January 27, 2015

Nutritional Yeast: Tastes Like Cheese?

Disclosure: I received the product discussed in exchange for my opinions which are my own.

I told a bloggy friend of mine that I was struggling to find the right use of nutritional yeast for this review. Her reply?

"since when is yeast nutritional?"

I was in her shoes just two years ago. It wasn't until I binge-watched various vegan shows on hulu that the term was even on my radar. A family as assured they could eat "all the normal things people eat" on a plant-based diet, pizza being one of them - dough was piled high with veggies and instead of cheese was topped with nutritional yeast, an uber-healthy "cheese substitute".

I was intrigued. I made a mental note to pick up some of this stuff on my next grocery trip.

As often happens, my mental note failed me and I forgot on most grocery trips to look for the stuff. Thankfully, Sari Foods  was looking for some product testers so I finally had my chance to try nutritional yeast 2 years after I learned about it. Better late than never,

I was giddy to see a bag with "Tastes like cheese!" proclaimed on the front. Cheese, after all is a primary reason why I'm vegetarian vs. vegan. I'd been scouring google and Pinterest for all the top nutritional yeast uses. I was ready to substitute my cheese for this vegan, nutrient-packed superfood (let it be noted that the Non-Fortified Nutritional Yeast Flakes by Sari Foods are low in sodium, gluten and MSG free, non-GMO. and high in protein, fiber, and tons of other nutrients)!

I couldn't wait; I opened the bag, dipped a teaspoon in, and dropped a few flakes on my tongue,

I don't know how to describe what the flakes taste like solo, but cheese is not the answer. I figured the flakes needed to mix with food to yield optimal taste.

I tried the most basic of things to sprinkling the stuff on popcorn (this seems to be one of the most popular uses) to the most daring of creating a vegan "cheese" dipping sauce. Neither tasted like cheese and both resulted in grimaces from Sean and I.

It was disappointment to say the least; I really, really wanted to love nutritional yeast. I plan to keep experimenting, but so far the only way I've enjoyed the flakes are hidden in a batch of baked ziti...that contained tons of cheese. At least we still got the nutrients!

I do know, however, that nutritional yeast is only gaining popularity. I'm holding onto the hope that I simply have not yet discovered my preferred use for the stuff, So, existing fans, help me out and leave your favorite use for nutritional yeast in the comments below (and for more ideas, the Non-Fortified Nutritional Yeast Flakes by Sari Foods includes a recipe ebook with purchase!).

I'll keep trying, and in the meantime, I'm glad that nutritional yeast is pet-friendly. Anise loves gobbling down the Nutritional Yeast popcorn!

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January 26, 2015

5 easy ways to reduce waste

As part of my ongoing green living journey, I decided that this year I would pay more attention to the waste I am personally responsible for and take steps to reduce it.

how to reduce waste

As previously discussed, I'm already an avid recycler and I wouldn't dream of littering. Still, there's always room for improvement. There's the intentional projects, like fixing broken boots instead of buying a new pair, and then there's the daily nitty-gritty. The little things I hadn't thought much of but know they add up. That's where most of my changes have been thus far. Small things with a big impact. Sometimes easy, sometimes inconvenient.

1. Use what you already have 

Birthday? Wedding? Just Because? Who Knows? Plus, I reused that ribbon and the recipient can do the same!
It's dangerous to think that waste is only what we throw out—acquiring additional things that will only be tossed out again shortly is equally harmful.

For instance, I love gift wrappings—I have quite the collection of wrapping paper (plus cute bags, tissue, ribbon, etc.) I get a rush picking out more at Christmas sales for the following year. It's a bargain, right?

Wrong. Just because I recycle doesn't mean everyone else does. And really, I have rolls of paper yet to be opened. The simple truth is I have enough. I don't need more. This year, I literally fought the impulse every time I saw a cute roll of paper. From now on, I use what I have. When I run out? We'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Really, who says all wrapping must be occasion-specific? I recently went to a baby shower, and instead of rushing to Target for pastel trappings, I shopped my own collection. The paper was neutral and chic, and instead of paying the insane price of cards these days, I used part of the mommy-to-be's gift as a gift tag. I don't think she was thinking my wrapping was unaccepable or frugal  when she saw how the gift was wrapped and exclaimed "you're so creative!"

2. Recycle—even when you can't 

I've already mentioned I recycle whenever possible. But, the reality is, sometimes I "can't". Sometimes I'm out and about and there's only a trash can for my plastic water bottle. Sometimes I'm at work and I think it's no big deal if I toss that post-it note into the trash can since it's right at my desk.

Those little things add up. The good news it, it's easy to be intentional and set yourself up for success. Keep a bag or container in your car for recyclables that you can take home.

In my office, we are fortunate to have recycling containers throughout the office. To fight my own laziness, I brought in a waste bin separate from my trash can. Anything recyclable (my greek yogurt cups, those post-it notes, etc.) gets tossed in there and at the end of each day, I sort the paper, aluminum, and plastic into the appropriate office bins. Having a visual of how much I could have thrown away is a great encouragement to keep it up!

3. Repurpose at home

My dad was (and is) the king of this. Holes in his undershirt? He cut the shirt up and they became rags for dirty work in the garage. Helping a neighbor with yardwork? He brought home firewood (really, it stunned and still stuns me that people buy logs for their fireplaces. My dad is handy and always got wood somewhere that was not the store). This cuts back on waste and saves money.

What can you repurpose? Here, it can be as simple as a towel that's a little to worn for daily use to be kept around for spills or after bathing the dog.

4. Implement a plan for things you no longer want or need 

Among the 2015 resolution buzz, I found the #ThrowOut50Things Challende. I'm all for de-cluttering, but I'm not at all for the "throwing out" part (hello, waste!).

A plan of action is so important here because clutter has a way of staying put or relocating otherwise. As a kid, we had a "giveaway box" where we put old toys or clothes that no longer fit. When it was full, my dad donated all the contents to a thrift store.

We're still slowly unpacking boxes and finding items we clearly don't need. For an item that can move quickly (think furniture or electronics), We list the item on a local Facebook yard sale group—a quick way to lose an item and gain a few dollars. We also keep a designated bag for clothes that can be donated (I drop it off in a local Planet Aid or similar bin whenever it's full) and a designated box for items that could be potentially sold at a yard sale (if it doesn't sell, off to the thrift store it goes!). If it comes to our attention that someone we know has a need for an item we have and don't need use—we're happy to give it to them! Kindness is never wasteful.

5. Choose quality whenever possible

This can be the most difficult, especially when money is tight. We know. It's easier to choose the cheap disposable razors when refill blades are so darn expensive. It's easier to get your groceries bagged at the store instead of worrying about buying and remembering reusable bags. It's easier to buy fast fashion that you can have now even though you know it'll fall apart by season's end and you'll be buying all new clothes next season.

Baby steps here.

Quality costs more initially,  but quality outlasts the life cost of the "affordable" option that you pay for many times over via replacements. And no replacements means less waste. Using the dishes when you would rather skip doing dishes and use paper plates saves you money and saves landfill waste at the end of the day.

Most of us can't do it all at once, but we can evaluate. What are we buying only because it's cheap? Can invest in a long-lasting alternative? Can we do without it for a bit longer until we save the money for the long-lasting alternative?

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January 22, 2015

when windshield wipers are romantic (EZWipers review + giveaway)

Disclaimer: The product discussed and prize offered were given to me in exchange for my opinions which are my own.

I've been told on more than one occasion in my adolescent days that a practical gift from a man was a romantic one. While most women beg to differ, there is logic and truth in this idea - a man who cares is a man who wants us to be safe and comfortable. So while an emergency car kit isn't a pretty new bauble or a fresh bouquet - appreciate it -it means he cares.

Case in point: Years ago, a group of us had all gathered at a mutual friend's house one day and as people began to head home, I noticed the host speaking to a few girls with a bewildered look on her face. I approached the discussion to hear her relaying with an awkward giggle: "He gave me a fan. Once I mentioned it was hot in my office. I don't know what that means."

"It means he likes you...he really likes you," I replied.

She doubted me. They were engaged less than a year later.

While my own engagement took much longer than a few months (I was 19 when I started dating Sean), I remember many such instances of "practical romance:" a container of kitty litter to be prepared for an impending snow storm; an early departure from work to help me with an unexpected flat on my first day of my first job in Maryland (and my own tool to do it myself should it happen again); a purchase of new tires when my car refused to make a turn and blew them on a curb. I was in college and couldn't do it.

Flowers? No. Love? Yes.

Days like this suck. Helpful husbands make them a little better.

It's funny to look back and think that most of Sean's "practical romantic" gestures have had to do with car trouble (the year we got married, that all changed when I finally got a new car. Hallelujah!). But, it's not really a surprise. Car issues always pop up when most inconvenient - when you're a broke student, on your first day of work, when you get home from vacation. Boo. Who wants to deal with that? Not I.

I welcome the reminder that Sean loves me when he does such things, but let's be honest: I'd rather those circumstances not occur in the first place. That means I should stay on top of things like preventative and routine maintenance - get the oil changed when you should; get that alignment when things start to feel wobbly; change out those wiper blades when they start to smudge - before you're stuck in a rainstorm with no visibility.

Some of these are super time and money consuming; others are much easier. While I'm still waiting for online oil changes, I can meet other automotive needs online  - like wiper blades (which are supposed to be replaced every 6 months even though I know we all wait longer)!

Thanks to EZWipers, I have one less car task to stress about last minute.  I just go to the site, tell them what car I drive, and let them select the right fit (guaranteed!) wipers I need. Plus, they ship for free in just a few days! So much better than standing at the store trying to compare brands and remember what measurements I need.

EZWipers sent me a set of Anco Series 31 blades (I admit, it's been about a year since I last replaced mine) which were super easy to replace - this is car task I'm able to do without Sean's help. Bring it, rainstorm!

Seriously, you just pop 'em right in!

But, if installation is not your thing, no worries. EZwipers is full of resources including installation videos. Or, you can take the opportunity to test your man's love ;)

Did I just remind you that it's been a year or two since you replaced your wipers? No worries. EZWipers is giving a free pair of Anco Series 31 wiper blades to one of you. Enter to win below, and come back for more automotive talk as I will be joining other female area bloggers at the Washington Auto Show!

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January 21, 2015

Tarte Tartelette palette GIVEAWAY

The Tarte Tartelette palette is amazing. If you love matte shadows, or makeup in general then you will absolutely love this palette. To start off the year on a good note, myself and all the ladies above are giving away 2 of these palettes!  Make sure you enter below and check out all the amazing bloggers above.  Good luck! 

January 19, 2015

dressed for work with eshakti

Thanks to eshakti for the pretty dress and to Mother Nature for calming down long enough for me to wear it!

I've always told myself that if when I joined the ranks of bloggers who got to choose and customize an eshakti dress, I needed to pick something work-friendly that I could wear in all seasons: a modest length, neckline, and 3/4 length sleeves.

Finally, the coveted e-mail came and a custom dress was mine! In a timely fashion, the dress I chose arrived on Christmas Eve. The ponte fabric was so stretchy and comfy, yet so heavy and sturdy. I knew I'd picked a winner. I couldn't wait to show it off at the office!

Did I say all seasons? Maybe not. Winter hit Maryland pretty hard in 2015, and the first week back involved high temperatures that started with a '1'. No, thank you.

Eventually, the temps crawled from below freezing to exactly freezing long enough for me to finally enjoy my new dress!

eshakti dress

It was still freaking cold and so currently my favorite way to "style" the dress is with a coat, like above. But, I know eventually temps will come back to a place where I can enjoy it like so:

eshakti baltimore
Don't let the excessive sunshine fool you. It's freezing outside!

Oh yes, I'm excited for milder temps so I can work this into the work wardrobe rotation more often. I mean, the pretty color, the fun neckline....the pockets! I could seriously sleep in this thing, but it's totally pretty and work acceptable. Oh, and it's machine washable. I washed the dress (in a lingerie bag) before even taking these photos and hang-dried it. No problems whatsoever!

Full disclosure: I tried an eshakti dress before this one that didn't work out for me at all. If you're a curvy girl. note that the full skirts really are very full. It wasn't a good fit and I didn't care for the fabric at all. 

This is where I get to brag: customer service was amazing! The return process of the first dress was super easy and hassle free, and they let me select another style (as you see) and helped me confirm all measurements were taken properly to ensure the best fit (I took advantage of the option to submit all my measurements for an exact fit, but you can also select your size). I now can identify which styles are best for me and know that I prefer the ponte fabric dresses to some of the other fabrics on the site. I'm already eyeballing this ponte beauty for the spring:

I'm thinking I'll be customizing it with short sleeves.

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