been like finding an old friend. Coupled with my study of Buddhism, that choice has made so much more sense this time around and has strengthened my resolve to follow this path the way I have.

Have a happy New Year everyone. May 2014 be prosperous, fruitful and satisfying 🙂

Happy Non-Turkey Day, haha!

My plan was to have a clever post all set to go with my idea for a Thanksgiving inspired stuffed mushroom recipe that I had concocted in my head to share with you. Well, it never happened, as you can well see.

I am thankful for my smart, funny kids who have amazing imaginations and senses of humor. As seen here.

I am thankful for my smart, funny kids who have amazing imaginations and senses of humor. As seen here.

I hope those of you out there sharing this holiday with your families today totally enjoy yourselves. While my plan for making myself a meatless main dish never came to be, I know that I’m going to totally enjoy the meat-free sides that are on the table. And, when you’ve got as immense of a gathering as we always have (we easily gather around 35-40 people or so altogether on this day), there is more than enough of everything to go around.

For a while, I did worry about “Wow, what if stuff has butter in it? What if they made stuff using chicken stock? Or eggs?” and then I remembered, that my approach to going meat-free was going to take control and responsibility only for what I am able to. When we have a huge gathering like this, I can’t a) make a whole meal for myself. Let’s face it, I can barely pull together two dinners a week as it is, I’m not going to reasonably make myself a vegetarian dinner for one in the space of one day; and b) I’m not about to piss off 39 people who took time out of their busy schedules to make a delicious dish. My goal was never to make others change their habits. Just me. And I have, and I still will.

While I am thankful for many, many things, including a patient loving husband, two beautiful, smart, funny kids, goofy chocolate lab and four “too cool for school” kitties, I am also thankful for the change I’ve made in my eating habits. Just in making the change that I have, I’ve positively impacted those around me. They haven’t drastically changed their lifestyle, and I don’t expect or necessarily want them to.

While I skirt around the meated dishes on the table today, I’ll be quietly enjoying and appreciating all the delicious foods that are all around them.

I believe it was the comedian Mo Rocca who pointed out in an interview that, the best foods at Thanksgiving, to him, isn’t the bird. It’s all the amazing sides that people make. I heartily agree. (I tried to find the video clip I’m referring to here, and couldn’t!)

I’ll be happy to have mashed potatoes, stuffing (which we thankfully don’t actually stuff into the bird), green bean casserole, scalloped corn, pies and cakes and best of all — amazing company and lots of laughs.

I am so thankful for what I have. I hope you all find the same comfort in who and what surrounds you on this day, whether you’re celebrating this North American holiday today or not.

Much joy to you all.

Pinterest Find: Home-made Veggie Burger

Ahead of the Fourth of July cookout, I tried out a recipe I found online for a home-made veggie burger. The recipe came from Whole Foods, which we don’t have the privilege of having in my area, but I’ve heard good things about.

My first home-made veggie burger. It was a big 'meh.' Copyright Miyo Wratten 2013

My first home-made veggie burger. It was a big ‘meh.’ Copyright Miyo Wratten 2013

Summer and burgers kind of go hand-in-hand, and as much as I’m not a fan of the ‘meatless meat’ dishes, I have to say that there is something so classic about burgers and this time of year in North America. It’s such an ingrained part of our culture, I’m having a hard time getting away from the idea of needing some kind of burger at some point. Also, I like to avoid the mass-produced, frozen patties that are stuffed full of highly processed soy protein, calories, and are mass-produced. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got a couple of them hanging out in the freezer for one of those days when I just don’t have time to stand around and cook. They do, however, tend to sit there for quite some time because quite frankly, they scare me.

The flax seed used in the recipe. I ground mine in a coffee bean grinder as I couldn't find any that was already ground.

The flax seed used in the recipe. I ground mine in a coffee bean grinder as I couldn’t find any that was already ground.

When I saw the recipe for Red Pepper and Basil White Bean Burgers, which you can get right from the Whole Foods site, it sounded pretty decent. A jar of drained, roasted red peppers is mixed with ground flax seeds, rolled oats, garlic, fresh basil and a can of drained cannellini beans.

Just a note: If you’re like me and find it a little challenging sometimes to find what passes for ‘exotic ingredients,’ you may have a little trouble finding ground flax seed (which is what is called for in the recipe). I simply cleaned out our coffee bean grinder and used that to grind up some whole flax seeds. Easy enough to do.

Perhaps I didn’t cook it quite right, but I’ll be honest and say I was a little disappointed. The flavor was OK, but the texture definitely left something to be desired. To me, it had a bit of a ‘slimy’ or wet feel to it in the mouth, which was off-putting.

If you try it out and find that it turns out great for you, do let me know. It’s entirely possible I’ve done something wrong or handled a step incorrectly.

Otherwise, I’ll probably move on at some point to a different veggie burger recipe and hope for the best.